Bishop Pens Book for 'Faithful Heart'

September 30, 2010

A UMNS Feature
By Susan Passi-Klaus*

Around Christmas 2009, Sally Dyck holed herself up in her small but comfortable home office, and with the cold and snow of a Midwest winter as her backdrop, wrote the first draft of A Faithful Heart ... Daily Guide for Joyful Living.
 
But what brought her to her writing hideaway?
 
Prospective pastors often asked the Minnesota bishop what the church was looking for in clergy. She always responded by listing characteristics her Cabinet and Conference's Board of Ordained Ministry developed – such as passionate, called, holy, equipped, joyful, loving, learning, and authentic. Then she realized these same attributes applied to everyday Christians who were looking for ways to grow their spiritual lives. Soon, with a nudge from Abingdon Press, the idea for a book was born.
 
A Faithful Heart provides a day-by-day walk through eight weeks of study and reflection. Every week has a different theme and challenge. Each day has a Scripture reading and meditation. At week's end, the reader may reflect by answering questions about his or her personal reading experiences. Although the book is formatted for individuals, a separate leader's guide is available for small-group studies.
 
Using Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a theological thread throughout the book and an example of someone with a faithful heart, Dyck invites the reader to get to know this biblical character "beyond the Nativity set." She hopes modern-day women can relate to her.
 
"She was a learning, growing follower of Jesus," Dyck said. "I believe Mary was called to bear Christ into the world. But then, we are all called to bear Christ in the world. We just do it in different ways. I think she's an example of what we're all called to be."
 
Featured below are excerpts from a recent conversation with Bishop Sally Dyck (at left).
 
How do you recognize someone who has a faithful heart?
Someone with a faithful heart: seeks to live authentically, joyfully, connected with others –understanding each day is a new opportunity to learn more about God and one's neighbor. And when we do that, even when it's uncomfortable, it does give us long-lasting joy.
 
In the book, you make a distinction between "joyful" and "happy" living. Can you explain the difference?
I'm sure we use the words interchangeably, but joy is really a condition of faith. Even in the midst of life's adversity, we experience joy as opposed to happiness. For instance, when a community surrounds you when your loved one is dying or has died, then you have a sense of peace that in spite of the uncertainty and adversity, you can keep going. You may feel joy in that, and that is a faith condition. It's different from just "things are going well, and therefore I am happy." I think some of the things we think will make us happy – and maybe even do make us happy – aren't really the things that last. They aren't the things that bring true joy.
 
Are detours ever a part of God's plan or will for our lives?
Every detour, every little twist and turn that comes along – even if we did it to ourselves – is all grist for the mill. It can help smooth some of our rough edges or cause us to trust in God or help us to see life differently because we went there. So everything's kind of redeemable when you put it in the context that God never abandons us.
 
Explain the difference between having a purpose to our lives and having a specific calling.
I think a lot of us can define what our purpose is. It might be to make a lot of money, or have a particular career, or whatever. But a calling is a condition of faith. You have a sense that God is part of your calling. It's not about us. It's about what we are living to do for God. And I think that's a little bit different from a purpose.
 
So many of us struggle with the ordinariness of life – the bill paying, the routines, the just getting by – that the concept of offering our everyday, ordinary life to God (as you suggest in the book) seems so lackluster. Is God satisfied with that?
What we do forget is that in our ordinary life, as it says in Romans 12, you know, our sleeping, eating, going to work, walking around life, etc. is what we are called to place before God as an offering. That's where we begin. We must realize everything we do can be an offering to God. It matters how we do it, how we go about our business, the kind of attitude we carry, the way we treat others. All those things are a part of who we are as followers of Jesus. How we go about our everyday, ordinary lives makes a difference, not only to us, but also to the people around us.
 
What things work against us living joyfully?
One thing that is counterproductive is when we compartmentalize our lives so that God is about this and not about that. We think this is sacred, but this is secular or this is of a spiritual life, but this isn't. Another thing that works against living a full, faithful and joyful life is something I define as "functional atheism." That's when we rely on ourselves and our own power, strength and ability and fail to recognize that God is part of everything. I also think that when people stop growing, when they have the arrestment of faith development and don't continue to stretch, then it works against our faith.
 
Purchase a copy of A Faithful Heart from Cokesbury online.
 
*Passi-Klaus is a staff writer on the Public Information Team at United Methodist Communications.
 
 
 
PHOTOS: (in BR)
 
Book cover and Bishop Dyck