Holy Patience

Patience is not a virtue that comes easily to us. We come with short fuses. We are personally invested in our work and our play and we want to see the results of our efforts.

But when things start to fall apart, instead of taking the long view – we begin to lose hope, we begin to get angry or jaded, and often we behave in ways that are far from holy.

 

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first disciples of Jesus.

The time of his execution and resurrection must have been such a confusing, heartbreaking, joyful, frustrating rollercoaster of a time.

To be heading triumphantly into Jerusalem one minute… burying your leader the next… and then sticking your fingers through the holes in his risen body?

How would you even process?

I picture them in a kind of existential shock… going through the motions… not really sure what’s real and what’s not…

 

Maybe that’s why during those forty days that Jesus spends with the disciples after the resurrection we don’t have public appearances or healings or those great miracles.

No, He eats with them.

They fish.

He walks with them and teaches them.

Everything is on hold. Jesus simply ministers to their souls.

For forty days, we have no more than a handful of stories and they are all personal and intimate encounters.

 

I think the question must always be looming: what comes next?

A return to normalcy?

Revenge against the institutions that executed their leader?

A new movement? A revolution?

I can imagine the adrenaline running through their systems, the excitement that would fuel them to act and capitalize on the resurrection.

The question keeps coming:  Jesus… are you ready to kick the Romans out of Israel?  Are you going to return the nation to its glory?

They want their hearts desire and they want it NOW.

 

And Jesus keeps reminding them about the Kingdom of God and telling them to wait.

 

Be patient.  That is fruit of the spirit I find harder than most.  It is often translated as longsuffering. It is the gift of being able to endure in spite of the circumstances that have come against you. It is a hopeful fortitude that reminds us that there is light at the end of the tunnel… that if we trust and wait, the outcome we are praying for will come to pass.

 

The hardest part about patience is that we don’t know how long we are going to have to wait.

 

The disciples keep asking:  Lord, are we there yet?   Jesus, is it time?

And for forty days, Jesus tells them to wait. To be patient.

“In God’s time…” Jesus replies.

 

Biblically speaking, the number 40 has far more significance as a symbol than a literal number.

For forty days and nights it rained on Noah and the ark.

For forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.

For forty days, Jesus was tempted at the start of his ministry.

Over and over, that number comes to us.

The number forty in the Bible symbolizes a time of testing, a time of trial.  It symbolizes the amount of time it takes us to be ready for whatever comes next.

It has nothing to do with the revolution of the earth around the sun and everything to do with the turning of our hearts towards God.

The ancient Greeks had two words to use to describe time:  first, Kairos – which meant the right time or an indeterminate amount of time in which something significant happens.

Chronos, on the other hand, describes sequential time and is where we get the word chronological.

The biblical flood.  The desert wandering. The time of testing of Nineveh.  All of these happen not in chronological time, but in Kairos time.  In God’s time.

In fact, every time I see the number “forty” in the scriptures, I am reminded to think about God’s time and not a literal figure.

 

And when you look at verse 6 and 7 of our scripture in the original Greek, this distinction is there, plain as day.

The disciples are asking about whether or not it is time (houtos ho chronos), but Jesus responds that it is not for them to know the times or seasons (chronos ē kairos) that God has set.

 

For forty days, Jesus ate with them, cooked them breakfast, walked with them…

For forty days… for the time it took to get them ready, to reorient them, to turn them in a new direction… Jesus was simply present.

“Be patient,” he said.

 

Barclay’s commentary says that patience is the grace of a person who could revenge a wrong but doesn’t.

Patience is seeking an opening, waiting for the anger to pass, and finding a way forward. Patience is remembering that this inconvenience, this obstacle, will not last forever.

If patience is the grace of a person who could revenge a wrong but doesn’t… then Jesus is trying to shift the thinking of those disciples during these forty days.  He is trying to help them realize that the Kingdom of God is not about a military revolution against the Romans, but about a transformation of the world that is bigger that one nation.

 

Because, sometimes patience is coming to understand that your heart’s desire is not God’s desire and getting on board with God’s preferred future.

It takes time for that kind of shift in thinking.  They need to wait.  They need to practice patience.  They need to be slow with their anger and not let it consume them.

When we find ourselves in situations of great frustration and anger, I think patience is taking just a moment to breathe and to pray. Patience is asking for God to come into this situation and remind us of the things that are truly important in the moment, and to let that anger move out of the way, if necessary.

 

But patience is also putting one foot in front of the other and not being paralyzed in your waiting.    If we spend too much time looking into the past, we will never live into our new future.

And so in the midst of this time of patient waiting, Jesus and the disciples did very normal things.  They went fishing.  They spent time praying and talking and learning.

Making the most of our given situations is a very hard thing to do. We like to sit and stew and wish that things were different. And in doing so, we breed anger and resentment in our hearts.

Patience has to be active.  We will never change or improve or reach our desired outcome if we simply stop what we are doing.

We have to live into the future by doing the things now that will help us reach that desired outcome.  Patience sometimes means living as if that future were a reality today.

A few months ago, I shared with you the situation of Vano Kiboko.  He is the brother of one of our District Superintendents here in Iowa and he believed that his country and its leaders were on the wrong path.  And so he practiced that kind of active patience by publically speaking out against his government and he was imprisoned for his actions.

For 16 months, Vano has been in prisoned.

And he didn’t let anger or resentment fuel him.  He lived with a heart full of grace towards his guards and everyone he met.  He put one foot in front of the other and kept working towards God’s future. He practiced holy patience in the midst of a trying situation.

More than a thousand people were brought to Christ during his time in prison.  He wept with them, baptized them, shared God’s good news with them.

And on May 6, Vano Kiboko was released from prison.

 

We don’t always know what God has in store for us.  We can’t know the times or the seasons, the chronos and Kairos, of God’s plan.

 

But I think our Ascension scripture reminds us that God takes the long view in our lives, too.

The forty days after Easter were a gift to the disciples… time to reorient their lives and help them to be ready for what God had planned next.  Time to prepare their hearts for the power of the Holy Spirit that would come in Kairos time.

 

There are so many things that we are impatient for.  Justice.  Healing.  Peace.  “How long?” we cry out.

But maybe holy patience invites us to live into that future with our actions today.

Holy patience invites us to live with open hearts, always aware of God’s movement and prompting.

Holy patience invites us to be filled with grace, flexible, and willing to let God change us.

Holy patience is a gift… because it is Kairos time… God’s time… enough time to truly get us ready – heart and mind and soul – for the future God has planned.

What can thrive here? #growrule

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Last year I took four weeks of spiritual renewal leave and wanted to focus on cultivation… in relationships, in my spiritual life, and literally, in my back yard.

 

I had far more intentions than time, but I was able to manage to clear out one entire section of the retaining wall (seen behind the owl mug in the picture).  Vines and weeds and trees were growing in the midst of the mulch and rocks.  I wanted to start from scratch and add some order to the space.

 

The question put forth today in “Growing A Rule of Life” is simple: In your garden, what will thrive… what can thrive if you let it?

What I discovered last summer was a whole lot of things were thriving I didn’t really want anymore.

So the English ivy was pulled and I discovered day lilies  hiding under all the vines.

I cut back and cleared volunteer mulberries.

I destroyed a viney, busy mess of poison ivy, and cut out growth on a tree that had been cut down long before we arrived.

 

By clearing away the clutter in my garden, I created space for other things to thrive.  Like the  lilies and a lilac bush I discovered hiding in the mess of it all.

It was hidden in the very back corner, with volunteer trees suffocating it and so I moved it to a better spot and now it will have more sun. I’m anxious to see how it has weathered the winter and whether it will thrive in its new location or not.

I also am trying to figure out what to do with about 20 volunteer redbud trees in the space.  They are thriving, but will need pruning and support in order to grow into proper trees. And they simply cannot thrive so close to one another, so the majority will have to be pulled.  That is still a project for another day.

In the space I cleared, I also tried to plant wild ginger.  Yet, it seemed to yellow and fade as the summer went on.

Just because we want to cultivate certain things, doesn’t mean we can.

 

As I build a rule of life, these lessons are helpful.  There are all sorts of things I might want to plant, but I simply don’t have time or room for it all.  Focusing on a few things that can thrive and will help me thrive in my journey of discipleship is wonderfully freeing.

 

Some things I think can thrive:

  • Intentional Sabbath: setting firm boundaries between work and home/rest
  • Blogging as a spiritual discipline: a place for reflection upon the Word, our faith lived out in the world
  • Prayer time and space:  physically creating a space to spend time listening to God both at work and at home.

Ever creeping, creeping charlie

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Creeping Charlie was already flourishing in our backyard when we moved in last summer.  We had been working on hand pulling some of it and forgot to apply a herbicide on it last fall when it would have been a good time to do so.

So this spring, when we worked to till the southern portion of the lawn to make a garden, I knew I really needed to get down on my hands and knees and work on pulling out the Creeping Charlie before the machine ripped it all to bits and I ended up spreading the annoying groundcover.

For the most part, that helped.  One good afternoon of pulling cleared out that space and made it a mostly acceptable spot to till and garden.

But these last few days, as I have had time to spend in the garden weeding, it is all over the place.

Not the big swaths of it like before, but little tiny clusters here and there.

Trying to come back.

Trying to grow and spread.

Trying…

In our spiritual lives and in our ministries, there are things we want to get rid of or stop doing as well.  Bad habits. Old priorities. Outdated methods.

Just like the Creeping Charlie was once touted as a excellent groundcover with its pretty blue flowers, these things might have had their time and place.  Or they might have always been unwelcome in our lives and in our churches.

Either way, when you try to change something and go in a different direction, there are bits and pieces of the past that keep coming back.

A change in worship styles that keeps being invaded with requests to sing the old hymns.

Deciding to offer only healthy snacks after worship until someone brings donuts, again.

Setting aside time for devotions that keeps getting eaten away at by the kids waking up earlier.

Trying to quit complaining (gossiping, smoking, you name it) but continuing to hang out with people who do.

 

This summer, I’m learning persistence and patience in the garden.  Keep at it. Expect growth of those things you tried to set aside. Take a deep breath and just keep pulling it back out. Calmly. Consistently.

 

Bandwidth

This week at an annual conference worship meeting, Jorge Lockward, who works with the General Board of Global Ministries asked a simple question:

 

“Do you have the bandwidth for that?”

 

He wasn’t talking about our technical capabilities in the venue.  He was asking about our spiritual, physical, and emotional capacity to take on a new piece of the project. We didn’t, so we let it go.

 

Bandwidth-imageThis month, I have pushing my bandwidth past capacity.  In the midst of winding down our Imagine No Malaria campaign, we are also gearing up for the “big finish” of Annual Conference and a gigantic youth event we have put together. We are closing on our new house next week. Beginning to pack up boxes around the house. Dreaming and praying about my new appointment to serve a local church and all the possibilities for ministry in that place. Alongside district and conference teams I’m working with.

 

When my husband and I need extra bandwidth in our home for  technology, we pay for upgrades to our system.  But what can we do in our everyday lives?

 

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

When we get busy, we often leave off those things that fill us the most and expand our capacity to respond.  To help me through this crazy, busy month, I picked up a new devotional and I’m spending more time reading in the morning and evenings.  It helps me to go to sleep without the list of tasks there is to do on my mind.

Prayer also helps connect me and ground me with the source of energy and power in my ministry.  I’m not alone and I’m not the be-all-end-all of these projects or the world.  My prayer life often reminds me of the interconnectedness of our work and our immense capacity to do more together than if I stubbornly hold my piece all by myself.

But self-care is also about our physical selves as well.  I’ve started doing some stretching yoga poses before bed.  I need to get out and run more and play a few more rounds of disc golf a week… if only it would stop raining and warm up.

 

“Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.” – Irma Kurtz

We have to set boundaries for ourselves.  We have to say no.  We have to be fully aware of our capacity to respond and not feel guilty if we can not do so in that moment.

And I have to fully admit.  I have sucked at this lately. The reality that I have only a month and a half left in my work has warped my sense of boundaries… the many good things left to do all feels like it needs to be crammed in together.  But because I am saying yes to some things, in reality, I’m also saying no to other things that I don’t wish to.  Time with family for one.

Lately, I have felt like a “taker”. Taking time from this and that person to help get the projects and the work done.  I’m grateful that there are people in my life who are helping me say no and set boundaries when I’m taking too much time away from those people they do know are important to me.

 

There’s a temptation to multi-task everything, but you can’t multi-task presence.” – Cindy Crawford

We all try to multi-task, some of us more or less successfully than others. But this quote is a reminder that quality is really more important than quantity.  I can spend a whole day with someone, but if I’m constantly distracted by emails and tasks and my focus is scattered, then I might as well not be there at all.  I found myself in a meeting earlier this week, trying to listen in to the conversation while I responded to an email.  I was a poor friend in that moment.  We cannot do it all right now.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I needed some time together to relax.  But I also had a t0-do list a mile long.  So he asked how long it would take to cross six things off that list.  It ended up being 1.5 hours.  But I focused on those tasks, got them done, and felt immensely better when they were.  Then, I was free to truly be present with him.  I didn’t feel the weight of edits that needed to be made or feel like I should send emails during commercial breaks. My mind was at rest and I could be fully present without distraction.

 

My Book of Resolutions

Resolution 2013.1

WHEREAS, my change in job has caused some stress in my family life

WHEREAS, stability is sometimes more important than flexibility

WHEREAS, I need to remember this job is a marathon, not a sprint

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I will prayerfully (and with consulatation from my husband) discern my schedule in the future – especially planned time away

LET IT FUTHER BE RESOLVED, that I will ask for help when I need it, delegate where I can, and remember that giving 100% to this work is often about empowering other people to serve as well.

 

Resolution 2013.2

WHEREAS, being on the road has meant less time for self care

WHEREAS, I need to serve God with mind, soul and BODY

WHEREAS, health requires sleep and exercise and good food.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I am giving up fast food.

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that I will exercise 4x/week.

 

Resolution 2013.3

WHEREAS, in extension ministry I am without a church home

WHEREAS, I took opportunities this fall to travel on weekends and rest from the Sunday routine in one particular church

WHEREAS, the discipline kind of requires that I find a church

WHEREAS, it is good for my soul to worship with others on a regular basis and not just sporadically with different folks

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I will find a church home by the end of January.

 

Resolution 2013.4

WHEREAS, I have lost my weekly bible study group in Marengo.

WHEREAS, I am not preaching every Sunday and therefore not doing regular textual study, either.

WHEREAS, regular time with the scriptures is good for my mind and my spiritual life.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I will have coffee every week with a good friend of mine and the Bible

Use it or Lose it

On a cold November morning, not too different from today, two farmers met each other in the local coffee shop. Their crops had been harvested and they had some time to relax and shoot the breeze.

After catching up on the usual small talk, Farmer Joe set his coffee cup down and turned to his friend.

“What are you going to plant this spring, Jake?… corn?”

“Nope, not going to plant corn next year… scared of the corn borer.”

Joe could understand that, the corn borer was pretty rough this past year. So he asked, “What about potatoes?”

Jake shook his head slowly. “Nope, too much danger of potato bugs.”

After continuing through crop after crop and hearing many similar answers, Farmer Joe finally turned to his neighbor and said, exasperatedly, “Well then, what are you going to plant?”

And Farmer Jake answered, “Nothing. I’m going to play it safe.”

Well, I don’t know of too many farmers who so scared about what might happen that they refuse to put their seeds into the ground. Farmers by nature are a people of hope and trust. As they plant their crops into the ground each spring, they do so in spite of everything that might happen. Too much rain… too little rain… too much heat… too little heat… bugs and pests… oil prices… weeds… hail storms… flooding up river… There are so many things that could happen, that might happen, that have happened in the past. And yet, with faith and hope and trust, they plant those crops.

They dig the furrows and place the seeds and then… they wait.

Only not really.

A good farmer doesn’t just sit back, but carefully tends that ground. They might spray for bugs. Or get out a hoe and walk the bean rows pulling weeds, like my grandpa… my Deda… did.

They watch.

They pray.

But they don’t just sit back and do nothing.

Then the time comes when the fruits of their labor pays off. The crop comes in. The harvest puts food on the table.

Unless you are Farmer Jake. Because if you just sit back and play it safe and never do any work… you will never have anything to show for it. Will you pray with me? (prayer for illumination)

Oh, Farmer Jake.

He is kind of like our third servant from Matthew’s parable this morning. The one who was so afraid of what might happen and what he might lose that he didn’t do anything.

Well… let me take that back. At least the servant put something in the ground. Farmer Jake didn’t even do that.

When his Lord and master came back home, and the servant returned exactly what was given him… the master was furious and the servant was sent to his death. Farmer Jake might not quite have that problem… well, unless his wife finds out that he refused to put a crop in the ground 😉

For a few weeks now, Matthew’s gospel has presented us with some difficult parables.

Starting back in chapter 21, Jesus is having a nice long talk with his followers. The topic: How they should wait. You see, Jesus is only days away from his crucifixion in Jerusalem. He is days away from leaving them. Days away from his death. And he wants to make sure they are prepared for what they are going to have to do while he is gone. Much like the Lord in this parable who is going away for a long trip… Jesus is trying to put his affairs in order, so that his wealth and his ministry is taken care of while he is gone.

So for four chapters we have had all of these stories about people who are waiting and preparing… even while their Lord and master is away. We talked about the sons in the vineyard and how they did… or did not do… what their father wanted.

We spent time learning about the wedding feast and how we have to clothe ourselves with the right stuff for the final day.

We heard the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids and the encouragement to prepare ourselves… to actively wait with full lamps for our Lord.

All of these parables have one central theme: Jesus may have died on a cross and ascended into heaven… but he is coming back! Like the bridegroom, like the master who is away, Jesus is coming soon… What have YOU been doing in the meantime?

And today’s parable is no exception. As the Lord leaves for a far off land, he entrusts to his servants care a precious fortune… what are they going to do with it?

What are WE going to do with it?

As we learn more about how we should faithfully wait for the Lord, I think there are a couple of important things to think about:

First, we need to look at who we are that this gift should be given to us at all.

According to the parable, the Lord’s fortune was divided up and given to each of these three servants according to their ability. William Herzog reminds us that the word used here could also be translated as power. They are given these gifts because of their power, their position, because of what they have already demonstrated that they could handle.

In other words… this is not a test. No master would be foolish enough to use this large of a sum of money for a test of faithfulness. No, he gave these responsibilities out based on what he knew that the servants could handle.

That is a phrase that we have often used around the church. That God never gives us more than we can handle. Our Lord and Savior knows us well… knows what we are truly capable of… and therefore, knows what to expect of us. Are you living out of the fullness of who you are? Using your gifts and abilities? Using your position in order to affect good for the Kingdom of God in this world? I know that some of you look at the things you have accomplished and are sighing a big old sigh of relief. You are thinking to yourselves… I haven’t done anything, I have nothing to offer. I’m tired and worn out and have no energy left. It’s good to know that God is okay with that.

Well… our Lord certainly understands your natural abilities and the realities of your life… but our Lord also knows the realities of God’s life and power. And when we let him into our lives, amazing things happen. We find energy and gifts we didn’t possess to begin with. We find strength that we didn’t know we had. We find that we are put in positions we never would have dreamed of before… all because of God’s ability and not our own.

You may have a lot to offer. You may have nothing to offer. But either way, if you let God work through you… the seeds that he plants in your life WILL bear fruit.

Second, we need to look at what the gift is that has been given.

I have heard this parable interpreted and used in a thousand different ways. I’ve heard people talk about gifts and abilities being given to us as Christians. I’ve heard scholars talk about the resources and money that we have been blessed with and how we should use it. It’s sometimes described as the spiritual gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, or the responsibilities we have for our family and friends and faith. But whatever this thing is, everyone agrees that it is an abundant gift. It is priceless.

One single talent was a gigantic weight of money. It equaled 6,000 denarii. One denarii was roughly equal to a day’s wages… so if you do the math, each one of these talents was about twenty YEARS worth of pay.

In today’s terms a talent might be thought of as nearly a million dollars.

Now… this is the kind of money that most people never saw. Especially not at once.

But the Lord and master in this story has eight times this much to divvy up among his servants. One hundred and sixty years worth of pay… and he is leaving it to their hands.

This is a lifetime’s worth of money. It is costly. And being given all at once, you wonder what the Lord and master could possibly have left. This could very well be everything that he has.

We tend to get overwhelmed when we think about how much God expects of us. We feel obligations to family and work and the church. We want to have things that make us comfortable and entertain us. We want to fit in with the culture that is around us. And when we take care of those things… there really isn’t a whole lot left. Especially if we are thinking about money or energy or gifts and abilities.

This week, two different possibilities of what this costly, priceless, abundant gift could be were introduced to me.

The first is time… the second is love. What if this gift that has been given is time? The time that we have to wait for the Lord. Some of us have more time on this earth that others. But we all have been given some time with which to serve and love the Lord. What are you going to do with that time of yours? How are you going to fill your days? Will you take risks and live it to the fullest? Or are you going to bury your head in the sand and waste the days that you have been given?

That right there is a list of questions that might keep us occupied for weeks as we think about the ways that we live our lives.

But that second interpretation is the one that really has caught my attention. What if this expensive, costly, sacrifical gift that we have been given is love?

Each one of you are present in worship because you know that Christ laid down his life for you. Each one of you could probably recite with me John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, Jesus Christ, so that whosoever believes in him should have eternal life. God’s love is costly. God’s love is abundant. God’s love is sacrificial. God’s love is bigger than we can possibly imagine.

Each and every single one of us has received the love of God through Jesus Christ. But what are we doing with it? Are we multiplying that love in the world? Are we sharing it with our friends and family, neighbors and strangers, people far and wide? Or are we sitting on it? Are we hiding it? Are we refusing to step out and take a chance? Are we afraid of the people that God is calling us to love?

William Loader writes: “the tragedy is that many people are afraid of losing or endangering God and so seek to protect God from adventures, to resist attempts at radical inclusion that might, they fear, compromise God’s purity and holiness.” As the church, we sometimes shut our doors to addicts, to immigrants, to unwed mothers, to gays and lesbians, to republicans, to democrats… to whomever it might be – because we are afraid that loving those people and letting them into our lives might tarnish our reputation and might water down the gospel.

But as Loader goes on to write: “Sometimes we find that God is pulling in great profits in areas which we had deemed beyond God’s interests… ‘God’s mercy never ends’ is a way of saying that grace has capital, love is rich. We need to encourage people to stop putting God under the mattress. As we begin to trust allowing God to move through us, our lives change as individuals and our communities have a better chance of change. There are rich pickings, so to speak, and the harvest is ripe.”

As a church, we believe that God has placed us in this community and that God has a job for us to do. Our Lord and Savior… our master… wants us to reflect the light of his love to this world.

It is a task that might seem overwhelming. It might be difficult. And it is a little bit scary. We aren’t always sure what that is going to look like or what it might ask of us.

But God has chosen us.

God has seen what this church is capable of and has called us… in this moment… to be faithful.

Are we going to multiply this gift of love?

Are we going to faithfully serve our master?

Or are we going to bury our heads in the sand, much like that talent was buried and be content to wait for him to come back?

Farmer Jake was afraid of what might happen and he put nothing into the ground. And when the time of harvest came, he had nothing to show for himself.

Let us plant God’s light.

Let us tend God’s light.

And let us look forward to the day when that light of Christ spreads far and wide across this community and this world… all because we were not afraid to act. Amen. And Amen.

a day in the life…

7:00am – alarm goes off

8:10am – start thinking about getting out of bed

8:30am – phone conversation with Trustee chairperson about the new shingles for the parsonage roof

8:50am – arrive at church, small talk with folks gathering for the Tuesday morning small group.

9:05am – phone call with Memorial chair about some checks that came in

9:10am – check emails, put checks into envelopes to pay some church bills

9:30am – Tuesday morning small group: food, devotions, prayer, conversation

11:00am – check in with some members of our co-missioned coordinating team to plan event on October 1
11:15am – scripture reading and exploring commentaries to get ready for Sunday
12:00pm – time spent thinking about hymns for Sunday interspersed with facebook (seeing what is going on in colleagues and members lives)
12:15pm – phone call with congregation member about an upcoming wedding
12:50pm – head home for lunch, heat up leftovers and watch an episode or two of Dr. Who
3:30pm – back to church to meet up with a youth… visit with a member and help transport some items being donated to Women at the Well (prison congregation)
4:45pm – conversation on the side of the road to coordinate a visit with some church folk

5:00pm – back home to make dinner: chicken, sauteed musrooms, wild rice

6:45pm – back to church for Lay Leadership meeting

7:10pm – start our meeting with devotions, discuss calling all who serve and changes in our organizational structure

8:10pm – head home. pajamas. computer.

9:30pm – movie with the husband

11:45pm – bed

its not an 8-5 job…

For the past month and a half…  probably actually since before Christmas… my schedule has been chaotic.

You are told things when you start out in ministry about how pastors sometimes work 80+ hour weeks and how you are on-call 24/7 and how your life just might get sucked up into a vortex of ministry.

I didn’t believe it.

Or rather, I was committed to not letting it happen to me.

And I must say that for a full three years, I have done “okay” at keeping my boundaries firm.

I scheduled my day off for Friday so that I would have two full days off in a row.  I took time off when I worked too much the previous week.  I don’t fret about afternoon naps or mornings sleeping in when meetings are scheduled for the evening. And when the weather is warm, I have a robust desire to spend my free time on the disc golf course or in my garden rather than being cramped up in the office. I get my work done, I spend time with folks, but I make sure to take care of myself, too.

But 2011 has been absolutely nuts.

I realized this morning as I was riding in a car to yet another Saturday church-related function that I had only spent about an hour with my husband the entire week.  I realized that it is the fifth Saturday in a row that I have had something going on… between funerals and conference meetings and church retreats.  I realized that since I made two hospital visits and worked on the newsletter yesterday that I have not had a day off this week.

What on earth happened?

I think part of the slip in my boundaries has to do with a number of important things going on in the life of the church that I have chosen to prioritize and give extra time to.  I also ran into a week with four funerals and was gone for a week and therefore had catch-up work.

But there was another shift in my household that I didn’t quite take note of.  My husband started working 8-5, Monday through Friday.

Before this, B had worked with his dad and the time was flexible.  The only time I knew he would be working away from home was on Tuesdays… other than that, he would go in on-call and work a lot from home.  They fix computers and I am always amazed at the ability to take over a client’s computer and do updates and take care of issues from the comfort of our home.
All of that changed when my father-in-law had a seizure just after the new year.
We don’t know what caused it, but it happened.
And now, he is not allowed to drive, and the two of them have become an inseperable team… heading off to see clients together and working from his dad’s office.
Before this, if I had to work in the evening, I got an afternoon to spend with my husband.  Fridays almost always were free for both of us.  And even when I got home from meetings, we would stay up late watching movies because we both had the freedom to sleep a bit later.

Now, my husband gets up before me and is out the door before I have a chance to really wake up.  My evenings are just about as busy, which is why three nights out of five this week I wasn’t home before 8 or 9 or later… when he was getting ready to settle down and turn in.

It’s easier to say yes to a hospital visit or a meeting on a Friday, because I don’t have anyone at home waiting for me.
There is definately something to be said for having a stay-at-home spouse when you are in ministry.  I wonder if others of you who have spouses who work have similiar frustrations.  How do you balance out the time with your husband or wife or family when one of the traditional “weekend” days is taken up with work and ministry?  How do you find time to spend with one another when weeknight meetings are a regular part of the job?

I have always cherished the flexibility of my schedule. But I’m starting to resent it… a little bit.  I miss my husband.  I miss my days off.  And this chaos has got to get some order put to it.