What does Ministry look like?

Psalm 78:70-72 (NIV)

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his
people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he lead them.

**italics for my own depth of meaning

So I was asked recently what my ministry moving forward might look like.  Part of this conversation was also about tracing my past and looking for the nudges or signs that may be or may have been pointing me towards a call that though seemingly new, perhaps isn’t.  What moves me?  Why is there freedom for me in this call?

So, I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it.  The thing is, ministry has been my life for pretty much my entire life.  I feel like the decisions I’ve made and who I am are all because of ministry and living out my life as a child of God.  A Christian.

I need to go back and read my journals, because I would probably gain much insight in doing so, but without going there yet (since this would require unearthing them-I’ve been journaling since a very young age), it occurs to me that I’ve had leadership roles in ministry since I was a teenager.  I’ve never really considered this.

When I was a member of the Church of Christ, I was actually a teen leader, given the role of discipler (a Christian mentor of sorts) to others.  I attended church leadership meetings, prayed, went to Bible study, church services and youth group.  This was just all a part of my regular life.  I was 15-16 years old.

Later, when I became friends with Father Mike and started learning, studying and falling in love with the Roman tradition, I was lead to volunteering my time and talents as a musician.  Leading the music during the mass and later helping plan mass for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals as well as holidays was just part of my life.

Then, when I was asked to consider being a section leader for the choir at Union Church in Hinsdale (UCC denomination), I was again in a leadership role, serving the church through music.  Helping church members, family, friends and acquaintances with music and scripture for weddings and/or funerals became part of my normal life.  It was common for me to do 3-4 services a weekend at church.

Through nursing school and living in Michigan this continued.  Different parishes, but somehow I found myself doing the same ministry.  Somehow ministry in the church and ministry at the bedside intertwined quite well…naturally, even.  The first time I assisted a priest from prelude to recessional for a service, I was 20 years old.  I’ve been doing this ever since.  I find true joy and love in this work.  So, when I think about what ministry might look like as a priest, it looks like this…

Being with, teaching and sharing with those around me the joy and security I have found as a child of God and hopefully imparting some of this love, hope and faith to others.

It’s holding the hand of someone leaving this life and moving to the next, providing whatever solace and comfort I may – singing, holding or just being present. [Blessing]

It’s planning the funeral of that same person, beloved of God, with the faith that there is LIFE after death. [Blessing]

It’s meeting at the table every week, perhaps more, and sharing a sacred meal.  A reminder of the grace and life bestowed on us, through us and in us, because we are loved that much.

It’s sharing the joys of new life (pregnancy, birth, baptism) and sharing God in the midst of it all. [Blessing]

It’s skipping dinner because someone is hurt, broken or hurting and needs support.  It’s making sure we both get dinner afterwards.

I’ve only touched bits and pieces, but these ring loud and clear for me.  I think this is actually parish ministry, pastoral ministry, shepherding.  I’ve done some of this work in the ICU, in another house. But, if God can call David from the sheep pens to shepherd and lead his people…I suppose it’s not so far off for God to call a nurse from the hospital to minister in a parish.

With regards to this seeming freedom I have with this call.  I’m not as free as one might think.  I’ve struggled, cried, fought and asked God what on earth he was thinking?!?!  But, when it all comes down to it.  I love God with my entire being.  I trust this God more than anyone else.  I believe God has a plan, not to harm, but for hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

As the lyric comes quickly from A Living Prayer by Alison Krauss

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee.

I’ve been singing this prayer for years now with my entire being.  Giving my life to God, who has given it to me, feels humbling…but also secure and natural.  I have always been his.

I’ll close with this hymn based on Psalm 5:8

Lead Me, Lord
Music by: Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness,
make Thy way plain before my face.
For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord only,
that makest me to dwell in safety.

Lead me Lord, lead me in Thy holiness,
teach me to love and trust in Thee.
Thou art our God, the God of our salvation,
all nations shall praise Thy holy name.

Lead Me

Blessings and Peace to you this day.  May you find hope, clarity and faith in your own journey today.

Come and Follow Me

Well, I was just starting to get comfortable and calm and wonder if all of the dreams and restlessness were really just a part of going through this journey called life with others around me.  Then, I went to church on Sunday and just as I knelt for communion…the music started.

Will you come and follow me
arr: John L Bell
Tune: Kelvingrove

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ner free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen
and admit to what I mean In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow In you and you in me.

I started sobbing at the table where I was about to receive Christ.

Here I am, with my reverent little boy waiting for Christ and I look at him and see Christ.  I see love.  I see forgiveness.  I see hope.  I see joy.  I see a life that may that may never be the same… and in my tears, I smile at this child, this beautiful gift of mine from God and I can not deny.  I can never turn my back and I then open myself to receive.

I don’t even know what I’m saying yes to.  I only know that I am God’s and he is mine.  I will go where he leads me.  I must.  This God, who has never turned away from me, can receive nothing less from me but everything I am and everything I will be.

All of this flowing through me was followed by a passage I read this morning in the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It reads:

Wait quietly in my presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being.  Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound.  I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make My humble home in your heart.  It is there where you know Me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers.  Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still small voice within you.  I am speaking to you continually: words of Life…Peace…Love.  Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessing.  Lay your requests before Me, and wait in expectation.

It made me reflect on something else I read this week from the book the Fire and the Clay where George Guiver writes, if being with Christ is a somewhat disconcerting experience, even more disconcerting must be the prospect of Christ being formed in us.

This morning I read a passage from 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NRSV)

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing, Elijah?”

I find in this passage this truth; It is in the silence that we can hear.  It is often also in the silence that we can just be.  George Guiver also wrote in the Fire and the Clay, If we can not face silence, that means that we can not face ourselves, and something is needing attention.  I find true wisdom in those words and they are a great reminder to me to cultivate those quiet moments and in silence I may be having the most profound conversation.

I’ll end with a passage that I keep coming back to these last few days:

Psalm 5 (NRSV)

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

For you are not a God who delights
in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who
love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as a shield.