It’s been a while since I have written anything more than sermons, newsletter articles and Council reports. Until recently, I hadn’t made any prayer beads and everytime I sat down to try, it just didn’t happen for me. The summer proved to be busier than I anticipated. In fact, it was a beautifully spiritual time and through various events and ministry opportunities, I did connect with Jesus and I certainly connected with other people. While opportunities such as the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, KIDZ Alive Summer Music Camp, POPS Alive! Concert, and Drawn to the Word connected me with Jesus in very experiencial ways, I found that other intentional spiritual practices just didn’t happen.
So, here I am, it’s almost the season of Advent (at least it is fast approaching) and I have found myself reflecting more on my own spiritual practices over the last several months. And honestly, I have been in a spiritual wilderness (yes, it happens to all of us including pastors). I still prayed during this time. I prayed for people in my congregation. I prayed for my community, nation, and the world. I would read devotionals. I also read some books. But what I discovered was that I wasn’t taking the intentional time to listen to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. I was just going through the motions.
Reflection on this time, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. If you ask me about my summer, I can tell you all the amazing times I saw the Holy Spirit at work. The Holy Spirit was at work in a stadium full of 30,000 plus high school students. The Holy Spirit was at work with kids and adults singing the Lord’s praises while being their creative and unique selves. The Holy Spirit was at work when I found myself on television twice this summer talking about hunger issues in the Northwoods and about the need for clean water in Flint, Michigan and throughout the world. The Holy Spirit was at work as Pastor Paul Oman painted a beautiful painting to music and scripture right before our eyes. The Holy Spirit was indeed at work, and I witnessed that work first hand.
But for me, personally, I needed to recharge. Watching the Holy Spirit work and being a part of the action can be exhausting. Jesus even had that experience. “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31-32). We all have these times in our lives. It feels like we are wandering in the wilderness of our spiritual life because things in our lives are coming and going and we don’t even have a chance to catch our breath. But when we reflect back, we are able to see how the Holy Spirit was at work. And with Jesus’ grace, we know that we can stop, rest, and regroup. Jesus always takes us back into his loving embrace. Jesus always desires a relationships with you, even when we are in our wilderness places, even when we just go through the motions, even when we are not taking the time to listen.
So, as the snow falls lightly (and the wind blows) in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, it’s time to recharge. It’s time to find rest and solitude. It’s time to walk in the woods and listen to the snow under our feet and thank God for all of creation. It’s time to write and color and paint and bead, letting God’s creative work flow out of us. It’s time to serve those in need as we walk and drive around our community noticing people we don’t take the time to notice. It’s time to listen to music and go to a school concert. It’s time to write a letter to someone or pick up the phone call and pray with them. It’s time to try a new spiritual practice like Centering Prayer, Daily Examen, Lectio Divina, and more.
It will be difficult to find that intentional time and place and to make it a daily habit. In many ways it was difficult for the Israelites/Hebrews to leave Egypt and their wilderness wanderings and enter into the Promised Land. And, there will be times, when going back into the wilderness will be what we naturally do. But Jesus will be waiting. He will be waiting for us to rest in him once again. For Jesus is always present with us, walking in the wilderness with us.
Peace to you in Christ,
Pastor Andrea Fluegel