Stepping off a ladder

Image by Jazella from Pixabay

Have you ever had one of those moments when, suddenly, you see things more clearly than you used to?

It seems to be happening to me rather a lot at the moment.  Let me explain to you how, this is happening.

I have been reading a book called The Art of Pastoring – Ministry without all the answers by David Hansen.  There are two ways of reading a book.  You can rattle through it at break neck speed and tick it off the “books I have read” list.  Or, as I did with this book, slowly and reflectively.  As I soon discovered, I was reading this book in the way it really deserved.  I have taken the opportunity, every few pages to stop and journal my reflections.  I have been challenged, in ways I could not even begin to describe on paper, to re-think my approach to the way that I minister.

It has taken me nearly a month to reach chapter 4.  The topic was temptation of ambition.  I am not, by nature, an ambitious person.  I am happy with my calling to be a local Church Pastor.  I have never had the ambition to be an international speaker or celebrity pastor.  I must be on safe ground with this chapter I, mistakenly, thought.  It was when I read;

There is no other possible conclusion: every pastor must choose between ladder-climbing and love. 

(David Hansen The Art of Pastoring – Ministry without all the answers page 76)

It was then, that I heard God whisper “you may not have been on the career ladder, but you have stood on others” that it really hit me.  The temptation to stand on a ladder is subtle, so subtle that it can feel as though you are ministering

  • The ladder of being observed
  • The ladder of being noticed
  • The ladder of being significant
  • The ladder of being needed
  • The ladder of being heard

Jesus was spot on when he said;

No one can serve two masters

(Matthew 6 vs. 24)

As David Hansen brilliantly puts it;

The real nub of the temptation to climb ladders is the lie, fed me by the devil, that I can climb the ladder and love those around me at the same time.  It centres on me.  It feeds my ego.

(page 76 – 77)

I think there is a lesson for all of us here, whether of the “dog collar” variety or not, we all have a ministry.

I cannot judge others (that would be climbing another ladder), I can only ask for the grace of God to step off the ladders I am standing on.  I need to face the choice, daily, between ladder climbing and love.  My prayer is that I will make the right choice, my prayer for you is that God’s grace will help you make the right choice too.

Forced to change

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It has finally happened. 

I knew, sometime ago, that things were not right and that the demise was inevitable. 

I tried to keep things going for as long as possible. 

Try as I might, my laptop was getting slower. 

At first, I excused it.  Okay, so it was taking 10 minutes to start up in the morning – just enough time for that pre-work mug of tea.

Okay, the screen had cracked, it was part of its charm, its character. 

Okay, so bits had started to break off it, they were not important, just decorative and I had gained a rugged laptop.

Despite all its failings and weaknesses, I was fond of my computer.  I knew it’s quirks. I was used to it.  I knew where everything was.  All of my photos, documents and history were there.

After one, particularly frustrating, Zoom meeting, I took my laptop to my son and asked him how to solve my problem.   His reply sent chills down my spine;

“Face facts Dad.  This computer needs putting out of its misery, you have to put it down”

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

I heard echoes of Monty Python as I finally had to admit; this is an ex-computer, bereft of life it rests in pieces!

Just in case you were worried, this is not a blog about computers! 

The saga of the computer, however, has made me think about some other issues.  My change of computer made me accept that change can be both costly and painful.  Sometimes, however, it is both inevitable and necessary.

That is what many of us have faced over this last year. 

We have all faced enormous changes in the way we live and work.  Some of those changes, whilst they were not welcome, were necessary.  Some have been costly both in terms of time and energy, as well as financially.

But, not all of the changes have been negative. 

We have seen people becoming more aware of the vulnerable within our communities.  We have seen people support one another in different ways.  We have been challenged to think more creatively in how we do things.  We have also had some space to clear out some of the rubbish.

As we emerge from lockdown, the temptation for many of us is to rush back to the way we have always done things, and so forget the lessons we have learnt along the way.  We need a time of honest reflection, before God, to ask “what now?”  To develop my computer analogy, I cannot go back to the old machine but, some programs needed to reloaded and some needed to be ditched altogether. 

How can we do this?  I believe this can only come through open and honest prayer.

The kind of prayer does not involve asking God, but allows us to encounter the presence of God and allow His Spirit to speak deeply into our hearts.  To explain this kind of prayer I quoted, in Church yesterday, Mother Teresa’s “business card” which says;

The fruit of silence is prayer; The fruit of prayer is faith; The fruit of faith is love; The fruit of love is service; The fruit of service is peace; This is very good business!

Mother Teresa

If we are to continue to tell HIS STORY in a post-pandemic society, we must begin by embracing silence.