DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Looking for New Mercies

Written by: on April 23, 2015

It shouldn’t surprise yet somehow it always does.  As familiar as our trips to El Salvador should be the Lord always has something new for us to discover.  This time it was a conversation with the person beside me on the airplane. I had just put the book I was reading in the magazine rack in front of me. Entitled, “When God Talks Back”, by Tanya Luhrmann, it obviously caught his attention because he took it out and started to look at it and then proceeded to ask me questions about it.  Turns out that my new friend ‘s name is Jerome and he heads a mission team that also works in El Salvador.  Our discussion about how we’ve seen God reveal himself over the years was quite interesting and encouraging. It really spoke into what this book addresses – discovering the reality of God’s presence within our own everyday experiences. As I reflect back over my journey of faith, it seems apparent that the most significant experiences, which have helped me to grow in my own faith, love and trust in the Lord have been those which I have experienced as part of a group or community of people.

mercies

Luhrmann says, “The community is crucial, snarky as its members can be…it takes a great deal of work for the community to teach people to develop these apparently private and personal relationships with God.” (p.279) Whether it was my youth group, or the circle of friends we had when my wife and I first were married, or our church family now, or the people I’ve connected with through our work in El Salvador or the growing number of people I’m learning with in the realm of community development or those in this Doctor of Ministry program – I am learning to love God more because of their influential role in my life. It’s personal, but it wouldn’t be possible if there wasn’t community, or communitas, as Lurhmann explains it.

A group of people united together through their shared faith in Jesus Christ, purposed toward the mission of God and learning to pray and listen for the expectation that He will show them and lead them. To some it’s an ideal, a far fetched fairy tale. For me it’s the pursuit of the promises that God makes. If His mercies are new every morning then I want learn to appreciate those mercies and in so doing recognize just how faithful is our God. “That is the invitation: to experience God as if he were real in the flesh and standing by your side, with love. The challenge is to learn how to do that.” (p.38)

So for me, what I have learned through my experiences with so many different groups is the importance of being present where I am. “The point of religious conviction is that the everyday world is not all there is to reality; to see beyond, one must change the way one pays attention.” (p.188) Practicing presence is very difficult. We realize quickly how easily distracted we can become and how cluttered our mind and lives really are. We can have working knowledge of so much and familiarity with so many people. Yet we can lack any kind of meaningful depth. More importantly the frenetic activity of our restless minds hampers our capacity to witness God at work and to hear Him call out to us. To learn to give yourself, completely, to the other, is no easy task and yet to do so allows you to communicate worth to the other person and it also allows all parties to see God at work, revealing a new evidence of his faithfulness to us.

As our flight to El Salvador continued, my new friend decided that I should talk to one his team members so they switched seats and I had the chance to share a little bit with Nancy. In the course of conversation she mentioned another team member Doug who, if I’m talking to God, could I talk to God about Doug. Doug’s adult son died tragically about a year ago and Doug has struggled since that time. A couple months ago while on Vacation he had enough and shouted to God that he didn’t want to go on like that anymore and wanted his life to count for something. That’s when God’s mercy was revealed or as Lurhmann would say, God talked back. Upon his return home, some friends connected him with Jerome and got him involved with this mission team. He has no idea why he’s here only that it seems God is leading Him.  Over the next 12 days would you pray for Doug, that he would find healing in Jesus and come to a place where he enters into relationship with Him. That was my promise to this team that we would pray. My hope is that they would recognize God’s response and that they all would be strengthened by the mercies of our faithful God.

“…a person’s experience of God emerges out of the vortex not only of what they are taught intellectually about God but also of what they do practically to experience God – above all, the way they pray, and what they bring to their prayer experience as unique individuals.” (p.156)

  • If you knew God wanted to show you something or tell you something today, that might be very different from what you had already planned, what changes would you make to see or hear Him?
  • This week, maybe today, there will be someone God puts in your path that requires your undivided presence, in part because God wants to encourage them through your presence and in part because He has something to teach you through them. What changes will you make to be more fully present to them?

About the Author

mm

Deve Persad

9 responses to “Looking for New Mercies”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Deve, I appreciate the posts like yours where the book has very practical application. Great how you tied your trip in with what Luhrmann discussed in her book. I especially appreciate your insights into the idea that the place or situation where you God most shows up comes through community. I would take that even a step further. In my life I have found that God most often showed up in a community that was involved in service. As I pondered my many experiences of short-term missions with all ages of people, it seems that on these trips that I have had some of most important growing and learning experiences. I find that God speaks more clearly in those situations than any other time in my life. I often wonder if that is because during those short trips, my focus is so completely on God, that that awareness provides deeper sensitivity to hear Him? For me, it is a good reminder to not allow the business or distractions of life take me away from experiencing the real presence of God. That even in community, not be so programmed that we miss the movement of God’s Spirit among us. How I long to know Him and hear Him more! Maybe that is why I am always so anxious to get on the road again!

    I will be in prayer for Doug. I can’t imagine what he is experiencing, but I will lift him up in prayer! Thanks all you great insights this semester, Deve.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      John – you hit that one right in the centre – being part of a community in service really is the key. In mind, it goes without saying, however, so many church attending people can easily interpret this in a reclusive manner. Thank you for that insight and for your prayer for this man, Doug, who is longing for God to talk back to him.

  2. Ashley says:

    Deve, unlike you, I put on headphones immediately and close my eyes so as not to invite conversation on an airplane! In fact, I have found if I pull out my Bible, that is the surest way to scare my seat mates away! What an amazing way God used you to speak to Jerome, Nancy, and even Doug…

    What changes would I make if I knew God had something to tell me today? I’d quiet the noise around me…the television buzz that drowns out the construction banging on my street. I’d close my eyes and be still. I may go string up my new hammock outside and soak in the nature He created. I think the trick is how to make a little bit of that quiet and stillness part of my daily life. Too often I let the busyness overcome the connection.

    So I wonder, Deve, what is God teaching you this week? How is He speaking to you in El Salvador…following the plane ride?

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Ashley, may God bless you and lead you as you return again to Haiti. Thanks for answering the question. Because you did, I will answer yours. The more involved I get in these short term trips, the more I realize that I don’t go to serve the poor; rather that through those who are materially poor I recognize my own poverty – a poverty of hospitality, of generosity, of joy for living. Many of the people we serve among are so rich by comparison and their stories tell me that I have so much yet to learn. Thanks for asking.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Deve
    Thank you for your touching post. In response to your first question, we must carve time out for God, deliberately placing ourselves in His presence, asking Him to speak to us. As with any relationship, if we don’t carve out quality time to spend with that individual, how can we expect to know that person?
    As we do that, I believe God shares His heart with us. He plants His love within us, so that when we meet an individual whom God wants us to either speak to or listen to (much like your experience on the plane), then our hearts will already be attuned to perceive such opportunities. We will be led by God’s Spirit and ready to respond to however He leads our daily lives.
    Every blessing to you Deve on our assignment weekend!

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Liz, the challenge really is to carve out time. Rarely do we find ourselves with extra amounts of time. There is always something to do or something we feel we ought to do.
      May the Lord grant us freedom from being enslaved to our work, no matter how noble it may be, so that we might further develop our relationship with Him and thereby understand just how much He desires to bless us.

  4. Deve…
    I appreciate how you were able to correlate our reading with your personal experience this past week (or it might have been that your trip is what helped Luhrmann make sense!).

    What changes would I make? I am realizing that I have very little margin in life right now. I also continue to realize that I have much to learn about being present and fully engaged. So I am going to start to schedule a couple hours a week for personal development. I am realizing that prayer practices – contemplative prayer, examen are helping me to be present — creating space to be present to God and therefore to others. Blessings Deve!

  5. mm Deve Persad says:

    Carol, the quest for margin is a tough journey. May God grant you the space and time with Him that you desire. Thanks for your continual encouragement.

  6. Michael Badriaki says:

    Deve great post! I agree with you perspective here and I believe there there is a place for the language and expression of “having a personal relationship with God”, but sometimes I wonder whether there could a self-centredness it. An over emphasis on the “personal relationship” at sometimes can be a one-sided argument for the vertical part of one’s relationship with God at the expense of the horizontal side. This is why the point you raise in the following statement is so rich and important: “I am learning to love God more because of their influential role in my life. It’s personal, but it wouldn’t be possible if there wasn’t community, or communitas, as Lurhmann explains it. A group of people united together through their shared faith in Jesus Christ, purposed toward the mission of God and learning to pray and listen for the expectation that He will show them and lead them.”

    Great stuff!

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