Laziness, busyness, and holiness

Some days, I am just plain lazy. In many ways I have been lazy about this blog. I was going great in February and March, but the last six weeks I have been doing other things. There have been times that I was inspired to write, that I wanted to, but I didn’t. I guess that either means that I didn’t really want to or that I just have better things to do. Both are probably true. I just hope that laziness over sharing my thoughts over this blog don’t reflect anything greater than that. I am eager to spend a day or two hear and there doing nothing but reading, driving, maybe enjoying a friend’s company. Lazy days. More aptly, they are my days of rest. My Sabbath. But that is a whole different thing than lack of effort for something like this when I do indeed have plenty of time.Thank God it’s this blog that has been neglected over my ministry, family, or job search. May I continue to neglect the least important things in favor of those that God has directly given me for his glory.

Busyness is something that I too familiar with. I was a busy kid in high school. I was a busy college student, to the point that I overwhelmed myself more than once. I am still busy, but it is a different busyness. I have fewer things in my life that are more time consuming and they don’t wear on me like my schedule did in college. I see busyness every day. I work at a busy church, with busy staff, busy congregation, a busy building, and my job is to minister to busy busy busy teenagers. They seem more busy than I ever was at there age. That may entirely be an illusion, but it is my perception. The single greatest source of my stress when it comes to busyness right now, however is my job search. Transition is hard. Figuring out how to balance my current ministry and continuing to minister well, to serve well, to invest well, to listen well, all the while I am looking for the next ministry and the next set of kids I will do all these things with is harder than anything else I have done professionally. Busyness for me right now is tied to the almost fifty applications I have filled out, the ten-ish interviews I have done (with multiple interviews with some churches). It is hard like nothing else I have done.

Holiness is the slow progression of becoming more and more like Christ is our desires, thoughts, intentions, and actions. Christ, in his holiness, would have the right balance between the laziness and rest, between busyness and overcommitment, between ministry now and searching for that which is to come. I am screwing it up. Not in big ways, in fact, I would say that I am doing a decent job of this balance as far as my own abilities and human perspective are concerned. But those are not my standard of measure. I am striving to be like Christ and to figure out what all Christ would have me do in order for my character to be ever more conformed to his. It is hard. And I am screwing it up good. It is messy, as the late Mike Yaconelli would say. It is part of my spirituality, my pursuit of the one who is pursuing me first.

Maybe all this is morbid, narcissistic ramblings, but there is a peace about setting thoughts and feelings down in written word. There is something comforting about writing and so I return and will try to balance this with the other things in my life, realizing its relative unimportance. May it never become greater than its actual importance.

Good Friday (oh, and I’m back!)

So I am back from Ensenada and have been for a couple of weeks. I regret not writing during this time, but I have been very busy, especially in regards to recovering from the trip, conducting interviews for next year’s intern at First Pres (my replacement), Holy Week preparation and the events this week (we have 12 services!!!), and interviews and applications for finding a ministry position for myself after First Pres. I will give updates on some of this in the coming days, but for now, all I offer is one of my favorite poems for Holy Week. This is to be a reflection on Good Friday… It is Four Quartets, 2. East Coker, IV, by T.S. Eliot:



The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
    The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.
    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
    The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Have a blessed Easter weekend.

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,
Jeff

Baja 2010

In two weeks I will be driving several high school students en route to Ensenada on our spring break mission trip that will combine The Core (our HS ministry) and The Source (our college ministry). We have about 22 people going, 6 leaders, 13 college kids, and 4 high school students. It is going to be a great trip and I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in and through us!
Your kingdom come in us and by us, Lord – on earth in Fort Collins, in Ensenada, and in our hearts.
Amen.

Spiritual Disciplines: Silence

It has been too long since my original post on spiritual disciplines. Because it is the first discipline in Tony Jones’ The Sacred Way, the book I am reading to guide myself through some disciplines, I have been practicing silence. Let me say that this has been a struggle to say the least.
When I was a kid, my mom used to tell other adults that I could “talk the hind legs off of a donkey.” No joke. I have yet to hear this turn of phrase from another human being besides my mother, but it hasn’t happened. My family is weird. Regardless of the oddity of family phrasing, it’s definitely true. This is why I should never talk to a donkey. PETA would be all over me! I am a talker. I also have ADD-like thought process and attention span in that my brain is always grinding quickly and never on the same thought for more than a few minutes. This is why I am in youth ministry. I have the natural attention span of a seventh grader!
Thus, silence is a difficulty for me. It is not my natural posture. That is also why it is a discipline and not something that is done lightly.
Over the last month or six weeks or however long I have been working on silence, I have had three successful times of silence. One lasted a few hours, the other two were less than 30min. All three give me hope that I can be silent before God, to listen to his word in scripture and to apply what I hear to my life. I am not quite ready to move on to another discipline, but this one is definitely hit or miss for me.
Part of this is that it takes me such a long time to quiet myself that silence is not a discipline I am able to drop it into a spare half-hour. My longer-timed success came when I had an afternoon off from the office and was able to settle in, read John’s Gospel, pray out my questions and concerns, and then sit quietly before the Lord. May I receive mercies from the Lord to be able to do that again soon.

Prayer for and Reflection on Deer Creek Middle School

Great God in heaven. I do not know why our sinfulness and brokenness as fallen human beings leads some to lust and steal while it leads others to rape, kill, and destroy. My heart breaks for the students, parents, faculty, and neighborhood at Deer Creek Middle School. Thank you so much that no one was killed. Thank you for the actions of the teacher who stopped the man with the gun from hurting your children any further. God, I have so few words, but so much emotion… Lord, you read from the prophet Isaiah while you were incarnate on earth. You said that you had come to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort those who mourn, to restore ruins. DCMS is broken, they are hurting, they are scared, they are grieving this violence, they are angry, and they are in ruins. May your peace and your mercy reign in that place. I just listened, with my own middle schoolers this weekend to how your grace is sufficient. May your grace be sufficient for DCMS and all those who have fears and questions and hurts who are not part of their community. May your Church step in and bring comfort and anything and everything else this community needs. Be with Rachel, Lord. Be with the Malinky’s daughter. Be with Bri. Thank you Lord. 

I was sitting in my 6th grade history class when Euclid Middle School went under lock-down on April 20, 1999. My world changed that day – the day of the worst school shooting in US history happened at Columbine High School. Almost eleven years later, the Littleton community is rocked again.
Last night I had two long phone conversations, with my girlfriend and with my mom. Rachel alerted me to what happened and shared her feelings. My mom offered comfort and perspective as well as a personal connection to one of the teachers there. And for me, as a youth worker, this sort of thing is one of my greatest fears for my students. May God indeed be gracious and merciful to us all.

Amen.

What’s in a name?

Last night, my small group was down two men, so the remaining three of us met at a coffee shop in Old Town (Fort Collins’ downtown area) and quickly gave up our weekly study in Romans for the stories of Chris’ recent trip to Liberia. You can read about his trip at their blog here: http://peanutbutterhouse.org/.
One thing that really stuck out to me as Chris recalled the challenges and triumphs of the team was a question that one of Luther’s Boys (orphans they worked with and for) asked him: “Are you a Christian or are you a follower of Christ?”
Another of the boys explained the meaning of the question, distinguishing between the claim of following the Christian faith and ongoing action which would showcase a person’s dedication and seriousness to their faith claims. In short, the question becomes, “do you claim to follow Christ or are you actually doing the things he commanded his followers to do?”
I am struck by this question. It seems that it is a much simpler question in a place like Liberia, a simplicity that I somewhat envy. For in my life, these options exist on a continuum, within a color gradient that allows for little in the way of absolutes. From my own perspective, I would say that I act in accordance with my claims, that I walk my talk some of the time, but not all the time. I attribute this to the paradox of that Christ has already justified me by his grace through my faith, but as a fallen person the new creation in me continually struggles against the latent desires of a sinful person. At times I choose to give into sin, while others I do the good works that God has prepared for me.
I see this privately (mostly), publicly, and in my ministry (yes, I don’t always follow Jesus, even in as I am getting paid to…). I think of my life experience and of Scripture such as Romans 7 and how true it is that my sinful nature continually rebels against God and what I know is right. But I also know that I am a new creation in Christ (2Cor 5, Gal 6)! These two truths wrestle with one another, even as the paradoxal knowledge of each in my mind and heart.
May I choose to be a follower of Christ much more than I choose to be called a Christian, may the same be said of each of my sisters and brothers in the Lord.

Spiritual Disciplines: Intro

About a month ago, I picked up Tony Jones’ book: The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life. I read through Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline a couple times in college and I found it invigorating. With Jones’ book, though, I decided that I would practice each discipline for at least a week.
I have since been engaging in the discipline of silence and I will detail my experience with that in a another post.
The point of disciplines is to bring us closer to God, not necessarily in feeling, but in actuality. This is what I seek, to deepen and strengthen my own relationship with God and hopefully some of these will prove very useful for years to come.

Here goes nothing!