Antidotes……

For the first time in a very long time I’ve now got time to think. Like, really think. Moving countries twice in 13 months definitely took its toll on me in a lot of ways, but one of them was it took away my space and ability to think and process these thoughts. So watch out world…….I’m spending a lot more time by myself these days and therefore…..all the words I have….they may just appear on here….

I’ve been thinking about ‘burn-out’ in terms of ministry burn out and what brings people to that point. I’m not even sure what the clinical or professional definition of burn out would be, other than the loss of motivation to carry on with whatever ministry obligations one is supposed to be carrying on with. I once heard someone give the statistic that youth pastors survive two years in the job before burning out. I don’t know a stat for overseas missionaries, but I would be interested to hear it. And then I’d love to know how that compares with missionaries who stay in their home culture but their main job/ source of income would be Christian ministry of some form. How quickly do they burn out and how can we avoid this? I’m sure the info is out there, I just need to track it down.

My husband and I are fortunate. We were overseas doing mission work for nearly six years, and now we’re back in our own culture, but the mission work continues. We’re fortunate though because we’ve avoided burning out. But if I were to sit down and ponder this really closely and honestly with you, I think we, well really I, came pretty close to it a number of times. I don’t think the desire to chuck it all in and run away from home is a very healthy mindset to have, and I’ve felt that way a few times. And recently too.

Any walk that is walked alone is harder than it needs to be.

I harp on and I harp on in this blog about the need for community and for people to have people. And I still believe that is so very true. And I wonder with all my might, in my very simplistic way of thinking and looking at the world, if the very antidoteC to burn out, is to have someone in your life asking you how you are on a regular basis. Someone other than your husband/ wife, that is making the effort to actually inquire about you. Not asking about your partner, your kids, your ministry, your extended family, but YOU. Making you a priority.

Why do I think this is so important? Because we feel things. You and I feel things. And we need to have these feelings either validated, or squashed beneath our feet. We need to know that what we feel actually matters, and that we’re not alone in these feelings. We need to have these feelings taken to the Lord, and to gain His wisdom and insight into our issues. And sometimes we can’t do this by ourselves. Sometimes we get stuck in the moment. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we’re so used to making sure that everyone around us is ok that we don’t focus on ourselves.

What I am talking about is more than having someone we’re accountable to. It’s about having someone who is actually invested in us. Who makes us a priority.

What if everyone in Christian ministry of some shape or form had someone in their lives who was interested in them as a person with feelings…then I wonder what would happen to burn out rates then?

Now you may be thinking that surely this is already happening in most missionaries lives? Surely the organisations are looking after their people. Well some are and do and do a fantastic job at this. And some missionaries/ ministry workers are very good at having this in place in their lives. But not all. Not everyone wants to talk about their feelings. And not everyone knows what happens when their feelings aren’t listened to. Until it is too late. They want to run away from everything they know and love.

Now maybe not everyone needs to talk about their feelings as much as maybe I would like to be able, and that’s ok, but i do think most if not all people need to be able to process things, and if having someone who is able to hear you out helps, then awesome.

So why am I bothering to open up about this here and talk about my own simple thoughts and findings on a matter…….because if you’re reading this you’re likely to be a fellow Christian. If you have someone in your life who is involved in Christian ministry, can I implore you, start simply asking them about them. Not their family, not their ministry, not their spouse, but them. You may be the only person to do so, you’d be surprised. And if you’re in some form of ministry and all of a sudden get asked to share your heart, embrace that. You’re not dumping on someone, someone is actively showing they care for you and about you. Embrace it.

We need each other. Always and in all ways.
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The gardener and his helper.

It is getting quite toasty in these parts, these days. We don’t have daylight savings here, so most people’s days begin rather early.  It isn’t uncommon to see people already working hard at their daily tasks, while it is still rather early…..partly to make the most of time before it gets too hot, and because they are most likely going to be awake and up anyway.

Last week I was on my way home from dropping my two oldest boys at school, and I was stopped at a red light at a major intersection.  Whilst stopped, I began watching two people in the gardens of a church I was outside of.  One of the men was getting on in years.  Wearing a broad-rimmed hat, with long, neatly pressed trousers and a short sleeved shirt, and working boots.  He looked familiar with his work, and careful and tidy.  Let’s call him Mr Neat.  Mr Neat was mowing the lawns.  Standing reasonably close to where Mr Neat was working, was another man.  The gentleman also looked like he was getting on in years, only he looked dishevelled.  He was wearing way too many layers for what the temperature called for, he looked like he could have had a nice wee appointment with a barber for both his head hair and his facial hair, and he looked like he rather enjoyed his food, and he just seemed like he was in need of some extra care.  Let’s call him Mr Scruffy.

Mr Neat was the one who was doing the bulk of the work.  Mr Scruffy was close to him, watching him with ease.  There seemed to be a familiarity between the two, but from my simple observations I didn’t get the feeling they were related.  I got the feeling that if the two men were related, Mr Neat would have been the type of person to make sure Mr Scruffy wasn’t overdressed.  He would have seen that Mr Scruffy had clean hair.  You know what I mean?

So anyway…..Mr Neat was doing the lawnmowing, then he finished up the patch he was working on, and as he was doing that, Mr Scruffy opened up a gate, and walked the lawnmower through to a another area, while Mr Neat followed behind him.  Mr Scruffy looked pleased as punch.  He was helping.  I couldn’t hear any dialogue between the two men, I couldn’t see them talking, but there just seemed to be this natural flow between the two, as Mr Neat stepped back and let Mr Scruffy do something that obviously made him very proud, but Mr Neat followed very closely.  Ready to correct, help or intervene if needed.

Then my light turned green and the flow of traffic surged forward so I had to leave my observations and carry on my merry way.

But for however long this little vignette took, I was captured by it.

And then I felt the Lord speak to my heart.

In the picture I had just witnessed, Mr Neat represented the Lord.  He’s in control, he’s got things sussed.  He is the master gardener.  He’s tidy and organized, but he has his sleeves rolled up and he’s ready to do business.  And I am the Mr Scruffy.  I’m messy and uncomfortable in myself – yet God has no trouble with me coming near to Him.  I’m overdressed and ill-prepared for come what may, but God doesn’t look twice at that.  I’m more than happy to be near the Lord and to sit and watch Him at work, and when I’m ready to take flight, when I’m ready to action upon what I’ve been asked to do, God’s right there, right behind me, ready to intervene if needed, but urging me on, like a proud Daddy watching his baby girl walk for the first time…And you know God really isn’t looking for talent and ability, or presence or a certain personality type – He’s just looking for obedience.  If Mr Neat was worried that Mr Scruffy didn’t have the goods to really help, he wouldn’t have let him take over controls of the lawnmower.  But he did.  He, quite simply believed in him, definitely when others wouldn’t.

What an amazing God we serve…..always at the ready….in charge but let’s us ‘help out’ when we feel we can or should….

And you know what happens when a master gardener is given permission and freedom to do what they do best?  When they have ample resources and man power to put into their project?  Beauty happens.  Significant change happens.  Something that was dead, and ugly and lifeless is made attractive and brings joy to many.  Imagine what would happen the more we work hand in hand with our Master Gardener……just imagine…..

What a touching scene I witnessed that day, at that red light.  I pray that God blesses that Mr Neat in real life, and may Mr Scruffy always find acceptance and love, on those church grounds.

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Five Minute Friday: See

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START.

See.

At the moment everything I see is new.  New beaches, new roads, new shopping centres, new churches, new people, new new new.  New brands of food, new names for things, new customs, new new new.

It can be overwhelming.  I feel like my senses are on high alert.

And I’m in a first world nation.

Ohh how my heart grieves and how I admire those who God has called to serve in developing nations.  The poorest of the poor.  The sickest of the sick.  Culture shock?  I’ve got nothing on those who daily sidestep around disease, who face the very real threat of martyrdom, who are called to be the face and hands of Jesus to the most depraved of us all.

Such things these people must see.

Such things these people must hear.

Such things these people must feel.

Lord help us to remember those who are working for you in the most unpleasant places.  Who are serving you in the real combat zones.  Help us to encourage them, to pray circles of protection over them and to bless them mightily. Help us to partner with them, help us to shoulder some of their burdens.  Amen.

 

candle