Saturday, December 1, 2012

Graduation Ceremonies, Talents, and Stewardship

We attended a graduation ceremony of sorts last night—our friend Joan Douglas was saying goodbye to the Care Net Family after 10 years of service with them in the Albuquerque area. Joan is off to the next iteration of life on her God-journey of faith. And she will be missed!

And it was fun for us to reminisce a bit about all that can happen in a decade—both in a life, and a ministry.

While there we got to reconnect with several friends of 30 60 100 MINISTRIES, and one of them asked a question we hear from time to time, "What are you guys doing now that you're not running the retreat center?" (After 20 months in this new iteration of ministry we get to explain this more often than we might expect.)
Now instead of combining 'bed and breakfast' kind of work with the training, coaching, strategic planning, preaching, and encouraging leaders that we do on a more global plane, we focus on everything we were called to do without having a retreat center to run. And maintain. And fund-raise for. And clean. And steward. And. . . .

Explaining the transition isn't too hard, especially when I tell them about a conversation the Lord and I had March 26, 2010. I remember well because it was the seventh anniversary of our move onto the property. Seven years is enough time for patterns of behavior to become habits.

"Dalton, let's talk about TALENTS. What are you doing with your talents?" 

I  leapt to my defense, "Lord—you know I have to cut firewood in the summer so we can burn it in the winter; and whack weeds, and haul water, and fundraise, and prep the place, and help Vicki when guests are here, and when they leave, and— and . . . ."

"Yes. Again, what about your talents? What about the things that I put in you that others (that can do all those things you just mentioned) don't do—or maybe can't do?"

"But I'm very busy!"

"OK. If you were standing in front of me today—as in: having assumed room temperature, you no longer run a retreat center ministry because that assignment is over. What do you say when I ask you, 'What did you do with the talents I gave you—specifically: 

  • the ability to speak into peoples' lives 
  • the ability to teach and pray and encourage and provoke to Godliness—
  • —all those special things I put in you? 

What did you do with them?'"

Matthew 25:14-30 was becoming all too clear to me.
Talents can be inside us, but unused! Or, underused.... And whether we were busy doing GOOD THINGS or not has no bearing on the way it looks to the One who gave us the talent.

Me, looking at myself: I was too busy working in the ministry to do the REAL WORK of the ministry— that I was called to do—the work that was God's assignment.

God looked at my explanation from a different point of view:
I have given this guy a lot of stuff to use for eternal purposes. Where is all that stuff? Why's he burying it? He needs to get after doing the important things all the time, and stop doing the unimportant things most of his time. 

That launched me into a soul-searching process that I highly recommend. And, it meant laying down some things that I really didn't want to see go away. And picking up some things that meant more work, and uncomfortable conversations, and challenging tasks, and invigorating opportunities....

Today, we are preparing for new adventures way beyond the scope of the 25 acres that we stewarded for 8 years or so. In the New Year 30 60 100 MINISTRIES is expanding its outreach into Central America, twice. We had an hour-long conversation this week with a sister in Canada asking for help with a ministry leader-couple she ministers to in South Africa.

Our horizons are much bigger than they were just 20 months ago when we said our last goodbye to the retreat center property, and laid down one 'package' to turn and pick the other that had become so comfortably wrapped in a napkin—buried too much of the time.


From experience I can recommend having this conversation when you can still do something about its content.

The results have been exhilarating for us—and we're only beginning to see what is going to happen as we faithfully steward HIS talents in us.

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