Monday, July 21, 2014

Small Sips Doesn't Want Fireworks

Yeah, that makes sense. Carol Howard Merritt recently wrote a piece about writing. As it turns out, that's what writers do:
About three times a week, pastors ask me 1) how to get on the speaking circuit or 2) how to get published. The questions go together, because the answer to how to get on the speaking circuit is usually to get published. Sometimes they are just starting out in the ministry, and other times they are retired. Either way, my answer is the same, no matter what stage of life you’re in: Writers write.  
I can usually tell who is going to succeed within a couple of months. It rarely has to do with talent, intelligence, or how cool a person looks. It doesn’t matter that much how charismatic, young, or old a person is. Instead, it has a lot to do with the fact that writers write. It’s that simple. And that difficult.  
Of course, there are exceptions. I know two New York Times bestsellers who have told me that they don’t write every day. They only write when they have a book contract waiting. But until I get to their level, I don’t know how else to do it, other than to write.
So basically, if you want to be a writer, you need to write. I recently heard another author call this the "butt in the chair" method. That is, if you want to write, you actually have to put your butt in the chair and write.

I'm looking for these sorts of reminders as The Writing Project takes shape. You can't be a writer if you ain't writing.

I know what you mean in a differentiated sort of way. Craig Barnes shares some thoughts on empathy, and questions whether we tend to push way past its limits:
We are told, as far back as Introduction to Psychology in college, that empathy is great, and sympathy is bad. In A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, rabbi and psychotherapist Edwin Friedman challenges this belief. 
Empathy is the vicarious experience of someone else’s feelings. Friedman’s thesis is that this is impossible because we can only feel our own feelings. So when we try to get inside someone else under the guise of being empathetic, we are actually just violating boundaries to find more of ourselves. We can feel burdened by the pathos of others, but that is sympathy. We can suffer alongside others, which is compassion.
In other words, empathy can be another way of making something all about ourselves. In this case, it is the pain of another that we may attempt to understand but are in great danger of projecting our own self into another, assimilating another's feelings into ourselves, or both. Barnes rightly calls this a violation of boundaries, as we let the other off the hook from taking responsibility for their situation, and letting their feelings and experience be theirs.

I've been as guilty of this as anyone. I like to think that I've learned my lesson the past few years…but probably not.

No, really, take care of yourself. Pastors are constantly told to care for themselves and we, in turn, pay lots of lip service to its importance. But then something happens like what PeaceBang describes, and it can be the type of thing that can get us to take it a little more seriously:
I lift up to the Lord the name and spirit of a Unitarian Universalist colleague whom I did not know personally, the Rev. Jennifer Slade, who died of suicide this week. 
May she be at peace. May she be held in the love of God that was her origin and shall be her eternity. May those who grieve her be consoled by the ministry of the holy spirit, by memory, by the strength of friends, by time, by rest and care. 
Colleagues, let us reach out for each other and make time for each other. Instead of asking, “How are you?” we might ask, “Are you okay?” 
The work of religious leadership is especially demanding in this time of closing churches and anxious laity. No one can afford to be comfortable and staid while our beloved institutions are falling around us. Even those of us who embrace the possibility of what God is doing in this time still have no idea what is coming next, and we are called upon to both serve the church as it is and imagine and prepare for what it will be tomorrow. We are “making it up as we go along” in a way that previous generations of ministers may be able to relate to culturally or theologically or organizationally, but not institutionally to this extent. The pressure is fierce. This is to say nothing of other life stresses of health, finance, family, community. 
Are you okay?
One might not think it often gets this bad, but in this changing cultural environment that may place additional stress on clergy, this sort of thing may be a danger more often than we think. So self-care, time off, and collegial support becomes more imperative.

No, seriously.

Yeah, so? YEAH, SO? The University of Michigan's Board of Regents recently shot down the idea of having fireworks after two games this upcoming football season. Mark Bernstein's comments that Michigan Stadium is meant to be different from Comerica Park or the circus has invited quite bit of ridicule about their pompous nature, reflecting once again the arrogant culture of Michigan in general. Well, what are ya gonna do? At any rate, Michael Weinreb takes a shot at extricating Bernstein's underlying point:
The beauty of college football is that, when done right, the experience markets itself. The placid chill of a Saturday morning in October, the rows of motor homes lined up outside, the expansive tailgates, the numerous kegs, the burgeoning lines (and smells) at the portable toilets — this is what Michigan (and other major college football programs) have that no other sport does. The NFL is a corporate experience, shaped by television; the crowds are essentially secondary: When the Seattle Seahawks’ home crowds suddenly became a factor in the game, it felt, to some, like an affront to the sport. 
In college football, the crowd is the thing. The crowds are bigger and more involved than in any other American pastime. And the only thing that truly enhances the experience for these crowds is a competitive football team. Everything else seems frivolous and stupid and antithetical to an experience that is supposed to at least feel, on the surface, that it is resistant to the bells and whistles of modernity (even though the balance sheets tell us it isn’t). College football should have a stripped-down vibe, because, on the best campuses, at the most tradition-laden institutions, everything you need is already there. 
That, I think, is what Mark Bernstein was trying to say (and by the way, it worked: In the end, the board voted with Bernstein and against the fireworks). He may have framed it in the most Michigan way possible, but he still spoke the truth.
We Michigan fans do have a certain arrogance (and lately it's been mixed with a healthy dose of self-delusion), but yes, this is actually what I heard in his original comments without much of a problem. But I'm part of that fan base, so maybe I'm part of the problem. Or maybe others like making up problems because it's Michigan. Having lived in Ohio for almost 30 years, I'm definitely aware that this happens occasionally. Or all the time.

By the way, I'm not really excited about this upcoming season. Like, at all. Usually I am by this point in the summer, but this year…nope.

Here's to me being given reasons to care.

Misc. Jan on not taking everything in ministry personally. Way easier said than done. Jamie notes that talking about doing something isn't the same as actually doing it. Like writing, for instance. Brant Hansen has left his position at Air1 radio. But he's still writing funny and insightful blog posts, so there's that.