Saturday, September 12, 2015

"I Normally Don't Pray in English"

It had been a pleasant visit which I felt certain should conclude with a prayer. My guest that Friday afternoon was an ordained pastor, “Pastor P”. Pastor P. had been conversing with me in English for all of our visit. We discussed the call God had placed on his life, which led him to become ordained. He had started a church in Delaware, but heard the call of God to help another pastor in Wisconsin who needed someone to serve while he was on an extended medical leave.  So, Pastor P. came. When that assignment ended he heard the call to start another church in the same city in which I serve. And now he looks for a church building in which to build a new congregation.

Sometimes God has a way of humbling me in a mighty way.  I sat in my comfortable chair in a study lined with shelf upon shelf of books, where I had spent the afternoon on my computer preparing for Sunday.  I am blessed to serve in a beautiful church with many dedicated families.  And here, across the desk from me, was this much younger man who works four days, twelve hours a day, so that he can devote his weekends to trying to start a church. No salary. No study. No computer.  Just an unshakeable faith that God is preparing to open doors so that the Spanish-speaking people in our city can have another place to worship.  I think of the time that Jesus sent out his disciples with only the bare necessities and told them they would be taken care of.  I always marveled that they would obey such a command.  Now, sitting across from me was a modern day disciple sent out with the bare necessities.  Sometimes people really do take the words of Jesus literally. Go figure.

The ironic thing about the timing of this visit is that I am in the middle of preaching about how Jesus taught his disciples that the barriers society puts up, barriers like language and race and even religion, need to be torn down if we want his Kingdom to fully come.  It is one thing to preach this in the abstract, as if it applies to someone else. But now it applies to me.  Today.  Do I dare shake my comfortable world by beginning a conversation with our leaders about opening the doors of our church to people who worship in a different language, who look different from “us” and who will worship in a style foreign to what we know to be the way to worship God?

I asked Pastor P. to pray for us.  “I normally don’t pray in English,” he said. So, I suggested he pray in Spanish.  In that prayer I got a little peak behind the curtain of what is to come, people from every tongue and tribe praising God together. “What do you think, Pastor Bill?  Will your church be able to help us?”  Whose question is that, really?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Caregivers Rest

So many people I know are caregivers these days.  Caring for parents. Caring for adult siblings. Caring for adults with special needs. The love which spurs their care is spurred by some mixture of love and duty and a need to meet expectations. Expectations which society places on caregivers, which the caregivers place on themselves, or expectations which the ones they care for place on the caregivers.  Sometimes, then, caregivers need a boundary to manage all of these expectations. Those who set no boundaries on the expectations will never really rest. There is a constant burden, a sense of guilt that there is more to be done; that taking a break will be viewed as failure to meet expectations.  Of course, if one never rests from any task, bad things happen.  Anger, resentment, broken relationships; all of this and more can come to those who fail to build “Sabbath” into their caregiving schedules. The idea of resting from work is important enough to God, after all,  to name a day after the concept. Do we get that?

I know that “a day off” is not possible for some caregivers. The need they care for truly is “24/7/365.” But it is critical that you find at least a part of a day or days to rest; to take a physical/emotional/spiritual break from your duties.  You and the one you care for will both benefit.  So, imagine someone is at your door. Go and answer it:

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it’s been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
(Robert Bly, excerpt from the poem “Things to Think” in “Morning Poems”. Source: inward/outward)

Boundaries provide rest. Physical rest. Emotional rest. Spiritual rest.  Today, if you are a caregiver, decide to set a new boundary which will give you rest from your labor.