Pace…

Sometimes life in the church seems to run an unbearably fast pace. Especially in the fall as programs start back up and committees get back to meeting regularly. I have really been feeling the pace at St. A’s in the last couple of weeks.

My days are full of meetings and so are my evenings. That’s not really a complaint, so much as an observation. But it could, all too easily, become a complaint. Because one of the things that many clergy struggle with is the pressure to be “the super-pastor.”

In his book, Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell does a great rant against the super-pastor. He encourages any clergy reading the book to take their inner-super-pastor out to the back ally and kill it now. It’s very amusing, but also deadly serious. Because pastors burn out all the time. We have a hard time saying no. A hard time drawing clear lines around time spent at the church or in ministry, and time spent away from all of that.

Most people work a 9-5 day. They arrive at the office at a specific time, and they leave at a specific time. Not true of ministers. We work weird hours in a weird work week (my day off is Friday, and in September I will have worked every Saturday and most Sunday afternoons…in order to make up for the lack of an equivalent to the average-joe’s weekend, I’ve been taking it easy on Monday mornings.). We can sit in a coffee shop and do incredibly intense work while looking to the outside world like just another dude enjoying a venti latte with a friend. Most of the people in the congregations we serve don’t see all the ‘extra stuff’ that goes into our week – a late night phone call or a last minute funeral or a meeting that pops up outta nowhere and takes unexpected hours from our day. That’s just the way it is.

So one of the things we have to be really careful about is controlling the pace, finding time for ourselves, drawing good boundaries and recognizing that we cannot do it all. (One of my friends loves to tell the story about his first day in Seminary, when his professor had the entire class stand up and then said “Repeat after me: I am not the savior of the world!”)

There are many ways that I practice what was taught as “self-care” in my time at Seminary. The morning walk I take with my dog and a friend, the daily classes I take at the gym, the nightly chats on the phone with my Mom. These things are important. They are my way of being still (even though some of them involve heavy physical activity) and knowing He is God. Because if I lose sight of that, everything else – all the meetings and coffee conversations and sermons and pastoral care – doesn’t matter at all.

Autumn and inconsistent…

I often think of Fall as my favorite season. Unless you count Christmas, which I totally do – but that is my favorite because of twinkling lights and sparkly bows and beautiful carols and the birth of the Savior…not because of weather and what is happening out in the natural world.

Today I was running an errand and I saw the first kiss of fall color in a stand of trees. It just made me grin. I do love fall, but I think what I love even more than fall itself is the change of seasons. That shift as Summer morphs into Fall or Winter melts into Spring. That in-between-time when the previous season still makes an occasional appearance even as we are surrounded by signs of the new season.

It’s strange, because often I have such trouble with change. But when it comes to the seasons there seems to be such possibility and mystery in the changes. Sure, sometimes at this time of year you find yourself caught without a jacket on a day when it turns out that you really need one, or wearing too many layers on a day that Summer decided to pop back up. Sometimes the change surprises you. But there is beauty in the unexpected.
And in the midst of a change of season I find myself delighted by the unforeseen changes in the weather.

Now, if only I could translate that attitude to the unexpected things that happen in all avenues of life. Unfortunately, I am more annoyed than overjoyed when life throws me a curve ball. I find in-between-times full of frustration rather than expectation and mystery. I think – and this will come to no surprise to those of you who know me well – I want to be in control when it comes to change in the broad strokes of life.

When it comes to the weather, to the change of seasons, I’m well aware that I have no say in what will happen, so I don’t worry too much about it.

It’s a healthier attitude, especially for a Christian. I know that God is at work in this world. I know that He has a plan and I believe that His plan is for the good of us all. I believe His plan has to do with redemption and deliverance and new life. I can say all of that with confidence and with a still small voice in the center of my being whispering “it’s true, it’s true, it’s true…” So why can’t I have the attitude towards the changes in life that I have towards the change of season?

The answer is quite simple. I’m human. I’m fallen. I’m inconsistent. I’m in need of a savior. Thank God I have one.

Derailed and delighted…

Early in my Photo-a-day experiment, I found myself derailed. The assignment of the day was “bright” and I just couldn’t decide on a photo that represented bright to me. I had a few ideas, but I didn’t settle on any of them. Instead, I avoided the assignment for that day. And the next day. And the next day. And…Well, you see where this is going.

For at least a week now I’ve been pondering whether to try to catch up (3 photos a day until I make up the deficit? One humung-oid post to cover all the missed days?) or give up. Today I decided to declare the project derailed. There will be other photo-a-day assignments, and I will give that a go in the future. For now, I just want to blog again and not stress about it.

So that is the derailed part of this post. Now what about the delighted part? There are many things that are delighting me right now (gorgeous September weather, great classes at my gym, fitting back into clothing I’d stopped fitting into over the Spring/Summer, a new colleague at St. A’s, a great bday weekend…), but the one that has caught my attention is a food discovery. It won’t be new to most people, but to me it was a new experience: Spaghetti Squash.

Growing up, I was not a fan of squash. But since joining Weight Watchers about 20 months ago, many of my tastes have changed. I love butternut squash, and had been encouraged by friends to try out Spaghetti Squash. Especially as an alternative to pasta. Today I was doing some grocery shopping and I stopped dead in my tracks with the thought: Oh, wow – I really want pasta sauce. This is always a bit of a challenge for me, because pasta is so high-carb which means high-in-points. Sure, there are the low-carb Shiritaki noodles, which are a pretty good alternative, but I haven’t found them in the grocery store where I was shopping. Then I remembered Spaghetti Squash. I decided to give it a go, and I’m SO glad I did. I know I will be buying and roasting this squash again in the future, whenever I want some pasta sauce.

This is what I did:
-1 Spaghetti Squash
-1 Jar reduced sodium Tomato and Basil sauce
-1 tin no salt added tomatoes
-a couple of big scoops of diced garlic
-a generous sprinkle of dried oregano
-1 pkg frozen diced spinach
-1 pkg of ground turkey
-3 cooking onions

In a large wok (what I use to cook all soups and sauces), cook turkey until brown, add sauce, tomatoes, garlic and oregano and bring to boil. Add frozen package of spinach and allow to slowly melt in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Suddenly realize you had onions you wanted to use up, chop them furiously and throw them in, allow sauce to simmer for a good half hour. Turn off heat and let sit for a while

Meanwhile, cut Spag Sq in half (this is no easy thing, but worth the effort), scoop out seeds, place cut-side-down on cookie sheet in 350degree oven. Cook for 10 min, flip squash over, cook for another 25min, then leave in hot (but turned off) oven while you rush off to a meeting that is beginning in 5 min.

Return home after meeting, and check on Spag Squash. Be relieved and thrilled to find it done and ready to be ‘forked’. Using fork, scrape out spaghetti-like strands of squash. Put in bottom of various freezer-safe dishes (I use Glass Lock). Spoon a couple of healthy ladles of sauce over squash, attach lids. Store some in freezer for easy-to-grab dinners and some in fridge for immediate future.

I had my first portion for dinner tonight and it was phenomenal! I loved the spinach in the sauce (just a little extra veg without TASTING the extra veg, or having to go to great lengths to prepare it).

I love discovering new foods that I enjoy. I love that there are still new experiences to be had in life…or maybe old experiences to be had in new ways? (I know I gave my Mom major grief over Spaghetti Squash the last time I ate it, but this time I loved every bite.)

The Bible is the story of God doing something new among us. The story of faith has always been on of seeing with new eyes, of hearing with new ears, of living life anew. Maybe that’s why I am so delighted by new experiences: they are a glimpse into the life of faith itself.

Devotional #1

At the church where I serve, there are many committees that meet to see to the work of the church. It is easy for these committees to get so busy with the work they have before them that the members forget their first order of business: to be Christ to each other.

So, it was suggested that as we begin another fall season and get busy with the work of the church, perhaps I could use this little blog of mine to write some devotionals. The intent is that they will be used at the beginning of meetings to set a spiritual tone for the work that is done there.

Here we go!

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.
Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
17 And whatever you do or say,
do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:16-17 NLT

Many people have many definitions of what it means to call yourself a Christian. Some would point to doctrines that must be believed. Others to activities that must be undertaken. And still others to rituals that must be observed. But I have always believed that as Christians – followers of Jesus – our call is to embody the good news.

Not just to believe it. Not just to think about it. Not just to study it. Not just to love it. Not just to work for it. Not just to ritualize it.

But to embody it, to live it out. To become vessels of the good news and to pour it out on all whom we meet, only to find ourselves filled up again by the love of Jesus. I think that is what Paul is getting at as he writes this letter to the Colossians. We are to let the message about Christ – his life, death and Resurrection which freed us forever from the bonds of sin and death – fill our lives.

Everything we do is meant to be an act of worship. Everything we say is meant to be said as though we were the only representative of Jesus Christ (after all, for some people, we will be!).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find this rather daunting. The reality is that it is just as easy for me to have cranky moments in the midst of a day, as it is for anyone else. To live this way takes focus and prayer. You have to remember – all the time – that you are a follower of Jesus and people need to what you have to give.

The good news, is that none of us followers of Jesus have to do that on our own strength. The good news is for us, too. We know (and are known by!) the source of life which conquered death.

Discussion questions:

1) What does it mean for you to “let the message of Christ, in all its richness, fill your life”?

2) In what ways could you live out the message of Christ during this meeting?

3)How do you want to represent Jesus – as an individual and as a committee of the church?
Prayer:

Father God, you know all of the things we bring into this meeting: the frustrations and distractions of our day. We ask you to help us set those things aside and focus on the work that is before us. We ask you to guide and direct us as we do our work. May our decisions reflect and honour you. Lift our spirits as we work for you that we may feel refreshed and renewed. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

In my mailbox…

#FMSPhotoaday Sept 4th: In my mailbox:

Sometimes I really hate checking the mailbox. At my house, a whole lot of the time, all I get is advertisements. That’s not fun. I’ve gone to paperless billing on virtually all my accounts, so I rarely get bills in the mail. That’s not NOT fun. What is actually fun is when you receive something nice in the mail. I shop online (when there is a good coupon or something I need that I can buy for cheap on eBay), so once every six or eight weeks so something that I ordered suddenly appears in the mail.

Those days are always the best mail days. Well, it just so happens there was a good coupon for Old Navy on Friday and that my order arrived in the mail today. A happy surprise on a rather gloomy day.

I think one of the things that I am going to appreciate about this Photoaday project is the way that it is making me think of things that might normally escape my notice. Little things that I need to be thankful for like a great moment between my Dad and my chosen-nephew. Or the clothes that arrived today (most of which actually fit, yippee! The purple jeans will fit in another few weeks, I swear). How blessed am I  that I can click a few buttons and have clothing arrive at my front door a few days later?

I was listening to a Matt Chandler book this summer and he was saying how we ought to go around thankful for everything. Not just the little things like clothing arriving at the front door and the fact that said clothing fits. But the things that none of us ever think about – the fact that our houses didn’t fall down on our heads today, or that we woke up with breath in our lungs, or that all the airplanes didn’t suddenly fall out of the sky. These are things we take for granted, but they are things that show us how good God is (since God is the one who came up with the rules of physics and life and aerodynamics…at least, He’s the one that those of us with faith credit for all that stuff).

That concept stuck with me, and though I won’t for a second pretend I’ve perfected the art of being thankful for the (seemingly) mundane. I will say that I’m working on it.

So let me take a moment to say “Thanks God”. Thanks that I am breathing, and so are the two dogs and a cat that share my house. Thanks for the fact that my parents arrived back to their home safely after driving all over Nova Scotia, Vermont, and Maine for the past three weeks. Thanks for the clothes that arrived at my door today, and the money that paid for them, and the calling that allowed me to earn that money. Thanks. For the big things and the little things and the mundane things. I can’t say it enough. Thanks.

Catching up…

So I decided to do a ‘photoaday’ project for September. I thought I’d try blogging about the photos as I post them. Then the stomach flu hit. Suddenly I found myself 3 days behind at the very beginning of the project. Ugh.

So tonite I will blog 3 photos and hopefully tomorrow I will be back on track. Here we go!

#FMSPhotoaday Sept 1: You, now:

 

 

My social media friends might be a little sick of this photo by now, since it’s been on FB and Twitter today. But I really think it is the best pic of me right now. Taken on Friday, at the home of my chosen-family in Oshawa, I like this photo because I actually like the way my body looks in the picture. I have blogged often about my weight loss journey. I have had both great successes and great struggles with it during the past year. I have discovered that losing a pile of weight doesn’t fix all the problems in your life. It doesn’t solve any of your self esteem issues. I have trouble recognizing the changes in my body. But the journey continues. And I am learning to be thankful even in the midst of my struggles. This pic represents all of that to me.

 

FMSPhotoaday Sept 2: Father:


My Dad is a great guy. And one of the biggest joys of my summer was watching him interact with my chosen-nephews when they and their family came for a visit at the farmhouse this summer. So this is my Dad giving Nate a ride in a wheelbarrow. The great thing is that this was about 5 minutes after they arrived. It took Dad no time at all to find fun ways to engage the boys. When I was a kid, my Dad was the guy who’d run through the woods at my grandparents’ cottage with my brother and I, toy guns in our hands and laughter bubbling out of us like crazy people. I loved getting to see an echo of that as my Dad interacted with these precious boys and their little sister. My earthly father is a blessing (to me, and to many others!) and a reflection of my Heavenly Father.

 

#FMSPhotoaday: Sept 3: Far Away:

 

 

This is the view from the table where my Mom and I dined while we were in New York State this summer. This is the patio at Stonecutter’s pub at Belhurst castle, on the shores of lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region. It was a gorgeous day and Mom and I were having some great girl-time together. That was right in the middle of the summer. Now the fall has begun and this feels far away in more than the physical sense. Still, this pic is a great reminder of how good it is to take a rest, get away, and find yourself renewed.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s photo & blog!