Tag Archive: CPE


Treasures in Heaven

Matthew 6:19-21
“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'”

I just read this the other day and it got me thinking about a few experiences I’ve had this summer. Being a chaplain intern this summer in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), I’ve been able to speak to many different people. In doing so, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hear about and learn from their experiences and life stories. It’s made me realize that in the end, these stories and experiences are often the last things we have left. It’s not our wealth or possessions we have with us, but our thoughts, feelings and what we can share with others. When we have lost the gift of speech or can no longer speak for ourselves, the stories others tell about us and the memories they have of us help us to live on in the hearts and minds of others.

In our society, we spend so much time seeking to amass wealth, to build up our homes and establish ourselves, but to what end? When we pass away, it’s not the money or things that people will be mourning. It’s the loss of a person whom they loved and cherished. Society tells us to climb the social ladder, to make more money, to buy bigger houses, to purchase flashier things and to make a name for ourselves. We all have that urge to etch our names into the fabric of history – to leave a legacy for those who come after us. But God points us in a different direction.

In this passage, Jesus urges us not to put our trust, our time or energy into products or goods, but to trust and rest in the God of abundance, whose bounty knows no end. In God, there is only the richness of love and life, not the poverty of things that past away. When we’re racing about, trying to make more money or buy more stuff, we fill our lives and our hearts with the things that fade away, leaving no room for God who would fill our cups to overflowing.

We want so much to hold on to everything, to hoard things and lock them away for ourselves, that we forget that there is far more joy and happiness to be experienced in giving and sharing. And, far more than in stockpiling riches on this earth, we have incredible joy, comfort and security in knowing what God has done for us – “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.'” (John 3:16). Why on earth would we want to trade that for an iPod or a bigger television?!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Hoarding

Overflowing Cup

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Two weekends ago, I saw Toy Story 3 with my fiancé and my youngest brother. This was after a wonderful day spent playing soccer (football to the rest of the world!) and hanging out. When I paused to think, I found myself feeling like I was re-living my middle and high school days. You see, most of that time in my life was spent playing soccer and helping to coach my brothers’ soccer teams. In addition, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were movies we all watched a lot. I think we may have even had most of them memorized! 😉

In any case, I started to reflect on how busy life has become now that I’ve “grown up” and how marvelous it was to let loose and play. Life is full of to-do lists and responsibilities, and can feel quite overwhelming and hectic, but what if we made time for having fun like we made time for responsibilities? What if our to-do lists included built-in relaxation and play time?

I wish my to-do list looked like this!

And what if we totally let go and just enjoyed ourselves, forgetting other people were watching?:

Stress is known to cause physical ailments and even to shorten lifespans, but play, relaxation and laughter reduce stress. In seminary and CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), we talk about self-care frequently – how to keep the various aspects of our lives (physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, relational, etc.) in balance so that we do not burn out. In the ELCA, we have the “Wholeness Wheel” to keep us on track. While juggling these components may seem intimidating, being mindful of each of them and trying to be attentive to each area even if only for 10-15 minutes a day can help us pay attention to the whole picture.

I love to keep busy and be productive, but as I go through life, I’m realizing how important it is to play and to carve out time to have fun. It refreshes the soul and renews the spirit. It re-energizes us and fills us with joy so we can go out and do our work to the best of our ability. If we don’t take time to enjoy life, we become run down and are ultimately less effective. Having fun plans also gives us something to look forward to when we feel trapped in the mundane routines of life.

In short, it’s beneficial to spend time as we did when we were children: playing 🙂 So in the words of Woody from Toy Story, “So play nice!” Oh, and go see Toy Story 3 – it’s awesome!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

The Gift of Receiving

I’m just beginning my fourth week of my summer adventure of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), and I’m beginning to see that my ideas about ministry are being beautifully changed. I began the summer thinking that I needed to be an awesome chaplain (think about Rob Bell’s image of “super pastor” in Velvet Elvis!) who always knew the right things to say, who could wax eloquent about deep theological truths, and was empathetic, warm and caring. Well, those are all good things, for sure, but they’re not very realistic – particularly the first two. Sometimes the words don’t come and sometimes people don’t want to discuss religion or God at all. Sometimes, it’s been a long day and you’re not as empathetic or responsive as you’d like to be.

Once I started doing visits, I realized that a lot of people just wanted a listening ear – someone who was willing to listen non-judgmentally. Believe me, I was greatly relieved to discover this! However, as I’ve been making my rounds and encountering wonderful people, I’ve stumbled upon another truth. What is this truth? It’s that the people I visit often give me incredible gifts of wisdom and encouragement. Some people have even prayed for me! Frequently, I find myself walking away from encounters thinking “wow – that person was incredibly inspiring to me,” or “wow – I learned so much from that person,” or even, “that person ministered to me.” I feel like every meeting, no matter how long, has left a mark on my life and has taught me something.

My supervisor asked us in class how open we were to receiving these gifts and ministry from other people. It’s a great question and one I’ve been thinking about a lot. Some people find it very easy to serve and to give of themselves to others, which is a wonderful gift, but the flip side is that they may not really know how to receive these same gifts from others. I think this is a particular struggle for people in the so-called “helping fields.”

People need to be open to receiving the gifts others have to offer for two reasons I can see right now. First of all, it’s good self-care. When you open yourself to humbly accept someone’s ministry, you are allowing someone to care for you. We all need help and support from time to time – why not accept it? Second, it also allows the person bestowing the gift a chance to offer something to another person. The giver is able to share a talent or a lesson learned and to pass that on to someone else. Helping people also feels good! It makes the giver feel like they are able to contribute, which can also help build their sense of worth.

I am amazed every day that people who were strangers only minutes before can become dispensers of wisdom and ministers to me, the chaplain. The priesthood of all believers is a humbling and moving reminder that all can be bearers of God’s light and love to others if only we are open to receive the precious gift they extend to us.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Count Your Blessings

On Friday, in CPE, I was blessed to be able to attend a Bible Study on Isaiah 6 (The Call of Isaiah) at a retirement home. Before we began, we sang a few hymns, one of which was “Count Your Blessings.” Inspired, the leader then had the participants shout out the things for which they were thankful. Here’s what they listed: health, the love of the Lord Jesus, family and friends, the nurses and staff, ministers (and those about to be ministers), their rooms, laughter…

The list could have gone on and on, I’m sure. I said I was thankful for the chance to meet new people and I definitely felt even more thankful for this after I actually had some time to spend with the people there!

I was amazed that people listed the little things – the things we so often take for granted. I mean, I can’t even think of the last time I gave thanks for my room! That’s probably because it’s a mess… Seriously though, I was reminded of how important it is not to take things for granted.

Instead of being thankful for all that we have been given, why are we more likely to complain about all of the little things that, in the long run, don’t matter? Why do I get bent out of shape when someone is driving poorly when I could be giving thanks that I am able to drive? Why do I get irritated when things don’t go my way instead of thinking how incredibly blessed I have been in my life?

Each night before I go to sleep, I count my blessings. It’s a practice I’ve gotten into over the past year and a half or so. I give thanks for beautiful weather, for loved ones, for experiences I’ve had, and for things I’m looking forward to. Even if I’ve had a terrible day, I can still give thanks that it’s over and tomorrow is a new day!

I’m truly grateful for the folks who reminded me that we should be continually counting our blessings. Now, this doesn’t mean that we should ignore or gloss over difficulties we’re going through or problems we’re struggling with. It does, however, mean that we can gain some perspective in the midst of trials. We can see the good in the middle of difficult times and find hope and strength to keep chugging along. By counting our blessings, we can, as the hymn says, “see what God has done” and recall how God acted previously in our lives. This reminder of how God has worked in our lives is a comfort because we then know God’s track record and can deduce that God is still working and will not abandon us, no matter how difficult things seem.

I’ve never been a big math person, but I think counting my blessings is one math skill I will be happy to incorporate into my life!

Oh, and this just landed in my inbox…
For Everyday Blessings
Dear God,
Open my eyes to the beauty of this day.
The yellow of an egg yolk in a blue bowl.
The scent of bacon frying in the pan.
The soft caress of the morning breeze.
The sound of children at play.
Awaken my senses.
Let me see, hear, and feel the beauty around me.
And be aware of the presence of the Great Artist in my everyday world.

Source: “Prayers for Every Need: Volume One: Celebration” (Guideposts)

Coincidence? I think not!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Bing Crosby singing “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”:

Love One Another

This was the last sermon I preached at my Teaching Parish of Trinity Lutheran in Greencastle, Pennsylvania and was given today (May 2, 2010).

John 13:31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love. The Beatles said it was all we needed. We use this little word to say we really like something, as in “oh my gosh, I love shoes!” or “I really love mocha chocolate chip ice cream!” Both of those are totally true by the way… We even use it when speaking to one another, and amazingly enough, this one word is used to cover a broad range of relationships – relationships between parents and children, those between friends, those between lovers. For a four-letter word, “love” is pretty versatile!

Last November, I had an interview for Clinical Pastoral Education, a program I’ll be participating in over this summer. Basically, I will be a chaplain at Gettysburg Hospital, learning about pastoral care firsthand. After speaking with me about what I hoped to learn over the summer and a bit about my faith journey, the interviewer asked me about what exactly had brought me to faith in God. You see, I wasn’t raised in any religious background so the interviewer was wondering how on earth I had ended up at seminary! A fair question to be sure!

After thinking a bit, I answered that it was God’s overwhelming and amazing love. The love that says no matter how much I mess up, God still wants to forgive me and have a relationship with me. And the fact that someone, a man named Jesus, had been willing to die for me in order to forgive me and bring me into relationship with God. That astounded me – who was this man who would give his life for me? I mean, he would do that for me even though I didn’t even know him?! That blew my mind and continues to leave me speechless. The feeling I had that God was out there, coupled with hearing about Jesus’ selfless act on the cross, told me that there was a God who loved me more than I could even begin to fathom. Once I heard that, I wanted to hear more – I wanted to know more about this God who would go to such incredible lengths for the sake of people who sinned and turned their backs on God and each other.

It was from here that my faith journey took off, slowly, but surely. Along the way, I have encountered many things, both positive and negative in the church, as I am sure you have as well. It’s quite inevitable to avoid any negative experiences within the church, because, ultimately, we are dealing with people who share and struggle with the same sins. In my personal experiences, I have encountered the condemnation of others who did not believe the exact same things being taught as well as people looking down on those of different faiths. I firmly believe that this is contrary to the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples.

In our Gospel reading for this morning, Jesus declares: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This statement comes just after Jesus has knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. It also follows Jesus’ statement about the glory he and God the Father have received through Judas’ betrayal and the upcoming crucifixion. Jesus gives this new commandment, but he elaborates on it, saying that the disciples are to love just as he has loved them.

When I don’t slow down to actually think about what Jesus is saying, I think “oh, loving other people – that’s like being “nice” to them, right?” Yes, of course, but Jesus’ two sentences here mean infinitely more. First of all, love is a verb, not a noun. It’s an action, and, in the original language, the verb that is used here translates into “keep on” or “continue loving one another.” Here, Jesus is urging his disciples to continue loving one another, especially given that he knows his trial and crucifixion are going to happen in a few short hours. The community of faith must continue on in the spirit of Christ, even though dark and trying times are around the corner.

Secondly, what exactly does “just as I have loved you” mean? At a quick glance, it’s tempting to think of pictures of Jesus smiling and laughing with children or of the songs “Jesus loves me” or “Jesus loves the little children.” While these are wonderful in their own right, I think Jesus’ statement here is much more powerful. Jesus stands before his disciples as the Word become flesh, the one who was “in the beginning with God,” the one who has done incredible signs and taught powerful things. He stands there as the one who has just taken on the role of a slave, washing the disciples’ feet and who has predicted his impending suffering, death and resurrection. He has done all of these things out of love and now, he tells them to love each other as he has loved them. That is way more than being nice to one another!

There is a Middle English poem in the Commonplace Book of John Grimstone written in 1372, which speaks to this love beautifully:

“Love brought me,
And love created me,
Man, to be your companion.
Love fed me,
And love led me,
And love abandoned me here.

Love slew me,
And love drew me,
And love laid me in a tomb.
Love is my peace,
For love I chose,
Man to dearly buy.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t rhyme or flow as well when it’s translated, but I think it captures the depth of Christ’s love for us.

But what does this all mean for us? Having received this amazing love, how does it affect our lives? Jesus has commanded his disciples and us to love one another with the same selfless love he showed in his life, throughout his ministry and in his death on the cross for our sake. We must get our hands dirty, throwing ourselves into loving others just as Jesus took on human flesh to show the love of God to and for us. Like happy gardeners reveling in the messiness and earthiness of the garden soil, we are to be busy about the work of the kingdom of God, loving with abandon.

Jesus also told his followers, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Like a badge or a tattoo, loving one another like Christ will show the world who his disciples are – who his representatives are on earth.

All I have to say to that is a sheepish, “Oops.” How many times have I shown less than Christ-like love to others? Driving on the road, in my relationships with those around me, the list could go on…I know for sure that I have not always loved as Christ loved me. I also have this sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one here who has had this problem! As I said before, love is an action, not a noun. It is something that we must continue to seek to do, relying on God’s never-ending grace and the Spirit working within us. I have also found that two of my favorite authors have encouragement for all who would seek to follow Christ.

First, C.S. Lewis, the great 20th century apologist and author, wrote, “do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
In other words, Lewis wants us to stop thinking about and pondering whether or not we are truly loving someone and, like Nike would tell us, “just do it!” If we begin treating people as if we already loved them, with dignity, honoring them with our time and extending generosity and hospitality, I think we will be surprised to find that our attitude toward them shifts.

Second, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian and member of the Resistance movement against the Nazis, wrote extensively in his book Life Together, how Christians can and should live in community with one another. In this book, he urges people to pray for one another, to listen to each another’s stories, to bear one another’s burdens, to forgive each other, to proclaim God’s love and forgiveness to one another, and to allow God to interrupt our plans and hectic lives for the sake of others. This list rings true today, even though it’s more than 60 years later.

Remember that we are not just to love one another in the church or in the body of Christ, but also to love one another in the world. The famous Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus from 30 BCE to 10 CE, wrote, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” This applies directly to loving one another as Christ loved us. Yes, it is important for us to speak for ourselves and love one another within the church, but if we are not speaking for and caring for others, for our brothers and sisters outside of the church, then who are we as the body of Christ? Jesus, a Jewish man, went to Samaria and taught there, even though it was taboo for the two religions and cultures to interact. Time and time again, Jesus reached out to the outsiders and the marginalized and loved them.

If we do not stand with indigenous peoples whose homes and livelihoods are being destroyed due to deforestation and pollution, who will? If we do not stand with those who are persecuted due to their race, ethnicity, gender or faith, who will? If we do not do so, just as Jesus did, who are we? And, if we do not do it now, when will we do so? Will we only wake up when it is too late?

Love is a many splendored thing for sure. But love as Jesus talks about it is not static or something that happens to us. Rather it is something we are to actively participate in. As love brought Jesus to take on flesh and love for all of us drove him to the cross, it is a powerful force, not just a four-letter word. We have been commanded to love just as Jesus loved us and we are able to because Christ loved us first. We are to respond to the love of Christ by going and doing likewise. Are we up for the challenge? Maybe The Beatles were right: all you need is love. Perhaps, however, we can expand our view to include that of the band Switchfoot when they sing “Love is the movement. Love is a revolution. Get up, get up. Love is moving you now.” Love, the overwhelming love of Christ, is moving us now. Amen.

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Love

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