Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:48–53 NRSV)

The Interplay between Presence and Absence

Why should Jesus leave at all? Why have all these appearances at the end of John preparing his disciples for his departure, or this scene of Jesus being mysteriously whisked away in what is classically called the ascension?

I think it’s because his leaving was just as important as his coming.

Jesus knew that if he didn’t leave right there would be no way to sustain the movement that he began. He knew that until he left, his disciples would just remain students; In his leaving they would become the teachers.

In the Gospel of John Jesus said:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

But this is perspective, that it absence is as good as presence is a hard one to swallow in our day and age isn’t?

Availability and Unavailability

Our culture highly values presence. There are apps that you can use to log-in to stores, parks, and other locations you visit. There are plenty of ways to show photos from the places you travel and share them in ways that others feel like they are present with you on the trip. There are apps that measure your online presence and impact. And there is even an app called “presence” which monitors motion in your home while you are a way.

Could it be that presence is held almost to the point of idolatry? We prize availability far more than unavailability. Continue reading Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

Are You Still Here? Thoughts on Leave-Taking

After telling a friend of mine that my family and I would be leaving the NW in a few months for a job change, she offered solid wisdom I have hung onto:

“Do your best to pay attention to everything that is happening around, the emotions, the reactions, the people who reach out, those who back away, etc. You will learn more about yourself, and your ministry, and those you’ve been working with now more than ever.”

So I took this advice and put on my learning cap once again and have been paying attention as much as I can. I want to share three observations I am learning from during this practice of leaving-taking:

First, announcing a departure often comes as a shock. The decision for me to accept the job at Guilford came as a shock because many people didn’t know I was interviewing there. Not knowing this makes the decision appear somewhat rash or quickly made. It wasn’t but I can see why it appeared that way at first. Continue reading Are You Still Here? Thoughts on Leave-Taking

Convers(at)ions in Community: On Creating Space for Dialogue Around the Sermon

This is a third post in a series of reflections on the nature of dialogue and transformation, or “convers(at)ion” as I am referring to it as for a little playfulness (see a and b).

These are some ideas of how we try to inhabit some of the ideas of conversations/conversions within our faith community specifically around our dialogue with scripture.

Invite the congregation to reflect throughout the week on the upcoming text

I got started doing this very early on at Camas Friends (almost 6 years ago). I think I stole the idea from my friend Jason M. but I’m not sure where it came from now. But basically I send the text out on Tuesday or Wednesday so people can reflect on it the rest of the week. Continue reading Convers(at)ions in Community: On Creating Space for Dialogue Around the Sermon

Writing the Ending Is Always Hard

One of the things I struggle with the most are endings. Whether it is writing endings, envisioning the ending of a project, or saying goodbye. I struggle with exit strategies. I have no problem getting started. I love a good opening story. A hearty laugh or a compelling metaphor. I set goals like a maniac. But when it comes to putting the period on the last sentence, now that’s a challenge.

When I think about it, I don’t even struggle all that much with the middle. I like the middle because it’s where the synthesis happens. I love putting this one thing and that one thing together, comparing them, seeing how a dialogue between the two creates something new. The middle is where we get our weave on. But when it comes to wrapping it up and putting a nice bow on it, that’s where I falter.

I’ve never been good at cutting things short. I have no problem writing. It’s the editing things down into word limits that is my kryptonite.
Continue reading Writing the Ending Is Always Hard

In the Deep End With Grief: Thoughts On Pastoral Care to Those Hurting Most 

As the previous year comes to a close, I’m reposting some articles from 2014 I wrote elsewhere on the web. This is a post I wrote about grief that originally posted on the blog Antioch Session.

I find it hard to carry the weight of my own pain, let alone the weight of another. I have found that the grief we carry is sometimes so heavy, so disorienting, even – sometimes – so embarrassing (how could I let this happen me?) that it is hard to share that weight or let it out. The weight of grief is compounded by the inability that we all experience of isolation and being unable to see beyond it. Grief is a lot like floating out in the middle of a deep lake, nothing close by to grab onto. Unable to see the bottom, I tread water and try not to panic.

Even as a pastor, facing these painful moments with others can often be scary. Realizing this, I recently shared some of my fears and questions with a friend who is a retired therapist. His response to me was not what I expected. “I was afraid too,” were the words that fell from his mouth.

Continue reading In the Deep End With Grief: Thoughts On Pastoral Care to Those Hurting Most