This past Sunday, as we were finishing up children's time and saying, "Amen," my pianist started playing a song.
We typically sing after children's time, so that there is something to carry the young ones back to their seats. Since there was nothing in the bulletin, I figured she was just improvising... which is totally fine with me.
So I stand up and start humming along and pretty soon I realize that there are people coming forward!
My congregation surprised me with a love gift for Christmas and also sang along to "You are my sunshine" as they brought the gift forward.
Yes... that is a Christmas tree with money bows. Or, as one of my lay people put it - a money tree... He also encouraged me to plant it and see what would grow =)
We all have days in our work and vocations where we just don't want to get up or complete our tasks. And we have those days when the work comes easy and it is a breeze and truly a joy to be a part of.
Like many people, I do this because I am called to it. I don't do it for the praises, and I am more than aware that most people, in most of their jobs do not get thanked nearly enough for the hard work and long hours that they put in.
And, like any good midwesterner, I get downright flushed by compliments. I respond back with, "It's no big deal" or "It's my job!" and try to remember to say "you're welcome." We try to deflect those thank-yous and praises, because we like to work and the work in itself is often enough for us.
But every now and then, when someone says "thank-you"... it can truly be overwelming. And there suddenly are no words. When you get a sense of just how much someone (or a whole church fully of people) really appreciates what you have been doing... well, then that little lump rises in your throat and makes it hard to respond back with a deflection.
I have never been very disciplined about writing thank-you notes... especially not growing up. But lately, I have been trying to make "thank-yous" a more important part of my ministry. There are so many people who bless my life every week with their hours of service, with their kind words, with their prayers, with their food, and by simply being a good friend and someone to be there. People who help me clean up at the church, or who have made our youth a priority in their lives, or always go the extra mile to help get something done.
At School for Ministry this past year, we were encouraged to write 10 thank-you notes a week to people in our congregations, thanking them for the ministry, support, and encouragement they offer.
My initial goal was five per week, but I realized quickly that there are far more that 5 people a week who need to be thanked. It has really given me the opportunity to appreciate the many ways our laity are serving and giving of themselves.
A simple verbal thank-you is not enough. Because we deflect. We brush them off.
But a hand-written note, with heartfelt thanks... well, that's hard to ignore.
So is a money tree... and if I can get mine to grow, maybe I can bless others that same way ;)