PURPOSE: The Practice of Listening for Our Calling

Theme for January

The intention of the themed year is to help Unitarian Universalists build a robust spiritual and ethical vocabulary. The themes are points of departure for religious liberals seeking to think, speak and act theologically, prophetically and prayerfully. The themes reclaim religious language, casting old terms in a new key to deepen spiritual grounding and sharpen moral reasoning. More at: wbuuc.org/themes or sign up for a circle at wbuuc.org/classes.

Download 2019Jan Purpose – listening for our calling .pdf


  • When do you remember first looking for purpose in life? Have you stopped yet?
  • If you are ‘listening for your calling’, whose voice are you listening for, or listening to?
  • What refuses to be quiet within you?
  • Who is it you are trying to become?



“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“The purpose of life…is to discover the joy or well-being that simultaneously pleases us and blesses our neighbor. Every act we commit is a contribution to the world; the question is whether our actions will be a blessing or a curse. The basic question of life is not, ‘What do I want?’ but rather, ‘What do I want to give?’”
—The Rev. Rebecca Parker

“Ikigai is a Japanese word whose meaning translates roughly to a reason for being, encompassing joy, a sense of purpose and meaning and a feeling of well-being. Ikigai can be described as an intersection between 4 different elements: what you’re passionate about, where your skills lie, how you can earn a living and what the world needs.”
― Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life



Caudal (The Fortune)
To give is to love,
To give prodigiously:
For every drop of water
To return a torrent.

We were made that way,
Made to scatter
Seeds in the furrow
And stars in the ocean.

Woe to him, Lord,
who doesn’t exhaust his supply,
And, on returning, tells you:
“Like an empty satchel
Is my heart.”
Dar es amar,
dar prodigiosamente
por cada gota de agua
devolver un torrente.

Fuimos hechos asi,
hechos para botar
semillas en el surco
y estrellas en el mar

Y ¿ay! del que no agote,
Señor, su provisión Y al regresar te diga:
¿Como alforja vacía
está mi corazón!
—Miguel Angel Asturias, Guatemalan Poet


She makes strawberry jam
ginagawinad wiishko’aanimad, waaseyaagami
mixing sweet wind and shining water
miinawaa gipagaa nibwaakaa,
with thick wisdom
bigishkada’ad, dibaabiiginad
pounding, measuring
gakina gaa zhawenimangidwa
everything we’ve cared for
gakina gaa waniangidwa
everything we’ve lost
nagamowinan waa nagamoyaang
the songs we have not yet sung
miigwanag waa wawezhi’angidwa
the feathers yet to decorate
and all the ways we’ve smiled
mooshkine moodayaabikoong
into jars filled to the brim
ji-baakaakonid pii bakadeyaang.
to be opened when we are thin.
—Margaret Noodin, Anishinaabe poet


When our eyes
See our hands
Doing the work of our hearts,
the circle of creation is completed.

Inside us
the doors of our souls fly open.
Love steps forth
to heal everything in sight.
—Michael Bridges


In the quietness of this place,
surrounded by the all-pervading presence
of the Holy, my heart whispers:

Keep fresh before me the moments
of my High Resolve, that in good
times or in tempests,

I may not forget that to which my
life is committed.

Keep fresh before me the moments of my high
— Mary Oliver, from White Pine


May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
—John O’Donohue, Excerpt from, ‘A Morning Offering’



When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul. It is always there and the more deeply you learn to listen, the greater surprises and discoveries that will unfold. To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life. Your life is no longer consumed by hunger for the next event, experience or achievement. You learn to come down from the treadmill and walk on the earth. You gain a new respect for yourself and others and you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence. You know now that your true source is not outside you. Your soul is your true source and a new energy and passion awakens in you. ― John O’Donohue, Excerpt from BEAUTY

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say! —success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The central task of the religious community is to unveil the bonds that bind each to all. There is a connectedness, a relationship discovered amid the particulars of our own lives and the lives of others. Once felt, it inspires us to act for justice. It is the church that assures us that we are not struggling for justice on our own, but as members of a larger community. The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be done. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed. —Mark Morrison-Reed, #580, Singing the Living Tradition



Be What You Must by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens)

I have journeyed endless nights
Seen many harbors where I took rest a while
On this boat called “Near and Far”
To be what you must you must give up what you are

Only on a wind of hope my heart sailed
Craving mystic oceans to arrive
Those who do not leave and choose to stay
Barely survive

Be you dust or be you star
To be what you must just reach out for what you are
And though you travel many worlds
There’s but one way and that’s the one you chose



A web piece entitled “5 TED Talks to Help You Find Your Purpose In Life
The five tag lines are:
1) “Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?” (David Brooks)
2) “How to find and do work you love” (Scott Dinsmore)
3) “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” (Emilie Wapnick)
4) “You Matter: Cause and Belief” (Matt Emerzian)
5) “Try something new for 30 days” (Matt Cutts)



Listen! The Spirit Is Calling! by The Rev. John Saxon, UU minister

Listen! Can you hear it? The Spirit is calling.

It calls us in the silence and through the noise and busyness of our daily lives. It calls us in the brightness of the day and the darkness of the night, in times of hope and despair.

Listen! Can you hear it? The Spirit is calling.

It doesn’t matter what you call it for it has no name and has many different names. The Spirit of Life. The Spirit of Love. The Spirit of Compassion. The Spirit of Hope. The Spirit of Justice.

Listen! Can you hear it? The Spirit is calling.

It’s calling to you and to me. It’s calling us to greater wholeness, greater connection, greater service, greater love. It’s calling us to heal the brokenness within ourselves, in others, and in the world. It’s calling us to live more deeply. It’s calling us to beauty.

It’s calling us to laugh and dance and sing. It’s calling us to live through life’s pain and sorrow. It’s calling us to live courageously and kindly, to speak our truth in love, and to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
It’s calling us into community. It’s calling us into the greater Life of all.


Can you hear it?

The Spirit is calling.