Ten years in ministry this past year, and I am just amazed at all that has changed in the ways I do ministry. I listen much more closely for God now. I try to let my direction come from sacred silence as much as possible. Sometimes it’s tough to be quiet long enough to hear. But, it seems that when I do take time to listen, the most amazing things happen.
Yesterday I went to see my Spiritual Director at a retreat center in Cleveland that I visit about once a month. I headed straight to my favorite small chapel because I’d deliberately left an hour early to sit in the quiet. To my surprise, one of my colleagues happened to be in that chapel. She said she’d JUST said a prayer for her Association colleagues and then, I walked in. We talked, had tea in the dining room, and talked a bit more. We’re both working on New Church start kinds of stuff, so it was a good thing.
Before I’d left home that day, I loaned one of our two cars to a young woman who I employed 20 years ago in the café I owned. She was in high school then. She now has two children and Rheumatoid Arthritis. She lives with a lot of pain. Her husband left the family. He sends a little money but not enough. She’s afraid that if she tries to get child support she won’t get any money at all while waiting for a decision and that can take months or even years.
She applied for disability but was refused disability. She was refused low-income housing. So now she is in the process of looking for a job that she can handle through her pain. She called last night very excited because of the productive day she’d had. She dropped an application off at Drug Mart then picked one up from Family Dollar. She ran to IGA and had a conversation with a nice man stocking cereal on the shelves. They talked about how nice it would be if the store made all their own salads. (She worked as a deli prep person while she put herself through college). Turns out he’s the owner of IGA and by being friendly she’d developed some rapport with him. She went to the local Community Services agency and got a hat, gloves and scarf for her five year old, lots of food and a promise that the agency will find a way to pay her February rent so she can use her rent money to get her car fixed. She was on cloud nine when she called me last night. She thanked me for letting her use the car. She later wrote on Facebook about how blessed she felt because of all that God seemed to be providing right now.
I suppose it shouldn’t really be amazing that having transportation can make an enormous difference for those who are struggling. Today, she’s going to see a pain management doctor to find out about injections that will help with her pain. Later today, since schools are closed and her children are home, I will care for them while she goes back to IGA to fill out a job application, and goes back to the community service agency where one of the interns will help her put together a resume. I’m praying for her, that her life becomes easier, that she can provide herself all that she needs to live. Meanwhile, she’s been attending one of the two churches I serve.
When I came into church this morning for office hours. A man I’ve provided pastoral care to was there waiting for me. He wanted to let me know that he had seen his doctor yesterday and learned that the medical issue he’d been too frightened to tell his family about had cleared up completely, on its own. He wanted me to know, he said, because I was the only other person he’d spoken to about it. He hadn’t wanted to alarm his family. He also wanted to let me know that the Epiphany worship service this past Sunday had really moved him. We’d done a combined worship service including four of five of the Elyria United Churches of Christ, at the smallest building belonging to the most aged congregation. The music was fantastic, he said. Having such a large choir of people from at least three of the four churches was inspiring, he said. My message of acceptance of “others” was on the mark, he said, especially since for so many years we’ve kept ourselves walled into our separate churches as though somehow ours is the best one, the only one.
So much of what we as pastors do goes unnoticed or we don’t experience the positive results that happen years after our involvement in a situation has ceased.
But today is a good day. And when good days happen I love to delight in them. And I remind myself that I signed on for both the good days and the not so good ones. The good days may not happen as often as we’d hope but when they do, they are usually very, very good. When I visit people in their homes I pray with them saying, “Thank you God, for never leaving us alone when we most need you.”
Thank you, God, for never leaving me alone when I most need you.