September 4, 2017
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. Archives Here ...
Not Sure I Want to be Back: Thoughts on Returning after Sabbatical
by Ryn Nasser
I call it post-sabbatical stress syndrome, or PSSS. I have it bad and I’m struggling to figure out just what the cure might be. PSSS struck the Day last September when I returned home from a three-month sabbatical, my first extended break and rest after 22 years of local church ministry. Its onset was immediate and intense, a storm-like roiling of my internal spiritual waters unlike anything I’ve encountered before. PSSS’s symptoms are contradiction and confusion. For, after 90 days away and now 90 days returned, this I know: I want to be back again as a pastor in the church, and I do not want to be back in the pastoral life. I love the intensity and the depth of the work I do and I resent the claims that my call demands—the financial, emotional, and spiritual sacrifices that day-to-day ministry expects. I can’t see myself doing anything else and I can’t see myself keeping up the intense pace I maintained in the first half of my professional life. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, I struggle in these post-sabbatical days with almost daily questions of just how to do ministry faithfully while also keeping spiritually sane and centered. . . .
Preachers may preach about the need for Sabbath. We just don’t live it. No, instead, we embrace often unhealthy work habits like a badge of honor, even as the hours take their toll on our souls, psyches, and families. Six days a week we work. We’re out until 9 or 10 p.m. on weeknights. We’re available through cell phones and e-mail 24/7. Unlike most of the rest of the working world, we rarely have two days off in a row. Instead, we hop on board the runaway train that is the church program year on the first Tuesday after Labor Day and often do not disembark for a real rest until our parishioners flee to their summer homes and vacations at the end of June. When can we take a deep breath and just breathe? . . .
In that sabbatical sacred space, I found God again and God found me. . . .
Now back into the race that is my modern urban pastor’s life, the memories fade. But the questions my sabbatical provoked remain: Do I want to live this way anymore? Does God want me to live this way anymore? Is the only way to be a “good” pastor to work such ungodly hours and maintain such a scattered life? . . .
Worst of all, many of the bad work habits I had before sabbatical and promised I would reform have started to creep back in. I’ve begun again to over-worry about how the church is doing and egotistically imagine that my faith community’s “success” depends on me alone. . . .
If every few years an event like a sabbatical does not give us the chance to spiritually examine and ourselves, we risk passionless pursuits—going through the motions, walking along all the various spiritual terrains of our lives but not really knowing anymore why we travel or where we are going.
So, grudgingly, I thank God for my PSSS. I know in my bones I cannot be the pastor I was before my sabbatical. I cannot work or live this way anymore. And so I search and pray to God for a cure for my PSSS. My advice for clergy preparing for their sabbaticals is this: Be careful. Enjoy the time away. But know in returning you may never be the same again.
Drew G.I. Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Faith and Leadership Interview
Christians need to adopt a deeper, more complex understanding of how race shapes our lives and communities, says the author and theologian in this interview. And to resist racism, we need to ‘recover’ Jesus, taking Christ and Scripture seriously. . .
“So if we begin to take seriously this story of Israel, fulfilled in the story of Jesus, it really disrupts the white supremacist narrative. You can’t live into that and follow Jesus faithfully.
“It disrupts even our sense of American exceptionalism and how we engage around the world. All these things, these narratives that we live by, get disrupted by the story of Jesus when that becomes our own story.
“Certainly, we like to call ourselves a Christian nation, and people are quick to name Jesus – ‘Yeah, I love Jesus.’
“That’s great, but we don’t necessarily want to follow Jesus and take Jesus seriously. We’ll skirt Jesus at every opportunity when it disrupts our own narratives.”
Forgiveness: Including Everything
by Richard Rohr
The True Self is always humble. It knows that we didn’t do it right and that it isn’t even about doing it right; it's just about doing it. Our True Self knows that everything belongs. That means holding together the good and the bad, the dark and the light, the sinner and the saint—which are two parts of me and two parts of everything. It is our participation in divinity which allows us to be this large.
Only God, it seems, is spacious enough to include everything. Humans need to expel, exclude, deny, and avoid. We just can't hold very much by our private selves. Only God in me, only me in God, can hold the contraries. Forgiveness could almost be God’s very name and identity.
Our first forgiveness is not toward a particular sin or offense. Our first forgiveness, it seems to me, is toward reality itself: to forgive it for being so broken, a mixture of good and bad. First that paradox has to be overcome inside of us. Then, when we allow God to hold together the opposites within us, it becomes possible to do it over there in our neighbor and even our enemy. Finally, our worldview and politics change. We can no longer project our evil onto another country, religion, minority group, race, or political party.
Only the false self easily takes offense. The false self can't live a self-generated life of immediate contact with God. It defines itself by the past, which is to live in un-forgiveness. Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past. We're in need not only of individual forgiveness; we need it on a national, global, and cosmic scale. Old hurts linger long in our memories and are hard to let go. We must each learn how to define ourselves by the present moment—which is all we really have. I will not define myself by what went wrong yesterday when I can draw upon Life and Love right now. Life and Love are what’s real. This Infinite Love is both in us and yet it is more than us.
Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a clean heart. —Psalm 51:10
Real Love is an Ability:
An Interview with Sharon Salzberg, by Sam Mowe
“Real love is love that is no longer dependent on another person. Instead, love comes from a sense of inner abundance. It’s the natural overflow from a capacity you’ve developed within.” –Peter Sandker
In her new book, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, the beloved meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg explores love in three sections that begin with the self, expand out to include friends and family, and conclude with all beings, including enemies. Salzberg recently spoke with S&H about her techniques for developing the capacity to love and signposts that tell us when love is flowing through our lives.
SM: What is love?
Sharon Salzberg: I think of love as a capacity within us to connect and to care, to have a sense of belonging, and to affirm the belonging of others. Love is not the same as liking somebody. Love is not the same as approving of somebody’s actions. Love is this inner sense that our lives have something to do with each another—that we are capable, each one of us, of experiencing this sense of connection.
You’ve described our common understanding of love as being impoverished in some important ways. What do we get wrong about love?
The common misunderstanding is that love is a kind of commodity. When we make love a commodity, we put it in the hands of someone else to either deliver it to us or take it away. When it gets taken away we feel like, Oh, I have nothing left. Whereas, if we realize that love is a capacity within us, then we can treasure the fact that other people might help awaken it or we can recognize the fact that other people might try to threaten it. But it’s always in us as a capacity. This is an empowered stance, rather than always feeling dependent on someone else for love.
In Real Love you write about different manifestations of love in widening circles: love for ourselves, love for our friends and family, and love for people we’re not as close to or even consider enemies. There is familial love, romantic love, and so on. With all these very different manifestations, what are some of the common qualities of love?
A sense of connection. It’s about seeing and being seen. It’s a sense of the fluid movement of energy rather than its being frozen in one particular old, habitual way. I think it’s the ability to let go of assumptions and be in the moment, to actually be alive in the moment of connection. I think it’s about being able to differentiate between the various thoughts that arise in our minds, to be able to see which ones are really just old habits—like thinking about ourselves as totally incapable or unable to change.
I think real love has a facility for perspective shifting. Maybe what we’re thinking is true right now—we don’t need to deny that—is not the only truth. What’s the bigger picture? Real love encourages this kind of growth. . . .
What are some of the signposts that we can look out for as evidence that real love is flowing through our lives?
One signpost, I think, is a different sense of balance between how we think of ourselves and how we think of others. There’s an interesting moment when we realize, I count, too—and it’s not a selfish statement. We’ll see it because we might not feel so depleted after an act of giving.
There might also be a lightness or flexibility of attention. There can be a spirit of experimentation, a willingness to try new things, because you realize that your relationships are not set in stone. Our relationships are living entities, so we can keep stretching our love out—and that goes for both giving and receiving.Read online ...
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Batchler-Glader – email@example.com
Harry Finkbone - Finkbone1@gmail.com
Joy Gordon - firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Hollingsworth - email@example.com
Liz Nau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hazel Partington – lakehavenministries.com
Jennifer Olin-Hitt – email@example.com
Judy Ringler -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Seyfarth Garner – email@example.com
Valerie Stultz - firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Topping - email@example.com
Laura Tradowsky -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Tucker - email@example.com
5 Techniques to Fight Back Your Inner Critic
by Anneli Rufus
I know why I walk with a limp. It's because my legs are different lengths. So who is it that shrieks at me every time I cross a room: You ugly, graceless, clumsy cripple?
My inner critic, that's who.
The trouble with our inner critics is that they are us.
They aren't all of us. But they also aren't alien invaders or sneaky stowaways with separate lives outside of us. They are highly trained parts of us: insidious, relentless, expert parts.
Those "voices" in our heads that harangue, harass, insult and undermine us are aspects of our minds: not physical body parts but modes our minds adopt. Skills we have learned and internalized, on par with tying our shoes, tap-dancing or talking in rhyme—but, unlike those other skills, the inner-critic skill is one we learned unwillingly, unwittingly.
In other words, we're brainwashed. . . .
Here are a few steps to help get us started:
Anneli Rufus’ latest work, Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself, was released by Tarcher Penguin in May 2014 and continues this path, addressing self-esteem.
If you have any questions or issues you would like for us to address or would like to get email alerts when new resources have been posted please contact Howard Humphress at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our quick contact form.
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