Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kick the Pastor Out

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

[ Aside: I know everybody should be appreciated. Why do pastors get a whole month of appreciation, when administrative assistants and teachers only get one day; and I’m pretty sure writers, dentists or nuclear-physicists don’t get one at all?  I don’t know, but I’m not here to debate that.]

Anyway, pastors have a tough job. Contrary to the persistent rumors, they actually DO work more than one day a week; in fact pastors are typically on-call 24/7. When someone in the church gets sick or needs prayer, they call the pastor. When somebody dies, even at 3:00 in the morning, they call the pastor. When people get married, or divorced, or have a baby, or have a teenager who gets arrested for reckless driving– they call the pastor. Pastors are called by God to take care of their flock of people, and that flock of people call the pastor. A lot.

Not only that, but pastors are expected to be excellent speakers, inspiring preachers, brilliant theologians, knowledgeable marriage counselors, and experts in all things Biblical. They are also expected to teach classes, lead worship, know how to answer impossible questions (Such as: If an infant dies right after they’re born, are they saved even if they weren’t baptized? What did Jesus write in the sand after he said “Those without sin cast the first stone?” and Will there be coffee in heaven? etc.) Pastors are very often expected to be great with kids and teenagers, and then turn around and visit then elderly residents of a nursing home. They are expected to know the names, ages and families of everyone who comes to the church, especially if they only show up on Christmas and Easter. And in smaller parishes, pastors even have to plunge toilets and fix leaky pipes. It is very often a thankless job. Which is why appreciating your pastor is important.

One way to show your pastor that you appreciate all of the work that they do is to kick them out of the church and send them away. (For a few days, at least) Have the church send your pastor and their spouse on a retreat! Getting a few days AWAY from their ministry will allow them to relax, go for a walk, reconnect with God and their spouse, and get some much-needed rest. A retreat will not only help the pastor get re-energized and refocused, but it will also allow the congregation to take care of some of those things the pastor has always done. Maybe an elder can lead the Wednesday evening Bible study while the pastor is away. Maybe the deacons can take the youth group bowling. And maybe someone will finally call a real plumber!

So send your pastor away this month! Reserve a week, or even a few days, at The Oasis Renewal Center for your pastor. If scheduling is problematic, give them an Oasis Gift Certificate and the pastor can schedule a retreat when it’s convenient. See our website for details.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Running on Empty

Those of us who fly on occasion are familiar with the Flight Attendant's words about oxygen masks: "Place your own mask on first, before helping a child or another person with theirs."

To those of us in ministry or in a helping profession, that feels counter-intuitive! It's practically in our DNA to help other people first. Take care of everyone else, and put our own needs aside. Self-sacrifice is admired! To act otherwise would seem... selfish.

Here's the kicker: if you are passing out from lack of oxygen, you won't be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask.

We can apply the same principle to our spirit. If you are in ministry or in another helping profession, you GIVE of yourself all the time. Unless you attend to your own spiritual needs first, you can't help anyone else. We cannot give what we do not have in the first place. When your spirit is dry - when you're running on empty - you won't get far, and you can't help anyone else.

That is why retreats are so important. Taking the time to get away from your daily routine and attend to your spirit is essential! You need to reconnect with God on a regular basis in order to be equipped to help others.

That is what The Oasis Renewal Center provides. A place where you can connect with God and connect with others. A place to relax, pray, and listen; a place to get a spiritual refill! Come visit us!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why I love weeds (no, not that kind!)

One of the things I love most about living in a rural area is the variety of plants and animals that I get to see every day. For example, there is the grass.

The grass is everywhere. And out beyond the walls that mark where our yard begins, the grass is about three feet high. I only mow the grass in the yard around the house because, well frankly, mowing 16 acres of grass that’s three feet high would be exhausting, and futile. Plus, if I mowed all of that grass, I’d miss out on all of the wildflowers that have been blooming for the past month!

I have learned that if I’m going to take a walk out along the prayer paths at The Oasis Renewal Center, I had better not bring my camera, because if I do, my “walk” won’t be more than about 15 feet, and I will spend the next two hours taking pictures of weeds. I mean, wildflowers.

Most of the flowers around here probably are classified as weeds. Some are tiny, they grow in and amongst the grasses, and they have weird names like Pignut,  Henbit Deadnettle, and Graham’s Nipple Cactus (not to be confused with Macdougal’s Nipple Cactus!) Many of these plants are considered to be a nuisance to farmers, ranchers and serious landscape architects. But if you look closely, they have the most beautiful flowers!

I believe humanity is the same. People are not weeds. Yes, some of us are a nuisance, and some are toxic and downright deadly. But everyone has some sort of beauty in them. You may have to look very closely; their ‘flower’ may be extremely tiny and well-hidden!

Does that mean that I think all people are good? No, I don’t. Read the latest headline news – that alone proves that they aren’t. In fact, most days I shake my head and think the majority of people suck. However, I do believe that human beings are created in God’s image. That means that we aren’t weeds – we all have a spark of the Divine in us. It may be very tiny and well-hidden, but it’s there.

You see, people aren’t entirely bad, or entirely good. We all have both aspects inside us at all times, and we are capable of displaying either one at any given moment. The trick is to express our best aspects most often. Just like the weeds displaying their gorgeous flowers.

“Consider how the lilies grow… not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass of the field….He will take care of you!...Seek God’s kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12: 27-28, 31)

Is there a map for a spiritual journey?

Your Spiritual Journey is uniquely your own. You may have figured out by now that there is no One-Size-Fits-All, road map for your journey to a relationship with God. I kind of wish there was. It would be so much easier to just open up Spiritual Enlightenment for Dummies, and follow the instructions!

Spiritual formation (another term for Spiritual Journey) never occurs in a straight line. We can't just do a few specific things in a certain order and become a mystic! Sometimes the spiritual journey feels like an uphill hike, sometimes like a leisurely stroll, and sometimes it feels like you're backtracking (or even falling off a cliff!) There are stops along the way where you have to catch your breath, and other places where you have to run to keep up!

That is why
a labyrinth is a terrific metaphor for your spiritual journey. The path in a labyrinth twists and turns; sometimes getting close to the center and then abruptly turning away. Along the path you may encounter other people and walk beside them for a time, and other times you may walk alone.

The goal of walking a labyrinth is to reach the center - a metaphor for communion with God - but then walk back out, by the same path you came in.

That may seem counter-intuitive, yet it perfectly describes the spiritual journey! People do not live in a constant state of enlightenment. We may become spiritually aware, or have an encounter with the Divine, but we still have to return to our lives in the world. The difference is that we can take our spiritual awareness with us. The journey never ends.

Come to The Oasis Renewal Center and walk our labyrinth with me!