The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 3

I have discussed the situation I found myself in here. I have also discussed how God directed me to lead with Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in mind.

Now, I will tell you about a few of the things we tried and how they worked.

Daily Prayer. Everyday at 9:30, any staff that wants to meet gathers for prayer. I will usually read a few verses and we will discuss it briefly.  Then, we will take prayer requests. When you have a fellow colleague who dies during the semester, there was no shortage of the need to pray. When another librarian loses her father and another one has a daughter with cancer, we have spent many of these daily prayer times crying, sharing with one another, and connecting in powerful ways.

Staffing With a Mission. We had many positions to fill. Our first priority was a part time person who could run our Circulation Desk. This person would be working closely with a large team of student workers. I wanted to find someone that could be more than a supervisor but could invest in and mentor our student workers. I needed someone with a minister’s heart. We found a Doctoral Student who was a former children’s minister and loved connecting with others. She could do the ins and outs of the job but she also could show love, care, and compassion for our student workers. She was an answer to prayer.

Image may contain: food

The flier for Nuggets and Knowledge

Nuggets and Knowledge. I wanted to find ways to connect with our student workers beyond work. I had hoped to help develop what are known as soft skills with our students. And, I wanted to demonstrate and discuss how Christ changes how I work, parent, listen, and lead. I knew that I could meet with our male student workers and our new Circulation supervisor could meet with the females. I purchased a 30 count platter of nuggets and invited our guys to come to my office for lunch. I called it Nuggets and Knowledge. We were able to meet one time but I plan on making it a monthly occurrence. Our first meeting was a great opportunity to get to know each other and for me to share a little of my story.

The Value of Service. I couldn’t tell you how many times on our campus, I have heard people talk about experiencing something different when they arrived, the presence of God even. I have heard it so many times that I don’t think it is hyperbole. It is my desire that people have the same experience when they walk into the library. YES, the library. I want people to have a sense that something important is happening in our corner of the campus and that God must be a part of that. One way we can make this a reality is through our quality of service. We are training our student workers to smile and look up, to take extra time with our patrons, and to take their tasks seriously for the betterment of those they are serving.

I have only been Interim for one semester and I really don’t know what the future holds and I am not too concerned by it. I know that God has called me for this time and place and I want to honor that calling. The rest is out of my hands. No matter what happens, I can know that I did what I was asked to do and I did it in a way that fit with who I am and who God has made me.

How To Make Serving Others Easy

I was talking to a Pastor friend of mine recently and he expressed the need for his church members to be more willing to help and volunteer for the various ministries of the church. His church had seen growth in numbers but not as much in willingness to serve and contribute to the work of the church.

Being a long time church member myself, I understood his frustration because I see it all the time. But as I was reading recently and was being directed to look at some of the great love chapters of the Bible, I discovered an important truth, as voiced by Curt Thompson in his book, Soul of Shame: “Love always has another move to make.”

The more we grow in love (the way, the action, the life, not just the feeling), the more creative, daring, observant, and sacrificial I become. As Thompson observes:

“…”love never fails.” It does not fail because it always has another move to make, another gesture toward connection. And there is no end to its movement. We never “arrive,” but rather are, and even in the new heaven and earth will be traveling, as C.S. Lewis bids us imagine, “further up and further in.” Where shame attempts to push us into static inertia, love bids us to move.”

divine servant

I have noticed in my own life that when my ability to love increases so does my ability to serve. In those times of truly being loving, the choice to serve or take action, isn’t a chore but as easy and natural as can be.

Through growth in love, both of God and for others, comes this unstoppable movement toward doing good for others and for your community. My pastor friend’s church doesn’t have a volunteer problem, they may have a love problem.

Besides, to serve or to act but to do it without love is to “gain nothing.” For love never fails and if our actions are full of love, then we cannot go wrong.

The goal is not to do more but to love more and the doing will flow naturally out of a heart of love.

Removing Yourself From The Center Of The Universe

The biggest obstacle to God’s kingdom is not Satan but the kingdom that I inhabit and try to rule. We all have a kingdom and the best place to be is placing our kingdom inside God’s kingdom and let him rule.

When I am the center of the universe then only my needs are important but the catch is that my needs can never fully be met without God inhabiting me first through his son Jesus Christ.

Are you putting God in the center of your universe or yourself? Is the only thing that matters to you come from you?

We may struggle to completely place God at the center but at least we can start by removing our selves from the center, at least occasionally. Service allows us brief moments of putting others needs in front of our own. We need reminders that our needs are mostly secondary and that others could use some help.

When I worked with the homeless and the poor, I could tell when I had been absent from the ministry for too long because I would become increasingly insular and self-absorbed. Through service, I jolted my selfish nature into a more appropriate position under God and with people.

23 Things – Week 6: Service

Week 6: Service

13. Read Philippians 2:3-11. What is one way that you could humble yourself today in a tangible way?

14. Make a list of ways that your church is reaching out to its community? Are there areas in the community that are not being reached?

15. Read this excerpt from a commencement address by Dallas Willard:

Remember to live sacrificially.

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. During his inaugural address, this, the youngest man ever elected president said that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” In this context, President Kennedy issued the following challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This simple statement, delivered with great fervor, drew forth an amazing current of sacrificial giving from people. This is built into our hearts. We know it’s right. And as Christians we’re the ones who really know what it means and how it can be done.

Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance you. This is a deep psychological and sociological truth as well as a profound theological teaching. If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. Give it away. God will give it back to you. Don’t make it your aim to get what you want. Serve others. Remember, God gives grace to the humble. He calls us to submit ourselves to the mighty hand of God that, when the time is right, He will lift us up.

I need to add that it’s not safe to be a servant unless you know who you are and unless you stand before God. On the night of His betrayal, just before He shared the Passover with His disciples, …

Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him (Jn 13:3-5).

Because Jesus knew who He was, because He was secure in His relationship with His Father, He was able to do the work of the most menial slave.

Remember who you are. Keep God before you. Then serve sacrificially. When you serve others, you’re really serving God. Because you are serving God, you give the best of service to other human beings.

This is week six of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first nine things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

Christian Life Hacker Guide To Christmas

Christmas 2005 Candles

Image via Wikipedia

Christmas may be my favorite religious holiday. Why? Because it seems to be the only time when Evangelical Christians allow themselves to be spiritual. Most evangelical church services contain so much activity and noise that it is a wonder anyone can muster a spiritual thought. But at Christmas, no one seems to be freaked out by low light, candles, singing about silence at night, and accepting the mystery that is the incarnation of God himself. If you have discovered this blog, you have some interest in the growth of your Christian spiritual life so I have created a short guide to enjoying Christmas and getting the most out of it.

Discover Advent – Think about all of the time you spend preparing for Christmas. Is any of your preparations of the spiritual nature? Advent, which means “coming”, is a great way for you to prepare your heart for the coming of Christmas.
You may have seen the display at your church – the green reef with the white candle in the middle and the four candles surrounding it. Starting four Sundays away, a candle is lit each week until you get to Christmas day. Each of the candles represents an important idea surrounding Christmas such as hope, peace, and joy. In more liturgical churches, specific scriptures are read on specific weeks. I am not focused enough to organize my thoughts around the miracle of a virgin, a baby, stars, shepherds, etc., I need something that will guide my thoughts and scripture reading. Some of the resources that I have used to participate in Advent are: Watch For the Light: Readings For Advent and Christmas (book), Following the Star (online daily devotional), and Advent writings from Jesus Creed (blog from Scot McKnight)

Attend a Candlelight Service– If you have ever attended a candlelight service at Christmas Eve you may not have noticed things happening that never happen during the rest of the year. First, there is always a level of reverence that is not often found on a normal Sunday morning. Maybe, having the service at night has something to do with it. Second, silence is welcomed. In most of the Christmas Eve services that I have been to, everyone has a candle and at the end of singing “Silent Night” we all raise our candle in the air. Almost every time, the preciousness of the moment and the beautiful stillness of it lingers into a holy moment of silence that everyone is willing to hold on to. Even when we do start talking and making our way to the exits, it is in reverent hushed tones. Even the hardest soul seems touched by the mystery of the eve of Christ’s birth. We need more of these kinds of experiences in our spiritual life.

Serve Someone – Being someone who spent four years working in a benevolence ministry, I used to scoff at the Thanksgiving and Christmas “do-gooders” who suddenly want to give and volunteer but would never think of contributing the rest of the year. But, my cynicism is not very productive and may limit those who feel led, during these holiday times, to help out someone less fortunate. I don’t want to rob anyone of the joy of giving and serving another person.

The best moment along these lines, was after a Christmas Eve service at the benevolence ministry I mentioned. We had put together some small gift bags that we passed out to some of the people in attendance, mostly homeless and poor. I was taking some of the homeless people “home” to their camp site when I heard one  talk about how this was a good Christmas. This guy was often belligerent, mean, conniving, and a downright troublemaker. To hear him speak in positive terms was already shocking but then he said,”This is a good Christmas because I got some socks, I really needed these.” We never know how far our small gifts of service will go. We might be surprised.

Embrace the Immanuel Life – This word, Immanuel, means “God with us.” This is a word that you need an entire season to meditate and reflect on. God with us in the form of a baby in a manger, born of a virgin, visited by shepherd and kings alike, pointed to by a star. God with us in the ordinary to provide to us the extraordinary. Immanuel. God with us. That is worth celebrating each year.

Spiritual Mentor: David Leyerle

This week, I am profiling people who have had the most influence on my Christian spiritual life. Today’s profile is a minister that I knew growing up and later worked under for four years.

David Leyerle

His Influence: As the Minister of Recreation at my hometown church I would have admired and looked up to David simply because we shared a love of sports, competition, and basketball. But there was something else about David that I soon began to notice, even at a young age. First, the Family Life Center, a fancy name for the rec center belonging to the church, that he ran was not an exclusive club for church members but was a gathering spot for downtown area kids and anyone else who might walk through the doors. In other words, the people you saw at the FLC were not the people you would expect to see in my downtown, wealthy, historically rich, large church on Sunday and that was just the way that David liked it. David didn’t just have a heart for the underprivileged and then remain a safe distance from them,  he called them his friends and journeyed with them. At the FLC, I was exposed to the homeless, the mentally ill, and ethnic groups that my school rarely included. The community I found at the FLC seemed to embody what I understood to be important to  Jesus  – acceptance of all people and being a friend to the mostly friendless. David helped create that environment and demonstrated such acceptance and compassion that it made a huge impression on me. His was a faith that seemed to make a difference in the world, a faith that was tangible and real, something that seems to be important to young people.

What I learned from David: When my wife and I began pursuing social ministry and were just overwhelmed with the lack of obvious opportunities to serve, I emailed David and told him of our love for ministry among the underprivileged. He asked us to come visit his new ministry in town that was geared towards underprivileged families and kids. We visited and ended up serving at the ministry as sort of “missionaries in residence”. The best part was building a mentor relationship with David that taught me countless lessons about service to others, hospitality, acceptance, generosity, and love. The only people who seemed to dislike David were either people who weren’t thinking straight due to drugs, mental illness, and alcohol or people who weren’t thinking straight due to condescension, hypocrisy, and being out of touch with the Bible’s call to love the poor, the orphan, and the widow. He is not only a mentor but also a hero. He is retired now and living in downtown Houston. You can probably find him at some pastry shop reading a newspaper and noticing the unnoticeable.

What David can teach you: That Christ’s love for others was never from a distance.