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,