When the phone rings in my study, it startles me. Our office is closed almost as much as it is open during the week. I love this little church and I have never felt so loved and appreciated as a pastor than I do these days.
Some months ago, I was reading in my study at the church (I have a study, not an office because I am a pastor not a CEO). Since no one else was there I decided I would go home to read my book. I drove the seven miles out of town to my home, parked my Jeep and began to walk in my house when a twinge of guilt stabbed me in my heart. It felt like I was ditching school (I’m familiar with that feeling) or leaving work early. I paused, thinking I might go back to the church, when a voice in my head seemed to say to me, “Joe, who you are becoming is more important than what you are doing. Other than the Gospel, your well-marbled soul is the most important thing you can offer your congregation.”
I went inside and put my hiking boots on and went on a five-mile trek through the woods by my mountain cabin.
The other day a young pastor asked me what leadership books I was reading. That twinge of guilt started stabbing me again. I almost spouted out a title, when the inner voice told me to tell the truth to the young fella.
“I find myself reading poetry these days rather than leadership books,” I said.
He looked at me like a mule looking at new gate.
A pastor I know is struggling with his marriage and ministry. I have been meeting with him for coffee and conversations for many years. I listen mostly. He has lots to say and a short time to say it. He is very busy.
He has hit a crisis and I have guided him to see a counselor. The first time to see the counselor, whose office is nearly two hours away, we went together, and I sat through the session with him. We spoke of many things on the drive home across the wide expanse of a high mountain valley. He poured out more words to me in that drive home than he did with the counselor.
The tension and his frustration were visible and hung like a vapor between us in the front of my Jeep.
I said to him, “I think what I am saying to you is that there is another way to live life than the one you are living now. I have never been more content and satisfied in my entire life than I am these days. I am inviting you to live differently.”
I told him about my five-mile hike after leaving the church early. I told him how soul-shaping that was for me. I reminded him about something the Apostle Paul said to the believers at Philippi, Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
I’ll never forget to the day I die what he said next.
“But Joe, you don’t DO anything.”
I smiled and glanced at the gas tank that was getting close to empty but was full when we started out that morning and the sun was setting behind the mountains.
It’s time to go for another solo hike, I guess.
I pray that this finds you well. Great article/insight as usual.
I just finished a book and thought of you being the eclectic reader and inveterate hiker that you are. The book is On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor. If you think you have any interest, I will mail you my copy and you can toss it when you are through with it or toss it if you get into it and donât like it.
However, there are several disclaimers that would cause some folks to take me to task for reading it. To start with the author is a gay atheist. I donât have a problem with such an author but some of his perspectives are frustrating and of course his Darwinian take on so many things makes you want to pull your hair out (or at least I did). He is a thru-hiker on the AT and other trails but he doesnât mention the PCT much which is our favorite. However, with that said, I found some of his research on trails and their origins and evolution interesting.
Again, if you have an interest, let me know and I will send my copy to you,.
Keep resting and looking down,
PS. I spent sixteen days on the John Muir trail, which is now part of the PCT in the summer of 1959 (wow, sixty years ago). It was pretty primitive. Back packing wasnât a big deal back then. I followed your stint on the PCT and would love to hear more about the details sometime over a cup of tea.
Truth, my brother. Thank you.