Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Must Press On...

Earlier this month at UMC of Rancho Cordova where I am a member, our new Pastor, Jo Ann challenged the congregation to press on, not looking behind at what 2015 was and to press forward in 2016.  Pressing on is something we must do, through the good times and the bad times.  In Philippians 3: 12-16, the Apostle Paul writes
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[g] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.13 Beloved,[h] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[i] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[j] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
 This is a verse I have frequently turned to leading up to this journey to seminary and path towards ordained ministry.  While there is still a lot I am fleshing out, I find myself constantly turning to this verse, pressing on towards the goal even though it sometimes feels like I'm slogging through the mud, or much like the nightmare of a commute I experienced on the Capital Beltway on the way back to my dorm room from church in which a 45 minute drive ended up being 8 hours.  Even when the race feels more like slogging through mud, ice, or the sand, there is still a goal and we still must press on.

There have been times I want to walk away and give up, and yes there are times I experience some tough love from family and good friends because of my lack of ability to take initiative, but I'm pressing on even though I may not move at a quick pace.  Or perhaps there is something else at play.  It's kind of like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady, steady and slow will win the race.  As one of my previous pastors and soon to be colleague reminds me, the race is just as important a part of the journey as is the goal.  This May, I will be graduating with my MDiv. from Wesley and moving back to California even though there is more uncertainty as I write this post.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, the unknown is a scary place, but may as well embrace it, as hard as that is to do at times.  Even if things in the candidacy process may require more time and patience, I still must press on, even looking for new and different ways of doing ministry with our world than just in the church.
At the end of my first year at Wesley in 2013, a Washington Post article highlighted that a number of seminary graduates who are pursuing vocations other than ministry in the church.  Seminary provides some new perspectives in how to live as people of faith in our world and communities and how to make our communities a better place.  I also realize that while leading a local church may not necessarily be my gift, ministry does not have to happen in the local church, especially as we face a cold, hard reality that many people will not step foot in the church.  But, we must press on nonetheless and while the church may be different as I continue my path towards ordination, my goals are different than they were when I first begun.  Nevertheless, ministry to me is about making the world a better place through sharing God's love by being the hands and feet of Jesus.  One thing that has burned upon my heart is that I am finding that there are many possibilities where God can call us to, but we must press on to reach that goal.

Along with sharing the Gospel of hope and love, a new goal that has been burning on my heart is how I can help people who have been hurt and particular, those hurt by the church or other place, such as school.  Bullying has been a cause I have been very vocal about and feel a strong calling towards helping people heal from their wounds from bullying although I know that the church has sadly been a source of that bullying (not all, but unfortunately, we see the church portrayed like this at times in the media although I also believe that there are more churches that do good for the communities they serve).  While I still feel called to ordination, I am exploring how to go about getting my license to be a therapeutic counselor, along with the training I have received in pastoral care and counseling.  While the basic level of pastoral counseling is about being present and listening, I feel that there is more I can do to counsel those who have been wounded as a result of bullying.  And this is all because of the bullying I experienced from elementary through high school.  As difficult and dark as it was, I still pressed on then and keep pressing on today as I continue this new path of discernment.  So where are you finding yourself where you need to press on?

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