Posts Tagged With: God

Broken Sabbaths

I don’t know about you, but I have many broken sabbaths under my belt.  I hear about people taking Sunday, or perhaps another day of the week, to rest, spend time with family, and open themselves to God.  A part of me longs for such a day.  However, work intrudes, especially church work – meetings, reports, activities.  Then, by the time the day has ended I look back and wonder what just happened.  Rushing from one activity to another I become lost, unhinged.  Once the evening hits I’m weary, definitely not eager for the work week to begin.  Reflecting on this manic days, several common threads occur to me.

  • My work and I are indispensable.  I must be part of all these activities or things will fall apart.  If I’m not at a meeting, who knows what will happen?  In a similar vein, I have a sense that  I must get all the work on my calendar finished in order for other people’s activities to proceed.  Sometimes this is true. However, the list never really shortens no matter how much I work on Sundays.
  • Poor planning.  Empty days rarely remain such on my calendar.  If someone comes and offers an opportunity, I rarely say no.  With the calendar full of events, I don’t leave time for the care needed for the most important projects and relationships in my life.  To address this problem, Sunday often becomes a day of cleaning up loose ends.  Yet, when I get to Monday, even if I’m a bit ahead with my list, I’m so exhausted that I find it difficult to work effectively.
  • I can live without it.  Doing is more important than being.  Even though I may not voice it, a deep part of me believes that those people who need to take a sabbath are weak.  I, on the other hand, don’t need to rest from work.  So, I come home from church, where I spend time meeting with people, planning activities, and putting chairs in order, and jump into a project.  A nap might be sandwiched in between, but I am proud of the work that is calling me.

Ultimately fear underlies all these other issues. What will I do?  The emptiness of the day scares me.  I should be doing something productive.  Something of worth.  Not wasting time.  It’s easier to set myself up to work on the next project, than to meet this emptiness.  Even relating to people gets dicey.  Meetings and such are well-defined, but just hanging out . . .  What will happen?

Looking at just a few of my reasons for not keeping the Sabbath, it’s clear that it’s not the Sabbath that’s broken.  I am the one slipping into faulty reasoning and comfortable ruts.  In the midst of all this rushing, on the Sabbath and other days, I have a growing sense that I am losing something even more important than getting work accomplished.  The community around me is slowly eroding.

My first response is that I just don’t have time to keep up relationships.  However, Judith Shulevitz in her book, The Sabbath World, contends that the Sabbath actually creates space for community.  This practice allows for the time needed to draw people into relationships.  Without the need to rush around to work and other obligations, people come together – for meals, games, being.  Sounds plausible.  It also speaks to a deep need within my soul.

So, as a first step in keeping the sabbath I will be sitting down with this book.  Anyone want to join in?

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ministry Outside the Boundaries

Lately I feel myself being frustrated with how ministry is not following the plans I have laid.  It is not fitting into the map I or others have created.  University advertising during last year’s Welcome Week at UC seemed to be nearly absent and new students didn’t show up at our planned events.  Now, a year later, I’m struggling to address this lapse and figure out ways to bring many more new students in this year.  The offerings at the church I attend won’t cover a full salary for a pastor – or at least the salary suggested by the denomination.  So once again the congregation starts the same old dance of focusing on raising money for this salary in lieu of other activities.

But are the real problems in either of these situations the ones I and others are seeing?  Are the goals we set those that should have our focus?  In the case of the campus ministry – a large influx of students at the beginning of the year – and for the church – a full-time minister paid at a level a denomination recommends.   At some level we believe that if only we can get to this point then things will be all right.  We’ll have it under control.

That’s the problem.  We’ll have it under control.  These goals are human-based.  But I’m nearly positive that God does not work that way.  Instead, look at Gideon in chapter seven of Judges.  He had a large army, Israel would handily defeat the Midianites 32,000 men.  However, God kept paring it down until only 300 men were left.  This would be God’s battle – and Gideon’s trust would have to be in God.  Even though it was difficult, this time the battle was won.  But what about the prophets who continue to trust God even when battles weren’t won?  Jeremiah lived in the midst of Jerusalem’s fall.  There was no victory here, no happy ending reached.  But he continued to proclaim God’s word.  This is a very different way of engaging in the world and with God than I am naturally inclined to do.

In my own battles, I’m finding myself longing for the final story and uncomfortable with the transitional moments.  I look for shortcuts to get to the end I envision – the thriving campus ministry and the fully salaried pastor.  Instead of quickly jumping to the end, maybe God is forcing me to work in the uncomfortable space in-between – a place where my trust must rest in him and not in results.  On campus, a single advertisement can’t replace the more difficult, yet transformational work of stepping out and challenging students on their discipleship journey or building relationships within the administration.  At church, maybe the focus should not be on having a budget that pays staff to do ministry, but a budget that supports more ministry by the members.  Neither of these new ways are comfortable or even always measurable.  But one thing, it does leave room for God to work, to change up plans and hearts.

Categories: Campus Ministry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Mind of the Maker – Solving or Creating?

What problems do I have before me this week?  Figuring out how to involve more students in leadership in campus ministry, planning for fall programs, and setting up a better writing schedule are just a few.  I’m ready to go – but somewhere deep within I recognize that students won’t quickly fall in line with my ideas, plans for a few months in the future will lack energy, and another writing schedule will fall apart.  Life will get in the way and I’ll again wonder how to solve these and other problems better.  But maybe this is the wrong attitude?  Maybe there’s another mind set that I could take into the week – not of solving a problem, but being part of a continuous work of creation.

Idea.  Energy.  Power.  These are three elements that go into the creation of a work of art: the original idea, the incarnation of the idea, and the effect of this energized idea on those who interact with it.  It’s a continual relationship and conversation.  This could also be another view of the Trinity – the thee-in-one Godhead that Christians are always trying to explain but yet can’t fully grasp.  I’m intrigued by Dorothy Sayers’ exploration of this trinity in The Mind of the Maker as she, herself a thoughtful creator, uses the work of the artist as an analogy of God’s working in the world.

I was particularly drawn into her discussion of problem solving versus creatively addressing the world.  She posits that in the industrialized world we seek to define problems and then search for a solution.  Like detective novels, of which Sayers is an expert, there is a satisfaction in having a clear and bounded problem – solving the crime – that will resolve by the novel’s end.  She understands the populations’ interest in such books, puzzles, and other solution-based activities as a “vicarious sensation of achievement.”  When a solution is reached, the doer can rest.  It is finished.  I see this attitude in today’s culture.  We want the results now and expect them to fulfill our needs.  Searching for information on the internet, texting friends – everything happens instantly.

But in reality, how much in life is really a problem to be solved?  Can these small achievements truly satisfy in the long run?  I begin each day with a simple crossword puzzle because I enjoy the feeling of completing something.  Yet, when I’m finished, there’s nothing really that I gained except this “sensation of achievement.”  It’s not until I head into the mess of putting together blog posts, editing a book that’s been hanging on for years, planning campus ministry events, and having students drop by unexpectedly that I recognize there really isn’t a solution that will organize this chaos.

Part of me wants to complete work, close the calendar, and say it is done.  I can then rest.  But that never happens.  Once I think I have finished an job – say a schedule for the next semester – the reality of working with people enters.  Maybe on one level I have solved some problems of organizing and planning a schedule, but on a larger level I am creating opportunities for people to interact with one another and with God.  Once such relationships enter the picture, there is no real ending or solution.  Instead the events or solutions are jumping off points for something new.

As Sayers would describe this process – a person has an idea, the idea is incarnated in a finished work, but an essential part of that created work is how it affects people who interact with it.  In this continual conversation, people exist in an active role.  We are within God’s larger creation that involves God’s Idea of creation at the beginning of the world and ongoing even now, God’s Incarnated Energy in the person of Jesus Christ and his life on earth, and God’s Power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s amazing to be part of this continual creation.  When I look at it this way I don’t want to stay stuck in a problem solving world – although there will be problems to be solved from time to time.  I want to be swept up in the energy of the ultimate Creator.

Categories: Readings | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Live Your One Creative Life Fully

During the seven years I worked with Notre Dame AmeriCorps, Sister Judy Tensing would always admonish AmeriCorps members to live their one life fully – their one precious life.   The eleven months they were serving a local non-profit were not merely a time to get through, it was a part of the limited years we all have.  How we choose to live them, no matter the circumstances that surround us, shapes our character.  As I listened to her, I would sit back and continue to be amazed that people would give a year of their lives for such work.  Since I was a staff member, I saw myself looking from the outside, not really catching that this statement was also for me.

Three years after moving on from this job, I heard echoes of this sentiment in the words of Ann Voskamp – we should live our one creative life fully, making it a gift back to God.  Later in the week I heard the words of Shane Claiborne that we should engage the broken world with the creativity of our lives.  Throughout the time at the 2012 Festival of Faith and Writing other speakers would say similar things.  Our creativity is not something to take out only when time allows, or only for those appropriately gifted, or once all the real work is done.  No, creativity is a response to life.  This one life that God has given us.

This creative life implies each person has her own response to creation in her life – not something to be copied.  It’s part of being made in God’s image, the ultimate creator.  Not a cog in a wheel or a nameless part of an assembly line.  Not something to be saved up for special moments.  However, it’s so easy to do the opposite. When I have time I’ll be creative.  When the space is available.  When I am sitting on the edge of the ocean.  Always later I will be creative.  But the perfect time and place don’t seem to present themselves.  Often I just want to get through the next hours.  I can’t imagine another path.

Yet, as these words of living our full lives weave through my mind, I realize that most days I’m not looking at this path fully or seeing the person in front of me as an image of God.  Usually I’m thinking about the next thing on my to-do list. With such a limited vision, how is it possible to access that creative part of self?

There is more to life than the narrow images before me. It is possible to look up and out and view a new way.  It may start with a simple practice of taking time between activities to breathe and acknowledge the reality around me in a given moment.  Eventually I may see the beauty in the lines of numbers on a spreadsheet, in the flower growing out of a cracked sidewalk, and in a crying child.

Where does this spark of creativity lie in you?  In six days God created the world.  He imagined and spoke it into being – filling it with life and creating humans to be a central part of it.  We can carry a bit of this creativity in the midst of our own worlds – no matter what they look like now.

 

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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