Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Examined Life

Proverbs 14:8&15 both lay out the importance of the process of giving thought to our life being part of wisdom. These verses speak to me of slowing down, taking pause and doing some self-examination. It is so easy to hurtle through life at great speed and it follows, then, that we can miss important truths the faster we are going.

In this technological, smart phone, #hashtag age, we don’t slow down. We don’t listen or take stock of where we have come from or where we are going. Yet, Proverbs is compelling us to do just that – to pay attention and open our ears; to listen out for wisdom. Proverbs personifies wisdom and gives it a voice. It extols wisdom’s virtues and links it directly to the fear of the Lord. In fact, that is where wisdom originates (Proverbs 1:7).

A pastor at my church recently preached form Proverbs 2 and stated that we should be listening to the voice of the Lord as if our life depended on it. That is urgency! That is a rallying call to give thought to our ways. What is important? Where are we headed? How are we spending our time? Are we fearing the Lord, or are we fearing others, or fearful of what we do not know? How are we relating to Jesus, the ultimate personification of wisdom?

Socrates is attributed to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Let’s slow down and listen intently for the voice of the Lord. Otherwise, other voices clamor for our attention and we miss what is most important – a lively love for God and an active love for others (Luke 10:27 / Deuteronomy 6:5).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Personal weakness and the strength of Another

It has been a looong time since I mused on here but my brain and heart have not been quiet. My counseling internship at CCEF recently came to an end, and I am now transitioning to the role of a Contract Counselor. Transition times are great times for reflection and self-examination. They are periods for taking stock and re-evaluating where we have come from and where we are headed. So I will take this opportunity to reflect…

What have I learnt most from the last 9 months? How have I changed? Where do I still find myself stuck? Do I look more like Christ than I did before this experience? Throughout most of my internship, I have been acutely aware of my own weakness. I am not up to the task of speaking wise words into someone’s life. I struggle to be myself, or to engage actively, when surrounded by a lot of people. Sometimes I think I have a mild (more serious than that?) form of Social Phobia. I am much more comfortable with 1 or 2 people than with large groups. When many stressors come at me simultaneously, I feel the weight and start to freak out. There is more but you can ask me personally about more of my own weaknesses and sins and where God’s grace fits in.

The internship was a wake-up call for me. Not that becoming a “professional” means that walking alongside someone else in their weakness, sufferings, struggles and sins makes me an expert or allows me to speak important truths to others. I am humbled, realizing that God is equipping me, and transforming me, so that I can be an instrument used by Him to help people rethink their life and struggles. It has been such a joy and a privilege to learn from my fellow interns, to be shaped by my supervisor and to have numerous staff speak into our lives and calling. I am so thankful for the patience and love of my wife as she watches me in the crucible.

What are some of the main things I have learned during this time?
  • Learning to listen more than I speak. 
  •  Grasping how important the person’s situation is and how is shapes them.
  • Taking important truths about God and about people and owning them personally.
  • Putting things in a concise and compelling form that is recognizable and personal to the individual. 
  •  Being honest enough to ask for help and laugh at my own mistakes. 
  •  To love faithfully and sometimes speak hard things.    
This is a fluid list. I am a work-in-progress. We are on a journey and have not arrived. I want to grow in humility and prayer. I am not up to these things and often feel the disconnect between my own weak heart, God’s rich grace and who I am in Christ.

Pray for me. I love this work!! My heart is awake and alive as I listen to others pour out their hearts and I look for the activity of the Spirit. Pray that I would offer active ears, and an alertness to what is really going on. What is this person saying right now? What are they not saying that they need to think about? How can I help them join the dots or start again? How can I truly be changed as I offer hope and life to others?

God, help me!  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Article on the Christian life from CCEF

Great article from CCEF's David Powlison on the Christian life...A "Moderate" Makeover

Monday, October 8, 2012

Difficult Fruitfulness

Bearing fruit is never easy - just ask the nearest rosebush. My wife and I recently uprooted ourselves from North Jersey to move to Pennsylvania. I began a counseling internship in August at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). Despite only moving one State to the west of the Garden State, it was a big move for us. We left behind close friends, relatives, a good job for Bekah in our church and our first 2 years of shared memories and doing life together in one place as a married couple. 

As part of my internship, I need to also receive counsel, myself, as well as give it to others. This is so that we can, as new counselors, experience what it is like on the other side of the room for a person coming to see us. It can also help us work through some of our own issues. In a recent session with my counselor, he prayed for me during this time of "difficult fruitfulness". I have no regrets about moving here. It was a step of faith for us. My internship is unpaid and we are seeking sufficient work for the two of us so that we can pay our bills and not go into more debt. What we did was not heroic. We are convinced that God called us to move on together for me to pursue a path in biblical counseling. However, God calls people to follow him most often in every day kind of ways.

In the midst of our new transition, we are called to be faithful to our calling to make much of Jesus and his grace in the details of our lives. While waiting to see how things pan out, it is tempting to try to take matters into our hands, thinking that we can make things happen. Sometimes we can misunderstand one another and argue more frequently. We are called, in those moments, to model grace to one another, to confess and forgive - to turn our hearts quickly toward God and the light of his face.

God is always faithful. He has been providing for us in the uncertainty and the greyness of taking one step at a time, rather than knowing the whole picture. We have not lacked for financial provision since moving here and we are so thankful to see how God has met our needs. We are learning to hold onto things lightly as God prunes away some of our areas of previous security and trust, along with attitudes that are not always honoring to him. We are learning more profoundly to grow in our trust of God for every aspect of our lives.

In the meantime, we want to love Jesus and to make him known by how we relate to him, to one another and to those in our lives. I desire to engage deeply and practically with hurting, struggling and suffering people. God has done that in my life and I want to glorify him with the outcome. Life is full of beautiful paradoxes and I love that that is where God is, often, most at work even in the exciting, unknown seasons.

[I haven't blogged in over a year. When I started blogging I would wait for the big moments to write something. Now, I would love to write more on every day little moments, as well as the momentous things. No promises...but I want to be more than just a tweeter.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today's Slice: Life, Death, and Incarnation by Jill Carattini

What a great reflection as we rapidly approach Christmas. What does Christmas really mean?

Today's Slice: Life, Death, and Incarnation by Jill Carattini

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why did Jesus weep?

Music is such a powerful medium. I was driving to Seminary today listening to music on my IPod's shuffle setting. Out of nowhere I found myself weeping as I listened to the Robbie Seay Band sing a song called "Breathing Air Again". That doesn't happen often. I am an emotional guy but often my commute to school isn't a deep time of thinking and significance for me. Often I am tired and feeling drained, sensitive to my fellow road users and their bad driving habits. Today it was raining hard outside the car and there were unstoppable tears inside the car.

The lyrics were simple but the music was compelling and drew me to listen to the words. They were about slowing down and being aware of people around us, of slowing down to laugh and breathe and gaze upon the stars. The song made me think about the people in my life: my wife who I love, my family who I love and miss, my neighbors, my friends near and far and my colleagues at work.

What grabbed me the most was the fact that I could not help myself. I was unrestrained in my emotion and didn't feel the need to suppress the tears. It reminded me of my New Testament for Ministry lecture last night on the Gospel of John. In part of the class we were examining John 11 and why Jesus wept at Lazarus' death. He was fully God alongside being fully man. He knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and allowed him to die. In the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, we read that Jesus wept.

We don't know exactly why Jesus wept. Perhaps Jesus was angry with death itself. He was moved as he saw the other people weeping, for sure (John 11:33). Jesus knew the spiritual significance of death and dying and was prepared for his own death. He knew that his own impending death would be for the sins of the world. What my professor drew out last night grabbed my attention. He said that Jesus moved into the situation and lived among it. He allowed the pain to touch him and he was affected by it. He was the Messiah. Martha had acknowledged that fact earlier in the chapter and Jesus, the King, was there in the mess of life bringing life and hope in himself.

That is the power of Jesus' incarnation. Eugene Peterson says in The Message, "The Word (Jesus) became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood..." Jesus was moved and his life, death and continuing life move me to share that hope with others. Am I awake enough to notice the needs of those around me? Or am I too preoccupied with my own little world to be really involved in this kind of engagement with others?