My Summer in Spiritual Direction

Spiritual Direction – all the Vineyard pastors are doing it.  (Not really, but it seems like it.)

This spring, Emily told me I needed to go to counseling.  This was neither shocking nor upsetting.  It was just a moment…  She was serious and I needed to face the truth.

I was discouraged to the point of depression.  I was on the brink of burn out leading a small church through a major culture shift.  And, I was taking it out on my family too often.  I was often very short-tempered with the boys when they didn’t fall in line.  The fact that I was discouraged, depressed and burned out (can I admit that) was working its way out through bursts of anger toward my family.  The truth is, this had been going on for years, but I would overcome it for short periods and lie to myself, believing it wasn’t that bad.  Emily was frustrated and wanted me to get help.   

We decided to compromise a bit and I talked to a few spiritual directors about  beginning to meet with them.  Late in the spring I started to see a retired Sister of Charity at Mount St. Joseph who spends most of her time now in spiritual direction.  We had had only a few meetings when the bow broke. 

It was a blow up with Jack, my soon to be 12 year old.  While I was yelling at him one morning to get his stuff together and get out the door to school, momma bear went to protect baby bear and papa bear roared at momma bear.  This did not go over well with momma bear, if you know what I’m sayin?  I honestly can’t remember the details of the argument now, but I remember feeling disrespected and like she gave Jack permission to talk back to me.  I felt justified in my rage – in the moment.  Ugly.

This happened on the morning of my third visit to the Spiritual Director.  I literally walked away from the blow up, got in the car, drove to Mount St. Joseph (a 45 minute drive from Mason) beating myself up, and walked into my appointment with Sister Betty. 

Now, you might not be into the Holy Spirit and you especially might not think that God works through the Spirit to let you suffer towards repentance and change – but I am – and this is exhibit A in the case for the fact God had decided it was time for me to work on this issue in my life. 

I am fairly certain I would not have openly talked with Sister Betty about my anger issues or really about my relationship with my kids on my second or third visit if this blow up did not happen on the morning I had an appointment with her.  She started that morning with, “what are we talking about today…?”  I would have been the biggest coward in the world if I avoided that one.

That morning, I got asked if I had hit the kids.  If I had hit Emily. If I was suicidal.  If I wanted to divorce Emily.  The answer to all those questions was no, although from time to time I have been rough with the boys breaking up scuffles or removing them from meltdowns or just using my physical force to make them move or do what I am asking them to do.  It’s not pretty…  and it never de-escalates a situation.  It just makes it worse. 

So – there I was – face to face with my skubalon (look it up). 

Sister Betty said, “Ok… here is what we are not going to do.  We are not going to beat ourselves up.  You are a good man.”  Then she asked me a question that has become a familiar question now, “what does your theology of God tell you right now?” 

She is asking me, “do you really believe God loves you – the Father God loves you –right now – in this stuff?” 

I have to say, I know the answer is yes, God even loves me in the midst of this sinful part of me.  This brokenness.  But, the truth is, this is an area of my life that I have struggled to let Jesus into.  It is a part of me that I have struggled to really know God accepts about me and is willing to love me through.  To hold my hand through.  Sister Betty telling me, the moment after I had confessed the darkness of my shadow side, that I was a good man was the Word of Grace from Jesus to me in that moment.  It was what I needed to hear to begin the journey of repentance.  It changed my mind about what I thought God really thought about this part of me.

I heard Jesus say to me, “this does not disqualify you from my love – it makes you more dependent upon me for it…” 

What is the “Word of Grace” you need to hear to help you start your Journey?  Who is your Sister Betty? 

This summer has been a summer of surrendering myself to spiritual direction.  We have been processing my stuff.  It has been hard.  I tell my wife Sister Betty is mean.  But she is just the one God has called into the journey with me right now to help me face the truth. 

This summer has been a summer of surrendering myself to my boys.  Laying down my life for them.  I have been doing a lot of daddy daycare this summer.  This actually made me very nervous, because it felt like an opportunity for failure when the summer was approaching.  But, because of Spiritual Direction and Sister Betty, it has been an opportunity for growth and faithfulness.  I have surrendered to what my boys need from me.  Patience.  Intimacy.  Loving Kindness.  Time.  Playfulness.  Attention. 

It has been so good. 

The Lord said to me, “You are a good man…”

What is he saying to you?

Teaching the Bible to People who Don’t want to Learn about the Bible…

I teach Christian Studies courses to adult students at the undergraduate level.  These folks are typically business, accounting, or nursing students and because they are attending a Christian Liberal Arts University, they are required to take at least two bible courses as part of the program.  Most of them are caught off guard by this and come into my classes kicking and screaming. 

I try to make my course as engaging as possible.  I want them to have a great experience with the bible. 

The primary class I teach is a New Testament Survey course in which we survey the entirety of the New Testament in five weeks, exploring the person of Jesus and the different NT authors perspective on salvation. 

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Everyone is fascinated by the person of Jesus.  I have not met many people who can look at the person of Jesus as presented in the New Testament and not be amazed.  He is amazing.  People are positively impacted by Jesus in 5 weeks of coming face to face with him and how the different authors in the New Testament dealt with their interactions with him.
  2. Most people are extremely intimidated by the bible.  My big goal is to get some grades back to my students right away, so they know they can get an “A” in my class if they work hard.  They are so intimidated by the bible, they are almost paralyzed.  It takes them 3 weeks to work through this.  I wish we had 10 weeks together, because then we would really do some work!
  3. Grace is scandalous!  Most people, even good Christians have some version of – “I just need to be a good person and do what God wants me to do, so I can get to heaven when I die” – in their head.  I relentlessly, for 5 straight weeks, preach the gospel to them in this class.  Let’s face it though, the Gospel is just too good to be true.  It’s hard to believe God has given us Grace and Freedom without us earning it in some way.  Yes it is hard to believe, but it’s the truth. 
  4. Many people encounter the Holy Spirit when they go to church.  One of the assignments for my NT survey course is going to church.  They have to write up a brief report about their experience.  Many people have an experience they cannot explain.  They cry or feel drawn to go forward during an altar call.  Some even visit Vineyard churches and they have shared prophetic words or invitations to come forward for prayer ministry that have been “exactly what I was going through…”  Once a woman witnessed a baptism and said it took everything within her to keep from running up and jumping in the baptismal!

Obviously, all of the above have changed the way I pastor a church.  I have concluded that most of the people sitting in my services on an average weekend love Jesus, are intimidated by the bible, and struggle with accepting the Love and Grace of God.  But I am convinced if we let the Holy Spirit run our services, He will resolve all of it! 

Steven Hamilton and the Vineyard’s Quaker Roots

verve&verse: First Responder: The Abolition of Laity.

One of my Vineyard friends is doing some cool ongoing research into the Vineyard’s Quaker roots.

John and Carol WImber came to Christ in the Friends Church and were pastors in that movement for a long time before planting a Calvary Chapel church which soon became one of the first Vineyard churches and then John became the leader of what we now know as the Vineyard movement.

justathought-e.com | Thoughts from Dr. Ed Cook to invite conversations on issues confronting the church and culture in the 21st-century.

justathought-e.com | Thoughts from Dr. Ed Cook to invite conversations on issues confronting the church and culture in the 21st-century..

Dr. Ed Cook shares some initial thoughts about a new book by a leader in the Vineyard, Ken Wilson.  Many of us are reading the book and wrestling with his proposal.

The Conversion (s) of Peter

Thinking through some doctoral research.

Thoughts from a paper by Markus Bockmuehl, The Conversions of Simon Peter:

As we shall see, Peter in fact appears quite characteristically and consistently in connection with narrative or artistic motifs of repentance and “conversion,” so much so that he serves as a paradigm in his own right, not just once converted but repeatedly converting and repeatedly called.

The point of Peters fall and remorse becomes here (unlike for Judas) the point of Peter’s conversion: the cock’s crow projects into the dark night of Maundy Thursday the bright daylight of Easter Sunday renewal.

The Acts of Peter, in other words, bring together Peter s evangelistic and apologetic preaching with the theme of repentance and conversion in his own life. Early on, this theme features briefly and in passing in relation to the gospel narrative of Peters denial of Jesus and subsequent remorse. It is then developed rather more emphatically in relation to Peter’s own martyrdom as the antithesis and redemption of that earlier episode. Where once he denied and then deserted in remorse when the Lord turned to look at him, so now he flees but turns back when he meets Christ in order to share his fate, just as Jesus predicted in John 13:36 and 21:18-19. He is presented as the converted apostle, the one who turns and is faithful the second time round, the one who shares his master s fate upside down, the one for whom the cross is the crown and quintessence of conversion from the powers of the world to the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Where he fails miserably before the resurrection to keep his promise to Jesus, after the resurrection he becomes faithful to the end.

In some respects, therefore, 1 Peter parallels Lukes move from Peters predicted “turning” and denial (Luke 22:31-34) via the Emmaus disciples’ dashed hopes (24:21) to the risen Lords appearance to them and to Simon (24:34)—culminating in their imminent “clothing with power” in the Spirit ( 24:49).46

In John, this unique commission of Peter appears here for the first time. He is newly appointed (not “restored”!) to a pastoral role by his threefold declaration of love, corresponding to the gravity of his threefold denial. This of course has long been a favorite topic of preachers and exegetes. And the link between the two scenes seems strikingly underscored even by the intriguing detail that the Greek word an-thrakia used for the warming coal fire in high priests courtyard (18:18) recurs only once more in the entire OT or NT—namely to denote Jesus’ coal fire by the sea of Galilee (2i:9).47 Having thrice denied and thrice “turned” from that denial, Peter is ready to share his master s task and his master s fate. He is appointed as under-shepherd, assigned to share his masters work of “strengthening” and “pastoring” his fellow believers, and predicted like Jesus to lay down his life for the flock on a cross (21:19, 22; cf. 13:36-37 with 10:11). In other words, the death and resurrection of Christ have become for Peter the point of his conversion from denial to love, and to an apostolic office incorporated into Christ s own.

The idea that the narrative of John 21 captures what Luke’s Jesus predicts as Peter’s “conversion* is not of course a new insight. The fourth-century commentator Apollinaris of Laodicea cites precisely Luke 22:31 in this connection, to indicate that just as Jesus is inviting Peter to reciprocate his teacher and Saviours unwavering love for him, so also Peter should imitate Christ s care for him by strengthening his brethren and shepherding his sheep. The three affirmations of love match the three denials.49

Simon Peter, then, was seen as the follower of Jesus as a Galilean fisherman who was transformed—”converted”—from denial and despair to a confessing hope. As a result he received a unique ministry of pastoral strengthening that allowed him to serve the servants of Christ as a representative of Jesus’ continued ministry on earth. In his preaching as well as in his very biography, the remembered Peter became a man of conversions, a “converting” disciple whose faith begins in Galilee but grows in “convertedness.” In early Christian memory Simon Peter embodies, for individual discipleship as much as for the church, what it means to turn-—from denial to faith, from despair to hope, and from deserting Christ to shepherding his flock.

Naomi Wolf on Why Porn Turns Men Off the Real Thing — New York Magazine

I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

via Naomi Wolf on Why Porn Turns Men Off the Real Thing — New York Magazine.