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Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Spiritual Disciplines

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.

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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.

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Sensible Shoes

Today’s book review was written by Brittany Garrett, who serves with her husband and 3 children in Romania.

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Sensible Shoes: A Story About the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown is a fictional narrative of four women on a journey toward deeper intimacy with Christ.  Each of these women bring their own baggage as they begin their Sacred Journey, and we get to witness their brokenness as well as the beginnings of their healing.

I saw part of myself in each of the four main characters.  As they learned about some of the spiritual disciplines, I, too, learned practical ways to apply them.  I enjoyed watching their stories unfold and felt satisfaction as an onlooker getting to see how God was creating beauty from their mess.  You see their struggle and their resistance to some of the disciplines and how God uses even our resistance to show us His faithful pursuit of us.

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Puritan Meditation: the centerpiece of spiritual formation

In our pre-field training and on-field coaching of missionaries, we emphasize the critical importance of feeding yourself spiritually, or in other words, taking the initiative to regularly nurture your soul in a context where the busyness of ministry and stress of cross-cultural living can make it difficult to keep our hearts and minds set on things above (Col 3:1-2).   Feedback from our missionaries in training suggests that this emphasis is greatly appreciated and desperately needed.    One of those ways that we can feed ourselves spiritually is by learning the spiritual discipline of meditation.   In this area, we have few better teachers than the Puritans.

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Learning about spiritual formation

One of my priorities in my personal growth plan for 2012 was to better understand spiritual formation. I wanted to be able to define spiritual formation in other ways than just spiritual disciplines and I wanted to better understand what things should be taught in our pre-field training in the area of spiritual formation. One of the learning activities associated with that priority was to read a book by David Teague entitled Godly Servants: Discipleship and Spiritual Formation for Missionaries. The book has very short chapters, and the author has made a deep subject very accessible. To my surprise, Missio Nexus featured my review of the book in their recent “Book Look”, and so those of you who have created a profile on Missio Nexus will have recently received this review in your email. You can also find it on Amazon or here.

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