David At a previous ministry site, we used to begin each day with “the morning prayer.” A memorable section of the prayer included the words, “In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me the strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it shall bring.

I’m not sure if Chaplain Robbye Jarrell, my supervisor at Lenbrook Continuing Care Retirement Community, is familiar with this prayer. But proximity to her life and ministry has consistently recalled these words from the prayer to my mind. I’d like to reflect on my time at Lenbrook using this prayer as a guide.

“In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.”

This prayer has been embodied during my time at Lenbrook in weekly one-hour meetings with Robbye. These debrief times give me a chance to process critical incidents and important pastoral care moments with an experienced mentor. When Robbye encourages me to write verbatims (precise moment-by-moment recollections of an event) on my pastoral visits, she pushes me to include an integration of both fact and feeling narratives. This is a way to bring emotions and patterns of consciousness to the surface and to present them to God for clarification and guidance. Robbye has expertly facilitated an environment where I can safely explore my psychological and theological responses to the circumstances that I encounter through my internship. I am confident that I will leave with a much deeper understanding of my own emotional capacity to do ministry in a context that witnesses the realities of aging, death, and grieving.

“Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others.”

What a prayer. And one emphasized in two of Robbye’s oft-repeated expressions: “closed-loop communication” and “getting permission to board.” These are much more than buzz words. These catchphrases actually package a deep ministry philosophy that addresses how to communicate respect for those with whom you work and live and move and pray.

“Closed-loop communication” refers to always following through on any communication in which you are involved. Making sure to “close the loop” ensures a channel of communication that remains free of obstacles, prevents anxiety, and continues to move the conversation forward toward productive ends. Doing so in what Robbye refers to as “real-time” demonstrates a good faith effort to care practically by anticipating needs and fears. “Closed-loop communication” respects the fact that each of us is interdependent on others.

“Getting permission to board” is also a vital skill in chaplaincy and pastoral care. This expression refers to seeking the consent of all parties who will be affected by your presence, actions, or words. Attention to this type of “authorization before proceeding” cultivates a spirit of gentleness and an approachability that is vital to effective soul care. “Getting permission to board” acknowledges the fact that the growth of the heart is a delicate growth, and that God alone sees the full heart of each of us. Together, these practices and this orientation toward ministry help a practitioner to “act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others.”

“Give me the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day, with all that it shall bring.”

I think of this prayer every time Robbye points out spaces around the facility that she knows are safe places to be alone if I need to catch my breath. I have watched how Robbye can monitor her own fatigue while simultaneously responding to the fluctuating spiritual concerns of the community. She has shared resources with me from which she receives nourishment, even as she seeks to provide spiritual sustenance to her own flock. Perhaps most importantly, she has helped me to gain a sense of the complexity of evaluating one’s own ministry and warned me about the danger of determining my value solely based on other’s perceptions of my work. Through this educational process, it is almost as if she is there praying for me, "God, give him the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day, with all that it shall bring."