Sunday Everyday

Who is Jesus – Easter Monday

Mondays Meditation:  Who Is Jesus  by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Well its Easter Monday.  I haven’t said a lot in the lead up to Easter but I hope that you have all had a beautiful Easter weekend however you chose to celebrate and remember it.   I love Easter Sunday.  I love the message I love the man – Jesus.  I don’t mind the chocolate either.

Empty grave

Who is Jesus?

There is nothing to be afraid of in the risen Jesus. We have in him the perfect icon of a God who is safe and a universe that is safe. We have a God who does not blame, does not punish, does not threaten, does not dominate. We have a God who breathes forgiveness.

The Resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is no victory through domination. There is no such thing as triumph by force. By his life, death and resurrection Jesus stops the cycle of violence and challenges the notion of dominating power. This is a power that seeks to change things from the top down, from the outside in. Instead, Jesus invites us to relational or spiritual power, where we are not just changed but transformed. And not transformed from the top down but from the bottom up, not from the outside in but from the inside out. Transformed into God…. (R.Rohr).

“You have to trust that inner voice to show you the way…You know that inner voice.  Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to  a new life of freedom and joy”  (Henri Nouwen)

This is the message of Jesus, He is alive and He is alive in me.  He brings freedom and life and joy.  He is safe and He breathes forgiveness.  He doesn’t just forgive, HE IS forgiveness.

Meditate on these words.  Say them to yourself.  Say them out loud.

Jesus is the one who speaks lovingly ‘I will never leave you.  I am with you always’.

I will love you forever.  My love NEVER fails.

I am faithful, I am righteous.  I am just and I am truth.

Following Christ is both the safest and the most exhilarating thing that you will ever do.

He is: comfort, compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness.

He is:  good, peace, hope joy, gentleness, freedom.

He does NOT:  reject, abuse, abandon, condemn, dominate or control.

HE IS:  gracious, kind, merciful, creative, wondrous, ingenious.

He is rest…………..

Happy in the mountains

He fights for the oppressed.  He hates injustice.

He came to set prisoners free from every trap that they have been caught in. Every addiction, every bondage, every fear and terror.  He has the power and He can free us.

He knows the beginning from the end.  His love NEVER fails.  When we fail, he lifts us up.  By HIS power we can stand.

He knows us intimately, He knows we weep and grieve and that we are frail.

My hope is in Jesus.

My trust is in Jesus

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

He is alive and He lives in me.

We see in Jesus the divine being who is also the perfect human being. Jesus comes in a human body to show us the face of God, the One who is eternally compassionate and eternally joyous, who stands with us in our sufferings and our joys. As Christians, our vocation is to unite with both Christ crucified and Christ risen.

(R.Rohr)

When you think on these things you can feel hope rising in your heart.

SELAH

love Lisa

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Recommended Reading:

Henri Nouwen:  The Inner Voice of Love

This is Henri Nouwen’s “secret journal.” It was  written during the most difficult period of his life, when he suddenly lost his self-esteem,  his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved, even his hope in God. Although he experienced excruciating anguish and despair, he was still able to keep a journal in which he wrote a spiritual imperative to himself each day that emerged from his conversations with friends and supporters.

Art and Soul

Friday Arts Day:  Art and Soul with Michelle Sanders

Michelle Sanders is an artist, pastor, teacher.  Michelle has planted an alternative- style church called Kaleidoscope, its focus is on the arts and social justice.  Its heart is to reach out to those who would not normally step inside a church. She holds a doctorate of ministry and has many years of experience as associate minister in a large church and is heads up the Arts at Tabor College.
Michelle’s vision is to reclaim the arts and use them as a medium for discussing things that matter and communicating the good news of Christianity. Sanders uses painting to invite people to tell their story.  She also runs an “Art and Soul” course to teach people who suffer from anxiety and depression to paint, and “Art for Justice” involvement at local markets.
 photo
Michelle has recently written a book called ‘Art and Soul – Generating conversations with the community throughout the medium of art’.  This book surveys several initiatives for connecting with people through art.  It will inspire and encourage Christ followers to step out and create places to engage with their community.
“The church is in major decline in the Western world. We cannot continue to use past evangelistic models to reach out to our modern world. Art and Soul explores ways of generating missional conversations in the community through the medium of art, offering theological reflections as well as practical strategies on how to connect with people outside of the church”.
Art has always been used to tell the story of the bible.  In mediaeval times when most of the community could not read, the  story of the bible in pictures, was told through the art of the stained glass windows.
Photo by Atilla Siha

Photo by Atilla Siha

Our challenge today is how to use art to connect people with Christ.  This is the message behind Michelle Sanders book Art and Soul.
“How do we engage people with Gods story who aren’t and won’t come to church” (x).
Art is the answer.  We need to find a way to engage people with the Good News.  Approximately 40% of scripture is about story.  Yet most unchurched people see scripture and Christianity as being all about rules and harsh doctrine.  They also view the church as being a place only for Christians.
The whole point of the Gospel is to take it out into the community, into their lives and into the worlds in which they live.  This is the main premise of the book.  Art and Soul looks at creative ways that we can connect, that we can be a bridge between the world and Christ.
“There is a cultural divide between the church and community that needs ago be crossed” (p14).
The point of mission is to contextualize the message of Jesus to all cultures including our own.  We must be able to move out of the four walls of the church.  Unfortunately the majority of Christians do not have a clue how to relate to people outside the church.  They are ill-equipped to understand social issues like depression, anxiety, abuse, loneliness, homelessness, domestic violence etc.  In other words, the real issues that most Australians are facing.  We the church should be bringing hope and life out of the walls of the church into a broken world.  Unfortunately the church is too focused on maintaining itself.
Michelle shares about using art as the language to bridge the community to the hope of the world, Jesus.  Art transcends barriers and reasoning and can ‘open up the curiosity within’.
“A missional engagement requires immersion in culture, to listen and to ask questions” (p43).
Michelle spends the last two chapters explaining practical ways to do this. She shares about how she engages in missional immersion.  She takes art into the market place, into prisons to develop understanding around reconciliation.  She offers Art and Soul courses to help people navigate depression and anxiety.  She shares stories, strategies and powerful examples encouraging us to explore ways of generating conversations in our communities through the medium of Art.
This review by Dr John Drane sums the book up well.
‘Michelle Sanders offers an exciting vision for art as a vehicle of spiritual transformation combining insights from theology and culture with her own stories of using art to explore and celebrate the presence of the divine in today’s world’.
Stage Design Lisa Hunt-Wotton photo by Mal Austin, Art by Michelle Sanders

Stage Design Lisa Hunt-Wotton photo by Mal Austin, Art by Michelle Sanders

Art & Soul is a 10-week program that uses art to explore emotional responses and thinking that can lead to depression and anxiety. It is designed in a unique way; each week commences with an overview of the relevant topic including; Identity, Core Beliefs, Power & Shame, Holistic Health, Loss & Grief, and other themes and how it might be outworked in the participant’s lives.

This is followed by a 90-minute art lesson built around the theme, each week the participants do a complete painting, including tonal painting, perspective, colour and more – the night is completed by small group discussions around the theme of the night. all the different groups run in a similar format.

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Any one can join  Art and Soul –  the next one commences in July and Michelle is taking bookings for that one now.  You can connect with Michelle on FB:  https://www.facebook.com/michelle.sanders.737001 or through this blog.
The church website Kaleidoscope is www.kscopecc.org.au
Kaleidoscope meet at 4:30 pm on a sunday afternoon and are moving to Beaconsfield Community Centre O’Neil Rd Beaconsfield on 12th April.
You can purchase the book Art and Soul on Amazon – link below.  Love Lisa.

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http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1625644698/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1625644698&linkCode=as2&tag=sundaevery-20&linkId=37B73NXLKLLVNZBU

What is Justice? What is the Justice Conference?

What is Justice?  What is the Justice Conference

Justice is the single best word, both inside and outside the Bible, for capturing God’s purposes for the world and humanity’s calling in the world.

Justice is, in fact, the broadest, most consistent word the Bible uses to speak about what ought to be, and it has been used throughout the centuries by Christians and non-Christians alike to describe vital areas of human and divine concern.

To “do justice” means to render to each what each is due. Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every person – the Imago Dei – that grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth.

Justice describes both our rights – what we are owed – and our responsibilities that we owe others and God.

Justice is broad enough to speak about truth, love, forgiveness, and grace, and it is woven consistently throughout Scripture. It conveys, through the prophetic images of Scripture, a picture of what God’s kingdom will look like, and what it can begin to look like now.

This is a small excerpt from Chapter 1 of Ken’s book, Pursuing Justice: The call to live and die for bigger things.

Ken Wytsma is a US-based church planter and lead pastor at Antioch Church. He is also the founder of the Justice Conference – an annual international conference that introduces people to a wide range of organisations and conversations relating to biblical justice and God’s call to give our life away.

Justice permeates God’s heart and purposes:

“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,

that you may live and possess the land which

the LORD your God is giving you.”

Deuteronomy 16:20 NASB

Ken is one of the key speakers at the Justice Conference, in Melbourne 17-18 April.

The Justice Conference: 17-18 April 2015

Brought to you by TEAR Australia

TEAR AUSTRALIA

TEAR AUSTRALIA

The Justice Conference has grown to become one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice –

and now TEAR is bringing it to Australia for the first time!

The vision of the conference is to reach tens of thousands of people over the next decade through annual gatherings that educate, inspire and connect a generation to a shared concern for the vulnerable and oppressed. This is motivated by the driving value of the theology of justice, an understanding of God that compels love for others and engagement in justice.

The conference features international speakers including Ken Wytsma (US pastor, founder of the Justice Conference and author of Pursuing Justice) and Eugene Cho (US pastor, author of Overrated) and other local leaders in justice, including Indigenous Australian Christian leader Brooke Prentis, theologian and practitioner Barbara Deutschmann, performance poet Joel McKerrow and many others.

‘Through visiting TEAR partners and projects I’ve seen many real-life stories that illustrate justice in action, lives being transformed and a glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth’.

TEAR’s vision is for a just and compassionate world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. Together with our partners we are motivated by a belief that God is a God of justice. Biblical justice is aimed at tackling root causes of poverty and oppression to bring about social and structural changes. It is focused on changing the systems which allow injustice to occur, and I am reminded of one such example from work I saw during a recent trip to India. TEAR’s Christian partners there were putting their commitment to justice into action by helping economically poor communities ensure their rights for land, medical care, and education were no longer exploited by those in power.

Working for justice requires a commitment to long-term and often difficult work…work that is in harmony with God’s heart for redemption and restoration. Our passion for a just world motivates us to share this important message far and wide in the Australian Christian community.  This is one of the key reasons that TEAR is bringing The Justice Conference to Australia for the first time on 17-18 April this year in Melbourne, in partnership with many other Christian organisations that are also motivated by a similar vision.

Matthew Maury  National Director, TEAR Australia

Make A Difference Concept

Come along to The Justice Conference in Melbourne on 17-18 April 2015. Hear speakers like Ken Wytsma and other writers, theologians, artists and practitioners.

For more information and to buy tickets visit www.thejusticeconference.com.au

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You can also read the first chapter of Pursuing Justice and download a four-week small group study guide at www.kenwytsma.com

In Psalm 146:6-9, God’s power as Creator is linked to his design for justice to be enacted in his creation, demonstrating that justice is an aspect of his character as foundational as love and truth.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and everything in them –

he remains faithful forever

He upholds the cause of the oppressed

and gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets prisoners free,

the LORD gives sight to the blind,

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the foreigner

And sustains the fatherless and the widow,

but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Pursuing Justice by Ken  Wytsman

If God designed us to experience true happiness and abundant life, why do so many Christians feel dissatisfied and purposeless?  We try to make our lives better by chasing our own dreams, but that only makes the problem worse.  Instead, the path to a just life that’s satisfying and permeated with meaning leads us alongside the orphan, the widow, and the powerless.  Using clear evangelical theology and compelling narratives drawn from two decades of global ministry and travel, Ken Wytsma, the founder of The Justice Conference, shows God’s unchanging love for all His children.

Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? by Eugene Cho

Tuesday Talks: Domestic Violence with Satu Myers

Tuesday Talks:  Domestic Violence with Satu Myers

Its our National shame that women and children are suffering such high levels of domestic violence.  This year in Australia March 2015,  25 women have died at the hand of men in domestic situations.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the levels of violence experienced by the world’s women as ‘a global public health problem of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action’.
  • In Australia, domestic, family and sexual violence is found across all cultures, ages and socio-economic groups, but the majority of those who experience these forms of violence are women. However, it is not possible to measure the true extent of the problem as most incidents of domestic, family and sexual violence go unreported.

The United Nations defines violence against women as:

‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life’.

We must also remember that men and boys suffer from domestic violence.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics 4906.0 – Personal Safety, Australia, 2012 (2013) is the largest and most recent survey of violence in Australia. It found that:

  • one in three victims of current partner violence during the last 12 months (33.3%) and since the age of 15 (33.5%) were male.

iStock_000003651078Medium

Domestic violence may include physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse. Emotional or psychological abuse may include a range of controlling behaviours such as the use of verbal threats, enforced isolation from family and friends, restrictions on finances and public or private humiliation.

**Please understand right at the beginning of this story:  Domestic Violence and Abuse is not acceptable in any relationship, it is not a Christian principle, nor does the bible support abuse in any circumstances.

I’m talking today with Satu Meyer about her experience of domestic violence within her marriage. Satu is a Finnish mother of 5 amazing and resilient children and gorgeous step son.  Born in Finland and raised by her grandparent in a small village of 100 people in the far north of Finland under the northern lights.  Satu has travelled the world, speaks 4 languages and is currently studying a degree in European Political Science. Satu was 22 when she came to Australia and met her husband pretty much straight away.  Married in a pentecostal church at the age of 23.  The domestic violence started about six weeks into the marriage.  A six week cycle of abuse that went on for six years.

Satu thank you for joining me on Sunday Everyday to speak about your story.  I know that you have worked hard to get to place of being able to speak out about this and to create a platform of open discussion.  Through many years of counselling and therapy you are finding your voice.

‘One of the most powerful takeaway from the 12 step programme is that you learn to tell your story.  You have a  venue to begin to articulate what has been silenced.  You are being heard and learning to put into words what has happened to you.  This is my story, its the worst story, because its my story and I had to live through it’. Satu

Lisa:  There are so many questions that I have for you.  We have so much to learn about this issue. Before we start – what is the one thing that you would say to women who may be in a situation of domestic violence and who could be reading this today.

‘Your story is the worst story because you are living through it and your story needs to be heard and believed’.

Lisa:  Lets talk about the cycle of abuse.

Satu:  If you are in it you don’t understand the abuse cycle because it is so exhausting.

  • There is the ‘honey moon phase’, everything is smooth, they are very charming.
  • Then starts the verbal picking and the verbal, social or financial control – in this season you are walking on eggshells. You do everything you can not to upset him.
  • Then one day you say something or do some minor thing wrong and then they shift into the ‘violent phase’
  • In the apologetic stage they excuse what they have done.  They become highly apologetic or they blame you.  You made me do it. You are not allowed to talk to anyone about it.
  • Then back into normal calm down, then into the honey moon phase.
Lisa:  Can you explain to me a bit more about the honey moon phase?

Satu:  Well, you are treated nicer.  Its a relief because your not getting raped or beaten.  The undercurrent and the threat has stopped.

Lisa:  Lets talk about the types of abuse.

Satu:  A lot of women say ‘he only beat me once’.  But that is how they control you because you shut up and do whatever it takes to maintain the peace.  There’s no freedom.  Your money and social life is controlled, you are especially controlled through the children. You are particularly vulnerable when you are pregnant or have small children.  You are absolutely reliant on the other person. What types of abuse did I suffer?  Physical, sexual, emotional, drugging, psychological abuse through the children, spiritual abuse and being tormented.

Lisa: What of these abuses was the worst for you personally?

Satu:   Two things.  Abuse through my children for example my son was drugged and kidnapped when he was three. The second for me was the sexual abuse it is the most dehumanising. In regard to spiritual abuse, he would justify the abuse by using the bible, using terms like submission and he would repeat christian words that I would hear in the church.  During all of this time we were both attending church.  The church condoned his behaviour and what was going on. I told the church leaders and pastor what was going on but they would completely deny the reality by saying that ‘I was exaggerating and making it up’.  My staying in the marriage was more important to them than any abuse that happened to me.  They would tell me to pray for my husband and thank God for him.

Once he severally beat me.  It was a very serious assault. I was been beaten black and blue on my face and my whole body.  After then he was more careful to not bruise me in visible places.

Lisa:  One of the most common questions people ask is ‘Why don’t you leave? ( We will be covering this question in next weeks post called The Shark Cage – This metaphor- explains some of the reasons why it is so hard for women to get out of abusive relationships).

Satu:  They don’t understand,  it is impossible to understand.

Within the first year of marriage I had to leave home and go into a refuge just after my first child was born  I told my church friends what was happening.  I didn’t have a lot of close friends because I hadn’t been in the country for very long.  I went to the GP with a displaced jaw, but my husband was with me and I couldn’t say anything. I told my pastor that ‘I don’t know if I should press charges or not’.  He advised me that I must stay with my husband and pray for him because he was weaker mentally than I was.

I now know that you cannot leave until you are absolutely safe.  You have to be very strategic.  You have to plan it.  You have to be very wise.  In the past when I tried to leave, he would stalk me.  He would find me through friends who were ignorant of the dynamics involved and they would give him my phone number.  Then when he found me the abuse would escalate, he would be in a rage.  The abuse was always the worst after he found me. He refused to allow me to walk away.

Ragazza relax

Eventually I found a safe christian community who helped me to leave.

God is amazing and eventually I did find prayer and healing.  It is a continually journey and I have discovered  an enduring strength and faith in God.  I have also found safe women willing to listen and believe my story.

It has also been a lot of hard work and disciplined application to meditation and other methods of therapy to support my healing journey.

Although initially I experience some unsafe advice, I believe that today, society as a whole, including Christians are more understanding and supportive of  people in abusive situations.  Its becoming more talked about, more understood and less tolerated.

Abuse is not acceptable in any relationship, it is not a Christian principle, nor does the bible support abuse in any circumstances.

Darling Satu,  thank you for sharing some of your story with us.  I know that there are many other women in similar situations.  My prayer is that your story will help people understand what its really like and help others to realise that you can get free and that it is possible to move on.
Satu, you are a walking miracle of grace, hope and love.

Lisa.

Help is available and your story needs to be heard.

Trouble at home, call WIRE womens’ support line 1300 134 130 which is a free and confidential Victoria wide service.

You can call 1800737732 RESPECT which is the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Line open 24/7.

To contact CASA and the after hours sexual assault Crisis Line simple call 1800 806 292

http://www.casa.org.au/

CASA provides counselling and advocacy services to women, men, children and young people who are victim/survivors of recent or past sexual assault. The service is also available to non-offending family members, partners and friends.

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Quotes:

World Health Organization (WHO), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and South African Medical Research Council, Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence and Executive summary,

WHO, Geneva, 2013, accessed 29 April 2014. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Personal safety survey Australia 2012, cat. no. 4906.0, ABS, Canberra, 2013, accessed 29 April 2014

United Nations (UN), Declaration on the elimination of violence against women, UN website, 20 December 1993, accessed 7 July 2014.

Monday’s Meditation: Theological Reflection

A practical exercise in theological reflection  by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

‘What does it mean to reflect theologically?  Theological reflection is the act of deliberately slowing down our usual process of interpreting our lives to take a closer look at the experience. … and then view these everyday events of our lives through the lens of the character, activity and heart of God’. 1.

So you have experienced something, it may have been traumatic, it may have been wondrous, it may have been complex and confusing.  Theological reflection means that we slow down enough to reflect on the experience and then apply what we have learned.  Experience – reflection – learning.

We are all acquainted with reflection,  but theological reflection is the act of looking at the experience and reflecting upon it with God in mind.  Through the lenses of scripture, church history, previous experience and also by engaging your mind.   This is called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. ‘Scripture, Church History, Experience and Rational Thinking.

‘We must live in the moment: open, undefended, and immediately present’.  Dr Gerald May

This takes courage.  The next question that we ask is ‘How did I get here and where am I going?’

As we reflect we need to also ask.

  • What is the bigger picture?
  • How is this event seen from Gods perspective?
  • What did I learn from this experience?
  • Can I even reflect on this event or is it too painful and am I avoiding it.
  • If I am avoiding it why?

Avoiding an experience is also known as repressing.

Repression, is ‘the psychological attempt made by an individual to repel one’s own desires  by excluding the desire from one’s consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious.   Repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of the average person’ (Dictionary).

The trouble with repression is that it doesn’t stay repressed.  Sure you may be able to avoid it for a decade or two but like the beach ball held under water for a time, it eventually pops up.  The event pops up when you least expect it.  Usually when you are too tired to hold it down anymore.  My advice is that you deal with it, get some professional help if you need to.  Then when you are in a safe place you can work through the event and the reasons why you have gone to such lengths to repress it in the first place.

EXERCISE

A good exercise in reflection is to get three or four colours of post it notes.

You can use a large piece of card or you can use your bedroom wall.

One:  Brainstorm significant people, events and circumstances, (good and bad) in your life.  One post it not per event.

images-1

Two:  Identify which experiences were painful or negative.  (replace with a different post it note)

Three:  Stick onto cardboard in columns left to right

Four:  Group into phases or chapters (not too many) and give each one a title at the top.

Post-its_on_poster-e1383678874742

Five:  On a different post it not, write ‘lessons learned‘ on the appropriate columns/chapters.

The lessons that you have learned from these chapters in your life act as sign posts for the future.

Photo realistic 'healthy lifestyle' sign with space for text ove

Process and reflect on these lessons and write down in your journal the things that you have learned.

Who or what have been the influences in your life?

Can you identify a fork in the road moment when a crisis, a conversation,  a controversy or your own personal spiritual growth caused you to realise that your theology was insufficient.

In other words.  The way that you view God or the doctrine that you believed in did not answer or measure up to the experience.  This process helps us to understand what is wrong theology and what is the true nature of God.

‘The ability to understand, process and evaluate the building blocks of our faith and life, enable us to develop and grow with intentionality and wisdom’.1.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We must allow time in our human experiences to process, reflect and understand.  Not only the experience itself but what it  is that we learned from that experience.  When we do this we begin to see that the past becomes the building blocks of our future.  We learn from our mistakes, our experiences and we grow and move on from this.  In life we have two choices.  We can transmit painful experiences or we can be transformed by them.  It should be our goal through theological reflection to be transformed or to be formed into something more than or other than we were before the experience.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Love Lisa.  Let me know how you go.

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** Notes:

Notes taken from class on Spiritual and Theological Formation at Tabor College 2013.

Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance: The Call to Ministry

Pastoral Survival Guide:  by Rowland Croucher.

The Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance.

After listening to hundreds of their stories, I believe that there are the ten characteristics of pastors – women and men – who ‘make the distance’.

  • In past posts we have covered Jesus our Model, Spiritual Formation, and Images of Ministry (March 5 2015).
  • Spiritual Disciplines ( March 12 2015)
  • Last week we covered Saints and Pharisees (March 19 2015)

Today we will look at The Call to Ministry.

THE CALL TO MINISTRY

Here is some classical Christian wisdom on the subject of vocation:

‘Your motives are mixed. So are mine, for I shall not know this side of death why I became a preacher; and I have no right to assume that all that moved me in the choice was of angel brightness. Sometimes we see how incredibly ravelled are even our best desires.’

(George Buttrick, Sermons Preached in a University Church, Abingdon, 1959, p. 109).

# Traditionally, an ‘inner’ call was dominant when one entered monastic life; but the call to the presbyterate/pastorate needed an ‘inner’ call confirmed by the church. God always calls people to leadership in the community of Jesus Christ through the community. Calvin taught that there is a ‘two-fold’ call to pastoral ministry: God calls, but the church must also call. Wesley distinguished between an ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ call.

Eugine  Peterson, the author of 20 books (all still in print), including The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language and a complete translation of the Bible by NavPress, says this of being a pastor:

“I’ve loved being a pastor, almost every minute of it. It’s a difficult life because it’s a demanding life. But the rewards are enormous — the rewards of being on the front line of seeing the gospel worked out in people’s lives.

I remain convinced that if you are called to it, being a pastor is the best life there is. But any life can be the best life if you’re called to it”.

# The call to ‘ministry’ is a subset of the call to be a child of the living God. The New Testament talks about the ‘high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14); it is a ‘holy calling’ (2 Timothy 1:9); and a ‘heavenly calling’ (Hebrews 3:1).

colored sunglasses, summer concept

# Sometimes people wear rose-coloured spectacles when considering a call to pastoral ministry / full-time evangelism / cross-cultural missionary work. Those people are considered fortunate, because they have lots of time to sit around and meditate, without being bothered by the hassles of ordinary living. A mother-of-nine told the evangelist Gypsy Smith that she believed God was calling her to be an evangelist like him. ‘Isn’t that wonderful!’ he responded. ‘God has not only called you; he’s already provided you with a congregation!’ Jesus said to Peter: ‘Follow me (leave your home)’. To the Gadarene demoniac (Luke 8:26-39): ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’

# An old church paradigm suggests six ‘vocation indicators’ –

  • Faith (words and actions that indicate a deep-down commitment to Christ and his Church);
  • Idealism (often expressed through initiatives which promote peace, justice, and strive for a better world);
  • A Search for Greater Meaning (eg. an authentic questioning of current lifestyle);
  • A ‘People Person’ (either extroverted, or a quieter ‘one-to-one’ personality);
  • Leadership (ability to draw others to oneself, make decisions and take initiatives);
  • Strength of Character (integrity and a sense of responsibility for one’s own actions and decisions).

# God may have to call you more than once before he gets your attention. God had to call Samuel three times before he got the message.

Gazing

# Sometimes a ‘call’ will come when we are really discouraged in our work; sometimes when we are successful. Christian wisdom says that usually a ‘restlessness’ will precede a call to another ministry, but escaping, running away from a tough job to enter pastoral ministry does not augur well for a ministry-future.

(Have you heard of the black cotton-picker in the American South who was very tired one scorching day. He looked up to the heavens and said ‘O Lord, de sun am so hot, de work am so hard, de cotton am so grassy dat I believe you callin’ me to be a preacher!’).

by Rowland Croucher.

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Rowland Croucher (born 1937) is an Australian pastor, counsellor and author.

Brought up in the Open Brethren in Sydney,[1] following a five-year career as a high-school teacher, Croucher began training in 1964 for the Baptist ministry in New South Wales. He worked for the InterVarsity Fellowship (1968-1970), now the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES); then pastored churches in Australia: Narwee and Central Baptist Church – both in Sydney – and Blackburn Baptist Church in Melbourne, which became a “megachurch” in the late 1970s, with seven pastors, a salaried staff of 25 and 1,000 attending; plus several interim ministries. He was then, briefly, pastor at First Baptist Church, VancouverCanada. From 1983 to 1991 he worked for World Vision Australia.[2]

Since 1991, Croucher has been founding director of John Mark Ministries, serving pastors, ex-pastors, church leaders and their spouses throughout Australia and elsewhere. The John Mark Ministries website, with 20,000 articles, claims to be the most accessed non-denominational religious website in Australia.[3]

Croucher has authored 12 books, including Still Waters Deep Waters (with 35,000 copies in print) and has been a regular participant on Australian radio and TV programs. (Wikipedia)

Characteristics of Pastors who make the distance: Saints and Pharisees

Pastoral Survival Guide:  by Rowland Croucher.

The Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance.

After listening to hundreds of their stories, I believe that there are the ten characteristics of pastors – women and men – who ‘make the distance’.

  • In past posts we have covered Jesus our Model, Spiritual Formation, and Images of Ministry (March 5 2015).
  • Last week we looked at Spiritual Disciplines ( 12th March 2015)

Today we will look at the difference between the Saint and the Pharisee.

THE SAINT AND THE PHARISEE

In general there are two religious mind-sets – those of the ‘saint’ and the Pharisee. We all have something of each in us, and the potential to be either. Both may be ‘orthodox’ theologically, even ‘evangelical’. Both pursue ‘goodness’ but by different means, for different ends. (Pharisees were ‘good’ people in the worst sense of the word!). Saints (like Jesus) emphasise love and grace, Pharisees law and (their interpretation of) ‘truth’. Saints are comfortable with ‘doctrine’, but for the Pharisee doctrine becomes dogma, law becomes legalism, ritual (the celebration of belonging) becomes ritualism.

The saint lives easily with questions, paradox, antinomy, mystery;

Pharisees try to be ‘wiser than God’ and resolve all mysteries into neat formulas: they want answers, now. The saint listens, in solitude and silence; the Pharisee fills the void with sound.

With Jesus, acceptance preceded repentance, with the Pharisees it was the other way around.

The saint, like Jesus, says first ‘I do not condemn you’. Pharisees find that difficult: they’d prefer ‘go and sin no more’.

Jesus welcomes sinners; sinners get the impression they’re not loved by Pharisees. For the Pharisee, sins of the flesh and ‘heresy’ are worst, and they are experts on the sins of others. For the saint, sins of the spirit – one’s own spirit – are worst. Saints are ‘Creation-centred’; Pharisees ‘Fall-centred’. The saint’s good news begins with ‘You are loved’; the Pharisees begin with ‘You are a sinner’.

For the Pharisee ‘my people’ = ‘people like me’; for the saint ‘my people’ = all God’s people. Pharisees are insecure (needing ‘God-plus’ other things); the saints are secure (needing ‘God only’). The Pharisees’ audience is other people: their kudos provides a measure of security (psychologists call it ‘impression management’; Jesus calls it hypocrisy). The saints’ only audience is God: their inner and outer persons are congruent.

Praying at the Wailing Wall

Pharisees hate prophets (‘noisy saints’) and their call to social justice; saints love justice. (Saints aren’t into writing creeds very much, which is why the two things most important for Jesus – love and justice – don’t appear in them).

So saints remind you of Jesus; the Pharisees of the devil (demons are ‘orthodox’). Saints see Jesus in every person: they haven’t any problem believing we’re all made in the image of God (= Jesus) although they’re realistic about that image being marred by sin. Saints are spread through all the churches: the closer they are to Jesus, the more accepting they are of others. ‘Ambition’ for them means ‘union with Christ’: they call nothing else ‘success’. In their prayer they mostly ‘listen’, ‘wait on the Lord’; the Pharisee needs words, words, words.

Pharisees have a tendency to complain about many things; for the saints life is ‘serendipitous’: they have a well-developed theology of gratitude. Pharisees are static, unteachable, believing they have monopoly on the truth; saints are committed to growing. (Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum; the Spirit abhors fullness – particularly of oneself). Jesus was full of grace and truth; Peter says grow in grace and knowledge: Pharisees aren’t strong on grace, but for saints ‘grace is everywhere’.

la prière de l'ange aux fleurs d'accacias

The religion of the saints is salugenic, growth-and health-producing; that of the Pharisee is pathogenic.

Only one thing is important: to be a saint.

Pastors who have not been cured of their Pharisaism will not last the distance.

Saints appreciate these sentiments (in Rory Noland’s song):

Holy Spirit, take control.

Take my body, mind, and soul.

Put a finger on anything

that doesn’t please you,

Anything that grieves you.

Holy Spirit, take control.

Shalom, Rowland

Rowland Croucher (born 1937) is an Australian pastor, counsellor and author.

Brought up in the Open Brethren in Sydney,[1] following a five-year career as a high-school teacher, Croucher began training in 1964 for the Baptist ministry in New South Wales. He worked for the InterVarsity Fellowship (1968-1970), now the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES); then pastored churches in Australia: Narwee and Central Baptist Church – both in Sydney – and Blackburn Baptist Church in Melbourne, which became a “megachurch” in the late 1970s, with seven pastors, a salaried staff of 25 and 1,000 attending; plus several interim ministries. He was then, briefly, pastor at First Baptist Church, VancouverCanada. From 1983 to 1991 he worked for World Vision Australia.[2]

Since 1991, Croucher has been founding director of John Mark Ministries, serving pastors, ex-pastors, church leaders and their spouses throughout Australia and elsewhere. The John Mark Ministries website, with 20,000 articles, claims to be the most accessed non-denominational religious website in Australia.[3]

Croucher has authored 12 books, including Still Waters Deep Waters (with 35,000 copies in print) and has been a regular participant on Australian radio and TV programs. (Wikipedia)

Only the Lonely

Mother Teresa once said:

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.”

Doctors have now measured the effects of the loneliness disease, warning that;

“Lonely people are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely as those who do not suffer feelings of isolation. Being lonely it seems, is a lot more worrying for your health than obesity”.

“Loneliness is associated with a significantly greater risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. It suppresses the function of one’s immune system and contributes to a faster onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Loneliness has also been known to interrupt the regulation of cellular process so that it predisposes people to premature aging and can take years off one’s life-span”- Cherese Jackson.

What is Loneliness:

Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you. It may be felt more over a long period of time. It is also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by people.

Isolation is being separated from other people and your environment. Sometimes this occurs through decisions we make ourselves, or because of circumstance e.g. doing a job that requires travel or relocation (lifeline).

We now know that loneliness, a social emotion, can reach into our bodies and rearrange our cells and genes.

Today I am chatting with my husband Philip Wotton.  He has been saying to me for a while now that loneliness is a big problem in society especially with men.  I hadn’t really thought about it a lot, but as I began to research this and talk to people about it, I realised that Phil was right.  It is a big issue, one that is hidden, silent and comes with  a lot of stigma.

Here are some of Phil’s thoughts on the subject:

I feel that loneliness is one of the silent killers of the 21st century and affects many more people than we care to realize. I know from my own personal experience, that it is very easy hide in the crowd and to have many acquaintances, whilst in reality, being totally alone.

Personally, I have found that I can navigate my way through life, having social interactions at work or in the sporting arena, for instance, without having anyone in my life who actually knows me, or gets me or cares for me.  I have also learnt to like my own company, when I am on my own, in order to maintain a level of normality and functionality, but at the same time with the need to connect  and to fill a void, that I can’t actually explain.

I know that man was created, to be in relationship with his fellow human. So whilst we can survive in a bubble of social media and acquaintances, I have found that actually hurts the heart and soul to be separated from a deeper level of relationship and sense of belonging.

“People cannot exist in life without solid relationships. Contrary to what some may believe, no one is an island to themselves. Everyone needs relationships; they are important to humanity” (K.Eisold).

Gazing

There are probably two sides to this topic;

  • firstly those that struggle through life alone and the associated impacts to their health and emotional wellbeing.
  • secondly the community within which we live.
    • Perhaps people not caring or being aware enough of what is happening in the lives of the people around them.

Extreme examples of this are the stories that you hear about people dying in their homes without anyone noticing.  There are even stories about people who have died in their work environment, without people realizing!

One man in Helsinki was reportedly dead for 2 days in an office of 100 people, without being noticed.  Another man, in New York was reportedly dead at his desk for 5 days, before he was noticed by the cleaners on a Saturday, propped up at his computer. He apparently worked in isolation and was the first in and the last out every day, so no one took any notice.

It is a topic that we never really discuss.  Where do you go to say: “Hey, I am lonely, please help”?  Having said that, it is often easier to be alone and something that I often pursue.  People are messy, relationships can be messy and they all require hard work.

If we are being totally selfish, it is a lot easier to just look after our own space and to control what we can control, so I realize that you cannot expect people to invest their time to get to know you, if you are not prepared to invest in them!  It is a two way street.

Do you think it’s harder for men?

Well I think that men are not as good at making the effort to connect socially.  Men often put up walls to protect themselves, either perhaps because of past rejection or pain or to present a certain macho image.  Men don’t like being vulnerable, they prefer to be in control.  So men often make a lot of small talk but don’t like to confront the deeper issues.

There are maybe a few reasons for this:

1:  It’s sometimes harder for men to relate and to put the effort into relationships, particularly in the context of the busy lives we live. It is actually easier not to make the effort than to go the next step to dig deeper and to actually care. As long as their needs are being met the rest is really an effort.

2:  Also, men often aren’t interested in going any deeper than small talk.  They are not so good at noticing and are not interested in hearing the answer to say “How are you really”?

Understandably, people don’t want to take on others peoples pain, life is hard enough as it is. Sometimes it is easier to be alone, to go home and to simply zone out. It takes effort and hard work to involve yourself in other people’s lives. We often couldn’t be bothered but yet we are all constantly longing for someone else to reach out to us and to be connected. It’s a conundrum.

The fact remains that people need to feel loved, listened to and valued by those near to them.

Stephen Fry says it this way:

“In the end, loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems.  I hate having only myself to come home to…

It’s not that I want a sexual partner, a long-term partner, someone to share a bed and a snuggle on the sofa with – although perhaps I do and in the past I have had and it has been joyful. But the fact is I value my privacy too. It’s a lose-lose matter. I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone (source).

Phil, what made the difference for you personally?

For me, I actually came to the understanding or revelation one day that there is a God and that he actually does love me, care for me and that he has a purpose for my life. Up until that point, I was a closed shop, with a very hard heart, that no one and I mean no –one, was going to get anywhere near.  All of a sudden I had a totally new perspective on life for which I am very grateful and it actually saved me.

I came to realise that I was not alone, God has a purpose for me and that there was actually meaning and hope to the crazy world I was living in. It was actually a huge relief. I was about to explode. From there I was able to reset and move forward, although this did not take away the for need for relationship and community.

It did take a crisis in my life to wake me up and as Richard Rohr explains :

“When a person is on a serious inner journey to his or her own powerlessness and is also in immediate contact with the powerless men and women, then community will result”.

Suffering seems to get our attention.  If you don’t have a conflict moment, you don’t stop long enough to explore what happened or to work out what you think and who you are.  I think that’s why there is so much small talk.  Either people have not faced serious conflict and have never learned to go deeper, or they are just not interested.

Thanks Phil so much, this has been a real eye opener for me and I’m sure there are many who identify with what you have said.

If you are feeling lonely and need assistance please talk to someone and tell them how you are feeling.

OR  You can call life line on 131114

Recommended Reading:

Richard Rohr – “Simplicity” The Freedom of Letting Go.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0824521153/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0824521153&linkCode=as2&tag=sundaevery-20&linkId=CAENFC66JQQ2YF4W

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Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/02/loneliness-the-silent-serial-killer/#3MpfsdxZyAoMzUTE.99

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/17/loneliness-report-bigger-killer-obesity-lonely-people

Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/02/loneliness-the-silent-serial-killer/#3MpfsdxZyAoMzUTE.99

Post published by Ken Eisold Ph.D. on May 24, 2013

https://www.lifeline.org.au/Home

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