Tag Archives: pastoring

Who cares for the people who care for the people?

celtic cross vineyardSoul care.

It is very important and also very much overlooked in today’s I-must-all-way-be-busy world. A while everyone is in danger of ignoring their own soul care, those on the front lines of fighting social injustices (i.e. pastors, nurses, doctors, social workers, etc.) are extremely vulnerable. These are the people with huge hearts who strive daily to fight against injustice and to care for those on the margins of life, however, they don’t get the support or praise they deserve, which is why organizations such as CareShyft.com aim to provide support for those that support the elderly. Because the needs of others are always there, they tend to forget to care for themselves and look for things that might aid them such as Aged Care Help which can really make a difference. Although care homes are an essential part of the lives of many elderly people, their families should also be able to take care of them too. With new technology available for elderly people, like mobile phones from Fanmi Senior and others, families could be contacted if the patient’s carer is unavailable. Not only would this allow carers to have a bit more time to themselves, it might also be nice for elderly patients to speak to their families every now and again. Thus, technology has simplified our lives to some extent. For instance, by searching for keywords like “Senior Care Services in Ft Lauderdale“, people might be able to locate a trustworthy provider in their vicinity.

Sir Terry Pratchett beautifully illustrate this problem in his book I Shall Wear Midnight. In this story, Tiffany Aching is a 16-year old witch who recently completed her apprenticeship with some older witches. Wanting to impress both her teachers and the people in her steading (think parish), she spends every waking moment helping people. She clips the toenails of the elderly who cannot bend over; helps the expectant mothers prepare for their new ones; checks in on the sick; keeps the local Baron in check when he oversteps his boundaries; provides advice for those in trouble; settles disputes; not to mention keep the monsters at bay.

Tiffany allows herself to get so busy that she cannot remember when she last slept a night in a proper bed. Rather she operates on a few hours of sleep catch here and there as time allows. Her parents notice this trend and try to talk her into taking care of herself…but she refuses. Too much to do, she says.

i-shall-wear-midnightFinally near the near the end of the book when she is nearly to the point of exhaustion, the following happens:

“Miss Tiffany, you need a rest, a proper rest in a proper bed. What kind of witch can look after everybody if she’s not sensible enough to look after herself? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. That means, Who guards the guards, that does,” Preston went on. “So who watches the witches? Who cares for the people who care for the people? Right now, it looks like it needs to be me.”

She gave in.

We all need a Preston in our lives. Someone to tell us to stop and rest; someone who will not take “no” for an answer.

Better yet, we need to create rhythms of soul care in our lives that allows for us to ministry from the overflow of our lives rather than draining ourselves dry. Otherwise we will do what Tiffany does and go right back to our destructive pattern of not caring for ourselves (see The Shepherd’s Crown, the sequel to I Shall Wear Midnight).

Witching (Pratchett-style), pastoring and fighting injustice are life-long callings. Let us take the long view of life and take care of ourselves so that we can help those around us. Life, it has been said, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. –Mark 6:31, The Message

Learning to Pastor from Tiffany Aching

A_Hat_Full_of_Sky_CoverIt may sound odd to some people, but I think the best pastoring book out there wasn’t written by a follower of Jesus nor was it written as a pastoring book. Rather it was written by an atheist known to write satires against religion of all types.

The book I’m talking about is A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.

Yes, I just named a fantasy novel about a young witch the best pastoring book out there. Yeah, I know it is strange; but bear with me as Pratchett really does have a lot to say about pastoring people.

The novel A Hat Full of Sky is about a young gal, Tiffany Aching, who is learning to become a witch. At first, Tiffany is excited about her new apprenticeship with an elderly witch, Miss Level. However rather than learning “real magic” like she thought she would, Tiffany assists Miss Level in helping out the elderly, tired, poor and outcasts of the community. These seemingly insignificant and un-magical tasks eventually gets the best of Tiffany who asks Granny Weatherwax (the most highly-regarded witch in the land) why she has do that stuff. Listen to Granny Weatherwax answer:

“Now that’s what I call magic—seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way…and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets—which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted—and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again…We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!”

In really reading Granny Weatherwax’s response to Tiffany, you realize that witches in Pratchett’s Discworld books act a lot like pastors. Or, perhaps I  should say, they act like what pastors should act like. Witches are the ones who help teach the people, the ones fighting for justice while not seeking credit, the ones helping the poor, helpless, elderly, and the like. Witches, in the words of Pratchett,  help “people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like.”

The problem is that not all witches agree with Granny Weatherwax’s definition of witchcraft. Some of them would rather have the gold and glory that comes with positions of power rather than serving in the shadows. Tiffany has to make the choice as to what type of which she is going to be – just like new pastors must make a choice of what type of pastor they are going to be. Are they going to use their position to seek personal glory? To use the trappings of showmanship to wow the crowd and emotional direct the people to follow them just like the antagonists of our book?

It may sound like a simple decision. Say “no” to showmanship and “yes” to loving people. Reality isn’t that simple. Reality is messy with broken relationships, sick people throwing up on you, others taking advantage of your good graces, etc., etc. This is why I like this book and would recommend all new pastors to read it. Pratchett, as a student of human nature, paints a messing picture of a young gal faced with the same decisions a new pastors is faced with. Learning to navigate the emotions that flood our lives…well, I guess that is something we all – pastors, non-pastors, young, old, female and male – must learn to do.

So in conclusion, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. Read it for fun and, while you do, think about the pastoral implications of being a witch.