A Long Obedience in the Same Direction


Bethlehem, Church of the NativityOn Wednesday, I returned home from Nigeria where I enjoyed training Journey Generations 1 and 2 there. I wish you could have witnessed the deep, transforming work of Jesus in each of these fifty-some pastors and leaders’ lives. One of the participants is a member the House of Representatives.

One evening, I shared a core Journey presentation titled, “Much More Fruitful.” The substance of this presentation became the chapters on “Suffering” and “Maturity” in An Unhurried Life. As I shared, I mentioned one of my favorite Eugene Peterson titles, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. (I love that this was a phrase Peterson borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900]). I love what this title says about how being fruitful in life and leadership involves such a steady, persevering approach to life on the same path.

The problem that many of us have is that we prefer many short obediences in different directions. This is not a way to be fruitful. It’s usually a way to be busy. We read a book, we attend a conference, we talk with someone with strong opinions, and suddenly this gives us the priorities for our next “obedience.” We lack the deep confidence that we are on a life and ministry path that is reliable and will prove fruitful in time. We lack simple, eternal priorities which can guide our lives in the same direction over the whole of our lives.

Question: What would embarking on a life journey marked by long obedience in the same direction look like in your life now?

(By the way, the  Nietzsche quotation from which Peterson borrows his title is, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”)

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More Fruits of Solitude (Pt 2)


I’ve mentioned in this blog that I lead quite a few days of solitude and silence for Christian leaders every month. It is my most favorite and fruitful ministry. Sometimes these days are for an unrelated group who gather for a single day together. Sometimes it’s a leadership team from a particular Christian ministry. I’ve often said that one of the greatest “fringe benefits” of my ministry is that I have days like these regularly because my work is to provide them for others. When I lead these days, I often write in my journal during the time alone and quiet before God. Below are a few scattered notes from such a day a while back.

On distraction. I’ve discovered I haven’t much power over whether or not I will be distracted in these days alone with God. Noises or interruptions will come from outside of me. Thoughts or feelings will arise from within me. I don’t know how to stop this. What I do have some control over is how I respond or react to these involuntary distractions. I can choose to get wrapped up in solving, wrestling with or otherwise engaging them, or I can decide not to bite the bait and simply let them pass. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s good work when I do it.

On the creative benefits of solitude with God. What have been some of the practical fruits of this regular practice of time alone and quiet before God? What good things have come for me or for others in them?

  • Creativity – drawings, poems, prose, songs.
  • Wisdom, insight and perspective.
  • Peace and rest.
  • A greater and simpler awareness of God with me.
  • A sense of fresh encounter with God
  • A sense of being loved and favored by God.
  • A heart at restful attention with God.
  • When shared with others, a deeper sense of community and unity, even with others who are very different from me.

On the Benedictine vow of stability. This vow is simply a way of saying that there is usually great virtue in staying put, rather than moving on. Do we need to hear this in our dramatically mobile culture? How many marriages have been abandoned that could instead now be much more fruitful through perseverance and willing work? How many have stepped away from one church fellowship just when conflict or challenge could have resulted in new places of rootedness in and reliance on Jesus?

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Community is Indispensable


IMG_8089“It is a matter of experience that we cannot go on indefinitely, nor can we witness effectively, without fellowship, God often brings the most spiritually mature people up against a blank wall in order to teach them this. They reach an impasse, something they cannot deal with alone. Then they discover the absolute necessity of fellowship with others in Christ, and learn the practical values of the corporate life. But when once this is known there is a new fruitfulness.” (Watchman Nee. Changed Into His Likeness. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1967, 1978, p. 55)

Think about places in your journey where you may have felt stuck, frustrated, or less fruitful than you had hoped. How might this be a place where God is inviting you to enter more deeply into supportive community and a more shared work of God? Why not take a few moments to talk this over with the Lord?

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This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
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Some Fruits of Solitude


I’ve mentioned in this blog that I lead quite a few days of solitude and silence for Christian leaders every month. It is my most favorite and fruitful ministry. Sometimes these days are for an unrelated group who gather for a single day together. Sometimes it’s a leadership team from a particular Christian ministry. I’ve often said that one of the greatest “fringe benefits” of my ministry is that I have days like these regularly because my work is to provide them for others. When I lead these days, I often write in my journal during the time alone and quiet before God. Below are a few scattered notes from such a day back in January.

On distraction. I’ve discovered I haven’t much power over whether or not I will be distracted in these days alone with God. Noises or interruptions will come from outside of me. Thoughts or feelings will arise from within me. I don’t know how to stop this. What I do have some control over is how I respond or react to these involuntary distractions. I can choose to get wrapped up in solving, wrestling with or otherwise engaging them, or I can decide not to bite the bait and simply let them pass. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s good work when I do it.

On the creative benefits of solitude with God. What have been some of the practical fruits of this regular practice of time alone and quiet before God? What good things have come for me or for others in them?

  • Creativity – drawings, poems, prose, songs.
  • Wisdom, insight and perspective.
  • Peace and rest.
  • A greater and simpler awareness of God with me.
  • A sense of fresh encounter with God
  • A sense of being loved and favored by God.
  • A heart at restful attention with God.
  • When shared with others, a deeper sense of community and unity, even with others who are very different from me.

On the Benedictine vow of stability. This vow is simply a way of saying that there is usually great virtue in staying put, rather than moving on. Do we need to hear this in our dramatically mobile culture? How many marriages have been abandoned that could instead now be much more fruitful through perseverance and willing work? How many have stepped away from one church fellowship just when conflict or challenge could have resulted in new places of rootedness in and reliance on Jesus?

Click here to make any Amazon purchase in support of this blog.
This does not add to the cost of your order, but provides a referral fee to this ministry.
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The Price of Misguided Efficiency


I just read a great piece of counsel from Shirley Carter Hughson, an Anglican spiritual director and abbot from early last century. I’d like to paraphrase his insight:

“People are looking for so-called efficiency these days, but they don’t realize that the highest efficiency only comes as we keep open channels of communion with God. It is God’s wisdom and strength that really enables and empowers us. We don’t achieve them through external organization. Our church grows weary from so many efforts at efficiency while empty. We need more prayer, but not prayer as asking for more stuff, but prayer as living in rich relationship with God, loving Him and praising Him. This would infuse a whole new strength and vitality in our communities and our ministries. We would minister from overflow rather than serving in continual weariness.”

Discerning Fruitful Work


“The problem is not too many activities, although that is true for many, but too many fruitless activities. The result is that many feel dissatisfied with what they are doing. A recent survey of 2,821 businessmen and women by the American Management Association showed that nearly half have changed or considered changing occupational fields and a third believe they would have greater personal satisfaction or reward in another career. Forty percent of middle managers and fifty‑two percent of supervisory managers stated that their work was unsatisfying.” (Hinson, E. Glenn. A Serious Call to a Contemplative Lifestyle. 2nd edition. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwyn Publishing, Inc., 1993, p. 39.)

As you think about your current work (paid or unpaid), what are your most fruitful activities? Least fruitful? How might God’s Spirit be moving you in work paths that are more fruitful than now?

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Community is Indispensible


IMG_8089“It is a matter of experience that we cannot go on indefinitely, nor can we witness effectively, without fellowship, God often brings the most spiritually mature people up against a blank wall in order to teach them this. They reach an impasse, something they cannot deal with alone. Then they discover the absolute necessity of fellowship with others in Christ, and learn the practical values of the corporate life. But when once this is known there is a new fruitfulness.” (Watchman Nee. Changed Into His Likeness. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1967, 1978, p. 55)

Think about places in your journey where you may have felt stuck, frustrated, or less fruitful than you had hoped. How might this be a place where God is inviting you to enter more deeply into supportive community and a more shared work of God? Why not take a few moments to talk this over with the Lord?

(A repost from November 2009)

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