Know Your Limits

It has been quite a while since I’ved blogged.  Sometimes when I’ve been away a while I’ve felt almost compelled to apologize for not writing.  (As if very many people read my musings anyway!.  🙂  )  But you won’t get any apologies this time.  Why?  Because I’m reminded that we all need to learn to know what our limits our.

We just started the Advent Season, one of the busiest times of the year for many pastors and lay persons in the church.  During the seasons of Advent and Christmas most churches have extra services, additional programs, expanded or unique worship experience, special children’s programs, music and more.  Add to that Sunday School class parties, additional events available in your community, and all that goes with Christmas shopping, Christmas travel, and visiting family at Christmas and you have one very stress time of the year!

All this is compounded because most of us are really bad at saying the word “no.”  Also some of us don’t find this season enjoyable at all.  Some of us have lost loved ones in the past year and the holidays feel a bit empty or depressing.  Some of us are no longer able to have the family gatherings we remember as children because we are all too spread out living in different parts of the country.  Some of us have never had a good experience of the holidays because family is not a good experience.  Not everyone gets along with their family.  Not every child or parent is close.  Not all siblings enjoy each other’s company.   So for those of us who find this season a time of joy and celebration and for those of us who don’t, we need to be sensitive to each other at this time of year.

Often expectations for the holidays are set impossibly high so that no one can meet the expectations place on them or their family in this time of year.

So one of the hardest lessons is to learn to know what our limits are and to learn to leave some time for ourselves in these busy seasons.  Sometimes it just means letting something go.  So maybe you don’t blog during Advent.  Or you choose not to attend every party you are invited to.  Possibly you choose to scale back the huge family celebration for something a little more modest, a little less work and a bit less stressful.  Sometimes just honestly admitting you aren’t enjoying the holidays this year can feel better than a false cheerfulness.  

The Season of Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ, both a Christmas and Christ return.  How we choose to prepare ourselves for the presence of Christ may need to be different for each person.  This year some of us may need to prepare by doing more for Christ and Christ’s kingdom.  But some of you may need to say “enough!” the best way you can prepare is decide what you will and won’t do in this season and that your best preparation may be spending some quiet time alone in the presence of God and get off the holiday merry go round.

Whatever your need is for the Advent Season as you prepare your heart for the healing work of Christ in your life, remember that all God is really looking for is an open and receptive heart.  If you don’t like the tinsel it isn’t required.

In Christ’s Peace

Tim

Friends, Colleagues, and Ministry

A few years ago at a national pastors gathering the speaker told us that pastors often do a poor job of having and maintaining friendships. We are so busy with church activities and our church family that we often don’t take time to make close friendships, particularly with colleagues.

My experience is that you have to purposefully choose to make friends not only with the church staff you work with but also with other clergy in your community. My wife and I have tried in every community we’ve been in to make friends in the church we serve but also to have friends outside our congregations and, when possible, with other clergy in churches around us. Sometimes it has been easy to do so, other times we have found that other pastors feel too busy to take the time. We’ve been having a lot of fun starting to build friendships with our colleagues at First United Methodist!

I had the opportunity today to spend some time with some of my and my wife’s longest friendships in the ministry. We got a visit today friend the very first pastor I worked for as a seminary student and his wife. I only served at that church for three years. But the four of us have been friends now for over twenty years. And while we are now serving in very different areas, in churches of different denominations and backgrounds, we’ve enjoyed our friendship.

It is so important to have friends and colleagues in ministry as well as friendships among lay people. It helps pastors keep a balance. It helps blow off steam and stress. It allows pastors to have others who can share in their joys and concerns. And, it makes for a more well rounded person.

I would encourage my colleagues in ministry to make sure that you make time for friendships, and in particular some friendships that you hope will last. After all, we are part of the body of Christ. We have to take care of ourselves to be able to give the best service to others as Ministers of Word, Sacrament, Order and Service.