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