...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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

you can call me Mike

Michael-- Bolton? The consultant in the movie Office Space, Bob Slydell, really liked the whole idea of Bolton the singer, but he and his chum (the other Bob) had no time for the real employee by that name. They moronically asked "Any relation to the singer by that name?"

I recently heard a good sermon that brought up the question of how names can bless or curse. The example was about nick names, but in the movie, the poor computer programmer had to explain to everyone that he was not Michael Bolton the singer.

Our tagged names, whether they are our choice or not, never really fit us. Like David being told to use Saul's armor, not only do the labels limit us, but they can do serious harm. Thus, David had to discard even the warrior King's own armor to duel the giant. He had to go with his own strengths, the quickness and stealth of the hunt. Playing a size game with the behemoth would have meant the end for David.

There are too many books out there on leadership, written by the big folks, the heavy hitters. They usually offer principles for success, laws to follow, blueprints and maps for all the little Davids out there. Some of the audience may not know all that armor just doesn't fit. Some do, but still try it out, hoping they will be better liked by themselves or others.

Yes, a pastor needs to comfortable in their own skin, but it won't happen if the leader doesn't (1)know or (2) like who they are. And who we are is not our role or status, but it begins with a gift we receive on the inside. Because it's there that the image of God is alive and it's there that we are truly God- blessed and named "Very good!" All the best-selling guidelines and outlines and equations in the world cannot give us what God's love and grace gives us. It's that which we bring to any intervention, pastoral or otherwise. And that's the pearl of great price- for us, and anyone with whom we share our life.

1 Jo 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us . 1 Jo 4:16 And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bark! Musings on a Theme by Will Willimon

Bishop Will Willimon penned the phrase The Dog Days of Pentecost and I first read it in a wonderful collection of his devotions published in On a Wild and Windy Mountain. With the drought of 2011, the phrase should make a comeback.

This grueling season is endless and monotonous, and hot! For those churches which observe the church seasons, the season after Pentecost takes us from mild spring days and nights through Christ the King, the culmination of the Christian calendar, which is usually a Sunday in late November. In between are the dog days and the time called "ordinary." We take what respite we can find in summer vacations, holidays, camps, reunions, back to school preparations, and lots of air conditioning!

Whenever we're stuck and not moving in the spiritual life, the season is one of dog days, regardless of the time of year. You are listless, lifeless, and, like the diminishing water tables, we too maybe drained of reserves. We may struggle to sustain the pace we have set. And praying itself seems more like a good idea than a reality. Too, self-care sounds like a great idea, but most of us really don't give it a thought until we're confronted with the drought of spirit that comes with running on empty for too long.

What's the "cure" for the dog days of the spirit? When the traveler prayed "I lift my eyes to the hills," the words were about the dangers and difficulties of the pilgrimage ahead. (Psalm 121:1) Asking about the source of our strength for the trip may be the best move we could make, because the response to that question is "My help is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121: 2)

Surely, there are times to smell the roses, and to take advantage of the respites on the journey. If you have a friend like Spartan the Border Collie, you know how exciting the simple mention of WALK is for canine pals. He is always up for a walk, morning, day, or night. Having that spunk and sense of adventure is a priceless gift.

As long as we focus on the mechanics of the journey, we may become blind to the One who companions us. The Lord who made heaven and earth is the reason we walk in the first place. And the movement to God cannot be made without God.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On speaking your truth

From hedge fund managers to sports "analysts" many people claim they can forecast the future; most of the time, they're telling you what you already know, or can find out for yourself! So church consultants from every persuasion tout the importance being more fruitful or successful in ministry, i.e., more people in church. Is fewer people supposed to be a good thing? Pardon the Charlie Sheen here- but-- DUH!

According to Deuteronomy, as the prophet's prediction actually happens, they are a true prophet. If not, they are a false prophet -- with dire consequences of course for the false prophet. Was this a corrective for the many false prophets who used their gift and office to advance themselves?

By just about any reading of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, the practice of soothsaying appears to be the norm, while the true prophet was the exception. From I Kings, read the stories of Elijah and the prophets of Baal- or what bad King Ahab said about Micaiah: "I hate him because he never prophecies anything good for me; it's always bad." (I Kings 22:8) Like Micaiah, maybe we should make sure our hearers want to hear the real message, not the pretend one we've concocted.

One of the dangers of the pastoral role, is that we become very gifted in working for the acceptance of others, and in being liked. Another pitfall is that in order to get ahead, we become experts at listening to every voice except our best one, the one that speaks to us in the whispers and sheer silence, the Holy Spirit. But what do pastors really have to offer anyone if we have never really been present to this Voice?

"Speaking the truth in love" doesn't guarantee that we will make friends or influence people, but it's the one thing we have to offer. It is not easy nor second- nature to many of us. But some people will appreciate and admire you for being honest and truthful- even as you proceed in gentleness and kindness.

" It is curious – curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare." -Mark Twain

Monday, August 8, 2011

Piety Sells

It does if can be done in the name of politics. When Jesus talked about prayer in public, he mentioned those who already have their reward. (Matthew 6: 5)

Were Jesus words a caution directed at the image-driven self which seeks, in almost idolatrous fashion, to mold everything in its own image? We can even mold prayer in our image, can't we? We can attempt to use it for self-serving and limiting purposes. We can take anything given to us, something meant to bless, and misuse it.

The blessing and curse of such stunts is that people who employ them benefit more than anyone else, even if it's just being seen by a few more thousand folks.

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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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