by Ryan Eten
I decided around this time last year to act on the calling I felt to go into ministry. Because of that, this was the most “shaping” year of my life spiritually. I wouldn’t describe that process of shaping as a slow, gradual process like Patrick Swayze making a vase. It was more like when a little kid is playing with play doh. They make a boat, then a dinosaur, and then create a plane. That's because if you announce you want to go into ministry right before Christmas everyone feels compelled to give you a book as a gift. Seeing that my birthday is around the same time, by the end of December I had collected a library of brand new "Jesus books," all with different thoughts and ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, reading books with different ideologies is great, but if it is all your basing your faith on, it's a tough process. I found out that I needed some consistency. The little kid sporadically shaping and reshaping was proving to be to hard to maintain. I wanted the Swayze, gradual process, a process with an end goal in mind. Below are 4 things or people that I found gave/give me that slow, gradual process.
Not really the notepad, but what’s inside of it. At the end of my day, I take some time to write one page of my thoughts. I start with scripture or a verse that I read during the day. Then I try to make it half a recollection of the day and half a conversation with God. It allows me to see how God was working in my life in small details, when I might have missed it otherwise. An uplifting conversation with a friend, or maybe a difficult conversation that lead to growth. I always end it with something positive, even if the day was struggle city. So maybe that just means thanking God for his grace. As everyone knows, journaling is great for self reflection, but is always hard for one to stay consistent with. I found that this notepad is the perfect page size for me. I finish within 3-5 minutes everyday, so I really have no excuse not to do it.
I love history. I believe history creates an immediate connection to our ancestors. Carlin does a great job at connecting us to our Christian Ancestors in his podcasts entitled “Thor’s Angels” and “Prophets of Doom”. It is not a Christian podcast by any means, but that is what makes it so great. He holds nothing back and just gives us historical data. These podcast place you in the center of some truly amazing stories about our Christian ancestors. “Thor’s Angels” is about how the rugged, Odin and Thor worshipping north Germanic tribes, were introduced to the sophisticated Christian, Roman empire. While “Prophets of Doom” shows a darker side of the reformation movement, and how quickly the freedom of having a direct connection to God was used for selfish gain. As I learn to connect with our ancestors in ancient practices like the Daily Office, these podcasts add a bit of context. Showing me that even though I feel so distant, my ancestors are closer than I thought.
When I first came to NYC from Kentucky, I had probably only come into contact with 3 homeless people in my entire life. To be completely honest, I was terrified of homeless people. This is going to sound terrible, but my mind tended to automatically place the homeless population in this category of people on drugs who wanted to kill me. If you have been to Forefront Manhattan, you know Bill. He is a narcoleptic war vet, with a serious back issue. He is also witty, compassionate, wise, and a pretty solid storyteller. His most common phrase is “I know I am talking your ear off”. Usually that’s a pretty fair assessment but because of that, Bill has completely re-shaped my view of the homeless population. I can’t say I feel comfortable walking up to every single homeless person I come into contact with. I can say however, that I now see homeless people for who they are, people. People with a family, people with a past, people just like myself.
This dude is just a genuine man after God’s own heart. Yes, he is a reformed Christian, so you may not agree with everything he says but I can tell you, every time I have listen to/read anything by him I
1) Was entertained
2) Learned something new
3) Felt challenged into action.