Monday, August 30, 2010

Life at 100 MPH and pastor's guilt

I missed church yesterday.  I wasn't feeling great Saturday (but thought it was probably because I had walked 7.5 miles in the wee hours of the morning as part of our Jericho Walk--a walk around our city block we had been doing all week...we did once around the other 6 days and 7 times around yesterday as we prayed for schools, churches, homes, businesses, and the general welfare of the people and the community) but then I woke up yesterday feeling cruddy. I was pushing through finishing my sermon and continued to feel worse and worse. I went and asked R what he thought (still sleeping, he just shrugged), so I called home.  My dad answered and I told him my dilemma and he said I should stay home.  I hesitated because I didn't feel like I was dying or anything, I could have made it through service but also knew that if I went there was a possibility I could get others sick or get worse myself.  But I decided to follow his advice and stay home. So, I started making calls.  Called someone who could easily lead an impromptu service, called my SPRC chair so he would know, called the music folks to give them a heads up, called the appointment I had to cancel, etc.  

And I stayed in bed.  I cannot tell you the level of guilt involved with missing Sunday service.  It's not healthy.  I know perfectly well they can go on without me and be just fine. It's not that I think I'm that important that they'd have to cancel church if I weren't there.  But it just doesn't seem right missing Sunday worship.  I didn't run to Disneyland and I wasn't feigning sick. The needs and concerns were legitimate, but man, it was tough.  I prayed for them as I marked time and I also got a good bit of work done as I lay in bed unable to sleep.  But even today I feel guilty. 

After all was said and done, the impromptu worship leader sent me an email reporting back what had happened and what some of the prayer concerns were etc and in one she told me that a man (whom I love dearly and who has special needs and has been in the hospital out of town with problems for weeks now) still needs prayers and that he feels like I have forgotten him.  Boy howdy did that cut right to my heart.  

Talk about guilt. It's not that I haven't wanted to make the 20 mile drive out there.  It's not that I wasn't on my way one day when his wife called and said it wasn't a good day to go.  And despite the fact that this is our "sabbath month" it's not like I haven't done anything.  So, as I tried to figure out if I really was busy or if I was just a bad pastor I did a run down on what has been happening all month such that I haven't made it out there:
  • Summer camp (which I dean and write curriculum for)
  • the biggest funeral in the history of my church (also a close friend of ours)
  • lots of pastoral care for the family of the deceased
  • a TON of administration--trying to get organized, trying to plan for the next year and a half of ministry
  • tons of pastoral care in general
  • two folks with MAJOR back surgery
  • a husband who is sick and various tests for him (problem still undiagnosed)
  • a 3 day mini vacation to maintain my sanity
  • mission planning 
  • life
that's about it, as far as the big stuff goes.  It doesn't seem like much in print, but it was time consuming.  Good ministry that didn't allow much for me taking 2 hours to run out of town for a visit.  I've done it at other times for other people, so it's not that I won't do it, just that life hasn't allowed for that right now.  
But as I look at that list, I see how much has gone on during the "easy" sabbath month. It's a lot.  There hasn't been much that was easy.  And I see how busy life is, how fast life is, how much is going on.  

Last Friday I took sabbath.  Really took sabbath.  I didn't eek in any calls (maybe one or two emails...) and I didn't work with R to help him out. I stayed home. And I just laid on the couch and tried to listen to my soul. I tried to listen for what I really wanted/needed to do that day--that's what I used to do, just wake up on sabbath and feel for what I wanted to do that day.  And that laying there, just listening was hard. I had a 100 things pop into my mind that I could do, but all of them were about productivity of one sort or another and so I had to silence them. I needed to not be productive for a day.  I needed to not be worried about efficiency or output or any of those work-like things.  I needed to rest.  So I did.  I curled up on the couch and slept until lunch and then spent the rest of the day relaxing and lounging with my husband.  

Ministry is a complicated and busy job.  Much more than the "easy Sundays" people assume.  It is also a job that requires a solid reality can only do so much.  You should only do so much.  Some times folks won't get a visit. Sometimes you will have to let someone down.  Sometimes you won't be enough. Sometimes you will fail.  And that's ok. It's all part of the job (the successes and the "failures").  Take time to breathe anyway.  You need your rest.  You need to stop and slow down enough to hear your soul (and to silence that incessant impulse to always do something).  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Organic worship

We are in a process of visioning for the future at my church (a serious change from the week to week or maybe month to month mode of operation we have currently).

At annual conference I had an epiphany of what the "vision" might look like.  Some of the things I listed were:

Biblically literate members
Faithful stewardship
(of both private and corporate resources; as well as ministries sustained by tithing not fundraisers)
Worship music diversity
College ministry
Organic worship experiences
Passionate about prayer
Local mission
Global mission project (school, orphanage, hospital)
Music in worship that attracts quality musicians
New worship service
A justice ministry that addresses an institutional issue (immigration, homelessness, human trafficking, domestic violence, substance abuse, etc)

When my church council reviewed the list, multiple people asked me what "organic worship" meant. I tried to define it, but struggled a bit.  But last week I had clarity (in words) about what I meant.  What I mean by organic worship is worship that is planned and centered around the scripture/theme of the worship service, rather than simply plugged into the routine order of worship.  
 I like good liturgy and I appreciate an order of worship and even appreciate a predictability to worship so that it is comfortable and helps me feel at ease in another church. I also appreciate variance so that we don't get so stuck that anything "new" or "different" is vigilantly rejected.  I also like that variance allows me to feel comfortable in a variety of different churches with different styles of worship and I am not limited to just those denominations and churches that worship like me.
I would love for us to be able to have organic worship at my church.  It takes a good deal more thought and planning, but is so much more meaningful and impactful!  But, I have a feeling that such a switch would bring about some serious revolt from the pews. I know that's not a reason to give up the idea all together.  But it is a reason to proceed with caution.  I am not a "switch it for what's best and they'll get over it" kind of pastor.  I am the type who likes to go one step at a time, with a big step outside the box every once in awhile to warm people up to new ideas and ways of doing church.  I want people to be on board and supportive, not feeling isolated, rejected, and forgotten as the "church moves on without [them]". 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quote of the day

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." The above speech by Nelson Mandela was originally written by Marianne Williamson who is the author of other similar material.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Care for your marriage

I'm continuing to read in The Church Leaders' Answer Book and read this morning about fostering a healthy marriage.  They had check in questions that go beyond the basics.  I'm not sure why exactly they are so different for husbands and wives, but they are...

Men to women:
  • Are there ever times when you feel afraid of me?
  • Is there anything that makes you feel disappointed in me?
  • Do you feel angry with me in ways that are significantly hurting our relationship?
  • Do I know how to connect with you on a deep level?
  • Do you believe that I understand who you really are as a woman?
  • Do you feel relaxed in the safety of my strength?  Are you able to be yourself with me?
  • Do you see me pursuing God with truth and urgency?
  • Do I give more of my attention and energy to others than I do to you?
  • Have I done anything this week that has closed your spirit toward me?
  • What is the one topic we have never discussed?
Women to men: 
  • Do you feel that I deeply believe in you?
  • Do I show honor and respect to you in public and at home?
  • Do I initiate physical intimacy enough to prove my attraction to you?
  • Are you convinced of my admiration of you?
  • Do I make you feel like my hero?
  • Have I told you often enough how much I find you physically attractive?
  • Have I done anything this week that has closed your spirit to me?
  • Are you aware of how much I pray for you?
If you know me, I don't like strict gender roles (and it also doesn't help that this book is written as if men are the only pastors out there....) so I'm inclined to mix and match the questions to what is most relevant and I think it's just as important for women to place their husband first as it is for men to place their wife first and for women to know their spouse is attracted to them as it is for men, and for each to know the other admires and respects them.  AND for a wife to know how much her husband prays for her...why that question is one sided, I will never know....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A checkup for Change

I was reading through sections of The Church Leader's Answer Book today and found this section helpful. We are in the midst of visioning and planning for our future and I found the section on fostering spiritual health during a time of change helpful (pp 136-137).  Here is their "check up for change".  They say, "as you go through a time of change, have a health and wellness checklist for your leaders to use each time they meett.  You might begin with these:"

1) are we praying faithfully, asking the Lord to reveal spiritual diseases and injuries that might spread in teh congregation during this time of change?
2) are we as leaders pursuing "peace...and holiness" during this time (Hebrews 12:14)? Are we avoiding anyone's gripes or hurt because we'd rather not face those issues?  Do wee need to address a brooding conflict between people?
3) what are the main concerns of those who are not enthusiastic about the change we're going through?  Have we talked with them?  have we prayed about these concerns in case the Lord shares this point of view?
4) Where is the Holy Spirit moving in our congregation this month?  Is there anything more we should do to guide people?  How shall we commend the congregation for evidences of grace and faith?
5) Where do we see sin or Satan gaining the upper hand?  Is a failure to pursue peace and holiness blocking God's grace, or is a poisonous attitude taking root among us (Hebrews 12:14-15)?  How should we address this?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Amish Grace

I've started reading Amish Grace the story of the massacre of the 5 Amish school girls in 2006.  As the title indicates, the book is less about the shooting and more abou the grace filled response of the Amish.  It has an interesting chapter on forgiveness where the Amish acts of forgiveness are highlighted and underscored.  Included are some of the crituques of that same forgiveness--people that felt the forgiveness approach was too soft, that it lacked justice.  

As I continued reading, I was better able to sift through my thoughts.  Forgiveness and justice are two different things.  Forgiveness, typically, affects the offended party most dramatically. It may affect the relationship with the offender, but it may not. More deeply though i will affect the heart of the offended.  

It's a hard case to evaluate fully as Roberts, the shooter, also shot himself--so we can't see how the forgiveness might affect him.  Though the Amish may not have pressed charges were he alive, the local DA likely would have. The thing to remember is that forgiveness does not deny justice. It denies retaliation.  There's a difference.  I don't think the Amish response would have impeded the court process, but I do think it would have tempered it--no call for the death penalty (after all a trademark of grace is that there is ALWAYS the possibility of redemption). And there likely would not have been a civil suit to follow seeking financial reparations (or even emotional ones for that matter as those too would have been included in the forgiveness offered).  

I do believe that the Amish response would have affected Robert in striking ways.  Forgiveness is healing and redemptive and to be truly touched by forgiveness after having committed a wrong can bring someone into true awareness of what they've done. And that can often bring about strong feelings of guilt and shame, but if further blessed by grace (as I am sure Roberts would have been in this situation) ultimately would have led to healing, repentance, and likely reconciliation.  It would have been powerful to witness and likely would have challenged the critics in impressive ways.

On occasion, our legal system, or at least the prison system still touts its original goals of restoration.  However, most, (if not all) of those with true awareness about the realities of prison will tell you it's all but restorative. There is very little that is redemptive inside those walls.  

Now, sadly, Roberts likely would have suffered great injury n prison, especially for having killed children, but if he could have been spared that--he might have come through the process in a more redemptive way.  Maybe that a bit too much idealism for what really transpires within the system, but hopefully you get my point--in a system bereft of most things restorative being held and attended to by Amish grace would have drastically changed the circumstances.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A wife's prayer

Dear God,

Please help me learn how to be a good wife.  Teach me to be compassionate, understanding, and selfless that I may love my husband as fully as you love him. Show me how I might love him better.  Help me to have thicker skin so that I am not so easily hurt without becoming numb or desensitized to the problems we face together.  Continue to knit us together as a team, Lord. Teach us how to be humble and reliant on you first and one another second.  Help us to be an example of your love and your covenant.  Bless our home. Protect us from injury, illness, and harm.  Show us the path you would have us walk together that we might more fully do your will.  In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

sermon prayer

Dear God, 
Help me to focus this morning, not on myself but on you O God that your Word will be proclaimed and that you would be glorified. Inspire me to write the sermon that your people need to hear.  Help me release my own agenda so that I might solely cling to yours. Make me your spokesperson. Make my words your words and your message my message.  In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Mean One

On more than one occasion, I have been told that people think I am mean.  Not that I am mean, not that they know me to be mean, but rather that they believe that I would be mean.  It's a perception.  

In many ways, it's not one I understand. I'm a fairly nice person--at least that's what they always used to write in my yearbooks.  And most people that actually know me love me, which may not preclude me from being mean, but I'd assume that if I were really mean people wouldn't love me as much.  But maybe I'm wrong on that note.

Anyway, to the point, I'm at summer camp deaning and yet again I have been told that people are afraid of me.  People, I assume, are intimidated.  Now, like I said, on the one hand, I don't understand it, but on the other one...I do.  

1) My friends used to think my dad was mean.  Not that they actually knew him, but his confident, quiet, presence was intimidating, they didn't know how to respond, and just assumed he was mad. But really, my dad is a super sweet teddy bear of a man.  He's not mean.  He's never lifted a hand, or even raised his voice to me.  (He's cleared his throat more than a few times, but that's a different story). So, I could make an associate and see how when I am in a leadership role and regularly reminding people of the rules and many of the campers don't get the chance to actually get to know me because I'm not in their cabin or a small group that they would assume I am mean.  

2)  Most of the women who have affected deep change in me along the way have been "mean."  They have been intimidating women who demanded excellence.  When I was under their tutelage, I was scared on more than one occasion.  But they were also the women I respected the most and who pushed me to be the best I could be and do the best work I could do (in as much as I could be pushed at those respective stages...).  And, in many ways, along my way to becoming who I am, I have aspired to be like them, so it's no wonder that I would be considered "mean" if that's the goal I was aspiring to reach!  =)

Now, having said all of that, I don't want to be considered mean.  I want to be accessible to the youth. I want them to know they can count on me. I want them to know that I love them and care about them.  

At camp, for many years, I have longed to be the popular one.  And then the other night when I mentioned it in prayer, God lovingly responded...I didn't call you to be the popular one.  I called you to be you.  

So, I guess that means the one perceived as mean, but who really loves people...this week I am practicing being me.