Life it seems would rather not slow down for me. I entered this week anticipating craziness to some degree, but there are always the curveballs that we are thrown in the midst of life that we have to watch as they come, in hopes that we can get a piece of them, foul them off, and if we are fortunate, get a big hit.
For pastors and ministers, there are two times of the year that have the potential for being somewhat hectic: Christmas and Easter. Thinking it through, they should both be equally important for followers of Christ. You can't celebrate one without at least considering the other. Jesus' birth would not be nearly as important had it not been for his death and resurrection, and his death and resurrection would never have come had he not been born into the world.
Christmas seems to become a major focal point in the church, more so than Easter. Not really sure why we do more stuff during the Advent season than we do during the Lent season. Our church choir is putting on a cantata this coming weekend, we are doing a Maundy Thursday Living Lord's Supper drama (I get to play Jesus), and then we are having our regular Easter Sunday services. At Christmas time we had a full church concert and worship experience, we had an Advent family workshop, and we had our Christmas Eve services. So, it might not be fair to say that we have not given as much attention to Easter as we have to Christmas. I think the truthful thing is that I have not given as much attention to Easter as I have to Christmas.
I went into the Christmas season this past December with an intentionality unlike previous years. I planned to not be swept up into the hustle and bustle of everything. I did not want to lose my focus and I certainly did not want to burn myself out. So, like any good runner who is running a distance, I paced myself. I had checkpoints along the way that kept me grounded. The result was a really great Advent season. I did not feel too rushed. I did not feel distracted. I felt as if I were able to stop and participate in my life during that time.
A month after Christmas, life changed dramatically. Carrie and I found out that we were expecting our third child, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and school continued on as it had before. Just over two months later, Carrie is feeling better from her first trimester pregnancy sickness, my mom has completed treatment for her cancer and will hopefully be scheduled for surgery within the next few months, and school continues on. Above and beyond that, our pastor has been called into a new chapter in his life and will be leaving us at the end of the month.
It has been interesting and appropriate that we have been in a Sunday morning sermon series called "Reclaiming Life" for the past month or so. We have talked about finding time for rest, creating margin, cutting back to grow, and other things to help us live our lives to the fullest. The concepts, though simple, are so much more difficult to live out. It is much easier said than done and implementing these things is difficult.
Galatians 6:7-10 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
It's easy to want to give up. We may find ourselves facing difficult and uncertain circumstances. We may feel like we have no energy in the tank to even move ahead a few feet. But do we continue to sow, and are we doing it for ourselves? Paul's words to the Galatians here speak to the need to sow for the glory of God, to please the Spirit, rather than for the flesh. Again, much easier said than done.
But I find myself becoming weary as I do good. Sometimes, I just don't have the capacity to do it. Paul's words bring encouragement because we will reap a harvest...if we do not give up! As hard as it might be to continue, we need to press on. We might not have the energy, we might not have the motivation, but we do it not in and of ourselves. God gives us what we need.
May we all continue to press on. May we find our strength outside of ourselves in the One to whom we seek to bring glory. May we continue to do good, knowing that we will reap a harvest, we just can't give up!