Posted in Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Life, Monastic, Spiritual Discipline

Yearning for God…intentionally

Prayer was a continuous way of life in the desert. It was intentionally cultivated until it became second nature. Prayer involved the hard work of learning a new language – the language of heaven. For the ascetic, prayer was not merely the speaking of words. It was the yearning for God, reaching out in hopeful openness to being touched by God. Prayer was for the Holy Spirit breathing through the inner spirit of the ascetic and returning to God with yearnings of intimacy. (Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers; Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women [Paulist Press, 2001], 27)

I do not know where you are at today, nor do I know what your journey this last year had been like. For me, it has been a year of getting to know myself, of sitting in my “cell” and facing myself. And it has also been a year of intentionality, of yearning, of longing for God to breathe afresh and anew in my life – and He did not disappoint.

It has been a year of discovering that I am ridiculously in charge of my own life and that I alone bear the responsibility for its stewardship. It has been a year where I came to grips with the fact that there will always be circumstances that are out of my control and which have the power to shape me, if I chose.  It has been a year where I embraced the truth that I have choices. Moment by moment, day by day, month by month, I can choose how I will spend the gift of time and how I will react to the things going on around me.

The desert fathers and mothers, whose writings I have been reading since last summer, taught me that their intentional choices influenced their personal growth and their relationship with God. Prayer was “intentionally cultivated,” solitude was “intentionally cultivated,” yearning for God was “intentionally cultivated.” How they chose to live was intentional.

I think too often we give away our power and numb our senses which leaves us crippled and confused about who we are, what we are feeling, and what our soul yearns for. In some cases, we have allowed technology to become our master, telling us when to drink water, how many steps to take, what our heart rate it, and we wear our fitness devices as some sort of reminder that we want to be aware. But somehow in that wanting, we have stopped creating spaces for silence and solitude. We have stopped taking the time to be present to God and present to ourselves. And perhaps for some of us, if we are really honest, we have become expert runners who run from ourself and try to run from God.

So today,  if that’s you and you long for something different as I did last summer and still do, join me by reaching out your hands towards God and saying: “God, I yearn for you and you alone. I take back the power of choice to steward my own life, and I commit to intentionally cultivating the behaviours and thoughts that allow me to be present in life.”

A special note of thanks: Dear David, a soon-to-be-new-brother-in-Christ, thank you for courageously picking up your phone today and reaching out to a stranger (you happened to get me) to ask about how one becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ – you confirmed for me that this blog post matters. I hope you’ll call again and am praying for your wholehearted “yes” to Jesus.

Posted in Christian, Life, Theology

Top Leadership Lessons from 2016

A new year, just like a new day, brings us the opportunity to reflect. Reflect on where we’ve been, where we’re going, things learned, and things we long to learn. So it is in that spirit of reflection that I’ve sought to write some of my top lesson from 2016. The list is by no means exhaustive, but each was important.

  1. Know Your Why. Countless times this year I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing. I paused intentionally to think through the impact of decisions. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me my motives for “yes” or “no” decisions. And honestly, this last year I said “no” to a lot of things. No to a cluttered soul; no to a cluttered house; no to a schedule the did not afford me the time with the most important people in my life; no to striving. I said “yes” to those things that God clearly laid on my heart. Know your why.
  2. Don’t apologize for who God made you to be. For my women friends, I can’t stress this point enough. God made you; the Holy Spirit entrusted you with gifts so that you might be ministers of reconciliation. As Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ. Steward well that which has been entrusted to you. Let Christ shine through you.
    2 Corinthians 5:20 (NASB95) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
  3. Serve others well and be intentional about it. Get to know the people whom you lead. Get to know their strengths, their weakness (you’ve got bucket loads of them too!), the way they process information, their stressors, and create ample opportunities for them to bring glory to God by using their gifts. Invest in and appreciate (in a language they understand) those with whom you co-labour.  And be authentic, courageously vulnerable, and lead from a place of dependence on Christ and others.
  4. Embrace mistakes and let them move you forward. In my earlier years, I let failures and mistakes shipwreck and paralyze me (confessions of a high achiever), now I let them shape me. Learn to ask for help; you are a limited resource. Always be humble and teachable.
  5. Learn to communicate well in person and don’t avoid conflict. Email, text or FB messaging is never, ever the way to deal with hard conversations. As a leader, develop your communication skills. Learn how to have conversations in a way that won’t leave you feeling horrible for the way you handled things. There is nothing that cannot be discussed if it is approached in an appropriate way. As a leader, it is your responsibility to develop yourself in this area. Learn to communicate well!
  6. Be prepared. I’m still fleshing this lesson out, so you’ll likely be reading (or hearing, depending on how we usually connect) about this topic this year. But here are a few lessons I’ve been learning: be prepared for the meeting, especially if you are the leader; study your Bible so that you are prepared to give an answer; be a praying leader, it prepares you; prepare yourself by leading yourself well.

There it is, some of my top lessons from 2016. Feel free to share some of yours.

Parting Prayer:

Lord, be with us this day,
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.
(Patrick c389-461)