Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Praying (Anonymously?)

It happens every so often.  Some asks me to pray for them or with them, but they do not want to be added to the church prayer list, or for me to ask others to pray for them.  Sometimes the situation or condition is one that they feel, out of fear, shame or worry, prohibits publication.  Sometimes, they are just shy.  Sometimes it feels okay to ask a "professional" (which is a post for another day...) but not to bother others with it.  Often it is some combination.

I understand where this privacy comes from, having been one who for years was loathe to suggest weakness, illness or any other need publicly.  But in the trials and travails of dealing with infertility (see here for more), and in the joys and concerns of raising Lil Bit, we have been very public about asking for prayers. 

In doing so, I have discovered several things:

First, I still have trouble sometimes asking for prayers for me.  For the Mrs. or for Lil Bit, no trouble!  But for me...  I am still a work in progress.  

Next, I can see why people don't ask for prayers publicly.  There is a vulnerability to naming pain or weakness or worry or fear publicly.  Any worries we have about being judged tend to get exacerbated.  

But more importantly, there is a powerful support in knowing that others are thinking about me and praying for me. 

And when we calmly speak the truth about our difficulties, our pain, our wounds, our struggles, it allows others to speak the truth about theirs.  And when we all start speaking the truth, community with compassion starts to truly take root and grow.

I still pray with people who don't want it broadcast.  But I also ask if they are sure.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Online or Real Community

Okay. I admit. I am a stalker. Well, a cyber-stalker. Wait, this sounds so bad. Okay, I am reading a lot of what The Geek Preacher is writing. There, that sounds less likely to result in an interview before Church and Ministry.

He can be found at geekpreacher.com.

 What's not to like. A preacher who is a gamer, a Gen Con attendee, and he speaks geek. Gotta love it. And in his latest blog he quotes Spyder Robinson. Granted I haven't read Robinson since college, but it does bring back memories.

 You can find this blog entry here. The most important thing, however, is not the quote from Robinson, but the ideas that he gets to regarding online "Community." It is worth reading the geekpreacher's blog entry, plus the entry by his seminary professor which he quotes and ultimately refutes, found here.

Two relevant quotes from Dr. Thompson:
Real community is something that happens ‘in the flesh,’ and it involves complicated relationships that must be navigated with care, sensitivity, and ultimately love. Twitter doesn’t require any of this. Nor does Facebook. Nor does this website, for that matter. They’re all forms of so-called “social media,” but the form of sociality they allow is virtual. It is not embodied, and because of that it can never arise to anything other than the level of the thinly social from my point of view.
All that said, I’m giving it a shot (just as I gave blogging a shot, and Facebook a shot, etc.). It has its place, and it can be useful so long as we don’t kid ourselves into thinking that it can take the place of real, authentic forms of community.
The Geek Preacher's response is to say that part of what makes "virtual" community a real community is the realization that there is indeed a person there. He writes:
I have been building online relationships for roughly 15 or more years and I have seen it at its best as well as at its worst. The key to it all is knowing that the person on the other side of the screen is a real human being. You do need to have some type of contact and many people need an assurance that something genuine is occurring. This is why much of my life is lived online. This is also why I speak at conventions and make myself available wherever I go. I’m trying my best to live out the life of the Gospel but it is also important that people realize I am legit. Yeah, that’s the word…..legitimacy. This is what people are looking for in online relationships and, yes, online communities. (original author's emphasis)
Last year, when the Mrs. and I were at the hospital for Lil Bit's surgery, we stayed in touch with family and friends around the world via Facebook. The responses and "likes" that my posts received often resulted in tears, laughter or both. I knew the responders, I could picture them from previous meetings, I could hear their voices, and I could marvel at the level of connection that made itself known via typing on a phone from a waiting room at a large metropolitan hospital. Their care was real. Their prayers were felt. Their hugs, while virtual, offered solace. They just happened to not be in the room with us.

 If virtual community is all we have, then we miss some very important, embodied, incarnated, physical elements of our relationships. Virtual community often suffers from miscommunication caused by lack of tone of voice, body language, or other cues and clues. But virtual community has an important role to play in the various and strange ways that we relate to one another.

 As a soldier stationed around the world said in a recent NPR discussion said, "I don't know how my grandfather did it in World War 2. His letter home took six weeks, and the reply took six weeks. That's a month and a half to receive an answer to a question." He went on to describe Skyping when he got off duty to try and keep up with his wife and children.

 Virtual community does not solve the problems of community, and adds some complexity to it. But it is here, and it can be necessary. And in my experience, it was a net of care and compassion that helped me through some of the toughest days I have faced.

 As always, your mileage may vary.

Letting Out the String

Recently, I heard an expression from a parishioner.  He told me that his dad explained parenting with the expression:  "You have to let out the string."  Just like flying a kite, to let your children soar, you have to let out the string.  The immediate tightening in my gut at the thought means that he is on to something.

Having a child with some important medical needs means that there are certain things for which her mom and I will always be on the lookout.  There are certain meds needed at certain times, which means that our family schedule is based around doses.

This same kid likes to climb, grab, throw, kick, scream, snuggle, dance, fuss and otherwise get into everything she can.  Her mom and I have different levels of comfort with how far out to let the string.  So  trying to balance the care we give with letting out the string so that our daughter can grow into who she is becoming is a spiritual discipline.  Negotiating our various anxieties as parents so that we can provide a loving but united front is a spiritual discipline.  Getting enough rest to be worthwhile parents, functioning adults, and reasonable people is a spiritual discipline.  Not taking it personally when my darling daughter develops an allergy to dad and must cling to mom, or when she is allergic to mom and must cling to dad, is a spiritual discipline.

There are many spiritual disciplines in the history and life of the church: fasting, prayer, service, silence, retreats, sabbath-keeping, alms-giving, sacraments, worship, lectio divina.  Sometimes these seem like a luxury when my daughter takes so much time.  But then I realize that my daughter, my family, constantly rebalancing my life between family and ministry, and learning how to let out the string, is worthy of being my main spiritual discipline for now.

I also know that I need some of these other spiritual disciplines to help me in the task.  God knows I can't do this alone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Find: Getting Rid of Your Crappy Pastor

I found a Facebook post that went to a blog, that quoted another blog, that I am now quoting on my blog, and I will then post that I have done so on Facebook.  But that's not important right now.  What is important is getting rid of your crappy pastor!

Here is a 6 step method that will work to get rid of pretty much any crappy pastor you may have: