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Posts Tagged ‘holy spaces’

I’m a preacher. I have the privilege of being in holy spaces more often than most people. I have lots of chances to love on people in times of need. But no matter how many times I’m apart of these things, their power never ceases to catch me off guard.

Even though I’m getting used to being caught off guard, I was even more surprised yesterday. Because yesterday, I wasn’t the one doing the praying. I was one of at least four “Reverends” in the room, and my father-in-law and I were pastors getting “pastored”. Sometimes, I think, I forget just how much I’m doing when I stand by someone’s bed and offer a prayer. As a hospital room full of folks who love my mother-in-law gathered around her bed and prayed over her before surgery, I felt the energy in the room change. There was a feeling of power and well-being that was so incredibly pervasive that it still gives me goose bumps. No doubt it was a holy space.

I was surprised by another holy space I found. For an introvert, the idea of a waiting room full of people is not always a welcome thought. I knew that there were nearly twenty people that came just for my mother-in-law, which was amazing in itself. But instead of feeling tired after talking to so many people like I usually do, I think I felt blessed. Not only blessed by all those folks there to support someone I know and love, but blessed also by all those people that I didn’t know. This was a huge surgical waiting area, and it was positively full of families like ours–waiting to hear a word of hope. We had a huge group, but there were several equally large groups. There was laughing and praying and working and coffee drinking, but what I didn’t see was anyone who had the typically anxious looks that come with being in a waiting area. It would be hard to believe that no one in that room was worried. Yet, I think, somehow being in that room with all those people who trusted that their loved one was in God’s hands, changed the energy of all in the room.

As I’ve been teaching Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been trying some of his suggestions. On the subject of prayer, he suggests that one way to “pray without ceasing” is by praying flash prayers over all whom we encounter. The idea is that you “flash” a prayer at them, without even worrying about knowing what to pray for. I did that in the waiting room yesterday, not only for the people in our group, but for everyone else too. I prayed in the same way for the doctors and nurses that I passed, and for the lady in the cafeteria. The strangest thing happened. I kind of felt like Bruce Almighty when he suddenly hears everyone’s prayers. It was like I had a connection to them, and for the briefest of seconds I looked through a window into their lives.

Sue came through the surgery just fine, and the news seems to be good: from what the doctors know right now, it doesn’t look like the cancer has spread. When we were all in the room after the surgeon came to talk, a family friend leaned over to me and said “We’ve all been praying for this. Why in the world are we surprised that it worked?” I told my husband about that on the way home and he said that we were surprised because sometimes our prayers aren’t answered in the ways that we prayed for them to be. But I think the friend was right–perhaps a better idea would be to be surprised that it didn’t “work”. Perhaps we should enter into prayer with the expectation that God will move, as if that’s the rule.

When we told her the good news, Sue cried and kept saying “Thank you, Jesus!” Yeah, no doubt. Thank you that the cancer hasn’t spread. Thank you that so many who love Sue could be there. And Thank You that You hear prayers, even if we can’t quite be bold enough to pray with the certainty that you will move.

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One of the things I never learned in seminary (don’t get me started…I’m going to write a book one day!) is just how big a role politics play in the life of being a pastor. Who knew something like sanctuary flowers could really affect the ways folks worship? I didn’t. Who knew that a few “negative nellys” could shape so much?

It wears me out. In the last month I think I might have put out more fires than our local fire department. Really, I just want to preach and show Christ’s love. I’m neither a politician or a fire fighter– but what bugs me more than that, is that if some of this doesn’t stop, our church is going to have a tremendously hard time growing. Ever. I get that it’s not in my hands, and it’s sure been a matter of prayer, especially the last few weeks as more and more has come to the surface. But still, it makes me tired. Besides, there are only so many hours in the day– and I can either spend them putting out fires, or shepherding my flock and helping the church grow.

Another thing that’s on my mind is the “C-word.” Yeah, that’s right. Cancer. My mother-in-law has been diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer. In the week-ish that the doctor has been looking at it, it’s “grown considerably”. We’ll be traveling to Chattanooga this week to be with her as she has a lumpectomy.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. For years, we’ve seen pink ribbons on everything from shirts and mugs to toilet paper. (Ummmm…really?) For the first time, I’m really paying attention to them. I always thought maybe they were a nice gesture, and I think awareness is always a good thing, but I never jumped on that particular bandwagon. But this year, now that it’s hit home, a pink ribbon is never very far from me. ( I thought about pinning it to my robe or stole yesterday, but then I decided worship is really much more about God than it is about things like that.)

And then Saturday, I got a call on my cell phone around 5 p.m. from someone who wanted to put something in Sundays bulletin. I asked her to please get me everything for the bulletin earlier in the week, and reminded her that I don’t work on Fridays or Saturdays. She’s retired, but she said “Two whole days off? I wish I got two days off. What a luxury!” I didn’t rerun the bulletins, but I made a bulletin insert to honor her request. Then before church, DH happened to overhear her telling several folks that she’d been trying to get in touch with me, and she just didn’t know why I wouldn’t do this for her, and that an insert isn’t the same thing as having it in the bulletin, and that it was really important that it go in the bulletin because she wanted to honor her deceased relatives. DH was already having a tough time, and he knew the whole story: that the lady had not been calling like she said she had (after checking both church and home caller I.D.’s– she called once on Thursday at 5:35, but I had already left for the day–and I make it a point not to be in the office on my days off), that I had done everything to accomodate her. She was doing everything she could to badmouth me. DH apparently took her to task about the whole thing. He’s getting downright tired of some of the ways a few people are trying to hurt my ministry. Truth be told, he’s probably more angry about these “occurrences” than I am, and they are really starting to take a toll on him.

I guess these things have been weighing on me more than I realized. Yesterday, as I was leading worship, I was broken open. I don’t know if it was preaching about a man who was asked to give up the one thing that would be hardest for him to give up (see sermon below), or if maybe it was being in a community of prayer at a time when our family most needs it. Maybe it was even the hymns, which might have been picked out especially to meet my needs on that day. (Great is thy faithfulness, Have Thine Own Way, Lord– I couldn’t have picked any more fitting ones if I had done it myself!) I don’t know what happened, but I more or less wept through about the second half of the service.

I was at the church at what would’ve been sunrise if it weren’t so cloudy this morning. I’ve got a lot to do– and both my brain and my heart just seem to be all in a dither (and I still have that feeling of being broken open) But, I am grateful–still. Grateful that we got to have a fire and roast marshmallows last night. Grateful that most of my church loves me and does everything they can to support me. And even grateful that I get to be with my mother-in-law in what will be a holy space– not that anyone would wish for breast cancer, but it will be a holy space, nonetheless.

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