Playground Story on Patience

There’s a story of three parents at a playground watching their kids and how they each respond (or react) when their kids slip or fall.

Hearing that their child slipped and fell, the first parent runs frantically to see the child.  In panic mode, the parent smothers the child and takes them away from the playground.

The second parent hears the cry of the child and doesn’t move from the bench.  They’re too preoccupied and comes across cold and distant.  The child is left to comfort themselves.

The third parent calmly goes to assist the child and asks in a warm tone, “Sweety, what happened?  Let’s see where it hurts.”  She holds him for a few minutes and then says, “Are you ready to go back out and play?”  The child looks up, nods his head, and runs back out to play.

I’ve thought about this as a parent, but also when I have tough and hard times in my life.  James, one of the early church pastors and fathers, says that when we experience hardship, we are to be like the third parent who turns to Our Heavenly Father for comfort, patience, and wisdom.  We pray for the gift of faith to see how God might be with us, instructing, guiding, and providing.  Like the third parent, God also is compassionate and patient with us.

When hardships come, we can panic, shut down, turn a problem into a crisis, or remain patient as we seek wisdom.  I’ve chosen all of the above.  My prayer has been that as I get older, I remain calm and patient through the storm.  I pray, talk to Christina, seek out trusted friends, and ask for support.  Doing life with a spiritual community of support has been a huge advantage in life.

St. James invites us to be people of faith:  look up to Our Heavenly Father and look away from self (which tends to over-react, shut down, or make mountains).  As look up, may God grant wisdom and patience in abundance.

#LilacFire Update and Coping with Crisis

Lilac Fires 2017

Hoehn Community:

Yesterday Bonsall, Fallbrook, Oceanside, Pala, and Murrietta were affected by the #LilacFire.  Many of our employees live in mandatory or voluntary evacuation areas.  Some have evacuated and are staying with friends or family members, where they are safe.  Others are staying home, hoping the fires are contained and don’t spread.  To my knowledge, none of our employees have lost their homes.

*The fire is currently at 4100 acres and has not spread since last night.  The biggest concerns are strong winds heading west (towards the ocean) and dry conditions.

*Many first responders and news outlets are urging people to evacuate if they feel like they are in harm’s way.  Safety is of first priority.

Below are some helpful tips for crisis planning and crisis support.  

Please let me know if there are any employees who are in need of follow-up care and support.  I have already seen how Hoehn Employees are reaching out to one another with encouragement and support.  Keep it up!  You’re shining bright.

Peace,

Chaplain Roy

———-

*The following has been helpful for those in evacuation areas:

  • Pack some clothing for a few days
  • Pack a sleeping bag/blankets/pillows
  • Make sure you have your important documents (especially passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, insurance information)
  • Take pictures of your belongings
  • Make sure your gas tank is full
  • Have cash on hand
  • Pack your chargers for phones/laptops to stay connected when possible for latest updates
  • Make sure you have your prescribed medications on hand
  • Reach out to friends and family for a place to stay and for support

During a Natural Disaster Crisis

Upon hearing the initial news, it is normal to feel disoriented, confused, or intense emotions (i.e. sad, irritated, fearful, anxious) and things may seem unclear.  It is very important to have a plan of safety during this time so that you can make the best decisions possible.  Remember that safety is key.

A Few Coping Tips

  • Plan:  Stay focused on the present and what is being asked of you.  In my case, our family is in the evacuation warning area.  Our cars are packed with the above items and some other personal belongings.  We have a few places to retreat to if needed. We are also following live updates on social media (see below for resources)
  • Normalize:  It is normal to feel a sense of loss, even though they might have lost their home.  Being displaced from your home and your regular routine can cause a sense of loss and people will fill a bit “off”.  That is normal.  We can help by staying focused on the present and safety as the primary goal.
  • Encourage:  Communicate encouragement, empowerment, and build confidence in those who are experiencing crisis.
  • Community Support:  Reach out to your community of support (family, friends, religious community).
  • Pray with another and for the first responders.
  • Reassurance:  Be reassured that what you’re feeling is normal and that you will be able to work through the situation.
  • Educate yourself with the latest updates on the status of the fires
  • Awareness:  Be aware of how and your family members are feeling in order to normalize what is happening.  (Example:  Last night, my son’s were nervous.  We reassured them that we had a plan if we needed to evacuate.  We gave them a hug and kiss good night and they fell asleep).
  • Take breaks from the news:  Make some time to be with your friends and family and take breaks from keeping track of the fires.  Hug your kids.  Grab a cup of coffee.  Have lunch or dinner with friends.  This will take a few weeks to subside.

Helpful Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/sandiegocounty/

https://twitter.com/CALFIRESANDIEGO

 

 

Peace,

Roy Inzunza

A Reflection on Death, Abundance, and Compassion

Today’s scripture readings have a few themes:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120617.cfm

  1.  Death
  2.  Abundance
  3.  comfort/compassion

Death

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled with panic attacks.  I had an immense amount of anxiety about dying.  This manifested itself in different ways, mostly through a fear of getting sick or having a heart attack.  A few factors contributed that I could think of.  One, I was a new father.  We had Christopher and David a year apart and I was pretty nervous about not being present or available to them.  This had symbolic meaning to me as a fear of abandonment.  I didn’t want to abandon my kids and see them struggle without a father and I also had to cope with my own fears of being left fending for myself.  Two, I was just starting to work as a corporate chaplain and the stories I was hearing were very overwhelming.  Three, lack of self care.  I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or exercising very well.  The result?  Panic attacks.  

Here’s what helped me:  

  1. Talking with a therapist.  I was able to talk about the pain of being abandoned and how much it hurt.  It helped me realize that, while I felt abandoned, I could learn new ways of parenting myself so that I’d know that I can handle whatever life might throw my way.  In spiritual terms, I learned that I was never alone and that the Higher Power (Jesus) would be with me.  Growing up latino and in a pentecostal home, seeing a therapist was a taboo because we were taught that we really didn’t “trust God”.  That was nonsense!  🙂
  2. Self-care.  For me, this meant getting 8 hours of sleep, staying away from fast food and greasy food, and cycling.  I took up road biking, lost 20 lbs, and felt great. I also started making time to take regular retreats throughout the year.  I have to plan them in advance and then stick to them.
  3. Community.  I needed more friends in my life that I could go to eat with, go to concerts, and just be silly and laugh.  I needed connection and deep friendships.  

Abundance

We grew up with not a lot of money so I developed a fear of not having enough.  It’s driven many of my financial decisions.  But as I think about life and God, the scripture is clear that God thinks in terms of abundance, not scarcity.  I’m not talking about or promoting a “prosperity gospel” where abundance is the sign that God loves you and that you are more special than others.  But God does care about abundance and wants to lack no good thing.  I’d be very wary if someone used this to try and make a case for materialism or consumerism.  That’s just bad theology.  I’m talking about being able to have an attitude and heart that is at rest with what we have and isn’t ruled by “stuff”.  Fear of not having can be very costly.  And it usually doesn’t get us what we really want. 

Comfort/Compassion

In each reading, there is provision and comfort for the hungry, the needy, and the sick.  Death is overcome.  Sickness is healed.  And there is a feast of table for all people.  Jesus has compassion on the crowd.  Some are sick.  Others are hungry.  We read about a God who cares about the daily stuff, about the burdens that we carry.  He is not a god who sits by idly.  Jesus is engaged with the people and is about making wrongs right.  

I’m not sure I wholeheartedly believe that God is that compassionate.  I feel like have to earn his abundance and comfort.  I feel like if I don’t perform well as a disciple, I will be mistreated.  When I feel this way, I look at a picture of my sons or a picture of “little Roy” and imagine how much God loves us.  I want to trust that love from a Heavenly Father who is in heaven, and yet breaking into my world to transform my heart and mind.  This the concept of grace at work.  This energy, favor, love that God bestows is His hearts’ disposition.  

Questions for Reflection

*What are you most afraid of these days?  Can you tell God about it?

*Where do you feel like you are lacking?  Ask the Great Shepherd to lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.  

*How might God want to comfort you today?  Tell him where the pain is.

Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
May your new life fill us afresh.
May you cause to see how you are abundant in our lives.
May you have compassion on us.

Amen

Don’t Waste The Pain

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.”

– Brene Brown

I’m thinking of the young man (it could easily be a woman) in his 20’s (maybe even 30s) who is trying to get his life together after making a lot of personal mistakes.  He feels like a failure, alone, and abandoned.  He may even be angry at the world for the bag he was given.

What you’ve been through is not fair.  The upbringing was rough…it wasn’t your fault.  And yet this is what you have to come to grips with.  You’ll need a lot of support, care, and love.  There will be days when you can’t make sense of the deep pain you feel in your heart.

Your greatest choice today is to live as one who is willing to rise strong, WITH all the anxiety and stress.  The gift of strength is for you to reclaim who you long to be.  It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and necessary.  You must remember that you are the beloved!  That is your real identity and at the core of who you are.

You’ll need community, care, and courage.  You’ll need a power bigger than you.

And as a friend once said, don’t waste the pain.  I’m not sure what exactly that means.  But I’m starting to understand that with each set of waves (of pain), there is an opportunity to keep rising, growing, and being transformed.

 

Life Together Reflections, Ch. 2

The beginning of the second chapter in Life Together is dedicated to a reframing of when “day” begins and ends.  In the Old Testament, the day began in the evening, when we rest and God works.  The day ended at sunset, when darkness begins.

In the New Testament, the day begins Sunday morning at the break of dawn, when Christ Jesus resurrected from the dead and darkness was no longer.

The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ.” p.41

The morning belongs to the Church as we gather for common worship and common reading of the Word, to give thanks and praise to Victorious One.

It feels, so far, like a pastoral letter establishing spiritual disciplines of communal prayer, worship, and devotion.  Bonhoeffer sees the morning as a deep reality of God’s breaking into the now, establishing light out of darkness.  He also sees the morning as the first opportunity to hear the Word that awakens us (p.42).

Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs [quotes Eph.5:14]. p.43

[and]

All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. p.43

Let our mornings be filled with gratitude and hope. For darkness passed, and the morning light shines again.

every common devotion should include the word of Scripture, the hymns of the Church, and the prayer of the fellowship.” p.44

“The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word.  He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time.” p.46

For the BonHof, the Psalms are the prayers of the Christ.  What an imagination to see it like this!

More pastoral insight:  when we pray the Psalms, we pray the prayers of Christ, which reach the heart of God.  In so doing, we pray His prayers, not our own.  We become mediators and intercessors of the prayerful heart of Christ Jesus.  (see p.46)

When we pray collectively as a community, we function as the Body of Christ, which we cannot fulfill as individuals–because we are members of a One Body.  The Psalms are read in fullness only in community.  That’s why when we gather to pray and worship collectively, you may not “feel” connected to the prayer or reading or song.  But we pray it, sing it, proclaim not just for ourselves, but for the other members in our community because we are a Body.  (see p.47)

We pray repetitiously because there is a different, less than holy and life giving repetition that must be drowned out.

“The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.” p.50

BonHoeffer makes a strong case for the reading and studying of the whole of Scripture.  He wants to see what I believe the Catholic church has done for centuries:  a reading of the Psalms, OT passage, NT passage, and Gospel passage.  In as such, we get a fuller sense of the Big Story.  (see p.50-51)

Prayer – The Psalms as Christ’s Prayers
Scripture Reading – OT, Psalm, NT, and Gospel reading for the breadth of the Gospel Narrative
Singing the New Song – The Victorious Song of the Church in gratitude and adoration of the work of Salvation from King Jesus

“The fact that we do not speak it but sing it only expresses the fact that our spoken words are inadequate to express what we want to say, that the burden of our song goes far beyond all human words.  Yet we do not hum a melody; we sing words of praise to God, words of thanksgiving, confession, and prayer.  Thus the music the servant of the Word.”  p.59

 

Life Together Reflections, Ch.1

Below are quotes and some preliminary thoughts on Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together“.  My hope is that it encourages you to read the book and be inspired by the mystical Body of Christ.

“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament.” p.18

There are some believers who are imprisoned, sick, or in some form of exile.  I think of countries like China or others who do not permit public gatherings.  They seem to value the gathering much more than maybe those of us who can gather publicly.  It seems that when something so precious like this is taken from us, we learn to appreciate its beauty and worth.  I haven’t thought about it with this mindset.  It brings tears to my eyes to think of the possibility of not gathering publicly.  It makes me think of how good and pleasant it is to see brothers and sisters gathering in unity.

“Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the ‘roses and lilies’ of the Christian life.” p.21

My immediate “reaction” is to call up people in my life who are longing to follow Jesus and how I experience a certain grace when we interact.  I also experience this grace with people who don’t attend a church but the prevenient grace of God is definitely at work in their lives.  In both cases, there is a nourishment of the heart/mind/spirit that feels mystical and transcendent.  It feels otherworldly.  Words of benediction are spoken, one to another.  Gestures of humility and hospitality are shown, one to another.  The common thread is the work of grace.

“Christian means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  It means…

  1. a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ
  2. a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ
  3. in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.” p.21

For Bonhoeffer, help must come from the outside [and]…God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a [brother and sister] , in the mouth of [humankind].”  p.22-23

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much we need a power that is beyond us to sustain, transform, and resource us.  We confess an emptiness, weakness, and human limitation that is met by the Presence of Christ, who redeems, fills, and makes us whole.  Using Bonhoeffer’s framework of the Community of Christ, this only happens when we seek Christ and others that comprise the Body.  In this sense, I say it’s mystical because it is a grace that is beyond us.  The 12 step tradition starts with a confession that we are powerless and need a higher power. And it is confessed to another, as a means of receiving grace and support.

“the goal of all Christian community:  they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.” p.23

“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ.  On this presupposition rest everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.” p.24

Jesus becomes the peacemaker between the Triune God and humanity, and humanity with one another.  But without Christ there is “discord” (p.23).  What are the realities of those who have not professed Christ and made baptismal vows?  What is a helpful framework to commune with the mechanic, accountant, and sales manager that may not adhere to the teachings of Christ?  The mystery of the Body of Christ is one because Christ makes us one.  But we are made one with all of humanity because Christ became human.  We relate to one another in terms of a constant tension between having our Christian faith but also being called to mission to serve the world.

Reflection Question:  Bonhoeffer makes such a strong argument towards brotherly love.  What was happening in his context that made him lean so strongly that way?

One is a brother to another only through Jesus Christ” p.25

I agree with that AND also believe I am a brother to another through our shared common humanity.  It’s both/and.

“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede…” p.26

So far, Bonhoeffer is making a point of the depth of Christian community we have in and through Christ Jesus.  Christ relates to us as Brothers and we are found in Him.  Because of that reality, we are now one with another as well.  I think this view has deep implications for us, especially in our Americanized, fragmented culture.  We pick and choose where to go to church, forgetting that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  And when we choose to be part of a community, is there depth and a genuineness?  There ought to be signs and fruit of this depth.

In many ways, sometimes church doesn’t feel like this.  It feels more like a weekly task to mark off.  The liturgy may make room for a friendly greeting and we may have small groups to attend.  But it feels more like a rotary club meeting to accomplish a task.  When I think of Christian community, I picture vulnerability, transparency, encouragement, facing the pain together, helping each other flourish, listening as a radical act of love and communion, and deep friendships made real through Christ.

I had to change my focus while reading Bonhoeffer from thinking he’s excluding non-christians to seeing that he is trying to capture the mystery of Christian community and the gift it is.

“Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves…only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight…the sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.” p.27

Bonhoeffer’s view of Christian community is not based on a wishful dream and fantasy.  He is against idealizing the community.  If we love the idea of community more than the Christian community itself, we are being “pretentious” (p.27).  This is such a hard word for someone like me that is a visionary and idealist.  A Christian visionary has the choice to paint an idealized fantasy of Christian community or to lean into a reality that simply is–a Christian community brought together by Christ, and held up together by Christ.  I wish I would have read his book 20 years ago.  So good!!  We don’t enter in Christian community demanding that our vision and needs be met.  We enter as “thankful recipients” (p.28)

“Christian [community] is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” p.30

 

Words at the end of Life

In the 12 years of doing marketplace ministry, I’ve now had more experience doing bedside visitation at the time of impending death and loss.  It has always felt like an honor to listen (when possible), pray, and bless during this time.

The other day, I went to visit a 91 year old man in his home.  He lives in my “parish” (about 3 minutes from me).  He was recently diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.  He is now receiving hospice care.

During the visit, we were getting to know each other and I heard him say, “I’m in misery and pain, I feel useless, and I’m ready to go.”  His words were sincere and even apologetic for saying he was ready to go.  I was moved by his words and feelings, asking that God would help me to listen attentively, and also hoping to see how God was present.

I was compelled to ask Rich (pseudonym) to give a young buck like me some advice for life, noticing that even at 91 and sick, he was sprite and caring.

Rich said,

Be nice to others.  Be good to others.  It will come back to you.

If you have family, love them and spend as much time as you can with them.

Always work on yourself and never stop growing.  I never went to college but had one of the highest positions in my naval department that a civilian can have.  One door closed, and another one opened.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’ve tried to keep getting back up when I fell down.

He went on to share some more stories about his life that made it feel like he did the best he could to be caring and loving.  The tone was hopeful and bountiful in the room.  This is isn’t always the case.  Some people have lived tough lives and for reasons beyond me, it was hard for them to put their lives together in such a way that their death could give life.  It saddens me when I see this and am moved to ask for God’s mercy for the person, but also for myself so that I might see my life put together in a such a way that it will bless others.

We talked about how Jesus, at the moment of death, committed His spirit to the Father, and breathed His last breath.  I think Rich was comforted by this image of Jesus. Rich is Catholic and was deeply touched by his faith.  When I asked what prayers he might have in his heart, he immediately said, “the Our Father”.  I reached out for his hand and began to pray for God’s mercy and peace to be with him.  And then we both prayed “The Our Father” together.  His 91 year old voice.  My 39 year old voice.  A man at the end of life.  Me in the middle of life.  Him a Catholic, having lived a good life.  Me, a follower of Jesus, trying to learn to live the good life.  Both hands clasped together, incarnating the Body of Christ.

I think that when visitations go well, both patient and priest feel like each has been blessed by the other.  Both feel God’s presence and consolation in different but unitive ways.

His thoughts on being good and loving your family struck a chord in me.  My parents had just finished getting on the train to head back home after a weekend visit.

Rich, thank you for your life of service and your words of blessing.

Pastor: Call and Job

What follows are some reflections on chapter 4 of “That Their Work Will Be a Joy”, by Cameron Lee and Kurt Fredrickson.  (Amazon link:  http://a.co/0lWeM08).  It’s part of my first Doctorate of Ministry class at Fuller Seminary.  All quotes are from the book.  I wholeheartedly recommend it to everybody in ministry and seminary!


Pastors, like all who have been baptized, are called to follow Jesus, be about His mission in this world, and live a holy life.  Yet, the call of the pastor is special.  They are called to shepherd the sheep:  to feed, lead, protect and serve.  Their life is to be “exemplary” in holy conduct.

The call for pastors is usually an inner “prompting” (p.66) that grows over time through experience and the affirmation of others.  There is a sense of being chosen and called.  Pastors don’t “choose” the call or say they having a calling.  They are mindful to say that God has been doing the choosing and calling, “being chosen for it”.  (p.66).  When ministry gets challenging, we must remember that we were called.  It keeps us going through the ups and downs.  The are “driven by a vision of congregations and worlds transformed” (p.68).

Classic Views of Pastoral Work

The role of the pastor can be viewed through three vantage points:  call, profession, office (p.69).  The correlate to aspects such as gifting, competence, and authority.  The authors quote Niebhur’s framework for a call to ministry.

  1. a secret call:  “[a] persuasion or experience where a person feels directly summoned and invited by God to take up the work of the ministry.” (p.70). I can remember feeling this invitation early in life, especially in my teen years.  The call felt confirmed through other ministers and a series of events.  Personal and communal experiences have kept the call alive.  I’m more excited about the call to pastoral work now than when it first started.
  2. providential call:  “those who are called into ministry are equipped with appropriate abilities and competencies that are useful for ministry to and through the church…they are honed and refined over a lifetime…[they] frequently sense that they are somehow gifted for the work” (p.71).  Some of the abilities I see working in me are the art of listening, connecting with strangers, building trust and safety, believing in God’s active work in the world and lives of people, a heart to bless others, a desire to encourage and uplift, a willingness to be in the pain and suffering of others (carry burdens), organize and manage service projects (mission), get others involved, mentor/train others, and a deep desire to be a lifelong student.
  3. ecclesiastical call:  a communal confirmation and ordination by a body of people.  This might happen through the laying on of hands and then preceded by seminary, internship, or some other formal training (p.71).  We are not islands or people separated from the body.  We need the Body of Christ to confirm pastors.

The authors rightly challenge pastors to ask ourselves “what is it about shepherding that is most fulfilling to you?” (p.81)  For me, it’s when I see someone that is hurting feel comforted, a lightbulb moment when someone feels like the insight is helping the name what’s happening in their life, or someone experiencing the tenderness of God that leads towards transformation.  I love to see strangers become friends, the unwanted feel like they have a home, and that broken feel a sense of healing and wholeness in their lives.  I love to see people find connect with God’s purpose for them and see their vocation deepened as a result.

A Good Definition on Legalism

A good definition on Legalism (also described as superstition by Dallas Willard):
 
Legalism: [a ]claim that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.   Dallas Willard
I grew up in a system that perpetuated conforming to rules that I might be pleasing to God.  It damaged how I felt, thought, and lived.
The dynamic power of God’s love shapes and reshapes my inward devotion, remaking my external habits and practices.  Basically, His love leads me to transformation.  🙂

A verse of vocation for Roy

A verse of vocation for my life.

One that is filled with wisdom, power, and love.

God already did the choosing and appointing. That won’t ever change. It’s me believing that word and deciding to live into it as I obey Jesus.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.