Friday, October 28, 2016

"I am corruptible"

   Yesterday was the Healthy Boundaries training and it went very well.  At the beginning one of the people expressed dismay at the fact that there are people in leadership who violate boundaries with parishioners.  And we all have stories of times in which we have heard of or experienced what happens when a minister crosses the line with sexual or financial impropriety.

  At the end of the day together which included watching videos and discussion of how it is the people do step over the line one of the ministers said  "I am corruptible."  And that - to me - really said it all.  That is where our power is - when we know who we are.  That is when we start to build a life with check and balances and a sense of accountability and a deeper awareness.

Interestingly, I have been listening to a CD of Pema Chodren about "Happiness" and she uses such different language than we do in Christianity.  but the bottom message is that our happiness comes when we make the choice that lead to life and not to death.  And living in the reality - that I am corruptible and so I need help to choose and forgiveness for when I chose wrong. Whenever I get into that place of constant self denigration about the bad choices that I make at times I find comfort remembering the words of Maya Angelou "When You know Better, You Do Better."

However in the midst of the life that I live now - as happy as I am - and I am VERY happy these days - there is the truth that I always know - that I am corruptible.  I write this on a Friday afternoon as my husband continues in his latest passion - making molasses cookies.  And here I sit smelling them and wanting them and knowing that "I am corruptible" and also needing to lose weight.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Deep Dive

          Months ago I was asked to lead a workshop on “Healthy Boundaries for Clergy and Spiritual Teachers.”  At first I questioned it – asking both friends and my regional minister – if I was the one to lead such an event since I had struggled throughout my time in ministry with boundaries.  I was assured that I “would do a good job.”  And so I said Yes.

      Now as I work towards this day I recognize that I am diving deep into reliving many events of the past thirty years.  It seems that I am stirring up memories that I had buried a long time ago.  

         Healthy boundaries in ministry are easy to describe but hard to live with.  During this workshop we will talk about dating, dual relationships, gifts, touch, transference, and self care. What is tricky is that ministers are expected to maintain clear professional relationship  in the midst of the life together that we share in a congregation.  For a doctor, whose patient makes an appointment and sees them only in a professional setting, this is much easier.  But even doctors  have issues with crossing the line from professional to personal. 

        There is this belief that the minister  sort of  becomes part of the “church family” except eventually we will leave and they will stay.  There is a "psychic whiplash"  in that we are expected to be available at the most intimate times and still keep a professional distance.  And at the same time we are living our lives in full view of everyone– raising children, having marital issues, losing family members.

As I do the deep dive in preparation I can see how many ways and times I struggled with  boundaries in my ministry.  There is in me a need to be needed and a basic  insecurity that has led to overfunctioning  and oversharing at times.   When I went through divorce, dating and remarriage and the death of my parents,   there were challenges with boundaries  partly due to my emotional  pain and vulnerability.   And  then there is that basic  ego and my self centeredness  that can lead  me to thinking  that I am special.

But that reality is not the end of my deep dive.  I cannot stop with my flaws and failings, my mistakes and missteps. Instead there is a call to go deeper to encounter the Holy One , who has called me into the messiness of pastoral ministry and  has inspired, empowered and forgiven me along the way.  The deep dive leads to the loving face of God who somehow used this very imperfect woman to guide others  - not to the perfect existence – but to the graced and saved and abundant life. 

The deepest  dive takes me to places which bring discomfort at times but ultimately wonder and awe.  I can accept my humanity and also experience  the shimmering presence of the divine that transcends my limitations and fills me with  mercy  and joy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Musings on this Pilgrimage

We are halfway through the small group that I am facilitating on The Soul of a Pilgrim.  Every week I learn something new and continue to wrestle with this book and the whole idea of being a pilgrim.

It is clear to me that while we use the "Journey" language about the spiritual life that a pilgrimage is a little different.  There were three sentences that really spoke to me last night.

1. The pilgrim leaves home in order to experience being a stranger.
2. When we walk toward what is uncomfortable we increase our capacity to be with difficult experiences.
3. In the gift of silence I learn again that I contain multitudes

Yesterday I had an experience of being "a stranger" as I began my training to be an ambassador at a funeral home.  The last time I did a funeral there the director asked me to work there and I thought "why not?"  It would be different and kind of fun to be a greeter and welcome people.  I really like everyone at this funeral home, so why not?  And honestly, after a year and a half of wondering what to do, it seemed like a nudging from God.

The training, however, brought me into a place of insecurity because I was going to have to learn the ropes.  Yesterday morning, I learned about taking pictures of flowers and organizing them.  I baked some cookies and windexed the outside of a casket in preparation for calling hours.  I learned codes to get in the building and to set the thermostat.  It was a lot of details and I could feel tension inside me  start to develop as I wondered if I could remember everything.   I know that in a week or so, I will feel comfortable here but yesterday I was "a stranger in a strange land."

It was in reflection on the pilgrimage book that I recognized that this kind of experience stretches me and makes me uncomfortable and yet I learn. I learn - not just the information - but about myself. Now that I am able to stand back and observe.  Because these are the same feelings that I had when I started college, seminary, new jobs, parenting.  Every new thing I do brings these feelings out.   I like the idea of being in control and outwardly peaceful no matter what.  That is who I want to be, but the truth is that when I am " the stranger" regardless of what i may project - inside there is always anxiety and self doubt that is also a part of me.  And rather than deny it, I now can see that is part of the "multitudes" that is Margot.

Rumi writes: "God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly - not one."

The author writes - "In the gift of silence I learn again that I contain multitudes.  I cannot be fully defined by happy, sad, joyful or sorrowful.  I do not need to choose, for the richness of life embraces all of it.  I need only show up to each moment, to embrace the wholeness of who I am."

What I recognize is that only in those moments of risking being the stranger do I face all of myself and also see my need of God.  But - like all of us - the temptation is to not be a pilgrim but to stay safe in relationships and activities that are familiar and routine.

There are all kinds of pilgrimages.  My friend Mary Wood is in Thailand right now and Marsha Mueller is in Japan.  They are meeting new people and having very different experiences because they are traveling abroad. . Working at a funeral home seems like a pale comparison to that, but I keep learning to trust God's guidance in big and small ways.  To quote the book one more time:
"I am on a path of radical unknowing awaiting the gifts of this experience.  Yet the call, I am certain, is to stop reaching, forcing, and trying to make the experience into something.  I need to recognize that it already is something.  My willingness to be here and follow the quiet voice is enough". 

May it be so.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Tuesday spiritual practice

Going to the movies.

I discovered $5 Tuesday movies at the crosswoods theatre with free popcorn and have made it a weekly practice to go to the movies.  Usually with my friend Melanie.  Following this, of course we go to lunch and talk about the movie.

Going to the movies is one of my favorite outings.  There is nothing I like better than sitting in the comfortable seats, watching the previews and waiting for the story to unfold on the screen.  We tend to pick movies that are "about people" with a minimal amount of explosions and violence.  And when it is a good movie it stay with me and continues to resonate in my mind and heart.

The last few weeks we have seen: Florence Foster Jenkins, Sully, Bridget Jones Baby, The Queen of Katwe, Hell or High Water, The Magnificent Seven, Southside with You.  For me, these moves are not just escapism but really a chance to think about the human condition. Some of the questions that these movies explore are:  What is the good life?  What does it mean to pursue a "call"?  What are the boundaries of a relationship?  How do people fall in love? What are the limits of friendship? Some of these movies have made me laugh and some made me cry and all of them - on some level made me think and feel.

Today we saw "Birth of a Nation" which was a powerful film about the Nat Turner Rebellion,  Here is a synopsis of the movie:
"Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities - against himself and his fellow slaves - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom."

This was  a hard movie to watch as we saw the horrors of slavery depicted.  Nat Turner was allowed to read one book - the Bible - and we saw how the slave masters wanted to use him to spout Bible verses that told slaves to remain peaceful in their condition.  However, it was his reading more of the Bible, that led him to hear a call to action to help lead people out of bondage.  The end result was not freedom but  murders, violence and the eventual death of many many people and the hanging of Nat Turner himself.

This is a disturbing movie in so many ways but it made me think about how I love the idea of "equality" for all people as an American.  But the truth is that  there is this fundamental stain in our country that is the legacy of this evil dehumanizing system of slavery.  I remember going to a Holocaust Museum and being told we need to "Remember."  Elie Wiesel said: For the dead and the living, we must remember." 

And movies like this help me to remember.