Tuesday, July 30, 2013

VHS Wars

I know I said I wouldn't write about the patients I serve, but I've been reflecting on a situation that I see frequently: movie organizing. In the psychiatric hospital where I work, there are common rooms on each floor and each of them have a television and VCR. Yeah, you read that right. VCR. We're talking old school, my friend.

A funny thing happens with the VHS tapes each week. They get organized. Many times. Sometimes many times in a day.

Sometimes a manic patient will approach the entertainment center and scatter the movies, searching for a recognizable one. But like I said, our hospital has VCRs, which means we have VHS tapes, which means we have old movies. Not really old, like classic old. But old like Mystic Pizza and (the original) Total Recall. So the patient isn't likely to find a movie that was made in the last 20 years.

And then another patient will come along. Maybe one with an OCD diagnosis. Or maybe they’re just bored from looking at the same walls all day. And they will organize the crap out of those VHS tapes. Sometimes they put them in alphabetical order. Other times they sort them by the color of their covers. I’ve yet to see someone organize them based on topic, but I’m sure it has been done. Each week the VHS tapes are organized in a different manner. And each week they get disheveled once again.

This pattern reminds me of sermon preparing, writing, delivering and hearing. So much time is spent, meticulously putting the words together. Inviting the Spirit to speak. Proclaiming the Good News.

And then coffee hour comes and goes, we all head home and the words are disheveled. We (pastor and congregation alike) jump back into our habit of thinking we know everything. The Word starts to fade and by Wednesday it is but a distant memory. And the preacher must start all over. Organizing those words once again into truth that needs to be heard. Like the process of organizing those VHS tapes, it may seem futile. Yet I believe this is important work and I look forward to finding my own Spirit led pattern as a parish pastor.

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Blog!

I've decided to start a spinoff blog about my adventures in urban farming and drought tolerant landscapes. When it isn't stupid hot outside, I like to play in the yard. I'm sure there will be more updates as that temperature drops in a few months. For now, you'll get the occasional update about plants that I've killed and Bermuda Grass I have conquered.  Here is the address:

Bermuda Grass Saga

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book You Should Read: And the Mountains Echoed

Having finished with seminary, I now have time to read for fun. Things I want to read. Which aren't always too different than the things I was assigned to read for class, but now that list includes fiction. My heart is delighted.

Last week I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hossenini. His other books include The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I adored his first two novels, so when my mom brought her copy to our family vacation, I got my grubby little hands on it and devoured it. I would have read it straight through, but I was coming down with what is now called "Chaplain TB," a very irritating ailment that involves a sore throat, apathy, cough and fatigue. It knocked me out and kept me from reading, but as soon as I was able, I was back to the book.

I was struck by the whole book, but especially one quote in particular which sparked my thoughts for a theodicy paper I had to write for a seminar last week. When I get the chance to edit it for internet worthiness, I'll post the paper up here. For now I'll just highlight this quote:

"When you have lived as long as I have...you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.”

There is so much I don't understand about the world, but I am grateful for good fiction that helps me chew on some profound thoughts.

Buy the Book on Amazon!

 If you're interested in purchasing the book, it is available on Amazon (purchasing through the link above will send a wee bit of profit my way. I'm not trying to pimp out my blog, just hoping to support my bi-vocational reality coming up in about a month):

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

After a long hiatus away, I am back. Can't promise that I'm better than ever, but I'm back and ready to pour out my thoughts onto this dear old blog.

What's up with the hiatus? I got married and have done my best to survive as a chaplain resident for the past 14 months. I've simply been too busy. Sorta. I mean, I'm paying for that Netflix account, so it seems like I should use it. Perhaps watching the entire series of Alias in two weeks might be a little much, eh?

The truth is I spend my days in the hospitals and have been so emotionally drained, all I can do is come home at night and do anything but write a blog post. Go for a run? Yes, sparingly. (It is hot in Texas!) Play in the garden? Of course. Take muh dawg for a walk? Absolutely. But writing has just not happened.

Part of the reason is that I'd be tempted to write about my adventures as a chaplain.  There is so much material to write about when you spend your days at a children's hospital and even more so at a psychiatric hospital. Let me just say that HIPAA laws are scary and I don't have the complexion to pull off orange, so I'll avoid jail for the time being. I thought it would be best to respect my patients and their right to privacy, by not sharing all their stuff on the web.

I could have written about marriage, but I'm sure my partner would also appreciate privacy, so let's pretend there's HIPAA for marriage. We'll call it MIPPA (Marriage Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

I don't yet know what this blog will look like. I hope it will incorporate thoughts about theology, loving our neighbors, gardening, books, life in Central Texas and muh dawg. Can't say for sure until we get there. Whatever comes of this project, I'm hoping it will ignite a tiny bit of joy into your heart, whether I'm telling about an act of kindness I saw, or some plant I managed to kill in the garden. Cheers, friend!