...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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Beyond Church Disillusionment

One thing is for sure, this 2008 race has tons of people fired up and in the process already. The more idealistic you are, the more you are likely to get hurt or at least disappointed. Of course, idealism works- people want to think the best of their candidate.

With churches, the same is true. People are pretty idealistic when joining a faith community. They are thinking the best of their new church home, hoping and believing that it will work for them. If the church doesn't somehow measure up to their expectations, expectations usually formed by the church's own self-presentation, then it is easy to become disillusioned, a disillusionment, by the way, often experienced by new clergy who realize that a community of faith is not all it was cracked up (read: presented) to be.

There is a line in the Serenity Prayer that comes to mind: "...that I may be reasonably happy in this life..." Balancing our expectations with reality is the way of wisdom, and the art of becoming happy within reason is perhaps what St. Paul meant: "I have learned to be content in all things."

It is easy to enjoy the excitement of this political season, and the hope it raises. The joy in finding a new church or going to a new pastoral assignment is also wonderful, a gift and a vessel of God's grace. Hopefully, our political hopes and the grace of the new can and will draw us closer to the One that we cannot do without- and the One beyond our wildest dreams.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Praying with Saint Patrick (March 17)

The Rising
from the Breastplate of St. Patrick

I rise today
in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,
Believing in threeness,
Confessing oneness,
Of creation’s Creator.
I rise today
In the power of Christ’s birth and baptism,
In the power of his crucifixion and burial,
In the power of his rising and ascending,
In the power of his descending and judging.

I rise today
In the power of the love of the cherubim,
In the obedience of angels
And service of archangels,
In the hope of rising to receive the reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs and matriarchs,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the deeds of the righteous.
I rise today
In heaven’s might
In sun’s brightness
In moon’s radiance
In fire’s glory
In lightening’s quickness
In wind’s swiftness
In sea’s depth
In earth’s stability
In rock’s fixity.

I rise today
With the power of God to pilot me,
God’s strength to sustain me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look ahead for me,
God’s ear to hear me
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to protect me
God’s way before me
God’s shield to defend me
God’s host to delver me:
From snares of devils,
From evil temptations,
From nature’s failings,
From all who wish to harm me,
Far or near,
Alone and in a crowd.

May Christ protect me today
Against poison and burning,
Against drowning and wounding,
So that I may have abundant reward;
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;
Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me;
Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting;
Christ in my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me,
Christ in the eye of all who see me,
Christ in ear of all who hear me.

I rise today
in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,
Believing in threeness,
Confessing oneness,
Of creation’s Creator.

For to the Lord belongs salvation!
May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Your After Easter Questions Welcome Here

There is a Beginnings gathering starting Wednesday, March 26, 6:30-8:15 p.m. at the Moveable Feast, 9341 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas. The series goes for six more weeks, with the format being an informal talk and discussion over a great meal. Instead of being video based, this will be unplugged, giving more time for reflection and questions and discussion over the meal. The meal if free for guests and the book Chapelwood provides, Along the Way, is one the best for anyone starting and restarting an intentional faith journey with Jesus Christ. Consider this your invitation to know and experience more, and see where it takes you!

“Our objective is…for us to step aside and let Christ gently accompany participants on their own spiritual journeys. Women and men need to claim God’s grace in their lives and to find Christ at their own pace rather than for us to force them to drink from the living water,” Beginnings Authors Langford and Ralls.

Can I give God and the church another chance?
What kind of God do Christians believe in?
Why is Jesus so important?
How do I start an intentional spiritual journey?
What does it mean to be a Christian?

I invite you to take a fresh look at Christian faith!
Scott Endress @ sendress@chapelwood.org, 713-354-4470

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Birth Order Theory: Not for Youngest Children?

Most birth order books are garbage written by older siblings who are still trying learn how to share their toys in adulthood. Alot of this theory is written by so-called Christian authors. I have yet to find anyone holding this theory up who gives a favorable review of the youngest child's supposed role in the family structure. Maybe it's just me being a younger child, but my suggestion for these folks who love talking about birth order is to get a life, get therapy, or both.

Normally, birth order talk seems to leave little hope for the youngest child. They are totally useless. Sort of like parasites, they often do positive harm. Youngest children, so it goes, are sinners by nature of their birth order. The only non-condemning treatment I have read about seems to be from that parable of Jesus in Luke 15 about the two sons. In the story, the misdirected, malicious, selfish youngest son receives the grace of the father's unconditional acceptance, as does the misdirected, malicious, and selfish oldest! So it is God's grace in Jesus that defines us.

My suggestion for youngest children is to avoid birth theory folks altogether, or at least don't take them too seriously. Most of it is an attempt to explain why the olders suffer so- and that explanation usually rests on your existence. Make peace wherever you are and see it as a gift. You can be a leader wherever you are. The gift that olders have is that they are often able to teach the youngers what it means to share in a loving way. The gift that youngers have is that they are often able to listen and to be taught.

How I Survived the Forties

I am 50! The book of Deuteronomy calls Moses the greatest prophet in all of Israel. He received his true vocation from God around age 80 while also a fugitive from justice. On the age front, that should be encouraging to those who seem to be passed over for that promotion because younger people will be hired for alot less. Moses' destiny would not to hang around the Egyptian court as an advisor to the king like Joseph did generations before. His vocation literally saved him.

Most churches are drawn to the young and energetic clergy thinking that they will in turn attract younger generations, as if age and energy alone will guarantee meaningful connections and ministry with unreached, unchurched younger adults. Because churches have budgets and are cost conscious, entry level clergy (not often very young anymore) sometimes fill this function, whether or not their spiritual gifts and abiltities fit this role.

I was the youngest of three brothers, so I have naturally have been drawn to older people all of my life. Because of their wisdom or knowledge or experience, I learn when I am with chosen mentors. I remember front porch visits with my neighbor's grandfather when I was around 5 yrs. old. Dr. John Lennon, my youth minister (Minister of Christian Education in those days), was the one who served as my spiritual director before I knew what one was. Under his guidance, I was confirmed and explored vocation. I could always count on getting an honest answer from him and I trusted him as a person and friend. John retired at 65, the same year I graduated from High School! We had one of the more dynamic youth ministries around. His retiremment was an active one; for example, he consulted in Christian Education in Australia, and held church staff positions in retirement.

I was chaplain at a retirement community for several years. This ministry, which I dearly loved, required dealing honestly with the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional onslaughts of aging. The frequent question in spiritual counseling seemed to be: "Why am I still alive?" It was a question of vocation, purpose: " What am I now here for?" The search for and the fulfilling of that purpose is a holy one at any age; it also saved my life by bringing a continuity, a sense of wholeness that God is never finished with us.

My mother, Judy Endress, turned 85 this past January 24, and also just "retired" from teaching hospital-sponsored childbirth and grandparenting classes for the last 20+ years. After being an R.N. during W.W. II, Mom went back to college when I was in High School, graduated with the R.N. when I was in college, then started work in a free clinic before working for the hospital. When she was in grade school, her church had a vocation day and the children were asked to wear the clothing of whatever their chosen vocation would have been at the time. They processed down the church, as if to offer these dreams to God and to declare themselves to the world. She dressed as a nurse.

How did I survive the forties? I did it by the grace that God is not finished. Purpose and usefulness saved me.

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Why Clergyspirit?

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random 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

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If you want a formula for making the best of the less-than-perfect and making the most of what you have been given, then begin to compare your lot to what you were before you were born, and it will empower you with wonder every time. John Claypool

Making Good Decisions