Archive for the 'Personal Stories' Category

10
Jul
09

The Community that is Soulforce

Two and a half years ago, as I was wasting away in deepest rural Iowa, I had an epiphanic experience. Jenna and I needed some time away from people just like us – white, middle class, middle income, heterosexuals living all together in a community of less than 1,000 people. In actually, we weren’t just like them, which people suspected and then decided it must be that we are strange. And, evidently, they weren’t wrong. Anyway, we went to a Holy Relationships conference in Iowa City, and there met Rev Dr Mel White who was one of the speakers. We also heard about Soulforce.org – a group Mel started to engage in non-violent activism for GLBT causes – especially for those damaged by churches. That day was pivotal for my survival – it saved my mind, if not my life. Continue reading ‘The Community that is Soulforce’

28
Jun
09

More traditional press about same-gender marriage

More and more stories are appearing in newspapers and mainstream internet news sources. Rather than sensationalizing the stories or taking conservative, liberal or biased stands, the stories are generally of human interest and bring real people with real lives into our living rooms. This, I feel, is a very good thing. The more people know others who are not like them, or feel as if they know them, the more accepting people tend to be.

Just as Massachusetts has not experienced an increase in marriage breakups, gay children or the breakdown of society generally, neither will the other states which have passed laws or whose state supreme courts have ordered the allowance of same-gender marriages. Iowa is yet another case in point. The sky has not fallen, although to hear the opposition it is on its way towards earth as we speak.

The following story (excerpted) is about specific people and tells their stories and those of the opponents fairly (even though I could do without the latter). In this case the very children who were supposed to be traumatized and stunted because of having same-gender parents speak about their lives and wishes for their parents. Continue reading ‘More traditional press about same-gender marriage’

26
Jun
09

Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”

The original article can be read here.

The last few months have been particularly interesting.  My church, which had decided to close anyway, and my denominational leaders, decided medical leave was necessary because of a particularly bad time I was going through. At first, I resisted. I have always fought to keep my sanity and remain stable – it was a battle of wills which I won more often than not. My father gave into his mental illness and I was vehement about not doing the same thing.

After receiving the notice that not only was I on three months medical leave, but also was “terminated” after that period, I decided my previous approach to mental health was not going to work this time around – I was in too deep. Continue reading ‘Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”’

11
Jun
09

My Recovery From Homophobia

This post was actually written about two years ago, in response to the the musings of a Soulforce member about the nature of sexuality. It includes very personal information, but I think it’s worth the risk for the discussion.

I think Daniel’s notion of a continuum is immensely important. I also think it explains a lot of fear on the part of people who are concerned about where they fall on that continuum. I dare say that if we look at any line that represents a continuum, very few of us are found at either extreme. I am an introvert who is reasonably confortable being extroverted. I am an intellectual who is driven to do physical things – woodworking, gardening – in order to feel complete. There are so many scales that this kind of analysis could go on forever, but hopefully I’ve made that point. Continue reading ‘My Recovery From Homophobia’

27
May
09

A Personal Journey in Leadership

The attitudes about leadership that I brought into my first church assignment as an administrator were saturated with bias, largely because I equated leading with managing. In retrospect, I had witnessed very few examples of leadership, as I now understand it. I had, however, been privy to and used many management styles, most of which were based on the manipulation of people and situations to satisfy corporate and/or self-interest.

Eventually, I resigned from the business arena because I couldn’t reconcile my role, or generally accepted management practices, with a newly developing worldview after becoming a Christian. After a semi-reclusive period spent building furniture and helping develop small group ministries at my church, I re-entered the public world as a church employee, only to encounter the same management attitudes that had repulsed me in the business environment. On the first night of a class on church leadership some years ago, we listed words describing leadership. If I remember correctly, my only contribution to that original list of words was ‘manipulative’.

Any description of my leadership style will be somewhat nebulous, as I am still processing the significance of concepts contained in various books and discussions and, most importantly, experiences from life in church. This will not be an exercise that ends with my last call.

Continue reading ‘A Personal Journey in Leadership’

24
May
09

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

It is hard to fathom, at least for me, how two people with similar conditions can be so very different. To coin a title from a Tim Weisberg album we are in many ways “twin sons of different mothers.”

Not including age (unfortunately I am the older son), we share interests such as cars and woodworking, similar levels of intelligence, senses of humor, music, recreational activities, introversion (even down to Myers-Briggs results). Heck, we even pack our excess weight in the same place. And, as mentioned in previous post, Karl and I are both bipolar.

The differences in our personalities, lives and how being bipolar plays out in our daily existence are somehow perfectly mirrored in the conditions of our garages and workshops. I am left wondering if every person’s personality could be understood and analyzed based on the condition of their garages. Forget the house, the furnishings, the kitchen and the yard! If archeologists a thousand years from now were to delicately uncover our perfectly preserved work spaces, they could peg our personalities down to a “t”. Continue reading ‘Twin Sons of Different Mothers’

21
May
09

Road Trip

usarvblogmap-747526I am looking forward to the first of two road trips this summer. This one, in which we will end up in Iowa for Leah’s high school graduation, is a warm up for the Montana trip in late June for Jenna’s late father’s memorial service. A stopping point on each trip will be our dear friends Karl & Sue in Central Ohio. I was going to call them brother Karl and sister Sue, but then I’d have difficulty explaining the two children they have together. They are like family to Jenna and I. I feel this especially for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I have no siblings or parents living in the states. Apart from my children, who I dearly love but do not relate to as siblings (obviously enough), my family is in Australia. It has been four years since I saw my mother, and 15 since seeing my sister and brother. The role Karl & Sue play in my life, therefore, fills an enormous void. Continue reading ‘Road Trip’

17
May
09

A Failed Rationale for Ministry

This is the rationale for ministry I developed for the church I served until recently. In the end, while many in the congregation were enthused, the leadership rejected it wholesale. Because of the way the relationship was terminated, I will probably never know why this raised the ire of the leaders. This was not delivered as one document, but as several. I have compiled it here and I would love to have feedback from readers telling me where I went wrong. Don’t worry about being subtle or reserved – brutal honesty would be appreciated. Continue reading ‘A Failed Rationale for Ministry’

07
May
09

The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide

When the word “myth” is used to describe foundational social or faith stories, the result is oftentimes a reaction of insult and anger. For most, that word conjures up images of fictional or embellished stories, perhaps compiled from many disparate sources – in short, myths are not considered to be truth. The word “myth”, however, is value neutral on the criteria of truth. Myths are society’s fundamental stories, usually involving heroes or major events and based on reality, fiction or some combination of the two that explain or validate traditional practices or belief patterns. Myths are the foundations of culture – every culture has them – the bedrock upon which social values, mores and norms are built.

There is, then, a tendency to romanticize myths beyond the level of ideology, adventure and chivalrous displays that already exist. Entirely common is the process of day-dreaming ourselves in the role of the mythical hero – to become so enamored with the myth, that our ability to see ourselves apart from it becomes blurred. Generally, this very act circumvents the intended message of the story, and creates a compound myth that is now approaching fantasy. Most times, this is quite harmless, but when a pastor crosses this line, faith can become a casualty. Continue reading ‘The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide’

02
May
09

Trying to See the Next Step

Since returning to my faith many years ago, I have to fight the same recurring problem – I desperately want to see the destination of any particular leg of my journey with God. A dear friend, Ginny, used a very simple exercise to try to teach me that there is a reason that God does not reveal the ultimate goal – that we will lose sight of the joy to be found along the way.

On a night with no moon, she led me out to a spot on the farm she and her husband owned. The grass was tall in this particular spot. She gave me a flashlight and told me my destination was the barn about 100 feet away. “Shine the light on the barn,” she said, “and walk towards it.” I did and within 10 feet I tripped over something. I picked myself up and started again, this time getting about 6 feet. Then she called me back and said, “Okay! You know the general direction, go there but shine the light on the ground in front of you so you can see the next step you will take.” I, of course, made it to the barn safely and vertically. “Keep your eye on the next step, and let God guide you to the destination,” she said as she wisely ended the conversation.

My problem is that, right now, I can see the next step and it’s dark and uninviting – in fact, it’s downright scary. Continue reading ‘Trying to See the Next Step’

24
Apr
09

Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39

Reading: Acts 8:26-39

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Continue reading ‘Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39’

21
Apr
09

Recovery – A Poem of Survival

RECOVERY

Children survive.
They seem to be built to survive almost anything.
The pain of loneliness, war, crime, rejection,
being ignored, being abused,
being smothered, being used,
predation, exposure,
abandonment, over-protection;
these are just some of the things kids endure.
Continue reading ‘Recovery – A Poem of Survival’

18
Apr
09

Still Called to Ministry?

They all had to be a little out of their minds. Asking a church business manager to deliver a message from the pulpit – not even a life-long Christian, but a converted one at that – seemed ludicrous in the least. It had been bad enough giving my testimony in the Lenten service. Not that I was embarrassed to reveal my colorful past. After all, my life was now an open book – all of the torn, ruffled, deeply stained pages as well as the very few that were tidy, clean and still legible. It was one thing to find that my experiences spoke to others’ hearts, and quite another to think I could somehow manage to prepare and deliver a sermon that had any value to a congregation.

Now they really had to be crazy. How can they possibly see a pastoral presence when they look at me? Twenty-five years in business, with nary a thought to scruples or ethics, and they want me to go into ministry. What would God want with one more recovering control freak in the pulpit? I’m positive there are plenty in churches already. Surely, when God touched my heart, changing my life that much could not have been in the picture. I have nothing to offer but my own brokenness and imperfection. I’m just meant to stay in the pews. Continue reading ‘Still Called to Ministry?’

10
Apr
09

Better Living Through Chemistry

That’s what they say, but I’m yet to be convinced. I am taking a bit of a hiatus while my doctor tries to adjust my meds. Finding the right combination for Bipolar II is something of a trial and error process, or even possibly a crap shoot, and the subject of the experiments (in this case me) gets to enjoy the roller coaster ride. Those who love me just get to watch and care, while feeling helpless.

To keep the blog alive, I reposted a couple of things I particularly liked and they even got a little more read time this time around. I feel like it’s cheating a bit, but I’m having difficulties concentrating and writing anything new at the moment. For those people who regularly read my ramblings – both of you – don’t give up on me. I am sure I’ll find some kind of equilibrium or, failing that, enter into brief periods of hypomania during which I will probably write profusely.

There is something very humbling about being tossed to and fro by the effects of little pills. For a recovering control freak, it’s a little scary. I have missed two Sunday services because I can’t ensure that I can maintain emotionally for a couple of hours straight, and people could be disturbed by displays of emotion – never mind the possibility of breaking down in the pulpit. Now I’ve been advised to take medical leave for at least another couple of weeks. I have a feeling a recommendation for long-term leave might also be coming.

The possibility looms large that I may be done in ministry. In an already challenging ministry, this interruption may prove too much for the church to bear. I know it might be the death knell of this particular call. I also question whether it is appropriate for someone who gets their personality from a pill to minister to others, when the potential always exists for erratic and unpredictable emotions. So, little by little, as the days tick by, my heart breaks just a little more because I can’t quite envision how God can use a vessel quite this broken.

I would appreciate your prayers – for wellness and discernment.

02
Apr
09

Crazy Baby

Every time I hear this song, I can believe Joan Osborne is singing it directly to me. Perhaps it speaks to where I have been the last week.




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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