Still Haven’t Leaned

When I first started this blog, I used to promise my non-existent readership that I would post something within the next day or so… which always, always, always ended up meaning that I wouldn’t post anything for several months. Clearly, I haven’t learned my lesson.

I’m starting to understand why writers can become frustrated. Not that I have any aspirations to being a writer, but from the outside looking in, it looks so easy. How hard can it be to sit down and bang out a few words every now and then? (Real writers and serious bloggers are cringing…) It’s actually nowhere near as simple as that. There’s making time to write, and then actually coming up with something worth writing. I wonder how some people do it.

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Days Attack

Read something Brilliant today (the quote, not the book):

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.

Boy, can I relate.

I’ve been focusing on a few school projects the past week or so. I’ll be back to more regular posting later this week.


Intentionality – the Spiritual Disciplines Post Part 2 – Commission

In Part 1, I talked about the first of the 3 Cs of spiritual development, Communion, which has to do with a person’s relationship with God. This embraces prayer, bible reading and study, meditation, fasting and singing. In this post I’m going to move on to talk about my progress in the second C, which has to do with a person’s contribution to the expansion and support of God’s kingdom…

Commission

Commission theoretically embraces all the spiritual gifts, but I’m going to focus on the one(s) that I seem to have been assigned.

What I planned about teaching

I may consider hosting a regular study session once a week in my home.  As time goes on, I will look for more teaching assignments in the Sunset congregation and beyond…

How I’m doing – I don’t think I’m doing badly here.  As I was preparing the plan that I’m referring to in this series, I gave recognition to the fact that right now I am in a position to learn, not teach.  The reality is that I’m in school right now, and everything else besides my relationship with God and my family needs to be subordinated to that.  However, I also can’t use school as an excuse to say that I’m not going to do anything extra-curricular.

So, do I teach – yes, whenever I can.  In addition to required preaching in school, I’m also doing home bible studies and sharing with my fellow classmates.  I haven’t gotten around to having that regular study session, but I believe it’s pretty well known among the class that I’m always available for help (at least if the amount of questions I get is any measure).

If you know me at all, you know I love to teach.  Especially bible, I could do it all day.  But there are other areas that are not as obvious that I am trying to work on.

What I said about administration/leadership

It’s often said that leaders need to have vision. That may be why I sometimes resist the idea of myself as a leader, because I am not a visionary.  What I can do, is figure out how to get from the current position to the vision – my gifts are administrative.

What I said about pastoring/shepherding

This is a difficult one for me…

How I’m doing – ok, you’re probably wondering where those last two fit in… it’s been strongly suggested, and I agree, that while teaching is clearly dominant for me, I also have strong inclinations toward administration/leadership and pastoring/shepherding.  I haven’t set goals for either of these, as part of my curriculum… but they are on my radar, and are being developed in time.  My library certainly reflects this.  But the focus is on teaching.

That brings up an interesting question.  Some think that you should figure out your dominant area of giftedness and focus only on that; others think it would be better to develop weaker areas to make yourself more well-rounded.  I can see benefits to both.

In any case, this is a timely reminder.  Teaching is going well, so I think I need to get a bit more intentional about at least one of my other areas of giftedness.  As always, the goal is to be as prepared as possible for the Master’s use.

What are your areas of gitedness?  (There’s a pretty good online survey here if you don’t already know.) How are you using those gifts to build up the kingdom? Do you think it makes more sense to focus on a single gift, or to try to make weaker gifts even stronger?


Addicted to Me…dia

There’s a very interesting (in a potentially glazed-eyes sort of way) post here from George Barna about media addiction. Some things that stood out to me:

[Kids under 18] now devote more time to media than to anything other than sleep.

Media use has run the gamut, going from an oddity to a common practice to a habit to an obsession to an addiction…

Though not mentioned specifically, I’m pretty sure that social media in particular is a driving force behind the trends. Yes, there are the valid observations that it helps connect with old friends, and is a useful tool for spreading information (like the gospel) to people you might not otherwise have access to. But I suspect part of it goes back to our need to feel significant. For some people there’s something attractive – and addictive – about the number of friends and followers you have. In any case, those are some pretty troubling statistics Barna brings out – enough to make me think seriously about my use of media and my family’s.

Full Disclosure: I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites that I can’t even remember. They’re fun, but I use them sparingly, and I haven’t personally seen any real benefit from any of them.

How does media, particularly social media, impact your life? What are some possible examples of “addiction” you see in yourself and others?


Intentionality – the Spiritual Disciplines Post Part 1 – Communion

We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach…

— Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Back to intentionality…

About 3 or 4 months ago, I formed a plan for my own spiritual development, as part of my school curriculum. Since I’m going through this series on Intentionality, I figure why reinvent invent the wheel? So I’ll just review my goals and see how I’m getting on with it… or not.

In class we used the 3 Cs model of spiritual growth – Communion, Commission, and Community. I’ll review my goals under each.  Since there are several components under each of these headings, I’ll do Communion here, and Commission and Community in follow-up posts.

Communion

What I Planned About Bible Reading

[My goal] is to go beyond the requirements of the class… I will try to spend at least 10 minutes in the morning and evening focused on a particular passage of scripture that relates to my current situation.

How I’m doing – This was going very well, right up until the holidays. Since the new year, school has been so busy that I almost always do only the required readings for school.  Mind you, that’s a lot of reading… but I set the goal to go beyond that, and I’ve let it slide.  I’m not too beat up about this one, because my required readings seem to be just what I need right now…

What I Planned About Meditation

My goal is to continue, strengthen, and engrain this practice into my routine…

How I’m doing – Again, the holidays.  I was getting away for a half hour most days before the New Year, and that just fell off.  I miss that, I’m picking it back up starting today.

What I Planned About Prayer

[The goal is] focused times of communion with God, that have been set aside for that purpose, rather than incidentally encountered… [my aim] is to pray [deliberately] first thing in the morning and in the evening, both for about a half hour.

How I’m doing – the morning prayer tends to work out.  The evening… not the best. Of course I pray throughout the day, as things arise, but the goal here is to be more deliberate.  This needs work.

What I Planned About Fasting

…to train my mind to view fasting as a response to various situations in life that is as appropriate as bible reading or prayer.

How I’m doing – I think I’m ok on this one.  I think fasting is very situational, and in the one situation where it came up recently, my response was to fast.

What I Planned About Singing

My desire is to go through an entire songbook and become… familiar with all the songs…

How I’m doing – I’m gonna run with this one a bit.  I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m all messed up when it comes to music.  I spent so much time being so close to the music of the world (let him that hath an ear, hear), that it sometimes seems like I *just* *can’t* get some of these songs out of my head.  I don’t walk around whistling the tune or anything, but sometimes something will happen that reminds me of a line from one of those songs, and before you know it I’ve ran through 2 verses in my mind.

*Ugh*

The goal of going through the songbook goes back to the principle of Luke 11:24-26:  bad things need to be replaced with good things; otherwise, they come back, probably worse. In my place, I’m trying to replace songs of the world with songs of the church.  So after all that, how’s it going? Pretty good, I think.  I pretty much don’t listen to secular music anymore, other than a few old favorites that have passed a rigorous screening process.  My “collection” of spiritual songs  isn’t huge, mainly because I find I don’t have much time for recreational music anymore.  When I do, it’s mainly in the car, and I listen to a lot of talk radio.  So, not bad…

Overall, how am I doing with communion?  God knows.  Despite all of the things I just mentioned, I’m coming to understand that relationship with God is about being more than doing.  To quote Foster again, “The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.”  If I just look at my performance next to my goals, I’d probably give myself somewhere between a 60 or 70 – and that’s only because I like myself, it’s probably far too high.

Thank God my relationship with God isn’t measured on a scale of 1 to 10.  (Don’t you just hate that question?)  Through my marriage, school experiences, and yes even my not-so-great-but-getting-better-every-day attempts at spiritual discipline, I’m growing closer to God in a more meaningful way than any time since I first named the name of Christ over 10 years ago.

How are you doing?


Update from Sunset – February 6, 2010

As always, time is flying… Bridget and I are now halfway through the 3rd term of our 1st year. God is doing so much in our lives. We are experiencing so many new things, and growing closer to Him day by day. This week we’re off of classes to do research, and I’m hoping to get a lot done in the next few days.

This term has been challenging in a different way than the past terms. The 1st term, of course, was when everything was new and there were a lot of adjustment issues. The 2nd term had the challenge of learning Greek – any language is a challenge for me. This term has it’s own things going on – they’ve introduced much more memory work, there’s a lot more pressure to manage time wisely since there are fewer assignments.

We’re keeping busy outside of class as well. We have a regular bible study set up with some friends whose door we knocked on one night. That’s been going on for a few months, and I think that we’re all growing as a result. Hopefully they will obey the gospel soon. Bridget and I were also asked to get involved with the youth group here at Sunset. I’m really looking forward to that. We’re trying to keep up with hospital visits as well.

Right now, our thoughts are on this coming summer. We are currently unsure of what we are going to be doing with our break, but there are a few opportunities to preach locally. What I’d really like to do though is find a place to do an internship for a short time. There’s something possibly going on there, too. We’ll see. It’ll depend on our support, so that’s a major consideration.

In the meantime, I’ve got lots to be getting on with here. This week I have to write a narration of the book of Acts memorize several chapters of the bible, complete a take home mid-term, complete several readings and assignments in Jude… and probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten.

As always, your prayers for us are greatly appreciated; we continue to pray for all of you as well. God bless you. d&b


Bermuda National Service Draft Plan

Dr Brown today released the PLP’s plan for the proposed National Service in Bermuda – coverage is here and here… the plan can be viewed and downloaded here.

The proposal raises a lot of interesting questions, in terms of nature, purpose and implementation – at least for me.

In the first place, is this program mandatory or voluntary? I think that the language of the Plan is needlessly ambiguous on this point. One example will do, from paragraph 7:

All persons who choose to commit to this programme must complete a requirement of 16 hours of service per month for a total period of two years in order to qualify for the benefits.

Does someone “choose to commit” (voluntary), or “must [they] complete a requirement” (mandatory)? There’s similar language throughout the plan, suggesting a voluntary plan one minute and a mandatory plan the next.

I think it’s clear that the plan is voluntary, if you read closely. The apparent “mandatory” references are the requirements to be recognized as having completed the program and collect whatever benefits go along with that. But IMO that just raises more questions.

The most obvious question is, why? Why does a national service need to be created to monitor volunteering? I have nothing but anecdotal evidence and experience to go on, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone who has done the research told me that volunteering in Bermuda is already high. But even if it isn’t, surely the goal of increased volunteering is better served by directly helping volunteer organizations in promotion and advertising than adding to the critical mass of the government bureaucracy with another department? I don’t see the value added of the government getting involved, unless maybe it has to do with the incentives.

A significant number of the proposed incentives would require buy-in from the private sector, such as breaks on bank loans, discounts with various retailers, etc. One possible benefit to a national scheme might be that the backing of the government could provide an incentive to the private sector to get on board with working with volunteers and volunteer organizations in a way that wouldn’t happen without some government intervention. I acknowledge the possibility, but I think it’s a stretch. Mainly because it’s unclear to me what is in it for the retailers and banks.

And then, what is the rationale for the specified age limits? For that matter, what are the age limits? Paragraph 4(a) says a register will be kept of volunteers aged 24-30; paragraph 6 says that anyone up to the age of 30 is eligible.

Assuming paragraph 6 is just badly written – or I just don’t get it – and the age is meant to be 24-30… again, why? I somewhat understand the upper limit, in that by the time you’re 30, you’re starting to get on with family and career (then again, if it’s a voluntary plan, why should this matter?); but why are 18-23 year-olds not eligible? I won’t go any further with the implications of this question, since I’m not even sure of these limits, but once again, more clarity is needed.

Then there is the question of incentivizing work done on a voluntary basis. This starts to get really semantical and theoretical, so I’ll just drop this in the form of a question without further comment: If one of the stated goals of the program is to “counter the feeling of entitlement” among Bermuda’s youth, what are the implications of offering incentives for doing what was once done without incentives?

And since we’re thinking about stated goals, what about the anti-social behavior side of the coin? What mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the resources of this program will be focused in a direction to impact at-risk youth? I don’t know of many volunteer organizations working with 42nd and Parkside.

Clearly, there are a lot of perplexing questions. Unfortunately this is made worse by the unclear language and intent of the plan, in several areas. These are my thoughts just on an initial reading. I look forward to hearing more detail in the coming days. The PLP has called for public submissions on the draft plan by 31 March (nationalservice@gov.bm). Hopefully this will generate some meaningful discussion.

Dr Brown and the PLP are to be applauded for recognizing the magnitude of the social issues facing Bermuda from the rising tide of gunplay and violence in the island. The need for volunteers to step into the lives of the young men and women involved, as well as their families, is tremendous. I hope that this is recognized by the pious as well as the political. The government and the church need to own responsibility for this problem.