Today was an awesome, inspirational, meaningful, satisfying and exhausting day of work! Even though it is my short day :)

This is a little something I wrote quickly on my phone micro journaling app and realized I might want to more publicly reflect on this (& similar) experience here in the future, so I am sharing it as a snapshot in time regarding my reactions to chaplaincy and how I am continuing to find meaning this year.

Fridays post Thursday night call are always challenging. This morning when unit rounds started it seemed it was going to be one of those mornings I would just need to get through while looking forward to my weekend off starting with leisurely work out time this afternoon before catching the bus home. Thankfully I was wrong.

The unit was busy & a bit chaotic this morning as there were up to 9 possible discharges, and 4 new admits to transition during morning rounds (knowing with more d/c than admits that Monday we’ll walk into a full unit likely with transfers in from all over the state). Add to that a few last minute staffing changes and I admit my own personality preferences for small groups & predictability was being challenged (INFJ for Meyers Briggs fans) … I had to decide how to deal with those challenges and make a difference rather than just put in my time.

I decided that as much as I appreciate learning from the medical team during walking rounds, and there is benefit to my own ministry in being present as part of the team, it wasn’t the most effective way I could spend the morning today. Since I had several patients I had worked intensely with for an extended period discharging, I decided to start there. In one case I managed to time in sync with rounds (meeting one on one before & after).

Then while charting and attempting to prioritize my next possible visits (including listening as teams went in & out from rounding, ran through partial lists, etc.) I was able to take advantage of being in the right place at the right time. Being there for an immediate referral may have made the difference between my having this opportunity or it being passed to the on call chaplain after I was gone for the day. That is speculation, but I am certain that being integrated into the unit and part of the team made a difference. Although I smiled wondering what was coming next when the Dr. turned toward me & said “we need God” I was also humbled in being able to respond as the needed presence at the time for this patient.

Although I have always felt very welcome as part of the acute psych team, any referrals have been a little less acute (at least from an outward perspective). Later both the Doctor and the lead nurse for the team specifically went out of their way to thank me. It was both interesting and profound to experience that gratitude outside of the context of a patient death (I am becoming used to how just my presence relieves anxiety in those situations).

Although I of course cannot share specifics the visit touched on something that I think will be a common theme / need in my chaplain/ministry work. (I may write about the issue in general in the future). And interestingly enough I was aware of a continue ing Ed presentation starting at noon today on a very related topic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on my afternoon off … Until the end of this morning! Then it was perfect timing really.

Thankfully I still managed to fit in a quick 30 minute aerobic intense workout before rushing to catch the early bus home to my family.

I feel like on one side of this journey I have the blessing of my ministry time, those I minister to and with affirming my call and renewing my strength, and on the other side I have my beautiful and encouraging family always sending me off & welcoming me home with love & joy in all that I/we are. And through it all God’s loving presence to sustain me.

Sometimes it really is about showing up.

now hopefully I will be inspired to write more here

Advertisements

Settling into Harmony & my chaplaincy residency

Today it is raining and coolish and feels like fall.

It also feels like we are here living, working, MINISTERING … We are not so much in transition now, but rather we simply ARE. We are as settled into our home in Harmony, MN as we are likely to be this year. At this point I consider it an accomplishment to not think about the next move (back to Dubuque for our final seminary year at Wartburg), and to instead simply be and live in each moment. It is equally an accomplishment not to be obsessed about my future calling in ministry — to set aside the questions about what type of institution I could best use my particular “chaplain gifts” and to simply exist in this present moment and give that gift to those around me, and to myself.

Shawn has settled into his pastor internship here in the Harmony area, and thankful finds it energizing. Nessa has settled into 3rd grade at her new school and we thankfully hear very few complaints, fear, etc. And I thankfully find a new appreciation for my time at Mayo almost every day.

Mayo Clinic, and its hospitals, is a unique place to minister for many reasons including both the diversity of individuals that come to Mayo and the diverse hospital units one can minister on. The site is also unique in my experience in that there are still protestant chaplain-led worship services each Sunday. All of this and more works together to create a unique culture as well as unique opportunities for ministry. I am thankful to be a part of this … To be here in this place and time.

Although some days I can’t help thinking it would have been nice to be led here when I was younger and could go without sleep easier … I especially think this on my post-call days. Leading worship in two chapels after being on-call all night is certainly a unique challenge. Yet, even on days when I am tired or when chronic pain flares in one way or another (more often than I would like this fall), I realize that it is only now that I am prepared to use the gifts given to me by God to be fully present with others in their pain, grief, doubts AND hopes (there is much hope here) … To listen, to offer the few words that come to me, to give voice to scripture, to pray AND to BE.

Love and belief,
Tami

DMFE Response 6: future plans

What are your plans — related both to academics and to candidacy — as you progress toward consecration?

I am currently about to start my second semester in the Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry program at Wartburg Seminary. I plan to extend this two-and-a-half year program out over three years, and additionally include a year-long chaplain residency or other internship experience so that I will graduate in May of 2015 (at the same time as my husband, currently an MDiv student at Wartburg). In addition to meeting the requirements for my degree program, I plan to take classes that support my speciality in grief and loss.

I am planning to do a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education this summer at Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, WI, and recognize that that experience will be part of my discernment process in what additional field work I do as I prepare for specialized ministry within the Diaconal Ministry roster. Discernment within and after the CPE experience as well as additional conversations with church leadership will help me decide on a chaplain residency or another type of internship experience in addition to specific Diaconal Ministry field work requirements.

As I continue to prepare for candidacy and beyond I plan to begin creating a ministry portfolio containing items describing and reflecting the my ministry work. I will share items from that portfolio as I talk to those involved in my candidacy process as well as those I may be seeking to work with or for after approval.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

DMFE Paper Response 4: Diaconal Ministry and Theology of the Cross, Vocation, and the Two Realms

How does diaconal ministry relate to two of the following important confessional concepts: the theology of the cross; vocation; or the two realms?

The theology of the cross is the foundation of justification by grace through faith, and if we want to understand God we have to start where God is most fully revealed–the cross. Since diaconal ministry is a ministry that embodies the cross of Christ it is crucial that we are able to relate it to and articulate the theology of the cross, including contrasting it to what we refer to as the theology of glory. Ephesians chapter two reminds us that we do not DO anything to make this relationship come into being: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2.8-10 NRSV). Faiths origins are worked into us. God decided this on the cross and what has been termed ‘decision theology’ is not a theology of the cross, but rather part of what we call a theology of glory.

We embrace the cross and its paradox of being the center of God’s power, wisdom and glory, and yet at the same time being the height of human weakness, foolishness and shame. It is on the cross that God embraces powerlessness and those on the absolute margins of society. Our call as diaconal ministers is totally entwined with the theology of the cross in part because we are called to minister to the marginalized.

The cross is the epitome of of the enactment of divine live as God seeks to deconstruct human wisdom and all ideas of what God is and isn’t about are tipped upside down via the cross. Theology of the cross informs our ministry in three particular ways: first it gives us the proper evaluative point of view and work out pattern for ministry, second we minister as servants of Christ and to God’s agenda for others and not others’ agenda for others (we are called to do more than just help people), and third we are called to a ministry of love as we cannot embody the cross without love. To love is to make the cross real to another and embody God’s love as shown in Christ on the cross (Romans 5.6-8; Galatians 2.20; 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13) . We are reminded that God so loved the world and God is sending the people God loves to us!

As explained when discussing the Biblical background for diaconal ministry Jesus came to serve (diakonia), and as a ministry that embodies the cross of Christ we also come to serve. Our call is to serve from Word and Sacrament (as well as to Word and Service). Every time we celebrate the eucharist we are celebrating diakonia, and as we carry out our call to diaconal service we are enacting eucharist. Our call to enact Jesus’ service is embodied in the Eucharist and now embodied in our service.

When thinking specifically about vocation I turn to the story of separating the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25.31-46) and am reminded that we find Christ in the hungry person (not in the sheep), and that the “sheep” do not feed the hungry and perform other service ministries in order to find Christ, but rather they just do it. The sheep in the story as equally as surprised as the goats are. The people we serve in our ministries cannot become simply vehicles for doing our “religious thing” but must be an end in itself. In order to keep this perspective I return again to finding Christ in surprising places on the margins of our world, and look through the lens of Christ’s love for each person as demonstrated in Christ’s death on the cross. When I look at an individual as someone Christ died for I am able to let the Spirit guide me in that love and in my ministry.

Concerning the two realms or kingdoms I relate diaconal ministry to this concept because it teaches us that God’s work is not confined to church. God is at work in the world. The two realms are not defined as church and world, but rather two modes of governance: gospel or unconditional love and promise) and compulsion or force (conditional). While force and compulsion have no place in the Gospel, God is also at work in places where governance needs to be exercised in other ways.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

Additional links some may be interested in (I try not to assume readers know my background and yet cannot address this myself in my posts):

Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (Realms)

What do Lutherans Believe?

Experiencing my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event (J-term 2012)

Joyous New Year! I am currently in Gettysburg, PA at Lutheran Theological Seminary attending the 2012 Diaconal Ministry Formation Event (or DMFE). After being here for a week I am just now beginning to be able to articulate how this experience is indeed forming me. However, I am only beginning to be able to do that so please be patient with me throughout the next several blog posts. 🙂

Our free time is limited here, so I am not sure how many more posts I will get written before returning home next week, but I will try to do at least a couple more — one general update and at least one starting my evaluation of this experience as it will be reflected in the paper I write in order to get academic credit for this event as a 3 credit course. The paper must answer several questions, and I have decided to share my initial response to those questions here on my blog (my first draft so to speak). I will label the posts accordingly in case you don’t find them of interest (or if very much do find them interesting, which I hope many of you will as it should give you perspective on our preparation for ministry).

When I saw that the last post I published was on Spiritual Practices I smiled because we are continuing to explore additional spiritual practices while here at DMFE. There is most certainly a renewal happening in our wider church regarding spiritual practices (Thanks be to God!), and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Our days here have a rhythm to them as we start and end our day with worship in the beautiful chapel here at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg (8 a.m. and 8 p.m. respectfully), and between those hours we have a morning and afternoon block of “classes” (mainly lectures this past week, but that will vary a bit going forward), small group time to explore and process, and of course lunch and dinner. Additionally we also have some free time each afternoon in order to do the things we need to do to take care of ourselves (exercise, call home, etc.), and also to have time to do things such as prepare for worship when it is our turn to plan services.

We are also encouraged to spend time simply walking around the community — part of what makes this place sacred is what happened here — Seminary Ridge is a part of where the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War took place. I spent some time Sat. morning (or day off) to explore and take pictures. I also simply walked and prayed, prayed and walked. There is still so much more for me to read, see, and learn (in multiple ways). For those now curious, here is one of many links that explore the Gettysburg battle and Seminary Ridge: http://www.brotherswar.com/Gettysburg-1f.htm

Today, Sunday January 15, we return together as a group for more small group time, lecture on liturgical practices, pizza (including Gluten Free) and worship. But first I need to go do laundry and a few other chores. 🙂

In brief closing I am so thankful to be a part of this event. It is indeed forming me. I feel my called to serve affirmed, and I feel a much stronger sense of call specifically to the church. I am beginning to understand the importance of call in terms of ministry (verus merely “doing the work”) and I feel a sense of community with other Diaconal Ministers within the ELCA (and those of us in the candidacy process) as well as the wider community of the church as we support each other and our ministries.

Love and belief —
Tami

Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality / Spiritual Practices (and some reflection on a semester looking at Spiritual Practices)

It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.

The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.

The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).

That little summary is really a lot.

During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.

However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).

Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.

Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.

I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).

What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?

Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.

(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith. 🙂