Open Books

by Assisted Living

Each of us belongs to larger groups or systems that have some investment in our staying exactly the same as we are now. If we begin to change our old patterns of silence or vagueness or ineffective fighting and blaming, we will inevitably meet with a strong resistance or countermove. This “Change back!” reaction will come both from inside our own selves and from significant others around us. We will see how it is those closest to us who often have the greatest investment in our staying the same, despite whatever criticisms and complaints they may openly voice. We also resist the very changes that we seek. This resistance to change, like the will to change, is a natural and universal aspect of all human systems.

(From Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Anger pgs. 14-15)

The Occasion of Your Ordination, Winston

by Paul JarvisThe first time I was ordained I didn’t want it. I didn’t want those ministers signing their names to a document that would permanently connect me to this call. I went through the occasion with reservations, reservations I didn’t have when I was ordained by the Covenant.

Of course, that local church, my home church, was the best place to get that first experience. It was and is meaningful because it was the ground out of which God let me come to understand who I was as a person and as a servant. It was altogether right for me to be ordained there, even if by a local assembly.

The connectional ordination came much later, after much more specific, strategic work, but work in the same direction. You remember how important my being in Estes Park with the people of the Covenant was because of what happened with us and the boy. You heard me tell that story. You were there in spirit to contain and appreciate and mourn the badness. Of course, you were a part of the process of getting me through that ordination experience and there to help me engender and add the capstone of it in the conversation I had with Dr. Taylor.

Now that we’re celebrating this step in your journey, I hope that you can find an exactness and a rightness to this moment. I love that the church is acknowledging this call of yours, one that was underlined in the classrooms we both trafficked and one that the Spirit was fashioning in you in deep woods long before we met. Your journey with all its twists. Your journey expressed in children’s ministry and community building. Your journey with all of those words. Your journey locating wisdom from the ages for the people in your path.

Certainly God has used you. The church makes that known in its laying on of hands, its public declaration, its symbolic gifts. You are a great friend. You are a great pastor. You are great at so many things that I will keep out of the public post.

Consistently humble and attuned to the complex truths of your human experience, may you be ever mindful of your greatness. May this be, among other things, a clarifying series of moments for you. May you gain crisp pictures of wide places where God will use you. May you hear the voice of the One you have known before you knew you were praying. May you sense in compelling ways every blessing. May you have every needed grace for every next step.


Dangerous Grief

by Mohit Kumar

Photo by Mohit Kumar

Grief is a mixed and dangerous behavior. It is mixed because of its unpredictability. When you grieve well, you surrender to ignorance. You don’t know what you’ll do, which way you’ll turn, or how you’ll act.

There is no map for the terrain in that area. There are hints of light and markers of how others have travelled that world. But those are only markers, only signs that keep us from believing we’re alone in our peril.

It is true that grieving is isolating, but as we grieve, God keeps us looking long enough to see how many people surround us. And we adapt to our way of getting through it. We may even surprise ourselves. “I didn’t see that coming” or “I can’t believe I said that.”

Upon inspection of our selves—when we monitor our souls—we see our behavior in that moment as an instance of grief, a mixed-up flash of pain on display. Grief is mixed.

And it is dangerous. Grief changes you. To put it better, loss changes you. When you lose, you grieve, and it is the tearing that turns you into someone else.

I think I’m starting to wonder about how people have lost in life before I wonder whether I can trust them. I’m generally a cool individual. I don’t let people get rises out of me. I function mostly by keeping my energy on reserve. But I open to people who lose. I am primed toward people who express that loss.

Not in every case, but it’s incredibly helpful when I meet a person who is in touch with her losses, acquainted with his grief. Because that contact keeps a person honest. Being close to anguish keeps you humble.

 It helps you maintain your proximity toward the ground. You stay at the ground of your being and you stay near the earth because, plainly, you’ve put someone or something you loved in that earth. And when you’ve placed a significant other in the ground, you look at that ground with new wonder.

That is change. You look at the world differently. You see something that wasn’t there (for you) before. And that’s dangerous. Being changed and being able to change is miraculously dangerous.

Trails of Tears

by Tim Mossholder

Photo by Tim Mossholder

Last month me and Dawn spent a few days in one of my favorite places. I was able to introduce her to Portland. We visited the spots I wanted to see with her.

We walked in the cold rain around Pittock Mansion and drove through several sprawling gardens, getting lost for a while or finding some place based upon my memory from the last time I was in town 2 years ago.

We ate well, having our first meal in a pod, outside, and complained not once the food was so good. Well, Dawn complained about one meal, but that wasn’t bad odds for the four days.

There was the Multnomah falls and all the other falls along the historic highway. We took pictures. We talked. And we both noticed how unseen the native (American) influence was.

I hadn’t expected it, but we lamented how Portland with all its culture and local emphasis did not have an equally outstanding something marking the history of first peoples. Perhaps we had to get to the Tillamook this or that. Admittedly, we didn’t see everything. But we were aware of the absence of that part of the story.

It seems common that we don’t tell our full stories. Our personal stories, our communal stories, our national stories. Is it because telling the shinier parts is easier? And is it also still honest?

The victor gets to publish his account. The last one standing gets to record her recollections. The one with connections gets to edit the final draft.

I wonder how differently the world would look to us if we saw it from the underside, from more sides. Even in my remembering our trip, I don’t want to recall the tough talks between me and Dawn or the time I got lost when I was alone coming from downtown because I refused to use my phone. I’d rather recall the nicer parts. But I wonder how it would be to recall more or what happened.

What if our conversations kept going until we listened for the feelings under the words and not just the words themselves?

What if we didn’t end a meeting until we heard from every person, even if the participants passed on using the floor?

What if our theology and our ethics and just a tad of our governmental policies were written from and championed for those under the bottom?

What if we stayed until we heard more from more?

What if we walked through hard paths and beautiful paths?

What if we guarded one another along both cliffs of joy and trails of tears?

Ways I’m Changing

My clinical supervisor asked me a question a couple weeks ago after I opened our supervisory meeting with an agenda to discuss our relationship and our training work together. As we talked, he arrived at an illuminating-for-me question: how are you changing?

Photo Thanks to Annie Spratt

Photo Thanks to Annie Spratt

Here are some of the pieces of my answer as I consider my supervisory and clinical training:

  • I’m seeing my relationship with those I observe develop as a relationship in itself. I watch what’s happening in students’ experience, and that observation is a relationship itself.


  • I’m noticing how it feels to observe myself. In CPE words, I’m observing myself as an observer.


  • I’m developing another identity. I’m many things, one of which is a supervisor of pastors, and that identity is in particular development these days.


  • I’m using clinical materials differently. I’m developing the ability to read a person from her/his “application materials,” the renderings she/he offers in a moment.


  • I’m seeing myself. As I keep going, I’m growing to see the many parts of me and to value those parts, to evaluate those parts, and to elevate those parts of me.

I hope you are in relationship to people you trust who can ask you, in their own words, how are you changing because the question itself is a gift.