Jim Martin's Encouragement Note #78
Take Care of the Soul . . . Some Hear You and Others Really Listen . . . Give Your Kids a Precious Gift . . . The Emotional Expense of Ministry . . . Etcetera: Listening and Reading
(The “Quiet House,” — Laity Lodge)
The List of Five
Take Care of the Soul
Someone told me the “Quiet House” was remote. It certainly was! I neither saw or heard another person from the time I checked in until I checked out a few days later.
The Quiet House is owned by Laity Lodge, located deep in the Texas Hill Country, on the banks of the Frio River. The small house is surrounded by the trees and foliage common to that area. Each morning, I was greeted by deer, standing about a dozen yards from the front door.
The surroundings were beautiful and quiet. It was very quiet.
I felt very restless at first. I immediately began to second guess my decision to be there. Perhaps some of this restlessness was due, in part, to the pace at which I was living. After all, I was a minister - busy and often feeling behind. Now, I was experiencing a few days of solitude. Only later would I realize how important this solitude was for my mind and soul.
Soon, I began to enjoy the quiet stillness of the surroundings. I took hikes, watched deer, and read. I wrote in my journal.
There were two books I read and pondered. I finished reading Ian Cron’s book, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me. The other book I read was Matt Murray’s, The Father and The Son: My Father’s Journey into the Monastic Life. I found this on a small bookshelf in the Quiet House. Each one of these books was helpful as I was trying to get more clarity on my relationship with my dad.
I am grateful for these few days.
This time helped me realize how much I needed to care for my soul. Rather than moving from one active moment to the next, I needed time where I was still and silent before God.
Today, the early morning hours are an important time in which I care for my soul. Before I focus on the activity of the day and my to-do list, I want to consider my life before God.
Yet, there are days when the early morning hours are particularly challenging. There are days when it is hard for me to start the day focused on God. There are other days when this seems easier.
The most important thing for me you and me is to simply start. Start praying. Start reading a passage of Scripture. Start pondering a thought about God.
At the very least, you and I can start.
Some Hear You and Others Really Listen
Not long ago, I read a very good article about NFL quarterback Jalen Hurts and his willingness to grow and learn. (The article is by Bruce Feldman in The Athletic “What Jalen Hurts has shown for years that sets him apart from his peers.”) In the article, Feldman refers to a quote from Hurts back when he was still a player at Oklahoma:
“Some people hear you, and some people listen. I listen and I apply it to my learning. I pull from different people, and that makes me better and that makes me wise. You’d think I’m the only person that’s ever played for Coach Saban by how I act. Maybe I’m just one that listened. I learned and I added more to my repertoire, and now I’m here at Oklahoma learning all these different things from Coach Riley, far more as a player but also as a person. The story is far from over.”
I love this line: “Some people hear you and some people listen.”
Some people hear you. They look around while you talk. They look at their phone. You may have the sense that this person is not fully present.
Then there are those who really listen. They are present and engaged. In the conversation, you feel as if this person was fully present.
I also like this line from Hurts. “I listen and I apply it to my learning.” This is helpful. Do I listen to another and then apply this to what I am in the process of learning?
*One practice that has helped me in listening is to show up prepared to write something down. Often, I will use the Notes app on my phone to make notes. On other occasions, I will show up with an ink pen and notebook. As I write this, I am looking at three pages of notes from conversations, readings, etc.
Give Your Kids a Precious Gift
Most parents I know really love and are devoted to their children.
Yet, sometimes fear can get the best of us as parents. We can fear that our kids are not experiencing a life that is comparable to their friends. Children may come home from school and talk about what their friends did on Spring Break. “They went on an amazing vacation!” You and your family went nowhere. Should we have planned a trip?
Or, kids may talk about other parents and how amazing they are. “They gave their kids a phone a long time ago, mom!”
As a parent you can become anxious. You may wonder, “Is my child missing out on what is fun? Is my child not experiencing the best life?”
Before you know it, you begin to spend money you don’t have in an attempt to create a better life for your children.
Yet, if you want to give your kids something really valuable consider the following:
1. Give your kids a dad and mom who respects their spouse - both in private and in public. What a valuable gift!
2. Give your kids a dad and mom who prays for them. If you are not praying for them, who is?
3. Give your kids a dad and mom who seek God above all else in life.
4. Give your kids a dad and mom whose example is worthy of imitation, instead of someone whose example they are having to overcome.
5. Give your kids a dad and mom who are more concerned about character and an having a godly influence than the appearance of success.
6. Give your kids a dad and mom whose life is genuine instead of deceptive.
7. Give your kids a dad and mom who live as a faithful spouse to the other. There is no justification for cheating— ever.
The Emotional Expense of Ministry (Especially for Ministers and other Church Leaders)
Recently I heard Kate Bowler (Duke University) express the following:
We have a lot of people in this community who are called into very emotionally expensive professions. They’re teachers and social workers and health care workers.
There are certain professions that are emotionally expensive. My wife, Charlotte, taught public school (primarily lower grades) for many years. She is a certified reading specialist but has also taught a variety of grades in the classroom. This is important work, challenging work, and yes, “emotionally expensive” work. Any teacher who deeply cares about their children will learn that there is a tremendous amount of emotion required.
Anyone who dares to serve as a minister in a congregation will also find out that this work is emotionally expensive. Is it ever!
Ministry to and with a congregation often brings joy and satisfaction. However, it also brings heartache, disappointment, and tears. Many ministers speak of a loss of confidence, burnout, depression, and loneliness.
The funerals alone are emotionally expensive. My first funeral was for a 26 year old woman who died of cancer. (At the time, I was about the same age.) Then there were the funerals for babies, teenagers, young fathers, and young mothers. I have done funerals for those who died by suicide, car wrecks, cancer, etc. I have done funerals for strangers and for very close friends. Sometimes the death was expected. On other occasions, family and friends experienced the shock of unexpected and sudden death of a loved one.
What I have just described is not unusual for any minister who serves long enough. Again, this work is emotionally expensive for most any minister.
Self-care is important and even critical to being emotionally healthy. However, such care does not exempt a minister from the emotional rigor that often comes with dealing with human beings.
A few suggestions:
Acknowledge the emotional rigor of particular seasons of ministry. Nothing is accomplished by denying the difficulty of a particular season. You do not exemplify strength by acting as if none of this really impacts you emotionally.
Ministry is done is a “body.” Your body has to be cared for and given attention in order to best navigate these challenges. Know that ignoring the care of your body will ultimately lead you down a dead end street.
Etcetera (Listening and Reading)
I recently read Ray Blount’s Elders at the Gate. This is an excellent book that gives a vision for growing and maturing as a shepherd, instead of just being content to grow older.
Just listened to Beth Moore’s memoir, All My Knotted-Up Life. This is a very good book which captured my attention and thinking.
I have been reading Paul Tripp’s excellent book Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions. Could be helpful for anyone working with a congregation in this culture of outrage.
Each Thursday/Friday, I post about ten tweets especially for ministers and other believers as they anticipate Sunday. You can find me @jimmartin.
I serve as Vice President of Harding School of Theology, Memphis, Tennessee. Every other Monday morning, I publish this “Encouragement Note.” You can subscribe at jimmartin.substack.com. You can also find me on Facebook - @jim.martin or Instagram - @jimmartin.jm. My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to write. I would love to hear what is encouraging or helpful. — Jim Martin