DEAR ADDIE: Should I Be Doing Something Else?

PrintDear Addie,

When I was a college student, I said yes to God’s call to ministry. I imagined being part of something holy, something bigger than myself. I wanted to give myself to the work of making the world a better place. Now, after several years in ministry, I feel more self-centered, rather than less. I spend way too much time wondering if I’m getting the credit I deserve, and thinking about why others have more opportunities than I do. I crave affirmation about how I’m doing. Moments when I give myself away, and feel part of God’s larger work, are few. I wonder what I should be doing. Should I be doing something else?

Disillusioned

 

Dear Disillusioned,

Your honest email reflects a minister’s growing pains. You heard God’s call to ministry, pictured the possibilities of living out the gospel for others, and said yes. Then you found that your job was leading you down a path that you didn’t think you signed up for. Now your vision for ministry and your practice of it are in serious discussion. While your discomfort may be causing you to question your vocation, your struggle with this also indicates spiritual growth.  Wise ministers will strive to blend Christ’s vision for ministry into the nitty-gritty details of living out that ministry. Whenever we leave out the vision or the living of it, we lose our way. When we blend them together, we find our path.

So, remember what you saw when you said yes. Remember the potential you glimpsed of a life given to God. Remember the wideness of God’s loving work. Remember the life-giving Christ who makes it all possible. Keep those visions close, visit them regularly, and make room for new ones. Wouldn’t God who gives initial vision for ministry continue offering dreams for the work ahead?  When ministry feels too small, we need God’s vision to move us beyond ourselves. God will bring imagination, inspiration, and ideas to the dullest meeting or task when we open ourselves to see the gifts God brings.

Also remember that Christ’s vision needs the work of ministry to make itself known. When we remember God’s larger purpose, our smaller tasks matter more by adding to a bigger picture. Such vision can remind us why we do what we do, and make that work more meaningful. Whenever we find ourselves self-absorbed at work, we need to step back, find our perspective, and start again. When arrogance and competition abound, we can remember to rest with the one who emptied himself, and pray to begin again.

Blessings as you blend Christ’s vision and Christ’s work together,

Addie

 

If you have a question for the Dear Addie blog, please send them to: dearaddie.advice@gmail.com

 

 

Imperfection by Tammy Abee Blom

I finished a handmade Christmas gift for a friend. So excited to have it completed, I held it up to admire, and the art was off center in the frame. Off center equals imperfection, and what I had thought was completed now required another attempt.

ornamentsThe decorations on the Christmas tree are imperfect this year. The girls love decorating the tree and have hung the ornaments for the past five years.  Most years the obviousness of a child’s decorating ability is charming. This year, Audrey intentionally gathered all of her musical ornaments and arranged them in a cluster at the bottom of the tree. No amount of reasoning or cajoling can convince her to spread out the ornaments. Her claim is, “This is the way I want them.” All those heavy ornaments pulling at the bottom branch of the tree make me twitch.

And, I thought I was going to have an imperfect birthday cake this year. Doug and the girls queried me for my favorite kind of cake, and I asked for a two layer white cake with buttercream icing. The three of them convened in the kitchen for serious moments of precision measuring and taking turns running the mixer. When the layers came out of the oven, the three of them gathered to flip the layers onto cooling racks. One of the layers came out completely bald with a thin veneer of cake clinging to the pan. The other came out half cleanly and half bald. I took one look at those layer cakes and thought, “My cake will be a lopsided, imperfect mess.”

cakeImperfection seems to be the theme of my Advent season, and some days I handle it better than others. Last Sunday, I sat in worship and prayed for the peace to let things be imperfect. Later in the service the pastor read the story of the birth of Jesus, and I thought about Mary, who must have known that there were some imperfections with leaving home when the baby was due, giving birth without the comforts of her female relatives at her side, and then wrapping such a precious new baby in bands of cloth rather than the wool blanket handed down from her mother and her mother before her. I thought about Joseph, who must have felt anxious to provide shelter and support but instead faced closed doors almost everywhere he went.  I thought about the innkeeper, who counted an infant among the inhabitants of the stable and wondered if he felt remorse at not making room in the inn. I thought about how the birth of Jesus had imperfections, at least from my vantage point. But somehow it didn’t matter at all that Jesus was born in a stable; he was still the Messiah, and his story changes hearts to this very day. If the Messiah can be born in a stable, surely our imperfections will be alright in the end.

after cakeMy birthday cake was better than alright.  After a heavy layer of frosting by Doug’s deft hands, we all sat down to sing, “Happy Birthday” and cut the cake. The cake tasted delicious, and I got to hear the girls tell me, “I measured the flour. I ran the mixer. I cracked the eggs.” I looked at Doug, Eve, and Audrey and realized there was nothing imperfect about this moment at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

 

 

 

Holy Leisure by Brittany Riddle

SnowDayAs I write this, it is Sunday morning.  I should be leading worship right now. Instead, I’m on my couch, enjoying the warm glow of the lights on my Christmas tree and the crackling sound of ice hitting the ground outside.

I woke up to the early (very early) morning texts from my fellow ministers as we decided that the safest decision was to cancel worship services due to icy conditions. After getting the word out through various media, I curled up on my couch enjoying the warmth and stillness of the moment—a luxury that is not usually a part of my Sunday morning routine.

A snow day seems to be the closest many of us get to understanding the Sabbath. As a child, there was no better feeling than waking up on a snowy morning only to learn that school had been canceled, and the day was unexpectedly free from classes and homework. The only agenda for those days was to play in the snow and drink hot chocolate.

As ministers, we rarely get a “free” day to play or rest. We often fall prey to the societal belief that in order to be good enough (or worthy of God’s love) we must work 24/7 and be available all the time. We buy into the false dichotomy that if we are not being productive and efficient, we are being lazy. But God wove a day of rest into the fabric of creation. By doing so, God tells us that not only is our work important, but our rest is also essential.

As a minister I often struggle to find my own rhythm of Sabbath. Though I love worshiping with my church family and find my work deeply fulfilling, Sundays are often too hectic to be a day of rest. I have a day off during the week, but I find that I tend to use this day to get MORE things done, not as a day to rest in God’s presence.  In The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster reminds us that the idea Sabbath as holy leisure has been a part of the Christian tradition throughout the centuries. He describes holy leisure as “a sense of balance in life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves.”

Sabbath is not just about taking a long, afternoon nap. It is not about running errands to free up the rest of the week. Instead, Sabbath is about having a prayerful imagination. Sabbath is about praying, resting, doing those things that fill our hearts with joy, and intentionally inviting the Holy into our lives and encounters with others.

Pray—Work—Rest—Repeat. In the midst of work and other responsibilities, God calls me to rest, to engage in holy leisure, to pace myself, and to enjoy the beauty in the world around me. I am thankful for a “snow day” to remind me that my rhythms are not God’s rhythms. While I strive to DO more and more, God calls me to BE more and more. Thanks be to God for calling us to more than we would be on our own.

Brittany Riddle is minister to adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.

People First by Brittany Riddle

Brittany RiddleWhile in seminary a few years ago I found myself in one of the administrator’s offices talking about life and ministry. Those were important topics to me, but there was nothing earth shattering or urgent in our conversation—just a friendly conversation over chocolate between classes. A few minutes into our conversation her phone rang, and I stopped talking so she could answer it. She smiled and told me to keep talking as she had a “people first” policy in her office—meaning the person standing in front of her came before phone calls, texts, or emails. I recall this conversation, remembering how her words made me feel like she truly cared about what I was saying.

This brief conversation a few years ago continues to shape how I practice ministry today. I certainly don’t always get it right, but I try to apply this “people first” policy to my own ministry. Often, the most important and sacred conversations I have with people don’t happen in scheduled meeting or appointments. They happen in conversations that follow when someone pops their head in my office just to say “hello,”or when I pass them in the hallway on a Sunday morning and say, “Good morning.”  I never know what, if anything, will follow those greetings, but I’m humbled and grateful when people are willing to share parts of their lives with me in those in-between moments of life.

Today was one of those days when I had to keep consciously reminding myself of my “people first” policy. Today is a Monday. My to-do list is long. The phone seems to be ringing off the hook. Not a thing on my list has been accomplished today. As someone who occasionally writes tasks on my list that are already finished simply to have the satisfaction of crossing that task off, the prospect of completing NOTHING on my to-do list disturbs me quite a bit.

Today is different, though. Most of the tasks on my to-do list are administrative in nature and need to get done by the end of the week; they are not urgent. The conversation about the sick family member was urgent, though. The funny story about the grandchild was important, as was the conversation about a theological struggle someone was having. None of these conversations were on my to-do list today, but I’m thankful for the sacred moments shared in these conversations. I’m thankful for the occasional reminder that the world will not end when my to-do list is not finished. Being present in the interruptions of life is a part of my ministry—a part of my ministry that I’m still learning to embrace as I am reminded that it is in these interruptions of life that I find myself most able to see God and to see God in other people.

Brittany Riddle is minister to adults at Vinton Baptist Church in Vinton, Virginia.