Friday, April 1, 2011

Prayer and accountability...

Tonight I met with my "community of practices" group - a gathering of 7 local clergy in different ministries - who have made a covenant to meet once each month to help one another live into our ministries with prayer and accountability.  This group is incredible - very different people from vastly different types of ministry - all of whom are developing an affection and commitment for one another that is very healing. Most of the night was spent sharing where we have sensed God's presence in our lives over the last month - after breaking bread and reconnecting over dinner - and it was very helpful to have to think carefully through where I have sensed the presence of the Lord in my life during the past 30 days.  

Truly God has been speaking to us in bold and gentle ways - and having the chance to sit in quiet reflection recalling the month was very powerful - so was listening to the stories my colleagues shared...

+ Some are at the start of their ministries - wrestling through new challenges - and some are nearing the close of their public ministries - and savoring the blessings and heartaches of everyday life.

+ There are artists and chaplains - aggressive entrepreneurial church growth loners alongside tender old pastors - with a few musicians and music therapists thrown in, too.
What a blessing to be in a place where I can sit back and embrace and celebrate this gift!  There was a time in my ministry when I wouldn't have had time for such "self care!"  Too self-indulgent and passive:  after all, there were people to meet and issues to be engaged - and books to be read - and campaigns to be planned. But there came a point in time when I sensed that what I needed - and what God was asking from me - was just to step back and take in the simple blessings of each ordinary day in parish ministry... and that's what I've been trying for over the past three and a half years.

No wonder two of my favorite Psalms kept coming back to speak to me today in new ways...

Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don't bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top... 

Bridle your anger, trash your wrath,
cool your pipes—it only makes things worse.
Less is more and more is less.
One righteous will outclass fifty wicked,
For the wicked are moral weaklings
but the righteous are God-strong.
I once was young, now I'm a graybeard—
Turn your back on evil,
work for the good and don't quit.
God loves this kind of thing,
Wait passionately for God,
don't leave the path. 

(Psalm 37)
God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain.
I haven't meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
I've kept my feet on the ground,
I've cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother's arms,
my soul is a baby content.
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always! 
(Psalm 131)

So as the day comes to a close, after talking with my dear brother about our totally f***ed-up but loving family, I found myself hearing this song that my baby turned me on to last summer by the Eels:  not only is it true from my baby... but from the Lord, too!

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