Monday, July 2, 2012

On Preaching

I smell like coffee.  Which make sense when I pause and reflect on how much I've consumed the past few hours.

I'm writing a sermon to be preached this coming Sunday.  And I'm attempting way too much in it. 

Sermons always stress me out.

Monday, March 19, 2012

grope? or no grope?

I am also one who opts for the "grope".   But I hadn't considered her point of view...

And now I want to be groped more than ever!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love, the Gay Community and Fuller Seminary

I am thankful to be part of an intentional community (Urban Village of Pasadena), which, possessing varying points of view, extends authentic love to the marginalized, oppressed, and painfully mistreated gay community. 

I am thankful to be a member of Pasadena Mennonite Church, which, possessing varying points of view is committed to extending (and beginning to embody) authentic love to the marginalized, oppressed, and painfully mistreated gay community.

I had always mourned the reality that the graduate school I chose to attend did least not so openly. 

And yet, I recently read two articles in Fuller Seminary's student newspaper that caught my attention.

Reflections of a Gay Christian by Jennifer Lingenfelter


Reflections of a Father by Sherwood Lingenfelter

I doubt that Fuller will change its position on homosexuality anytime soon.  But articles like these increase my hope.  And my hope that they too, will find bold ways of offering acceptance, inclusion and love to their gay students and those to come.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Battle of the Bulge

I have been especially aware of the extra weight my body carries around each day.  And once again, I've begun exerting great(er) effort at eating less (and more "clean") food. 

It is damn hard.

I've known about the phenomenon about the role one's brain plays in such a process, but reading about it again gave me comfort.  It will be hard, because it is hard. 

The Power of Habit

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Faith

For the past few years, I did not and could not possess ultimate hope for this world.  Everyone and everything around me was tainted by evil, violence, suffering, laziness, and greed (just to name a few).  I had no hope in the human race and I had no hope in a Divine, although I wanted it.  I longed for it.  I needed it.  But such feelings couldn’t erase the belief that this world had gone to shit.  And God let it. 

Some time ago, I had been speaking with Thea (a fellow Urban Village community member) about these feelings and the lack of hope I had that “all would be well”.  As I left her home, she affirmed my feelings and offered a simple challenge:  Even if I couldn’t see it now, beauty did exist, love did exist, goodness did exist.  Her belief didn’t change mine but it did stay with me.

A fellow CPE peer recently asked me during one of our group times: “What would God have to do to make me believe?”  At the time, I didn’t know what to say.  I had asked myself a similar question numerous times.  Would a miracle produce belief in me?  I doubted it.  I would probably just rationalize it away.  But his question stayed with me.

And then I had a profound moment of belief.  I was sharing a verbatim (a word-for-word encounter I had with a patient) with the group for our mutual learning and invited my peers to help me see where God might have been present, since I myself was having a difficult time seeing God at all.  I had shared with my peers that this visit had profound impact on me because it was the first time I could remember ever identifying with someone else.  Not empathetically, but believing that in some mysterious way, I myself was that distressed little girl in the hospital bed, and comforting her meant comforting that part of me that felt like her. A peer pointed to the moment when I had brought the stuffed animal to her.  She had been crying inconsolably and the distraction of the toy brought relief and comfort and enabled her to fall asleep.    My peer's response cut through to me:  "Maybe God was healing two people in that moment." 

As soon as he said it, I believed it.  Tears came.  And then as quickly as I believed, I began to disbelieve.  Cynical thoughts formed in my mind and a mysterious desire to run away from any faith that might be coming back to me became very real.  I've been thinking about it ever since.

What changed?  What prompted my response of faith...and my temptation to flee? 

What was so significant about that moment that enabled me to see all that I had been seeing already (the violence, suffering etc) and yet come to a different conclusion?  A belief in something greater.  Something beyond myself.  That moment felt holy - as if I was truly the recipient of Divine touch.  or Goodness.  Life.  I believed.  But in what?  In whom?  Was it the God of my youth?  The personal One who remained active in the world as I had so firmly held in years prior?  Or was it something - or someone - else who orchestrated this moment of healing and faith?  Perhaps it was simply a chance encounter that carried profound weight; Life offering life once more. 

I've been thinking...Perhaps Thea's question, and my peers prompting and proposition were just the things to "broaden my consciousness" (a phrase used by Rebecca Ann Parker in Proverbs of Ashes, 116) to include one of goodness, not only evil.  Perhaps whatever faith I've received from that broadening had to come at this gut level.  Perhaps it couldn't come from books or thought processes, witnesses to miracles, or mere determination.  I had to feel it, to know it - in my gut - that it was real.  Is this was they mean by existential?  

And why on earth do I want to run away from that which brought such Light? 

I am not sure I know the answer to this right now.  But I do sense that it would be unhelpful and wrong to rush through this time and simply call myself a "Christian" again, glossing over my experiences with the religious paintbrush that looks Mennonite, or Catholic, or even Christian.  I sense that the part of myself that wanted to run is afraid of such boxes and needs the time and room to breathe.  I need to get to know this new faith of mine - whatever "it" is.  For now, I'm choosing to call it Love.

I am so thankful for this CPE experience, and am indebted to my husband, Joe for his willingness to stay home with our son so that I can pursue this.  I have been desiring spiritual clarity for some time now, and to live without it has been incredibly painful for me.  And while I can't say that I have the ability to create an entire theology on my belief in Love and its possibility, to even be able to say the words "I believe in..." brings relief.  It's been a long journey. 

To those friends in my community and CPE program and family who have offered life-giving presence that stayed with me in the darkness long enough to listen: Thank you.  It is this life you offered me that is helping me find salvation.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

CPE Reflection 1

Week One

On being “called”
It seems premature to write how excited I am to (finally) be in CPE.  I mean, we haven’t even seen any patients yet!  But the exhaustion I felt prior to the first day was quickly replaced by feelings of happiness, gratitude and anticipation.  Ever since my initial chaplaincy experience at Huntington in 2006, I began to think that chaplaincy was where I fit best, and I remember leaving my working days at Huntington invigorated, not depleted.  Does the excitement I have felt this week point towards finding my “place” in this world?  Or is it simply because it feels luxurious to have so much time just for “me” and not have the full responsibility of caring for an energetic, particular, stubborn, but entirely endearing two and a half year old?

On grief
I heard a baby cry in the ED and the strong visceral response I had surprised me.  My heart was immediately heavy, I felt a little panic, and tears sprang to my eyes.  Is this PTSD?  Is this grief from my own experience with our son’s hospitalization that has not yet been worked through?  What is it that I was responding to?  I usually become aware of what I think by first recognizing what I feel, so that thoughts that rushed through my mind in that time were scattered and less coherent.  My body was telling me something – but what?  What was it about that time that was so traumatic for me?  The words I remember thinking as we stood in the ED were “that baby needs comforting”, “that baby is alone”, “someone is hurting that baby”, “I need to save him/her”.  I’ve always been embarrassed at how deeply traumatizing our son’s hospitalization was to me, feeling, instead, that any normal person would have grieved for a month or two or three, or twelve, perhaps, but not thirty!  It has been two and a half years and I am still discovering parts of me that need time and healing.  How is this going to affect the care I offer to patients at Arcadia?  Will my self-awareness enable me to set aside whatever personal shitsu comes up in the moment and focus on the people in front of me?  Or is this going to get in the way?  And when will I finally bid goodbye to my grief?

On prayer
Deacon Mike asked a fellow intern to offer a practice prayer for healing for a patient.  I sat in my seat incredibly thankful I wasn’t the one asked.  I dread having to compose a spontaneous prayer with a patient.  I used to feel rather comfortable with praying and would have described many moments praying with others as sacred, but it’s been many months since I offered a prayer on behalf of someone that was not pre-written.  Who would I be talking to?  Do I believe, or do I not?  If I do, how can I ease myself back into this practice without feeling exceptionally awkward and stiff?  If I don’t, how will I respond to such a request?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Checking In

Things have gotten busy - really busy as of late.  Typically, this time of the quarter is centered upon finals week and finishing major papers without losing my sanity (or husband or son).  But this past month has brought with it two new housemates for our own home (well, four, if you count children, which I'm going to) as well as a huge R&R project for the back house of our rental property in downtown Los Angeles (and not the "Rest & Relaxation" kind, either!)

I'm learning (perhaps re-learning) things about myself in the process of all the repairs and renovations - and my husband.  For one, we manage projects very differently.  Two, we both struggle with the fear of making a wrong decision.  The stress that results from having to agree together (or relinquish control) has not been pleasant, but I'm happy to say that after two full weeks of a great deal of bickering and frustration with each other, we're finding our stride.  Still, I cannot wait until this is all over and we are ready to invite new tenants in.

Our new housemates have brought quite a bit of diversity to our own home (the apartment we reside in).  For the most part, our previous roommates have all been highly educated, working or in school, fairly moderate or progressive politically and theologically, and, well, ...white.  Our new housemates are different in almost every way.  It has been interesting (read:  enjoyable) so far although I suppose only time will tell how our differences will play out in the daily interactions we have.

I have been proud of myself for maintaining some level of commitment to my physical health in the midst of the incredibly long days we're working.  I've been to the gym more often than not and caught "forty winks" myself, during our son's nap time.

My food intake, however, has fluctuated between the extremes of moderate, healthy eating, and consuming lots and lots of shit (read:  Red #40, sugar, fat, and a whole host of preservatives and chemicals I normally try to avoid).  I've been pondering about the possibility of calling myself a "compulsive" eater.  In times past, I would never have admitted to anything of the sort, but lately, my obsession with obtaining and eating food has been obvious, even to me.  I'm not really sure what to do with these thoughts.  I've thought about going to OA.  I've considered just meeting with a few others I know and love.  I've mostly not done anything.  I know that's not where I want to stay, and to be honest, I don't believe I will.  But this remains a most mysterious and daunting area for me.

Spiritually/Philosophically, I'm in the same place.  How on earth did we come to be?  This universe is so magnificent, so outstanding that I cannot seem to believe that all that I see (it's actualization and potential) is the result of chance.  And yet, the very concept of God seem so outrageous, the belief that a Divine Being has created and is maintaining a world S/He will preserve until the end of time seems much more like fantasy than reality.  Or a really, cool video game where all the good guys beat the bad guys and get the ultimate prize of eternal life in bliss.  So, I can't seem to believe, and I can't not believe.  And of course, I'm still moved to the core about the violence, suffering, and evil in this world. Anyone have any good books on the topic?

In other news, the Occupy camp in downtown LA has been forced out.  That makes me disappointed.  (But we've finally decided to "Move Our Money" to a local credit union (TBD).  All of our retirement and investment accounts were already outside of the Big Banks (mostly in micro-investments through Calvert Foundation, some in CA state bonds), but our checking accounts were/are still in Bank of America.  Soon to be not, thanks to the strong testimony (and urging) of one of our community members in Urban Village of Pasadena).

Our winter garden is surviving - although I've seen birds pecking at my spinach leaves and have a strong suspicion they are "what happened" to all of our carrot tops, the first bed of spinach we planted, and a great deal of our beet shoots.  I must take the advice to cover our newly sprouted plants with bird netting next time - the devastation they cause is heart-breaking!  Still, the broccoli is coming along, as is the cilantro, and I can determine at least one strong garlic plant.

I've also expanded my knitting abilities and am trying a new cowl for my 3-year-old niece.  I'm getting very excited about its completion and deciding what to knit next.

But, I have an exegetical paper due on Monday, and so off to the library I go.