It will be long past January 1 when you read this, but I have been thinking about my plans and hopes for 2013. You might be expecting some goals for the yearly meeting, such as that we come together over a vision of what we have to share with our neighbors—the truth that Jesus is present with us to teach us himself—and that we are actively communicating this good news. Or that we have plans for two or three church plants by established churches, one of them in Woodburn with a specific plan to become an integrated Spanish/English congregation. Or that we will have found a way to include bi-vocational pastors and youth pastors into our pastors’ retreats and conferences. Or that we have raised so much money for our Called to Ministry conference that we can charge $25 per attender. All these are good goals and ones that sit around in my heart and mind and prayers.
However, if we accomplish all these goals and do not grow closer to Jesus, we are missing the mark. So the first of all goals is to lean in closer to Jesus. Here is how I plan to do this in 2013.
First, I plan to listen. I just read Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott. My Quaker feeling is that after praying “help,” I need to be quiet long enough to hear the help I asked for. If I pray, “Lord, show me your way,” I need to wait long enough to let God’s Spirit shine a light in front of me. If I say, “Lord, I need your wisdom here,” I need to shut up long enough to let God’s Spirit send ideas I didn’t bring with me.
Second, I plan to obey. I remember at a meeting of the New Call to Peacemaking initiative in the 1980s, a North Pacific YM Friend spoke of appreciating silence because it “helped him get in touch with himself.” Another NPYM Friend spoke to that and said, “What I hear in the silence is someone saying to me, ‘Why haven’t you done what I told you to do?’” When I listen, and God talks with me, it often has to do with my next action. So I need to simply step out and do what I heard to do.
Third, I plan to apologize. Maybe this should have come first, since it is something Jesus often brings to me to do. This doesn’t mean taking the blame for everything, but it does mean acknowledging that my action has caused harm because I missed the mark. I likely annoy people and hurt their feelings all the time by just being me. I remember an older girl saying, “You got on my nerves the moment you got out of the car.” These things cannot be helped, and they aren’t intentional. Nonetheless, when I cause actual harm, I need to apologize. Jesus will help me know when to apologize and to whom.
Fourth, I plan to move on. After an apology, I don’t need to wallow in remorse or shame or guilt. I have done what I was told to do, and that’s all I can do. After hearing and obeying successfully, I need to move on, not wallow in self-congratulation or smugness or self-satisfaction. Once after I did something good, I heard a little voice, just like one of those devils you see in the comics, and it said, “Weren’t you special to do that nice thing? Aren’t you a good person?” I laughed out loud, recognizing this as a temptation. So no space provided for grandiosity or shame. Just keep listening, obeying, and moving on.
So I present to you this acronym of LOAM (listen, obey, apologize, move on). I hope that as I practice what I preach, the soil of my heart will be loamy—a rich mixture of dirt and compost and humanity where the seeds of God’s kingdom can grow.