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.


2 thoughts on “In-Between Times

  1. Yes, I agree with Judi’s comment. It is so easy to become distracted by the small things. Keeping our vision and purpose before us as a community is vital. I think it is also the case that people have different perceptions of what that vision requires of us. For one person, the vision of ‘sharing God’s love with all people’ requires that we welcome everyone’s gifts. For another, the vision of ‘sharing God’s love with all people’ requires that we create a space that is clean and hospitable. Assuming both are true and valid, I would think it is important for us hear each other’s concerns and to step back and see if we can determine how they both (all) fit in the overall picture. When we feel that our concerns are heard and that they matter, then hopefully we feel a part of the whole.

  2. Sometimes I think our conflicts escalate because we are defending tradition or territory or “turf.” In my work I’ve seen plenty of the latter, turf wars. In the church, we get bent out of shape because of something spilled on the carpet, or the kitchen left dirty or a door left unlocked, as though it was the end of the world. True enough, we need to have the place clean and presentable and secure. But when I advise a group of college students who put out a newspaper, I try to encourage them to approach every triumph and every failure as “we.” WE could do better with the photos we choose. WE have a good mix of stories this week. WE need to run a correction for this error. OUR goal is to inform our readers and print the truth, nothing more nothing less. Finger pointing doesn’t move us ahead or help us accomplish the mission. So, let’s focus on our mission in the church–to share the love of God with all people–and each look for a solution we can contribute. Maybe then the pastor won’t feel so distracted or driven from her own office in order to get some work done!

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