Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Memories . . .

Over on RevGalPals we were asked to post about five Christmas memories . . . this is hard, but let's give it a try . . . in no particular order:

I was 6 when I got my first Barbie . . . it was a wonderful Santa gift . . . I can still see it in my mind's eye . . . I am dating myself --- it was the blond "bubble head" Barbie . . . she came in a flat box with a wardrobe . . . I remember the evening wear . . . it was orange (ORANGE!!!!) and sparkly;

When I was 9 Santa brought me a "big girl bike" . . . it was hard for me to ride . . . I remember asking my Daddy why Santa brought me such a big bike . . . he told me that Santa told him that it would have to last me a long time;

I was about 13 when Santa brought my Mother a new car . . . it seemed like everyone knew in the family except me and Mama that Santa was bringing this . . . YES, I knew that there was really no Santa . . . when I complained that everyone knew except me I was told everyone knew I couldn't keep my mouth shut;

At age 15 I wasn't the first one up on Christmas morning . . . not sure how come, but I remember my older brother (he would have been 25) coming upstairs to wake me up "so we can open presents" . . . being the youngest my brother (now deceased) and sister have expectations of how I should act (even now) as the youngest on Christmas . . . I think they (she) get upset when I am not that way

When we all got to be adults our parents -- I mean Santa, would always give us a check signed by my Dad . . . my first Christmas in seminary we got the check, but it was signed by Mother . . . I asked my Dad what was up . . . he had been sick most of my life . . . he told me that it was his time and I probably wouldn't cash the check before he went "Home" . . . now, I know that this sounds odd, but he was telling me that he was ready -- he was at peace . . . later I found a journal he has been keeping secretly . . . I never shared it with anyone . . . later I threw it away. . . it was full of his fears of his body becoming so weak that he wouldn't be able to be at home . . . it also was full of his faith that even though he was a fallen human being he trusted in the saving grace of his Lord and Savior.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday caroling . . .

Our department/team will be going Holiday Caroling at the hospital next Tuesday . . . this shows the tension in chaplaincy between being inclusive and honoring your religious tradition . . . it is interesting the Jewish Chaplain suggested we, at least, sing Silent Night as THIS is Christmas and the majority of the world -- especially the folks hospitalized and those who work at the hospital, are Christian . . . so Holiday Caroling and then the departmental Christmas party and then one day of on-call before a week off for Christmas with my Mom and sister.

Merry CHRISTmas,


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why, oh, why . . .

do I let things bother me so much? Yesterday I E-mailed a colleague asking that I be included in the mailing list for the Ecumenical Ministerial Alliance in this area . . . this woman is also the secretary of my denomination's cluster gatherings . . . I receive 3 E-mails from her when I get home . . . the first saying she has added me to the mailing list for the ecumenical group . . . the second telling me that she thought I might have wanted a break from receiving information about our cluster meetings . . . let me be frank, I hadn't been attending and hadn't even noticed that I had stopped receiving the announcements . . . but as I responded to her I am still a member of the presbytery, in good standing, thus a member of the cluster . . . I don't understand how she felt entitled to make a decision NOT to send me announcements . . . the 3rd E-mail. by the way the cluster clergy luncheon is tomorrow . . . of course, I can't make it as I have had no opportunity to make arrangements . . . I wasn't invited last year either . . . obviously having spent a large amount of time in 2008 and 2009 serving the presbytery in many, many capacities meant little to my colleagues . . . I guess the saying is true "out of sight, out of mind" . . . this is hard for me to adjust to . . . obviously, I had misjudged my relationships with these people . . . many I thought were friends . . . it is hard to adjust to the fact that they were (are?) colleagues, at best . . . now, I am not even sure of this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Learning . . .

I have always loved learning and spend a lot of time exploring things that interest me . . . now as part of the CPE Program learning is a part of the process . . . most of it is learning by talking and doing, but the new assignment is to present a theoretical model for pastoral care -- these are basically psychotheraputic models . . . I was just going to play it safe and present on General Systems Theory -- it is the model taught in both my undergraduate and graduate Social Work Programs so I am thinking to myself, "easy, breezy" . . . as I begin refreshing myself I am drawn to a new model for pastoral care that I find . . . Psychosystemic Pastoral Care . . . so I have order THE book on it and have begun reading it . . . it boggles my mind . . . it is hard, it shows how little I have really done intellectually since leaving seminary.

As a local pastor I did lots of research for sermons and reading in church growth as I worked with our church growth consultant . . . but this is real work . . . it is exciting and challenging for me on many levels.

Learning . . . it is a good thing,


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A New Spirit . . .

I spent most of the weekend with my Mother to celebrate her 85th birthday . . . today I attended Worship with her . . . she has been a member of a smaller membership UMC congregation for about 10 years now . . . they are on their 4th pastor . . . it, like many mainline smaller membership congregations, has been struggling . . . their organizing pastor left after receiving his D.Min. to work for a national for-profit ministry . . . their 2nd pastor committed suicide . . . their 3rd pastor -- the pastor at the time that the greatest number of people left, was arrested and charged with a felony assault -- it was evidently changed to a misdemeanor, he plead no contest, paid a fine and the Bishop moved him to a new position . . . when I walked into the sanctuary today there was obviously a new Spirit moving in the church . . . I couldn't put my finger on . . . the sanctuary had been decorated for Advent (it was beautiful) . . . the seating had been changed to make it more intimate . . . there was a more traditional Worship service with hymns (in the past there were only two hymns and we only sang a verse or two of each) . . . the hymns went along with the Scripture readings (in the past this seldom happened) . . . there was special music . . . laity was involved in the Worship as readers and as folks that prayed . . . their was a children's sermon . . . the sermon was EXCELLENT and challenging . . . the pastor asked that I say the concluding prayer . . . afterwards she came to thank me . . . I told her that I sensed a new Spirit in the church . . . she told me that during the recent revival the guest preacher had done an exorcism -- not really but in a prayer had reclaimed the building and the congregation for the work of Christ . . . for the first time in a long time I think the congregation, I know my Mother does, senses HOPE . . . isn't this what Advent is all about!

Come Lord Jesus, Come!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just wondering . . .

I have been away from the church for six months now . . . when I left the church it is as if I lost contact with all of my colleagues . . . well, this isn't true . . . I have had lunch with one of them . . . one has called me to get some information . . . I walked into a restaurant Friday where two of them were eating and they didn't acknowledge me . . . there is one person who keeps in contact with me via Face Book . . . I wonder what it means when we say we are connectional . . . I wonder what it means when we take vows to be "friends to our colleagues" . . . I wonder about what it all means beyond words to people who continue to struggle with the pain of being kicked to the curb

Feeling sorry for myself,


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Unit 1 ends . . .

There is an old saying that time flies when you are having fun . . . the fact is time flies . . . my first unit of CPE is over . . . well, not quite as I have some work to catch up with this weekend.

So what do I think? . . . it has been challenging, but rewarding . . . it has stretched me in ways that I could never imagine . . . it has invited and forced me to look at myself critically . . . it has helped me in ways that the seminary nor the local parish did to continue exploring my own theology -- words about God . . . through this it seems that God is giving me another piece of the puzzle that is God's plan for me both in life and in ministry . . . I am now beginning to get a glimpse of what it looks like but there is still work to be done to fit the pieces together . . . discernment continues to find my next step in the journey . . . I have time and right now I am not anxious.

The most challenging thing of late has been the unit's final evaluation . . . it was a time where we had to reflect on the last three months from a variety of areas, including ourselves, our work, our theology and our interpersonal relationship . . . it was hard work, at least for me . . . for others it didn't seem to be hard work . . . this is one of the things that I have discovered about myself . . . I have high expectations of myself so have high expectations of others . . . when we don't live up to those expectations I pout . . . awareness is the first step to move out of unhealthy patterns . . . perfection is not possible . . . I have to learn how to accept that people, for the most part, do the best they can in given circumstances and if they don't they are responsible . . . the thing I wrestle with is if it affects me negatively . . . I see this in our group as folks are not willing to go deep . . . many of them want to swim on the surface and this does affect me . . . but at least I was able to say this so feel better.

Our unit ended with a day-long retreat . . . I dreaded it . . . it was great . . . a lot of time for silent reflection . . . a lot of time to think, pray and write . . . began in chapel by sitting quietly praying and then moved into the Chapel of God's Creation . . . it was a beautiful day . . . hearing, feeling, touching, smelling and seeing God's good creation all around . . . it was a good day . . . it has been a good unit . . . praise be to God.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life and Death, Healing and Hope.

Friday I was exhausted . . . it finally dawned on me yesterday that part of that exhaustion is related to death . . . as a person I have lost people in my life . . . as a local pastor I was confronted with death on occasion but not often . . . as a chaplain in residence I am facing death almost on a daily basis . . . sometimes more than one a day, especially if I am "on call" . . . if I remember correctly one night "on call" I attended three deaths . . . one of the chaplains-in-residence has joked that she wants to trade "on call" with me as I seem to get the interesting cases . . . I am not sure that that is always true, but I do sense that I have had more deaths while serving "on-call" than many of the residents . . . all these deaths and how families respond to them, and even the patient, have lead me to a deeper appreciation of the gift of faith . . . of believing in the promise and assurance of the work Christ Jesus accomplished on the cross for us.

But there is something that is giving me pause . . . we have a Catholic priest from India who is also a chaplain-in-resident . . . a young man was admitted to the inpatient Oncology Unit . . . I entered his room as I was making rounds . . . the man was obviously in pain . . . his mother-in-law, father and a family friend where in the room . . . I introduced myself . . . the mother-in-law whispered to me . . . he was just admitted to Palliative Care -- they expect that he will pass away this afternoon or tonight . . . the patent's wife had gone to make funeral arrangements and would be back later her mother told me . . . later when I visited with the wife, knowing that they were Catholic, I asked if they wanted the priest to come and give the Anointing of the Sick (this use to be known as Last Rites) . . . she related that Father R -- the chaplain-in-residency, had already done this . . . it is my understanding that he is not to be doing this rite . . . anyway that afternoon I go to him as he is the chaplain-on-call to let him know that this man's death is imminent and he should be prepared . . . he tells me that he is OK, that he is being healed . . . I explain that the cancer has spread throughout the man's body, including his brain, and the doctor has explained to the family that death is imminent . . . the man dies that night.

Friday I am in the Palliative Care Team meeting where I learn that Father R has anointed another terminal patient who is not his patient . . . worse he has told the family that she is being healed . . . the Palliative Care Nurse has discussed this with the CPE supervisor who suggests that the family may be lying . . . I don't believe this is the case . . . Father R does believe in physical healing and I believe that he does tell some folks this . . . I heard something similar when I went on rounds with him once in pre-surgery -- this was early in our residency and I didn't see as insidiously as I do now . . . I do believe our God is a God of possibilities . . . and that God in infinite wisdom, mercy and grace can and does heal people physically . . . when my brother was dxed with terminal cancer -- the cancer was spread throughout his body, including the liver, I met a man -- a pharmacist, who had lived with liver cancer for 4 years . . . and just last Sunday I gave the invocation to a group of cancer survivors and heard remarkable stories of survival AND healing.

Shall we hold out false hope for healing when all signs point to the ultimate healing?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roller Coaster . . .

This CPE thing is a roller coaster . . . I am learning alot both about being a chaplain and, perhaps more importantly about myself . . . the latter is not always easy. One of the things I am learning about myself is communication is a major hurdle for me . . . both as the giver and as the receiver . . . I have spoken (written) about needing to be think before I speak . . . I also am finding that I am one of those people who spends time not listening because I am trying to think of what to say . . . awareness is the first step toward change . . . I notice this happens more in IPR rather than with patients and their families . . . I have also learned that there are people who won't give direct answers and this frustrates me immensely . . . there are people who with hold information and this also frustrates me . . . and there are people who give false information then to later say "no you never heard that." And so I am learning that clear communication is necessary and am recommitted to refining my communication skills which I always thought were adequate . . . and to give myself the benefit of the doubt maybe it is the other person.

The other part of the roller coaster is that I am covering more patients . . . I had had some problems with visiting after a recent death that brought back for me my aunt's horrific death . . . for some reason . . . maybe just giving voice to it I have surmounted this hurdle and have stepped up my seeing patients.

And then there is my health . . . during my pre-employment physical the nurse sent me to a walk-in clinic for high blood pressure . . . they also found my Blood Sugars were very high . . . I was pre-diabetic, but thought it was controlled . . . evidently my monitor wasn't working right and now the dx of diabetes . . . yesterday, the doctor asked if I was willing to go on an injectable med -- not insulin . . . did some research and it is a new med and there is some indication that there is the risk for thyroid cancer in a small number of patients . . . so I am working hard to do everything I can to let the oral meds work so watching my diet, drinking more water and have to start exercising (YUCK!)

So I am working to get off the roller coaster . . .


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Of two minds . . .

I have been on call . . . as I am preparing the office for the next on-call chaplain I scan the patient list of my denomination as I always do to see if there is anyone in the hospital I may know . . . then I see the name Baby Boy XXXX is in the NIC Unit . . . could it be -- it has to be . . . then I see his Mother's name . . . it is . . . it is the baby whose creation was the catalyst for me leaving the last church I served . . . and even though some might have meant it for evil and destruction (yes, I know this is a strong word) God has and is using it for good . . . at least for me and I pray for all the other parties involved.
My dilemma is what do I do? I am not the chaplain assigned to either of these units -- the unit where the baby is (obviously born prematurely . . . by my calculations 4 to 6 weeks) nor the unit where his Mom is . . . but . . . might this be an opportunity to make peace . . . for closure . . . before all of this Mom and I, and her parents and I were very, very close . . . I have been present for all the family crisises for the last 5 years . . . where Mom's first child (now in college) almost died . . . for Mom's grandmother's death that same night . . . for Mom's Dad when he faced surgery . . . for Mom's Mom when she lost her job(s) . . . I feel a pull yet I don't want to do anything that will stress Mom or the family . . . on the other hand might this be God's way of giving us an opportunity for closure . . . for grace . . . for mercy . . . yes, for forgiveness.
Mom and her Mom have both tried to re-establish contact via Face Book . . . whatever their motives -- I must admit I took them for a way to be relieved of their guilt over their actions, but I can not judge their motives only how I felt . . . is this the time to extend the olive branch? . . . forgiveness doesn't mean that after this we have to be in each others' lives it simply means we are reconciled and the hurt that has passed between us may be released . . . would it? . . . would I be able to release any further the pain that I have experienced . . . no, it is released . . . do I want a relationship with either of these woman? No . . . so why do I feel this pull to visit . . . because when all is said and done she is still my sister-in-Christ and she is hurting.
Will I visit? I don't know. . . could there be consequences from the church hierarchy if I do? Could I regret it for the rest of my life is I don't? Do I hold out unrealistic expectations that something will change? Perhaps . . . perhaps. What to do, what to do?

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Gotta Have Friends . . .

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood? Betty Kay . . . she was one of those Southern girls who got two names for a first name . . . oh, how I wanted one of those, but my first name and middle name wasn't Southern enough . . . almost a half century since we first met she know is known by Kay . . . although we don't see each other often when we do it seems as if it were only yesterday.

2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend? A material gift, I don't think so, but other kinds of gifts OFTEN . . . a smile, a hug, a card, a prayer . . . for me these are the gifts that count.

3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via Social Media or the Internet? Last year I found my old boy-friend from college . . . feeling nostalgic one night I visited the unofficial site of one of the singer's he introduced me to . . . I knew right from the moment I clicked it open that he was the Web Master . . . you couldn't mistake the funny little cartoon replica of him . . . it is great to be reconnected . . . I found that he finally realized he is gay -- something most of us knew although he didn't . . . he is in a long term relationship . . . our reconnection has brought me much joy.

4) Do you get your good friends together in a group or do you prefer your friends one-on-one? OK I will admit it . . . I am selfish . . . for the most part I want my good friends one-on-one . . . otherwise I don't feel like I have quality time with them.

5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonant with you? Yes . . . have you heard about Jesus' other name? Andy . . . And He walks . . . yes, this is especially helpful when I am having a bad day . . . or just feeling a little sad . . . when I remember that no matter what is going on in my life that Jesus is my Constant Companion things don't seem so bad.

Winding down . . .

When I interviewed for this residency in Clinical Pastoral Education I was at a very vulnerable time in my life . . . it was the Friday before the last Sunday at the church where I had served for five years to the day . . . although it may have been time to dissolve the pastoral relationship -- in the long run everything has worked out well, it was not an easy time for me . . . I had no idea how I would make it financially (even now I wonder) nor did I know what I would do as it takes up to 18 months to receive a call . . . and I was just beginning to deal with the emotional baggage that the last five years -- including Katrina and her aftermath (the breaching of the levees in the Greater New Orleans area) and the changes in the context of doing ministry that this event was overlaying on changes in the context of ministry over the past say 50 years that large numbers in the congregation I was partnering with were resisting anyway . . . they still used the hymn book from before I was born for one example. Where was I? . . . so anyway, when I interviewed with the CPE Supervisor and Supervisor-in-Training I was an emotional wreck . . . I didn't start out that way but by the end . . . well, suffice it to say I thought I was one sick pup.

Needless to say the interview didn't go well . . . after a week when I got the "call back" it was obvious that I wasn't in . . . a week later I think I got accepted only because someone else turned them down . . . I must say that as I have gotten to know the other residents and heard that they were accepted right away I am somewhat perplexed, esp by one or two that seem to have no level of insight or ability to connect with their emotions -- but that is perhaps left for another day . . . anyway I took the Supervisor's advice and got into therapy . . . and it has been wonderful . . . I am NOT and never was the basket case that I was led to believe at the time of my first interview . . . in fact, at my last session (I think # 6) the therapist asked me if I didn't think it was time to start talking about terminating our relationship as I have done so well on meeting my goals . . . I must admit I was somewhat panicked . . . this has been a lifeline for me as I learn to navigate relationships (specifically to tell who I want to be friends with and with whom I am happy and content to be only a good colleague as well as to begin to understand who owns an issue -- this has really been a Godsend in IPR as I realize that some comments are really about the person making the comment and not about me) . . . so it is time to wind down. I am not sure how I feel about this . . . have I really accomplished what I wanted? I know I am stronger . . . I know I am not afraid -- my behavior is not directed by fear . . . I know I am emotionally healthier . . . more able to articulate my feelings -- whether others can hear them or not is not my problem.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Expectant waiting . . .

In early June when I met with the Pastoral Response Team and we made the decision I would resign from the church I asked if I could be placed on the approved Pulpit Supply List . . . no problem. It has now been four (4) months and I am still not on the list. I don't understand . . . I have contacted the appropriate person 2x asking that I be included and supplied my contact information 2x. How long does this clerical addition take? When I chaired the committee it was updated monthly . . . It hasn't been updated since the beginning of June 2010.

Now I am not sure how often I would be called upon to preach, but I just don't understand the delay. I must admit it makes the small strain of paranoia that I think we all carry with us kick in. Today I sent an E-mail asking specifically am I being purposely kept off of the list. Although I don't believe this is the case, I don't understand this delay. How much I want to love my denomination . . . how difficult it is when things like this happen.

Yes, I understand that people are busy, but I also understand that this would take less than 5 minutes to add my contact information to an electronic list.

I often wonder if God smiles on the Church or if God just shakes God's head thinking how badly we are messing up people's faith?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, no, NOT again . . .

Several months ago I was contacted and asked to be on an investigative team to handle an accusationn of sexual misconduct with one of the pastors in this area . . . I opted not to serve when I learned who else was on the committee (he had been on a committee I chaired and he did nothing, knew nothing about our polity, about how to interact with people) . . . God is good . . . I found out just a few days ago that the pastor has admitted to what he did -- I am not sure what that is . . . Sunday his pastoral relationship was dissolved . . . what happens next I don't know . . . what I do know is that this is the LAST guy I would have suspected . . . we were/are friends . . . he was the one person among my colleagues who I felt comfortable with in "letting it all hang out" . . . now I am questioning everything about him . . . I am questioning how he handled an informal accusation against one of the pastors in this area . . . this happened as I was going out of leadership so although I was on the fringes I now am able to put together some of the pieces and wonder if he manipulated this to let the guy off as he -- from rumblings, was involved in the somewhat the same situation . . . with the other the "problem" was resolved by the local church governing board by firing the woman and asking her to leave the church . . . by the time this done I was totally out of leadership . . . but now I understand the reason that the plan we had laid out was not followed . . . I now wonder if this was done on purpose?

The Church (and it doesn't matter what denomination) reminds me of the Japanese proverb of the Three Wise Monkeys . . . see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil . . . in some renderings of this proverb there is a 4th monkey with cross hands -- do no evil . . . now this proverb is most closely associated with what it means to live the virtuous life . . . however in this context I am using it to indicate that the Church is NOT living the virtuous life by refusing to see evil, shutting their ears to complains of evil, and not using their voice to condemn actions that assault the dignity of women, men and children by any form of clergy sexual misconduct . . . does the Church not remember that each of us are created in the Image of God.

I struggle with knowing all of this . . . it makes me complicit in a way as I am a part of the Church . . . I don't know what to do . . . I have raised my voice . . . and in raising my voice I have lost . . . so I continue to struggle praying God will open a door to letting me know how I am to be used in this situation.

Lord, have mercy


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cancer . . .

This has been a hard week . . . there is no joy in cancer . . . I lost both my brother and my aunt to cancer . . . although my brother's passing was hard, paradoxically it was beautiful . . . my aunt's passing was very, very hard . . . it was not pretty . . . it was horrific. Yesterday I was on call . . . the Emergency Room asked that I come up to comfort a patent's mother . . . the patient is 40 years old . . . her liver has succumbed to the cancer growing inside her . . . when I went in to pray for her she reminded me a little of my aunt . . . she has battled cancer for over 1 and 1/2 years . . . had it been caught earlier the family wonders if she would have survived -- they are sitting death watch now . . . she is off all life support . . . the ER had another hospital did a CT scan 1 and 1/2 year OK . . . they didn't tell her it showed a tumor in the liver . . . at that time the tumor was at a size where it was operable . . . she went back less than 3 months later . . . she was told about the tumor and asked why she hadn't followed up . . . we will never know if she would have if she had been told about the tumor . . . my guess is that she would have . . . a police detective, divorced mother of two . . . yes, I think had she known she would have . . . would it have made a difference . . . I don't know . . . what I do know is that cancer has been eating away at not only her life but also the life of her family and friends . . . cancer is a terrible enemy that doesn't discriminate . . . I pray that God will raise up men and women who will one day find a cure for these insidious diseases that eat away at life.

But as this woman told her children (8 and 10) one day she will go home to be with God . . . and from her new home she will continue to watch over them until they are reunited . . . this young woman may have died in this physical sphere when I get to the hospital in the morning yet she will live . . . live in a glorious body no longer ravaged by disease or pain . . . glorious and beautiful just like the picture her Daddy showed me yesterday.

God bless her as she makes the journey home and God comfort her family and friends with the assurance that once home she will be free.


Friday, October 8, 2010

The Journey Continues . . .

Many times I've been alone

and many times I've cried

Anyway you'll never know

The many ways I've tried

But still they lead me back

To the long, winding road . . .

Intense was how the supervisor of the CPE described it when I interviewed . . . in the five weeks that I have been there her words ring true . . . it is not just intense because of the external -- the work on the units, but the intensity for me is the internal work . . . of course, in a way we are always involved in internal work whether we acknowledge it or not . . . but part of CPE is getting to know more intimately who you are, what things in your past and in your present have shaped/is shaping you, what are the things that you would like to change about yourself, etc. . . . for me this internal work that takes place in the process is being supplemented by individual therapy . . . am learning alot about myself . . . some I am happy with, other things I need to work on.

In our IPR this week I heard somethings about myself that I didn't like hearing . . . I am glad I heard them . . . it wasn't something I didn't know about myself -- sometimes I communicate what I am thinking in ways that seem arrogant . . . often this comes as I tend to speak before thinking . . . my new goal -- breathe, think, speak.

The journey continues,


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Triangles and Scapegoat

In my last blog I spoke about our last IPR where I felt as if I had been thrown up the bus by one of my colleagues for triangulating her in talking to her about one of our colleagues . . . YES, I did it! . . . I owned up to it . . . she didn't. The following day she comes to me to ask if I am angry with her . . . well, yea! (DUH) but not angry as much as shocked and hurt that she did not own up to her triangularization . . . 'oh, but I did . . . I said I was getting sucked into it' . . . imho, not the same thing. I tried to explain this . . . she didn't get it. I also explained it was the way she said it . . . "I want to be your friend, but . . ." . . . so I explained that she set some very clear limits to "our friendship" and that means NO talking about our colleagues.
But what I didn't say and something that I think really pissed me off in the whole exchange is that she assumed I wanted to be more than a colleague . . . that she assumed I wanted to be her friend. One of the my therapeutic issues has been and is having boundaries in my relationships . . . some people I will be friends with . . . some will remain colleagues . . . these are different relationships with different boundaries . . . she made a BIG assumption that I wanted to be her friend . . . even before this I was not sure . . . I spent some time with her outside of work last weekend and I was uncomfortable the whole time . . . I really can't put my finger on the reason, but I was . . . in the past I have not done well listening to that small inner voice -- I call it my gut . . . not listening to it has gotten me into trouble.
As I have processed the exchange during IPR I realize that I was scapegoated . . . not only by her but by all of my colleagues that have talked nasty about one another . . . I know of at least one other that spoke to me the night before IPR . . . although she was the one who started the conversation last week she didn't own up either.
I must admit my inclination is to retreat . . . to swallow the hurt and anger . . . this is my pattern . . . the supervisor must have noticed something as she came to talk with me Friday afternoon . . . she concurs with my analysis but as she said it is not her issue, but mine . . . I had told the other woman that I would probably bring it up in the next IPR as this is the 2nd time I felt as if she threw me under the bus . . . it is amazing how alliances are shifting . . . I am not sure that I need alliances in this situation if ever . . . I need good working relationships with my colleagues and I think I have those with most and are continuing to build them . . . what I don't need is someone pointing out my bad behavior yet not being able to own up to their own. Doesn't the Bible say something about this? And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother's eye, but take no note of the bit of wood in your eye? (Matthew 7:3 Bible in Basic English)
And so I will not remain silent . . . I will not swallow the hurt and anger that I allowed myself to be scapegoated . . . that I allowed her comment to make it seem to the group that I was the only culprit . . . although I can not force anyone to talk I will not be complicit in their silence about what they have been doing . . . the triangles and alliances being formed . . . the bad behavior that is taking place . . . one of the convictions I have is that this is not love and we are called to love not because the person is lovable but because God is love and in each person there is a spark of the Divine as we are all created in the Divine Image.
A bump on the journey, but an important one to overcome,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Triangles . . .

Another IPR . . . two of the female residents had approached me about one of the male residents . . . each had problems with him . . . I shared with them both my own problem with him . . . I brought my concerns up today in the group when one of the others mentioned feeling tension and he began diverting it to his feelings that we (unnamed) were talking about him behind his back . . . in the ensuing discussion one of the woman who had come to me initially to complain about him told me that I was triangulating and although she wanted to be my friend couldn't handle this . . . I heard her and apologized for putting her in this position . . . however, I did not mention that she also triangulated . . . so as I drove home I contemplated how one can see the unhealthy communications in other and yet not in themselves . . . of course, this is our human condition.
So what if anything should I do? Swallow my confusion . . . confront her privately . . . wait for the next IPR . . . gosh, I wish my session with my therapist was this week.
Praying for discernment,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CPE Update . . .

This week marks the fourth week of my Clinical Pastoral Education residency . . . in a way it seems like it has been so much longer than a month . . . in other ways it is hard to believe that it has only been four weeks . . . dynamically, alliances have been formed -- good or bad . . . alliances seem to be part of community . . . my disappointment is in supervision.

The supervisor and I operate differently . . . she is an emotional person -- reminds us constantly that she leads from her emotions, while I am a head person . . . I am also someone who has served in administrative roles and some of my response to her in this area, but frankly some of my response to her is her supervision and boundary issues . . . I don't also remember technical terms but I am being driven crazy as there is no consistency . . . my personality craves consistency -- it is part of who I am . . . no doubt a hold over from childhood where I felt there wasn't much consistency.

Four weeks in . . . I am wondering where I will be at the end of the program . . . I would like to stay in this area, but it is looking less and less likely given the outlook for the medical community in this area . . . perhaps, further training for supervision in the CPE . . . am praying on it . . . have begun looking at programs.

I look forward to the continuing journey,


Monday, September 27, 2010

FEAR . . .

My brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer 10 years ago this week . . . he had great insurance that paid 100% . . . the first time I picked up his medications it was over $2000.00 . . . I remember his asking me what happens to people who don't have insurance . . . my response was cynical, but I am afraid true, they die in a lot of pain . . . he died, too, but it is my prayer that it was without pain . . . he had every medical assistance he needed to be comfortable as he was dying. But far too many in our country . . . the greatest and wealthiest country in the world, live without benefit of insurance.

My father was sick for most of my life . . . at one point when he needed to be hospitalized the military hospital he used was full in cardiac care so he was admitted to the hospital with which I was affiliated . . . the doctor who admitted him was a doctor with whom I had had on-going discussion about universal health care . . . the afternoon my Dad was admitted this MD came over to do some work on the unit I was working . . . he told me that he had admitted my Dad and asked did I release that if we had universal health care my father would probably be dead . . . he equated advances in medicine to having privatized insurance -- I don't know that this was a legitimate equation . . . my response, though, was about quality of life . . . you see, my Dad would have told him that he had no quality of life . . . he was ready to leave this life and enter into life eternal.

I wonder today why there are so many who would deny health insurance to people . . . why we would not want insurance to have to cover pre-existing conditions . . . what is the fear of providing medical care to the millions who can't afford it? I think it has to do with fear . . . someone said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . fear drives so much of the political hatred and venom today . . . and so much of it comes from good Christian people . . . the Bible tells us over and over again "fear not" . . . why do we fear? FEAR NOT!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raising the bar . . .

"We need to in this country begin again to raise civil discourse to another level. I mean, we shout and scream and yell and get very little accomplished, but you can disagree very much with the next guy and still be friends and acquaintances." ~ Leah Ward Sears [Sears, an African-American female jurist, was the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 2005 until her retirement in 2009.]

What has happened to civil discourse in this country? We -- that is the royal we, have become uncivil and coarse . . . behind this, I believe, is fear . . . fear that is being fanned by professional politicians and entertainers, ugh, commentators who are more concerned, imho, with lining their coffers than the health of our country.

When I subscribed to Face Book I became friends with many people who I didn't know through my aunt and cousin . . . to be frank that side of the family has always been different than my family . . . although I didn't grow up in the "big city" I did grow up in a thinking environment (both my family and the community) and also in a denomination that stresses thinking -- sometimes to the detriment of experience . . . and yes, I understand that this sounds really pejorative . . . I don't mean it this way . . . my cousin and my aunt are really wonderful woman, but they grew up in small, rural, conservative communities . . . those experiences shaped them to be conservative today . . . both politically and religiously . . . they are on the Christian Right (they are so on the Christian Right that my aunt and uncle would not come to hear me preach one Sunday when I was preaching in their hometown and staying at their house . . . OUCH!) . . . they are devotees of Bill O'Reilley and Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express . . . and so are the Face Book Friends.

One of these is a lovely woman . . . she posts primarily inspirational ditties . . . things I really appreciate and when I disagree we have been able to have wonderful theological cyper discussions . . . I really like here EXCEPT . . . she hates President Obama . . . not just his policies, she hates him and is counting down to the days he is out of office . . . I don't understand how good people can have this much hatred for a person they don't know . . . yes, I know it is fear . . . what I don't understand is where this fear comes from . . . yes, I know that it flies out of FOX every night . . . but how can good people believe this dribble?

Today she posted 15 mug shots of people wearing Obama T-shirts . . . when I took exception to this by pointing out that The Smoking Gun Web Site who posted this in 2008 immediately following the election related that these 15 were taken from tens of thousands she got upset . . . I only passed it on . . . yes, she passed it on but was unable to see the not so subtle message . . . that Obama supporters are thugs . . . when I suggested that I could probably have found 15 people arrested the night of the Saints Superbowl win wearing Saints T-shirts, but that this didn't make Saints' fans (which she is one) thugs, she couldn't get it.

I hate to be overly dramatic, but I wonder if this is how people were feeling as Hitler and the Nazis were gaining power in Germany . . . yes, I see some parallels and frankly it scares the you know what out of me . . . I am praying that sanity will return and with it a willingness to engage in civil discourse as we try to discern a way out of the mess that we have made of this country.

Lord, have mercy on us,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Tea baggers . . .

When Sarah Palin hit the scene I was excited to see another woman enter the political fray . . . as I heard her speak, I could only shake my head . . . "what is this woman talking about?" . . . what is she thinking?" . . . and now I spend a lot of time just shaking my head . . . Christine O'Donnell . . . I spend a lot of my time shaking my head . . . I remember her from the Bill Maher show . . . I thought then she must be a natural blond (sorry to my blond friends!) . . . I remember thinking "what a fool" . . . now that fool may be a Senator.

Neither a Democrat nor a Republican I work hard to find out what the person believes so I can vote for a person with a similar vision and belief system . . . a person who wants to work to make this country one that lives with a deep care and compassion for "the least of these" . . . my belief system grows out of my Christian faith . . . some of the things that I am hearing from people who purport to share this faith boggle my mind . . . it also boggles my mind that many of the political voices today don't seem to understand the foundations of our country . . . religious freedom that births religious tolerance . . . it appears to me that there is a trend of revisionism taking place in our country today by leaders of the tea baggers . . . people, good people -- people I know, are buying it hook, line and sinker . . . it is a scary time even though I know that God is ultimately in control, but I continue to be worried for our country and for "the least of these".

Monday, September 20, 2010

It isn't just the Catholics . . .

In the early 1980's I was at my parents' home and answered the phone . . . the caller was the Youth Pastor at the local Baptist church looking for my Dad . . . one of the local attorneys and an Elder at our Presbyterian Church . . . the pastor was calling to report that a teenager -- a boy, had accused our pastor of molestation . . . I was in my 20's . . . it was the first time I had heard of a minister sexually abusing any one . . . more than three decades later it is way too common to hear about this if we have ears . . . unfortunately, though, it has been my experience that the institutional Church, whether Catholic or any other brand protects the accused and damn the victim(s).

Sunday this came back to haunt me . . . I belong to a group on Face Book from my hometown where we share memories . . . about two months ago someone posted about this occurrence . . . I ignored the post . . . I went to the site on Sunday afternoon and he had posted again . . . this time I "heard" his plaintive plea for someone to hear him . . . so I responded by sending him a message.

He is grown now . . . living on the West Coast . . . successful but still wounded . . . we sent back several messages . . . it brought back so many questions I had at the time . . . it appears he was not the only one . . . the others have died of AIDS . . . I am not sure how many . . . I couldn't bring myself to ask . . . not yet.

Nothing was done after that telephone conversation . . . not that people didn't try, but the boy wouldn't testify in church court . . . he told me this weekend he was ashamed . . . he didn't want his family to know what happened . . . but the minister must have known . . . he left shortly after that to pastor another smaller membership church in a neighboring state. One of the Deacons of the church who reportedly saw what happened left without warning . . . just didn't show up one day for work -- he was a school teacher.

Years later I heard through the grapevine that the minister and his wife had both died of AIDS.

My heart grieves for anyone who has been victimized, but especially those who have been sexually victimized by men and women who are allowed to hide behind the cloth . . . when will the Church be willing to stand for those who had/have no power . . . when will we be their voice . . . when will we offer them the grace of voice and healing? Please pray for this young man and those like him who have lost faith . . . who feel abandoned by God for what they endured and the silence of the Church.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I(nterpersonal) P(personal) R(elationships) . . .

Yesterday we had our first IPR . . . as our supervisor explained IRP is not a therapy group but it can be therapeutic . . . in reality it is what I use to call a process group when I did therapy . . . it is a time to see how we are forming community . . . what is working and what isn't working . . . where there are problems . . . where these might be growing edges. Frankly, I was dreading it . . . I had had a terrible experience with the chaplain assigned to the Surgery Unit . . . I had spoken to the supervisor about it . . . it was grist for IPR.

The chaplain on call is expected to help the Surgery Chaplain cover folks admitted early in the morning for same day surgery . . . I had skipped this last time I was on-call during the week as I had had a bad night . . . I had felt I had been chastised by the supervisor over this . . . so I made sure I was up early although that meant less than 5 hours sleep and done in the office by 5:30 to meet with him at 5:45am . . . he shows up at 6:05 . . . we head to the floor . . . divide the patients for visits . . . or so I thought . . . NO, he wants us to go together . . . I am not sure the reason . . . he is from India . . . he has a compelling story for the reason he no longer serves as a priest in India . . . he has been in this country 7 years . . . there are still language issues . . . he also has told us that he has a lot of hemoglobin in his blood and so he is hyper . . . I can't attest to this, but I can attest that he walks fast . . . so we go together (still can't understand this) and do what I term dive bombing prayers . . . swooping in to pray without offering a ministry of presence . . . an interesting thing hit me yesterday . . . the supervisor thinks we are up there until 8 when we meet for morning prayer when in actuality we were out of there before 7am . . . what do I do about this, if anything? Probably, I will handle my next rotation with him differently . . . I will insist we divide patients and I will go back when I am through and pick up patients who have been admitted since the first round of admissions . . . same day surgery patients are admitted all day.

He allows me to pray with the Protestants . . . he prays with the Catholics . . . except there are two folks he asks that I pray for . . . I see the look on their face and ask if they are Catholic -- yes . . . it is obvious they want the father to pray for them . . . he prays from his book . . . one family, a Jewish family, asks that we not pray . . . he storms out . . . the wife grabs my arm to apologize for making him angry . . . not your fault.

In IPR I share with him my feelings . . . that I felt 2nd class and felt that I was only good enough to pray for Protestants . . . as a hospital chaplain I am here to be an interfaith chaplain and should be free to pray and offer ministry to all people . . . going together didn't allow this . . . I was offended he said my prayers were too long . . . in fact they were as short as his but they were free-form and personal . . . the experience brought up for me some of my unresolved issues of the way the old boy network operates in my own denomination to exclude women . . . I felt as we missed 2 patients as we didn't divide the patients . . . according to him we missed them as I lagged behind.

It was not nice . . . it was uncomfortable for the group . . . it was uncomfortable for him . . . it was unfortable for me . . . it was also liberating for me . . . I have a bad habit of swallowing emotions . . . so this provided an opportunity to let them out in a safe environment. Although I don't think this will be one of my favorite parts of this year it will be one allowing for the most personal growth in my opinion.

Now, rabbit trial or not -- you decide . . . yesterday on the way to the hospital I heard a minister saw that a woman at his church (I hate this phrase) stood up during prayer requests and announced her son was homeless . . . he related that it was obvious that it made some in the congregation uncomfortable . . . later he spoke with her and asked her reason . . . doesn't it say somewhere in Scripture if one part of the body hurts? . . . she told him that she wanted people who were comfortable in their life to put a face to the homeless . . . perhaps, this was the reason . . . perhaps, she wanted the body to share her pain and that of her son . . . and that of the countless men, women and children who are "the least of these."


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Death . . .

One morning about 2 shortly after my father passed away my phone rang . . . it was my cousin . . . it was obvious that she had been drinking and drinking heavily -- she no longer drinks like that, but back then I tried to avoid her having my phone number as I hated her rambling calls in the early mornings. She nor any member of her immediate family had been able to attend my father's funeral, but our aunt had . . . when my aunt told her family about the funeral she mentioned that neither my mother nor I cried . . . and this call was to read me the riot act . . . how could we not cry . . . Uncle Albert was dead . . . he was gone.

My cousin is not a person of faith . . . my mother and I are as was my father . . . I asked my cousin why would we cry as we knew that my father was in heaven now . . . that he was out of pain . . . that he had told all of us that he was ready to go. She just couldn't understand it . . . she does not know Jesus so could not believe in the promise that earthly death was not the end . . . as Bonhoeffer is reported to have said as he was lead to death, his life had just begun. My heart grieved for her about 2 years ago when her father passed away expectantly on Christmas Eve just as Christmas morn was dawning . . . my aunt, her mother, called me right after he pronounced -- she is a woman of faith . . . I remember her joy that Rod had made it "home" . . . oh, she was sad for herself but she rejoiced for her husband of more than 60 years.

In the past two weeks I have been privileged . . . yes, privileged to be with families of faith who had loved ones pass away in the hospital . . . each had a week or more to prepare for the inevitable, but they both responded differently . . . one family responded with great wails of anguish and "whys" . . . throwing themselves over the body. I silently asked their pastor (they are Pentecostal) what they believe about death . . . did they believe that the woman with her last breathe had entered into "heaven" and now was at peace with the Triune God . . . "yes" he said . . . so, even though I understand they were mourning for themselves, I still don't get it . . . the woman was 92 and had been sick for more than a decade and the family had made the decision to remove life support. It took more than 3 hours to get the family to leave the hospital.

Monday night a 69 year old woman who had worked 12 hours a day as a cook until the day she had a clot travel to her brain passed. She had come in through the Emergency room almost a week before. When she passed away there were no tears . . . there was rejoicing . . . one of her daughters even started singing Alleluia! The nurses kept insisting that once the body was cleaned up they could come back and say their last goodbyes . . . they kept saying no we said our goodbyes while she was alive -- she's gone now . . . the third time the nurse came out to say this after she left they looked at me and said we are going to do this for the nurses. Man they were out of there within and 1 and 1/2 of the death . . . as they were leaving planning the celebration of her life.

Two families of faith . . . two different responses to loss.

My mother will turn 85 soon and although in good health and their is a history of longevity on her side of the father among the women, I have been wondering how I will respond. It will be different than my response to my father as mother is not sick. I pray that I will keep my focus on the promise of Christ and that my tears will be those of joy and not grief.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The silence is deafening . . .

Worship and being a part of a local Church has always been a part of who I am . . . since the dissolution of my pastoral relationship in mid-June I am finding it difficult to connect to a local church. I know that this is my fault . . . I probably shouldn't use this word, fault, as I don't want to beat myself up over this . . . I know that on some level I am still healing over what happened . . . even though I don't want to admit it the wounds are still raw . . . but I think there is another happening here . . . I have felt abandoned (again) by my denomination . . . this is funny in a way as one of our hallmarks is "connectionalism" -- I have come to believe that this is true ONLY when it enhances the institutional church . . . funny, that only one person has asked me to attend their church and this is a staff member at a church . . . not one pastor has invited me to attend . . . my therapist and I have discussed this . . . yes, I realize it may be awkward for them . . . yes, I realize that they might not have the words . . . I even realize it might be embarrassing for them . . . what about our ordination vow to be a friend among our colleagues. And I must admit the silence from my colleagues is deafening.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2nd week . . .

Today ended my 2nd week of CPE . . . it was a short week in a way . . . had Monday off for a holiday (although I had call on Sunday from 8am to 8am), Tuesday was the hospital orientation and Friday (tomorrow) I have off because I worked Sunday.
Our assignment this week was to write our spiritual autobiography . . . among the seven of us mine was the longest . . . at first I thought perhaps it was because I was older than other people, but I really am the third youngest of the group . . . perhaps it is just that I am more verbose . . . or perhaps it is because of what I have gone through in the last several years and my re-entry into therapy I have been more reflective about those things that have and are shaping my faith.
Next week we begin on the unit . . . we have made it to the unit, but it has been somewhat disjointed . . . two men I have met have recently been diagnosed with cancer . . . they are both in palliative care (changes are that they won't live) . . . both believe in God, neither are involved in a community of faith . . . both have few contacts beyond their immediate family (for one it is a wife, son and elderly Mother and for the other only a daughter -- who hasn't visited). As I was thinking and praying for them tonight, I had to wonder if their hospital stays would be any different if they were involved in a community of faith. I wonder "why" they aren't. I worry about the hundreds and thousands in our communities who aren't . . . who have no "Body of Christ" to support and with with them through these difficult time.
When my brother was dying of cancer he didn't have a church home, but their was a smaller membership Presbyterian Church who knew about his diagnosis and prognosis and many members of the congregation knew me . . . in fact, they sent me checks to help buy my books when in seminary . . . each week -- it usually would arrive on Monday, a different women in the church would send a handwritten note telling him that he was being lifted up in prayer . . . how he looked forward to this . . . it was for him an expansion of his supportive community of family, friends and his place of work . . . I thank God for the faithfulness of this smaller membership church where these woman took time out to be Christ to my brother.


Friday, September 3, 2010

First week . . .

Whoa, it has been exhausting . . . my first full week of residency in Clinical Pastoral Education . . . exhausting, but in a good way. There are seven of us . . . quite diverse: a Roman Catholic priest from India; a Jewish Rabbi (female) from LA; a Unitarian-Universalist from New Jersey (male); a recently grad of Southern Baptist Seminary in New Orleans who is also the Administrative Pastor at a new church plant in Metairie; a Roman Catholic lay woman from New Orleans; a recent grad of Princeton (female) who grew up Pentecostal but hasn't decided her faith tradition -- leaning toward Quaker; and me, Presbyterian.

Yesterday was my first 24 hour on-call rotation . . . three code blues (deaths) although by the time I arrived on units the two of the patients had been revived . . . the one early this morning died. Sunday I will also have on-call duties . . . as it works out 1x/week we will be on-call and 4 weekends in a three month period . . . I have call Sunday . . . Monday off and then hospital orientation.

Man, my feet have never hurt this much . . . can't wear backless shoes . . . my vice so am having to get use to "real" shoes.

I will be working with a UMC Pastor who has done the one year Residency Program and is now finishing up her three year Supervisory track in oncology and palliative care . . . this was my first choice as well as the first choice of one other person . . . after awhile at negotiating I was ready to give in and take my 2nd choice . . . feeling guilty as I was standing my ground . . . I guess somewhere I have gotten the message that I don't deserve my first choice or that I have to settle so the other person won't have to settle . . . Supervisor wouldn't allow me to give in and in the end I was able to get the units I wanted . . . although I am trying hard not to look to the future, this is the unit that I believe will provide better opportunity should I decided to pursue professional chaplaincy.

Exhausted by this first week but excited about this door that has been opened.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coming up on 5 years . . .

Sunday will mark the 5th Anniversary of Katrina . . . Katrina changed the face of life for so many people in MS and LA . . . of course, in Metro New Orleans it really wasn't Katrina -- it was the breaching of the levees . . . Katrina was a natural disaster . . . what happened to Metro New Orleans was a human made disaster.

As the 5th Anniversary approaches one can't help think baCheck Spellingck on that day and the days following . . . having evacuated from St Charles Parish to my Mother and sister's home on the MS Gulf Coast I was privy to the pictures coming out of New Orleans after the levees broke . . . as I heard the reports on the radio (we had a battery operated radio -- no electricity) in my mind's eye there was no way I could imagine the horrors . . . it is hard to imagine living through that. Living through Camille in 1969 was traumatic enough for me . . . 5 and 1/2 feet of water rushing into the downstairs, but that water didn't linger for three weeks . . . it came and went within a couple of minutes.

The MS Gulf Coast still had not fully recovered from Camille when Katrina hit . . . it will take a long time for both MS and LA to recover from Katrina and the New Orleans, the breaching of the levees . . . neither will ever be the same . . . there is an opportunity for change and growth . . . will this opportunity be embraced or will it slip through our hands?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Procastination . . .

Remember the Carley Simon song, Anticipation . . . in my head the words anticipation changes to procrastination . . . procrastination, procrastination, is making me late, keeping the house waiting . . . so close to being done and yet so far. The fact is I don't like housework . . . and this is what is waiting for me . . . cleaning up and mopping . . . it won't take long . . . it is just taking that first step . . . maybe lunch then . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Opening door . . .

or a new chapter . . . either way I am making a seismic shift in life (and in my thinking) . . . new living arrangements, new town, new job, new friends (hopefully) . . . truth be told, we all make these kind of shifts in our lives . . . some we choose, others are chosen for us . . . either way, they are opportunities for growth and change even if, for awhile, we have to suffer/mourn our losses.

As I write this I think about Joseph . . . how in his mind he had a splendid life . . . everything was going well . . . his father's favorite . . . little did he know that trouble was brewing up ahead . . . perhaps, he was a little arrogant in telling his brothers' about his dreams . . . was this God's way of preparing him for what he would have to endure as God's plan for him was unfolding? . . . thrown into a pit . . . sold into slavery . . . then years later God uses him to save God's people.

Romans 8:28 has always been a verse that brings comfort . . . reminding me that God is ultimately in control when I am working to live in God's will . . . years ago I came to couple this with a verse from Joesph's story when he reveals himself to his brothers . . . "you meant it for evil, God has used it for good" . . . perhaps, this is at the core of forgiveness . . . seeing that even in the midst of forced choices . . . those we would rather not have to live through . . . God is at work redeeming the situation.

To God be the glory.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Tis a gift to be simple . . .

I continue to ponder this idea of simplicity as a spiritual discipline as I sort through what I want need and what I can give up as I make a move to a smaller place. My car is loaded for another trip to the local thrift shop run by the Association for Retarded Citizens. As I have sorted through closets and boxes sorting through there has been, surprisingly a sense of liberation.

During a break . . . I take way too many of these, I revisited the chapter on simplicity in Richard Foster's classic, Celebration of Discipline. Foster defines simplicity as "an inward reality that results in an outward life-style" (69) which leads to freedom, joy and balance . . . not a bad way to live.

"I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is like to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12

'Tis a gift to be simple,

'Tis a gift to be free

'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we see ourselves in a way that's right,

We will live in a valley of love and delight.

Traveling toward simplicity,


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Simplicity . . .

Each time I have moved . . . set off on another trek on the journey through this life, I have craved simplicity . . . in search of simplicity I give lots of stuff away . . . I have done some of this this time and still have more to give away . . . and although I do this each time I move I seem to accumulate more and more . . . I am not sure when or why.

A man who worked in the library of the seminary I attended (he was a grad also) lived a life of simplicity . . . his one room studio apartment was a monument to his lifestyle as was his wardrobe and how he shopped -- he was green before it was cool to be green.

In recent weeks I have been hearing more and more about people voluntarily embracing a more simple lifestyle . . . some for economic reasons, some as they believe it will make them happier and some because they feel called by God to live such a lifestyle . . . it seems to be a lifestyle that Jesus lived. I wonder what would happen if more of us who confess Christ would embrace such a lifestyle . . . trusting in God's providence . . . of course, we must do our part, but is it really about having more and having the latest gadget?

We are a country that seems to have brought into the idea that things will bring us happiness. Did you realize that the Greek word for happiness never appears in the New Testament? The reason is that by itself this word has no meaning . . . instead the Greek word for joy is used . . . although joy is a component of happiness there is a huge difference between the two . . . as the world defines happiness it is dependent on eternal variables . . . joy, on the other hand, according to Scripture is internal and is based on one's relationship with Jesus . . . "when you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey the Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, you joy will overflow." John 15: 10 - 11

As a child I learned the following definition for JOY:




I wonder if this might not be a formula for a life of simplicity?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Self care . . .

Two more folks have posted the NY op-ed piece about clergy burnout . . . self care has been hard
for me . . . I am not sure the reason this is true, but one of the things I have talked with God about is that this year will not only be one of discernment, but also one of learning to take care of myself in all areas of my life.

One of the places where I have not done well at self care is on my physical self . . . the pre-employment physical yesterday revealed sugar in my urine and hypertension. I have been a borderline diabetic for 6 years and "assumed" I was controlling it with diet and exercise . . . but I was kidding myself . . . I wasn't really doing either . . . so yesterday I started on medication for hypertension . . . at my MD's appointment today my BP had already dropped . . . and today I start on medications for diabetes.

The doctor a young Asian woman is hopeful that at some point I will be able to come off of the medications . . . who knows, but I do know that I need to take seriously that when God tells us that we are to love ourselves . . . yes, "love your neighbor as you love yourself" this must include caring for ourselves physically. This is hard for me . . . I don't like doctors but it is a part of being faithful to how God would have us live.

And so a year of discernment and self-care is starting.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Clergy Burnout . . .

Today when I got home from a short visit with my Mom and sister
there were two E-mails from folks who will be co-residents in the program in Clinical Pastoral Education I will be entering the end of the month . . . both were about clergy and burnout . . . then someone else posted an article she had written last month for the Huffing ton Post -- also on clergy burnout.
I am not sure that I am suffering from burnout, but family and friends this weekend suggested that I was . . .that this break will be good for me. I am thinking at this moment that not going back to the parish as a pastor would be a good thing for me . . . not that I didn't love being a pastor and not that I wasn't good at being a pastor . . . of course, I had my quirks -- we all do . . . but I think that finding a church at my age who has a compatible vision for ministry will be extremely hard.
I am in my 5th decade . . . some folks find this hard to believe . . . on good days, so do I . . . I am also a woman . . . even though, I do not believe this should make a difference to Churches, the reality is that it does, esp for those in the South where I have chosen to live . . . I am also single . . . again, this shouldn't make a difference, but the reality is that it does -- I think on two levels -- 1) many churches are suspicious of single women (I was at the last church for two weeks when a woman came in, she said she was sent, to ask if I were a lesbian. I asked if this would make a difference? "No, not to me, but to the church, yes.") and 2) because a person is single the church believes that they will get more bang for their buck (now this is also true if you are married as they expect the spouse to play an active role in the life and ministry of the church -- not because God is calling them to this necessarily, but because their spouse if the pastor.)
So I am taking a break -- further education and training . . . and a time for discernment . . . working to find out where God is calling me next on this journey . . . excitement is growing as the start date nears . . . praying that as pieces have fallen together in the last several weeks they will continue to fall together giving me a glimpse of where God will use me when this program ends next September.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Good girls don't . . .

Good girls don't get angry . . . one of the myths that I have been living . . . instead of expressing my anger I swallow it letting it eat me up inside . . . letting it take away my sense of worth.

I have learned that I learned this unhealthy coping mechanism as a child . . . it reared it's ugly head to bite me in the butt as I faced a dysfunctional congregation that mirrored in many ways the family I grew up in . . . all of this has been new revelations . . . at least on a conscious level . . . as I have been in work with a new therapist.

It is hard work . . . work I would rather not do, but work I must do if I am to have the quality of life that I believe God desires for me. My therapist has me writing about my anger . . . not really writing about it as much as writing to it . . . this, too, is hard, but there is wisdom in her madness.

And so I am working to be a myth buster . . . What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we are all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry -- but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. Ephesians 4: 24-27


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Timing is everything . . .

Checked the mail . . . a summons for jury duty . . . I am to appear on August 30th . . . interesting timing . . . August 18th I will be moving out of the parish to the parish across the River . . . August 30th I will start at the hospital where I will be doing a year long residency in Clinical Pastoral Education . . . hope this gets me out of appearing!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Searching for Community

One of my favorite seasonal films is White
Christmas . . . during the finale one of the songs that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing is "What Can You Do With a General" . . . part of the chorus goes:
What can you do with a general
When he stops being a general?
These words have been playing through my head since the dissolution of my pastoral relationship with the church . . . even though my plans for the next year are set they still ring in my ears, esp. on Sunday mornings.
Paradoxically, as I find freedom in not being in the pulpit every Sunday . . . I am not sure whether this is related to the particular congregation . . . to be frank there were a significant number of folks in the congregation that I didn't cotton to . . . yes, many may think this is a terrible thing to confess -- I loved them and I prayed for them, but I didn't like them -- they demonstrated a pattern of bad behavior that was ignored . . . I miss community . . . I miss having a community with which to Worship on Sunday mornings and live with during the week.
I am sure that many pastors who have left a church and not moved on to another pastoral call right away has struggled with this same issue . . . perhaps, my struggle is compounded as I am single, live in a rural area (of course I can drive into the city) and have chosen not to Worship in a church of my own denomination . . .
And even though this is the case, this brings me back to the Crosby/Kaye song . . . none of the pastors from my own denomination have invited me to Worship at the church where they are pastor . . . and I have to wonder, "why?" Perhaps, it is awkward . . . perhaps, they don't know how to make the offer . . . perhaps, they aren't interested in having a MOWS Worshiping with them . . . perhaps, they haven't even thought of it . . . and I don't want to come down hard on the pastors . . . there are laity who know about the situation and they haven't asked either. And even one of my colleagues in another denomination in this small rural community who knows my situation hasn't invited me to Worship at the church where he is the pastor. Only one woman has invited me to Worship with her and her husband at the church they attend (a Baptist church) So . . .
What can you do with a church pastor?
When (s)he stops being a church pastor?
So I am searching for a Worshiping community to partner with for the, at least, the next year . . . a place of welcome and invitation . . . a place of acceptance and challenge . . . a place for healing and growth.
And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 24, 25

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Transitions . . .

in the next month I will move across the River to begin a new adventure in ministry . . . a one year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education . . . it is an exciting time for me . . . a time of challenge, growth and above all discernment . . . discernment about where God is leading me in my next phase of ministry.
In a way this is a return . . . a return to the vision that called me away from a career as a clinical social worker to seminary . . . a vision which grew out of working with women, men, children and families who were broken and hurting . . . who were either on the fringes of the Church or outside the Church . . . who were in desperate need of the healing and life changing power of Jesus Christ . . . who the Church, for the most part, were ignoring.
The journey thus far and especially in the last five years has been instrumental to bringing me back to this vision . . . even though parts of the journey have been extremely painful God has used these experiences to bring me back to that original vision and to open doors to help focus this vision.
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29: 11

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Long silence . . .

I am not sure why the long silence . . . well, yes, it is Face Book . . . another venue for a cyber presence . . . but one that does not allow anonymity or at least how I set it up . . . here I have this so can share more fully.

I am no longer at the smaller membership church where I had served for five years . . . few probably would have noticed that my last Sunday was my 5th Anniversary with the church. What happened? I guess there could be many answers to that question . . . bottom line is it was time . . . as one of the Elders said to me on 2 occasions misquoting Scripture -- if they don't accept you shake the dust off your feet and leave . . . after three years of working with a church consult it was obvious that our understanding of church and what God calls the church to be and do were entirely different . . . and there were "controllers" . . . one who was not happy -- of course the church exists to make her happy . . . the other "I" offended when it was decided by the co-ordinator of the CE Program that her daughter should not continue to teach Sunday School as she was openly involved in an extramarital affair (the Sunday before my last I learn she is pregnant by this man -- this will be her third child born outside of marriage).

I am now in therapy, again -- third time since being associated with this congregation . . . it is powerful stuff . . . one of the amazing insights is that being in this dysfunctional congregation surfaced for me many family of origin issues leading me to be less effective than I could have been . . . however, out of this I am dealing with these issues . . . learning about myself and working to change behaviors that for the last five years have not served me well . . . so out of chaos has come hope and renewal.

God is good . . . the church negotiated a very generous settlement knowing that it takes 6 to 18 months for a person to find a new position . . . God is good . . . on August 30th I begin a year long residency in Clinical Pastoral Education in the Metro New Orleans area . . . a new position with a move across the River . . . it is an exciting and busy time . . . what happens after this year? . . . I don't know, but I know that God will provide as I partner with God in living within His plan for my life.