Posts Tagged With: God’s Word

Praying on the Journey

What does praying look like on the journey?  At various meetings, with students and other campus ministers, I hear the common refrain of needing and wanting to pray more – and of desiring prayer to be more than yet another task to check off that daily list.

Personally, at times I use prayer as a crutch to get through the day.  Or, more often, I forget about it.  I will get around to it when work is done and I have time.  When I talk with students about prayer I point to the ideal in the Bible, in books – but also share my own failings in this area.  That used to be where I left it.

Then last year, in my own desire for more consistent prayer, I asked three graduate students to join me each week for 30 minutes to gather on campus, look at God’s Word, and pray.  Nothing over-planned, just time out of our regular schedules to spend time with God.

I’ll admit that I”m not always into praying when noon on Tuesdays comes around.  I could be finishing a work project or reading.  But the time is set aside, so I go, never knowing what to expect.  I’m surprised at how long this has continued – even through the summer.

This week we spent time looking at Paul’s two verses of greeting to the Ephesians.  We noticed the number of times Jesus Christ was mentioned in this one sentence, the encouragement he gave the Ephesians by calling them faithful, and the extension of God’s grace and peace to this young church.  This grace is that of God.  Yet, through the very act of sending the letter Paul is also expressing a grace.

Wow.  In the midst of UC’s food court God’s Word was coming alive – and this led into prayer as we each longed for God’s grace to work through us in the relationships we have at work, with friends, and with God.

In this group, God’s Word meets us where we are each day, in the midst of life.  We take time to pray for ourselves and the needs we have.  But we also take time to pray outside, to pray for the campus, and even to be quiet.

I’m now wondering how we can increase the space for prayer.  Do we invite more people, start more groups?  Perhaps make prayer a more natural part of gatherings – not something only a ‘qualified’ leader can guide.  Or that only people comfortable praying in a group can do.

What I don’t want to do is turn this into another program, but instead build a community of pray-ers steeped in God’s Word in the world.  It’s time to pray . . .

 

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(not) connecting with God’s Word

So the vision for Concordia Campus Ministries is connecting with God’s Word in the world.  Great and catchy phrase.  However, even before school began I was ignoring it.  Instead I was connecting with my planning and task lists.  One more call to make, meal host to find, student to contact.  Then there were the rooms to clean, posters to make, and website to set up.  And each day the list grew.  This was my connection to ministry.  Once I completed it, then I could get to the God thing.

As I waited to get responses from e-mails I became quite tense.  Don’t they, doesn’t God know that I need this response to effectively plan.  In reality much of this work related to my my looking good in ministry, having success, being ready.  But what about God?  Two weeks ago as I was worrying about not getting responses back from some students, a visiting scholar I hadn’t seen for months walked in with a couple new to the area.  I wasn’t ready.  But God was.  I almost didn’t know what to do because my mind was so focused on all this other work.  However, I sat down and talked with them – and again realized that the priorities I actually focus on often leave out true connections with God.

I just finished reading Hunter’s Horn by Harriet Arnow.  In this story set in eastern Kentucky during the 1940s, a man focuses so much on catching a fox – the King Devil – that he loses sight of other priorities.  His daughter has only a ragged dress to wear and he has no money to send her to high school.  He sells the family’s meat one winter so he could purchase pedigreed hounds.  I want to yell at this character, pointing out his narrow vision.  Yet, I quickly see how I can get caught in a similar hunt.

At times I am chasing after accolades in ministry – praise from others and numbers at events.  I wonder what people will think and how they will respond.  As I do this I become blinded to opportunities where God is at work.  Looking back all I can do now is ask for forgiveness and repent.  Turn and look to God.  Perhaps these failings – and subsequent turnings – are the real connection with God’s Word.  The real thing I can share with students.  Seeing my worthlessness and turning to the one who is worthy.

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Leaving the ‘snare of preparation’

It’s time again – this time four weeks earlier than the past three years.  It’s time to get ready for a new semester of campus ministry at UC.  Days are filled with planning events, preparing publicity, and hand wringing.  If I can just get one more thing done, then I can get to the really important work of preparing Bible studies, catching up with students, connecting with God’s Word in the world.

After four years of this, I wonder why this preparation is so dry and such a trial.  Something is not right.  I talk about story and pilgrimage and I imagine it should be so easy to bring these ideas into ministry.  Sometimes it happens.  But most of the time I seem to be waiting for the right time to arrive so that I can do it.  Once everything else is in order, once enough posters are hung and students are involved in activities. To some extent preparation is necessary for pilgrimage – before heading out, good medieval pilgrims got their household in order so that it would work well while they were gone and would be ready in case of a person’s death.

However, pilgrimage is really focused on the journey.  If one stays in preparation mode, the pilgrimage does not begin.  Jane Addams uses Tolstoy’s evocative phrase, the “snare of preparation”, to describe her experience and frustration with the practice of taking so much time to prepare that one never really lives life.  Thus, she determines to get going “however ill-prepared” she might be.

Similarly, the journey to a story starts in the midst of everything else.  Within the ministry I’m involved with at UC there is a story we’re heading towards – students connecting to God’s Word in the world and being formed by God, as well as the university during these years of their lives.  Will this be a living ministry or one of preparing?  The preparation will probably never be complete.  In reality I’m already in the midst of the journey to some extent.  The question should be how am I living and connecting with students in the liminal places – those places in between where we came from and where we are going – in the midst of this ministry.

Often I am waiting and not seeing myself in the story in front of me.  Instead, I want to be in exotic places – a cathedral in Assisi or the moors of Haworth and talk about people’s experiences in these places.  Maybe someday I’ll lead groups to these and other sites.  However, now I’m leading another type of group and in a different place.  Not all students are heading to the same story, except perhaps a degree or finished research of some type.  Some are aware of God’s story, others aren’t.  Some are ready to see how God’s Word relates to the world, others are leaving it behind.  Where does ministry, where does God fit into their lives?  What about connecting with God’s Word in the midst of it all?  How is that possible?  I wish I had more answers than I do.  I could continue to wait for plans to come together, but that’s not how people work.  Where are the students now?  Where are we going?  Though I’ve reflected on these questions in my head, and at time with others, nothing has ever really come together and I feel that I continue to just pass the time in preparation.

So, it’s time to take a different path of reflection in connecting with God’s Word and exploring how to integrate pilgrimage and ministry.  It’s time to stop preparing and to get going.  To process this work within community, I will take time to share my field notes on this blog.  Over the next year this will be a place to return and explore unfinished work, questions, and even celebrate moments of connection.  It will be messy.  I won’t have time to outline or edit.  I’ll even be ill-prepared.  Even so, I will finally be awash in content moving towards a story – connecting with God’s Word in the world of the campus.

Categories: Campus Ministry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Truth Telling

I like truth, but in a safe, quiet way.  To turn it over in my mind, talk about it with friends who agree, and to pat myself on the back for believing the right things.  This type of truth isn’t difficult.  I tend to steer clear of speaking truths when I know there will be dissension.  And with students I don’t think I’ve ever really called them out to look at the truth in their lives – to examine how they spend their time, to challenge their thinking.  As with so many other people, I want to be liked.

As I look at life as pilgrimage I can easily fall into the trap of just allowing people to go off and learn on their own.  It’s their journey.  They will eventually reach their destination.  However, as pilgrims journeyed to sacred sites in the Middle Ages, knights along the way shared warnings about thieves ahead, priests and monks invited travelers to come off the road and rest, and fellow pilgrims sharpened each other’s views of God’s Word.  As faith ancestors of the elect exiles to whom Peter wrote his first letter and of Christian pilgrims over the centuries, we really should do no less with others on – and soon to be on – this journey of following Jesus.

Often I’m leery of the truth telling because I may be wrong.  Who am I to tell anyone about their lives?  Do I really believe God’s Word fully?  Do I really love Christ enough?  Do I sit at the cross?  At the cross.  This may be the best place from which to tell the truth –  in a posture of knowing my place as fully dependent on Christ for forgiveness and life.  The ultimate story Christians are journeying toward is wrapped up in God’s perfect mercy and justice that came together at the cross.  It’s not a safe place.  But the truth here gives amazing life.

Categories: God's Story | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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