November is an opportunity for us to remember to be grateful. Use this episode’s practice to exercise the discipline of gratitude through the process of Examen.
Have you ever entered an elevator and, instead of facing the door, faced everyone inside? Have you ever chosen to purposefully eat with the wrong utensil in a crowd? Have you ever walked up to a complete stranger in public and ask a deeply personal question, perhaps about religion, politics, or money?
These harmless social experiments cause a person to notice what behavior is expected in public. Read more at Hope Network...
“And Mary treasured these things in her heart.” Luke 2:19
“I am so afraid to tell my elders. What if they fire me?” Her face is screwed up in genuine anguish as she shares what should be happy news. After years of hoping and trying and disappointment, she and her husband are expecting their first child.
“Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”
Calligraphied on a pink plaque surrounded by hearts and flowers, this statement hung on my bedroom wall from infancy. As I entered high school, it was soon surrounded by other plaques that represented successes in debate tournaments. I didn’t know to appreciate the irony then.
The socialization of little girls in America, and particularly southern America, to be nice is well documented. A simple google search of the topic brought up more than 200,000,000 hits. The rest of this post is on Hope Network’s blog…
Pioneers get a lot of glory in the history books. We applaud their vision. We celebrate their bravery. We congratulate their strength. The covered wagons that made their way across America into the west are the stuff of legends. Manifest destiny!
But in reality, pioneering is grueling work. Trudging across uncharted territory in order to create a new way is gritty, raw, exhausting work. Romanticized visions of covered wagons gloss over disease, pain, and self-doubt.
Our tradition in the churches of Christ is experiencing a change in landscaping. We are witnessing pioneers. Courageous women, who have sensed the call of God on their lives, have bravely stepped into ministerial positions.
Another recipient of care from eleven:28 ministries shares their experience…
When I found eleven:28 ministries, I was just beginning ministry in an official capacity after an 18 year meandering journey. I felt the need to make up for lost time and found myself working in overdrive. After all, I loved what I was doing and I had waited so long to do it! After a year of spiritual direction and mentoring group, I am so grateful to have taken a proactive approach to caring for my own spiritual health. Ministry is wonderful and beautiful, but draining and exhausting. It is very easy to miss out on regular doses of spiritual nourishment while trying to nourish others. The proactive pre-scheduled monthly dates for mentoring and spiritual direction were like a Flintstone vitamin to my soul!
I am learning that the church will continue to let me give, even if it becomes detrimental to me. They don’t do this maliciously; they just don’t know my breaking point. I am also learning that even wonderful things can be exhausting and stressful.
I found out so much out about myself during the spiritual direction process. I began to see who I am in God, not who I wish I were. Many of my character traits are frustrating to me. In fact, I find myself embarrassed by my self-concerned nature. I am an achiever, a people-pleaser.
This can really begin to distort my ministry approach. I can begin to make everything about me. Did I achieve my goal? Were people happy with me? That model is draining and destructive. When I look at ministry through the lens of making space for the Holy Spirit to direct the path, He is the one who makes the path—not me. Then I can be who I am in God and use those gifts for His glory instead of my own.
I am also grateful to be reminded each month that I am doing good work. I am my own worst critic and many times, if the results aren’t what I had hoped for, I feel as though I failed. When I look at myself and ministry through the lens of who I am in God, I am reminded that “God is in all things and all choices, seeking to draw the more life-giving outcome from all we do.” Seeking out this perspective of who I am in God then allows me to find familiarity there and I find myself more often making the choice to live there, vulnerably, before others. The authentic me has the chance to be known, loved, and appreciated for who I truly am, not who I think others want me to be.
As I began to comprehend this for myself, I began to look at ways I could integrate this into ministry to families and children. We decided to select a new curriculum, one that made space for children to acknowledge the Holy Spirit at work within them. It also has a Blessing component that allows for the small group leader to speak a blessing over each child every week. This has become such a special time for the teachers and children.
I am so thankful for the life giving opportunity to experience spiritual formation from eleven:28 and compelled to pass it along to those I serve. –Summer Morris serves as the Minister to Children and Families at North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas. She is also a new board member for eleven:28 ministries.
I’ve asked several ministers who receive care from eleven:28 ministries to tell you in their own words what this ministry does. You’ll see them from time to time here…
I didn’t expect my first year of ministry to be exactly as they said it would be. I wanted to be the minister that was different. My short time in ministry has been ambiguous, lonely, and strenuous. There have definitely been some beautiful moments, but after only a year I wondered, is this what burn out feels like? Is it normal for me to go through all of these things so soon? Is there anyone I can trust to let these feelings out to?
Rhesa contacted me and asked if I would like to be in her first group of women who would mentor and love each other, grow closer to God together, and commit to prayer for each other’s ministries. I was all in. I was so tied up in my own problems at that point I didn’t realize that other women had experienced the same things I had; some had experienced much worse things. In covenant groups I found a place where I could share without wondering if they thought that I was mad at God or if I was not grateful for my job or my family. The best days were when we went around the room and maybe didn’t get to discuss the book we were reading or check off everything on the schedule for the day. The best days were when we were able to give voice to other’s struggles, cry with each other during hardships, and to give thanks to God for his presence in each woman’s life as they shared their stories.
I remember just being so depressed when the first year came to an end. I had hardly spent any time with these women, just 10 days total, but I felt the need to continue relationships with all of them. I needed them to share their life with me so that I could share mine with them. I loved and appreciated all of these women as if they were some of my greatest friends.
I definitely see so much value in what Rhesa does in covenant groups. She did some spiritual direction with us where God and I met in a different way than I have ever gotten to meet him before. I honestly never expected to be able to encounter God in what seemed to me to be a strange way to pray and meditate and reflect, but he has been faithful and shown himself to me in such beautiful ways. I find myself longing to meet him again in different ways so he can show me more about himself. During our Spiritual Direction I realized things about myself a lot of the time but the best part was an opportunity to rest with God and feel his presence.
My ministry is better because I have been a part of Covenant Groups. My spiritual life is healthier, and I don’t feel so alone. I don’t have the resentment I was starting to feel toward my church, and to God for calling me to this church. I can be fed somewhere else so that I can feed my flock here.