...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, April 14, 2010

The Courage to Be Renewed

Some in the church wonder why a leave-taking could be courageous. For a pastoral leader to take a leave may be considered courageous for several reasons, but first let's talk about courage.

I see courage as a nexus between fear and love. It's the point at which I'm willing and able to sacrifice because of my love for others in my unit, family, team, or community. Love is the underlying motivation for any act of courage, large or small.

Many of the barriers to taking sabbatical are wrapped up in our fears: uncertainty over how renewal leave or sabbatical will impact me and others in my life-- my family, spouse, or church. What about career? Will opportunities to move up be missed? The other barrier is frankly, a mix of demigod, super- human delusion, and ego: will I be seen as weak and ineffective because I've admitted the need?

Here's what the guide Clergy Renewal says: "Discerning the season in one's own life may be among the most difficult tasks. It will require moving through one's own exhaustion, disillusionment, and pain. In order to craft a realistic and refreshing plan, it will mean honestly examining the hopes, dreams, and expectations one has."

The season of discernment, testing the spirits, and even facing your demons, implies a willingness to let go and see in ways that are impossible on the 24/7 schedule of church. The biblical renewal we preach and teach does require courage. I believe those who take sabbatical are helpful examples for the rest of us. They are stepping out and saying to all of their clergy peers that there's no excuse for self-neglect and burn-out. And losing that excuse may require the most courage of all!

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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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