The past few weeks have been exceptionally busy for me (more about why below!)—so busy that I've compared my efforts, focus, and work hours to planning three weddings simultaneously!
As much as I maintain and advocate for consistent prayer and self-care, I confess I've had days when these priorities have been buried under an exceptional number of demands.
- My anxiety over the possibility of missed details have led me to first open email instead of my daily bible podcast.
- My racing mind has led me to give up in frustration after just a few minutes of trying to settle into contemplative prayer.
- Rather than ask God for help, I've "stayed on top of everything" by letting my to-do list dictate what to do next—before adding more items than I've crossed off.
In my efforts to help God, I effectively squeezed God out.
But then, by "chance," a preaching colleague asked me how Backstory Preaching got started.
I explained that I had had a vision to help preachers get better at their craft, connect to God more deeply at the same time, and rely on a trusted community of colleagues.
Oh. Right. (Insert red-faced emoji here!)
In answering those questions, I was redirected to what my ministry, time and energy are really about.
Now I'm back to the daily basics: bible, prayer, and connection.
Almost all of us have exceptional times when we forget that what we most value is also what we most need—and that the reason we practice on the easier days is so we can rely on them on the harder ones.
Still, it's so hard to remember. How do we maintain focus on what we value and need when life tries to squeeze out the soul's priorities?
Connect with God as you are.
What can you do?
If the days are unusual, then reconnecting to God may need to be unusual, too.
And that begins with an unusual amount of self-compassion.
Mind racing too fast to settle into prayer? Maybe you need to exercise or stretch a little first to burn off some energy. If you do, who cares? Invite God to join in the activity until you can settle in together to the quiet. It's your intention to be with God that matters.
Too exhausted to engage your daily prayer ritual? Then maybe lay down on the couch and snuggle into God's loving embrace for ten minutes—and maybe even take a nap. Again, it's the intention, it's opening your heart to God's presence that God uses.
Be honest and bring to God you, as you are.
This is a sufficient offering.
The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing puts it this way: "God is not asking for your help. He's asking for you."
Remember the story of your calling.
Whether it was a middle-of-the-night, wake-you-from-sleep lightning bolt of a vision—
A slow, quiet creep of realization over years—
Or the last gasp of a resistance fight to which you finally succumbed—
—Something happened. God "got" to you and it couldn't be denied: God asked you to accept a call to preach.
Remind yourself. What happened? When? How? And if you know why, that's a total bonus. Write it down.
Sometimes, refocusing on your calling reminds you of the why of your work, which helps you better prioritize the what.
Remember your mission.
You were called to preach—probably along with a lot of other things like leading worship, offering pastoral care, and advocating for justice.
Within those functions, though, and in addition to obeying God, something matters very deeply to you. There's a core of something so important that if it isn't exercised, you sort of stop being "you."
What is that core?
Add it to your call story you wrote down. Put that call and mission where you can't avoid seeing it on those hard days.
My core, for example? To nurture preachers with the love of God so they preach from an ever-deeper wellspring of God's love for all.
Mine is now hanging on the magnetic whiteboard in my office. I hung it annoyingly in the center of the board with a magnetic clothes pin so I have to move it every time I need to see my to-do list. It's literally front and center where it serves as an unavoidable reminder.
So no matter how demanding the details and logistics of my call and mission become, I must reckon first with the Caller and the freeing perspective that reminder brings.
The Collective is Now Open!
The reason for my crazed pace of late is my excitement for the launch of The Collective! This vision has been in the works for over a year, and it's finally launched this week.
The Collective offers not just continuing education and formation, but the continuous education and formation that all preachers need to become more skilled—all while growing closer to God and preaching colleagues.
Learn more about how you might participate so you can become ever-more effective, efficient, and fulfilled as a preacher.
We hope you'll join us.