My “Spinning Wheels”

Mahatma Gandhi, a religious as well as political leader in India, was not a Christian, but there are lessons his life can teach those of us who are Christian leaders, those of us who are pastors. One such lesson is from Gandhi’s use of the spinning wheel.

Gandhi’s spinning wheel was a tangible way for him to communicate to the people of India the importance of freeing themselves from economic dependence on the British. If they would spin their own cotton they could make their own clothes and not depend on purchasing clothing from Britain.

But apparently Gandhi also came to see the emotional and spiritual benefits of his use of the spinning wheel.  He said that it helped with “the education of becoming and being.”

Eliza Drummond wrote in Spinners Quarterly, July 2004, of the value of using the spinning wheel in prayer and meditation. “In order to find out more about why we spin, I sent out 400 questionnaires to 80 spinning guilds across the United States and Canada. In these questionnaires I asked introductory questions such as ‘how long have you been spinning?’ and ‘how often do you spin?’ I also posed questions such as ‘have you ever thought that spinning is meditative?’ and ‘do you ever spin for the purpose of praying or meditating?’ Seventy-five percent of respondents answered that they consider spinning to be meditative, and 40% answered that they actively spin to meditate or pray. Of the latter group, all of them find it effective as a form of meditation and prayer.”

I don’t have a spinning wheel, but I do have other ways of spending my time that replenish my soul. Yes, of course, there’s the time I spend in my daily devotions of Bible reading, other spiritual reading, and prayer. This is top on my list. But I have other less “spiritual” activities and hobbies that help me keep my balance as I face the rigors of ministry.

Photography is a serious hobby for me. When I am about the business of lining up a good photograph the time seems to either stand still or fly by, I’m not sure which.  Writing is a big part of my time away from pastoral ministry.  I’ve written both non-fiction and fiction, including a couple of novels.  I also raise a small flock of chickens as a hobby, and have done so for over a quarter of a century. Then too I have a decorative pond with waterfall, fish, and floating pond plants that I maintain.

These are my “spinning wheels” that help keep me sane in ministry. Such interests keep me from putting all my emotional eggs in the basket of pastoral ministry (sorry, after all these years of raising chickens I can’t resist a poultry analogy).

The apostle Paul was a tent maker. This was probably out of economic necessity more than anything else, but I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t also appreciate the break from his usual apostolic duties. I’m sure Paul did a lot of talking, listening, praying, and even mentoring while working on tents, but there must still have been something therapeutic about using his hands.

If I could give some advice to those going into ministry I would strongly suggest that they hold on to or adopt some other interest or outlet other than pastoral ministry to which they could give their time and attention on a regular basis, a “spinning wheel” to which they could go regularly for a change of pace. My “spinning wheels” have be instrumental in my longevity as a pastor and as a pastor in one place. They have been used of the Lord in my life to keep me at the task of serving His people as their pastor.

How about you? What are the “spinning wheels” in your life? Please, share with the rest of us.

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!

Welcome

Welcome to the launching of this blog, A Pastor’s Heart. This is to be a meeting place, a community of men and women who share a common calling, passion, joy, and, yes, sometimes, burden – that of pastor.

Much is written about churches and pastors but little about the pastor’s heart. Yet, this part of the pastoral anatomy is of utmost interest to the One whom we serve. We are reminded thatthe Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7) and that “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) With His help and the help of each other we can begin now this process of bringing to light what is hidden in darkness and the exposing of motives.

This blog is to be a gathering place of hearts. It is a place to share honestly and openly. Because this gathering place is on the web the door is always open for anyone to eavesdrop, perhaps someone from your congregation! To encourage honesty and openness we must allow for anonymous participation. It is not important for us to share our names, just our hearts.

So, welcome! To get the conversation started why not reply by sharing a heart condition you’re dealing with in your ministry. Let’s help each other get a heart check-up!