After yesterday’s message of the Integration of God’s Will and Our Will – FREEDOM – the practice of Examen, I put together a one page – ‘what, why and how’ guide sheet for the practice of examen. As you engage this practice, don’t come with too many expectations or firm conclusions about the outcome you desire. The main point of Examen is to listen. Start with baby steps if you haven’t engaged this spiritual discipline before. The reward is in the regular practice of meeting intentionally with God in this way. Cultivating a spirit of listening and reflection. And that takes practice!
When the council graced me with a sabbatical some time ago, I was filled with anticipation of what this time could be. To summarize in one sentence, this sabbatical time has enriched my relationship with God, Deone, my family, and some significant long term friendships.
Since the last sent update of sabbatical, Deone and I have had extended time together on the open road, living out of a tent, sleeping under the stars, with a ‘front row ticket to God’s theatre’ (quote from Eugene Peterson) in places like the Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Sawtooth Mountains (Idaho), Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Canyon of the Ancients, and Ouray/Ridgway.
We watched the moon wax and wane for days, woke up to sunshine on our face each morning, making coffee and frying eggs and toast on a camping stove before heading out for a hike, a float, or a bike ride. And all the while, sharing it together in tandem company with each other and God. I trust you can ‘hear and see’ the goodness of God to us in the gift of sabbatical that you all, as a faith community, have given to us.
We look forward to a return to the regular ministry rhythms and relationships with everyone that have been put on necessary pause during this sabbatical time. See you soon.
On September 25th, my plan (Lord willing) is to give some further insight into the ways God has met me through his Word, Spirit, Creation, and people.
I’m writing this little update on a Sunday morning, thinking of all of you as you faithfully gather for worship, and missing the company we share on a regular basis in worship, communion, and community. As sabbatical crosses the halfway point, I am deeply grateful for this time. Since the last update, we have been able to spend some wonderful time with Anna on her summer visit to Colorado. Deone and Anna were able to road trip to California and back. I spent a couple weeks with friends in the wilderness and trails of Colorado bikepacking, glamping, touring and racing. Celebrated Deone’s Birthday! Went to a stadium packed Lumineers, Daniel Rodriguez, and Gregory Alan Isakov concert in Denver. Multiple hiking excursions… lots of outdoor joy.
I’ve also been reading and journaling of course trying to encompass all that is being learned. God is speaking all the time. And the intentionality of conversations I have been having along with the mentoring and excellent reading, I am excited about what God is revealing. I’ve had a few impactful experiences particularly on the Vapor Trail, more to tell about that after my return…
When it comes to understanding the Holy/Human weave that is our life on earth, and our lives together with both God and with one another, it goes deep. Once you begin to seek, it’s amazing what you find. The key to understanding God’s will and it’s weaving with our will, God’s plan and it’s weaving into our plans, involves… the Glory of God, the Fear of the Lord, the Wisdom of God, Surrendering to God, Humility, The Presence of God in suffering/loss/sorrow, Forgiveness, Surrender, Regular Examen, Discrimination/Discernment, God’s Sovereignty… you see where this is going? Deep.
I sense a fall preaching/teaching series coming soon… you got that right!
As we enter the final phase of this sabbatical time it will involve much rest, exploration, adventure, writing, reading, and reflecting for sure. It engages a significant time with Deone on a road adventure trip and ends with a week solo time with God to coalesce all that has been seen, heard, and experienced.
See you in person in September, looking forward to it, and thank you for your prayers – keep them coming!
Missing you and the everyday life of ministry, leadership, community, and relationships at Crestview Church during this time of sabbatical. Yet, I am beginning to experience the beauty and wonder of this renewal time. As Deone and I have returned from ‘phase one’ of sabbatical time in Michigan, I will be entering into ‘phase two’ of sabbatical today (Sat July 9th). Phase one could be summed up as ‘friends and family.’
Phase one has been filled with people connections, journaling, reading, and reflection. I’ve been able to meet with two key mentors in my life, three other colleagues in ministry, several close friends, and spend some wonderful time with Deone, our daughters and their families, and several family members including my mom. And I am continuing to engage in the ‘Read through the Bible’ as many of you are.
This time included a visit to Iowa, 3 day outing with Deone in Sleeping Bear National Recreation Area with Deone, 3 day stay with our entire family, and a 3 day solo time in Michigan, a 213 mile race across the state of Michigan, and a 17 hour road trip X2 to Michigan and back to Boulder, CO. And throughout this time, I have been journaling personal reflections, reading some books (one good one has been A non-anxious presence – How a Changing and Complex
World Will Create a Remnant of Renewed Christian Leaders by Mark Sayer), chronicling the insights of those I meet on the topic of God’s Will/Plan, our will/plan, and revisiting the many personality and spiritual assessment testing results and insights I have taken over the years, including a more recent assessment called the Birkman Assessment. It has all been very good to sort through, ponder, reflect, and draw some key learning insights.
As I enter ‘phase two’ of sabbatical time, it could be summed up as ‘wilderness and solitude.’ My plan and the Lord’s plans woven together, ‘Lord willing’, is to enter into the mountains and trails of Colorado – some bike packing both solo and with other colleagues, family, and friends – some occasional bike racing – with reading, reflecting, journaling, and resting along the way.
As I bike through some tough terrain, traverse above tree-line, the bumps and curves of slick rock, the forests and valley floors, camp along clear water creeks – may my paths, desires and passions come in line with those of my Creator, Redeemer and Lord. I ask for your prayers for God to meet me in ways that physical, mental and spiritual challenge along with silence, surrender, and solitude can bring. Pray that in the wilderness experiences both alone and with others, God will meet me, revealing himself in ways only his will and power can break through. My plan is to further unplug from what Henri Nouwen identifies as ‘a toxic social network that gives a warped sense of self, stimulating a need for ongoing and increasing affirmation. Where perception becomes king. Jesus was also tempted to be ‘relevant, spectacular, and powerful’ by the Devil. And in the wilderness, he affirmed his identity in God.” These temptations are very real for us, for me, today. The wilderness is a good place to affirm my identity in Christ. A wilderness ‘detox’ from the things that prop up the secular and false self.
Mark Sayer in his book, a non-anxious presence, says this about wilderness, “…the wilderness is a place of shepherding, challenge and confrontation where one can find glory, strength, and relationship with God. Mark Sayer says the wilderness is the place to find restoration of a ‘holy set apartness’, where God becomes primary and all other things orient around it.
The ‘differentiation’ that occurs in the wilderness leads to a ‘dependence on God.’ It’s good to come face to face with our ‘nothingness’ from time to time… the wilderness does that. So here’s to phase two of sabbatical. Starting today.
‘The Lord bless you and keep you and cause his face to shine upon you,’
One thing I miss is being able to give and hear God’s blessing to each and every one of you in person when we are in worship together. In the meantime, hear this blessing in song for you. May the Lord bless you and keep you today and always. Pastor Mark
When Jesus saw the crowds…’ is an amazing line in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus sees every one of us, the hurried and worried, the distracted and the distraught, the wayward and the self-righteous, the sick and the healthy. So what does he do? He announces “The Kingdom of God has come.” He gives the invitation, “Follow me!” And then sits on a hillside as his disciples gather around him, and the crowds gather around them and he begins to teach them (us)… More than that, he shows them (us)… There are three clips of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Come Follow Me!’ (Matthew 5-7)
When Jesus saw the crowds…’ is an amazing line in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus sees every one of us, the hurried and worried, the distracted and the distraught, the wayward and the self-righteous, the sick and the healthy. So what does he do? He announces “The Kingdom of God has come.” He gives the invitation, “Follow me!” And then sits on a hillside as his disciples gather around him, and the crowds gather around them and he begins to teach them (us)… More than that, he shows them (us)… This is the second of three clips of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Come Follow Me!’ (Matthew 6)
‘When Jesus saw the crowds…’ is an amazing line in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus sees every one of us, the hurried and worried, the distracted and the distraught, the wayward and the self-righteous, the sick and the healthy. So what does he do? He announces “The Kingdom of God has come.” He gives the invitation, “Follow me!” And then sits on a hillside as his disciples gather around him, and the crowds gather around them and he begins to teach them (us)… More than that, he shows them (us)… This is the first of three clips of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Come Follow Me!’ (Matthew 5)
We have entered into Holy Week 2020 during a significant, challenging time in our world’s recent history. As we and our world continue to grapple with the reality of COVID-19, it is a call to prayer, fasting, and LAMENT for God’s people. On this coming Good Friday, we are joining churches around the world and the entire Christian Reformed denomination to a Day of Fasting and Prayer. Jesus once again shows us the way of LAMENT. Biblical Lament has four movements:
1st, CRY OUT to God: Why? How Long?
2nd, ASK GOD for what is needed: Petition Him!
3rd, Acknowledge and speak TRUST in God.
4th, make a VOW TO PRAISE.
I have attached a video demonstrating these movements of Biblical LAMENT, filmed and put together yesterday that embodies the prayer of LAMENT:
After watching the video, what is it that you are lamenting? For yourself? For the world? COVID-19 is bringing its share of lament, yet, there are many things to lament over. On the cross, Jesus quotes from a Psalm of Lament, Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He asks God to quench his thirst, “I am thirsty!” He speaks trust, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” He also voices trust in God even in his crucifixion to the point of death by saying, “It is finished!” For our Good Friday Worship Service, we will worship through the 7 words of Jesus from the cross. Full worship order and instructions for Good Friday service will come to you on Thursday. We are putting the finishing touches to the order of worship today and tomorrow. Know this with certainty and absolute confidence, God will have the last word in all things, and it has everything to do with Easter and God’s marvelous answer to all lament and brokenness – RESURRECTION!!! Sunday is coming!