Confusing Messages

While we were in Ireland (we stayed in County Monaghan in the Republic), we frequently drove into the North.  In the middle of one of the towns was a beautiful old church (okay, basically every town had an amazing looking church building).  But the picture to the right was something we’ve called the funniest and saddest picture from our trip.

Now, while Ireland, like the USA, did have children crossing signs, as well as deer, cow, etc.  But they also had “elderly people” crossing signs…and when you put one in front of a church, it sends a message.

While we were in Europe, I thinking about what it means to be spiritually & emotionally healthy. What does it look like to care for your soul?  And I got thinking about various conferences we’ve attended over the past few years, where a major theme has been, taking care of your soul.  Which is great.

But often at these conferences, there have been conflicting messages.  One night we’ll hear about the importance of caring for your soul, and the next will be someone encouraging us to “take the hill,” “sacrifice it all for Jesus.”

After a recent “take the hill” message, one of our leaders came up to me and said, “I thought we were supposed to be taking care of our souls.”

Now, on the one hand these are not conflicting messages.  We should be developing a close intimate relationship with Jesus, and willingly follow wherever he leads, taking whatever hill he has for us to take.

But the thing is, we will only do what we know how to do.  Think about this way.  I teach a seminar on the importance of eating well…exercising.  I show you all kinds of statistics about how detrimental to your life bad nutrition and a lack of exercise are.  You likely sit there agreeing with everything, in fact, I’m only confirming what you already know.

Here’s the problem.  Unless we’ve given you some very specific skills and practices that you can begin implementing once you get home, what will happen?  You will go right back into the patterns & practices that you already know.  Life is busy, and most of us believe we simply don’t have the time to figure out how to make major changes in our lives.  And even with the greatest of intentions, it isn’t too long before life gets crazy and we are back to doing what we’ve always done.

I know from my experience that I’d hear people talking about soul care, and think “yeah, I need to do that”, but I’d get back to Ithaca, and there was a church to run, and messages to preach, and some new project that just got dropped on my desk…  And like most pastors I know, I’ve been far more skilled at taking the next hill than I have been at caring for my soul.

[Just to clarify, when I’m talking about caring for your soul, I’m not talking specifically about spending time with Jesus although that is part of it.  For me, to use Paul’s metaphor, my job was to pour myself out like a drink offering…If there is anything left at the end of the day, then I must have done something wrong.  And while I still love that verse written by Paul, I’m being drawn more & more to something Jesus said about having life…life to the full.]

So that was my story…go to a conference, hear about the importance of soul care, hear about taking the mountain, yet getting back to Ithaca and deciding I can care from my soul after the next mountain (of course there is always another mountain).

Well, after about 20 years of living life like that, Liz and I both felt the wheels come off a bit last year.   And while we both have a clear sense that the enemy trid to use this to hurt us, God, in the midst of it has been teaching us a lot about living life.

So why am I writing all of this?  Well, as Liz and I have gone through this process over the past year, one of the most amazing things that happened to us was being able to attend the Pastor’s Sabbath Retreat this past spring.  And while once again it was about 2 weeks of  “You really need to care for your soul!  You can’t keep living like this.” There was a major focus on actually learning some of the skills and practices to make the changes necessary.

One of the teachers at that retreat was Dave Nixon from Cincinnati.  Dave is a pastor, spiritual director, and a guy who would really fit in a place like Ithaca!  So, we have invited Dave out on September 10-12 talk about finding a sane way to live life.  (More info on the conference here.)  We’ll be holding a two day conference on Friday & Saturday & then Dave will be teaching at both of our Sunday Services on September 12.

I think for most of us, we hear Jesus talk about having abundant life, but life is already rolling along at a pretty fast clip and major changes take a lot of work…expecially the good ones.  I hope you’ll consider coming to this event, and see what God does.

I really hope you’ll be able to make it out!

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