What You Should Not Say

Do not tell me

there will be a blessing

in the breaking,

that it will ever

be a grace

to wake into this life

so altered,

this world

so without.

Do not tell me

of the blessing

that will come

in the absence.

Do not tell me

that what does not

kill me

will make me strong

or that God will not

send me more than I

can bear.

Do not tell me

this will make me

more compassionate,

more loving,

more holy.

Do not tell me

this will make me

more grateful for what

I had.

Do not tell me

I was lucky.

Do not even tell me

there will be a blessing.

Give me instead

the blessing

of breathing with me.

Give me instead

the blessing

of sitting with me

when you cannot think

of what to say.

Give me instead

the blessing

of asking about him–

how we met

or what I loved most

about the life

we have shared;

ask for a story

or tell me one

because a story is, finally,

the only place on earth

he lives now.

If you could know

what grace lives

in such a blessing,

you would never cease

to offer it.

If you could glimpse

the solace and sweetness

that abide there,

you would never wonder

if there was a blessing

you could give

that would be better

than this–

the blessing of

your own heart


and beating

with mine.

This is from Jan Richardson’s latest book, The Cure for Sorrow, a collection of blessings she wrote after the unexpected death of her husband. I’m thinking through an upcoming summer unit with new chaplain interns, thinking through a writing prompt friends gave me, and considering the integration of loss, of words, of self and of care. I commend the book to you if you consider such things yourself.

Perspective Transformation

Perspective transformation is the change to how you see something. I think a lot about perspective transformation. I am sitting with an educational theorist (Mezirow) whose theory is about the power of perspective transformation. I’ve also found reframing to be a pretty nifty pastoral skill over my years. The two are very related.

When I was getting consultation on a paper draft last month, one of the supervisors scribbled something on the page. Now, I should back up to say that when we present at this particular monthly meeting, we get immediate verbal feedback. Your work is engaged and your person is engaged. It’s great but it’s labor. You get a massive amount of constructive, careful, powerful, and pointed critique from pastors who have been therapists, educators, and chaplains for years. I can’t live without the stuff in some ways. But, again, it’s work being in the room!

I bring all my papers to the hospital the next week and flip through my friends’ comments. I imagine that I also review the event, almost writing a verbatim in my head about the presentation and the feedback in particular. Of course, the presentation comes up in my own supervision with my training supervisor as a major conversation topic.

Well, one piece of feedback on my theological theory was to consider writing it as a devotion. We had been working through the expectation of me exhibiting “mastery” (something on the grid that tells you what you need to pass essentially) and how I thought about that. The supervisor knew I wrote devotionals and he asked me how my theory would come across if I looked at it similarly. “What if you wrote this as a devotion?”

He was offering me a potential perspective transformation. He used something I could relate to and employed it in what has become a change of my view. Not all changes of view are comfortable. And they always require work. But they can be gifts. They can be good gifts.

My Blog: Connecting

I’ve been a student (through the text) of Parker Palmer for years. Scottie May introduced me to his book when I took a class on teaching and learning at Wheaton.

The book, To Know As We Are Known, was my first encounter with Palmer’s thinking. His work is foundational to the educational theory I’m developing for clinical pastoral education. He talks about prayer as a relational act. He nods to the explicit spiritual power of prayer. His subtitle is Education as a Spiritual Journey. Still, he lifts prayer as an act that can connect us to others.

It isn’t a religious act as he sees it but a relational one. Education is the same. We can relate to people and to ourselves in the learning environment.

Consider how you’ll connect to others today. What will be your prayers? The ones you utter and the ones you mutter. My sense is that we pray a lot more than we think, and in that prayerfulness may be the roots of what’s needed to relate to others.

My Blog: Sparkling Eyes

When I heard your explanation of your new position, it made me leap inside my heart. I can see you being a chaplain over there, seeing your patients, pushing the borders of your pastoral identity. I could see you praying and preaching and leading.

Your eyes sparkled as you spoke. I noticed it even though I kept my listening face. I guarded the treasure of your brightened countenance. I thought of the other residents and students in our CPE program. I thought of my chaplain colleagues and the pastors I know who are open to call. I saw them and the fulfillment of their hopes in your sparkling eyes.

You weren’t entirely happy with everything–and who’d expect that given your description of the social climate of the place–but you possessed a vision of what could be. That’s what came through your speech, through your eyes.

The vision of your next days, the long moments with others where you’d have an impact, where you’d do some more good in the world. Good for you. Good for them. Good for us.

Action, Reflection, Action

What we believe to be real comes through are words, but the better communication of our deepest understandings is our behavior. We live our beliefs more than we profess them.

I think there’s something good about saying what we believe. I’m a person who decides what I think by saying it and, in some cases, writing it. But when I want to know where the truth settles in me, I reflect on what I’ve done, what I’ve left undone, and how I’ve proceeded in life. I think most people are this way. We live into and out of life.

CPE calls this Action/Reflection, and I add another Action at the end because I do; then I reflect on what I’ve done; and then I do again. After all those moves, belief emerges clearly.