Pastor Bryan's BlogCampus Pastor, North Oak
I recently read an article about hunger by Samuel Wells, a priest from the Church of England. He says there are two types of hunger: A hunger you can name and a hunger that doesn’t have a name. The hunger that you can name is easy–we hunger for food; our stomach tells us about that kind of hunger. But then what happens when we get home and the food we were longing to eat has run out? When we’re out of a job, we hunger for work. But what happens when we go on a job interview that we feel has gone really well, but then they hire someone else? What about the hunger when you’re single and you long for a partner, but you can’t seem to connect with anyone; you begin to wonder if you’ll be alone for the rest of your life. What about when you long with all your heart to have a baby, and you can’t get pregnant? This is the kind of hunger in our lives that we can name, and when we can’t get what we hunger for, it affects our whole life. This kind of hunger can be all consuming. Samuel Wells says hunger can “…transform your temper, your relationships, your patience, your clarity of thought, your whole character.” The inability to achieve the things we hunger for has the potential to wreck our lives.
But there is another kind of hunger, one that is deeper than the one that can be named. This kind of hunger has no simple solution…it doesn’t have a name, but it’s there. It’s there because many of us actually satisfy the kind of hunger that we can name yet still feel hungry for more. What is this hunger, and how can we satisfy it? Oftentimes we attempt to satisfy this unknown hunger by achieving…achieving a degree, a job, a partner, a house, a baby…and on and on. Looking to these things to satisfy that deeper hunger is the chase that many of us pursue. We chase and chase after these “things” to satisfy a hunger that can’t be satisfied.
Naming these two types of hunger can give us perspective on our lives. When we recognize what type of hunger we are experiencing, then we can better understand how to proceed.
What type of hunger are you most experiencing in your life right now?
Grace & Peace,
Do you ask questions? I once spent a lunch with someone who talked about themselves the entire time, never asking me one question. Actually, I have spent many a lunch or coffee with someone who doesn’t ask questions during our time together. These one-sided conversations are draining and not an experience that I want to repeat. Asking questions can be a great way to build a relationship with someone. Asking questions shows you’re interested in knowing more about what the person is saying. All relationships are based on trust, and asking questions can help build that trust. Jesus was a phenomenal question asker. Look at some of his most profound questions:
What are you looking for?
What do you want?
Who do you say that I am?
What do you want me to do for you?
Where are your accusers?
Would you like to get well?
Jesus knew the answers to these questions, yet he asked them anyway…why? Because Jesus knew how relationships worked, and he knew that asking great questions builds healthy relationships. The next time you’re at lunch or dinner with someone, ask questions and then listen…really listen to their response. The art of asking great questions is in listening then responding with a question that draws the conversation into more meaningful dialogue. I encourage you to give it a try and see if it doesn’t change the way you interact with people.
Grace & Peace,
Almost all New Year’s resolutions fail in the first few weeks; do you know why that is? For most of us, we attempt large sweeping changes like the ones listed in this meme…and that’s why our resolutions fail. When we make small incremental changes we’re able to stick to those amazing life changing resolutions we each desire. I found this article by a Clinical Psychologist, Joseph Luciana to be extremely helpful in navigating healthy ways to make the changes that lead to the abundant life God has waiting for us.
Grace & Peace,
One question that has been on the minds of many people this past year has been, where is God? Where is God when there is so much tragedy, loss, loneliness, harassment, racism, natural disasters, abuse of power, war, death, and brokenness in the world. It’s a legitimate question given that we experience these stories in our news feeds every day. So, where is God?
The season of Advent comprises the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ. What we learn about God during these four weeks of Advent is that God is always coming toward us. Where is God in the world, God joins us through the birth of his Son Jesus, right in the middle of the brokenness. And it’s through Christ that God is restoring the world and it’s up to us to decide if we’re going to be a part of helping God restore the world. There are plenty of people who seemingly are working to tear the world apart or to isolate themselves from the pain of the world, but what about repairing the world? The Hebrew word for this is tikkun olam, which means to repair the world. This is what God is up to through each one of us. Each one of us has been given gifts to be used to repair the world. The only way this happens is through Jesus, ultimately Jesus leads us by his example.
May we this Christmas season see Jesus’ work in the world by our own hands. By our own hands may we be part of the repair work that God is up to in this world. Do you have a story of repair?
Have you ever noticed in very large corporate boardrooms the tables are almost always rectangles? And most of the time the most prominent person in the company is put at the head of the table. Everyone turns to listen to what he or she has to say, often taking notes so they don’t forget the orders given. These rectangular tables reflect our desire to be in charge, to issue orders, and to have others follow them, doesn’t it? Many of us work tirelessly to one-day hold the position at the head of the table.
According to Arthurian legend, in 1155 King Arthur established the famed Round Table, around which he and his Knights would gather. As its name suggests, it had no head, implying that everyone who sat there had equal status. In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples began to argue over who would be the greatest among them–who would sit at the head of the table. When Jesus overheard them arguing, He replied, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” Luke 22:25-26.
Here Jesus is teaching us that our desire to be in charge and seated at the head of the rectangle table is misplaced. Our desire, which is given to us by God, should be to serve one another and not to be in charge of one another. This was not the only record of the disciples having an argument about who would be the greatest. Earlier in Luke 9:48, Jesus responds similarly by saying, “…Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
How much mental energy do we spend ranking ourselves with those around us? If we’re not the CEO of a company, how much time do we waste dreaming of being the “ONE” in charge? Jesus teaches that the desire to serve each other should be greater than our desire to be in charge. What if instead of spending our mental energy ranking ourselves with those around us, we spent that same energy serving each other?
As we seek to model our life after the life of Christ, may our desire to serve be greater than our desire to rank ourselves among those who–like us–are created in the image of God.
Grace & Peace.
A simple tangible way to serve others is through A Turning Point. A Turning Point is Good Shepherd’s non-profit arm committed to helping individuals in need in the Northland.
The Examen; A Lenten Reflection
I don’t necessarily enjoy going to the doctor. There are times when I get sick, and I must go to the doctor so that I can feel better, but that doesn’t mean I like it. As I get older all the experts say I need to make regular appointments with my doctor for a physical examination. Not because I feel bad, but for preventative measures. When I’m sick it’s easy to understand why I need an examination; it’s when I’m not sick that I struggle making an appointment just for a check-up. No one really enjoys being examined by a doctor. It’s uncomfortable, and you feel vulnerable, especially when you take off your clothes and sit there in one of those paper-thin gowns. All to have a doctor–whom you really don’t know very well–come into the room, get up close and personal, and “examine” you…awkward!
So, what does an uncomfortable doctor’s visit have to do with Lent? Well, for thousands of years Christians have used the season of Lent as a time to allow Christ to examine their hearts and lives. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. It’s a 40-day time period (excluding Sundays) that’s meant for us to pause and reflect on and examine our ways of living. Have we adopted a habit or pattern of living that is not life giving? In the history of Christianity this is called sin. In many ways opening up our lives to be examined by Christ is frightening. Much like sitting there in the paper gown at the doctor’s office, you feel vulnerable talking about the ways in which you know you fall short. This is what makes following Jesus so difficult. Most of us “feel” fine and may not be aware of hidden behaviors and practices that lead us away from being able to love God with our whole hearts.
Ignatius of Loyola understood this as well and came up with a simple Spiritual Exercise called the Examen. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Order of the Jesuits in the 1500s. He wrote a famous book called Spiritual Exercises, a simple set of meditations, prayers, and other mental exercises. He founded the practice called the Examen. He practiced this simple prayer and meditation at lunch and at the end of the day:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward the next few hours or day.
Even though examining our ways of living may not be the most exciting thing we do, it can be a way to free us from unwanted patterns and practices of living. If we can name the ways we fall short, then we can begin to do something about them.
My prayer for you is that you would add this simple spiritual practice into your daily routine as a way to allow Christ to examine your life.
Grace & Peace,