Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Complicated - Thoughts on Memorial Day, Peace and Justice

I sat in church Sunday and listened to a very difficult story about a young woman, a nurse, embedded with a Ranger unit that was killed when she stepped on an IED while moving forward to help another soldier wounded by another IED. The story was being told, as it should be, so that we who sit in the comfort of our homes and churches and schools and workplaces remember that lives are sacrificed for our freedom, and for the freedom of others around the world.  This young woman was part of a forward operating group because she was a woman with whom the Islamic women in the area would converse.  She had "opted in" because she knew it was important work.

My goodness. It is such important work.

Stephanie reached over and touched my hand.  Does this make you nervous?

Yes.  Yes it does.  And she left her hand on mine.

I don't believe in war.

How is that for idealism?

I follow Jesus the best ways I know how - with lots of imperfection - and I am pretty sure Jesus went to a cross because he wasn't much into the way of declaring right and wrong, good and bad, in and out.  I'm pretty sure he went to a cross because he believed everyone deserved love and mercy and grace and compassion.  And the world doesn't get that.  It doesn't really want that.  Because...well, where's the "win" in all being equal?

And wars happen. There are forces of evil in the world - like Hitler was, like some radicalized people (please note I would say of ALL religious and ideological stripes).  And we live in a world where the only way to stop evil is to fight it.  I get that.

And there also mistakes in judgement about where military troops are involved.  Because ... well because... humans.  Humans make mistakes.  Humans charged with big decisions get it wrong sometimes. For reasons beyond their control.  And we end up in places doing things we probably shouldn't do.

And now, I have a son who has committed to serve his country in the way he understands his grandfathers served - with loyalty to democracy, to a country built on the idea of freedom, to shared responsibility for making the world a safer, better place where more people have freedoms.

(But oh my, our world is so broken right now.)

As his proud mama, I will cheer him on. I will wear my Go Army shirt, put a decal on my car, watch Army play Navy in football each year.  I will pray for our troops.  I will #runinblue #forthefallen...because God forbid ...just God forbid.  Enough.

It's complicated.

To my friends who are devout pacifists, I see you.  I respect you.  I love you.  Some days I could be you.  But not when it costs me the opportunity to mourn with those who mourn their fallen. Not if it costs me the opportunity to advocate for justice and good policy making to make our war time decisions the very best they can be (because we're already at war...).

It is so very complicated.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Exploring lonely - the empty nest, leadership, mid- and clergy-life

I was sitting with my pastoral counselor one day when she asked.... "Are you lonely?"

I was stunned.  Of course not.  I'm an extrovert.  I am surrounded all day by people.  I interact endlessly.  I draw my energy from those around me. My natural empathic connection means even if I don't know much about the person next to me, I know something about them. Lonely! Ha! As if...


I'm not lonely.

(insert chirping crickets...)

I sat with my reaction to that question in the coming weeks.

What is lonely?

What do I do when I am "alone?"

How am I filling my time when someone doesn't NEED something of me?

Who are my friends?

Not colleagues.
Not the kids who are all testing their wingspan in the real world.
Not my spouse.
Not my mom or my sibs.

Who are my friends?

And it began to sink in.  At 47, I've been super-busy being in relationship with people who need something from me. Who help me feel like I have a place and role and purpose in the world.  Food, clothing, administrative skills, counseling, teaching, leadership, fundraising, management.

But that hasn't left much room for cultivating girlfriends. People with whom I can just kick back and be.  People who will listen to my hard day and just say, "Wow.  That sucks.  You have so much going on.  Red or white?"


Thinking about it, I've spent 23 years in relationship with three beautiful beings, shaping them, helping them stay safe, learn life skills, grow strong.  And they need less and less nurture. And their lives take on greater and greater risk.  And my job is to stand by, cheer them on, process when they want to process, respond to the occasional crisis.  Occasionally provide the funds for life - tangible and emotional.

And I think I've got the hang of marriage - I have a great friend and life partner.  And we can't be the only one bearing the others burden. We can't listen objectively when we might get hurt, be in the wrong, want to "fix" the other's challenges.

And it turns out this clergy work requires a LOT of duty to care.  But it isn't a source of care for me.

And it turns out that emerging as a leader professionally isn't always popular or fun or collegial.

I appreciate my pastoral counselor.  I pay her to listen.  That's ok.


It's lonely.

Yes.  Yes.  I am lonely.

I find myself filling hours pouring over facebook, waiting for responses, waiting for engagement. Checking email.  Work and personal. Because someone might need me.

I see that now.

Lonely, I think, has something to do with learning to be alone.  I suspect it has to do with learning to be comfortable with yourself.  After years and years and years of being present for others.

And when I think about it that way, it seems like an opportunity.  Like -- if I learn to like myself as my own company when I am alone...maybe that isn't lonely.

Here's the thing.  I am aware. Sometimes I am sad.  I am exploring and learning, naming and claiming.  Watching what shows up. Trying not to judge what shows up. Not to judge my feelings.  Because it's ok to be sad. Or lonely.  Or sometimes scared of what comes next.

And I am aware that when I push lonely out of the way, sometimes God shows up differently too.

Clergy boundaries.