27 December 2010

Blogging on blogging / blogging on chaplaincy

I notice that a number of bloggers who I read are currently writing apologetics about not having written much lately. Some are contemplating stopping blogging all together. Some are vowing to blog more next year. And one of my favourite bloggers seems to periodically vow off blogging for a specified period of time but then seems to find that he has so much to say that he can't help himself and a flurry of posts appear.

So here is my blog on my blogging.

I haven't been blogging a lot. But I'm not contemplating giving up. And I'm not going to vow to blog more in the near future either.

A good part of the reason is my new "job". Or rather the Clinical Pastoral Education Chaplaincy training that I'm doing at a very large hospital near where I live. The job, you see, has a way of putting things in perspective. By "things", I mean mainly life, faith and theology.

Theology is actually very important in Chaplaincy, because if you don't know what you believe, it's hard to help other people sort out what they believe. And it's hard to set people in the right direction if you don't know what you believe about God. "Does God forgive me?" "Am I not getting better because I don't have enough faith?" "Why did God let my newborn baby die when she didn't do anything wrong?" These are big questions. And they are difficult questions without easy answers.

Maybe that's why historically the church has liked to keep its eyes on the kind of theology that tries to count how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Will 5-point Calvinists get into heaven? Does God really love Arminians? Can God save those who hold a Christus Victor theology of atonement instead of a penal substitution model?

Don't get me wrong. I still love theology. But some of the more esoteric stuff strikes me as not having anything to do with real life and real faith and the kind of relationship with God that sustains a person through a long illness. Oh, and by the way, the "Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour" model also doesn't really cut it either.

The wonderful thing about being a chaplain is that I get to see real, genuine miracles every day. I also see real, genuine people of deep, deep faith being told by God "Your loved one will not receive a healing or a cure; it's her time to come to me." And it's inexplicable why some people get the miracle and others don't. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Oh, there is one other dirty secret of Chaplaincy. Non-Christians get miracles too. People of other faiths and people of no faith. God actually does appear to be as merciful as the best mercy that human beings can conceive.

So that's the background to why I'm not blogging much. I'm still taking this all in. My faith in God is rock solid. My faith in the church and in platitudinous theology not so much. I feel like I'm going through a "dark night of the words". I can't describe the kind of faith that I think really gets us through the crises. But I think I know it when I see it.


Rev Tony B said...

Thanks, Pam. Over the years, I have been a hospital chaplain, prison chaplain, rural chaplain, RAF chaplain, and I am still a squadron chaplain in the Air Training Corps. It has always been a refreshing counterbalance to the work I have been doing in my churches - sometimes I compared it to going over the top as opposed to working the reserve trenches (which is a big over-simplification: I meet plenty of real life stuff among my church communities, but I think you know what I mean).

There were two benefits for me. One was that chaplaincy is usually very ecumenical. When you're facing radical evil or real existential suffering or questioning, denominational differences pale into insignificance. I have had some very good ecumenical colleagues. The other is that there are no presuppositions about me, my role, or assumed truth. The position is entirely open, both to radical questions and utter grace and love.

As you say, so much of what occupies the minds of Christians can be utter nit-picking. It's like toddlers arguing abut the colours of their favourite toys. God must be so patient, waiting for us to grow up and learn to walk in real faith and grace. I realised a long time ago that for me it comes down to finding the irreducible minimum, and David Jenkins (ex-bishop of Durham) has a good version of that:
- God is.
- He is as he is in Jesus.
- Therefore there is hope.
And Jesus makes it even simpler:
Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.
Love your neighbour as yourself.

Of course, I do believe a lot more than that, but the rest is just explanation and unpacking.

Warms the hearts, and puts fire in the belly! :)

J A Y B said...

"Dark night of the words". What a good way to put it Pam.

I am having the same problem, too much theology and not enough Word.

Us humans do tend to nit-pick as Rev Tony B said.

God Bless to you in the New Year.

PamBG said...

Tony, thank you for your comments. You have a way with words.

Jonathan Robinson said...

thanks for sharing that Pam, I hope you find the time/space to share some more from your experiences.

Angela Shier-Jones said...

I understand exactly Pam,
I love the gift of clarity and insight that can sometimes be a hallmark of good blogging, but those things are always absent when we blog simply to fill the space... !

I look forward to sharing more on-line conversations and reflections in this new year as our lives continue to unfold according to God's plan.

Graham said...

Thanks for this Pam and the insight you have given me into chaplaincy (at collge I think I saw some bad models 'there, there, everything is ok- I have to move on now and sit in my office and talk to my friends').

Re: theology- I was talking to a friend yeaterday about some theoloy he was involved in. I said to him (this may sound offensive- it is not meant to be) to beware of 'theological masturbation'. The tendency to pleasure yourself on something abstruce that bears little realtion to gritty reality or 'How then shall I live my life'.

I also think you are right about blogging- I have the luxury to (appear) to blog daily as it forces me to reflect.

PamBG said...

Thanks, Graham. I read a number of bloggers who post once a day or more and seem to have lots of good things to say and I admire that.

I think that I must not be quite so public a person. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Graham said...

It is horses for courses- it worries me that I post every day...sometimes I look back and think 'did I write that?!'

Thank you for your gracious response- I wrote at speed and have littered your erudite words with poor spelling and bad grammar... I wull treye baeetter next tym!

WomanistNTProf said...

I like this Pam. Yes, God choose who gets the miracle and when. And God's decision is not based on denominational affiliation or how we measure faith. We do a lot of damage to people by telling them God has not acted for them or their loved one because they lack the faith of a "mustard seed." We don't control and can fathom the many ways of God. But by faith, we trust that God is compassionate even we it doesn't seem so. I asked God to relieve my mother's suffering during her lifetime--don't know if God did or not. Although at the time in my mind God did not. But I'm at peace now--my mother died March 14, 2009.

PamBG said...

Mitzi, thanks for your comments and for sharing your experience with you mom. It's hard to lose a parent and I pray that God *did* relieve her suffering. May the blessings and memories you have of her go with you into the future.