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No Deed of Power


For the past few weeks, we’ve had three of our four birds in the nest, one soon ending a year in our basement while grad school was online, one passing through on the way to a big move and milestone life event, and one who is midway through high school. The fourth, though far away, is also living in a milestone moment. Their ages span almost 20 years, but they have one thing in common. They don’t need The Moms’ advice about anything, and we moms know it. Instead, we keep our thoughts to ourselves and wait to be consulted.

I’ll be honest. That’s counterintuitive for two pastors. We’re accustomed to offering wisdom, whether it’s exegesis from a pulpit, or encouragement at a bedside, or experience in the office. At home, though, in the kitchen or on FaceTime, for these adults plus one almost, we can perform no deed of power.

This moment in church life has a similar emotional quality. After more than a year of trying to do the next right thing in a changing situation, pastors are interacting with more people in person, making plans to reopen, and reimagining the ways ministry can happen. We’ve prayed, prepared, and persisted, but instead of celebrating, we may find some members of our faith communities questioning, doubting, and even stirring the pot. Whether it’s a controversy over mask-wearing, or live-streaming, or flags in the sanctuary, it’s hard to feel good about ministry when we’re receiving the projection of other people’s anxiety.

It’s no coincidence that the story of Jesus visiting his hometown is followed by these words of wisdom to the disciples as they set out on their own missions:

“If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." (Mark 6:11, NRSV)

It’s tempting, I know, to take that as permission to move on from the communities we serve, and plenty of pastors are doing just that. But I believe we may still draw from Jesus’ counsel even if we feel called to stay put, or are tied by circumstances to the place we serve now.

How willing are we to let go when others are not in the right frame of mind or heart to hear what we are saying or understand what we are doing? How hard do we hold onto their words and attitudes?

We have a choice. Don’t let the dust of others’ questions, criticisms, or projections settle on you.

Instead, try one or more of these:
  • Center yourself with a simple breathing exercise that helps you name how you are feeling. (See the image below. I created it to use as wallpaper on my phone.)
  • Shake things off by moving your body.
  • Process your emotions by writing them down, then tearing up the paper or deleting the document.
  • Reach out to a trusted colleague who will give you space to vent — and make space for your colleague to vent in return.
  • Embark on a prayer practice in which you give the questioners, doubters, and projectors over into God’s care.
If you don’t have one, I encourage you to start a relationship with a therapist, a spiritual director, or a coach. In this season when everyone’s emotions and anxieties continue to be heightened, it’s good to have space and time with someone you trust, and even better when that time is centered on you.

My prayers are with you.

Faithfully,
Martha

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Copy of What do I need   to leave here?

Just breathe

a prayer for pastors

Spirit of God,

Sometimes it's hard to breathe,
deeply,
in and out,
as if something in my body resists
the way breath moves inside me,
blocked by exhaustion
or resentment
or disappointment.

Help me to just breathe,
to settle my body in its space,
to let the air fill my lungs.

Help me to expand
with the breath
and be open
to your possibilities,
to your healing,
to your love.

Help me to just breathe
and rest in you.

Amen.

Instaprayers (4)

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