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Posts tagged ‘Grace’

Seeking Perfection

While reading some very creative and insightful articles for preaching, I had a thought that I wanted to share with you all. You may relate to the thought, or it may seem completely opposite to your nature. Either way, I hope it helps you to better understand me and something I still struggle with- perfectionism.

When I had my endorsement interview, I remember thinking that things were going really well. I enjoyed talking about my faith story, the ups and downs of seminary life, and was surprised to realize how far I had come in a year and a half. In the midst of talking about classes and which professors I liked (I said all, and I truly meant it) Pastor Scott hit me with a question that caught me completely off-guard. He asked me if being a perfectionist got in the way of my studies. WHAT?!? Me, a perfectionist? I remember sitting in a chair outside while they discussed their decision and writing on the pad of paper that I had brought with me “Am I a perfectionist?”

Pastor Scott’s question hit me like a slap in the face, and the next day when I spoke with Susan (my adviser) and asked her if she thought I was a perfectionist, she responded with a blatant “YEAH!” Since then, I have been slowly realizing that what was so obvious to them (and likely to many others as well) was completely hidden from me. Recognizing it and finally admitting to it has been a struggle. I encountered it again when discussing internship sites with Dr. Sayler. She told me that I’m too hard on myself and second-guess myself too much. After I stopped putting myself down for putting myself down, I realized it was because of that perfectionism again.

Being more aware of it, I’ve noticed that it has affected my life so much and kept holding me back. In dieting, I tried to be perfect in counting every calorie and watching every little thing that I ate. When I goofed and ate too much or scarfed down something unhealthy, all was lost in my mind. I screwed it up, so I might as well give up. Writing assignments, especially major papers, have been so hard because I worry so much about doing it right that I’m too scared to even start. Even in cleaning my room, I will put it off because I don’t have enough time to clean it to perfection. And it’s all so silly! I’m so caught up in doing it wrong that I can’t even do it at all!

I’m reminded of a trip last summer that I took to the cabin up north. I wanted to whittle something, so I got a pocket knife and found a large branch and started whittling away. The branch was a bit dry, so at times pieces would break off, and there was some discoloration in places. As I tried to fix all the mistakes and cut out the discoloration, it kept breaking and new spots kept showing up. Eventually all I had left was a tiny little piece of wood, about as long as my fingernail. The tip broke off, so I threw even that away. Looking back, I realize that my perfectionism is the knife and I’m the piece of wood. Whenever I tried to do something, that need for perfection would cut away at me until there wasn’t anything left.

So what does this have to do with the preaching articles? In reading them, they repeatedly remind the reader to keep the Word in mind. All too often sermon writers try to form some perfect masterpiece, or tell this perfect story, but at the expense of the Word. When they don’t keep Scripture at the center, it becomes all too easy to keep hacking away at it until there’s nothing left. The same goes for ourselves. If we forget who we are, as children of God, and forget that our goal is to share the Good News, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help the poor, and love our neighbor, it’s easy to get caught up in life until there’s no real meaning left. We find ourselves constantly busy trying to find fulfillment in empty things. And what does that mean for us? Well, for me it means I have more schoolwork to finish. For you? Well, you’ll have to figure that one out yourself. If you figure it out, let me know. I’d love to hear what God’s calling you to do.

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Quick Thoughts

Hey everyone!

So for anyone reading this that doesn’t attend St. John Lutheran Church, or does but wasn’t at the annual meeting, I gave a quick speech thanking everyone for their support, and explaining this wonderfully and scary journey called Seminary. I can remember that Christmas Eve service, back in ’09 when I sat down with the family and had my life changed for the better. We had been a bit late, so rather than sit on the left side of the church in “our” pew, we were a bit further towards the front and on the right side. Today I decided to sit over on the right side again. Partly because I was thinking about that service, but mostly because I wanted to catch up with Carlyn and Marlene. A tiny fragment of the decision may or may not have been to mess with dad’s head, but I’ll let the reader decide on that one.

In any case, being on that right side again made me realize all that has happened to me in that church since I got that calling again and finally stopped saying “no.” I helped out with communion for the first time and had my zipper down through the whole thing. Thanks again, Jim L for catching that one. I filled in for services when the pastors needed someone to cover, and undoubtedly goofed up something or another each time. I told the pastors I was terrified of the thought of working with youth, so they told me to become a confirmation guide…

The list goes on and on of the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, and the little slip-ups that have occurred along the way. At any one of those times, the congregation could have said “you know, maybe we’ll take you off the list for communion assistant” or “I think next time we’ll just hire a pulpit supply person” or “you’re afraid of kids? Oh, well then never mind.” But instead of those responses I got positive reinforcements, helpful tips (like making sure your zipper’s up before communion distribution) and encouraging nudges to explore my growing edges. I have been nurtured by the church. I have been graced with a loving, forgiving, and understanding family that stands by me and encourages me every step of the way.

My excuse all along to God was that I couldn’t do it. What I didn’t realize was that I was really thinking I couldn’t do it alone. Luckily for me, God has made sure that I didn’t have to. I have been surrounded by love, raised up in a strong faith, and encouraged to fulfill my potential. Along the way I have met truly amazing people, realized the gems in my life with my friends, family, former co-workers, random acquaintances… I can’t do it alone, and that’s okay, because I don’t have to. I only hope I can help others realize that themselves by being a part of their support network. Because the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t abandon us in our hour of need.

Blessings to you all!

-Paul

 

Recharging Batteries: Time at home!

Hey y’all!

Wow, I can’t believe yet another semester is done! I am now officially halfway through my academic courses for Seminary and over a third of the way through Seminary as a whole! It feels like just last week I was starting Summer Greek and now, a blink of an eye later, I’m finishing my third semester and getting ready for the fourth. Then it’s off to a year of internship and a final year of schooling before (I hope) I’ll graduate and get my first call. Where DID the time go?

This past week has been a great time of rest and relaxation. I managed to finally slow down on Thursday (because the Seminary closing MADE me) and then on Friday I made my way home to join the family. I’ve played some cards, chatted with family, gotten a ton of hugs from loved ones, and recharged my batteries at home and at church. It has been a truly amazing time, back in De Pere and celebrating Christ’s birth with my fabulous family and the amazing people of St. John Lutheran in De Pere! Once again, this time of the year has left me in tears, but in a good way. I have been so moved by this season and the wonderful message of Christ’s coming, knowing that it has already happened and occurs each and every day.

I was actually joined with the family; mom, dad and Jim, at St. John Lutheran in Ashwaubenon when I thought of something truly amazing. It had been three years ago, at that Christmas Eve Service in 2009 that I finally stopped running from my call and let God into my life. I used to think I was saying “yes” to God at that moment, but I’ve since realized that I merely stopped saying “no.” In actuality, I do believe my words to God that evening were “Okay, God. You win.” And ever since that moment, my life has been changed so drastically. I look back now, Three years wiser, three years closer to God, 70+ lbs lighter, and can’t help but shed even more tears this Christmas Season in thanksgiving. I am so thankful that God so loved us that God sent Christ as a child to us, and that God–for whatever reason–has chosen me to spread this Good News and is preparing me to administer the Sacraments. What an honor to be given an reminded of every year, and all I had to do was stop fighting with God and let the Holy Spirit work in my life.

If these past three years are any indication, the next three are going to be a wild and crazy experience! Thanks be to God!

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s day to all the dads, grandpas, and great-grandpas out there! Today is a day to celebrate the men who mean so much to us. It’s nice to have a day to emphasize these important men for us to remember and celebrate the hard work and love they demonstrate. Yet we don’t have to wait until Father’s day to celebrate how much our fathers mean to us. Each day should remind us that we are here because of our father. We are who we are because of the impact he has made in our life.

If you’re getting a connection to God in those statements, then good. It was intentional. If not, try reading them over again, this time with God in your mind. Go ahead, I’ll still be here when you’re done.

It made me really happy today when I realized that I had more than one Father figure in my life to celebrate. More than that, I have two Fathers I can celebrate every day. When I think of all the amazing opportunities both of my fathers have given me, I feel perhaps unworthy of it all. I don’t deserve the unconditional love and compassion that I have received, both when I try my best to better myself, as well as those times when I rebel or fail to think about my actions. How can not one, but two fathers love me so much despite my shortcomings?

With my dad, Rick, I think it’s partially because I’m a part of him, a continuation of his existence. The other part is…maybe… because I’m not perfect and neither is he. In accepting my faults, he’s accepting his faults as well. In acknowledging the frustrations I have no doubt caused over the years (though I hope they have seriously dwindled in size and frequency) he is simultaneously acknowledging the frustrations he himself caused his father. When you think about it, it’s actually kind of cool. Sort of comforting.

But what about God? Why does he care so much for us and continually provide reasons to celebrate in our daily lives? I always turn to the same phrase with this question. “saved by grace through faith.” Ephesians 2:8 words it beautifully by stating 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— “

Being saved by grace through faith is such a wonderful concept. It means we don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved. (which, incidentally is a good thing, since we as humans are naturally flawed) We can falter in our lives and God won’t reject us and cut us out of His life. Just like my dad wouldn’t reject me if I screwed up. It means we, I, you, can be completely true to our-, my-, your-self and still be loved. We don’t have to change who we are. We just have to remember That it is our Father in heaven who grants us life and saves us with grace through faith. I think that deserves and Amen!

Thanks for sharing these thoughts with me. I hope they change the way you view this day. God Bless!