WEEK 2 — Taking Stock

From the Book

Rob invites us in Chapter Two to take a look at our life stories and to take stock of the variety of elements that have shaped us. Rob includes the elements of cultural background, spiritual upbringing, personal life, education and skills, and experiences. At the close of the chapter, Rob emphasizes the importance of rooting all of this assessment in a willingness to serve. A servant’s heart, Rob notes, is key. To get the most from this chapter, I’d suggest inviting your listeners to keep two points in mind as they hear Rob’s invitations for taking stock. First, I find it helpful to recall that each of our stories is part of a grander story, the story of God’s purposes in this world (p. 46-47). Secondly, I find it helps to keep in mind that each of us is a unique creation (mosaic) and deeply loved by God. Paul’s life as recorded in scripture is one piece of God’s grand narrative of redemption. Paul’s story is rich with triumphs and perils, relationships and loneliness, suspense and resolution. Using Paul’s story as an example, it’s clear that no experience, whether success or failure, is without value. The difficult portions of the tale are not shrouded but openly recorded. Even a cursory reading of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 confirms this pattern—murderers, prostitutes, kings, and lovers are all named in the lineage of Christ, and each is essential to the story. Recognizing each elements of our story as a part of God’s purpose and part of the grand narrative of redemption can be incredibly liberating. There’s no more need to name anything success or failure—it’s all just a part of the unfolding story. Reviewing our background, experiences, and gifts in light of God’s grander narrative invites us to resist comparison and shame. Powerful as well is the practice of viewing our experiences, abilities, and background as design elements employed by a master artist in the co-creation of our life’s narrative. In the DVD, Rob opens the discussion on reviewing life narratives with the metaphor of a mosaic. The elements of each person’s life create intricate designs, much like the pieces in a mosaic together form beautiful images. Invite listeners to view the elements of their lives as design pieces that, with God as co-creator, compose a work of art. Imagining the cultural background, spiritual upbringing, personal life, education and skills, and experiences unique to each of us as beautiful design elements can offer an alternative to our tendency to compare, measure, and judge while taking stock of our experiences. That habit of comparing moves us to judgment—alternately coming up short or self-aggrandizing. What I find so compelling about the narratives of scripture is their readiness to include all, whether an element we’d deem good or bad, meaningful or wasteful, pride-inducing or shame-inducing. It’s all there, all a part of the grander, unfolding story of the far reach of Divine Love. So, as we move into Rob’s invitation to take stock, to review our lives, and to move forward in service to others, let’s do so ready to see the artistry with which we’re designed.


From the DVD

Rob begins this recorded session by referencing an image of a mosaic. He reminds us that humans are works of art, creative compilations of varied elements patterned in distinct designs. Rob goes on to point out three locations in Paul’s journey, each an element in Paul’s own distinct design. Rob focuses on Tarsus, Jerusalem, and Corinth. Paul’s Tarsus represents the geography and culture that shaped Paul’s life. In Jerusalem, Paul experienced both triumph and failure, and God used both in Paul’s life. Paul’s time in Corinth is marked by his instruction on unique spiritual gifts. Rob invites us to name our Tarsus, our Jerusalem, and our Corinth. Take a moment to follow Rob’s instruction. Describe the geography and culture that shaped your life. Recall the experiences that you would name successes or failures in your life and take note of where you see God in these experiences. Note your spiritual gifts, not just your résumébuilding talents, but the gifts you know God uses to grow God’s kingdom. Step back and see the unique design that is you, your ministry, your gift to the world. It’s rare that we take the time to truly listen to our own stories, to be attentive to the many experiences, relationships, and geographies that have crafted us into the distinct works of art that we are. Cultivate a habit of listening to your own story and inviting others to share theirs.



Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? —1 Corinthians 4:7, (MSG)

This scripture is translated many ways. The NIV says, “Who makes you different from anyone else?” Slightly different, the CEB says, “Who says that you are better than anyone else?” I prefer Eugene Peterson’s version: “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gift?” (MSG) I like this version because it turns the tables on our propensity to judge—ourselves and others. I read “Who makes you different…?” and “Who says that you are better…?” and hear in the words “different” and “better” inklings of comparison and judgment. I hear in Peterson’s version an invitation to expansive awareness. If indeed what I have and all I am are gift, generously given, my heart opens to give in response. If I am caught in a mindset that compares and judges all I have and am, I tend toward stinginess and constriction. I am gift; I am unique design. I have a distinct part in the grand narrative of Divine Love.



Divine Artist, awaken the designer in me. Give me eyes to see each aspect of who I am as a colorful piece of tile in the process of being shaped into a unique and masterful piece of art. Give me eyes to see how this design that is me fits into a larger and wider design full of vitality and love—a design that encompasses us all.



Go out with the assurance that you are gift, you are unique design, you have a distinct part in
the grand narrative of Divine Love


— Sharon Conley Cottingham

Director of Formational Learning, The Upper Room

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