Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach


Ministry

Have you ever gotten overwhelmed by the demands of ministry? Maybe you have seen many needs, too many to meet with your time and resources. Maybe you think you are not fit for the job or task God has given you. Pretty much every job I’ve ever been in, aside from GAP, I panicked at some point and thought, “I’m not up to the task. There’s been a mistake. I’m not supposed to be here.” I was wrong. God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. That means that He has placed you there. When you feel the tension and you feel like there is more to do or more burdens than you can bear, remember He thinks you’re up to the task and He is using this to grow and change you.

Luke 9  shows us that Christ equips before He sends out. You may think you need x or y and you don’t have it, but He provides you with everything you truly need. II Peter 1:3  tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.

When I started writing this post last December, I saw how God was stretching me and remembered that He had custom built the trials for me because He knew I was up to the task. I saw at that time how those difficulties in my job were used by God to teach me how to respond when I saw needs I couldn’t meet. I recognized God was preparing me, although I didn’t know for what. I wrote at that time over 9 months ago, “God in His goodness is teaching me here and now. There will always be more needs than I can meet, especially if I am ever in a shepherding role be that teaching, a missionary, or a resident director” … Look at that. I’m an RD!!!!!! Yippee. When I started this post I didn’t even know if there would be a position open, let alone that I would be hired to fill one. I’m so thankful that the Lord equips us for the ministries He gives us. I need to remember this so that I don’t have that panicked moment in this job :).

At that same time last December, I saw God teaching me to be quick to listen and apt to take advice. Being a single girl in ministry is hard. I think it is even harder in my current role, so praise God He got me thinking about this almost a year ago. I can work work work and there is no one to say come home. This was an issue in my last job but thankfully I had people in my life saying, “Go home,” that I learned to listen to. I will need to continue to listen to them as they help me balance what it means to be in ministry as a single girl and how to think through the challenges of minsitry in general. I need to listen to them as they say, “Jenn, You may think that is best, but that is your opinion. It doesn’t make it best.”

Another apropos lesson God was teaching me last December was what it looks like to minister in a larger sphere. There are daily more and more opportunities that I see that I have to say no to. This is more true today than it was then. When my life was on an isolated little community in Israel with 40 students and 7 staff members with 7 kids, with limited mobility, and a centrally-located office where I lived in the same place as all my coworkers, friends, and the students I was ministering to I had more opportunities than I could take advantage of and more things I could possibly be doing than time to do them in. Last December I was working with 22 staff members, many of whom had spouses, there were 17 kids in our department, I went to a church of 600 and had more opportunities to get involved and interact with people there than at the Keilah (Congregation in Israel). There were around a thousand students I served. I had roommates, I have family in the area and I am only 5 1/2 hours away from the rest of my family. I have old friends within driving distance, I have new friends all around. All of these things are good, but that means I have to be willing to say no to good things for better things. All of these spheres of my life, church, friends, coworkers, etc. have grown leaps and bounds in my new role. I wrote about this lesson in the original draft, “God is so good and so wise to teach me this now. It makes me wonder what is ahead.” Haha. Now I know and I proclaim even louder “God was so good and wise to start teaching me that then.”

I’ve enjoyed going back through my drafts and considering these things which God was teaching me and which He is still causing me to think through or apply to daily life. I’m getting close to writing about my current life :).

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Reason # 41 TMC is Awesome!

Discipleship applies to all areas of life even shopping. I had a great day last Saturday with these girls.



A Conversation with My Grandmother

My grandmother is adorable. It’s been a while since my trip to Iowa, but I wanted to share my grandmother’s practical wisdom with you. My grandmother is a faithful servant, but she also has a clear understanding of her humanity and God’s divinity. She is 90-year-old former pastor’s wife with 7 kids, 17 grand kids, and now 21 great grand kids. Her friends told me that even though my grandpa is gone, she is still a faithful pastor’s wife. She regularly goes and visits people in the medical facility at her retirement home even though she herself is on oxygen 24/7 and has to use a motorized scooter to get around.

A couple of times while I was out there, I heard people say, “Now you take care, Hilda.” Her response was always, “That’s about all I can do.” She understands that she can’t do everything she once did even though there is more she would like to do, but she trusts God with the difference. She’s a faithful 90-year-old woman.

While I was there, I decided to ask my grandmother a few questions about life and ministry. This is some of what I learned:

Grandma out of all the places you and Grandpa ministered, which did you enjoy the most?

We like them all.

From talking to her kids who were in town as well, I found out there were extremely difficult situations at some of the churches, but my grandmother genuinely meant that she liked them all. I also found out that at almost everyone they had little to no money. They had seven kids on the salary of the pastor of a small church. At one point, I learned, they lived in the basement of a church member’s house for several months with 7 kids. My grandmother cooked on a camping stove the whole time.

Grandma, with 7 kids in 10 years. were you tired? How did you do that?

I’m sure I was but I didn’t think about it. It was life. There were things I wish I could have done better and times I wished I could have given the kids more but we just did the best with what we had.

She is precious. I love her and am so thankful for her example. May I measure success by my faithfulness and leave the rest to the Lord who has unlimited resources, perfect timing, perfect strength, perfect wisdom, and abundant grace.



Perfectionism, Guilt, and Social Settings

Enter friend #3 who was faithful to speak into my life. While chatting with a coworker/friend one day about how I thought I was antisocial, she said,

“Jenn, why do you feel like you don’t do well in social gatherings? How come you think you aren’t social?”

“I don’t know how to end conversations and I can’t talk to everyone in the room.”

“Do you have to talk to everyone in the room? Sometimes is it good to continue that conversation with that one person? I think you set up rules and standards for yourself.”

She was right. I did set up laws for myself. When I sets up rules, standards, and laws for myself and I failed, my law had been violated and now someone needed to pay or there needed to be some atonement. That left me with two options: punishment or run.



Perfectionism, Guilt, and Service

Within the last year, I found out that my perfectionist mentality didn’t only apply to schoolwork, but I had also applied it to serving others. My bosses wife at lunch one day said, “Jenn, it seems like you are always reevaluating your plans and changing them. You have this idealistic view of what you can get done. You have an idea of how you can serve your brother and take him dinner when you hang out and then you feel you have to do that. It’s okay to be in the middle and not do your grandest idea every time. You can pick something up instead of make dinner or you can let him buy you dinner if he wants to.”

She was right I was consumed with worries and fears, paralyzed by a sense of guilt. If there was a dish left out at home then I was being unloving to my roommates and I wasn’t being a faithful steward of belongings, but if I cleaned it and was a minute late to work, then I wasn’t being a faithful employee and there were things that needed to be done there. If my car was a mess, I was guilty. If there were papers I had not graded, even if I had not been idle but I had been fulfilling other responsibilities, I had failed. In my opinion, my car should be clean, my parts of the house immaculate, chores done, work perfect, homework timely and well-polished, I should be able to meet with anyone who wants to or who falls under my sphere of leadership, I should be able to help any need I see, I should never make a mistake, I should know everything at work, I should talk to my family regularly and be able to serve them in whatever way they need, if I have an idea of a way to serve someone I must do it and it must meet my standard or expectations. If I know someone needs a meal and I think of making Chicken Cordon Bleu, rice pilaf, Arugula and pear salad with homemade dressing, and Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake then I have to do that. When I think of a way to serve it doesn’t matter if I have the time or resources to do it; I must. I must tell you, this is no way to live. Self is a terrible task master. When you start trying to live to meet your own standards rather than God’s you will be miserable. When your standard is perfection and you fail, you will feel guilty.

This lesson primarily came into play this last summer as things were insanely crazy in the office and I crumbled under them. I thought I shouldn’t have to sleep. I should be able to provide everything everyone needed. I should be able to help everyone that needed help and solve everyone’s problems. I should be able to do everything without error. I should be able to contemplate everything that needs to be taken care of and I should have the strength, time, and resources to do it.

I had major role confusion. There is no doubt that there were tasks I needed to be faithful in and that things fell to me that shouldn’t have. There are some things that just need to get done. There are some things that it would be unloving to people to not administrate in a timely fashion. More came than I had planned. If I would have known, I wouldn’t have made commitments I did. I didn’t know. No one did, but God did and He used it to show me that phrases like “provide everything,” “help everyone,” “solve everyone’s problems,” “meet everyone’s needs,” “without
error,” “think of everything” are all phrases that can only be ascribed to Him. When I understand His role and my role I can act in faith and trust in Him. He provides the strength I need to do what He calls me to.

When I failed my unrealistic standards which confused God’s responsibilities with mine, I would speak the following phrases to myself: “I should have done that better.” “I can’t believe I can’t handle it all.” “What’s wrong with me?” “Why did I respond that way?” “I should just give up.” None of those attitudes or thoughts stand with the gospel. I am forgiven and I am adopted as a child. My identity is in Christ not in
whether I can control everything, do things perfectly, or how people perceive me. I’m not called to be everything to everyone. I’m not the one in control and I’m not supposed to be. At the end of the day there will be work left undone, that is a part of what it looks like to live in a fallen
world: Work will never be finished, things will break, and needs will be ever-present. When I understand my proper role and who God is, I can rest and trust. The anxiety, stress, and paralysis from fear come when I get those confused.



P.S.

I also love these girls and I am soooo glad and thankful they were born on this day as well.

 

Happy birthday, Caitlin! Miss you.

 

Happy birthday, Karrie. I'm so glad I get to celebrate with you this year.

 



Dependence

Our world and especially the American culture “thrives” on independence. “He pulled himself up by his boot straps” is a good thing. A common phrase we hear in college ministry is “You don’t know me.” We think we have a right for our sanctification to be private. We think we are called to not inconvenience anyone else. I know this may seem like two ideals I am speaking of, one hard work and the other rebellion, but really both of these phrases are evidence of a cultural posture of independence rather than dependence.

God has called us to be dependent, both on Him and on other people. We are not supposed to go it alone.

All of this was prompted by a question from my boss… “What are your favorite passages of Scripture dealing with dependence on God?”

I didn’t have an answer for him right then and told him I would have to think about it. He chuckled and teased saying, “Oh? So you don’t depend on God.” The truth is I’m so often trying to get done what I should be relying on God to do that I don’t recognize my lack of dependence or my need for Him and I don’t look to His Word for encouragement.

My answer half an hour later when I thought about it… Psalm 40, 46, 127; Isaiah 41 and Colossians 1.

What passages would you choose?