Monday, October 28, 2013


I work in healthcare as a Hospice Chaplain. I am also a pastor of a PC(USA) congregation with members who struggle with various health issues. I have walked with many people in the past five years or so as they have received a diagnosis from a doctor for chronic illness, a recommendation for a particular medical/surgical procedure, or just coping with the limitations of a life limiting illness. I hope that I have been there for people when they needed support and comfort in facing these medical challenges and recommendations for lifestyle changes or facing mortality.

In college I minored in biology. I have taken cadaver anatomy, human physiology, chemistry through biochemistry (two semesters of organic before taking biochem), and can read and understand a lot of medical jargon. My knowledge, to date, has helped me maintain a calm presence for others in the midst of the chaos that is our health care system. I appreciate the fact that I can explain calmly to people what is happening and walk them through the process. Some folks may consider me a 'frustrated' pre-med flunk out. I have often wondered if I missed my calling by not pursing medical school, and I know in my heart of hearts that being an MD or OD or any other kind of doctor is not my true calling. I've had the same questions regarding law school, and then when I watch the scheming and back biting of the politics of law. I realize that my calling is to bring comfort to people in the midst of chaos.

So you are all probably wondering where I am going with this little posting. I am too, since today I received a diagnosis from my doctor. I am feeling a bit out of sorts. I am now in the passenger's seat and need a driver. I have walked with people when they have received the identical diagnosis to mine and I hope that I have been a comfort to them. But right now I feel like I have failed and I feel like my body has failed me. I have failed to take control of my life and master my anatomy. My body is breaking down and aging, although there are some scholars that believe that chronic illness is not a natural part of the aging process. I knew the diagnosis was coming. I've been fighting the symptoms for several years now, some days better than others. I teeter tottered on the borderline never quite hitting that fasting blood sugar of 126, which marks one as a diabetic. Over the past five years I have watched my fasting blood sugar go from 109 to 111, to 118, to 124 and today it hit that mark in the low 130's where one cannot deny that one no longer has metabolic syndrome and is now a Type II diabetic. The A1C of 6.41 sealed my fate and I watched my doctor change my diagnosis from Metabolic Syndrome to Type II Diabetes in the computer.

I feel totally defeated and angry. I feel that I have lost control over my body and my life. I have a really good knowledge base on what is happening with my body. I have been a poor steward of my body and I feel really lousy about this. There is a part of me who hears the echos of my mother telling me not to eat so much sugar because, 'you will make yourself diabetic.

Now I know that eating too much sugar does not a diabetic make. I know that I have a genetic inclination to this disease, a family full of Type II diabetics. I know that by not exercising and eating the lousy diet I have been eating, especially over the past 18 months, contributed to the onset of this disease. I know what I need to do, I just wonder if I will have the will to do it. I'm angry with myself for not taking better care of me. As I said earlier I have been a bad steward of my body, and some would say my life.

I am not yet ready to write about the topic of stewardship and my body. I have some interesting thoughts I hope to share once I get over my initial anger and self loathing about my diagnosis.

Today I received a diagnosis and I'm now struggling like all those who I have tried to comfort over the years. It is different when it is you receiving the diagnosis. I hope I can remember that as I continue in mission and ministry as a hospice chaplain and small church pastor.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Your Husband Sings Too Loud – SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE

I’ve been an ordained “Teaching Elder” (formerly known as Minister of Word and Sacrament) for 19 years . I have done ministry at the national office of my denomination, supply preached in tiny churches, done oodles of Presbytery committee work, and pastored two churches. I have also worked for several kinds of businesses, and a couple of non-profit agencies, and am doing hospice chaplaincy. I’ve seen a lot in my 19 years of professional ministry. I have collection of stories that show the best and worst of humanity. I have seen “issues” present themselves in unique ways and helped people get to the root issue, which is 99% of the time not the “Issue” that is presented or identified as the original issue.

This past Sunday the patriarch of the church I am currently pastoring, (you know the most senior male member of the congregation that holds the most implicit power and blue chips; he is the person that really calls the shots about what happens in the church.) came to me and informed me that my husband sings too loud and a ‘family’ (not identified in the conversation) has started to attend a nearby church because my husband sings too loud. The patriarch told me that he might be able to convince this “family” to return to our church if my husband would not sing so loud in worship. I was asked by the patriarch, who I was really surprised allowed himself to get triangle, to speak with my husband about his singing. My response to the comment about my husband’s singing too loud and being a hindrance to this un-identified family was “oh really.” And I did agree to speak with my husband, pointing out that it would be a ‘difficult’ conversation. The patriarch did acknowledge that it would be a ‘difficult’ conversation, and it was.

You see my husband has a lovely tenor voice. He was part of an elite singing group in his High School (The Blue and Gold singers) at William Chrisman High School. People are always complementing him on his voice. He has done solo work, sang at weddings, and is often asked to join the choir anytime we visit a church. I know that his SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE.

I did have a conversation with my husband and because singing is such an integral part of who he is and how he worships, he has now made a conscious choice to not come back to worship at the congregation where I pastor. He will be looking for a new place to worship where he can sing and worship and not hinder the participation in worship of others.

As I said, SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE, and this whole situation raised for me some serious theological and spiritual issues that I will need to work with my congregation to resolve and hopefully grow the congregation in spiritual maturity.

I am concerned that in speaking with my husband about his singing (which we both believe to be a non issue), I too have been triangled. Although I am not happy with the fact that the ‘solution’ to this problem is for my husband to worship apart from me on Sundays, I know he must do this for his spiritual health, lest he become a stumbling block to another’s faith journey . The Apostle Paul talks about this in terms of food in Romans 14: 12-23, and if the concept is applied to this particular situation, there is no other option except for my husband to graciously find a community where his singing will not cause a brother or sister to stumble or hinder their worship of Christ. So this is the answer I will be giving when people ask me where my husband is on Sunday and why he is not at any other church activity.

Now as we all probably know my husband’s SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE. The issue is something else, and the fact that my husband and his singing will be absent from the congregation, there will be an opportunity to explore why such a petty thing is the reason for not attending a church where you have been a member for a long time. It will also give me the opportunity as pastor to address the basics of what it means to live in Christian community with one another, even people who sing the praises of God loudly and with conviction.

I have come to have a great appreciation for the Apostle Paul this past week, as I realize that issues addressed by Paul in his letters to the churches address real issues in congregations today and the issues of human pettiness that were alive and well in the early years of the Christian Church continue to be alive and well today. Pray for us pastors as we seek to live in community with people who don’t always want to live in community with others, especially those who Sings Too Loud.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Big Tickle

Hubby and I arrived in Memphis, TN today for Emergence Christianity, a Discussion with Phyllis Tickle and friends. This event has been nicknamed by some as The Big Tickle.

I'm really enjoying my time in Memphis so far and really looking forward to Friday and Saturday, the days that this Big Tickle is suppose to take place at the Episcopal Cathedral here in Memphis. Since I am a bit older than most of the folks who have embraced Emergent and Emergence Christianity, I am here to learn. To learn from not my elders but from the mouths of babes.

I've read a bit on the topic, enjoying every word of Phyllis' book The Great Emergence. I am disillusioned with the corporate nature of the church, especially denominations. I worked for the first 8 years of my ministry out of seminary at the national offices of my denomination, the PCUSA. I've done a lot of pulpit supply and I helped a church close its doors after 55 years of ministry. My current ministry is a part time contract position with a small church and I also work as a hospice chaplain per Diem. I have come to the conclusion that I will probably never be what most people consider a 'successful' pastor in that I do not see myself as ever being called to a full time pastoral call and installed with a cushy benefits package, and staff. The church hasn't fit that model for a long time, although that is the model of Church that was sold to me in seminary.

What Phyllis Tickle has given me is hope, hope in the midst of what I see as dying structures and institutions. Hope that the faith I hold to does not need structures and institutions to be authentic and real. Hope that there is more to church that maintaining a program or a building. That ministry comes from a group of people and reflects the needs of that community. I look forward to insights this week of how to help folks catch that vision for the church and what God may have in store for me in the future.

P.S. Since I love to laugh, I am truly looking forward to being Tickled and finding Holy Humor in the happenings this week.