The Spirituality of Ministry

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A quote from Henri Nouwen

“…Jesus to his Apostles the day before his death: ‘No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’ (Jn 15:13)

“For me these words summarize the meaning of all Christian ministry. If teaching, preaching, individual pastoral care, organizing, and celebrating are acts of service that go beyond the level of professional expertise, it is precisely because in these acts ministers are asked to lay down their own lives for their friends. There are many people who, through long training, have reached a high level of competence in terms of understanding human behavior but few who are willing to lay down their own lives for others and make their weakness a source of creativity. For many individuals professional training means power. But ministers, who take off their clothes to wash the feet of their friends, are powerless, and their training and formation are meant to enable them to face their own weakness without fear and make it available to others. It is exactly this creative weakness that gives the ministry its momentum.”

(Nouwen, Henri, Ministry and Spirituality; New York: The Continuum Publishing Co., 2000; p 93)

What “fundies’ do…

The funny thing is, this list of supposed contradictions in the Bible support the notion that there is little difference between fundie Christians and fundie atheists.  Both are so desperate to prove or disprove God that they distort and manipulate for their own ends Scripture that was never intended to be used or understood in such ways.  The graphic is fantastic, but the “scholarship” is more than questionable – certainly not reasonable.

See “Contradictions in the Bible” from “Project Reason.”  See here for an example list.  I don’t think this chart and the examples given are very reasonable – not that there are not issues in the consistency of Scripture, but most of these imagined contradictions simply do not hold up when one spends a bit of time actually investigating what is going on in the text and context.  Yet, fundamentalist atheists are as blinded by their determination to disprove as are fundamentalist religious people of whatever religion to prove.  Both come to no good end, I’m afraid.


To be the imago Dei

Thomas Merton

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“Men have not become Trappists merely out of a hope for peace in the next world: something has told them, with unshakable conviction, that the next world begins in this world and that heaven can be theirs now, very truly, even though imperfectly, if they give their lives to the one activity which is the beatitude of heaven.

“That activity is love: the clean, unselfish love that does not live on what it gets but on what it gives; a love that increases by pouring itself out for others, that grows by self-sacrifice and becomes mighty by throwing itself away.

“But there is something very special about the love which is the beatitude of heaven: it makes us resemble God, because God Himself is love. Deus caritas est. The more we love Him as He loves us, the more we resemble Him; and the more we resemble Him, the more we come to know Him.”

Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe

Millennials, by Millennials

Form the blog, Blatant Careerist, comes this article by Ryan Healy entitled, “Twentysomething: Why I don’t want Life/Work Balance,” on attitudes concerning work/life blending, older people, liking one’s career, and the like.

He writes:

I wholeheartedly believe that my life has a purpose. My purpose is to be
successful, genuinely happy and to make a difference in this world
somewhere along the way. Not a single one of these values can take a
backseat to another. The balance doesn’t work, we already know this. I
don’t want to choose. I want a blended life…

The lines between work and life have been blurred for years. I have
decided to embrace this fact and work on the best blend for my life.
Whether this means working hours that fit around my schedule or being
paid for results rather than the amount of hours worked, I’m not sure. I
will leave that question to the management consultants and human
resource experts. In the meantime my peers and I will keep searching for
this blended life, while everyone else continues to run in circles
failing to achieve their so-called balance.

His attitude on enjoying work is positive and he doesn’t seem to so easily compartmentalize his life.  Plus, his comment on the reality of those who try to find balance in life and work are true, for the most part.  Really, that comment is a commentary on the failure of most to find such a balance and there are many reasons for this.  It does not, of course, negative the healthy benefits of balance in life! Yet…

The alternative or difference given to our society by the teachings of Christ present the concept of Sabbath rest – a time apart. This in no way negates life/work blending, but the possibility of self-expansion and intentional self-reflection in realms and ways not generally supported by our culture any longer (aside from just giving our brains a rest).

I wonder if there will be substantial change when family, particularly children, come into play?  I know that many childless couples relationships are far less “traditional” in terms of communication, time spent together, work and life, etc.  Yet, kids have a way of changing one profoundly and one’s view, attitudes, and actions on all manner of things.  If extended adolescents is really what is going on here, when Ryan and others really do enter into adulthood (and, of course, that whole statement is up for grabs) will all this change?  Will he end up taking on more of an attitude of the “older people” who value their “home time” that he is so careful not to interrupt?

Life Blurring & Blending

Here is an article from the New York Times by Marci Alborher entitled, “Blurring by Choice and Passion,” in the “Small Business” section on job shifting.  She begins by writing about growing up and the blurring that seemed to take place between the life and work of her parents, who owned a string of shore-side motels along the Jersey shore.

She then writes about her shift in careers from being a lawyer (as a protest against her parents’ blurred lifestyle) to being a journalist, and finds that she has returned to the “blended” or “blurred” work/life lifestyle.  As she writes, as a blurring or blending takes place, it has a lot to do with how much you enjoy your work – seems obvious.

She writes:

“But somehow, I have found my way back to a life with few boundaries.
And I rarely complain about it. Whether you see yourself as a workaholic
or as someone who merely blurs the line between work and play has lot
to do with whether you like your work… Could it be that blurring and blending are the new work/life balance? …In
addition to entrepreneurs like my parents, blurring is rampant among
those who fashion a career out of a passion…”

Yet, I wonder how an effect balance is reached and kept that mitigates
against burnout or obsession?  It can be hard to keep oneself balanced,
at least that is what I find in my own life.

Yes, my work and life are just about completely blurred and blended.  Perhaps that is the nature of being a priest, where the passion for God’s people and Kingdom is blatant.  I find recognizing (really recognizing, not just knowing about) that place of healthy work/life balance and staying there is really tough. That became painfully clear during my self-evaluations during my recent CREDO experience.

I just finished watching a video from 60-Minutes on the Millennial generation and their life/work habits and attitudes, entitled, “The Millennials Are Coming.” From this video piece, it could be argued that the whole generation (in the aggregate, of course) has developed a work/life blurring/blending lifestyle.  I wonder what the percentage might be among the whole population of those who are actually able to do this sort of thing?  Consider, also, that this video what shot before the economic downturn.  I wonder what might be said, now?  Extended adolescents and moving back home with the parents may only be compounded.

But, I want to pick up on this idea of life/work blurring and blending.  I’m wondering how this might transfer over to our efforts in finding new ways of translating the enduring Faith to emerging generations and the emerging culture.  The concept of blurring life and faith – one’s everyday life experiences with the reality of one’s faith/religious life – might be something to consider and expand. If this kind of concept caught on, there might be fewer attempts to compartmentalize one’s life, thus alienating huge parts of one’s life – actions, thoughts, and beliefs – from what goes on any given “Sunday morning.” The reality of the Life in Christ, the ability to live out as fully as possible Christ with us, should reflect a complete blending and blurring of life/faith.

If the trend of life-work blurring and blending is the new norm, will it be easier to convey the life-faith blurring and blending that really is a better understanding of the Christian life?  After all, such passion certainly is a descriptive of those whose lives reflect the image of God in profound ways.  To be the imago Dei, how could there not be a blurring and blending of life, work, faith, play, relationships, and all else that we encounter?

The CBS, 60-Minutes video from 2007:

The Vote

Well, this election cycle is now over, except for the changes that have to be realized in the next few months.

I voted.  I did my civic duty, but this election cycle sucked.  I found myself voting not so much for who I wanted, but voting against what I thought to be terrible prospects.  This isn’t a good rationale for voting!

Here is one of the problems in the American psyche that we have to face and deal with. Many of the founding ideals of the American Republic sat squarely on the notion that the common citizen is the best locus for control and for fulfilling the Declaration of Independence‘s call for the “pursuit of happiness.”  What we have done, which in some ways is the triumph of “liberal” dogma
that the government best holds our individual futures and is the solution to
our common problems, is to give over to the government the responsibilities
to make us happy, not just guarantee a free and even playing field for
each person to pursue happiness.  We have given over to the government many of our rights, freedoms, and perogatives, so that government will play the role of Nannie to our collectively childish whims. We don’t want the responsibility for our own happiness; we don’t want the responsibility for our own jobs, we don’t want to deal with the consequences of our own laziness or short-sightedness or irresponsibility concerning money, health, or the common good.

One of the triumphs of the “conservative” dogma is the hyper-individualism that has driven us so far away from notions of the common good that in our hyper-individualism we have fallen out of the practice of looking out of the good of one another.  We forget what it means to be part of a community, so that when we face hard times we no longer have others to rely upon for help, support, and encouragement, which then simply drives us out of fear, necessity, or ignorance into the waiting arms of a governmental bureaucracy needing to justify itself and its growth. We look to government for social salvation because we no longer know how to rely on one another or that social salvation rests with each of us, together.  Well, perhaps we don’t really want to help our neighbors anyway, since in a selfish compulsion we try to accumulate things or money or a sense of personal security in an attempt to protect ourselves, as individuals, from the harshness of the real world.

(What also needs to be acknowledged is that the founders generally believed that the “citizenry” consisted of white, male, landowners. They were, after all, the ones who were allowed to vote. They were expected to be educated enough to know the issues and be less susceptible to manipulation or deception. They owned land so they had a true vested interest in the success of the whole enterprise, it was assumed. I wonder, sometimes and particularly after this election cycle, if perhaps there were elements of truth in their thinking, at least concerning education and vested interest – not concerning participation based on sex or race.) 

By the way, we are not guarenteed “happiness,” just the freedom to “pursue” happiness – this is a big difference.  We’ve also gotten this mixed up.  Now, we demand of the government in whatever form that it guarantee our happiness, our jobs, our success, our health!  This is impossible and cannot be the responsibility of the government, at what ever level.  Yet, because as a society we have for the most part abandoned individual responsibility for our own actions and prosperity, we now make these untenable demands of our government.  When the government doesn’t deliver, immediately, then we are convinced by certain groups that benefit from chaos, mistrust, and mismanagement that the government in power, or the party in power, is not listening, is not doing “for the people,” is not fulfilling its responsibility to us.  It was never the government’s responsibility in the first place, and we are near idiots to try to place such expectations on the government.  We will always be let down if we try, and we will then act irrationally as a citizenry and an electorate, as we are now doing.

It we expect the government to take care of everything so that we don’t have to think, exert effort, or take responsibility for ourselves, then we will never find happiness and will probably have the freedom to pursue happiness withdrawn by a “Nannie” government that believes it is acting for our own good.  Kind of like the computer AI in the remake movie, “I, Robot.”

Government can and does do many good things.  Yet, for the balances of power to work and for the form of government to work as was envisioned by the founders, we the people must be informed, motivated, active, concerned for the common good, and willing to see the best in even our opponents – in other words, compromise for the good of the whole. I fear that too many of us in the country are now unwilling to do this any longer.  “I want mine, I want it now, and the government better give it to me!” is the attitude that comes across the strongest in many quarters.  Some may be motivated, but not informed (and think that is just fine because they naively trust the good sounding people striving for power).  Some may be motivated, even informed, but act from only their individual greed.  It goes on and on.

I do fear for the democracy and the continued integrity of the Republic.  Nothing guarantees the unending continuance of our form of government, the geo-political entity known as the United States of American, or the continued success of this grand experiment in “self-government.”  We will not fall from forces outside our borders, but we may well fall from within.