Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Bound Conscience" is Theological Bullshit

SERIOUSLY? I won't start fights on Facebook. But a post I read has me fuming.

A female pastor claiming that being against women clergy in the church isn't really sexism, it's just "bound conscience," and we have to respect those folks who believe this way. I have been trying to craft a response to her post for an hour and I have just come to this:

 I see "bound conscience" as racism, sexism, and homophobia all dressed up in fancy theological clothes. The incarnation of Jesus isn't just about God's love for the male, privileged body. It is about God's redemption of all human flesh - whatever color, race, gender, ability or age. And those who preach this gospel ought to reflect the diversity of this God-loved human race.

Bound conscience?! That is the power of discrimination : it creates self-hatred in those who are hated by the majority. Our blindness to our own condition continues to amaze me.

Here's my bottom line: It is not OK with me that an ELCA pastor, called to preach and teach, misstates or misunderstands the power of discrimination about gender, race or sexual orientation, when talking about Scripture.

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hope and Help for Your NervesHope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I help people with their thinking, emotions, relationships and beliefs every day. This little gem, written back in 1969 by an Australian physician/psychiatrist should be in the hands of every person who has ever suffered with a full-on panic/anxiety disorder. We call that general diagnosis "GAD" or Generalized Anxiety Disorder today. There are a lot of great resources out there to help. This book is quite personal, clear and wonderful. It's not perfect; she suggests leaving the family for up to several months to recover, which is not something I would easily advise to anyone. And all the advice will probably not be enough without therapy, but it's a helpful adjunct.

Her principles of treatment, and they are right:

1. facing fear as a normal emotion running too high in your life
2. accepting that it is doing that at the moment, and it WONT KILL YOU
3. learning to rise, or float above or behind the annoying physical sensations
4. giving your body time to heal itself from the super-tuned-in experience of fear sensation that has you knotted up

This, along with EMDR, talk therapy, exercise and a lot of self reflection can and will help most anyone recover.



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Friday, September 6, 2013

A Sermon On Demons that Won't Make You Want to Die From Boredom

So, you may know that I was a parish pastor for 20 years. It was a brutal ride most of the time.

As I reflect upon those years now, from the relative safety of 9 years away, I think it would have been a joy if I had felt that my seminary education and the role I was given in the churches I served really wanted ME to be there. Me, rather than some kind of cut-out, public symbol and personal mascot to the historic values and expectations of ministry. Because I will tell you, my life as a pastor was the life of someone shaped to live a role a certain way, and while it worked for me on occasion, all the while it was strangling me. 

As I listen to Nadia preach and speak, as I read her sermons (link below,) I recognize in her words so much of what I wanted to say, to be and to be appreciated for as a person, as a young adult, as a mother, a woman, a spouse, a pastor.  Her journey, unique as it is, makes me wistful for a past I didn't get to have : the chance to be a pastor as a real, full, imperfect, intolerant, anxious but bursting with ideas, concerns and love of God person that I was.

Maybe this is the core difference : she started her church and shaped it around the goals she brought to it. I inherited systems that were so entrenched, there was no moving them without someone accusing me of all manner of untrue and awful things. I had to work in the shadow of pastors who were living lies and working full-time to keep them hidden. I had to work with the feeling of judgment from unhappy people in every, single moment of my work day. Honestly, I'm not exaggerating.

So I listen to preachers like Nadia with joy as well as a heavy heart. I would have like to speak as colorfully as she does because I use those words every day. I would have liked to bring that kind of full person-hood to my work. It just wasn't the road I ended up walking. So here is what I say: you go, girl. Preach. Because I've moved over to make room in a church that needs more preachers like you.


Demon Possession and Why I Named My Depression “Francis”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Touching Home Base

Over ten years ago, during the most difficult part of my career as a parish pastor, I took a quick summer trip back East with my two young children to visit my family. We flew in, and my parents picked us up from the airport. Toward the end of that visit, I coerced my parents into taking the 100 mile trip from their home to the town of my childhood. Though we had talked about it weeks before on the telephone (and what seemed at the time, promises were made), it took several tries before I could get at least one of them to agree to go along.

I'd love to see Fairfield again, I said. I haven't been back since high school, over 30 years ago. As I talked, I could see from their faces that my desire struck them as odd. Though my grandparents on my mother's side had continued to live there long after we left, and lived in their home until their deaths many, many years later, the relatively close town of my childhood held little interest for my parents. I pushed. Finally we agree to go on the Friday before our departure home. No, don't take our car, my father decided; I'll drive us all.

In the flurry of that morning, I explained again to my children where we were going, and why. How I had spent the first 12 years or so of my life in a quiet town on the shore of Long Island Sound. That I remember long, humid days of summer spent on the beach. How I learned to swim in those salty waters, and how I watched the yearly fireworks in the growing dark, wrapped in a heavy sweatshirt with my feet in the still-warm sand. They weren't all that interested, of course.

How long will it take to get there? What are we going to do once we're there? How long do we have to stay? I knew the moment my father started the car that I was surrounded by obliging parents and resigned children. With my husband back in Minnesota, I was on this return journey more or less alone.

The miles clipped by with my lead-footed father at the wheel, dodging in and out of traffic as if he had a plane to catch. Time and again I closed my eyes in prayer as I saw how closely he cut some of his lane changes. I told him a couple of times that there was no rush; he snapped back that he was trying to get ahead of the traffic. My mother looked relaxed as she sat up front watching the miles go by. I smiled at my children, who were doing their very best just to fit into their mom's plan ; we looked out the back seat windows at the passing towns.

When we arrived in town, I did my level best to Pay Attention and Remember. We drove by the post office, the high school, the railroad underpass near downtown. We had lunch at our family's old favorite hot dog restaurant, still grilling dogs after 40 years. I shared greasy french fries with my children who hate relish, onion and mustard. We left there to find our old neighborhood. A place of sweeping mental vistas shrank down to a portion of town with tight, old roads and tiny Cape Cod houses. As we drove down a street, I was startled to realize my father, the man who was certain of everything, didn't remember our old address. I did. We slowed, and looked.

We got out and even found our former neighbor at home, home bound, in a wheelchair. When she saw me, she called me by my mother's name. I was amazed at her memory. We smiled together for a few minutes, marveling at the years that had passed.

Back into the car, the kids were asking me about the beach. The beach. We headed that way, passing by one of my elementary schools, and the site of the life-altering car accident my parents and their children survived. When we drove by it, I glanced at my parents whose jaws seem set against the memory. I took a deep breath. Here it was. And here I am again.

The beach road took us to a small, pot-holed blacktop parking lot in front of a old, but well-loved town beach house. The afternoon had heated up, and we climbed out of the car ready to just relax for a while. I had come prepared with my bathing suit under my clothes, and offered my children their suits. They declined. Suit yourself, I said with a smile. My mother, who had spent those countless days hauling her three children to and from this beach for years on summer breaks seemed unfazed. I was excited, and began to walk with our small group up the steps and through the sand-polished, gritty open deck to the stairs down to the beach.

Perhaps it was the trick of memory, or the natural erosion of water upon the land, but the beach was quite narrow, and comprised of more pebbles than sand.  We joined a dozen or so families of small children on the beach as I turned to look at the horizon, the view I had seen countless times before. A wide expanse of moving blue-gray water. Seagulls. A cargo ship. I walked down to the water's edge and stepped in; it was warm. I stood still, and thanked God for the moment: touching home base.



My father stayed on a bench by the beach house with my first-born who refused to come onto the sand. My daughter and mother walked the shoreline for awhile, picking up shells and talking together as they looked at me out of the corner of their eyes. I dropped my hand into the water, and licked my fingers, tasting the old, familiar salt of the Sound. The moment was passing. I looked for the blurry brown of horizon where five miles out was another beach front on Long Island, New York. I breathed the salty, warm air. I could feel my family waiting me out behind me. I turned to take in the Connecticut shoreline, the houses, piers, boats and bathers I could see. I walked slowly out of the water, and turned once more toward the Sound. I liked what I saw. And it was time to leave.

We shuttled back to the car, ready for a couple more hours of driving back to the other side of the state. We'd be home before dinner time. As the conversation in the car turned toward other things, and what we saw and would see as we drove, I thought about what it means to go home again, to return to a favorite place in early memory. It's not that you can't go home again, I think. You just have to want to go and be able to see your memories, and the present, as two separate visions of the very same thing.




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"I Forgot My Phone" : short film


Yes, I believe many of us are more smitten with our smartphones than each other. I'm wondering when that will finally feel painful enough to control ourselves. Not soon enough.





Sunday, August 11, 2013

Getting the Love You Want : A Guide for CouplesGetting the Love You Want : A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Hendrix and I have preaching and church ministry as a young adult in common. I love this about him. What I don't love is that his psychology model is born of psychoanalytic and Freudian models. He believes that we marry unconsciously to heal the wounds that our early lives have inflicted upon us, and that good marriages heal those wounds.

I believe instead that we marry others who feel instinctively familiar, like family, to us. In both good and bad ways. And that is our own work, our individual, relational and spiritual work, to heal our wounds. I think that is too heavy a load to lay on one relationship, particularly your spouse!

I am indebted to him, however, for teaching us/me the Imago Dialogue model. I use it almost daily in my practice to slow partners down, get them to listen to each other without reflexive defense, problem solving or arguing points of fact. It's the best thing about his work that I value.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Must

Today in Minnesota was a milestone day : it's the first day that marriage for gay and lesbian couples became legal in our state. In courthouses, hotel lobbies, and backyards around the state couples who have waited for years, sometimes decades, recited vows, were blessed and declared spouses. It is a day of great joy in so many lives! It's expected by those in the know that hundreds of new marriages of same-sex couples will be taking place in the weeks to come, and I say God Bless every one of them with a long and happy life together.

But, should there be any same-sex couple that in spite of all the joy around them, is tense, uncertain and uneasy, I hope they also hear this message somehow: just because you can, doesn't mean you must.

Gay and lesbian couples have all the same challenges that heterosexual couples have. But they also have a huge, additional stress: that of being part of a discriminated minority group. At the last big social survey, about 3-5% of the population is homosexual, and I believe every one of them has endured the pressure of being different from the majority in significant ways. Some have felt the tension between what was expected of them and what they felt within them so intensely they have turned to drugs for relief, self harm for escape, and self denial for peace. How each person in a same-sex couple has managed this discrimination is central to each partner's story and how the couple functions together.

As the GLBTQ culture explodes with joy and relief at the legal right to now marry in our state, there will be come couples who are just not ready to make a life commitment and who feel the pressure from all sides of their social circle to line up and book the caterer and photographer.  I want to be one among many, I hope, who will remind couples who are uncertain that while marriage law is indeed a political issue, they do not have to get married to make a political statement.

Marriage is a legal union, and comes with a large number of obligations, rights, duties, privileges and can involve children. If you aren't ready to make this decision, don't. The freedom to marry includes the freedom not to marry, too.




Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Morning Church Rant

I didn't go to church today because I couldn't face another stripped-down summer liturgy. Bleh.  Recycled sermons, vacationing preachers, substitute organists, empty pews, last moment lectors, absent acolytes, no choir, no coffee hour. The church on vacation isn't pretty. 

But that's not our only problem. We have a problem of relevance. We are trying WAY too hard to find it. When church leaders chase the latest opinion polls, and change their main Sunday liturgies to meet the "market," those who have been shaped by the liturgical traditions of the past are left to embrace the change or leave. What seems to have been left out of the rush to seek the seeker is that the Church was never more embracing or growth-filled as when it was the keeper of mystery, ritual, prayer and sacrament and served the community. (1st - 3rd Century CE)

It will be a sad, sad day when a generation hence American mainline churches are empty (like Europe) and leadership wishes we had hewed to liturgical practice, embraced social justice, and welcomed the stranger and the familiar at the same time.

Am I really all alone in my grief at the demise of the weekly Lutheran and Episcopalian Sunday liturgy -- the ritual of action, listening, singing, silence, Word and Meal that has sustained me spiritually all my adult life?

Are there no clergy around me who think that the rush to reinvent the church by changing worship is getting at the problem from the wrong end? Is technology in the sanctuary really All That?

You'd think with all the gutting of worship tradition that all following Jesus ever meant was showing up for church, and that Church meant getting people in the doors on Sunday morning. I always thought living the faith was what I did with my life the rest of the time, out in the world. Worship was what pulled me back into the tradition of the mothers and fathers, helped me remember, fed me at the Table, grounded me in the mystery.

I'm sad the scramble for growth, money, resources, and relevance has meant the suburban churches in my area are always riding the wave of the Next Big Thing. I've been around long enough to know that there is always a next big thing.

The rush to relevance has left me cold. It's exhausting (no wonder the church heaves a huge sigh during the summer). Think I'll go read Morning Prayer (BCP, p. 75) and have my own church today.

Signed,

Wish You Were Here. 



Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's Not About The Nail

One of my clients played this for me in session today. It's a short, priceless video about the way men and women seem to listen differently. Just watch, and you'll see.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Happy 29th Ordination Anniversary

29 years ago I was ordained a pastor in the LCA, now part of the ELCA. Today, my former synod is meeting in assembly in my last congregation, 3 miles from where I sit.

I'm not there because a few months ago my denomination took me off the roles as a pastor because I no longer serve in a ministry position. It was a process, and it took years, but I'm out.

Do I miss it? Yes. And No.

I think it's a terrible mistake to take experienced and quality clergy off the roles of the church simply because their call took them out of the parish and into different ministry. I do think of my work as a therapist as holy work. Even better than my work as a pastor. But in our denomination, ordination is to Word and Sacrament, and once I left the parish, I was more a word, healing and service person. I wasn't preaching weekly, or celebrating baptism or Holy Communion regularly. My work is in the world, not the church. So I am out. So I miss that role, some of that work, that chance to lead in my own way in the ELCA.

And No. The life of a pastor, the way church employment works, the daily politics of the job, and the distressing and disrespectful last years of my life as a pastor were soul-killing. The only way to save my life was to leave. Had I been allowed to take my first and only sabbatical in 20 years, I probably would have had room and grace to re-organize myself as a pastor in a changing church. But my proposal was rejected by the power that was immediately over me, adding to his pressure on me to leave the position. So I did. Making that power quite happy, and me relieved to have a new chance at being the vocational leader I wanted to be.

So Yes and No. And happy ordination anniversary to me. It's an important day for me, and means little to anyone else now except my family. I saved my life, and left the clergy system. Good luck to everyone who stays in. 




Thursday, May 30, 2013

If I Had More Time

On the days I don't go to the gym, I realize how much longer my days used to be. I'm so glad I'm a gym rat, but I miss those couple of hours of time I once had.

Here's what I would do with a bit more time in my day.

1.  Subscribe to and read The Christian Century magazine again.
2.  I'd spend a bit more time cooking dinner.
3.  Spend more time outside, year round.

That's my short list. As I critique myself, I do believe that I spend too much time online with social media. Perhaps that time could be tightened in order to accomplish the more fundamental, slower, no technology things I have on my list.

What would your short list be?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Moving mountains of ice come ashore at Mille Lacs | kare11.com

If this were happening in my back yard, I wouldn't be so calm. It reminds me of the 1960's movie, The Blob, which at the time, was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen as a 12 year old!

Moving mountains of ice come ashore at Mille Lacs | kare11.com

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What I've Been Talking About This Week

I find it interesting to notice that sometimes my conversations in therapy, with vastly different people and circumstances, seem to circle around themes on occasion. This week, I've noticed two topics that I am repeatedly seeing in session:

1. Men who have become "awake" to their own conflicts, problem behaviors and thinking and have made radical steps to be fuller, more peaceful people. Some have partners that are whole enough people themselves who rejoice in the change, and despite years of distance, hurt and resentments, fight along with their men to restore and renew their partnership. Others have partners who are too fragile, conflicted or hurt that the reversal appears like an "act" and feel the need to flee. Whatever the result, their is great Joy in the awakening, and it's a pleasure to keep giving these new men feedback on their personal discoveries.

2. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If there is a personality style that kills a marriage slowly and with deep pain, this is it. Whether the partner is male or female, the chronic lack of empathy on the part of the partner leaves the hurt, bewildered and worn-out one talking to me about how empty they feel when their partner, despite all evidence to the contrary, blames the spouse for all the pain, ignores the needs of their children, and never seems to connect with them. Worse still is the adult child who begins to recognize what growing up with a narcissistic mother or father has done to their sense of self, their confidence in relationships, or their ability to trust the empathy and care of another.

(I'm looking forward to the publication of the newest edition of the DSM-V. In it is a new model of personality disorders that I think will be helpful to the therapist as they come into regular contact with these persistent personality types.)

It's been a long winter here in MN and the snow won't quit. Once again, we will probably go from winter to summer in 24 hours. Hope that, wherever you are, you get all 4 of the earth's seasons.

Peace,
L

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You Gotta Have Hope

It's true that all we have is the now. Every moment, lived now, is how we put together a life. Living our mental time too much in the past, or too far into the future, is a sure fire recipe for suffering.

In a previous post I wrote about a few important aspects of changing our body experience in the present: focusing on actions we can take to change our inner world: good nutrition, daily exercise, quieting the mind through prayer, ritual, or meditation, and focusing our time on mutual, healthy relationships.

Here I'd like to talk about the mental attitude of hopefulness, a necessary ingredient to creating a more positive outcome to our efforts toward change.

Have you ever noticed that while you are in that awful process of really being sick with an infection or injury, trying to decide whether to make an appointment or get to an urgent care center, the anxiety about your situation amplifies your suffering? In the same way, I wonder if you have noticed that once you make up your mind to take action, and put yourself in a situation where you can receive medical help, your symptoms begin to subside even before you are examined?

This lessening of anxiety and its effect on our suffering once we are confident we will be helped is known as the placebo effect: the way that hope for change creates an increase in well-being and a lessening of suffering.

That is how powerful the emotional experience of hopefulness is. Part of the therapeutic process, whether in a hospital room or a counseling office, is sustaining hope for change. I believe that human beings can change; I have changed, and continue to work on my own change processes. I have helped many people create their own change, and witnessed healing of heart, mind, and body all my life.

Hope is the confidence that the suffering of the present can be relieved, and that there is a path that can be relied on to attain healing. It is what can carry us through the work of the present to a new future. It's the most necessary mental ingredient I know when taking on the challenge to create something new in our lives.

If you have hope for a different future, you can often endure the suffering of the now, the work necessary to change your circumstance, and launch yourself into a different tomorrow, next week or next year.

Want to change something now? Grab onto your hope for change and don't let go.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sex and Marriage : An Expert

Esther Perel is a renown Belgian sex therapist with a passion for understanding sexuality and long term, committed relationships.

In her TED talk, Perel speaks of the the difference between love and desire, and the conflict we have as human beings between being safe, secure and needed by a partner, versus the mystery, attraction and freedom that fuels passion.

 It is a perfect message for Valentine's Day. Enjoy.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Losing Our Religion: The Growth Of The 'Nones' : NPR

"...and so I think the single most important reason for the rise of the Unknowns is that combination of the younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue."

Great intro into the new series on NPR on the growing numbers of people with "no religious affiliation"

Losing Our Religion: The Growth Of The 'Nones' : The Two-Way : NPR