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Archive for May, 2010

But I don’t think it’s a carousel. It’s just my life.

In 9 days I will turn over my children to my parents for 5 of the 7 weeks that I will be having treatment for the 2 benign, but troublesome tumors in my head. My husband and I will drive off in my car on a 3 day trek to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. My tumors are benign, but the folks at MDA know how to go after them and they’ve decided IMRT is the way to go.

I am trying to prepare myself. I am reading the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn, Madeleine L’Engle, the Bible, and my own journals. I’m praying. I’m breathing. I’m in counseling and doing EMRD. The counseling seems to be helping. I think I’m sleeping better. I’m getting in touch with my feelings about being fired, which seems to be a hot issue right now. I believe my experience over the last 3 years, especially in relationship to the church, has made me ill. I believe I need to deal with these feelings in order to become well again. And I believe in miracles and doing what I can to make room for them.

My assignment from counseling the other night: find a way to release the anger and hurt. What did little me do when I was a child? I hit and threw things. I vividly remember a day when my mom was going out to lunch with her friends and I wanted to go. I was 3 or 4. Mom didn’t want me along and was leaving me home with the housekeeper. I don’t think I had anything against the housekeeper, I just really wanted to be with my mom going out to lunch. When mom walked out the door to leave I stood at the big, multi-paned window in the formal living room. I screamed and cried and hit at one of the panes until I put my fist through it. I got little bits of glass in my wrist. Mom made sure I wasn’t seriously hurt and she left, without me. We still have tense moments.

So, I’m thinking about what I can do to get the anger out. Obviously I’m not going to be socking out any window panes with my bare fist. But I think it’s important to have some physical action in all of this, so I’ve decided that throwing things while I yell and scream might be good. Eggs and tomatoes came to mind as suitable objects to throw. And the best target might just be the trees in the wood. That way the egg and tomato bits could be enjoyed by the wood animals. I just hope no one comes along while I’m doing this. I do live in a small town, you know?

I’ve been encouraged to have an accomplice. Well, really a partner who can do this with me. My first thought was my best friend, but that won’t work, she lives states away. But shouldn’t it really be my husband? Afterall, he has a stake in this anger party too. It wasn’t just my life that’s been FFFD up, it’s his too. He suggested we get some dishes and hit the dumpster where he works. It’s a little bit public, but maybe it will be the starting point. And what to do with the kids during this therapy session? They definitely need to sheltered from the parental insanity and violence that will ensue. They just wouldn’t understand it and they don’t need to know.

Today I went to the thrift store and bought two sets of ugly old dishes. One with apples on it and one with geese. I bit my tongue when the shop ladies who were wrapping them up said how cute they were and wouldn’t it be a shame if they dropped and broke one. Hah! I wonder of they’ve ever thrown their dishes?

It’s hard to be angry with church and church people. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s plenty frustrating to be facing constant naysayers and criticisms of you and everything church, but as a pastor we’re supposed to love all those folks and nurture and care for them. We’re not supposed to yell at them or speak harshly to them. It’s unprofessional. So instead we have a bunch of ministers who have been abused by the very people they were called to serve and yet we’re not supposed to fight back. Seems so antithetical when one considers that stories of clergy sexually abusing children are all over the news— Does anyone ever report how clergy are abused by their congregations? Does anyone know we have almost no recourse and that when we lose our jobs we don’t have the luxury of unemployment benefits?

My husband is concerned that I might get myself worked up over the church stuff. I’m concerned that i won’t get worked up enough and that all this seething anger with be pushed further down into my body where it will fester and become something worse than a benign tumor. When we don’t deal with our feelings, our hurts and angers, they have to find somewhere to go; and when they do, it manifests in illness, disease and sometimes psychosis. I’m not looking to go psychotic, but I know if I don’t get this anger out of me it will do worse than it already has. I’ve got to make room for the miracle of healing.

I still love that church and I miss it. Call me a battered woman, maybe. It wasn’t all bad, but their dysfunctions are so ingrained they don’t think there’s anything wrong. It’s always the pastors’ fault. It was the most disempowering thing to be constantly told “no, we can’t do that because…it’s not the right time, we don’t have the money, we tried that once, someone’s feelings have been or will be hurt, we’ve never done it that way, that’s an interesting idea but I don’t have the time, I’m already over committed, that’s not your area, ___________(fill in your favorite negation)”. Or how about “why doesn’t the pastor do this? Why does the pastor do that?” Crikey! It makes my eyes twitch just thinking about it!

Maybe it would be easier if they had given me a real explanation as to why I had to go. Maybe reading between the lines they were saying “you’re too open and honest for our system. Your motives can’t possibly be as pure as you seem to make them. You are challenging our way of operating and upsetting our system by breaking cracks in it. You tell us truths we don’t want to admit.”

So now they call a new senior minister who I know. I went to school with this person and their spouse. We’ve even served under the same senior minister at the same church. What’s really scary is that we even look a little bit alike and have very similar interests in church. Part of me says that should be me. Part of me says to tell this person to run like fire and if you decide to stay, then you’d better have your eyes wide open. How long will it take for them to eat this new minister alive or to make this person part of the system. A figurehead. A leader with no true authority but the full bearer of all blame. But may be I don’t give my friend enough credit. I don’t know, this church has a long history of doing in ministers. Afterall, I was the 7th.

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This afternoon my boys and I were across the street from the church I used to serve. We were waiting for a break in traffic to head back home when my youngest asked, “Mom, when will we go to that church again?”

Oh, ouch. “Well son, we won’t. Why? Do you miss it?” And my sons said yes, but not the school part. Well, really not the nursery part. They are too big for the nursery and didn’t like having to go to the nursery when Mom was working on Sundays and during some church events.

I’d have to say, I can’t blame them for not wanting to go to the nursery. But it also breaks my heart to have to tell my younger son, who really only remembers this church because he was 2 when we moved here, that we can’t go back to our family church. Sure, I know we’re not the only clergy family ever to have to face this, but how do you explain to your young children that some people, really a very small group, decided that their mommy was not a minister that they wanted to serve in their church? And that they wanted mommy gone from their church so much that they didn’t even let her or her children have a chance to say good-bye and thanks.

And how do I explain that I am visiting churches to worship God, but I don’t bring my family because I don’t want to drag them to a bunch of different places where no body knows us and they will feel out of place until mommy can find a place that she feels like trusting enough to bring her family with her?

One of my biggest fears is that my children will give up on the church because they can’t understand why people who say they believe in God, Jesus and the gospel messages they learned in Sunday School and VBS could shut the door on their mom and them? They may be young, but they know something’s up with that.

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Yesterday I went to see a spiritual director/counselor. She is a fellow clergywoman who I have come to know through a colleague group and the blessing is that she knows quite a bit of the history of the church I used to serve, as well as many of the people in that church.

I decided to go talk to her on a professional basis because of the difficulty I’m having releasing the congregation from my heart and mind. See, I am still very fond of that church, its people and the building, but I need to move on.

I have realized that being in that church was bad for my health in quite a dramatic way and I’ve got to loose myself of it. My very life depends on it. One month from now I will be entering IMRT for a pair of small benign, but aggressive, tumors in my skull base. As I became aware 3 years ago, unfinished business has a way of making you sick if you don’t tend to it. Likewise, unbalanced living also has a way of making you sick.

This church, while it has many wonderful and kind people in it, also has what I might call a certain darkness in it. Most mainline protestants that I know are very uncomfortable talking about things like this, but there are a few who do believe that evil exists. We use many names to describe it, my friend called it a dark angel. She thinks that perhaps at one time it was an angel of the light but something happened to take it into darkness, despair and dysfunction. I believe I have sensed its presence, and maybe even have “seen” it.

The presence has in a way encouraged my desire for reconciliation, because I think it is looking for reconciliation. And perhaps it may be restored to being an angel of light if there were to be a move for reconciliation. Sadly, though, I don’t think the leaders of the church are open to reconciliation. So my spiritual guide and I will be focusing on forgiveness.

We choose to focus on forgiveness because that is the part that I can hold responsibility for. And, when only one party is actively seeking to heal a broken relationship, it is only forgiveness that I can do anything about. Reconciliation is a two-way street, but forgiveness can be one-way.

I know, and it’s been recorded here (Sept. ’08), that reconciliation can happen, and when it does even bigger and more amazing things happen. I experienced a spiritual and physical healing through reconciliation, and I just pray that healing can be mine again even if I’m the only active party.

My guide has referred me to another spiritual guide/counselor who specializes in working with people who are suffering from PTSD. She tells me that I am suffering PTSD and I think I agree with her. I call it Post Traumatic Church Stress Disorder.

I have made a few steps already. Since I have received my final severance check, the church and I no longer owe each other anything. Therefore, that tie is now cut. I have begun seeking out a relationship with another church congregation so that I will again have a church home. This is difficult, but something I very much need and want. The manner in which I left the previous church was very painful and abrupt, and because I am in need of physical healing, I am not yet ready to serve a church. It will be many months before I feel up for that. For now, I am simply focusing on being a church person.

And as Jesus says to the Disciples in Luke 10, if you are not welcomed in a place, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. He also tells them to forgive seventy times seven, and that is definitely something to work on.

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