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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rock Polishing

Children love to start collections. I'm not up to speed on what things that kids collect now, but back in the dark ages when I was little, my brother and I collected stuff like coins, stamps and rocks. One year he got a rock polisher for Christmas. It made the most mundane rocks look shiny, smooth and precious.

But what I remember even more was the sound the rock polisher made as the tumbler rotated round and round, its tiny little motor growling steadily as the water and sand and rocks rumbled inside. All the grinding, clunking and swishing had a hypnotic effect. I knew something almost magic was going on.

Lately it feels like several "rocks" in my life are tumbling around, rearranging and jockeying for space in my calendar. For the most part, it's a fun and fascinating process, and it feels like some lovely, polished rocks will get to emerge at some point, regardless of how unremarkable they may have looked before they went into the tumbler.

All of these current projects function separately, but they collectively come together in my heart and mind in wonderful ways. First of all, my role with the Free Methodist Church in Southern California has expanded to 3/4 time. In addition to the work I've done since March 2009 with individual Free Methodist lead pastors on strategic planning and leadership development, now I also get to pursue the development of pastoral leaders at Christian colleges and seminaries. I am also collaborating with some very creative denominational leaders, developing a plan for planting ministry in new cities within California. All of this will include more recruiting and training of college interns, partnerships with various faculty members and some writing and research. It's so fun for me it almost doesn't feel like work! (Though I sure don't mind getting paid to do it...)

I am continuing at Providence Hall, though my hours have tapered back quite a bit. Tuesday I start up teaching the "Foundations of the Christian Faith" course again to 9th through 12th graders. I will also train the new Foundations teacher for our new grades 7 and 8, which will be very gratifying for me since he is someone I had as a pastoral intern this summer and as a student in the past from the Westmont Mayterm course I taught in 2009. I am happy to say that I seem to never tire of being with teenagers. This fall we will start off studying the Gospel of Mark, and I will have the privilege of teaching them some fundamental principles of hermeneutics, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will talk about how to think as they read the Bible, and not just take the word of others.

These two responsibilities can fill my time quite adequately, but I am a little surprised that some other "side jobs" have bubbled up this summer. I just finished two different workshops this past week, one with Fuller Seminary and the other with a church here in town, talking through Strengths-Finder and ministry as a team. Those projects will continue for a few weeks as I do follow up. I'm in conversation with another non-profit in town who is interested in the same thing. Plus I am still working with two churches (one in Seattle, the other in Central California) through Youth Ministry Architects.

Last but not least, it looks like I have more writing projects coming up -- some more articles in Youthworker Journal in 2012, a monthly column in YMToday on spiritual disciplines, and a lead article for the Free Methodist national magazine in October. And a chapter in a book on youth ministry by Will Penner coming out sometime soon. Pinch me, I'm dreaming!!

Earlier I brought up the rock polisher... as I said, there is no real overlap when I work on these projects, and scheduling all of them in can prove to be quite a juggling act sometimes. They might even crash into one another once in awhile, much like the stones in the rock polisher. But collectively, they all tumble together and form some deep things in me. A couple of days ago I read this:

In his book City of God, Augustine of Hippo wrote, “The heavenly city, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses peace by faith; and by this faith it lives.”

I loved these words because they reminded me that as followers of Jesus, this earth is not our real home. Rather, we are on a constant journey as resident aliens. As Paul says in Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. So we navigate the tension of living in the "now and the not yet. Between coaching and consulting and writing and teaching I get to talk to believers from many different church traditions, with an occasional seeker along the way, and I am encouraged at the many "pilgrims" I meet as I do this. Together, in our own ways, both small and sometimes large, we are helping to build the heavenly city that Augustine talks about. I delight in being part of something so much bigger than my small little corner of the world.

Last week I picked up a book that I am taking very slowly, just reading a tiny bit each day, titled The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. I am fascinating by the spiritual disciplines of the early church, and each quote in this book packs a punch. This one from two days ago is still with me:

Poemen said, "To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul."

Poemen was apparently a humble leader of a group of monastic hermits in the 5th century in Egypt, who guided his community in hard work, prayer and study. I liked this simple sentence because it called me to not lose sight of my real job as I work on these various projects and responsibilities: my highest calling, for eternity, is to know and love Jesus Christ. So I am to guard against temptations and distractions, to meditate and stand still enough to hear Him, and to be wise in my decisions, thoughts and words.

None of this easy to do, but it is always worthwhile. Augustine again taught me on this last night as I read this before I went to sleep:

Augustine of Hippo said, “Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it.”

I am so grateful for all of these opportunities. They are creative and challenging, and I am especially thankful for the gainful employment in such a bad economy! But ultimately, they will amount to nothing if I do not put first things first, and fix my heart on the Lord. If I do this, he persistently polishes the rough edges of my stony heart and makes something beautiful. Amazing.


  1. so excited for all that you get to do kelly, and thankful i got to see you do it :)

  2. you were so cool to join me! Can't wait to see what God has in store for you in this next year too.

  3. Thanks for the update - we're excited to read your future articles.