Category Archives: Pastors

A Rule of Life

Several years back I participated in a continuing education effort that introduced me to the idea of a rule of life. I did some reading around the origin of rules among the Early Church Fathers. I also joined a clergy group in visiting a Benedictine monastery where we learned more, first hand, about the Rule of St. Benedict. As a dyed in the wool Protestant – Baptist at that – these were new discoveries for me. But I found I was drawn to learn more.

St. Augustine is reported to have been among the first to develop and write out his rule for those whom he mentored and guided in the faith. St. Benedict developed what has become the most known of the monastic order rules. My copy of The Rule of St. Benedict in English is 96 pages long. It covers such things as praying the hours, guidelines for brothers living in communal quarters, and very practical things such as “restraint of speech”, “humility” and “hospitality”.

The idea of following a rule of life, that is a prescribed routine or set of guidelines by which you live; while it sounds restrictive, may actually bring freedom to one’s faith experience. By definition a “rule” is simply a voluntary means be which we, under God, take responsibility for our (spiritual) lives. I put spiritual in parenthesis because I’m not sure we should delineate that part of our life from the rest. Bottom line, a rule can bring order to your life and help you stay centered in Christ. It’s very structure can free you from the chaos and wanderings of an undisciplined life.

After the visit to the monastery and some further reading, I set out to write my own daily rule. In it I prescribed for myself a daily routine of spiritual practice, work, exercise and play, as well as family time and reading. It was an interesting experiment that helped me think about how a focused approach to daily life could organize one’s faith development. I’m not sure how long I stuck with that rule, but it was for a season.

Today, my rule of life is much more free flowing, though some of those very practices mentioned above are still part of the flow. Having anchors or routines in your life that call you to prayer, remind you to read, or bring you into faith community is healthy and helpful.

This Sunday I’ll be preaching on the rule of life that Jesus gives us Matthew 7:12:  In everything do to others as you would have them do to you. (NRSV) His rule is much easier to remember than the one I wrote, or the one the Benedictines live by. If only we all took it to heart, what a more organized, thoughtful and free world we would live in.

What is your rule of life?

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Gifted and Grateful – Part 2

If all that we have is a gift from God (Psalm 24:1a), including the gifts we each are given by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3&6); what is our proper response to this? I believe it is gratitude.  In Christ Jesus we are invited to live a life of gratitude – to “give thanks” in all circumstances (I Thes. 5:18). Do you do this?  It is easier written than accomplished, that is for sure.  But living a grateful life and practicing the basics of gratitude is something we can aspire toward.

In her book Grateful Diana Butler Bass suggests that gratitude can be both an emotional response and an intentional choice.   We feel grateful in response to things that happen in our lives.  That feeling leads us to want to express thanks and appreciation.  Much more than being a transaction of debt or duty, our gratitude comes from our response of having received a gift.  This gift may have come from a friend or family member, or from God.  We express gratitude in return as a natural expression of what we feel.

But gratitude, according to Bass, is also an ethic or choice.  We practice habits of gratitude (such as volunteering, giving, worshiping) that further instill a spirit of gratefulness in our being.  By making the choice of gratitude we begin to live a grateful life.  Gratitude then grows within us, as a part of our being, and is naturally expressed in our interactions with others, including God.

If we wait to engage gratitude when we feel like it, leaving it in the emotional response only category, the frequency with which it is expressed may suffer.  However, if gratefulness is cultivated as a practice – a daily choice – then it will become a more known quantity in our life.

I frequently engage in an ancient spiritual direction practice called the examen, or examination of conscience.  In this practice one collects all that has happened over a period of time – let’s say the past day – and reflects on it.  One of the questions I use in my practice of the examen is: “What am I grateful for?”  I will then list off those things, giving thanks for each of them.  I will also sometimes ask: “What am I not grateful for?”  Forming that list creates the opportunity to ask why, and consider if I might choose another response.  I bring this time of reflection to a close with a final question: “What, if anything, is God inviting me to do or be?”  That is, in response to my gratitude, or lack thereof, am I being directed, or re-directed, to respond in some way?

By practicing the examen I am making the effort to look at life through a lens of gratitude.  When I do, I am reminded of the many gifts I have been given.  Gifted and grateful are two fundamental actions of stewardship involved in the practice of faith.

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“Gifted & Grateful” – Part 1

I believe I first took a spiritual gift inventory nearly thirty years ago.  I discovered then, and have had it reconfirmed since, that my primary spiritual gifts are administration, leadership and teaching.  What are yours? Do you know?

Psalm 24:1a says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”.   I take this to mean all that we have in this life is a “gift” from God.  This includes not only our material possessions, but also the abilities we have been given.  The Apostle Paul writes about these abilities in the New Testament, calling them gifts from the Holy Spirit (See Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16 and I Peter 4:10-11).  These spiritual gifts, found in each follower of Jesus, are given for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ (the church), so that through the church we can be engaged in God’s mission. Continue reading

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Winding Down . . . Ramping Up

It has been my great privilege to be on a Sabbatical leave for three months during the summer of 2018.  I want to thank the First Baptist Church of Columbus, and the Lilly endowed Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations for making this time possible.

The theme of my time away has been “Framing a New Picture for Ministry” with one area of focus being photography.  So, I thought I would share a few of my favorite pictures from the travels and discoveries of the summer.  If you click on the picture you will often find a caption.

The first collage are photos taken in Scotland. 

Photos from Ireland

London Days

Canadian Rockies & Family Time

On My Own

It’s been a great summer with a couple of adventures yet to go.  Thanks for taking some time to look at my photography.

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Making Memories while Making Friends

Today while riding the park shuttle at Glacier my family and I experienced two Sabbatical encounters that reminded me of the fellowship inherent in the body of Christ.  The first came on our early morning trip up “Going to the Sun Road” as we chatted with our driver, Bruce.  We were part of a quiet and sleepy group of fifteen passengers that dwindled to nine (seven of them in our party) as persons departed the shuttle along the way.  Since we were going all the way to East Glacier to start our day, and since you never wake a sleeping baby (grandson Oliver having succumbed to the movement of the trip), we stayed in Bruce’s shuttle for the duration.  He was interested in our family and easy to talk with, so soon the facts came out: a pastor, on Sabbatical, with his family (yes, all of them), planning to do a short hike and enjoy the majesty of the scenery.  “Welcome to my office,” Bruce said as we rounded the corner to an especially awesome view.  “This never gets old” (the view that is  – and would I agree!).   Continue reading

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