Below is an excerpt from Helen's current book project that she has been gracious enough to share with us. Enjoy!
Most of us look at our reflections in mirrors all day long--even after that first sleepy morning look into the bathroom mirror. We look at mirrors that were given to us by our parents or our teachers, our bosses and siblings. We carry these mirrors into our relationships, our work places and our faith communities. Usually the first mirror that comes to mind is the one that shows off our flaws, our imperfections, even our habitual sins. The look of that mirror encourages us to mask everything that does not feel right; or begin on a self-improvement plan to find the perfect self; or simply to give up and accept that we are defined by the things that are not right about the way we look, or act, what we know or how we feel about ourselves or others.
However, each of us has been given another mirror. It is the mirror that we received from a loving grandmother or nurturing parent, a favorite teacher, a close friend, or a pastor. When my pastor sat down alongside my hospital bed when I was an angry twelve year old, he had every reason to resent having to visit me, or at the very least, pity me. But instead he offered another mirror that gave me a picture of myself I might have missed altogether. When he offered me that view of myself--he blessed me. What he saw was someone who was bright and intelligent. While others brought stuffed animals to comfort me, he brought me books to challenge me. What he saw was a glimpse of a woman that I had not yet met, the person God created me to become. Through his eyes of blessing, I caught a glimpse of her as well.
Just for a moment now to lay down the first view that shows each blemish, and pick up this mirror that sees another side of who you truly are. The look of blessing offers you a glimpse not only of what is but leans into what might be. It is clear-eyed enough to see what is wrong, but it always highlights the gift that you are, the image of God that might be tarnished but is right there in plain sight in your own life.
Looking at yourself in the lens of those who love you best—what do you see? Do you see your loving nature, your sense of humor, your bright intelligence, your generosity, your gift of healing or teaching or listening? Sometimes the look of blessing reveals the more hidden fruits of the spirit—a genuine affection for others, or an exuberance about life; a serenity of spirit or a willingness to stick with things; perhaps a sense of compassion, a conviction that a basic holiness permeates all things, loyalty to your commitments, or an ability to direct your energies wisely and not force your way in life. (Galatians 5:22-26 The Message)
The more we look through the mirror that magnifies our fears, our inadequacies, our unattractive features, and even our outright sin, the further we are from the look of blessing. Perhaps that mirror’s view began as an almost casual, seemingly innocent assumption that you were the silly one, or the less pretty, not as athletic, or as smart or as good as someone else. Comparison seems often to be bred into the bone of each of us until we find ourselves trapped by the way we look in relation to others and not who we were created to be in Christ. When we spend our time looking to the right or the left, it is ourselves that ends up in the center—and striving to be better than someone else, we become completely self-centered. And there is little opportunity for God to speak not only truth into our lives, but God’s own longing that we might live into all what he hoped for us all along.
Each of us has the same choice to receive the look of blessing from God—or not. And we also have the choice to offer the look of blessing. The choices come in our churches, in our homes, in our offices and in our schoolrooms. They happen every day with church members and family, with classmates and friends, with strangers and even with enemies. We can choose to bless—or not. Cursing or blessing—the choice is ours but let’s be clear that one leads us toward God’s love and peace and hope; the other choice leads us away from that same Presence.
Because my mother continued to live in the small Wisconsin community where I grew up, I continued to see my former pastor even after he had retired from the church of my childhood. Those meetings were always filled with the same look of love and blessing that he offered to me so many years ago. Toward the end of his life, he was having dinner with his wife at the restaurant where my mother and I were just being seated. By then I was a minister, a wife, and mother of three children. When he saw me my pastor friend came over to greet me. A tall man, he stood behind me, placed his hands on my shoulders, leaned his long frame over me, and asked, “How’s the Reverend Mother?”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Project 51 is one if the results of the latest research coming out of Fuller seminary and PARENTEEN, a non-profit who seeks to address the issues of the family and to help young people mature into Christian adults who remain connected to their church communities into adulthood.
The basic premise behind it is this: In order to significantly raise the chances that we will help usher young people through adolescence and into Christian maturity within the church, we need to create a network of supporters for each student we have the opportunity to care for; that network requires a 5:1 ratio (adults to students) and can be coaches, teachers, youth pastors, elders, parents, grandparents - anyone willing to make an intentional, significant investment in the lives of young people and to let go of their inhibitions and use learn how to connect and spend time growing up together.
I think they're on to something. I think it's why mentoring is probably so important. Sure, we sometimes push programs in the church and we sometimes that is easier to draw people in with and it certainly makes it more easy to speak in generalizations instead of dealing with the specifics of our individual lives and circumstances... but for more of us, there's always someone or a few key people who didn't just barely get to know us - but they took an extra step - they invested in us in a way that most people wouldn't and those are the sorts of things that I believe we need to begin making happen for our kids.
"Mentoring" sounds so official and so formal though and I think sometimes that scares us off of something that really isn't all that hard that would make SUCH A DIFFERENCE.
When I think of mentoring, I don't think about Bible studies or book studies - time spent answering tough questions that we often don't know the answers to either or anything quite that in depth... I think it begins with a friendship... sure, it's different because one of you is an adult with lots of life experience and the other is a young person who is often a little socially awkward and doesn't know always what to talk about or how to carry out an adult conversation yet... So, it just means that one of you has more to share with the other... the tragic thing today its that youth culture (for all sorts of reasons) has become so separate our everyday adult lives and now it is increasingly rare that our the wisdom of the elders in our churches and communities actually gets passed on to the next generation...
For that reason, I hope we will do whatever it takes to start bridging that gap. There are SO MANY easy steps we can take to begin to address it. You don't have to think about running a program or following a curriculum... think of it like this:
All of us have things that we do as adults that so many of our youth have not yet learned to do... we pay bills; we go fishing or hunting; we build things; we go for hikes; we eat lunch and dinner, we spend time with friends and family... I would just suggest that the first step toward mentoring a young person is modeling - and to do that, it's as simple as inviting them into your life. If you're going to go hiking, invite them along... maybe along the way, as you are getting to know each other, you will be surprised by how you discover why God put you two together...
The real hurdle is just making the commitment - saying "Yes, I will regularly and consistently invite so and so into my routine and I will strive to my authentic self as they get to witness what my pursuit of God looks like in my day-to-day living."
Pray about it. If you feel like it's something you can do or feel God leading you to do, let's have a conversation and see what we can do together with Christ.
Dear ECCAK family,
May 1st has been a day set aside for a day of prayer and fasting in the Evangelical Covenant Churches of Alaska.
One year ago the General Council put forth a resolution that was affirmed at the annual meeting. The purpose of the resolution was to establish an annual day of prayer and fasting for two reasons: to pray for deliverance from the peril of suicide in our communities and for healing from the pain of those we have lost already. In addition, the resolution also calls us to put to death those things that belong to our earthly nature. Below are two important sections from the resolution.
We in the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska further RESOLVE to come into the bond of unity and fervently commit to a day of fasting and prayer annually for our children and our families that we may be delivered from the peril of suicide in our communities and be healed from the pain that we endure from those whom we have lost already.
We further RESOLVE to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. We RESOLVE to rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips. (Col 3:5 & 8)
It is my express desire and invitation to call for your wholehearted participation. Suicide has been described as an epidemic in this state, we have heard increased dialogue about it recently, and millions of dollars have been spent to address this issue. We are aware of one too many stories of loss – there is hardly a person who has not been touched by it in some way. But we are ambassadors of the good news of the Savior who has conquered the grave, of a living hope in Christ Jesus. My hope is that the prayers lifted up will spur us on in love and good deeds to shine the light of Christ in the face of the darkness of death, not just on May 1, but every day.
Please communicate this to your congregation or ministry. Included is the original resolution along with a flier that you can post in your church or wherever you may deem fitting to help get the word out.
Because of Christ,
We used to have a regular newsletter that was published and mailed out to the membership of First Covenant. Maybe this blog can be something in the same vain... occasional devotions or articles written by our staff and by the people of our community... photos or art that communicate something about following Christ... poetry, information, announcements, etc... In some ways, this is a trial run. I hope that following this blog becomes something worth doing and something that adds to our life together in some way.
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.