“What are you celebrating today?” she asked. No, it wasn’t the wait staff asking and I wasn’t at a special dinner out. This was my ministry coach’s first question every time we talked. It was about every two weeks. She was always so chipper and yet caring and genuine. I know my coach offered wonderful conversation and helped me see things differently. But I dreaded this question. When she said those words, “what do you celebrate today?” I wanted to scream out, “I don’t know! Do we have to celebrate EVERY time we are together?!?” But I didn’t. It sometimes took a while. Well, it did take a while until I learned she was going to ask every time. Every. Time.
I would have had an easier time answering if she asked me “are you tired? What’s wearing you out?” I could have answered that in a heartbeat. I have an answer on my lips right now. And it’s a valid question that we need to be able to answer. I heard this question as I gathered with others for a small group. The leader said this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
These are the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 (from The Message). I needed to hear these words; they led me to think of you, beloved Harbor clergy. So I ask:
What’s wearing you out? Are you tired of recording sermons? Are you worn out with the outdoor one week and virtual the next? What is burning you out? Making decisions that please seemingly no one or are not enough? Are you tired of not sleeping? Are you tired of not knowing what will work? I think I could ask many more questions and they would apply to clergy in 2020!
We are so tired and weary and worn out and restless and whirling and spinning and trying and giving up and starting over and talking endlessly . . . so it’s time to rest. Jesus says, “Come away with me. Get with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Take a day to attend your needs and that of your family and your home. Take another day that is your protected sabbath day. Rest and re-charge. I will keep saying this to you until you do it!
So, spend time with Jesus – in the hammock or on the porch swing, hiking with your beloved, putting your toes in water, laughing with children, cooking and eating with family or friends (on the patio, of course), and taking time to do what you love. Breathe in life as we have it now – we won’t get any of these pandemic days back any more than we get any other days back once they are lived and spent. Then maybe, just maybe you will be ready to offer a celebration when we talk next!
When we find a rhythm of rest and sabbath and work, perhaps then, we can answer: what are you celebrating? It’s not that we don’t always have something to celebrate. But our perspective on life matters. If we are worn out, our spirits often can’t comprehend celebration. From my point of view, we have much to celebrate! This is what I am celebrating:
each of you who have persevered, planned and persisted in this pandemic. You have, despite all the new things and conditions working against you, made worship and mission possible.
the creativity of music and liturgy and art and proclamation that is yours. The gathering offers grace and connection whether in person or virtual.
the positive, uplifting, challenging, encouraging, inspiring messages you offer to the family of God.
the communication, transparency, questions, partnerships, and gifting you have offered your congregations and they have offered you.
the energy and opportunity you have found in this moment. May this not be a blip of time but a new beginning and stepping out in faith and risk-taking ministry for us all.
I find celebration something I look for ever since that coach took me there. It’s hard some days, but the celebrations are there. And I’m grateful in finding them and sharing them. I’m grateful for the coach who pushed me to celebrate when we talked. Every. Time.
I pray this week will be one where
You find a place of rest.
I pray this week you will be one where celebration comes
From a changed perspective.
I pray you will be gentle with yourself
And breathe deeply the breath of God.
May our wonderful Creator grant you rest and celebration! I am available if you need a person to talk to or a place to lay down your burdens – so that – you may find your way to celebration.
May the peace of Christ be with you all!
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Tara, follow this link: https://harbordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/