by Karen O’Conner
“Grammy, want to hear me play the Charlie Brown tune?”
I nodded. “Of course.”
My seven-year-old grandson Miles is taking piano lessons and he is passionate about it. No embarrassment about being a beginner and no reluctance about performing. He slid onto the piano bench in his living room and tapped just the right keys. It was the familiar song, all right. I’d know it anywhere.
Children have a way of living their lives with passion—whether playing the piano, turning a back flip on the trampoline (Miles can do that too), or chasing a friend up the ladder to a tree house. Maybe that’s why they sleep so well at night.
Have you noticed, though, that as we grow up, many of us dial back our passion, often forgetting about it? We take a job, raise a family, and settle for what is.
Never Too Late
My husband’s friend Manny did that for many years. He studied finance in college and became an accountant, plowing through numbers and paperwork for over 30 years. Then at age 55 he was offered an early retirement package and he took it. Finally, he had time to explore sculpting—a passion that bubbled to the surface the moment he was out from under the corporate umbrella.
Within months he was creating beautiful pieces, one of which he sold for $10,000. He became so accomplished his teacher asked him to lead the class whenever the instructor was out of town.
As a professional writer Virelle Kidder from Florida says, “I am most passionate about encouraging women on their spiritual journey, helping them find a vibrant and authentic faith in Christ in their daily lives.”
Kidder’s experience writing books has led her to observe that “nothing is better for communicating real faith than real life. I love seeing God work in others’ lives. Writing, for example, is not a pressure but a privilege. He seems to arrange my next assignment every time. Learning to trust him to do that can be hard. I need to do my part, too.”
I asked Kidder for a suggestion for people who want to live passionate lives but don’t know how to take the first step. “Surrender the outcome to the Lord’s will, whether you live to see it or not. Offer your talents, tears, and time to God and obey when the opportunity comes. It may look small, but he’s honored by our obedience and our thankful heart to do even small things well.”
Kidder admitted to a time when she was certain her career was over. There were no writing assignments on her calendar and no indication of any to come. “I prayed, asking God if he wanted me to quit.” The answer came quickly. “I received a phone call from an editor I’d never met asking me to write for her, and an e-mail from another editor with the same request. That confirmed my calling,” she said. Virelle Kidder has been writing with passion ever since.
Breaking the Bonds of Perfection
My brother Kevin O’Connor, professional speaker, trainer, and counselor from Chicago, is passionate about helping people “be themselves and express themselves more genuinely. So many in my business audiences, in my classes at the university, even in my church and non-profit groups, seem constrained by their addiction to perfection and fear.” He can almost hear them saying, “I’d better not.”
When O’Connor comes up against that reluctance he uses his own books as business cards and as a supplement to his speaking on leadership and communication. He wants to show his audiences that they too can have what is referred to as a mojo experience––finding the magic in what we do.
When people lose their inspiration and creativity they feel depressed and useless. O’Connor helps them find that passion and use it to propel themselves forward.
“I want to contribute to this world through educational excellence, service that promotes justice, and values-based leadership,” he added. “In short, I want this life to reflect and preview the one to come. If my work here is on track, I remain on track and so do those I interact with.”
What can a person do to unlock passion? “A personal experience can be a guide,” said O’Connor. “My father lost his job when I was in high school. As a family, we still went on vacations and did everything we’d always done. He focused on looking for the next thing to come rather than on fear. Out of this adversity that he and my mother privately carried, I saw a courage that I recall each time I speak. My father gave me the characteristic of courage and I want to give that to my students and clients also.”
Our father also had a strong personal faith that he relied on throughout his life and handed down to his children. I remember our dad telling me when I was in a dark place in my life, “Jesus is a good friend to have.” I’ve never forgotten that.
O’Connor also commented on the “who cares” attitude we sometimes find in ourselves or notice in others. “I think the world may reflect a ‘who cares’ attitude, but I sense a deep longing to care in the people I work with. They’re seekers.”
“Maybe the apathy comes when we make mistakes, fumble, bump into one another, and let fear grip us until we recall that one experience that can remind us what we are all about. Then our only alternative is full speed ahead.”
Preserving Family Memories
Sandra Victor from Southern California is an artist with a passionate heart. Her purpose in making original greeting cards and drawings as gifts is to remind people that God loves them. Victor knows she is doing what God gifted her to do when someone says, with tears, “How did you know that’s exactly what I needed right now?”
She is also eager to help people “preserve memories through photographs and tape recordings,” something she often does for families during the months prior to the death of a loved one so they will have a tangible remembrance of parents or siblings after they’re gone.
Victor also prays for the people who receive her art and she includes Bible verses on all her drawings. “I’ve found that people who won’t crack open the Bible will read the Word of God when they receive it with a beautiful photograph of flowers or heart-warming sketches.”
In this fast-paced world Victor says, “It always surprises people that I take the time to create a card or drawing especially for them. But I see my artwork as an integral part of my prayer ministry. I pray with people on the telephone, over the Internet, and in person. This brings me a lot of joy.”
Warming Hearts And Homes
Monica Emmert and her twin sister Naomi Branagan are living their passion as co-owners of Warmth Company in Aptos, California, a cozy and creative store that offers “fine home furniture, furnishings, and accessories for people who desire a distinctive look and feel in their living space. Our mission,” they say, “is to provide everything you need to turn your house into your home.”
Monica had spent years in ministry to children and women through her church but never felt satisfied or fulfilled. “I watched my husband build a business in the auto repair industry and succeed. I saw the good he did, creating jobs for people and taking care of customers. I wanted to do something similar with my talent.”
In doing so, Monica said she realized that faith and work are not separate. Ministry is not just missions or teaching Sunday school. It is whatever God gifts you for, what you’re passionate about, and what serves people in a useful way.
“Being an artist and an entrepreneur is a big challenge,” she admits. “I know the products we sell are not going to last into eternity. But they do contribute to a warm and beautiful life for people while here on earth.” She believes God likes beauty too and he calls us to be authentic—to be the persons he created us to be. “I feel totally connected to my Creator when I’m creating,” she said. “I have no more angst in my life, no more striving.”
And how does the Bible encourage us in this regard? I like the wording of Colossians 1:11, 12 in The Message: “It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”
Karen O’Connor is a freelance writer in Watsonville, California.
Between Two Kingdoms
As Karen stated, “Children have a way of living their lives with full passion.” In Between Two Kingdoms, children take the lead on a mission for the True King.
In a work of allegorical fantasy, author Joe Boyd takes us on an adventure with Tommy and his friends, children in the Upper Kingdom, who head to the Lower Kingdom to rescue the King’s subjects.
Both children and adults alike can enjoy reading along and discovering lessons of faith and following the Lord (with passion!).
Joe Boyd is a minister but also has other passions, including storytelling. He was a professional actor and screenwriter in Hollywood for a time.
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