UFOs and Close Encounters

February 14, 2013

Quilters refer to UFOs, unfinished objects, to describe the projects tucked away in mid-course. The QT (Quilt Therapy) group I belong to ’fessed up to UFOs on Tuesday, making commitments to complete said projects within the year. For me, the list includes the famous “Ahwahnee Quilt,” inspired by Yosemite’s oldest and most famous hotel. This quilt has been stashed for at least five years, but 2013 is the year to get it done.

In the same way, I have some UFOs in the writing realm, outlined but unfinished, that await my attention and effort. Here is the list of working titles:

Reclaiming the Ministry of Teaching in the Missional Setting, which in its current form is my Doctor of Ministry dissertation. A revision is required to make it useful for pastors and elders desiring to own this aspect of missional ministry. The first third of the book must be recast entirely, and the third section needs more concrete examples. My editor-daughter required me to jettison several stories and illustrations to maintain the academic tone, so those outtakes are awaiting readmission.

In the face of resistance to the idea of teaching both not-yet-Christians and committed believers in this postmodern era, my premise rests on the Great Commission. Jesus said that we were to make disciples both by baptizing them (welcoming them into the family) and by teaching them (informing them of the defining characteristics of life in Christ). The question is not whether we should or can teach people, but how. So my book explores methods demonstrated throughout Scripture, finds solid practical support from the best in educational theory and methodology, and offers one particular method I call “informative conversation” as a way to fulfill the Great Commission today.

Why I Don’t Pray, which was outlined in the 1980s and fleshed out into a fifty-page term paper for Dallas Willard in 2006. He gave the paper an A+ and said I should expand it for a wider audience in book form; if that isn’t motivation, what is? The book is a cross between a survey of total depravity and an examination of conscience. I consider the six realms of human existence that Willard listed in Renovation of the Heart, and identify within those realms (body, mind, emotions, will, etc.) the resistance to prayer—that is to say, the excuses I give for not praying, like busyness, physical illness, or anger. For each excuse, I cite a saint of the church who turned that reality into a reason or impetus to pray. The book will expand on the lives of these saints and add biblical examples and instruction in those same areas of resistance, to create what I hope will be an invitation to relinquishment and honesty in conversation with God.

It All Started in the Garden, currently in development as an adult class I am teaching at church. For decades, in explaining the context of doctrine and theology, I have found myself saying, “It all started in the Garden.” So this year, I am checking my assertion by identifying eighteen theological themes that have their roots in Genesis 1, 2, or 3, and tracing those themes through both Old and New Testament. So far, we have covered topics like creation, work, the meaning of life, incarnation and redemption, and Trinity. When we resume next week, we will dive into Theological Anthropology, with a concentration on sexuality and marriage. This is the book that will probably contain my thoughts and prayers for a present-day church that is confused about the way things are, at a very basic level.

Three diverse topics, each requiring a different kind of brain. Though I speak as though I am writing these for publication (which would be nice), the only way I can get over the initial threshold is to write for myself. Each topic represents a passion I have carried for many years, a passion that has shaped me for ministry and been the growing edge of my discipleship. My biggest UFO is myself, and Paul encourages me with his words, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). If embracing these UFOs helps me to sustain a Close Encounter of the Divine Kind, then it will all be worth it.

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11 Responses to “UFOs and Close Encounters”

  1. davehackett Says:

    Mary, with regard to the last of your proposed papers, I would add that ministry collaboration (missiology) began in the Garden as well. At visionSynergy we make quite a bit about the two trees — the one in the Garden of Eden, and the one in Revelation, between which we see God’s promise for collaboration laid out and its fulfillment.


  2. Really interested in the “Prayer” booklet; I need it. I have feasted on Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks, Wow” lately — and note that she’s been urged to add a fourth subject, which is “Sorry!” Sounds good. Ms. Lamott is of a different sort than my friend Ms. Naegeli, in case you haven’t noticed, but provides a kind of book-ends framework for some good stuff. And shares the Left Coast with ye.

  3. Steven Niccolls Says:

    Mary, I will be looking forward to the time when I can add the three books you mentioned to my library. (And buy a couple extra copies for gifts!)


  4. Dear Mary, I’ve been following your “Bringing the Word to Life” musings, serious thinking, and looking forward intentions with excitement and also periods of prayerful silence and reflection inspired by your posts. Please, please, continue, continue to do what will be your continuing “good works!” Serious evangelical voices must be heard, must be heard. Yours is a most eloquent one.
    Blessings and Peace, Jackie Kossin

    • revmary Says:

      Your words are a blessing to me, Jackie; thank you for receiving what I have written. I AM inspired to continue. —Mary

  5. Pam Says:

    Mary-
    It was so tempting to respond to your post the other day with, “You could make a quilt!” When I am stuck or between projects or, especially when finding doors closing, going into the sewing room gives space for rumination along with the practical problem solving of color and shape and stitch. And the other stuff seems to sort itself out along the way. So complete your UFO ( and post a picture so we can all enjoy, please?), yet already, it seems your mind has cleared to embrace all these other topics that have been on the ‘way back burner. The Lord is far from being done using you and the talents He has placed within you…to His glory and the benefit of the rest of the kingdom!
    Blessings and may you have little “reverse seaming’ to do,
    Pam in Minnesota

    • revmary Says:

      Aha, Pam in Minnesota, you are talking my language! You are quite right about the sewing as a head-clearing exercise, not to mention the fellowship attached to quilting—some of the nicest and most understanding ladies anybody could hope to have as friends. Blessings, Mary in California.

  6. Gwen Brown Says:

    Mary, a simple ditto to all the above. UFOs include needlepoint as well. And I look forward to seeing your books in print or copies sent out to us digitally. I just downloaded your Doorways Lessons — had to “hover over Study Guides on the FOP Resources” — and look forward to sharing them with my session this year.
    Gwen in Colorado.

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