Shadow Boxing

We all have what the famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called our “shadow” – those parts of ourselves of which we are either ignorant or choosing to hide. Once we realize that these shadows hinder our ability to minister, we can choose to engage what Richard Rohr describes as “shadowboxing.” So how do you shadowbox? 

One way is to pay attention to where you see repeated negative patterns in your life both in the things you do and avoid doing. Take time to consider what might be the underlying cause(s) of these negative patterns and examine the spiritual formation practices that can assist you in overcoming them through the Spirit. I try and pay special attention to those people, comments, and situations that trigger over-reaction in me. Why do I have a particular patterned respond? What are the things that are complicit in my over reaction? Do they occur at a specific time of the day/week? Am I tired or hungry or stressed or something else completely? 

The important part is engaging in the process so as to better identify those things that contribute to your over reaction. From there you can assemble a plan that will allow you to partner with the Spirit to discover a better way forward.

Stewarding Energy and Momentum

The best way to build momentum is to seize opportunities as they appear because quick turnaround tends to build momentum.

Maybe a physics reference might be helpful in our understanding. If you remember anything from your high school physics class, you undoubtedly recall that P = MV is the equation used to discover the moment of an object. Momentum = mass x velocity. Mass if often misunderstood to be about size. Size is actually better measured in volume. Mass is about weight. More mass equals greater potential impact. Momentum is created when mass is fueled by velocity. But speed and velocity are often confused. 

Speed refers to the rate at which an object covers distance. A fast-moving object has a high speed and covers a large distance in a period of time; a slow-moving object has a slow speed and covers a small distance in a period of time. Simply stated, speed has no directional component. It is simply how fast something is moving. Velocity is different. 

Velocity is directionally aware. In other words, velocity is the rate at which an object changes its position. Imagine someone running in place. While this may result in a frenzy of activity, it would result in zero velocity. Every step would need to go into moving that person further from where they started for it to be velocity. It’s mass, coupled with speed and direction, that creates momentum. 

Now let’s draw some parallels for the church. 

In the church, mass equals people. Without people, there is no momentum. Mass is a critical component of momentum. We want to increase our mass not for the sake of numbers alone, but for the sake of impact. But mass, as important as it is, will not create momentum on its own. We also need velocity – speed moving in a common direction. That’s why a clear, concise and actionable mission and vision statements are so important. Because when people (mass) move together under God in a common direction (velocity) momentum is developed. 

The choice is simple. We can go a million miles an hour in a frenzy of programs and activity and get nowhere, or we can put our collective mass behind a common direction and create some momentum. 

Perhaps that is what the author of Hebrews was trying to communicate in Hebrews 12:12-13. I love how Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message translation: “So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.” 

Do you want to create momentum? Take a steady grip with tired hands, a firm stance on shaky legs, mark out a straight path for your feet, and then GO FOR IT!

All Saints’: A Solemn Holy Day

In the early CE (Common Era) Catholic tradition, Saints Day was a way to remember the “birthday” of a saint on the anniversary of his or her martyrdom. By the middle of the first century, during the persecution of Diocletian, there were so many martyrs it became impossible to give them each their due. Pope Gregory IV made All Saints’ Day an authorized holiday in 835 CE to honor all the saints, known and unknown.

“All Saints’ Day has a rather different focus in the Reformed tradition. While we may give thanks for the lives of particular luminaries of ages past, the emphasis is on the ongoing sanctification of the whole people of God. Rather than putting saints on pedestals as holy people set apart in glory, we give glory to God for the ordinary, holy lives of the believers in this and every age.

“All Saints’ Day is a time to rejoice in all who through the ages have faithfully served the Lord. The day reminds us that we are part of one continuing, living communion of saints. It is a time to claim our kinship with the “glorious company of apostles … the noble fellowship of prophets … the white-robed army of martyrs.” It is a time to express our gratitude for all who in ages of darkness kept the faith, for those who have take the gospel to the ends of the earth, for prophetic voices who have called the church to be faithful in life and service, for all who have witnessed to God’s justice and peace in every nation.” (Book of Common Worship)

“To rejoice with all the faithful of every generation expands our awareness of a great company of witnesses above and around us like a cloud (Hebrews 12:1). It lifts us out of a preoccupation with our own immediate situation and the discouragements of the present. In the knowledge that others have persevered, we are encouraged to endure against all odds (Hebrews 12:1-2). Reminded that God was with the faithful of the past, we are reassured that God is with us today, moving us and all creation toward God’s end in time. In this context, it is appropriate for a congregation on All Saints’ Day to commemorate the lives of those who died during the previous year.” (Book of Common Worship)

On this All Saints’ Day, I invite you to call to mind those who have gone before you in life and faith. They are a part of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews—both for the Church as a whole as well as for us individually. In remembering, we honor their memory and reflect anew on their impact on our spiritual journeys. All Saints’ Day is also a time to reflect on those still with us who have or are impacting your spiritual journey today. Reach out to them and let them know how much their presence in your life has shaped you. You’ll be glad you did.