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Showing posts from 2016

What do I really want?

We tend to look outside ourselves for what we think we want; money, fame, love. We tend to get stuck looking for what we want. What we want, true happiness, is inside. D'Souza, Discovering Awareness Be born to us today. O Little Town of Bethlehem In, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer shared a memorable story about the time he was offered the opportunity to become president of a small educational institution, In essence, he had been told that if he wanted the job, the job was likely his. He called on a half dozen friends to help him discern his vocation by means of a "clearness committee," a process from the Quaker tradition where the group refrains from giving advice but spends three hours asking you honest, open questions to help you discover your own inner truth.
Halfway into the process, someone asked Palmer a question that proved to be the turning point. It sounded easy yet turned out to be very hard: "What would you like most about being a president?" Aft…

Collecting Spiritual Toys

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Some years ago, I met a young American woman who had traveled to India on several occasions to study yoga and meditation under distinguished teachers... After listening to her life story, I asked her why she was doing this. She told me that she was fed up with the materialism of the West, and she was now looking for the spirituality of the East. I told her that essentially she hadn't changed. She reacted strongly, "What do you mean, I haven't changed? Isn't spirituality better than materialism?" I told her in the past, she was collecting material toys to entertain herself; now she was collecting spiritual toys. The problem was she was still collecting. Her mindset was the same, only the object of her "treasure hunt" had changed... We think what we want is outside, but what we really want is within us. Tony D' Souza, Discovering Awareness The beginning of growth begins with a simple question: "What do I really want?' The answer to this que…

Humility: Open to the truth

Humility is humble in the sense of not being offended by the truth. But humiliation, according to Saint Bernard, is the path to humility. Saint Bernard means the humiliation that one uses well, that one accepts willingly insofar as it is true, but does not attribute to oneself if it is not true. Humility is never a put-down, but the willingness to acknowledge the truth about ourselves. Humility welcomes humiliation. Although it's painful at times, it realizes that, precisely because I feel humiliated, I'm attached to my happiness seeking programs in some way that needs correction if I'm going to be really happy and at peace in daily life. Thomas Keating

Does the Pastor Have a Pastor?

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Let your mind wander through your life, and let it notice what is hasn't noticed yet.
 L. Roger Owens

In his book, Abba, Give Me a Word (2012), L. Roger Owens tells the story of his journey in spiritual direction. The volume is one of a kind: I know of no other practicing United Methodist Pastor who has authored a book on his or her work as a directee.
Let the tremendous benefits to personal well-being and ministry outweigh whatever barriers you have.  Begin, Owens, suggests, by writing a "longing list," noting what you want, the things you are longing for. Do this for three days, writing for five minutes each time without over-thinking. "Just write." Eventually, we will probably move from a new roof or car or suit to things like peace, quiet, healing, God. The fuel for spiritual direction is our spiritual yearning for more of God. This longing is more important than the obstacles we might construct to seeking spiritual direction.

Thus, in the "Finding&q…

Goodbye Birds, Emilie Griffin

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Emilie Griffin's volume, Goodbye Birds and Other Poems (2014), is an authentic witness to an exuberant faith lived deeply and well. The themes and metaphors are far ranging and relevant. For example, the book's namesake, Goodbye Birds, is a comment on the ecological disaster of the "deep petroleum roar," while The Loss of Monarchs and other Puzzlements, refers to global warming affecting all living things: "Across the blue world, summer extends." But the little, powerful volume is also the fruit of life-long reflective and lived faith in Christ. As an octogenarian and one who suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Griffin patiently, courageously, makes her way on walker up to the front of the room to speak about her life and writing. Griffin has earned that right to speak of aging, God, and spirituality. But it's also her gift: This is what you may call if you like to give names to things a spirituality of rheumatoid arthritis: the human spirit, fueled b…

Please Wait

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They also serve who only stand and wait. John Milton, quoted in Griffin, Doors Into Prayer.

My mother, Judy Endress, died earlier this year, in January, 2016. Instead of ruminating about making changes, the best decisions I am making are about self-care here and now, and living well through this experience of loss. For clergy who cannot avoid facing death, dying, and grief as apart of their ministry, it is especially important to make our well being the priority. Take time by: scheduling a private retreat,  seeking a skilled counselor  going to a spiritual director listening to the waves roar and the birds echo  Grief is not easy nor is it temporary. There's no "getting over it," nor is there a solace that removes the reality of the loss. There's no "cheering up" or feeling good because the deceased lived relatively happy and long, or died some kind of hero. There is not a pill nor a therapist nor a Bible verse that is going make it all better, to take our grief a…

Because you are loved (4)

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We turned our lives over to the care of God as we understand God. Step #3 abridged

We sense that we can never entirely imitate his godly love. But we can break free from some of the boundaries that hold us captive. We can come closer to the light. Emilie Griffin, Small Surrenders The thought of cheering-up God like a parent would cajole a moody child reflects an early stage of faith development. It's also a way we have of crafting God in our own image, of making the Lord of all the powers of the universe a little more manageable by projecting stuff that really belongs to us, not God.

In my journey, Step #3, which is similarly worded in most 12 Step programs, is a daily invitation to surrender to God and to let go of controlling others- and God.

Instead of what we often hear about pleasing God or God somehow needing us, the truth is that God doesn't need us to feel sorry for God or calm God down. Giver of Life doesn't need us to make the Holy One happier than God already i…

Because you are loved (3)

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We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue."  The ACA Laundry List We will choose to love people who can love and be responsible for themselves. The ACA Promises

Don't talk of love. Well, I've heard the word before. Simon and Garfunkle, I Am a Rock "Love" may have been used on us- to excuse abuse, or indifference or neglect. The adults in charge may have told us that, whatever happened, it happened for our own good, or because we were "loved."

The word took on a toxic connotation as it was associated with  harmful experiences. Because we cannot offer love if we don't experience self-love, we sometimes settle for pity as a default. It's easier to be attracted to weaknesses because we can feel in control as rescuer. Pity puts us over others. In feeling sorry for someone, I'm often led togiverelieforaid. That makes me feel better about myself. But it's not love.

When Jesus taught to…

Because you are loved (2)

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First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Jesus
We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.from Tony A.: The 14 Traits of an Adult Child
Pleasing others is a default many clergy have learned through years of serving others. However, tying my emotional well-being to the approval of others is something I learned at a young age.

In families impacted by addiction, alcoholism, or dysfunction, a survival trait often acquired to survive is people-pleasing, or controlling others. We may have tried valiantly to change our troubled and toxic family into a loving and supportive one. And we continue that fruitless effort with those closest to us in the present.

Like the children in the movie, Boyhood, every day is lived walking on emotional egg shells. That means that hyper …

Because you are loved (1)

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change. from Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families

For those of us who grew up where addiction/alcoholism/dysfunction was present, the first line of this prayer of serenity offers a reasonable, sane alternative to emotional chaos.
Insanity is trying to extract love and acceptance from others we cannot change and who cannot be present to us.
It's a life-giving choice to decide not give the keys of our happiness to anyone or anything outside of us. It will be an endless exercise in abandonment and desolation to turn to others to provide what is lacking in us: self acceptance and self-love.
It's a wonderful gift to realize that we have choices. Some are toxic to us because they cannot be present to us, having compulsions of their own. Workaholism comes to mind as one of the most insidious and socially-approved addictions of all.

Freedom is walking away from the chaos and insecurity of pulling from others w…

Completely incompatible?

In the church's earliest centuries, government officials who wanted to be baptized first had to relinquish their offices...As counterintuitive as all of this might seem, there are serious Christian thinkers (not just Anabaptists) who argue that it is impossible for a Christian to be at one and the same a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and a responsible president of the United States, for example.* This is not a question of arguing about whether or not Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush were sincere in their claims of being born again; it is the simple assertion that there are inherent irreconcilable contradictions between honoring the Sermon on the Mount and being the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in all of history. * Clarence Jordan surmised that being President is completely incompatible with being a Christian.
Arthur Paul Boers, Servants and Fools, pp.143-144

Gaining Christ

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There was a Birth, certainly, we had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods.  from T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi
I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ-- Philippians 3: 8 CEB The Coptic Church gives us a remarkable account of the Holy Family's escape into Egypt, which is referenced in Matthew 2: 13-15. It's the falling of cultural idols. "A prophecy in Isaiah says that idols of Egypt will totter (or shake) at His presence. This happened in many places that the Holy Family visited. Whenever they came near the Ancient Egyptian holy places with their idols, many idols would fall over and crash. One of these places was in the region of Hermopolis, near the modern…