Friday, February 20, 2009

Feeling Monkish

Feeling Monkish

Recently, I've had several church members say to me, "You look tired lately," or "You seem distracted."People have voiced concern often enouth that I have to be honest with myself and them and say, Yes, I'm tired.

Tired, in a good way, because things have been going so miraculously well at church. We've been starting new outreaches, doing new ministries, working toward a new building, trying to be innovative in worship. We've seen new people's names written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and rejoiced with the angels in heaven. We've been brushing up on multilinguality (is that a word), visiting the sick, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, all to the glory of God! We've been giving mice cookies, And it's wiping me out.

Now--lest I be misunderstood, let me say that along with the overwork has come the blessing of a new group of people who has committed to coming alongside and helping. All churches are full of committees--groups of people with a common task. Not all committees are created equal, in that not all committees do what they're assigned to do. You see, there's a difference between being a committee and being committed.

This new group is not a committee--it's just a group of people who are committed to helping. They are the AdMinistry volunteers. These are people who have said, "I know the pastor is overworked, and we're volunteering to do whatever it takes to ease that burden, whether it's as simple as stocking the pews with visitor cards and making copies, or whether it's as difficult as organizing a special event." These people are lifesavers! Because of this new group, the church is already able to minister more, and I'm able to drop my work hours to a manageable 55-60 hours per week.

Of course, having worked secular jobs as well as pastoral positions, I know from experience that
55-60 hours per week in ministry is more emotionally taxing than the same number of hours in a secular job. That's because of the emotional toll of bearing other people's burdens. It's also because you work such wierd hours that you never have a big block of time to call your own. Just church work here, there, and everywhere.

Before I say too much and give you the wrong impression, let me say that I LOVE WHAT I DO! I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. But I have been thinking a lot about self-care.

My family members are church members, too--and they need me.

And guess what--I'm a church member, too--and I need me.

So I'm feeling monkish lately--drawing inward so I can have the energy to turn outward.
  • I've been finding more time for prayer and God's word.
  • I've been keeping a journal (besides this blog) of my spirituality.
  • I've begun a long-term fast (no, it's none of your business what kind of fast) for spiritual reasons.
  • I've committed to guarding family time more closely.
  • I haven't been writing my novel lately, and I'm not going to worry about that right now.
  • I've promised myself one day a month for a nature / prayer retreat--my personal Holy Day.
  • Spouse and I are working on repainting/redecorating my office so I have a nice place to work and pray.
I've been reading the following:

So if next time you see me, you hear chanting and smell incense, you'll know why. Ok, maybe not quite that far, but I'm trying to be more like the dude in Psalm 1:2-3

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Of Mice, Cookies, Foxes, and Grapes

One of my favorite children's books is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff. Basically, it's a story about what happens when you begin a small project that becomes a larger one.

If you give a mouse a cookie, she says, he's going to want a glass of milk. If you give him some milk, he's going to look in the mirror to see if he has a milk mustache. If he looks in the mirror, he'll notice he needs a trim. He'll need to borrow some scissors. If he borrows some scissors...

And so it goes.

And so it is with so many things in our lives, that once we begin them we find we're in for a bigger project than we anticipated.

So it is at home. So it is at church.

If you reach out to the community, you're going to find out that there are special needs out there. If you expand your ministries to meet those needs, you're going to have to ask people to become a bit more committed. If people become more committed and invest themselves in special needs ministries, people in the community will be touched by them. If people are touched by them, some of them will begin to attend your church. If enough new people begin to attend your church, you'll soon find that you're getting crowded in your existing facility. If you find yourself crowded, you'll need to build a new building. If you decide to build a new building, you're going to have to ask people to become even more committed...

And so it goes.
But I tell you, I'd rather deal with hungry mice than hungry foxes. The Bible says,

Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.
(Song of Songs 2:15)
This means that it's the little things that sneak in while you're not looking that make good things turn bad.

At church and at home, I've seen that this is true. It's all the little things we let go--those things that seem too small to worry about--that cause the worst problems.

Right now, our church is asking for AdMinistry volunteers. These are people who are willing to catch those little foxes. They are administrative helpers who realize that it's no small ministry to undertake those small tasks that might otherwise get neglected.

Sometimes we find that taking care of something that seems small is like giving a mouse a cookie. We end up with a bigger project than what we expected. But I'd rather deal with mice than little foxes, wouldn't you?