I do a lot of reading, writing, and researching these days. I come across things I keep, things I want to share, and things I think others need to know about. These are often outside of the trail I’m on, but things I want to chase anyway. I’m still trying to write actual pieces and articles for this blog, this is a simply place to share the trails with you, and maybe you’ll find one to chase on your own, or together. Enjoy. – MK
The Present-ness of Poetry
I think you should read poetry, and so does Meg Kelley. Her article, How Poetry Taught Me Presence, is a helpful push toward the settling nature of the verse, and why working through a stanza or two actually helps you re-enter your world. Kelley writes, “On the other side of the poem is an expanded appreciation of what simply is, including the simplicity in who we are, enabling us to walk out of the poem as someone else: the person who pays attention.”
If you want to work on paying better attention, the season of Lent that started this week is a great space for you to engage with poetry and focus your mind on the journey Jesus took toward his death. George Herbert, a faithful 17th century Welsh priest, wrote about the crux of Christian hope through the Savior’s vantage point in his work, The Sacrifice. If you had to start somewhere with poetry, start here.
@danwhitejr on pastoral pain:
Look at the stats on that tweet. Over two thousand likes, two hundred plus responses. I’ve found myself returning to this tweet several times over the last week because it has been hanging on the fringes of my mind. I read the comments. All of them. I read the threads around some of the retweets.
The pain of pastoral ministry is multifaceted and real. The loss of relationship when your vocation is treated as a commodity for relief from pain or help in crisis leaves indelible marks when things end in the type of ghosting Dan talks about here. It hurts to care for people. We are people with short memories and long records of caring for ourselves first. Dan struck a nerve with this, and then he spent time following up with people in the comments. He encouraged them toward getting professional help to sort through the emotional wounds incurred in the service of the people wounding them. It is a disorienting pain, because it doesn’t effect the pastor alone, but his wife, his children all feel the ripple effects of trying to sort the pain. As Dan recommends, and for more issues than this alone, spending time with a counselor on a routine basis is a healthy move for those in pastoral ministry.
@marksayers on spiritual ferment and breakthrough
My podcast library is pretty eclectic and ecumenical. A recent subscription is the Pattern Podcast out of Kings Cross church in London. It’s a podcast about the spiritual patterns of living that Christians are called toward in daily life. Mark Sayers joined them to talk about the practice of joy, and ended up giving a brief overview about why the patterns/habits/disciplines are necessary and needful for the Christian life.
In responding to a question about the historical nature of spiritual patterns/disciplines, Mark states a central question, then goes on to answer it: How do I use what the people of God have used throughout history to actually shape my life to one that reflects God’s kingdom, one that flourishes in how God wants it to flourish?
The people of God from the early church followed certains patterns which enabled them to exist in a way that was in sync with what God was doing in the between, where the kingdom is here but not here fully yet. So we still need to be formed. From the earliest times they prayed together, read the Scriptures together, they didn’t give up meeting together, they had times of solitude, times of sabbath. They’ve always been there since the times of the early church. There’s always a temptation to fall back on religiosity and often practices are good, but practices must have the presence. Practices without the presence become problematic, but also presence without practices can go loopy sometimes. So they work in synergy together.
He’s then asked about the interplay between spiritual disciplines and life in the Spirit: So there have been moments in the charismatic church where we’ve been a bit nervous of religiosity of ‘oh- spiritual disciplines’ – be careful – talk about how these disciplines and patterns actually release us into greater freedom.
Mark: The sort of image I’ve used recently for charismatics, for those of us who want to push into the Spirit’s power —I thought about this as I was opening a jat of pickles. I have been buying these expensive probiotics and then I was reading that I could just buy a cheap bottle of pickles. What’s interesting about the pickles is that they sit in this still space, and as they ferment they actually gain in power. So I started to think about it more, and for charismatics there is this time where the Spirit sends us out, we’re released and stuff happens—and we desire those times. There are other times where God has us fermenting, where nothing seems to be happening. But in those quieter times we’re actually going deeper in Christ, in a sense we ferment and the good bacteria goes deeper in us to be released into our system. So I see practices working like that – they are a discipline which teach us patience, and I think patience and relying on God speaking to us through these pattern ways balances out beautifully those moments of release by the Spirit.
The ferment of habits, forming our character by the ordinary and patient means of the Spirit, joining the apostolic church in their daily practice of being recreated into the image of Christ. Dallas Willard calls these patterns something you do that over time enables you to become the kind of person for whom it is increasingly easier to do the things that Christ calls us to.
You can hear the whole interview here.