Friday, April 24, 2020

The Fruit of Self-Care

The Fruit of Self-Care

In our Living Your Word of the Year group we have been pondering weekly questions to help us connect with our word of the year in order to make it an active part of our lives. This week our question is:
How can you nurture your word with self-care this week?
We can thank Valerie Sjodin for these great weekly questions.  :)

My word for 2020 is fruit. The quote that describes my intention for selecting this word is by Dallas Willard:
"If you tend to the tree, the fruit will take care of itself."
For me, a large part of "tending to the tree" is about self-care practices. Fruit is the by-product of something else. Spiritually, it is the by-product of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. He enables us to position ourselves before the Father for transformation. Spiritual practices or disciplines help us in this positioning, they help us live the life of the Spirit.

Self-care can be a loaded term in some circles. Some may see it as selfish or being self-indulgent. Others may have the view that it is a time waster, something only those who have a lot of extra time on their hands can indulge in. Whatever your view of self-care may be, I hope you'll indulge me in sharing my thoughts on the subject. 

In my own journey, embracing self-care came out of a time in my life when I was experiencing burn-out. I had worked in ministry for quite a few years - the same ministry I work in now - and I was struggling with feeling worn out, having no energy, constantly emotional, and not seeing how I could continue to pour out myself in outreach ministry for much longer. I was running on empty and it felt like the only solution to my problem was to quit my job. I am not going to go too much into the details here, but I ended up not quitting my job, and over the course of a few years of reading, studying the Bible, and talking with a few trusted friends, I found the answer to my burn-out issues was in self-care.

One of my foundational passages of Scripture for self-care is Mark 12:28-31.
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” "
Jesus says that loving God and loving our neighbor/others are the most important commandments. Yet this verse also makes an assumption: that you are already loving yourself. Not loving yourself in an unhealthy manner that is self-absorbent or verges on narcissism, but in a manner that is healthy and good, and that out of that place you will love your neighbor/others in the same manner. To me loving yourself is about self-care. It's about taking care of yourself in ways that keep you healthy emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually so that you can be your best for others. Jesus modeled this when he withdrew and sought solitude, rest and time for prayer. He even did this at the expense of not serving others needs at times. He taught it and modeled it to His disciples. He was so in tune with His Father and the Father's will that he was able to discern when it was time for self-care and when it was time for caring for others. 

Over the past years I have used this verse as a guideline when determining my intentions or goals with my word for the year. Jesus is calling us to love God with our whole being:
  • With all our heart - this is our emotional health. Often burn-out has more to do with a loss of emotional energy than physical. So what habits and activities help restore my emotional energy? How can I make time for these activities in order to fill up what has been drained?
  • With all our soul - this is our spiritual health. How am I regularly drawing closer to God? What practices can I put into place that deepen my relationship with Him and that help create spiritual health?
  • With all my mind - this is our mental health. What am I doing to keep my brain healthy? How can I keep learning and growing? What practices need to be in place?
  • With all my strength - this is our physical health. Being physically healthy helps all of the other areas of our health. What practices do I need to put into place to eat well, to exercise, to insure good sleep? What practices do I need to eliminate that cause my body to be unhealthy?
The other passage for self-care that is important to me offers Jesus' prescription:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Self-care is about resting in Jesus and learning from Him. But that's a message for another day!

This week think about your intentions and goals for your word of the year and ponder this:
What am I doing to care for my heart? For my soul? For my mind? For my strength? What am I doing to grow healthier in these areas, so that I may love God with my whole being and love my neighbor/others well? 
(Complete with a pen slip-up!)

"When I stop and rest, I can fill up and that enables me to pour out." ~Sunshyne Gray

Join us in the Living Your Word Community
My friends Bernice Hopper, and Valerie Sjodin, and I share insights through blog posts for creatively living a word of the year. In our Facebook group, we encourage one another by posting questions and prompts to inspire living out a word focus, keeping a journal etc. It is a safe place to ask for prayer and support. If you would like to connect with others in creative ways about living your word, you can ask to join our Living Your Word of the Year 2020 by clicking on the link below.

Hashtag for Instagram:  #livingyourword2020
Check out their blogs:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Pilgrimage 3

Pilgrimage 3

Pilgrimage part 1 is here and part 2 here.

Almost a month ago the last gathering I attended before Coronavirus stopped our world was our church service. The day before that I spoke at our women's ministry brunch. I was asked to speak to the women about what outreach is from a biblical and a practical perspective. And what I shared there seems to connect with the pilgrimage theme I've shared over my past two blog posts as I have shared the journal I made last summer.

How might the theme of outreach connect with the theme of pilgrimage, you may be thinking. First, let's remember what the definition of pilgrimage is. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place; a spiritual journey; a holy expedition. It is often used as a metaphor for viewing our life in Christ as a spiritual journey, a journey of transformation. Our spiritual journey is to follow the ways of Christ.

In the New Testament we are reminded that "our citizenship is in heaven, And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20). So throughout the New Testament we are reminded that we are strangers, foreigners in this world, exiles. We are on a journey through this life, pilgrims on their way home. 

And so, I ended my last post this way: Living life as a pilgrim calls us to view all of our life as one who is on mission, on a journey, making us all missionaries, whether we travel abroad or stay in our home towns. It's a way of seeing this life through the eyes of an exile in a foreign land. Author Elliot Clark, in his book Evangelism as Exiles, puts it this way:

"In my experience, many missionaries - even volunteers on short-term ministry trips - tend to consciously approach every moment in relation to mission. They saturate their days in prayer. They consider the intended or unintended consequences of their mannerisms and behavior, being careful how they spend their money, how they dress, and how they interact with others. They demonstrate the utmost respect and honor for locals, even to people drastically different from them. They also view random encounters as God-ordained opportunities, so they purposefully speak with just about anyone about their faith."

God had a specific call on how His people were to live while in exile. Speaking to the Israelites in exile in Babylon, God spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah:
 "This is what the Lord Almighty. the God of Israel, says to all those carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons ad daughters. Increase n number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Jeremiah 29:4-7
 While in exile they are to do the things that create a life: make homes, produce food, marry, bear children, etc. But they are also called to seek the peace and prosperity (both words in Hebrew are shalom) of the city in which they live. They are to pray for it, for it to prosper (again shalom), and if the city prospers, then they will also prosper (shalom). 

So then, how are we as Christ-followers to live while we are in exile -while we are pilgrims in this world? We can use God's words to the Israelites as an example along with the words and life of Christ. We can follow in His ways and love our neighbors. On our pilgrimage we imitate the life and character of Christ. This is what growing in Christ's likeness is all about. Outreach is simply about reaching out to others, imitating Christ's incarnation. How do we imitate Jesus' life?

We go, we serve, we love. 

This was my message at the women's brunch:

We go because that is what Jesus did and that is what He called us to do. The incarnation is about Jesus coming into the world in human form. In John 6:38 Jesus tells us “I came down from heaven.”  He willingly left heaven and came to earth. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. (John 1:14) He left his rightful place beside the Father, with its comforts and privileges, and He came to earth, becoming a human, taking on the nature of a servant. We see this in Philippians 2:6-7 as well as other places throughout the New Testament. Why did He leave heaven and become a human? To reveal God to us. To show us in the flesh what God is like. And to bring redemption and salvation to the world. And He calls us to go and reveal God and show the world what God is like, revealing redemption and salvation through Him. Jesus’ great commission to His people begins with the word “Go”. As the Father sent the Son into the world, He then sends His followers into the world to continue His mission. We go, because Jesus did.

We then serve, because Jesus served. Jesus says in Mark 10:45, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was called to serve and His life shows many examples of this. He met people’s needs both physical and spiritual, all with the purpose of bringing glory to the Father. He served because it was the Father’s will. He served obediently, humbly, and sacrificially. And He calls us to the same kind of service.  Philippians 2:5 says we are to have the same attitude as Christ, then the rest of the passage shows us his humility, his obedience and servanthood. Earlier in the same passage Paul calls us to “consider others as better than ourselves” and to “look to others interests” as well as our own. These are Christ’s sacrificial, servant-like characteristics that we are called to imitate.

Finally, we love, because Jesus loved. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 “Be imitators of god, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” John continues Paul’s message in 1 John 4, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Love is sacrificial. Love is practical and active. Throughout the Bible we see God described as loving and compassionate, and then he acts toward His people according to this nature. Throughout the gospels it is recorded that Jesus had compassion on people, and that this compassion would move him to act -  healing, feeding, serving, meeting people’s needs. (See for example Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34)
Who are we called to love? Again we imitate Jesus. The scope of who we are called to love ranges from the world, who God so loved that he gave his son, to one another in the God’s family, our neighbors, and even our enemies. There are no exceptions to our call to love.

Imitating Jesus in reaching out to the world around us seems intimidating. But it is a call that we are given together, we have each other. And where God guides, He provides. We are a people of faith. We have to believe that when we faithfully care for what and who He calls us to, that He will then meet our needs. Just like with tithing, we serve trusting that He will take care of our needs. Returning to Mark 10:45 where Jesus tells us that He came to serve. This is not simply a call for us to imitate Him in serving, it is also a promise that He will serve us as well. God empowers us with His Spirit to do His will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

Thank you for joining me as I have explored the theme of Pilgrimage.