I just returned from three days with my fellow elders. I'll have to admit that whenever we gather I arrive with mix feelings. I am partially excited to meet with colleagues and friends but am also partially hesitant for we can be an interesting bunch (myself included).

This year we were tackling the very complex issue of clergy spiritual growth. This was not the first time that we discussed this issue together but there was a sense of urgency that something had to come out of this gathering that would help all of us grow in our relationship with God.

Suggestions were many, discussions were at times very raw and difficult but one thing that seem to come up often was how busy we all were. In fact as I think about our busyness seems to have become the stuff of greeting. No longer a kiss of peace or a firm handshake but a quick assessment of our busyness and its comparison to the other persons busyness. For example:

Juan: Hey, Bob is nice to see I'm glad that you came, I know how busy you are . . .

Bob: Hey Juan it is nice to see you, it has been busy and I almost could not make it here (chuckle) but I know you know about that, I know how busy you are . . .

This busyness seemed to be quiet a stumbling block to all of us gathered to figure out how to grow in our spiritual lives. It would be nice to pray more (really at all) and to engage the scriptures devotionally but we are so busy. Even days off are a challenge for many it seems, and we heard some confessions about that while the rest of us nodded in understanding.

We finally agreed that all of us needed to engage one another and keep one another accountable for our spiritual growth. That we needed to find the time to be in a series of accountable relationships that would help us grow in our love of God and neighbor. We basically agreed to try harder, and to keep each other accountable to it.

On my way home I got to thinking about my own busyness, so here's my confession:

I am really not busy!!!!

I take my day off and spend it with my wife and kids (I actually take both my days off, Saturday & Monday). I go home for lunch almost every day. Lazy Sunday afternoons are great gifts to me and to those that I love. I even take vacation time!

Maybe I want to say I'm busy because it proves something . . . how important I am, how needed, how irreplaceable. After all I don't want to look like a slacker, lazy, or that somehow I am not earning my keep.

Here is my latest epiphany: we all have 24 hours in a day and the ways that we parcel this gift says everything about what matters most to us.

I am thankful for the responsibilities that I have taken on. I am aware of each of those and each brings its own set of expectations, deadlines, and opportunities for growth. At times I have also taken on too much (reasons for this can be found two paragraphs above) and have neglected what matters most.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am no longer going to put busyness at the forefront of my encounters and conversations with others. Instead I'm going to listen carefully and enjoy the conversation, I have the time!

I also pray that as a church leader I model for those I serve and for the world a life giving rythm of work, play, solitude, community, talking and listening. I know I am not too busy for that!!