I am (I admit) hopeless at this blogging business! Other things get in the way and I struggle to find the time to blog, even although it only takes a few minutes. It may be poor planning, poor prioritising, poor discipline or all three (and more). Whatever it is, I seem not to blog as often as I would wish.
But this is in some measure the story of my life. The important gets sacrificed on the altar of the urgent. Of course, sometimes things are both urgent and important. One of the visits I made today was to someone who is nearing death. Clearly the visit was both urgent and important. I wish those of us who are minsters and who have the immense privilege of sitting with, praying with and ministering to the dying could adequately communicate to others how deeply moving, sometimes very emotional and yet always strangely uplifting and encouraging such ministry can be. Rightly or wrongly, I think of myself as a more natural preacher than I am pastor. And yet, if I look back at the most significant and meaningful moments in my over 30 years of ministry then almost all of these involve sitting by the bedside of someone who is dying.
What a privilege it is.
But this brings me back to the battle between the important and the urgent. Getting a paper together for the next Kirk Session meeting may be urgent (there is a deadline after all) but is it more important than sitting alongside a dying person, visiting a city centre workplace where there has been a tragic bereavement, having a coffee and chat with a seeker who is wondering about life and faith and meaning and so on and so on?
Prioritising is a daily battle and a daily chore; and I too often get it wrong.
And sometimes it is spiritual practice and discipline that can become perfunctory or formulaic. Spending time in prayer, studying God’s word, devoting oneself to meditation on the wonders of God’s love, drinking deep at the well of God’s grace… all can be squeezed into an ever shorter space because of the perceived demands of ‘work’.
And when that happens, then where are the resources for ministering to those in need?
I was listening to the radio recently and one of our prospective Olympians was being interviewed. She was asked about her own preparation regime. It sounded daunting! And yet she was utterly dedicated to it because she is focussed on the goal.
It brought to mind the words of the Apostle Paul;
‘Athletes exercise self control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.’ (I Corinthians 9: 25)
On the radio programme the interviewer asked how she could maintain her focus, sacrifice and discipline. She admitted that it was not always easy, but that she had to ‘dig deep’.
These words struck home.
I (and all of us who seek to minster to others in preaching, pastoral care, leadership, vision) need to learn to ‘dig deep’… not simply into the depths of our own character; dig deep into the infinite resources of God who has poured out upon us the gifts and power of his Holy Spirit.
We have been provided with an infinite resource (as we recall at this season of Pentecost). There’s a lot of digging to be done!