I am called to full-time ministry in Jesus Christ.
And, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you are too. At least, that is what Pastor Neil said this morning, so it must be true. :-)
Here is one definition that I found for the word ministry: "Ministry is the use of a person's gifts and talents, time and energy, in the service of others." All of us vary in our God-given gifts, talents, time and energy, so how we "do" ministry is going to look very different for each of us. What does not vary is our call to serve the world. As one of my dear friends has recently told her teenage son, we are not called to be a "sucking hole" on society. We are called to give back, to make a difference, to contribute more than we consume.
That all sounds quite lofty and altruistic, but there is laundry to be done and kids who need a ride to soccer. We have jobs to do, expense reports to submit and business plans to finish. For our kids, there is homework to complete, and SOLs and finals for which to study. We are all juggling many responsibilities, when exactly do we find the time to do ministry?
Our sermon this morning reminded us that everything we do, including all those things listed above, is ministry when we do it all for the glory of God. When we parent with eyes on Jesus, we offer our children the ministry of encouragement and discernment. When we allow God to be part of our marriages, we serve our spouses with the sacrificial love which Jesus modeled for us. When a friend or co-worker is hurting, in spite of our busy schedules, we have the opportunity to offer them the ministry of presence and encouragement. Even strangers, when seen as other children of God, offer us occasion to make choices for responding in loving kindness rather than defensive hostility or indifference. As we seek to follow Jesus, our eyes are opened to the world around us and we find that we are offered ministry opportunities in ways that we hadn't expected and perhaps never saw before.
In early 2005, I began to see new ways of doing ministry that I hadn't seen before. I felt God was leading me towards something different, but I was reluctant to step too far outside my comfort zone. This blog was born during that year and, as I recently read back through early blog entries and private journal entries, I see evidence of that exploration. In late 2005, I volunteered to speak at a women's ministry event at our church and experienced a confirmation of God's leading. Over the almost three years that have passed since then, God has proven faithful, patient AND persistent.
We just recently finished a very powerful bible study in our Wednesday morning women's group. Written by a bible teacher who is new to our group, Priscilla Shirer, the title intrigued me right from the beginning; "Discerning the Voice of God." Within the pages of the workbook and the video lessons we watched on Wednesday mornings, Priscilla reminded me of much that I already knew about our God and was used by God to teach me new things about His desire to communicate with each of us. She invited us to see what scripture says about God's willingness to speak to us, the ways that God speaks to us, and what our response should be when God speaks to us. The last few weeks were particularly meaningful as she spoke about the somewhat uncomfortable topic of obedience.
In those final weeks, God and I wrestled with these questions that I have had about the particular kinds of ministry assignments He has for me. We went round and round about my doubts and my insecurities and my false pride. Finally, I asked for a very particular kind of confirmation...a burning bush, a neon sign, a message that I couldn't deny. A few days later, in the final week of our study, Priscilla asked us to consider making a commitment to obey God by writing and dating the words "Whatever God says, I will do it." She asked us to do that or to ask God what is holding us back from making that commitment to Him. After a few hours of struggling with that idea, I wrote and signed that statement. The next day, I got the exact confirmation from God that I had asked for the week before.
Since then, I have been sharing my story and where I believe God is leading me with some of my sisters in Christ. I have been saying YES to God out loud to people whom I trust to hold me accountable. I am saying YES to God out loud here on this blog, because this has been a part of this journey. I don't know the details of what God has in mind, but I am not willing to go back to that stuck place of saying No... maybe...not yet.
Here are the lyrics to a Nichole Nordeman song that is the most played song on my Ipod. I'm saying Yes, because I no longer see any other options:
Gone Are the DaysDo I dare even wear what I was thinkin' of
My true colors bleeding on my sleeve?
Do I chance the romance that I've been dreamin' of
Instead of wishing for it quietly?
Always at a distance, I wish you'd safely stayed
Despite my resistance, you sought me anyway
Gone are the days Of All that I was afraid of
I've left behind the traces of who I've been
No longer able to wrestle with this Angel
And the Closer you get, I can let you love me
I had found it was easier to dance around
The edges of who I could be
If I chose to expose what grows deep down
Would you still desire what you see?
No more self-rejection no longer paralyzed
This holy perfection is me inside your eyes
Never mind this mirror hanging on the wall
Cause I could not pretend to be the fairest of them all
Took a hammer to the glass
To shatter all the pieces, The pieces of my past