Author Topic: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections  (Read 38488 times)

Dave Benke

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #120 on: May 11, 2020, 04:54:28 PM »
I truly believe that our theology has to have room for Psalm 88. And for the God who chose to include it in scripture. We would all do well to reread that Psalm, and meditate particularly on how it ends. A true theology of the cross does not put a smiley face Band-Aid on an open wound.

We weep with those who weep.

Pastor Austin, may God grant you a peace that passes understanding, and the grace and faith to know that even the hidden God is still God and is still good.
 
Knowing that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Psalm 88-like honesty that says, “This sucks”. We who know what the creation originally was and what the future shall be are all the freer to lament the shortcomings of our present reality. Like all creation, we groan.

As long as we don't stay there.

"We don't stay there" for how long?  The length of time it takes to read a psalm?  A day?  A week? 

This is a complex situation right now.  My folks at church are really anxious, really cooped up, and in that process remembering all kinds of other experiences from their lives.  Certainly there are mountaintoppers, but what I find more prevalent is that other griefs and sorrows are cropping up as they explain their ennui, tiredness, and emotional/spiritual journey.  Long conversations, reminiscences, unburdenings.

It's one thing to say "Buck up."  It's another to say "Jesus is your anchor."  The latter is always true, and both could be helpful.  But in a thread about reflection in quarantine, I think the task is more to listen, to accompany.

Dave Benke

Maybe my training was different than yours, but I was taught that when a person (especially a Christian) is in pain, we are to point him to Christ.  Not just to listen in silence.  Not to let him stew in despair or (worse) self-pity.  Yeah, this life sometimes does hurt but this life is not where we are to put our focus.  In fact, God uses the pain and suffering of this life for that very purpose.  And so, like St. Paul, we CAN be thankful in all things -- even suffering. In short, I am surprised that on a Christian website, I am questioned for directing a hurting soul to Christ rather than simply letting him vent and curse.

Although your training was definitely different from mine, in the area of pastoral care it most likely was similar.  I'm not here to counsel you, the caregiver.  I am however offering an observation that the timing of the giving of direction is very important to the direction being received.  Cf. Psalm 88.  It doesn't end on a happy note.  And that tells us that dark nights of the soul can continue for awhile.  Accompaniment is a wonderful tool - as in "I'll call you tomorrow and be praying for you tonight."  I don't remember many times when Jesus hasn't been part of a care conversation in my pastorate.  But lives and situations are complex these days - I'm becoming better at waiting before putting forward the Final Answer.  That's not an easy task for a pastor.

Off to the side, I have been on the phone with a mayoral commission on mental health and with someone on the front lines as a mental/emotional health counselor today.  We are involved in a tsunami of mental and emotional health issues in our neighborhoods in NYC.  Mental health has not been part of epidemic or pandemic planning at any time; the planning didn't include it, focusing on physical health and economic health.  There are a couple of people who call me at least once a week to check on me - I'm a public and relational person; being home and out of touch is not my favored option.  They know that, and they listen to me and help me through it.  Because they care.  More of those people are needed.

Dave Benke

Dan Fienen

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #121 on: May 11, 2020, 05:28:01 PM »

"Eat your peas, there are starving children in Armenia who would love to have those peas."
"So, send my peas to them!"


All of us have been affected to one degree or another by this pandemic, with results that range from inconvenient to catastrophic. Whatever the negative impact anyone has personally felt they have suffered a loss. This is not a competition to see who can claim the greater calamity and so is entitled to feel bad about what they are missing. A loss is a loss and we can sympathize with each other over what we are missing even if my loss is not as severe as that of others.


Objectively speaking, I have it pretty good at this time. I am semi-retired so my income is based more on pension and social security than on wages from employment. My church is situated such that it is likely to emerge from this time a bit depleted in reserves perhaps but intact, so even my employment wages are not currently seriously threatened. My county, except for a prison that houses undocumented immigrants who have committed federal offenses, has had two confirmed cases. Our area is not under serious threat. I recognize that I have it better than many do at this time, better probably than many of the other people in these discussions. I realize that and am thankful.


Even so, this has been an inconvenience and a distressing time. I am distressed for the difficulties that many others are having and sympathize for their plight. It has been inconvenient to disrupt our normal operations as a church, but we have done so. Partly to be good citizens and obey the governor's directives, partly to be good neighbors and refrain for activities that could spread the illness to others, especially the particularly vulnerable. It has disrupted what I like to do. I miss being able to go out to a restaurant when I want to, I dislike wearing a mask when I do go out. I realize these are not nearly as serious results as some suffer, but they are mine and they are now an unwelcome part of my life. To deny the negative impart of these times on my life helps no one and likely hinders my efforts to cope. However, I also need to keep it all in perspective and not wallow in my discomfort and demand sympathy and assistance from others all out of proportion to my plight.


So I will have times when I especially feel and resent what this dastardly virus is doing to me, but also look around at those who have been afflicted far worse and whom I can serve in their plights. So I do not resent that Pr. Austin feels the loss of normal activities, I feel it too. Nor do I for one minute suppose that he feels that his plight is so much worse than others. I don't at all think that he is playing the "woe is me" card. While our circumstances are in some ways different we also have similarities. And I suppose that as acknowledging my small privations at this time helps me to sympathize and if possible reach with help to those suffering much greater, so it is with him.


I long ago stopped admiring the stiff upper lip that refuses to admit sorrow and loss, and pretends to be unaffected by such.  But we can recognize and feel loss over our negative experiences while still keeping it in perspective by also recognizing how our situation also contains blessing to be recognized, rejoiced over, and thanked for. And also recognizing that mine is not a unique loss that gives me status as one that all should rush to rescue but that even in my distress I can and should reach out to those in greater distress.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #122 on: May 11, 2020, 05:34:28 PM »
Here you go, Charles. She'll bring you some comfort Just don't holler at her, "Get your hands away from your face!"

https://www.facebook.com/sarcasticlutheran/videos/263023411507212/?__tn__=kCH-R&eid=ARDufGGmM_HQIj34wqDWfPg_EHIPJfCDIS1V67X9Wc7Xqv_nK5NLMX3Xp1KRHFLHunwo25iVUV6dWQde&hc_ref=ARRj2xjrdQKk1bqDxdETh-UNVANQzGe6C9X4coVmbGutXYlw-DSMn8Alc6GxYgRLyvc&fref=nf&__xts__[0]=68.ARDVlBA85PhNWyjwb57axA35PY3QpP0WFqNMQwq-PLMI5JrKoBYXzz6xn5FUkQmEQTnP5NoVa8gkinS0j_955S7BI7k1RT5BRZqLpWot5FKmLqzpGwfWui6dkkvq00TIPRuJ_CaUD8d21r50zJ4FPq1Ur6uvgsUvamkLQqkVRIzckFXGL1QFbSwJ2iofUc9wiX5c6tKrENezSjqOOQ-VSXvmel55fkmV2cGGkDDbaRNKVsk-sVnC4cSBfVVZWGoINfCtZT-mhjHRokqbgoGO5ELz7BK_dNgTRHDQzfFczqqa6a0G_oSxLClTMFVVuVHjsNNAyPkpByITD6yZ5ecpw5xMGYJW8UhdIigEnraKeeHgL2yxCuzRY3XCvWz0OBpKJ2LD
Don Kirchner

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #123 on: May 11, 2020, 06:04:40 PM »
I truly believe that our theology has to have room for Psalm 88. And for the God who chose to include it in scripture. We would all do well to reread that Psalm, and meditate particularly on how it ends. A true theology of the cross does not put a smiley face Band-Aid on an open wound.

We weep with those who weep.

Pastor Austin, may God grant you a peace that passes understanding, and the grace and faith to know that even the hidden God is still God and is still good.
 
Knowing that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Psalm 88-like honesty that says, “This sucks”. We who know what the creation originally was and what the future shall be are all the freer to lament the shortcomings of our present reality. Like all creation, we groan.

As long as we don't stay there.

"We don't stay there" for how long?  The length of time it takes to read a psalm?  A day?  A week? 

This is a complex situation right now.  My folks at church are really anxious, really cooped up, and in that process remembering all kinds of other experiences from their lives.  Certainly there are mountaintoppers, but what I find more prevalent is that other griefs and sorrows are cropping up as they explain their ennui, tiredness, and emotional/spiritual journey.  Long conversations, reminiscences, unburdenings.

It's one thing to say "Buck up."  It's another to say "Jesus is your anchor."  The latter is always true, and both could be helpful.  But in a thread about reflection in quarantine, I think the task is more to listen, to accompany.

Dave Benke

Maybe my training was different than yours, but I was taught that when a person (especially a Christian) is in pain, we are to point him to Christ.  Not just to listen in silence.  Not to let him stew in despair or (worse) self-pity.  Yeah, this life sometimes does hurt but this life is not where we are to put our focus.  In fact, God uses the pain and suffering of this life for that very purpose.  And so, like St. Paul, we CAN be thankful in all things -- even suffering. In short, I am surprised that on a Christian website, I am questioned for directing a hurting soul to Christ rather than simply letting him vent and curse.


Yup, my training was different than yours. In fact, the professor took issue with those who did what you were taught. It was a class on the psalms - and specifically the laments. He argued that we need to give people time and permission to lament; rather than to try and shorten their time of suffering. NOTE WELL: a lament is still a prayer to God. Lamenters are expressing a belief in God. Those who have turned their backs on God don't talk to God.


In fact, throughout the pastoral care classes, we were advised not to tell suffering folks things like, "Cheer up! All things work for good for those who love God;" or "Rejoice in the Lord, always;" of "In all things give thanks;" even if those are biblical phrases. When parents have just lost a child to SIDS or a drowning accident, that is not a time to utter such platitudes. It's time to let them grieve and lament. It's time to just be present.


I remember vividly working with a high school group, before I was ordained; one of the boys had a sister, actually a classmate of mine, who had been killed in a car accident. He expressed appreciation for another boy in the group who came over and just sat with him. The other boy admitted he had no idea what to say. Words were not necessary at that time. Friendship and presence was important.


The Psalms of Thanksgiving happen after the problems of the laments have been resolved. They don't happen during the lament. "Give people time to lament," was the advice of the professor from his study of the psalms.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #124 on: May 11, 2020, 08:08:46 PM »
Perhaps this will help, Charles.

https://lutheranreformation.org/theology/luther-cross-suffering/

Of course, I'm sure you have Luther's Works in hard copy or electronic Logos. What Lutheran pastor doesn't?   ;)  Volume 51 Sermons I. Pelikan, et al, put in a lot of time and hard work.
Don Kirchner

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Dave Benke

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #125 on: May 11, 2020, 08:13:51 PM »
There's some good stuff in here about phase two of retirement, when it's no longer "semi".  https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/05/what-the-heros-journey-teaches-about-happy-retirement/611194/?utm_source=pocket-newtab.

I've often thought about Luther from the other perspective - the end segment wasn't the best for him.  Daughter dies.  Gout, kidney stones, general tubby bad diet guy stuff that brings pain and discomfort, cursing the pope and comparing him to pretty much any animal or body part that occurred to him, writing off the wall really nasty stuff about Jews that has always bothered people, dealing with the reality that the world was not going to end and the left wing guys were on an iconoclastic tear, not having much of an idea about how it would all come out.   Bugenhagen must have had his hands full.  And notwithstanding Don's fine quote, the guy had a darker side.  How would he have known in say 1545 that he would be voted the most important figure of the second millenium?  He didn't - "bag of bones."  A well-stuffed bag.

I think yes, he had a childlike faith, a Gospel faith, a Jesus loves me this I know faith.  So it's fine.  But I think he had a bunch of bad days there toward the end.  I would bet the Tischreden was a bit off-color then.

Dave Benke

peter_speckhard

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #126 on: May 11, 2020, 08:14:12 PM »
Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. I suspect the key word is “with.” If your commiseration comes across as “against” rather than “with” then the truth gets lost.

Rob Morris

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #127 on: May 11, 2020, 08:24:07 PM »
And it certainly doesn’t say to tell those who are mourning why they should be rejoicing instead. A time for everything...

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #128 on: May 11, 2020, 08:37:05 PM »
Sounds like you're bucking up amidst your suffering, Charles. That's good.
Don Kirchner

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Steven W Bohler

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #129 on: May 11, 2020, 08:57:36 PM »
When I have my times of poor-poor-me navel gazing, I do not want a pastor who pats my hand and tells me that I am right, life sucks, and God apparently doesn't care.  I want one who tells me that it will be all right because Christ has died for ME.  That my suffering has a purpose, even if neither he nor I can see it at the present.  That my God is in control and He LOVES me.  But to each his own, I guess.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #130 on: May 11, 2020, 09:42:02 PM »
And there may be times when common sense, a realistic and scientific look at the world, and simple resignation is of more comforting than faith, scripture, theology or ancient "wisdom."
Pandemics and plagues have little to do with messing up the earth and our care thereof except in the sense that sin is the root of death and much suffering is self-inflicted. That's a theological take based on faith, Scripture, theology, and ancient wisdom. There is no realistic science or common sense that can make a case that the suffering of people quarantined due to a pandemic results from our having messed up the earth or each other. If anything, the scientific outlook sees the outbreak of periodic pandemics as a normal, healthy function of evolution.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #131 on: May 11, 2020, 10:52:04 PM »
Peter writes:
There is no realistic science or common sense that can make a case that the suffering of people quarantined due to a pandemic results from our having messed up the earth or each other.
I comment:
That's a different issue completely, but I'm not taking it on right now.
It is the issue you brought up-- God did not inflict this upon me. We inflicted it upon ourselves. We messed up the earth, messed up our care of the earth and each other. We are the source of suffering, not God.

I only responded to it because of your later post that said there may be times when common sense, a realistic and scientific look at the world, and simple resignation is of more comforting than faith, scripture, theology or ancient "wisdom." The point was simply that there is no suffering not addressed by faith, scripture, theology, and ancient wisdom (not sure why you needed the scare quotes). Even your declaration that we, not God, are the source of our suffering is matter of theology, not common sense or realistic science.

From Job to Elijah to Jeremiah to Christ on the cross, we have a tremendous wellspring of faithful contemplation of suffering from which to draw in dark times, and certainly poets like Hopkins have plumbed its depths more recently. "Comforter, where is your comforting?" It seems to be theology and sacred poetry offer more to one in the depths of despondency than realistic science and common sense. 

Rob Morris

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #132 on: May 11, 2020, 11:47:59 PM »
When I have my times of poor-poor-me navel gazing, I do not want a pastor who pats my hand and tells me that I am right, life sucks, and God apparently doesn't care.  I want one who tells me that it will be all right because Christ has died for ME.  That my suffering has a purpose, even if neither he nor I can see it at the present.  That my God is in control and He LOVES me.  But to each his own, I guess.

Not sure if it's me that you think you are in disagreement with... I don't disagree with what you're saying above.

I also don't think you would want a pastor who decides that all experiences of grief, trauma, or despair count as "poor-poor-me navel gazing". In those moments when life's weight seems crushing, a different response may be the right way to serve as a curate of souls. Sometimes that means just validating just how broken, twisted, and suffocating our sin-stained experience can be. Like I said, we need room for Psalm 88. And room for the God who chose to leave Psalm 88 in Scripture, even with the ending it has.

All of what you said is true and Christian pastoral care will and must point that direction, but maybe not immediately and maybe not all at once. Commiseration can lead to proclamation, but that journey may have multiple steps along the way. That's all I'm saying. The bottle of pills that can nurse a patient back to health can kill the patient if you prescribe them all in one dose. Recall that Jesus wept, too, even when he knew the resurrection that awaited. Surely this was an example to be followed and not an error to be corrected or an embarrassing moment of weakness on Jesus' part from which we ought to politely avert our gaze.

I spent plenty of time in the cardboard carnival of Pentecostalism where the only acceptable public expressions were those of hope, certainty, and joy. Lutheranism, with its understanding of the theology of the cross, of the necessity of anfechtungen/tentatio, is far richer and far more true to the Biblical witness. Sometimes "steeples are falling". Sometimes there are "wrecks of time". The crumbling and the wreckage are real - downplay that and you downplay the rock that still stands and the cross that still towers. "I trust when dark my road" is far different from "Hey, this road's not so dark after all." The darkness is why he died. Diminishing the darkness only diminishes the victory.

I don't think we're truly in disagreement. It's just sometimes, grief and doubt and despair need enough room to breathe and find expression. If the Psalms had enough room, our ministry had better as well. If God didn't feel a need to censor it or diminish it or correct it, perhaps we shouldn't either.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #133 on: May 12, 2020, 02:21:27 AM »
When I have my times of poor-poor-me navel gazing, I do not want a pastor who pats my hand and tells me that I am right, life sucks, and God apparently doesn't care.  I want one who tells me that it will be all right because Christ has died for ME.  That my suffering has a purpose, even if neither he nor I can see it at the present.  That my God is in control and He LOVES me.  But to each his own, I guess.


Which of those words do you tell parents whose infant has just died? "You'll be all right because Jesus died for your child"? "Your child's suffering and your suffering has a purpose"? "God is in control and he loves you and your child"?


When a friend of mine talked about his child's drowning just before his fifth birthday, he still breaks down in tears and it's been over 30 years since it happened. The pain of that death still hurts. This man is a Lutheran minister. He knows all of those promises of God and the comfort in Jesus. It doesn't take away the pain of a child's death.


My father died 20 years ago. What was the purpose in his death? If you want to say that it greatly helped out my mom as she received settlements from asbestos companies, you can do that. (Especially after they had spent all their savings in their business that went broke.) We'd rather our father and husband were still alive.


We certainly have joy and hope in Jesus; and at the same time we can grieve the loss that comes from death. We can be angry at the sin in the world that causes tragedies and early deaths. We seldom have pure emotions. We are people of the "and": sinner and saint. We can be joyful and sorrowful.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 02:34:03 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
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Steven W Bohler

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Re: Life in Quarantine: One man's reflections
« Reply #134 on: May 12, 2020, 09:38:28 AM »
You all have convinced me.  I take back my telling Rev. Austin to look to Christ for his joy.  Instead, I will just let him sit there in his gilded cage, bemoaning his sorry existence and cursing.  Because somehow, in a way I do not really get, pointing him to Christ is to deny his suffering.  Because that moaning and cursing is what he needs now, apparently even more than he needs Christ.  Because that leaving a person to moan and curse is what Psalm 88 insists be done, and I certainly do not want to censor it or diminish or correct it.