Tag Archives: discernment

Faithful Remnants

Only a remnant of them will return. Isaiah 10:22a

When my children were small I had more time to devote to craft projects – cross-stitch, sewing little things like Halloween costumes, party dresses for my daughter, and gifts for others. I enjoyed going to the fabric store and digging through the bins of remnant fabrics, little bundles of remaining cloth from a once full bolt that could no longer be sold full price. Most of the time the remnants were tiny pieces of crazy stuff that seemed useless – pieces of neon polyester or gaudy wool plaid. Other times you could find a gem – enough of a wonderfully tiny-patterned piece of cotton that would come in handy, especially if the price was right.

As time went on, I continued to collect more remnants than I had time or projects in which to use them. Let alone finish the ones I has started. I have an old family trunk that holds many of my unfinished and yet-to-be-born projects. I supposed it is my remnant trunk, a container from the past that is holding bits and scraps from years gone by. I always think, “Someday I will use these things. They are worth something.”

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15

Today, I feel like a remnant. The bolts have been taken off the shelf and a few remaining pieces have been chosen to stay, to be bundled in new ways with new labels and tossed into a new bin to await a new life at the hands of a different creator. It’s like the last one standing when all others have fallen or gone away. Not a scrap of fabric that is being stored away for some future purpose like my treasures at home. But certainly a piece that has been left behind to serve a purpose – I’m not sure what yet, but repurposed from the original bolt of fabric that was made of a multitude of threads.

In that day the Lord of hosts will be a garland of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people; and a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. Isaiah 28:5-6

This week I have had a brush with – no – was slammed by – an event that has occurred all over our country, including our churches for the past 2 years. Layoffs; the casting aside of employees that a budget can no longer support. I am a remnant of four remaining people of what was once an office of 10 people a month ago. In the bigger picture, I am one of eighteen remaining of what was once close to 40 people three years ago when the economy was booming.

. . . therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left. Isaiah 37:4d

The Hebrew Scriptures speak of the “faithful remnant” – those who continue to find favor with God as they follow God’s ways, whether it be in captivity or in the diaspora. Today, even those who are being left behind from a job they gave their loyalty to are part of the faithful. Those who continue on can also feel like the left behind. All are remnants, torn from the fabric of what was once one seamless cloth. And all grieve, for what once was and for the hope that was unfulfilled. The future is uncertain for those seeking a new path and for those remaining behind.

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Roman 11:5-6

I need to resurrect those fabric scraps and cast aside projects. I need to make something new.

But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem. Ezra 9:8-9

Related Articles

Telling YOUR Story

The Art of Spiritual Autobiography

As a former mentor for Education for Ministry (EfM), every fall I would introduce the concept of writing one’s spiritual autobiography for this adult formation seminar program. Sharing one’s spiritual autobiography builds a group faster than anything else. And it provides the individual the chance (some for the first time) to reflect on where God has (or has not) been throughout the stages of their life. It is a humbling experience to have another person share their spiritual autobiography with you. Even if they just share portions, it is an honor and a privilege to be entrusted with something so sacred.

Public Narrative is another project from Harvard University that has also gotten some traction in spiritual circles. It was used as a focal point at the 2009 Episcopal Church’s General Convention. Marshall Ganz, lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, explains, “Public narrative is woven from three elements: a story of why I have been called, a story of self; a story of why we have been called, a story of us; and a story of the urgent challenge on which we are called to act, a story of now. This articulation of the relationship of self, other, and action is also at the core of our moral traditions. As Rabbi Hillel, the 1st Century Jerusalem sage put it, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?””

Thomas Groome, Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College, is another person who taps into the notion of “My Story, God’s Story, Our Story”. His shared Christian praxis, includes scripture and tradition as part of one’s educational foundation.

The Jesuits give an excellent definition of a spiritual autobiography: “A spiritual autobiography focuses less on the people, events and experiences of a person’s life and more on what these people, events and experiences meant for him and how they formed him or shaped the course of his life. It allows the writer to communicate who he is as a person and what is important in his life. Yet the process of crafting a spiritual autobiography demands that he communicate this to himself as well. It demands that the writer look within himself and that he ask himself the very questions he hopes to answer – Who am I? and What is important in my life? It demands that he look long and seriously at the people, events and experiences of his life, his struggles and conflicts, his strengths and weaknesses, and the decisions he has made. Yet it is in seeking to understand these seemingly disparate facets of his life that he gradually comes to understand them in all their interrelatedness. More importantly, it is there that he will often discover God in his life, not simply as his Creator and Redeemer, but as One who has been present and actively ‘at work’ in his life, inviting, directing, guiding and drawing him into the fullness of life.”

This year’s EfM focal point for creating one’s story is through a process called “Stepping Stones”. Jenifer C. Gamber, an on-line EfM mentor, has created a video explaining the metaphor to those who are discerning the moments of shift and journey in their lives.

There are a variety of ways of gathering one’s thoughts about your own history with God. You can develop a time-line, thinking about the historical events that occurred during your life and placing your thoughts, feelings, location and other personal events alongside it. Put together some photos – personal or magazine clippings that resonant with you for different phases of your life. Or following the model of Godly Play, create an Object Box containing mementos and artifacts which have had meaning to you throughout your life. Download this document to give you some other ideas. 

“Each person has a history because of his or her own experiences. But not until the person’s history is expressed does it have life. The telling generates the story, giving it form and meaning. Once expressed, a person’s history becomes concrete and actual. It becomes something that can speak to the self. You do not have one history but many.” (Common Lesson Year D of the EfM materials.)

Tell your story however it suits you. Allow your story to be part of God’s story. After all, you are part of God’s history and re-creation of the world each and every day.

Don’t Recruit – Discern & Invite

God did not sit back and wait for people to volunteer.

He often went to extraordinary measures to call workers. God used a burning bush to get Moses’ attention. He used a storm and a big fish to emphasize to Jonah that he was serious about him going to Nineveh. It wasn’t until after Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord on His throne that he said, “Here am I. Send me!” Paul accepted the call of God in his life after hearing the Lord’s voice in a blinding light. Jesus met common, ordinary people where they were in calling the twelve disciples. Simon Peter and Andrew were “casting a net into the lake” when Jesus said, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:18-19). James and John “were in a boat with their father” (Matthew 4:21). Matthew was “sitting at the tax collector’s booth” (Matthew 9:9).

The end of the summer was always crunch time for me to fill all those empty slots where I still needed Church School teachers. People would turn the other way when they saw me walking toward them during coffee hour. They knew I was on a mission.

Until I began to gather a team to discern who might be called to the ministry of teaching.

List the qualities you are looking for – develop a position description (like this one for a Church School Teacher).

  1. Develop a team.
  2. Communicate.
  3. Pray.
  4. Invite.
  5. Support them.

Invite your volunteers to ministry positions through a theology of call instead of one of recruitment. Download more of my thoughts and some ideas on this topic.