Posts Tagged pain

We Are not Alone – Amy Butler

MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014TALK WITH THE PREACHER

We are not alone

There’s significant power in having the courage to name the pain we carry.

By Amy Butler

You know, I’ve always thought that one of the principle practices of a good pastor is connecting people. But I’ve now come to believe that one of the principle practices of being a good human being is connecting people. Because the worst thing about walking through a hard time is feeling that you are all alone.

The truth is that we need to share our stories. In fact, without that sharing, it’s doubtful we can ever become the beloved community Jesus envisioned.

These days I’m enjoying some weeks of sabbatical before I get back in the pulpit. This means various things, including increased use of sunscreen and long-neglected closet organizing projects finally marked off the list.

This also means I get to go to church. I mean, I get to choose anywhere I want to worship, slip in the back of the sanctuary and sit in the pew.

The other day I was sitting in worship in a small New England congregation where public prayer is a custom. The pastor got up during the prayer time and invited folks in the congregation to name their prayer requests out loud. The call for requests was broken up into three categories: prayers for the world, prayers for others, prayers for ourselves.

This week there was plenty to say when the pastor asked for prayers for the world: another Malaysian airliner down, continued bombing in the Gaza Strip, escalating gun violence in major American cities. Prayers for others was similarly populated: brother Joe; home recovering from back surgery; Aunt Marjorie, mourning the death of her cat; the local library fundraiser coming up in a few days.

Curiously, when the pastor got to prayers for ourselves, the entire congregation sat in silence.

Not one person stood up to say they were grieving a loss, living through a painful time in their marriage, worried about money, wondering if God exists.

Thoughts tumbled one over one another in my own mind: I’m worried about coordinating an upcoming move; I’m grieving the death of my brother; I’m anxious about beginning a new job; I miss my kids; I feel so much sadness and hopelessness when I watch the news and I want to be able to talk to my friends and colleagues of other faiths about what’s going on in Israel and Palestine, but I don’t know how.

As I sat in the silence I wondered if I was the only one grieving or scared or sad.

But I know I wasn’t. I looked around at all the shiny faces in those pews and I knew I couldn’t be the only one. Still, presenting a perfect façade to the world around us, as so many of us do, seemed to be the accepted standard of the community that morning. I did not speak up.

I thought of this experience in church just the other day when I finally had the opportunity to introduce two friends of mine whom I am sure should have been friends with each other long before they’d ever met me. The reason? They shared a story — pain-filled life experiences that shaped them both into the incredible people I know them to be.

I’d tried for awhile to connect them, but I’d heard a lot of hesitation. “It’s too hard to tell my story,” one of them said. “I’m ashamed,” the other one told me.

But when my friends finally met each other and shared their stories, here’s what they told me: “She understood me.” “I finally realized I am not alone.” “Wow, it’s not just me who lived through this.” “I felt God was here.” “I made a new friend.”

I knew it!

There’s significant power in sharing our stories with each other. When we have the courage to name the pain we carry, we find out soon enough that we are not alone. And knowing we’re not alone often uncovers enough courage to take the next step in a painful situation.

If the church can be anything these days, don’t you think it should certainly be a place where those kinds of connections happen?

I do.

After all, we claim to follow the One who showed up, told his story and shared life with others who learned to tell theirs. And look how that kind of community changed the world.

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Government shutdown comes to church – Amy Butler – ABPNews

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2013TALK WITH THE PREACHER

You may have heard: we’re having a little national crisis right now.

By Amy Butler

Little did I know last year when I planned this month’s sermon series on the cost of prophecy — the story of Jeremiah — that we’d be living at such an intersection of despair and hope.

But such is the case in my town, where a national government shutdown translates to individual, personal panic for many in our city and our country. And we, the church, stand squarely at the crossroads of the two.

So I’ve been pondering anew this week: how do people of faith speak truth to power and simultaneously proclaim hope in the middle of personal pain?

While I’ve been trying to channel the prophet Jeremiah, pundits are making varying statements downplaying the government shutdown. Some say it’s really no big deal at all. I mean, the worst thing that happens is some museums close and you can’t get in to visit a national park, right?

I’m not a politico, so I’ll leave politics and economics to the people who know about those things. But I know about pastor things, and here’s what I see.

There are a lot of people in my town who have to pay their bills, just like you and me. They are gifted, committed and hardworking federal employees who support the incredible infrastructure of our government and help make our society one of most advanced in the world.

They’ve already seen salaries frozen and gone through furlough days over these past few months. On Monday at midnight, their jobs stopped, and so did their paychecks. They don’t know what’s coming next.

At Calvary, I’d guess at least 75 percent of our families are directly affected by the government shutdown. My inbox and voicemail this week are filled with messages from people who are scared about what’s ahead.

I’d send the federal government a bill for out-of-the-ordinary pastoral care services required by this situation, but I’m pretty sure whatever office I’d bill has been shut down.

Beyond federal employees, recipients of government assistance are now being denied food and other critical services.

That means, for example, that over 9 million poor women and their children in this country have stopped receiving nutritional support services and healthy food through the WIC program, among other things.

And this is but one small example of critical services stopped with the grinding halt of the federal government because of the disagreement over the Affordable Health Care Act.

Basically, Congress has decided to deny people food so that they can then deny them health care.

Jesus didn’t say much about federal budgets and debt ceilings, but he had a lot to say about denying food to the hungry. (See Luke 16, most of the rest of the Gospel of Luke, Matthew 25 and, well, basically all the Gospels.)

Some suggest that churches can pick up the slack while the government sorts itself out. I don’t know about your church budget, but our fellowship fund is a bit short of the $7 billion dollars it takes to fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

As each day of government shutdown passes, the needs of the most vulnerable and precious in our society get more and more urgent, and churches don’t have the infrastructure and cash reserves to meet those needs on a wide scale.

Still, as people of faith, step up we will. We will love, encourage and support each other. We will pool our resources to help as much as we can. We will ask those who have more to help those who have less.

We’ll continue to find ways to be God’s hands and feet in a world where the weak and vulnerable suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful. We’ll keep raising our voices and speaking truth to power.

In short, the church will do its job. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress did the same?

OPINIONViews expressed in ABPnews columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

Tagged under: Leadership Politics Obamacare

Amy Butler

 

Amy Butler is senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington. She blogs at Talk With the Preacher. Her “Talk With The Preacher” column appears biweekly at ABPnews.com.

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Empathize – Key 50

           How do we know how we would behave under the same circumstances? Put yourself in the other person’s position before you condemn or ridicule. Feel his or her pain. Share his or her joy. It is easy to judge when we are not involved. We can never know what is going on inside another person. We do not know what his or her world is like. Be kinder than necessary because everyone is struggling with some problem. Do not say that you know how she or he feels because you do not. You may have had similar circumstances, but you are not the same. It is often easier to empathize with pain than it is for joy. Envy often gets in the way of our pleasure about someone else’s joy. Resist envy. You can truly feel joy for someone else.

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Console – Key 46

            Be there for those who are distressed, lonely, forgotten. Words are often not necessary. Sometimes just being there is enough. At times of trouble people want your presence not your presents. Money and material things can not heal hurt or sorrow, but love can, friendship can, thoughtfulness can. Be 100% present. Do not be distracted by anything but be fully focused on the one who needs you. Do not pretend that you know what he or she is going through or that you understand his or her feelings. Each one of us experiences pain in different ways. Don’t say, “It’s God’s will.” You do not know the mind of God. Our role is just to be there.

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