vocation

Dust 2: Seeds...

Dust 2: Seeds...

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that... we may never see the results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets for a future not our own.

Uncaged...

Uncaged...

...I know, I know. Jesus never really left. What is it the fundamentalist Evangelicals say? "If you feel far from God, God isn't the one who moved." Well maybe that's true. Maybe God doesn't walk away on God's anthropomorphized feet. But since I decided to leave the United Methodist Church and its ordination process in the fall of 2012, God has felt anything but near (save a few exceptions). Recently, however, it feels like God has shown back up... or at least Jesus has.

Milestones...

Milestones...

IF YOU HAVEN'T GUESSED IT SIMPLY BY THE PICTURE, I'VE HIT WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE SOMEWHAT OF A MAJOR EVENT: 200 ENTRIES...

Rather than writing a Lenten entry today, I just wanted to, well, write. Let some things off my chest. Most of all, I want to say thank you.

Ashes 6: Well pleased...

Ashes 6: Well pleased...

A good friend shared with me this morning that he's finally found his calling. Part of me wanted to ask, "Where'd you find it? Was it easy? Did you have to look hard?" For some of us, the experience of finding our place in this world (forgive the Michael W. Smith reference) is not a pleasant or enjoyable one. It's difficult, painful even — feeling layer upon layer of ourselves be pulled away from our skin until, at last, we begin to see our true selves.

Overdue confessions...

Overdue confessions...

In any twelve-step program, as I understand it, step one is taking ownership and responsibility for who you are and what your struggle is (I warn you, I will fumble over this, so please be patient). I begin with this phrase because my addiction is not singular. It isn't just alcohol or nicotine or drugs or sex or porn or *insert possible addiction here*. My addiction is any or all of these at any given moment. How I've made it this far without any one of these crippling me is a miracle, but still, I struggle. And I'm tired of pretending that I don't. Secrets are too much, and they take too high a toll on one's life...

Simple emptiness...

Simple emptiness...

I'm not talking about the kind of emptiness that results in feeling bitter, cynical, jaded, hurt, abused, burned out, or other such emotions. I mean the kind of emptiness that comes from knowing you gave everything you had, everything you could, without doing harm to yourself or those you serve. I mean the kind of emptiness that leaves you feeling, or at least hoping, you made a difference, albeit sometimes a small (but not insignificant) one. I mean the kind of empty that leaves you with a desire to fill up, recharge, and do it all over again. But a word of caution, one I speak both to you and to myself: don't let it get to your head.

Touching death, touching life...

Touching death, touching life...

...THE MORGUE...

Nothing can prepare you for the chill, the smell, the fluorescent lighting. There is no way to get yourself psyched up for stepping into a cooler that serves as a temporary stopping point for the recently deceased. Yet sometimes you have to open the door and step inside. You have to unzip the bag and stare into the abyss of mortality...

Did I just say that? Yes, yes I did.

Laying down arms...

Laying down arms...

In two of my classes last week, the topic of sexuality came up. One professor, an ordained United Methodist Elder, openly shared his belief that the denomination's stance against ordaining partnered queer persons and celebrating their unions is absolutely and completely wrong. Still vulnerable and weakened from events of recent weeks, I nearly lost it. I crossed my arms, avoided eye contact, and retreated internally. One of my classmates, an ordination candidate in the United Church of Christ, pointed out three categories of people involved in this controversy.

Those who feel called to stay and who do so...

Those who feel called to leave and who do so...

Those who feel called to stay, but for whom the burden of that call is so unbearable that they leave...

Walls and Fences...

I've always had a struggle with boundaries, whether they be physical, relational, sexual, familial, or professional. For as long as I can remember, I've had difficulties in seeing and defining where I ended and someone else began. Part of this comes from being raised in a household in which there was no clear delineation between my mother and me, where she stopped and I started.

Being in seminary, but especially serving a church, I've had a challenge in defining who my professional self is, partially because I am the first in my branch of the family to seek out more than just a job, choosing instead to have a career, a vocation. Unfortunately, this means that I've had very little in the way of modeling in my life when it comes to developing and maintaining healthy professional boundaries.

In my past, my lack of boundaries in the professional setting cost me dearly, leading to my dismissal from a graduate program in social work due to a severe lapse in judgment on my part with a client. Though I was not cognizant of it at the time, I had power that I had failed to acknowledge, and I caused harm. Even if unintentional, I made a mistake and have had to live with those consequences. My hope now is that I will not make such a grievous mistake again, especially not in a ministry setting.

All of this is surfacing because, for my last 3 months of field placement, my supervising pastor and I will be focusing on and reading through a book entitled Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. My supervisor, having asked advice of my field education director, decided that this would be a good way to finish out my time with the church. For this, I am thankful. Granted, my typical depression-induced paranoia kicked in when she told me that we would be doing this, leading me to inquire if this was because of any particular mistakes I had made. Thankfully, it was not (whew). Yet it does make me aware of how I am potentially perceived by those whom I serve.

There are days when I feel as if I have strong walls built up... impenetrable, invulnerable. Nothing can come in, and nothing can go out. I think this is something many of us struggle with, even if we don't always admit it. Other days, I feel like I have some semblance of a fence up, with a gate, which allows for deliberate flow of emotion, thought, action, and dialogue in and out of myself. Most of the time, though, I feel as if my boundaries are merely made up of a dense fog, incapable of discerning the dividing line between myself and others. I long for connection, intimacy, and relationship, and so, in the process, I end up losing myself in them, sometimes far too deeply. This is my problem, and I realize that, given my past and family history, it will take hard work to undo.

And so I ask for prayer, support, and accountability. If and when you sense my tendency to merge myself with you, please call me out on it, in love. Likewise, if you observe me locating to the other side of the pendulum, tell me then as well. Remind me that I can be me and you can be you, and that there can be connection and intimacy without either of us losing ourselves in the other. Help me be responsible for my thoughts, words, actions, behaviors, choices, etc. We're all made in the image of the Creator. Help me to not lose sight of the distinct Imago Dei that is me, just as I will seek to help you see the image of God that is you. Keep me responsible for handling my own load while sharing my burdens insofar as you feel comfortable doing. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ, is it not?!