Your Story Takes Courage

Your life is a story.  It has a past/present/future.  There are plot twists, characters, and different settings.

Your story contains a DNA strand of purpose and meaning.  All of it is material that is trying to tell you something about you and this world.

There are beliefs, experiences, and people that have helped give shape to your story–for better, for worse.

In the DNA strand of your story, there is courage to be caught and remembered.

  • I remember the day that I graduated with a masters in theology.  My story?  I was a C student in high school with a lot of insecurities and self-doubt.  Courage got me through seminary.
  • I remember the day when marriage was getting hard.  Our story?  Troubled marriages as examples.  Courage got us through the rough patches.
  • I remember when I was cycling my first century bike ride, climbing 7500 ft.  My story?  Mexicans don’t cycle and never had done a century.  Courage and a tribe of people pushed me through to the end.
  • I remember when started a new job as a corporate chaplain?  My story?  “I’ve never done this before!  What am I thinking leaving all the comforts of the IT world?!”  Courage helped me see that I was made for this.

Feeling discouraged?  Need some #encouragement?  Look at the times when you overcome a struggle or hardship.  Look back on your storied life and see how courage has been finding you!

New Metaphors

Pastoral work is the enterprise of “nurturing folk into a new metaphor”

– Walter Brueggemann

“…the character of the church [is to be a] covenant community that has a story powerful enough to bond people in the corporate and personal effort to find purposes for their lives which are part of the purposes of God.” – James Fowler, Faith Development and Pastoral Care

Umm…what they said!  The idea is that the work of the pastor and local church is to be an activator of people’s vocation, both personally and spiritually, so as to partner with God’s in-breaking Kingdom in the world and local context.  That means decentralizing programs in/for the church and creating a space for people to be in the world through their vocation, not of the world (by nature).

Research on the Effects of Stress

Dr. Archie Hart is a leading expert on stress and its effects.  I had the opportunity to meet him about 4 years ago.  In his book “Adrenaline and Stress“, he addresses various sources of stress.  If we can’t name what is stressing us, we can’t see it healed.

He says,

There are many experts today who arc concerned over the “stress epidemic” in our culture. Almost every direction you look, warning signs arc up. Immunologists warn us that stress is damaging our immune systems, cardiologists warn of heart disease, cancer specialists declare that stress aggravates cancer. Dr. Joel Elkes of the University of Louisville says, “Our mode of life itself, the way we live, is emerging as today’s principal cause of illness.”

The effects of stress are causing much of our illnesses and for Hart, it’s not the big crises that are causing most of the effects–it’s the minor hassles of life.

There are two major sources of stress:  people and pain.

People:  The correlation between stress and people is mainly about experiencing fear and anger.  At times, we might feel like our security is threatened or that someone might withhold their love and approval of us.  Fear and anger cause much of the adrenaline running through our brain and bodies.  The more fear and anger we have, the more stress we’ll have.

Here are a few additional reasons why people cause us stress.

  • Hart says, “One reason is because we need them so much! We all have a need to be loved and accepted by others, and many of us will go to almost any length to achieve respect or avoid criticism. We fear rejection because we so desperately want to be thought of as having value. Our egos crave the respect of others.” (Loc. 1142-1143)
  • People are imperfect:  They can be loving and giving  but also self-serving and inconsistent.  This causes hurt and stress.
  • Lack of Coping Skills and assertiveness:  when others are inconsistent or show relational inadequacies.  We all have basic rights to be valued, heard, and respected.  We may not speak up and share what we need or want.  He says that “Under-assertiveness is the primary cause of much of the helplessness everyone feels from time to time.” (Loc. 1158-1159)
  • Lack of courage to be our true selves:  We may not know who we are which results in not being able to assert ourselves.  Or we fear being our true selves because we may not be accepted or liked.

Hart offers two assessments to identify how stressed you might be and how to analyze your stress sources (i.e. home, recreation, work, general).  Underneath each category are examples such as “Angry at spouse, financial problems, angry at boss/coworkers”.

 

Letter to Darrell Issa

Below is a letter I wrote to our representative Darrell Issa.

I’m also including the link in case you’d like write him yourself. It took me 5 minutes.

https://ziplook.house.gov/htbin/findrep_house

Mr. Issa:

This is the first time I ever reach out to you or any other political representative and as such, I am heartbroken over how our government is separating children from their parents who are crossing our borders seeking refuge and asylum.

While I understand that we have laws, we also have a moral code to follow: One that primarily seeks to love our neighbors, especially those who are experiencing trauma in crisis. We cannot be separating children from their parents. That is not moral and it is not how my generation wants to be remembered by. As one of the people that you represent, I am asking what your office will do you to advocate for children and their parents staying together. What might you propose and how can someone like me help to remediate the situation?

Praying for The family is being affected and our leaders to live out of a more conscious that seeks the flourishing of all.

Revelation Update #2

 

I have this painting in my office.  It’s called a pantocrator and it depicts Jesus as righteous and just (holding the book of the Law), as well as offering a sign of peace (a sign of faithfulness and mercy).  

Jesus as a Just and loving Emperor.
Jesus as a peacemaker and faithful Emperor.

Revelation 4 is captures the central image of the whole book:  Jesus is Lord (Caesar/Emperor). The throne room scene is about painting a picture of true reality.  

Reality gets us dealing with what’s at hand.  Sometimes reality feels painful and overwhelming so we hide, try to control it, or give in.  

John is getting a dose of reality:  Jesus rules and reigns with power, justice, and peace.  The invitation to open the door that is standing in heaven is to enter into right reality, which will cause us to fall down to our knees in worship.

May you and I have a vision of reality and surrender to it.  It’s the best good news for our lives that aligns us towards our true selves in Christ and redemption in this world.

Revelation Update #1

Revelation Update #1

Any Star Wars fans on the team?! 🙂

I tripped out when they came out with episodes 1-3, mostly because I couldn’t conceive the back stories they were going to tell. It didn’t make any sense to me so I rely on my son’s, Christopher and David, to relay the stories to me.

John’s writings in Revelation are kind of like Star Wars in the sense that the order they were released in doesn’t make sense. John’s visions aren’t sequential. This means that he could be sharing a vision and then the text says, “And then I saw…” and it’s a completely different episode…maybe episode 7 when he was just on episode 2.

One way to keep the story straight is to remember the main vision which begins at chapter 4: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” (Rev. 4:1)

Paul Spilsbury says, “…John is summoned through an open door in the sky. On passing through this door he comes face to face with a panorama of breathtaking beauty and majesty–the throne room of God (if such a place could be called a room). This initial scene is the hub of the whole book. Everything that happens after it is like spoke, radiating outward from this vision of God on his throne…” (p.45)

If you ever feel lost in the book, go back to Revelation 4…and bow down in worship before the One who calls you his own.

If you want more Revelation resources, message me and I’ll send you what I have. And if you’ve found anything helpful on the book, let me know as well! 🙂

Daring Greatly: 12 Shame Categories

I chose to read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, for a seminary class because shame sucks.  Her work has been so helpful to many, including myself.  Last night, I was recounting how helpful it is to be aware of your shame triggers so that you recognize the patterns.

Brown says that “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”, (p.69).  I describe it as the feelings and thoughts that tell us “something is wrong with me”.  I remember feeling different when I was younger, asking myself “what’s wrong with me”.  It’s an ugly feeling.

Brown lists 12 shame categories to be aware of.  Her books talks about building shame resilience as a way to cope with the shame triggers:

  • appearance and body image
  • money and work
  • motherhood/fatherhood
  • family
  • parenting
  • mental and physical health
  • addiction
  • sex
  • aging
  • religion
  • surviving trauma
  • being stereotyped or labeled

Giving the 5 minute talk

A piece by Seth Godin on communicating and presenting. Looking for ways to improve my public speaking.

Give a four-minute presentation and take your time.

The alternative is to try to give a six or seven-minute long talk in five minutes. To rush. To get flustered. To go over your time. To act in a way that belies your professional nature.

Nope. Better to stick with the four-minute approach.

The thing is, you’ll never have enough time to tell us every single thing in enough detail. It would take you years.

Portion control is your friend. Figure out how big the plate is and serve just the right amount.

QA Session: Church Struggles and Hopes

Meet my friend Rachel (pseudonym).  She courageously took the time to do a QA with me.  Rachel is someone who loves Jesus in deep ways AND also struggles with church experiences she’s had in the past.

As a minister in the marketplace, I come across employees who have experienced deep pains in church settings and life.  In some ways, we’re not prepared rightly to face the pain of church problems and issues.  We are promised that if we attend church, all will be well.  But that’s not the case.  A healthier spiritual formation will involve suffering and pain IN the church.  Why?  Because we’re humans who are prone to greed, jealousy, and fear when left unchecked.

My hope in doing these QA sessions is to allow folks to share their story and bless us in their journey.


What are some of your favorite memories about being part of a church community?

“Getting involved in serving has given me so many great memories and the relationships I developed through serving – have continued.
Being a part of “Small Groups” has also been some of my most cherished memories. Not only did we meet weekly for a pot luck and bible study, we also did a lot of other things like going on the Horn Blower Cruises, Padre games, etc.
I felt such a sense of “Family” in my church community.”

Is having “practicing” faith something that is important to you? If so, why/why not?

“If I understand this question correctly then “Yes”, having a practicing faith reinforces the core of who I am. I believe in God, I believe that Jesus came to earth and paid the price for our sins, I believe in the words written in the bible and try to live by those words. I constantly have to re-center myself back to my core but because I now know “who” I am, I know where/what my center is. For years, I didn’t know “who” I was so, it was easy to blindly go through life.

I believed in God and tried to live life accordingly but didn’t realize I had the power of the Holy Spirit in me and that is how I could be powerfully guided through life. Instead of following my faith, I eventually learned to live my faith. Practicing my faith is very important to me, I tend to do it more quietly than others, I am very firm in my faith, I don’t feel I have to defend it nor do I push it on others (but will share it with others). I am very protective of my faith.”

What are some of your current struggles with belonging to a church community?

“I had to leave the church community for a number of reasons such as:
Mainly because there was so much going on in my personal life with people dying, suicide, personal struggles, etc., that I went into a depression.
I was serving so often that I rarely got time to nourish myself spiritually and no longer had anything left in me to give.

I started to get very resentful about how so many others never served yet had such high expectations from those of us that did.

I think I was so burnt out, so many things started to bother me, not about my relationship with the Lord but people in general.

We have gone to different churches since then but just didn’t “feel” it there like I did the moment I did when I walked into my past church home from day one.
The church we went to had such a variety of people from different economic backgrounds, ethnicity, tattoos, piercings, etc. I LOVED the diversity of this church!!!

I don’t know how to word it other than, the other churches we have tried since, just seemed so “white” and “middle class”.

I came from a very poor background and even though I am white and now probably considered middle-class, I feel more comfortable around people who grew up with very little.

I don’t want to go to a church where my any of my co-workers or family goes.

When do you most seek direction from God?

More so when I need to make a “big” decision but strive to seek His direction in everything.

edwin-andrade-158050-unsplash

What do you most long for in your current stage of life?

Peace in my heart

What are some reasonable ways one can engage practicing their faith on a daily basis?

I like to have people around me that are more mature in their walk with the Lord so I feel like I’m constantly learning. I like to have friends that will hold me accountable. I like my faith walk to include friends in my journey. Although I have gotten really lax in my behavior, I would like to get back to a place where I walk the walk and let my actions speak for themselves. I want people to just know I’m a Christian by my behavior not me throwing words out there.

Some of the changes I would like to see in todays churches are:

*Different people leading worship (for a variety of reasons).

*I’m not sure if these “mega” churches are healthy for the relationships we should be developing.

*The leaders, especially the pastors, need to be more in touch with the congregation. They need to know our specific struggles, stories, needs, etc.
I don’t like how so many Christians idolize the pastor. Some won’t even come to church if they know the pastor is on vacation (one of the reasons having different people lead is a good idea).

*I would love a church that had smaller groups with different pastors leading (same sermon but delivered differently) rather than one big sanctuary. We all learn differently so there is no “one pastor fits all”. I loved a pastor that was so funky and down to earth. Some felt he was too funny and church wasn’t supposed to be funny. My husband like this one pastor that was extremely detailed, very intelligent, etc., that I couldn’t understand a lot of what he said. It went right over my head. Our main pastor was so anointed, walked the walk, etc., but actually getting “with” the congregation seemed to be less and less (although he was battling some serious health issues in his defense).

Crying out for God’s Presence – Lenten Homily 3.13.2018

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

Reading 1, Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
GospelJohn 5:1-3, 5-16

In the early part of the 1900’s, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (HS) in a converted Los Angeles warehouse, off Azusa st.  The leader, an African American, was leading a group of people in prayer, bible study, and worship as the Holy Spirit descended upon them [side note:  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence to have the HS pour out over a struggling, pain-filled community…people experiencing racism, prejudice, etc).  There are many stories of people experiencing healing–emotional, mental, spiritual, relational–as well as people giving their lives to following Jesus.  A river was flowing through the gathered community and washing over them.

In the Ezekiel passage, there is imagery of temple/water/river/flow/life/fruit.  That’s the flow.  But it starts with temple, which represents God’s presence among the people.  From God’s presence among the people, there is healing, life–a picture of a community flourishing.

Charismatic belief has held that when we seek God’s presence, the river flows!  Pentecostal/Charismatic movements are the fasting growing in the world.  What might a deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit look like in our lives?  And what might happen when we are intentional about seeking God’s presence (temple/river/flow) in our lives and with those we do work and life with?  The promise and picture is that we will see healing, salvation, wholeness, and the community flourishing.

The other day, I was really struggling with a relational issue.  I couldn’t shake the feelings that were messing with me.  I went to our bedroom, closed and locked the door, and threw myself on the floor to cry out to God!  I asked God for a breakthrough in this area.  A breakthrough of wisdom, a paradigm shift, a revelation and insight into next steps.  After some time (it felt like hours!), I wiped my tears and sensed God’s presence and words of wisdom.  I had a new perspective that was not my own.  I cried out to God for something beyond me.  I followed this up with a trusted friend and told him what I was going through and experiencing.  His words echoed what I had experienced with God.

This river stream experience caused gladness and a deeper awareness of God’s presence (temple) in my life.  The promise of the Holy Spirit includes healing, miracle languages, insights, discernment, and words of wisdom.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) has a simple but profound rule:  Look for God in all things/inner movements/relationships/work.  It is a very charismatic approach to life!