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"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 t…
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Hope 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 ann…

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, f…

Touching Home Base

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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…

"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.





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Getting 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 bes…

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 populati…

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 h…

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.

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 le…

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?

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

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 slowl…

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 y…

Video: Joni Mitchell – In Concert (live at the BBC 1970)

This is the voice of my life's soundtrack. Thank you, Joni. You'll sing our lives forever. 

Video: Joni Mitchell – In Concert (live at the BBC 1970) | That Eric Alper

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.



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