Archive for the ‘community’ Category

The Stress of August

August 8, 2018

August is a stressful month for me. I’m a campus minister at three different schools. Each August there are a lot of things that need to be done. And they all need to be done three times. Three new student events to prepare for. Three campus club days. Posters to get ready. Rooms to reserve. Students to contact. Programs to plan. And then there are volunteers to round up. Snacks and meals to plan. And social media- Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and probably something I don’t even know about yet.

It is part of life on a campus that you never know with certainty, which of your students are coming back. Schedules change, living arrangements change, commitments to groups change. Problems with finances can prevent a student from returning. Poor grades can prevent a student from returning. Or a legal issue. Or a family situation. Students’ lives can be pretty unsettled.

So August is a stressful month. As the start of school gets closer I start to wonder if “old” students will return, if “new” students will participate. What if you have a campus ministry and no one shows up?

I don’t mean this to sound as if I am complaining. I’m not. I have a great job! And every job has it’s stressful times. Stress free live doesn’t really exist.

Fortunately, all this August stress is a kind of routine stress. I know it is coming. It happens every year. And so I can be ready. I can be attentive to my emotional and spiritual well being. I know what I need to do and while it doesn’t eliminate my stress, it reduces it to a manageable and maybe even a healthy level. (There’s nothing like deadlines to focus one’s self).

What I need to do, is stick to my regular practices and not skip them because I am “busy”, or “tired”, or whatever. For me that means morning and evening prayer using The Book of Common Worship. And it means some silence. And after these two things, I am able to ask for guidance and insight in a non anxious way. I can ask and then be able to hear an answer, a question, an insight.  That is a daily individual practice. Monthly I participate in spiritual direction.

But as I think about other spiritual practices, there are some things I do that are part of a group. I am part of a spiritual formation group which meets monthly. That group is a tremendous gift to me. It is a place where I can be honest and know I am loved and accepted. It is a place where others are honest about their own “stuff” and I can listen and support them in love and acceptance. It is pure gift.

And then there is the weekly book group. We do read and discuss books but we also talk about our lives, current events and we drink coffee. And we laugh. A lot. Our youngest member is 22 and the oldest is in their 70s (I think). Men and women. Members of my church and non members. People come when they can. If life gets busy or difficult and they can’t come for a while, we keep them on our email list and we are glad when they come back. There is not “Where have you been?”. We say “We’re so glad you’re back!”

Stress management for me is personal spiritual practices and some regular group events. Plus of course church nearly every Sunday. And books and cats and great kids.

How about you? What practices, spiritual or otherwise, do you do to manage stress?


Election Day

August 6, 2018

Fourteen states have primary elections in August. My state of Michigan’s is tomorrow. Voting is on my mind tonight.

When I was growing up my parents always voted. My mom waited until my dad got home from work and they went to the polls together. That made an impression on me. Later my mom was a poll worker, back in the day when ballots were hand counted.

As a citizen, I have always thought elections were important. But what should we do as Christians? Certainly various Christian public figures have had opinions. Denominations also have opinions about issues. And, as with everything else, there is not a consensus about Christians and voting.

Here’s what I think.

I think, as a Christian, I must use my vote to help the marginalized and the poor. When I consider my vote, on a referendum or for a candidate, I must consider what will benefit the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed the most. I need to consider the common good when I vote. I need to do my best to not harm others through my vote.

This means I may vote “against” my short term best interests. Is it right for me to vote for a proposal or a person who will lower my taxes if others are harmed by tax cuts? Should I vote for someone who will make it more difficult for people to receive assistance?

Democracies were not “invented” in Jesus’ time. We don’t have Biblical instructions for how to vote, just like we don’t have Biblical instructions for how to drive a car, or use social media. But that doesn’t mean we should vote without serious prayer and reflection.

We know Jesus cared about the poor and the sick and the hungry. We know Jesus valued peacemakers. (Reread the Sermon on the Mount -Matt 5-7 -before you vote.) The prophets tell us God’s vision for the world, where swords are turned into plows, where nations no longer train for war. (Isaiah 2:4)

Politics is talked about as if it is a bad thing these days. And if it is a bad thing, we have our rationale for ignoring it and no voting. But politics, at its best, is the way we work out how we are going to live together. Our word “Politics” comes from the Greek words for citizen and city.

Torah is about politics because it is about how Israel was to live together as a nation. Jesus is the fulfillment of Torah, its culmination. By looking at Jesus we see how we are to live together as πολῑ́της –polī́tēscitizen.

Who is my salvation for? Is it only for me? Or is my salvation tied into the life of the world?

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