Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Author: Lynn Karidis

Lament and contentment in suffering

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Contentment

This is the fifth of a series on “Exploring Spiritual Formation” by Lynn Karidis.

The Situation

Pasta. Again. Don’t get me wrong, I like pasta. At least, I used to before it began to show up on my dinner table multiple times a week. Now I’m not so sure. My predicament is no one’s fault but my own. I’m the one who stocked the pantry for our shelter-in-place experience.

It’s true I’m discovering how many ways one can use pasta to feed the family. But my discontent is troubling me. After hearing about the thousands of people who’ve lost their jobs—and seeing hundreds of cars lined up to receive help from food banks—I feel a bit foolish for complaining about anything that shows up on my dinner table. Though my dilemma is real, I want to avoid responding like the Israelites did while wandering in the wilderness.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Burnout

The Situation
You love Jesus. You’ve dedicated your life to serving him. You’re loyal, diligent, and you work hard. It’s not unusual for you to check your email after hours, and you’re even willing to work on your day off, if necessary. Lately, it seems like it’s necessary a lot.

You’ve been known to sacrifice for the good of the team, and you often give up time with family or friends to tend to others in need. You’re usually willing to take on extra projects. Sleep is a luxury. Exhaustion is a constant companion, and you can’t remember the last time you took a vacation that didn’t involve a visit with a supporter.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Attitude

Strolling through gift shops one summer, my husband George and I spotted a T-shirt which said, “Sometimes I wake up Grumpy, other times I let her sleep.” Wise husband that he is, George did not buy the shirt. Alas, my husband is a happy morning person, and each morning presents a major challenge: how will I respond to my husband’s innate cheerfulness? Will love or grumpiness win the day?

It may sound like a simple problem to overcome, but feelings are tricky things. They often show up unbidden and, if left unexamined (and unchecked), may morph into attitudes. And habitual attitudes often result in character qualities displayed for the world to see.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Gifting

It happens every year: the gift that no one else wants finds its way under my Christmas tree. One year it was an electric hot dog cooker. The contraption had twelve metal prongs that sent electricity through the meat—I felt like Dr. Frankenstein every time I plugged it in. Another year I received a box of homemade cookies regifted to me because the original recipient thought the treats “tasted like smoke.” They did.  And who hasn’t received a perfect candidate for an ugly sweater contest? Confession: I’m sure I’ve given a few poorly chosen sweaters, too.

These experiences, along with the commercialization of Christmas, sometimes make me want to give up gift giving altogether. I wonder how all this madness celebrates Christ. It’s so easy to forget the real reason for the season in the rush to get the best bargain online or at the mall. Is it possible to find the Savior somewhere in the mix of shopping, wrapping, and exchanging presents? Would it be better to eliminate the tradition in order to focus on Jesus? In my search for answers, I decided to turn to the Christmas story for insight. I was surprised to discover how much gifting occurs there.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Perspective

Recently I heard a pastor tell a story about a women’s conference whose promoters sold more tickets than the venue had seats available. To compensate, they brought in hundreds of rented chairs that were neither sturdy nor comfortable. The women from his church became angry about the situation, and their complaints grew louder and more frequent as the conference progressed—until the last day, when Joni Eareckson Tada rolled up to the mic and said, “I hear some of you are not happy with the chairs you’ve been given.”[1] Needless to say, the atmosphere changed immediately. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do for our souls.

The Scriptures are full of stories about the disciples’ frequent need for a change in perspective. Think of the disciples shooing the children away from Jesus until he explains that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:13-16). Think of James and John trying to secure positions of power before fully understanding the cost of such a request (Mark 10:35-45). Think of the disciples in a boat fretting about drowning before watching Jesus calm the wind and the waves with a simple command (Mark 4:35-41).

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