...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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Detox Begins with Organizational Values

A good example of this process of defining organizational values is the work of the strategic discernment team at Chapelwood. Led by "clarity evangelist" Will Mancini, we set out to uncover the values that really define us. With God's grace as the operative theme, the new mission statement reads: "To embody God's grace as we receive it to those who need it."

This is connected to reality is via the Chapelwood examen, and very portable and useful in any and all of our groups:
  • Since we last met, how have you received God's grace?
  • Who have you encountered in need of God's grace?
  • How have you embodied God's grace?
This ensures that the value of grace is not only talked about, but thought about, acted on, and, in short, embodied in our own unique way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do We Have a Toxic Workplace?

I bought the last one at Barnes and Noble (review forthcoming). The topic of toxicity in the church is a good topic for clergy for two reasons. One, if we can prevent toxic behaviors, such as bullying, passive hostility, and shaming, everyone now and in the future will benefit. Two, if we've ever had the fun of working with, supervising, or working under a toxic individual, we can learn the importance of respectful engagement and human dignity.

The topic also begs other questions, like:
  • How do I sometimes exhibit unhealthy and yes, toxic behaviors?
  • How does my community of faith tolerate or enable toxicity?
  • How can we survive a toxic workplace?
The point made about toxicity is that we treat it as an individual problem, when it is also a team and organizational problem. The "bad apple" metaphor is not very accurate- a more realistic comparison could be infection or cancer. Start with organizational values, such as respect for all. Incorporate these values in measurements for team effectiveness and individual fruitfulness.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Houston Cenacle SDI Class of '09!

Photos help tell the story of our graduation from the Spiritual Direction Institute yesterday, Sunday, August 23. All pictured are fellow classmates, except for Sister Ann Goggin, Director. The service in the Chapelwood UMC Chapel, was followed by a wonderful reception where family, friends, our spiritual directors and teachers could celebrate with us.

Highlights from the service included remarks from Sister Mary Denison, the conferring of our certificates by Sister Ann Goggin and Sister Mary, and the singing of the Servant Song led by Bill Duhon:

Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are travelers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will you hold the Christ-light for you
In the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.

Please note: All photos are Copyright 2009 by Bob Dees (Deespix)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Learned the Hidden Curriculum

The reason and wisdom of those red- faced warriors inside and outside various Town Halls have taught me:
  1. Having a doctor, especially for mental health, is seriously overrated!
  2. Family members, especially the dying themselves, should stop whining for comfort care!
  3. Private is cool, and to spend your savings for private insurance is really, really cool.
  4. We are Not our brother's or sister's or child's keeper in "chrisjun" America.
  5. Deficits are suddenly very important (wars, occupations, and bailouts notwithstanding).
  6. Venting works for a few short minutes, while lower brain function lasts a good long time.
Some are too hotheaded to do anything but just vent, which has never worked for me and only enrages me more. So the town halls? Maybe we should drop them in favor of some much needed anger management sessions, and charge their insurer- I'm sure THEY'LL pick up the tab!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Got You Here?

It may not be what you think!

That's what I find refreshing and expansive about Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. As a good sociologist would, Gladwell questions the American mythology of entitlement, which is all about personal mastery. Instead he looks at the details of success that we overlook, and have absolutely no control of: birth date and place, generational cohort, ethnic make-up, family heritage.

The examples in the book are amazing. For example, few people think about the Beatles' success a result of practicing, refining, and performing their craft in the strip clubs of Hamburg for seven years in the 1950's before the "British Invasion" of the 1960's. Bill Gates had a rare opportunity to log thousands of "practice" hours writing software on one of the first multi-site computers during his high school years. Gladwell points to chance when it comes to the explanation of how his family came into being: a white settler chose a certain black Jamaican women to be his wife, and this fact coupled with unique historical opportunities (schooling, for example) available to their heirs explains much of his familial and personal success.

According to Gladwell, personal initiative does play a huge part in success, just not in the parameters of the choices, not in the historical givens of a situation. These personal factors have to do with details we sometimes overlook: the opportunity to learn a skill and the long hours practicing it in meaningful work, willingness to do the kinds of work that fall to us because it might be "below" or "beneath" others, and personality traits (especially people skills/relational intelligence).

Gladwell stops short of expressing gratitude- it's just not really in the sociologist's vocabulary. But I think the ability he has in telling the story of success also comes with an appreciation for the fact that success is, by and large a gift of many factors out of our control. Whether you call it chance or gift makes a big difference. Gladwell allows for both. Christians call it grace, that which we receive that comes out of God's love and abundance, that which we have nothing to do with, beginning with our birth, our life, and any health we enjoy. Everything looks better when seen as a gift, wrote Chesterton. How true!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Be Where You're Not Needed

"The God who made the world and everything in it, he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things." Acts 17: 24-25, NRSV

If we are in a profession that makes a business out of helping people, and clergy are prime suspects, then the reason our health and wholeness are at risk on a massive scale is because we have learned how to keep everything looking good even though we ourselves are EMPTY. Compassion fatigue? Not me! Go, go power ranger!

Appearances are valued in this culture of ours and churches only magnify the importance of looking good. You could call it an addiction -- driven to be needed and liked and wanted. It doesn't take long for us to develop a God complex, functioning as though our supply is unlimited, ignoring or denying our real needs for rest, renewal, and sanity. All the while telling others to rely on God's resources. Really!

But the rush of being needed and liked usually runs counter to being with God. It's just that God is the One who doesn't NEED anything. God will always be completely happy being God! Could that be the reason why we find it so hard listening to and breathing in the Holy Spirit? Because we are so filled with the toxin of being needed?

Awareness of our real need is the healthier posture from which to offer whatever we have to give. How freeing- and absolutely liberating- it is to be in this Presence that doesn't sap us, but offers life and love in fullness.

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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

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