...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, June 26, 2008

Southern (Methodist) University: Where's the Accountability?

If Chick-a-Fillet wants the foul poles at Minute Maid ballpark to be named, they simply have to pay for it and then honor the contract. Is anyone deeply concerned about the Methodist name and the institution of SMU being attached to the proposed "think tank" Institute that will, independent of any church teaching, lift up the politics and policies we have endured for the last 8 years in this nation of ours?

Of course Bishops and University officials are not immune to big money and power, and I don't blame them for presenting this issue as one that concerns only the SMU Trustees and the South Central Jurisdiction's Executive Council. And perhaps Dean of Perkins, William Lawrence, has made a good point, that having the institute on the SMU campus does not equate agreement with its politics, but rather, invites debate, learning, and discussion. Keeping your opponents closer to you than your friends is an interesting rationale.

However, questions should be asked at the upcoming Jurisdictional Conference (July 15-July 19 in Dallas). Why? Because there doesn't seem to be any accountability (to the Jurisdiction, the UMC or University) built into the entity being created. Power usually does not want questions asked, but by simply asking questions, South Central delegates can be faithful to a church that has always lifted up the importance of equal representation, transparency, and accountability. Those should be the norm not the exception in the way we do church. And Jurisdictional officials should allow those questions to be asked, freely and openly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Site for Clergy Self Care

Click on the post! This a great little site featuring short articles for busy clergy.

VBS @ Chapelwood: A Wonderful Blessing!

Where else can you go to engage and be lifted by the energy of hundreds of children and youth than in the Jerusalem marketplace?

This was an awesome week! Thanks to all who made this happen. The adults are the ones who are blessed to have participated.

I want to thank my fellow upper-roomers and youth, Mark Cotham and Steve Moen for their great assistance all week. They were a delight to work with. Thanks to them, dozens of kids made some great looking plaques featuring a Psalm or a masonry nail cross.

And the kids will be singing about VBS this Sunday, June 15 at the 8:25 service at Chapelwood. Come and hear them!


Home Repairs

With the abundance of major home repairs that have cascaded over us this month, we are faced with the choices of what to put on the back burner and save for another day. Seems like last year was the year to replace existing autos, while this year, we are down to have-to jobs: new AC coils, extensive new drain lines, replacing rusted doors, and a new apron for the drive, something put on hold for years.

So it will feel good to have this stuff completed, with always more that could be done for the future. If you think this is parabolic of the spiritual life, just remember the times you have heard "makeover" over the last year or two. The fact is, we find the idea enticing.

The church talks a great deal about transformation. I wonder how much of that word is more about makeovers that we can see than about the realm of God's reign, which we often cannot or do not see. Jesus' seed parables in Mark 4 point to our reactions and resistance with wanting God's rule (4:1-20), how it happens apart from our own control and recognition (4:26-29), and that in its beginnings, size DOES NOT matter (4: 30-34).

The temptation in church life is to have the one answer that will fix everything, such as a new mission statement, strategic plan, or consultant. In the spiritual life, the lures work the same way- what is the one thing that will repair- renovate- my spirit?

The famous physician and endocrinologist Hans Selye, noted that nature loves diversity. And so it is in the spiritual life. There are many practices that will provide strength and hope for your journey. But it is a gradual transformation more than a makeover. The journey to God is also with God.

Selye's book, The Stress of Life is worth picking up. It's a classic in the physiology of stress reaction.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Servanthood or Friendship? Can You Have it Both Ways?

It would seem that servant-friendship is as much an oxymoron as servant-leadership, which is, in itself a creation of 70's corporate America. The UMC has really majored in this metaphor. Servanthood has dominated much of the denominational literature related to discerning and defining the call to ordained ministry. Of course, Jesus teaches his disciples- followers- to be servants of one another. But in a world that no longer recognizes slavery as it existed and functioned in the first century, we miss the the power of the image that Jesus used.

The gist of Jesus' teaching, as I see it in Luke 22:24 ff, is intended to diffuse power distinctions instead of reinforcing them. Ironically, we seem to use the word servanthhood to make more distinctions among us. In our ego-driven world, it is not long before we are at the game of determining who the best servant is.

Like alot of things in church and religion these days, the call to servanthood is often used on others. We bring the word out when we want. It is a very risky thing to surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit, because it means death and resurrection. And this is the missing piece: we cannot copy Jesus, but we can be obedient to the Christ in us and love the Christ in others.

That's why I am drawn to basic friendship as the healthiest model or metaphor for ordained ministry. If we had to describe what it could be or should be, I like friendship because it is much more personal. Friendship with each other and with Jesus seems to be the direction of the last Gospel, when Jesus calls his disciples friends, in direct contrast to being slaves. (John 15:15)

So if you can't have it both ways, here's my vote for FRIENDSHIP as the better way to describe what the pastoral role can be, perhaps is meant to be. Not that friendships with parishioners can or should ever take the place of friendships with peers. Remember, we are talking friendship as metaphor. The Celtic Christians, who talked about the soul friend (St. Bridget) and not the spiritual director, understood the importance of walking together (St. Aidan) humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) It's about mutuality.

So the point of the journey is not to repeat Jesus' own death, the laying down of his life, the emptying of his God-ness. We cannot copy Jesus. But we can live a Spirit formed life where others, because of our love for them, do not have to be sacrificed. We are FREE to act out of love, because we know what being a friend is. Which would be a transforming way to think about friendship and ministry, don't ya think?

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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