OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #269 Seasons of Intensity
One fall when I was in seminary, I noticed the leaves were gone. That wasn’t so remarkable since it happens every year. What caught my attention was that I couldn’t remember that the leaves had even changed colour. It was a little freaky.
There are seasons when we go through intense times. I’m in one right now since our church is searching for a senior pastor. We have a part-time interim senior pastor and a part-time worship pastor. Even still, there are extra responsibilities. I’ve been through this process before. When I was a youth pastor our church went two years without a senior pastor. I survived and even discovered some strengths, so that experience is helpful now.
But I’d be lying if I said there isn’t pressure and frustration. A lot, actually. I was trying to think of an appropriate metaphor or analogy, but I haven’t had the time. It takes a lot of energy to deal with the wide range of emotions I go through on a daily basis - the surge of adrenaline to deal with something important quickly, the disappointment of letting someone down, the frustration of having to put off even important things, the insecurity of making decisions normally made by someone else, the pressure to meet deadlines.
It's a wild emotional ride between the extremes of being overwhelmed on the one hand, and the excitement of feeling like we’re on the edge of a breakthrough, on the other.
I’m betting there are people who can identify with this experience, that I’m not the only one who feels these things, and so I wanted to pass along some thoughts that are helping to keep me from feeling like I’m going to lose it.
“Someday this will all be worth it in the end.” Someone told me this during their family crisis one time, and it has stuck. I keep it on my bulletin board, and it is a variation on Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.”
“Don’t do anything to make it worse.” Or, stated in another way, “Don’t do anything stupid.” Temptations look sweeter and distractions look more interesting when we’re tired and under pressure. Giving someone a piece of our minds is generally not a good a idea. Revenge is never worth it.
“Treat people like people.” I have to guard my tone, especially. And, my thought filter doesn’t work as well. Sadly, the people closest are the ones to see this side of me. I have to be very careful.
“Be more careful with major decisions.” These decisions may be life decisions or purchases: buying or selling property, changing jobs, change in marriage status. Stress changes the way we think and so we have to be careful not to think the first idea is the best one. We need to get more advice and take more time.
“Maintain important life routines.” While we can’t always control the circumstances which swirl around us, structure helps us put one foot in front of the other. I go to bed and get up at regular times and try to eat on schedule. I help get the kids off to school in the morning because this is part of a routine. And each week I take one of the boys for breakfast.
“Eat properly and get exercise.” This is part of routine, but more than this, when we’re under stress we have to take better care of our bodies. These days I’m doing things like parking further away from the door, taking the stairs when I visit at the hospital, or getting off city transit at an earlier stop to make sure I add some exercise even in small ways without taking a lot of extra time in my day. My dream would be to go to the gym or pool, but there isn’t time or money for this, so I add exercise in other ways.
“Look for the bright side.” Last night my snow blower wouldn’t start. It started in the summer, and it started a couple of weeks ago, but not last night when there was 20cm of snow in my driveway. Grumble, grumble. But, on the other hand, I got some exercise. That’s the bright side.
“Don’t give up Bible reading and prayer.” OK - I’m the “trained professional” in this area, and I face this pressure all the time. My guess is other people do, too.
“Put one foot in front of the other.” Every once in a while I have what I call a “low motivation day.” I feel blaw, unmotivated, not like working. I do anyway, but take care of some things that don’t need as much brain power. I find the feeling passes as I keep going.
"Problems don't get better by procrastinating." Some problems are not the crises they first appear to be, but generally speaking I find it better to tackle things quickly. When I put them off they always seem to come back, worse than before, and make more work. If I have to tell someone about a problem, expecially a mistake I made, I have found it better to get it out of the way. Bad news early is better than bad news late.
“Find ways to add fun-factor.” After not being very involved in youth ministry for a few years, this fall I stepped back in to help our youth groups. It was an extra that I couldn’t really afford time for, but it was too important for the youth of our church’s families, mine included. This has turned out to be a real joy. I’m also working with a youth band again and we did a worship service in our church a few weeks ago. This has been life giving, a real joy which adds “fun factor.”
“One day at a time.” This is my mother’s favourite, and I have found it to be true. We need to plan but worry is something different. As Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
Life inevitably brings seasons of intensity. I’m in one right now, and maybe there are OnFire readers in their own season. As always, I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a bi-weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Nov 24, 2011. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at http://www.onfireletter.blogspot.com/.