It is Enough

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BY LAURA WATSON |

Around the world, millions of people have been tuning in to the World Cup in Russia to watch their nation’s soccer team compete for the title of world champion. Tomorrow, Croatia and France will face off in the World Cup final. 

I love the World Cup (even if my country didn’t qualify to compete!). I love watching as players push themselves to go faster and harder, to persevere through pain, and to work together with their teammates for a common goal. I find myself yelling at the television….“Go, go, go!” I can only imagine what it’s like for the athletes’ families and friends.

Image of a goal being scored in soccer

Photo by Vitaly Krivosheev via Adobe Stock

We live in a culture that tends to yell at us as well….”Go, go, go!” Work harder. Climb the ladder. Go for the gold. Be all that you can be. Achieve. Shoot for the moon. Aim for the stars. You get what I mean.

Striving to be the best is important, but when is it okay to say, “It is enough.”? Especially since the “go, go, go” mindset is often paired with “more, more, more”? We’re inundated with marketing messages to get the car with more features, the phone with more storage, and the insurance plan with more coverage. And who doesn’t want more? I know I do.

When I think of myself as a steward, I have to acknowledge the need to shift my mindset. Father Andrew Kemberling of St. Thomas More parish in Centennial, Colorado, once wrote, “Stewardship is a gift from God for the conversion of a materialistic world. It is living out a commitment to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered and involves a conversion of the heart.”

This really speaks to me and invites me to acknowledge that it is enough. I have enough. God has blessed me abundantly and I am to receive His gifts gratefully and share them with others. I can’t imagine praying, “More, more, more!”, and yet that is oftentimes how I live.

Christ-centered rather than self-centered. A conversion of the heart. What an invitation.

So while I will continue to yell at my favorite soccer players as they push to fulfill their World Cup dream, I will remember that it is enough. I have enough. And that means I will live my life differently. I will strive to answer Christ’s call to renew the face of the earth. I will celebrate God’s everlasting love and that I am his. I will experience the joy and deepening faith that comes from proclaiming, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

And It Is Enough.

An image of the mountains at Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center | Photo by Andrew David Cox

The mountains at Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center | Photo by Andrew David Cox

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of Laura Watson

Photo via MMFA.info

Laura Watson is the Director of Stewardship and Development Services for the Moravian Ministries Foundation of America. Laura joined the Foundation in April of 2012. A native of Winston-Salem and member of Home Moravian Church, she has worked in the Florida school system, at Salem College, and as Assistant Director of Laurel Ridge, the Southern Province’s camp and conference center.

When she’s not busy with stewardship and capital campaign consulting for the Foundation, Laura enjoys running and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), as well as traveling with her husband, Mark. She has served on the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees and the Salem Academy Alumnae Board and currently serves on the Triad JDRF Board of Directors.

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Higher Power: the Grand Organizing Designer

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BY LYDIAN AVERITT |

Photo by Grant Ritchie via Unsplash.com

Photo by Grant Ritchie via Unsplash.com

 
“Nothing too religious,” the mom cautioned our Facebook group. “We’re not looking for anything too heavy. More inspirational, or spiritual.”

The mom, whom I knew only slightly, needed a clergy member. Since she didn’t know any, she had asked our group if we had a name to share, but with this caveat.  

A reasonable request, maybe – except that the request was being made on the behalf of her son, and the occasion was his wedding.

At the risk of seeming judgmental, I indulged in a little disbelief. To Protestant Christians, marriage is a sacred promise; in the Bible, Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding, turning water into wine at Cana. To have a merely inspirational ceremony seemed, to me, to miss the gravity of the commitment. At this most powerful moment, the young man’s family was choosing to send him off into the next phase of life strengthened by …what?

The family in question isn’t alone. According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan group of experts that provides social science-driven information to the public, slightly more than a quarter of Americans do not necessarily practice a religion, but think of themselves as spiritual. They say that, while religious people follow the dogma of a certain faith, spiritual people are more free to follow their own faith path, believing in inter-connectedness and a vaguely defined higher power, greater than they but without rules or form.1

Pivotal life events aside, just on a daily basis, is feeling that there is a power greater than you – but stopping short of calling that power “God” – ok? In going through life’s trials and adversities, is mere spirituality, with its abstract connection to a “higher power,” enough?

Yes, says Mike Connors, without hesitation. Connors is the director and clinical supervisor for Greensboro, N.C.’s chapter of The Insight Program, an enthusiastic sobriety program loosely based on the venerable Alcoholics Anonymous, and he spoke to a parents’ group I attended recently. ‘Enthusiastic sobriety,’ I found out, means abstaining from drugs and alcohol – with partying. The 13-25 year olds in the program joke around, smoke and act as rebellious, loud and obnoxious as teenagers can, only with a purpose: to replace the false security and confidence many find in addictive substances with the real thing. Since its founding in 1987, the program has helped tens of thousands of teens and young adults beat drug and alcohol addiction. A key component of the recovery process is the belief in a “higher power.”  

Photo of Mike Connors

Mike Connors, Director and Clinical Supervisor, The Insight Program | Photo by Lydian Averitt

“When these kids come into the program, they’re all over the place,” Connors says. “Some have been in active addiction for years. Some are very willing to admit that their life has become unmanageable, others are resistant to the idea. The thing they all have in common is powerlessness in the face of their addiction. So, the solution must be seeking a power that is greater than the individual alone.”

To explain the program’s “higher power” concept, Insight founder Bob Meehan points in his own writing to C.S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. The book’s first chapter – the first step of Lewis’s larger plan to demonstrate that Christianity is truth – never mentions a Christian God;  instead, Lewis first establishes that there is power in the universe greater than humans’, and that the power is good.

As a first step in rehabilitating young lives, that belief is all you need, Connors says.

“When a person enters the program, that higher power is the love for the person that is expressed by the group. Many of the youth feel disenfranchised from school, friends, family, and religion, even those who grew up in a faith tradition. The group becomes their social and psychological support.

“We say, ‘Love within, love without, love in between,’ ‘’ Connors says.

There’s the supportive love the group members express for each other. The accepting love of self the program teaches, in order to combat the destructive self-talk to which many of them have succumbed. The outward-turning love for others that allows them to grow.

“The support of the group is love, which is what God is all about, right?” Connors says. “There are lots of parallels to organized religion, but we don’t teach a certain belief system or put a name on it – why would we? The point is the seeking.”

Even if “the greatest of these is love,” seeking the Lord while he may be found gets trickier. Although the group chooses to call the higher power “God,” the individual participants don’t necessarily mean the God they may have grown up with.

“When they first come in, they’re at their worst, and so it often stands for “get over death.’ That’s as much as they’ll allow “g.o.d.’ to be,” Connors says.

“As time goes by, recovery begins and the support of the group kicks in, and it becomes “group of drunks’ or “group of dope fiends.’  Then, more time goes by, and it becomes “good orderly direction:” are you moving forward in life? Are you turning outward to help people instead of dwelling on yourself? Do you have a goal and a purpose? Are you a good, moral, loving person?”

Finally, Connors says, it becomes an acronym for “grand organizing designer.’

“It’s a process,” he says. “As they recover, an almost existential search takes place. They start to say, ‘ok, I know there’s a power greater than me, expressed by the group’s love for me, but I know there’s something still more.‘ It opens them up to the idea of God. It gets the ball rolling.”

Just as “group of drunks” becomes “grand organizing designer,”  so does the participants’ disenfranchisement yield to belief in a power greater than they, and a very Moravian response starts to take place: faith, that their higher power won’t let them down; hope, that they can begin anew; and love for their fellow members and friends.

The saying on Connors's sweatshirt, "Big Enough," answers the question posed by the program, "Is your God big enough?' | Photo by Lydian B. Averitt

The saying on Connors’s sweatshirt, “Big Enough,” answers the question posed by the program, “Is your God big enough?’ | Photo by Lydian Averitt

“I refuse to give God a name, sex or creed,” Bob Meehan writes. “I do insist that they put a period after God, not a question mark.” 2

Is spirituality enough? Maybe so, as a foundation upon which a higher power can build. Whether named or implied, God’s presence is palpable. As their walk together unfolds, maybe God’s plan for some lives can be more fully told.


 

 

  • What Does it Mean to be Spiritual? Consciousbridge.com. April 9, 2013.
  • Meehan, Bob. Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Meek Publishing, 2000.

 

 


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, and is the coordinator of the family financial planning certificate program at North Carolina A&T State University. She is an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Four

This is 4th post in our series about Living Faith, a model of congregational life being designed by the Board of Cooperative Ministries of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. You can read the first post (click here)second post (click here), and third post (click here) at the preceding links. I’ve been writing about the need we have in our churches for a more focused approach to spiritual growth. Much of this has centered on the key components that make Living Faith an effective model to generate spiritual growth in the people of our churches. I hope you have found this interesting. We’ve gotten some response from some readers, and we would like to hear from a lot more. Your feedback and questions are welcome.

In my last post, I promised that I would write this time about the final key component that makes Living Faith succeed as a model of church life. I also wrote that this final component is the hardest for us to embrace, so here it goes.

In my last post I referred to Luke 10 as a good example of how Jesus worked with his disciples and how they are guided toward spiritual maturity and trained for outreach. When the time came, they didn’t go out as a single group. They divided into groups of two.

A similar thing happened in Acts 8. However, this time it was forced on them by persecution. In Luke 10 the disciples were ‘scattered’ by Jesus’ direction. In Acts 8 they were scattered by necessity following the death of Stephen. No doubt they mourned Stephen’s death and mourned the loss of fellowship they had with each other. But the rest of Acts 8 gives an example of the benefit of this forced dispersal. Phillip goes to Samaria and shares his faith there. Soon he finds himself in a remote area where he encounters the man from Ethiopia and shares his faith with him. And he is just one of those who left Jerusalem to escape persecution. Lots of others did the same thing.

It would have been nice to stay as one joyful, thriving community in Jerusalem; and they might have if given the choice. But the plan was to “go to all the world.” The persecution made clear that the time to start this had arrived. The cocoon phase of the church had ended.

When we discover a community, large or small, which nurtures us, we cling to it. Groups have formed and provided such blessing that they lasted for years. Often this is wonderful for a while. Then it stops being wonderful and begins to become inward. The members of the group find the group loving and accepting, and they sometimes wonder why others don’t join. They don’t see the barrier than has developed naturally around the group. Sometimes they begin to find it less beneficial even for themselves as the dynamics change.

Living Faith seeks to avoid this hardening of the wall around the group by periodically birthing new groups. When a group is begun, members are asked to agree to a covenant. A part of that covenant is to be open to the possibility of birthing a new group or helping to birth a new group after several months. This time period varies depending on the dynamics of the group. Not everyone will agree or be able to help birth a new group, but each group member is asked to consider doing so.

Those who have been part of close knit groups will recognize how hard it would be to depart from the blessings of such a group. You look around the circle of dear friends who have shared so much together, and its hard to imagine losing that. But that’s the way the church thrives, and that’s the way the church avoids stagnation and decline. Often when the church has plateaued or become corrupt or has become identified with empty ritual, some type of upheaval was needed to clear the way for fresh life. That’s true in congregations, in small fellowships, and in denominations. Birthing new groups helps to provide this renewal that prevents stagnation.

Moravians of the Renewed Church were regularly changing residence to other parts of the world, and we admire them for that. If we feel that way about the way they followed Christ, why do we find change in our own church routines so difficult?

One of the richest Moravian practices of the 18th century was the prayer bands–small groups that met frequently to encourage each other in their spiritual journeys. They became transformative and invaluable to the vitality of the Moravian Church. And members of these bands were sometimes shuffled or re-organized to make them more effective.

There is a lot of detail about how this works in Living Faith that I’m not including here. But birthing new groups is vital to the effectiveness of Living Faith and to the vitality of our churches.

A popular dish in coastal North Carolina is the blue crab. It’s especially sought after when it’s a soft shell blue crab. The fisherman (sometimes woman) catches the crab in a pot (more like a cage than a cooking pot) and watches for the crabs that are ready to moult (sometimes spelled molt). These crabs, called peelers, have grown and no longer fit comfortably in their shells. The peelers are set aside in a tank with flowing salt water. When the crab sheds its shell, it is chilled and sent to market before the new shell hardens. These softshell crabs are a delicacy. If the crab lives, it develops a new, slightly larger shell so it can grow larger.

This moulting is necessary to allow the crab to keep growing. If it didn’t do this, it could not thrive. As important as our groups are where we find fellowship, maybe they, too, need a transformative cycle built into their routine.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly