Sunday, September 20, 2020

Impact - Interpretation - Implementation

What I have experienced over decades is uniquely mine. The impact, interpretation, and implementation of response to these numerous events are uniquely mine. Yet I believe many events are universal.  It is as individuals respond to said events where variety becomes noticeable. 

A portion of seminary education (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus OH) consisted in the proper understanding of key events and doctrines. The rites of the church and in many ways the rites of passage were to be understood and provided within a set framework. Individual experiences (baptism, confirmation, and communion) were valid and meaningful if understood and practiced within established parameters. There was little room for variance if these were to produce their understood benefits. 

Impact, interpretation, and implementation crept into these aspects of my pastoral life. Baptisms should only be performed at a Sunday worship gathering. Confirmation needed set standards of academic performance (memory work, sermon notes, passing knowledge tests) in order for faith to be validated. Proper understanding of Communion (Jesus is present - in, with, and under the bread and wine {Lutheran words}was vital for proper personal benefit. Anything less was eating and drinking damnation onto one's self. All of these dos and don'ts were challenged in the daily lives of the people with whom I served. Eventually decisions of practice needed to be made, obey the aforementioned rules or serve in ways that exhibited what I believed was the intent of God's grace and commitment to humanity.

Fast forward about 4 decades. Baptism is all about God and God's grace, not the status of parents or sponsors. The couple pictured had their child baptized on a Sunday and as part of worship. The child's sponsor joined via FaceTime. People were mindful of COVID protocols. We laughed about the child either being baptized with a Super Soaker to maintain distance or using hand sanitizer instead of water. Changing times call for creative options! God's steadfast love and grace is the theme of baptism, not the lives of the participants nor the day on which it occurs. 

After a couple of years of meeting on various days and at a variety of times, this teenager took responsibility for his faith at an outdoor gathering. The rural location with hens and llamas, as well as his sponsors, parents, sister, relatives, and friends made for a meaningful occasion.                  

Confirmand and sponsors
The following is what he shared at the ceremony: A big thing we talked about with Pastor Tim was faith. I had always assumed religion and faith were one in the same, but I learned that my faith is something that is specific to me. I also learned that my faith is always developing, and will continue to develop throughout my life. One of the most appealing aspects of growing in my faith was that I can carry it with me throughout my life. Through hard times I can look to my faith to guide me, and I'm ready to start on that path today." No measurements of class attendance, memory work, or Sunday mornings at worship. 

This family lives with faith integrated into daily life. I enjoyed the lively discussion that helped to make what can be so esoteric usable in life.

My role as a pastoral care provider focuses on relationships: relationships with people, relationships between people, and God's relationship interwoven in all aspects of life. The seminary training provided foundational materials. Throughout the decades building on a foundation in order to be creative, flexible, authentic, and free is necessary to find meaning and strength in life. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and relationships that have enhanced my life!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Is In a Name?

Many Boomers may remember a children's chant, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." (The Christian Recorder - March 1862) or "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me." (Anne J Cuppler - 1872)

Early photo - Timmy
Throughout childhood I was referred to as: Timothy, Timmy, Tim, Syrup, and Two Bellies. Obviously not all of these names held the significance nor conveyed the same meaning. In its original form, Timothy (Greek origin) means "honoring God." My two older brothers had names from Christian Scripture, as well.

Concluding my year of internship as a portion of graduate divinity school in order to become a pastor in Lutheran traditions, this advice was offered by an elderly person, "Make certain that people call you, 'Pastor' because it is a name of respect."

Names and labels are everywhere. Not only are they used to identify, but as previously mentioned they stir up feelings and images. Some are lighthearted and laughable while others cut deep into our sense of being. The present culture seems to use names as weapons to paint with broad strokes those with whom they disagree. Pharmaceutical companies create names for medications that seemingly have no connection to anything. In a previous entry titled, "Training for Life" posted July 14, 2020, I shared my perspective that everything we do and experience should train us for daily living. Now I want to explain the rest of this blog's name, "SPC Adventures."

As the previously mentioned person insisted that I be called "Pastor", that name held images and power for me. There was status, respect, and a vocational definition in that word. I was not totally certain of its parameters, but I found some safety and aloofness in the title. As years passed my previous understanding of the name became uncomfortable. I questioned how (in my understanding) maintaining a rigid and at times impersonal stance allowed for personal integrity. Was I playing a role or being myself?

Opportunities for more training were crucial in helping answer questions concerning pastoral identity. Yes, I still serve part-time as a pastor for 2 congregations.  However,

Hillsboro ND Parish
I enjoy assisting with the integration of faith into life.  Life is an adventure. There are surprises, disappointments, deep awe, and painful missteps. I combine Specialized Pastoral Care into life's adventures. Pastoral care comprises emotional, spiritual, and social support. This is not bound by religious structures or institutions. Pastor: a Latin word meaning "shepherd." So pastoral care is concerned about the feeding, well-being, and growth of people throughout the spectrum of life. I specialize in relational care, creative education, and life transitions. The importance of faith, as well as the dynamics of faith are to be used in daily adventures. At times there is need for assistance, insight, and accompaniment on the adventure. Those are the times when I can be of assistance. 

Thus the name: Specialized Pastoral Care Adventures and the tagline: Training for Life.

I was recently interviewed by JJ Gordon for his podcast, "JJ Meets World." JJ is a radio personality on KFGO 790 in Fargo ND. He is on the midday show "It Takes 2." He also acts, is a stand-up comedian, and enjoys movies. His in-laws attend the Hillsboro United Parish.  If you have some time to listen, we discuss many topics. Our discussion is longer than my sermons!!  You can access the podcast via the colored link "JJ Meets World."

Friday, September 4, 2020

More Minimizing Musings

The previous post contained some thoughts, as well as struggles with attempts to minimize the multitudinous stuff in my life.  Following that post, one of my daily readings based on Stoic Philosophy contained this from Seneca, an ancient philosopher and foundational figure in Stoicism:

"No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they do not have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have."  (Moral Letters       Letter 123, Section 3)

I doubt if marketing was a recognized vocation as time measurement moved from BC to AD, but Seneca's observations indicate that human desire to have it all is timeless. Today our culture packages that desire in both blatant and subtle ways. As much as I resist, the desire for MORE is powerful!

As I was developing topics and ideas for future videos (I have a channel on YouTube) the thought of better equipment entered my mind. A camera meant for multiple purposes (I currently use my phone), a Bluetooth remote control, wi-fi enabled to post instantly or livestream, ways to attach the camera to multiple things all while having a stable picture, and the software to edit the footage were being entertained in my mind.  After spending almost 2 hours researching(time not set aside), I abruptly ended my search. Realizing that more technology means more time futzing, learning, and getting frustrated; these videos while being enjoyable are not necessary nor income generating; and not wanting to part with the hundreds of dollars necessary for all the equipment, I returned to my original activity of setting schedules and ideas. 

In reality I have so much. Actually I have too much stuff which distracts from my enjoyment of life. Time spent on stuff is time taken away from activities and relationships I enjoy. A recent time with family on the North Shore of Lake Superior helped to again refocus my daily expectations. Simple hiking, biking, a rustic cabin, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, and time spent with a flexible schedule brought so much, none of which was frustrating. The photos posted are flowers in Gooseberry Falls State Park. Simple yet magnificent!

Another ancient philosopher wrote, 

"Again I observed another example of how fleeting life is under the sun: a person who is all alone - with no child, no sibling - yet works hard their entire life. Still the person is never satisfied with the wealth gained. Does the person ask, 'Why am I working so hard?' or 'Why am I depriving myself of life's simple pleasures?' This too, is fleeting, like trying to catch hold of a breath; it is a miserable situation."  (Ecclesiastes 4.7-8   The VOICE Translation)