Monday, December 15, 2014

Third Monday of Advent: Noticing

In early November, my church hosted a "fall festival." It was part Halloween, part precursor to Thanksgiving, complete with costumes & trunk-or-treat, a hayride, a turkey craft, and a firepit. The whole family attended along with 50-60 of our fellow members: Coffeeson collected plenty of sweets, Coffeewife mostly worked on the family craft, we took turns chasing Coffeedaughter around, and I generally floated from one station to another, observing, laughing, talking.

In general, I find things like campfires and firepits to be meditative. There is something about a flame that is relaxing to me in a non-pyromaniacal sort of way. Just watching it dance and move and spark eases my mind.

In the case of this gathering, the firepit session served as our time to wrap things up. We sang a few songs and shared a devotion before dispersing. The fire had been going for some time before, with people moving in and out of the circle depending on other activities and whether one's child demanded attention.

I was able to spend some time around the flame shortly after it began, along with a handful of others. More would wander over, with many side conversations threading themselves around the circle. During this part of the evening, I made it a point to notice the others with whom I shared the fire's warmth: the young family that had joined the Sunday prior, the middle-aged couple whose wedding I just officiated, the bundled-up baby I'd baptized. It was the type of moment that helped me realize how much I'd been settling in; how thankful I'd been to be involved with these people and with this congregation.

At the end of November, I marked 10 years of full-time ministry. 10 years in two churches, and hundreds of relationships, pastoral moments, and blessed milestones between them. I've always considered it a privilege to be able to do this work, and I say a small prayer of thanks for that just before I lead worship each week.

With this being the week to think about joy, I hope that I always retain some sense of joy for what I do. When I can do things like stand around a fire and intentionally mark how I am already becoming a part of this church's life, I can remember why I love ministry and to be joyful.

It's been my experience that such noticing must be intentional. I was glad to notice those to whom I'd been called that night; to take joy in my time with them, both past and present. I want to keep noticing; I want to keep finding joy.