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Learning to live as a human

May 20, 2013 Leave a comment

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about learning what it means to live locally.  This followed after I began to read  Zack Eswine’s book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being. Eswine writes, that we are “merely human and only local.” We forget that only “Jesus is human, but not merely. Jesus is local, but not only” What then are the implications for me (us) if we admit that we are merely human?

bridge out to houses on water

Photo by Viktor Bors

This requires a choice. To be merely human means, in contrast to Jesus, that we are not God. Most, if not all of us know this theologically but many of us resist this practically. To be human means that we accept that we have limits. It means we cannot do it all, we cannot know it all and we cannot be everywhere.  Eswine’s writing should liberate us, “Being human does not mar greatness; it informs it and sets its noble boundaries.” 351

Sadly for ourselves and for those we live with and minister to, our refusal to accept and live within these limits only creates insurmountable problems, “Trying to be an exception to the human race encourages arrogance among most of us and burnout among many of us.” 246  We have bought into the serpent’s lie in the Garden, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5).  Our grasp for attributes that only belong to God gets us into trouble and in the end prevents us from loving others.  Again Eswine nails it, “As ministry leaders we endeavor to give of our lives in such a way that every neighbor we minister to will know that we are not God. The Serpent’s invitation to celebrity, immediate gratification, and using people to advance ourselves as if we are God poisons the air.” 652

footprintsEswine suggests that we need expose these temptations that “hinder the recovery of our humanity and our seeing his glory” (764) by surrendering these three limits.  We must admit the following,

We can only be at one place at one time. “We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent. But he will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God. Others will likewise resist Jesus and want you to be omnipresent. They will use his name to praise or critique you accordingly, but they too will have to learn that only Jesus can be with them wherever they are at all times. This fact is actually good news for them and for us.” 766

We cannot do everything that needs to be done. “Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix. We will want to resist Jesus and act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try. Others will also resist Jesus. Using his name, they will praise or critique us according to their desire that we fix everything for them and that we do it immediately. But they will have to learn too that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory.” 771

Open Book by Beatriz Pitarch

Open Book by Beatriz Pitarch

We are unable to know everyone or everything. “Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient. Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are. Others will resist Jesus and in his name praise us or critique us on the basis of their estimation of what we should know. They will have to learn that only Jesus knows everything they need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one.” 777

In what way are you most tempted? Thinking you can do it all? Thinking you can know it all? Thinking you can be everywhere? Eswine asks us, “What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?” 782

What happens when we forget that it is all about God

May 15, 2013 Leave a comment

abandoned tennis court by dietmar eckell

abandoned tennis court by dietmar eckell

What happens when we forget that our ministry is God’s? When the ministry become more about us than about God?  We have all done it. And we do so to our own peril!  When Jehoram (son of the great King Jehoshophat) became King in 2 Chronicles 21, he ended his leadership with a lonely and agonizing death.  As verse 20 says, “No one regretted his death.”

Raymond Dillard in the Word Commentary series offers a devastating summary of Jehoram’s life,

“Irony permeates the account of Jehoram’s reign. Rather than enlarging the scope of his power through seizing his brothers’ cities, he loses control  over Libnah and Edom; rather than securing the succession of his own children by slaughtering his brothers, he sees them suffer a similar fate; rather than securing life and happiness for himself, he suffers an agonizing and premature death; rather than gaining the devotion of his subjects, he dies unmourned and without the customary honors attending a royal funeral (McConville, 198). So it is for those who forget that the kingdom is God’s (1 Chr 10:14; 17:14; 28:5; 29:11; 2 Chr 13:8)”.

What do you do in order to not forget that it is all about God and not about you?

An opportunity for his power to be displayed in our weakness

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Many of you out there may know about the recent melt-down of Jason Russell.  Apparently, Jason is a Christian activist who produced the viral Kony 2012 and co-led the group Invisible Children.  Julie Barrios has written a powerful blog post about what Russell’s breakdown can teach all of us who are driven to succeed. A couple of quotes from her post follow.

When our varied kinds of deep disorientation and insecurity go unprocessed, it becomes an energy in the soul that is so strong that it can accomplish tremendous things, for better or worse.  The need to repress the pain and reorient oneself becomes the driving force of life.

Consider Russell’s breakdown an invitation. It is an invitation to all of you, to all of us, to explore the internal minefield in which our ministries are tangled. It is the minefield of our childhood traumas, our need for approval, and our attachment to our own perceived goodness.  As we explore this minefield, bombs go off, but may we not lose heart, for our explosions are no more than jarring, forthright, and insistent invitations to experience the prevailing and preeminent power of Christ and His cross.

Indeed, when we are feeling pain and disappointment, we have an opportunity to process those desires deep within.  May God give us all grace in this journey.

One of those cracked pot days

February 2, 2012 2 comments

personal photo

I guess it was one of those cracked pot days. (2 Cor 4:7)

Someone recently told me, “David you have a need to be wanted.” A friend helped me to process the conversation and said to me, “In the context of that conversation, that was a vicious attack.” He encouraged me to see the hand of God in the wound.  Not that God is viscious or mean but even in the hurtful words, God was present with me.

My questions: Why? To what end? For what purpose?  Now those are questions that can’t be answered at this stage of my journey or maybe not ever.

Perhaps the most hurtful part of the discussion was the following comment, “David, you have a need to be wanted. And so I am not going to tell you that I want you.” Ouch!

A word given to me was, “Assyria is a rod in my hand.”  To punish/discipline but also as a reminder that God has not abandoned.  In the middle of the pain, God is there—what a challenge for me to see that—to believe that—to love that.

Back to needing to be wanted. Actually, I acknowledged that I do need to be wanted.  Just as I need to be loved.  David Benner says our longings, our desires are pathways for our journey with God.  He think he would say that intimacy with God is impossible without desire being present.

Here is a quote from Benner’s Soulful Spirituality,

Despite how it is sometimes presented, desire is right at the center of the spiritual life. A sense of obligation may sometimes be enough to keep you going to church, but only desire will keep you open to God and still seeking when your experience in church is filled with frustration and is irrelevant to your deepest spiritual longings. Guilt may be strong enough to motivate religious behavior, but only desire can lead you ahead on the spiritual journey. The absence of desire means the absence of spiritual life. 335

At age 56, I am much more aware of my own neediness than I was at age 23 or 32!  For that I am grateful.  I recognize the truth of 2 Cor 3:5, “who of us is capable of such things?” Not me, that is for sure. Not by my own strength and power.  My sufficiency is only found in the Lord Jesus! I possess a neediness, a longing for more that will not be totally fulfilled until I see the Lord Jesus face to face—the transformation that is currently in process will one day be complete (2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2).

I am aware that much damage has been done in the name of ministry by people who are needy—who need to be wanted, liked and loved.  But I suspect the damage is done more by people who are unaware of their neediness or deny it.  I wonder if more damage has been done by those in ministry when they think that they have no needs!  So for today, gratefully I accept that yes, I am David, a man before God who needs to be wanted and loved and I am thankful that God wants me, loves me, has chosen me to be his beloved and has brought many people into my life who walk with me and are courageous enough to love me and walk with me on this faith journey.  Thank you God.

Here is a song that seems to express well my heart tonight.

Suffering and glory

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Amazing how suffering and glory run together as I read 1 Peter 5:1-10.  Some thoughts that fit well with life right now.

Love the juxtaposition of the words, “witness of the sufferings” and “partaker in the glory.” How closely suffering and glory seem to be related in Scripture–for the Lord Jesus and for me as His follower and as one of the leaders in his church. Shepherding–willingly, not because I have to or should do so, not domineering but being an example, with humility not with pride. Surely there is suffering in the midst of the shepherding–my experience teaches me this and because when my shepherd appears he comes in glory and with glory for me, glory that comes after the suffering. Taking advantage of the suffering, my enemy wants to devour me with discouragement and despair, yet I have one who cares for me in the midst of the struggle and promises me after the suffering, eternal glory will come—He himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, establish–words that give me life, hope and reassurance I am not alone in the battle. Thank you Lord.

I have been able to live everything I have believed

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Great interview here with Eugene Peterson.  Thanks to David Hayward

Quote above is from Peterson.

Reflections on a ministry of presence

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Describe the kind of person you would want around you when:

  • You are sick and in the hospital
  • You are sad after facing a disappointment
  • You are rejoicing after celebrating a graduation/engagement/acceptance
  • You are afraid because of you have been attacked/threatened

What does a ministry of presence in the following job description mean?

“Provide a regular ministry of presence by timely visits to all areas of the field in coordination with respective Ministry Leaders.”

 In what way do the following people experience the presence of God?

  • Gen 26:3  Abraham “Live in the land”
  • Gen 31:3 Jacob “Return to the land”
  • Exodus 3:12 Moses Lead the people, I will bring you out
  • Joshua 1:5 Joshua “No man shall be able to stand before you
  • Judges 6:16 Gideon “Strike the Midianites”
  • Others: Exodus 29:45-46; Isaiah 43:2; Heb 13:8; John 1John 14-16

Reflect on the ways God is present with his people in Psalm 46.

What is NOT necessary in a ministry of presence?

What are the barriers to having a ministry of presence?

What is necessary in a ministry of presence?

In what way or area of your life do you need to know the presence of God?

In what way can you offer a ministry of presence to others you serve?

“God’s presence sends us into the heights of joy and sensing his absence is unbearable.” Mike Wilkerson Redemption

For more information you might want to look at this free edition of Brother Lawrence’s classic Practicing the Presence of God

Understanding the heart of Mother Teresa

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Why did Mother Teresa want to reach out to the poor of Calcutta. She articulates her  vision and passion here:

We shall be “bringing happiness into these unhappy homes. Amongst the very poor—what suffering the mothers undergo—on account of their children—on account of their husbands.—My Sisters will care for their children—will nurse the sick, the old, & the dying in their homes.—They will teach the young wives how to make their homes happy. There are many places where the priest even can not get at—but a Missionary of Charity will by her work enter every hole—wherever there is human life, wherever there is a soul for Jesus.”

How many die without God—just because there was nobody to say one word about His Mercy.—The sufferings of their body make them forget the terrible sufferings their souls will have for all Eternity.

Here, she is trying to explain to her superiors why she should be allowed to start her new ministry.

I know you are afraid for me. You are afraid that the whole thing will be a failure.—What about it? Is it not worth going through every possible suffering just for one single soul? Did not Our Lord do the same: What a failure was His Cross on Calvary—and all for me, a sinner.

What if the good God wants my name? I am His and His only.—The rest has no hold on me. I can do without all the rest if I have Him. Fear not for me—nor for those who will join me—He will look after us all. He will be with us.

He will do all. I, I am only a little instrument in His hands, and because I am just nothing, He wants to use me.

Mother Teresa speaks about her own self-love and feelings of inadequacy.

By nature I am sensitive, love beautiful and nice things, comfort and all the comfort can give—to be loved and love.

The complete poverty, the Indian life, the life of the poorest will mean a hard toil against my great self love.

I feel sometimes afraid, for I have nothing, no brains, no learning, no qualities required for such a work, and yet I tell Him that my heart is free from everything and so it belongs completely to Him, and Him alone. He can use me just as it will please Him best. To please Him only is the joy I seek.

All of the above quotes are from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk.

 

Why do we lack margins?

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Follow-up post to my post on the problem of marginless living. Big question: why do we live this way?  All quotes by Richard Swenson in Margin

1. We fail to understand limits

  • Everyone and everything has a limit.
  • “When we have no margin and our limits have been exceeded; when we are besieged by stress and overload; when our relational life is ailing; when it seems the flood of events is beyond our control; then problems take on a different dimension.  One at a time they are perhaps manageable  . . . Instead they mound up suddenly and then they bury us without warning.” 42

2. We are addicted to stress and overload

  • Until we find ways to guard our mental and spiritual health as well as our social ecology, we will only compound our troubles.   We need discipline, restraint, and “respect for the inward and transcendent needs of human beings.” 30
  • “We need to stop doing things that get us into trouble and start doing better things.” 32

3. The church rewards overload

  • We follow our leaders into overload.
  • When we establish boundaries, we are not rewarded.
  • When people complain about being overloaded, we may attack them and inaccurately label their problem as “weakness, apathy, or lack of commitment.” 59
  • Instead: We should “Set people free to seek their own level.” 59
  • “As soon as I condemn them or try to control them, I violate who they are before God.   Making them accountable to Him does not mean that they must do as I wish them to do.  . . In my experience, the greater problem . . . is not the lack of accountability but the desire to control other people’s lives.” 60

“Overload just happens. Margin, in contrast, requires great effort . . . Margin flows toward overload, but overload does not revert to margin unless forced.” 77

How are your margins today?

How to help someone if they are sad

August 15, 2010 1 comment

“The truth is, most of us are uncomfortable with sadness, as individuals and as churches. We want to fix people and help them to feel better, and we are far less patient than God is with the process he uses to bring healing.”  That is what Nancy Guthrie says in an interview someone sent to me recently.

A few more quotes from Guthrie:

“For a church to be a safe place for sad people does not merely mean that we offer comfort and acceptance. Sometimes it means that we gently but boldly challenge misbeliefs or misunderstandings of Scripture.”

“While we make room for people to be sad, we want to walk with people in expectation that God will indeed do a work of healing in their lives so that they do not stay stuck in their sadness, but emerge from it strengthened in their confidence in God, deepened in their understanding of the Scriptures, and equipped to serve others.”

Guthrie says, “Grieving people have four primary needs that the church has a key role in addressing:

  1. They have intense sadness that is lonely and lingering that needs to be respected.
  2. They have significant questions that need to be addressed in light of Scripture.
  3. They have broken relationships that need to be healed and normalized.
  4. They have a deep desire to discover some meaning and purpose in their loss.”

Related to Guthrie’s article is one by Ajith Fernando, “To Serve is to Suffer” in which he writes, “We call our churches and Christian organizations “families,” but families are very inefficient organizations. In a healthy family, everything stops when a member has big needs. We are often not willing to extend this commitment to Christian body life.”

Fernando’s article is hard hitting for those wanting to serve but who do not want to suffer!  More from Fernando,

“When people leave a church because they do not fit the program, it communicates a deadly message: that our commitment is to the work and not to the person, that our unity is primarily in the work and not in Christ and the gospel. The sad result is that Christians do not have the security of a community that will stay by them no matter what happens. They become shallow individuals, never having true fellowship and moving from group to group. Churches committed to programs can grow numerically, but they don’t nurture biblical Christians who understand the implications of belonging to the body of Christ.”

Here is a quote that is particularly painful for me to read,

“I get the strong feeling that many in the West think struggling with tiredness from overwork is evidence of disobedience to God. My contention is that it is wrong if one gets sick from overwork through drivenness and insecurity. But we may have to endure tiredness when we, like Paul, are servants of people.”

In response to Fernando’s article and shortly before her husband died, Libby Little wrote A Small Version of the Grand Narrative in which she concluded, “May the fruitful door of opportunity to embrace suffering in service, or at least embrace those who are suffering, remain open for the sake of God’s kingdom.”

Why do you do what you do?

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

why dont cats fly by jur igruh

If you are like me, you may not like the above question but it is one that is worth answering.  Just discovered Chris Tomlinson’s blog in which he makes  posts here and here asking those pesky “why” question related to our motivation for being involved in ministry.

In a reflecting on why he writes and blogs, Tomlinson wrote, “I write in order to

  • Be affirmed
  • Express a gift
  • Force myself to think more deeply about daily life
  • Prove I have something worth saying, or prove I am valuable because of what I do
  • Attempt to know more of God
  • Share ways in which the gospel touches our daily lives
  • Satisfy my ego
  • Proclaim Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings”
  • Feel important or impactful

Tomlinson continues, “You will notice a mix of pride-filled motives and grace-filled motives in this list.  My confession to God is that I am not ready to fully submit my writing to Him and His purposes alone, and my prayer is that He will help me remove my own selfish motives and replace them with His motives instead.”

Asking people why they do what they do is not a question to casually ask people.  Trust me, I have offended people on more than one occasion!  Our internal motivations are often hidden deep within and we need God’s gentle Spirit and the loving interaction with others to discern these blind spots.  May we be people who lovingly respond to others as well as be people who build community around us so that we might be prepared to hear the truth about ourselves.

Why do you do what you do?

What would Jesus have said?

May 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Should we ever suggest that people leave our church or our Christian organizations?  Donald Miller has an intriguing post on his blog about one pastor that suggested some people might be better off at another church if they didn’t want to get plugged in via service or home churches.  Lively discussion in the comment section.

Here was my comment:

I don’t remember Jesus ever asking anyone to leave because of a lack of space or because they lacked committment. People did, however, stop following Jesus after he spoke about commitment and what it meant to be his follower (Jn 6:66). He asked the twelve in v67, “Do you want to go away as well?” His words were hard and yet they were loving–I think of how Jesus loved the rich young ruler (in Mark 10:21 but not said in Mtt or Lk) and yet still spoke the hard truth–truth which made the young man sad because he was not willing to obey and he went away.

Challenging people to live the life of a disciple will make them uncomfortable if they are not. Yet we continue to love them. If they leave because they don’t like to be challenged, hopefully we are sad because we love them but we let them go. Trying to keep people in our church because we think we need their money or talents when they are unhappy and out of synch with the direction we are moving will only lead all to much pain down the road

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Ethnocentric thinking about Haiti

March 9, 2010 Leave a comment

In an article, Theyr’e Not Us, Roberto Carlo expands our understanding about the disastrous attempt of well-meaning Christians who tried to rescue 100 Haitain orphans and bring them back to America.  Sigh!!!  He goes on to describe other ill-fated attempts of missionaries to help.  His conclusion for success in mission endeavors: “That requires doing something that most Americans are terrible at: seeing ourselves and our history as the rest of the world sees it, never mind taking it seriously.”

What Carlo describes in this article is ethnocentric thinking–an assumption that our way is better, resulting in a lack of respect for people in their own context and an inability to see how God is already at work.  I understand that people “just want do do something to help” but in too many cases, that help makes things worse in the long run.

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own.

Ethnocentric: characterized by or based on the attitude that one’s own group is superior.

Missionary conversations: part 2

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

More conversations with missionaries regarding the losses incurred on their return to their home country.

Vicious loss cycles—Vicious loss cycles occurred when the primary re-entry losses led to secondary losses which aggravated the primary losses and were associated with a breakdown of balance in the participants’ lives.

N: . . . as we focus on the situation of settling back in we have countless decisions to make in a relatively short period of time. . . so that in itself is very wearing and means that isolation and lack . . . of people to confide in makes all those decisions more difficult.

F: And it [illness on re-entry] was partly due to ongoing stresses when we came home added to all the other things, which I really haven’t had time to process.

For N, multiple re-entry losses, including lack of support, led to multiple decisions with loss of energy which aggravated the initial losses and resulted in an imbalance between the demands and his ability to respond. For F, multiple re-entry losses led to lack of balance in her time to process these losses which had negative physical, mental and spiritual changes which then led to further loss.

From “Back Home: a qualitative study exploring re-entering cross-cultural missionary aid workers’ loss and grief” Published in Omega 59:1 2008-2009

Toward an understanding of the Philippines

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Two more books gone from my “to read” list, these regarding life in the Philippines which may not be of interest to as many of you.

Surgeons Do Not Cry by Ting Tiongco

Well-written glimpses of life about the life of a doctor and his patients at the massive public facility in Manila called the Philippine General Hospital.  Overwhelming needs, stories that will make you angry and ones that make you proud to be part of the Philippines.  Locally printed only

Beyond Coral Shores by Martin C. Haworth

Fun book to read since I knew Martin and many of the characters about which he wrote.   Wish I had gotten to know him before he and his family left the field.  At times he describes so well what life is like here and I wish I could give that section to my friends so they could understand!  In the midst of amusing stories about life on the island of Mindoro, he intersperses a few critiques about Filipino and missionary culture.  Two quotesL “But the one who was truly responsible for my deteriorating health was myself; the shadow of guilt of not doing enough; the fear of letting people down was always driving me.” 201 “In situations where most individuals are highly motivated and committed to the task, team leaders really need to lead by example by taking adequate rest, giving the right to those under them to similarly follow suit.” 207

Slum as a way of life by F. Landa Jocano

Sadly, I doubt if I will finish this fascinating study about life in a Manila slum during the 70s, written by an anthropologist.  Amazingly many things don’t appear to have changed.  Locally printed

A Prayer of a Missionary Parent

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

I have no idea where I picked this up but it is good for any of us in ministry that get our priorities mixed up.  I am grateful for all the forgiveness my children have extended to me as it has been needed.  Formatting is not quite right.  Too bad.

prayer2Father forgive us.

For in the name of service to you

We have built warm relationships with those we minister to, with our supporters.

But have allowed distance, coldness…
to seep into our relationships with our children;

We have believed in the myth of “quality time” and sometimes forgottenthat our children, especially our teenagers, need us-need quantity time.

In the name of Christian excellence-for we are leaders, are we not;
we have placed intolerable burdens on our children,
forgetting you said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We have allowed music…earrings…clothes…grades…
to blind us to their hearts

Yet we are deeply grateful you do not judge us by externals,
nor deal with us as our sins deserve;

We have treated our children with distrust because they have failed once?…twice?…many times?
wounding their spirits
maybe quenching the spark of desire to change.

Yet you continue to trust us and use us
after a myriad of failures…and broken promises.

We have basked in your grace freely poured out to us, Yet have sometimes doled it out to our children
in drops…in spoonfuls…maybe cupfuls.

We have sometimes seen rebellion in our children’s faces,
heard it…we thought…in their voices,
when in fact it was pain…confusion…maybe anger.

We have not looked long enough into their eyes to see the tears waiting to spill over nor listened carefully enough to hear the longing

sometimes barely a whisper

to be all God wants them to be.

Yet, Father, we know we are weak and we run to you,
knowing you love us just as we are.

Maybe we are afraid to see what lies in our children’s hearts
for it may give us a glimpse
of pain…confusion…weakness…that lies in our own.

O Father, we need you.

Forgive us…heal our brokenness.

Give us your eyes…your ears…your heart.

Help us to tread gently, lovingly, graciously, on the soil of our children’s lives
knowing that you are already there,
and always will be.

Looking at worldview

March 2, 2009 1 comment

Does the church need to do some some serious study on the worldview of today’s generation.  An article by John Stonestreet at Breakpoint suggests so. The church today finds itself ministering in a cross-cultural context just as much as any missionary overseas.

Referring to a book by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Stonestreet suggests that we need to help today’s students figure out what Christianity is all about.  And he is referring to those with a church background! He suggests that the contemporary worldview battles today “are rooted in a basic disagreement of what it means to be and live as human.”

Today’s students enter a world of runaway biotechnology, postmodern social constructions of gender, virtual online identities, family redefinition, distorted understandings of beauty, and multiple sexual orientations, each of which fundamentally challenge our concept of humanness. Further, our culture has largely embraced Darwin, trivialized Scripture, and relativized truth, and has therefore left few stable resources to negotiate this corporate identity crisis.

He issues a challenge for us to work on clarifying definitions which in this post-modern age seems to be a bit tricky to say the least.  Stonestreet writes,  “Assuming that we share definitions, or that traditional definitions will go unquestioned, with the emerging generation is a mistake with significant consequences.”

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Authentic ministry

December 27, 2008 Leave a comment

I don’t know anyone who wants to be a ministry project.  In our new role in member care, there have been a few times when people have been quite defensive when we have asked them how they are doing.  How to communicate genuine care? How to care for people authentically? Some helpful words from Beth Porter via the Henri Nouwen society.

On the Journey Towards Becoming a More Authentic Minister written by BETH PORTER

I have sometimes felt so phony in my attempts at ministry. My words seem awkward and empty to me, and I can only imagine that the person receiving them recognizes this. Lately I have been looking back at one period of ministry when I felt I usually did have the right words – and right judgment about when silence and not speech was called for. It was a stint of chaplaincy training during which I was assigned to visit palliative care patients. Though I had little experience or training, authentic ministry seemed to come easily to me there, and fairly often I could sense the grace in the moment for the other person as well as for myself.

What were the elements in that situation that called the best out of me? I think the exigency of approaching death left no space for delay, for laziness, for the trivial, or platitudes, or dishonesty – or for self-conscious concern about whether or not I would find the right words. In the starkness, fully attentive, I reached deep for hope, and my ego took a backseat.

The word authentic means “from the author.” I usually realize after I have said something when it has come from a superficial part of myself – it’s as though the real me has not authored it! I don’t particularly want to keep death always in mind, but I see the importance of the psalmist’s plea that God “teach us to number our days, so that we might get a heart of wisdom.”

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On Joy

December 10, 2008 Leave a comment

From Adrian van Kaam’s reflections on John 17:13-16 in The Tender Farewell of Jesus

Jesus’ joy is the source of our peace and happiness.

All partial joys will deceive us if we do not subordinate them in the deepest joy that Jesus yearns to share with us., so that we may share it with others.

True joy sets us free. It helps us to let go of illusions and to find equanimity.

Christian joy is as dim as a spent light, it may even be extinguished, if it is not nourished by loving care for others. Care and joy can never be separated. One flows forth from and sustains the other. One cannot last without the other.

Christian joy is kept alive by the words Jesus passed on to us. They are a source of faith, hope, and charity. His joy may be hidden in the recesses of our soul.

The radiation of Jesus’ joy in our heart and mind may grow dim due to the pain of dissatisfaction we feel when the world in which we live opposes the words Jesus passed on to us. In God’s own good time, this suffering may be transformed by grace. Then our joy will emanate from our sharing in Christ’s own passion.

In daily life the joyful Christian tries to strike the happy mean between superficial lightheartedness and rigid seriousness, between the person who presses pain behind a false smile and the one who never laughs or enjoys life.

The joy of Christ has nothing to do with raucous wit or an addiction to fun and loud laughter. Neither does it thrive on heaviness of heart. Jesus’ joy is a gentle delight in the goodness of life as a gift of the Trinity to us and others.

Joy loses its fire when people are tempted by a society that does not care for its own and refuses to live by the words of Jesus.

Christians are called with him to live in this world, to heal its pains, to save souls, to preach the coming of the reign of God, while not being of this world.

It (Jesus’ joy) is the joy we long to experience in the core of our being in spite of the hate we may incur from those who resist your ways. We ought not to expect that fidelity to your ways will gain us admiration in a world where human ambition and earthly aspirations are ever ascending.

Giving up my right to significance

December 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Even though last week was spent in meetings all day about our new computerized personnel system, we started each day with a Bible reading and prayer for various needs around the world. One devotional was given by our new Finance Director on Mtt 6:33. You know, “See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (food, housing, clothing) will be added unto you.” The question that I heard being asked—“What is more important—what will build His kingdom or what will promote me and my agenda?

Lately, I have been asking, “Where can my gifts best be utilized? My current role or another?” Not a bad question in itself—as long as my first priority is seeking first His kingdom agenda! But that has not been my priority to be honest. There has been a slow erosion towards a longing for the recognition and the attention of man. I have been subtly planning how to make that happen. Forgive me Lord for my fear of insignificance! One question that I need to be asking my leaders, “How can I best serve the needs of the fellowship?” I need to give up my “right” to success, reward and significance. I need to once again commit myself to God’s will and God’s service as His eternal life flows through me. I know that I have nothing to offer apart from Him.

Read the following last week, from Adrian van Kaam’s reflections on John 17:3 in The Tender Farewell of Jesus

Following the ways of the world, we may be commended for the efficiency of our performance, rewarded for a job well done, granted a promotion, but our accomplishments seem shallow. No longer are they an inspiration to our fellow pilgrims. We need to correct our course. Only when your eternal life enwraps our temporal existence can we find our way through the tempests of everydayness and answer the demands of those we serve in your name. 55-56

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