Train Ride

 All things come to an end;

small calves in Arkansas,

the bend of the muddy river.

Do all things come to an end?

No, they go on forever.

They go on forever, the swamp,

the vine-choked cypress, the oaks

rattling last year’s leaves,

the thump of the rails, the kite,

the still white stilted heron.

All things come to an end.

The red clay bank, the spread hawk,

the bodies riding this train,

the stalled truck, pale sunlight, the talk;

the talk goes on forever,

the wide dry field of geese,

a man stopped near his porch

to watch. Release, release;

between cold death and a fever,

send what you will, I will listen.

All things come to an end.

No, they go on forever.

Grant me the patience to notice grace in every ending and may strength be there too. Amen.

Prayers

I offer weekly written reflections at the hospital and I’m going to pull some of them for the blog regularly to share them here. This is a prayer for us as we work, wherever we do.

God, remind me that you are present in the flat stretches of life and daily detours, not just the milestones and big twists. Help me have eyes this week to see traces of your work, places of your moving. In your name. Amen.

(Adapted from Timothy Jones’ Workday Prayers, 154)

Listening Is

Listening is a mind-set. Active listening, effective listening, compassionate listening, and in-depth listening involve respect and appreciation for the person who is talking. Such listening suggests that what the other person has to say is important and deserves validation. Listening is a decision to engage in another’s life story and discern how you can be of help in the shaping of his or her story. Listening does not require us as caregivers to have great answers or be experts in the subject areas. Listening is a commitment to respect you enough to give you my full attention and give you clues and follow-up questions that ensure I received your messages as intended.

(From Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care, pg 127)

“Writing…an often painful task”

Michael Eric Dyson’s brilliance with many things glows in this and other paragraphs as he writes about the fractures in his relationship with Cornel West. In this quote, he’s talking writing. If you’re interested in what else he says, visit here. Among our other impressions of his overall critique, we should pray for the folks mentioned here. They are part of an intellectual community that shapes and influences the opinions of our best practitioners. My point is to underline what Dyson says of the work of writing.

The ecstasies of the spoken word, when scholarship is at stake, leave the deep reader and the long listener hungry for more. Writing is an often-painful task that can feel like the death of one’s past. Equally discomfiting is seeing one’s present commitments to truths crumble once one begins to tap away at the keyboard or scar the page with ink. Writing demands a different sort of apprenticeship to ideas than does speaking. It beckons one to revisit over an extended, or at least delayed, period the same material and to revise what one thinks. Revision is reading again and again what one writes so that one can think again and again about what one wants to say and in turn determine if better and deeper things can be said.

Jesus Went to Hell

This article refers to the early and often used Apostles Creed; it is so worth preaching:

…but before his resurrection, Jesus “descended to the dead.” The Athanasian Creed of at least a century later is more explicit, Christ “descended into hell.” Depending on context and translation Jesus either journeyed to Sheol, Hades, or Hell. But allowing for differences in language Christianity held—and technically still holds as a central tenet—the view that Jesus spent the gap between his death and resurrection “harrowing” Hell, that is journeying to the underworld to liberate the imprisoned souls of the Hebrew patriarchs who had been imprisoned there since their deaths.

Contemporary congregations will often translate “hell” into a more palatable “death” or “the grave.” There is something unseemly in the idea of Jesus among the murders, rapists, fornicators and heretics of Hell. And yet it was central to Christological accounts of salvation for two millennia that God Himself be present in the lowest rung of creation  to justify redemption for all mankind.

Holy Saturday was a day in which God was not in His heaven, but rather in his Hell.

From “Jesus Went to Hell” in the RD here.

“Valuable Spiritual Possessions”

Oddly enough the paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions, while uniformity of meaning is a sign of weakness. Hence a religion becomes inwardly impoverished when it loses or waters down its paradoxes; but their multiplication enriches because only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided and thus unsuited to express the incomprehensible.

Carl Jung (From Jung on Christianity, p. 192)

Books I’m Reading

More and more I’m claiming reading as a spiritual practice. I find myself reading in the Presence, listening to authors who interact with deep mysteries while I’m reading in the presence of Mystery. It’s a stretch for some people to accept the claim, but I may be doing my best praying while I’m holding some of these things. This is more a note to self of what I’m currently (and somewhat slowly) reading these days, in the order of when I started them.

I’m thumbing pages from these texts over the next month or so. Since a chunk of my pastoral work is enmeshed in these texts, I get to do some of this reading during the day, thank goodness!

  1. The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing. I started this collection, edited by Kevin Young, when I began my CPE Residency last fall, and it’s a powerful poetic reminder of what I see in the hospital daily. It’s on my desk at the hospital and I’ll stretch out the collection the rest of the residency.
  2. Life Cycle Theory and Pastoral Care. I picked Donald Capps’ book off the shelf of Dr. Ramona Joseph both to prepare for a January presentation with my colleagues and as a refresher on Erik Erikson’s developmental theory. I did the presentation but have one more chapter til I finish this text.
  3. Reframing: A New Method in Pastoral Care. A bit dated for its subtitle, I’ve always appreciated reframing in my practice of ministry, and this reading is acquainting me with the biblical and theological underpinnings of the method and not only the cognitive-behavioral theory I learned about ten years ago.
  4. The Gospel in Black and White. I’m reading this with a pastoral intern who’s serving at New Community and paying particular focus on racial reconciliation. Since I’m willing to revisit the places I suggest my students journey, I’m engaging with this dated but important reminder to parts of the Christian family.
  5. From Every People and Nation. This is the second book I’ll read with our pastoral intern and hopefully we’ll be working together–with me giving him my best assistance–as he develops and enriches his theological framework for the ethical work of reconciliation and works at a curriculum of sorts to address the good news, biblical interpretation, church, and stuff about race.
  6. Twelve Tribes of Hattie. This is my first piece of fiction in forever, and I’m enjoying reentering that literary world with this great novel. I’ve had this book on my TBR list since 2013, I got it from the library, and by the time this post goes up, I’ll be finished with it!
  7. Jung on Christianity. I’m reading bits and pieces by and about Carl Jung for my next presentation since I’ve never read anything on Jungian theory. This is one of 2 or 3 that I’ll sit with as I prepare something for my peer group on Jung’s applications for spiritual care in the hospital. I’m pretty sure I’ll read Memories, Dreams, and Reflections and Man and His Symbols even if very slowly through the rest of the year.

If there are still readers out there of my cpe-residency-impacted-blog, tell me what you’re reading. I may add to my TBR pile.