Pages

Monday, January 31, 2011

Redeeming My Time

I preached this last week-- Our Sr. Pastor became ill with the stomach flu, so I was able to step in and preach in this sermon series. Thankfully he is much better now!



Sermon Series “The Me I Want to Be”
Week 3 “Redeeming My Time”
January 23, 2010
Rev. Elizabeth S. Anderson

Ephesians 5: 15-20

NKJV
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I love Ephesians- because it is filled with practicality. Paul is not just sharing some nice, pat answers, this is not just a good idea—this how you should live—this is about a practical divinity in your life—this isn’t theology for the sake of heady theology- this is about right living- allowing God’s word and God’s presence to make a difference in your life—its about living into the me God wants you to be—the very best me you can be….

The Greek word used here for redeem is “ex-a-gor-ATZ-o" (I wrote it this way to help me say it better!)
Ex-a-gor- ATZ- o is a marketplace term. When you redeem someone from slavery, as Christ redeemed us, you are purchasing them – purchasing them out of their slavery. You are paying the price to take them out of a bad situation.

We are to take back- time—take it-- out of the hands of the evil days.

The word for time being used here is karios, which means time- but not just any time kind of
time. Karios isn’t about minutes and seconds and wristwatches and sundials (that would be
chronos.) It’s not about the flow of time or a specific measurement of time—rather kairos is about being in the flow of the Spirit --- a right time- an opportune time- pre-determined time.

It’s about being in- aware, open, intentional, to God’s presence in time.

Karios is a time prepared for, directed by, and appointed for you by God.

Redeeming the time, you are purchasing out of slavery the fleeting opportunities that you are
presented with. In other words, you “make the most of every opportunity” or “make the most of
your time”

But as I read through this text, I couldn’t help but wonder—why didn’t Paul say, utilize your time, or seize the day!—why was it this imagery of purchasing from slavery?

The why is found in the because – “the days are evil.” Paul looked around and saw evil times—Impurity, covetousness, idolatry—we look around and see this too- we see resentment, anxiety, greed, superiority - we see horror, we feel shame, we experience insatiable desires… The days, the time is not evil- rather it is all that seeks to steal time and turn it into anything other than God’s glory.

Picture a tug-of-war where opportunity (kairos) is in the middle, and we’re pulling one way while the evil of the days are pulling the other way.


US-------------------------------------------Karios------------------------- Evil


But you see—That’s not what’s happening here.

Opportunity to make the most of your time- Karios- is not in the middle. It is not the in neutral ground – it’s in hostile territory.


US-------------------------------------------------------------------Karios--Evil




Because of the evil in these days, the opportunities we have to do good and to bring glory to God are already on auto-pilot and on a course to be swallowed up by busyness and our worldly mindsets.


So pervasive is this evil that our opportunities to do good (our kairos) are slipping away—they will be consumed by darkness unless we act.

Can you sense the urgency here?

A rescue needs to take place—it’s us—our time—it needs to be rescued – to be redeemed.


We can “go with the flow” of busy culture and time- chronos- or we can “be in the flow of the Holy Spirit.”

What is the evil of your days?
Where and what does your time need to be redeemed from?

Maybe you heard the news this week that DC traffic has won the award as being the worst in the nation. Perhaps you have not attempted to total the number of hours wasted/ lost in traffic, but the Texas Transportation Institute has, and the number isn't pretty. According to a recent study, people in the Washington area spend 70 hours a year sitting in traffic -- that's nearly three days!



Perhaps you have purchased time saving devices- as an attempt to redeem your time. And yet,
our smart phones sometimes seem to chain us to more work and give us less time with the ones we love.

OUR TEXT “Be very careful then, how you live---See then that you walk circumspectly (exactly, with accuracy and awareness), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time---making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Walk intentionally—live in the flow of the Spirit—for “When the Spirit flows in you, you are giving power to become the you God designed.”

Paul says, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord
is.”(Ephesians5:17).

How do we do what Paul has exhorted us to do?

We understand the will of the Lord through prayer.

Prayer
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul tells us about time and prayer-- we are to, “Prayer without ceasing.”
Whenever most of us hear that- what do we think?
Impossible, how, etc…
—we always feel guilty…

When someone says, “How is your prayer life?” How do you know? How do you answer?
How to you measure the effectiveness Prayer?
Is it how long you pray- how often- how many hours- how many answered prayers?

You know, if you believe in God, you have already begun to pray—because believing in God means believing he is always present, always listening to what you say. If you even think that there is a God- if you even breathe a hope of “Help me” or “I’m scared” or “I need to know I’m not alone” you are praying—and you already know God is with you.

That’s faith. It is believing and knowing. It is assurance.

Prayer isn’t about measured time and statistics, rather “the goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness and presence of God.”

In the flow of redeemed karios time – God opportune time-- we have a constant understanding of
the constancy of God’s presence.

This is what Paul means when he wants us to “to be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 15: 18-19). That’s how we are to act—and speak- and live.

Temptation

So why aren’t we in this flow of prayer? Why are we not always aware of the presence of God?
If our time needs to be redeemed, it means that somehow we are pulled out of the flow of the Spirit…by something else.


Have you ever been fishing?
I used to sit on bridge down the hill from our farm and fish with my Dad.
If you want to fish= you have to think like a fish. To a fish- life is all about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy—so, to a fish, life is “see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly.”

A fish only thinks about what he want wants in that moment. The fly… The fly—pulls the fish in that moment to focus on nothing else but the fly—who notices the hook? Nope- fish sees fly- fish goes after fly—oops- there was a hook…

What are we tempted to do- what are we tempted to go after in this moment are the next? We stray from a flow of listening in and being in the flow of the Spirit and we chose the flow we want- whatever will quench our current desire.

“Temptation seems to promise us that we can be free if we only give in to our appetites—“see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly” Temptation promises freedom, but it makes us a slave. There’s always a hook. Real freedom is not the external freedom to gratify every appetite, it is the internal freedom not to be enslaved by our appetite.”

Our soul seeks satisfaction—that is what we were made for “soul satisfaction.” If we do not find soul satisfaction in God, we will look for it somewhere else… because we will look for it…
And we’ll cling to it and let our lives get wrapped in it…. but it will not last and it will rob us and enslave us.

Augustine of Hippo wrote in the 4th century, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.”(UMH 423) This is what Paul is speaking about when he says in our text that we should be “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”




Later, a Christian Missionary in India by the name of Sundar Singh wrote, “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart.
The ever-growing soul and its capacity can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace until it rests in God.” (UMH 423)


There is a reason, the Devil is often called Tempter—tempting you, luring you to think you’vefound the cure, a false sense of peace, the end all and be all to what you want. But the devil isalso called the Accuser- because once you’ve given in—once you’ve swallowed that hook-- he’lltry to convince you that you’re too far gone—that you’re beyond redemption.

Yet this is never the case.

Recognize Your Primary Flow-Blocker
What is keeping you from knowing that?

What’s blocking us from experiencing life in the flow of the Spirit? Greek mythology….and of course comic books have taught us about the nemesis—that person who is your mortal enemy. Your nemesis is like you in almost every way, except that he is the ruined version of you. You are your own nemesis, your own biggest problem, because there is a relationship between the best version of you and the worst version of you.

What they have in common is that both of them are you.

For example- someone who is spontaneous is great at going with the flow and adapt—but they may also be prone to struggle with impulse control, gambling, addition, etc.


When we recognize what is blocking us from being in the flow of the Spirit, we can redeem our time and live in the karios time God has designed for us.

Jumping back in the flow

Psalm 90 says, Lord, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Teach us to number the days—teach us accountability, awareness, - teach us to
listen – and be wise—to hear and take action!

We are to examine our soul and examine our days.

How is it with your soul?


I want you to turn to your neighbor and ask them--
How is with your soul?

What do you feel like saying?
It’s really hard isn’t it..
You may think… “I’m good—let’s move on…”

But its worth doing- We cannot do it alone--- “Trying to tell the truth about myself- is like trying to see the inside of my own eyeballs.”

“Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults,” the psalmists asks of God in Psalm 19. We cannot always see it for ourselves.

Late, in the middle of the night there was a loud beeping sound, John’s wife elbowed him in the ribs and said, “What’s that sound?” He played dumb at first and did not acknowledge it—“What sound?” But he had to say it so loudly to speak over the thundering beeping. So he gets up and checks it out and comes back to bed. She asks, “What was it?” “The smoke detector,” he says. “Why did it stop?” “I took out the battery,” he says. //They had a discussion about this and he said, “Look there’s no smoke, there’s no heat—it was just a battery malfunction….go back to bed.” The next day he left early to go to a breakfast meeting and about a half-hour into his meeting- the server asked if he was John Ortberg—yes he said== “Your wife called, she’s asked that you come home. She said the house is on fire.”

It turned out that a few delinquent birds had settled in and built a nest inside the chimney casing.

It eventually began smoldering and set off that strange loud beeping noise they had heard the night before.

Because nothing was done—a fire started behind the wall and did unbelievable damage.

You see, we need help to examine and determine the loud beeping in our lives.
We need detectors in and around us.
We need mutual accountability, we need to give ourselves permission to be honest with ourselves, and we need to allow the Spirit to examine us and listen to what we hear.

In the new movie “Tron”, Jeff Bridges character often says, “I’m going to go knock on the sky and listen to the sound.”

Sometimes we knock and then put in the ear plugs.
Or we’ll talk really loud and say, “What sound? What beeping?”

When you become convinced and convicted of the loud beeping sound –when you listen and are ready to do something about it- know that you can be redeemed!

Life can be different---things can change.

You’ve heard the beeping- you know where the sin is- you
know what is wrong—the way to experience the redemption comes through repentance.

Some people think repentance means beating themselves up—Repentance is not low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem causes me to believe that my response doesn’t even matter.

With repentance, though, I understand that being worth so much to God is why my response is so important.

You’re worth so much to God- God created you, made you, God has redeemed
you- purchased you at a great price- brought you and bought you from sin.

The evil in this world—the days that are evil as Paul has said--- the days seek tempt you, pull you, block you from experiencing time as God desires--- they tell you that you don’t matter, that you can’t change, that your time is wasted and gone—but Christ says otherwise.

Christ says that change is possible, that redemption is real- that all the
chains that bind us,
all the debts that frighten us,
all the shame that hides us
—can and will be wiped away.

There is a you, God is wanting to claim!

This is the time God has appointed for you—a time such as this—a kairos time-- a time of living, being, breathing in God space-God time- God created opportunities for you.


The time is here for you to claim, to redeem, to take back – out of enslavement –release yourself from all that tempts you and experience true freedom— buy back every possible moment out of the hands of sin, and cast out all that blocks you from God.

Christ says no longer will you be enslaved by the evil days—Redeem this time—- Rescue your time—Do not be hooked by temptation—and swallowed by sin-- stay awake, be aware, Redeem your days from evil and flourish in the flow of the Holy Spirit!

Thanks be to God! Amen.


For Some reason- footnotes didn't copy throughout sermon...but here they are for the sake transparency:
Greek and Translation Here: http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/eph5.pdf


Loren Pinilis- Great article
Posted by Loren Pinilis on December 17, 2010 Posted in: Foundational
http://www.lifeofasteward.com/redeeming-the-time-a-closer-look/#comment-76

Orbert lists these as R.A.G.S. (resentment, anxiety, greet, superiority) on page 161 and gives a helpful checklist

Pinilis
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local-beat/DCs-Time-Spent-in-Traffic-Worst-in-Nation-114278889.html

Ortberg – 40
In Ortberg’s “Part Four “Redeeming my Time” he lists four chapters, the first being Chapter 11 “Let your Talking Flow into Praying”

Ortberg- 132
Ortberg- 134

In Ortberg’s “Part Four “Redeeming my Time” he lists four chapters, the second being Chapter 12 “Temptation: How Not to Get Hooked”
Ortberg 137
Ibid.
Ortberg, 141

In Ortberg’s “Part Four “Redeeming my Time” he lists four chapters, the third being Chapter 13 “Recognize Your Primary Flow-Blocker”
In Ortberg’s “Part Four “Redeeming my Time” he lists four chapters, the fourth being Chapter 14 “When you Find Yourself Out of the Flow, Jump Back In”
Ortberg, 159
Psalm 19:12
Ortberg 165

Bringing our Best

A few have asked for this- this is my sermon from December 26, 2010
We had four baptisms on this day- and I chose not to preach on the Slaughter of the Innocents...


Bringing our Best
Jesus Presented in the Temple
Luke 2: 22- 40
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel (Fan-oo-el), of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then had been a widow for eighty-four years.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Merry Christmas!
We have just celebrated the birth of our Savior!
For weeks we have anticipated Christmas morning!
We put up our lights, tree, prepared our hearts, and prepared presents for loved ones! We have sung carols, lit candles, raised them high, We have come to worship Christ the new born king!
Yesterday we woke up, we came and gathered around a tree, and opened gifts, we gathered around a table and stuffed ourselves on good food and fellowship, and today we come—still perhaps reverberating from the joy and festivities!
We haven’t even made it to boxing day, the thrill and excitement of Christmas morning may still be with us…but soon as the tree begins to dry, and pine needles fall, as the strewn pieces of wrapping paper are picked up and thrown out, and the newness our gifts wanes… as the decorations are put away, we’ll start to wonder…. Now what do we do?








Bringing Home Baby—Now What?
Mary and Joseph had some guidance as what to do with and for their newborn son Jesus.
They bring Jesus, to the temple following the Law laid out in Leviticus that on the eighth day sons will be circumcised. Circumcision is a sign of righteousness and a seal of the covenant Jews have with the Lord. Mary and Joseph are bringing the very best they have in this world- and placing him before God, before the temple, before the Law. Coming to the temple, Mary and Joseph have set Jesus on the journey of his faith. These are the ordinary milestones parents honor for their children—circumcision, naming, and presentation, but some extraordinary things happen too—there are prophetic responses from Simeon and Anna.
For those of you who are parents, there comes a moment when you are home from the hospital with your beautiful bundle of joy….
You have had weeks of preparation—busy nervous, joyful energy, you’ve nested and prepared-----You’ve had the baby showers, the nursery has been decorated, and now you’ve had the baby—
All those new clothes you had washed, dried, and folded neatly are now thrown in the laundry room—you go through four onesies a day, you are so tired you do not remember more than 20 minutes of consecutive sleep, if it wasn’t for good friends and church members bringing food you would forget to eat or be eating cereal or pizza all the time…. You have been going through the ordinary things parents go through each day with a newborn…

Eventually you’re in the middle of the night one night—you’re as tired as you have ever been- your baby is actually asleep and while your body may scream, “Sleep! —You do not even wonder, “Now What?” You know what to do—you just stare at this child in wonder.
How did this beautiful being come into this world? Wow! All you can think is wow! Of everything you have ever done… this is the very best!

You pray, you cry, you watch—its as if you can hear God whisper in that still small moment—you watch this little face, you listen at these breaths, until your eyes can no longer stay open…
A moment of extraordinary has happened in the midst of this new normal- ordinary life…
Names
In the moment that Mary and Joseph bring their child to the temple- a vast place, comprising of some thirty-five acres of buildings and open courts-the Law and the Holy Spirit work together to create an extraordinary moment. Luke tells us, “when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.”
Simeon identified who Jesus was, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon grounds this identification in words from Isaiah’s vision of Israel’s restoration- a restoration that would include the Gentiles. The prophetess Anna has complete devotion to God—she comes and sees him and begins to praise God and speak about how he is the one who will provide the redemption they were seeking.
Before Christ was born an angel of the Lord told Mary to call him Jesus, an angel told Joseph they would name him Emmanuel, meaning God with us. Simeon and Anna also named Jesus that day—they identified who he was and what he would become. The prophets had names for the Messiah who was to come, “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” The scribes and Pharisees would call him a Blaphemer, a liar, and a heretic. The Lepers, blind, and demon possessed would call him healer, miracle worker. His disciples would call him Rabbi, Teacher, and Friend. Upon his death he would be mockingly called “The King of the Jews.” A Roman centurion who watched his crucifixion would come to believe and call him God’s Son! On a road to Emmaus his disciples would see him and call him a stranger until their eyes opened!


For many of us- he has whispered to us in and through the Holy Spirit, His light has shown on us, His mercy has been known to us, and His grace has washed us and made us clean and we fall on our knees and call him Savior!
And it all started on a Christmas day in a manger long ago.
The wrapping paper may be put away…the decorations will soon be boxed up, returns to the store may happen, Christmas Vacations will end—but the beginning of our life- of our eternal life and of our salvation began in a manger over 2000 years ago.
At some point in our life- we too were given a name. But even before that, God knew us. My favorite Psalm 139 praises God saying, “for it was you who formed by inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We were named- my parents named me Elizabeth Ruth and brought me before Madisonville Presbyterian Church to be baptized. On that day I was initiated into Christ’s holy church, I was now part of God’s mighty acts of salvation, I was given new birth through water and the spirit, and I was recognized as part of the family of God. At baptism we celebrate God’s action- the Holy Spirit pours out the unmerited gift of amazing grace.
God knows us before our beginning and has known us throughout infancy, childhood, youth, and on into adulthood. Christ guides me now as an adult, as a parent, as a pastor, and will lead me through until I meet Him and feast at His heavenly banquet.
Mary and Joseph knew who their son was, but could they know all that he would be? All he would do? All he would accomplish for you and for me and for all the world? Could they grasp that for all people, for all time, Christ would be the One who lived, died and rose again for our sins?
When my mother gave birth and when my parents took me to church to be baptized- when my church made a covenant as the Body of Christ to nurture me in Christ’s holy church—they did not know who or what I would become- but they listened to God’s call to name me something even more than Elizabeth Ruth- they named me in through baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I may have just been an baby- but God worked that day!
God works no matter how old you are.
And God has continued to work—when I was aware and when I was not—
when I tried to hide from God and
when I -with tears streaming and cheeks grinning - praised God!
That was a beginning for me.
Mary and Joseph brought Jesus- acknowledging- knowing- that Christ, while Mary carried and birthed him, while together they would raise him, and Joseph would train him as a carpenter --Christ was not theirs
- he was more… He belonged to God- he came for the world.
They brought him to the temple acknowledging this- marking him with the sign of the covenant, naming him before the temple, presenting him for all to see.










The Maronite Christian, and poet Kahhil Gibron(Ka-Lil Gee-Bran) wrote “On Children”
On Children
Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Whether we have children of our own or whether we share in the nurturing of children in our church and community- we see in them the future. We have hope- we see a beginning of newness, excitement, and opportunity.
Children have an awe that sometimes escapes the rest of us.
Some of us think when we look in a mirror- that we are no longer children- no longer able to have a new beginning—that we can no longer witness awe. Like the wrapping paper and the decorations that are being put away, placed on shelf, stored- we see our contribution…as somewhat limited.
And yet- we are still children, for we are always God’s children.
We heard Chum/Sara/Kevin tell us this good news from Paul that
“when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4: 4-7 NRSV).
You see-- No matter what you have been named, no matter what names others have called you, you are first and foremost God’s child. Isaiah proclaimed to us, “Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance.”
Your inheritance as God’s child is the gift of grace, salvation through faith, and life eternal.
Perhaps you have sat up late at night and stared at your own child and felt so full of love that your heart cried out, or perhaps you stood in a sanctuary holding a candle looking out at your newborn Savior who has been born for you and all the world- this is a sign to you.
You are God’s child.
God is constantly seeking as Our Father to bring us to the temple- God is full of hope about who we will become, what we will do, how we will act.

God names us and presents us to the world.

And we are still being knitted together.
God is the archer whose hand is always stable,
And God is the wind who guides,
And God is target who will catch us in His arms.
It is still Christmas!

We’ve been given the very best.
Christ has been born ---born in our hearts anew
so that we may cry out Abba Father!
God made you and you are His child.
As his children you are the very best God brings in this world—
God is filled with hope
knowing that His creation—His very best --is His Body now on earth.
Will you bring your very best for him?
God brought his very best to us and gave us a Savior,
Mary and Joseph came and brought their very best, gave Jesus all they could -to prepare him in his journey.



One year is ending, but life can be just beginning—now what?

Bring your very best-
Be God’s children in this world
Shine your light--- let your heart cry out!
For Christ has come!
Thanks be to God. Amen!


Footnotes:
Kahlil Gibran was born to a Maronite Christian family in Besharri, Lebanon (then part of Syria and the Ottoman Empire). Because of the family's poverty, Gibran did not receive a formal education as a young boy, but a local priest taught him Arabic and Syriac, as well as the stories of the Bible and infused in him an awareness of Maronite Christianity. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome (in other words, Maronites are Catholics). It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, an early 5th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The first Maronite Patriarch, John Maron, was elected in the late 7th century. Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon and they continue to represent the absolute majority of Lebanese people when the Lebanese diaspora is included. Unique amongst Eastern Christians, the Maronites are Catholics, who have remained in communion with the Bishop of Rome since the Great Schism.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Closing Questions

Back in November, I attended the New Church Leadership Institute offered by our Annual Conference. It was amazing, inspiring, reality filled, discernment pushing, powerful learning.... It was taught and led by Jim Griffith. He is amazing- and if you ever have the opportunity to attend anything he is doing--GO! Even if you are not interested in church planting- you'll learn a ton! Since 1996 he’s assessed over 1900 church planting candidates, trained over 9,000 planters, and coached over 1500 projects. He works with over thirty organizations.

I was supposed to attend this back in 2008-but I decided that it was more important for me to get away to write my ordination papers- and that worked out pretty well.

So I went this year- and I knew even a bit more about church development and planting because in 2010 I was asked to be on our Conference's Church Development Team. That's been a lot of fun and I've learned a lot.

So there are like 20 pages of exit interview response questions after attending the event. The questions are really good- and they truly help you reflect! The conference was held mid November- so we went into Thanksgiving, Advent, etc. and the exit interview questions were due last week-- I'm finally getting them in!Agh! (I did take a real- real vacation last week and pretty much did not work)But YAY! I have finally gotten it done. In some ways it felt like writing ordination papers again- but I was definitely more ...free flowing in this. No one is really grading me- this is for me... Yikes- won't it be horrible if it turns out differently? :)

No really- its a good thing- the whole thing was about discerning- are you a church planter are you called to do this... I found some answers that I was not sure I would have and some that were hard to accept. But isn't discernment like that-- when you really do it? You learn you can't agree with yourself like you wanted...sometimes the answer is a "yes, but".... (not like you thought it would be).

So the closing questions are:
1) Had I known you better, what question would I have asked that I didn't ask?
2) If money were no object, describe your dream job?

These are great questions! And so this is what I wrote:

If I am completely honest- I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to be a stay at home mom… I know I would not last long- or I would just be taking on project after project in ministry anyway… sometimes it comes out of a mom-guilt thing- but mostly it just that I take so much delight in my children. I really love being with them! They are amazing people! They are kind and sweet and funny and smart and loving-- and they love learning and they remind me to be in awe of life and God and the world around me!

When I was a US-2 Missionary I loved everything about my work and was there 80-90 hours a week- I got married and pulled back to about 60-70 and my husband became essentially my biggest volunteer (as his youth director job only was 20 hours a week at the time). When I was a youth pastor I tried to convince my husband that we should move out closer to the church we served so that we could do more for the youth—but he reminded me that our reasons for coming to Atlanta were for school and that I would have plenty of time for full time ministry.

I love ministry still and I am still someone who works easily 60 hours a week. I struggle to not work on vacation! But these days- I have a much easier time saying no to work and yes to my girls—sometimes I wonder if that means I am not as passionate as I should be about ministry. But I have discerned that I am no less passionate for ministry, but my passion capacity is also filled by the greatest and most amazing part of my life—my children. My parents were busy a lot and not always available—I will not do that to my girls.

I want to be with them more than anything. I love and want to be doing ministry. It is never easy and I rarely – (read here) never achieve balance- and I do not believe an equilibrium would be a good thing anyway- that is what balance is - equilibrium taken literally-because that would mean that nothing is driving me.

The house is never clean, the office is never organized- there are papers and piles, and a million things that are never completely done. I am pulled in a million directions and every day is a decision of what matters most and how much can I handle and who and where can I get the help I need to make it happen- who can I delegate to- who can I empower- and how can we work together to make it all happen in the joy of Christ?

That is a very long answer. Essentially- I’m doing it. As long as I am delighting in my family, creating ministry, producing fruit-creating and transforming disciples who transform the world- what else is there?

Yes- there is money… and I need money- I would really like to not have student loan debt, a car loan, or any debt, I would love to someday be able to own my own home. I would like to do bills without feeling anxiety…but I feel confidant that step by step it all will work out and we will be provided for no matter what.

God is always providing for us. I like simplicity and most days- when it comes to finances- I miss the simplicity of our life in Detroit when I made $200/ a month and Kevin made just a bit more- our room and board were provided (although we paid half back to the church since we got married in my missionary term –but that is another story) but we had less stuff and less to worry about.

I do worry about my capacity to keep it up—I used to think I had never-ending energy—I’m beginning to learn I don’t. This time is about tough choices and how to find ways to live out all these calls God has given me and realize God will tell and lead me in it all.

I guess that is the question I would have asked—how do you keep it up? How do you not get burnt out from taking on too much? How do you say no when you love it all? I work on these things all the time—I’d like to see how others do it well. I learn from that.

So that's my answer to the Closing Questions.

I do not have if figured out- but I know that God is here, that God has called me, that every day God equips me, and that God is in control.

When there is chaos- God will create- when there is too much going on- God will take away- when I'm ready to listen and hand it over I will see that God will guide me and I need not worry. I am in the right place.
I can't not be who I am called to be- that means a wife and a mom and a pastor- even when it is messy and crazy- its beautiful and I delight in it. I delight in the joy of being married to my very best friend and the love of my life- I delight in my children, I delight in the joys and challenges of ministry!
And it is all from the Lord! I delight in the Lord!

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)