Posts Tagged ‘fear


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.

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*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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May 2021

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