Eugene Peterson: In Between The Man and The Message — Signs of Life

Thank you Lord for asking me to be a pastor, and thank you for a church that expects me to be a pastor.

via Eugene Peterson: In Between The Man and The Message — Signs of Life

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Staring Contest That Is Spiritual Direction

by Vanessa BumbeersI located this post in my blog drafts. It’s worth my reading it as I prepare for the coming days. Even though it’s six years old, it feels relevant!

“If you fall asleep while you’re praying, you are either too busy or you are running from something.”  That’s something my spiritual director told me in one of our earlier sessions almost two years ago.  She was quoting Ignatius.  I thought about that quote for weeks.  I still remember it when I’m struggling to pray, when I’m avoiding prayer, and when I’m tired.

I mentioned in a few posts that I was completing the process of ordination.  Some time after I started pursuing ordination with the C0venant, I started seeing a spiritual director.

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice or discipline where a person seeking direction meets with a director.  It is an old practice, direction.  When I started, it was at the encouragement of our denomination’s Board of Ordered Ministry’s Executive Minister.  I was taking a class on vocation a couple years ago, and I decided I wanted to “enter spiritual direction.”

I had heard about it in seminary.  I read about some of the comparisons between direction and counseling.  I had been in counseling before by then but not in direction.  I sensed that direction would be helpful to me as I sought to fundamentally be a director to others though as a pastor. I’m influenced by Eugene Peterson’s perspective on spiritual direction (prayer and worship leadership) as the pastor’s primary tasks.

Pastoral ministry very much includes this kind of work.  In many instances, I provide spiritual direction to people in my congregation.  There are folks I counsel, but there are certainly folks who I am directing, even if they don’t know the nuances between the two.  Counseling, in a church context, tends to be directive and short-term.  Direction is broader and wider.

Rather than having a problem to fix, the problem is God. The context is not my relationship with my wife or my church leaders. The context is my relationship with God. So that direction becomes an experience in listening for the movement between me and God. It’s an  unending source of moving, dancing, singing, struggling, and silence–my relationship with God–and direction helps me face the movement.

It opens me up to being broader and wider. It opens me.

Chapel Prayers

by Victor ZambranoA little out of time with the season in one sense but appropriate in another given how the days are filling and changing. May this prayer fit the growth cycles in your life, too:

As the days are lengthening and the earth spends longer in the light of each day, grant O God that I may spend longer in the light of your presence.

And may the seeds of your Word, which to now have been long-buried deep within me, grow, like everything around us, into love for you; love for your people; and trust in your abiding and healing power.

May I become a visible declaration of your presence in the midst of life.

Grant, O God, that in this springtime I may be a tree in your world,

Getting nourishment as I am rooted in you;

Giving comfort to others as trees give shade in the heat of day;

Giving shelter from the winds of life to my family, friends, and those around me.

Revive me, O God, even as you revive the world of all living things this spring.

Amen.

When Suicide Happens

by FreestocksI’ve read of the suicides of many people in the past, and no such story is a good story. Whether it’s a person who’s in the public eye or a person who was hardly noticed, we lose a person. A mother devastated by her toddler’s death. An actor who suffered in bruising isolation. A seminarian whose struggle was largely unseen. A doctor who couldn’t continue under mental anguish. A pastor who was overwhelmed by everything.

The loss is aggravated by the circumstances surrounding the death. Those left to respond  rotate a series of questions, all of them in big-deal categories. We question life, ours and theirs. We wonder about God and faith. We query our social relationships and relatives. We turn to the tragic circumstances that form around an individual and try to see them.

Here are a few things I think are worth doing–commitments worth making–when someone commits suicide, in no particular order. They sound too general because I’ve written them about “a person” and I fully intend for that be come across as a person who comes to mind, a particular person, a designated individual or individuals who you love:

  1. We commit to being and not only doing, to tunneling into the beautiful wonder that is the self and to emerging from that wonder with a stubbornness for searching for the same in others.
  2. We commit to grieving, feeling as fully as possible, the deep fissures in us when someone kills herself or himself.
  3. We commit to becoming more human by relating to individuals differently and based upon their uniqueness all the time.
  4. We commit to the hard work of paying attention to what turns a person, lifts up a person, spoils a person, hurts a person.
  5. We commit to loving as much as possible in the present moment.
  6. We commit to getting mental and emotional support for ourselves and our communities in the forms of clergy who are permanently slanted in the direction of full liberation; therapists who are helpful in pursing with us our own deep change in the face of psychologically rough worlds; spiritual directors who can listen us into freedom as we journey into the company of God together; family members who embrace us unconditionally and love us lavishly; and friends who are just like family and who stay in place when family diminishes, drops, or dies.
  7. We commit to asking better questions, even when the question is “How are you?” and staying around for the response.
  8. We commit to telling another person how they impacted us, how we felt because of something they did or said, and how we are changed specifically because they matter.
  9. We commit to standing close when a person feels abandoned, reminding them by our physical presence when our unheard words ring hollow that we are with them.
  10. We commit to responding after any death with a voracious invitation to our own special life, to cultivating healthier relationships, to dealing with the destructive dynamics in our own lives, to being different and better people, and to advocating for everybody’s healthcare and self-care.

Also, if you’re in Chicago, consider attending the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide.

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)