Breaks and Interruptions

By Rev. Mindi

I haven’t written something new for Dmergent since before Christmas. I was all set, after the holiday break and our “Best of 2014” series to write something new on January 6th, Epiphany.

Then my son fell and broke his ankle at school. On Epiphany. He gets the cast off on—you guessed it—Ash Wednesday. He’s definitely a PK.

On those first six days of the New Year, I had grandiose plans. I and another clergy friend launched, a new blog about autism and church that incorporates personal stories, resources and reflections, from both family members of people with autism along with individuals on the autism spectrum. I was going to try to blog almost every day, and I started thinking about ideas to write here… and then the break happened.

When I was in high school, discerning a call to ministry, my pastor would sometimes bring me to the local clergy text study. I remember the Lutheran pastor in our town say once to me, “A day in pastoral ministry is a series of interruptions.” How true. How many times I have sat down to work on the worship service and received a call from a member who needed to speak to me. A person drops by the office in need of assistance. The office administrator needs the Call to Worship for the bulletin. A series of interruptions.

There is no time for a pastor to have a personal crisis, but here we were, on Epiphany, waiting for hours in the emergency room for xrays, for results from radiology, for pain medication that never came, for a referral to Children’s, for discharge papers. My husband had to come home early and join me at the hospital while we waited for all the news and instructions. Twenty-four hours later, we were at our son’s orthopedist appointment at Children’s, breathing a sigh of relief that our son would not have to have surgery, and that he would spend six weeks in a hard cast, and six weeks from that day will be Ash Wednesday. The entire Season After Epiphany will be marked by a green and purple striped cast for this clergy family.

But what I had forgotten, and was reminded so beautifully by my congregation, is that people are always praying for us. A wonderful card came for AJ the very next day. The member who runs the prayer chain called me on the way home from the hospital to see how AJ was doing. Others sent text messages and Facebook messages. People celebrated when he came to church on Sunday in his wheelchair. We were prayed for and cared for by the congregation.

Almost six-and-a-half years ago, one week after giving birth to AJ, I was rushed to the emergency room because I had an infection after my C-section. As I was admitted to the hospital and given a room, the head nurse on the floor that day was a church member. She came to greet me as I was rolled in and said, “I saw the name on the chart and began to pray.”

What happened next still brings me to tears. She made sure we were comfortable in our room, showed JC where the coffee was at the nurse’s station and to help himself, made sure we had everything we needed for AJ and then turned things over to another nurse. Instead of being my nurse, she asked, “Pastor, can I pray for you?” And she took my hand and JC’s hand and prayed for me, for AJ and JC. She was strong, and certain, and was a better chaplain that I could have been to a patient that day. She took the priesthood of all believers seriously, and made sure my spiritual needs were cared for while the other nurse took care of any medical needs.

Pastors and leaders, we need to remember to let ourselves be ministered to, as well as our families. We need to know that interruptions are going to happen, and that sometimes we need to let go, and let someone else minister to us. As we enter 2015 (three weeks in now, I realize), may we learn to let go a little easier, and let others minister to us, and with us.

Christmas, Already?

It’s Christmas at Walgreens, apparently.  I walked in looking for one item and found myself staring at the aisles covered in tinsel and Christmas lights.

I have a love/hate relationship with early Christmas—that is, anything Christmas coming out before Thanksgiving.  On one hand, I think we in America spend way too much money and too much time on an over-commercialized, sensationalized shopping season.  On the other hand, I may or may not have already listened to some classical Christmas music on Pandora in my office.

As a pastor, I feel that I have to get Christmas when I can get it.  If I wait until Advent to start preparing, I have no time.  I am rushed with the busy-ness of church activities—the greening of the church, the lighting of the Advent candles, the Christmas bazaars and the special services all the way up to Christmas Eve.  Then it’s Christmas Day, and it’s over.  I know, I know—technically Christmas lasts twelve days, but our American culture doesn’t know that. If we’re lucky it lasts until New Year’s but the music stations have changed over by December 26th.

The last few years, my attitudes on Christmas have changed.  There are two separate Christmas celebrations: one in the church, that begins in Advent and lasts through Epiphany celebrating the waiting, the incarnation, and the revelation of Christ to the world.  The second is this overtly consumer-driven holiday about presents and crazy decorating and overeating.

But there is a third option for me, that I didn’t even realize I could choose as a Christian minister.  It’s the season of “Peace on Earth.”  This idea not only that we ought to do good things for one another and give to charity, but this season of when you light candles, drink hot chocolate by the fire, and do nothing else, but maybe watch snow fall if you live in a place that has snow.  Peace not only to brothers and sisters in the world, but peace for me.  Peace in me.  Peace on earth and peace within me. 

Peace where I can listen to Silent Night played softly on the classical station and not worry about burning my hand as I pass the candle.  Peace where I can rest and not be run ragged.  Peace where I can, if I choose to, contemplate the incarnation or take a nap in the darkness of winter.  Peace where I can remember I am just as human as anyone else, and it is ok to be a little excited on Christmas morning. 

So I will continue to speak out against the consumption of Christmas.  I will continue to advocate year-round acts of goodwill and awareness of the poor and hungry.  I will continue to preach on the incarnation and the “Reason for the Season” in the church.  I will continue to be disgruntled a bit when I see Christmas for sale in the early fall and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  But I also will close the office door, sit quietly in my chair, and hum “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” even if the MLB playoffs are still on TV.  I’m finding my Peace on Earth.