Monday, September 29, 2008

A Good Christian Death

Is as much about how we have lived than how we die. The main ingredient in dying well is having lived well.

Jeremy Taylor, in the 17th century, noted several components to the “good” death: hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a good Christian life. Our picture may include being at peace without discomfort, at home (natural setting) and surrounded by those we love.

An early version of the Anglican Prayer Book (1552) advises for the dying person to be in charity with the world, seeking forgiveness and offering it, thoughtfully disposing of wealth, making a will, and putting all affairs in order.

I hate the word closure because it always seems to be used without appreciation of the power of grief; grief is more like an open, rather than a closed book. Sense of completion and coalescing, rather than closure, is more important for those who are in the stages of grief and death.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Texting Can Kill You

What about the dangers of texting while doing other simple tasks, like walking? One ER Dr. has issued AWTTW (a word to the wise). Texters who walk into traffic or drivers who hit someone while texting have at least a very bad habit. (From an unpublished paper by Adlard, "Multitasking is Becoming a Bad Habit for Many")

Human brains do not multitask, but instead refocus each time a new task is presented. There is also research that suggests that the hippocampus, a memory function of the brain, does not work during multitasking. This results in poor concentration, and compromised work quality due to memory failure. In addition, multitasking many hours each day understandably stresses the brain, and this stress can lead to breakdowns in our health and maladies such as high blood pressure.

Balance is the key to texting as tool and not a bad or worse, a dangerous habit. So, yes, while texting can kill you, doing many things without thought or reason can also become harmful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Multitasking and the New Cultural ADD

Can we put texting in the rear view mirror?
I can save an easy ten minutes in the morning by shaving with my Norelco triple Header while driving to work. I can save a few more minutes by having a snack breakfast during drive time. I usually don't use my cell while driving and I don't own a Blackberry, but I am still considered a multitasker according to Allstate Insurance.

What's the deal with multitasking if it saves time, and helps you to be more productive? A certain amount of it is inevitable and probably helpful. It's just discovering what works for you that can be difficult. With the plethora of new gadgets streaming out to American consumers, multitasking is not only here to stay, but also, there will be more and more opportunities to be a member of the club!

If multitasking is hurting you or at least compromising your safety, quality of work, stress management, or health, then it's probably time for some re-assessment.

Whatever happened to concentrating on one thing at a time? We may learn to see deeper connections only by single-tasking. Rather than skimming the surface of life, by focusing on one thing, we can actually live at a deeper level.

But think of the creative and strategic benefits of seeing new connections that single-tasking allows! The time and brain energy saved because life is no longer a constant doing over and refocusing. The appreciation people will have when those before you have your undivided pastoral attention and spiritual care as a valued child of God.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hurricane Ike- Yikes! A Comment on the Illusion of Control

Fresh from the despair of Hurricane Ike is my first post on the unpredictability of life. Spiritually, adults prefer something they can count on and so certainty really sells, especially in religion. Certainty is a long way from faith though and that's a problem. In biblical terms, as the ancient Israelites journeyed into the land of Canaan, so they created for themselves a more settled, stable, and predictable existence. Sane and reasonable beats unplanned and happenstance every time, right?

Israel's spiritual life mirrored their travels. Prophets like Hosea would look on the Exodus and wanderings as a time when Israel and Yahweh were alone, as if bride and groom on their honeymoon. Oh well, before one golden calf. It was only as Israel moved from nomadic to agrarian culture that Yahweh began to have more rivals, and idolatry become an issue. Predictability, comfort, convenience, stability, required more and more gods insure the fertility of the land, the foundation of economic life.

Henotheism is the worship one God among many others, and that is probably the best description of ancient Israel's rise and fall. Does that shoe fit the church? While we say we worship the One and Only, there is attention paid and energy given to other pursuits that will guarantee a sense of security and certainty as well as protection of our comforts and conveniences.

Choosing Exodus and not Settlement as your spiritual model means you are probably closer to the spirit of Jesus since he spoke of his great work as his departure or "exodus." In preparation for the hurricane, we were told to "hunker down" and wait it out. In the spiritual life, hunkering down can be deadening. It's all about being free to choose God, and receive and follow the movement of God in your life. Sometimes that means letting go of the idolatry of certainty and the illusion of control.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Codependent Pastor

"It is none of your business what other people think of you."

This recently heard quote from a friend in ministry really sums up what many of us pastoral types need to hear, but are afraid to own for ourselves. It is a freeing moment to realize that trusting our reputation to a faithful Creator is a gift we can give ourselves and those we serve. (cf. I Peter 4: 19)

Of course we don't want people to hate us. There is pastoral risk in saying no to the wrong person as well as in our aversion to conflict and disagreement. Instead of being outer directed, which most pastors are, it may be time to look at our core, our center, our true self, not as servant, but as beloved child of God, the lover of our soul. Our identity in Christ is the origin and source of good in our lives. Which makes me want to protect the reputation of others, to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Being more liked or less liked is not the goal; being real is. Pleasing others is not the goal of the Christian life; pleasing God, learning to be true to God's own image within are worthy of our best efforts and devotion.

Fixing People Leads to Burnout

Reasons for burnout are varied. Here are some I have observed.

1. Poor boundaries; pleasing others. I heard a great question today in a supervisory group for interns. What, if anything, truly offends you? Become more aware of yourself. Most pastors want to be so liked that they don't think any behavior will offend them. But even Jesus got ticked in a righteous sort of way. Denial of who we are only leads to bad self care.

2. Poor time management. Wasting time only leads to more stress in dealing with deadlines. Because crisis situations requiring our quality presence happen at any time, maintaining and honoring a schedule is a time stewardship issue. We have to manage what is in our power to control. Time is a gift.

3. Comparison thinking, ingratitude. Alot of times, we may feel that we don't fit the needs of the setting. We are unfair to ourselves and others when we engage in comparison thinking. It drains on our energy, keeping us from enjoying and using the gifts we do have.

4. Unprocessed grief- in ourselves and congregations. Think of the volume of grief we encounter. It's incredible. If we don't take time to grieve our losses, personal and congregational, the symptoms will appear down the line. We will eventually pay the cost of not attending to this most powerful human emotion.

5. Lack of peer support. They never told us within the hallowed halls of Duke Divinity School that we cannot make it alone in ministry. If they did, I didn't hear it. Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer shattered the idea that our lives are somehow untouched by pain and suffering of others. We need others with whom we can be vulnerable.


Oldies but Goodies