So how can you keep harping on Ruth, Tim, when it’s such a humble plot? Plot has to sizzle! Once you realize this is a story about a widow who has had everything taken away from her, displaced from her homeland, with an extremely grumpy attitude… what’s left?
Here at the end of perhaps the suckiest year I’ve ever survived I give you Linson Daniel, our retreat speaker from Regional staff conference, preaching Ruth chapter 2 and 3. Go where God is at work. Do the work that is there. Watch what God does.
So, Tim, I’m not exactly in the market for another sermon, Thank you…
I’m so glad you pointed that out. But trust me. You need to listen to what Linson has to say in this message. If Covid has unraveled your sense of God’s presence and mission in your life, you need to follow Ruth’s example of GOING. “Get Going!” is what Ruth would tell you if you’re stuck, displaced, and throbbing from losses. God is already present. God’s word has already created a context of safety for the risks you feel you need to take. God is there and working himself. Go!
So one last reminder here if you’re waiting to the bitter end to either send a gift or let me know what your 2021 plans are. The links are above. Hope that you are enjoying the last few days of the year with loved ones you can safely gather with. Let’s hope and pray for a better 2021! Thanks so much for your prayers and support this year!
Before I get into this post, I want to encourage you to take a minute to fill out my Ministry Partnership form at the following link. Thank you to those who have. Please keep them coming! It’s super important for me to hear from all my ministry partners at this time of the year. Please let me know how you plan to partner with me in 2021.
I’m coming to you on the second day of a joint Graduate and Undergraduate staff conference happening via zoom sessions. This is a first for our two ministry streams since I’ve been back on staff with InterVarsity. I’ve attended the undergrad Regional staff events in the past two years. But this year we’re actually sharing the event. Here’s a quick look at our theme and speakers.
Grief, Providence and Habits of Hope – GFM/UFM Combined Central Staff Conference
It’s been terrific! The idea for a combined staff conference was in the pipeline for three years. When my undergrad Staff Director counterpart and I talked about it, we were envisioning an in-person event at a retreat center. Lot’s of time for our teams to mingle. Shared plenary sessions and meals. In our own spaces for some of the schedule. As our target date drew near, however, we realized that this event was either going to get post-poned OR re-invented. It’s actually been sooo good to be together even in a virtual format.
This year like never before staff need refreshment and perspective on ministry and personal hardship. We’ve worked pretty hard this semester to virtualize ministry in digital spaces and sustain momentum where possible. Staff are fatigued from all the displacement, loss and improvisation. Our planning team landed on the book of Ruth as a message we could all use!
Themes that have come out of our time so far:
God’s profound presence in the midst of hardship and scarcity
Experiencing God’s goodness through the people he brings along side us
Risk-taking in seasons of transition and displacement
Doing what can be done when we show up even if its “just gleaning”
God’s incredible ordering of events when we see nothing but loss
Steps of obedience still need to be taken – work still needs to be done
The hardest work and biggest risks happen in the safety of God’s rule
As we came together yesterday, Ruth chapter 1 met us on a note of lamentable loss. Things go from bad to worse so fast for Naomi – you wonder “Is there’s really any story here at all?” I got to lead virtual bible study with 55 of my colleagues. They tore into the text with a vengeance – just like InterVarsity staff are wired to do.
This morning the tone changed quite a bit as we moved into chapters 2-3 in Ruth. Naomi is overshadowed in the narrative by Ruth who twice responds to the invitation to GO… Go to the fields to glean. And GO to the threshing floor to propose to Boaz! Ruth is as missional and risk-taking as Naomi was depleted and hapless. Our staff teams need the example of both women to stay healthy and focused. Honesty about our pain and losses with a willingness to let go of our idealism. And… an energetic drive that says yes to new possibilities God is engineering beyond our imagination.
A positive shared experience like this has been a big step forward but we need to keep taking steps. This afternoon we spent time thinking about how our teams can more effectively collaborate in our four state region. Building awareness and trust is a must, as is follow-up. Pray for GFM and Undergrad InterVarsity as we move forward into what God has for us. Pray for our last session tonight in Ruth chapter 4 where we see Naomi’s impossible dream come true for her family. Pray for our teams to learn to dream together and experience a fuller harvest of God’s kingdom on campuses in the coming months.
Many of you know where this post is headed even before you read it! Every ministry out there (like Tim’s InterVarsity thing) is trying to get your attention at the end of the year. So let me knock this out quickly! I know you’re busy and like the rest, contending with a thick layer of Covid-induced weirdness!
Thanks so much for all those out there reading my posts, thinking about Graduate Faculty Ministries and praying for our work. You are the proverbial Aaron and Hur of our mission – Exodus 17. Nothing of significance can happen without God’s unique empowerment of our work. That happens when you pray.
Second, more gratitude.
Our work happens when (and only if) it’s supported by donations. The fact that you and others steward your resources to include InterVarsity IS absolutely vital to our mission. When (and only if) resources are present, staff like me are freed up to run zoom staff meetings, pray together with faculty and student leaders, study the bible together in online communities and do the many things we’re called to do in spite of covid’s limiting impact. Thank you! Thank you for including us in your giving budget. Thank you for sacrifices you may be making in order to send donations. Thank you for moving Graduate Faculty Ministry forward through your giving.
It’s extremely helpful to know how you’d like to partner with me in the coming year. To do that as quickly and paperlessly as possible, would you be willing to bounce over to the google form and fill it out? I realize life is probably crazy right now, but this is really the best time of the year to bug you about this.
I’m really helped by knowing…
How would you like to hear from me – do you prefer texts or email?
How you’d like to partner with me financially if you know that at this point.
Any changes in your contact information.
The names of people you know who would be good for me to network with.
This year especially I need to find two kinds of people: EITHER people who could begin some form of financial support, OR people currently giving who could increase their support some- even just a 10% bump. That might sound crazy given the pandemic we’re experiencing. But my reality is that 2020 has been a difficult year of losing support financially. I’m making some progress on finding new donors, but not fast enough. Increases from existing donors is also a way of stabilizing ministry for me. If your response involves sending a gift now, click here to be taken to Tim’s donation page at InterVarsity. If you need help with that, just fill out the ministry response form for now. Thanks!
Please pray for my ministry budget this coming year. Most immediately I’m trying to wipe out a deficit that has crept into my 2020 numbers (see previous post). Pray for me to find new sources of support. Of course pray (like we’re already praying) that the pandemic would grind to a stop, the economy would recover, and we could all get back to a “better normal” than we’re living now!