Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections on Sexuality

          A couple weeks ago, we had our Divisional Staff Meetings that centered around the topic of sexual brokenness and seeking sexual wholeness, and it got me thinking. In reality, this is a topic that I have been on a journey to understand why it is that God wants us to wait to have sex until marriage, and what it means to remain pure. I had a hunch that it was more than not having sex and avoiding sexual thoughts, and that thinking about purity that way wasn't very helpful.
         At Cal Poly this past quarter, the issues of sexual brokenness have come up and hit everyone in the fellowship, as students have been honest about the ways that they are sexually broken. It is amazing that the students are so incredibly honest, and it has started the journey of healing for them, but our staff team wanted to shepherd them well. We had a leaders meeting where we talked about boundaries- physical, emotional, and personal boundaries, and helped the leaders see ways that they could avoid going too far and ending up in painful situations. It was a great meeting, and students found it incredibly helpful, but at our next staff meeting I presented the thought that had been in the back of my mind- that the students need to know why they have the boundaries, and why it is that that God tells us that sex is for marriage. I feel that too many Christians have just been told to not have sex until marriage, and they're not sure why. Doing something just because you're told not to can lead to confusion and problems later if there isn't a solid foundation of understanding, and belief that God has our best in mind when He gives us laws.
          At the Divisional Staff Meetings, we read a chapter from a book called "The Holy Longing" by Ronald Rolheiser. The Chapter was called "A Spirituality of Sexuality," and he described how our understanding of sexuality is too limited. We only equate sexuality with the act of having sex, where as in reality is it so much larger than that. The Greek origin of the word sex means to be cut off, and the author described how sexuality is our longing to reconnect after we were cut off from God and each other at the Fall. Our sexuality is our longing for connection with things outside ourselves, and that means more than the act of sex.
         But there are many ways that we seek to fulfill that connection in ways that actually hurt us. One of the things the author talked about was how our culture fails to see how sex can actually be hurtful. I, like the author, have heard people talk about how sex really never hurt anyone, when in reality we are learning more and more how much it can. The sexual abuse of children, sex used as a tool of power, as a means of revenge, and as a selfish way to make oneself feel good- which can lead to pain later in life when someone may want to be unselfish with sex- all of these are ways that sex is incredible hurtful.
         Our sexuality- our longing for connectedness- really should point us towards God, as even human relationships are meant for our benefit, but also to remind us of the God who ultimately fulfills our relationship longings. Sexuality is misunderstood and misused, and the church has been at best silent, and at worst negative about a topic that everyone deals with perhaps more than almost anything else. At the Divisional Meetings, it was so freeing to be able to openly and honestly have a discussion about what we deal with and what those around us deal with. Its another step along the journey.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I just have to say, how bout them Giants?

A Balance and a Tension

At Orientation for New Staff, one of the aspects of ministry they tried to prepare us for was the need to understand the balance and tension between our action and God's action. Of course, God does all the real work, but we can't sit around and do nothing, otherwise we would miss out on a whole heap of blessing. I am learning in the 2 weeks I've been in full-time ministry, that it is a difficult tension for me to grasp, especially since I tend towards wanting to do work all by myself, and God has to constantly remind me of the futility of doing so. I especially feel the pressure because, technically, ministry is my job, and jobs mean you do work for a salary.
But ministry as a job is different, and I am finding it means a whole lot of letting go. And a whole lot of prayer. One of my ministry emphases (and one that is very dear to my heart) is ministry to minority students, and this is a ministry (especially at Cal Poly) that comes up against a lot of spiritual strongholds. This means that God REALLY has to do the work, and I need to do a whole lot of praying. It is a good but hard thing to learn, especially at Cal Poly where efficiency and productivity are next to godliness, and sometimes people confuse them for godliness. It is not an easy culture to remember that being a Christian is about BEING, not doing. That doesn't mean action is excluded, but I know for me, God is leading me towards a whole lot of prayer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Real Spiritual Life

"Our spiritual life is His affair; because, whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by His steady attraction, and our humble and self-forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at His pace and in His way, to the place where He wants us to be; not the place we fancied for ourselves."

-Evelyn Underhill

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notes on Introversion

I recently finished a very eye opening book called Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh. (Yes I love to read books, and no it is not all I do). He put together a list of common attributes of introverts. And all of them fit me for the most part:

  • Prefer to relax alone or with a few close friends
  • Consider only deep relationships as friends (this one maybe less so)
  • Need rest after outside activities, even ones we enjoy
  • Often listen, but talk a lot about topics of importance to us
  • Appear calm, self-contained and like to observe
  • Tend to think before we speak or act
  • May prefer a quiet atmosphere (not always)
  • Experience our minds going blank in groups or under pressure
  • Don't like feeling rushed
  • Have great powers of concentration
  • Dislike small talk (sometimes I'm ok with it)
  • Are territorial- desire private space and time
  • May treat their homes as their sanctuaries
  • Prefer to work on own rather than with a group (not always)
  • May prefer written communication (although I'm not always very excited about journaling)
  • Do not share private thoughts with many people (except I guess on this blog)
Yay for being introverted! What I liked about the book is that it pointed out a lot of gifts introverts bring, especially since it is seen by the culture as a negative attribute. One thing that I really liked that the author said in the chapter called "Introverted Evangelism"had to do with a Catholic missionary to the Masai people. He said:
"I observed that Protestant leaders seem to trust only the sense of hearing, and therefore rely almost totally upon using the preached and taught Word to reach and teach people. By contrast, Celtic Catholics believe that God can use all 5 senses to 'speak' to people."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Long Obedience I'm In

         At the Orientation for New Staff in June, each of the 10 days we were given a free book. It was like Christmas every day! One of the books, A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson, caught my attention, but I didn't start reading it until yesterday. You know how it goes, you could be not in the mood at one moment, the next it looks uninteresting, and the next you realize you're still in the middle of 4 other books. So it took me until yesterday. But ever since I decided to go on staff back in January, it has seemed like quite a bit has been coming against me in the spiritual sense, and my faith has felt severely crippled. But have you ever started reading a book, and there is one line that just makes you start crying? Well, that's what happened when I read this line:
        "There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclinations to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness."
         I'm not entirely sure why this line really got to me, but I think it was the Holy Spirit's way of reminding me that I am in the process of holiness, that I need to stick with it even when it gets really difficult, and that it really is a long obedience. (Which actually is a quote from Nietzsche, and I always respected Christians who read openly God-hating people like Nietzsche and see where God is in the things they say)
        Later in the chapter, Peterson quotes William Faulkner when he talks about the concept of the journey of the Christian life, and how monuments in our life may not be the best description of important points in our walk. Faulkner says: "A monument only says 'At least I got this far,' while a footprint says, 'This is where I was when I moved again.'" I think this is a footprint moment.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Prayer Worth Paying Attention To

The devotional I use, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants is full of wisdom. I just might post a lot of quotes from it, because it just rocks and convicts me all the time. This one I thought was very spot on:

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God

                                                                  St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

THE HATRED...                                     which divides nation from nation,
                                                                  race from race,
                                                                  class from class;
                                                                  FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE GREED...                                        which exploits the labours of men
                                                                  and lays waste to the earth;
                                                                  FATHER, FORGIVE.

OUR ENVY...                                         of the welfare and happiness
                                                                 of others;
                                                                 FATHER FORGIVE.

OUR INDIFFERENCE...                       to the plight of the
                                                                 homeless and the refugee;
                                                                 FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE LUST...                                          which uses for ignoble ends,
                                                                the bodies of men and women;
                                                                FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE PRIDE...                                        which leads us to trust in
                                                                ourselves and not in God;
                                                                FATHER, FORGIVE.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (St. Paul to the Ephesians)

-Prayer at the altar of the Coventry Cathedral

Summer Reflections

I like lists. Sometimes. Right now is one of those times. They are concise, and they convey a clear message. So here is a list from my summer!

This summer I have:

1. Moved home in early July
2. Gone to 2 InterVarsity trainings, one was 10 days long!
3. Gone to 6 weddings. Thats right, 6.
4. Starting running more than I ever have in my whole life
5. Seen a total of 10 days of sun in the 2 and 1/2 months I've been at home
6. Joined a book club
7. Have finished only 4 books. And one was Harry Potter 6
8. Have started or am currently in the middle of 6 books
9. Fundraised a bunch, but God did all the real work
10. Watched a ton of Giants baseball
11.Traveled to these cities: Chicago, Madison WI, San Francisco, San Jose (3 times), Santa Clara (3 times), Los Gatos, Union City, Fremont, Fresno, Clovis, Lake Isabella, Elk Grove, Roseville, Saratoga, San Luis Obispo (3 times), Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Auburn, Citrus Heights, Mt. Hermon, Santa Cruz, aaaaaaaaaand Paso Robles

Its been a great summer :)