O Love, divine Love why do you lay siege to me?
In a frenzy of love for me, You find no rest.
From five sides you move against me,
Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent.
To come out is to be caught; I cannot hide from You.
If I come out through sight I see Love
Painted in every form and color,
Inviting me to come to You, to dwell in You.
If I leave through the door of hearing,
What I hear points only to You, Lord;
I cannot escape Love through this gate.
If I come out through taste, every flavor proclaims;
“Love, divine Love, hungering Love!
You have caught me on Your hook, for you want to reign in me.”
If I leave through the door of scent
I sense You in all creation, You have caught me
And wounded me through that fragrance.
If I come out through the sense of touch
I find Your lineaments in every creature;
To try to flee from You is madness.
Love, I flee from You, afraid to give You my heart;
I see that You make me one with You,
I cease to be me and can no longer find myself.
If I see evil in a man or defect or temptation,
You fuse me with him, and make me suffer;
O Love without limits, who is it You love?
It is You, O Crucified Christ,
Who takes possession of me,
Drawing me out of the sea to the shore;
There I suffer to see Your wounded heart.
Why did You endure the pain?
So that I might be healed.
Jacapone Da Todi
Thanks Jonathan for a lovely Epiphany service tonight and for sharing with us this poem.
Made a post a few weeks ago on reflections on a ministry of presence but since then, I have had a few more thoughts on the matter.
First, David Benner makes me wonder if it is possible to have a genuine ministry of presence without mutuality. Not that there needs to be “mutuality of roles” to use a Benner expression. The question before me: does a ministry of presence require that dialogue take place. Benner says spiritual growth requires that dialogue take place with others. Here are some of his thoughts about dialogue in his new book, Soulful Spirituality.
- Dialogue is one of the deepest forms of soul engagement we can experience with another person.
- The goal of dialogue is exploration, discovery, and insight.
- Dialogue “is rare because it can be threatening and will often be difficult.”
- Dialogue “does not require symmetry of roles.”
- Mutuality can be present if I am able to answer the following three questions affirmatively: Am I willing to bring myself, not just my care, to the encounter? Can I accept the other as a whole and separate person, as he or she is? Am I willing to be open enough to their experience and ideas that my own may change as a result of our interaction?
- If I cannot answer yes to the above questions, the relationship “may involve expertise and empathy, but it will never be an encounter worthy of being called dialogue.“
So, without dialogue, I may be able to offer “expertise and empathy” but can I offer a ministry of presence? Comments welcome here!
Second stimulation to my thinking–listening to a NPR (national public radio in America) story about how a hospice program offers hope to dying patients in St. Louis. The St. Louis Lumina program trains their hospice workers to be storytellers who “learn how to interview dying people so that they can leave tangible statements of values and legacy.”
The words of one volunteer riveted my attention, “Volunteer Susan Kissinger says it’s difficult and emotional work. She helped a middle-aged ALS patient write a series of letters to his wife and kids before he died. But Kissinger says it’s a gift to be let into hospice patients’ lives.
”There will be times when the emotion will rise up,” Kissinger says. “And I guess that’s just a gift I have to offer: I can just be present here and accept the gift without being overwhelmed.”
Is Kissinger not saying that she offers a ministry of presence to the dying patients by providing space and time for the emotions of people’s stories to rise up. As she says, she accepts the gift of the emotions being shared “without being overwhelmed.” Because she is in some ways outside of the situation, she can offer a ministry of presence to people and allow them to process emotions that may have been suppressed for a lifetime.
One of the dying patients in the hospice program interviewed for the NPR program, Courtney Strain, “provided a simple guide for the family and friends of people who are dying. Here are some of the things she wanted people to know:
- Hallmark doesn’t fix it all. … Write a letter or send an email. … [Talk to me when] I’m strong enough to sit and laugh or cry with you …
- Don’t pretend that everything is going to be OK.
- Don’t abandon me at my most vulnerable time. … Sit and pray with me. Don’t just pray for me.
- Don’t treat me like a child — even a well-loved child. … Include me in decisions that affect our family or social group …
- Instead of asking, “What can I do for you?” offer some concrete suggestions — like bringing a meal or treat, or running errands …
- Respect my decisions about my health care — my doctors, my medications and my treatments — and about my end-of-life plans …
- Just because I’m dying doesn’t mean I’m any less capable of being your friend. Dying isn’t my whole identity.
Apparently, the thoughts above came from “What You Can Do When A Friend (Like Me) Faces The End Of Life.” NPR provided a link to this document but I have been unable to get anywhere with it.
David Benner’s Soulful Spirituality may be his best book yet–merging together a lifetime of insights into the psycho-spiritual-physical self with his personal and historical insights regarding soul care from Jesus and the spiritual masters. He brings well thought-out intellectual discussions along side of practical soulish applications for the journey.
He presents a strong (and unique?) argument for the type of community needed among Jesus followers.
“Soulful spirituality invites us to do a better job of recognizing and prizing the otherness of others rather than simply seeing them as extensions of ourselves or using them as containers for our own projections.”
“Honoring otherness is a deep and essential part of any authentic spirituality.”
Benner warns against exagerating the otherness of others and turning them into monsters or gods.
We make people monsters when we treat the “stranger as simply a container for all the parts of our self that we seek to disown. We then dump the despised and feared parts of our self into this container and view the resulting monster as wicked and dangerous.”
But neither should we make others gods, “We kneel in vulnerability before this strangely fearsome god, hoping that by acts of contrition and offerings of one sort or another we might avert the danger that the stranger represents.”
Be means of these defense mechanisms, Benner says we make others “all bad or all good” and justify keeping ourselves at a distance from others.
Benner presents a strong case for being honest and living in reality about our reluctance to relate to others. We do no one (including our own souls) when we are dishonest. “An embrace of reality always supports the life of both spirit and soul. Both thrive in the soil of acceptance of that which truly is and shrivel when we wander from a commitment to such truthful living.”
- Rationalization–we “invent good excuses to cover the real reasons.”
- Denial—we “tell ourselves (and anyone else who might inquire) that we do not, in fact, feel whatever it is that is unacceptable to us.”
- Projection “involves a more substantial distortion of the truth of our experience—attributing to others things that we cannot accept in ourselves.”
- Reaction Formation displays “a feeling that is the opposite of what we actually experience, and by so doing, further convince our self that what we wish to avoid is not part of us.”
Burnout arises when we fail to live within our limits. Psalm 127 grounds us in the need to be aware that God is in control and God is watching over the work of our hands. And so we pray Psalm 127 to stay grounded.
“If the LORD does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain. If the LORD does not guard a city, then the watchman stands guard in vain. It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep. Yes, sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Sons born during one’s youth are like arrows in a warrior’s hand. How blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! They will not be put to shame when they confront enemies at the city gate” Psalms 127:1–5 NET
Psalm 127 teaches us
But UNLESS YAHWEH is involved
OUR BUILDING and WATCHING is INEFFECTIVE (vanity, empty)
CHILDREN (as an example)
Are a GIFT (BUILD)
Provide PROTECTION for us (WATCH)
BUT UNLESS YAHWEH IS involved
OUR PLANS FOR CHILDREN ARE INEFFECTIVE (Implied vanity, empty)
What does it mean that Yahweh builds and protects?
* We do the best we can.
* We acknowledge our abilities and resources come from God.
* We submit our plans and activities to God.
* We practice his moment by moment presence.
* We live healthy lives of balance, accepting our limitations.
* We trust God is in control, is committed to help us and his plans for us are only for our good.
Insights into burnout
From Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson
- Burnout is a disease nobody talks about until it’s too late. Statistics and stories prove that the health of those serving in ministry is declining—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. At some point along the road, your heart, your mind, your spirit—maybe even your body—have been damaged while fighting the battles of good and evil. Loc 166
- The fear of letting people down, especially in spiritual matters, can often cause us to feel obligated or pressured into meeting unrealistic expectations, or worse, spending more time doing things for God instead of being what God wants us to be. That can lead to serious stress. What’s worse, it’s easy for the resulting attitudes to contaminate a team or even an entire church. Loc 544
From Rework by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
- Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic.loc 261
- Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more. loc 263
- Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve. loc 265
From The Truth About Burnout by Maslach and Leiter
- Burnout is the index of the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do. It represents an erosion in values, dignity, spirit, and will-an erosion of the human soul. It is a malady that spreads gradually and continuously over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover.
Previous posts on burnout
Trying to figure out what Chesterton meant by the following:
“In the last resort the exaggeration of sex becomes sexlessness . . . Sex is the bait and not the hook; but in that last extreme of evil the man likes the hook and not the bait . . .”
A friend suggests the following:
- The bark is louder than the bite–we talk more and act less;
- When we do act, we are not sure what to do with it–like a dog running after a bus;
- Sex is really a false sense of intimacy, we want intimacy more than sex; we think it is the end but really it is a means to the end (intimacy)
- We are screwed and screwed up, that why Jesus came to save and sanctify us.
Reminds me of Rob Bell’s Sex God in which he links sex with spirituality saying we think sex is about this but it is really about that–that being God. Here is my post on that book.
I like the following quote from Gary Thomas’ Pure Pleasure which I just finished,
If I find my pleasure in Starbucks alone, I am at the mercy of a company that may go out of business. If I seek my pleasure in sex alone, I make myself vulnerable to a fading, aging body—as well as to the cooperation of a partner. If my pleasure is in a business, I remain subject to the whims of my consumers. But if my life has been a single journey always pointing me to find my fulfillment in God—urging me to see each earthly pleasure as a reflection of his kindness, goodness, and love—then my ultimate pleasure has become more certain than anything this world can offer.
So what do you think?
One thing I might add, “I don’t want to do it again.”
You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two.
A poem by Kenneth Koch quoted in America Land of Loners by Daniel Akst
Are Americans and straight American men in particular more lonely than ever? That is the premise of Akst. Akst is saying that if we go outside of our families, many of us have very few people with whom we can talk about the deeper heart issues.
I have lived very little in America over the past twenty-five years but when I have–many middle aged men seem to have few close friends–maybe one in a lot of cases or even none. Akst cites John Cacioppo who says the problem is that the friendships we have “are more harried and less meaningful.” Few would argue that I think!
Akst talks about the “problem” of man dates–how wrong is that!
I tend to agree with Akst that men need a friend outside of our wives. He writes,
“Your BFF nowadays—at least until the divorce—is supposed to be your spouse, a plausible idea in this age of assortative mating, except that
spouses and friends fill different needs, and cultivating some close extramarital friendships might even take some of the pressure off at home. Yet the married men I know seem overwhelmingly dependent on their wives for emotional connection, even as their wives take pleasure in friends to whom they don’t happen to be wed
Again, it seems that his observation is correct–about many men being dependent on their wives. I learned last year about the problems that occur a lack of differentiation exists in families and since then have noticed this quite often. I suspect it is a misunderstanding of the “one flesh” idea but maybe is also a result of dependent men. What, never me darling?
If Akst is correct “Friendships, after all, entail mutual regard, respect for others, a certain amount of agreeableness, and a willingness to rise above the ties of kinship in order to knit society into a web of trust and reciprocation.” Respect is a biggie for a lot of men (myself intended) and a lack of or a fear that we may encounter a lack of respect may keep men from forming deeper friendships. No wonder that we have so much anger and depression–we don’t want to talk about it–see my post on Terrence Real’s book, I don’t want to talk about it.
What to do about this problem? Begin to be part of the solution. Refuse to withdraw from the outside world to our tv sets. Engage with other men. Yes, it will cost us but the reward will be great. I am grateful for men in my life who pursue a friendship with me. May I do the same with others.
Soren Kierkegaard saw gossip flourishing “when people’s attention is no longer turned inwards, when they are no longer satisfied with their own inner religious lives, but turn to others and to things outside themselves.”
So, why is gossip so delicious? Prov. 18:8, 26:22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. Gossip seems to appeal to something deep within us. Is it a deep dissatisfaction with our inner life as Kierkegaard mentions and so to make ourselves feel better, we talk about others.
Despite what the article in The Globe and Mail says, a quick search of the Bible warns us to avoid gossip
Gossip damages our friendships
- Prov. 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissensi on, and a gossip separates close friends.
- Prov. 11:13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
- Prov. 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.
Gossip stirs up strife and dissension
- Prov. 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.
Gossip is associated with other sins and is sin by and of itself
- Ezek. 36:3 therefore prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Precisely because they made you desolate and crushed you from all sides, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and so you became the talk and evil gossip of the people,
- Rom. 1:29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips
- 2Cor. 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder
- 1Tim. 5:13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.
- 3John 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
Thinking about the power of words, I went over to Job. In Job, we discover the following:
Your words are like a great wind (Job 8:2, 16:3), without understanding (8:10), words can (or should) be tested by the ear as food by the palate (12:11), words can do no good, be unprofitable (15:13), torment and break me to pieces with words (19:2), multiplies words without knowledge (35:16), rash words are like the thrusts of a sword 12:18
And in the Psalms we find vain words (4:2), empty words 41:6, the deceitful love words that devour 52:4, lying words may come out of pride 59:12, and arrogant words 94:4. If hasty in our words, we will be considered a fool 29:20. When we speak with many words there is vanity or emptiness in our speech (Eccl 5:7, 6:11, 10:4).
Proverbs teaches that we can be snared by our words 6:2 (smooth words of an adulteress (7:5), our words can be twisted and crooked 8:8, and with many words, sin is inevitable (10:19).
Our words can have a positive effect on people. In the Psalms, we discover that God’s words are sweet 119:103 and give light and understanding 119:130, bring hope 119:147. Our words can be sweet to the soul and health to the body 16:24. We ma be thought to be prudent (wise) if we restrain our words 10:19 (see Eccl 5:2,3, 12:11) since our words may bring healing 12:1.
What kind of words will you use today?
I love you–awkward and problematic
I am sorry–troublesome and maybe the hardest two and a half words
I was wrong–the hardest three words you will ever have to say
What are the elements of a good apology? Let me suggest we need
A post from my friend, John, five months after the death of his wife. He is trying to explain how people can help. I only made slight edits from his original post. Here is how you can help someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one:
- Remember – Share your memories of the one who has died–even if you’re sad. What do you remember about her? Don’t be afraid to speak about the loved one because you want to make your friend sad. As John said, “I do sad really well and it actually encourages me when people talk about her in natural ways and in normal conversation.”
- Acknowledge – In the first year after death, there are many significant days. John pleads, “Please acknowledge them. My heart, even if my head misses it, “marks” these days. It helps to have people say something, remember, be there.”
- Share – Share with your friend when you miss their loved one. Sharing our losses with our friend can mean a lot to them. As John said, I learn that “I’m not alone in the loss, others experience her loss too.”
- Enter – “It helps to have people who will enter my loss, confusion and pain. Listening, just being present really make a difference. Silence to protect me or to avoid the awkwardness of talking about my wife’s death adds to my loneliness and isolation. I would much prefer to weep and be sad than to be left alone emotionally.”
Powerful words. Thank you John for these deep glimpses into your soul.
Helpful post here introducing Myers Briggs (MBTI) for those not familiar with this personality test.
Great post here from John Fischer on the value of the gift of listening. See the original from Aug 5, 2010 here. Worth subscribing to his blog.
In a personal account of his experiences covering the devastating earthquake in China two years ago that leveled cities and claimed at least 67,000 lives, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times revealed some of the psychological toll of seeing what he had seen over several days—his sleep disturbed by dreams of corpses, and the anxiety of not being able to get his story finished in time.
In the process of interviewing survivors, he was surprised by how many were eager to talk. “This was the pattern, almost without exception. Not only were victims who’d lost everything willing to talk; they even at times sought me out. With everything broken around them and so many of their friends and neighbors overwhelmed by problems of their own, many seemed to hunger for someone who would listen to their story and validate what they had been through.”
There was something about his detachment that made him a welcome receptacle for their pain and grief. And they wanted to talk.
I think there will be times for all of us when we will be able to provide this service for someone. We are the distant relative or the step-father or mother who doesn’t know all the family history but can provide a welcome place to receive the painful emotions of those who at least are temporarily overwhelmed by them.
I think we often underestimate the value of listening. Listening can validate someone else’s experience. It can help them come to grips with what they have not been able to sort out alone. This is one time when having little knowledge of someone’s ordeal can actually be an advantage. We may feel we have little to offer, when in fact, we have much. Don’t sell your listening skills sort. Sometimes being detached is just what is needed.
Maybe there is someone you will be able to listen to today.
“Money, sex and children will be your biggest stress points,” said my father-in-law over 30 years ago as my wife and I were about to get married. At least that is what I remember. Following are a few points I found interesting from The State of our Unions, a study done on marriage in America at the University of Virginia in 2009. The report contains tons of data and lots of charts if you are interested. After each point, I make a little comment.
The Great Recession’s Silver Lining by W. Bradford Wilcox
- “Credit card debt is corrosive in marriage, whereas shared financial assets sweeten the ties that bind couples together.” 17
I wonder if this is a reason that some couples that have been married for a long time suddenly divorce. When the financial rewards are not there, it is easier to walk away?
- “Husbands are significantly less happy in their marriages, and more likely to contemplate divorce, when their wives take the lead in breadwinning.” 19 “more concentrated among working class and poor men” 19 “dramatically higher rates of divorce among those without college degrees” 20
I guess this does not surprise me although most of my friends are in the more educated group. Few men seem to be able to handle the wife being the bread winner (would be hard for me as well). I give a lot of credit to my brother-in-law who retired from the military to stay at home and take care of the kids while his wife continued her military career.
Bank ON IT: Thrifty Couples Are the happiest by Jeffrey Dew
- “Consumer debt plays a powerful role in eroding the quality of married life.” 24
Debt seems to be a significant reason people do not go into missions service!
- “When individuals feel that their spouse does not handle money well, they report lower levels of marital happiness.” 26 “Only extramarital affairs and alcohol/drug abuse were stronger predictors of divorce.” 27
I am so blessed by a wife who handles money well and is not a shopper.
- Compared to other topics, “financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples, and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands.” 27
Sounds painful. We have had small disagreements but I think by avoiding debt, this has not been a huge pressure point. I need to do a better job at keeping to a budget. My wife finds it harder than me to spend money!
Marriage and the great recession Alex Roberts
Why, you might ask?
- Prevalence of marriage has declined significantly in recent history.
- Divorce rate has increased tremendously. 42
- Number of cohabiting couples has increased roughly sixteen-fold since 1960. 45
- Many of those couples that would once have delayed marriage or divorce due to an economic downturn are now cohabiting 46
- “Marriage . . . creates substantial economic benefits for families. Living apart, the parents must earn $7,090 or 39 percent more to avoid poverty.” 47
- Those married saw income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of about 400 to 600 percent.
- Continuously married households had about double the income and four times the net worth of the continuously divorced and never-married 48
If anyone is thinking that living together is the way to get the best of both worlds, my next post will be on that topic and the data does not look good.
Question: How has money put pressure on your marriage? What would you do differently?
Biggest impact on me so far in my family development class has been our discussion on differentiation or the “capacity to hold onto yourself while still pursuing the relationship.” As Christians, we tend to confuse oneness in marriage with emotional fusion. In marriage, there should be a preservation of the person while a oneness being formed.
Our prof suggested that most of us are less differentiated than we think we are. We will likely be as differentiated as was our family of origin and tend to marry someone of similar differentiation.
¨We crave that which we can’t attain, but we disrespect and resent that from which we can’t escape.” Dr. Dobson
Here is a post I copied from my friend John’s journal as he is trying to find a way to hold his family together following the death of his wife since she was “in many ways the glue that held our family together.”
1. Initiate. Move toward each other. I can’t wait for others. I need to gently, lovingly press into other’s lives.
2. Love deeply. No ifs, ands or buts – just love others. for who she or he is (warts, wrinkles and all
3. Listen. Listen quietly, hear one another’s heart beat. This one is particularly hard for me because I have a lot to say!
4. Sanctuary. Be a safe place. I may not “get it.” I may even disagree but first and foremost, I want to be a safe place for you to process – win or lose, succeed or fail, joy or sorrow.
Interesting article here that suggests today’s generation is less empathetic than previous ones. According to the article, social networking is one of the causes.
I find this to be interesting since in my observation today’s generations seem to be less like previous generations in not wanting to waste their life in a futile search accumulating money and stuff. Not that they don’t like their stuff (iphone, ipad, laptops, etc)!
If you read the article, it provides a link to an empathy quiz which is worth checking out. You will discover if you are more or less empathetic than today’s generation!
Finally, there is another link to some tips on “how to improve your empathy.”
Poem by my friend John that he composed for his wife over the last months of her life.
I touched her face.
I touched her face today
Soft, concerned, deep.
Memories flood my soul
I touched her face that day
Soft, radiant intriguing.
My wondering heart asked
Would she have me share life?
I touched her face again
Soft, longing, tender love.
Two became one and
We journeyed through life.
I touched her face on Africa’s plains
Hearts of joy, full of life.
Lives were touched, nurtured
As we lived as one.
I touched her face with gratitude.
Family growing, life overflowing.
Sons, daughters and grandchildren
Laughing, loving, learning life.
I touched her face one day
Soft crinkly brown eyes.
Shared joys, losses suffered,
We walked hand in hand.
I touched her face again
Soft, gentle connection
Her eyes opened a heart of compassion.
Grateful, I touched her again.
I touched her face today.
Life’s trials and uncertainties
Weighing on our hearts.
We stepped forward hand in hand.
I touched her face achingly
Lifes cares and fears pressing in.
The journey’s rough in this place.
We hold each other with uncertain hope.
I touched her face once again.
My heart grieving all her pain.
He touched her face
And folded her in His healing embrace.
I touched her face.
“No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight.”
From Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness
It is not fighting fair when we start a sentence with “you.” From Michael Hyatt.
- People avoid you because you talk too much
- I find it hard to be around so much negativity
Missing in some of the replies to the linked post above: speaking the truth in love. Yes, I know Christians use it as an excuse to not speak the truth! But I have spoken the truth to someone without love and when I do so, they can’t seem to hear the truth or discount it. Someone spoke the truth to me this week and I appreciated it and grew as a result. We are in a small group with twenty somethings and in one with forty somethings. Twenty somethings win regarding honesty about life. Effective twelve step groups are grounded in honesty and I think that is what attracts me to them.
So, what keeps me from being completely honest with others?
- I lack love for them
- I am unwilling to walk with them to bring about change
- I have not been invited to give them feedback
- They may say they want to know the truth but their reactions show otherwise.
What about you?