Taking Time to be Present

In the process of writing a sermon for Sunday morning there is often quite a bit that ends up on the cutting room floor.  Whether it’s cut for time, or because the sermon ended up going in a slightly different direction (they have a way of developing and changing even as you are writing them), or you just can’t quite make that particular story/idea work, I will often end up with a document in the same folder as my sermon for that week that has the same title as the sermon with the word “trimmings” added to the end.  Sometimes those trimmings become the seed for my next sermon on that particular text/story.  Sometimes they languish in digital purgatory on my computer.  And sometimes they become a newsletter article! 

A few weeks ago, I preached on the story of Mary and Martha hosting Jesus in their home, and I shared that, as a life-long Martha, I really struggle with this story.  I am so quick to come to her defense (and thus defend myself as well) that I often miss what Jesus is really getting at – the importance of slowing down, of taking time to be present, and of not letting our to-do lists run us ragged.

When I was in seminary, the summer before I went on internship, I was a part of a group called the ELCA Global Youth Plunge (thankfully you just had to be under 30 to qualify as a “youth”) and we visited the Taizé monastery in France.  Their community holds three worship services a day (morning, midday, and evening), and during each service there is a period of 10 minutes of silence where you are asked to sit in reflective meditation.  Our group was there for a week, and the first day or two we would be squirming in our seats by minute four or five – just dying for it to be over.  But by the end of the week, we came to crave that 10-minute escape, that respite from the world.  It was a chance empty our minds, to let go of any worries or preoccupations for just a moment, and simply be.  Afterwards, we felt revitalized and renewed as we resumed our daily tasks and responsibilities. 

I’ve found the same to be true with the meditation practice that Alissa and I do before bed every night.  We do a 10-minute guided meditation using the Headspace app on her phone.  Pro-tip: They offer free subscriptions for teachers, and I would highly recommend checking it out!  It’s a way of clearing our heads before bed.  It sort of acts as this threshold between sleep and the rest of our day.  But when Alissa went out of town the other week, I decided that I would give myself the night off and skip it.  I am here to tell you; I had the absolute worst time falling asleep that night.  My mind just would not shut up.  You forgot to text so and so.  You need to write this email.  You need to remember to make that change to the bulletin.  Remember to do this when you set up for VBS tomorrow.  What if you talked about x, y, or z in your sermon?  Remember that time the teacher yelled at you in 3rd grade, and you were embarrassed?  On and on and on.  Lesson learned.  The next night I asked for her log in and started up our practice again by myself.

Now yes, I know that many of you are so overworked and overextended that the idea of finding time to do this is laughable.  And I’ve said before that God doesn’t just come to us in the peaceful, serene moments of our lives, but in the chaos and noise as well.  So, if this stresses you out, please just keep scrolling.  But I will also say that I have rarely ever just “found” time in my schedule for self-care.  There is always something else that I could be doing, some other task that I’ve forgotten.  And when it comes down to it, I need to make that time for myself.  We need to make time for our own personal well-being.  Because God created us so that we might have abundant life, and that we might flourish, and that has more to do with the quality of our lives, than it does with the quantity of our output.

In peace, Pastor Sam