Discovering Mission and Call for our Lives

I’m reading a few books on discernment, specifically because I’m at a place in my life and ministry where I’m asking “God, what is your mission and call for my life.”

I’ve turned to two resources:

“Discernment:  Reading the Signs of Daily life” by Henri Nouwen

“Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus:  Christian Discernment as a Way of Life”, by Larry Warner

Henri Nouwen has reminded me again and again about leaning into the heart of God and his love.  These are the most important as we discern.  The questions can get heavy.  The fears or insecurities of searching for answers can wear on us like heavy towels after a spill.  Refreshment comes as we lay the questions at His feet and ask God to help us know His heart and love.

Nouwen says,

What I tell others who ask these questions, and remind myself with surprising conviction, is this: “God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and to let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.” New vocations are full of promise. Something very important is in store for us. There is a hidden treasure to discover.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 99).

It’s that middle line that got me:  “you will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.”  Can I trust that God will reveal it when I need to know it?  That’s my prayer today.

As I think about discernment, call, and knowing the heart of Jesus, two thoughts immediately came to mind.

  1. I’m not someone with all the answers that is present to equip and empower people.  But I hope my words, actions, and life do equip and empower others.
  2. I used to think I needed to have all the answers to people’s questions, mostly so they’d like and admire me.  Now I’m okay to say “I don’t know”.  I have a few answers, but not all.

peace,

chaplain roy

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).

Homily – The Shepherd

Readings:  1 Peter 5:1-4, Psalm 23, Matthew 16:13-19

In today’s readings, the ongoing theme tying each passage is Shepherd.  Peter and King David are key figures, with Jesus as the Chief Shepherd.  It’s beautiful how our faith tradition has put together passages like this so that we might see the coherence throughout the biblical narrative.  Two men–King David and Peter–experience God not as an angry, petulant image, but as a loving shepherd who guides and leads us.  These two figures were shaped and formed by the rod and staff, learning to become as their shepherd.  In later years, both figures became shepherds of flocks, attending to them and caring for them, not out of obligation but out of willing hearts.

During this lent season, I reminded of the need to be shepherded.  I need to be guided, led, healed, fed, and restored.  I am prone to deceive myself, become lax in my devotion to God, and to think more highly of myself than I ought to.

When do I sense God’s rod and staff comforting me?  In prayer, scripture reading, and spiritual community.  No matter how out of control the world (or my inner world) seems, in these disciplines, I find how God desires to be near so that He might heal, mend, guide, discipline, or gift us as He sees fit.

I see a difference in my devotion when I engage in rod/staff disciplines.  I’m not “problem-less”, as if I don’t have difficulties BECAUSE I enact these disciplines.  But I do feel more grounded and sober in mind and heart.  The Shepherd helps me to focus, rest, and trust.

May we experience the rod/staff of disciplined love of God today.

A Reflection on Death, Abundance, and Compassion

Today’s scripture readings have a few themes:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120617.cfm

  1.  Death
  2.  Abundance
  3.  comfort/compassion

Death

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with panic attacks.  I had an immense amount of anxiety about dying.  This manifested itself in different ways, mostly through a fear of getting sick or having a heart attack.  A few factors contributed that I could think of.  One, I was a new father.  We had Christopher and David a year apart and I was pretty nervous about not being present or available to them.  This had symbolic meaning to me as a fear of abandonment.  I didn’t want to abandon my kids and see them struggle without a father and I also had to cope with my own fears of being left fending for myself.  Two, I was just starting to work as a corporate chaplain and the stories I was hearing were very overwhelming.  Three, lack of self care.  I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or exercising very well.  The result?  Panic attacks.  

Here’s what helped me:  

  1. Talking with a therapist.  I was able to talk about the pain of being abandoned and how much it hurt.  It helped me realize that, while I felt abandoned, I could learn new ways of parenting myself so that I’d know that I can handle whatever life might throw my way.  In spiritual terms, I learned that I was never alone and that the Higher Power (Jesus) would be with me.  Growing up latino and in a pentecostal home, seeing a therapist was a taboo because we were taught that we really didn’t “trust God”.  That was nonsense!  🙂
  2. Self-care.  For me, this meant getting 8 hours of sleep, staying away from fast food and greasy food, and cycling.  I took up road biking, lost 20 lbs, and felt great. I also started making time to take regular retreats throughout the year.  I have to plan them in advance and then stick to them.
  3. Community.  I needed more friends in my life that I could go to eat with, go to concerts, and just be silly and laugh.  I needed connection and deep friendships.  

Abundance

We grew up with not a lot of money so I developed a fear of not having enough.  It’s driven many of my financial decisions.  But as I think about life and God, the scripture is clear that God thinks in terms of abundance, not scarcity.  I’m not talking about or promoting a “prosperity gospel” where abundance is the sign that God loves you and that you are more special than others.  But God does care about abundance and wants to lack no good thing.  I’d be very wary if someone used this to try and make a case for materialism or consumerism.  That’s just bad theology.  I’m talking about being able to have an attitude and heart that is at rest with what we have and isn’t ruled by “stuff”.  Fear of not having can be very costly.  And it usually doesn’t get us what we really want. 

Comfort/Compassion

In each reading, there is provision and comfort for the hungry, the needy, and the sick.  Death is overcome.  Sickness is healed.  And there is a feast of table for all people.  Jesus has compassion on the crowd.  Some are sick.  Others are hungry.  We read about a God who cares about the daily stuff, about the burdens that we carry.  He is not a god who sits by idly.  Jesus is engaged with the people and is about making wrongs right.  

I’m not sure I wholeheartedly believe that God is that compassionate.  I feel like have to earn his abundance and comfort.  I feel like if I don’t perform well as a disciple, I will be mistreated.  When I feel this way, I look at a picture of my sons or a picture of “little Roy” and imagine how much God loves us.  I want to trust that love from a Heavenly Father who is in heaven, and yet breaking into my world to transform my heart and mind.  This the concept of grace at work.  This energy, favor, love that God bestows is His hearts’ disposition.  

Questions for Reflection

*What are you most afraid of these days?  Can you tell God about it?

*Where do you feel like you are lacking?  Ask the Great Shepherd to lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.  

*How might God want to comfort you today?  Tell him where the pain is.

Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
May your new life fill us afresh.
May you cause to see how you are abundant in our lives.
May you have compassion on us.

Amen

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

Source:

A Prayer of Desire by Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 

Don’t Waste The Pain

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.”

– Brene Brown

I’m thinking of the young man (it could easily be a woman) in his 20’s (maybe even 30s) who is trying to get his life together after making a lot of personal mistakes.  He feels like a failure, alone, and abandoned.  He may even be angry at the world for the bag he was given.

What you’ve been through is not fair.  The upbringing was rough…it wasn’t your fault.  And yet this is what you have to come to grips with.  You’ll need a lot of support, care, and love.  There will be days when you can’t make sense of the deep pain you feel in your heart.

Your greatest choice today is to live as one who is willing to rise strong, WITH all the anxiety and stress.  The gift of strength is for you to reclaim who you long to be.  It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and necessary.  You must remember that you are the beloved!  That is your real identity and at the core of who you are.

You’ll need community, care, and courage.  You’ll need a power bigger than you.

And as a friend once said, don’t waste the pain.  I’m not sure what exactly that means.  But I’m starting to understand that with each set of waves (of pain), there is an opportunity to keep rising, growing, and being transformed.

 

Current Theological Heritage and Values

I have to write a paper and think through my “theological heritage/tradition”. I feel a bit lost trying to think through what it is.

  • I grew up in a pentecostal (apostolic assembly/latino) church until my early twenties.
  • In my twenties, I was part of a small congregation that was in part getting influenced by the “shepherding movement” in a charismatic setting.
  • Late 20s to early 30’s, I was part of a non-denominational church that was in part connected to PCUSA.
  • We did a stint with the Vineyard.
  • We’ve been most consistent at North Coast Calvary Chapel for the last 6-7 years or so.
  • I studied theology (spiritual formation) at a Catholic University and did my masters at a baptist seminary!!!

So how does someone like me begin to name their theological heritage and tradition?! aaackk!!!  LOL!!! At this point, I feel like I have a strong “ecumenical/theological” heritage and tradition.

I also feel like it’s important to name movements, beliefs, and people that have influenced me:

  • Henri Nouwen (catholic)
  • NT Wright (anglican)
  • Walter Brueggemann
  • Stanley Hauerwas
  • Lesslie Newbigin
  • Justo Gonzalez
  • Miroslav Volf
  • Ronald Rolheiser (catholic)
  • Eugene Peterson (Presbyterian)
  • Vineyard Movement
  • InterVarsity
  • Gifts of the Spirit for present day
  • Kingdom of God (here/not yet)
  • eschatology: a redeemed and renew creation (literally)…heaven coming to earth/not taken out of creation
  • world of psychology (brene brown, john gottman, hargraves, harville hendrix, and more)
  • Dallas Willard
  • Leadership theory

And the list goes on. I wasn’t sure how to capture all of this as a heritage until a friend gave me some advice.  He said to “make the same list focusing on the practices of faith (both personally and corporately) that you actually embody and the intersection is likely your actual theological heritage.”

So here’s an initial try at listing the practices:

  • wholeness:  learn from different disciplines and streams to integrate principles for flourishing.  I support therapists, learning from different theological streams (i.e. Catholic church, charismatic movement, etc)
  • integration:  I know this sounds like the first one, but I try to learn from each discipline and pull ideas together.  I read something from each discipline every week.
  • mission:  I deeply care to participate in God’s mission for this world.  I care about the stranger being included and invited to the table.  I believe that God is deeply hospitable, making room for the destitute, misunderstood, and excluded ones.  I engage in God’s mission for the world by serving the marketplace.
  • formation:  we are all shaped and formed into the person we envision.  Our upbringing, beliefs, mentors, influential people, habits and practices, and God all contribute to the person we’re becoming.
  • Holy Spirit:  reliance on the Spirit to guide, heal, transform, empower
  • wisdom:  we seek insight from the God who knows all things.
  • incarnational presence:  being in the daily life of the people we serve, making a home where they live and work.
  • worship:  the full expression of praise to God, expressing gratitude to God, confessing to God, fellowship with one another, communion, and proclaiming the word of God.
  • community:  serving and being in relationships with one another for the sake of encouragement, growth in Christ and for Christ.
  • justice:  seeking the justice of God’s heart in this world.
  • multi-ethnic/cultural expression:  seeking how to incarnate the gospel in the setting of the people–who they are (racial/ethnic profile, cultural practices, etc).

 

My heritage is a composite of the journey I’ve been on to serve Jesus and be a disciple.

Thanks to all of these people/movements/ideas for helping me on the journey.

Keep Calm and Quiet

 

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

In my 20s and 30s, I often daydreamed of being “great”.  I think we live in a culture that praises heroes and greatness.  We concern ourselves with matters of greatness and big wonder.  We might have thoughts of how we’d run the country, a company, a local city, or implement reform on a national scale.  We say, “Well, I’d do it like this!” and walk off thinking we know what’s best.

It seems that the people who truly effect these great changes are those who have learned to keep calm and quieted their restless hearts.  They’ve learned to listen, observe, and take small steps and actions towards a possible reality/goal.  It’s a slow process.

How do we cultivate a calm and quiet presence?  There are two movements.  The first is to abstain from certain patterns of thinking.  One habit might be to think that we have all the answers and don’t need others to resolve issues.  That’s “haughty and ego proud” thinking.  The second movement might be to practice times of silence and solitude.  I find that it slows me down and helps me to be present to any anxieties or fears that are causing me to be reactive and frenetic.

Reflection Questions

*In the workplace, what might it look like for us to develop practices of calmness and quietude?  Would the company culture allow for it?

*Our culture says to make our voice heard for issues of injustice–and we should.  When are times that we ought to practice calmness and listening?

God Catching Our Attention

Everyone has a view of God.
Everyone has a theology of God.

One view is that we reach out to God.  We go to church, pray, read the bible.  It feels like we have to do all the work.  My upbringing was filled with this view.

Another view is that God is trying to get our attention, “trying to draw us into a reciprocal conscious relationship” (William Barry, Finding God in all things).

St. Ignatius believed that every moment of our lives, God is initiating relationship with us.  In doing so, God is attempting to introduce Himself to us, shaping and reshaping our views of who God is, that we might become aware of his existence and presence.

If safety and trust are key elements in a relationship, and if God is love, then we can presuppose that God is attempting to communicate to us, in every aspect of our daily living, an awareness of who God is.

We don’t read the bible to get close to God.  We read the bible to discover how close God has already been to us.  John 1 says that God became flesh and made his habitation among us.  He moved into the neighborhood and into our homes.  This view of God assumes a longing for humanity.  Discovering and deepening our awareness of God’s nearness is the purpose of prayer, table fellowship, study.

How is God present to you this moment?
How is God trying to catch your attention today?

Father/Brother/Mother/Friend/Savior:  Grant us eyes to see and ears to hear how you are among us today.

A Good Definition on Legalism

A good definition on Legalism (also described as superstition by Dallas Willard):
 
Legalism: [a ]claim that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.   Dallas Willard
I grew up in a system that perpetuated conforming to rules that I might be pleasing to God.  It damaged how I felt, thought, and lived.
The dynamic power of God’s love shapes and reshapes my inward devotion, remaking my external habits and practices.  Basically, His love leads me to transformation.  🙂