Find tips and resources for self-care, material to assist you in providing pastoral care, and general information to help you in your practice of ministry. Information will be updated every two weeks concurrent with the East Ohio E-news.
April 4, 2016 Edition
Stuck on the Spiritual Spectrum
by Philip Goldberg
A dispute at a small evangelical college; the death of a Supreme Court Justice; the presidential election campaign—these and other recent events reminded us, yet again, that our religious attitudes and spiritual orientations are almost infinitely diverse. Not only are there vast differences among adherents of every tradition, but also diversity within the diversity within the diversity. Within every church, synagogue, mosque, temple, sangha, ashram, yoga studio, coven, meditation center—in fact everywhere the spiritual impulse is engaged—individuals vary more than we realize.
Scholars have found that one reason for this internal diversity is that people tend to move upward on a continuum of spiritual expansiveness. Perhaps the best-known map of this process was charted by James W. Fowler, a theologian and social scientist who taught at Harvard and Emory. In his seminal study, the basis of his book Stages of Faith (1981), Fowler defined steps of development that we all go through as we mature, and some stages that are reached only by some. . . .
Evidence suggests that the higher stages are less rare now than they were when Fowler published his important work. Still, it is not hard to conclude that most religion-driven tension stems from the dogmatic and tribal mindsets of those stuck in the early stages of development. Throughout the world, tension and conflict arise when they bump up against one another, and against those whose perspectives are more pluralistic and inclusive.
We saw one expression of this tension recently, when Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins was disciplined for making a public statement of solidarity with Muslims. She posted a photo of herself on Facebook wearing a traditional hijab in support of Muslims, who, she declared, worship the same God as Christians like her. School officials objected to that statement on theological grounds, saying Hawkins violated the declaration of faith signed by all faculty members. As professor Hawkins is an African American woman and the relevant officials were white men, accusations of sexism and racism were voiced, but if we look only at the theological argument we see a clash between inclusive and exclusivist visions. Hawkins reached across boundaries and her antagonists were inclined to remain apart from (and above) the religious Other. To his credit, Wheaton provost Stan Jones eventually apologized for his “lack of wisdom and collegiality,” but the beleaguered Hawkins and the school parted company. If I ran a college, I’d hire her in a heartbeat. . . .
There Are No Enemies
by Sylvia Boorstein
“There are no human enemies, only confused people needing help.”
The instinctive, immediate response to our own fear is assigning blame to its presumed source. Blame is probably an adaptive response to situations of immediate physical jeopardy in which there is no time for reflection. Even in situations where there is no immediate peril, directing anger at whomever (or whatever) frightens us is more acceptable to the ego than helplessness and despair. Terrible things happen in this world, and people do them: aren’t there culprits, villains who can be blamed?
A story: I took a mandatory course for therapists in California called “Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse.” The first presenter began with descriptions, accompanied by slides, of such frightful violence towards children that I could barely listen. I thought I could feel the people around me wincing, wishing, as I was, that the lecturer would move on to what could be done. Finally, she did.
“When it becomes clear,” she said, “that the agency will need to take custody of the child in order to protect it, I say to the parent, ‘I know that in your heart of hearts you want to be a good parent to your child. And I know it has been very hard for you to take care of her at this time in your life. We’re going to help you. You’ll need to leave her with us until you get strong enough to care for her yourself. Let’s go down the hall together and I’ll introduce you to the people who will make good arrangements for her. You carry the baby and we’ll go together.’ Mostly, the parent is relieved. I hold her hand, or put my arm around her as we walk.”
“It’s not their fault,” the presenter responded. “Almost all of them were abused themselves. Many of them have substance addictions. Their lives are not working. They see nothing but long, empty futures stretching out ahead of them, and then, on top of everything, a crying child. They can’t do it another way. There is no point in blaming.”
Shantideva, the sixth-century Buddhist commentator, gives this example in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Suppose a person hits you with a stick. It does not make sense to be angry at the stick for hurting you, since the blows were inflicted by a person. Neither, he continues, does anger toward the person make sense, since the person is compelled by anger (or greed or delusion). Ignorance becomes the villain, overwhelming reason and creating suffering.
Is Shantideva still relevant in this 21st-century world? Certainly, decisions about war and peace are made by people, people we could name-and blame-as culprits. I wonder, though, if we are not best served by naming ignorance as the enemy to be defeated, even as we act firmly to oppose what we see as wrongdoing in the world, what we recognize as causing pain. This would leave us without human enemies, with only confused people needing help.
Heaven Is First of All Here
by Richard Rohr
It is no accident that Luke's resurrection account in the Gospel has Jesus saying, "I am not a ghost! I have flesh and bones, as you can see" (Luke 24:39). To Thomas, Jesus says, "Put your finger in my wounds!" (John 20:27). In other words, "I am human!"--which means to be wounded and yet resurrected at the same time. Jesus returns to his physical body, and yet he is now unlimited by space or time and is without any regret or recrimination. That Jesus' body still carries his wounds is telling and important symbolism. It was quite a feat to communicate the full message in such a subtle and refined way, which is precisely the power of symbol and story. "Our wounds are our glory," as Lady Julian of Norwich puts it. This is the utterly counterintuitive message of the Risen Jesus.
The major point is that Jesus has not left the human sphere; he is revealing the goal, the fullness, and the purpose of humanity itself, which is "that we are able to share in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), even in this wounded and wounding world. Yes, resurrection is saying something about Jesus, but it is also saying a lot about us, which is even harder to believe. It is saying that we, like him, are larger than life, Being Itself, and therefore something good, true, and beautiful. Our code word for that is heaven.
When we take the resurrection symbol and its meaning absolutely seriously, it moves us far beyond the stripped-down literal meaning where both atheists and fundamentalists flounder. I do believe in the "bodily" resurrection of Jesus--or my basic premise of body and spirit being one does not stand! (Please tell that to any of your friends who think I am a liberal heretic. I am actually quite orthodox.) But resurrection does not just mean an eternally enduring life in the future; rather, it first means "a present life of eternal significance." Surely it means a life of goodness and love, both of which have an eternal quality to them. For many of us, it is a life of "divine adoption," to use Paul's phrase, whereby we all fully share in Jesus' divine inheritance as "heirs of the same promise" and true brothers and sisters on the great journey Jesus also walked.
I am so saddened that much of Christian history has read these same metaphors, yet seems to have had so little inner experience to trust that it could really be true--and true for them. We believed in resurrection in Jesus but not in ourselves. Once you know there is an implanted and positive direction to creation, you can go with the primary flow (faith); eventually you will learn to rest there (hope); and you can actually live this outflowing life with gracious trust (love). You are at home both here and forever. What else could salvation be? Heaven is first of all now--and therefore surely later. If God loves and accepts us now in our broken state, why would the divine policy change after death? It is the same God before and after our death. Why not jump on this wonderful bandwagon and enjoy heaven now-without fear? Salvation for me, and for many of the early Eastern Fathers of the Church, was not a question of if--but only a question of when--and how much you want it. As Jesus said, "In my Father's house there are many mansions, and I have gone ahead to prepare a place for you. . . . I shall return to take you with me so that you may be where I am" (John 14:2-3). God, that's good!
Meet: monthly 1 ½ hours
Where and when:
Alliance: Christ UMC, 470 E. Broadway – Second Tuesday, 2:00 PM
Ashland :Christ UMC, 1140 Claremont Ave. – Second Wednesdays, 1:00 PM
Cleveland Heights: Church of the Saviour, 2537 Lee Road – Third Thursdays, 1:30 PM
Medina: Granger UMC, 1235 Granger Rd. – Third Wednesdays, 1:30 PM
Painesville: Painesville UMC, 71 North Park Pl. – Third Thursdays, 10:30 AM
Sandusky: Trinity UMC, 214 E. Jefferson St. – Second Thursdays, 2:00 PM
If you are interested in being part of one of these groups, it would be helpful if you let us know for planning purposes. For questions and to receive information about a particular group, please call our office 330-456-0486 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Program in Pastoral Care and Counseling encourages the spiritual formation of our pastors believing a strong spiritual base is the greatest resource a church leader can possess. It helps us weather the many storms of ministry and deepens the incredible joys ministry provides. Following is a list of Spiritual Directors in our area. We encourage you to take advantage of this rich resource. This listing will appear in each edition of our bi-monthly webpage updates and new names and contact information will be provided as we learn of them and have permission to include them. If you are a director or know of a director that is not included here please let us know.
Debbie Baker - email@example.com
Bruce Batchler-Glader – firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry Finkbone - Finkbone1@gmail.com
Karen Hollingsworth – email@example.com
Liz Nau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Olin-Hitt – email@example.com
Sue Palmer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Seyfarth Garner – email@example.com
Valerie Stultz - firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Topping - email@example.com
Noticing: Connecting with Our Kids in the Midst of Busy Lives
by Heather Grimes
How to convey your genuine gratitude for the moments you share with your children.
Since my daughter, Opal, was just over a year old (she’s now six), I’ve tried to make a point of carving out what we call “special time” with her. This is time that I’m with her with zero interruptions. No email. No break for tea (unless it is her idea). No extra-long bathroom sessions where I sneak a look at my phone. Sometimes it’s only 10, 15, 30 minutes, but I try to do it every day or every couple of days. I do this because I want her to feel how much I genuinely value our time together. She chooses what we do during special time, and I maintain a straight face as I comply, regardless of how I feel about the clean up time required for when we play ‘baker’ with bowls and wooden spoons and copious amounts of flour. I want her to feel like her ideas matter.
But lately I’ve noticed a major gap in my recall of the last many months of special times. I know that we played Uno in there somewhere, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what we talked about, or even evoke one clever thing she said. On one occasion, I do remember mapping out a mental list of errands that needed done once we were finished coloring in the mermaid coloring book. My body was all there and the phone was dutifully put away, but I was mentally elsewhere. Somewhere along the way, I had gotten lazy in my attentiveness. I was so “good” at doing special times that they had become automatic and lacked the fresh attention of a new experience. . . .
4 Mindful Moment Tips
Recently I spoke with mindful parenting expert and clinical psychologist Stefanie Goldstein about how to make the most out of any moment. Here are her 4 tips for making a mindful moment count:
1) Slow Down – “We are often so rushed to get out the door, dinner on the table and everyone to bed that we miss the small precious moments that are actually there. See if the next time you catch yourself rushing around, if you can take a deep breath, check in and see what or who you might be missing.”
2) Make Contact – “Families are often together but are not actually spending quality time connecting – everyone is doing their own thing, like sitting next to each other while everyone is on their own devices. Where can you make contact today – a simple hug, smile or loving touch can go a long way.”
3) Make it Count – “When was the last time you told your child or partner that you loved them, really looked them in the eyes and expressed your gratitude for something they said or did? See if you can find at least one thing to be grateful for with your family and tell them!”
4) Be Kind – “When we get caught up the stress and demands of keeping up with every day like, we can forget to be nice to each other. See where you can be kind to your loved ones today – perhaps doing something like leaving a sweet note in a lunch box or sending an unexpected text saying, “Just thinking of you.” Be kind whenever possible, knowing that it is always possible.”
by Tara Brach
Real safety comes as we stop running from what we fear. Start facing what makes us uncomfortable and we push away. In meditation we stay at the edge of what is uncomfortable until we push through to freedom.
If you have any questions or issues you would like for us to address or would like to get email alerts when new reources have been posted please contact Howard Humphress at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our quick contact form.
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Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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