Archive for August, 2009


wind of God

I am a member of an online discussion group of Mennonites lending their voices and efforts toward  positive change in  denominational polity. Acceptance of LGBT persons (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-genders) into full membership is one of those issues, and its time has come. We are not the only denomination dealing with this possibly last great hurdle of Christendom. As a peace and justice church we must see the social justice aspect of this issue and lead affirmatively. I am convinced that once we exercise compassion and inclusiveness instead of the exclusiveness that fear brings, many souls will grow in Christ’s love and the denomination will grow stronger and deeper for it.

My own painful experience being my starting point, I admit to feeling hopeless as I hear the many voices, both erudite and modest continually chiming in denominational ears that appear to be deaf. Many voices, many brilliant minds lending themselves to the  acappella choir of ardent souls performing for so few listeners. I am not a brilliant mind, but I know beautiful simplicity when I see or hear it. Yesterday I read this post from Martin Lehman who calls himself TheOldFool. Is it because he takes Jesus words seriously to heart in a world that knows Him not? If so, he is anything but a fool. His essay gave me hope again and I share it with you here:

I joined the MennoDiscussion group and found my way to the discussion of why the Mennonite Church should receive people of same sex orientation.  I call myself  TheOldFool and tried to say some helpful things. I was asked to engage in the debate. The debaters are well skilled in the art, and present tough propositions.  I went to bed in a bit of despair, as I wasn’t sure I was up to it.

I often enjoy waking time, and it was then that it came to me that a debate could not be won, so I entered the discussion as follows:

It seems that literalistic thinkers and biblicists are bent on winning an argument that will exclude same sex persons from the kingdom of God. They use logic to determine the ways of God. They’re smart people, and somewhat proud.

They must, however, be born again and become as little children if they themselves are to enter the Kingdom. They must be taught again the elementary things of God, such as love, grace and peace. They are certain that God has accepted them in spite of their sins. Now they must learn to accept others as God accepted them.

Jesus described the Spirit as an unseen WIND which blows where it wills. We hear the wind’s sound and see evidence of its presence. Literalistic thinkers are blind to the work of the Spirit in bringing glbt persons into the Kingdom. The gentle blowing of God has brought gays and lesbians to faith. They believed, and rely on the finished work of Christ to save them. For years they kept in the closet. Though pained by the secrecy imposed on them, the fire of the Spirit lit them and they served in our churches and worked in our institutions. If outed, they fled to urban areas where they found others of like faith.

Literalistic thinkers would bind God by ancient words written on paper. But God will not be so bound. The record is that God often repented of words spoken in haste, or in anger. God is free to use Hosea as an illustration of his love and grace. Hard-hearted literalistic thinkers use the words written by Paul to denigrate saints. Those harsh words do not describe our brothers and sisters who happen to be attracted to persons of the same sex. I have heard them protest, but that was not my experience.

So, for more than 25 years I have been listening to the testimonies of same sex believers, some who abstained from sexual activity, and some in same sex partnerships. I have observed the moving of the WIND of God as it gathers power sufficient to overwhelm those who deny the extent of God’s grace. Arguments based on literal reading of the Bible once justified slavery. Changes in society and in the church swept those arguments away. So shall it be again.

Martin Lehman, August 25, 2009


YHWH .75x2.611


who is in and who is out: membership

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation emails. Today’s message, Is group affiliation more important than personal transformation? struck a chord for me since my denomination is currently twisting and turning on the subject of membership inclusion or exclusion of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender individuals and couples. My partner and I have personally and painfully met this divisive issue during 2008/09 when we were invited to membership, then uninvited after a raging storm capsized our boat and we found ourselves paddling to shore with a few broken bones.

Now in the aftermath, I stop and turn the words group affiliation over in my minds a few times. We humans are pack animals. We want to belong…I believe God desires this for us. I believe Jesus gathered in the lost and lonely, but the church continues to stumble over who to include and who to exclude. I offer this quote from today’s meditation—better stated than I ever could:

Membership questions become an endless argument about who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong? Who is worthy of our God and who is not? This appeals very much to our ego, and its need to feel worthy, to feel superior, to be a part of a group that defines itself by exclusion. The Country Club instinct, you might say. That is most of religious history. The group’s rightness or superiority becomes a convenient substitute for knowing anything to be true for oneself. Where did Jesus recommend this pattern? It has left Christian countries not appreciably different than other countries, in fact, sometimes worse. The two World Wars emerged within and between Christian countries. We can do so much better.*

*Richard Rohr – Daily Meditation: Is group affiliation more important than personal transformation? Aug 25, 2009


tending relationships with love and humility

My last blog post created a bit of a stir, mostly off site, I am pleased to say. I feel the need to state clearly that while there are many blogging styles and purposes, mine is 75% open journal sharing of my thoughts and experiences in the 7th decade of my curious life. The remaining 25% is whatever crosses my path that I think might be of interest to others. I am not out to create controversy,  show off to the world or hurt my friends, but sometimes it seems inevitable that someone will be offended by my views. Richard Rohr has occasionally used the term Receiving Stations, in reference to the way we receive information (whatever it’s origin or content) through the channels of our particular personal views and life experiences.  Important fact to remember for communicating with others: Receiving Stations are as important as Sending Stations. What is sent may not be received clearly. There could be static on the line, or perhaps some other type of interference.  So, as a blogger I must be clear that what I am publishing is the truth as I have experienced it; I must own past and present views as my own…and I do. When I write about  experiences that include others, I try to do so with anonymity for them. Even so, there is always the chance that someone will find offense that I do not intend. Sometimes it’s the receiving station on the blink…sometimes it’s me, the sending station. The thing is, you bloggers out there, if you are writing about your own views, reflections, and experiences with respect for others, then you are okay, until or unless someone shows you differently.

One of my friends left a comment about tending relationships with love and humility. What about this? As Christ followers (or people of spiritual conviction), how is this done without occasionally stepping on a size-able twig and hearing it snap back? And what if the twig was never really there at all, but only there in the receiving station friend? What if what one has said, or written is true, but perceived by another not as intended, and that person (one’s friend), sustains offense? What next? Matthew 18:15-20 has always been the model for me, but the success of it seems to rely largely on each participant believing in its form and value.

I have tried on the humility of apology for love’s sake—Jesus sake. When the result has been reconciling, I’ve been glad to do it (maybe even a bit too proud?), but when the problem is so large that it becomes chasmic, I find I do not yet possess the quality of humility required to absorb in love rather than a more familiar ploy of escalating my effort to explain into a win/win ending. In short, I become defensive. This is much more likely to be the case for me  in relation to some Enneagram types than others. Nonetheless, it is a problem:  do I fall on my sword, continue explanations ad infinitum, or resort to the defensive posture I’ve known all my life?

Well, here’s the thing:  my defensive posture covers anger, which in turn covers hurt. Some will say that no one can make you feel hurt unless you give them that power. Of course I don’t buy that. Been there, done that, and have a few scars to show. I’m in my 7th decade. I was out there trying this, that and the other before some of my dear friends were even born. There is just enough truth in this paradigm to be dangerous to most of us common folk. What really happens when we sustain a sense of wounding/hurt—if true,  we have the option of being truthful about it and possibly receiving an apology. If untrue, we can respond as though it were true,  and avoid a falling out. Or we can yank out our trusty defense responses and gear up for battle…the first one to wobble loses… Then again…we can take whatever spiritual path is common to our belief system and work toward its promised conclusion. As a Christ follower, my professed choice is, of course the Matthew 18 pattern of resolution, that failing, my choice defaults to a descending order of  first setting aside the defense measures that cover my anger, then setting my mind to letting go of the anger (which so perfectly covers my hurt and/or humiliation), and sitting with that while God watches that the waters of mourning climb high enough to transform, but not overwhelm me.

Just so you don’t think I am whistling Dixie while the bullets fly…  This is very hard for me to do. Let me say this again in another way: allowing the painful place to lie uncovered…open to the wind and rain is extremely difficult to do. I think the only reason I can occasionally come anywhere near close to this is because I am old enough to know that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the end. By everything I mean Spiritual Transformation/Wholeness…Peace…Shalom.

So this is my summary answer to the self-help therapists responsible for the popular notion that by not acknowledging hurt received, the responsible party is not endowed with enough power to grow his/her power garden. If I follow your counsel I risk losing my ability to feel as well as think. And I so appreciate that right brain gift of the Magae: feeling, and especially the transformation thing. Now that is really something!



Last weekend a number of friends from our former congregation came together to meet and greet and enjoy each others company. Nothing unusual about that, except that this is the congregation that now exists in painful division  after the effort to extend membership to my partner and me failed in the most miserable of ways—on Pentecost Sunday, the day the Christian Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the followers of Jesus.

Our friends came to see us and each other to affirm and enjoy. Each one had something to give to the evening and each one had something they mourned, but mourning was mostly absent, except for a few forced smiles and the sense of sadness that wafted through occasionally. Gatherings like this are all about closure and they are as bitter sweet as they are comforting. Closure is what we do in our society. We seek closure, as though anything can ever really be finalized, categorized,  shelved and forgotten—not even death. I don’t think anyone went home that evening feeling good or released from the issue that fills the space where we used to stand. I think we said goodbye in a dozen different ways—all of them leaving a stain in the heart.

My partner, Big Dawg and I are making ourselves at home in another congregation, but we can’t help the sense of knowing that what went wrong went horribly wrong, and the price to be paid will come due for everyone. As an idealist, I struggle with this. As a Christ follower, I see everyone’s tears melting into God’s tears and then…


Do you think God goes for closure? I don’t.


enneagram types 5, 6, 7

Here is the remaining fear types, 5, 6, and 7* wrap-up:

5 – The Observer. Withdrawn into a cerebral world of abstraction and fascinating ideas. Fives are nutty professors and ivory-tower idealists. Also know as “Thinkers,” they are detached from love and intense emotion. Intruded upon as children, Fives withdrew to protect their private space, and learned to watch invasive behavior without emotion. They seldom intuit well on the level of feeling: they are inclined toward intuitive training that emphasized detachment, mental focusing, and inner observation. However, with their talent for ignoring distractions and concentrating their mental energies, Fives can give the world everything from hare-brained conspiracy theories to insights like E=mc2.

6 – The Trooper. Afraid to believe and then be betrayed, Sixes are keenly attuned to potential threats. Having lived in fear as children, Sixes learned to scan their environment for possible sources of harm. Their hot-and-cold emotional reactions reflect an inner vacillation between loyalty and distrust, especially of authority. They respond by either finding a trusted protector or by fighting the system. Sixes set high goals but often fail to complete projects. They may procrastinate, fearing that the risks of taking action will outweigh the possible rewards. Because habitual vigilance influences their intuitive style. Sixes can be expert at detecting hidden intentions of  of others behind social masks. Their task is to separate anxiety-based projections from accurate intuitive perception.

7- The Epicure. Experts at having a good time, Sevens believe that love and work should be an adventure. They like to plan and carry out an extraordinary range of activities, often with the hidden purpose of avoiding negative feelings. As children, Sevens diffused fear by escaping into imagination, planning and play, and by disarming threatening people with charm. Optimists, they are intent on keeping all their options open, and have trouble focusing or committing to a single course of action. At their worst, they are selfish and unfocused. At their best, Sevens’ mastery of a wide range of skills and interests produces a state of mind that helps them recognize the “fit” of seemingly unrelated fields of information.

I hope you have found these posts on the Enneagram interesting and informative.

Emoticon_hands_2K copy

*These type vignettes are excerpted from an interview with Helen Palmer,  Intuitive Styles of the Enneagram,  by D. Patrick Miller, Intuition Magazine, (date uncertain).


enneagram types 2, 3, 4

Continuing on with the Enneagram emotion group of 2, 3 and 4*:

2 – The Giver. Focused on providing care and receiving close, personal feedback, Twos find their sense of identity almost entirely in relationships. Having earned love as children by meeting others’ needs, Twos have learned how to sense the wishes of those around them. They may be tempted to use this ability to manipulate people and enhance their sense of power, but by adapting themselves to suit others’ needs, they also risk losing a sense of themselves. The challenge for Twos is to discriminate between “giving in order to get” and genuine intuitive attunement to other people’s unspoken moods and preferences.

3 – The Performer. Optimistic, upbeat, and ambitious. Threes drive the engines of enterprise and success. But they typically must struggle to let go of their falsely inflated self-images and dreams, and accept their real, limited selves. Prized for their achievements as children, they learned to suppress emotion and focus on gaining status. They also learned to “read” their audience and can adjust their performance, sometimes unconsciously, to match the needs of different groups. Masters at fulfilling social expectations, Threes are the chameleons of the Enneagram. At their best, they can intuitively register the untapped strengths of a group or team, and sense the best moment to engineer a collective success.

4 – The Romantic. Typically withdrawn, reflective, and intensely emotional, Fours long for unattainable love. They have a highly developed aesthetic sense and have explored all the nooks and crannies of their inner lives. Having felt abandoned as children, Fours unconsciously focus their attention on the finer points of what is missing; by comparison, what is available seems to lack appeal. To avoid feeling left behind, young Fours learned to “be with” an absent loved one by internally sensing that person’s moods and feelings. As a result, they can often intuit others’ suffering and respond with empathy or sensitive artistic expression. Resonating with the emotions of others can also leave them feeling “flooded” or taken over as they unconsciously carry other people’s depression and pain. Their intuitive task is to distinguish between accurate empathy and emotional projection.

Emoticon_hands_2K copy

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion with fear group, 5, 6 and 7. Thank you for your interest in the Enneagram.

*These type vignettes are excerpted from an interview with Helen Palmer,  Intuitive Styles of the Enneagram,  by D. Patrick Miller, Intuition Magazine, (date uncertain).


enneagram types 8, 9, 1

Continuing on from You and Me and the Enneagram, brief descriptive vignettes of each of the 9 types  follow*. We will start at the top with the anger group of 8, 9 and 1. Recall, that the purpose of this system is not to get a leg up on friends and neighbors, but to have a more comprehensive understanding of one’s own shadow side, as Carl Jung would put it—the part that causes us trouble—the part we sometimes think is admirable, but in God’s eyes… not always the case. Maybe it’s just a lot of blankets piled on ourselves in which to hide our true, essential selves,  as Jesus put it: “… except you become as little children…” Essential selves, just how we were born and made in the image…that’s what we want to uncover and nurture.

To have a working understanding of this system, please consult any of the many books and teachers on the subject (Richard Rohr, Don Richard Riso, Helen Palmer, Claudio Naranjo, Jerome Wagner to name a few), or attend a lecture or workshop.

Emoticon_hands_2K copy

8 – The Boss. Gravitating to positions of authority and control, Eights set the rules in love and business life. But behind their habitual bluster and aggressive manner lies a core of kindness, expressed as a strong desire to protect loved ones and stand up for justice. Eights describe a combative childhood in which respect was earned through strength, and they had to grow up young. Uncomfortable dealing with feelings, they tend to deny empathy. Instead, Eights are often strong physical intuitives, literally moving into conflict with a powerful presence that extends beyond their bodies. Many also have a body-based recognition of the qualities of power in the people around them. used wisely, their take-charge stance can be a powerful source of support to others.

9 – The Mediator. Pleasant, ambivalent, and often slothful, Nines are said to merge with the feelings and concerns of those around them. They began doing this as “overlooked” children whose own needs, feelings, and points of view were ignored. Unseen, Nines lost track of their own identities and distracted themselves with creature comforts. The learned to maintain connection by mirroring others’ lives as a way of telling them, “We are the same.” This identification can be so complete that they find themselves “becoming” the other person. picking up that person’s mannerisms, energy, and opinions. Nines can be strong body-based intuitives, but they need to resist the temptation to “zone out” and become absorbed in the energy fields of those around them, or mesmerized by TV. They can make constructive use of their merged states if the learn to recognize the difference between their own impulses and signals  that come fom others.

1 – The Perfectionist. Oriented toward correctness and “doing the right thing,” Ones live in judgment of themselves and others. They yearn for those moments of perfection, when everything fall into place “just so,” especially if these moments come as a result of their own hard work. As good little boys and girls who earned love by never making a mistake, Ones learned to sense when events ere on track toward perfection. As a result, many have become classic picture-straighteners who can’t rest until even the slightest flaws are corrected The good news is that they can refine ideas and products to a degree that others might not imagine possible. Ones intuitively recognize the orderly flow of perfectly balanced effort, because their bodies relax and “feel right” in the pleasure of a job well done.

*These type vignettes are excerpted from an interview with Helen Palmer,  Intuitive Styles of the Enneagram,  by D. Patrick Miller, Intuition Magazine, (date uncertain).


you and me and the enneagram

When once again I brought the Enneagram into a conversation recently with my dear friend OM (as I am wont to do every now and again), I received a straightforward reply: “Despite that being the second most popular post on my blog, I still don’t really know anything about the enneagram. You’ll just have to tell me about myself.” Thank you dear friend for pushing that button. It is time for me to present this system that has been a major component of my intuitive knowing for many years.

The Enneagram is an ancient (Sufi) system of human development based on 9 personality types. Because the types are defined by a particular emotional passion, each one has its own fixation of attention or habitual internal bias. My study of this system began sometime in the 1980’s with Helen Palmer, one of the pioneering teachers of this intuitive system for understanding one self and others.

For the most part, psychology and spirituality are merged together for the purpose of identifying one’s particular style, thoughts and feelings associated with that style—one’s worldview, if you will. Once identified and acknowledged, movement in the direction of good health—emotionally, physically and spiritually can occur. The Enneagram is currently being taught in seminaries of various theological affiliations across the country, as well as through independent schools of spiritual formation.

Enneagram Circle_Colors 2x2

The system arranges itself in a circle with 9 universal traits that are found in each person: goodness, helpfulness, efficiency, uniqueness, wisdom, loyalty, joy, strength, and peace or in other terms: perfection, compassion, energy to succeed, beauty, quiet withdrawal, faithfulness, happiness, power and stability. The 9 are divided into 3 basic groups  containing a common predominant feature, e.g., the anger group is composed of 8-9-1; the emotion group is composed of 2-3-4; the fear group is composed of 5-6-7. Within this, there is a central, prototypical triad of 9-3-6 that touches into each of the three sections, as in the diagram to the left. Of course, anger, fear and emotion are felt by everyone, but are a predominant energy in these groups. In other words, these are baseline energies and can be thought of as lenses through which experience passes and out of which we greet the world.

Each of the nine has two sides, called “wings,” that lend aspects of their particularity to the center point. In other words, a person whose basic traits fall in 3 will have aspects of 2 and 4.

Enneagram Arrows 2x2Another interesting point to this system is that each of the nine will have a direction of integration and disintegration. When relaxed, the positive traits of the personality type the arrow points toward will be taken on, while under stress, the negative traits of the type whose arrow points away will be taken on.

Here are the 9 types in a nutshell:
1 – Perfectionist        2 – Giver                   3 – Performer           4 – Romantic
5 – Observer               6 – Loyal Skeptic     7 – Epicure               8 – Protector              9 – Mediator

The Enneagram is not an analytical system and cannot be compared to the Myers-Briggs typology system. It is my understanding that the basis of the 9 types are developed in the fetal brain and not purely a function of nurture. In other words: we are hard-wired  genetically toward our basic disposition.

I will give a very brief sketch of each of the 9 in coming blog posts, but this might be enough for now. Please remember that the purpose of this system is not to pigeon-hole your neighbor but to understand him/her and to grow and learn. For Christ followers, it is a tool for becoming acquainted with our shadow sides, so that light may dawn and faith deepen. The system is basically oral/narrative and has many proponents and approaches. Mine is based in Helen Palmer’s intuitive teaching.

More next time.


green shoots sequel: testing

Two days ago I received news that threw me painfully back to the green shoots post of Aug 8th. Wounds that had been healing were open once again and I was back to wrestling with hurt, and the anger that wants to cover it over and seal me in a tomb.

Although I have moved on to another congregation, this new and definitive bit of information concerning the membership debacle at my former church hit me right between the eyes and my heart was broken once again. I am basically an idealist in all of life—both sacred and secular. Despite my efforts to face life as it comes to me, I remain at the core, an idealist. This is especially so in my view of the Body of Christ as a covenanted community of believers. It was a difficult road…staying open to the smarting of a scab ripped off.

I can’t say that angels hovered over me or that I received a divine revelation from God, but I can say that I struggled with my demons for 24 hours wanting to be angry. I chose to feel the heartbreak instead and had lots of tears and palpable pain. My partner (Big Dawg), adopted daughter, and darling daughter were around and willing to listen and comfort. That was a great blessing.

Before I went to sleep, I read through the history of the church in the city where we are now happy to attend. When I woke this morning, I felt relieved and refreshed. Was it an angel in the night? I doubt it. I think recovery had something to do with having read about this little congregation and its struggle to be open to God’s life within it no matter what.

I saw God Spirit nestled right inside Community Spirit all along the rocky path of a good portion of this congregation’s history. Big Dawg and I had come from intentional Christian community 30 years ago. We’d become Christians in Discipleship there and although there was much about it that was wonderful, there was also much about it that was hurtful. We left there because we could not fit as a couple. In all those 30 years that followed, we never found a spiritual home and soon stopped even looking. We wandered in the desert for a very long time. The congregation that we left in June of this year could not fit us in as a couple either. It was not much of a community, but we didn’t know there was such a thing outside of the communal setting, so we accepted it as it was. They, however did not accept us as we were and now it was quite clear that the person who could start the engine going in the compassion and forgiveness direction claimed difference of opinion as to what happened and how, was not going to come through. Yes, it threw me because I had left the door wide open for this to happen. Confession and forgiveness: two of the big ones that underlie repentance—turning around.

So what happened? Did God take pity on me and lift my burden quickly or was it just luck? I don’t know the mind of God, but I do know when I am being lifted onto my feet by mother/father God. Feet of clay is what I had seen at the trusted level of leadership, which I thought would eventually come through to do the right thing. Now I see that self interest comes in many shapes and sizes and I must see it in myself as well.

Please, God, let me never be so self protected that I inflict serious harm to those I claim to honor. And when I do, may I come around quickly enough to keep myself from causing undo harm and heartache. Amen.

YHWH 1x3.5


mince meat or death?

There are times in one’s life when deciding what is most important, then triaging or shelving the rest, is important business. In times of crisis this is a relatively simple matter. After all which is most to be savored, life or death? Then there are times when even  eating, sleeping and bathroom business are beyond one’s control. Of course, some would say that we humans don’t really have control over anything at all. As a Christ-centered person, I live in a state of grace 24/7. Many of the things I think I have control over are really things in which I merely have investment and/or influence. Control? No, my house is still unsold; I cannot fix the cracks in the congregation I had to leave; nor can I fix the broken heart my partner has because of this, as well as a few additional afflictions.

We are both maxed out in those areas of life that are beyond control. That is why I chose to take  the anger that under laid my depression and digestive unrest to God, where it exploded like a Roman Candle, and then fizzled out from lack of currency. There was no point. I knew that, so I let go of what I was holding and chose to go forward into the days I am given. Does the anger come back? Yes, it tries to, but I am triaging for life now. See, I spent the summer 3 years ago, dying from advanced, stage 4, non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I also watched my sister die of this disease last year. I am not afraid to die, but I don’t want to do it before I’ve had time to complete the task God and I are collaborating on: Making my life of many errors meaningful for others.

I receive maintenance Rituxan treatments on a 12 week cycle. These prolong the most dangerous part of my remission, but they also lower my immune system and generally leave me in a state of malaise for anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks afterward. Not fun! I complained to my primary care doctor that oncology was making mince meat out of me—a 92 lb,  golden years lady. His response to me was something like this: Yes, the way they look at things…it’s either mince meat or death! Because stress has a deleterious effect on the immune system (mine is not that great) I am using this as a rule of thumb. Is the expensive grill out on the deck that we can’t get the company to take care of worth my life? No is the obvious answer, right? Of course! So it’s mince meat or death. I’m going for mince meat!

Ginko leaves

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August 2009

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