“I Gotta Guy”

I used to hear a phrase people would use when they would need something done and they’d know the person for it. It may have been in a movie. “I gotta guy” was the phrase.

It was and is a way to point to who’s around you, who’s available to you, who’s a resource to step in when you need someone. I don’t think I’ve heard it used in an especially gendered way. It’s less about a guy and more about help.

Everybody needs help. Whether you use language about guys or girls–and I’d suggest using those kinds of words less and less. Whatever words you use, though, how do you acknowledge your needs, your limits, and your resources?

Do you have a guy? Do you have a team? Do you have access to people who are helpful? Helpful is a key word because you can have people around you or available to you and they not help.

Take a moment and thank God for who’s around you and who’s helping you. Take another moment and survey critically whether you need new people, different people near.

There’s only courage and power in adding to the number of people around you who are helping you. Do you have a pastor? Do you have a spiritual director? Do you have a therapist? Do you have a friend?

These people can be helpful. Family can be helpful but they have a different job, right? Family is more than helpful! But when it comes to having help, who’s among that circle for you? Who’s there for you?


An Upward Cycle

I was reading Seth Godin’s post the other week and he was, as usual, encouraging me to look through a longer lens. He said that there is “an upward cycle, a slow one, a journey worth going on.” And in that comment, he captured so many things.

An image that came to mind was of bicycling. I used to do it. Haven’t for years because being a parent of small children meant, among other things, having some facility to arrive to the neighborhood more quickly than a 1.5 hour cycle commute allowed.

Chicago is flat but there is a hill or two on Lake Shore Drive’s bike path. I thought about that hill every time I headed to the path. I anticipated it, dreaded it. I looked forward to moving down that hill because it brought wind and speed. I hated the, for me, slow climb of going upward.

Consider the areas of your life. Where have you succeeded? And as importantly, where have you failed? Think about what you’re up to currently. Which journeys proved to be the ones worth going on? They were probably the slow ones, the ones that built your strength even when they didn’t seem to build your patience.

I think that the moments in life that build strength inevitably build patience. And it is cyclic. It’s upward and cyclic. Keep going upward, even if you’re moving slowly.

Read Seth’s post here.

Fathers in Varied Stages (5 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Pixababy

Photo Thanks to Pixababy

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those above 70 years:

  1. Call your children, biological or not. Even if they’re busy, put a call in. Make sure they know the sound of your (aging) voice. It’ll connect you with you and you with them. In other words, find a way to connect with them. Resist the temptation to “wait for them to call me” or to believe they’re too busy for you to call. Be a parent to them now. They need you so don’t talk yourself out of that truth.
  2. Tell your story in every possible way. We suffer when we’re robbed of our individual and corporate stories. And we’re blessed immeasurably when we tell them. People need to know you and your story. Write it. Record it. Podcast it. Whatever. You need to tell as much as others need to hear it.
  3. Make a friend for each decade behind you. I swiped this from someone, probably Dan Radakovich. I think he told me that he has a friend for each decade. He told me that we need to connect with people as friends who are younger. And we can make 7 new friends in a year. Of course, Dan makes that many friends in a week.
  4. Start a project for which you’ll never see the result. There’s something to be said for starting projects when you’re old. It reminds us all that old folks are able folks. Beyond that, it’s an effort in making a contribution in faith that that contribution will end well. In doing so, you honor that life continues beyond you. So give yourself wholly to a cause, at this stage in your life, because you aren’t so stuck on the ending. The process will nurture your spirit.
  5. Mentor one or two fathers. You need to keep in touch with parenting. You need to give, even if you’ve broken ties with your kids or if they’ve died or if you’re far away from family. Go to a church or an organization and find a father who’s open to learning. Find a newly married husband who’s mentioned wanting to learn. Teach.
  6. Stay faithful to your best values. Name what matters to you, and stay with those things. In a way, everything else fades as you age. What remains is what will remain. Those stubborn qualities are what has brought us “thus far on the way.” Those are our best values. They’re usually things like love and justice and hope. When all else fades, when sickness comes and memory goes, those things stay.
  7. Be intentional about spiritual growth. I am a pastor and chaplain, so this suggestion is no surprise. But not everybody believes what I do. Whatever your beliefs, take them as seriously as possible. In doing that, in taking your beliefs seriously, you’ll exemplify fidelity. Believe with all that you have, and in this stage, you have a lot. That’s an essentially spiritual undertaking. Stay with it.

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (4 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Alex Holt

Photo Thanks to Alex Holt

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 60 and 69:

  1. Move your body. Keep exercising rather than slowing down until you stop moving altogether. The longer you sit, the harder it is to reengage. It’s true if you’re in a chair or if you’ve checked out of life after retirement. Take that intellectually, emotionally, physically. Locate the things that capture you and keep going.
  2. Consider things well. Inspect your life’s fruit. Evaluate your choices. And make changes to adjust yourself so that this next phase of your life is as consistent with your hopes as possible. How will you align yourself so that what you wanted and couldn’t have before this phase is within your reach? If there are cracks in your relationships, they’ll be on display. Consider what you see.
  3. Grieve what needs to be grieved. You are growing older. You’re not only that, but certainly at this stage, you are aging. You notice it because it’s unavoidable. Where you have lost things, begin accepting those losses, grieving them if you haven’t, and embracing a new relationship with what’s passed on. If you couldn’t have the relationship you desired, create the one you can have.
  4. Build something. Be creative. You are the result of the creative genius of a God who loves you, and some of that creative ability from God is in you. Tap it and explore all the things you can make. What do you have in you that is a hidden gift that needs to be offered? How can you turn what’s in you now into a contribution worth giving? Locate it, build with it.
  5. Give. Related to the above, rather than waiting, be purposeful about giving. Experiment with giving to your significant others while you can see what they’ll do. Share with people, not because you don’t want things but because you’re generous. In a sense, be generous. It’ll make you more joyful. Spend time in the rooms and buildings that are reflective of your values. Give your time and wit.
  6. Revisit major decisions. Have conversations with relatives about your wishes for yourself; complete advance directives around your medical care; and make sure your life policies are updated and current. These are expressions and gestures of care for the people who you’ll eventually leave. It’s not morbid to do these; it’s loving. It’s an extension of your selflessness and care to think through such things.
  7. Worship. Connect with God in some way. People have many ways to do that, but find one that represents the inner voice in you. No one chooses that for you. That inner voice–in my words–is God speaking to God’s self within you, and you can grow increasingly comfortable with that God. Acknowledge God’s love for you at this time, in this stage, of your life.

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (3 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Olu Eletu

Photo Thanks to Olu Eletu

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 40 and 59:

  1. Consider reasons to stay. I have a friend whose propensity is to leave. I once said this friend what I mean here. We need to find reasons to stay. As life changes in us, being a great father needs to remain a high priority.
  2. See a spiritual director. Spiritual directors aren’t counselors. They’re spiritual friends who listen to what’s happening in you. They don’t consider themselves problem solvers and may be uncomfortable with the label “guide”. They hear you, and as a man you need someone in your life whose role is to hear you well.
  3. Take your health seriously. If you need to modify your diet, do so. Make and keep an annual appointment with a physician. Do it because you want to be around as long as possible and be as strong as possible.
  4. Concentrate on touching. Men need three times more intimate touch than women. And we don’t get it or give it. Our bodies don’t sense that physical communion because we focus on other things. Change the focus. Concentrate on good touch for your children, good touch for your spouse. Let your children touch your face, smash your ears, feel the wrinkles on your forehead.
  5. Speed up or slow down. If you’ve stretched out adolescence, speed up and get beyond that childish time, but if you’re super driven, you may need to take counsel in Sabbath. Don’t go into cardiac arrest because of a goal you’re driven to meet. Instead, meet a different goal: being around for the length of it.
  6. Renegotiate relationships. Your friendships need attention because you’re likely feeling stress from parents who are sick and dying, children who need more, and your own personal decline, how ever slowly you notice it. You will probably sense some notion of the divine under the surface of your busyness. Create quality relationships that enrich your mental, emotional, and spiritual life.
  7. Say “thank you” and “I love you” more often. Gratitude is a gift to those who have it and give it away and to those who receive it. And so are the rest of our emotions. As we age, we need to express all our feelings because that expression makes us more human. It, in other words, keeps us human. It also teaches our children how to be appreciative of all their gifts and how to acknowledge their feelings.

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (2 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Jordan McQueen

Photo Thanks to Jordan McQueen

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 30 and 39:

  1. Investigate your weaknesses. Name them for what they are: areas where you’re not strong. Model the gesture of naming your frailties even while your children think you’re invincible. Be honest with yourself that you aren’t what you thought, hoped, or believed. Then you can turn to your strengths.
  2. Set growth goals as a father. You can grow while your children grow. You may as well plan for it. You may as well mark your own growth. What kind of person do you want to be because you’re a father? Get at it.
  3. Work and play. In this phase it makes sense to turn your energy and focus to work, but there’s more to life than work. Take care of your family and go to work in order to do so. And try to play. Keep at the balance and the tension or the dance.
  4. Listen to your child’s mother. Hear her as best you can, even if that doesn’t mean agreement. She’ll teach you and you’ll be different because of her. While you may be many other things to your child, let your child see, identify, and remember you as a listener to her/his mother.
  5. Relate to your own father. Whether alive or dead, you can relate to your father. Develop that relationship. Nurture it so that you can notice things about him which you didn’t before. Befriend the memories that are helpful. Re-imagine those that aren’t.
  6. Think ahead as much as you can. Decide what kind of child you want to raise, what kind of qualities you want her/him to have, and how you want people to talk about her/him when they do.
  7. Consider the big questions for yourself and your family. Every family has values, implicit or explicit. Find yours. Notice what you “go to bat for” and what you’d suffer for as a person or family. Ask, “Who do I want us to be?” and “Who would make us change our schedules?” and “What is fatherhood worth to me?”

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (1 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to trace good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

I draw in these next posts thoughts together from recent readings of James Fowler and James Loder especially and from the good wisdom of people I’m watching in these various stages of parental development.

Photo Thanks to Ryan McGuire

Photo Thanks to Ryan McGuire

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 20 and 29:

  1. Go home everyday. There’s something wonderful about having your family take for granted that you’ll be home. It’s a discipline, may even be new to you, but it sets the course of what you’ll expect for yourself and what others expect from you. It starts from there.
  2. Take every responsibility you can. There’s nothing like being a custodial parent. I think doing everything related to my son’s care–being able to do everything–gave me opportunity to always have a credible opinion about my son’s care. I know what I’ve experienced with him because I’ve worked for this kid for free.
  3. Participate in the daily ritual. I’ve noticed over the last couple years that my energy toward the evening has waned. I do a good chunk of things in the mornings and by evening, I’m tired. But that daily work of parenting involves all those hours. It’s the mundane way I show that I love the boy.
  4. Read to your children. This is another way that we teach. Another way we model. At this point, Bryce is reading words with us, which makes reading better. But he’s learned to appreciate learning and imagining and taking time through reading.
  5. Tell them when you’re wrong. You’ll get good at pointing out their mistakes. Be as good, as willing, to admit your own wrongs. “I was wrong…” will open your child up to integrity and strength on display.
  6. Reconcile with the un-parented parts of yourself. My spiritual director said to me years ago that we can parent ourselves as we parent our children. That comment has stayed with me for five years because it’s true. Parenting isn’t quick. So don’t expect to parent the un-parented parts of yourself or your child in a night. It’s a long-term commitment.
  7. Give yourself to things you love. Not just the stuff you have to do, but the stuff you want to do. This will impact your feelings when you focus on your children. It’ll enable you to have joy outside of the parent/child relationship. It’ll add to your life. Your kid will love you for having one.

What would you add?

Roots of Nonconformity

Photo Thanks to Julia Caesar

Photo Thanks to Julia Caesar

James Loder wrote that “we all have a root of nonconformity, an urge to break away from the common practice of our everyday world.” James Loder was brilliant in his summary of the developmental stage he was writing about.

We all want to break away from the common. We don’t necessarily want to reject the known. We aren’t necessarily exhausted by the everyday world. But we have a root in us to extend beyond it.

I think that’s true for a lot of life. We’re made for the paradox. We’re here for the commitment, the comfortable, and the common. And we’re here for the edge.

I hope that you have the room to appreciate the common and to push against it. I’m not the best at giving you that room, but I know you need it. I know you need that constructive, creative space to water those roots of nonconformity.

It’s hard to raise you in a world that wants to wipe those roots out. It’s hard to know you need to conform enough to be safe; to conform enough to have options for freedom. It’s hard to know that balance. Of course, it’s a part of my walk of faith. I’m called to believe in the balance or in the paradox and the beauty beneath all those roots.

Heeding Our Lives

Thanks to Micah Hallahan

Thanks to Micah Hallahan

If we give heed to our lives, and live long enough, we come to understand the things that eluded us earlier because of our youth and the dogmatic posture of our religious teachers. We come to know how the Yahweh-God works in the world, and we come to appreciate the dream of the Kingdom, God’s commitment to and presence in all of humankind. The divisions melt away and we finally understand the meaning of ancient Israel’s claim: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” Once our experiences bring us to this point, we can no longer be parochial. We can longer say with conviction that one must be a Catholic. Rather, we rejoice in our own Catholicism, for we see it at its best, incarnating what the God of life has finally revealed to us in our experience, what in fact is revealed by God’s presence in all of humankind: It really doesn’t matter.

From A Theology of Presence, pg. 112

“Exchanges Between Fathers and Sons”

Thanks to Patrik Gothe

Thanks to Patrik Gothe

I read John Wideman’s Fatheralong, and here’s a great quote:

The stories must be told. Ideas of manhood, true and transforming, grow out of private, personal exchanges between fathers and sons. Yet for generations of black men in America this privacy, this privilege has been systematically breached in a most shameful and public way. Not only breached, but brutally usurped, mediated by murder, mayhem, misinformation. Generation after generation of black men, deprived of the voices of their fathers, are for all intents and purposes born semi-orphans. Mama’s baby, Daddy’s maybe. Fathers in exile, in hiding, on the run, anonymous, undetermined, dead. The lost fathers cannot claim their sons, speak to them about growing up, until the fathers claim their own manhood. Speak first to themselves, then unambiguously to their sons. Arrayed against the possibility of conversation between fathers and sons is the country they inhabit, everywhere proclaiming the inadequacy of black fathers, their lack of manhood in almost every sense the term’s understood here in America. The power to speak, father to son, is mediated or withheld; white men, and the reality they subscribe to, stand in the way. Whites own the country, run the country, and in this world where possessions count more than people, where law values property more than person, the material reality speaks plainly to anyone who’s paying attention, especially black boys who own nothing, whose fathers, relegated to the margins, are empty-handed ghosts.

(From Fatheralong, 64-65)

Millennials & Church & Protestantism

I read an article at Religion Dispatches with interest. It’s about why the Roman Catholic church is having a hard time keeping Millennials in their churches while mentioning several Millennial groups within Catholicism which are intentionally bucking that same dwindling trend.

Among the comments in the piece is the difference between doctrinal teaching in the RC church and the implicit theological agreements–often the result of a public and cultural version of theological formation–of those the church wishes to attract.

Thanks to Luis Llerena & Stock.Snap

Thanks to Luis Llerena & Stock.Snap

I wonder how Protestants come at this material. There are doctrines, i.e., church teachings, that most Protestants disagree with, and the impact of that disagreement isn’t as noticeable as it would be in the catholic setting but it’s there. People come and go, join and lose commitment. Perhaps we don’t count the way the RC church does, but are we attending to our own losses and, as importantly, the reasons behind them?

I thought of this article as I was talking with my small group Wednesday. We’re reading short stories for the summer. Every week one of us offers a piece of fiction for the group and we discuss it. The other night we read my story which was ZZ Packer’s “Speaking in Tongues” from her memorable Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.

Among the comments that emerged was the tight and unrealistic ways churches offer curricula to youth and young adults, particularly around topics like sexuality and bodies and creativity; we talked about the ways we are parented and how communication or the lack thereof shapes us even when we don’t notice it.

A couple people affirmed the church’s established place to offer doctrines (i.e., teachings) but doctrines-in-relation-to the lives that we live. We spoke about our continued longing for churches to live into that offered place and to actually engage in hard subjects.

I’d add now that the church’s inevitable place is as a shaper of morality in most people’s lives. It offers–or can offer–uniquely an environment where we learn to integrate our theology (thinking and speaking about God), our ethics (thinking and speaking about ourselves in relation to others), our practice (doing and being and living), and our hopes (aspirations and envisioned futures).

If our teachings, if whatever way explicate, doesn’t reach into and come out of an appreciation of real life, we’ll lose the people around the table. We’ll never continue to capture the imaginations of those who are yet to come. We’ll never engage the critical questions which make passing on our/any faith possible. That didn’t all come from the RD article, but the elements and residuals are there.

Read the article here.

Ongoing Growth Plans

Every year my denomination sends the members of its ministerium a form requesting our report of what we’ve done the previous year for our growth. There are specific questions from several categories. And the form also asks who we’ll share that information with after we prepare and send it.

The point is to have us let the Covenant know if we’re taking our selves seriously. Most of us possess life-long credentials, so the mechanism captures our efforts in continually nurturing the gifts in us, the gifts of us.

When you’re released for ministry of word and sacrament, it assumes that your previous experiences will be shaped by new and subsequent experiences. What we did in becoming servants of word and table, we’ll keep doing as we stay before the word, the bread, and the cup.

As I reported to Ordered Ministry a month or so ago, one of the experiences on my form is my residency in clinical pastoral education. Of course, I’m reading in this residency. I’m doing a fair amount of theological reflection, attending to pastoral formation and identity, and serving as a minister in a medical setting. I’m also teaching in a seminary and that immediately keeps me thinking about spiritual practices and ministerial ethics since I’m teaching out of those interior resources.

These experiences both equip me for my own growth and for my immediate and continued service to the local church and to the community of the denomination. But these things are a part of my plan. They are work, technically. If you asked Dawn, she’d tell you that I have all these jobs. But, in a sense, I have one vocation.

I am a pastor. I am a pastor when I meet a couple to create a genogram during premarital counseling. I am a pastor when I study the scriptures and write curricula for small groups. I am a pastor when I sit and listen. I am a pastor when I hear a story and hold it to myself. I am a pastor when I learn my congregation through weekly prayer requests, when I intercede for them, when I consider the things God has yet to do in them.

I do pastoral things when I teach here or there, but it’s all part of one vocational stream. And that stream requires that I give attention to my growth. I should be intentional, and that intentionality is my responsibility. Not my church’s. Not my clinical supervisor’s. Not my spiritual director’s. Mine. So I’ll give sustained attention to my ongoing growth in order to stay faithful at the work of Christ in me.

If I don’t, I’m not being a good minister or a good person. In other words, my growth matters. My depth matters. It matters for the work I do, but more importantly, it matters because these practices (of teaching or praying or leading or keeping quiet) make me into the person I choose to be.

What about you? How do you take responsibility for your growth and development? How are you becoming your self? What’s your ongoing growth plan? Do you have a rule of life? What are the things in your life that are there specifically to expand, nurture, and form you? Can you point to things, to relationships or partnerships?

What is one specific act you’re engaging in for your continued deepening? If you can’t name one, get to it. You’re doing your very self an injustice. You’re also robbing the world of a better gift.