Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Joy is in letting go

Almost every negative emotion you experience is the direct outcome of an attachment.
Anthony De Mello, The Way to Love
Let go and receive the gift of enduring joy
This is one of the many great stories that Anthony De Mello tells. It's in his book, Rediscovering Life. The book was published in 2012 to mark the 25th year of his passing.

 A man who was moving from one village to another sees what is called in India a sannyasi. 

Here was this wandering sannyasi, and the villager, when he meets him, says, "I cannot believe this." The sannyasi says, "What is it you cannot believe?" The villager says, "I had a dream about you last night. I dreamt that the Lord Vishnu said to me, 'Tomorrow morning, you will leave the village around 11 o'clock and you'll run into this wandering sannyasi.' And here, I've met you."

"What else did the Lord Vishnu say to you?" asks the sannyasi. The man replies, "He said to me, 'If the man gives you a precious stone he has, you will be the richest man in the world.' Would you give me the stone?"

So the sannyasi says, "Wait a minute." He rummages in his little knapsack that he had. He asks, "Would this be the stone you're talking about?" And the man couldn't believe his eyes because it was  a diamond- the largest diamond in the world. He holds the diamond in his hands and asks, "Could I have this?"

And the sannyasi says, "Of course, you could take it. I found it in a forest. You're welcome to it." And he goes on, sits under a tree on the outskirts of the village. The man grasps this diamond and how great is his joy.

So the guy has the diamond. And then instead of going home, he sits under a tree, and all day he sits, immersed in thought. And toward the evening, he goes to the tree where the sannyasi is sitting, gives him back the diamond, and says, "Could you do me a favor?" "What?" says the sannyasi.

"Could you give me the riches that make it possible for you to give this thing away so easily?"

Holy One, could you give me the riches that make it possible to give so easily?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dementia: What Congregations and Clergy Can Do

John Graham, President of the Institute for Spirituality and Health, Pastor Tabatha Whitten of the Remnant Fellowship,  Chapelwood's Scott Endress served on the Clergy Panel at "Lighting the Way: Illuminating Dementia Care, " January 13. The Conference was sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association and met at St. Martin's Hope and Healing Center. 

Articles: (review of book,  the Second Forgetting)  (what congregations can do) 

Congregations and Faith Communities:
  1. Trust that there is a monumental need in your area, if not also in your congregation. Estimates (Powerful Tools for Caregivers) state there are approximately 100,000 family caregivers in the Houston metro area alone. 
  2. Advocate for this ministry in your parish. Start a conversation. A solid ministry to the frail elderly is an authentic witness, and a much overlooked path to reach adult children and their families.
  3. Provide practical help, such as respite care with option for support groups for caregivers.
  4. Provide educational resources for families (financing care, legal and medical). 
  5. Learn to partner with other groups, such as Interfaith CarePartners (Houston), the Alzheimer’s Association, and others. 
  6. Suggest a free care consultation with the Alzheimer’s Association.
  1. Reach out to care facilities (activities professionals). They are not charged with spiritual care.
  2. Offer gatherings of worship and prayer in care facilities and in homes, where the sacred words and actions are available, accessible (Christians- Holy Communion).
  3. Equip care teams of two persons who will “adopt” a homebound person/caregiver, offering visits, phone contacts, and support.
  4. Help caregivers explore not only the best interests of the care receiver, but also, what is in their best interests as a caregiver.  
  5. Adult children have new responsibilities as their role changes from child and care-receiver to parent and caregiver.
  6. Give responsible pastoral guidance but refrain from attempting to fix dysfunctional family dynamics that have long been in place.
  7. Long distance and in-town caregiving are both a challenge to manage. Empower caregivers to see that their vocation and mission is to render faithful care, more than fulfilling any congregational responsibilities.  
True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. James 1:27 CEB   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hope & Healing are possible

Seeking and accepting help can lead to true healing
One problem with depression of all kinds is diagnosis. Because shades of darkness surround me like the Rothco Chapel paintings, how am I to discern what level of darkness I'm experiencing?
Ignore the words said in ignorance:
  • You're too young for depression
  • Pastors are not supposed to be depressed
  • Depression is a sign of moral failure and spiritual weakness
  • Don't be so selfish
  • I can gut it out on my own

Listen to words that can truly encourage you:
  • Help is available
  • Taking care of myself is not selfish or weak
  • I don't have to live like this
  • I can get better  
  • I am worth it
Our system clearly needs healing, if it is producing more sickness and burn out than health. Clergy depression is taboo and a problem to be fixed if you listen to anyone concerned about clergy retention. Not too long ago, I heard a seminary dean bemoan clergy taking prescribed anti-depressants.

But compassion can be described as feeling with someone in their pain. Do clergy have some sort of invisible God-shield that repels all sorrow and sadness from affecting us?  

Thank God for saints like Henri Nouwen, who shared his honest and naked soul in his amazing journals, such as The Road to Daybreak. In the Wounded Healer, we see how self care will always be a necessity- and our responsibility- if we intend to remain and grow in ministry.  This paper by Robert Randall is one of the more informative I've found on the topic of clergy depression.    

Symptoms of exhaustion (the other stigma in pastoral circles) or depression should never be ignored or denied or discounted. Getting help is very important and the sooner the better. Even though you may have resisted it for so long, remember: learning self-care is a sign of hope and encouragement to others who have lived in ignorance or denial too long.



Oldies but Goodies