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Seizing the Moment to Praise the Gift of Time

November 18, 2000|JOHN W. FANESTIL | The Rev. John W. Fanestil is senior pastor at Anaheim United Methodist Church. He has previously served churches in Los Angeles and Calexico

I've been busier than ever since I started as the senior pastor at a new church in July. Settling into a new house and a new community; helping my daughter get started at a new school; trying to learn the lay of the land at my new church--all of this has made for an incredibly busy few months.

So how is it that I have felt calm and relaxed through it all? This fact has surprised me; believe me, I know I am as vulnerable as anyone to worry and stress.

But these few months have been truly good ones for me. I've enjoyed them, despite their very demanding work. How did I come by this state of spiritual calm in the midst of a very busy time?

Part of the answer is the warm welcome from my congregation. My family and I have been showered with acts of kindness. My new church has done a wonderful job of welcoming me as their pastor.

But another reason I have not been overcome by my "busy-ness" is that I have been cultivating a new approach to God's good gift of time.

First, I reclaimed a specific spiritual discipline that I had let slide in recent years. The one that works for me is St. Ignatius' "Examen of Consciousness," an end-of-the-day meditation that helps me to recognize God's presence in the midst of daily life.

Second, I was introduced by a friend to a wonderful Web site,, which offers a 10-minute spiritual break that I can take while working at my computer.

Third, I discovered Dorothy Bass' wonderful book, "Receiving the Day." Bass, a historian, introduced me to a few simple facts, and a few simple practices, that help me to relax and get in touch with God, even in the craziest of times.

Bass' book reminded me that in the Jewish tradition the day starts at sunset. With this in mind, I am getting better at putting away my work when the sun goes down. And my mornings are calmer too, for I wake up, as Bass puts it, knowing that I am "joining in on something that God has already begun."

Bass also reminded me that everybody needs a Sabbath, and that includes pastors and rabbis. My Fridays have become all the more meaningful and restful to me now that I have claimed them not merely as my day off but also as my time for Sabbath with my family and my God.

Perhaps you too would enjoy a more contemplative approach to receiving the day, the week and the year. I have found myself looking forward to tomorrow--and to celebrating God's great good gift of time with my family and my new congregation.

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