Posts Tagged ‘fear


forgiveness 70 x 7

Last Sunday, we all went back to our former church to support adopted daughter in her desire to address the congregation on the importance of maintaining loving relationships above disagreement. We brought her in a wheel chair with portable oxygen and still the effort was physically considerable for her. I don’t completely  know where this desire has its genesis in her own 48 years. I don’t completely know because AD is a very private person. She does not talk extensively about her feelings in connection with her life growing up in an extended family of wealthy immigrants. I have heard stories, and I know the recent past, but there is not a lot of connection along the emotional road from there to here. And curiously enough…I am a confidante.

So I don’t know all that went in to this effort to speak to the congregation and I don’t understand her request for forgiveness, but it seemed to resonate with some of the people there. The pastor responded by asking forgiveness in behalf of the congregation. I have no way of knowing how the congregation felt about that, but it was an important step for the pastor to take. It was a very dramatic and meaningful time. Ad is now quite exhausted by the effort and I am wandering along the path, not quite with it and not quite without. While 99% were glad to see and receive AD, not everyone was glad to see Big Dawg and me—probably most, but certainly not everyone.

We knew that would be the case going in, and were especially aware when sitting directly across from us was person X,  whose dark and grim demeanor was much the same as it had been a year ago, on Pentecost Sunday, 2009. That was the day the congregation exploded, giving us a clear and painful message that we were not to be included into membership. Not only was X’s demeanor the same, but  X was sitting in just about the same proximity to us as last year! It was eerie and unsettling, but we persevered. Just before AD was wheeled up to the front of the church to speak, person X got up and left the sanctuary. I found this action abruptly rude, careless, egoistic at best and a slap in the face of the Body of Christ at worst.

I did not think about this incident until late in the day when I could put aside my public persona and be at home. The incident began to haunt me as memories of the past year flooded my heart and mind, giving free rise to my autonomic nervous system’s response to remembered pain and agony. We had become scapegoats at that church for nine months. Although I’d come closer to God through that suffering, it was at times extremely painful, bringing up childhood experiences of rejection as well as a string of adult experiences. The forgiveness I’d come to in the past several months was being tested and I was teetering on the brink of despair and self-loathing for about  36 hours—teetering and nearly falling from acceptance of God’s love. I could only breathe YHWH and let the Spirit intercede (Romans 8). By Tuesday, I was climbing back up the ladder and leaving goats behind. Today I find this passage in Richard Rohr’s meditation  (February 24) and it helps me put persons like X, as well as goats, in perspective:

We have always needed to find a way to deal with human anxiety and evil by some means—and it was invariably some practice other than forgiveness or healing. We usually dealt with human anxiety and evil by sacrificial systems of some sort, and that has largely continued to this day. (Exclusion, torture, war, segregation, class division, prejudice, and racism would be its common forms.)

Historically, we moved from human sacrifice, to animal sacrifice, to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice. But even in self-sacrifice, it was not usually the ego self that we sacrificed, but most often the material self as its vicarious substitute. The physical body became our usual scapegoat instead of the real problem which was the ego—a rather clever game of smoke and mirrors. Meanwhile the ego has remained “scot free” and off the hook for most of Christian history, even at the highest levels of church.

Whether you agree with Rohr’s analysis wholly, in part, or not at all is not my concern. What is important to me today is that …the rivers did not overwhelm me and I was not burned.


round two

It was snowing this morning—first snowfall of the season. My appointment with the thyroid doctor wasn’t until 3:00 in the afternoon. Driving in falling, wet snow made me apprehensive. I didn’t need snow and I was beginning to feel low and moody. Tried to get my appointment moved up and couldn’t, so I went out, shoveled the entire driveway, and place my car in an easy to exit position in the garage. While shoveling I became lower yet and sadly, began to feel angry. What about? I didn’t know. Everything.

After shoveling, I hung my wet coat and hat to dry and proceeded to begin my day at the computer. Within minutes, the doctor’s office called to ask me if I could be there in half an hour. Absolutely. Thank you God. No fender-benders for me. I got myself together and set out. The snow stopped falling. The streets were navigable and I arrived 10 minutes early.

I received an ultrasound prior to the visit with the doctor. Back to the waiting room. In another 10 minutes, while I was in a little room waiting for the doctor, my cell phone rang. It was a member of my welcoming church asking about my well-being and telling me I was greatly cared about. I became teary and realized I had been fearful of this visit. I knew about the fear of the oncology visit looming ahead for tomorrow and  the CT scan aftermath still fresh in my mind, but I wasn’t aware of being concerned about the thyroid situation. Maybe it was all one big ball of wax, as they say.

Well, maybe there is something to this look on the bright side thing, or maybe it’s faith…my thyroid blood levels are now normal, the larger tumor is shrinking to an acceptable size, and the smaller one hasn’t grown. Yeah, for the home team! Relief and joy. So glad this doctor chose to treat pharmaceutically rather than surgically. I even got a free sample of my expensive osteoporosis drug! Do I feel sorry for the snit I was in earlier in the morning? Not really. I am so much just a human being. No spiritual giant, I. We do the best we can by the grace of God and s/he does the rest. Joy!

So tomorrow I go to the cancer clinic, learn the results of the CT scan and receive what is expected to be the last lymphoma maintenance treatment of Rituxan. I’m counting on the scan showing no recurrence and the Rituxan experience truly being the last of too many (in my opinion). But…let me not deceive you…regardless of what I say there is still the shadow within that fears and apprehends. Here is where my childhood training of holding the doctor in high regard comes up for air. Let me hear this man of dubious magic say: “You’re doing well, Ms. Called by Name. I see nothing to be concerned about. I’ll see you in 3 months. Have a nice holiday!” Sigh…. I’ll let you know.


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.


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?


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.



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).


something for everyone

Today I was going to write about how all three of our kitties went scurrying into hiding places (which of course we think is adorable of them), the minute they saw the landscape crew in the back yard.  After checking email, I’ve decided to write another reflective piece about us—we imperfect human beings—imperfect compared to animals which were made perfect and remain so (except where humans have meddled).

My subject is the “acceptance of same-gender-covenanted-couples-into-membership” issue has been kicking around in my denomination for about 30 years. In our local church we had inadvertently become poster children for it this  past year—the first half privately and the second half publicly. One day, amid the confusion of bells, whistles, hoots and hollers, the roof fell in disastrously on everyone, leaving a wake of division and pain. We  were down to our last nerve and had to leave. It had been our year of living dangerously. Now truths,  half-truths and quarter truths abound, but mostly there is grief,  anguish, division and a bit of scapegoating.

If you’ve ever seen one of those old movies where a person boards the train and looks back from the window as the train leaves the station, while the beloved other person runs after it just trying to hang on a moment or two longer…that’s how some of us feel (at least that’s how I feel). The person in the movie running to keep the other in sight knows full well that he/she may never (or will never) be reunited again, and yet for those few running steps, there is hope. “I believe; help my unbelief!. (Mk 9:24)

We walked in hope with the leadership through many months of dark rain clouds before the congregation entered in. When it did, the clouds increased and the weather turned stormy. Fear and uncertainty made itself at home. Eventually the sky turned a deep, dark, gray and the rain came down in buckets. We were drenched with rain. There was no shelter. The joy we’d come aboard with had turned to deep sorrow and that is how we left the congregation I had come to love—in anguish.

Several people left as well, or are on hiatus. It’s difficult to know the difference. The church lumbers on in an effort to heal itself, but the fatal flaw is still front and center. This congregation does not seem to want to see it. Our denomination believes in the priesthood of all believers, but one very important prerequisite for this is found in Matt 18. It is chock full of good advice for priestly believers, especially verses 15 to 17. Without the humility to give and receive counsel, we are locked in to our own views accompanied by the fear that keeps us from walking in another’s shoes. If we cannot do this, we remain separated while appearing to be united in love as the Body of Christ. Because fear cannot exist alongside love, we cannot agree to disagree except in love (I John 4:18). This is a conundrum…people clinging to their own views and beliefs…not accepting our account of the past year as our truth…not walking in our shoes or those of their neighbor.

So, when good folks go scurrying about in fear and denial, beliefs stack up like firewood, while those who were first encounterers go unheard…unbelieved. Careful! Don’t anyone drop a match nearby.

Oh, and did I mention hate mail? Yes, during that last, fateful, stormy month we received an unsigned letter telling us that there was no place for us in the Kingdom of God at all. The next Sunday, this was gently referred to as a letter of condemnation. Needless to say, the priestly congregation didn’t understand what such a letter could mean as it was so graciously understated. There is so much already being swept under the rug…something for everyone.

We grieve. The friends we leave behind grieve. And for what? So that everyone could have something…a sacred cow perhaps??


BTW, Cats are okay now. the patio is taking shape and the sun is shining without fear.

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