Beloved, pray for us...

In her lovely and insightful book, Listening for the Soul, Jean Stairs talks about pastoral integrity and credibility as precarious essentials for doing authentic pastoral care.  Man, is she ever right - AND - man is it ever a tight rope to walk. When you practice quiet time and reflection, some in the church call you a slacker. When you work yourself ragged, others worry that you are not taking care of yourself. When you wait and practice discernment, some grow cranky and demand immediate answers if not solutions to their problems.  And when you offer advice after it has been requested, others get hurt feelings and do the exact opposite.

What I have discovered, however, is that if I practice regular quiet time and prayer - if I study and reflect and always make time for music - then my soul stays reasonably healthy. Last night I read this passage from I Thessalonians that really struck home because it emphasizes a key truth:  ministry matters only when we're in it for the long haul - and some days are better than others.

We urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the
faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us.

Tomorrow I will finish up my Advent home visits with our members who aren't able to get out much any more.  It is a privilege to check-in with these saints and I try to make it happen 2-3 times each year. Today we celebrated at midday Eucharist the 1 year anniversary of someone who last year at this time was in the agony of cancer treatment. (Last night was the 27 year anniversary of another member's sobriety.) I'm working on some jazz charts that we'll play on Christmas Eve - beautiful and meditative - and I need to beef up my chops so that I do the music justice.  It is very satisfying to be able to spend an hour each day listening and practicing these tunes - they are embodied prayers for me.

Life has been too full - and money too short - so we'll finally get away on Friday for a bit of Christmas gift collecting in Brattleboro.  And then it is the fullness of Advent IV and then Christmas Eve.  We'll all be together for worship and then head out the next day for the Plainfield farm for Christmas dinner.  Beloved, pray for us...


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