Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What is Contemplative Prayer

I found contemplative prayer...no wait...contemplative prayer found me at the moment that I most needed it.  My life was not making sense.  I seemed to be absent from every moment of my life always thinking about what was supposed to come next and what tragic mistake I made or miniscule thing I had forgotten.  I was stressed out and I hadn't even noticed it.  Being a musician and performer I had always thought that I thrived on that last minute adrenaline.  I thought that it kept me on my toes and helped me to think more clearly.  But God did not make our bodies to live in that constant state of near panick no matter how much we think we are good at "managing" our stress.

Contemplation is slowly teaching me to shed my desire to control and "manage" stress.  Rather, it is teaching me that life without stress is a very real possibility.  Contemplation is teaching me what the writer of Genesis meant when they said, "God created....and it was good."  I trust more, worry less, believe more richly, and see more beauty, and think more clearly.

It may be odd to say it but the answer to my prayers was prayer itself.  Time that is spent in the hospitality of God is never time that is wasted.  And for those who say that contemplative prayer is a waste of time (and there are naysayers out there) I only offer this.  You will not know what God is capable of doing in your life until you take the time to stop and listen for God's call. 

Listen, God is...calling.

Contemplative Prayer

As I begin a new ministry setting my plan is to periodically speak to the ways that I am learning to lead a life with God.  For those of you that do not know I have accepted two new positions recently.  One of those positions is as the coordinator of a ministry that works with first call pastors in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod and the Eastern North Dakota Synod.  The other position is as a pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead MN. 

One of the things that beginning a new ministry affords us is the opportunity to start over with good habits.  Much of my first call was spent trying to figure out which end was up.  Towards the end of my tenure I began to feel upright and capable of exploring what it means to be a spiritual leader. 

The next two blogs are an invitation to contemplative prayer and some musings on first days in a new place.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Changing the Culture

I've recently taken a job in which it is my role to help change the culture surrounding how clergy "do" church.  It has long been known that clergy have the tendency to burn out.  It is no wonder.  Many pastors have the pathology of egomaniacs whose one goal in life is to please people.  That may seem a little harsh but there is no use in mincing words.

Specifically I am working with first call pastors.  In the first years of this new vocation is where we learn the habits of behavior that will follow us for most of our careers.  As we transition from the seminary to the real world the student goes from pleasing the professor to a congregation full of what a new pastor may perceive as "bosses".  It is easy in these first years to develop what I tend to call the "chocolate Easter Bunny" syndrome.  We have fantastic young energetic folk who are excited about all of the programs and academia that have been poured into them and they cant wait to put it to use.

They know theoretically how things are supposed to look, perhaps even how they are supposed to look, and they put all of their energy into making that vision a reality.  All the while, the lovely chocolate Easter Bunny is hollow on the inside.  All of the energy to produce is placed outside and no energy is leftover for the inside.  Where is the center?  Where is the core from which we have the peace and strength from which to act?

In this recent New York Times article speaks about clergy burnout. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

Perhaps the larger systemic disease is that so many of us act like business men and women who wear a spirituality hat from time to time rather than being actual spiritual leaders.  Perhaps there is a reason why so many of our meetings and committees look like so much of the rest of our lives out in the rest of the world.  We have done a very good job of feeding people's anxiety that tells us that we have to produce, produce, produce.  So that is what our churches look like, little activity factories where people are much more content being busy then spending time encountering God.  Because who knows what we will find when we look up long enough from our lives to see what God is up to.