Lifted from: Randall’s blog.
In one week we will be celebrating our third Christmas here in the Field. Three Christmases. Two years. In one respect the time has flown by. I thought that the other day as I was lifting up a child that wasn’t even born when we moved here, and now he’s running around on his two little legs like he’s been doing it forever.
And in another respect, the single moments tick by at a slow pace. Life is slower. Less gets done because it takes more to get it done. But life is fuller. You are doing more, it just doesn’t look like it from the outside. That’s one of those field-isms that I’m working hard to make peace with. It just is.
We enjoy the quiet, the field people are great, and life, when we can just relax, is good. It is good and I could see us choosing to live in a context just like this, for a while anyway, in our own space and time. We like it here.
But I find myself loving so tentatively, so hesitantly. Somewhere inside maybe I don’t want to love it here too much because I know that one day down the road, we will have to move away from here. I don’t know these things for sure, but the truth is that I am here for the work, living in somebody else’s home and you just know that chances are that one day, five or ten or twenty years down the road you’re gonna have to pack up and move. And so some part of the mind says to love lightly because then it will hurt less when it’s time to go. The rational part steps in at that point and tries to grab the emotion by the scruff of the neck and drags it along as we go on our way, choosing to love people in spite of how we feel.
I was such a simple man so many years ago this very day when the church saw gifts and calling in me that they wanted to recognize and call forth and so the way they knew how to do that was to Ordain me to the ministry. And I more formally set aside my choices and a few dreams to obey the One who made me and shaped me and called me forward. Laying down stuff like choices where to live and what kind of work I would do. Finding greater value in following after and obeying the One in whom I found fulfillment, the One in whom I found eternity and the One who alone spoke the words of life.
I remember the internal struggle back at the beginning. The desire to do something worthwhile with my life, something that might count for something in the end. Even if it didn’t look like anything and even if there weren’t titles or recognition at the end of it all, if I could just know that my life had meant something in terms of someone changing their opinion of ministry or God or even just their neighbour, that would be enough. If I could be a part of redirecting people from moving away from God, to at least moving towards Him, then that would be a life lived well. That’s what I thought, and that’s what I still think my life is to be about.
But still this struggle to obey. It does get easier in some very real respects, but as I age the more I realize the cost of it. When I was young I told myself that obedience in this ministry-ward direction was probably only temporary and that I could give my best, my strongest, my most zealous years to ministry while I was young. As I age I see more clearly the cost and the value to me of giving up my agenda for this work that I do
Maybe all I’m trying to say is that even after all these years in ministry, I’m still surprised at how hard it can be sometimes to lay down my will. Yeah, that’s it. Sometimes I don’t want to do what God wants me to do and like a child I want to do what I want to do. I can be quite selfish sometimes.
So God calls me to a Field to love the Field People, and I’m scared because it could hurt and I don’t want it to hurt. Funny how even after years and years of ministry the basic struggles are still the same.
The comforting thing is that now I can admit that to myself.
Standing in the great wide space of the church as the light streams in from above, it is almost like the light of heaven peeking into the sacred space shedding light in an otherwise shadowed space. The visual is appropriate to explain where I am at the moment. For the last little while I have felt the warm enfolding spirit of God around me and I know this because it makes itself manifest in my ministry.
My ministry, it is personal and meaningful. It is something that I am becoming and the more I work at it, the more it grows and I see God manifest himself in the things that I do in my life, and the way I relate to other people. As I have completed the lions share of my Certificate I have worked towards my ministry credentials. It may be all and well on paper, but I think that practical experience in ministry added to classroom education is what ties it all together.
Sometimes I sit in front of this screen and nothing seems to come and I end up writing nothing for a period of days. Then out of the blue I read one of my many reads and I find some inspiration to write about. As was the case last night – I have a preacher friend in Alberta who has been walking through a shadowland as of late and he wrote something that ellicited a response from me that came from some other place than where I was. Yet the more I wrote to him, the more I was connecting to something greater than myself.
Sometimes when I write to people – the words come from somewhere inside me as if inspired by God. I’ve spent a long time investing in the people I read. I listen to them as they write and I engage them in conversation. And I have cultivated a few cherished relationships. Sometimes I leave a comment and that is all that it is, a comment. And then there are those blessed times that I sit and ponder my thoughts through my heart before I write and then something spectacular happens.
I sit and ponder, which translates to I ‘sit and pray’ about what I want to say, and for some reason the spirit makes itself known to me and inspires me to write what it needs to say. I call this my “preacher mode” when I am spiritually “In the Zone” those times when I can focus enough of my spirit and thought on what the spirit moves me to write and that sometimes scares me and at other times moves me to return to what I have written over and over to really make sure that that was what “I” wrote.
I wrote to my friend last night and I was able to offer him some perspective and share with him some thoughts from some of the books that I find sacred that sit on my bedside table. Sometimes education makes itself known in what we do at the oddest times. All those books we read over the course of years seem to coalesce in the mind all of a sudden – when we need it to count. So I began this email and I wrote, and then I kept on writing until I was finished. And I felt the spirit move around me as if it was coaching me to click “send.”
Every now and then I get to flex my ministerial muscle and put to task everything that I have learned up to this point, and for the most part it has been a positive experience. I know how to choose my battles, and I don’t engage people who will only push me over the edge.
This afternoon I had lunch with my sponsor. She had been on vacation in Florida for the past five months, yet we talked on the phone often, it was good to sit with her and talk about the last few months. We talked about life and what we have been up to since we last saw each other. Then she sat and listened as I explained how things have changed for me in my sobriety and my spirituality since completing my courses this last term especially my applied human science class – interpersonal communications.
It was hard not to consciously work my steps while taking this specific class. It is hard NOT to work my steps when everything I am studying in class has to do with scripture or God in some form or fashion. Now with a few 24 hours under my belt and a few years [read:seven], things come to me from somewhere outside of myself. I have some spiritual clarity and with sober time, I have sober clarity. And all this works to my favor.
I guess spiritual insight is one of the gifts that come at the seventh year level. In that it is something that I can now recognize and trust with time under my belt. In the beginning we work sobriety, eventually sobriety begins to work us. Working steps become an unconscious movement of spirit. Like the steps remain lit in the back of our minds and as we go through our days we can take that momentary inventory to make sure we are still connected to the power greater than ourselves.
Over the past few months I have had somewhat of a spiritual experience, and I have written about this already some time ago. But I had to retell the story so that she could share with certain people where I was and what happened and where I am now in my absence since classes do not permit me to make the meeting for the rest of the summer.
Living each day at it comes, living in the moment, allows one to see progress. When you stop in the moment, you allow yourself time to look behind you and see where you have come from and it offers you an opportunity to look ahead to see where you are going. If we are too busy in our lives to see where we are going, we could eventually end up in some ditch off some gravel road in the middle of nowhere. (I know about ditches and gravel roads)…
When you do what you love the universe conspires to help you. When you are spiritually focused on things of God and not necessarily on what is in front of you – you get that added push to work harder because you can see the fruit of your labor. Today I have reread several times the note I sent off to my preacher friend last night and it amazes me the insight I get at times, sometimes it is spot on, which usually happens when I am “in the zone”.
Well I think I am done with this entry…
Blessings on your heads.
Stay tuned, more to come…
Randall is in Chicago for the Covenant Pastors retreat let us keep him in our prayers for the next few days.
As I sit here in my office early on this Tuesday morning my window looks out towards the house and behind it the eastern sky is starting to lighten up. It’s quite beautiful and amazing.
The rhythms of life are intricately connected here on this earth, and they feel even more tied together here in this field. Winter is coming, so preparations are being made. Equipment is being placed into storage, poultry is being sent to market, cattle is being shipped or moved to winter homes. And the land is allowed to rest.
Rest. Hibernation. Winter brings that to us in different ways, at least here on the Canadian prairies. We are forced by the coming rhythm of winter, to change gears, downshift, conserve energy, rest. And that is a good thing.
I don’t know who we would be if we didn’t have winter. I suspect choosing to rest if it wasn’t forced upon us might be difficult. Probably even seen as a weakness. And if our neighbours didn’t rest, then probably neither would we.
So we are forced, by the plans of God and the grace of the land, to rest. And even if we inside ourselves don’t slow down, that’s our choice. Sometimes the land and the rhythms of life God has given us, are smarter than we are, and if we are teachable we will learn a thing or two about seasons of rest.
Learning to live well in that balance is a secret to life that not all people understand. Whether you are a high stakes banker living in the glass towers of the big city, or a farmer working the land. There are things about the balanced life that we need to learn, so that our lives too will be blessed in ways that give us life.