Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Student Orientation at Meadville Lombard Theological School - September 2-4, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009 was the culmination of Meadville Lombard Theological School's two and a half day New Student Orientation.It was an intense experience for the students and an equally intense one for faculty, particularly the four that are involved with the Community Studies Sequence. The Community Studies Sequence is a praxis that places students in community sites in their first year. Students residing in Chicago select their top three sites from a list of approved sites that I have identified. The touchpoint or distance learners select local sites based on established criteria. A faculty led reflections process permits the students to reflect on and process their experiences and to deepen their awareness as they move through their site experiences.

This was the first year that faculty has assumed the planning and implemenatation for the Orientation. Two factors particularly impacted this transition. Number one, we had the largest incoming class in many years. We admitted 24 new students! The usual average is ten. The second factor that made this years Orientation very challenging was I was asked to do the planning and coordination. While this was not the largest event I have planned it required a level of detail and coordination that other events I have done did not require. While everything did not go off without some glitches and mess ups, overall none of the problems were earth shattering! I was just happy that the bus showed up and that all the site representatives were in place and were engaging and interesting to the students. Furthermore, I was happy that everyone else came through and the students got most of their questions answered and that information was conveyed in a timely manner with things staying on time. The students appeared to leave excited and motivated and ready to return in January!

The pictures below depict the final day which involved a day long tour of the
20th ward in Chicago. The 20th Ward includes Woodlawn and Back of the Yards communities.

I am thankful to all the faculty, staff and community folks that helped make the Orientation such a success. I dedicate this post to Rev. Neil Shadle who many years earlier set the example of living out his faith and his vision of ministry. He and his family moved into the community and started a community ministry that changed the face of ministry as it was known then. In some ways years later we are just beginning to get back to this model.

May our efforts be blessed and may these students find fulfillment on their journeys toward ministry. May faculty in particular provide the support and guidance needed to help them be the very best ministers they can be!

Amen and Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

Joel, Executive Director of Sunshine Gospel Ministry addressing the students and faculty as we began the tour of the 20th ward.

This is the Bar-B-Q picnic planned by the student body to welcome the new students. It was held at 63rd st. Beach. There was a chill in the air as Indian summer is quickly decending on Chicago.

Picnic celebrations continue with students and faculty after a full day for incoming students and faculty.

Holy Cross Church is one of the community sites our students can select. This is a picture of the front of the church. Father Bruce Wellums is the priest in charge. He is absolutely incredible! I am personally inspired by his words and his example.

Father Bruce Wellums, in the yellow stripped shirt, is shown here addressing the students.

The students are seated at Inspiration Cafe, a program for the homeless. They are listening to staff describe the services, what they do and some of the challenges of their work.

L-R IInspiration Cafe staff, Cesarias Marsh, Intake Specialist and Frank Lowe, Director of Housing addressing students and faculty.

Students standing in Alderman's office listening to Chief of Staff, Kyla Williams describe the role of the Alderman and his staff and the involvement with his constituency.

Chief of Staff, Kyla Williams at Alderman, Willie Cochran's office addressing students and faculty.

Dr. Mark Hicks orienting students to "Livetext" program at Sunshine Gospel Ministry.I was so thankful that Joel, the Executive Director, consented to us using their computer lab. It facilitated our technology orientation.It also symbolized the collaboration that can happen when we establish partnerships.

Students eating a "bag lunch" after completing a tour of Sunshine Gospel Ministry.We first met SGM staff last year and I have cultivated a working relationship which culminated in adding them to our list of community sites.

L-R Mark Hicks and Sharon Welch, Provost and faculty member listening to Joel describe the mission, services and vision of Sunshine Gospel Ministry.

Students learning about Sunshine Gospel Ministry.

Healing the Spirit

This entire blog is devoted to me creating an intervention for myself to begin my healing from burnout. Listen and learn!

I refused to give in to the lie we tell ourselves, "I can't get away right now. Things are too busy." I usually fall victim to that mistaken belief. I knew I was in trouble and that I needed to get away to figure it out and to put some distance between me and my bad habits. Fortunately, a trip had been planned that I was still not committed to. That made it easy and there was a big incentive to step away from things to regain my perspective. My oldest daughter, Libra, had planned a weekend get-a-way to Myrtle Beach, SC. I left early Friday morning, spent the day with my oldest sister, Betty and left that evening with Libra's partner, Walter. Just changing my environment helped shift my behavior. I did not check my email until Monday evening. Four days away from email was atypical for me. lol

I noticed that as soon as I returned I began to experience anxiety attacks, something I have no history of. I worked hard to take care of myself, delegated when I could and slowly began to feel myself coming back.

I am a living breathing example that just a few days can relieve the early stages of burnout if one is watchful and understands the seriousness of it.

Here are some pictures of me and my family having fun!

Question: What has to happen for you to slow down? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to step away from a demanding life that can chew you up and spit you out if you are not careful? How can you create more opportunities to take care of yourself? What would that look like? How can you set boundaries so that your life is not too stressful and demanding?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Kaleema, my youngest daughter huggin' her boogie board!

L-R Libra, my older daughter and Walter, her partner, coolin' out at the beach at Mrytle Beach.

Here I am - sittin' and healin' at the beach!

Brandon James Beale, my grandson, enjoyin' the beach!!!

L-R Kaleema Haidera Al-Nur, my youngest daughter and Brandon enjoyin the "surf."

Me, still coolin'out!I cheated a little. I was reading Michael Eric Dyson's response to Bill Cosby's attack on poor blacks. Dyson feels Cosby fails to analyze the plight of poor blacks and that he perpetuates the judgmental attitude of some middle class blacks who feel ashamed of poor blacks. But that is another discussion. This is about leisure time activities!

L-R Walter, Libra, Kaleema and Brandon. What a gorgeous picture!

L-R Libra, Brandon and Walter at the apartment that we stayed at during our weekend retreat in Mrytle Beach.


Take it From the Beginning
I am my mother's daughter. I love a clean house. I have spent today cleaning and washing, sweeping and mopping,potting plants, healing some diseased plants and running errands. This is how I destress. I declutter my life by sprucing up my environment that feeds and nurtures me. The colors, the furnishings and energy, the pictures and images all rejuvenate me and feed my soul.

I wind down after intense periods in my life through nesting and hibernating and hanging out in my personal space. I like to hang with people but I rejuvenate myself through solitude and "cleaning" and "organizing" my environment so that I can languish in it and let it feed me as I make sense of my outer world and soak up renewing energy.

Last night I watched a movie after finishing up the week with New Student Orientation. This was the first year that faculty assumed responsibility for the New Student Orienation. Some how it got placed in my porfolio. At first I didn't take it seriously and did not even acknowledge that fact. Then when I realized that it was intentional and that I was really expected to plan the New Student Orientation I got serious. Unfortunately, it also came when I was in the throes of doing planning for a class that has not been previously taught and that I did not expect to teach.

Burn Out
Circumstances converged to create a very intense schedule which led to a mild case of burn out. For those of you that have not experienced burn out, consider yourselves fortunate. It is nothing to play with! Some of the symptoms include:

feeling disillusioned, a sense of helplessness, and feeling completely worn out, feeling that your problems are insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and difficulty mustering up the energy to care - let alone do something about your situation.

Because I have experienced burnout previously I recognized the signs and symptoms in the early stages. I made arrangements to take off even though I could not leave the work behind. While I carried some work with me, my stress management strategy of changing my environment that was causing the stress, work, did not eliminate the burnout immediately, but it slowed it down enough to begin to help me regroup and problem solve the situation. Had I waited I am convinced that I might I done myself serious damage and suffered a serious setback to my self esteem, career and professional relationships. As it was I was getting cranky and it was harder and harder to exercise patience and empathy. Even when I returned having put four days between me and my work setting I was experiencing slight anxiety attacks and feeling so overwhelmed that I found it difficult to be my usual creative and problem solve self. Had I allowed myself to spiril into the later stages of burnout, research indicates that recovery often takes more time and effort. Changing my environment and indulging in some recreational time allowed me to regain my balance and reassess my priorities. I accomplished this by taking time away for myself, and seeking the support of my family and colleagues.The reality of my situation required me to take my work with me. The New Student Orientation was happening one day after I returned from a short respite. Such mental health days can make the difference between productive work performance and emotional and physical collapse.I am convinced that I was on the verge of a physical and emotional collapse.

What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to offer.

According to Helpguide, a non-profit on line resource, most of us have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated; when the dozen balls we keep in the air aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, Helpguide contends that you may be flirting with burnout.

You may be on the road to burnout if:
Every day is a bad day.
Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
You’re exhausted all the time.
The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life – including your home and social life.

Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away.

Dealing with Burnout: The "Three R" Approach
Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
Reverse – Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

The difference between stress and burnout
Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up. One other difference between stress and burnout: While you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Causes of burnout
There are many causes of burnout accoring to In many cases, burnout stems from the job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout – from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation or a raise in two years to the frazzled stay-at-home mom struggling with the heavy responsibility of taking care of three kids, the housework, and her aging father.

But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and certain personality traits. What you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing burnout as work or home demands.

Work-related causes of burnout
Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
Lack of recognition or rewards for good work.
Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment
Lifestyle causes of burnout
Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
Not getting enough sleep
Lack of close, supportive relationships
Personality traits can contribute to burnout
Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough
Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
High-achieving, Type A personality

Preventing burnout

If you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout in yourself, remember that it will only get worse if you leave it alone. But if you take steps to get your life back into balance, you can prevent burnout from becoming a full-blown breakdown.

Burnout prevention tips
Start the day with a relaxing ritual. Rather jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least fifteen minutes meditating, writing in your journal, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you.
Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands.
Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email.
Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
Learn how to manage stress. When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help you regain your balance.
To learn more, see Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress

Recovering from burnout
Sometimes it’s too late to prevent burnout – you’re already past the breaking point. If that’s the case, it’s important to take your burnout very seriously. Trying to push through the exhaustion and continue as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage.

While the tips for preventing burnout are still helpful at this stage, recovery requires additional steps.

Burnout recovery strategy #1: Slow down
When you’ve reached the end stage of burnout, adjusting your attitude or looking after your health isn’t going to solve the problem. You need to force yourself to slow down or take a break. Cut back whatever commitments and activities you can. Give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Burnout recovery strategy #2: Get support
When you’re burned out, the natural tendency is to protect what little energy you have left by isolating yourself. But your friends and family are more important than ever during difficult times. Turn to your loved ones for support. Simply sharing your feelings with another person can relieve some of the burden.

Burnout recovery strategy #3: Reevaluate your goals and priorities
Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? Burnout can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to change course accordingly.

Recovering from burnout: Acknowledge your losses
Burnout brings with it many losses, which can often go unrecognized. Unrecognized losses trap a lot of your energy. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional control to keep yourself from feeling the pain of these losses. When you recognize these losses and allow yourself to grieve them, you release that trapped energy and open yourself to healing.

Loss of the idealism or dream with which you entered your career
Loss of the role or identity that originally came with your job
Loss of physical and emotional energy
Loss of friends, fun, and sense of community
Loss of esteem, self-worth, and sense of control and mastery
Loss of joy, meaning and purpose that make work – and life – worthwhile
Source: Keeping the Fire by Ruth Luban

Coping with job burnout
The most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit doing what you’re doing and do something else, whether that means changing jobs or changing careers. But if that isn’t an option for you, there are still things you can do to improve your situation, or at least your state of mind.

Dealing with Job Stress
In order to avoid job burnout, it’s important to reduce and manage stress at work. Start by identifying what factors are stressful. Then you can take steps to deal with the problem, either by changing your work environment or changing the way you deal with the stressor.

Read: Stress at Work: How to Reduce and Manage Job and Workplace Stress

Actively address problems. Take a proactive approach – rather than a passive one – to issues in your workplace. You’ll feel less helpless if you assert yourself and express your needs. If you don’t have the authority or resources to solve the problem, talk to a superior.
Clarify your job description. Ask your boss for an updated description of your job duties and responsibilities. Point out things you’re expected to do that are not part of your job description and gain a little leverage by showing that you’ve been putting in work over and above the parameters of your job.
Ask for new duties. If you’ve been doing the exact same work for a long time, ask to try something new: a different grade level, a different sales territory, a different machine.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence—anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and take perspective.


My prognosis is good because I realize how close I came to experiencing a total breakdown. I have the responsibility to set boundaries in my life beginning with myself and with others. Because classes begin next week I realize that I am particularly vulnerable to overextending myself because the job expectations are unrealistic. I discovered that because I am not as young as I used to be my body does not recover from the abuse of overscheduling, long hours, little sleep and high stress work environments the way it did when I was much younger.

If I want to experience a quality of life during retirement that is anything like what I have experienced during my working years then I need to pace myself.

Question:What is your vision for your life and what does that look like? How can you sustain and achieve that in the midst of a demanding world that is constantly changing and requiring so much from you?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Taking Charge of our Health

Whiteflies are about 1/16 inch long and resemble powdery white moths. The immature stages are similar to scales in appearance and feed on the underside of the leaves. They suck sap, causing leaves to turn pale and die or drop off. Sooty mold may develop on the honeydew that these insects produce. Dip or spray infested plants. Several treatments at weekly intervals may be needed.

Researching the remedy to treat my afflicted plants reminds me how fragile the state of health can be for not only plant life but humanbeings. We cannot take our health for granted. Everyday I hear about individuals diagnosed with various illnesses and diseases. Taking charge of our health requires a serious commitment on our part. Given that many individuals do not possess health insurance it is even more important that we look for ways to manage our health. I personally am using spiritual disciplines such as meditation, music, affirmations, visualization, prayer, art, therapy (individual and group), nutritional diet, and holistic healing. I am fortunate that I have the education and resources to pursue alternatives.

I pray that the day will come when more of our health providers will be amenable to more natural healing techniques and use less invasive and natural approaches to working with the body, mind and spirit.

Q. What are you doing to become more in tune with your body and its natural healing processes and to learn about alternatives to western medicine?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah