Christine from Abbey of the Arts offers this prompt…
Theme: Always We Begin Again
I spent this past weekend with my Oblate community at St. Placid Priory. It was our annual retreat and this year I helped Sister Lucy facilitate on the theme of “Always we begin again” which is a line from the Rule of St. Benedict. One of the vows in Benedictine life is conversion which is essentially a commitment to ongoing transformation and recoginizing that we never fully arrive at the destination, we are always on a journey.
I took this photo while up on the Canadian coast last week. At low tide one day I wandered the beach gathering stones and creating cairns, carefully balancing one stone upon another. It became a meditation on my life. For me Benedictine practice is at heart about living my life in a renewing balance between solitude and community, between silence and conversation, between work and prayer, between all the elements of my life that demand attention and energy. I have returned from this retreat renewed in energy, focus, and commitment to my Benedictine practices. I am ready to begin again.
We are half way through the year, so I invite you to take this opportunity to pause and reflect where you are being called to begin again. Write a poem about your longing for balance or the places where you seek renewal.
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This prompt comes at an interesting time for me.
My life is over full with school (boy howdy!), family (a husband of 22 years I love dearly, one daughter going to college, and one daughter starting high school), and friends. My part-time, 12-hours-a-week pastoral job was really eating up more like 20-25 hours a week, since Sunday mornings are not considered part of my “work” hours, and most people need to meet outside of the “church workday”. I was up early to see kids and husband off to their busy days, up late to finish assignments or take my on-line classes. As my mom noted when she was here visiting for The Harpist’s graduation, I looked tired.
In the midst of all of these activities, I had prayed for direction, for peace and for assurance that I was on the right path. Personal struggles and doubts were just assaulting my spirit. Several conversations left me fairly bruised and unsure. And in the middle of it, a fairly blistering critique of my personality and ministry style was the final kink in my personal gyroscope.
I cried out to God. I took a day to throw everything down. I asked,
“God is it this? Do you want me to give this up? Lord, is it this? What about this?”
One worship song (by Hillsong United) became my theme song….
giving all I am to seek your face
Lord all I am is yours
My whole life I place in your hands
God of mercy humbled I bow down
In your presence at your throne
I called you answered
and you came to my rescue and I
wanna be where you are
The answers God gave me were strange –
Be at peace.
Which weren’t really the kind of answers I wanted…
About three weeks ago, my New Testament professor called and invited me to be one of his Teaching Assistants for the next school year. It meant a small stipend and help with my tuition. I was torn because I don’t exactly see myself as an academician. Sometimes the arguments are so much like counting angels on pinheads, if you know what I mean…
I didn’t give him an answer right away. He pursued me and we discussed what my hang-ups were. I was (and still do) feel inadequate to this whole ministry thing. So many people know so much more, can quote so much more Scripture, and can always find the politically expedient way to say things. I feel like a clumsy ox in a china shop, crashing this way and that. I don’t like to play politics and too frequently speak my mind.
On the other hand, my “pastoral” role was mostly secretarial, frequently frustrating and was not offering me the service I knew I was called to do – preaching and teaching. How does a church offer that to a part-timer anyway, when there are good preachers on staff?
SO… the answer is that I am stepping out of a pastoral role in a church to be a pastor of sorts to new graduate students. I will be TA’ing for a course that students in Divinity take their first semester. My role is to teach, but also to listen, encourage and pray for them.
A year from now I will reassess and ask God what’s next? But for now…
I am at peace…
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This is the poem birthed out of this experience…
Longing. Searching. Dreaming. Believing.
God, I know you hold my life in balance,
Please wrest from me my selfishness, my angry words,
My hurting heart..
and heal me.
Standing. Walking. Preaching. Teaching.
Jesus, I hear your words in my ear,
Please show me how to live by example, by serving,
Tear the rough places away…
Bowing. Praying. Fasting. Worshiping.
Holy Spirit, I surrender every facet, every part
Please guide me once again into your place for me.
My heart is warmed…
I am resting.
I am listening.
I am at peace.