Week Five of the CPE Journey: The Matter of Uncertainty

Week Five of the CPE Journey: The Matter of Uncertainty.

Week Five of the CPE Journey: The Matter of Uncertainty

As I have been journeying through CPE I have learned that there is much to be learned not only in the academics of Clinical Pastoral Education but also the practical application thereof. Yes, I have learned much and there is much to be learned. Even there are times when questions are posed to me that the answer is not immediately obvious. It is for this reason that I struggled with writing for week five of the journey. I was simply uncertain about what to write about. The week entailed so much that expressing this part of the journey in about eight hundred words simply did not seem reasonable or even possible.

Let me explain. Part of my growth edge came from the discussion of pastoral resources as presented by Charles W. Taylor in The Skilled Pastor: Counseling as the Practice of Theology. Among the resources discussed with and by my peers was the matter of rites and or/rituals such as marriage, baptism, funerals and the like. While each of these is celebrated differently depending upon worldviews it is not incumbent upon me to know the specific practices each worldview. And this is the point I would like to stress; certain uncertainties are not only OK but that some ignorance is welcome depending on the circumstances.

Without going in detail last week I was asked a question by my CPE supervisor while we were behind closed doors with my peers. After less than a moment of contemplation my response was that I did not know. My supervisor politely responded that my lack of knowledge was not only honest but very welcoming. You see sometimes, especially those of us that minister professionally, think that we need to know everything. We often think that we not only need to know all answers but also have the ability to fix all problems. The reality is that neither of these can be accomplished. Further because neither of these can be accomplished we can trust in the Lord all the more.

The words “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” found in Proverbs 3:5 make it clear that our own understandings will often fail us. This is why the author broadly encourages his audience not to trust in their own understanding but rather that reliance and dependence on the Lord will bring about ultimate success. Perhaps this is why the matter of uncertainty becomes irrelevant to those trusting in the Lord. It is also a principle upon which Abram lived. You see he was completely uncertain about not only where he was to live but also his future. This, however, was not a hindrance rather a benefit.

Having said that of any reading this finds himself in a state of uncertainty concerning a certain matter perhaps it would be wise to lay aside the purported wisdom of man in lieu of leaning on and trusting the absolute wisdom of our Lord.

Week Four of the CPE Journey: About Goals

Week Four of the CPE Journey: About Goals.

Week Four of the CPE Journey: About Goals

In week two of the CPE journey I brought about some discussion about introspection. Introspect serves a number of purposes and among the chief purposes is that the one looking inward looks honestly with the potential as well as probability of making positive changes for the future. However changes cannot be made unless goals are set in the life of the one looking inward.

The fact as that all need to have goals in their lives. Without goals there is a lack of motivation to effect positive change. For instance, in my own life I had an educational goal of completing college. My goal was originally to complete a degree in business. Once that goal was met my goal was challenged as I began to seek out other things to do with my life. However to complete long-term goals my academic career had to be furthered. Introspection caused me to not only work toward my distant goals but also to work on more immediate goals. It is because of the accomplishments of certain educational goals coupled with considerable introspection that I am now walking closer to my destiny both professionally and personally.

In conjunction with my academic goals I also have ministry goals. Among those goals is to plant a church. While I will not go into the specifics in this essay I will say that the large goal of planting a church comes with multiple other goals that will have the ultimate end of the local body. Yet once that work is done there are many other things that are goal related that will require considerable introspection and subsequent work in order to accomplish what is ahead. The fact is that the academic goals have placed me in position to fulfill not only my professional goals but also my ministry goals. Further it cannot be said loud enough that the goals that I have met and strive for as these words are being keyed come with much work. Even so the result of the work of meeting goals is rewarding within itself.

While God’s call to Habakkuk to “write the vision” (Habakkuk 2:2) is often attributed to churches and para-church ministries the fact is that the principles of writing visions (goals) can and should apply to individuals as well. Goals are the impetus of life’s victories without which nothing can be accomplished. Even more it becomes quite evident that God has goals for His people. Consider for a moment Jeremiah 29:11 wherein God succinctly states that He knows “the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

The text in Jeremiah clearly shows that God has plans and goals for His people. Even more of God’s goals are seen throughout biblical text. With that said if God has plans and goals for His people then the Christian ought to follow suit and have plans and goals. It is certain that goals cause one to relieve himself from his “holy righteousness” in order to get done what God has in store. With that dare I say to one and to all to take time out to look within and set goals that serve only to get you moving?

Week Three of the CPE Journey: Two Sides of Ministry

Week Three of the CPE Journey: Two Sides of Ministry.

Week Three of the CPE Journey: Two Sides of Ministry

There is no doubt that ministry is multifaceted. In a sense it means being all things to all people. It encompasses being available if only to show support. This weekend as I was on call at Huguley Hospital the idea of presence presented to me an area I had yet to experience. On the one hand my presence was to extend joy to a joyful family. On the other hand joy was hard to find yet presence became paramount in the ministry that was set before me.

As I started my tour of duty early Friday morning I met a family near the labor and delivery unit of the hospital. I could not help but here the talking and laughter. Using my position as chaplain I thought it reasonable to go speak with the people that were in a light form of celebration. I was so glad I did because the family did much for me. This was particularly true see how this was a military family with a young lass being born on the Fourth of July. What joy! What celebration! What a moment to be in the company of those who celebrate life while the tending to the presence that was learned in the first week of CPE.

And as the day went on I continued dealing with a number of issues. Then came a dramatic call late in the morning while I was being present with another patient. It was a “code blue” in the emergency room. A lady suffered a heart attack. By the time I arrived to the emergency room the patient was already deceased. I met the doctor as he explained the situation to me. We walked together with a nurse to the family room. To say the mood was somber is to place a major understatement on the matter. I sat quietly while the doctor explained to the loved ones what happened to the patient.

The doctor spoke to the family for a couple minutes as they began to grasp the fact that the person they loved would be no longer with them. The eldest sister was most expressive. She could not believe what had transpired. To my surprise the doctor offered to pray with the family and the family accepted the offer. So, the doctor and I got on one knee each in front of the grieving group and the doctor prayed a prayer of comfort. Meanwhile I had said very little but that my presence was important not only to the family but also to that most compassionate doctor. My perspective of doctors changed more positively as I simply maintained presence for the loved ones as well as the clinical staff.

There was much more that had to take place with those that loved the decedent. There was a need and desire to spend time with the one they would no longer be able to talk to. She, the decedent would no long ride her horse. Her voice was silenced forever. The family dinners would be met with an empty chair. Things just would not be same without this precious one. So I joined them in the room with the decedent. Again, while I did speak to the family I said very little. I simply was present. I was there just in case they needed me for something. And they did need me for a few things and I helped as much as I could to aid this grieving family. And I did just as the family asked me. I ran a couple errands and I grieved with them as much as I rejoiced with the family having a baby.

Hence the two sides of ministry are introduced. Scripture clearly teaches that the Christian is to weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice (Romans 12:15). These two side of ministry coupled with the idea of presence lend considerable credence to ministry. You see, many are under the impression that ministry is the continual onslaught of scripture coupled with homiletic diatribes that usually do little but inflate the ego of the one engaged in a senseless soliloquy. Laughing with those that laugh is a wonderful tool of ministry. Crying with those that cry is just as significant.

Certainly there are other sides of ministry yet the two sides described above show that the minister cares about those that he is ministering to. The fact is that people really don’t care what you know if they don’t know that you care. Ministry is more than an act of compassion rather the compassion is coupled with care. And while the terms “compassion” and “care” are often synonymous I would like to use some creative license to show that these two sides of ministry coupled with presence does more for those being ministered to than can be imagined.

In order to minister one need not wear the ecclesiastical cloak of the clergy rather all that is needed is the robe of concern and love for fellow men. With that I would urge all to minister not with head knowledge per se but rather from the idea of being present and willing to be quiet in that presence as we sharpen these two sides of ministry.

Week Two of the CPE Journey: The Inward Look

All too often in this life the business of life often causes the lack of introspection. This is particularly true of those that are care givers and ministers. Much of the time of these dedicated people is spent on serving yet service falls far from those who care. Even more those that provide services specific to pastoral services need clear understandings of themselves so that when providing care to others their own worldviews play little role in providing that care. Let me explain.

Saul (Paul) was under the persuasion that the Christians of his day were anti-God. This was because if his worldview of Judaism. As such Saul sought to silence and punish those that he perceived to be the antithesis to what he thought to be correct. Then Saul’s worldview was challenged. While on the road to Damascus Saul was knocked off his horse (both literally and figuratively) having caused Saul to consider his ways. Yes, Saul was very educated and sat at the feet of the best teachers yet his worldview was the thing that hindered him in the ministry.

The point is that as ministers and even as lay members of the church often the things that have been placed in us over the years impact the way we minster. The things in us have not only impacted our worldviews but also the way we handle ourselves in situations as they arise. This can be a good or not so good thing depending upon the individual and the way matters are handled. It is for this reason regular introspection is imperative. It is very necessary that continual inward looks be made not only for the sake of ministry but also to insure that the Christian remains on the path of holiness.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth the converted Saul urged his audience to “examine” or test themselves in order to see if they remained in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). This examination was to be juxtaposed with the things that were taught be Jesus and re-taught by the disciples and apostles. This examination meant that there had to be a continual and constant self-reflection which allowed the Christians to be mindful of worldviews that might be in conflict with the teachings of Christ. As such the chaplaincy is not about the views and perspectives of the chaplain rather it is about pouring the love of God into the recipient of healing. It is about laying aside the desire to impose one’s views and give way to the spiritual needs of the hurt.

Often when introspection occurs there are found things that the one looking in does not like or may even take issue with. These things could be attributed to the individual’s worldview or the things found might be the results of negative occurrences have happened in his life. In either case there comes a point in which those things within must be challenged so that ministry to others might be beneficial first to the growth with the one looking inward and then to the one to be ministered to. The fact is that healing must begin with the “physician” who can then be in a place to present healing to those under his care. With this it becomes evident that inward reflection becomes paramount in the lives of those providing care.

The Pauline charge becomes abundantly clear in the Amplified Bible with the translation, “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing proper fruits of it.” The term “evaluate” seeks only to highlight the idea of an inward look. The look inward serves to consider not only the actions of the self examination but also motives and attitudes. With this said the importance of faith pushes the examination process beyond the expectations of man rather the requirements of our Father. If the exam proves that there are items lacking then the examiner will do well to seek out prescriptions designed to heal himself so that he will be better able to work in the healing process of others.

True inward looking requires absolute honesty. Without honesty introspection is worthless. As such I would urge all to take that look inward in order to determine if worldviews are in conflict with the one faith. If there are conflicts resolutions are necessary for growth and healing of all concerned.

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