Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Journaling... and Other Spiritual Disciplines

Gratitude Journal
1. The gift of reflection
2. The gift of insight
3. The gift of intrusion on my plans
4. The gift of different avenues to God's LOVE!
5. My history with journaling

New Living Translation

"If you do, the LORD's anger will burn against you. He will shut up the sky and hold back the rain, and the ground will fail to produce its harvests. Then you will quickly die in that good land the LORD is giving you." Deu. 11:17

Off and on since 1958 I have maintained a diary, journal, private written reflection, on my journey through life and changes on my path of faith. Like I said, off and on...

When clergy who are in crisis visit us at the Pastoral Institute for a week long sabbatical, we recommend they spend considerable time in quiet reflection. We hope they will not only address their current situation, but also both their past and their future hopes/dreams.

My own path has been a rocky road at times. I have been strict and very structured when it comes to the faith disciplines. I would spend hours reading the Bible, spend long periods alone praying, and all types of rules that I assumed would make me worthy and more acceptable to God.

Then along about five years ago, my approach took a sharp turn. I began to consider the possibility that I didn't have to be worthy. I didn't have to know all the rules in the Bible. It was not for me to figure the life of faith out in detail; it was more a real journey.

My occasional writings in a private journey have helped me tremendously. I have been able to 'get it out' - whatever it might have been at the time. Maybe anger, maybe confusion, maybe new insights...

But my writings have also provided an opportunity to see how I have changed in my trust of God and my faith walk. To be able to look back ten/twenty/thirty years or more and see how God has led me to new understandings, through times of trials and pain, to greater peace and hopefulness regarding God's movement. All these and more provide strength and challenge me to continue to reflect and write. Not for others, but for myself and hopefully my own growth toward Christ-likeness.

I highly recommend it. It doesn't have to be an expensive leather bound book. Just start out simple with a $.49 spiral notebook. Keep it in a safe, quiet area of your home. Give yourself a few extra minutes each day - same time, same place - to pause and write. Just allow a stream of consciousness to occur. Offer both your needs and your gratitude for the day, for life, and for your circumstances.

I invite dialogue regarding your progress.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

25 Years and Growing...

Gratitude Journal
1. The Pastoral Institute of Columbus, Georgia
2. Colleagues in good times and difficult times
3. Enriching and challenging daily tasks
4. Opportunity for expression and creativity
5. 25 years celebrated with family, friends, co-workers!

'I remembered my two favorite prayers: Help me, Help me, Help me, and Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.' Anne Lamontt

When I was a child I often heard of persons of my parents generation being employed with the same company for many, many years. It was not unheard of for some to receive special recognition in the local newspaper and a gold watch upon retirement after 50 years or more of service. However, the long term employee is almost a thing of the past.

It is reported that most young college grads today may have as many as eight or ten different professional positions before they retire. Mobility, the desire to be ones own boss, and ease of 'working from anywhere' as long as you have a computer, are becoming more common place.

There is something to be said about this new world we live in today. I take my hat off to those who have that flexibility and make choices to roll and move and change with the times! Such a life can bring new and creative opportunities for exciting possibilities in almost every field of work.

Yesterday (July 30) the Pastoral Institute recognized and celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversery of my employment. Ron King, Executive Director/CEO, also was fetted for completing his 25th year. It was a most joyous occasion. Having family and friends and co-workers to participate provided many joy-filled memories!

One of the richest 'blessings' of the day was when my good friend publically said of me, 'John is a life long learner.' (Thank you Stephen Muse!)

If anyone had predicted 25 years ago that I would still be a part of this wonderful organization after all these years, I would probably have laughed. I fully anticipated I would eventually move back to a pastorate or some church position or denominational post. However, I have been blessed to learn and grow and change and participate in the development of other ministers by staying right here.

To see a minister or staff person or clergy-family member or lay-person filled with joy and hope through some work we have done together has been most rewarding!

But even more basic has been the joy I have known within my own journey as I have been challenged to read and study and learn new things. While I may be haunted by the bittersweet reality I will not have time left to 'read all the books', I can say I do look forward to each new chapter ahead. For the foreseeable future I will be right here, continuing to relish the great blessing I have to be of ministry to ministers.

Backwards though it may seem, I hope I continue to remember in the hard times to pray: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You... what do You have to teach me, Lord? And in the good times: Help Me, Help Me, Help Me,Lord... to be open to learning something new and not rest in idle pridefulness!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When It Rains

Gratitude Journal
     1. Rainy days and Sundays
     2. Honesty
     3. Honesty, even when painful!
     4. Reconnecting with family
     5. Any time with grand kids...

"It rains on the just and the unjust..."

Recently, on our annual family reunion, it rained every day.  Some days there were just a few sprinkles.  On those days we were able to doge rain drops and get outside and have some fun.  On other days, we felt a little more trapped indoors with three little people.  Each seemed anxious to outdo the other with loud play or orders and directions toward one another.  Although the house was large, there was really no place to 'get away' from all the activity and sound.

There were moments of deep joy, as well as sadness.  Joy of being with folks we don't see often.  Joy of reconnecting and laughing together and making new memories.  Joy of watching the children grow before our eyes.  And sad moments also when we realized we had let one another down in some way or we could not erase painful experiences for those we love and care so much about, or when we remembered those who were not with us this year, for so many different reasons. Those moments were tough!

Rainy days.  That can be a metaphor for any day that seems to be stacked against us.  Moments when we really have no control.  Anxious moments when we wonder what will happen next.  Sad moments when things don't turn out according to our best plans or wishes or prayers.

Rainy days.  This can also be a wonderful time for quiet moments of introspection.  Moments when we ask ourselves what our will is as compared to God's Will.  To review our actions and reactions.  To dream of what might happen next... what doors may open or close before us.  Times when we can just sit together in silence and listen and watch blessings drop from heaven.

When we visit the rental cabin during the summer, I enjoy getting up early while the house is quiet. When all are asleep and there is no sound of T.V. or other distraction.  Listening to the quiet, I call it.  Some might say reflection, others contemplation.  What ever the title, I embrace the time as gift and offer thanks.  Rain brings growth to plants and provides nourishment to animals.  And it also brings renewal to the soul, if we will let it!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Where will the 'Cross' roads take us this year?

     1. Grateful for 'spring green'...
     2. Grandkids visits during Spring Break
     3. Young folks committed to living 'green'
     4. Two days of Coach Training, successfully completed!
     5. The POWER of Coaching to change lives.

In these days following EASTER, we often fall back into old routines and habits.  The joy of the celebration we shared seems to dull in a short time.  How do we stay the course?  What can guide our path during the days ahead?

I heard an EASTER reflections from some radio preacher that briefly mentioned the term 'cross' roads.  For some reason, it struck a cord with me this time, that had not been struck before...  Most often I am reminded of a friends faith community that is called the Crossroads Church.  And I simply think of the building's location at the country cross roads where it has stood for years.

However, this time 'cross' roads meant for me the roads I might traverse in days following the big day of EASTER. 

Our Catholic brethren honor the cross which always displays the crucified Christ.  Most protestants honor the cross, but their symbol is empty.  When pressed to discuss the difference, clergy in main line churches may say that they worship the risen Christ and it is hard to display a symbol of an empty tomb. 

It might be a worthy goal for Christians to consider naming their path - the 'cross' roads...  Roads that lead us away from the tomb and toward service and the joy of our faith.  What will your 'cross' roads be today - this week - this month - throughout the year ahead?  I pray that I will remember this simple term and embrace the challenge that Christ still sheds light on our path and if we dedicate that path back to God in humble service - they can become true 'CROSS ROADS'!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Life Well Lived... A Lenten Reflection

Gratitude Journal 2-14-13
    1. Ruth Elizabeth Adcock - GRANDMA
    3. Grand kids - new discoveries each day!
    4. New Home for OSCAR - (more later...)
    5. 25 years at the P.I.

Our beloved grandma - Ruth Elizabeth Adcock - lies near death at the local hospice house.  She suffered a massive stroke early Monday morning.  She has indeed 'fought a good fight and kept the faith'.  She has embodied a well lived life!

She has been fondly known as 'grandma' or 'Aunt Beth' by all.  She has been my mother-in-law for over 46 years.  She will be celebrated as the mom of two - grandmother to three and great-grandma six.  She worked for SEARS as a bookkeeper for many years and was actually born in Florida 94 years ago.  (Most seniors now living there we not born there!).  She lived most of her life in West Palm Beach, Florida.  She was married to George.

Now we wait.  Now we reflect.  Now we remember... 

This is the season of LENT - a time to 'give up' or 'sacriface' something as a gentle, everyday reminder of God's grace and mercy for us, and universal love for the world and all creation.  As we prepare to 'give up' grandma to God's loving care eternally, we give thanks for the gift of her life, her faithfulness to family and to her God and her love for family and friend alike.  Her humor could blind-side you and her hospitality was legendary. 

Some might say this reflection is 'pre-mature' while grand-ma is still with us... but she is here in body only.  We/she has been blessed that her final chapter appears to be so pain free.  Her transition is peaceful.  What a gift for all those who love her during this most blessed season of the Christian year. 

Thank You God for your love - shared through this wife, mother, grand-mother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister-in-law, and beloved friend.


Monday, December 31, 2012

What's So NEW About 2013?

Gratitude Journal - January 1, 2013
1. Down time - even 'forced' vacation time...
2. These particular "HOLY"-days!
3. Spending quality time with grand-kids
4. Beth making home-made cookies
5. Tail lights leaving the drive-way... bittersweet!!!

Think about it.  Literally everyone - myself included - seems to be bent on wishing you a Happy NEW Year!  The more I ponder those words, I wonder what we mean when we repeat this oft heard phrase to one another?  What is so NEW about this year?

There is indeed a turn of the page on our old paper calendars.  But while this year starts on Tuesday, every week of the year has a Tuesday.  What is NEW about that?  We still have to prepare for work, pay bills, do laundry, eat food - even if we do 'start to diet'...  We continue to have kids in school, same relatives in nursing homes, homes to maintain, even same houses of worship to attend.  So what is so NEW about a year? 

Studies indicate that most of those who make 'resolutions' soon break them.  No matter what the good intent might be - exercise, diet, sleep, quality time with our mate, staying in touch with friends/relatives on a more consistent basis, etc. Most of these 'commitments' go out the window in a very short amount of time!

So maybe we need to recognize that there really isn't much NEW under the sun! (someone famous said that before I...)  But before we get depressed and throw all our grand intentions out, maybe we should really revisit what it is we are looking forward to and/or anticipate when we say, HAPPY NEW YEAR. 

I believe deep within all of us there is a desire to start over.  To try once again to 'get it right'.  To make up for mistakes we have made or clean up some mess that continues to hand around, no matter how hard we wish otherwise...  So - maybe, just maybe - it is the anticipation of a more hope-filled moment to occur on our path!

I for one need disparately to start all over, beginning with my attitude toward those who have hurt me.  Whether it was intentional or just in oversight or blindness to my need, others do inflict pain and I naturally want to get back at them.  Or I want to see the suffering others cause me and omit my own participation in a wounded relationship. Or maybe I am too much self-centered on my own pain and don't see the burdens others are dealing with...

God blesses each of us with the start of each NEW day - whether it begins some NEW month on a calendar or not.  With each breathe we are granted NEW hope to start over.  NEW opportunities to accept the GRACE we don't deserve, to open our hearts and lives to God's love for us.  No matter how old I get or how many NEW year's come along, God grant me to eyes to see and ears to hear that NEWNESS is something all around me and available to me each and every day...  I need not wait 12 more months to start over again!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Pressure to take a vacation...

Pressure to take a vacation...

Over this past year I have been extremely busy.  I have been assisting clergy and congregations in addressing obstacles standing in the way of a more fruitful ministry.  It has been exciting, challenging, fulfilling, joyful and at times anxiety producing!  It has never been dull.

Although I have taken some time away for a break with my wife, kids and grands, I have not 'used up' all my vacation days.  So now at the end of the year I am have created another 'pressure' for myself.  Either find a way to use the days OR I will loose them. 

So I recently looked over the calendar and carved out almost three weeks of 'down-time'.  Beth (my wife) indicates that there won't be much 'down' about it - ha.  But I do hope and plan to set aside some private time for reflection during Advent and prepare my heart more for the gifts God has in store. 

I pray for a peaceful heart and thereby peaceful relationships with all those I come in contact with this year.  I pray for a hopefulness to fill my mind, so that I may share positive hope with anxious persons around me.
I pray for gracefulness with myself, in hopes that I will be graceful toward those who are hard and bitter.
I pray for joy to radiate from my life, particularly for those filled with sadness and pain, so they might be restored.
And finally I pray for LOVE - God's love for all! 

May it be so Lord, may it be so...