I keep a small rock on my desk with a single word painted on it: naviget. I cherish that rock. My wife gave it to me during a spell that was dry for me and hard for us; when I felt like my past was crumbling and I was not sure what the future held. And if you don't know Latin, keep reading; you'll eventually find out what it means.

I first came across this word in a wonderful article by theologian Gilbert Meilander called "Divine Summons." The article was about the notion of calling and vocation, which have long been vexing subjects for me, because I wondered if I would ever get one.

I have been a pastor for a long time now. When I was ordained in the Baptist church, one of the questions I knew was coming was, "Tell us about your 'call.'" In our tradition, if you became a pastor, you had to have a "call": a mystical, vivid, (but non-charismatic) experience in which you have an inner sense/compulsion/Voice (but never quite audible) that tells you to become a preacher.

"Only become a preacher if you cannot do anything else," the old-timers would say knowingly. And many people followed that advice, which may be why the competency bar for preachers got set pretty low.

I come from a long line of pastors. My great-grandfather, Robert Bennet Hall, got his call working in a small grocery store more than a century ago. He had run away from the orphanage where he grew up and married a grocer's daughter. He was sweeping out the storeroom when he got the call. My brother-in-law got the call when he was working in a grocery store in our old hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Possibly my problem was that I never worked at a grocery store.

Because I never got that kind ...

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