A Conversation for All

Discernment is a good thing!

I’ve been in discernment for the Episcopal priesthood for four years. The initial work was completed three years ago, but snafus and life events delayed the process. Or maybe it was the Divine, because I’m MUCH better prepared to proceed now than I was then.

Recently, we reconvened a small portion of my discernment committee. At their request, I’ve been writing about the past three years – events and studies, soul searches and emotional growth. Man, oh man, this is HARD! After a day of meditation, research and writing, I am exhausted.

But I’m also exhilarated. When we met last Wednesday, I said, “I think you guys should do this, too. It’s very enlightening!”

A new member of the committee, associate rector Shelly Fayette, noted: “In Olympia, we have regular discernment committees. But it’s not just about ordained ministry. One person may be in discernment about whether to change jobs. Another may be in discernment about whether it’s time to move a parent to an assisted living facility. Often, there is someone who is discerning a call to ordained ministry. The committee doesn’t center around one person; it’s a conversation for all.”

I think that’s a brilliant idea. Regardless of our spiritual leanings (or lack thereof) I think we can all benefit from taking time to periodically review where we are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. To choose one item in particular to ponder and to write about. To meet with others for honest questioning and prayerful support.

I’m going to suggest the idea to my church, and I think it would work well in any community. Imagine how much more deeply we can engage our lives if we take time to discern!

 

We Don’t Do Karma

Jacob Wrestles the Angel, by Arthur Sussman http://www.arthursussmangallery.com/
Jacob Wrestles the Angel, by Arthur Sussman
http://www.arthursussmangallery.com/

It’s been more than a month since I last posted. I moved both home and office in September and October. I experienced financial tribulation. (I’m always so optimistic about how much it will cost to move. This is one scenario where pessimism might a better choice. Although then I might never go anywhere at all.) While I reconnected with some of my loved ones, I said goodbye to others. I traveled and I worked. Stress abounded.

My prayer practice was irregular. It would have been easier to maintain a center if I’d been more disciplined about altar time. Wish I could really LEARN that lesson. Still, in the midst of the maelstrom, I found myself, like Jacob, on the road wrestling with God. I emerged not with a limp, but with a renewed commitment to pursue ordained ministry. Why? Because I was reminded that my life centers around my desire to reach out to others and show them the Divine in the universe and in themselves.

After searching my heart and soul, looking at other denominations and other faiths, I am certain of my call. I am ridiculously in love with with this guy who walked the earth 2000 years ago. Call me polyamorous, because I want to share him, not in a “have-you-found-Jesus-as-your-personal-savior” way, but in a “OMG-did-you-hear-what-he-said-isn’t-he-dreamy” way. Ewwww. Saccharine. I know. But there it is.

It makes me sad that because of well-meaning but theologically incorrect Christians, many people are turned off even by the mention of his name. That’s heartbreaking. It’s like being turned off by the mention of Buddha or Mahatma. Like them, Jesus had game-changing ideas.

His best one is forgiveness. In Episcopal and Lutheran churches, we do this ritual every Sunday. Put simply, it’s called DO-OVER! (AKA confession and forgiveness.) You see, guilt and shame cripple us, prevent us from being our best selves. But Christianity (another touchy word) says, “You’re forgiven. Let it go. Move on.” It’s a do-over. Christians don’t do karma. We do love and forgiveness. That’s radical.

Speaking of love, Jesus  had some pretty interesting ideas there,too. “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you…just as your heavenly Parent shows love to everyone, so must you.” When someone irritates me, hurts my feelings, doesn’t appreciate me – my response can be, not anger or irritation, but love. Jesus says, “Someone’s hurt you? Love anyway. Love especially.” How is that even possible? But when I take his words to heart, my life is transformed.

I’m sometimes asked, “How can you possibly believe that? And why would you want to?” My response is that my life is better for believing.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’ve talked about what I DON’T believe with regards to traditional Christianity. I’d been trying to decide if this disqualified me from pursuing the priesthood. I’ve been reminded that it’s not my decision, so I’ve placed the call and I’ve committed to preparing the paperwork. We’ll see what happens next.

Directed!

walkThe ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has a new presiding bishop – and for the first time, a female was elected.  (The Episcopal church elected their first female presiding Bishop in 2009, my Episcopal sistren are quick to point out.) I have more to say about gender and religion (perhaps my next blog?) but today, my thoughts are swirling in a different direction.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Elizabeth Eaton (the new ELCA presiding bishop) was asked:

I hear you have a spiritual director. What is your process of spiritual direction, and how has it shaped you?

“There are people now who are spiritual and not religious. I would characterize myself as religious but not spiritual. I am a faithful person, but taking a closer look at my relationship with God in a more intentional way was something that gave me the willies sometimes. So I thought, By golly, if I really believe what I preach, then I can’t do this on my own. If everyone of us depends utterly on God, maybe I need to start finding a way to have a discussion about that with God, and I thought, I might need someone to help me dial into the God frequency.

..I contacted <a spiritual director> and she said, “O.K. I want to be clear: I am not a psychologist, I am not a therapist, all I am is someone who can be your companion while you are having your conversation with God, and I will eavesdrop on your conversation and help you to stay honest in that.” We have been doing that for the past year or so, and it has made a huge difference.”‘

I LOVE the response given by her spiritual director! That’s exactly it. As a holy listener, I’m given permission to eavesdrop on conversations with God, to provide accountability, and sometimes, direction. But mostly, I’m there to be a companion, because it’s lonely to go it alone.

Curious about holy listening/spiritual direction?  Wholly Listening