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There are parts of my job that are exhausting and frustrating and that occasionally drive me crazy. And I love my job. Sometimes in the exact same moment. It can be hard to explain to people who exhausting/frustrating/crazy moments exist. It’s true. I think, sometimes because of what people say, sometimes because of what is in their eyes, that they get a better impression of me than they probably should. I experience the exhausting and the frustrating and the crazy-making. And then I tell myself I can’t quit and remind myself about why I love my job. And then I pray. That one always works.

I use my hands and my voice
to hold wine and bread and tell a story
but the story isn’t mine, and shortly,
neither is the wine or bread
I use my voice, it’s tone and strength,
my ability and view, to breathe life
through words I wrote, and speak
a Gospel new again, old as it may be
and not despite, but because of all the me present
it is not about me at all, but God,
Who wrote and spoke and breathed into me
This is what ministry is.

At the end of the day,
when I am tired and weary,
with all the little holes worn through myself
from the miles of listening,
I sit down and speak back the stories I have heard
to the One who listened with me
and remember that I was not alone
and neither are those who spoke.
As I work my way back through the worries I carry
it is as though I work thorns out and
let Divine hands soothe,
and carry the thorns away.
This is what ministry is.

It is knowing that the work I do
is never done alone
is never done for me
is never about me
is always important
but best of all
it is knowing that the work I do
matters to me
matters to people
matters to God.
This is what ministry is.

written 4-16-10

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When I, as the priest, the pastor, the person who is magically suppose to know what to say, hears my parishioners telling me what their life is like because of their disability or chronic illness, I hear my story.  I hear the stories of others with disabilities and chronic illnesses that I have listened to.  And I still do not know what to say.

Do I tell my story?  Is it over-sharing?  One of the great clergy sins?  Or is it reassuring my parishioner that they are not, in fact, alone?

Do I practice my “active listening skills”?  Leaving their story in the spotlight and letting them know passively, intuitively, possibly, that I understand?

I was not far along in seminary when I told my home congregation that there were no magic words, no perfect prayer.  There is just me, praying for wisdom and the best answer to this situation, for this person, each time this happens.

So sometimes, I tell parts of my story.  In the hopes that it is reassuring.  That my story helps bring their story closer to God.

And sometimes I just listen.  Actively.  Letting their story be in the spotlight.  And hoping that they know, somehow, that I really understand.

And sometimes I listen because I cannot, on that day, tell my story.  Because it is taking all of me to be there.  And I have no extra energy to make the decisions and draw the lines that let me tell my story.  These are the days when disability truly cripples us both.  The pastor and the parishioner.

The truth is, all of these have happened.

And the truth is, all of them will happen again.

practicing-resurrectionChristine at the Abby has offered this photo (used with permission) and the phrase “practicing resurrection” as the subject of this weeks Poetry Party.  Follow the link to read other people’s offerings.

every week I stand and proclaim
with family and friends who are family
that Christ has Risen
and thus we too are made new

every week I hear stories
of how we have hurt each other
I create stories of how I have hurt
and struggle to make amends

every week I must remember
that being made new is promise
not certainty, that I can fail
and keep practicing

written 4-14-09

I’ve written about resurrection before and thought about reposting that poem. Check it out.

It has been a week that defies easy description. I spent most of the week back in thin space, working and laughing and playing with old and new friends. And I spent part of the week preparing, mentally, emotionally, and insurance-wise for some further treatment next week.  And this is very much where I’ve been struggling to be.
It was a good week. And this is still hard.

it isn’t magic
to make a tumor shrink
or change a person’s attitude
or make the harvest plentiful
the promise isn’t: life will be good,
but: life will be full
the hope isn’t that
everything will work out
rather, that God will be there
and that Divine presence will,
somehow,
be enough

written 7-29-08

This is as close as I plan on coming to “outing” myself because there are other people who have seen this. This is also the post where we all learn that I’m deeply religious, something that you will read more about. I’m losing some of the formating here, but I’ll figure it out later. Unless someone is willing to tell me….

I lift my praises, Mighty God, for work already done.
For support dedicated, leaders raised, lives transforming.
I lift my thanks, Holy God, for work beginning.
For the stretch and pull of hearts opening and minds thinking.
I lift my hopes, Awesome God, for that which is to come.
For promises treasures, for dreams dreamt, for chances not yet taken.
In the name of the Everlasting God of change,
Amen
Written March 2006

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