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…

 

Watching Expectantly

Throughout Lent, Rachel Hackenberg sent out via email a daily prayer “seed” for reflection and journaling. This is the second year I have done this Lenten practice. Most of my prayers are far too personal (and whiny) that I’d let them see the light of day. But today’s prompt is probably far closer to “real life” for myself and many others…

Rachel writes:

In the stillness and uncertainty of Holy Saturday, we reflect and pray with the sixth of Jesus’ seven last words: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Pray for mercy in those things that are ending in your life. Perhaps it is just Lent that is ending. Perhaps a loved one is taking final breaths. Perhaps a ministry is changing, or a job, or a relationship, or a perspective. May grace and peace find you as you sigh with Jesus, “It is finished.”

Watching expectantly

Watching expectantly

Our big cat, Henry, is a patient sort. He will sit and wait for people to walk through the door. He will sit at a window and watch for birds that land, ever so briefly, on the window sill. He has mastered the art of living “in the moment.” I confess to being envious.

I have been in a state of transition since I started seminary. Like transition in labor, it’s been intense, personal, and painful. And like the course of labor, eventually, it will end. The end result, still known only to God, will come at the appointed time.

I confess I am tired of waiting. I am a “do-er,” not a “be-er.” I want to get up and go, not sit and wait. Perhaps that’s why the walking meditation of my labyrinth is so calming and peaceful to me. I am not choosing the path, I’m just walking the pattern, slowly and quietly. I’m not picking a direction. I’m just following.

Most of us, I suspect, are also not chill-and-wait types. Oh, we can find time to pray, or meditate. But we aren’t skilled at lengthy self-introspection, (or we think it’s a waste of time, this “navel-gazing!”)

I am learning to “be” while I “do.” It’s hard.

For all of his watching and waiting, Henry knows how to be persistent in asking… for attention. For a lap. For a snack. So, it seems to me that even though we may be watching and waiting for that Spirit-breathed change, it is OK to storm the heavens with our prayers.

Oh Lord,
I confess I have not been faithful
in watching and waiting.
Oh, I have watched.
And I have certainly waited.
But even as I do,
I complain.
I grumble.
I give You rather pointed “suggestions.”
I struggle with contentment.

On this Holy Saturday,
I have tasks to do
Like laundry and errands and driving here and there.
So as I “do”
May I be aware
of Your work
Your plans
Your love
Your compassion

I pray for myself, and for friends and family
who are suffering.
I pray for the mundane and the miraculous.
For health
For jobs
For family members
For peace in our world
For clarity in decision-making
For perspective
For joy, even in waiting.
For You alone direct my path
and guide meI love you
and I trust You
Forever and ever,

Amen.