...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

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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Beginnings @ Chapelwood!

Greetings from Post-Ike Chapelwood. We hope you are well and among the powered in Houston!

You’re invited to preview Beginnings: An Introduction to Christian Faith on Wednesday, October 1, 6:30-8:00 p.m. @ The Moveable Feast 9341 Katy Freeway.

Enjoy sharing a simple meal, hear a talk, and discuss the basics of Christian faith. Seven continuing gatherings will meet at the same time and place each week. At other times, we will visit one or two Christian communities and see what we can learn from their life together.

Some questions Beginnings explores: Can I give God or the church another chance? What kind of God do Christians believe in? Why is Jesus so important for Christians? How do I start an intentional spiritual life? How can I see my life in a larger frame? What can I learn to trust God?

The meal is free for our guests! Consider previewing Beginnings this Wednesday, October 1, and feel free to reply at sendress@chapelwood.org or call 713-354-4470 if you have any questions!

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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ipod Idolatry

Although there is probably something good to be said for the availability of music, sermons, information, and studies on our Ipods, we will still receive less from them if we are trying to engage in another activity. And the other activities will probably suffer as well.

For example, a recent article on Ipod Spirituality in the September '08 Presence magazine, suggested that "continuous partial attention" can seriously hinder, not assist, with prayer. If prayer is about attending to God, then music as background can easily make concentrating too difficult. Seriously, it's hard enough for me to pray because I bring too many of my own inner and physical distractions to prayer.

I never thought something so helpful could become such a hindrance. Come to think of it, isn't that the way of most gifts? They are wonderful tools but can easily be misused or cause harm.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Multitasking and the New Cultural ADD

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 refocusing on one thing, we can actually live at a deeper level. Think of the creative and strategic benefits of seeing new connections that single-tasking allows! The time 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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Email and Prayer Ettiquette

A visit with a friend reminded me of the garbage we forward to address lists without thought or regard. Is this practice generally welcome or just plain stupid? We've all received and forwarded bad messages, some with an extreme political view and otherwise. We wouldn't share some of this stuff if we really stopped and thought about it, and if sending it wasn't a click away. Forward unto others as you would have them forward unto you. That would cause less harm, especially in these political days.

Similarly, when it comes to natural disasters such as Hurricanes, how can we pray for God to send it anywhere accept to a place that will cause the less harm? edensong.blogspot.com Shouldn't we also pray for humanity to get our act together, as our contribution to global warming raises the strength and frequency of extreme weather? Shouldn't we also pray for the rescuers and the responders, wherever the destruction appears?

When it comes to terrorism, how can we pray for just our security and not also the safety and peace and well being of the whole world, for it all, with all of us, belong to the Lord, Our Father.

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.

Peace!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Governor, You're No Hillary Clinton!

Please don't read this if Democratic politics turns you off. Or at least be fair warned.

One of the things I have noticed is that watching this stuff (the recent political conventions) actually drains your mind and saps your creativity. So blog posts here have been slow to come- my punishment I guess for watching too much spin and inanity and insanity! It's sort of like an addiction and the danger of it is that true political change and citizen involvement can easily shrink into passive entertainment- sort of like following the box scores of your favorite baseball team.

I find the oratory of Barak Obama incredibly inspiring and comparable to RFK . Obama's goal of energy independence is nothing less than visionary and calls all Americans to a sacrifice that is worth our best. There are long term benefits for our children and grandchildren. Since the expensive bills from the war in Iraq will be passed down to all those who survive the Bush years, we ought to at least give ourselves and our heirs the gift of energy freedom and green technology. Our energy dependence is a huge national security nightmare and dirty fuels remain a severe health risk.

As I had posted earlier, I caucused for Hillary back in March and the crowds attracted were record breaking. My mother, also a Hillary devotee, used the wonderful line by Lloyd Benson today. If you remember, the upstart Dan Quayle was mouthing on about JFK in a 1988 VP debate and Benson stopped him in his tracks by saying something like, "Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy, I worked with Jack Kennedy. Now, Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." I'm just waiting for Biden to say to Palin in their debate: Governor, I know Hillary Clinton. I worked with Hillary Clinton. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Non -Texting Phrases that Irritate

7. Not a problem: If it truly is not a problem, then why say it?
6. I'm good: Only for those who are unable to say "no thanks"
5. My bad: using this is your bad
4. We're hard wired: so what would soft wired be?
3. Faith-based: Another ill-defined gem that is now entrenched in churches.
2. Safe and secure interrogation: a.k.a. torture.
1. Climate change: I'm sorry, did you mean global warming?

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Why Clergyspirit?

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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

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