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The Society of Campus Ministers
In vulnerable or reflective moments, clergy and others sometimes share about “Things I Wish They’d Taught in Seminary” (read Part I here). It’s not a bad imaginative practice, but it can be depressing when things like “how to fix a toilet” make th…
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I recently read a book that was mostly lackluster, but with a few gems thrown in. It was a little bit of a treasure hunt. One of the gems I took away was the idea of an organization having “core books.” Core books are just like core values but, you know, with covers and titles and pages. You can put them on shelves and/or check them out from a library. From what I gleaned, these are books to which an organization periodically returns, and to which an organization regularly looks, as it seeks to flourish and grow, as it becomes itself more and more.
It strikes me that core books are probably like core memories; that is, you don’t choose them so much as you look back and recognize later the guiding role they’ve played in your organization or community’s life and thought. One day you look up and discover that these books have stuck with you and left their mark in ways that others haven’t.
As I stumbled on the core books phenomenon, a part of me kept reading, but another part of me was already compiling a list (of course!). It was either personal or organizational, I couldn’t decide. Maybe both. But it was clear that I have a list or, rather, a list has me. It was equally clear that the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are so foundational as to not count for the list. A good list would describe my community’s (and my own) commitments and habits of engagement with the Bible and the BCP. In other words, these are the books the other books (the ones on the list) must help me live.
Without further ado, here’s what I’ve come up with (so far):
The Inner Game of Tennis (Timothy Gallwey)
It really is about tennis. This book guides the questions I identify as useful and my conviction that there is wisdom in the room; also, I lean on it to hold in front of me the importance of wholeness, attention, and trust.
Silence and Honey Cakes (Rowan Williams)
Rowan Williams’ brief engagement with the early Church is continually echoing in my heart, challenging my assumption that I know what is real, or at least that I’m very good at being present to it, insisting on life that remembers ‘my life and death are with my neighbor,’ and implicitly recalling St. Francis de Sales: “Be yourself, and be that well.”
Child of Mine (Ellyn Satter)
I’ve written at length extrapolating from this wonderful book here and here. It’s a book on childhood nutrition and eating that inadvertently echoes a lot of The Inner Game of Tennis, but in a greater practical depth. I go to it in reflecting on responsibility, roles, and trust.
Life Together (Dietrich Bonhöffer)
A spiritual classic whose opening lines haunt me, as does his conviction in it that our ideas for community destroy community. With this comes his subsequent insistence that forgiveness is the work. From here I often springboard into the writings of Jean Vanier on life and community. On this branch of the tree, too, would be Brother Roger’s writings for the Taizé community.
Bossypants (Tina Fey)
I am tempted to put the overtly faith-based Improvisation by Sam Wells in this place, but honestly most of his (amazing) work there is also here, in Tina Fey, and it’s funnier while also being remarkable in its own right. The commitment to YES AND is fundamentally a question of friendship, mission, pneumatology, and gifts, all rolled into one. I find in improvisation practices to grow in the themes represented in all of the above.
There it is! A core book list. My first crack at it, anyway. What’s core books make your list?
Call me a liturgical geek, but I was VERY EXCITED that Epiphany landed smack dab on a Sunday this year. I love Epiphany, and so often we have to blow right past it for Jesus’ Baptism, or something not-nearly-as-fun. But this year, we got everything! Magi! Camels! Fleeing in the Night! Narcissistic tyrants oddly and […]
In the adult forum, we are reading Tom Ferguson (AKA Crusty Old Dean)’s overview of Episcopal Church History. I have really enjoyed this, and I believe the congregation has as well. In my experience, learning about Church History is both comforting (see? All these current fights are nothing new!) and upsetting (OMG! The Church has […]
My first Christmas as a solo rector has come and gone. I thought to myself, whilst collapsed on the sofa after the Christmas morning service was over, and I was safely ensconced in flannel PJs, wrapped in a wooly blanket, “Wow. Why I am so tired?” It’s because Christmas is a forking lot of work. […]
The Christmas Sermon Sprint in 2018 is by no means as arduous as it was last year, when Christmas had the nerve to fall on a Monday. (Really, WHO ALLOWS THESE THINGS.) The near-universal panic among ChurchEmployed Folk last year, trying to figure out what to do with Advent IV, plus Christmas Eve services was […]
|Here are the readings for Dec 16, 2018, Advent III, Year C.|
Happy (liturgical) new year! For those of you, dear readers, who come from less liturgically focused traditions, the season of Advent encompasses the four Sundays before Christmas and prompts us to prepare for Christ’s coming as a baby into our world. It’s officially the start of the next yearly rotation of liturgical seasons. And I find this season fascinating, because it’s both the beginning and the end. It prepares us for Christmas, specifically to recognize that when Christ arrived bodily into this world, he was both the savior (big responsibility) and a defenseless, helpless infant (itty bitty operating capacity).
But Advent also points to the end. And yeah, I mean like that crazy guy on the corner with ‘the end is near’ on a sandwich board, end of the world type stuff. Advent also prompts us to prepare ourselves and be vigilant for that. Like the story of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew’s gospel, we don’t know when Christ will come into this world again, so we need to keep alert. And Advent helps us with that, but for me it’s also a reminder that the encounter with Christ changes everything. Christ as a baby changes everything. Christ will come again with angels and loud trumpet calls and everything will change.
Did I mention that I’m fascinated by Advent? But I’m also really bad at it. I’m not usually in the groove of Advent until the third or fourth Sunday. And then it’s basically over and we’ve got twelve days for the Christmas celebration. Yay! And I’m that jerk who will insist on saying “Happy Advent” while everyone else is fighting about “Merry Christmas,” but I’ll start saying “Merry Christmas” on the 25th of December and I’ll keep saying it until the 6th of January, while everyone else is like “what is this guy doing? Christmas is over…”
So that’s (probably) the end of the didactic part of today’s blog…
Lots of updates from me with the new (liturgical) year: Some of you following along at home have been tracking that I finished up with my Army training a couple of months ago. So that’s cool because now I’m a qualified Army medic and I can report to my unit, which is armored and that means that I’m working with the guys who operate the tanks. That’s really cool.
Since I’m done with training, I also got a new tattoo. I had been wanting some kind of semicolon tattoo, but I didn’t know quite how I would go for it. But when I was in San Antonio for training, one of my instructors had this ;IGY6 tattoo and he explained it to us and it was like a light bulb for me. I knew right away that that was how I would do my semicolon tattoo. So I think that’s pretty cool too.
The last update before I start doing my reflective bloggy thing is that I got a new job! Since part of the requirements now for Army medics is to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician’s test, I am a certified EMT. So I decided to take that and go work on an ambulance. The entry level job for EMTs is what’s called BLS/Interfacility transfer. It’s kinda like being a glorified medical taxi. We can transfer medically stable patients from one hospital to another, or we can take old folks from their nursing home to the clinic for an appointment (in cases where they need the ambulance because they can’t sit up in a wheelchair), and we can take discharged patients home if they’re unable to drive themselves or go in a wheelchair for whatever reason.
Some people don’t like working interfacility because it’s not exciting, or you see the same thing over and over. Meanwhile I think it’s important because everyone has dignity. I think this is important work because we can provide care for someone who just went through one of the worst days of their life, and get them to where they need to go for continued care. What sticks with me is that we also transfer mental health patients. Sometimes that’s tough for me because I still need to recognize that these patients are worthwhile and they still have dignity and I’m just tired, I’m not actually frustrated at them when it’s the third or fourth mental health patient in a row that we’re transporting.
These people are still worthwhile. It’s still a privilege for me to provide care and take them to where they need to go.
Take for example the guy that I transferred the other day. I’ll call him K. We got the call for K because he had been in the emergency department too long and he needed to be admitted at a different facility, a facility that could actually provide care for him. Walking in there, all I knew was that K was on a transfer hold, so more than likely he had been suffering from what we call “suicidal ideation.” So whether or not he attempted it, he had told someone he was thinking about killing himself.
And the sad fact is that this guy was too easy to write off. He was anxious and depressed, he had a history of mental health issues, he was a drug user… too easy. But when I walked in, I saw a memorial tattoo on his right arm. It was the boots and the rifle with the helmet perched on top. And the helmet had a unit patch on it. 1st Cav. This guy was a tanker. And suddenly it was like K was one of my guys.
As we got rolling in the ambulance, I was getting K’s info for my report. Part of the report included his destination, which I knew because we were transporting him, but I decided to check with him to see whether he knew. He didn’t. In fact, he had been unaware that he would be transferred that night at all. The last he had been told, the nursing staff was going to look into what kind of options he had, and then get back to him to see what he wanted to do. That never happened and instead, my partner and I showed up all of a sudden and said we were there to take him away. And as I tried to explain the situation to him, he asked whether he was going to a locked mental health unit and I had to tell him the truth. Yes. He was going to a locked unit.
Somewhere in there the mental floodgates opened and he started telling me everything. About the caseworkers who didn’t help him, the troubles he had getting treatment at the VA, about the ways his mind played tricks on him and made him not be able to trust people. He said that he’s tried to kill himself so many times, in so many ways and it hasn’t worked and he didn’t know why.
So I showed him my tattoo. I told him that I got it for him. Because I didn’t want him to be a statistic of veteran suicide. He took one look at it and told me that he loves a semicolon because there was some song about how there’s always more to see after a semicolon and people’s lives are like that; that every time you encounter someone, there’s always going to be something more to see. He said that every time you look for that something more that you come away changed.
When we dropped K off at his destination hospital, I shook his hand. I told him to take care of himself. To keep pushing and get to the place where he needs to be. He thanked me and said that after the ambulance ride tonight, he was feeling some real hope again. He told me that we both were going away changed that night and said I should remember that.
He was right. He was absolutely right.
Meeting with K changed everything. Meeting with Christ changes everything. Are we not called to seek the face of Christ everyday, everywhere, and in everyone? So is everyday Advent?
Forgive me, dear reader, I wax too poetical. But I hope that you see my point. I firmly believe that Christ shows up as one of the least, the last, or the lost (like Matthew 25:31-46). I believe that we see him every day, but most days we don’t recognize him. But in the same way that Advent points to, any encounter with Christ’s divinity can change everything.
I am well aware that Advent stirs up (ha!) in me the same passion that is sparked by the sports ball, or cute animals. in other people. When Family Feud asks what the top ten things that provoke emotional tears are, “struggling mightily for justice and right relationship despite great odds!” is not usually up […]