God’s Sense of Humor – how I discovered my purpose
I figure we might as well plan a little humility into every day – it’s bound to happen anyway. If I’m ever tempted to think I’m spiffy all I need do is remember the purpose God assigned me when He first mentioned the word ministry.
Doesn’t everyone want to know God’s grand purpose for his or her life? I learned that new challenges were being added to my to-do list while the publisher produced the first book (Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace.) The challenges? A second book that brought two special-needs horses into our family (He Came Looking for Me) and ministry. I’d written several business-related books back in the late 1980s so wasn’t totally unbalanced by the book thing, but the thought of doing anything ministry-related was as foreign to me as becoming a chef. (I don’t cook – at all. Seriously.)
To be perfectly candid, I was perfectly content to let God be responsible for the book project. After all, He provided the title, content, and publisher for Amazing Grays. As far as I was concerned the book thing was a piece of cake because it wasn’t my project – it was His. But ministry?
Being a relatively reasonable and obedient sort I said, “Okay, Lord, I’m good with that, but I don’t know anything about starting a ministry.” So I inquired…
“Lord, what is my purpose?”
The answer was crystal clear. One word: Fertilizer.
You are to be fertilizer.
Bear in mind that I’ve spent most of my waking hours (and a good number of sleeping ones) for the past few decades in horse barns. I live in a barn today. There’s no way to estimate how many tons of manure I’ve shoveled, scooped, raked, or spread on pastures and hayfields. When I hear fertilizer I think manure. Launching out in ministry as manure was far from the most exciting or complimentary occupation I could think of.
“Really? I’m to be fertilizer?”
Being intimately familiar with the purpose and role of fertilizer I eventually made the connection. Fertilizer is applied to crops already planted, sprouted, and growing. When used properly it strengthens what’s growing, encourages bigger blooms, greater yields, and richer fruit. There is also a downside to improperly applied fertilizer – it just stinks.
My husband and I nervously laughed about our new role but recognized the attendant restrictions: no sowing, no watering, no harvesting. If and when invited we’d visit growing crops, deliver a message or assistance, then leave and let the “farmers” handle the rest. If our message was right the crop was strengthened; if it was wrong we knew the distasteful result – like badly applied fertilizer we’d simply stink.
Of course the only right message is His message. That was my first and remains the greatest challenge; getting the message correct. What I say is only right if it is what those listening need to hear – in God’s opinion, not mine.
During my commercial horse training days I conducted clinics for other trainers. They knew I wasn’t going to peel any business away and having me show up was an added benefit they could offer their clients and students. In ministry I did much the same thing. Invitations came from horse therapy barns, equine ministries, churches, and from folks who just needed help with their horses.
Messages to Motivate Change
If you know anything about professional speakers you know there are scads of them. I wasn’t the only motivational voice my booking agent represented. Potential clients often asked how my message compared with others. I reminded them that there are two basic types of motivational speakers; entertainers and catalysts (aka fertilizer). Entertainers pump up emotions and energy that get audiences on their feet a hootin’ and a hollerin’. The big delivery at the end is a powerful physical or emotional rush. Who doesn’t love to be entertained? But the rush soon fades.
I’ve been told I can be entertaining (insert eye roll) but that’s never been my goal. Fanny Brice (aka Funny Girl) was known to have hundreds of facial expressions. I may have her beat. A few years ago I scheduled a sitting with a professional photographer to get a few non-horse photos to use online. When it came time to settle the bill I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or pleased when he refused to charge me for the session. He said he’d never seen anyone as expressive and sent me home with two CDs of images. Consider this fair warning if we ever meet in person.
If you just want to have a good time, hire an entertainer. To offer lasting benefit, hire the catalyst.
Looking back over the past 30 years I realize that I was always supposed to be fertilizer. No speaker, teacher, or preacher can reach every member of every audience. My definition of success as a speaker was to motivate at least some of the folks who heard the message to wake up the next day and live a different life. I hoped to inspire lasting change, not provide momentary thrills. I wanted to offer people the keys to transformation; to be better, stronger, more joyous, engaging, and successful.
I still work to be effective fertilizer. The 501.c.3 ministry was dissolved in July 2016 after more than seven years. Our ministry never solicited contributions or charged a fee for any program, clinic, or out-of-town trip. The ministry covered my airfare, meals, and other travel expenses. We brought books to programs and after the first couple of years always gave them away to whoever wanted them. Sometimes the ministry received a gift that covered costs and sometimes it didn’t. God promised to provide for us and He is ever-faithful.
I’m here to help when I can. As fertilizer.