I don't know about any of you, but I am such a book fiend I can see a box from Amazon and think, Oh! What did I order? And have no idea whatsoever.
Yesterday afternoon I found myself at home, for an extended stretch during which I was to do some work, and I opened such a box. Turned out, it was not something I ordered at all. It was a gift, from a colleague in my local judicatory. The woman in whose office I cried after a meeting last week. The box contained a book and a set of CD's by Byron Katie:
I Need Your Love-- Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval and Appreciation, and Start Finding Them Instead
Your Inner Awakening: Four Questions That Will Transform Your Life
So, there's that.
Last week continued on with more work for the judicatory, including a Saturday training event for church members that was attended by 19 churches (including my own-- we had 16 folks there). It was the annual event that Lovely Conservative Colleague and her husband were anxious about having me participate in. I have to confess this: from the time she and I had that conversation in November, I had not attended one planning meeting. Not a single one. I simply backed off, went away. They knew I was prepared to lead my session (Faithful and Vital Worship-- a presentation totally cribbed from this wonderful Tom Long book) and they knew I was prepared to co-lead worship.
I'd finally had one planning meeting, Thursday, I think, with my co-leader for worship. He is another very conservative guy-- a sweet man, very prayerful, the kind of guy who can break into one of those "Father, we just..." prayers. Frankly, I envy the ease of his prayer. But I digress. We'd had a meeting to plan worship, and I had one objective going in. I wanted us to use hymns the congregation would know. I wanted us to do them in a more contemporary way-- we'd be playing guitars and keyboard, jazzing up rhythms, maybe. But that was the one thing I heard last year as a critique of our worship-- we'd sung praise songs, which only about 5 % of the group had known, and it was not a helpful worship strategy. (And, by the way, it violates one of the core principles from the Long book: participatory congregational singing is vital.)
So I went into the planning meeting with one objective: songs everyone could sing. And at the end of the meeting I had exactly one well-known hymn (which could be found in the hymnal) and four praise songs. Which about 5 % of the congregation would know.
Why couldn't I stand my ground with this nice guy? Why did I let him suck up all the decision-making power in the room? Calling Byron Katie. Calling Byron Katie.
Fast-forward to Saturday. Worship is, actually, lovely-- though much of it feels more like performance to me. (The same person who complained about not having the music in front of them last year complained again this year.)
And my workshop-- 60 attendees. All, incredibly enthusiastic about it. People saying things to me such as, What church do you serve? They are so lucky! OK, I made that last one up.... but you could feel the love. Seriously! By the end of the day I was flying.
I went home and waited for Beloved. We were going out to dinner with two of our very, very favorite people in the world, a fabulous couple who are half-relocated 4 hours from here already. (C. is a brilliant professor, who has found a great match for her gifts at a college in another state. J. is a brilliant pastor in the Majorly Correct Church, who will be following her love in a couple of months.) When Beloved arrived I was slouched, half-sitting, half-lying on the couch, sort of spent.
I have to find some middle ground, I said. I have to find the center. I have to find someplace between dying a thousand deaths over the meeting I have to moderate wherein I am sure everyone will be furious with me, and the workshop I lead wherein I am the rock star whom everyone loves. I have to find a way to be ok with myself, peaceful and centered within myself, in the midst of both kinds of occasions.
Beloved nodded soberly.
The roller coaster of this week... I just can't keep doing this to myself, I said. I have to find the thread that runs through the peaks and valleys.
Maybe that's my Lent: finding the center.