So, I was thinking, “Wow. It has been a month since I posted on this blog. What is up with that?” The answer is both simple and complex. First, I have been away for two weeks teaching in the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) Doctor of Ministry (D. Min) in Preaching Program. I am a graduate of this program and have had the privilege of being an advisor to Lutheran students in the program for about six years. I have been a professor in the program for about five. Each summer the students all come to Chicago for three weeks, gather at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and learn about preaching. All of the students are already experienced pastors and are seeking to grow in skills, knowledge, spiritual strength and earn a professional degree called “Doctor of Ministry.”
I continue to teach in this program because God called me to do so. When I accepted my call to be Lead Pastor at Holy Trinity, continuing to teach was a condition of my acceptance. As a pastor ordained into the whole ELCA, I have a call to serve not just here in Ankeny, but in the synod and across the church as I am able. This program is an ecumenical program with students from various traditions and cultures. They come from all over this country, Canada, England, Sweden, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Asia and places I know I have forgotten. Each year I have the opportunity to help 20-30 preachers proclaim the gospel more effectively wherever they live and work. It is an honor to have the responsibility and the opportunity. It also leads to the second part of my reason I have not written lately – writers block!
One occupational hazard of pastoral ministry is that it is very easy to become so busy trying to feed others the spiritual food necessary for daily living that we forget or struggle to stay filled up ourselves. My daily prayers and devotions, my personal study and Sabbath time all can help – if I manage to get them in the schedule. There comes a time, however, when a pastor needs to get connected to the church and God’s Word in more intentional and intensive ways. Spending two weeks listening to a couple dozen sermons, talking with other pastors, hearing the lectures of some of the best teachers the Church can offer all helps feed me. When the pastor’s spiritual tank gets low, this pastor gets writer’s block. When I become “spiritually dehydrated” from not taking enough of the Living Water that is the Word of God, I start to shrivel. Like my lawn, I get stressed and stop growing.
I’m not sure this phenomenon applies just to pastors. The psalmist says of all the faithful that “their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:2-3) Think of this image – God’s Word keeps us spiritually hydrated and fed. It makes us “prosper” or grow into people who can handle the droughts, the winds, the stresses placed upon us. We don’t dry up in the face of constant heat. Instead, we keep being refreshed by God. It seems to me that staying rooted in the deep waters of God is essential to a healthy life for all of us.
So, for me, it is writer’s block and a tired mind. I come back from teaching with a mind and heart full of images and spiritual food I never imagined. What does the drought of the soul look like for you? When are you not prospering, but going dormant like my grass? Perhaps getting reconnected to the Word of God, to prayer, to the community of faith will provide some refreshment for your dry soul. What do you think?