I recently spoke to my ‘old’ spiritual director, all the way out in Colorado.

I told him that I was considering using the Ignatian Exercises as my personal lenten discipline. Some friends from cyberspace (See previous post here) made me think about such things. I asked him if “this is crazy for a pastor” considering all that a parish pastor is involved in during Lent?”

Unfortunately, he pointed me toward some resources and never answered my question.  He was always like that.  Sometimes he answered questions with questions.  Other times he responded with something that, at the time, seemed random.

Now, the ‘exercises’ are not for sissies. This is not my first experience with the ‘exercises.’ They are meaningful to me, as they help develop my sense of the movement of the Spirit in my life and how God is directing me. Still, it is hard work. I hate to say it, but it is a question of energy.

See a parish pastor has a very unusual opportunity every week. In Lent, I have this opportunity twice a week, to meet with dozens of people during worship. I am aware of this great blessing and responsibility, so I want to be at my best.

When I am able to spend a good amount of time in worship preparation I am able to take my manuscript and set it aside and preach outside of the pulpit. Other times, well, I am tied to the manuscript for guidance.

It occurs to me that this same thing applies to other aspects of ministry, as well as worship. As a student of Benedict, I know that balance is important. Benedict’s rule balances physical work with prayer and reading. For Benedict, prayer was essentially the liturgical prayer of the Divine Office. The monks go into church seven times a day to sing the Psalms, pray for the world and worship the Lord. The word liturgy actually means “work of the laity,” so their observance of the liturgical life was also part of their work. In this way, their prayer was their work, and because they are encouraged to pray while they work, their work becomes prayer.

Throughout the more than 20 years of ordained ministry I have learned that I need balance. I strive to spend time in prayer, in study, in ‘face to face’ ministry. I’ve learned that after worship on Sunday I am not much good for other ‘heady’ tasks. After some days of intense pastoral work, I need time in the study. Balance.

Lent, if nothing else, encourages balance. See, for the most part I think we are not in balance. Our attention is distracted by the worries of the world. In lent, we remember to settle our spirit in God’s presence. In lent, if done well, we prepare ourselves to sing God’s praises like nobody’s business!

Last night I started feeling some cold symptoms. It’s been busy this last month, 4 funerals, one wedding, plus all the ‘usual.’  I don’t have time to be sick.   Today, one of my lay-colleagues noted that perhaps I was ‘doing too much’. Hmmm. Out of balance, Moi?

Physician, heal thyself.