Our Own Spiritual Health First

oxygen maskEvery time you fly the pre-flight safety lecture by the flight attendants includes proper use of the oxygen mask. A loss of air pressure in the cabin will activate the dropping down of the oxygen masks. You’re instructed to put yours on before you attempt to help a child, or someone else, get theirs on. Why? You aren’t going to be able to help someone else get oxygen if you don’t first have it yourself. When you’re passed out you’re pretty much useless to anyone else.

I see a corollary for those of us who shepherd people along the spiritual journey. We aren’t going to be able to help them take in the breath of life unless we are first breathing that Holy Spirit rarefied air ourselves. I’m not comfortable with the secular philosophical statement, “Take care of yourself first,” but we really aren’t much good to others if we don’t first let God be good to us.

This means that I don’t allow the busyness of ministry to crowd out my own personal time with the Lord. This means that I don’t find my greatest satisfaction in ministering the Lord to others but in allowing the Lord to minister to me.

“And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22) We must inhale before we can exhale, take in a breath before we can speak, take in the breath of the Holy Spirit before we can exhale a Holy Spirit inspired word.

Inhale before you exhale, inhale and then exhale.  This concludes our breathing lesson for today.

Message from the Monks

For several days I’m doing a private spiritual retreat at a monastery near Dubuque, Iowa (from where I’m writing this). The New Melleray Abbey is home to some 30 Trappist monks.

The monks are committed to a life of reflection on scripture, prayer, and worship. At first I thought it seemed such a waste to spend all your time growing in your personal faith and yet not really reaching out to others. In spite of the 90 plus degree heat I’ve been able to think clearly enough to straighten out such thinking.

The monks do reach out, to each other (their family are the other monks in the Abbey), they pray for people who send requests for prayer, they can host up to 18 people for retreats (the gift of hospitality), and they make caskets as a business which they see as a way to bring comfort to the sorrowing.

But, for me, their biggest “outreach” ministry is reminding the rest of the world that the Christian faith is not first about doing but about being. They are cloistered for the purpose of being with God. Those of us who seek to serve the Lord in our daily lives, wanting to do something for Him, can forget that first and foremost of all we are to be with Him! The monks remind me of this all important fact.

Let’s Talk!

I read a promotion for an author’s material in which he said, “After 25 years in ministry, traveling to 32 countries, and preaching to folks in every conceivable setting and denomination…” He then proceeded to give some advice to preachers and a way to get some materials of his, some of which, to his credit, were free.

More book jacket info about the author than I can count touts how he/she has sold so many thousands of books. Other book jackets tell of how large a weekend attendance at worship the author has as a pastor.

I’m wondering what any of this has to do with giving credibility to what the author has to say. Do the number of miles traveled, the volume of books sold, or the size of an audience expand our understanding or deepen our faith? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that staying in one place, writing to one person at a time in an e-mail or letter, and sharing in a small group could expand our understanding and deepen our faith.

So what about the author of this blog, A Pastor’s Heart? You’re probably asking yourself, Who is this guy, Dave Claassen? I suspect you’ll Google my name. I’ll save you some time and tell you that I don’t get invited to travel great distances to speak. I’ve done some writing but I don’t have a best-selling book. I speak every weekend in my church but it’s not to thousands of people.

What credentials do I have for writing a blog called A Pastor’s Heart? My credentials are my calling to be a pastor and for having been given a heart for pastoring a flock of his people. My goal in this blog is not to impart some great wisdom and insight but to share the journey I’ve been on as a pastor in the one church I’ve served for 36 years. In other words, I’ll be sharing something of my spiritual pilgrimage.

If you’re a pastor then you have been given a heart for pastoring and you have the credentials to contribute to the dialogue in this gathering place I’ve named A Pastor’s Heart. I hope we hear from Rev. I. M. Average who’s serving The Third Church of Ordinary located in Timbuktu. I hope we hear from you too!

What’s on your heart and mind? Join the conversation!

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