Quote of the Day

Photo Thanks to Jon Tyson

Photo Thanks to Jon Tyson

I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Jaco Hamman (Becoming a Pastor, 71):

Ministry, like any other truly human activity, emerges from your inwardness, for better or worse. As you lead and pray, you project the condition of your inner space and those around you. Ministry opens the window to your soul.

Quote of the Day

Photo Thanks to Javier Calvo

Photo Thanks to Javier Calvo

A midwife teacher helps half-baked ideas and perceptions develop in dialogue to fuller maturity. What is important is not to begin with perfected thought, but to encourage creative thinking that is pushing the edges and discovering where novelty becomes possible. A midwife helps life come during the moment of intense labor by helping a woman focus in, to concentrate on the essential, to relax into the moment. A midwife teacher does the same by guiding one to see what needs to be focused on and attended to and creates the kind of space where one can become relaxed and be oneself.

Midwife teachers know that to bring new life and truth into the classroom, they must ask questions that do not have predetermined answers, but search honestly for the revelation of truth in a community seeking truth.

From Images of Pastoral Care, 219-220.

Breathe Someone Into Life

On rare occasions, we may need to breathe someone into life who is incapacitated in a way that threatens his or her well-being. But most people can and must come to life in their own way and time, and if we try to help them by hastening the process, we end up doing harm.

(From A Hidden Wholeness, pg. 63)

Photo Thanks to Austin Schmid

Photo Thanks to Austin Schmid

Where must you come to life in your own way this week, and how can you be gentle with those places? How will you plan for breathing life into your own lungs as you work?

I think it’s really easy to carry on as if we aren’t breathing. Rushing through the morning. Pushing through until lunch or beyond that meeting just so we’re able to…

On the other hand, it’s easy to breathe. What’s hard is noticing your breath. I think the call to contemplation in real life is a simple call to notice what’s most easily unnoticed. Whether that’s the flicker of a person’s gaze in a conversation or your own hurried nature, pressing against a deep call to an alternative way of being.

Someone told me, in effect, that my calling her to a slower nature was unrealistic. She was saying that I didn’t understand. I did understand. I tried hard to hear her. In fact, I knew more about what she was saying than she did. And there was something in my counsel to her that she was resistant to. She couldn’t quite grasp the simple clarity that comes with breathing.

I was talking out of Palmer’s lexicon to some degree. We have to come to life in our own way. We can’t be rushed into newness. Like birth, gaining clarity and embracing insight is a grueling event. It’s a life and death competition.

Here’s a one-sentence prayer: Life-giver, enable me to brighten in the dismal parts of myself so that I can notice myself and, eventually, others.

Ministry in the Shadow of Violence

Me and my friend David Swanson talked together as part of an interview with our denomination’s communications department. I had originally written a piece and submitted it, and that piece turned into an occasion to talk with a friend and brother about people we deeply care for and issues we’re drawn to address.

Read the post here at Covenant Companion.

Photo Thanks to Esther Kang

Photo Thanks to Esther Kang

Creating Saints

I’ve been thinking about the creation of saints, the way saints are made, and it’s been a head swirl of a time.  I’ve been both captivated and sullen, giving my ears to the interviews between Charlie Rose and leaders in the Roman church, for instance, and struggling with questions in my own ministry of what a saint looks like and how many we have and who is so far away from the word that they themselves would laugh.

It’s a basic question.  After all, I spend my days doing ministry.  I spend a lot of time pushing, coaxing, praying, encouraging, and teaching people–all because our work is about creating saints.  Not in the Roman tradition of course.  There are no robes, no newspaper articles, no banners or flags or printed billboards.  There aren’t interviews of all the people these saints have met, notes about every conversation, explanations of the details of their miracles.

There are miracles but they’re boring, unseen miracles.  They are the daily events that God must be underneath but that Presence is so far that is silly to call them by the same name.  They’re too terrestrial, these miracles.  But we make disciples in churches.  We talk to people and recognize the gifts that only God could implant.  We create saints.

And creating saints in my way of practicing is both encouraging and debilitating.  It’s draining and fun.  It’s hard and people are ungrateful while, at the same time, in some other way, there’s nothing more interesting and full and enlivening.

Creating saints brings no cameras or coverage.  There is hardly any notice of this mundane task; even colleagues may not notice or understand since our services are so specialized and context-bound.  There is less fanfare.

Creating saints means dinners away from family, vacations at weird times when they come, taking days to recover from an experience of self-giving, or never having normal Sundays, even while Sunday is the momentous occasion of remembering what it’s all about.  Creating saints is waking up with someone’s name on my tongue, someone who’s life was given to me in 2 hours and in a way that it’ll make me intercede at odd hours.  Creating saints means insomnia and isolation because of confidentiality and appreciation for a long laugh that my son just can’t control.

No one wants to see that on television.  It would be too boring, too close to real human experience.  It’d be better to read a good novel.  At least you could close the book and move on.

Two Questions From the Weekend, pt 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a great time leading a retreat the other day with Highrock Covenant Church in Arlington, Massachusetts.  Before the Saturday retreat, I met for dinner with the two leaders helping me prepare for the day.  Michelle and Amy treated me to a tasty meal at a new favorite place, Not Your Average Joes.  Incidentally if I’m ever in Boston and you’re there too, you can take me there for a meal.  Note that I may come with family.

During our conversation, Michelle asked me two questions.  Her first was why do you lead these retreats, and I thought out loud about that in my last post.  In this post, I’m rambling about her second question.  The context of our retreat didn’t really relate to her second question since it was a broader, bigger question.  She asked, what is your dream?

Some kind of way I was expected to answer first.  So I tilted my head up and thought about the largeness of the matter.  Michelle caught my thought as if it were a tossed ball and said she knew it could be answered in many ways.  I knew exactly what I wanted to say.  Only later, when she and Amy answered themselves, did I think I miscalculated.

Their answers would hone in on particular things they wanted to do, while mine focused on the broader answer right before that, what I wanted to be.  I told them that I wanted to be a faithful pastor while being a good writer.  My dream is to serve the congregation in front of me, people I know, and to serve the reader I would probably never meet.  That has become a persistent abiding dream.  It’s a part of the play that I think of when I close my eyes.  Those two worlds combined serve as the stage on which my life is.

I’m thinking about words all the time.  I’m listening to the stories of others, making sense of them, or trying to.  In one role I’m sharing an old story, turning it over, researching its rudiments and investigating the world from which it was written.  I’m trying to interpret that story for my life and community.

In the other role, I’m wondering through the creative process and attempting to write the story in my ear, the story in front of me, the one that, unlike the old story, resists revision right now.  It’s the story I’m working over, thinking about, and going back to once I’m done writing this post.

I want to do well at both.  I’m not the type to attempt something and quit.  I’m destined to send myself nuts, but it’s the only route I know.  I blame it on my birth order.  At least today.  But these two parts of me, these untraceable pieces of my character, compose my dream.

I appreciate Michelle’s question.  I wonder how you would answer.