Friday, October 19, 2012

What Would Make Your Heart Sing?

What would make your heart sing? 

I was first exposed to the Lilly Endowment's deep impact upon seminaries, churches, pastors and other organizations while serving as the Director of Admissions at Duke Divinity School. The Lilly Endowment funded unique scholarships and fellowships that attracted the best and the brightest to our entering class. Students were able to serve in exceptional congregations around the country for a summer, growing in their pastoral formation in transformational ways. I have since benefited from the generosity of the Lilly Endowment in other life-giving ways - through my work with the Fund for Theological Education, a summer writing program at the Collegeville Institute, and now with the College of Pastoral Leaders at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. The Lilly Endowment has had a profound impact upon the church - and upon my life.

And it is the Lilly Endowment that has caused me to ponder, dream and reflect upon what would really make my heart sing. A creative and passionate team of people was pulled together last spring to help clarify my response while asking the same question for our congregation. Together we dreamed of a summer of deep engagement - intentional time to engage deeply with Jesus, deeply with our city and deeply with each other.

We dreamed about what would enable our congregation to take additional risks in their discipleship while also going away to escape the fumes and demands of city life. We dreamed about our children and how to bring more vitality to our ministry of sharing the love of God with them. We dreamed about how we can better see and experience Jesus by going to the places where Jesus most tangibly dwells in our city. And we came up with a plan.

We would invite my teacher, mentor and friend and his wife to spend six weeks with us, filling the pulpit and leading an evening session of learning. We would seek to learn as much as we can from the Church of the Saviour and their ministries in our city. We would go away for a weekend on retreat. We would do yoga together and create some pottery or paintings. And we would enjoy a grand morning of music.

At the same time, my dreams for a summer of deep engagement started to become clearer. I would travel to Iona with Craig, a thin place where I have always longed to encounter God. I would go back to London, a place where I lived as a college student but have not returned to in nearly 20 years. I would develop deep rhythms of life in Washington - starting with putting my health in the first priority by working out with a personal trainer four days a week and then seeking to offer myself to different organizations in ministry with the poor in our city. I'd take an acting class, get a few massages and read books because they bring me joy and not because I need a great sermon illustration. I'd go to New York City with Craig for a weekend, stay out until midnight on Saturday night and perhaps go to Mass and Sunday brunch with him, relishing the gift of a Sabbath together. I'd go back to South Africa - to the place where I experienced my call to let go of success and comfort in order to return to the city and take on a church that was close to death instead of exhibiting signs of life. I'd visit the places of pain and hope that turned my world upside down. I'd see the church in action. And, I'd look for God's creative touch up close and personal through a safari.

Each piece of the application was carefully crafted, printed and placed in an envelope last May. Postmarked to Indianapolis, I said a prayer in the Post Office while asking for a return receipt. We then waited...

And then we learned that some dreams come true.

1 comment:

Ashley Harding said...

This is bringing me to tears. I have been longing to let go of my old ways of experiencing God in only church but now wanting to see Him in everything and everyone. As you talk about your travel plans I think of the amazing summer I had in South Africa, Los Angeles and Washington , DC. God is so great and wonderfully awesome to allow me such great fortune to dream and ask for these experiences and they were more rewarding than I could have prayed for. I am so joyed to read your words, I couldn't have put it better!