The Taser's Edge


Learnin’ Myself to Love

At the beginning of each unit of CPE (and this is the first of three for my residency year), you work out learning goals for the next several weeks of your life.  Now in the third week.  Surely I can accomplish all these things in the next 8 weeks.  Or not…

CPE Learning Covenant: Unit 1 (June-August 2009)

Goal 1: To shape my pastoral ministry through the classical/historical Christian disciplines and classical/historical Christian sources.

Methods: As of the beginning of this unit, I want to structure my day with fixed-hour prayers, at least Morning, Noon, and Evening or Compline, prayed from the Book of Common Prayer (as I am an Anglican).  Each of these prayers leaves room to insert intercessions and thanksgivings for my patients and coworkers, both those coworkers in Pastoral Services and in other roles in my clinical units.  I also intend to use the disciplines of fasting and spiritual direction, as well as observing the liturgical year throughout my residency year.

Assessment: Through weekly reflections, I will be able to assess and to discuss with my supervisor (in individual supervision) how these practices change my perspective and effectiveness in ministry.  For me, such structures/disciplines can also function as rituals of self-care.  Because my pastoral care often involves prayer, my pastoral work reports will discuss this goal, both in their verbatim portions, as well as in their more reflective portions.  I also assume that this experience will color and shape my experience of the other members of my residency group in IPR.

CPE Standards and Outcomes Addressed: 309.1, 309.6, 309.8, 309.10, 311.1, 311.2, 311.8, 311.9

Readings which may address this goal: Varieties of Religious Experience by William James; Prayerbook of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Christ in the Psalms by Patrick Henry Reardon

Goal 2: To learn how better to think about and minister in a multi-faith setting.

Methods: Duke Hospital is in some ways a difficult place to develop these skills, as it is a strongly culturally Christian environment.  However, I will seek out supplementary readings and any seminars which the hospital offers in the course of the unit (such as the Islamic Care at the End of Life conferences offered in Fall 2008).  It is also helpful to attend the Thursday open meditation sessions, as people there come from a variety of different backgrounds to practice what at least can be a religious exercise for them.  It will also be helpful to speak with my peers and my supervisor as interfaith pastoral care opportunities arise in my own ministry and that of my peers.

Assessment: My weekly reflections can be a place in which to reflect on my readings, any learning opportunities, and patient interactions.  The assessment of my internal understanding and external functioning in interfaith settings can also be reflected upon through these reflections, individual supervision, IPR, and in making the choice to do pastoral work reports when those instances arise in which I am ministering to/with patients/visitors/staff of another faith.

CPE Standards and Outcomes Addressed: 309.1, 309.2, 309.3, 309.4, 309.5, 309.6, 309.8, 309.10, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, 311.7, 311.8, 311.9

Readings which may address this goal: Varieties of Religious Experience by William James; The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz; Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman

Goal 3: To explore and enact a healthy work/life balance.

Methods: At home, I need to enact healthy habits of nutrition, sleep, exercise, and play.  Thankfully, I can ask my wife to help me with these, but I do need to intentionally ask her.  At work, I need to conserve my physical, emotional, and spiritual resources, so that I am not drained in my ministry, classroom time, or interaction with colleagues at the hospital, or in my relationships beyond the hospital.  I need to protect quantity time for myself, my friends, my family, and my spouse, and also be intentional to make it quality time.  In order to do this, I need to grow in self-awareness, to discover where I find sources of life and energy and the places/things/situations/actions which drain me of life and energy.  I also need to learn from others how they have found success in seeking balance.

Assessment: The best assessments will be honest conversations with my wife, my family, my friends, my fellow residents, and my supervisor.  IPR and individual supervision, as well as chance conversations are the likely places for these conversations to happen.  I also need to learn to look at myself, and to see if not only are people around me happy with my relationship to them, but if I am myself happy and/or at peace.

CPE Standards and Outcomes Addressed: 309.1, 309.2, 309.4, 309.8, 309.10, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.6, 311.8, 311.9

Readings which may address this goal: Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman (addressing work/life balance issues I have seen in my own family and churches); Pastor as Person by Gary L. Harbaugh

Goal 4: To learn more about the tools and resources of the psychological/psychiatric disciplines and to interact with them theologically in order to be better informed in my ministry to all patients/parishioners/people.

Methods: I need to take advantage of extra readings, ask those who do have psychological training to guide me in learning, and attend whatever seminars/workshops become available in the course of the unit dealing with these issues.  It would also be helpful to be purposeful in my interactions with Psych and Social Work staff in my clinical units.

Assessment: As I learn more about the tools and resources of psychology/psychiatry, I will become better able to offer critical feedback to various schools, theories, and methods.  This will come across as our resident group meets to discuss readings, as I reflect on my patient interactions in weekly reflections and verbatims, and as I continue conversations with my supervisor about how learning about psychology/psychiatry can help make me a better pastoral caregiver.

CPE Standards and Outcomes Addressed: 309.1, 309.2, 309.4, 309.5, 309.6, 309.7, 309.9, 311.1, 311.2, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, 311.7, 311.8

Readings which may address this goal: Varieties of Religious Experience by William James; Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Fredman; Pastor as Person by Gary L. Harbaugh; In Living Color: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling by Emmanuel Y. Larty; The Practice of Pastoral Care by Carrie Doehring; When Professionals Weep: Emotional and Countertransference Responses to End-of-Life Care edited by Renee S. Katz and Therese A. Johnson

Goal 5: To continue growing to trust my emotional intuition alongside trust in my intellect.

Methods: Much of this work happens in the pastoral encounters I have with patients.  The choice to follow my intuition and to trust emotional truths also happens in peer interactions, particularly in discussing pastoral work reports and IPR.  This is also a goal which needs to be addressed in my relationships beyond the hospital, such as my marriage, my family and friend significant relationships, my ordination process, and my church small group.

Assessment: The most concrete place to assess this will be my verbatims, and it will be helpful to receive feedback from peers and supervisor on whether I seem to be staying in my head or trusting my heart and gut in the pastoral encounter.  This will also be addressed in weekly reflections, IPR, and individual supervision.  It could also make a difference in how I process our readings for the unit.

CPE Standards and Outcomes Addressed: 309.1-309.8; 309.10; 311.1-311.5; 311.7; 311.9

Readings which may address this goal: Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman; Pastor as Person by Gary L. Harbaugh; The Practice of Pastoral Care by Carrie Doehring; When Professionals Weep: Emotional and Countertransference Responses to End-of-Life Care edited by Renee S. Katz and Therese A. Johnson



Praying the Psalms

On June 1, I will begin my CPE residency at Duke Hospital.  Until then, I have very little to do, but as my mind likes to begin eating itself when left idle, I have been working at creating a schedule for myself for the sake of structure (which is just as healthy for 25-year-olds as for 5-year-olds).

So how do you prepare for a CPE residency, an experience which by definition is something which you can’t prepare for?  I decided that I would try to begin learning the Psalms.  Not memorizing the Psalter yet, but perhaps compiling a memory bank of what Psalms speak to particular situations.  Right now, I have a scrap of paper in my Bible marking the beginning of Psalms, covered with lists of Psalms, verses from Isaiah, and verses from Revelation to be read at people’s bedsides.

But I also thought I would seek out some expert opinion.  I’ve assembled this crack team to begin with:

1. Praying the Psalms by Thomas Merton–Words cannot express how much I love Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, a book of which I own multiple copies, because I buy it every time I see it in order to give it away.  A modern saint’s spiritual autobiography seems much healthier to collect than, say, The Catcher in the Rye.  But back to Praying the Psalms, I just read the very brief  book this morning.  In it Merton speaks of how we as Christians need to move through three stages of relating to the Psalms: (1) knowing that the Psalms are good prayers but not really doing anything about it, (2) beginning to pray the Psalms out of that conviction, and (3) “entering into the Psalms,” where we live in their world and they are brought into our hearts as part of the normal furniture.

Wonderful writing as always.  Regarding why the Church still uses the Psalms: “The Church indeed likes what is old, not because it is old but rather because it is ‘young'” (7).  Yes!

And regarding why the Psalms are so important to our prayer lives: “There is no aspect of the interior life, no kind of religious experience, no spiritual need of [hu]man[ity] that is not depicted and lived out in the Psalms.  But we cannot lay hands on these riches unless we are willing to work for them” (44).

And then there are the other three as-yet-unread ones (each of which linked to more info):

Lewis is Christianity's "Stairway to Heaven." Wonderful work but frustratingly popular for my snobbish ways.

Since this is the best edition, I bought it even though I already own a dog-eared copy of Life Together.

Winner of 1985's coveted Hottest New Cover Art Award.