I met with my prayer quad last night. We have been gathering once every six weeks for nearly six or seven years and it is always a source of strength and encouragement to me. My new job of pastoring is too challenging to linger in discouragement and dishonesty for too long, so I value these friends who manage to be both honest and to spur me on and encourage me in the gospel. Next week, I am off for three days on retreat praying and walking with some other folk which will be an additional refreshing for my soul.
I really enjoyed this post from the Cawley blog and it got me thinking. What have I have learnt? It is a good thought that whatever job or new venture we take on we start at it lacking the skills and competence we need. Only through practice, teaching, the mentoring of others and perseverance (sometimes years of it) can we turn something we do poorly into something we become a bit better at. Most people can't be bothered with learning, certainly when it come to the tough task of 'growing up' into maturity in Christ, which is why, as I remember, Peter makes a point of it in his first letter (1 Peter 2:2).
The question is have I learnt anything and am I still learning?
1. A Job: I remember sitting in church years ago wondering how on earth you preached a sermon. A week ago I was ordained into gospel ministry and it seems that the central learning for me in my work is to be able to preach good news that has demonstrably changed and is changing my own life and will over time hopefully change the lives of others. Keller says that you have to accept that until you have preached at least 200 sermons you are going to be rubbish at preaching- so don't sweat about it. I find that rather heartening and freeing
2. A Hobby: I had a welcome few days at the Arundel Arms fishing in June and realize I am still such a learner at this. I did catch a fish or two but am still a real novice. Do you have a hobby? If you don't you should get one. Find something that you think you might enjoy and learn how to do it and be prepared to be rubbish at it for quite a while.
3. A Relationship: I think learning how to pray is the central task of life."Teach us how to pray" was the disciples request and it must surely be ours too in our relationship with God. To be a pray-er is to be a learner. The Scripture says 'devote yourselves to prayer' which suggests this is not a 'one lesson and we are done' thing. Devotion denotes learning. When I was young, my parents hosted some pro-golfers for the 1977 Open at Turnbury (which Nicklaus won as I remember or was it Tom Watson?) and I recall watching these golfers hit ball after ball after ball perfecting their art. It was a display of true sporting devotion which perhaps in the realm of prayer translates into a need for 'kneeling devotion'.
4. A Song: I have learnt to play the guitar very badly. But my four chords and erratic timing represent a heart that is not so much learning an instrument as learning how to worship God. The guitar playing has been over the years a time to come out of my almost constant self-interest and preoccupation and to turn my head and heart to Jesus. I am still learning.
5. A Book: I don't think I really read a book until I became a Christian. A few, of course, but I had no real love of reading. Learning how to read, especially the bible, but books in general, has been a tricky task. Have you learnt how to read and learnt to cultivate a love of reading and the time for it? If you don't love reading the bible you probably won't bother doing it-that's obvious. Therefore, we have to learn and find ways to learn to love to read. To commit to a life of opening books and being prepared to discover new things in them is a task well worth taking on.
5. A Love: Most hard has been learning to love. This is the central purpose of all of life. To love God and others. That means learning to love your family, your kids, those who don't love you, those who think differently from you, those you work with and those you have not even met yet. Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.
This chap is called Ira Glass and I like his thoughts and also think I might check out The War of Art as a future read.
Happy learning to all