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I’ve Missed You!

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I miss you. It’s been months since I’ve written here, by far the longest silent stretch since I started Writing with Spirit six-plus years ago. I can’t explain it, it just is what it is. For a few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back in, but I haven’t found an obvious doorway.

It’s Lent, I always write during Lent. And there have been lots of mass shootings — I always rage and offer prayers after one of those. The person in the White House continues to be an embarrassment, a danger, and an outrage. What’s new? Why waste the ink on him? Why contribute to the negativity? America made a huge mistake and it may take us down; take the planet down. We all know that.

At last count there were approximately 323 Democrats or sort-of Democrats vowing to take on the monster in 2020. In the past, I would have had plenty to say about all of them.

And yesterday the Mueller report came out – now there’s something to write about! But no. No words for any of that.

Am I a Pastor or Am I a Lap?

One reason I think I have not written is that I had news to share but I did not know how to share it. I stepped down from my pastoral role at church in the fall. It was a difficult decision that played out over the summer, during which time I lost both my cats. (I think I told you that part.) I don’t know quite why that was relevant, but it was. Perspective, I guess. Life is short, live in the moment.

I remember at one point thinking, “The most important role I have in life right now is to sit in this chair with this sweet dying cat in my lap.” That’s it. I realized I was just a lap. A loving lap.

Mostly it had to do with space. I was supposed to be the Pastor of Prayer and Healing, leading people into silence and contemplative practices, preaching about making space for God in your life. And there was no space in my life. I wasn’t practicing what I preached. And as long as there was no space, I could not sense God nudging me into different paths, or whispering to me about who I am meant to become. It’s always uncomfortable to step away from one thing before you know exactly (or even vaguely) where you are headed next, but sometimes it’s wise.

Anyway, I’m still leading retreats and groups and occasionally helping with worship and so on, but the burden is less. It was a good choice. Maybe I’ll write more about it in the future, but I just wanted to get it out there, because I felt a big part of my identity had shifted and it seemed disingenuous not to share that. Maybe now I can move on and write more regularly.

Entering the Desert for Lent

Most years, Lent is a busy season for me, while at the same time being reflective. This year I simply skipped town. I went into the desert for Lent, which is appropriate, since the season is meant to reflect the forty days Jesus spent in the desert wilderness before he began his ministry.

But I didn’t spend much time in self-examination and repentance. No ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday. Instead, I flew out to Albuquerque with a girlfriend and spent two weeks cruising around the New Mexican desert in a rental car. We collected cool desert rocks, visited museums, parks, and wildlife refuges, wandered through the ruins of Spanish missions and Pueblo Indian villages, drank margueritas, bought turquoise and silver, and soaked in the same hot springs that Geronimo is said to have frequented.

We gazed at distant horizons instead of computer screens. I read only books about New Mexico: no politics, spiritual growth, or fiction. Living in the moment. We drove for what seemed hours without seeing another car. At night the starfields left us speechless, which is perfectly comfortable when you’ve known someone for sixty years, as E and I have.

In short, I’m practicing “living life to the full,” as Jesus recommended.

There — now I’ve slipped back into the blogosphere. More pictures and stories from New Mexico to come.

Yucca at White Sands National Monument

E wandering in the desert

Native American petroglyph of the Easter Bunny (Petroglyphs National Monument)

Bee in Apricot Blossom

The Naked Pastor

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The pain was sharp and paralyzing, and I doubled over and clutched my chest. “How old do you have to be to have a heart attack?” I gasped to my older sister.

“Older than twelve, honey,” she said smiling. “I think you’re just nervous about starting junior high tomorrow. It’s heartburn or something.” She headed to the bathroom for Tums.

This memory keeps popping up lately, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve just started a new job. Transitions are tough for me, and they awaken familiar angst. Even as I write this, a voice in my head tells me that it’s not a real job, that I’m not getting paid, that it’s only part-time, that I’m kind of a fraud. Just like my twelve-year-old self heading off to seventh grade dressed in fishnet stockings and a miniskirt, playing the cool teenager, but knowing inside that I was a fraud, just a knee-socked, saddle-shoed elementary school kid in disguise.

The fraudulent feeling is in full fling as I start my new position as a pastor. An “unordained pastor” in an independent community church, I was simply commissioned by my congregation to help lead, not educated at Divinity school, not given any fancy vestments, not awarded any letters to put after my name. The words exegesis and systematic theology mean about as much to me today as the words calculus and civics did to me the night my sister diagnosed my adolescent heartburn.

Seriously? You're the new pastor??

Seriously? You’re the new pastor??

The not-good-enough-fraud discomfort is second only to my fear of not belonging when it comes to transitional angst. 

In June of sixth grade, I walked to school with a pack of neighborhood kids I’d known all my life. The following September I was waiting at a bus stop with a bunch of rowdy older boys I’d never met before. Only three kids from my elementary school transferred to my junior high, and none of them were in my homeroom. I threw up in the girl’s room that first day.

Today I’m sitting in a writing class with a roomful of Divinity school graduates, mostly ordained pastors, who are speaking Greek – literally – and I’m flashing back to not being able to open my locker or figure out how to change classes. I might as well be cringing naked in the gym shower room.

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