Worshipping while struggling

Being a leader, you’re supposed to have everything together, right? You’re supposed to always be on, always be happy, trust in God for everything and not have any problems or struggles at all. And now that I’ve created something that doesn’t exist and never will exist, let’s spend a bit of time in the reality of what happens in life and ministry.

When I was in Wisconsin, I served a church that I led the music in the congregation, (organ, choir, handbells and more) along with teaching music in the K-8 classrooms. I really enjoyed the challenge, but a little over a year and a half into my time at the church, they cut my position. The reasoning? They didn’t have the money. Long, complicated story on that one. But, since it was October, I made the best choice (I thought) at the time, and contracted with the congregation to continue on a part-time basis, with the allowance that at any time, I could give my two week notice. This was accepted and I continued. It was awful. To sum it up, I had to go to a place where I did not feel wanted. I was told that by a congregational vote. The pastor’s response when asked how he was doing was, “Blessed by the Lord”. True statement, but as often as he said it, it became cheesy and pointless. And of course, he wanted everyone else to say it. I stopped saying it when I contracted with the congregation, and he sat me down and told me I needed to. One of the final nails was on Christmas Day, I had said that I would play for that service, but when I didn’t get hymns, I checked and was informed that they got someone else to play. Problem was, we booked our flight to Texas with the thought that I would have to play and then we could leave. I was ticked. I spent that whole flight and the whole time while visiting our families trying to talk myself out of quitting right then and there. I decided that I could make it until Easter. And that’s exactly what I did. Easter was my last Sunday, and I was very fair and had it shared and announced in the bulletin 4-5 weeks before Easter. Yet later, I got word back to me that a rumor was started that on Easter Sunday, I finished playing, slammed down my books and said, “I quit”. Nope. Didn’t do that.

So what’s the takeaway? Maybe you’re in a position where you’re struggling? Maybe you’ve been hurt by the pastor, one of the leaders, or the entire congregation. Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Pray. Praying not only voices your concern, anger and frustration to God, it gets it out of your head. It’s a release for you. In the midst of my struggling in the situation I mentioned, I prayed quite fervently and regularly. The answer ended up being quite simple in teaching music lessons and being a church musician for hire, which I did for 2 years. But I had to work through it in prayer.

2. Seek wise counsel. My dad, being a traditionally minded pastor, told me that I was the head of the household and that I needed to take               a position at a different church, even if that meant moving. The problem was, a little over a year before my position was cut, my wife                started as the full-time youth director at another church. Being a good, loving husband, I couldn’t say, “I’m the head of the household,                let’s move”. I’d be moving on my own! It’s a matter of hearing from a number of voices. If all of those voices are telling you the same                  thing, then it’s a pretty reasonable thought that you’ve got your answer. Or if it is someone you trust highly, their input will be highly                  regarded.

3. Realize that God has put you in this position for a greater purpose. It’s hard to see in the midst of it. It’s really, really, really hard to see               when you don’t see any sense of hope in the midst of it. For me, it led me to starting Harmanny Music, to write music and teach music             lessons. Which ended up being a great blessing to me and my wife. But I don’t think that I would have done it, had I not had those                       struggles. And having the struggles that I did make me appreciate the blessings that I currently have, and sensitive to the struggles of                others.

 

Seek counsel. Pray. Seek more counsel. Pray more. Look at all the options around you. Pray some more. Breathe. Pray even more. It’s a struggle right now. It’s hard to see an answer. This story happened to me in 2005-2006. Here, a little over 10 years later, I now see the blessings that have come from it. And over time, I’ll see even more. You will see blessings out of your struggles as well. That doesn’t diminish the challenges and hardships you may be facing now. Which is why the pray and counsel is essential. And listening ears. If you need one and don’t have one, e-mail me at harmannymusic@yahoo.com. I’ll be your listening ear.

 

Working out

Every Monday since the beginning of 2016, I have been sharing my “healthy musician updates”. Those are primarily about me and my journey, specifically to keep me accountable and to share the progress I’ve been making, hopefully to encourage others. What I want to do today is give you something a bit more practical and applicable.

So, do you work out? Do you go to the gym? Have a treadmill at home? If you don’t, that’s alright. But, I strongly encourage you to for your spiritual, mental AND physical health. How long do you need to work out? It depends on where you’re at, your fitness level and the intensity of your workout. If you’re not in shape, don’t start running. Don’t start doing the big things. Start small. If you’ve been active, but have gotten into bad habits over time, you probably can get back to it.

The first and easiest thing to do is get something to measure steps. I have a Fitbit Flex, but a simple pedometer works great. It makes you more aware of how much (or little) you’re moving. It’s recommended that you walk 10,000 steps a day. So, there’s your goal. But before you start, take a baseline. Look at your “average” week. See how much you’re already moving. Maybe you’re already getting in your 10,000 steps. Maybe you’re nowhere near it.

The cheapest thing to do is buy a good pair of walking shoes. I like New Balance shoes and highly recommend them. Whatever you do, don’t go cheap on shoes. I’m normally cheap on most everything I buy, but I won’t skimp on my walking shoes. If you don’t do much walking, start small. Walk around the block. Try to build yourself up so that you can get more intense over time.

What about a gym? The great part is with a gym you don’t have to deal with the elements. You can walk on a treadmill and not worry about it being too hot, too cold, rain, snow, whatever may come. I personally enjoy my outdoor exercise, and I have resistance bands that I can attach to a door frame and use those for strength and flexibility. I got my set for around $20 on Amazon.com. Or if you do a Google search for “Exercises at home”, you’ll find lots of things to do. A great app that was recommended to me is Sworkit. It shows you the exercises to do, and as long as you have a yoga mat, or a carpeted space, you’re ready to go.

In my focus on exercise and moving more, I’ve found myself more energetic, more confident in myself, more aware of God’s creation, and an overall focus in everything I do. It’s hard at first. I usually walk in the morning, and I won’t lie. Getting out of my bed in the morning on some days means that I have to talk myself into it. But when I do, my day is off to a great start, I feel energized and ready to take on the day. Maybe you’re not a morning person. Maybe it’s in the evening. Or maybe a gym membership is the right choice for you. Whatever the case, get moving!

 

Relationships in Ministry

You read the title and may be wondering why I am talking about relationships? Well, not the romantic ones, although that could pertain. I’m talking overall, personal relationships. They’re lots of work, and in many instances, especially in ministry, we struggle with them.

It is hard for many parishioners to differentiate the role in ministry from the person. While, yes, I am Craig, “the Minister of Music and Celebration”, I’m also Craig, “the husband and father”. Building relationships with church members can be tough just because of this reason alone. From many experiences that I’ve had, this reason, and connected reason of overall relationships in the church being just surface level relationships, make it tough.

Secondarily, by nature, many musicians are introverted. The work and diligence of practicing on our own can lead to intentional or unintentional isolation from others. Or, their personality type could be introverted, and so they may struggle to connect in larger groups by nature.

Another reason is because there has been hurt by others in previous ministry settings. When I served at a church in Wisconsin, my wife and I grew close to two couples, and then when my position was cut due to finances (the treasurer of the congregation was father/father-in-law to one of the two couples), that relationship was gone. That hurt deeply. And it took a while personally for me to open up to another relationship in the church. For the longest time, I kept things on a surface level because I didn’t want to get hurt. When I finally did open myself up to relationships, they have been tremendous blessings to me.

As I said in the beginning, relationships are a lot of work. So, what if you’re struggling to have friendships. No, I’m not talking about your Facebook “friends”. I’m talking about that person that you can call or text in the middle of the night when you’re struggling with something. Everything depends on the individual and the situation. If you’re a younger minister in a congregation that’s predominantly older, you may have to look to build relationships outside of the church. But look to common interests. If you have children, that’s obviously an easy way to start. But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post about taking time to rest, having people that we can share things with, spend time with, and have as our trusted friends, is also a very valuable and extremely important part of life.

 

Rest

This past weekend, I went to San Antonio for the wedding of a dear family friend from our previous church. I played the music for the ceremony, it was outside, beautiful and HUMID! The wedding was at 6:00 in the evening, so coming back to Houston to play for worship on Sunday wasn’t going to happen. I’m given 3 Sundays off per year, so I decided to use one. I didn’t realize that my last Sunday taken off was in July of 2015. I love playing for and leading worship, but over this weekend, I had some realizations about rest. Pretty much everything I knew, but it was a reminder.

In ministry, it is easy to become task oriented, goal oriented and others oriented. Nothing is wrong with any of those three things at all. In fact, to be successful at ministry, you need to do all three well. But at what cost? Is it a detriment to your personal health, to your relationship with your family or others?

Rest is needed. If you are a full time minister, you’re probably given a “day off”. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, my dad typically had many working days off. I didn’t want to be like that. Initially, I’d put my feet up on my day off, watch TV and do nothing productive. This was a fairly lazy way of doing things. Once I got married and had a family, other responsibilities stepped in on my day off. Now, I’ll clean around the house, mow, run errands and plenty of other things.

The short term “day off” is good, but longer breaks are needed. Whether that’s a weekend off and/or a longer vacation, those breaks to step away recharge you, give you perspective, and refocus you. While this weekend was good, over the summer, we are taking a week off as a family to do fun vacation things (along with Sunday #2 off to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary and our nephew’s first birthday, which are the same day!). A little later, my wife and I will be returning to San Antonio for a couple of days, dropping the girls off at a friend’s house and spending time on our own. These are valuable, important and essential times as an individual, a couple and a family.

So, what about you? When do you rest? How do you take your time off to recharge? If you don’t, why not? Give yourself permission to step back, even for a day, and rest. You’ll be better for it.

 

Healthy Musician #19

Well, this week was somewhat of a downer. At least in terms of steps. However, I hit my goal weight on Monday, which was a good start. As for steps, there was a bunch of rain and my schedule was pretty busy. I ended up breaking my streak of days of 10,000 steps on Friday at 29. I was short by less than 200. I ended up with a little over 90,000 which was far lower than the over 100,000 steps the previous 3 weeks. HOWEVER….that’s in spite of the rain and the schedule throughout the week, and spending about 5 hours in my car on Saturday, driving to San Antonio for a wedding. Overall, I’d say that’s a good thing.

My goals for this week are quite simple. Get up every morning and walk, hopefully jog a bit each day. I’m wanting to add an evening, inside workout. I have resistance  bands, wanting to try yoga, and was introduced to a great workout app called Sworkit. So, if I can do that this week, along with healthy eating choices, I’d say that’s progress!