Month 2:16, Week 3:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5936:045 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 6 May 2012
Late Chag haMatzah 2012
2. A Pastoral Life for Readers & Friends
Continued from Part 3
No, I'm not going to talk about life in the countryside (interesting, perhaps, though that might be for some) but today I thought I would tell you something about myself - the life of a pastor - since so many of you reading these devotionals and sermons know almost nothing about me. Truth told, I am taking a break from regular devotionals so today I thought I would tell you a little bit about my daily operation so that you can know a little bit more about the man and his family behind the words.
"In all labour there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty" (Prov.14:23, NKJV).
This is not about my conversion which you can read about in A Glimpse into Heaven or about my history and minitry in general which you can read about in my resumé. This is about my daily life since I retired from professional work as an educator in 1999 - I say 'retired' and I mean by that I mean doing a regular 9-5 job (in reality it was 8 am to 9 pm but that's another story) though today I am probably as busy as I ever was, and enjoying it far more. Back then I commuted large distances to work as well as running several congregations in Norway, which in the end burned me out. Since retiring and heading for the countryside people mostly come to me rather than the other way round as it used to be. That way I can better use my energy more productively.
I retired because of chronic fibromyalgia which made it impossible to have such an active life and that pretty much governs my routines nowadays. It means I can't lie down or only for very short periods of time. So like the Chinese who have many small meals throughout the day instead of our regular Western fare of three (breakfast, lunch and supper), I have many small sleeps throughout the day and night. Some days are better than others. Some are tolerable and some are hell. Of late I taken steps to improve my diet and exercise régime, made easier by the arrival of summer. Winter is pretty much an incubation period here in Sweden and the time I write the most. When the sun comes - precocious creature that that is - I try to follow it outside.
I usually go to bed at 10 pm, spend 1˝ hours with my wife, and then go to sleep at midnight before arising during the night at least once. I usually 'rise' for the day at 8 am, meaning I am more 'risen' than horizontal (and, yes, I am immensely looking forward to the resurrection when all the pain is gone) though I am usually awake a little earlier. In the summer I awake with sunrise. The first 15-20 minutes before arising I usually spend quietly with the wife. The ˝ hour or so after that during which I do my several ablutions are usually the most inspirational times. Part is spent reading in a seated position and the rest in the shower particularly, while warmth returns to my protesting muscles, and this time I spend in concentrated prayer and meditations, particularly trying to recall things Yahweh may have shared with me during the night. Most of my devotionals take form while dancing under the water droplets.
Breakfast is the only meal I eat apart from the family as we all get up at different times. Three of my four children living at home (I have seven altogether) homeschool and they are early birds, often beginning their studies around 5 - 6 am. Sometimes I meet the earliest riser just as I am returning to bed for another of my sequential naps. They have so many hours schooling they have to do each day but they can start and finish whenever they like - they like working at the crack of down both because their minds are the most keen then but also because they like most of the afternoon off to do their own thing. They're pretty responsible, work hard and require almost no 'policing', so teaching them is a joy. I give them goals for the year and they set their own daily goals and get on with it and though they follow a mandated state-set curriculum, I include all kinds of extra things, and they have a period when they are expected surf the internet and find out what's going on in the world. I particularly enjoy discussing what they have discovered with them. My eldest particularly enjoys the BBC and Alex Jones so that he has a good idea what the establishment is saying as well as digging into the 'real' news. I encourage them to look at all angles and then research a matter out for themselves.
I eat a vegetarian breakfast at my PC having greeted the family and then do some odd jobs while munching before going to attend to my nonogenarian mother who lives in the house next to us. She will be 98 this year and increasingly needs a lot of care. I am visiting her 4-5 times a day with my wife spending one morning with her and my other children dropping down both to visit and to occasionally lend a hand. I spend around 2-3 hours a day with her washing up, cleaning, cooking, paying bills, liasing with doctors and nurses, and doing all the things an old person needs done, as well a giving her some company. One nurse says she is treated like a princess - I just don't think parents should be exiled to old people's home until it is impossible to take care of them anymore. In this country doing this is a rarity since 92% of women are in the world force and nobody is expected to be at home during the day. Our local village is like a ghost town by day because nobody is around except farmers and merchants.
I am a multitasker and though I work flat out when the Ruach (Spirit) is burning strongly (and don't like to be dirturbed for anything but an emergency), mostly I am doing many things at the same time). This includes dealing with a large quantity of emails every day, maintaining four Facebook Groups, maintaining several websites and writing articles, sermons and devotionals. I move in and out of these all day long and if I get weary, I just stop and take a short nap in my chair. If it's been a bad day pain-wise I will sleep longer in my chair during the day. I work in a very large office, a converted school room for about 30+ pupils from olden days, which houses my library as well as my homeschooling children. They're right next to me both working and when playing on computers in leisure time. It can be bustling here at times. Sometimes they homeschool with their mother in another room or in their own rooms when reading. We have one reading day a week in which they can read books of their choice which must include volumes in English, Norwegian and Swedish - they rotate languages to keep the fluency up in all. The language spoken in my office is English, elsewhere in the house usually Norwegian, English at mealtimes, and Swedish around friends. They do regular school five days a week like other school children and have days off at sabbaths, new moons, festivals and other times, especially during the summer when we mostly want to be outside. So we live a very flexible lifestyle. Sometimes we just hop into the car and visit a friend's farm, as we did recently and spend the day with them and the animals, stacking hay, riding horses, hgoing for country walks, or whatever. As we're close to Norway crossing the border for a few days makes a nice change too to visit family. Sometimes people drop in on us.
As a homeschooling family, flexibility is important. We can just drop everything if needs be because of friends coming or because we're off to some show. This means that I have to be flexible too, something which is very challenging for a writer who needs, wherever possible, constant uninterrupted time, a luxury I enjoy less and less. So I rely on Yahweh to let me pick up on where I have had to leave off. The summer especially requires a lot of time gardening and with two huge lawns (my mother's as well as our own) our three lawnmowers are often blazing around together or we're busy in flower and vegetable beds. My youngest got his own mower this year so he is champing at the bit to get it out of the garrage and into action! We also run a flea market in the summer which I must be on call for whenever a potential customer comes along, but the traffic doesn't usually get busy in any great degree until the tourists arrive to enjoy the Nature Reserve next to us in June to August. Also, my wife has started a business making dog clothes. Together with breeding our four dogs, dealing with studs, potential puppy owners, looking after very demanding puppies (which take a lot attention and who do not respect normal sleeping hours), we keep pretty busy.
The rise in totalitarianism in this country and throughout the West has meant that I am also (reluctantly but out of necessity) now a political activist too and have taken up journalism in the last year - I now do a lot of writing for an American paper and have started with others. Balancing this with family and ministerial responsibilities can be quite a juggling act. However, we're a tight-knit family and since we have learned the art of multitasking and flexibility it means that we can get lots of things done together in a pretty stress-free enviornment. We always eat lunch and supper together and have a ˝ hour long family devotional and counsel time every evening with one hour meetings on the sabbath, at new moons and during festivals. Our worship is pretty 'open plan' - I always have a sermon or lesson as the head of the family but people can cut in with questions and share experiences at anytime. The children share what they have been learning during the day in both work and leisure and these often switch us into all kinds of interesting discussions. It's a very free and easy-going atmosphere made possible because self-discipline is learned early. I teach my children true principles and then basically let them govern themselves. Correction is rarely needed and usually minimal.
My 'busiest' times are at night which makes me wonder sometimes whether by illness is more a blessing more than a cursing. It's the time I spend most with Yahweh and the time my seership gift is most in operation. It's the time I often engage in intercessory work, often because the enemy seeks to attack believers when they are usually having their deepest sleep, around 3 am. He wakes me up, I am inspired to pray about something the Ruach (Spirit) lays on my heart, and then go back to sleep, which also gives my muscles the relief they need before I lie down again. I do quite a lot of my ministerial writing during the middle of the night too - political and journalistic writing is usually done by day.
Combining ministerial and journalistic writing is hard because it requires to very different mindsets - ministerial writing is default mode, as it were, whereas I tend only to do the latter in specially set-apart times in which case devotionals may stop for a while while I focus on political matters. It depends what is required of me. I recently received a challenging request from an Asian newspaper the other day and had to devote the whole day to it to make it work. It turned out to be one of my best yet.
I always spend a day a week out shopping with the family. Because we are deep in the countryside we only get into town once a week or fortnight (2 weeks). I am a great lover of fleamarkets which are plentiful here - and the occasional auction which is a passion of nearly all Swedes, though more time-consuming.
The sabbath is, of course, different from all the other days. We eat simple so whoever is the cook that day has as little to do as possible. It's a day for gathering in the morning for worship for an hour in the large meeting room we have in our house where friends can join us if they want to, and the rest of the day is usually spent relaxing.
In the summer we are mostly outside when the weather is nice. Once a week we have a family night during which we usually watch a movie together. In the summer we like to go canoeing, camping, shooting, and play croquet, badminton or tennnis. Until Fukushima started saturating everything with radioactive fallout, swimming in nearby lakes was something we did a lot. If the radioactive count is better this year, and the weather warm enough, we may resume that. Most people - because of the media blackout - are blithely ignorant of just how bad it is here even though we're on the other side of the world from the disaster. And of course the summer brings a host of small fleamarkets everywhere which we enjoy, the wife hunting for materials for her business, the boys their love of militaria, the girls the things girls love, and me...books, of course. My library is bursting at the seams with over 7,000 volumes now. I tell myself that when the Internet has gone, the family will appreciate the collection more!
The summer is also occupied in dealing with winter damage. There is always plastering and painting to be done and roofs to repair. Thanks to a friend and brother in the Besorah (Gospel) and my wife, who take taken on the responsibility, we have been slowly working on repairing the windows. With 64 of them (most of them enormous, as we live in an old school) that's a massive job that will take us many years. But we're getting there slowly. The front is nearly done.
Because of our remote location, most of our ministry is done either viâ the written materials I produce or online. I don't do as much of it as I used to because of the energy it requires but deliverance work for those who are serious we often do in the evenings. We have not been in the congregation-planting business for some years now because of my poor health and the congregations who are associated with us are completely independent now.
I am almost never idle. Sometimes I will walk away from the keyboard and take a day or two off, sleep, watch documentaries, listen to music, talk with family or with friends. There is always twice as much to do as I realistically have time for. Since getting involved in the politics of homeschooling and family affairs nationwide, I am being asked to join in other crusades in other countries. But my plate is full. Having experienced burn-out several times in my life, I have learned the importance to just down tools when needed, I probably don't do it as often as I should, but I am doing it more than I ever did before. You have to in the autumn of your life anyway. And yet Yahweh has shown me in vision that I am going to be busier than I have ever been before in the days ahead. That being so, I have to increasingly rely on His energy and not my own otherwise it would simply be impossible.
So if you have tried to contact me and been frustrated not to have got a reply, now you know why. A lot of people try to contact me online for casual chats - I just don't have the time for that and have to restrict that activity to family and just some close friends or those in urgent need. As a rule I keep my family out of the ministerial limelight, as many others do too, because that's the way we prefer it even if this has unfortunately fed less than kind rumour mills. Family is for close family friends not for curiosity-seekers. That is why I keep a hedge of protection around mine and take the view that those who don't like that can just lump it. I am here to advertise the King, not my family.
I have never been one for small talk and do it even less now than I ever did before so never invite me out to a party - not that I would go anyway. Convivial conversation amongst friends with shared interests I enjoy whether it be in religion, politics or whatever. With the sands of time running out and with so much to do, you have to be wise in time-management.
Have a blessed day!
Continued in Part 4