International Ministries

Who Will Feed You When You're Ninety?

May 3, 2015 Journal
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Who will hold the spoon?

Several months ago one of my missionary colleagues read an article that asked, “Who will feed you when you’re 90?”  The article said today’s medical and technological advances to prolong human life will allow for one in every five people to live to be 100 years old.  Therefore, how you live now—your eating, sleeping, exercise habits—will be a determining factor in the quality of your life later.  The odds are that most of us will indeed live to be 90.  Will you be feeding yourself, or will someone else be holding the spoon?

How do we feed our spiritual lives?

Most of us shift uncomfortably when we think about personal habits that might impact the quality of our physical lives.  But what about habits that impact our spiritual lives?  How many of us intentionally cultivate a deeper, more intimate relationship with God?  Yes, we often say we want to go deeper with God.  We want more of God.  But do we strategize a way to accomplish that very goal?  Or, maybe we just don’t know how.  Or, maybe we try something, but we don’t stick with it.  I’m not talking about reading your Bible and praying more, although those endeavors are certainly worthwhile.  I’m thinking of ways to add new resources to your spiritual toolbox so that “your house is built upon the rock and not the sand” as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:24-27.

Creativity grows the soul!

This month I had the opportunity to be part of a support team that provided a new resource for the Nicaraguan Health Promoters of the AMOS Foundation that is operated under the direction of Drs. David and Laura Parajón.  The training was offered by First Aid Arts which is a non-profit out of Seattle that uses arts-based tools (music, writing, drama, drawing, etc.)  to equip care providers to assist victims of trauma.  The facilitators, Ruth Peterman, Shabrae Krieg, and IM Missionary Mylinda Baits led the women in different exercises that used both their cognitive and artistic abilities.  My role was making observations, taking notes, and recording the event with pictures and video for future evaluation.  IM Missionary Barb Bolick assisted with translation. 

These Nicaraguan women of faith were amazing to watch!  They connected deeply with the idea of using the arts to help heal and transform the people in the villages where they serve. Neurological and psychological research has shown how art-based therapies reduce post-traumatic symptoms.  Since many of these women have experienced trauma (abuse, violence, natural disasters), the workshop not only equipped them to serve others, but it also began to heal their own pain.  I saw how the women could use these new tools to deepen relationships with each other, with their patients, and with God.

Is art a part of your spiritual toolbox?

All of us have experienced trauma in one way or another, to one extreme or another.  Using art to reconnect those broken pieces is one resource you might consider adding to your spiritual toolbox. But art isn’t just for recovery from traumatic episodes in your life.  Practicing art when you’re healthy becomes a preventative measure!  

Exploring the arts to deepen your relationship with God is not a new idea, but unless you’re naturally gifted in a particular artistic area, few of us consciously think about using “art” to go deeper with God.  However, if you work with wood, if you make quilts, if you love to create culinary masterpieces, if you garden, if you write poems for your grandchildren, if you love to bird watch . . . all of these and more are creative opportunities to invest in your spiritual future.

Many of us know more about God through study/reflection of sermons, Bible Studies, and reading commentaries.  But how many of us know how to BE with God?  How to delight in God’s presence as we celebrate creativity which is a reflection of our Creator God?  Artistic endeavors engage & grow different parts of our brains.  We listen and participate with God in ways that balance the deductive, rational approach we’re usually invested in.

Awakened to newness

In addition to Nicaragua, I also visited Seattle, WA where I led a women’s retreat while David traveled to the Dakotas to visit churches and lead a pastor’s contemplative retreat.  These two retreats were opportunities to begin to live out our new calling as Regional Missionaries in the area of Spiritual Renewal, Spiritual Direction, and Vocational Calling.  Both of us felt the desire to push the attendees beyond their comfortable “God boxes” to grapple with desire, passion, and risk.  Where in your life do you long to be awakened to newness?  And once you wake up, how are you going to nurture that part of your soul?

We all know a person we consider to be “awake”—someone who is in touch fully with God and with herself/himself.  Roberta Bondi in her book Memories of God shares this about a woman named Jane, “There was a freedom in her that I had never seen in any woman, or any living human being, for that matter, a freedom that I had not even imagined to be possible.  This was a woman, a woman radiating intelligence, energy, and kindness, absolutely without fear, completely at home in the world and fully, unapologetically herself.”  This is what the deepest part of us desires: to radiate, vibrate, be fully alive!

Spiritual Growth is intentional

Choosing to have a growing spiritual edge does not come naturally, or happen quickly.  You have to consciously make it happen, step by step.  If you need more silence in your life, then you have to start with 5 minutes, grow it to 10 minutes, grow that to 30 minutes, and so on.  If you need to practice simplicity, then you have to practice giving stuff away.  If you need to understand community, then you need to seek places in your neighborhood where you can make connections.  If you desire to get beyond yourself, then start looking for places to serve.  Author Jeff Goins says, “Most growth happens this way: slowly, over time.  You don’t see it happening—in fact, sometimes the circumstances feel more like inconveniences than opportunities—but then one day you wake up, amazed at how far you’ve come.”

What kind of Christian will you be at 90?

What kind of spiritual hunger do you have today?  What you do about it will determine who you will be at 90.  Will others be able to detect wisdom & grace through what you say and do?  Will younger generations come to you for advice, eagerly asking how to go deeper with God?  Will you be an authentic representation of mature Christianity?  May the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:14 encourage and inspire us: “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Amen.