Thursday, November 25, 2010

From Gaye Sharpe: "I had stopped paying attention..."

This past April my husband and I took a three week trip to Israel. One of the goals of the vacation was to discern the future with my current congregation. In other words I was contemplating resignation.
It had been a difficult year in ministry and I knew that I had to take some steps not to repeat it. I also wanted to own the part I played in the challenges the congregation and I faced and the conflicts in which we were embroiled. I required some distance from the pain and time to patch up the wounds.
I spent a day on the hill where it is surmised that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Perusing the library in the retreat centre I found a book on prayer which I read cover to cover in a few hours. The author now escapes me but listening emerged as the fundamental message.
In one of those epiphany moments, I realized that not only had I stopped listening or paying attention to the urgings of the Spirit, I had stopped paying attention to my own gifts and strengths in ministry. Since that day I have established a spiritual practice that has not only transformed my daily approach to my work, it has transformed my relationships with God’s people in my community.
My practices has become this:
·       I have set aside the first half hour of every work day where I book no meetings and I am not to be disturbed. If anyone asks for this time, I tell them this is my sacred time and I am not available. (Hopefully this is good modeling.)
·       I do not turn the computer on (very important I have discovered.)
·       I sit for 5 minutes looking out my window, noticing the day, and listening for where and how I am. I pay close attention to this. It’s amazing our lack of self-awareness sometimes.
·       For about ten minutes I read something – scripture, John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us, Thomas Keating’s Invitation to Love, etc. I seem to know what I need.
·       Then I write. My writings are conversations with God about how the readings speak to my life, gratitude for this day or a plea for help (this usually relates to my getting in touch with me time). The bulk of the conversation is about setting my intention for this day in which I serve God. Often the conversation will travel through my daily agenda and I ask for the gifts I will need to be faithful, to love these people, to be open to their joys or pain, to listen with care and compassion, to act justly, to be gentle with myself.
The concept of spiritual practice is not new to any of you. I share this story because of the difference it has made. I now look forward to coming to work, I laugh (a lot) and have grown to love these people. Worship has depth and authenticity and I function out of my God-given strengths. Truly the glory is God’s.
Submitted by Gaye Sharpe, presently serving at Oak Bay United Church in Victoria


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Gaye. Nearly two and a half years into retirement I have yet to develop a new pattern of spiritual practice. And I'm feeling the lack. It's surprising that although I'm supposed to have more time, it seems more difficult to structure a spiritual practice now than when I was working (as if I'm not "working" now.) Your post has inspired me to work at this again. I especially like the part about "don't turn on the computer".
    Kim MacMillan

  2. Thank you Gaye. I posted my post before I read yours. Isn't it interesting how we get into the work of our day as Christian leaders thinking we can offer support, care and spiritual guidance while forgetting to spend time with the holy ourselves. I have found the initial practice challenge so life-giving.

  3. Thanks for going first Gaye! I love your advice about NOT turning on the computer right away in the morning. Once my computer is on, I am sucked into its vortex. Still, I know the computer is not to blame. The problem is me. It's up to *me* to make things like prayer, meditation and journaling my priority (rather than my email and my "to do" list). So -- I am recommitting to do just that, right here and now. Thanks.