Monday, May 30, 2011

Into the Boiling Acid

I am starting CPE tomorrow, my peeps. Clinical Pastoral Education. For 400+ hours, I will learn about pastoral care, examine what and why I do things, and minister. Minister. Walk with a family down to the morgue. Sit with someone who is dying. Or her father is. Or her child.

I am scared to death.

I am looking forward to it.

I am dreading it.

And yet ... I asked myself how I would feel if I got a phone call that it had been canceled? That I had all summer free to just laze around, read books, sway in a hammock?

I'd be dreadfully disappointed.

My minister friends call it "pastor boot camp." They say it is formative. Transformative. At the end of this summer, I will be better able to walk into a situation and minister, be there for someone who needs me.

I acknowledge all that. I'm sure that it the end of the summer, I will be grateful for the experience. But on this end of the equation ...

Well, it's kinda like someone says to you they're going to drop you in a vat of boiling acid. For 400 hours. But at the end of it, when they pull you out, you'll have the body and appearance of a supermodel!


Bring it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nobody Puts Internet in a Corner

I’m not sure we get it. How utterly the Internet has changed life. Maybe we can’t, because we’re right in the middle of it.

It has been compared to the invention of the printing press, and that’s fair, but I think it’s something that has affected so much, we still aren’t quite getting it. We can chase back all the creeping tendrils … how it has transformed commerce, communication, education … but we still can’t fully grasp the big picture. Perhaps, 50 years from now, sociologists can explain it. Maybe they’ll be able to sum up how small it has made the world, and yet how large in possibility. Many of the people getting married, at least the weddings I’m officiating, met via Internet. They said that the revolution would be televised, but television didn’t cause the revolution, didn’t enable it. Internet is.

Mothers are sharing breastmilk because of the internet, you can help a shopkeeper in Guatemala get a loan because of the internet. When your heart is breaking, and you feel you are weeping alone, you can tweet or Facebook or blog and a whole community weeps with you.

I remember when the Internet had been created, but the World Wide Web had not. I had a geeky boyfriend in college, and he’d show me his computer and these message boards where he connected with other geeky types. His bulky computer was in a dark corner of his apartment, and he’d check it, oh, maybe once a day. Maybe.

How many of our churches are still acting as if that is the Internet? Something people keep in a corner and maybe check once a day. So you should have a church website, with your address and service times, you know.

My kids have a book on the human body with thick, transparent pages so you can see all the different “layers” of the body. The circulatory system. The nervous system.

The Internet has added another layer, another dimension, if you will, to life. It’s not something separate. We pull out our smartphones without a thought, sharing where we are with others who might want to join us, checking email, popping on Twitter or Facebook to see what other friends are doing. And that’s just in the two minutes we’re standing in line to pick up movie tickets. We don’t even think anything about it. It’s simply how we are, now.

The night of that day when Gabby Giffords was shot, many of us who would be preaching the next morning posted to each other on Facebook. “Are you changing your sermon? What are you going to say?” Peacebang opened up a chatroom and we mingled there, to share both our emotions, and the ideas and materials we would use the next day. I wrote about Holly Near’s I am Willing; someone else found a youtube of it; the next day, several ministers either quoted it, or, if they had good voices, sang it. That’s just one example of the inspiration that came out of that “room” that night. Perhaps what was more powerful, though, was not the readings, or quotations, or songs that shared, but our very humanness. We gathered in community. When we left that room, we were strengthened to minister.

Oh, I could go on and on with my examples of how the Internet has changed life. But they are my experiences. Internet, like most things, is a conversion experience. Until you’ve been a part of a blogging community, or found your Tweeps, or become the person who just automatically checks Facebook several times a day, you don’t understand.

Some say that we have Internet fatigue, and our churches need to be a sanctuary from that. No electronic devices, please. I think there will be a niche for that, just as there are people who respond to the unprogrammed Quaker meetings.

For many others, who have grown up texting and tweeting, that will hold no appeal. It will be as if you said, “Come inside, but don’t use your sense of smell.”

But oh what opportunity. There was a time when ministers wondered how church could stay connected past Sunday, how it could continue to impact their lives throughout the week. Were we to point blank ask God to create a vehicle to assist in that, I am not sure she could have done better than this labyrinth of wires and metal.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Psalmic Response

It seems that the last 24 hours has been taken up with processing the death of Osama bin Laden. With that, has come critique on all sides about that process. Or as one mom says to Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, "You're doing it wrong."

I'm not opposed to critique, I hope that it allows us to adjust back and forth until we find what is the right way for us, as individuals, and as a nation. I am concerned about the shaming I've seen.

But as I've always said on this blog, I'm a fan of the real. What do you really feel? And I think most people are like that. I think that when we've felt offended, it was because we thought someone wasn't showing their deep feelings. The person chanting, as though at a football game -- was that their deep, introspective response, or were they caught up in group aspect? The person saying they grieved the death of any person -- was that genuine, or were they expressing what they thought they should feel?

Someone posted on twitter the John Donne quote about how "each man's death diminishes me." I must admit, I turned to The Husband and said, "I don't feel diminished by the death of Osama bin Laden."
Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon,
         There we sat down and wept,
         When we remembered Zion.
 Upon the willows in the midst of it
         We hung our harps.
That sock in the gut of watching the planes fly into the towers. That instant fear from those of us who had loved ones up in the air right then. The overwhelming panic trying to locate New York and Washington friends. I remember, after hours and hours of watching frantic friends and family members walking around New York with pictures of their missing ones, "Have you seen him? Have you seen her?" they implored on CNN, I remember turning the tv off and, exhausted, heart broken into dust, saying, "I just can't watch any more. I just can't cry any more."

We hung our harps on trees. We could not imagine singing ever again.

We had been in a fairy tale land where acts of terrorism didn't really affect us, and when they did, it was often terrorism that came from within. That was shattered. When we went to bed, we didn't know what would happen the next day. We were terrorized. We stocked up on duct tape and thick plastic for the vents in our homes, we were afraid to open any envelope.
Psalm 74
The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.
Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place...
They said in their heart, "Let us completely subdue them."...
  We do not see our signs;
There is no longer any prophet,
Nor is there any among us who knows how long.
  How long, O God, will the adversary revile,
And the enemy spurn Your name forever?
   Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
From within Your bosom, destroy them!
We wanted justice, we wanted revenge. We began doing the math, adding up the situation, realizing our part in it, realizing our actions had a hand in creating our destruction. It became complicated.

And the videos. Just when we began to relax, a bit, bin Laden would release another video, taunting us, the murderer letting us know he could still find us, still get us.

Years pass.

On Sunday night, when the news came, I was glad. Not for the death, but because he had been stopped. I think that most people who admit to being glad feel this. It's not the death, it's that he has been found and stopped. Certainly, there are others behind him who may continue in the terror. But not he.

I posted on Facebook "Psalm 18:37-40." I did this in no triumphant way. I thought it expressed something very human, and something some of us were feeling. The relief that we do have some measure of control. That we are not just fearful things that can be terrorized and refuse to respond.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
         And I did not turn back until they were consumed.
 I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise;
         They fell under my feet.
  For You have girded me with strength for battle;
         You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
  You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
     And I destroyed those who hated me. 
I understand the love of humanity behind saying that an eye for an eye will leave the world blind. But I am not a pacifist. I believe that evil exists and if it is within our power to do so, I believe in subduing evil.

It gets complicated. What about the evil within, what about what our government does? I believe the easy answer is to say, "It's too complicated, it's too much to try and parse, therefore, I'm just going to err on the side of loving everyone." Or we say, "It's not complicated, what we do is right, period."

Ours is not the easy way. Ours is the painful, complicated, messy way. A weakness in liberal religion is when we don't address evil, when we just explain it all away, and act as if we can just love it out of existence. I am a profound believer in the power of love. But I believe that one way we love is by standing up to evil, whether it be a multi-national corporation or a terrorist leader.

We have seen some crass examples of mob mentality in the last 24 hours, as people find their own catharsis of the last decade. But I saw one moment, right after the announcement, that spoke to me. They had begun gathering outside the White House, and were singing:
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Triumphant nationalism? Maybe. But in that moment, in the dark, it seemed more a cry of relief. Our flag was still there. We still have the right to defend our country. If you attack our country, kill our people, we will respond. We are not powerless against those who would destroy us.

We will go through our period of catharsis, and then it is time to get to the real work, of examining how what we do affects the entire web of existence. How we create terrorists and dictators by seemingly small actions.
Psalm 122
or the sake of my brothers and my friends,
         I will now say, "May peace be within you."
    For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
         I will seek your good.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Spent the day at the hospital

For those who have been on the journey with us -- Little Wren had scans today.  I won't lie ... I was scared. This was the first time for her to go 6 months between scans.

No Evidence of Disease.

She also had an echocardiogram, because one of her chemos can damage the heart.

Completely normal.

Her next scans are in November. On a selfish note, I am scheduled to graduate in December. This scan, today, obviously could have changed that. But the November scans won't.

It might actually happen! I might actually grow up and be a real minister someday!

Hugs to all of you, and thank you for the prayers, white light, and kind thoughts.