God’s Reminder: Sabbath

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel

So, as most pastors are every week, I’m tired, stressed, and emotionally drained. It’s approximately week 2.5 for me, and just this week held multiple meetings with people along with multiple losses/deaths and random accidents within members of the congregation (in one week!). Our head of staff is doing a series on the 10 Commandments and he asked me to give a short message on the topic of keeping Sabbath for this upcoming Sunday.

I’m so exhausted…and when I found time to write, I realized the irony of trying to “preach” on Sabbath…a topic of resting–pausing–when I couldn’t even do that myself. Even the process of writing a sermon is definitely work for me! I know I’ve been doing this regularly, but I feel new to it every time. It takes me a LOT of time to write sermons…even short ones. How do I preach about Sabbath to others when I can’t even find Sabbath time and rest for myself?

Someone suggested I preach it to myself… so since I found myself stuck and not writing anything and getting more and more tired, I decided to try it. I decided to stop writing my sermon and pause… and hear what God would say to me in that moment about Sabbath.

I’m so glad I paused to listen. Here’s what God said to me:

Dear Irene,

Guess what? I know you’re tired. I know you have an important job that I’ve called you to do. I know you’re new. I know you’re trying to memorize a bunch of names and retain loads of new and exciting information. I know you’re excited about this new call and position. I know you have a bunch of ideas swirling around your brain and heart. I know now that you’ve settled down and you are easing in, your body is relaxing and now you’re feeling like you’re getting sick. I know in your second week of work you feel like you’ve been there for 2 months. I know your car is having issues. I know the grief the church members felt this week with different deaths and losses and random bike accidents. I know about the pile of laundry and about the phone calls you keep meaning to return to your friends. I know you’re tired. I know you’re trying to write a short message to share with people you know are just as tired, if not more so, as you. I know you feel like you have to be perfect or good or at least decent in what you say to them on Sunday morning. So what am I trying to say to you?

I know you. You are wondering why in your weary state I am asking you to talk about Sabbath—Here’s the thing. I need you to take Sabbath because I want you to remember me. I need you to remember me. Yeah, you’re a pastor and you should be doing this all the time, but believe it or not, you’re probably the worst at it.  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. I know that sounds like another thing to do, but I promise by making space to remember me—remembering what I would say to you even as you prepare a message—will help bring life to your soul and into your bones. It’s more than just a recharging system. It’s not just a time where you charge up only to be drained again. It’s taking a time out from everything YOU try to be and accomplish…it’s taking time to clean out the clutter of your own performances and skills and powers and remember that who I have created in you is already GOOD. I call you good. I make you whole.

Did I mention that I know you’re tired? I know you feel like there are a million things you could and should be doing right now. I know you’re kind of a perfectionist. In this commandment of Sabbath, I’m not saying “You shall not” do this or “You shall”…do that… I’m not demanding Sabbath. I’m asking you to REMEMBER. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Remember me—and remember those whose image I bear… the whole point of this time is to bring you and others the healing you might need… the healing you know you need and the healing you didn’t know you needed. I realize you might not know how to be with me anymore… maybe you forgot or maybe you never quite knew… but since you want to know what I have to say to you in the midst of your crazy… Here it is: you are my beloved. I need you to pause so if nothing else, you can remember that. I need you to step away from the noise of judgment and busy-ness to hear me, your God, in the stillness, whispering your name and reminding you that my arms are open wide… come as you are… as broken, as crazy, as doubting, as faithful, as grieving, as angry, as bubbly as you are… The Sabbath, it’s just a time to remember that I breathed you into being-and it was good. You forget that too often.

You need this time so the compassion and love of who I am may grow more fully in you. I get it. I know you. I want you to remember who you are, and whose you are. Thank you for stopping and listening to the love song I’ve written for you in this moment. I want you to always hear it. So remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.

ImageWith all the love I can give to you, your Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.

Starting Again: A New Call

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Who knows? God knows.” (Esther Pak, aka, my mom)

On August 1, 2012, I began my second call as Associate Pastor at Stone Church of Willlow Glen in San Jose, California.

After a whopping almost four years of ordained ministry, I know I should totally be a pro at all of this by now (ha!). It was information overload today, but it’s exciting and amazing how everything has come together so beautifully. Granted, it’s day 1, but I want to bask in this for as long as I can.

A welcome basket full of gift cards, coffee, tea, chocolate, and a mask of John Calvin’s face! haha

You see, just a few months ago, I was pretty sure that I might be moving home with my parents in Utah at 30-something, unemployed and seeking a call. I wasn’t ready to leave my first call yet, but they could no longer sustain my position. Thankfully, they gave me a heads up, but entering into a climate where my denomination is living in the tension of splits and threats of dying, and remembering the first round of racist, sexist, and discouraging interviews that lasted a year before my first call, I was pretty sure it was going to take me a while.

I wish the line “God works in mysterious ways” was actually in the Bible so I could officially quote it that way, but I digress. It’s just how it is. God works in mysterious ways. And here I am, at a new call in the same presbytery, in the same area, and a place where I feel called to be. Wow. It’s awesome.

I’m writing because really, I just want to remember 3 things as I begin this new position at Stone Church so I can remember this as I go through the hurdles and hoops and blocks and bricks the job will bring eventually. I will enjoy the honeymoon phase as long as possible though!

1. I already feel like I’m a pastor.
Although I know it takes time and trust, weddings and funerals to really become “their” pastor, what’s incredible to me is that I feel like they already see me as a pastor. It’s a huge shift for me because I spent so much of my first call (which I loved) trying to prove that I was a pastor and to be seen as a pastor. I was the first woman they had ever hired as a leader/pastor, and the only woman on Session for a long time. But here, it’s almost surreal because I sense the shift.

I should note that although it’s technically day 1, I did guest preach for them on July 15th. Already, persons have come to me in tears, sharing their lives and heart with me, and later I have gone home in tears, amazed. It’s amazing to be seen as a pastor without having to somehow prove myself worthy of the calling to which I have been called. I hope that as I continue here, one day, I will be seen as “their” pastor as well. I’m okay with “proving” myself that way.

2. I feel like I can be fully who I am.
That sounds so sappy, I know, but it’s taken me a long time to get there. More than anything, it is the identity shift within myself and embracing my call more fully that has changed.

I started out this odd and wondrous calling in shock that I was an ordained minister (Wait, I’m a pastor?!) to kind of being ashamed of my role–especially on first dates–to feeling guilty about being ashamed (Yeah…I’m a pastor…) (God, I am so sorry!) to now fully embracing it and being loud and proud about it (Yep, I’m an ordained Presbyterian minister. Oh, you want to know what that means? Well, let me tell you!)

It’s taken me a while, but it’s great to start a new calling more confident of who I am in this role.

3. I am excited, happy, scared, and so thankful.
There’s nothing more to say than that. I feel like I’m going to get to use a lot more of the gifts God has given to me if even just for the fact that I no longer have to make the bulletins, print, copy and fold them every week! I am thankful for that experience too, but to be asked to think creatively about a sermon series a few months from now or having time for pastoral visits is exciting. I am a bit overwhelmed by everything right now–it will be very different–but I know God will continue to grow and stretch me into the pastor I am supposed to be. I have a heart full of gratitude.

So, that’s it. Day one. Done. Looking forward to seeing what the days will hold.

If you’re a praying person, please pray for me. Really. I could use it. And of course, if you’re ever in the bay area, near or around San Jose, come visit me!

**I have to end with the irony of this (technically second) post.  I had finished writing the first one and being new to this whole blogging thing, I clicked on the wrong icon for pictures and LOST the entire entry. It was super sad. That said, I thought the first one was super clever and funny in many ways, and alas, I think this one lacks in a bit of it’s luster because I’m doing it again and trying to remember what I wrote. “Starting again” I did… twice.