Join Me in Moving the Blog

new-blog-postThanks for being here. And while I’ll keep this blog as an archive, I’d love to have you get my posts on my new site. I’ve been working on the blog and I hope you find the posts there interesting. The blog can be found here.

 

 

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The Ripples

by-gabe-rodriguez

Every decision we make changes things. The people we befriend, the examples we set, the problems we solve…

Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to glimpse those ripples as we stand at the crossroads. Instead of merely addressing the urgency of now, we can take a moment to focus on how a quiet insight, overlooked volunteer work or a particularly welcome helping hand moves so many people forward. For generations.

How did you get to where you are? Who is going to go even further because of you?

Thank you for passing it forward.

From Seth Godin whose words you should read.

“While We Are Still Making Progress”

by Malte BaumanI was gifted with the opportunity to read Racial Realities and Post-Racial Dreams when Dr. Julius Bailey asked me to review his book. It was a kind invitation, one that I am grateful to get.

This book is many things. Primarily a historical, political, and philosophical treatment of this country’s ethic, it explains the moving parts of politics, justice, civil rights, and philosophical discourse as they gather together and furnish this democracy with promise or poison. The book is history and also a glimpse into the future. Bailey writes as a concerned and prophetic scholar.

As I prepare this review, I think of the ways prophets were known in the first testament of the Bible. Prophets told the truth. They spoke forth what the community knew and what the community didn’t know. Prophets talked history and what the people of God already understood as God’s word which had been delivered through the vessels of graced hands and blessed mouths. And prophets also talked about the future and pushed the people to see a new, unknown tomorrow which was, always, a work of faith.

Prophetic work is faith work. Dr. Bailey works at his faith in that sense as he writes a compelling, interesting, and informative book about the history and future of the United States of America. He pulls up a chair for us and walks us through the perennial questions about our country and its unfulfilled promises, its strain to be an exceptional nation, and its insecure moral footing. He invites us to careful examination of those things said most loudly (which are usually the least true) relative to our country’s moral arc that has bent back from justice.

“While we are still making progress, we have lost the path (and especially the togetherness that characterized our first steps on it), and we have become more and more lost, unsure of the future.” Despite the troubling material he serves us, Bailey still has hope. And he offers his plan for locating and electing leaders with hope, with ethical strength, with generosity, and with moral courage.

He mines the current political and legal realities in Black and non-Black communities, holding out a convincing application of social-psychological theory and the clear ways our frames of reference are developed so as to prevent us from seeing. He moves through the double standards of politics and civil discourse. He talks fundamental attribution error and its relation to racism and white privilege.

He writes swiftly and clearly, “White privilege blinds those who would claim that Black America is its own worst enemy.” He continues, knowing that his truth is the truth and installs his rendition of the rise of President Barack Obama, contextualizing Mr. Obama’s campaign and victories, and noting the key agreements between those political achievements and the longer narrative of all those earlier (and all those future) acts of reclamation and recovery in previous times.

His book is a reflection of the exact and ever-present power of white privilege, the absence of non-white privilege, and the corresponding injustice that results. His book addresses these things in the slow, careful way a good teacher would and with the loving embrace of a brother and friend. He serves to us an explanation of the fear in us as a collective people and how religious views contribute since religion is a hot, undeniable area where change is most needed and most difficult. Early on he says what feels like a summary and an echo of his spirit throughout:

“Until an essential humanness replaces the hierarchized core of our racial discourse, we will continue to dehumanize the dark-skinned in both word and deed. Until the roots of structural racism are uprooted and an egalitarian worldview is planted in its place, the financial poverty of America’s inner cities will remain a reflection of the moral poverty in our nation.”

by Trent YarnellAnd he states such things carefully while, at the same time, challenging us to hold a “horizontal integration of the mission.” Bailey sounds like a pastor and professor, activist and contemplative. He sounds concerned and moved by love. He was hard to read–because his truths were, simply, true–and completely invitational at the same time.

The four central chapters cover in deft, artful ways topics that anyone interested in justice should sit with, including racism, xenophobia, poverty, and income inequality. Bailey speaks to the spirit while illuminating the mind. He teaches through his writing.

Tracing Civil Rights and Jim Crow, he explains what the Voting Rights Act was and how it was done true damage by the recent rule of the US Supreme Court. He takes you to school without making you feel like you missed out on the previous week’s homework.

He inspires you, hurts you, and challenges you. He tells it the way it should be told: decide what you believe about freedom and determine if those things should be offered to others.

That is the spirit of his invitation around economics and income, work and jobs. I get the sense that Bailey is dancing to the music of economics and political theory and history and morality. Of course morality is the cooler, distant term for spirituality.

There is a bottom to Dr. Bailey and though I read of portions of it, I can tell that his center is on display as he highlights moral decline in the United States. He writes of our need for a spiritual revolution even if it is not religiously based. It is a challenge and a call. It is necessary and for our own good, as well as a road we have often missed.

“But, so often, those who cause the most hurt are those who are meant to represent love, caring, and respect for the wholeness of persons. Churches and schools are beacons of light in communities, yet our churches denounce gay, transgendered, and queer parishioners in favor of pedantic adherence to an old exegesis of scripture, while our inner-city schools arrest students before counseling them, remove them before reviving them.”

His tone is not one that is easily dismissed. Even if your theory differs from him; even where your reading of the same historical moments generate a different conclusion; even if your political vision diverges from the biblical images he calls upon to color his perspective; you cannot dismiss his enduring sentiment and its corresponding energy. You have to contend with Julius Bailey’s love. And any good teacher would be pleased with that contention.

Quote of the Day

Photo Thanks to Javier Calvo

Photo Thanks to Javier Calvo

A midwife teacher helps half-baked ideas and perceptions develop in dialogue to fuller maturity. What is important is not to begin with perfected thought, but to encourage creative thinking that is pushing the edges and discovering where novelty becomes possible. A midwife helps life come during the moment of intense labor by helping a woman focus in, to concentrate on the essential, to relax into the moment. A midwife teacher does the same by guiding one to see what needs to be focused on and attended to and creates the kind of space where one can become relaxed and be oneself.

Midwife teachers know that to bring new life and truth into the classroom, they must ask questions that do not have predetermined answers, but search honestly for the revelation of truth in a community seeking truth.

From Images of Pastoral Care, 219-220.

Stuff I’m Writing (3 of 3)

Photo Thanks to Aaron Burden

Photo Thanks to Aaron Burden

When I started the supervisory education program in CPE, I noticed that there were hardly any meaningful trails about the process on the internet. I decided to write through my process. So I have some “public process notes” on the blog in order to keep track of some of my experiences.

Related to that, I’ve been working on materials for a committee appearance in early April. While I won’t go into much about the appearance on this side of the meeting, I want to put up a few thoughts from the three papers I prepared for submission to the committee.

This is a part of my theology theory paper—a major paper for the supervisory process. I’ll get feedback and work on it until it sings and is ready for the subsequent processes. This portion is around the mini-section on contextual theology and the incarnation, a major second step in the paper after I talk about sources of theology which emerge out of the narrative tradition of my African-American experience. There are quotes from James Cone’s God of the Oppressed and Smith and Riedel-Pfaefflin’s Siblings By Choice: Race, Gender, and Violence.

My experience shaped how I arrived at scripture, how often I visited the Bible, and how basic encountering the passage has been to how I encountered the God behind it. In that sense, I’m a contextual theologian. In my pastoral theology there are roots of contextual theology. Having sources like experience from which to draw theological language eventually brings me to God, the content rather than the periphery. God is who we were singing about in my younger days.

Traditional Christian formulations of God are Trinitarian. They are more than that for sure because God cannot be captured by our formulations. As is true in the grand historical human experience, God has been disclosing God’s person in many ways. I’ve “met God” through conversations with an addict named Lawrence who talked to me about beauty while painting the church. I’ve met God through the silence of a person who was struck by a loved one’s sudden death. God’s come in those moments and come to me. Always sensitive to me, to us, to the audience, God meets us in our specific conditions.

The incarnation where “God becomes flesh” is the striking example of this. Thurman called the incarnation “the great disclosure.” Through the incarnation God is at work, revealing, disclosing, and opening to others who God is. James Cone reminds us that Jesus is not a theological proposition restricted to the conceptual. Jesus matters because he is matter, because he exists outside of our heads.

He is an event of liberation, a happening in the lives of oppressed people struggling for political freedom…Jesus is not simply a doctrine or even a particular event limited by time. He is the eternal event of liberation in the divine person who makes freedom a constituent of human existence. There is no existence apart from him because he is the ground of existence without whom nothing is.

I think of God as eternal, as essentially loving, as relatable. I think of the inextricable way that justice is the avenue whereby God’s loves. “In short, God is manifest to us through material means.” God expresses all that God is through particular means. We never is love without justice, mercy without reconciliation. One is the expression of the other, the explicit exhibiting the implicit. As Kelly Brown Douglas, a womanist theologian writing Christology, says, there is a compatibility between Christianity and acts of justice.

Spiritual care, then, as an incarnational act is an expression of God’s intention toward human beings, and that care is at the bottom of our work in CPE where we attend to our selves and our ministries. As an expression of love, our work is also an expression of justice. As necessary as people are to that theological articulation, the first actor is Divine. God acts, expressing love and justice—expressing God’s self—and people receive that action, respond to it.

People are created by God, and as created beings have a host of ways through which we interact with the world; we are emotional, intellectual, and physical beings. Each element of a person’s makeup is grounded in the Creator’s initiation and desire. Seen and unseen elements compose us. All of these avenues become vehicles through which God can reach, heal, teach, and transform us.

God touches the world through us, connecting with us—the incarnation, again, being an exemplary portion of this, a clinical encounter is another—and then connecting with the creation through us. God cares for creation in other ways which we cannot see. A chaplain’s role is to participate in God’s work in the world by, variously, cooperating with God to care for, protect, preserve, challenge, and observe the work of God through human interventions, through silence, and through the variety of ways we care. People are the means for and recipients of that care. Care is aware of the past.

In Siblings by Choice, the authors tell us the truth about the power of the past:

The past represents ways of knowing that emerge from struggle and can inform us today. The complex and ambiguous present is the result of the experiences, thinking, and struggles of our ancestors who were born and raised in civilizations and circumstances different from our own. Their struggles birthed the conditions under which our consciousness develops and our life narrative unfolds. From them we may gain wisdom for patterns of living that extend an otherwise limited perspective on the present.

Care isn’t beholden to the past. It honors the past, holds the past and present together, particularly as people struggle with the present crises of life such as death, sickness, loss, and change. But care is future-oriented, always looking for the right now connections between humanity and divinity.

Stuff I’m Writing (2 of 3)

Photo Thanks to Peter Belch

Photo Thanks to Peter Belch

When I started the supervisory education program in CPE, I noticed that there were hardly any meaningful trails about the process on the internet. I decided to write through my process. So I have some “public process notes” on the blog in order to keep track of some of my experiences.

Related to that, I’ve been working on materials for a committee appearance in early April. While I won’t go into much about the appearance on this side of the meeting, I want to put up a few thoughts from the three papers I prepared for submission to the committee.

This slice comes from the section on my CPE pilgrimage. Using my experiences in CPE, this particular paper is a reflection on my learning issues, my process of professional development and growth, my evolution and personal integration, learning experiences, and self-understanding. My section here is essentially my professional development portion.

I see chaplaincy and supervision as expressions of pastoral ministry. When I serve in the church, that community is the context for my pastoral ministry. For supervisory work, the context is CPE. The work is still pastoral. To track my development in ministry, I draw upon a tool I’ve used in teaching. I’ve worked with students on developing rules of life as a vehicle for exploring and containing practices for development. When I think of my own process of development, I think about the rule which I include as a process of my development.

Included in the process is my intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional development; there is room for each. The elements relate to my growth, even if each is not happening while I’m in the professional setting. For example, if I’m not taking care of my body, which my work setting may assume I am, I’ll be no good for the work of spiritual care of patients or families.

I use my birthday as a time to reflect upon my work and life and how I can continually develop. I acknowledge and celebrate how I’ve developed and I spend time thinking through how to continue doing so. As I’ve gone along, other moments have emerged to augment what consideration I have during my birthday. These include an annual assessment from my denomination (March); the beginning of a semester for the classes I teach (late August); the ending of the classes (May); the start and end of CPE units will fall into this developmental plan. At a micro level “processing our process” is something that I’ve drawn from my training supervisor, and that is a constructive way for me to regularly attend to the work I’m doing.

In terms of content, the process of development includes 1) noticing areas of weakness or interest that I might address in an upcoming year; 2) getting some consultation from the people within my “venues of growth”; 3) listing ways for me to give room to my new or abiding interests; 3) locating strategies for addressing my areas of weakness; 4) implementing those ways and strategies; and 5) evaluating myself in a way that makes sense for the area of development. CPE has been a part of that process. I came to CPE because it was a way for me to respond to my needs for continued development. When I participated in my first unit and certainly since then, the process has been substantial for my growth (I’d point to my student evaluations to revisit some of those learnings).

I see chaplaincy and supervision as expressions of pastoral ministry. When I serve in the church, that community is the context for my pastoral ministry. For supervisory work, the context is CPE. The work is still pastoral. To track my development in ministry, I draw upon a tool I’ve used in teaching. I’ve worked with students on developing rules of life as a vehicle for exploring and containing practices for development. When I think of my own process of development, I think about the rule which I include as a process of my development.

Included in the process is my intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional development; there is room for each. The elements relate to my growth, even if each is not happening while I’m in the professional setting. For example, if I’m not taking care of my body, which my work setting may assume I am, I’ll be no good for the work of spiritual care of patients or families.

I use my birthday as a time to reflect upon my work and life and how I can continually develop. I acknowledge and celebrate how I’ve developed and I spend time thinking through how to continue doing so. As I’ve gone along, other moments have emerged to augment what consideration I have during my birthday. These include an annual assessment from my denomination (March); the beginning of a semester for the classes I teach (late August); the ending of the classes (May); the start and end of CPE units will fall into this developmental plan. At a micro level “processing our process” is something that I’ve drawn from my training supervisor, and that is a constructive way for me to regularly attend to the work I’m doing.

In terms of content, the process of development includes 1) noticing areas of weakness or interest that I might address in an upcoming year; 2) getting some consultation from the people within my “venues of growth”; 3) listing ways for me to give room to my new or abiding interests; 3) locating strategies for addressing my areas of weakness; 4) implementing those ways and strategies; and 5) evaluating myself in a way that makes sense for the area of development. CPE has been a part of that process. I came to CPE because it was a way for me to respond to my needs for continued development. When I participated in my first unit and certainly since then, the process has been substantial for my growth (I’d point to my student evaluations to revisit some of those learnings).

Stuff I’m Writing (1 of 3)

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

When I started the supervisory education program in CPE, I noticed that there were hardly any meaningful trails about the process on the internet. I decided to write through my process. So I have some “public process notes” on the blog in order to keep track of some of my experiences.

Related to that, I’ve been working on materials for a committee appearance in early April. While I won’t go into much about the appearance on this side of the meeting, I want to put up a few thoughts from the three papers I prepared for submission to the committee.

This slice comes from the section on my religious development. The paper speaks to my history, my venues of growth, my strengths and weaknesses, my religious development and self-understanding, and my appropriation of culture and how all those things subjects relate to who I am as a pastor, chaplain, and educator.

My religious development has paralleled my own “human” development. I was raised as a participant in local churches, serving in those churches, and understanding my sense of self in relation to the activity of the church.

This is as much underneath my view of what it means to be a person and what it means to be created by God. The church was the place where I was first called, where I questioned my understandings of it, and where I was given opportunities to flourish as an academically bent preacher who critiqued what was said, usually constructively, and who was unafraid to bring his experiences from other places into the church.

The religious community was the place—complimented and inextricably connected to my family as it was—where I grew. It’s hard to imagine how I would have developed without the seam of the church.

Church (and I’d use “religious development” as a synonym) was tied to my expansive understanding of family since I had a biological and a church family. Both were able to guide, mentor, correct, challenge, and inspire me. Both families were means of development. Through my religious upbringing the following three values were instilled in me—again, not intending to split these from the other developmentally formative community of my extended family:

 1.      Hospitality is normal. My mother fed other people’s children and took people into our home. That was how people in our church lived, and the residential and ecclesial behaviors taught me that hospitality-as-caring was normal.

2.      Salvation comes in many forms. The church’s focus was Jesus, but the saving influences of the community came through the mundane practices of teaching children to cook, after-school tutoring, playing games, and singing. Each act of religious expression helped me understand the broad ways in which healing, change, and growth happen.

3.     Everybody was welcome. My home church boasted a sign that was a joke and a mission depending on how we felt. Of course, both were true. The sign was “Sinners and Rejects Welcome,” and it was a clear statement of the explicit (and practiced) theology. It sticks in how open I want to be in my teaching and ministry to people.