Thursday, May 12, 2016

  1. having lost confidence or enthusiasm; disheartened.
    "he must be feeling pretty discouraged"

    So I'm discouraged and wanted to talk to someone. I wanted to tell someone. But Facebook just doesn't cut it. It feels way too public and too much like whining. I guess I just needed to get it out. So I come here where I don't believe anyone comes anymore. Where I used to think deep thoughts. And you get to read my musings.

    When I look at my blog dashboard, there are a number of posts I wrote that I never published. They are almost all written in times of discouragement. Times when I feel I'm failing. When I feel unqualified When I'm under criticism. When people let me down. When I let myself down.  When I feel I've let others down. Yeah, that's a big one. Yet I never publish them because I guess I figure these times will pass. And they will. And they do. But the feelings are real at the time. They are real now. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monks are Hard Core... the lost pages.

After my sabbatical, I wrote a series of blog posts titled, "Monks are hard core: Lessons Learned from spending a few days with the Monks in the Abbey of Gethsemani." Most of them were from thoughts journaled while I was at the Abbey. Some were turned into blogs, others were left to rot in my journal. This is one of the thoughts that went to rot... but has now has resurfaced.

My first post in that series, I began by laying out the "typical monk day." And when I say "typical," what I mean is EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

For monks, there is something spiritual about the discipline of repetition and of meeting God in the plain. The ordinary. The routine. You see this reflected in their practice of the Divine Office. They gather together 7 times a day and they (mostly) chant the Psalms. It's not all that pretty. They are not great singers. The songs are not catchy... in fact, as tunes they are really pretty bad. Yet they do it. Hour after hour. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. Nothing fancy. No worship design meetings. I don't think they practice. They just do it. And somehow they claim to meet God in those moments. Because God is there and they are attentive to him.

When did our worship services become productions? And who are we trying to impress?

Now, I like productions. And I'm guilty as charged for doing worship planning meetings and trying to be creative. And we spend a lot of time "preparing" for our weekly worship at Central. And I love that.

But was it always like this? 

I visited several churches over my sabbatical. In my lifetime, probably dozens and dozens. Some of them with the robes, smells and bells. And some of them with a new modern liturgy... 3-5 worship songs, (usually 3 fast, 2 slow), then some announcements, then a video while they transition to the message, a teacher who OBVIOUSLY put a ton of time into preparing the message, an offering, closing song. There are screens. Lights. Sometimes fog and really fancy lights. Stage sets. Themes. Props.

When did this happen? 

And what are our motivations?

And if we just gathered in a room and sang a couple of songs, someone taught, we opened our bibles and shared what we learned throughout the week -- would everyone leave? 

Probably so.

Would people would leave for the "better show" down the street? 

Most definitely. 

But when did "church" become so programed? When did we become so cool? When did we lose our "weird?" 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Dear Blog

Dear Blog

I think I'm going to return to you. I tire of Facebook. I think I would like to think deeper thoughts again.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Waffle Fries

No matter what you think of the whole Chick-Fil-A debate, I wish Christians on both sides would quit using inflammatory language. First, I'm not sure when Athletes in Action and Focus on the Family became "hate groups." Hate Groups? Really? On the other hand, I'm not sure Jesus would be standing in line on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, (indulging in gluttony; choking down a sandwich, a large waffle fry and a coke and telling employees that he's there to support their stance against gay marriage).

Okay, I'm done.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Monks are Hard Core, part 2

(Or, "Lessons Learned from spending a few days with the Monks in the Abbey of Gethsemani.")

In my last post I shared an outline of the typical day. Sorry it was such a long-winded post. Facebook is training us to read only about 40 words at a time so I probably should have broken it up. I'm going to break this one into smaller chunks.

Over the next several posts, I want to share some reflections about my week; the "what I walked away with" part. Sorry Central, you will probably heard these again in sermons. But for long-time, regular readers of my blog, you've figured that out by now. :)

1. Well... Monks ARE hard core.

And I want to be more so.

Hard Core = "unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated"

Say whatever you want about their theology, their retreat-ism, the style of what they do, have got to respect these guys for their devotion. Being a monk would be hard work.

To my surprise, I did not find this to be a relaxing retreat in some ways. Although I'm fairly fond of routines (and really enjoyed this one), it was a fairly intense routine. The regularity of the Divine Office, the vow of silence, the lack of technology, the commitment to physically staying there, the simplicity and lack of "distraction"... these things were kind of refreshing for a few days. But to live a life committed to that "Rule of Life" would be challenging.

And then there is the "work" of wrestling with God. I don't know about you, but sometimes being honest before God is physically and emotionally draining for me. Reflection, self examination and confession... this is the "work" of the soul.

I've often heard Christians say that daily time reading the bible, reflecting and praying is just too hard to maintain. Heck, I've said that before. But I guess I'm just not buying it anymore. Since the beginning of the Church (and before that, into our Jewish Heritage), people have made time (not found time) to regularly and intentionally spend time reflecting on scripture (as well as engage in other practices that help form Christ in us). And that has always been difficult. And it sometimes seems like work. That's why they call them spiritual DISCIPLINES.

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. But in the end it produces a harvest of righteousness by those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12) 

We are such an instant gratification society. We want a dose of Jesus and we want it when we want it. It's kind of like taking vitamins. Rather than learning to eat the right foods over time, we want all our nutrition in one nice, neat pill. That way we can take it really quickly with a swallow of water in the morning before we run off to work.

Life in Christ really is about simple obedience over time.

And that is not glamourous, or sexy, or instant, or easy.

So one of my challenges to myself, and to the Central community I lead, is that I'm going to continually challenge us to be immersed in the Word of God much more regularly. To MAKE the time (not find the time) to have a regular time and space to encounter Christ.

What keeps us from doing this now? What keeps you from doing this now?

How much time and energy do I spend on Facebook, or watching TV, or playing games on my computer, etc.? Is that stuff really producing fruit in my life? Is it producing fruit in your life?

Why do we fear regular spiritual disciplines? I often hear people suggest that they fear legalism. We are SO FAR from legalism it's amazing. So what is it?

I want to be more hard core about my relationship with God and my life as a disciple.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Monks are Hard Core, part 1

(Or, "Lessons Learned from spending a few days with the Monks in the Abbey of Gethsemani.")

I've never had a desire to be a monk. 

There. I said it. 

I'm not really into liturgical worship; I can't chant; I enjoy speaking (at least on a limited basis); I'm not sure the robe thing would be all that flattering to my figure; and the whole celibacy thing...

But this week I did a retreat at the Abby of Gethsemani. The Abby of Gethsemani is a community of Trappist Monks located just south of Bardstown, Kentucky. They are probably most known for being the monastery of Thomas Merton, a famous author and mystic. I always thought the monk thing was kind of retreatist (I mean, it is) and therefore I've held a theological bias against the whole idea. But I walked away with deeper understanding of and incredible respect for this community of people who have felt God calling them to set their lives apart in this unique way. Here you have these people who have given their lives, many of them spending 20, 30, 40 years in this place. Living this life. Doing this work. 

So let me begin by laying out the typical monk day. And when I say "typical," what I mean is EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. For monks, there is something spiritual about the discipline of repetition and of meeting God in the plain. The ordinary. The routine. 

The day is built around what is called, "The Divine Office" - in this case, a series of readings spaced throughout the day. The idea of the Divine Office is pretty simple -- this is a very practical way to practice the scriptural mandate to "pray without ceasing." And let me say, it's pretty darn effective. More on that later.

It begins by waking up at 3 a.m. 

Yep. That's a.m. Morning. The one without the sun.

Vigils - The bells ring, they gather in the sanctuary and begin their first worship at 3:15. a.m.

"Vigil" is from a Latin word meaning "wakefulness" -- but it is actually supposed to be a period of time when you are sleepy. I've heard it defined before as a kind of "purposeful sleepiness." (So having it at 3 a.m. works well.) They gather, sing, chant and pray. It's often done in darkness. Different scriptures. Mostly the Psalms. The monks pray through the entire books of Psalms every month. For their entire lives.

Now, obviously, it's early. But this was, by FAR, my favorite service. There was something really holy about gathering at 3 a.m. to pray. More on this later in my next post.

After Vigils, they returned to their rooms to read scripture or study. I would hope they occasionally nap, but we weren't told that. 

Then they gather again at 5:45 am for "Lauds" (the name is based on a particular kind of psalm). Again, more scripture, some songs. Mostly, they do a back and forth chant from one side to another: one side sings a line of scripture, the other side sings they next. 

Then they celebrate Mass at 6:15. (more on that later, but I've never appreciated United Methodist's insistence on an "Open Table" for communion more than I did this week.)

Then at 7 a.m. they eat breakfast. Breakfast every morning was oatmeal and some fruit. They also had cereal, bread and cheese available. Breakfast is taken in silence (a recurring theme in this post) and is to be eaten fairly quickly. There is only a half hour for all meals. Apparently monks don't want to waste time on things like chewing.

After breakfast, at 7:30 a.m., they return to the sanctuary for Terce. Now, as I learned in seminary, Terce is the third hour prayer after sunrise (which is considered 6 a.m.). So Terce usually is said at 9 a.m. I have NO IDEA why these monks say it at 7:30. I was going to ask but... well... there was this vow of silence thing so there weren't a lot of opportunities for Q and A. 

After Terce, they went to work. Work varied from monk to monk, but it was anything from landscaping, to farming, to making cheese or fudge, to cleaning, to administration, to counseling, etc. But it was all done in the abbey. And they did basically the same kind of work every day. So it's not like you make fudge one day and farm the next. You do the same job, year after year. Again, it's this idea of discovering God in the mundane. The ordinary.

Sext - At noon the bell rang again and at 12:15 they gathered in the sanctuary for Sext. Sext is the 6th hour and is usually done at noon. Again, more psalms, hymns, prayers. Same seats. Same routine.

At 12:30 we went to the dining room for Dinner. Yes, they call lunch, dinner. It's an age-old argument. In reality, "dinner" just means the largest meal of the day. For many of us, that is our evening meal, but for the monks (and much of the rest of the world), it's the noon meal. Again, it was a simple meal. Salad. Beans and rice. Spaghetti. Bread and cheese. There was always plenty, but it was nothing fancy.

After dinner they would return to work until 2:15 p.m. when they gathered again in the sanctuary for None. 

None is the 9th hour prayer (usually at 3 p.m.). Our abbey of monks were rebels and prayed it 45 minutes early. Those wild and crazy monks. Pretty standard service as before. Each of these services lasts somewhere around 20 minutes.

After None there was "free time" until the 5:30 Vespers service. I really don't know what they did during free time. Some, I was told, took a short nap. Or read. But even during free time, there was still a vow of silence on the property. And it's not like they leave the property much. Although occasionally I caught a monk or two talking. (more on that later).

Vespers is the "end of day" service or "Evening song" service. It happened at 5:30 p.m. Again, it was structured basically the same every day and consists of psalms and readings. I'm betting if you google these terms you can catch some of the nuances. And the service will probably vary a bit from community to community. But each service had a standard opening and kind of theme.

Supper was at 6. A smaller meal and usually eaten in silence. Sometimes during Dinner or Supper they would play a tape with a lecture or sermon about the contemplative life. Honestly, I could have done without it. They also offered two other rooms: one with silence and one were you were permitted (but certainly not encouraged) to talk. They don't talk a lot around here. In fact, this is the first retreat I've EVER done where I could not tell you a single person's name or anything about them.

Compline was the final gathering of the day at 7:30 p.m. Next to vigils, this was my second favorite service. Compline means "complete" and the idea is that we all gather and say, "Now the day is complete. It has ended." (The literal phrase used is: "All having assembled in one place, let them say Compline.") I LOVED this service. It wasn't that much different from the others, but there were always these prayers and psalms that talk about God's mercy and power and protection. They would sing this hymn about God watching over us while we slept and how God never sleeps or slumbers. It closed with us being invited into the main area to line up behind the monks for a blessing from the Abbot. I'm not into liturgy much, but I love the concept of the blessing.

Compline begins a period called "The Great Silence." While everyone is basically silent during the day, there are exceptions. There are rooms where people can talk if they need to. Some monks occasionally leave the monastery building during free time. (I was out walking and I head this talking and laughing. I looked up, and there, at the top of the hill were these two monks sitting in a golf cart, just looking over the fields, talking.) But the "Great Silence" is a deal breaker. You don't talk at all after Compline. And it's pretty magical.

So what did I do all day between all that praying?

Well, for one I didn't watch TV. Or listen to any media. No computer. No internet. No Facebook. No phone. No texts. It was wonderful and, honestly, really odd.

A good deal of time I sat in my room, pulled a chair up to the window. The room was very nice and comfortable, but small and sparse. A bed, a desk and a chair. I read a lot of scripture. I prayed and journaled about my thoughts and experiences. I spent a lot of time praying for my family, Central, my staff, people in the congregation, other pastors. I took very long walks. They had statues spaced out along miles and miles of walking trails. I'm not a big statue person but I enjoyed long leisurely walks in silence every morning and evening, sometimes for hours. I confess I napped a couple of times. And I tried not to seem like I had to be "spiritual," but honestly, it's hard not to be.  Sometimes I just looked at the beauty around me.

So I know this has been a really long post, so I will post my observations about the experience later. It was a great experience. And I really walked away from it thinking there is a lot we can learn from these people. If nothing else, you have to admire their discipline and devotion. It was REALLY HARD work being that attentive to God. And I once again questioned if we don't REALLY cheapen what it means to be a disciple of Christ. How many people claim to be followers of Jesus yet struggle with a daily devotional time. How easy it is in our world to go hours and even days and not really give much thought to God. The monks got it right on this one. 

Stayed tuned for part 2, but does this day sound inviting to you? Why or why not? Anything surprise you?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Planning a vacation is like writing a sermon...

I'm planning my first cross-country trip with my family (I can't get the song, "Holiday Road" out of my head). Myself, my wife and daughter, as well as my sister-in-law and her daughter are all packing into a van and driving to the Grand Canyon.

Well, I just decided that was the destination.

I was leaning toward the Grand Tetons/Yellowstone, but I apparently had to book hotels a LOT earlier. And there were a LOT of hotels to book, and none of them allowed you to see what dates were open... you just had to enter dates and hope for the best. Most didn't have even two nights in a row. Sheesh. Frustrating.

I have spent a ton of time on the internet, at AAA (not very helpful at all), and talking with people trying to plan this trip. And honestly, it was getting frustrating. Hotels were hundreds of dollars a night or everything was booked. Someone offered to lend me their trailer and, for a while, I thought we would be camping. Then my ever-wise father-in-law reminded me that I would be doing the work setting up and getting stuff ready after driving 12-15 hours a day, with kids, and maybe I should just stay in hotels. He's a very wise man.

But this was not an enjoyable thing to be doing. Until....

A watershed moment: a friend and former Centralite offered me her family's time share. One possible location was just over 2 hours from the Grand Canyon (and about the same distance -- day trips -- from some other areas I thought about going like the painted desert, some other national parks, etc).

First, this was an amazing act of generosity. It cut my vacation costs in half, at least.

But it did something else.

It provided a destination.

Knowing that we were going to that spot, and that it would be our "home base" for a week, allowed me to plan around that destination. And suddenly my trip planning fell into place. What was initially taking days, even weeks to plan, I mostly did in a couple of hours.

And now it's MUCH more fun.

And although I'm on sabbatical and not supposed to be working, I immediately thought of preaching.

I can spend FOREVER getting started. For me to write a sermon, I need to figure out a key point. The destination. This one idea I want everyone "to get."

And I can spend a LOT of time trying to discover that one destination.

I can read book after book. Study ideas and words. Write pages and pages and pages that I know will eventually end up on the cutting room floor. But I need to get that one destination.

And once I uncover that destination, the rest is so much easier.

Then, all I really need to do is to figure out the best path to get there. When do I want to take the time to "take in the sights" and do a couple of leisurely side trips, and when do I just need to "plow through Kansas" while the kids are complaining in the back. And then, how do I "get home" once the point is made? And how long do I take to get there so people don't get too tired of sitting? What do I want them to remember after the trip is done?

But getting that "destination" makes it all easier. Getting that one thing make the rest of it flow.

And maybe life is that way. Maybe when we "get" the big idea, all the other ideas flow naturally from that.

When asked what the greatest commandment was... sheesh, there were 613 of them... Jesus said, "Love God, love people. Everything else is a side trip. Everything else supports that one place. That one idea.

By the way, I"m VERY thankful for my gracious friend and her family for her gift of our destination. Thanks for loving me and my family through your act of generosity. I know you are reading this... so thanks. I'm very grateful.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Messy Christianity

Warning: like most of my posts, this is as much for me as anything. No time is spent editing for grammar, punctuation or, God forbid, spelling. Take it as it is written. :)

So I've been reading Acts lately and thinking: "Wow, this early church thing is not as clear as we want to make it."

Interesting (and maybe obvious) thought: most of the early disciples did not have a New Testament.  There may have been parts of Mark floating around. Some other writings most likely circulated. They had their oral tradition of stories. But there were no completed gospels. No letters. The Apostle Paul didn't have the letters of Paul to refer to because... well... um... you get the point.

So honestly, they just made a lot of this "discipleship" thing up on the fly.

I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit wasn't leading. I'm not saying God was not a part of the process. But God certainly seemed (as in much of scripture) to give them some leeway to discern on their own. I know that this might make some of my readers uncomfortable, but as I read the bible, it's there. You really can't avoid it. Sometimes it seems the Holy Spirit directly guides... and other times, they throw the dice.

I would guess their theology was driven by Jesus' greatest commandment: in short -- "Love God, love people -- all the other commandments are summarized by this." So whenever they had a choice to make, they would ask, "What does love require of me? What does love look like in this situation?" And that is what they did.

Acs 15: People from Judea come to Paul and say, "People have to be circumcised to be a disciple of Jesus." This doesn't seem to be quite in line with what Paul has been teaching -- in fact they seem to fight about it -- so a group of disciples go to Jerusalem to gather with other believers and "consider the question." While there, there appears to be a lot of, "I think..." and "Well... no, I think..."  that goes on.

And then Peter says, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." (Acts 15:19-20) In the letter written back to the people they write, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."

It seemed good? 

It SEEMED good?

I mean, given the severity of what they were talking about (especially for the guys), I'm thinking that SEEMED is something you might want some more certainty on, right?

Also interesting -- Paul later writes that abstaining from food polluted by idols and following dietary laws are are no longer requirements either (So much for those).

Now, I'm not being a heretic here, I'm really not. I'm not throwing out the bible. But maybe we are making this "disciple" thing more complicated than it is. I love theology and a good discussion as much as the next person (probably more), but maybe the question we might ask in every situation should be: "How do I love God and people in this situation?"

Over the past couple of years, I've become a bit more humble in my theological positions. In some ways, I'm actually much more secure in what I believe and hold firmer convictions. But I don't feel I need to win every theological argument anymore. I don't feel the need to be right all the time. Honestly, I don't think I have to even have a clearly thought out theological position on ever issue.

And as I think back to my "college Paul" -- I'm not sure that guy was all that loving to people, especially people who disagreed with him. I often felt threatened. I was insecure. I functioned out of fear. I really wanted to be right.

Maybe this post is an asking of forgiveness and an act of repentance.

But maybe it is the hope that the faith I hold now is closer to what Jesus hopes for me than the one I held before. At least, that is what "seems good to me" now.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sabbatical Reflections

So I'm thinking that I will share some of my learnings about myself as I move through this sabbatical time. Honestly, these are as much for me as for my readers. But if I'm publishing them on a public blog it must mean I don't mind you reading them. Your thoughts are welcome if you wish.

I'm also guessing some of these might even change as I think more about them and gain insight. Honestly, they are more of a snapshot of what I'm thinking at this moment. So for what it is worth:

#1. I really AM an introvert.

When I've done the Myers Briggs type tests in the past, I have waffled between introvert and extrovert. Actually, the older I get, the more I more I seem to move into the introverted category. (I suspect that is because I spend SO much of my life around people so I'm more aware of energy.)

I've alway have people question if I'm really an introvert. I think this is funny. ("But you speak in front of people!" or the more accurate, "You are a verbal processor!" etc.)  Granted, my desire to verbally process has been the thing that has made ME question my introversion the most, as I love to talk things out.

But if we define "introvert" as the Myers Briggs indicator does --"Introverts get energy from being alone" and "Introverts prefer to spend time in the inner world of ideas and concepts vs the outer world of people and things," than I'm an introvert. Still a mild introvert, but an introvert none-the-less.

I've found that the times I've been most energized in the past couple of weeks have been the times when I have been alone. Reading. Walking. Thinking. Although I HAVE enjoyed some times with friends (even though I haven't spent a lot of time with people so far), I haven't desired being with people as much as I thought I would. Granted, I know those times are coming. But for now, I'm enjoying my introversion.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Some of the content of this post was written 2 years ago. For various reasons I didn't publish it. So I updated it and am publishing it now. But it's longer than 142 characters.  :)

To know me is to know my dad. I'm Ed's son. So much of who I am, so much of what I do, has been formed by my dad. This post is from a series of reflections on some life lessons my dad taught me. They are based out of the eulogy I did for my dad's memorial service on April 7, 2010.

Life Lesson #4: "There's always a spot up front."

My family camped a lot. We traveled a lot. We spent a lot of time in the car.

And when I was growing up, even well into my adulthood, whenever we would go someplace, a restaurant, a mall, a theme park, a movie theater... wherever... dad would often get there late. And there would be this huge parking lot, maybe hundreds, even thousands of cars, and dad would boldly drive up to the front, right in front of the door or the gate... and he would almost always find a spot. Not like this car in the picture, but an actual open one.

Right up front.

It was uncanny. //

And the first several times he did that, I just thought it was luck. Then I thought it might even be some big conspiracy or set up; like he planned it somehow.

But again, for dad it was a teachable moment.

He would say, “Paul, there is always a space up front. Everybody assumes there isn’t, so most people won’t take the time to look. They just resign themselves to parking in the back. But a lot of the time, if you take the time, you will find a space up front.”

And of course, for dad, this pointed to a deeper reality that I saw lived out in his life... even toward the end when things were really hard for him: Dad always assumed that he was lucky. I mean, anyone who plays cards with him knows he was lucky. But dad assumed that he had as much of a shot at opportunity as anyone.

“Give it a shot, it might as well be you.”

Later, when my dad began using faith language, he called himself "blessed." [He heard a pastor defined "blessed" as being "favored by God" -- and that really registered with my dad for some reason.]

Dad often said, “I’m the luckiest man alive. I have your mom, you kids, a good job...” And then he would say, “There are very few times in life where everything is going well. This is one of those times. It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

I was going to post a couple of times when I didn't take his advice -- when I chose to not risk the spot down front -- and maybe I will at some later post -- but in some ways I carry his worldview.

I've never been a "my best days are behind me" kind of person. I certainly don't look to High School or College as my glory years. Actually, I love my life right now.

But again, recently, I stopped "looking for a space up front." In faith language, I think I walk by faith less today than I did years ago. I see that reflected in my prayer life. I see it reflected in my leadership. 

I've become a calculated risk taker. Maybe that is not a bad thing... but it doesn't feed my soul.


Confession: There is something I like about Facebook. It is a quick capture of what is going on right now. It's sort of a way to log my life and thoughts. It has served me well over the years.

But I've been reading through the back years of this blog -- and there is a depth here that I would never dream to take onto Facebook. Mostly because I'm betting few people actually care about me enough to read beyond 2 sentences or glance at a nifty picture. But I think I'm deeper than 140 characters. Or at least I used to be.

House of Breakfast

So I have very few protected times in my schedule. Honestly, I live my life giving people/work a lot of accessibility. Maybe too much. I often allow people [read: "my ministry"] to dictate my schedule.

"Hey Paul, I need to meet with you but I can only meet [lists times]."

I look at my calendar. I have sermon writing time scheduled then. I move my sermon prep time to accommodate that person.

"Hey Paul, we have this conference/district pastors' meeting on Monday. It is the best time for us to meet."

I don't need to look at my calendar. I know it is supposed to be my day off. Interesting: a lot of district and conference meetings are set on Mondays. Why? Because they know that pastors are often free those days. It's often a day off for pastors -- so they schedule meetings then. Yes, that is really sick if you think about it. Way to build health into your leaders!

These accommodations may not seem like a big deal for most people, but what it means for me is that I often don't take a full day off. Or I'm often writing at home-- sometimes really late/very early hours of the morning to get some alone time. Or work cuts into family time, or time with my wife.

And for some reason I allow this to happen.

As a pastor I allow others to dictate my schedule. It seems more servant like. You know; holy... to be accessible to everyone at any time.

Well, except for Saturday mornings.

Saturday between 9 and 12 is sacred to me. They are the most protected 3 hours of my week other than our actual weekend worship/gathering times. On rare occasions I have allowed those Saturday morning hours to be intruded on -- a membership class twice a year or an occasional conference meeting. But it's rare. I've said "no" to a lot of great opportunities because they conflict with Saturday mornings.

What is so special about Saturday mornings?

I have a standing date with my daughter at the "House of Breakfast."

I've written about this a lot in the past, so I'm not going to belabor the point. But that time is holy to me. The long walk there and back, holding hands. Reading at the table (currently "Prince Caspian"). Sharing a meal with just the two of us. No hurry. No distractions.

Those moments feed my soul.

I'm writing this because I just found out that my wife scheduled some piano thing for Lydia on a Saturday and she didn't check the time... it's during our holy time. And I'm mad. Really angry. Not at Laura necessarily -- but that my soul will shrink a bit on Saturday missing that time. And it makes me really sad.

I want to establish more routines into my life that feed my soul: dinners with friends, game nights, date nights, trips with my daughter. Which means I have to do less of some things. I just don't know what those things are yet. But something has to go. Somehow I need to free up more time for living beyond my role as pastor. And my role as pastor has to become more defined.