“Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading – that is a good . . . life” Annie Dillard. That is so true! The following are my recommended top 10 picks from this past year: 1. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk This is a critical, important read for every one of us wrestling with discipleship in the church. Bessel van der Kolk , medical director of the Trauma Center in Boston and one of the foremost authorities on trauma in the world, offers innumerable insights on how to serve the increasing number of people in our churches stuck due to trauma. I continue to prayerfully read and study this book weekly. 2. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie This timely book gives us insight from the perspective of a Nigerian immigrant who comes. Read more.
In Stephen W. Smith’s recent book, Inside Job, he cites the Rule of Life Mother Teresa laid down for her nuns in their work among the sick and dying in Calcutta. It reads as follows: The Sisters shall spend 1 day in every week, 1 week in every month, 1 month in every year, 1 year in every 6 years in the Motherhouse, where in contemplation and penance together with solitude she can gather in the spiritual strength, which she might have used up in the service of the poor. (p. 344, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light) Imagine 1 Sabbath day every week, 1 Sabbath week every month, 1 Sabbath month every year, and 1 Sabbath year every 7 years. What I like best about this is 1 Sabbath week every month! Every one of us ministers among the sick and dying. Yet we consistently underestimate how much emotional/spiritual life is flowing out from us.. Read more.
The following is a story based on the life of Abba Anthony from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers that I have pondered for years: Abba Anthony received a letter from Emperor Constantine to visit him in Constantinople. He wondered if he should go and asked Abba Paul who said, “If you go, you will be called Anthony, but if you stay here (in the desert alone), you will be called Abba Anthony.” What makes this story so important is that it speaks to the inner anchor of a life rooted in the love of God. We assume our overactive spirituality is normal. It is not. In fact, our tendency to seize more and more opportunities for God has destroyed many a good leader. Innumerable demands and distractions confront every one of us. Doors of new opportunities swing open before us – to speak, to strategize for further expansion, to intervene in ministry problems,. Read more.
Just as Jesus lived in a relaxed, loving union with the Father, we are invited to a similar relationship with him. “If you remain in me as I remain in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He promises that if we do this, “fruit” always follows. Jesus doesn’t say that we cannot do things without him. He doesn’t say that we can’t lead or build a ministry without him. He does say that, unless these behaviors flow out of a relationship of loving union with him, they are worth nothing. I name God’s invitation to us loving union. Love captures the way we remain. Union speaks to the depth of the connection. It is helpful to think of the level of our loving union on a continuum that ranges from 1-10. Use the brief assessment that follows to get an idea of where you fall on. Read more.
We measure our attendance and our giving in our churches. Sadly, we don’t measure people’s transformation in Christ. (This is much more difficult). Genuine transformation takes place when people: Intentionally develop their own relationship with Jesus and do not live off the spirituality of others. Seek to discern and follow God’s will in all areas of life. Cultivate a deliberate rhythm and sustainable pace of life that enables them to be consistently attentive to Jesus. Grow in their ability to love well, evidenced by humility, vulnerability, approachability, and an increasing capacity to forgive. Live in community for the sake of their own formation and others. Bear witness to Jesus Christ in their workplaces and homes out of their own on-going transformation. Serve and give to others out of the overflow of their life in Christ. This is my short list. What other markers might you add?
Our marriages are meant to be our first ambition in life. When we marry we make a vow to love our spouse exclusively until we die. That vow informs every decision we will make the rest of our lives. When a man or woman take a monastic vow, they take years to move through a process that typically takes 6-8 years. First, they are observers, then postulants, and eventually novices. After that they take temporary vows, usually for two to three years, until they finally make permanent vows. At that point, they change their name, divest themselves of all their wealth, and commit to be part of a particular community the rest of their lives. Every decision they make from that point forward is informed by that vow. In the same way, if we are married, we have made a vow. That vow informs every decision we make. The pace of the church, and. Read more.