One of the purposes of sabbatical was to create for myself and my congregation a season of prayer in which we could discover the road ahead. I went into sabbatical asking God to give me and the rest of our congregation “words” that would direct our future.
As I have come back I have made it a point to meet with everyone of the DLT (Doing Life Together) groups around which are church is grounded. I have literally a whole room full of notes. The walls in our conference room are plastered with large post it sheets.
The staff and I have n’t had time to discern all of the common words that have been spoken but a few are very clear:
Fourteen people in our congregation heard the word “PREPARE”. Usually this word was coupled with the idea that there was trouble coming or something hard we needed to be ready to face. Over the course of the last week I have come to understand that this word needs to manifest in three ways. We must prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“LOVE” was another word prominent in every group I met with. Interestingly the emphasis was never on God loving us. The word “LOVE” as it was spoken to the congregation is a word of action and the action is ours to perform. Further we are being called not just to love people within the church but to love all people in our community, especially those who think and believe very differently than we do.
Our world, even our church world, is struggling with the road ahead. love and preparation are twin struggles which must be engaged and figured out if we are to move forward. My church seems ready to engage ion the struggle.
When I came off of sabbatical I thought I had changed my life rhythm enough that I would be able to handle writing once a week. My plan was to do that on Sundays directly after church.
What I didn’t think about was that I had scheduled myself to hit the ground running as soon as I got back from sabbatical and so the old habits of rushing from one thing to another came rushing right back in on day one of my return to work.
The last two weekends I have double booked myself after church with events that kept me running right through Sunday evenings. By the end of said events I was practically comatose all the way through. Monday, my sort of day off.
So I have to make another plan, because my original plan of writing a whole week of material on Sundays will not work.
Enter the Atomic Habits.
This is a training I am having our church leadership work through over the next few weeks. The premise is that large change starts by making miniscule moves in the direction you want to go. So here I am working on plan B for this new writing journey. I am going to try starting with 5 or 10 minutes a day.
Let’s see if this works.
Is this what you do or do you have another method?
The transition home has been more difficult than I dreamed. It totally shifted my rhythm and left me in a place where writing was not even a possibility.
The place of creativity got shut down for a while and for that short season I really thought I might never write again.
Then sabbatical arrived in August.
Sabbatical is not vacation. It’s an extended season of shifting life rhythms, visioning and asking questions of the future you. I didn’t go anywhere during my sabbatical. I shut myself away in the Vicarage and prayed. It was wonderfully renewing.
So I am back writing about life and ministry. I will probably do one life post a week here at “Notes”. My schedule hasn’t changed all that much but some of my time wasting habits have, so I can make a few minutes each week now for things like this which will have long term benefits. who knows how it will grow?
Dear Family, We have successfully moved out of the Annex and back into The Vicarage.
Good bye Annex! You were a wonderful place to rest our heads for the nine weeks we could not be at home! Thank you Webster and Li for opening your home to us!
It’s funny. I thought we would just walk back in and settle right into our old routines. I don’t know what made me think that, but it is definitely not a truth.
Mom has gone through transition anxiety in a big way. The house is not the same and she knows it. Lots of confusion. Little sleeping and lots of psychosomatic pains. While she did not need anxiety meds when we left The Vicarage and moved to the Annex, she has definitely needed them on the return from the Annex to The Vicarage. Sometimes she is not even sure where we are.
Then of course we are also not done the project. There are still little things inside that need to be done: a shower nozzle to be installed, a glass surround still on order, window locks that never got put back on after painting and a few outlets that still need to be replaced and turned on.
And then there is the last big job of the moment.
It was a bit noisy on Saturday and will be for the next four days I am afraid. But at least we are back in and working through our transition anxieties. We are home.
Dear Family, Since completing the class on Appreciative Living at Beals Memorial Library here in Winchendon. I have been fascinated by the concept of “journey living” versus “destination living”. Journey living is the idea that we have a destination in mind but we really live for the journey because we realize that each destination is just a temporary stopping point on a much larger journey.
This week the Vicarage project wrapped up and so we reached a destination of sorts and found ourselves ready to go home.
We packed our bags…literally our bags.
and started cleaning. It was at this point we realized our destination was not a completion but just the beginning of some new journey I think we will call the continual road to home improvement.
As we got back in and got set up…Thanks to Ray and Barry Parker for helping move the necessary furniture into place and The Bag End Beam DLT group for coming in to wash all the woodwork….we realized that there is much more to do. So first we sat and just enjoyed the newness of our home. Then, as I walked through our home I began to realize that much of our old stuff is going to need a new home. It does not fit with the new Vicarage.
I started unpacking our bags…again they are literally bags…. so as I went through it I began deciding that some of what was in those bags should just stay there and go directly to the dumpster. Other bags I began to empty. Those bags will be used for laundry and for filling with other stuff from other rooms that never made it into bags to go to The Annex with us.
The journey ahead promises to be just as long as the journey behind and I believe that the results will be just as fulfilling.
Dear Family, One thing ministry has taught me over the years is that there is never a perfect rhythm than meets this lifestyle and stays with it.
The song of my life and ministry does not and never has conformed to a standard beat. It keeps changing meter and speed and no two days are alike and no two days in any given week are alike.
Oh, there are standard big rocks which go in my schedule every week: Sunday morning church, Monday Men’s group, Tuesday Morning staff meeting, Wednesday senior staff meeting, but each of those big rocks is effected each week by all the different things that go on around it. Those other things are like the water that moves around and through the rocks.
Some days the big rocks are met by a trickle and the and the stream is happy, peaceful.
Other days those rocks are all but submerged in a torrent I can hardly keep ahead of. I suppose it is the same for everyone and my particular experience of life is simply in the context of ministry. But I do think that people looking from the outside in consider that somehow my experience as a pastor is different from theirs and that life for me is one long private prayer time.
The truth is I do get at least three hours a day in prayer as a general rule. But I have learned that the only way to do that is to make it a big rock and put it at the head waters of each days river. If I choose otherwise my rhythm become a wild dance that ends in a stumble.
I still stumble a lot. But I am learning more and more how to avoid it and for that I am very appreciative.
Dear Family, When I returned home from grocery shopping today the painters were back at The Vicarage to finish up the next phase of painting. By the time they left the kitchen was almost complete.
From these pictures it may not look like it, but walking into our kitchen now is like walking into a summer sky. It is so refreshing and relaxing.
The day was actually pretty busy for a holiday. I spent quite a bit of time at visitation. Two of our parishioners are walking in the “in-between”. One knows it is time to pass on to the other side and the other is waiting for further direction from the Lord as to whether to stay here or go on and be with The Father in Heaven.
Life for both of these ladies is like my kitchen. It is almost like walking into the sky but not quite.
I could never do the work the painters are doing on my house, but they are doing what they can to bring my Vicarage project to an end. I have to trust them to complete the work. These two wonderful ladies who have served God with their whole lives are coming near to the end of much more momentous projects than mine. But they, like me, are reliant upon Another to finish their projects for them.
My part of this walk is akin to what many of my friends are doing with me now as they come and see the progress of the work at The Vicarage. They pat me on the back, give me an encouraging word and tell me, “Soon and very soon.”
Walking with these ladies and their families as they approach the end of their time on this side of the glory veil is an honor beyond comparison in my eyes. As they prepare to walk into their own skyward journey I am humbled to walk even a part of it with them.
As I said on Thursday this has been a whirlwind of week. But it is not a whirlwind that has brought devastation. It is a whirlwind that has brought great success and peace.
As I sit here typing own my sun porch I am listening to the rain falling gently on the roof. I am thinking about all that has been done this week and of all the ways we have partnered with God as a church to get things done.
On Sunday the Cornerstone congregation came together and pulled down the old altar and tore up the old carpet so that our sanctuary can get a much needed facelift. We finished the job in two hours. Today we reset all the chairs for service tomorrow in under and hour. Thanks team!
This week I was granted guardianship of our oldest congregant who is now in a nursing home and unable to care for herself. Our church family is preparing to do visitation with her. We as a church have begun to set up a schedule for the visits. Go team!
Wednesday and Thursday the staff cleaned out Grace’s apartment and on Friday I spent the day visiting with Grace in her new home, which she loves, and then I went hospital visiting and to another nursing home to read Scripture with one of our congregants who is preparing to meet Jesus face to face.
In the meantime my devotional focus for the week has been on the eternal life God has chosen to share with us and how that effects our living now.
I have had moments of intense joy and moments where I have been intensely overwhelmed. In the end I cannot stay in the overwhelmed spot. There is just too much amazing stuff going on to be overwhelmed with anything but gladness.
I am taking this class at the local library being taught by our church treasurer and resident life coach. The class is on appreciative living. This week our study was on visualization. We were asked to visualize the house of our life. I was surprised by how clear the rooms appeared before any eyes and how deeply each room spoke to my heart about things that need to grow and change in my life. I am grateful for the glimpse and filled with expectation as the days ahead lead me into that growth and change.
As I sit writing I am mindful of the literal heaps of paperwork sitting around me and the many messages I have yet to return. But I have the afternoon to get a lot of this done.
Monday was our 5-Star Men’s group. We had a great study in the book of Mark as we wandered through the calling of the first disciples and I called some of the guys to come help us set up chairs on Saturday as the project at Cornerstone has us breaking down and resetting the sanctuary for every service for the next month or so.
Tuesday began the real busyness though: Staff meeting in the morning and then after a quick walking of the dogs I was off to court for guardianship of one of our elder congregants. The judge was very helpful and I am now beginning the work of guardianship for dear Grace. Hence one of the heaps of paperwork on my conference table.
Wednesday the cleaning company came to take what was left of Grace’s furniture and belongings and today the staff went in and did the final cleaning for inspection. Another job done. I think tomorrow I will take the drive up to Claremont to visit with Grace and see how she is settling into her new home. So it has been a week of Grace and it feels good to get so many of these large projects she needed done…done.
In between I have been trying to keep up with my household bills, church business and start cleaning out The Vicarage. This is a great opportunity to get rid of some stuff. And I am feeling the push to simplify in order to manage the future with all that is on my plate.
As Neil Kennedy often says…” If you are feeling overwhelmed clean your garage. Putting things back in order creates peace.”
Well it is time to sign off from this week of Grace,