18 January 2013

Friday Five: Smile!

Posted by Jan at RevGalBlogPals:  
Remembering that Meister Eckhart said that if you pray "thank you" that that is enough of a prayer, share with us five things, memories, or activities that bring you smiles and gratitude.

15 January 2013

Culture Roundup

Hey, you know what?  I haven't done one of these in a while.  Let's see...

Just finished reading Dead Beat, book 7 in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  I'm really enjoying this series. It's formulaic, and a bit chauvinistic at times, but I really enjoy the Harry Dresden character and the group of folks who continue popping in and out of Harry's life.  Smart-ass wizards with cool friends make for some fun reading.

13 January 2013

A Week In The Life

Clint Schnekloth challenged some colleagues to post about a week in the life of a pastor. The past eight days seemed as good as any for such an endeavor.

SUNDAY, 6 January
9:30 am Worship, which means I'm up at 5:30 or so to get caffeinated, run over my sermon one last time and get to the office by 8:30 at the latest for details.  I practice briefly with the choir, meet with the lector & assisting minister to go over any last things, check in with the organist, do a sound check and try to remember to put on my alb and stole sometime before 9:28 so I can do it slowly and prayerfully and not "HOLYCOWIT'STIMEFORWORSHIPANDI'MNOTREADYWHYCAN'TITIEMY
CINCTUREHASANYONESEENMYIPADTELLTHEORGANISTTOPLAYFORAFEWMOREMINUTESKTHXBAI..."  We worship - it's a small crowd since the college students have gone home and the high holy days of Christmas have gone by.  But it's a good day nonetheless.  In the afternoon, I find time to read the Sunday paper while watching football, then I catch a 20 minute nap before working on the evening Confirmation lesson from 4 until the class actually begins at 6pm.  We do Confirmation jointly with the other ELCA congregation in our school district, meeting every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, alternating between the churches.  I'm leading this week because we're at the other church, so I put together the lesson plan, get the media display ready, etc.  We have class, and likely the high point is explaining what "eunuch" means.  It's certainly the moment at which I have the keenest attention of the group.  After class, I'm done for the day: home, a few hours of TV and reading, then sleep.  Sweet, sweet Sunday night sleep.

MONDAY, 7 January
Monday is usually my Sabbath day.  We get up, drop our kindergartener off at school and head to the gym with our preschooler, who stays with us on our day off.  I get in a good workout, and as a special treat there are several friends in the weightlifting class I attend.  We come home for lunch, then I break my Sabbath for a brief meeting with our Stewardship Chair (it's the only time she can meet before Wednesday's Council meeting).  I spend the rest of the afternoon reading, napping and puttering around the house. After supper my colleague & friend Jamie came over to watch the college football title blowout...er, game. So sad to end the best season of all with a butt-whipping, but man, that Alabama team was good!

TUESDAY, 8 January
Back at the office early in the morning - I check email and sort through some administrivia from the weekend.  At 10:30 I visit a parishioner, then lead a lunchtime Bible study before heading back to the office.  I spend a few hours finishing up various projects apropos to the time of year:  my annual report, looking over Council matters & other reports, reading mail that comes in, etc.  If I remember right I continued some more unpacking & organizing of my files - particularly stuff I don't use regularly but need to have from time to time.  After picking up our eldest from kindergarten and our youngest from preschool, we go to the gym together, then come home for the night.  As Tuesdays go, it's a light one, which is good because Wednesday is going to be a doozy.

WEDNESDAY, 9 January
At 7:00am, while I'm in the shower, I get a voicemail telling me a member of our church has died.  So we swing into funeral mode.  The family knew this was coming, so there's not a lot of pastoral care I need to do at the moment.  But there are details to put in place.  I know I'm going to be very busy the rest of the week, so I take my normal Wednesday morning sermon writing excursion to a local coffee house in the hopes I can get a very good start and not have to scramble after the funeral.  After lunch I'm at the office doing more administrivia.  At 3:00 I have an appointment with the family of the deceased and their funeral director, where we plan funeral details and remember the deceased with laughter and a few tears.  After that meeting I pick up our girls and go to a local plasma donation center (I use my plasma money for fun stuff like golf, music, etc.).  At 7:00pm I'm supposed to be in committee meetings for our monthly Council night, but at 5:30 we got a text from our babysitter telling us her car broke down and she won't make it.  I stay with our girls until the backup babysitter gets there, then head over to the church at 7:30 for Council.  The actual meeting begins at 8:00pm and runs for over two hours due to an overwhelming agenda, including annual meeting stuff, job reviews and constitutional review.  It's exhausting, but it's important work and for the most part everyone does it well.  Still, when I get back home sometime after 10:30, the best part of my night is the dram of Glenfiddich and cigar I give myself as a treat every month after Council is done.

THURSDAY, 10 January
The living room at The Sanctuary. Did most of
my reading in that red easy chair.
In the morning I was supposed to drive to Iowa Falls for our regularly scheduled Riverside Conference meeting, but due to the full schedule I had for the remainder of the week, I elected to stay home and catch up on a few things.  I read the newspaper, a spiritual discipline I follow daily to keep up on what's happening in God's world, then go to the office to finalize funeral plans and get them sent to the people who need them.  This takes longer than you might imagine, and by the time I'm done it's lunchtime.  Kristin and I eat lunch at the parsonage together, then we have our weekly staff meeting at 2:00pm.  At 3:00pm I pack my bags and head out to my 24 hour Prayer and Planning retreat.  I am trying something new - spending time "off the grid" at a nearby spiritual retreat center to get a better big-picture focus for the work I need to do.  In the afternoon I finish reading some journals and a book I'm using for a stewardship class coming up in a few weeks, then in the evening I start planning worship for Lent and Easter.  At 9:00 or so I call it a working night, break out Dead Beat, the next book in the Dresden Files series I'm reading by Jim Butcher, and read until I fall asleep.

FRIDAY, 11 January
The office at The Sanctuary.
That's my worship stuff spread out over the desk
In the morning I get up and realize the retreat center is out of coffee, so I have to drive into town and find a local coffeeshop.  After I get back home, I continue worship planning until 11:00 or so, then channel my inner Tolkien:  I fire up a good pipe and take an hour-long walk in the woods.  I can barely hear traffic noise from the highway, so it's a good, long, quiet walk (note to self:  the waterproof hiking boots you've been considering just moved from "wouldn't it be nice" to "gotta get some").  After my walk, I spend a few more hours planning worship & sermons, then clean up the retreat center before coming home around 5:00pm.  At 6:30pm I lead a short prayer service at the funeral visitation, then hurry home to see the girls for the first time since breakfast Thursday.  Friday night me & the missus spend some quality time watching TV together, then hit the sack.

SATURDAY, 12 January
Unfortunately, I see a lot more of Saturday than I planned.  Every once in a while my brain will NOT shut off at night, and tonight is one of those nights.  So I read in the easy chair in our bedroom until at least 3:00am or so, then fight for a few hours of sleep before the funeral.  I get to the church around 9:30, get everything ready to go with our sound guy, the funeral director and the family, then officiate the funeral at 10:30am.  We drive 15 miles to the cemetery for the committal, which is the coldest I've had in quite a while, particularly for Iowa.  The poor soldiers who came to play taps and present the flag to the widow are shivering even though they try to hide it - I admire their dedication to one of their own.  After the committal, it's back to the church for the funeral lunch, and after helping our volunteers a bit with the cleanup I check some emails in my office before heading home around 2:30 or so.  I didn't read the paper that morning, so when I get home I spend a couple of hours reading the Friday and Saturday newspapers while watching the playoffs and letting Kristin catch a nap.  In the evening we all make supper together, then play some games before the girls go to bed.  I'm not too far behind them.

SUNDAY, 13 January
And the week begins again.  Up at 5:30am to run through my sermon and cover last details for worship.  Today is the Baptism of Our Lord, so we need water in the font for a blessing prior to communion and a few other out of the ordinary things.  There are some emails related to a Council issue to read and write, and a quick conversation after worship about the same thing.  Decent attendance with at least three people who don't make it because it's flu season:  we don't shake hands for the passing of the peace.  I've got a bug myself: congested sinuses and a bit achy, so I hit the hand sanitizer often and don't shake hands after the service.  After posting my sermon on the blog, I'm done with "work" for the day - time to come home, read the paper while watching football and catch up on some rest after a very busy week.

This is what I do.  It's rarely boring, sometimes exhausting, but always rewarding.  I love being a pastor and can't imagine another calling giving me such a sense of joy and well-being. And I like to think that as I approach the 10th anniversary of my ordination (is that even possible?), I'm starting to figure out how to do it well, also. 

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday - "Baptism Is Not The Point"

"The Baptism of Jesus" by He Qi

I remember the first time my campus pastor shocked me.  We were sitting around the lounge of the Lutheran Student Center one Sunday morning after worship, eating the last of the donut holes, drinking the last of the coffee, leafing through the Sunday paper and watching football.  Somehow the conversation in our little circle of chairs got to baptism, and after a while somebody asked Pastor Larry, "Have you ever refused to do a baptism?"  That was when he shocked us, because his answer was, "Yes."