In-Between Times

These are the in-between days. August 20 is still summer, but in the lives of those who teach and those who pastor churches fall is here. The hot, muggy days still call our bodies to rest, find a pool and take advantage of summer. The calendar, however, with the push of autumn church and school activities, brings an avalanche of work and to-do lists. I find it difficult to be in one place or the other; so I’m in-between. It seems, expecially now, that the work I do is in off-times and strange places. (Some would say that I always work in off-times and strange places!)

Today is Monday, the day I have taken as my “day off” for the entire 25 years of my ministry. Today, however, I have to get some work done. I cannot bring myself to go the church study, nor to dress like I’m working. I can’t even work in my home work-spot surrounded by my books and all the reminders of things to be done. So my laptop and I have taken off to a favorite neighborhood coffee shop. I seated myself so that I am facing a wall that is all window. I can watch the tall grasses, the black-eyed-susans, butterfly flower, and rose of sharon bending in the wind. It sounds as if I haven’t been working, but I do find that I think more creatively when I can watch the world around me. A young woman just walked by with her lab-mix-looking yellow dog. She had what looked to be a paper towel in her hand and it seemed to be spotted with blood. She and her dog both looked alright and did not seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Hmmm? Maybe they are in-between the hurt and the healing. Some hurts just require a little check-up by a watchful eye and a loving dab. Children fall down and skin knees. A kiss and a Band-aid later they are on their way. Every good parent knows that sometimes the best response is just not to make too big a deal of the event. It can be best to kiss it and move on with life.

I ‘ve been thinking about differences and conflicts in the church. Not necessarily the huge things, but all the little offenses and irritations that come about in any community of people. Church and organizational management literature is filled with models for “conflict management” and “conflict resolution.” I, like many other pastors, have had classes in such. There is no argument that these have been helpful and are needed. But I’ve come to believe that most of our small offenses do not have to grow into full-blown conflictual situations, if we notice the injury, dab it with love, and keep a watchful-eye on it. I suppose it is that ongoing attentiveness that is required of us. And the truth is that it is not always easy. Some days and with some people, I guess I just don’t want to ‘dab’. Maybe that’s my growing edge in ministry right now. I’m in yet another in-between time.

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