devotional, pastoral care

God Has Our Best Interest

More than anything, it’s people that have tried to persuade me that God cannot be relied up to help us.

“What if God doesn’t heal?
What if God doesn’t provide?
What if God doesn’t come through?
Does God really act on our behalf?
Is God really involved in our lives and does he care?
Will God really look after me?”

Psalm 16–the writer–is saying…YES! He says,

‘I always put the LORD in front of me; I will not stumble because he is on my right side. You teach me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand.’

Psalms 16:8,11

John Goldingay says,

The psalm knows that if you want to enjoy a full life in this world, you are wise to look to the God who devised this bodily life for us…I am confident that I will be OK, not because I secretly turn to other deities but because I do rely on Yahweh, the one who guides me, the one whose voice I heed in the darkness of night when some people might secretly look in other directions.

Psalms For Everyone, John Goldingay

As a chaplain, I’ve received the calls and heard the stories:

“Chap, I got cancer.
I need surgery.
I had a stroke.
I got covid and hospitalized with a 10% chance of surviving.
I lost my job and they’re gonna foreclose on my house.
My mother died. She was my rock.
My marriage is ending. She had an affair.
I didn’t achieve the dreams and goals I made for myself.
I don’t know what to do with my life.”

These are painful realities. There are no quick fixes. I have noticed a difference in responses and reactions from people though. People who have faith in a God who is with them seem to have a deeper hope and resiliency. They are able to share their anguish and sorrow but the story doesn’t stop there. They say things like,

“Whatever happens, I’ll be ok.
I’m in God’s hands.
I’ve done what I can.
The rest is not up to me.
I’m praying for peace, joy, and hope in the midst of this trial.
I can still love others.”

These conversations happen in the hospital room, hospice, or in someone’s living room. They’re obscure places, hidden, in solitude. They smile and gently squeeze my hands, assuring ME that they’re going to be ok. There is a lightness in the room, a sense that whatever fear or worry they’ve had, it’s been shared with Jesus and He is assisting in carrying the cross with them.

The Psalmist is calling us to look to the God who is the creator of life as we go through our own journeys. As Christ followers, we make a decision every day to respond to God’s presence in our lives. We pray, we listen, we act on behalf of His good purposes. We make time to meditate on the wisdom tradition passed down to us. We learn to know the rhythms of grace and to foster an awareness of when God is speaking and leading. And when God does “show up”, He shows out.

To follow Jesus is to enter into the fullness of life NOW. Psalm 16 reminds us to show up to our lives and to be attentive to God’s presence as the One who loves us and shepherds us into the fullness of joy.

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devotional

Dealing with Uncertainty

Psalm 18 is a “testimony” spoken word. In my childhood church, we’d have a midweek service and part of it involved the “brothers and sisters”, los Hermanos y Hermanas, sharing how God had been good. People talked about being healed. Others would share about how they were struggling but that God helped them get through the difficulties. I always admired hearing the stories. It was uplifting and encouraging. If God did it for them, He might just do it for me.

Psalm 18 starts by testifying to WHO God is:

1He said: I love you, LORD, my strength.2The LORD is my solid rock,my fortress, my rescuer.My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!—he’s my shield,my salvation’s strength,my place of safety.

This morning, as I was waking up, I took a moment to prayerfully listen before I got up. The phrase that came to my mind and heart was, “My Grounding Presence”. It turned into a prayer: “Lord, you are my Grounding Presence. Lord, you ground me when things feel uncertain and scary.” For David, God was a rock, a rescuer. For me, God is the Rock that becomes my Grounding Presence in times of uncertainty.

The writer goes on to say:

‘Because he is praiseworthy, I cried out to the LORD , and I was saved from my enemies. In my distress I cried out to the LORD ; I called to my God for help. God heard my voice from his temple; I called to him for help, and my call reached his ears.

Psalms 18:3,6

I love how John Goldingay puts it:

The psalm functions to encourage the whole community to turn to Yahweh as one who can be our refuge and fortress…So the psalm can go on to give a testimony to God’s rescue. It gives a dramatic picture of God’s acting. It was so extraordinary that it was as if God had swooped down dramatically from the heavens.

Goldingay, John. Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72 (Old Testament for Everyone) (p. 57).

We have felt so many threats these last two years: pandemic, school shutdowns, political wars, US vs THEM outbreaks (vax vs unvaxxed, what’s the truth). There seems to be so much uncertainty that causes distress. Who can you trust? What can you trust?

In the midst of it all, I cry out like the Psalmist: “Save us from the enemy of distortion, power grabbing, greed. Save us from ourselves.”

So what do we do in times of uncertainty? We cry out to God and pray to be rescued. We share our distress in hopes that God will act on our behalf according to His will–his loving, gracious, and redemptive will. We turn to our spiritual community and listen to how God is acting on other’s behalf as well, being encouraged that if He does it for them, He’ll do it for us.

Lord, we cry out to you in our distress. Be our grounding presence, our rock and refuge, in our times of trouble. Heal where there is sickness and disease. Restore where this is lack. Provide your peace and rest for the anxious and brokenhearted. According to your loving kindness, hear our prayers and act on our behalf. Amen

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devotional, pastoral care

Psalm 119 is Special

“Those who guard God’s laws are truly happy! They seek God with all their hearts. I keep your word close, in my heart, so that I won’t sin against you.” Psalms 119:2,11

Psalm 119 is special. It hits different. I love the practical wisdom it offers, and it comes from someone who is aware of the ebbs and flows of life. I remember reading this psalm in my teens and twenties, often praying that I’d be like this person, inspired to meditate on the sacred book and be influenced by it.

John Goldingay, in his brilliant Psalms for Everyone Commentary, says:

First, the psalm teaches, adhering to God’s rules is the way of blessing. Things go well in your life. You can hold your head high. You can expect God to be with you and not finally abandon you…

Sometimes you have to live in light of the way you believe things will work out in the long run.

The psalm can speak of people who have done no wrong in relation to these laws, which shows that they are not setting an impossibly high standard. The Ten Commandments illustrate the point. It’s not so esoteric, though it may be difficult in that other people are worshiping other gods and making images and working 24/7 and having affairs. The question is whether we want to do so. The psalm encourages us to keep reminding ourselves that being desirous of living by God’s rules is worthwhile.

Goldingay, John. Psalms for Everyone, Part 2: Psalms 73-15 (Old Testament for Everyone) (p. 144).

I’ve had a good life so far and I believe it’s in part because I’ve made a commitment to follow Christ the King. I’ve wanted to. I’ve seen the payoff to living by God’s decrees and wisdom. I love how Goldingay says that it’s not so impossible to live by the 10 commandments. It may become difficult when others don’t live by them. I’ve seen the pain and hurt of affairs, murder, and stealing. All it takes is one person to act out and it’s felt in the community.

And I love how the Psalmist pronounces a blessing as we seek God with all our heart. While we may have difficulties in our life and journey, seeking God and doing his will come with a blessing that as we keep God’s decrees, we will experience an unspeakable joy and peace. We also never be left to fend for ourselves. It’s a lie and distortion of God’s wisdom that we’re something happy accidents, living this life completely on our own and by our own efforts. There is a God who loves this world and every single aspect of it, moving hearts and minds. He is an Involved God, not distant or disinterested.

Lord, grant us the heart and willingness to listen and to obey your decrees, which are nothing more than expressions of the purest form of love for you and for others.

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peacemaking

Courage and Peacemaking

In John 13, two things happen.

One: Jesus is betrayed. Whatever your goals or plans are, there will be people who do not agree and have a difference of values. They stand to lose something because of your stance and decisions. Also, betrayal is painful.

Two: After the betrayal, Jesus gives them a new commandment to follow. “Love each other”. One thought in the tradition is that it’s a new commandment because it builds on the first one to “love God”. In the face of betrayal, Jesus calls his disciples to love each other. It’s the only way God’s love is displayed.

In the last 10 years, the internal betrayal and hatred Americans have for one another is disheartening. Polarization on any topic has caused such disdain and contempt for the other that it has affected the way we live with one another. Some see the American flag and are triggered. Others fly the trump flags as a substitute for the real one.

We’ve lost the ability to cultivate peace which is an expression of love. In our stance to speak our truths, we have been betrayed or betrayed others. We need a courage that will help us go inward and cultivate peace in our hearts first.

We need a courage for self-expression and also a courage for communal-participation. We find ourselves and “the other” in both. This is one of the tensions that America is struggling with (i.e. personal rights/freedoms, communal responsibility). We need the deep grounding God offers to realize both (which are, at times, in tension with each other).

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on anger, he invites us to cultivate peace in our hearts instead of trying to find it “out there”. We must learn how to acknowledge our anger and cradle it as a baby infant so that we don’t act out in tantrums.

How might we slow down and sit with our anger and betrayals? How might we see that we too are contributing to the collective problem by not soothing our anger? To the degree that we’re angry and act out towards, we short circuit our ability to cope with betrayal and pain. We continue to transmit it in hostile and negative ways.

How might Jesus’ call to love each other in the midst of betrayal be our own call today?

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communication

Communication – Peace Begins With You

In his book on Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh is teaching me to overcome hurt and disappointment with compassion and forgiveness. In the Gospels, Jesus is moved with compassion and forgiveness. As a chaplain and consultant, I believe these teachings have a place in the workplace. These virtues are sometimes most needed in your area of work.


“Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. Ask him to support you. Tell him, “Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.” Make it clear and ask for support.

You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. You must give one hundred percent of yourself. Whatever you can do for yourself, you do for him, or for her. Don’t wait. Don’t put forth conditions, saying, “If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.” This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you. It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved. There are always ways to create more joy, peace, and harmony, and you have access to them. The way you walk, the way you breathe, the way you smile, the way you react, all of this is very important. You must begin with this.”

Except from Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh

The moment we blame or shame another person is the moment we have lost our peace and ability to communicate with the other. “But what about my anger, the fire burning in my belly?!” You must nurture it with empathy because if you don’t, it will spoil your insides. It will rob you of the person you truly long to be.

I don’t ever want to dehumanize the workplace. It is filled with humans who have hearts and souls, who are working for a greater purpose than simply a paycheck. We are working towards relational awareness as well, becoming humans who love and serve our neighbors.

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formation

When you can’t afford therapy

For many, therapy is not an option because of finances/insurance, cultural taboos, or the thought of sharing personal information feels uncomfortable (or another version of this).

Here are some options when you can’t afford therapy:

  • Read (or listen to audiobooks 2x faster which studies show you may retain more) as much as you can on the topics you may be dealing with. This is how I learned about anxiety disorders when I was struggling with them.
  • Exercise. It’s even better if you can do it outside to get vitamin D. It helps release the negative stress and anxiety and increases the healthy chemicals that cause to think differently. This was a game changer in my 30s and now 40s.
  • 12 step group approach. There are a wide range of topical groups to pick from.
  • I’d also recommend talking with trusted friends and family members, meditating (I use an app called Insight…it’s free), and spiritual resources that are holistic and healing.

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Organizational Health

By the time I hear

By the time I hear the phrase “lack of communication”, the person saying it is already feeling isolated and unappreciated. They might even feel angry, anxious, or irritable.

When people say there is a lack of communication on the team, I ask them to share a story or an example. And what I really hear is,

I don’t feel included in the decision making process.

Do you value what I think?

I feel disconnected from the process.

Do my opinions matter?

Healthy communication leads to deeper Communion, trust, accountability, and results.

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pastoral care

God, Come Through!

‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;*
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

Revelation 21

God became human form that human form might become the image of God.

God became human form, living among mortals, that mortals might have a new living hope beyond death.

God became human form to wipe away human tears, human pain, human lament.

What tears and pain do you carry today?
A broken relationship.
An inability to forgive and forget.
The pain of politics, loss of spiritual community, lack of finances.
A loss of purpose and meaning.
Feeling misunderstood and unseen.
A fear of getting older, irrelevant, unknown.

How might God be wiping away your tears and pain today?

How might the power and reality of God’s presence with you be a grounding and calming effect on your heart and mind?

I believe God sees the pain and creates space for us to face it and act as needed. I don’t like this process but I know what it’s like to avoid the pain long term. Depression. Anxiety. Mood swings.

When I’m in pain and loss, I need to know that I’m not alone and that I’ll be ok. I need a space to voice all my fears and hopes, struggles and issues. I don’t want to be in pain and loss. But it’s here and it’s better for me to face it than ignore it.

I want wisdom and strength to face the situations.
I want to be a loving person in all my interactions.
I want to forgive and love my enemy.
I want the energy to work towards breakthrough and wholeness.

God, come through!

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human development

Masculinity – Self Mastery

Here’s a Diddy from Timothy Keller…

Men who indulge…We’ve certainly seen our fair share of men who live in excess. Politicians, church leaders, neighbors, executives, athletes. We may even be “that dude”.

For all the masculine wars I’ve seen online about how to define masculinity, there is still a need for men to be taught self-mastery. We need other men who can model for us what this looks like in relation to sex, relationships, money, power, and curiosity. I also think we need women who model self-mastery. I guess we men might benefit from a masculinity that is caught and learned by observing both men and women who embody this self-mastery.

I think I’m a hard ass because I immediately think of how much culture sucks at self-mastery. Look at the scandals, the shootings, and the overt addiction to consumerism (in many shapes and forms). Men are being released into society who have not learned to rule themselves, let alone “rule” others.

I recently met with a new friend who is a later stage in life . I’m learning about long term financial investments living and about re-inventing yourself at different stages of life. What I admire about Cliff is that he’s been working on self-mastery for 6 decades. And he’s still willing to learn how to go about it.

We need a recovered manhood that isn’t so much about being an MMA fighter who carries a gun or about a passive, soft spoken introvert that wears sweaters everyday. We need a manhood that is about self-mastery and learns to be released from the unhealthy cycles of excess and indulging.

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pastoral care

Thriving and Self Care

Stress and anxiety.  That’s what my doctor shared with me about 15 years ago when I went in for an appointment.  I was tired, couldn’t sleep, and felt like I had a ton of bricks on my chest.  After a medical exam, he determined that I was under a lot of stress.  “What’s causing the anxiety and stress?”  I shared with him the difficulties I was facing.  He was very compassionate and advised me to see a therapist.  This was the beginning of what I would later learn to call care of the self and soul.  And I realized that I wanted to thrive in all areas of my life. 

————

Thriving personally and professionally.  It’s a phrase I come back to when I feel overwhelmed or misguided.  It’s a working vision for my life.  

I also like the word flourishing.  It conjures up an image of fresh vegetation that is life-giving, both to the body and mind, but also to the desire for beauty and aesthetics.  In sum, thriving is about wholeness and vitality in life, not just one dimensional.  It’s all the major areas of our lives being attended to and nurtured.  

For some, the stress might surround their physical health.  Losing weight.  Just moving around more.  For others, it might be professional health.  Setting work hour boundaries.  Dealing with a conflict between coworkers.  

The following illustration is an example of how one might engage in the work of thriving.  We are empowered with personal responsibility to cultivate such a life and this diagram is a helpful place to survey where one might start.

Exercise

One way to engage with the diagram is to read through the wheel and do the following:

1.  Assess:  what area seems to draw my attention?

2.  Advise:  given my need to address this part of the wheel, what do I want to do about it?

3.  Action:  commit to small steps of care this week.

In my faith tradition, we talk about flourishing and thriving under the auspice of wholeness and life to the fullness (John 10:10b). We believe that God has made us in his image (Gen.1:27, James 3:9).

God cares about every facet of our lives, including work! God’s love and salvation extend to each area of the self-care wheel. Out of love for us, God is intimately aware of the stress and anxiety you are experiencing. Our faith offers us a way to interpret (discern) what is happening in our lives and to make meaning. In sum, God cares about you thriving personally and professionally.

Prayer: “God, I look up and where does our help come from? It comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. We pray that you would grant us the strength to engage in the kind of self-care that would help us thrive personally and professionally.”

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Contemplative Prayer, prayer, spiritual disciplines, spiritual formation, spiritual transformation

Difficulties in Prayer

Reading and reflecting on “Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction” by Frank J. Houdek, SJ


I remember Eugene Peterson once saying that someone wanted to talk to him about their marriage issues.  But before they started, he asked them about their prayer life.  What does prayer have to do with marriage (or any other circumstance we’re facing)?  Everything!  

The ministry of spiritual direction has been life changing for me. Prayer is God’s responsibility and primary effort to be in communion with humanity. God initiates prayer that we might response by receiving such a free gift of consolation and communion; that we might become aware and alert to God’s wooing in our lives.

In “Guided by the Spirit”, Frank Houdek writes about some of the difficulties of prayer within the  spiritual direction (informally, many pastoral interactions) relationship.  Previously, Houdek is saying that prayer is an invitation into a deeper surrender and trust with the Source of Life.  Prayer invites us into a freedom to be our truest self where we experience God’s unconditional love for who we are.

Houdek points out a few difficulties we may experience in prayer:

  • Prayer is difficult because it requires deeper levels of trust that God loves us and is acting on our behalf.
  • Prayer styles and ruts are real. 
    •  It’s easy to get stuck on a style of prayer because that’s all we know.  Yet we’re not experiencing freedom, flow, or authenticity.  
    • We have a limited view of prayer that can diminish our experience instead of expanding God’s love.
  • An exaggerated preoccupation with the self.
    • “Often the source of this difficulty is a long-term sense of personal inadequacy…a lowered self-esteem, a sense of personal deficiency…[causing the person concern about doing prayer the right way].
  • We exert too much effort in making prayer “successful”
    • Houdek says that we may have a “…self-righteous approach to prayer predicated on the understanding that prayer is something one does and that, if one does it intensely enough, then God must respond.”
  • Exaggerated guilt can hinder growth and development in prayer
    • The directee recognizes the gap between proposed ideal behavior and actual performance”
    • What is the working image of God in this experience?  Most likely the demanding and judgmental God-parent.  
  • A pattern of moral disorder or real moral fault.
    • The person is aware that their personal behavior is destructive to oneself or others.  They’re doing life in such a way that is contrary to the love of God in their life.  

Houdek would say that these are very common difficulties that come to the surface in spiritual direction.  

For each difficulty, he offers some insights that are helpful in working through them.  I’ll highlight a few:

  • Find new styles, places, postures, to pray.
    • Prayer must be authentic to who you are.  You can sing, listen to music, meditate, pray in a group, do a prayer walk, charismatic prayer, scripture reading and prayer.
    • If you feel caught in a routine for a lengthy period of time that is not producing inner freedom and helping you to respond to the actions and initiatives of God, try changing up the prayer routine.
  • Discover and accept a clearer realization of God’s unconditional and unqualified love for you.
    • We need personal freedom from the constant and debilitating negative self-preoccupation.  (For some, it might help to pray with a spiritual director or trusted friend to remind them of God’s unmerited love).
  • How does a flower grow?  
    • By receiving sun and rain.  So too is success in prayer.  It’s a gift we received, something God is shining and raining upon us.
  • Practice some form of physical relaxation exercises such as breathing prayer, nature walks, contemplative prayer, art visualization prayer, or religious music to release rigidity towards prayer.  This will help lead a person towards more freedom and liberation from debilitating experiences.  
  • Concentrate on your values rather than ideals.
    • Too often, we can idealize our prayer lives.  “A focus on values and a concentration on commitment to value will gradually liberate the [person] from the tyranny of the ideal.”
  • Recognize the difference between feelings and morality
    • Feelings are morally neutral (and may point to a need to be attended to)
    • “It is how we choose to act that raises the issue of morality.”
    • Too often, we can deal with feelings of guilt in prayer over our “feelings” which are neutral.  Bring the feelings–anger, sexuality, guilt–into God’s healing presence.

Houdek says that “At best, prayer is always a matter of purity of intention by which every aspect and dimension of life is continually and consciously being redirected toward the living God.  It is the normal and ordinary response to the realization of God’s gifts to the person.  As this realization and awareness grows and takes hold of one’s consciousness–that God is gracious and constant in gift-giving– the [person] will pray more maturely and more responsibly, with considerable devotion, personal satisfaction, and spiritual consolation.”

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pastoral care

Robes and Vulnerability

“They dressed him (Jesus) up in an elegant robe”
Luke 23:11

They’re obviously mocking Jesus. He was stripped, practically naked.

Was his vulnerability too much for them?
Was he too exposed?
The image too real?
His heart of love worn on his sleeve too much for them?

He was naked.
They mocked him.

Did they, for a moment, realize that maybe he was the King and quickly mocked and robed him?

Does someone’s transparency and vulnerability sometimes cause others to mock and create their own image of the other? A safer image. Or an image they can mock?

Vulnerability and (religious) absolutism clash.
Transparency and nakedness seems too uncomfortable for the well suited.

His naked silence was met with mocking contempt, a robe to cover the truth.

And the truth?
“Not my will but your will be done”
“Father, forgive them”
“Into your hands I commit my spirit”

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pastoral care

Family Value: Self-Motivated

My childhood required me to be self-motivated and driven. It was in part to survive but also because I wanted something new that I hadn’t experienced before.

My wife and I are very self-motivated and driven. This means that we don’t need someone telling us what to do every corner. We do need advice, some guidance, and support along the way. But our dreams and hopes give us fuel to be motivated.

We also value freedom and personal responsibility. Our work will need to speak for itself. The way we carry ourselves and care for others will be signs of our freedom and taking responsibility.

We hope to pass these values on to our boys. We know their path will look different than others. We don’t expect them to be like us or to do the things we do. But we hope that they will learn the value and practices of being self-motivated and to take personal responsibility.

I’m not the smartest person. Really. I’m not. But these values and actions push me to exceed my limited “smartness”.

Self-motivation and drive translates into practices of living out of my hopes and dreams, my goals. It means I’m going to think through my goals and how to reach them. It means I’m going to ask others for help along the way. It means that I don’t need someone telling me, step by step, how to live my life but instead to encourage me to keep discovering, being aware, and taking responsibility.

It’s a different way to parent as well.

My kids grades are a reflection of multiple layers. While I care about the letter, I care about the effort and motivation. And it’s their grades to own. Yes, they need support and we’re here for them. Yes, they might not like certain subjects and struggle with some areas. But ultimately, we want them to own their studies.

There is a lot of empathy and grace for this process. Especially during the pandemic. 🙂

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pastoral care

A Shift In Church is Now Here

A shift in church world is now here. People have been talking about it happening for a while now. But it’s here. The pandemic ushered it in.

NOTE: I’m using CHANCE THE RAPPER as an example of someone who is incarnating this model of living. He recently produced a movie and bypassed all the regular norms, going straight to the movie theaters. No media company needed. No distribution needed. Others who are doing this include Kendrick Lamar, Snarky Puppy, and the late Nipsey Hussle. All created their record labels and did things are their terms.


Here are a few things I’ve noted:

**women will be pastoring and leading movements. They already are and they’re thriving!!

1) people of color will no longer give blind allegiance to predominantly white churches. They will speak peace (respect) and if it’s not returned, they will take their peace (respect) back and move on.

2) the multi-ethnic/cultural (race reconciliation) issue will not go away. it’s here to stay. And it’s messy. A book series won’t cut it. A few dinners won’t fix it. There will need to be some deep hearing from God, listening, and voluntary displacement.

3) The gospel message will need to address the idolatry of nationalism within the four walls. Politics will not go away within the church walls.


4) Mission and justice locally will need to be a primary discipleship task. The gospel shapes both.

5) People who are seeking the Kingdom of God will do it Monday – Friday. Sundays will be more about a healthy liturgy where the people do the work of organizing themselves around rituals and relationships in small pockets. It will be a small blip compared to the discipleship, spiritual formation, and relational work being done in the workplace, neighborhood, city, and family.

6) we will need more spiritual director pastors and less “WORK HARD/PRAY HARD/LET’S CRUSH IT” charismatic leaders. These spiritual director pastors will connect with business leaders, social justice leaders, congregants in their spaces more than in church spaces. These spiritual director pastors will be deeply entrenched in prayer, hearing from God, and helping others discern what the Lord is saying to them.

7) Jesus followers will form more spiritual/social networks within their range of living, making it easier to support each other, pray together, and seek justice and peace in their local communities. They understand that the real work of faith is done locally, not in the church service.
😎 The Sunday church service is still needed. But not as much as an embodied faith is needed Monday – Friday.

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The Boys

Illusions of Fixing and Midpoints

Sometimes when we think about a problem, there is a tendency–a knee jerk reaction–to immediately come up with a solution, a fix. And sometimes that’s the right course in circumstances that require an immediate fix. But most do not. Most problems will require slowing down, listening, and noticing how you’re reacting. Some defaults include avoiding the issue, reacting too fast to it, or figuring out how to avoid the pain of it.

Fixing issues can also become addictive. I can become an addiction so to speak. We’re so fixated on fixing the issue for the sake of the “fix”, not so much to address the real underlying issues.

In this state, we bypass wisdom and instead want to solve the issue at whatever means necessary. This has caused more problems in my life. Someone yesterday said, “Americans’ don’t like to hear ‘NO'”. He was very right. I don’t like to hear NO. So I find ways to get my way. And this is where the addiction type behavior starts.

Fantasizing about fixes.

Going through different scenarios and options.

Trying to play it all out in our imagination.

When my mind goes to these places, it’s time to SLOW DOWN, to pay attention to what I most need to do in that moment: SURRENDER. Pause. Listen.

MidPoints

Psalm 102 (NRSV)

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
    he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “do not take me away
    at the midpoint of my life,
you whose years endure
    throughout all generations.”

Recently, I’ve been parallel reading the New Revised Standard Version with the New International Version. I hadn’t realized how much more I like the NRSV. For example, in today’s reading, I came across the verse above. Just yesterday, I was talking to someone about midlife.

What I’m learning about midlife is that the set of rules that worked for the first half of life (mainly survival and identity making) no longer work. In the MIDPOINT of life, it seems that if one wants to have a deeper spirituality and relationships, we must undergo what happens in v.23:

“he has broken my strength in midcourse…”

The first half of life strength seems to be broken in midlife. The rules seem to change. The desires seem to rumble for something more, something deeper. Like strength and motivation are zapped. And it’s at this point that the writer asks for a new strength.

“Don’t take me away at the midpoint of my life.”

It feels like there is a death happening and we wonder if there will be a new birth, a new season, a new life. God is an enduring presence throughout all generations. In some ways, we want our lives to be enduring in the midpoint of our lives.

I pray for that today.

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pastoral care

God’s Self-Revelation and Pastoral Vocations

Some time ago, I had a friend who asked if a family member could call me to discuss chaplaincy (throughout the year, I’ll have a few of these conversations with people who want to know more about corporate chaplaincy).

The family member called and shared her interest in the work of the chaplain. As I heard her share, I wondered what compelled her to this unique form of ministry. After all, she was young (very early 20s), attending college, and trying to figure out next steps. And I don’t get a lot of late teens/early 20’s calling me and asking about how to be a chaplain. I was very intrigued to hear more of her story.

“Can you tell me a little more of what is drawing you to chaplaincy in this season of life”, I asked.

Without disclosing too much information, she had experienced great losses in her family and was moved by the idea of helping others process their losses, their medical heartaches, and walking with families through these difficult times.

I still remember sitting in my home office and wondering, “Wow! This chaplaincy work will continue well beyond me!” It’s the first time I had this sense that, 1) I’m getting older and will not be a chaplain forever, 2) God is calling young people into the ministry, 3) What is my responsibility in passing down what I have learned.

After we finished our conversation, I sat in my chair for what seemed like hours, praying for her, wondering about God’s Kingdom, and how God will continue to call people to serve His purposes for this world. I felt very small and humble.

As I’ve been reading John’s first pastoral letter, one get’s the sense that something special is happening: “That which was from the beginning…”

God not only is the chief creator of the world and the cosmos, but He is also in the business of revealing Himself to us, to humanity. God has been doing this since the beginning.

In his letter, John is making a case that God did indeed take on the form of flesh that He might dwell among us (the Gospel of John, ch.1). Simply put, God is in the business of self-revelation!

Two stories: the young woman feeling a call to pastoral vocation and God’s self-revelation.

The young person feeling something happening inside her heart, something calling her to be a certain type of person in this world.

A God who so loved the world, His own creation, longing to liberate, heal, redeem, and renew…this God is not hidden from us.

God will continue to reveal himself to humanity and will not stop calling women and men to the ministry of shepherding, proclaiming, bearing witness, and being in fellowship with God and others.

Tonight, I’m grateful for the conversation I had with this young woman and for John. I’m deeply grateful that God longs to reveal himself to us.

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pastoral care, richard rohr

Ego Strength and Conditional Love

Richard Rohr talks a lot about needing Ego Strength in the first of half of life so that we can survive and cope. It helps us develop identity, our gifts and talents, and help us to get on with life. This ego strength is sometimes not received when we were growing up. It would require parents and a community of support that mirrored us, spoke life into us, and parented us in such a way that we felt we had something to offer this world.

So many of us grow up not really knowing who we are, chasing relationships (i.e. partner, church leadership, boss, work, fame, etc) for validation, trying to figure out who we are and if we’re good enough. We don’t have the ego strength to be sure of ourselves.

He also talks about needing both unconditional and conditional love. Conditional love would be the equivalent of the 10 commandments in religion or a parent who is constantly setting limits and boundaries. I had some leaders in my life that provided conditional love too often. But it made me a better musician, student, and thinker. I didn’t like the mind games but I was pushed.

I had a boss that offered both types of love as well. She was very demanding and expected results. But she showered the team with lots of encouragement and respect. Yet if we screwed up, we knew about it. I did my best I.T. work under her supervision. I wanted to meet her expectations. I was better for it.

If we don’t have rules or laws, we’ll never know if we’re in danger or if we’re about to cause danger. The Bible says not to covet. We’re told not to do that. And when we do it, we see its effects. We need some conditional love figures in our lives to help us grow. We need a healthy dose of law and love for spiritual vitality.

We also need to lay down our first half of life ego strength so that we do not become narcissistic. The world doesn’t revolve around us. Church does not revolve around us. Both will continue beyond our contributions or hostile feelings towards it.

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pastoral care

Thomas Merton on Apostolic Work and Results

For some of us, we use our work to prove that we are alive and valuable. We live out of a fear that we’re not good enough so we work hard to prove that we are. This causes great anxiety.

Some of us also take on mythical causes–knights in shining armor–thinking that we can rescue a system, a person, a cause. To prove something.

Thomas Merton writes a letter to a person and addresses these “maladies”. This is exactly what I needed this morning and season of my life.


Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.


The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.


The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.


The great thing, after all, is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion.


The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand.


Enough of this…it is at least a gesture…I will keep you in my prayers.


All the best, in Christ,
Tom

The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters, by Thomas Merton, Excerpts from p.294 – 297
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leadership development, pastoral care

The Church and Healthy Leadership

source:

In doing research for a paper on the mission of God and the marketplace, I came across Patrick Lencioni’s works on organizational health and management.

He’s been consulting with companies for years and recently, he’s been working with parishes (he’s deeply committed Catholic Christian).

In this short interview, he explains how church staff and leadership are the primary agents of health in the parish.

He says,

“They have to learn how to trust each other, argue well, make commitments, hold each other accountable, and focus on getting results for God. When they settle for mediocrity, it’s so sad, and that idea of settling for mediocrity because ‘it’s just church stuff so it’s good enough’ has often pervaded our Church.”

Patrick Lencioni

Like companies, the Church has a mission. But its mission has deeper implications than a company (not that it’s “better” than a company). So it requires deeper vulnerability, courage, resilience. Deeper accountability to one another and the work. A deeper commitment to practice leadership health and stay focused on the mission of God…to the world renewed by the love of God. that’s the aim. That’s the focus!!!

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Parenting, pastoral care

Parenting Ourselves, Faith, and Kids

I love using the end of the year (typically starting late November through the first weeks of January) to assess the previous year and what my hopes and longings are for the following year. Notice I didn’t say GOALS or RESOLUTIONS. My motivation is a lot more focused if I think about my hopes and longings because I believe that’s where God is most likely at work or active in my life, animating these desires by the Holy Spirit.

This year (2021), I want to pay more attention to how God might be at work in my son’s lives and our family unit. I start this by simply acknowledging that God longs for our family to know Him in intimate and personal ways. I long for my son’s to know that God loves them, forgives them, empowers them, and has a task in this life for them to participate in. I long for my son’s to have the spiritual vitality needed to make do in this world that is full of wonder, but also filled with pain.

I want my son’s to work hard, earn a livable wage, pay their bills on time, be gracious towards others, and participate in God’s redemptive purposes in this world. I want them to have loving relationships with friends a future partner, and to do common good in this world.

Whatever form that takes, I’m here to support. And I want to be with them as they learn to discern God’s active presence and invitations for their lives.

I hope to have religious, moral, and daily life conversations with my son’s as they get older and explore the different contours of life. I hope they can be honest with me or some other guide in their lives that will help them be self-aware, honest, compassionate, and courageous.

And I want them to enjoy the hell out of life: to travel, meet new people, have dreams and chase them.

I think Christina and I model our faith in public ways for our boys to see. We have a commitment to a local church community. We talk about our faith off and on during dinner time. But I think we can spend more time praying for them and listening to what God might want to say and do in their current lives.

Author Kara Powell says that we will get what we are. She cites another researcher saying,

“The most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents. “

— Christian Smith and Melissa Lundquist Denton (Smith and Denton, Soul Searching)

Powell, Kara. The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family (p. 28).

At this stage of faith, I trust that God fills us with the Spirit to parent our kids. But, as Dallas Willard says, “Grace is opposed to earning, not effort”. I can take some time to be intentional about praying for my son’s and listen to how the Spirit might be active in drawing near to them. This is my longing this year.

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Mission

The Gospel is a Public Truth

The dualism of private/public, personal/professional is being unraveled in me and around me.

The fragmentation and disembodied faith that is birthed under this dualism is the cause for much of the broken policy and polity we are seeing.

The Gospel healed me (and continues to) but it also CHALLENGES me to think of my life as a holistic embodiment of its core truth that touches ALL OF MY LIFE. Everything that happens in public, private, political, priestly, personal, professional.

Why do this matter?

  • Because we carry on our days thinking that what happens privately won’t have public ramifications and vice versa.
  • Because we think that politics is OUT THERE and priestly work is IN HERE.
  • Because we think we can have two lives, one outcome.

The gospel is a public truth, a secular announcement. The Church is a primary vehicle and it shapes and forms the imagination of the Christ follower when it gathers. But the full circle is completed when the Christ follower is scattered, sent into public, civic life. The Gospel offers a grounding for the current social constructs we have that feel ungrounded.


Michael Goheen, a Newbigin “nerd” (in a great way that I need) says,

“The gospel makes a remarkable and bold claim: the goal of universal history—and therefore the purpose and meaning of the whole creation—has been disclosed, accomplished, and made present in the life, death, and resurrection of one Jewish man in the middle of history. This is surely not an announcement to be slotted into a private category called “religion.” Rather, it is a “secular announcement” and “public truth”: it is a message of ultimate importance for all people.”

Goheen, Michael W.. The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology

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Homily

God Speaks Peace over Political Storms

1.22.2021 – Homily


Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Mark 4:35-41

Does this passage have anything to say about our current day politics, God’s rule and reign, and our response?  

First, a quick word from NT Wright, Anglican Bishop and scholar:

“the Jews were not a seafaring people; they left that to their Phoenician neighbours to the north. The sea came to symbolize, for them, the dark power of evil, threatening to destroy God’s good creation, God’s people, God’s purposes. In books like Daniel, the sea is where the monsters come from.”

Wright, N. T.. Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 52). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition. 

The story of the Storm and the boat has a few symbolic tones.  For one, we think of how the Jews viewed the sea:  as a dark, evil power who needed to be subdued and conquered.  There are a number of Psalms and Old Testament passages depicting how God delivered His people from the evil waters:  the exodus and parting of the sea, Jonah and the big fish, Jesus walking on water.  

All of these stories point to a second reality:  the God-made-flesh sleeping in the boat is the One who created atmospheric pressure, the sun, rotation….which impacts wind and rain, waters and waves.  The Creator napping is the One who has sovereign rule over all of creation.  Here’s the point:  God’s kingdom is at hand with all the power needed to speak life and order from chaos and death.  

On Thursday, January 20th, 2021, if you’re a republican who wanted Trump to win, you feel like you’re in a boat and there’s a storm that’s about to affect the economy, the stock market, and the policies you believe in deeply.  You might even be afraid and angry.  

On Thursday, January 20th, 2017, if you’re a democrat who wanted Trump to lose, you felt like you’re in a boat there was a storm that was about to affect the policies you’ve been fighting for, mourning the Obama administration era coming to a close, and wondering what’s going to happen to the leadership in this country.  You might even be afraid and angry.

I’m not as smart as some political and economic strategists and consultants are. My life is but a blip, a grain of sand compared to the big dynamics happening in Washington or on the news channels. But as a chaplain who listens to leaders and employees discuss their fears and longings, I think about what the Gospels have to say about our current day realities.

In both January 20th days, Jesus was in the boat listening to his disciples share their fears and anger.  Jesus was speaking peace to the storm and telling sailors to not be afraid.  More so, Jesus was rhetorically asking when they were going to stop by afraid and to have some real faith?  

Whatever political spectrum boat you find yourself rocked in today, the Creator is speaking peace over the storm and is telling is not to be afraid.  To have real faith.  

Have the kind of faith that will trust God to rule and reign over your business, finances, but mostly your heart.  Guard your heart from fear and anger.  Guard it from pessimism and polarization.  You and I have lived through different administrations and as we submit to God’s rule and reign, will God not speak peace over our storms?  Will God not call us to a deeper trust?  

Like the disciples, when I disagree with policies and personalities, I get angry and afraid. I might lash out. I might criticize.  I might bemoan.  And I’ve had to repent several times.  I’m not always right.  But I’m trying to get it right.  

Lord of Creation, we offer up to you our anger and fears, our hopes and desires.  We ask that you speak peace over our political storms and call us into a real faith that submits to your Lordship, your rule and reign.  Amen.

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daily journal

A Cold December

December 2020 has been cold. We have great weather in San Diego year round. Usually in the 70s. So when it drops to the 30s and 40s at night, or we try to go cycling in 45 degree weather morning time, I complain and fret.

I’m sleepier during the hour change. The colder, dry weather doesn’t suit me.

Christina is on her way home from the office. She doesn’t have to go but once a week. I’m sitting here reading “The Ride of a Lifetime” by Robert Iger. He’s the former CEO for the Walt Disney company. I’d rather read about his experiences than watch tv and have someone else do the thinking for me tonight.

Today was a good day. I had some personal insights as I met with my doctoral professor. It’ll be hard this week to articulate a theology of work that makes a case for the existence of corporate chaplains. It must be deeper than simply saying we’re there to care for people.

I struggle to share political thoughts and feelings. It’s such a charged climate these days. I don’t want to alienate others who may differ from my views. But I am constantly thinking about public and private living, spiritual and secular, political and personal.

I hope to understand others and and be a safe place to process thoughts.

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pastoral care

Long Living and Dwelling Satisfaction

We are living longer these days. Into our 80s and 90s. And strong. By all accounts, I’m barely halfway if I live to be 85. I’ve seen and done a lot of things that have brought me joy. Sometimes I wake up and ask myself if the life I have is it. I’ve been trying to answer that question by wondering what more I should do or become. But it’s falling short.

Instead, I’m leaning into my faith.

Dreams have a way to speak to us. It could very well be an unloading of the unconscious, which is very healthy. But they can also have deeper meanings. Dreams have been very clear and symbolic lately. I recently had a dream about John ch. 14-15. Dwell. Abide. Remain. In my dream, I felt a deep hole being filled with God’s tenderness and presence.

Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Our faith tradition tells us that we God created us for a deep, communal relationship. In this space of relating, I seem to be more of my true self: one who is loved and has the power to love others in my own unique ways. Isn’t that when the self is at its most truest? When it is known to be loved and is catalyzed to love others?

It just so happens that one of the readings for today was John 15. And it was the reminder that my primary work is to give myself over to the presence of God, where there is deep satisfaction beyond feelings, thoughts, and performance.

If I’m going to live a long life, I pray to be satisfied in the presence of the Sacred in ways that I might see in all the simplicity and little things of life. Making coffee in the morning. Putting on a new hoodie in SoCal weather that is dipping into the high 30s at night in November. Sitting in my reading chair and preparing myself for the satisfying Presence of the Sacred: Father/Son/Spirit.

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corporate chaplaincy

Richard Mouw and the Workplace

“Christ will transform culture at the end time. The ships of Tarshish, presently vessels that serve rebellious designs, will someday carry the wealth of the nations into the presence of the Creator…Human culture will someday be transformed. Does this mean, then, that we must begin that process of transformation here and now? Are we as Christians called to transform culture in the present age? Not, I think, in any grandiose or triumphalistic manner. We are called to await the coming transformation. But we should wait actively, not passively. We must seek the City which is to come.”

Richard J. Mouw. When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem

Christ will transform the workplace at the end of time.  God cares about the workplace, the workers, and their work.  How can we actively await and seek the City which is to come in the workplace?  We can promote policies that create equity and equality for all ethnicities and gender, providing pathways for all to succeed.  We can be a healing workplace that is a safe refuge for those that are hurting in their personal lives.  We can instill corporate policies and values that uphold the dignity of humanity, treating one another with deep value and worth.  We can implement fair wages for all and create a culture of trust, joy, and safety for all.  

We can actively await the City in the workplace by instituting practices that create healthy organizational culture so that all can flourish.  

As Christ followers, we believe that the Spirit of God empowers us to reflect God’s glory in all that we do in the workplace.  Our words, actions, policies, and intentions can all be instruments of God’s grace.  As Mouw says, these beliefs are undergirded by the theological truth that earth is indeed the Lord’s.  He rules and reigns.  And we get to participate in this Kingdom reality in the workplace.  

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pastoral care, spiritual formation

Contemplative Prayer as a Mexican

I resisted silence for a big part of early 30s. I felt so silenced growing up. Mexican kids aren’t allowed to talk back and the narrative is that we don’t have a voice (as kids or mexicans). To my surprise, when I was introduced to more contemplative spiritual practices, it caused a well of emotions and words to come to the surface. My 30s became a healing time. Whereas I felt silenced from a cultural perspective, the practice of prayerful silence and solitude caused me to have word to share my inner experiences.

Now in my forty’s, I’m wrestling with questions like, “Is this it? Is there more?” And the temptation is to think “THE MORE” is found out there. No manches! It’s found within. So here I am in a new season going back to silence and contemplative prayer to listen and find the little, quiet things of goodness. To be still.

…Eckhart Tolle writes, “True happiness is found in seemingly unremarkable things. But to be aware of little, quiet things, you need to be quiet inside. A high degree of alertness is required. Be still. Look. Listen. Be present.” That is the essence of contemplative practice. And that is where our transformation is activated.

Heuertz, Christopher L.. The Sacred Enneagram.

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pastoral care

Repost: Porn and the Sacred

I was making a list of pastoral theology books today in case I get to teach a course. I had to add Ronald Rolheiser to my list. His books and site are a pastoral diamond mine!

It’s no surprise that his recent post on pornography came from an angle of deep faith and spirituality. He’s very creative!

source: link

But pornography is not only dangerous, it’s also wrong, badly wrong. Those who protest that sex is beautiful and there should be nothing wrong in seeing it are, in fact, half right; sex is beautiful … but its energy and nakedness are so powerful that it should not be seen, at least not without the deities of love, propriety, and shame in attendance.

Having seen the effects of pornography in people’s lives, having the clothing of love, propriety, and shame. It is an energy that can take over a person’s worldview and life.

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Contemplative Prayer

Obscurity and Deeper Longings

What do I long for? A sense of being whole, accepted, and in congruity with a true self that keeps calling out to me.

“For all of us, however, there are moments of dawning awareness, little cracks in our armor that reveal glimpses of our deeper longing and our true nature. We generally don’t like what we see there, because it forces us to admit we are fundamentally dissatisfied. We begin to see that the results of our efforts are not quite as perfect as we had hoped for. Perhaps the career we worked so hard to achieve is not as rewarding as we’d expected. Maybe the love relationship we thought would make us complete has become timeworn and frayed. Things that gave us pleasure in the past may now seem empty. Such glimpses occur in unique ways for each person, but they always happen. They happen repeatedly. Each time, they represent a twilight of the dark night of the soul.”

The Dark Night of the Soul, Gerald May (p.64)

I can’t explain it. I only get glimpses of it periodically. This sense that there is a deeper true self buried in my soul. One that can access wisdom, love, and courage. One that has love for God and others at its core. One that embraces the self’s gifts as well as the limitations.

But I have to admit that I don’t truly live out of that place. I know something is calling me because of the irritable state I’m in. I’m not angry AT anybody per se. But I feel the disjointedness in our circles, in me. I can having this image of a deep cave underneath all the grass, dirt, and rocks. A beautiful place of life that is buried. But I hit walls to get there.

I sense God’s presence in that image. I also sense the anger is part of the digging and learning. And I intuit that the deeper longings are clamoring to be heard.

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Poets

Morning Mess

Don’t write or talk until there has been time allotted to silence and solitude, prayer and reflection, lament and repentance. The mind and heart may not know what truth and love really are.

If I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is check my messages or jump on social media, I lose the magic of a subconscious that has been released through sleep, dreams, and rest.

But if I can overcome the temptation of social media stimulation and messages, then I may have a chance at entering into Presence and peace.

There are too many inner demons that are trying to distract and deter me. I need to hear the Voice of Love and Truth. Especially in the morning when it feels like there’s a fresh start at life.

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Mission, Missional, pastoral care, spiritual formation

The Lord’s Prayer: OUR and US

 A friend of mine reminded me the other day how communal the Lords prayer is. It is filled with the words “Our” and “Us”.

We know that the Spirit of God is at work when there are more signs of community, mutual understanding, and a turning towards God and one another in peace. 

This echoes of the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that “we might be one”. 

One doesn’t mean uniformity. 

One doesn’t mean we agree. 

To live out the Lord’s Prayer is about attending to our spiritual lives and worldly, embodied realities.  It means that we seek to become people who follow Christ with our words, actions, and attitudes. 

Sadly, we are so polarized in our country and filled with a sense of contempt for the “other side”.  

But since we are children of the Light, we keep seeking a deep and abiding intimacy with Jesus.

In the small town of Guadalupe, California, photographer, Lindsey Ross, took photos of women from the area and installed this mural on the side of a historic building. For more information, see: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/article179168756.html

This might look something like this:

  1. Lamenting. This is about sharing our grief, losses, and brokenness. Think Psalm 51 and moments of the prophets crying out for justice and God’s redemption. Crying out over our sins and blindness.
  2. Seeking justice for those who are marginalized and oppressed. Let’s be honest. When we look at one another, we DO see color. This might conjure up certain prejudicial narratives about one another.
  3. Repenting of our prejudicial narratives.
  4. Going local and small. This one is something I keep inching towards. Focus on building relationships in the neighborhood and city you reside in will have longer lasting impact.
  5. Spiritual formation and self-awareness. This one to me is a LONG TERM project. Learning to name our emotions, needs, judgments, thoughts, motives! This one is probably the toughest of all. But this helps us learn to be with others and truly “sense” their needs, even when their rhetoric is hostile and judgmental.
  6. Committing to daily spiritual disciplines and worship that brings us near the heart of Jesus (intimacy with the One true King and Lord), keeps us honest, and keeps us connected to others (who are different than us).

Someone like me who supports people with a wide range of beliefs can say #blacklivesmatter as part of my spirituality and still stay connected to those who would rebut this statement. If they choose not to connect, my heart and prayer is still John 17 and the Lord’s Prayer because, ultimately, the work of the Spirit is for the person and I to be one and in community. That’s the work of Christ that I’m submitting to.

Lord, make us one by the power of your Holy Spirit. We cry out and grieve the hostility and polarization our country is experiencing. We ask for your mercy upon us. We ask it for our children!! Be merciful and come to our assurance.

With great love, tenderness, and compassion…

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justice, pastoral care, Pastoral Counseling

The Image of God is the Image of Justice

But you, God of mercy and compassion,

slow to anger, O Lord,

abounding in love and truth,

turn and take pity on me.

– Psalm 86

The Lord has made known his salvation;

has shown his justice to the nations.

Rejoice at the presence of the Lord:

for he comes to rule the earth.

He will rule the world with justice

and the peoples with fairness.

– Psalm 98

The Psalmist says he will rejoice at the presence of the Lord.  Why?  Because as the Lord rules the earth, he does it with justice: fairness, with deep compassion, love, and truth.  This is cause to rejoice!  This is cause to respond in worshipful praise and thanksgiving.  

This is the kind of justice we’re looking for in our cities and communities.  As Christ followers and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are shaped by a biblical image of God who is about faithful, fair, authentic, loving, and compassionate leadership-governance-rulership-exercise of power.  

Our exercise of justice (the exercise of governing, leadership power) is now judged faithful or unfaithful in a moral sense because of God’s ways of justice.  Our sense of justice is now measured up to God’s sense of justice. This is why how we view social justice has much more to do with the way we image God.  How does God govern?  How does God rule?  How does God bring forth fairness?  He rules with tenderness, compassion, truth, love, and fairness.  This means that our sense of justice is to be shaped by God’s sense of justice.

My friend Robert is one of the most upstanding men I know.  A family man.  A committed follower of Jesus.  He has shared stories with me of growing up in San Diego and being pulled over by police officers who didn’t rule (justice) in authentic, faithful, and compassionate ways.  For no reason (other than being a black man), he’d get pulled over while going to work, or to the beach, or driving back home.  Simply because he was black.  

Are there good, faithful, authentic, and compassionate cops?  Absolutely!  There are two retired cops living in my neighborhood who are upstanding!  

But even they would tell you that having governing power in the wrong hands is dangerous.  And it’s in the particular stories that we find a particular God ruling something just or unjust.  And it’s in the particular stories of our friends that we find human unfairness, inauthenticity to exercise power, anger, and prejudice.

We seek God’s justice and pray that God would rule in the hearts of people. We pray for ways to see God in biblical ways: compassionate, faithful, authentically truthful, fair, and abounding in love. And this is why we are to pray for those who have misused their power and have used it unjustly. God will show them mercy and compassion. And this is why you and I are to seek God’s justice for the oppressed and marginalized.

One pastoral note: if we’re having a hard time with justice, we might want to return to the scriptures and read how God judges and rules. God has set the standard. Psalm 86 and 98 make it plain.

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forgiveness

Prayer for Hatred and Hostility

——

I was convicted recently over an article I read regarding hatred. As a Christ follower, we seek reconciliation with God, our neighbor, and our self. Even if we get upset about political or social matters, we are not to be driven by hatred or stay in a place of hostility.

This hatred and hostility does not represent the character of Christ. I’d like to publicly repent (and lament) over moments of hatred and hostility that I’ve had regarding certain political figures, social justice issues, and even religious topics. I confess my own lack of compassion and moments that I’ve noticed hatred and hostility in my heart. There is no place for that in my heart, words, and deeds.

God is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. I hope and pray to reflect that as a chaplain, brother, father, husband, friend, neighbor, and musician (that about covers all my areas of life).

Can I invite us take a moment to confess, lament, and repent over our hatred and hostility, trusting that the God of compassion longs to heal us and deliver us…..

Lord, forgive us for having hatred and hostility in our hearts. May you heal us and grant us your Holy Spirit to remake us into Your Son’s image, Christ our Savior.

May the Lord watch over our city and communities.
May the Lord deliver us from this pandemic.
May we trust the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Amen

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leadership, leadership development, pastoral care

Leadership and Civility

In Scott Peck’s book, “A World Waiting to be Born:  Civility Rediscovered”, we learn that in order to become healthy organizations, we need to discover the art of civility.  Every organization will inevitably have conflict.  He goes on to say that, “As consciously motivated organizational behavior, civility (like healthy civics) requires consciousness of one’s self, consciousness of the other person, and consciousness of the organization, or larger system, relating the self and other.” 

The work of becoming observant, self-aware people is the cornerstone for engaging civility in our organizations.  We cannot expect someone else to do that work for us.  An organization can address its conflicts when the leaders (especially) can become conscious of their thoughts and emotions in deepening ways.  

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pastoral care

Morning Prayer

From the Divine Office:

(A needed prayer for the rhythms of work)

We thank you, Lord, for enlightening us through your Son,
— fill us with his light throughout the day.
Enlighten us, Lord.

Let your wisdom lead us today, Lord,
— that we may walk in the newness of life.
Enlighten us, Lord.

May we bear hardships with courage for your name’s sake,
— and be generous in serving you.
Enlighten us, Lord.

Direct our thoughts, feelings and actions this day,
— help us to follow your providential guidance.
Enlighten us, Lord.

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pastoral care

The Art of Dying

When I first started doing ministry and chaplaincy work, I was faced with my own mortality. It didn’t take long for me to learn that death was real. My first funeral I officiated was my baptism into this new reality. I didn’t realize that the person we were honoring that day–that even their death–they were showing others the gift of life.
When a family member passes away, I encourage the family to remember to live well, working to dignify the way they’re approaching life.

I’ve seen it several times: even people who are young and have been given terminal news, those who have strived to live life withe dignity have a certain type of passing. I honestly can’t explain it.


“The great majority of people do not leave life in a way they would choose. In previous centuries, [people] believed in the concept of ars moriendi , the art of dying…. We live today in the era not of the art of dying, but of the art of saving life, and the dilemmas in that art are multitudinous.

Nuland contends…The dignity that we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives. Ars moriendi is ars vivendi : The art of dying is the art of living…. Who has lived in dignity, dies in dignity.”

by Harold Koenig: Dying, Grieving, Faith, and Family: A Pastoral Care Approach

What are some ways that we can enter into the art of dying (so that we can practice the art of living)?

  1. Take responsibility for your inner life, becoming aware of your true self.
  2. Deepen a life of spirituality and purpose (we all have a deep call in our lives)
  3. Love and forgive others well
  4. Take some risks in life that will contribute and make a difference in someone’s life
  5. Take some adventures…just do it

Make an appointment to talk with the Chaplain about these matters. 🙂

Today, may we give ourselves over to the Giver of Life and may we live with dignity and purpose.

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pastoral care

The Myth of Greatness

Scott Peck was a psychiatrist and spiritual director for many years. I’ve enjoyed his readings immensely. I periodically struggle with my vocation–my sense of calling and purpose in this world. On my best days, I have a sense that I have a gift to listen, care, and be a healing presence to others. On my worst days, I beat myself feeling like I should be doing more.

Growing up, we were constantly told at church that God had “destiny and greatness” for us, that we would do great things for the Lord. I grew up believing that…until a few days ago. I was working through an issue and realized that I didn’t have the experience to tackle it. I was so bummed and I just happened to fall on this section of Peck’s words:

So God’s unique vocation for each of us invariably calls us to personal success, but not necessarily success in the world’s stereotypical terms or means of measurement. Nonetheless, upon occasion, God does call us to positions the world also calls great. One of my relatives, distant family legend goes, had a clear calling to be a drummer boy in the Civil War—at the same time that Abraham Lincoln had what seems to me to have been a true vocation to both the presidency and to greatness. So I think there is a distinction to be made between “humble” and “grand” vocations. As I suppose fits the needs of society, most men and women have humble vocations. I do not want to imply that such humble vocations are less in God’s eye than grander ones.

Peck, M. Scott. A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered (pp. 67-68). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m not called to a grand vocation. But I grew up in a church culture that elevated grand vocations.

  • Do great things for the Lord.
  • Reach the Nations.
  • Be a world changer.
  • God has a great destiny and purpose for your life.
  • Impact. Influence.

I don’t think this is relegated to my pentecostal, charismatic upbringing. Peck had clients across the board.

I’m in my forties and I’m exhausted with that mentality. I’m also heartbroken. The best work I’ve done is invisible, unknown, and confidential. And even saying the phrase, “I’ve done” is a stretch. As a Christian, I believe the Holy Spirit has animated my life, transformed over a long period of time, so that I am influenced by the Spirit’s moving and filling. Like 12-stepper, I admit that I am powerless and need a Higher Power.

Like I said, I’m in my forties and there are some things I’m just tired of. I wanted to have a grand vocation. I’ve been working so hard, just waiting for my break, trying to prepare myself. Yet, I’ve experienced burnout, disappointment, and a loss of motivation because of this form of “grand” thinking.

I woke up today grateful for the gifts, life, and people I serve and am connected to. I’m more content today with my “humble” vocation. And I see that as a grand opportunity. I get to serve employees, go to school, and create music. Maybe not at a grand scale of ministry like others. But the folks I serve are made in God’s image. The school I attend helps me to be a better listener and caregiver. And I have a few open doors to do music projects with great friends.

I’ll take this as part of my healing journey. I want to reclaim my belovedness and live out of the core tenets of my faith: Love God, love others as myself, seek justice, do mercy, and be a person that is about shalom (a person and a systems total well-being).

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pastoral care

Morning Meditation: 6.12.2020

Can you and I just confess that we need instruction and direction?  That we get stuck in life, need direction, or just some plain encouragement to keep doing good?

My morning times are a means for me to pull myself together and “get into” God’s presence.  Sometimes there is a sense of God’s nearness and warmth.  And other times, it’s flat and boring.  But I suspect both of us are glad the other showed up.  

In these morning times, I read scripture, meditate, and listen.  

Today’s readings offer a reminder to fear God (not in a scary way, but in a respectful manner) because everything we say and do, both good and evil, will be seen and discussed in His presence.  

The liturgists continue by reminding us that since we have received the Spirit, we are to not get burned out as we work for the common good.  

Since we can be a goal oriented workplace and society, here’s a goal:  set your mind this morning to be about the common good for those in your workspace, family space, and network.  

Let’s continue to sow acts of love, mercy, and compassion. This might mean having some conversations with folks and getting into the griddyness of life. But you’re our hope. This current new normal is calling us to live in civility, giving our lives away to one another. We all have a stake in it.

Father, Son, Spirit: we pray for the Spirit to renew us today so that we might seek and do the common good in the pockets of life we have. In this manner, we will give life and receive life from one another. Amen.

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devotional, pastoral care

Morning Meditation 6.10.2020

Yoke of slavery.  I don’t like using that S word for obvious reasons.  Maybe a truer expression is to be controlled, oppressed.  A yoke of being controlled, manipulated, or made to do something out of threat.  

In all four passages for today’s liturgical readings, there is a whiff of being controlled or manipulated to be someone who goes against your inner fibers.  The people who put in the work to do scripture mashups (which is basically what the liturgy is) had some brilliance.  

In one passage, there is an oppressive, controlling ruler who takes over a city.  He does so by force and many ill words.  But an old man who is quiet and full of wisdom delivers the city.  

As the passages continue, a mashup theme is getting revealed.  The Christ figure says to be mindful of who is teaching you and what they’re teaching.  The disciples are being warned about a group of religious leaders who slant their teachings in a way that distorts God’s true image, which ultimately distorts how we view ourselves and others.  

Paul says to be mindful of “who is confusing you”.  To be confused is to have two or more ideas that are trying to get mingled together.  But they don’t go together.  

A strong Ruler who oppresses // a wise, quiet old man who delivers

Religious leaders who distort God’s image for personal gain // Christ and the Cross

A life devoid of communal awareness // Community relationships inspiring freedom

In a culture of words, pithy statements, broadstroke posts and arguments, God is calling us to slow down and listen.  To be contemplative in a time of crisis is to be communal with Christ and community.  

Father, Son, Spirit, may you guide us into truth-making, wisdom that delivers us and others from oppression and confusion. Make things clear for us. We’re not always the best thinkers and doers. Your words and deeds, Lord Jesus, become our way of defining truth and reality. Amen.

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justice, pastoral care

Our God Reigns

There are numerous instances in my life where things (an event, musical piece, relationship, school paper, work situation, a basketball game) seem to be spinning of out control. Chalk it up to things like unknown variables, high emotions and tempers, fears or concerns, or multiple voices.

Whatever it is, I feel like I’m spinning. Usually, it takes a shift in perspective, a friend, or colleague to help me get back to a place of truth and wholeness; a mindset and heart posture that help me create a great musical moment or a word of forgiveness. Or maybe a missed free throw to win the game but a redemptive 3-pointer made in overtime because of a team members’ encouragement.

My heart and mind have been spinning this week because of what’s happening in our country. To see a wave of protests calling out for change is historical.
Talking to friends and others about racial issues and justice seem like topics we shouldn’t have to defend. But here we are trying to explain why a prophetic phrase like #blacklivesmatter is part of the Gospel story, not a political one.

Today’s liturgical readings mention the God who upholds the cause of the oppressed, sets prisoners free, and gives sight to the blind. This is where we get our theology to uphold justice and come alongside a group of people who are experiencing suffering.

All four passages (Job 38:1-11,42:1-5, Revelation 19:4-16, John 1:29-34, Psalm 146, 147) have a recurring theme which John the Revelator summaries quite well:

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.”

The truth that Our God Reigns has been the shift in spirituality this week. When I’ve listened to a black friend share his bewilderment and pain, or when I’ve talked to an employee about a family member having cancer, or praying for an executive to lead an initiative, some of it can leave me spinning.

But when Christina and I are talking and sharing our laments, we were given the reminder that “OUR GOD REIGNS”.

Why does that change things for us?Why does it matter that we believe and confess something that seems obvious or trivial to some?What kind of difference does it make that we say, trust, and surrender to these words and reality?

Because the Story of God is the main narrative that frames how we engage injustice, racism, marriage woes, corporate culture, parenting, and my own sins and hopes.

We can share our protests to God and as Christ Followers, this is what we do! We cry out to the God who reigns with justice. To the God who liberates the oppressed and the oppressor. We can cry out to God and confess that we are in need of a power greater than ours.

For as much as we protest and do the work of justice in public and civil ways, we are just as much crying out for God to reign. Because when God reigns, there is justice, peace, and joy.

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pastoral care, spiritual formation

Mutual Empowerment

Since the pain and hurt we feel as a nation is caused by un-wielded power, empower others. How? Here’s an example. A wealthy, white business man took a chance to empower me for a new service at his company. I provide corporate chaplaincy services to a dealer group because someone believed in me and gave me a shot. He used his power and influence to open doors for me.

Another example: a black pastor has been empowering me to be more vocal and own my gifts. He’s even providing platforms and spaces for me to unravel my areas of concentration: work and worship. Public spaces and public pastoring.

A third example: Christina is being asked to lead worship and be all of her true self. As a woman, being invited to the table to lead and influence is a BIG DEAL!

Being empowered by others doesn’t mean I was powerless. It means that others recognize, affirm, and create spaces for all of us to be who God has intended us to be.

#blacklivesmatter is not a political statement, although it should influence politics. I take it as a prophetic movement that affirms and empowers the black community. And when the black community is empowered, WE’RE ALL EMPOWERED!

To empower doesn’t mean that the one empowering will lose power. It means there is a partnership, a mutual relationship of respect and trust that creates a system where ALL can flourish.

While the a prophetic word is cause for correction, it doesn’t stay in this “gut wrenching place”. It points to hope and ways for all to experience wholeness and flourishing.

When I focus on negative traits or aspects of my marriage (or myself), I feel depressed and in the dumps. But when I focus and adapt to the strengths, life opens up in different ways!

I’ve been thinking about how Jesus says He is the way and the Truth. Truth feels so subjective and slanted these days. We have a conflict of ideas, as facebook user said recently. Truth for Christ followers is shaped by the life, words, and deeds of Jesus. And His relationship to the Father and Spirit. This triune communion is in partnership with one another.

How can we be shaped by the Truth? We submit to Lordship and surrender to the God who longs to heal and reconcile.

This week, I pray and hope for ways to partner with others who want to see empowerment of others, mutual flourishing, and truth being shaped by a relationship with Jesus.

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pastoral care, spiritual disciplines, spiritual formation, spiritual transformation

Spiritual Formation: on Evasion

“Evasion is directly related to both the closeness of God’s approach to us and to our instinctive withdrawal from God‘s presence. Experiences of God as mystery evoke awe, even fear, in the face of the numinous and uncontrollable otherness of God….T.S. Elliot [says]… ‘if you’ve never run away from God, I wonder who your God is.’”

Janet K. Ruffing, Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings
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pastoral care, Pastoral Presence, pastoral psychology

Words I Hear as a Chaplain

Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve been trying my best to listen to each word, inflection, and ways employees are communicating. I’m convinced that it’s in these words and communion that something holy is happening. Yes, there is pain and loss. But there is also marks of God’s presence nearby. Just gotta look underneath the text, what some call the sacred subtext.

Every word and phrase someone shares is revealing the life material. It’s my work to listen and unpack it with them.

As a corporate chaplain, I’m thinking about the workplace context, the person’s context, and the God of context. All of these have an interplay. And we discover God’s presence and activity in the words, deeds, and life of an employee. So here are some of the words and phrases (they’re mixed for anonymity) some have used during the pandemic:

“I’m tired of waking up each day, not knowing what else is unknown”

“I wanted to quit…”

“Losing my job and getting it back showed me how much I really value work”

“Fear, stress, and anxiety are contagious like a virus. They’re just always buzzing in the air.”

“Lord, give us emotional/mental/spiritual distance from fear and anxiety. Give us six feet apart, masks, and hand sanitizer so that we won’t be infected with the fear of the unknown”

A couple lost both jobs and needs help to stay afloat.

“You’re always listening to us complain….how’s your family”

“When are things going back to normal?”

“I’ve been listening to this band…It gives me hope”

“Did you know about [insert latest conspiracy theory]…”

“Lord, hear our prayers”

“My kids are driving me crazy!”

“I’m getting to be closer to my kids. Never had this kind of time with them”

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pastoral care

Rumors During a Crisis Repost

I’ve wondered how and why so many rumors are believed, shared, and talked about. We are “story” natured so we tend to make meaning through storytelling. These “stories” serve to express feelings and maybe even repressed anxieties we’ve had along the way.

Rumors work in much the same way. We’re trying to make sense of something very important (i.e. #covid19 ) and how ambiguous it is.

There are three types of rumors:

  1. Wedge Drive Rumors: (i.e. the Chinese laboratory manufacturing the virus) a type of rumor that expresses existing hostilities and allows us to find a scapegoat in times of great frustration.
  2. Pipe Dream Rumors: (like the rumor of a vaccine) they help us to express our hopes and wishes.
  3. Bogie Rumors: (i.e. the U.S. military implementing martial law) these help to express our fears—–In the 1940s, a few psychologists studied rumors based on WWII.

This article was super helpful in understanding the posts I see on social media.

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pastoral care

Midday Prayers 4.29.2020

Psalm Reading: Psalm 38: 9-11, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22
Silence 30 seconds
Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:13-17
Silence 15 seconds
Devotional Reading
Silence 15 seconds
Self-Examination Question
Prayers of the People
Our Father Prayer
Benediction


Psalm 38: 9-11, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22

9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.

11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
15 Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
21 Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Devotional Reading

“One of the least helpful ways to stop worrying is to try hard not to think about the things we are worrying about…Jesus’ advice to set our hearts on God’s Kingdom is somewhat paradoxical.  ‘If you want to worry, worry about that which is worth the effort.  Worry about larger things than your family, your friends, or tomorrow’s meeting.  Worry about the things of God:  [truth, beauty, justice, life].  

As soon as we set our hearts on these things our minds stop spinning because we enter into communion with the One who is present to us here and now and is there to give us what we most need.  And so worrying becomes prayer, and our feelings of powerlessness are transformed into a consciousness of being empowered by God’s spirit.”

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

2 minutes of Self-Examination

What currently worries you?  How can you change that worry into prayer and seek what God longs to do in your heart and life?”

Take a moment to share your prayer with God.

Our Father Prayer

Our Father who is in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/941573814

Every Wednesday and Friday at 12pm – 1215pm. Same link above.

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pastoral care

Curiosity is Essential to Survival

I wrote this piece for SquarePatch.org today. I’ve been thinking about what is essential during this pandemic and crisis.

Curiosity is essential to survival.  Grazer uses the example of early life tribes that had to use the power of story to share experiences of new discoveries.  Fire. Water. Discovering that you can boil potatoes. Or wondering if cougars were cool to hang with (not cool!). In our evolving as humans, it’s been curiosity that has helped us discover, invent, and protect.  We’ve had to learn how to survive our whole lives and curiosity has been an agent, a discipline we’ve needed.

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pastoral care

The Entry to Joy

I guess if I think hard enough, looking back, I most experience joy when I’m not pretending. When I live in the reality that I am not whole or perfect, I can enter into the possibility acceptance and hope.

When I play drums or have to track a song, I am most alive when I let go of perfection. I can enter into the song’s waves and motions, letting them inspire passion and grace. They move through my hands and feet–striking and creating.

But when I’m too focused on “it’s gotta sound perfect”, I miss the portal to joy.

I can fill in the blank for just about anything that I engage: pastoral counseling, checking in on others, writing a sermon, cycling, friendships, my marriage.

Joy cannot be analyzed, strategized, or explained. It can only be entered, and the portal into joy is confessing the truth: We are not whole. No one has to pretend, and the truth feels so good that we just want to cheer whenever someone exhibits it.”

M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet
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pastoral care

Worthiness in Crisis

As chaplains, our call (not our job) is to come alongside others and point them to bigger realities, even a transcendent one. The last three weeks have been heavy conversations of anxiety, questions, and uncertainties.

Visiting an empty shop with tools sitting around and racks not being used was heavy. But it made me think of how workers are feeling right now….sitting around not being purposeful. Work in many ways provides some meaning and purpose. We look to our hands and creativity to make something of a common good service to offer others.

  • That car being repaired that is going to help a young mother go to the grocery store to do the toilet paper run
  • The person who needs to buy a car because their lease is up
  • The essential worker needs a new work truck
  • Accounting programs that require someone to review each detail
  • Cars made beautiful by our hard working detailers

At Hoehn Motors, we offer a service to others that is purposeful and meaningful! It makes a difference. You as the employee make that difference.

During this pandemic, my prayer is that you see how valuable and meaningful you are. I know this is rough. I’m hearing the stories. But you have what it takes to get through this. I know you do. I’ve seen you at your best!

I miss you. I’m praying for you and our work community. I’m here to listen, pray, and try to make sense of all of this WITH you.

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