Archive for September, 2009

30
Sep
09

let’s be creative for a change

I am a member of an online listserv whose purpose is promoting open dialog on various aspects of LGBTQ inclusion in the Mennonite Church (MC USA).  This subject has been kicked around for the past 30 years in this denomination—one that is not given to hasty decisions, obviously! Much of the time the members of this broad based group contribute erudite views—all very worthy and many quite thought provoking. But sometimes I get tired of the effort, because inclusion is a no-brainer for Christ followers.

For the past numbers of days the subject of focus has been homosexual desire vs. homosexual practice. The other day, in the midst of a flurry of intellectual postings, one of the members—Natalya Lowther—posted a view that totally took me by delightful surprise. She set forth a slightly unorthodox view, but reasonable nonetheless, with insight, clarity and creativity, and has graciously granted me permission to re-publish here on Called By Name. More from this author (including her profile and raison d’etre) can be found on her own blog:  http://www.pinwheelfarm.blogspot.com

Having been raised by a physics professor, when I hear the word “orientation” I think of magnetized particles orienting themselves  towards magnetic north.

Magnets are attracted to one another because of this shared alignment.

Magnets are attracted to iron because it has a potential for shared  alignment.

But whether magnets are “mating” with other magnets or with iron, they are always “practicing” their orientation. The physical force of the attraction is weaker the further they are from what they are attracted to…but it’s inherently there and functioning at all times.

People are attracted to God, and to other people, when there is a shared alignment. Mentally, intellectually, physically, emotionally.

Unlike magnets, our various alignments can be at odds with each  other…we may think that because we are aligned physically with  people of the same sex, we must be misaligned with God. But I do  not find that to be so. We can also use some senses to restrict the  alignments of other senses–the mind putting the flesh into subjection, artificially, by force. But then we are at war with  ourselves, creating chaotic conditions. Such a condition is not  sustainable, not healthy. Put the “south” poles of two magnets  together, and incredible force is needed to keep them in proximity.

In my life, I seek the natural alignment, the harmony, the sympathy  among all parts. If my life, my soul, my spirit, is given freedom  to fully express its natural orientation towards God, then the  other orientations that appear “not of God” will naturally tend  towards a natural alignment that does not conflict with that  primary orientation, even though it may not fit some artificially  imposed “norm.”

Just reflections, not clearly followed through but a beginning sketch.

Blessings,

Natalya Lowther, Lawrence, KS

Sacred Bird of the North

30
Sep
09

codicil to last post

My last post contains an error that has been graciously pointed out to me by two friends (currently still in my former congregation), that it had always been the intention of the leadership and mediators to include all of us who have left, and especially BD and me. Although the congregation had talked of mediation early on and had many months to plan and hire a team, they didn’t get around to approving and acting on the hiring of a team until September 20 (10 days ago). Naturally, this leaves the team with a very tight deadline and the inevitable errors and omissions common to working at warp speed when slow and steady is best. Much as I’d like to fall on my sword and beg forgiveness for my quick assessment that BD and I were afterthoughts in this process, my sympathy lies with the mediators, and  I see this as one more instance of the failure of leadership to initiate,  and see a project through in a positive and timely manner.  What I see throughout my time there…and now this effort to telescope pain and heartbreak going back too many years into a single week is… fear. I will leave it to those directly involved to consider if this is so and if it is, why is it so? Aren’t there many scripture verses about fear and faith being oil and water?

As for me and BD…we are ready to say our piece one more time tonight and we will do so truthfully, openly, with no parsing of words or thoughts. It will be our view of what happened to us. After that, we dearly hope this will be the end of revisiting the disaster for us…unless there is a sea-change over there and then we can rejoice, hold hands and maybe, maybe be: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, celebrating One God together.

29
Sep
09

mediation and grace

My former congregation has hired mediators to sort through the remnants. I use the word remnants, although some still in that Body may not appreciate this word. In any case, the mediators have begun collecting data via survey. I don’t know the starting date, but when we received ours late yesterday afternoon  (along with the people who have left included in the SEND TO line),  and noticed that the due date of today was being fudged to Friday, we realized that including us could not intentionally have been part of the original plan. Additionally,  the text of the cover letter does not address itself to us..neither to the disenfranchised and disheartened, or to the two of us (partner, Big Dawg and me), the nexus of the meltdown last May 31, Pentecost Sunday. Someone must have said something about having left us out for this to be coming so late in the game and with a cover letter so uninviting.

Dutifully out of love for God, those left behind, and the conciliatory process, I began to fill out the questionnaire, and got almost to the end before I  realized with a jolt that the survey was  composed and constructed for  those remaining in the congregation at whatever level.  It was inadequate and inappropriate for us—a couple who had been invited to membership, then blatantly uninvited in an atmosphere of fear, dissension and confusion—a betrayal from the top down. We replied, suggesting a personal interview was the more appropriate avenue where we are concerned. The suggestion was affirmed and the interview  will take place tomorrow evening by phone. We will not parse words.

We are certain that the mediators are fine people with a good skill-set, but we are baffled by what appears to be a lack of understanding concerning the whole picture. BD and I were the nexus of the meltdown—the stars, if you will—stars that got their shine splattered with neon gray deck paint! Now, as we contemplate the upcoming phone interview, we wonder what the mediators have in mind as their goal for this congregation (of which we are no longer part). Having set up a campaign that did not initially include us at any level gives us reason to question intent and goal. In the days since May 31, I  have come so often to questioning…what could they be thinking!!! when I hear the latest congregational news. I come again to this question, but with a sinking feeling. For a church whose problems reach back 20 years, a process begun badly has little chance of achieving more than a good facial at the salon. I despair, and at the same time, loathe having to talk about our experience again with people who (I fear) will not be able to break through the congregational retaining walls that contain the truth. From us, they will hear the truth. I don’t know what they will hear from the other principles.

I believe Matthew 18:15-20 is a recipe for living together in imperfection. I believe reconciliation (confession and forgiveness, not necessarily becoming best friends) is the only worthwhile goal to pursue. I don’t know if this congregation has charged these mediators with this goal in its totality…in it’s big picture formulation. So far, omissions seem to me to have been made at the time of contracting this mediating team. But, I don’t know. No one has told us anything, written, or phoned—no one but my dear friend who remains in the congregation hoping for an act of God (my cynicism entirely). She told us a few days ago that mediators had been hired, but didn’t know much else. Even yesterday, she wrote to say that she didn’t know who, representing what group, would get to be interviewed. This unknowing is typical of this congregation. Is it secrecy born of intent to deceive or of fearful inadequacy? Healthy leadership…the lack thereof…was and is still the foremost problem in this group.

One of the things I like about the congregation we where we are now is the openness…open nearly to excess sometimes, but open nonetheless. We are a small, disbursed congregation with an email listserve where news gets circulated. Anyone can post news or needs or announcements at will. This church went through the gay membership issue many years ago, nearly fractured apart. It came through battered, worn, but cohesively. Some left. That is inevitable. Those who stayed, did so out of conviction, and choice to be God’s people, rain or shine. We are welcome there and loved…sometimes more than we feel we deserve. That is Grace and that is God’s Word.

God’s voice shines in the darkness…listen, do you not hear it?

25
Sep
09

please leave a comment

So why don’t readers leave comments? Do they know that they can be anonymous or even use a pseudonym? I love to read what others have to say about my musings…and I often reply. One can contribute another point of view, add from one’s own experience or anything else, so long as it is appropriate and not end up in the Spam file. So what’s the problem? My dear friend OM has 300 comments on his blog. Called by Name is nowhere near that. I had hoped for an interactive blog. Maybe I should offer rewards for comments…

I could have the baby kitty, Bella award

Bella - 2 years old

Bella - 2 years old

or the brave and handsome, Bennie award

Ben - 2 years old

Ben - 2 years old

or the grumpy old, Frank award.

Frank - 18 years young

Frank - 18 years young

Or, I could just go on talking, and musing, and wondering who is reading the stuff.

23
Sep
09

blessings and prayer

Yesterday my partner and I marked our 33rd anniversary together. We have the pleasure of sharing this date with adopted daughter who turned 48. She has just begun her second cancer remission in three years and hopes to reach retirement at 50, and have a few extra years for fun. We had a lot to celebrate, but it was just a quiet dinner out. We have all learned that life is quite fragile, not to be taken for granted and lived as well as possible each and every day, whether in joy or sadness.

Just before AD’s birthday, she learned that a friend in her cancer support group had died despite the heroic efforts of oncology to save her and her own weakened, body’s desire to be saved. She was 52…a wife, a mother, an activist.  News of death among this group is near to shattering for them and for us as well. We are sobered by the fragility of life and the knowledge that time is as limited as it is infinite. Our evening was an affirmation rather than a jubilation. We breathed quiet prayers.

The night before I had one of those sleepless in the suburbs challenges and had written about it, posted it, then deleted it the next day. It was not entirely appropriate for public consumption. But I learned something about myself through it…about all that I want to do with the rest of my life despite the ebbing of energy as I age, and how anxious I still can get about interfaces with people I don’t yet know very well. The abusive experiences of the past year have left me feeling shyer than I’d like in my new congregation and reticent to make new connections. I have a little card that came home with me from the  Mennonite Conference in July. It says:

Become the leader you are called to be.

Well, what do you suppose that means? I haven’t figured it out yet, but there really was no reason for me to have seen this message. It just happened to be left at the table by someone who’d sat there before I’d come to the session. I don’t know if leadership is one of my gifts or not. I never thought it was, but if it is, I’ll have to grow into it. And if I grow into it, I hope to have far fewer sleepless in the suburbs nights. I gratefully accept prayers.

Hummingbird

18
Sep
09

48+ hours later

So much for the immune system replacing those damaged white blood cells quickly! In my case, improvement is slow and painstaking. What I didn’t say in yesterday’s post (what I did while lying down), is that while Rituxan (rituximab) is not a heavy duty (toxic) chemical, it is still a drug developed in a laboratory, and not a natural substance. It has side effects…not horrible like chemo, but not a walk in the park either. At least it isn’t for me.

At this time, there are 5 years data on Rituxan’s use. When I started on it in May of 2007, there were only 2 years data. I’m a bit of a guinea pig because this drug managed to get FDA approval under the Clinton administration without the usual 100 years (just kidding) of testing generally required in this country. That is not to say it had no testing, just that for some reason that I can’t remember, its successful use in Europe, along with some other loopholes in our system, brought approval more quickly. And because of this, many thousands of people have longer remissions and better chemo outcomes. So why am I complaining? I shouldn’t.

As I have gotten older I have become one of those persons who are said to have a delicate constitution. That was not always the case before the  great mid-life shift in age. Perhaps this shift to delicate is concurrent with having had the lymphoma in it’s indolent stage for a long time before it transformed into its large cell manifestation? I just know that somewhere around mid-life, everything started changing and I got delicate. So now, 48+ hours after the miracle drug dripped into my body, I can report that I no longer have bone and muscle pain, heartburn, abnormal bloat, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy, low body temperature, and emotional melt-down. No, I am improving. I am just extremely fatigued, plagued with digestive misfiring, night time neuropathy, chilliness and bad humor. I have put in a call to my trusty homeopathic physician who will help me with these side effects that I couldn’t possibly be having, since the drug is so well tolerated by the vast majority receiving it.

* * * * *

Just spoke with homeopathic doctor X  in the knick of time. I was about to spiral out into the stratosphere! I’m an emotional person. You probably already figured that out.  Back to being grateful for Rituxan 🙂

* * * * *

Homeopathic  Update: 2.5 hours after taking first dose of prescribed remedy, and I am feeling so much better that I’m wondering why I waited so long to call Dr. X. Hope it was stupidity and not pride… 😉

17
Sep
09

what i did while lying down

Yesterday, I traveled to one of the big university cancer research clinics in my area and laid my body down to received a substance called *Rituxan (Rituximab). I do this every 12 weeks, rain or shine, hot or cold, happy or sad, sick or well. Rituxan has helped me to achieve 2.75 years of remission from non-Hodgkin, B-Cell, lymphoma. Unless the CT scans show otherwise, 12 weeks from yesterday will be my last treatment and I will be declared in full non-Hodgkin, B-Cell, lymphoma remission, otherwise known as a cancer survivor.

Cancer is now generally considered a treatable, chronic disease in the oncology world. Remissions, the state in which no detectable cancer is seen in the body, are key. Anything hiding or too microscopic gets a free ride unless, or until the whistle blows. So remission is bedrock for being a survivor. Yes, there are other characteristics, like ingredients in a pie, but this one is numero uno. After that can come any number of poetic attributes, but remission, preferably full remission, is #1. Thanks to the biotech pioneers, Ivor Royston and Howard Birndorf , (were they beamline scientists?) and the companies who market rituximab  under the trade names, Rituxan and MabThera, my last encounter with this product will be 12 weeks from yesterday. (Praise God!)

Rituxan infusions are not a horror story, as is most chemotherapy, but it has its own properties that vary from person to person. Simply stated, Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody that locks onto  the CD20 protein found on the surface of the B-cell lymphocytes. It is also present on the surface of most of the abnormal B-cell lymphocytes that occur in some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Rituxan marks these cells to be attacked by the immune system; however,  both abnormal (malignant) AND normal (healthy) B-cell lymphocytes are marked.  The downside to this double deal is a lowered immune response to colds and such for as long as it takes for the  body to replace the normal white blood cells that are damaged. The literature says this happens quickly. My experience has not been quick. Today I am at 45% of my normal vitality, feeling tired, flu-ish, worn and a glass half empty. I have to be careful not to be around sick people. Last time, because I was already not well before getting the infusion, it took about 6 weeks to recover and I questioned the value of continuing on. Do I say anything to the docs? No, I do not because in their minds I’m better off compromised than dead!  Well, this time I didn’t have anything viral going on, so I should be better in a few days to a week (maybe 2 weeks.)

I sound ungrateful, I know. What I really am is worn out, like I nearly drowned swimming across a muddy river, and now glad to be resting, sopping wet, under the bridge, away from the elements. The heart wants to get on with things, but the brain is foggy and the body parts don’t seem to recognize each other. I’m a merrionette…a Pinocchio! This soap opera will pass and I am a lucky lass to have a great oncologist with a compassionate heart and a warm demeanor…lucky as well to have friends who care about me and pray for me.

I am also lucky to have gotten sick AFTER I’d already gotten into Medicare. Even with the insurance I had as a self-employed person, it would have been a financial wipe-out with who knows what ending. (One CT scan can be 6 or 7,000 dollars. PET scans even more. Rituxan infusions also thousands. Will somebody please wave a magic wand in Washington to get all those “servants” to see the light of day??? This rich country does not now rank very high among the health systems of the world. I personally mourn for an artist friend who died of lung cancer because he had no insurance! He was gifted, brilliant and sending money to his developmentally impaired daughter. I mourn for all those who, against their wishes, are inducted into the cancer club and especially for those who finally must leave their bodies behind to the thief that is cancer. And then there are the families, the friends and the loved ones… Come, Lord Jesus, the tables need overturning.





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