Every month I write a report to the Leadership Board about my activities and my goals. I tell them how I have been spending my time over the past month and what my plans are for the next month or so. I've also been working on some long-range professional and personal goals, but that's another story. (and perhaps another blog post.)
But, I'll tell you a secret: putting together my monthly report doesn't really scratch the surface of the highlights of my month. And writing what I believe the trajectory of the next month will be doesn't begin to express the arc of my hopes.
So, what have been the highlights of the last month for me?
Perhaps it was the time I spent at a 99 1/2 year old woman's house. She will be 100 in February, she said. They had a party for her in the summer, and 139 people came. She put cookies and coffee out for our visit, talked about her terrible back pain, how grateful she was for the help of her son and daughter-in-law, shared some of her fears and hopes for the country. When I asked her what we should pray for, she said, "Pray for peace."
Or maybe it was the wedding where the bride chose two hymns for us to sing. (It seems that congregational singing is very rare at weddings any more.) It sort of warmed my heart to stand in front of them, and hear the bride singing "Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us" in a hearty voice.
Maybe it was the day I met with the sister of a woman who had died. She told me stories about her sister that I hadn't heard. (I thought I had known her sister well). She told me more about her sister's time in Africa, about the parrot she brought home, who used to say to her in the evening, "Good night, madam." When the parrot died, its last words were "Good night, madam." So we came together to plan a funeral for her beloved older sister, and when she opened up the folder, everything was carefully written out in her sister's hand: hymns, scriptures, even the liturgy parts.
Somehow it is these moments that have fed me this past month, as well as the passing comments, a woman who asked me to teach her to pray, a couple who asked for my prayers for her recently diagnosed Parkinsons, a man who said "yes" when I asked him to serve.
And just what is the arc of my hopes over the next month?
I think it is the promise of conversations: I hope to listen to parents who will tell me why they want to have their baby baptized, to young people and retired people and children who will engage in conversations about how worship feeds and empowers them, to older people who will pray with me for the world, their aches and pains and the people they hold dear.
Sometimes what I do doesn't seem like much at all, and sometimes it seems like the world in my hands: simply to listen to the hopes of the world in each aching heart, and to place the bread of life into each waiting hand.