...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Does Everything 'Happen for a Reason'?

Time to engage, not suspend, thought 
Can there be a more deadening chorus of our culture than everything happens for a reason? Its prevalence is probably a good indicator of the complete dearth of thoughtful reflection, a malady caused, in part, by life-in-nanosecond.  

Perhaps post modernism has had its way, but instead of post- modern faith, which supposedly finds whatever works, regardless of origin, these words have become the mantra. The purpose of mantras is to suspend thought, not engage it. 

Like bumper sticker theology before it, theology by hash tag can come up with some goofy stuff. No, there isn't a reason for everything that happens. In Scripture, we again turn to The Preacher in the famous third chapter to find what's actually in the Bible: 
 There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:
  a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
 a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted
  a time for killing and a time for healing
 a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
  a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
 a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
 a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
We'll note that there is a time and season for absolutely everything. God designates the seasons, the times, and the nations. Acts 17:26  What about reasons for everything? Not for us to worry about, or at least to know about, right now. Or maybe ever.

Who cares who said it first? Like the old-school game of tag, whoever last says 'there's a reason for everything'- is IT!   

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Expect the Unexpected- More Senseless 'Advice'

Being slow to speak is a virtue, according to James 1:19

"God will never give you more than you can handle."  "There but the grace of God go I." Like other words that come out of our mouths in order to make someone feel better, offering a popular phrase like "expect the unexpected" may be more cruel than beneficial.    

This trite bit of verbiage has been heard coming out of the mouths of physicians, clergy, spiritual directors, and others who should know better. Maybe its a simple confession of ignorance, but using these words do not help.  

Can you figure its origin? The best I come up with is Ecclesiastes 9:11 (CEB):

I also observed under the sun that the race doesn’t always go to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty, nor food to the wise, nor wealth to the intelligent, nor favor to the knowledgeable, because accidents can happen to anyone. People most definitely don’t know when their time will come. (italics added) 

I appreciate italicized words in the NRSV. It simply states "time and chance happen to everyone." 

I get it, life is unpredictable and fragile. Most of us prefer certainty to mystery, because like fool's gold, the thought that life can be had on our terms enables a denial of our own powerlessness. But when someone is in crisis, mouthing this little ditty to them is not wisdom but idiocy. Yes, we know life is unpredictable. We didn't choose to be in this difficult place. Don't heap on the misery by stating the obvious. If it helps you, save it- and keep it- for yourself.  

The best way to overcome living by thoughtless sound bites is to be ourselves, as we really are- with another human being. It is to be our own best self. That means when faced with the terrifying uncertainty of our own -or another's- living or dying- we don't rely on catch phrases, but on the compassion of God as we have nurtured it-  and have experienced it.  

If we don't have God's compassion, we cannot offer it. No amount of repeating what you heard in that Dale Carnegie Seminar will change that.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

God's Love Doesn't Shame

A stained glass of Thomas and Jesus, Jn.20
I think if more people were willing to treat beliefs as beliefs instead of facts, it would make talking with each other easier... I guess I’d just like Christians and church leaders to be more honest…with everyone. Stop treating faith as a fact. Call it hope. Call it confidence, not certainty.” Matt Casper,  Jim and Casper Go to Church.

Picture it now: Thomas asks the risen Jesus for a sign, a clue as to Jesus' identity. Just as surely as Jesus was known in the breaking of the bread (Luke 23), Jesus is known by the wounds of his execution at the hands of the Romans eight days earlier. (John 20) 

What if Jesus had bullied or shamed Thomas, his own disciple, by discounting both him and his search for the honest truth? The ugly reality is that churches are susceptible of being as shame- based as any family, organization, or individual. If we can see ourselves, our family, or our church in these characteristics, it may be time start moving from shame-based to grace-based behaviors.   

Even if we grew up being shamed for who we were, for having the feelings and thoughts and behaviors we had,  the good news is that it's possible to identify the places in our lives where we can change and choose to live by grace. We don't have to live by what our shame says we are.  

Because works- righteousness is a shame-based theology (we're not good enough or worthy to receive God's free acceptance of us), then I really wonder how many who say we have accepted Christ have also accepted ourselves? Is this self acceptance embedded all the way to our psyches, our spirits, our bodies, not just our heads, not just "deciding" for Jesus in one moment? 

I don't and cannot believe Jesus shattered a shame-based sacrificial system in order to create another one! I believe that we're still wrestling with the fact that Jesus died to show us that the true nature of God is love. Jesus didn't die to buy off an angry God. Our sin killed Jesus. This is what was at stake in Jesus' death: not God's rage but rather, God's love and grace, mercy and compassion. 

Jesus, in the suffering he endured to his death, showed us that God is love. (I John 4:19) That's not shaming, but freeing, now and forever, from our sick slavery to shame, sin, and death.  

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Why Clergyspirit?

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Houston, Texas, United States
Welcome! I serve Chapelwood, a United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Clergy are frequently present for others, but no one can offer what we don't have.. That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

Making Good Decisions

Prayer of Discernment

By our own reason and strength, Lord, we cannot find our way. There are too many paths and we do not know where they will lead us. Show us the way, Jesus. You know our path and our way home. Amen.

The Moravian Daily Texts 2011

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