2006-10-04

For Everything There Is A Season

DATE: Wednesday 2006.10.04
TO: Rev. Rob Smith

CC: Youth, Parents, and Vestry of Church of the Apostles


RE: For Everything There Is A Season…

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Greetings in the Name of Christ,

My brothers and sisters in the Lord, the Teacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to plant and a time to harvest… a time to weep and a time to laugh." Over the last 4 1/2 years I have shared many tears, and even more laughter, with you all. You have planted love and joy in my heart that is impossible to put into words, and I hope I have planted Christ in your lives as well. And now the Lord has harvested what you have sown into my life, and has prepared another field for me to work in as the college chaplain at Southern Methodist University.

This decision comes with much sorrow and even more prayer. And I want you to know that it was not the result of anything that could have been done "better" or differently by Church of the Apostles. Father Rob is an incredible boss, pastor, friend, mentor, and colleague. I have never worked for anyone who I have meshed as well with. Cindy, Debbie, and Sharon have been an incredible support to me, and have always encouraged me, and constantly reminded me to keep all my T's crossed and all of my I's dotted. Without great administrators, people like me would be completely lost in life! And the families and youth of Apostles! What can I say? Never have I been in a family of faith that is so nurturing, encouraging, honest, loving, faithful, challenging, nurturing, and all-out-awesome as you are. Lord, how I will miss you all! Words cannot describe what you mean to me.

And yet, the Lord has told me that my season here is done. My first indication was in Del Rio on the summer 2005 mission trip. On that trip the Lord told me that summer 2006 would be my last mission trip as a youth minister. I did not know what to do with that word from the Lord, so I sat on it and only told Kim. Later that year I began working with a half-dozen youth ministers to create a cooperative ministry to reach community college students and young adults. It was at that time that I began to really have a heart for college ministry, and realize how sorely lacking our diocese is in reaching them. It is like we raise up young men and women in Christ, only to graduate them at age 18 into a yawning chasm of nothingness. When they graduate, it seems like they either fall away from the church entirely, or join campus ministries from other denominations who are reaching out to college students. And I do not have to tell you what this does to raising up the next generation of clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal church. We are all witnessing the results of this leadership crisis in the national church right now.

I seriously began thinking that college ministry was something the Lord might be calling me to in a few years. Little did I know that His call would come so soon. When the college chaplain at SMU left suddenly this summer, after only one semester of ministry, the college commission met to figure out what to do next. My name was brought up in the meeting, and I was asked if I was interested. My first inclination was to say no, but I felt like I should pray about it. After praying, I sincerely felt that it would be disobedience for me not to apply. After I applied, I prayed that if this was not the right move, that the Lord would close the doors on me, and shut the process down. Every conceivable door has been opened wide for me. Every one.

After discussing seriously with Father Rob what was going on, I again prayed earnestly, with the weight of Apostles on my heart, "Lord, is this the right thing to do?" The answer came back clearly. He has raised me up for such a time as this. If I do not do this now, I will never have the opportunity again to do college ministry. I will be a parish priest later in life, not a college chaplain. And, in decades to come, if I want to raise up others to do effective youth and young adult ministry, I must learn how to be effective first. I have learned youth ministry well. It is time to learn young adult ministry with the same proficiency.

I know I am needed at Apostles and will be dearly missed. And leaving here will literally be like ripping out a piece of my heart. But I have to follow the call of God, or risk disobedience to what He has made me for. And every family who has kids in the youth program knows that soon (and sooner than you think) you will be graduating your kids into the "real world" where they will not have the safety and boundaries of home to protect them anymore. Every family hopes and prays that their child will go to college or to their career and still stay close to Christ, and find a faith community where their purpose in life can be nurtured. Everyone hopes their child will find a mentor and a pastoral presence who will care for them while they are away from their family. I want to be that pastor. I want to develop that community. God has called me to it.

And I need your love, support, and prayers to do that. And I need one more thing as well. Your forgiveness. Because I know the feelings of loss and abandonment that come with a departure like this. Please forgive me. I am completely sure that what I am doing is orchestrated by God, but that does not make it any less difficult. So, please forgive me.

My last day at Apostles will be Sunday, October 22nd. We will have a Servant Sunday on the 15th, as well as regular youth programming until that day. On Wednesday the 18th I would like to have a meeting with all youth and parents at 7pm at Church to talk about the shape of the transition process (this will be a business meeting). I would like to end with a going away party on the afternoon of the 22nd. And, although I am leaving, I will still be very much a part of our Diocese family, and available for questions and consultation should the need arise.

Wow, that was difficult to write. I am sure it is difficult to read. May the Lord Jesus Christ grant us the comfort of His Holy Spirit as we deal with our time of grief, and may He pour out His wisdom upon us as we transition to the new realities in our corporate lives. Amen+

May Christ fill your lives to overflowing now and always,

Nate Bostian
214.505.9859 // natebostian@hotmail.com
http://natebostian.blogspot.com


P.S. I love you all deeply, and I hope you know that.

P.P.S. (1) I still plan to serve on the Apostles delegation to Diocese Convention; (2) Kim and I plan to fulfill our pledge to the building campaign; (3) I would like to still teach confirmation for my kids and families who are currently in the program from 8:30-10:30am on Sundays.

2006-10-02

Living in Romans 7 | Longing for Romans 8

I was a jerk the other day. I sinned against God and my neighbor. And I am under a lot of stress with ministry, seminary, family, lack of sleep, and a half dozen other things. So, when I was talking to a friend today, he said it sounded like I was not taking responsibility for what I did. Instead, I was blaming what I did on the stuff going on around me. And he was right. I was focusing way too much on what was going on around me, and not what was going on in me.

We all do stupid things when we get stressed to medicate ourselves so we don't have to think about the things that worry us. The Bible calls these stupid things sin. Recovery groups call it addiction. Family therapists call it dysfunction. And the doctor calls it sickness. I am not sure that any of these terms fully capture the reality of what is wrong with us, deep down inside, that causes us to make dumb decisions that hurt others and ourselves and our God.

Perhaps sin is the best word. In Greek it literally means "missing the mark". Whatever it is that is inside of us that we freely choose, that destroys us even as it "medicates" our pain, deeply misses the mark of what God made us for. We are made to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves as completely whole, healthy, peaceful, harmonious people. Sin screws all of that up. And it seems like the more we get stressed by the world around us, the more we sin.

We get stressed by family, friends, enemies, responsibilities, deadlines, work, school, church, mishaps, good fortune, money, bills, taxes, sickness, health, breakdowns, breakups, and a million other things. I know some people that medicate stress by eating comfort food and porking up. Others medicate through drugs and alcohol that gives them a vacation from themselves. Others medicate by sex, and adult activities displayed on small computer screens and darkened theaters. Still others medicate by gambling and adventure and anything to get an adrenaline rush. And then there are those that medicate by argument and anger and making life hell for everyone around them. We all know people who medicate themselves in these ways and a million others. We may even be these folks.

And all of this stuff is sin. It ALL misses the mark. It all takes a blessing God has given us and perverts it and uses it for selfish gratification.

So, does the stress cause the sin? Can we just blame our actions on the stressors in our lives, and be done with personal responsibility and guilt? Hell: No! I say it that way because this is precisely the philosophy of hell. We can NEVER be healed of our sickness if we take that route. The first step to being healed is admitting you are sick and taking responsibility for the things you do to keep yourself sick. You can't be healed of cancer if you deny you have a problem. The Great Physician cannot heal our sickness so long as we say "It's not my fault. It's my environment. I don't have a problem, Jesus. But, if you fix THEM everything will be OK". That is one of the reasons why Jesus said:

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." (Mark 2:17). Let me elaborate here. Those who think they are well and are living in denial can never be cured so long as they will not admit that the central problem in their lives comes not from what is around them, but what is IN them. Only the people who first and foremost admit this can be healed.

So, what is the relationship between stress and sin?

Here's what I really believe about stress and sin: Stress does not CAUSE sin, stress REVEALS sin. It's like when we are stressed, and we become complete jerks to other people and rip their heads off, and then the next day we say things like "I am sorry. That wasn't me talking. I don't really feel that way, it's just that you don't understand everything I am going through… blah… blah…"

Well, that is just not true. It IS you who did it. The "inner jerk" has been there all along, it just took a "stress test" to find out where he was hiding. For instance, I know that if I was completely whole and healthy inside, I wouldn't sin to "medicate" my feelings. I would instead, be like Jesus, who went deep into prayer when he was stressed, worried, and afraid.

It's just like going to the doctor, or taking your car to the mechanic. The doctor makes you describe your symptoms, and sometimes even puts your through a "stress test" to reveal what is going wrong in your body. The stress test reveals what was already wrong with you, but was hiding in the absence of stress. Likewise, a good mechanic often has to rev the engine and put the car under stress to find out where the grinding and clanking is coming from.

My stress tests show where I am sick, where I am grinding, where I am broken inside- where I need to be fixed. And here is the troubling thing: 19 out of 20 times, I DO handle stress the way I should. I do pray. I find something constructive to do. I do get out of the path of temptation. I mean, for instance: in the last 3 weeks, probably 2 weeks if it has been days where I have worked 12-18 hours, stayed up 'till 2-3am, and gotten 3-5 hours of sleep per night. So, why do I sin on one stressful night and not the other nights?

It's that 20th time that reveals that something is wrong on a deeper level.

I am not really trying to excuse myself by describing my stressors (but I can see how it looks that way). I am trying to figure out what is broken. I take full responsibility for what I have broken, but I can't fix it on my own. I need Christ to heal me. And after he heals me, I need to follow "doctor's orders" and stay away from stuff that will get me sick again, and do exercises that will make me healthier.

I KNOW that… I just don't know why I don't DO it consistently. I feel like I am constantly living in Romans 7 where Saint Paul says "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

But I don’t want to live in Romans 7. I long for Romans 8. I long to say that "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

To all of us who are living in Romans 7 but long for Romans 8, may we have the courage to admit that we are sick inside, and that Christ is the only one who can save us. May we have the patience to be his patient. May we surrender ourselves to his cure, rely on his strength, exercise our spiritual muscles, live in his family, listen to doctor's orders, and learn to steer clear of those things that make us sick. Amen+
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.