Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

I cannot lift one of my arms right now. My thighs ache each time I climb the stairs. My back has felt tighter than it ever has before. My stomach muscles feel like they should look like a washboard even though a glance of them would tell you otherwise. And, I have been paying good money for all of this pain.

2012 started with a goal to be fit and fabulous at 40. With a new decade on the horizon, I knew I wanted to do something to change my body before my 40th birthday in late June. And while I have often questioned why someone would spend so much money on personal training, I finally took the plunge. I purchased the introductory special pack at the gym, and I am convinced that it is some of the best money I have spent on myself in a long time.

It took only a few minutes for Raymond to see what parts of my body need extra work. He looked at my hips and the extra weight known as "saddle bags" and immediately said, "We are going to get working on those."

We have gotten to work, and Raymond has enabled me to discover muscles I never knew I had before. While I can lift a few hand weights, do sit-ups and push-ups on my own, Raymond has opened my eyes to all that exists at the gym. I've lifted more weight than I ever thought I could lift. I've discovered more balance than I thought I had. I've hurt in places I've never hurt before. It's been rather powerful.

And, I could have never gotten to these places on my own.

Without Raymond, I would have stuck with two cardio classes, an occasional spin class and a weight-lifting class. I would have held on to my fear of the other parts of the gym, sticking with what was safe.

I needed help. I needed someone to show me the way.

Late last year, a group of six clergywomen serving in the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference applied for a grant from Austin Seminary's College of Pastoral Leaders. Together, we created a two-year plan to help us better love God with our hearts, souls, strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. Some of the women are close friends of mine, others have been more casual acquaintances. And while we have only formally met twice so far, they have already helped me discover things I would have never discovered on my own.

One of the women suggested that we use the accountability questions used by the founder of our denomination, John Wesley, more than 200 years ago to begin our time together. And while the questions are old, they have quickly taken us to the heart of the matter today.

With these questions in front of us, we have all been invited to respond to the one that speaks most clearly to us at that moment.

1) What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2) What temptations have you met with?
3) How were you delivered?
4) What you have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5) Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
6) Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
7) Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
8) Do I confidentially pass onto another what has been told me in confidence?
9) Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
10) Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self-justifying?
11) Did the Bible live in me today?
12) Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
13) Am I enjoying prayer?
14) When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
15) Do I pray about the money I spend?
16) Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
17) Do I disobey God in anything?
18) Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
19) Am I defeated in any part of my life?
20) Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
21) How do I spend my spare time?
22) Am I proud?
23) Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
24) Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing to do about it?
25) Do I grumble or complain constantly?
26) Is Christ real to me?

The questions are not ones we typically ask others let alone ourselves. The questions cut through the blubber and get right to the muscle. The questions have the capacity to allow us to discover parts of ourselves that we have not seen or known in a long time.

Real community is an incredible gift.

Partners who are willing to hold us accountable are invaluable.

Watch out world. My body, heart and spirit are on the mind.

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