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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Losing Teeth and Weathering the Storm

9/10/17
Last night I had two very vivid and interesting dreams. The first was one in which my son and I escaped a tornado by jumping into a river. The second dream was one in which my teeth were falling out and I was able to see an emergency dentist to fix the problem. A friend of mine with a degree in psychology insists that these dreams are associated with feelings of helplessness, fear, chaos, and change... While initially I might have balked at the idea of "dream reading", her assessment couldn't possibly be more apt. 

Starting a new job is always a struggle, but the hospital I'm working at now is the largest level 1 trauma center in the area. It is chaos and it is challenge. This new position, when taken together with my lengthy commute, family needs, and grad school responsibilities has me emotionally and spiritually drained. 

I thank God for all the wonderful opportunities I have, but I also thank God for the awareness that I may be floundering; and that left unchecked I may do myself more harm than good. Fortunately, I need not do this alone. I have support, and most importantly I have God. So much of what I am anxious about are things beyond my scope of control. I need only to accept that, and trust that God will be with me at all times.


"The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt." 

- Paul Tillich

Friday, September 1, 2017

One Week Down

9/1/17
This last week has helped  illustrate to me how much I have missed both being a full time chaplain and how much my three month break in hospital ministry was an absolute necessity. In the time between my last CPE unit and the beginning of this one I have had experiences that, as a chaplain, I thought I understood but experience has reframed

One of those experiences was the despair that accompanies a partial diagnosis... It's a terrible dry place of unknowing in which a person who has received enough information to doubt the future, but not enough to make peace with the inevitable languishes. Fortunately, I received good news... But the experience did help me to recognize the depth of feeling that those situations engender.

The other experience was participation in a substance abuse recovery group. While, as a chaplain to behavioral health patients, I had led many of those groups; it had been quite a while since I had been on the other side. I hated it. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to go back. I did anyway. Those meetings helped to shed light on what even the most well intentioned, experienced, and educated facilitator may forget: Sitting in the hot seat is hard at first. Of course I intellectually realized the difficulty of it, but I didn't really remember the struggle. I wanted to be in that meeting. I drove myself there. I recognized the rationale and necessity of getting help, but I was still extraordinarily uncomfortable. 

Those brief and dirty windows into the sufferings of others are a gift, and I am grateful.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation."

II Corinthians 1:3-7

Friday, August 25, 2017

A shift in focus...

8/25/17
For several years I wrote theological essays for The Paper Gryphon. As my status as a student progressed past my baccalaureate to grad school, then a pastoral care residency (Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE), and on to a fellowship specializing in spiritual care for those struggling with behavioral health concerns I realized that while I absolutely love the aspect of my faith that involves deep theological study; I had gotten lost in the matters of the mind and lost sight of matters of the heart. My connection with people had lessened...

The rigors of school, work, and family kept me away from my contributions to The Paper Gryphon. Life hasn't slowed whatsoever, if anything, it has become more demanding. That being said, I feel drawn to revamp my long neglected endeavor as one that better reflects my current state: minister of spiritual care.

All of my previous essays will still be available for viewing, but I'm very much unsure of when I might contribute another essay dealing with academic theology. It will, without a doubt, continue to influence who I am moving forward, and it will continue to be part of my faith. For now, however, I choose to contend with matters of the heart as well as those of the mind. They are, after all, both necessary to our wholeness and wellbeing. We are both physical and spiritual creatures. To neglect either aspect is to invite darkness in out midst.

"One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal." 

- Henri Nouwen

My fellow chaplains and I celebrate the last day of our residency.