The Rock Piles of Ministry: Who Knew?

 

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Behold. A rock pile.

Not just any rock pile. Oh, no! It’s taken years to get this pile of rocks.

There was a decent start to the pile when we moved in 22 years ago. As I dug new garden beds, I’d find rocks and add them. When we added a retaining wall, the landscape crew added to the rock pile. When we did a major remodeling of our home, the builder found even more. And when I installed a simple spiral labyrinth in the back yard, there were incredible amounts of rocks to toss on there, too.

Everyone was glad to have a place to discard the rocks. It was a lot easier than taking them to the landfill. Each contractor looked at me askance (at first) when I said, “if you find large rocks, I want them.” But since it was cheaper to reuse rather than remove them, there were no arguments!

I learned a lot along the way because of these rocks. Patience. Perseverance. Techniques of rock removal (yep! there are some!) Reality checks. And seeing progress and naming it for the hard work it takes.

 

 

Some of these rocks made my new landscaping projects very frustrating. At the start of building the labyrinth, I bent every single hand tool I owned because they were not up to the task of chiseling large rocks out of clay!

So now… those rocks are no longer discards!

It was with a bit of irony that I had to haul loads of these rocks back down the hill to grace the edges of a water feature we just installed this spring. Three wheelbarrows of rocks. (Yes. I counted.) And as I heaved and hauled and placed them, I had to laugh. Here they are. Being put to good use. Finally in their right place.

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It made me ponder a perverse truth about Calling and ministry…

For any of us who battle ourselves, our environments, our churches, our relationships to be finally FINALLY brought to just that right moment of ministry… it’s seems like it will never work. We interview. We candidate. We preach. We study. We try to do our best, battling the odds like rocks in hard clay. We set things aside for another day, making a muddy hillside into a landscaping feature of a retaining wall of cast-off rocks. We try to see the beauty in what we do. We keep adding to the pile. And then… and then!!!!

Those rock piles of ministry are put to use. Those mossy, ignored, strengths that we have set aside in obedience, or sometimes, out of necessity and not by choice, they suddenly become relevant. And they are beautiful, in their right setting, at the right time.

I hear you, friends. I know your sense of relief. And a bit of wonder, too, that though we felt like we were forever gathering moss, perhaps even feeling useless, we will one day see a change!  For now… NOW is the appointed place and time God has for us. There’s stuff to do – even on a rock pile. And greater things are ahead.

And if you are still waiting, like me, marking time on the rock pile with a prayer of fatigue and longing, know this…

You are not a cast-off.

You are not a mistake.

You are not in the way.

You are called… press on!

…for such a time as this…

 

Friday Prayer; Look up and see

Cross-posted from RevGals.

This week’s prayer flows from the tending of my own heart to combat the discouragement that seems to brew inside me with the least provocation. I return again and again to the promises Christ made and the challenge to wait with anticipation at what God might do next. I am reminded of Christ’s encouragement to the disciples:

25“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves. 26The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. 27Then they will see the Human One coming on a cloud with power and great splendor. 28Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.” (from Luke 21, Common English Bible)

O Holy One
Sometimes the clamor and the smell of humanity’s stubbornness overwhelms me.
I forget that you are walking ahead of me,
that your grace surrounds me,
that your Presence holds me close.
I forget to look up and see…
…the beauty in an early spring evening,
…the promise of summer’s greenery and fall’s harvest
…the gentle safekeeping of my heart
…the comrades of the Faith who share burdens and hold up mine
I forget that what I fear
is but a whisper on the wind,
a temporary battle,
a shifting of wills.

Sovereign Lord,
I look up and see
grace upon grace,
hope upon hope,
and life, abundant life.
And always…
You are there!

Amen.
And Amen!

P.S. Here’s a song to inspire and encourage you: Darlingside’s Hold Your Head Up High

A Guide to Pentecost Shoes

A recent lament by another RevGal about finding TRULY “Pentecost Red” shoes caused me to peruse a local discount store. One of my PKs was shopping for a special outfit and I had time to kill.

So (with apologies to store security who probably wondered wtf I was doing,) I present my (very tongue-in-cheek)…

A Guide to Pentecost Shoes

1. The Pantsuit-Meets-Ankle-Surgery Flashback

When I see velour, I think bell bottoms and pantsuits. When I see shoes like this, I think my friends who are post-surgery (knees or ankles) would smile. My achy-breaky knees hear your hearts go pitter-pat!

2. Nancy Sinatra would agree: These Boots are made for Praisin’

I’ll confess I don’t see these with my robes or a cassock and surplice… but I know some of my sister clergy would rock the church in their Sunday best suits! DO. IT.

3. Liturgical Dance Shoes

I can walk and chew gum (with practice). A dancer I am not! I think I’d spend most of Sunday morning just trying to tie these on… but you Sister Dancer, you do you! I will rejoice that God gave someone else the gift of gracefulness!

4. Post-Baptistery Quick Change Pumps

For my beloved Baptist clergy sisters, these are fancier than plain pumps and have no buckles or straps! Slip on, zip up and GO! The choir will still be singing the end of the opening hymn, and you’ll be out of your waders, and robed and rocking these beauties! (Please remember to get your pedicure!)

5. Kum-ba-yah Campfire Shoes

So your church takes “Shall We GatherAt the River” seriously and has a camp-out Pentecost weekend? Never fear! Your river-friendly shoes are here!

6. Practically Cute

You know who you are… Four services in heels would kill you and your sanctuary’s A/C is busted. These summer flats will do the trick!

7. Be still, my heart!

They’re cute! They’re not too high a heel! They’re that happy candy apple red that just screams “PENTECOST!” Success!!!

 

Do you have a pair of Pentecost footwear to share? I know you do… So please post a pic in the comments!

 

Raging imperfection. That’s Real Life.

Today was a snow day. It was not a “day off” for me — I still had phone calls to make, emails to read and answer, and charting to finish. And then other minutia that I never get around to for work, until I have free time. And I did shovel the driveway and the front walk (and my arms will hurt tomorrow, I’m sure.)

But I had a huge list of things I wanted to do around the house, and none of them got done. Zero. No laundry. No real baking or cooking (a favorite snow day activity). No reading. No writing projects. (There’s a quite a few.) No clean-up in my study, which is a disaster area, after doing the tax prep. UGH.

It reminded me that so much of blogging and social media is about perfection, or lack thereof. A whole crew of comedians make their money by showing typos and embarrassing photos of other people. There’s even a show about “FAILS” which rewards someone who fails the least with $10,000.

So here’s some random photos from my day. And if you feel a little behind-the-curve on life, take heart. We’re all in this together. It’s just that we don’t put it up on Pinterest. Or blog about it. (Oh… wait…)

Not started – that baby will be in college before my gift is done.

Not put into boxes until Lent. Still in a pile of boxes in my living room.

 

Not vacuumed. Christmas gifts are put away (hallelujah). But the room is still cluttered.

 

See? This imperfect human is doing a fine job. OK… adequate. I didn’t burn dinner, and no one was hit by a runaway snow blower! (It was close, though.) I held a cat, watched the snow fall outside my window and even shot a few pictures with my “real” camera! (I’ll upload those eventually.)

My plea to you: Give yourself space. And grace. And tackle a little something tomorrow, once you dig out the car and feed the cat and make coffee and figure out if you have clean clothes for work and… (you get the picture!)

Tired and Mossy

Just in front of my parking space yesterday was this mossy trunk of a stately oak tree. The grass wasn’t sprouting yet. The branches were bare, and last year’s leaves blew around on the ground beneath her. No sign of spring anywhere…

I had a moment of familiarity. The cold, dark, and windy days we’re having, one after the other, are getting to me. I don’t mind the cold so much. It’s that grey and gloomy sky that seems to be stuck behind a blanket of clouds forever. I’m feeling tired and mossy. It’s true.

Ok, Ok. That’s a bit melodramatic. But that’s March in the MidAtlantic. The weather flip-flops between cold and grey, and has just enough peeks of sunshine to remind us that winter will, eventually, go away. But what seems to predominate are the gloomy, rainy, sleety days. It’s… tiresome.

I drove around, a little grumpy, a lot discouraged. I had received news lately (for myself and people I care about) which have not exactly been something to celebrate. Then there’s the general muck-and-mudslinging of our political mess here in the US. It was all getting to me.

At just the right moment, God seemed to weigh in, just to remind me that I was not traveling alone. I spotted these beauties later in the day while waiting at a stoplight. (It’s a little off-kilter, but I only had one shot before the light turned green!)

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Just a bit of color. A patchy blue sky. A reminder that, yes, I can get through this day/season/struggle. And you can, too.

Yes, you will go out with celebration,
    and you will be brought back in peace.
Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;
    all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12 Common English Bible