20 July 2015

Shepherding and sheep

The words "my sheep listen to my voice" (John 10:27) have been tossed around our house lately. The sheep, though, refers to Jerry, the cat. Matthijs has been finding it a challenge to find him and, if necessary, herd him inside the house when we leave. I, however, have managed to have the cat sitting on my lap 5 minutes after coming home, even though Matthijs had been searching for him for awhile as he was trying to leave the house.

It is not surprising that yesterday's Scriptures that focused on shepherding stood out to me:
Jeremiah 23:1-4: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord."
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd....  
Mark 6:34: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."
We have been striving at Campus Edge to become clearer about our mission, including and especially who we are trying to reach. Who are our sheep? Who are the sheep without a shepherd? What are the lost sheep that we should leave the other 99 for? And am I, like the priest who gave the sermon, willing to look hard at how and where I have been failing in task of shepherding, in order to prevent the sheep from being scattered?

I do not know the immediate answers to those questions, as they are hard ones. I know that I am saddened by the degree in which I have reached out and ministered to faculty this past year, as well as those who are not Christians. I have found it hard even to find ways to reach out to those who do not seek us out. I do not know how to balance my desire to shepherd and love those who have been given to me - the ones who have sought out Campus Edge - with a growing conviction that the ministry of Campus Edge needs to focus at least as much on those struggling and getting lost, as there are so many ways to get lost, both as a Christian within the academy and as an academic within the church.

I am thankful to be reminded of the challenges of taking on the role of shepherding. It gives space for all of my feelings - frustrations, anger, sadness, joy, overwhelmedness, and more -  related to my role of shepherding and those being lost. And it makes it very obvious how desperately I need the help, prayers, and encouragement of those around me, as well as being challenged to be faithful to my task as shepherd and to completely rely on the Lord as my shepherd.

16 July 2015

Christianity and the environment

One of the things that continues to puzzle me is why people, in the name of Christianity, are against environmentalism. I believe there are good and valid arguments for Christians to argue that homosexual relationships are not good (according to the Bible) and that the world came about through creation (as opposed to evolution). I can even technically understand why people would argue that socialism is not part of God's good order (although as a Canadian and Dutch citizen, I honestly don't really get why Christians argue that socialism is bad).

But I can think of no good reason why people are against creation care. I can think of several bad reasons: laziness, greed, indifference to others, and/or belief that God only cares about souls and is going to destroy the world (this is a misreading of the Bible).

A recent article, "Faith-based arguments that deal with climate change are a smoke screen, that mask the real problem," reminded me again of my frustration related to this issue. Katharine Hayhoe, who is interviewed, does a wonderful job explaining some of what's going on. The following is a quote giving a rather scathing, but enlightening, assessment of why people bring God into their argument:
"I looked into quotes from politicians, and what struck me was a vast number of politicians who invoke God when they’re saying that climate change isn’t real. Why are they invoking God? Because you don’t want to attack somebody’s faith, or belief. It’s very politically incorrect in our culture today to attack somebody’s faith, especially the Christian faith. Almost 80 percent of people in the United States call themselves Christian. . . . [Sen. James] Inhofe himself said to Rachel Maddow, I think three years ago, “I used to think this all was true until I found out how much it cost to fix it.”  But he’s not out there saying, “I wish this wasn’t true, but it’s too expensive.” He’s saying, “God wouldn’t let this happen.” And why is he saying that? Because it’s a lot more politically acceptable to invoke a faith-based argument, when the real reason, at the bottom of it, is my ideology will not permit me to allow the government to put a price on carbon and its subsidies. My ideology will not permit me to consider the greater good, as opposed to short-term gain. But you can’t really come out and say those things. Those are not very attractive, appealing things to say. Or very Christian things."
As distressing as it is that so many hurtful and inaccurate messages made by Christians that are so often picked up in the American media, I am thankful that are people like Hayhoe who are providing a balanced counterargument (also in the name of Christianity). 

07 July 2015

Waiting to process

A blog I read described really well how I process things. The author attributes much of the way she processes to her being personality type INFJ (Meyer-Briggs). Being fairly similar in personality (I'm an INFP), her words resonated with me, so I'm including them here:

"I’m an INFJ (if you’re into that whole Meyers-Briggs thing) and in times of conflict or difficulty, we withdraw – big time. We go deeply inward and don’t emerge until we’ve settled whatever has been ailing us, until we have developed a nice story with a bow on the top. This is the great frustration of the ones who love me, I hear. I withdraw, I shut down, I retreat in times of conflict both external and internal." - Sarah Bessey
I haven't figured out how I can do this better, at least in a way that doesn't seem to shut out those around me. Sarah Bessey gives some wisdom about how she has learned to deal better with her relationships and this aspect of her personality, but I haven't figured out if her way is a good fit for me. For now it is enough for me to understand and recognize that this way of processing is part of who I am. That, for me, is the first step towards understanding how to allow myself to be the person I am while also wondering what should be shifted or changed in order for life to be better for myself and those around me.