If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Cry of Absence: Recommended Reading

Facing six months of unemployment and a lack of direction at this late stage of my life is difficult, a spiritual struggle. So, I turn once again to a trusted guide along the way and am re-reading Martin Marty's A Cry of Absence. I would recommend it to those wrestling with God or life, on the edge of faith, for those with a "wintery spirituality."

Quotes from this contemporary spiritual classic:

"Winter is a season of the heart as much as it is a season of the weather"---pg.1

"The absence can also come, however, to a waste space left when the divine is distant, the sacred is remote, when God is silent"---pg.2

"Those in intellectual solidarity with athiests are likely to be people who have cried in anger when God seemed withdrawn, seemed powerless in the face of disease that tore the flesh of a child or parent."---pg. 13

Thursday, January 28, 2010

for Iris

You are the hand
I am the glove

You are the sun
I am the moon

You are the wind
I am the tree

You are the ocean
I am the fish

You are the breath
I am the sigh

You are the rain
I am the earth

You are the flesh
I am the bone

You and I
I and you

Yin and Yang
Night and Day

Bound to each other
Creation's dance
in a corner of the earth

Friday, January 15, 2010

Follow Your Passions and Giftedness

Below are two sets of reflective questions for individuals and congregations I prepared recently for my own congregation in order to follow your passions and gifts and to discern the corporate giftedness of a congregation. Unlike some gifts surveys that try to pin down exactly what your gifts are that match those in the biblical texts, these are open ended reflective questions that should be accompanied by prayer, discernment, and communal confirmation.

Following Your Passions: Reflective Questions for Individual Gifts Discernment

The purpose of these reflective questions is to provide a stimulus for individual discernment of their gifts for ministry. A person’s gifts are often manifest in their passions and not always in their professional vocational choice. Our gifts can be revealed in our practices, things we love to do, as well as the skills we display and the affirmations we receive from others. These questions are open ended and intended for reflective responses that are accompanied by prayer, conversation, and contemplation. With the assumption that our gifts are connected to our passions, these questions are all pointing toward the discovery and affirmation of our passions.

1. What have people in your life or the church often affirmed or praised you for? (Examples- friendliness, hospitality, knowledge, wisdom)
2. What kinds of things do you dream about doing?
3. What are you most passionate about in your life?
4. Within church life, what energizes you?
5. What kinds of things would you do, even if you were not paid to do them?
6. If there were no limits of time, energy, money or resources, what would you do with your life?
7. What do you think are your special talents, gifts and abilities?
8. How are they being used in your job, the community, in the church?
9. What do you think God has sent you to be and do in this life, this community, this church?
10.As you reflect on these questions what themes seem to keep recurring?

Following Your Giftedness: Reflective Questions for Corporate Gifts Discernment

Not only are individuals gifted by God, but also congregations as particular collectives of people in a specific place and time are corporately gifted. Congregations have been uniquely shaped by their traditions, history, experiences, ministries, location, and individual participants. Rather than trying to model themselves after other “more successful” congregations or simply using methods proposed to produce growth, congregations should first discern their own identity, context, and giftedness as a congregation. These reflective questions may assist in that process. These questions should be first discussed in small group settings, then each group’s responses processed in a larger group until there some kind of consensus or “common sense” together about the corporate gifts of the congregation.

1. What history, experiences, events, and changes in the congregation’s life, both positive and negative, have shaped the congregation into what it is today? Describe those characteristics.
2. How has the congregation been shaped by its pastors and members over the years?
3. How has the congregation been shaped or not shaped by its church tradition, theology, and practices?
4. How has the congregation impacted and been impacted by its local community?
5. What is about the congregation that has attracted new people?
6. What is it that keeps the people coming?
7. What has kept some people from becoming part of congregational life?
8. What ministries have emerged because of the passions of members, rather than traditional programs of the church?
9. What makes this congregation different from other congregations in the area? Or what does this congregation have to offer the community that the others cannot in the same way?
10.Name three characteristics that reflect the corporate identity of the congregation?