Work Fully Done

Thanks to Startup Stock Photos

Thanks to Startup Stock Photos

The difference between work and play is only a matter of attitude. Work, fully done, is play. When the body works, it is dancing. When the mind works, it is dreaming. Appreciating the joys and sadnesses of both, one moves within the process of life.

From Gerald May’s Simply Sane, pg. 87

“Something Must Be Said”


Thanks Aaron Burden

Thanks Aaron Burden

Parents of black male children know that the world poses a much greater danger to our sons than they do to the world. We raise our black sons to be aware of their surroundings and to know how they are being perceived–whether they are shopping in a store, or walking down the street with a group of friends, or even wearing a hoodie over their heads. After hearing what happened to Trayvon as he was walking home from a store wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and ice tea, I was once again reminded of what a dangerous world this is for our sons. And I thought about Trayvon’s mother. She sent her son on a trip to visit family, only to have him fall victim to the unfounded fears and stereotypes grafted onto black male bodies. Something must be said, I thought, about what is happening to our black children, especially our sons. This book is my attempt to do that.

From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Introduction of Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God

Heeding Our Lives

Thanks to Micah Hallahan

Thanks to Micah Hallahan

If we give heed to our lives, and live long enough, we come to understand the things that eluded us earlier because of our youth and the dogmatic posture of our religious teachers. We come to know how the Yahweh-God works in the world, and we come to appreciate the dream of the Kingdom, God’s commitment to and presence in all of humankind. The divisions melt away and we finally understand the meaning of ancient Israel’s claim: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” Once our experiences bring us to this point, we can no longer be parochial. We can longer say with conviction that one must be a Catholic. Rather, we rejoice in our own Catholicism, for we see it at its best, incarnating what the God of life has finally revealed to us in our experience, what in fact is revealed by God’s presence in all of humankind: It really doesn’t matter.

From A Theology of Presence, pg. 112

Thurman on Destiny-Dealing Decisions

Thanks to Austin Ban

Thanks to Austin Ban

It is a simple but terrible truth that, in most fundamental decisions which we make, we must act on the basis of evidence that is not quite conclusive. We must decide and act on our decision without having a complete knowledge even of the facts that are involved. What we do is postpone decisions as long as we can, getting before us as many relevant facts as possible. Then there comes the moment of decision and we act. Our hope is that the future will reveal the rightness of our decision but we are never quite sure. Think back over you own life. Are there things that have befallen you that are the result of wrong decisions? At the time, you did not think they were wrong. Or perhaps you could not wait longer for further investigation and exploration. Your evidence was not sufficient but it was all that you could secure, the situation being what is was. Now you see what you could not have seen fifteen years ago. It has taken all these years for you to discover that you were mistaken. Since life is this way, it is most unwise to make decisions, destiny-dealing decisions, with half a mind or in a casual manner. Since, at our best, we must act again and again on the basis on inadequate evidence, it is quite unworthy of our responsibility as human beings to use less than our highest wisdom in making up our minds. There is no guarantee that the decision I make will not, in the end, form a mistake, a bad judgment, a movement in error. But I shall bring to bear upon it the fruits of my cumulative wisdom in living, the light from as many lamps along the way as I can see, and the greatest spiritual resources available to me.

Howard Thurman in Deep is the Hunger, 9-10

The Blessed Child

Thanks to London Scout

Thanks to London Scout

I was listening to Rev. Emily Rosencrans the other week as she spoke to the chaplaincy staff about blessing. She talked about family systems in particular and how blessings are passed on to members of families.

It was a remarkable session, partly because I get a lot out of (family) systems theory and partly because of the ways Chaplain Rosencrans handled us. Her manner was gentle, precise, and perceptive. Plus, it’s fun to watch chaplains teach other chaplains because, as some theorists suggest, how we are with one another is how we are with our patients.

Nonetheless, we learned that usually mothers bless their sons and fathers bless their daughters. We talked ins and outs that I’ll keep from the blog but which really will impact, is impacting my pastoral and clinical skill since the session. We were learning about the work of Myron Madden who I’ve gotta put on my ever-expanding reading list.

Blessings are spiritual things and they come in the form of words, gifts, and permissions given. Such a clear capturing of a well-used word–blessing–or a worked over phrase–God bless you.

One of the most important things she told us was that we can get what we need and that we can encourage others to get what they need. Even if you weren’t the blessed child; even if your role was the rebel and troublemaker or the responsible caretaker; you can get what you need.

The other critical point was about how we can bless each other without regard for–or because of–who the so called blessed child was. Everybody can be a blessed child, and we have a role as spiritual caregivers in reminding people of that. In other words, we can bless and facilitate the blessings of others.

I thought about this quote that I used in a chapel meditation a few months back from Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved:

It is remarkable how easy it is to bless others, to speak good things to and about them, to call forth their beauty and truth, when you yourself are in touch with your own blessedness. The blessed one always blesses. And people want to be blessed! This is so apparent wherever you go. No one is brought to life through curses, gossip, accusations or blaming. There is so much of that taking place around us all the time. And it calls forth only darkness, destruction and death. As the “blessed ones,” we can walk through this world and offer blessings. It doesn’t require much effort.

So what do you need? Who needs to bless you? Go to them. Get it. Get what you need.

And don’t forget that you can bless others. Look for the moment. Take the opportunity to bless.

Apologies, Reflection, Apologies

Thanks to Krzysztof Puszczynski

Thanks to Krzysztof Puszczynski

One of the things I love about clinical pastoral education is the emphasis on reflection. The clinical method that undergirds CPE is summed up as action, reflection, action.

We act. We reflect upon that action. And we act again keeping that reflection in mind. We work, think about our work, and take those good lessons to the next work.

I told a group of leaders in my church Sunday that my having had the experience of apologizing on two occasions in the last week has had me questioning my pastoral competence. What I didn’t say–and what I hope those leaders know about me–is that I love the notion of questioning my competence. I wouldn’t have said that before two years ago when I started seeing how valuable such curious interrogation can be.

Apologizing makes me think through how I’m doing, whether I’m doing, pastoral work well. I think I have a similar experience when I’ve apologized to my son. Saying that I was wrong and that I wronged my son reframes how I think and live as a father.

As a Christian I think of the power and the potential of an apology. Saying that “I’m sorry” opens me up to grace. I’ll write another time about how the same is true when I ask for forgiveness, which isn’t the same thing. Nonetheless, saying sorry should change you. It should be both an acknowledgement of real experience (i.e., I am sorry) and a promise. I am this way and it will mark our interactions from this point.

My wife gets this well. She actually only accepts apologies when they is a commitment to this action, reflection, action. She’ll require a plan for how this’ll be different next time. She gets it. She requires it. I am sorry and that sorrow will matter when I next see you.

Form of Conversation

Tree of 40 Fruit

I love this picture and this description of Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit. According to CNN, the tree was created by grafting buds from various stone fruits onto the branches of a single tree in order for it to produce multiple types of fruit.

The Tree of 40 Fruit is an ongoing series of hybridized fruit trees by contemporary artist Sam Van Aken. Each unique Tree of 40 Fruit grows over forty different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. Sculpted through the process of grafting, the Tree of 40 Fruit blossom in variegated tones of pink, crimson and white in spring, and in summer bear a multitude of fruit. Primarily composed of native and antique varieties the Tree of 40 Fruit are a form of conversation, preserving heirloom stone fruit varieties that are not commercially produced or available.

Learn more here and here about this ongoing series and this form of conversation.