Latest Entries »

The question in every decision, in the most ordinary circumstances of life, is what decision in this circumstance will cause me to become more like Jesus. The question is always what in my behavior will help those around me become more like Jesus. Living Like Christians 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1  Pastor Bryan Clark

Do you have a relationship with Christ?  How many times do we ask this question and want to find out.  I have to say that I don’t do a great job at asking.  I look to my example and want to be like Christ and show him to others but don’t ask.   The question came up as I was discussing the 21 days to a complaint free world and my process in it.

The thought was,  is doing something like this taking care of my lower room.  For those who are not familiar to the reference, check out the earlier blogs but in short, there are two rooms we live in, one with God in his presence and another where we are putting all the furnishings of this world into place.  Back to the thought, If I am to work on one of my faults in a self help manner and succeed in achieving being a better person because of it, do I risk not needing God?  Do I perceive that I have achieved something on my own without God and then do I need Him?  Therefore, should I be working in a self help way or should I trust in the Lord to make me the person He wants me to be?

My thought process continues as we discussed this in the context of others.  I have a relationship with Him and I depend on this above all and for me personally, identifying when I slip and make a criticism or am criticizing someone, then I don’t see it as me achieving something on my own but instead that the Holy Spirit is guiding and using this to guide and teach me.  It is not on my own that I achieve anything but the Will of the father that guides and teaches me. But what if others read this and they don’t have the relationship with Him and do what it takes to change.  Do they feel more closer to God or could they become closer because they are in a better place?  Or could they have a pride in themselves and consider that they don’t need the Father as they can achieve it themselves?

I think it is an individual answer for each person but in that there is responsibility to me.  I should have the thought of wanting them to be dwelling with God in the Upper room and asking them if they have a relationship with the Father.  It should be something that we as a singles group or any Christian group promote.  Having a relationship with the Father.

That is the reason we are here, to reach others for Him.  It is not to spend time frustrated over things we can not change, to reside in a place in ourselves where we need to complain to others about something we disagree with.  It is not our place to spend our time trying to promote the negative but to instead promote what is First in our Lives or should Be and that is the Lord and a relationship with Him.  To put First things First and then Second Things will fall into place.

We concentrate on the Second things so much in life.  Whether we are invited to an event, the hurt we feel when we are rejected, our feelings becoming hurt.  The second things hold us down, Pride, Hurt, Anger and more and we concentrate on these feelings when we should be concentrated more on what our relationship with Him is.

So I am back to starting my days again.  I was talking to my car adjuster today and was talking to him about the damage on my car and how I park usually way out in the parking lot and did that at a local store one time and came out to find someone had parked right beside me.  I realized that was a complaint. I was complaining to him about the incident and getting his feedback.  We were in the moment and it was a back and forth.  Not a negative.  I wasn’t putting anyone down but the conversation was not positive.  So I started again and her I go, with a brand new morning that Only God could give me.  It has been a wonderful time.  A time of letting things slide off my back, understanding that if I dwell in His Room, that I will be at peace in whatever happens.  Paul said to be content in whatever situation we were in with Him and that is where I want to be.  And while I am there, I will become more aware of what I say and how I say it so that when I am around, people can see the positive.

Advertisements

A couple of weeks ago, I read a book about becoming complaint free.  This was something started by a Kansas City Minister with his congregation and has morphed into a global mission to have the world become complaint free.  They have a website at www.complaintfreeworld.biz/ but I would recommend the book, free at the library( CD available).  It was insightful and has put me on a journey to become complaint free.

It has been a journey of understanding and introspection.  Learning what a complaint is, how it not only affects me but others and how to change my attitude.  There is a wrist band that Mr. Bowen has offered his congregation and the world now.  He says the act of doing something when you complain makes an impact, whether that be moving a bracelet from one wrist to another or a paperweight from one side of the desk to another.  I think it is awareness and personally, I have not done the bracelet.  I have realized what my words have meant and mentally moved my bracelet and started a new day. Multiple times. I think the thing that has been encouraging is the awareness I have now of what I say and how I say it and that awareness has transferred to others when I discuss the idea with them.

I am presently on my second day of no complaints.  I am comforted in my failures that it took many people many months if not years to become complaint free and succeed on the 21 day journey.  It is interesting to note that if I did not realize my failures, I would have not realized how I was complaining or the affect I was having on others and would not have the opportunity to change this.  Awareness is something that I have gained from the very start.  I have become more aware of my attitude toward things and have made a conscious effort to not complain about things. Looking at a situation in a new way and phrasing a thought or most often, not even making the thought public has been a new thought process in my life.  It has made me happier.

The 21 days is significant in that experts tell us that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit and become something we do without thinking.  At this point, it is a thinking project for me, analyzing what I am saying and how it will affect others.  I actually joined the complaint idea with criticism.  Am I criticizing someone, even in fun.  I realized that while I may be having fun with saying something that will make others laugh, how does it affect the other person and externally those around me?  I learned this as Pam and I were hiking and something I thought was just information, actually made her feel bad.  I was not criticizing her in any way, in fact it was actually critical of someone else but it affected her and made her feel bad.   I want others when they are around me to be uplifted and feel invigorated, not defeated.

I find it so easy to see the faults in someone else and to point them out in a “Friendly” manner that will bring merriment to others.   While I have made strides in this area, I still need to be better, to be free from complaints and criticisms that injure others.  I am not sure if criticizing others is actually complaining.  For me the idea is that I want to bring happiness in others lives.  I don’t want to bring them down.  So anything that I might say to bring someone else down in my mind is a criticism or complaint and something I want to get away from.  I still slip and start my 21 days over but I am developing an understanding and attitude that will benefit me and those I am around.

Is it EGO or Community.

When Larry wrote about community, he quoted Jean Vanier “that community is the place where ego dies”. Larry went on to say that he understood him to mean that our determination to fully trust no one must die and an eager willingness to receive what is best from others and to give what is best from within ourselves must take its place.  That only happens when people feel loved, safe enough to face their dependency, trusting enough to enjoy what someone else gives, and courageous enough to offer who they truly are to another.

I am around individuals who are hurt and the pain seeps from every word at times.  Pain from the loss of a relationship, from not having a relationship, from never finding that special someone and from loosing that special someone.  I hear anger and pain from individuals who say they will never trust again because of the pain someone put them through.  Can we bring spiritual community together with this background?  Does being single bring more baggage to the community of Christ than he can handle?

I am also around individuals who have discovered that there is another room where they can reside within themselves.   A room where the cares and heartbreaks of this world diminish with the love of the Lord which resides in that room.  Individuals who have reached a crisis of faith and have given their selves to him and have begun to reside in this room.  Maybe not always but strive to know him. Can these individuals develop a Christlike Community from this brokenness and help others to dwell in this room also?

So it comes back to the Trust issue.  Who are we going to trust in.  Those individuals around us who are also broken?  God?  Both?

It seems for me he is saying it will take us to understand ourselves and to be able to put aside the ego of this world and to live in a different place, a different room.

I had an ego which I strived to fill for so long.  I spent days at work proving to others that I was special, that I was worth it.  I achieved goals and I along with the team around me achieved goals.

I spent years trying to achieve this feeling of accomplishment and worth within my job and within the church.  As I said before, I did a lot of things within the church.  Developed a summer vacation bible school program, worked with the youth program, did a small group every Sunday and dutifully went to church each week to spend time with my friends and to grow.  This all sounds pretty good and I am sure that sounds like many of us.  We serve in areas of the church and we put ourselves out there.  But some of us put an extra added emphasis on it and perform not only for the Lord but for others to see.  Paul talks about the individuals who have done great works and have earned their way in the world and have received their rewards here on Earth.  I would hope that even though I yearned for individuals to warrant me, that I would have sat with him had I gone but I thank God that I came to an understanding and dwell in the room with him now and have NO doubt in my mind that I will sit with him when I am no longer on this earth.

It took a divorce for me to start on this journey.  To give my life to him and the journey is still not over.   I reached a point in my life where I gave it to him and started living in his room.  I reached a point where I understood that my ego did not need to be filled by the worldly things around me and that he would take care of me.

Let’s bring this back around to Larry and community.  Can we be a community with all of our baggage.  I think the answer is Yes but it will be understanding that we all are broken and in need of love.  All of us.  That we need to show grace to each other and that not everyone is where we all want to be.  That we reach out to those of us within the group who have found that room and are not so ego centralized in the world  at least for the moment.  This community helped me answer a lot of questions as I started on my journey.  I was blessed to have some individuals on their own journey from brokenness and we grew together.  I could not have come this far without them. They were my Spiritual Community.

The question is where are you?   Where am I?  It is not a battle won and never revisited.  It is an on going learning process.  An openness to being taught and an openness to growth.  An understanding that we don’t hold the key all the time and that we can learn from every individual.  That every person is broken and in need of community.  Lets build one.  Lets put aside our egos and live for him.  We concentrate on what he can do for us and not what we do to impress those of us around us.

It’s Not Me

When Moses went to Egypt, he didn’t sit on the side of the mountain and pray to God….”God, you have given me the skill to talk to leaders and your people.  You have trained me in preaching and have given me all these gifts, I have seen a need in Egypt where I left your people there and I think we need to go back and get them.  Be with me Lord as I make this my mission for you.”

God picked the mission.  He did not come along side and he was not led.  He made the decision. He sought out someone to do the mission for Him.

Moses didn’t want to go, he tried to get out of it.  He made excuses and tried not to take on this mission.  Why did God go to Moses when there were certainly people with more experience and skills that Moses to take on this task.  All through the bible, God enlisted unlikely individuals for his missions.  Moses, Fishermen, Tax Collectors, murderers(Paul).  Why  because then others would know that it was God who was doing this and not them.  When Peter and John spoke before the chief priests, they asked each other if these were the uneducated men from Galilee who were standing before them.

I think about these things whenever someone talks to me about Berean Singles and my role in it.   Are they acknowledging my accomplishments or his?  Are they seeing Gods hand in what has been done or mine? Do they see him and his work and want to be closer to him because of what has been accomplished?  I appreciate the positive feedback but don’t want my role to ever be what it was before I understood who gave me my worth.  I used to lead to prove that I was someone important in this world.   I could leave this role today as It is not essential for me and does not give me eternal worth.  I am at his service.  I don’t want to say that we don’t acknowledge the things that God has accomplished through us.    Positive feedback leaves one with a good feeling.  That said, we need to be real clear that this ministry is Gods ministry and not ours, to look for those things that he is leading us to do.

As we move toward the next decade, the directional team will look at many things to bring Singles to knowing him and working for him.  We want God to be the creator of what we do and when we do it.    We do not want to decide the path that God wants us to take, but rather it needs to be God coming to us to provide us with where he wants us to go.   When we look back in 2020, we want people to reflect and say “This is what God has accomplished through us.”  I want to listen to stories that tell of his greatness and wonder that no one person could pull off.  Please continue to  pray for the ministry and that we as individuals and leaders listen for that quiet voice and guidance from God to what his mission for us is.  To see Gods hand in the things around us and to come alongside his will and work toward his goals and not our own.  With Gods plan, we will see in 2020 that others have looked at what we have done and will say, they were just fishermen,  surely God was a part of this.

That may mean that he gives us a goal so big that we have no idea how to accomplish it.  Wouldn’t that be great!  That would mean he is a part of it and leading us and not us leading him or trying to.

I ask one thing.  If anyone ever hears me call this my ministry or to expound on what I have accomplished, I ask them to hold me accountable.  I think that one thing we can do to help those who lead us is not put them on pedestals where they might get the idea that they are more important than they really are in what they are doing for God.

God works around us and then we follow his lead.  Christian community starts with feeling safe to open up and admit our brokenness and hurt.  Thinking about this, I am humbled to have two very special individuals open their hearts and ask to be listened to and ministered too.  That is spiritual community and it starts with one expressing and another answering.

Deb has been touched with very special people who have begun to answer her questions and God will lead someone to Rich.  I do not have the Catholic background to answer those questions he might have but welcome the time that we might have to touch base and listen.  If there are others, please open your heart and time and contact him.

Sam

“Brokenness is the realization that life is too much for us, not just because there is too much pain but also because we’re too selfish, Brokenness is realizing He is all we have.  Hope is realizing He is all we need.  Joy is realizing He is all we want.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Wrote: “Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.”

Larry goes on to say that he spent so much of his life hearing that sort of teaching and thinking or it as true but not immediately necessary to grasp.  He now sees it differently.  He has understood  that the loneliness he has for so long tried to relieve by marrying, by developing friendships, by writing books, by thinking of funny things to say at parties, is really a hunger for God.  pg 39 Becoming a True Spiritual Community.”

I wonder also as I had spent years in my life trying to reach a community within my marriage and within my church and only achieved a surface level on many counts.  I think this was because I did not realize my own brokenness and need for him as I thought I already had a relationship.  I had an understanding of who Jesus was and an understanding of the stats around him.  Being able to tell you anything verse by verse in the bible but not being able to tell you what a relationship with him would be like.  To know what it is like to have him carry me through the hard times in my life.

Being able to  to express my brokenness.  To give my life to him and to have him be the one in my life that fulfills the need in me has been the start of Community when I can be there for another seeker who is learning to express that brokenness also.

It is so easy to hide this brokenness by trying to achieve by worldly standards when there isn’t a community that we can have around us.  We try to satisfy that need by being the life of the party, or the one who is the achiever and controller.  Or we hide and do not express ourselves and try to avoid the limelite and become the one who blends into the woodwork.

How do we move to this spiritual community within us and around us?  What can we do as a group and as individuals to help others around us know that they can express this brokenness without worry and that they can feel the love of Jesus without having to prove themselves in other ways?

Uncovering my brokenness

Everything in spiritual community is reversed from the world’s order. It is our weakness, not our competence , that moves others, our sorrow, not our blessings, that break down the barriers of fear and shame that keep us apart; our admitted failures, not our paraded success, that bind us together in hope. Pg 32 Becoming a True Spiritual Community

Does the feeling of accomplishment we feel when we are expounding on our accomplishments last?  How do we feel when someone is going on and on about what they are succeeding at?  Do we want to be around them?  I know for me, I don’t feel close to someone when they are professing their greatness.  But I understand their need to cover their own brokenness with the idea of success. I covered my own brokenness with always knowing something about what was going on and letting other know.  I needed to have my opinions heard.  Some may say that continues but it was different back then. I spent my time listening and trying to think about what I could say that would be impressive and moving.

Many don’t know that I am very uncomfortable with prayer in an open situation.  You see, I used to pray and while others would be praying I would be thinking about what I would say and how I could form the sentences and ideas to move people and be impressive.  It hurts me greatly think about that and I do not want this to be a pattern for me again so I do not say public prayers often.  In much the same way, I spent conversations trying to think about how I could add to the conversation and make a comment that would be impressive and meaningful.  I was not listening and therefore, I was not growing closer to those who I was communicating with.  I was on a level of impressiveness because of my ideas and comments.  I felt an brief importance in this which didn’t last.  It didn’t happen all the time but it wasn’t for my lack of trying.  I needed that feeling of importance, of belonging and of love but it was a worldly answer to a spiritual need.

We try and cover up the hurts, the pains and the brokenness.

Each of us is wounded. For every one of us, ruthless honesty about what is happening inside of us will lead to brokenness.  In a spiritual community, people don’t merely talk about woundedness and brokenness.  They leave their comfort zones and expose the specifics, not to everyone, but to at least one other person. Pg 32 Becoming a True Spiritual Community

For me, the journey has been a long one and  has been a moving one.  It has been one of discovery and one that has brought peace.  It has brought peace becuase the longing to be something, to be important and to fulfill that brokenness has been satisfied by a relationship with God.   I want more than anything for others to experience that same peace but it seems it is only when they decide to enter the journey on their own that they discover this.  Some, I am still waiting for.

The uniqe thing we have within the singles ministry is that people are reaching that brokenness point and wanting something, realizing that there is something out there that will replace the pain and the hurt and are looking towards something.  Some realize that it is the relationship with God that they are looking for.  Can we set up something to help them on the Journey?  Can we as individuals be there for them?

We are not our problems.  We are not our wounds.  We are not our sins.  We are persons of radical worth and unrevealed beauty.  If we face ourselves fully, we will be broken by what we see, by the sefishness and fear and rage and lust that cover our spirtual beauty like tarnish on silver.  But the silver is there.  Something brilliant and intact gleams through the stain of our brokenness. pg 34 Becoming a True Spiritual Community

Understanding that I am a sinner and letting go of the brokenness has allowed the silver to come forth.  Still working on some of the tarnish and always will but from what I know now, It is a much more peaceful life.  I can thank a few people who have opened their hearts for me and been there in my spiritual community, listening, supporting and guiding me closer to him.  Thank you.

Put First things First

The church is a community of people on a journey to God.  Wherever there is a supernatural togetherness and Spirit-directed movement, there is the church- a spiritual community.  Pg 21 Becoming a true spiritual community.

When members of a spiritual community reach a sacred place of vulnerability and authenticity, something is released.  Something good begins to happen.  An appetite fro the holy things is stirred.  For just a moment, the longing to know God becomes intense, stronger than all other passions, worth whatever price must be paid for it Spiritual togetherness, what I coll connecting, creates movement: Togetherness in Christ encourages movement toward Christ. Pg 22 Becoming a true spiritual community.

In this chapter, Larry introduces a concept that I have tried to adapt to my own life.  It comes from CS Lewis who states:   “Put first things first and second things are thrown in.  Put second things first and you lose both first and second things.”

When I was seperated from my wife, I looked at everything I could do to try and get her back.  It was a mission so to say and I was on it.  I looked at myself and how I could change to be a better person and I looked at what I could do to convince her of that change.  When I realized that I needed to focus first on Christ and what he had done for me, that is when peace came into my life.

When we speak with those hurting within our group, do we look for ways that we can help them through their issues?  Do we understand their pain becuase we have gone through it ourselves and try to help them through it.  Or do we listen and try to understand and guide them to what is important.  A relationship with him.

Larry talks about a room where we dwell with God.  Another room where we dwell in the world.  We try to rearrange this worldly room to make things nice and neat and new and then all will be well when the room we need to be dwelling in is this room with God.  He discusses meeting with a man who is going though a divorce and being stirred by the spirit to a higher vision than how he could help him win back his wife. The vision of one which would give the marriage its best chance that this man could reach his wife and that neither could block, that of desiring a walk with God.  His first thing.  Let the second things fall in place when this first thing is achieved.

Now that may not happen of course, It did not in my case even though I am still on the journey toward the first thing, the path has not opened the second in that I was reconciled but it has made so many other second things in my life understandable.  The loss of a job.  The walk of leading and the trials that come with working with many. Learning to deal with disapointment and hurt.  Having that focus of being with him in his room has been wonderful.

So life will still throw us curves.  In fact, I have learned so much from those curves that I would not want it any other way.  With him, the curves become learning and growth experiences along with the most important thing which is allowing me to present Christ to others by example.

So how do we dwell in community?  It is not by trying to be there for another and answer their questions and guide them in how to straighten their worldly room but it is in listening and encouraging their growth and focus on Christ and his room.

These are thoughts as I journey through understanding reading “Becoming a True Spiritual Community” by Larry Crab  I hope to promote discussion and thoughts and welcome your comments and incites.

Sam

Am I a fixer or a spiritual Guide

We need each other, never more than when we are most broken.  But brokenness is not a disease, like cancer, that may or may not develop.  Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place.  We live in brokenness.  we just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others

A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of use to own and reveal our brokenness.  Only then can the power of connecting do its job.  only then can community be used of God to restore our souls.  “Becoming a true Spiritual Community Chapter 2 pg 11

We need each other but what does this mean.  How do we need each other?  To be there to Help us get through our issues?  Is that what true community is, helping someone through their divorce or some other issue they are dealing with?  Or is it being ther for them, listening without trying to fix?

I have in the past tried to help others with their issues.  Someone comes to me that is going through a divorce an I have listened with the idea of what great information and what great ideas I may have to help this individual.  I listen with the idea to seek what it is they are dealing with and solve it.  This will make all their pain go away once I have solved their issues.  After understanding what true community is within Christ, my focus has changed and I am yearning more for the idea to help that individual discover their walk with God.   To listen and ask questions and help that individual grow deeper by acceptance of what they say and where they are.  Doesn’t mean I don’t throw in a tidbit here and there from my great wisdom.  I am still trying to help you see but I am trying to be that listener and spiritual guide rather than the fixer.

We’re a community of fixers.  We can’t stand to see a problem we can’t do something about.  We’re not curious about the journey.  Were committed to making things better, to feeling more comfortable, to learning communication skills that will improve our relationships and will make them more satisfying.  to relieving pain with empathy.

We like to label each other’s problems.  Whether the labels are accurate or not, they give us a sense of control.  Labels give us the feeling that whatever is wrong is manageable.  We don’t realize that they do not primarily represent probelmes to be solved, but are rather opportunities for spiritual companionship, for experiencing a kind of relating that is better and different from andy we’ve known before. Pg 18

When someone comes to us with a problem, how do we respond.  Do we give them the quick answer that everything will be OK or some other sentament that we lovingly express hoping to heal their hurts.  We are all broken and when we let this brokenness out and are vulnerable to another in the group, do we find acceptance or do we find a fixer.

It is hard to change the focus from being the fixer.  I know that I have a hard time with this but realizing that listening and helping another through empathy and guiding by focusing their path more on God and First things will enable community.

How do you react when someone wants to relate to you their brokenness?  Do you try and solve the issues and problems?  Do we label them and their issues or do we focus on becoming closer to God and a relationship with him?

Thoughts from reading the first chapter of “Becoming a True Spiritual Community” by Larry Crab

Are you searching for something?  Do you want to feel a connection?

The thought comes to me that we are the fertal ground for becoming a Spiritual Community within the church.  We have all the elements that Larry talks about and with some growth and guidance, could emmulate the support and community he talks about.  Larry talks about Christians who are broken, confused and have experienced dissapointment being ones who are ready to see things.

“Disappointment, too , is inevitable.  more than that, it is good.  Following christ must take us through seasons of disappointment, becuase Christianity remakes our dreams before it fulfills them.”

“The Upside of confusion is openness.  Cunfused people listen better, not always, but more often than peole whose minds are made up. Those folks listne only in order to critique, to see if someone else is on the right track, namely theirs. Confused people are more likely to combine kindness with whatever conviections emerge out of their confusion.” Pg 5

When we meet and interact within our small groups or in larger venues for events, we are interacting and developing relationships.  The hurt that we have felt provides a brokenness for most of us that we tend to be vulnerable and want that connection.  However, that connection that we crave so much is not the one we think which is usually another partner but someone who is close to us, who will listen to us NOT to fix us but to just be there for us.

Spiritual Community is having two elements  Spirtual freindships which exist among spritually minded peers who share their lives together and Spritual Direction which takes place when time is specifically set aside for individuals to share with another person their life  to a person who agrees to listen, pray, think and speak to them.

learning to be there for each other, not as a “fixer” but as spiritual guides and freinds will empower the Singles ministry with a spiritual community that will be the desire of everyone.

We who are broken and have experienced dissapointment and have grown to be able to help others as they deal with their own brokenness have a great opportunity if we grow to understand how we can be Spiritual Friends to others.  If we can move forward in this, would we not develop a community where Love, Support and growth will occur?

I would welcome your thoughts.

Sam