July 26, 2009

"Go"

It occurred to me this week that there is an imperative from God that echoes through scripture. It is the word "Go." God is active and wants us to be obedient to the call to "Go..."
Throughout the Bible, those who are attentive to God, hear God say, "Go." When they obey they are blessed, as are those around them and those they minister to.

God tells Abram "Go to a land I will show you." -- and becomes the Father of all people.
Moses hears God in the bush say "Go to my people in bondage." -- and the Hebrews are freed from oppression.
"Go across the Jordan." Joshua is told. -- and the Israelites gain a homeland.
"Go anoint Saul as king," God tells Samuel (and later the same commission is given for the anointing of David). -- and the people are led by wise rulers chosen by God.
Each of the prophets hears the order to "Go to my people and say..." -- and the people of Israel hear God's warnings of disaster and blessing.
Jesus tells the disciples to "Go and preach the good news." -- and they go out in pairs to tell of Jesus and the Kingdom and learn that the 'spirits are subject to us'.
Sometimes it is a call to "Go and wait," which can be an even more difficult challenge.
Joseph waited in exile for years before he was made governor of the land and saved the world from famine.
David wandered in the wilderness before he truly was crowned king although Samuel anointed him as Saul's successor many years before.
After his conversion, Paul went to Arabia and waited until Barnabas came for him to start his ministry.

While it may seem that "Go!" is an arbitrary command, there is an implied (and sometimes spoken) second half of the equation. That is the promise "I will be with you" or "I will go before you." God does not force us to go out on our own without any assistance. God is already involved in every action that God calls us to do. The Holy Spirit has paved the way for whatever we are called to do. Our task is obedience--a 'yes, Lord' response to that call to "Go."
In the Great Commission, we are all commanded to "Go into the world."
It is your God-given gifts that are needed to move the Kingdom forward. Where are you being called to 'go' in response to God?

July 19, 2009

Gifts of the Spirit

Since returning from the Daughters of the King Triennial, which had the theme of the Seven-fold Gifts of the Holy Spirit, I’ve been doing some thinking about the Gifts of the Spirit. There are many different lists of spiritual gifts both in the Bible and in various tests or assessments you can take. Rom. 12:6-8, Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:1-14 are three of the most commonly cited references for lists of the gifts. Each of these contains slightly different listings because of different emphasis of each passage.

Romans lists basic gifts: Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading, Showing mercy (compassion)
The Ephesians citation has broad job descriptions: Apostolic, Prophectic, Evangelical, Pastoral, Teaching
1 Corinthians includes some of those gifts considered ‘charismatic’: Wisdom, Knowledge, Discerning of spirits (human, angelic, demonic), Speaking in tongues, Interpretation of tongues, Prophecy, Faith, Working of miracles, Healing

Mary MacGregor, speaker at the Triennial, suggested an assessment that you can take online or print out: http://archive.elca.org/evangelizingchurch/assessments/spiritgifts.html. This particular one lists gifts that I’ve not seen included before such as vocal and instrumental music and writing. (Probably they could be considered expressions of ways in which things like evangelism and teaching and exhortation and other ministries can be done.) Naturally, I was interested to see if my score would show that writing is one of my gifts and it was.

Equally high was the ‘teaching’ gift. I have taken several different gift assessments over the years in assorted retreats and courses. In looking back at some of them, I notice that I’ve ranked consistently high in the ‘teaching’ gift. Service and Administration are usually at the top as well. Something important to remember is that no gift has greater importance than any other. I might be tempted to think that having prophetic gifts or compassion might make me a better Christian, but that’s simply not true. God presents each of us with the gifts that we as individuals can use best in community.

MacGregor noted that our Spiritual Gifts are really like a present from God. In her closing address that our gifts are where we find our passion for ministry. They are the things we find the most joy in doing for the building up of the Church—the Body of Christ. Some find that joyful passion in cleaning up the kitchen after an event, others in giving, or in being a pastor/shepherd.
Once you identify your gifts, whether through taking some assessment or because you know what they are by the joy you get in doing something then you are called to act on that knowledge. As a child I loved the “Little Colonel” books by Annie Fellows Johnson. In her book “The Little Colonel’s House Party” (written 1900) Johnson includes this as an article entitled, “The Road of the Loving Heart,” read from the newspaper by one of the girls:

"Remembering the great love of his highness, Tusitala. and his loving care when we were in prison and sore distressed, we have prepared him an enduring present, this road which we have dug for ever."
In a far-off island, thousands of miles from the mainland and unconnected with the world by cable, stands this inscription. It was set up at the corner of a new road, cut through tropical jungle, and bears at its head the title of this article signed by the names of ten prominent chiefs. This is the story of the road, and why it was built:
Some years ago a Scotchman, broken in health and expecting an early death, sought out this lonely spot, because here the climate was favorable to the disease from which he suffered. He settled here for what remained to him of life.
He bought an estate of several hundred acres, and threw himself earnestly into the life of the natives of the island. There was great division among the many chiefs, and prolonged warfare. Very soon the chiefs found that this alien from a strange land was their best friend. They began coming to him for counsel, and invited him to their most important conferences.
Though he did not bear that name, he became a missionary to them. He was their hero, and they loved and trusted him because he tried to lead them aright. They had never had such a friend. And so it came about that when the wars ceased, the chiefs of both sides called him by a name of their own, and made him one of their own number, thus conferring upon him the highest honor within their power.
But many of the chiefs were still in prison, because of their political views or deeds, and in constant danger of being put to death. Their sole friend was the Scotchman, whom they called Tusitala. He visited them, comforted them, repeated passages from the history of Christ to them, and busied himself incessantly to effect their release.
At length he obtained their freedom, and then, glowing with gratitude, in despite of age, decrepitude, and loss of strength, they started directly for the estate of their benefactor, and there, in the terrible heat, they labored for weeks in building him a road which they knew he had long desired. Love conquered weakness, and they did not cease their toil until their handiwork, which they called "The Road of the Loving Heart", was finished.
Not long after this the white chief suddenly died. At the news the native chiefs flocked from all parts of the island to the house, and took charge of the body. They kissed his hand as they came in, and all night sat in silence about him.
One of them, a feeble old man, threw himself on his knees beside the body of his benefactor, and cried out between his sobs:
"I am only a poor black man, and ignorant. Yet I am not afraid to come and take the last look of my dead friend's face. Behold, Tusitala is dead. We were in prison and he cared for us. The day was no longer than his kindness. Who is there so great as Tusitala? Who is there more loving-compassionate? What is your love to his love?"
So the chiefs took their friend to the top of a steep mountain which he had loved, and there buried him. It was a mighty task.
The civilized world mourns the great author. The name of Robert Louis Stevenson is lastingly inwrought into English literature. But the Samoans mourn in his loss a brother, who outdid all others in loving-kindness, and so long as the island in the Pacific exists, Tusitala will be gratefully remembered, not because he was so greatly gifted, but because he was a good man.
The phrase, "The Road of the Loving Heart", is a gospel in itself. "The day is not longer than his kindness " is a new beatitude. Fame dies, and honors perish, but "loving-kindness" is immortal.
Robert Louis Stevenson did die in Western Samoa at 44 (1894) and was buried at the top of a mountain there. I don’t know if the story about the road is true, although he did work for native rights. Stevenson used the gifts he was given and furthered the Kingdom among the population of Samoa. Certainly the idea of the Road of the Loving Heart is one we can each take to heart and daily ask the question:

What can I do with my gift to move the Kingdom of God another step down the road?

July 6, 2009

Triennial Photos

Banner for Triennial 2009 with the Theme: The Sevenfold Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Home safely and the Order of the Daughters of the King is still intact. Here are some photos from the event. They are in reverse order of Trienniel--starting with our new Council.

Outgoing President Joan pins the President's cross on incoming President Grace Sears.
The new Council is installed.

Closing Eucharist.
Cindy w/ Bishop Skilton--friend of Dean Goodman & Canon Terence.

Processional Cross for Triennial.
Jr. DOK Banner from Texas. There were over 50 Jr. Daughters in attendance.

Some of the Province and Diocesan Banners. They were hung all around the hall.

Cindy & Joyce upon arrival at the Hyatt.

July 4, 2009

Triennial Day 3

Today's business included election of a new council.

The 15 ladies elected were: Missy Denney (Diocese WTX), Peggy Denny-no relation (Upper SC), Kimberly Ferguson (SC), Sheila Gerth (TX), Ann Holmes (CO), Phyllis Larson (WMA), Jennifer Mariano (MD), Vanessa Menz (nominated by the Catholic Archdioces of Galveston/Houston, although she is Episcopalian), Marjorie Rogers (Long Island), Pam Runyon (E Carolina), Grace Sears (Lexington), Nancy Sheffield (Central Gulf Coast), Chelsey Vohden (SWVA), Keeva Harmon (WA) and Lana Valenta (Dallas). The Council will elect from within this group who will be our DOK President for the next 3 years.

Although there was discussion and even voting on some of the by-laws changes, nothing passed and much was referred to next time.

Bishop Howe's teaching today was on the Gifts of the Spirit--how God provides Different Gifts for Different Christians. He repeated the question he posed on Thursday--"How much of YOU does the Holy Spirit have?" Then he went on to highlight a few instances where our Lord demonstrated one of the Gifts-the Word of Wisdom that confounded his questioners who asked "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Cesaer?" and his Word of Knowledge with the Woman at the Well when he told her "You have had 5 husbands and the man you have now is not your husband."

The Bishop urged us to believe God can us you, be available to God, date to try using Gifts as prompted by the Spirit. There are 4 questions that you can use to determine your gifts:
  1. What do I like to do?
  2. What does God bless when I do it?
  3. What does the Body of Christ affirm in you?
  4. What need can I meet? (Never notice a problem in order to complain--you notice because God wants you to do something.)

This teaching tied into Mary MacGregor's final talk about Having the Courage Live into God's Will. Mary reminded us of Ps. 139 which says your "days were ordained before you were born." Each of us has gifts that are uniquely our own and we are Gifted, Passionate, Purposed, Called. Too often we let distractions keep us from following our Passion for Ministry.

She says, God has given you a Passion for Ministry, Giftedness to cary it out and a Calling to use your Gifts in Ministry. The Passion for Ministry compels you to make a difference in a particular area, through which God is glorified, people are edified, and you come to a closer understanding of God's call in your life.

There are 3 areas where most people find passion for ministry: In service to people; in making functions work (administrating, leading); or in resolving causes.

According to MacGregor, a call fuses your passion and giftedness and can be discovered through prayer, discernment, and often comes to you before you realize it. Signs that you have discovered your calling include Clarity, Persistence, Peace, Conviction, Progression, Ecstacy, Converging life events, and is often born of pain.

Tonight the closing banquet starts at 8 and tomorrow we head home. The new president will be announced tonight. Over the next 3 years, a new by-laws committee will no doubt re-look at how to amend the by-laws to clarify membership for Sr. and for Jr. Daughters, as well as some of the other issues that there was not time to discuss this time.

As the Jews say--"Next year in Jerusalem", so the Daughters will meet again before General Convention 2012 in Indianapolis.

July 3, 2009

Triennial Day 2

The day opened with Eucharist. Bishop Skilton was the officiant. He knows both the Dean and Terence--and sends his love.

Bishop Howe preached on the Fruit of the Spirit--noting that All the Fruits are given to All Believers. The Fruit of the Spirit gives us a character pleasing to God because it is taking on Christ's character.

Love, Joy, Peace, etc. (all the fruits) are not a matter of feelings or circumstances--they are choices! Looking at Jn. 15, the Bishop noted that God wills that we are fruitful and produces fruit when we abide in Him. He commands that we love one another in order to express the Love He gives us. Lastly, while pruning is not fun--it produces greater fruit.

Mary McGregor's talk was on Eyes to See, A Mind to Know, and Heart to Understand. She had us do an exercise where we used I AM statements to explain who we are to another Daughter (i.e. I am a mother, author, wife...etc.) She again reminded us that we are part of the Story of Faith and should find disciplines to help us stay connected to our faith and our God.

The business meetings today were intense. Feelings are high about the inclusion or non-inclusion of non-Episcopal Daughters. Today one revision of the By-Laws did not pass--meaning we are still back with the same old definition of Daughter membership (Sec. 3, 1--if you want to look it up.)

Tonight is a healing service and tomorrow we will move on to more sections of the proposed by-laws revisions. Keep those prayers coming!!

July 2, 2009

Triennial Day 1

The day opened with Eucharist. Bishop Howe (National DOK Chaplain) will be doing all the Mediations during the morning Eucharists. As the theme of Triennial is "The Sevenfold Gift of the Holy Spirit", today's teaching was "Holy Spirit 101" based on Is. 11. He reminded us that in the baptismal prayer we are endowed with the 7 gifts of the Spirit. Jesus promised, in Jn. 14:16 that he would send "another advocate (paraclete/comforter) to come alongside and enable and enpower us with the presence of God. This Spirit that Teaches, Testifies, and Renews is the same Spirit (pneuma) present from/at Creation and from then on.

Bishop Howe left us with the question--Does the Holy Spirit have ALL of you?

Mary MacGregor is the keynote speaker and her first talk was on the Wonder, Awe, & Reverence toward the Spirit.

She noted that if we believe that God is living in us AND admit/testify/evangelise to that truth--then we are "Rebels (for Christ)" because we are anti-cultural. MacGregor asked us if we are stuffing down, scattering, or regathering the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. When God is our PILOT (not co-pilot) then we can more clearly see and be who we are created to be--with the Holy Spirit residing in us.

God's Spirit can be found all around--for many the power of Nature is the most obvious place where God is recognized. We need to learn to recognize Christ in everyone--family, church, world, etc. and witness to each one. Every one of us has the Responsibility to tell God's story. We are Story Bearers and have to be willing to change lives by telling God's story.

McGregor closed by quoting Mother Teresa: "You are in God...encompassed, swimming in God."

After lunch, all the candidates for National Council were introduced. Each lady answered 2 questions--How do you stand of giving the vote to all Daughters (regardless of religious affiliation)? and How will you work on building/rebuilding trust in the Council and Order? We will be voting on 15 positions (I think, it is) later this weekend.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to workshops. I attended one on "Meeting Jr. Daughters where they are"--lots of good ideas that maybe we can use to encourage girls to join. Then a workshop on the Dance of the Spirit, which was entertaining and relaxing.

Tonight is Missions Night. Tomorrow will be a bit more business oriented, with various reports and in the afternoon the 'biggie'--the report of the ByLaws Committee and also presentation of the alternative ByLaws proposed by some of the Daughters, which would make the Daughters an Episcopalian only Order as it was in 1894. We'll see what happens--sparks may fly :)

July 1, 2009

DOK Triennial

Well, we made it here. Smooth flying except for one little patch of clouds near Anaheim. Joyce Miller and I are looking forward to the Province VII banquet tonight. Ran into 3 other Daughters at the airport.

Lorraine at the check in desk commented "you are all wearing the same cross." Nice to have her notice.

Our view from the 8th floor of the Hyatt Regency Orange County is lovely--I'm not sure if we are facing Disneyland or not. According to the map, somewhere in a 2 mile radius of here, there is Disneyland. We'll be too busy to visit 'the Mouse' though.

We are off to officially check in with the Daughters and get our name tags--after which we discovered the gift shop and the in-hotel Starbucks...temptations galore.

The Province VII Banquet tonight was delightful. The food, esp. the dessert (chocolate cake topped with chocolate mousse and wrapped in chocolate) was yummy

Provincial business to report--Brenda Amos is the new Provincial President, with Marti Fagley, Stacy Adams and our own Diocesan president--Deb Tischler as her board. Fr. Michael Gemignani, from somewhere in TX is the new Province chaplain.

Tomorrow will start the real business of the Triennial, although mostly tomorrow there will be workshops with only a couple business meetings. The meat of the business (elections and by-laws) will be Friday.