Wednesday, January 30, 2013

By God's Grace, I Have.

Ruling and Teaching Elders, ordaining
me to the office of a pastor.

"Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?"

This fifth vow asked of a candidate for ordination, is significantly different from the rest.  While the other questions are designed to elicit commitments from a pastor as to what he will do or adhere to, this vow asks of the hearer to affirm what he has experienced, what has been done for him; it seeks the motivation rather than the response.  

Has it been my love for God and my desire to promote his glory alone that has driven me to pursue being a pastor?  This is a particularly good question because it speaks not only to how I must enter the ministry, but also to how I must proceed in ministry as well.  What a challenge to consider!  To be completely honest, I would have to say no, not always.  Go ahead, imagine what other motives I might have...chances are you won't be far off.  There are a thousand other thoughts that have played into this!  And yet, at the same time, I cannot deny God's leading.  If I enter this calling out of my own desire for advancement, it will certainly not get me very far.  If I enter this calling out any fancifully philanthropic goals, I'll simply burn out.  The only way to enter this calling is to do so out of a sincere love of God and pursuit of his glory.  As such the only response that I can give is "by God's grace, I have."  This isn't to claim the proper motives myself, but to own the fact that because of the way HE has engaged my life with his grace, I am convinced of his leadership and call.  That said, I am simultaneously humbled and emboldened in this calling, am thrilled to have made it through the process, and am excited to see how God will lead us forward!  

Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have prayed for, encouraged, and supported me along the way; the journey's far from over, but this milestone was a big one.  Thank you for being with me in it!

- Drew 

PS - Lindsey, my lovely bride, has done more than I can communicate to make this possible.  She grounds me when I get flustered, redirects me to God's glory when I get distracted, and soothes me when I get overwhelmed.  My love and my partner, I couldn't ask for a more wonderful wife!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Life Experiment

Flannel sheets are the best!
Today, I launch a life experiment.  One of the most wonderful parts about being a missionary is that you alone dictate your schedule.  One of the most challenging parts about being a missionary is that you alone dictate your schedule.  If you are a bit of a fly-by-the-seat of your pants person like I am, this can prove to land on the more challenging side more often than not.  As such, I am going to conduct an experiment.  My usual system is to squeeze every minute of sleep out of the night as possible and only roll out of bed when absolutely necessary (which generally means when I know I'm already going to be ~5 min. late).   This can continue no further.  Thus, the life experiment shall proceed as follows:
  • Subject shall set Half Hour Warning alarm for 6:00.  
  • Subject shall set Wakey-Wakey Time alarm for 6:30.
  • Subject shall actually get out of bed at 6:30.  
  • Subject shall, at this point, probably commence grumbling about how dumb of an idea is.
  • Subject shall get over it.  
  • Subject shall brew coffee, wrap in blanket, and begin morning prayer and readings.
  • Subject shall commence day.  
  • Subject shall repeat this schedule EVERYDAY for one month.  
I'm pretty curious to see what kind of a difference this will make.  Stay tuned for my one-month (potentially very groggy) update.  

Life experiment begins...NOW!

- Drew

PS - Even if this next month goes well, there's no telling what'll happen once the baby gets here!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Wise Old Dead Guy - Brother Lawrence

Image of Brother Lawrence from a book published by Fleming Revell Co. in 1900.
Appropriate for the article on the subject. 
Devadaru (talk) 18:58, 5 May 2010 (UTC)
Recently a friend of mine recommended to me a book called Practicing his Presence, which is a collection of writings and reflections of Frank Laubach and Brother Lawrence.  The driving core of the book is the intentional development of one's awareness of the constant and active presence of God.  As the contents of Practicing his Presence are principally journal entries and excerpts from letters, it is a rather concise read.  And yet, given the more intimate and relational nature of the authors' original writings, there is a startling depth to such a simple collection.  I've been giving it a rather slow read in order to soak in their thoughts all the deeper, and today I reached the end.  Brother Lawrence would by counted among the "mystics," his focus being more intent upon the experience of the Christian life rather than the systematics of the theology that supports it.  For me, this is gold.  I have the greatest respect for the systems and frameworks that support and uphold a right defense and establishment of the function and trustworthiness of Scripture.  However, it has never been these things that speak to my heart or convince my mind.  Rather, it is the experiencing of how the metanarrative of Scripture, the story of life which the Gospel tells, meshes so completely with my life that it captures me wholly for Christ.  It is because of this that I have appreciated Brother Lawrence so much.

The heart of his message is this:
"I made it my business to be in the Lord's presence just as much throughout the day as I did when I came to my appointed time of prayer.  ...[W]hen we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence and to set his face always before us, there is a good result.  ...But even more, such an exercise begets in us a holy freedom and a familiarity with God.  We ask, and ask successfully, for the grace we stand in need of.  In short, by often repeating these acts they become habit.  The presence of God becomes natural to us" (Practicing His Presence, p. 60, emphasis mine).

The presence of God becomes natural to us.  What more could we ask?

- Drew

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wendel Berry & J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday Painting, by Ben Shahn
- featured on the cover of A Timbered Choir
       For Christmas this year Lindsey bought me was a copy of A Timbered Choir, which is a collection of poems composed by Wendel Berry.  Being fascinated with the complexity, structures, and formats of poetry, I immediately dove in.  However, I didn't get beyond the first page of Berry's introduction before I had to stop and reevaluate my approach.  A Timbered Choir is a collection of Berry's "Sabbath writing;" poems composed during his weekly time of repose, basking in his enjoyment of his creator's craft.  In his introduction the describes the attitude with which he would desire his readers to engage his work, saying "I hope that some readers will read them as they were written, slowly, and with more patience than effort" (p. xvii, emphasis added).  More patience than effort.  Wow.  Now there is a thought that has had to elbow its way into the crowded anxiety of my mind!
       In a class I attended that studied the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, a theme that we explored was the way he presented the passage of time amongst the Elves.  In Middle Earth travelers lodging with the Elves would often have difficulty recalling exactly how long they had been there.  Tolkien's intent behind this was to demonstrate the Elves' more pure engagement of the events of a day, contentedly accommodating the flow of each moment as it came.  I believe that the best fiction should not only leave us fascinated with the author's created world, but turn us around to marvel at our own.  Tolkien's portrayal of the elves contrasted so starkly with my own experience that it has taken up a firm residence in my mind.
       Thinking through the lesson of Tolkien's Elves and the Berry's simple juxtaposition of such gentle patience with such rigid effort offers a cooling balm to my burning sense of performance.  I have often noticed how when I am faced with most any challenge, even if it is an exciting and fun one, my first response is fear seasoned with just a touch of panic.  Such a patient approach to meeting and exploring the various moments and needs of the day challenges my easily adopted black and white perceptions of what and even how life must be done.  Echoing Tolkien's Elves, Berry's call to patience is the call to relationship over structure, to the personal over the programatic, and to grace over law, and is a great way to begin reading through a book of poetry.  I'm excited to dive in all the further!

- Drew 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

And, We're Back! ...Or Are We?

After taking a bit of a blogging hiatus, I was inspired to take up the keyboard yet again after perusing the most recent issue of the magazine By Faith, and coming across an article entitled "Neither Fruitful Nor Multiplying: Are humans going extinct?"  Being heavily invested in next-generational ministry, the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 ("be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth...") has always been something I've been passionate about, and so I was quick to read through it.  The whole article is worth the read, but there was one point in particular that stood out to me.  After citing several statistics demonstrating the global decline in reproduction the article quotes one researcher stating that as an economy industrializes, "Having a child goes from a source income - think of a farm-based economy or craft economy...where children contribute to the family by working - to a dramatically higher source of expense."  "In other words," the article goes on to explain, "just as a kind of selfishness might motivate families in poor, preindustrial societies to have large numbers of children, a kind of selfishness might motivate couples in wealthy societies like ours to have fewer children."

Wow!  If one is to assess and evaluate the motives of reproduction, it begs the question of the purpose and design of procreation in the first place.  If that doesn't make your head spin enough, the next question that must follow in this train of thought is to ask what responsibilities are necessitated by reproduction, a furthering of generations?  Did God command reproduction in order for the race of Adam to carry on a name? a reputation? a fortune? an ideology? or what?

As Linds and I have a little one of our own on the way, this article pushed my mind ponder these kinds of questions all over again.  As a missionary focused on reaching out to the rising generations, I think these questions are very important to consider.  As God's instruction to multiply was given to Adam and Eve before the Fall, it must be concluded that progressive generations are a foundational part of God's design for humanity.  Scripturally speaking, the intent of human generation was to produce further image bearers of God to tend and cultivate the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26-17).  Already one can feel the inherent need for intentionality in bringing up the rising generations in relationship with God.  How much more so AFTER the fall, when older generations, subjected to the penalty of death, are no longer around?  Our responsibility, then, is to engage the emerging generations by graciously drawing them into their own unique roles and positions in his continuing story of redemption.  No big deal, right?  Ha!  Therein, I believe, lies much of the theological foundation for church based youth ministry.

From the way you see adolescents approached in the world around you, what would you deduce about what your local culture's belief, purposes, and motives are toward the rising generations?  Is your culture or church living up to it's responsibility to raise up the next generation?  What is there to affirm?  What is there to resist?

- Drew