What do I do with all this “stuff” I feel inside?

A Helpful Resource
Several in my circles have found this article on “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” very helpful.

Generally, the Western world is one that does not permit grief well or know what to do with it. We hold grief at arms length. We tell ourselves to buck up and get on with life. Alas, this open-ended uncertainty we are living with compounded by the speed and complexity at which it came at us has been profoundly jarring.

After reading the above linked article, I’d encourage you to spend a little time reflecting on the various stages of grief as outline.d….

….With Some Caveats
God gave us the gift of grief. As such it is not meant to be navigated on our now. The article comes from the angle that we are to manage our grief and to keep trying harder if we get stuck.

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ART: Scott Erickson, scottericksonart.com

The Holy Week we have begun is in direct opposition to this philosophy. Our God is not a God who holds himself  aloof from our pain and suffering lobbing love bombs down from a safe distance once in a while to cheer us up.

 

Jesus deliberately walked directly into our confusion, pain, darkness, uncertainty and suffering. Here is an excellent sermon on this (actually a short homily for this virtual service). If you are not Anglican, please don’t let the pastor’s garb freak you out. The message is profoundly Biblical and comforting.

Some Principles on Gospel-Oriented Grief
First of all, God does not expect us to source compassion and wisdom on our own. He is the source of all we need. The article provides excellent emotional dynamics to be aware of and some helpful steps toward awareness. Begin by asking the Spirit to be present with you. Ask him to bring to your awareness what is going on inside you. 

Second, invite Jesus into what has been made aware to you. The opportunity is to have Jesus companion you not only through Holy Week but through this confounding pandemic. The goal is not to fix it. The opportunity is to grow in awareness of the “breadth, length, height and depth of His love (Ephesians 3).” We are all reluctant travelers. I’d be happy to avoid Holy Week let alone a global pandemic. The Spirit will grant us grace to walk with Jesus in these days.

Third, invite others in. All of us need someplace to process our story. All of us do. pastors, mentors, counselors, spiritual directors, older saints, and wise friends are God’s provision for community – even if virtual is as good as it gets for the time. Social Distancing is not meant to be isolating. Ask others if you can talk and process what you have been shown. If you are concerned at the level of anxiety you are experiencing or wondering about depression, then seek a recommended clinician to help assess.

Receive the Time Afforded
That time you would have spent commuting….use that for more time to pray and read the Word.

And rest! All this stress and uncertainty is exhausting.

Limit the amount of time you are on a screen of any type. But you already know this……

I’d love to know how you are being led and provided for by the Lord in these days of multi-layered loss and grief. 

May the Spirit grant you the grace to follow Jesus where he leads you in this Holy Week and the prolonged season of uncertainty beyond!

 

 

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When You Don’t Have Words to Pray

imagesHow does one pray for all the stories and concerns that flood our way in today’s environment? Sometimes, we just don’t know how. We run out of words….

Here are some beautiful prayers from the Book of Common Prayer (ACNA 2019) that you might find helpful. I find them remindful – of the gospel reality that Father, Son, and Spirit are always present and at work and that he invites us to receive of his love and goodness by crying out to him in times of need.

Here are a a few examples:

50. FOR THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONS

Almighty God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people: Continue in our hospitals his gracious work among us [especially in __________]; console and heal the sick; grant to the physicians, nurses, and assisting staff wisdom and skill, diligence and patience; prosper their work, O Lord, and send down your blessing upon all who serve the suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

80. FOR TRUSTFULNESS IN TIMES OF WORRY AND ANXIETY

Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  1. FOR QUIET CONFIDENCE

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray to you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  1. IN TIMES OF SUFFERING OR WEAKNESS

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: I hold up all my weakness to your strength, my failure to your faithfulness, my sinfulness to your perfection, my loneliness to your compassion, my little pains to your great agony on the Cross. I pray that you will cleanse me, strengthen me, guide me, so that in all ways my life may be lived as you would have it lived, without cowardice and for you alone. Show me how to live in true humility, true contrition, and true love. Amen.

I have attached a .pdf with a collection of such prayers for special occasions.

Occasional Prayers from the ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019

You can download the entire BCP 2019 here for free.

May the Lord grant you peace and a deepening awareness of Him drawing all of your life into His love and care.

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A Gospel Grammar

Grammar School

Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 11.55.08 AM A common response to being made aware of one’s short-comings or being faced with threat is to try harder. We double down. In the times of our greatest need, we are tempted to turn in on ourselves for resolve to overcome.

That is not a gospel response.

This is all too common of a response in life. Let me provide a typical example. When I read on spiritual growth, too often I am cast back upon myself. What does this look like? I (subject) walk away with a list of things I am to do (verb) that will cause God (object) to transform me…..or something like that.   That is not the gospel (this is actually a form of Pelagianism which teaches we can be and do better by our own efforts apart from God’s grace).

Back to gospel grammar school for me….

A Gospel Grammar*

A basic sentence has a subject, a verb and an object.

So what is a gospel grammar?

God is always the subject.

God’s redemptive activity is the verb.

All creation, human kind supremely, is the object.

This provides us our ingredients for a gospel orientation for our grammar:                       What God has done, is doing, and will do on behalf of all creation. Creation, including us, is in a receptive and responsive posture.

This grammar is crucial in our teaching, writing, story telling, and shepherding.

An Example of Gospel Grammar in Action

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One of my colleagues found a wonderful, old (1970’s!) interview of James Torrence. The entire interview is 20+ minutes long. But fast forward to 17:30 and listen to the sweet story Torrence tells of caring for a man desperately in need. Torrence shepherds him to the reality of the Father, Son and Spirit and the gospel reality we are gathered into. Go ahead and take a moment to watch this short clip (it will open in a separate tab).

What a sweet story of pastoral kindness oriented around the gospel of our Lord! This story is also recorded as the opening of chapter 2 in his book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (which is worth the read). Note how Torrence did not “throw the man back upon himself” in  his time of deep need and profound spiritual inability.  He related to the man from a Trinitarian, Christ-centered starting point. It is the gospel grammar in action. Beautiful. Torrence provides us a model for gospel orientation in caring for others. And to responding to ourselves in seasons of uncertainty (of which we find ourselves in today).

Shepherding with a Gospel Grammar

God is always previous.

He is there before we arrive. He has been working before we are aware of it.

He is always the subject. He is always acting on our behalf, on behalf of the entire world.

We are always being moved towards, invited in, wooed. Ours is always a response to his primary loving and faithful pursuit. Always.

Each of us knows others, even ourselves, who resemble the man on the beach.  How is Jesus graciously teaching you to not throw yourself back upon yourself with doubling down determination? How is he teaching you to not throw others back upon themselves in a time of need?

God invites us to rest in his provident care and reflect that in our pastoral-grammar to others and ourselves.

Take the gospel grammar test: Pay attention to how you order your statements over the coming weeks. I’d love to hear what you notice.

 

*Credit goes to Vicar Ken Robertson at International Anglican Church, Colorado Springs, CO for introducing me to this gospel orientational in one’s grammar.

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Resource: Axis and Raising Gen Z Summit

I have just been made aware of a fascinating organization called Axis (Kudos to my colleague Renee).
Axis’ mission from their website:
We build lifelong faith by helping parents and caring adults talk with their kids about what they otherwise wouldn’t one conversation at a time.
Axis is hosting a free summit starting Feb 14 with numerous speakers addressing topics such as social media, mentorship, gender issues, image issues, etc.  A number of the speakers are well known such as Tim Keller, David Platt, Ravi Zacharias, and Joni Earekson Tada.  Did I mention its free??!!  You can watch when it is convenient,  you just need to register for it.
Check it out:   Raising Gen Z Summit
Please pass this on to workers you know globally – this is a tremendous resource.
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2019 Reads List

Here is a list of some of my reads from 2019.IMG_1437

Please feel free to share and please share some of your recent favorite reads.

Peace

Scott

2019 Reads List

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Conformed to the Image of Christ. What is it All About?

How does the gospel play into being conformed to the image of Christ? Are we conformed by our efforts of study and prayer and other works? If we fail, do we simply have to confess our failure then double down and try harder next time? What is God after in us anyway?

What Conformed is Not Primarily…
Conformed is not primarily about character, our behaviors. It involves this, but this is not what conformed to the image of Christ is primarily concerned with.

Conformed is also not primarily concerned with mission, what we do for God. Service to God and others is crucial, but it is not the first concern.

So what is the first concern?

Perfected in the Father’s Love (I John 4:7-19)
In a word, conformed is about relationship. We are perfected in the Father’s love.

Being conformed is primarily concerned with growing in the Father’s love in Christ. Communion first. Then comes the other elements mentioned above as corollary. As we grow in deeper communion, our character is radically changed. And we are immersed in his love, just as his Son was, we, also like his Son, willingly lay our lives down for his purposes. We sacrificially serve God and others. But first things first…

It’s not about trying harder. God is not impatiently waiting until we get our act together.

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Attached is the recording of a plenary session given at the PTM Conference October 2019.  Take some time to listen to the session. I have also attached a .pdf of the slides that accompany the talk.

I’d love to hear your feedback. And feel free to pass it along to others.

Conformed PTM Plenary 2019

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New Podcast Resource on Resilience

Antioch Church in Waco, TX (USA) has begun a new podcast around the topic of resilience for field workers. Here is their description:

Screen Shot 2019-10-09 at 6.28.35 AM“Have you ever wondered what keeps some missionaries on the field for ages? Is it stubbornness or is there more? Researchers are discovering that certain clusters of qualities together make some people more resilient than others. “Resiliency” is a Member Care podcast that takes a dive into the world of grit and stretch-ability to help us better understand and grow in our ability to go through difficulties and come out on the other side better and stronger. Join co-hosts Silas West and Steve Findley in their conversations about resiliency with experts, field workers and those who support them.”

They have two podcasts released with more on the slate. I was interviewed on the topic of personal suffering for the series second episode. You can listen to any of the episodes on either Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Silas West  and Steve Findley are putting out an exciting and encouraging resource. Please pass this onto your networks, particularly those on the frontlines globally.

 

 

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Settling into Patience

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I was in a Woods, thickety in places….It was impossible to hurry there;                               And I settled myself into Patience….“*

Life is indeed very “thickety in places.” What I forget is to “settled myself into patience.” This poetic reminder from Wendell Berry is keenly wise.

Steadfast Knowing
James instructs us in navigating the thickets:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.

You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:7-11

Examples
James’ word to us is to settle into patience as we experience many hardships in this world. Suffering, trials, and adversities are the norm.  What is not the norm, is a Jesus-way response to such dark times.

IMG_3553James provides three examples:

Farming  is much about waiting. Waiting for the right season; waiting for rain; waiting for the miraculous sprouting of seeds that have died in darkness of the soil; waiting to receive the harvest. Patience and receiptivity are key postures. Every good gift we receive from the Father above (James 1:17; Isaiah 28:23-29).

The prophets are examples of suffering and patience. They spoke the word to audiences that seldom listened. Rather they usually were responded to with murderous intent. Steadfastness – firm, unmoving, resolute; In the end, blessed.

Job is the oft referred example of horrific suffering. Mystery abounds in his story. But this we know: the Lord is good and his end intentions towards us are always merciful and compassionate.

Settled Responses
One indicator that we are NOT settled into a proper perspective is when we get grumbling and judgmental of others. How is it that the people of a compassionate and merciful God are oft regarded as critical, standoffish and judgmental? Our expectations are misplaced. In this world you will have hardships (John 16:33). Grumbling is symptomatic of an unestablished heart.

So James gives us a reference point upon which to fix our spiritual GPS. Its out over the horizon of time. “When” is unknown. The end point is not that moment in this life when we finally bust out of the thickety woods into a clear, luscious pasture. No, the fixed point is a “Who.” We don’t watch for relief, we watch for a Person. Jesus.

Then the briar will finally be removed from the flesh of the earth and the soil of our own hearts will be remade. This is Jesus’ work. Ours is to wait upon him, “established in our hearts.” We remain dependent with a fixed gaze upon him.

Please, Don’t Just Try Harder
This is not about “figuring  it out” or “trying harder” – two auto-responses of our self-determined ways. No, that will not do. That is NOT the Gospel. We, like the farmer’s fields, receive. Jesus turns us toward himself. He immerses us in his Gospel reality through his Word. The Spirit shapes us as the Father fathers us. We receive as we patiently, steadfastly, with established hearts wait.

Settle into patience, sisters and brothers. Its thickety up ahead.

 

*Wendell Berry in Jaber Crow, p. 89.

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