6.24.2007

Real Ministry

This year I am the "prayer coordinator" for our church's Vacation Bible School, rather than the "crafts chair" that I was other years. I am so glad! And, as I think about it, it is because I do not move easily between busy administration and relating to people with love . . . but the prayer ministry allows me to just take care of people. I don't have to stretch as crafts chair to try to keep mass chaos at bay on the one hand (as 180 kids rotate through 18 tables 3 times each day to do a 30-minute craft and then move on to let the next group swarm in and do the same thing for all 5 days) and still relate with joy and grace to all the kids and volunteers and the others doing administration. Instead, as prayer coordinator, I get to make conversation with them when they want to, and pray for them when they don't. (Ahhhhhh . . . big sigh of relief!)

I have loved this song by Sara Groves since I first heard it in late November of 2005:



There's always just one more thing
There's always another task
There's always "I just have one more small favor to ask"
And everything is urgent and everything is now
I wonder what would really happen if I stopped somehow
"I'll be there in a minute"
"Just a few places to go"
You wake up a few years later and your kids are grown

And everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships are all you're got
And love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say
"I've got something better to do"
And love to me is when you walk out on that one more thing and say
"Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one more thing"

There will never be an end to
The request upon your time
It's your place to stand up and tell the world
You've got to rest awhile
And everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships are all you've got

And love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say
"I've got something better to do"
And love to me is when you walk out on that one more thing and say
"Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one more thing"

I am very grateful for the examples in my life of people who really make the people in their lives more important than their other priorities and agendas. The rest of life serves the people in their lives, rather than the people in their lives being tools to accomplish their agendas. The two people who come most readily to mind in this for me are both women: my mom and our pastor Leah Stout. There are others I think of as well, and many who -- like me -- are aiming to live this way. But the two of them -- at least in how they have and do relate to me -- are clearly available to their relationships, and everything else in their lives is there to make them more available to serve the people they love.

This is a life-journey for me. I keep buying into the agendas and cultures around me that want me to accomplish something and to enlist the people around me to help me toward those goals. But in my daily reading I see a Jesus who is all about the people He encounters, and everything else is in God's hands. I also see that in Paul, and also in the Father God and Holy Spirit as our Triune God has acted in history by acting in individual lives. We have a God Who is all about people, and His agendas are executed by creating relationships Himself with individuals and between those individuals. We have a God Who's kingdom -- here among us this present day -- is all about how we relate to each other (when we define "each other" as He defined "neighbor" by the story of the Good Samaritan) and to Him, and not at all about anything else.

And so now my daily "agenda" is to care for those who God brings in front of me, and spend the rest of my time "down-sizing" my life so that I have better space for them. I need space on my calendar, space in my house and routines, and space in my cluttered-and-self-centered mind! And getting rid of all that clutter -- whether the clutter in my mind or in my house or on my calendar -- is the only way to be free to be the Good Samaritan rather than the Pharisee who rushed on by.

Once I have done the proper "down-sizing" there are things I need to do to be better prepared to use my particular personality and gifts to serve those that God wants me to serve in the ways He calls me to serve them . . . but I need to fight my own sense of urgency about doing that academic preparation by remembering what I'm preparing to do! If I have not learned to build my life on the people that God calls me to serve today, then any preparation I do may well prepare me for a "successful career" that does nothing real to manifest His kingdom hear and now among the people gathered around me.

It is very hard to neglect what I do well to learn to do what I really am not very good at! But, if it is necessary to what God wants to do in me and what He wants to do through me, then I can trust that He'll help me learn this new life. This is discipleship for me, here and now.

Our church is at the same kind of turning point with our visioning process. We are invested in a self-absorbed analysis of what we do well and what we don't do well and how we improve for the future . . . and it would be really really nice if we could simply put programs in place to fix what we do poorly. But "what we do poorly" really boils down to "putting people above tasks and agendas", and learning to actually put people above tasks and agendas won't be accomplished by another training program or a new ministry. It won't even be accomplished by our ministers teaching and preaching to us about how we can accomplish this. It will only be accomplished relationally . . . by each minister living it themselves as best as they can each day, and each layperson following suit. We can catch it from each other, but not promote it or teach it.

So, this week of VBS, I hope to live out a week of putting people above all my plans.


How about you?

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