One of my favorite ministry opportunities is providing what a mentor, Wayne Anderson, called “EPC”s (Extended Personal Communion with God). I wrote about this in chapter 10 of An Unhurried Life. Recently, I led a day like this with a group of leaders. After a few hours alone and quiet with God, we came back together to debrief our experiences.
As I was listening to the creative and unique ways that God had been present to each one, I realized that what I enjoy far more than being a speaker or presenter is being a facilitator of vital encounters with Jesus. This skill is not so much about putting words together in a way that is entertaining, interesting or captivating. (I won’t discount that God often gives me a one-liner that seems to help others, but I enjoy those more when they come in an interactive moment rather than in a one-way lecture).
I really feel I’m at my best in those interactive moments like a debrief. Someone shares a story of their encounter with God, and a thought comes that seems to help put that encounter into some context, or helps others identify with and enter into it. It is these encounters and this interaction that seems to be a catalyst for people actually practicing the presence of Jesus rather than talking about his practice.
I like having unhurried time and space like a retreat where people open more to God, then I can come along and help them more deeply understand and appreciate those encounters.
Here’s a practical insight that came during this particular debrief. One of the participants shared that they felt drawn to begin fasting. I shared that when we practice disciplines of “not doing” something, like solitude (no company), silence (no conversation), fasting (no eating), secrecy (no seeking recognition for our good ) or simplicity (no unnecessary spending), it causes our desires to become focused. When the desire for conversation inevitably surfaces in the midst of silence, I can say, “I do want conversation, but I want Jesus more.” Or in solitude, I can say, “I do want company, but I want Jesus more.”
In fasting, this is where I learn deeply that we do not live only by the bread we eat, but by everything God communicates to us. “I do want food, but I want Jesus more.” Disciplines of abstinence bring focus to our desires. When I find my desires scattered here and there, it may be good to ask which disciplines of disengagement is Jesus inviting me to practice to bring focus to my desires.
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