Synchroblog: Faith Feminism

This is part of a Synchroblog at Faith Feminism.

I am a product of the “women’s lib” movement. Back in the day, females were either “chicks” or “broads” — those women who dared to champion women’s rights were called “bra-burners.” The Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses when I was in high school, but was never ratified by enough states to make it part of our laws. I found  little interest or support for the ERA among my friends. In fact, we didn’t think we “needed” it — most of us, if we went to college, would graduate and get married and have children. TV shows at the time mocked “women’s libbers.” (To be clear, I watched them and laughed, too. I was more interested in having friends than standing up for something that made me uncomfortable.)

At the time, it wasn’t something I cared about. Being a feminist was not how I would have identified myself. In fact, I was content to invest in life on a large public university campus, since I was (and still am!) a huge football fan! I was in the marching band, joined a sorority and worked hard enough to be tapped for an honorary.

Fast forward several years… I went to grad school. Worked as a music therapist. I went on a short-term mission trip to West Africa. And as I continued to grow in my understanding of God and the work of the Holy in the world. And one of the things I realized was that I did not “fit” that carefully circumscribed role of “a woman in the Church.” At least, not the way that the conservative churches I attended were demanding. I loved God, but I could not synchronize my belief that women could do anything and women were supposed to be submissive. The sermons declared that “men and women were equal but with different roles”. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t have the knowledge (or the backbone) to move against it.

However, I was raised by parents who believed that each of their children had unique gifts and strengths. We were encouraged to get involved in community service. To explore ways of helping others and to express our faith in a local faith community. And I wanted to show my love for God and my passion for caring for others.

I started attending classes at a local nondenominational seminary when I was in my 20s. The conservative school which I attended at the time was less than welcoming, and discouraged my theological pursuits. There were no other women in my class on the Prophets. The other students were pastors and had contacts and other pastor’s libraries available for their use. The seminary had no library, no resource books, no way to find research materials. I floundered horribly. Without access to books, articles and scholarly exegesis, my papers were (quite honestly) terrible. My professor said bluntly, “This is why women don’t belong in seminary.”

I was crushed. And I figured he must be right. What did I know?

At the same time, I was conflicted. I knew deep in my bones God wanted me to do more. But what? It took me twenty years to finally screw up my courage and go back to seminary. This time, I spent time talking to men and women in ministry. I gleaned wisdom from their suggestions. In a period of discernment, I investigated 3 seminaries and ended up at one that is more Pentecostal in its leanings. I found encouragement, challenge and affirmation of my gifts. They invested in me so that I graduated without debt. Though we do not see eye-to-eye on every aspect of Christianity, I am grateful for my education there.

As I have worked in local churches, in hospitals and now in hospice, I find that there is still a need for feminists to speak up. Some in the Church have an outdated, misogynist view of the Sacred texts. Some insist on subjugating women. Some find ways to demean and demoralize any woman who dares to speak up and take a stand. They slander. They take words out of context. And worst of all, they go digging for things long in the past to try and embarrass. (I’ll spare you the work. I’m someone who is a sinner saved by grace. Perhaps you are, too.)

Now that our daughters are in the “launch stage” to their careers, paths of interest and lives, I am more passionate than ever that we need people of faith who are feminists. For they, like their peers, still have an uphill battle. And we will continue to say firmly, honestly and compassionately,
ALL people are valued by God.
ALL people are equal in the eyes of God.
ALL those who desire to serve God have a place.

So may it be.

You want a Revolution? (Oops! I mean… Resolution!)

It all started with this commercial:

Except instead of planning to eat more jelly beans for my personal “revolution” all I could think about was this:

Yes. It’s that time of year… but I’m not making any New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve written about some of the plans I’ve chosen for my personal, professional and spiritual growth. None of them are exactly earth-shattering. They are more about living my faith out consistently, day after day. I wouldn’t say I am trying to live in a way that is revolutionary. I’m just trying to live in a way that changes how I impact the people I care for as a chaplain and a pastor. I want to know that, at the end of the day, I’ve given my best, not think, “Meh. I did stuff.”

It started with the Daily Office readings today where I read these words in Isaiah 62:

Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.

I think I’ve been over-thinking or over-reaching this. It’s not rocket science. It’s a simple, get-off-the-couch, go-clear-theway sort of attitude. To start clearing the rocks that are in the way!

It’s a kind of reboot or restart. The problem is, it’s too easy for me to make excuses or get busy doing something that’s more… comfortable or entertaining or flashy. Picking up rocks? It’s so mundane. So simple. So… hard when it’s been simpler to just let things lie. As my friend Jan Fox says, I need “a revolt to get the jolt!”

Here’s to making the first step today!

Weighed down… then released

Rachel Hackenberg offers a weekly prayer-writing prompt. This week’s is based off of Psalm 38:4

“My iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh on me
like a burden too heavy for me.”

DSC_0467

What stands between me and You, Lord?
What have I ignored
or forgotten
or simply stopped caring about?

I stand and look at the obstacles
between me and freedom
and I balk.

It’s too hard.
It’s too much work.

Yes… It is too much
for me to do
without You.

I’ve taken the first step
knee-deep in muck,
chain saw in hand,
rakes and shovels at the ready.

Could you please make
the first cut?

Amen.

Joining the Carnival: Sacred Pauses

From a RevGal, I found out about a blog “carnival” on the theme of “Sacred Pauses.” It intrigued me, so I decided to give it a whirl. 🙂 April Yamasaki will be offering other writing prompts as a part of her book launch, but I’m starting this “cruise” with my own reflections.

Last month as part of NaNoBloPo (National Blog Posting Month) the questions focused on “energy” — what gives you energy? what drains your energy? where do you find the best place to recharge? what superpower do you want to have so you’ll never run out of energy? (and so on…) I confess that I lost steam part-way through the month when life got complicated and my wacka-doodle schedule (working overnights as a hospital chaplain) depleted my reserves. I found some good ideas among the prompts. The ones that caught my fancy were the ones which asked us to blog about how one gets re-energized.

What an excellent question!

It took several years for me to begin to figure out that just because an author says “this is how you achieve spiritual renewal” that it didn’t necessarily apply to me. Sitting in silence? Maybe occasionally. Doing qi gong or standing meditation? Not so much. Then there was the sweet suggestion of using a rag and scrubbing my kitchen floor on my knees, all the while praying. Uhhhh… no.

Depending on the pace of my day, I have learned to stop and do a gut-check. What do I really need for refreshment? A phone call with a friend? Playing a mindless video game? (Yes! there are times that’s perfect!) Take photos? Attempt knitting? Take a walk? Go on a silent retreat? Just sit and read? Play my piano?

The key is stumbling and bumbling around until I understand — “where is God missing?” in my spiritual/social/physical/psychological matrix. It’s not an exact science. It’s not even a coherent cookbook-like process, necessarily. I’ve tried this discipline and that writer. I’ve done Ignatian/Hildegard/Rumi/Psalms. Nice idea for some. But not necessarily for me, at least, not as a daily, rigorous spiritual diet. (In fact, I view with extreme skepticism those “5 Steps to Spiritual Growth” books because usually they do not match MY steps. But I digress…)

Today was a perfect example of how NOT to stay focused and refreshed. I played phone tag with the tax preparers. I made lists and read a little Medical Ethics (yawn) for my class. I read some more on theodicy for a paper I’m presenting later this month. (Note to self: FINISH IT!) And then I thought I’d just dash off on a few errands, come back and have lunch and then get back to writing and studying.

EXCEPT… the car battery was dead. For reasons unknown, it was nonfunctional and I was not happy. I called Bearded Brewer who coached me through using the charger. I dithered around for an hour, waiting to see if the battery charger would give my car enough juice to get back on track again. (It did. And I kept my fingers crossed and went off on maneuvers.) But it just “done me in.”

Prrrrrr...
Prrrrrr…

The car battery? That’s an easy enough fix. What took considerably more time was my emotional equilibrium. Because when I let myself stay “stewing” I’m spewing a lot of extra energy. (I figured it out. Eventually. And things are cool now. The battery may or may not need replacing. Or the alternator. Or the starter. But whatevs.)

Today what reset my grump-o-meter was a bit of Henry. A few scritches. A wuzzle. And a lap cat. Prrrrrrfect.

Finding that place to refresh, refocus, renew – that’s what a “sacred pause” is for me. And I’m looking forward to blogging more about that.

Success and “Succesful” – what’s the fuss all about?

MaryEllen Tribby posted an article about “The Success Indicators” on the HuffPost Small Business blog. That was in September 2012. It didn’t get a lot of notice or airtime until this graphic came to light around New Years.

I linked to it on my Facebook page despite the typos. (You DID see them, didn’t you?) I felt it had a positive and thought-provoking message. Apparently there are lots of detractors. If you go back and read Tribby’s post, you will discover that she came up with this list after studying entrepeneurs and what traits were in common among the successful ones.

It’s not rocket science. Generally speaking, generous and creative people are more fun to be around than attention-seeking, self-aggrandizing ones. They are more rewarding to work for, too. And many entrepreneurs I’ve met decide to go into business for themselves because they have a passion and a vision that does not fit in corporate boxes.

So why all the heartburn about this graphic? Is it a big “FAIL” because there are typos on the chart? (BTW – an edited version has been up on the website for some time… you can find it here!)

People-3

Is it too “judgmental” because it suggests causation instead of trends in one’s personal attitudes and actions? Is it too stratified and not integrative? Can someone try to encompass all of the “successful” traits and still not achieve their goals of financial acumen? It’s probably a mix of above.

If you go back to Libby’s article and her website, you can put this graphic in context. Her point is not that one puts OTHER people in categories, but that we look that these traits and consider where and how one can personally grow. In management terms, it’s called a “Personal Growth Management” plan. (Google that one and you’ll find books, seminars, and much more.)

There’s more to this from a Christian perspective. When I began to pray about what I would keep as my goals and plans for 2013, I considered some of the categories of spiritual growth which were important to me. There’s really not one tool or image that can portray them all. The Navigators use a “wheel”. Other groups suggest it has a blueprint that you follow (very strictly and carefully). Or they envision spiritual formation as a tree or as an continuous path of growth like a chambered nautilus.

The point was, for me, where have I been growing? And what are my next steps to continue growing and strengthening my faith walk? I found there was plenty of room for change in my life. I don’t want to stagnate. And the Holy Spirit is quite gracious to keep nudging me along.

Here’s the real kicker… we all have those “moments” where we lean towards the “unsuccessful” traits. We don’t want to change. We say we want to achieve one goal and then self-sabotage. We act more like power-hungry valet, Thomas than like Anna, the sweet head housemaid. (If you aren’t getting that Downton Abbey illustration, wander over here. ) I can decide to grow through and past my personal limitations and failures, or I can use them as excuses. Being human I will probably do both in the coming year. Being optimistic, I’ll keep striving towards more consistently representing my faith and God by becoming “successful.” Eventually!

Becoming unraveled…

It’s been almost six weeks since my CPE (clinical pastoral education) residency ended rather abruptly. I knew on some level that I would not be working through the summer with the “staffing restructuring” that had been going on since January of this year. But the cancellation of the CPE program for the immediate future meant that those of us who were “residents” (i.e. CPE students with a stipend) would obviously not continue as a line item at a budget-slashing hospital. Our supervisor and the spiritual care department VP locked horns. We students were the collateral damage.

To be fair, I was offered a per diem job at my old worksite. No benefits, lousy hours and lots of them. I chose to decline the offer, since I pretty much knew what I would have to do to survive under that schedule. It was not a place conducive for my personal, emotional or professional growth. There was little flexibility for my family’s needs and schedule requirements this summer. I needed a clean break to begin the next chapter of ministry. I also needed one more “unit” (aka semester) of CPE to finish the minimum number required for board certification as a chaplain. This is an important goal, since it’s hard to get back on the CPE treadmill once you have a full-time job.

I agonized and talked about it endlessly (and I do apologize to my family and close friends about that!) But as someone who is a verbal/visual processor, it was necessary. I wrote out Scripture promises given to me. I read books on management, calling and ministry. I didn’t want to stay in a “job” just to make money. But I also didn’t want to cut myself off from continued professional experience. It also didn’t help that this training site was literally 10 minutes from my home… talk about cheap transportation and convenience!! I was unclear on what to do.

A moment of clarity came as I was crocheting a prayer shawl. Now lest you think I am in the afghan-making business, I most definitely am not! It took me six months to finish my first shawl. It looks so uneven that I have decided to make it a kitty throw. They don’t mind.

Anyway, I was in the process of correcting a major mistake in the prayer shawl. If you crochet or knit at all, you know that means unraveling a bunch of stitches until you get to the “good” part again. My labored work disappeared so quickly. Without the next stitch holding the previous one in place, the double and triple stitches just vanished with a pull.

It got me to thinking…

We spend a lot of time in the treadmill of life. Row after row after row of the same set of life’s “stitches” seem to self-propagate! We get invested in keeping things “where they are” instead of “where they could be” — or at least where, with God’s help, they “could” be!

The days of the week fly by. The months disappear into years. Kids get taller. Cars collect dents and scratches. Weeds regrow in the EXACT same places. And our carefully manicured lives get unraveled when there’s a pull in the wrong direction. Unless you “tie off” an end, the unraveling could go indefinitely.

I put an intentional “tie off” in my training this spring. There were systems and policies in place which, if I had not stopped to consider and evaluate them carefully, would have been completely detrimental to my professional and spiritual growth. It was definitely a “second-best” situation. Over time, my love for my work and ministry would have shriveled in the wind of patronizing and patriarchal philosophies.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to do shift work or per diem on call work. I will be doing so this summer, but at a different, larger hospital in the area. It will mean more expenses in driving, taking the Metro, paying for parking, and being away from my family. It is a carefully considered choice that we’ve made.

One of the best aspects of CPE is that it forces you to be reflective in your processing of work (or life) encounters. There’s a forum for direct supervisory, peer and self evaluation. There’s a place to “own” your part of the conversation, and a place to disassociate while you reflect and respond. It’s not all bad. In fact, when things are unraveling around you, it’s a very healthy place to be!

Thanks be to God!

Running Gunk-Free

Hebrews 12:1-3 (TNIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It was pouring rain. I was filling up my car at the cheapest local brand-name station and just got tickled by this sign. That technical term… “Engine gunk” just slayed me. After I turned off the pump and before I headed on my way, I snapped a picture of their promo out my window…

SEEK AND DESTROY ENGINE GUNK!

At first I wondered what marketing genius came up with the phrase. Vague memories of high school science class, piston engines and driver’s ed. reminded me that pistons can develop a carbon “residue” if the fuel does not burn cleanly or if parts are worn and don’t fire the cylinder correctly. I realized it was a point of genius to call it something memorable – like “gunk”.

The “gunk” is there from the moment we fire up the engine on a new car until it blows its last master cylinder. The problem is that we, the normal driver and consumer, don’t measure the output of our car’s cylinders. We just realize when things have gone very, very bad (i.e. we suddenly realize where there’s a haze of blue smoke – or worse – there’s too much “gunk” deposited on them and they don’t move!)

Time and attention to the little details of a cylinder’s output are part of regular car maintenance. “Regular” now means when the little yellow light blinks on when I start my car. Time to have an oil change. Or preventive maintenance on the belts, tires, hoses, etc. I don’t intentionally ignore the warning light on my car, but sometime i let busy-ness put it too far down on my list.

The spiritual “gunk” build-up is easy to ignore, as well.

I’m starting up a new semester with just a week off from the last one. But in the time between, I had the opportunity to read and pray through areas of my spiritual life that had “gunk” on them. It wasn’t quite enough time to have a full engine tune-up, but at least I am seeing where I need to spend more time with God (the “Master” Mechanic, if you will.)

Here’s what I’m learning…

Some of the gunk in my life is self-imposed. I get a terminal case of the mindset woulda-coulda-shoulda. I get a B+ instead of an A and the “tape” in my head says I’m stupid. I set aside a project or chore because I want to enjoy the people around me, and then have a partly done task “scolding” me for leaving things un-done. (As if things could talk. Geesh.) Or I listen to the voices of society who think women are only one role or voice, to the exclusion of the multiple ways that God uses gifted female leaders in commerce, government, churches, and the home. I let them define, re-design or regulate where God is leading me. It’s so wrong. It’s GUNK!!

Some of the gunk is guilt-imposed by others. If-then statements probably put me into an emotional state of guilt faster than any others. Without stopping to analyze (is this true? is this real? is this honest?) I respond from my primary motivator, feelings. I feel guilty, so I respond to get rid of the guilt. I take on side-cars of projects or expectations because I think that they are valid for me… and they might not be! Or I labor under the impression that “IF” I want to be X “THEN” I must do Y. It’s GUNK!!

Some of it is spiritually-imposed. It’s as if Satan says, “OK, I can’t side-track her with societal guilt. I can’t get her in the old “tapes” of the past. Let’s just throw some roadblocks in her life to distract her or pull her off course.” It’s GUNK!!

I don’t think the writer of Hebrews had “engine gunk” in mind she used the analogy of the “road race of life” — but it works for me.
I am purposing to throw off the GUNK that hinders and so easily entangles… and to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Master Mechanic, pioneer, and perfecter of my faith.

I’m on a life-long road race, not a drag race. I need regular pit-stops, oil changes and engine re-builds. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll do it with less “engine GUNK” in my life.

Deb