For several of my childhood years, we had the habit of spending Labor Day underground. School would start the next day and this was the last opportunity for a summer activity. One year, as we were in the middle of a four-hour tour through Mammoth Cave, the guide told us to stop for a break and sit on some large boulders along the trail. Everyone in the group was most grateful and told him so. “Oh no, this isn’t a reward for what you just came through. This rest is to prepare you for what’s ahead.”
There are some days in ministry that I wonder if God wasn’t crazy to call me into God’s service. Moses’ question in Exodus 3:11 (see below) becomes the very question that I ask myself and of God: Who am I? I ask this often in a self-deprecatory way because this is how I was socialized even though I was an excellent student and excellent employee. Even as a pastor, I often still ask myself: Who do you think you are?
I wish I could tell Moses all the great things God would do through him, even with all his doubts of ability and the massive criticism lodged at him from the very people he was called to save. So let me tell you that God’s call on your life is not based on your ability to perform
There are a few phrases and words I use every day in my life. At work and home, I catch myself saying “hope” a lot. As I try to keep everyone thinking positively, “I hope so” or “hopefully” seem to roll off my tongue.
As I write this, though, our parsonage fridge decided to go on sabbatical. And this morning, my spouse was busy getting ready for a funeral he was leading. Since I could tell that baking soda would not conquer the smells coming from the fridge, it was time to say “adios” to the trash and haul it to the nearby dump.
It feels like a distant memory now, being in a large crowd. But I do remember trying to navigate crowds with two kids in tow. “Stay close,” I would say, and eventually grab their wrists so I could keep hold of them as I would try to navigate to our exit. The only way I felt like I wouldn’t lose them was to stay connected. Hand – in – hand.
I feel like that might be what Jesus is saying to his disciples in John 15 (below). He is preparing them for the time when he will not be there: “Connect to me, now, while I’m here, so you will know how to stay connected when I am not here anymore.”
“My mother used to say,” the 95-year old church matriarch began (a phrase which usually indicated surprising humor or deep wisdom would follow), “your sacrificing years are the best ones; so don’t complain!” Her eyes twinkled as she gazed into my sleep-deprived eyes of early parenthood. Then she winked and squeezed my hand, because we both knew that there was indeed a right and holy time for some complaining. Especially when lack of sleep is involved.
Still, her mother’s words have stayed with me.
As spring is arriving and the earth is warming, it’s time for me to dust off my trusty bike and start to use a little peddle-power for exercise and entertainment. No one has ever looked at me and thought, there’s a cyclist. But I love riding my bike.
I also love watching cycling, especially the Tour de France. It is a grueling, three-week race that requires incredible endurance, but the most amazing part to me is the teamwork. Even though it is an individual sport, riders protect their own teammates.
There can sometimes be a sense of feeling overwhelmed in ministry. The to-do list is very long, the emails pile up within a matter of hours, and other projects call for our immediate attention. Then there are the challenges of serving alongside others and the possibility of roadblocks at times, not to mention balancing family and personal needs. This is when friends in ministry can be invaluable. They listen, they pray, they can help problem solve, and they speak words of hope and peace into one’s hectic and demanding life.
“How are you?” I recently asked a church member.
“I’m stuck in a house with 2 teen boys and a husband!” she said. “You know what I realize? I miss missing them.”
I hope Hallmark is tracking with her! “I miss missing you” is a great pandemic word this Valentine’s Day. There is just no easy way to be this close for this long to other humans.
How many roles do you occupy in life? How many different “hats” do you wear? Pastor? Mother? Grandmother? Aunt? Friend? Spouse? Teacher? I could name a million more. If I sense one common thread from my female friends and colleagues of all ages, it is that we feel so pulled in many different directions. We may even think that this is a good thing – something we are called to live with. After all, read what Paul writes in Corinthians: