We are grateful that our new church has a housing allowance, but we have never bought a house before and had no clue of the hoops that one has to maneuver to make it to closing. How many more copies of this or that will be needed? I pray that we’re near the finish line, but I imagine there’s more to be done. It would have been helpful to know NOT to buy furniture ahead of the move. It depletes your liquid assets that the mortgage company wants to measure, and that’s not a plus to your credibility as a buyer.
I never knew how much of a blessing parsonages are to our clergy deployment system. You move out and move in, food is waiting, unpacking helpers are on hand, and you’re not distracted by much more than whether or not your bedspreads match the existing window treatments. For the first time in my ministry I’ll be without an S/PPRC or Parsonage Committee person to call when something breaks. I’ll be a committee of one whose handyman skills are usually reserved for mission trips. We are grateful for a chance to buy our own home. My prayer is that Cindy and I won’t be too frazzled before we get there.
Therefore, I’m more than a little stressed right now while I’m waiting for the money that I’m borrowing from my 403B to clear the bank so I can prove to the mortgage company that I’m a good risk. I’m also weary from finishing up appointment-making as a District Superintendent. On top of all this I’m putting out the usual fires that come from “buyer’s remorse” as churches that didn’t ask for their pastors to move want them to move now and it’s too late!
I need to remember what I told a stressed out pastor last night: “You are not responsible for your people; you are responsible to them.” There’s a huge difference between feeling responsible FOR everyone and everything, and being responsible TO others by doing the best that you can and letting the rest go. I want to be like the non-anxious presence of Jesus when he stood before Pilate, secure in who I am and not caught up in someone else’s hurricane.
I just went to get a haircut and the person tending to my very limited strands asked, “How are you today?” I started on my tale of mortgage banking, a daughter who’s had brain surgery, concern over this detail or that one ad infinitum until she simply asked, “Are you religious?” What a great segue into a spiritual discussion with a stressed out dude. It was the best haircut I ever had, and it wasn’t at all about my hair! I never told her I was a pastor, but I did tell her I believe in Jesus. She wasn’t judgmental in the least about why I didn’t seem to be acting like I actually BELIEVE in Jesus. She just simply said what I’ve heard my dear wife say over and over again, “Turn your worries into prayers.”
Goodness, how much better I felt after that haircut! Everything is going to be alright. Jesus is my Rock and Redeemer. I need to do what I am supposed to do and not freak out if the stuff hitting the fan isn’t evenly distributed. You know how there seem to be some people who have a Teflon coating and trouble never sticks to them. Well, I’m one of those who are like Velcro. Everything sticks! Lately I have looked and felt like that old baking sheet we received when we got married almost 39 years ago – bent, rippled, warped, and multi-colored from stains and grime. It might be time for a new baking sheet!
The barber asking, “Are you religious?” has been my chance at a fresh start today. I am going to redouble, triple, and quadruple spiritual disciplines that have been too quickly evaporated by and overwhelmed by the flood of urgent things. If I do believe in Jesus and life is throwing junk at me then I better spend as much or more time talking to Jesus and yielding moment by moment to God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, here’s to fresh starts with the Lord! Plus my ace in the hole is that tomorrow morning I am “getting out of Dodge” with my Bible, fishing tackle, camping gear, chess set, and a good friend to spend a couple of nights listening to the tranquil sounds of a waterfall on the New River in Western North Carolina. In the midst of night after night of Introductory Visits for new pastors, here’s my first chance in months to get away and let the Lord refresh me and I’m taking it!
I’ll be back in time to thank Cindy for being the best Mom I’ve ever seen, and preach a Mother’s Day sermon for one of my convalescing clergy. Then next Monday I’m going to my new appointment and acclimate to things. I will be there for staff and worship meetings, and spend one-on-one time with each person. I’m going to ask them two questions: “What is ___________UMC known for in the ____________ community?” and “What are you known for in ___________ UMC?” I want to hear about each person’s passions and discern how I can facilitate shared ministry and teamwork. People can do so much more when they’re having fun and doing it together!
I am going to ask how each person finds renewal in Jesus, and here’s a question for all of us: “Who’s winning in your life: your worries or your faith?” If it’s our worries then let’s do something about it. As the old hymn goes, “I’m going to lay down my burdens, down by the riverside…” What about it? Feeling like Velcro collecting stress, a dented old pan whose shiny wore off a long time ago, then let me ask you: “Are you religious?” That barber asked a great question to put me back on track with Jesus. It’s a great question for you, too, and so is “Where is your riverside?” Give a listen to this quartet of barbers and turn your worries into prayers!