In 2013, I learned about ...
1. Priorities: We all know we should have priorities. Typically, we even know what our priorities should be. However, how many of us are actually consistent to live in accordance with our priorities? In a seminary class, a professor compared the trends for teenagers' greatest influences during specific eras in America. The change over the years is subtle, but interesting.
- 1960: Family, School, Friends, Church, Other
- 1980: Friends, Family, Media, School, Church
- 2005: Media, Friends, Family, School, Other
Although priorities differ from significant influences, often a list of influences parallels what is most important to us. I like to think I don't act like a teenager (even though apparently I just left adolescence, which current statistics say lasts from age 10 to 30! I was still in adolescence when I got married and had 2 kids).
All this to say, what are my main priorities?
For those who profess faith in Christ and follow him with their words and actions, the Lord is our first priority. He has called all Christians to love him with everything we have and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is easier said then done. So, though perhaps obvious, my first priority is to serve the Lord with my life. I've known this since I was 16, but am continuing to learn what it means.
Other priorities? Family. Friends. Church. Job. The most important lessons I've been learning this year involve how these various priorities overlap and interact.
When I started my first full-time job in June (right before I left adolescence, so I got that going for me), it was easy to want to jump in head first. However, what the Lord, Katherine, and others have continually reminded me is that when it comes to ministry (my job), family has to come first.
Our church had a youth ministry specialist, if you will, come speak in October. Part of his ministry focuses on missionary kids, who are now referred to as “Third Culture” kids. They don't belong to the culture of their parents' home country or to the country in which their parents minister, and so, they form a culture of their own. A third culture. It's interesting, when third culture kids get together, wherever they are, they feel like they are with their people.
Missionary kids tend to gauge their relationship to their life overseas in one of two ways. They're either really content and confident in who they are or, they are miserable. There's very little middle ground. It seems the most common denominator for the content ones is that they felt a part of their parents' ministry. These kids are more likely to be confident in who they are in Christ and with their place in life. However, if they perceived their presence to be a burden, not a priority, by their parents, then their experience produced the opposite results.
I think the same probably applies to pastor's kids, or anyone's kids for that matter. Katherine, Samara, and Hudson are my first ministry, my first ministry priority. I have to minister to them, love them, allow and encourage them to be a part of the Lord's ministry in my life in whatever way they feel most loved and involved. Whether this ends up being a lot or a little.
2. Inadequacy: This is a continual theme in my life and will continue to be. Jesus, the Son of God, said, “the Son [Jesus] can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees his father doing.”
At my ordination, we were blessed to have Katherine's home church pastor come and give a charge specifically to me. We were sitting in the front row when he stared down at me from the pulpit and said something along the lines of, “Mark, this is a higher and wonderful calling the Lord has given you, but with a higher calling comes greater judgment.” Ouch.
Let's step back a decade or so: In high school, the Lord converted me, and it was a fairly easy transition to being a Christian. I was always a good kid, so now, being in Christ gave me a reason for all the good things I already did. Now my good works were not about earning my salvation, but because I loved the Lord and wanted to serve him. The problem was (and continues to be, yet hopefully less so) that I wasn't really convicted of my sin. I never really understood my inadequacy before a holy and perfect God. I was a good kid so I thought I was close to a good God on my own merits even with faith in Christ.
Throughout high school and college, I thought I was pretty great. Yet, since being called to be a husband, father, and pastor, it's becoming clearer by the day how inadequate I am and how great he is. On my own I can do nothing good. In Christ all things are possible according to his will. This leads to my next reflection.
3. Deflectors: Around the time of our graduation, RTS' President, Dr. Kruger, on three separate occasions told a group of us, that ministry is going to be really hard. In more than ten years as a professor one type of consistent feedback he receives is ministers and missionaries telling him how hard ministry is. So, as we're all getting ready and excited to enter full-time ministry my President tells me three times it's going to be hard. Can't wait!
Honestly, I have few complaints thus far. In fact, this position has been pretty great. But, Jesus suffered in his ministry, and if we're called to follow Jesus and to be like him, suffering will come.
However, for now, we're called to be great deflectors. Ministry isn't about us. Even in the hard times, it's not about us. It never is. It never will be. All three gloomy speeches were coupled with a reminder to keep being deflectors. Want a visual picture of a deflector? It's like the moon is to the sun. The moon has no light of its own, but reflects the light of the sun. Like the moon, like John the Baptist (“He [Jesus] must become more, I must become less”), we are called to use ourselves to deflect others towards the one greater than us, Jesus Christ.
4. Pirates: I love historical non-fiction books. Recently, I read one that is basically the true story of the pirates of the Caribbean. Fascinating. However, whenever I read historical non-fictions I generally remember about one fact from the entire book. Here's one.
The instant the pirates finished building their massive sailboats shipworms would begin eating their hulls, and if not taken care of, the worms would literally cause the ship to sink. In the Caribbean there were often no proper ports to take care of the worms, so they'd drive their ships on shore and lean them against another shored ship. Then, after cleaning one side of the hulls of worms, they'd move the boat around to other side of the grounded boat to clean that side of worms as well. It was a grueling and tedious process.
Here's a second. Apparently, being on a ship was miserable, even the Royal Ships. If you've ever seen “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World,” they made sailing look awesome. Turns out, it was terrible. Especially for the pirates. Still, a very interesting read.
5. Transcontinental Railroad: Another non-fiction book I read since graduating seminary (after 3 ½ years of being told what to read) was on the Transcontinental Railroad. What an interesting time in our history and an amazing feat. In a western section of building the railroad, men had to bore through lots of mountains. The tallest peak with the longest tunnel was drilled into from both sides. It took painstakingly long, but when the two sides connected inside, they were within 2 inches of exactly where they meant to meet! How'd they do that without computers and sonar and everything we have today!? Amazing.
6. Blogs: My wife's blog is the best blog in our family.
Editors' Note: On #6, I think the author meant to say, "best blog in the whole world" but he could not be contacted to verify this typo. Therefore, the post was published as is.