Archive for June, 2013

CPE Journal #18: June 28th

My very singular friend mailed me a letter from where he is working in the interior. It was such a very sweet note on a pretty card I can tell he made himself. In it he tells me he is so glad to be working where he is because he feels it’s good for the soul. He also asked me what I was doing with myself.

I wrote him back and described CPE this way:

“You are invited into someone’s very private world of pain, doubt, anger, love, and hope. It is completely amazing.”

This week, I’ve met with a living saint, a man haunted by an inner pain that seizes hold of him at his darkest moments, a First Nations man who has sat with chiefs at a potlatch and seen ghosts, a young woman with colitis who needs to be in the wilderness to really feel like herself, a man with cancer who is much too young for it, and an elderly woman who could do nothing but stare at the ceiling and eventually fell asleep as I sat next to her. I cannot tell you what a gift I have been given.

I also decided today that I am awesome. :)

Not more awesome than anyone else, but awesome nonetheless.

One of my classmates asked me the other day, “How do you find the courage to stand by your convictions and be yourself?”

I didn’t really have an answer. I don’t always do it, but more often than not I try to. And most of the time, I have no choice.

Here are some awesome things I’ve done:

*Lived in a foreign country

*Gotten a Bachelor’s degree

*Gotten an EfM diploma

*Learned to drive (but don’t have my license yet, heh)

*Played some great gigs

*Started a Masters’ degree

*Worked as a camp chaplain

*Helped run a kickass Lenten program

*Started CPE

*Gotten great marks in subjects I love

*Asked my man to marry me

*Made my father proud

-Clarity

CPE Journal #17: June 25th

We did a workshop on self-care for our class time today and were given the following tools for a healthy spirituality:

Soul Works: These are spiritual practices for development and sanctuary in your inner life.

Soul Relationships: These are people who accompany us safely on our journey. John O’Donohue, drawing on Celtic roots, referred to these people as anam ̣̣c̣ara, ‘soul friends.’

Soul Communities: These are places where we feel at home. They may be churches, but they may also be other kinds of communities that give us life.

Soul Food: I think personally that this includes all of the above and transcends them as well. What feeds your soul?

We also did our peer evaluations last week. Apparently you can learn to be “unabashedly authentic” from me. I also have “a listening heart and vulnerability.” Heartened by this feedback, I started reading a book called The Gift of Being Yourself, and I think I might have to buy it. I appreciate how much the writer tries to explain the importance of the work on the self as part of the Christian life and how it is tied to knowing God.

-Clarity

Shackles

I read this little meditation on Richard Rohr and while it could totally be a part of my CPE journal, I think it speaks more to the journey of faith as a whole. I have always had trouble with the idea of the ego because I always believed that the ego was something that was characterized only by its belief that it was above everyone else. I’ve always felt like I was worse than everyone else – indeed, worse than the whole world sometimes! – and so had a hard time understanding how the ego worked, knowing that I was not the only one who felt this way. I know I’ve had moments where I’ve thought I was better than others, but they don’t tend to flood my existence. It is not a battle I find myself in particularly often. I am more usually going to find myself trapped in a spiral of self-loathing that can cripple me from encounter with others. The thought process is more often, “If you only knew…” (There is a certain amount of hubris in there, but it’s certainly not the intention of such thoughts!)

The focus of this meditation (and another few I read in the last little while) on the ego as simply focussed on our “separateness” rather than its status as royal or above others, was extremely helpful.

I have come to believe that there are two aspects or faces of the ego that can separate us from other people and God. The first is the standard one, the belief that we are better – and therefore separate – from other things. We think we are so special as to be above everyone else and everything else. This belief will contaminate relationships of all kinds – not just with family, friends, and coworkers but with humanity in general and the planet itself. We believe we are gods, knowing good and evil and having the power to judge others as below us.

The other aspect seems like the opposite but the underlying themes are similar. This is the belief that we are worse or less – and therefore separate – from other things. This is not a form of humility, which I see as encouraging encounter with others in order to learn better the self. This belief encourages a turning in, out of a misplaced belief that we will contaminate or harm others. It could, as I said, be another form of hubris – what do we think we have done that is so bad that others have not done, or worse than that? But I think the main sin is the turning inward, as well as the sense that, “Nothing I do is of any use to the Other, so I will not engage.” One writer called it a sin particularly present in women, who stand by in the belief that they can do nothing while other women suffer oppression. While I have certainly seen this mindset more present in women than in men, at least when speaking of this sort of thing, I do not by any means think it is unique to women. “Well, nothing I do matters anyway. No-one will listen to me, so why bother? I’m useless.” Thinking you are lower than others and incapable of bettering creation is, in some ways, the easy way out. It’s not a fun easy way out. Although we probably all know someone who is practiced in wallowing in self-pity, I think very few people adopt this belief to intentionally stay lazy. Mostly it is internalized over a long period of time for many reasons. In my case it was bullying, but others have it due to abuse and many other traumas. It is a shackle, and I believe it is a shackle of the Evil One.

I felt this meditation on Rohr encouraged us to break the shackle. The divine (what I refer to as Christ but which has many names) permeates the universe. It is in all things, and in us. It is inescapable. Thank God for that! We are inescapably marked by the beauty of God infused in all created order. We are loved and treasured, and the loved always have certain responsibilities. Even children are expected to clean their rooms and say “Thank you”! We do have the power to change things for the better, and we should exercise it.

St. Augustine said, “Behold who you are, become what you see.” On this day before the feast day of the birth of John the Baptizer, let us proclaim together that the Light of the World, the Lamb of God, has come among us; that things which are cast down are being raised up, and things which had become old are being made new. Cast off your shackles, come to the wedding feast, and shout aloud with me that we are free in the glorious everlasting morning of the resurrection.

CPE Journal #16: June 19th

For worship on Tuesday we were to put on two finger puppets and have them speak to one another. I chose a rabbit and a lion-like thing – maybe a cougar. I came into the worship service late, though, so I had to discern for myself what people were doing – which was sitting in silence scribbling on paper with their non-dominant hand, while looking at two finger puppets on the dominant one! At first I thought that we were supposed to consider these two creatures and write down what they meant and why we chose them. Then I wondered if they were actually supposed to be having a conversation with us. I still got plenty out of it.

I thought of the rabbit-hearted girl versus the lion-hearted girl, and then how each creature was opposite and yet alike. A rabbit is frequently quiet and runs away from danger, but it can fight and is very intelligent. It is also a symbol of Easter. This rabbit said to me, “You are not dumb. You are a secret now. Easter opens your mouth.”

When I told my supervisor, he reminded me of the open tomb. Is there something dead that needs to be resurrected? Is there good news to proclaim?

The lion or cougar is beautiful, even though at first I thought it might be a tiger, which made me think of Blake: “In what furnace was thy brain?” They are predators who would eat the rabbit, and yet can be peaceful (they are cats, after all – they love to lie in the sun) And since this looked like a cougar, which is constantly moving into human settlements, is sometimes considered a nuisance for it. Really, though, it only seeks to reclaim what already belonged to it.

Both creatures are primal and essential. The rabbit says, “Listen.” The lion says, “Proclaim.”

-Clarity

CPE Journal #15: June 18th

Ultimately the article comparing the compassion and competence models came down in favour of the “differentiation model” and I must as well, because of this quote:

“In the differentiation model, spiritual care is about the curious paradox that by learning from the other, the other can know, and that by defining oneself, others can find themselves.”

This is AWESOME! My journey of reflection has been all about this. I was always afraid that it wasn’t enough to know myself and to learn, that I had to offer more. But how could I ever offer more than what I had: not only my story and my heart but God’s story and God’s heart, if I accept them: a heart full of fire.

And my sister Florence Welch sings, “Say my name, and every colour illuminates / We are shining, and we will never be afraid again.”

WOW – and when I first heard this, I thought it was singing in the words of my soul, but it could just as easily be the words of God! The “we” is the new together-self created in the refining fire of the cross and resurrection. By calling upon God, everything is made clear, and both human and divine are sanctified together in ecstatic and erotic Song-of-Songs union.

CPE Journal #14: June 14th

I read an article comparing approaches of compassion and competence, also from the CASC website I mentioned earlier.

“Compassion is in knowing and feeling the wound. In compassion knowing is loving, with the erotic intensity that unites.”

This again reminded me of those visible wounds Christ brings back to us before bearing them home. Even more astounding, though, is this revelation expressed in the title of a book I feel I must read: God Is A Trauma, by Greg Mogenson. He describes it thusly:

“Just as God has been described as transcendent and unknowable, a trauma is an event which transcends our capacity to experience it. Compared to the finite nature of the traumatized soul, the traumatic event seems infinite, all-powerful, and wholly other.”

Trauma is further described as pain so great that it “breaks the connection between knowing and feeling the suffering.” We are no longer able to name the pain – it changes us so deeply, at a molecular level. With research being done into how these changes may affect us throughout generations (a smaller form of evolution) it would make perfect sense that some of us would continue to carry what was so flippantly named “the God gene.”

This is breath-taking and unbelievable to me, and yet part of it sings to me in a cellular language remembered but long unspoken. Of course it is not only God who is changed by our encounter – our change is that we are split open and filled with stars. And yet it is not that. Perhaps, if Christ is the new Adam (or a new Eve, offering a new fruit), our eyes are opened and our inner starlight is finally visible. Clouds are torn from our eyes – this is a new thing but it is building on work that is old. What I call the Christ-process permeates the universe – the ever-blend of sacred and profane, life and death. Creation, Exodus, Exile, Crucifixion/Resurrection – a thousand stories point to this.

Does God suffer trauma through the crucifixion and resurrection? Under this criteria that is only possible if God is also capable of not knowing all things. I can’t decide, then, if I want to consider the idea that God suffered trauma in the Fall and sought to close the gap out of the desire for us (through further trauma?), or if perhaps trauma in God’s case (or other cases) does not rely on a lack of knowledge. I think we can know the source of our pain even if it’s trauma. Trauma is defined in another part of the article as an escalating suffering that increasingly cripples and distorts/disrupts the person’s orientation and functioning in life. This also excludes God in classical terms – an omnipotent creator c0uld not experience this. This makes me uncomfortable – can God really meet someone in trauma if God has not experienced it? And yet Scripture remains ambiguous. ;) Sometimes God uses language to describe Godself that deeply suggests inner pain and turmoil. And who’s to say that the distortion or disruption is crippling in a sense of ultimate lessening – anything can be crippled. Our sense of safety, self-worth, ego, destructive tendencies. God has transformed so much. Who’s to say that God could not transform God’s own trauma – indeed like anyone who addresses their inner trauma. God’s identity may then have been challenged and distorted – and ultimately transformed.

-Clarity

PS When I looked up trauma on the online dictionary it only referred to the wound. With that definition things are simpler. ;)

CPE Journal #13: June 13th

My classmate C included a beautiful quote in our worship service today:

“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring; these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings.”

For our worship time that day we were encouraged to reflect on the seasons. I decided to reflect on summer, which is not at all my favourite season because it’s so hot! And yet, when I thought of summers past (and current!), they always seemed to involve adventure. I went camping, travelling, made music, met and treasured friends, got married and went to Artaban as a youth pastor! I often think more of autumn as the harvest time, but summer brings harvest as well. Adventure can be a harvest of courage, especially for someone like me who values stability and even repetition (sometimes I think this stems from childhood memories of constant change).

It can all be very exciting, but it is also a comfort to remember that there are also times and seasons of rest, where production may continue under the surface.

-Clarity

CPE Journal #12: June 12th*

Sorry the entries are out of order – I got behind on my transcriptions, heh.

***

As I read some of the resources we were given on the CASC website, I came across a stunning quote by Irving Yalom:

“As participant [in a patient’s story], one enters into the life of the patient and is affected and sometimes changed by the other.”

This was stunning to me because a) it reminded me of Dr. Pat Dutcher-Walls telling us in Hebrew Bible 500 that God’s holiness, in the world of the Israelites, could be dangerous if you weren’t prepared: you can get “zapped,” like with electricity; and b) it reminded me of the wounds Jesus brings back with him from death. God is changed by encounter with humanity – and we are invited to be changed by our encounters with others.

This is the cruciform life! This is the life that is not fully subsumed but is changed in a way that cannot be undone.

“It is the relationship itself that becomes…a place that holds and empowers the person to change.”

When this is framed in the language of the dialogical counselling relationship, it is even more explicit:

“The dialogical relationship generates a new reality – the between – beyond the imagination and expectations of both client and therapist, revealing the uniqueness of who the client is and can become with the empowering presence of confirmation. Who we are and can become in pursuit of the meaning of our existence is not remembered in our psyche but emerges in the dialogical relationship of the I and Thou.

(This last sentence is where the relationship to Martin Buber’s work is made clear).

I also noted this quote:

“One’s sense of identity requires the existence of another by whom one is known.”

I wrote that down with big exclamation points. Identity is what I continually come back to when articulating the life of faith. How I want to be seen is as someone who chooses to identify as belonging to Christ, and that for me means someone who proclaims good news, reaches out to others and meets them where they are in order to listen, participates in the work of healing, and proclaims God’s sovereignty and intimacy through the stories of Scripture as communicated through my life’s story. I do this because I see myself as Christ’s own, and part of my inner battle, I think, comes from the sense that I belong to something else – not myself but a false self imposed by societal shackles and a story of pain and self-hatred. This story is inextricably woven into a lot of other people’s stories as well, and rather than trying to carve out an idol of myself as singular and alone (i.e. the dream of Western individualism, which I think is naive – we can never truly be alone and only for ourselves; we were made and evolved as social creatures on a planet).

I choose who I am to belong to – the one who accepts me as I am, “ashes and all.”

-Clarity

 

CPE Journal #11: June 14th*

*This entry has an asterisk because I actually just wrote seven entries at once; I seem to have been putting off journalling for awhile and had to go back and reflect on all of the stuff I learned! Each one was under the heading “June 18th”, but I’ve separated them out based on the dates that I had some of these reflections. However, the reflections are also all coloured by today’s work, so they could all be said to be under June 18th as well. But, hey – this probably don’t matter a hill of llamas to anyone who actually reads this, so on with the show.

***

I never journalled about my time with “Quiet.” Quiet was a patient that only stayed for a few days on the unit before being transferred. I am not sure what surgical procedure Quiet was in for – I didn’t look at the chart and didn’t get a chance to chart the visit before someone made off with it.

I walked into the room but didn’t see Quiet right away because there were curtains between Quiet’s bed and the room’s front bed. There was no answer to my soft call. I thought the patient might be asleep, but I when I peeked around the corner I saw that Quiet was awake, looking to one side, hands gently fluttering, somehow like butterflies.

I spoke Quiet’s name several times but Quiet gave no indication of having heard me or even knowing I was in the room.

I came closer and stood at the foot of the bed for a while. I asked a couple of questions, still uncertain as to whether this was a deaf patient, someone who didn’t want to talk to me, or someone who was non-verbal. There was no answer.

I walked around to the left side of Quiet’s bed and stood there for a moment, looking down. After a time, I said, “I’m going to sit down with you for a bit. Is that all right?”

There was no answer at first, but when I drew up a chair and sat down, Quiet had a brief coughing fit. This sounds unremarkable on paper, but it was the sort of coughing fit that only made the space more remarkable, because it sounded very much like weeping at first. There were no tears, but I’m still not entirely sure if it was really just coughing.

Quiet’s hands continued moving, making gestures that to me were cryptic but clearly meant something to Quiet. I noticed that Quiet seemed to be staring intently at a cup on the dining tray, but when I took it down and held it out, Quiet didn’t seem to react. I also asked if Quiet was hungry, saying, “Squeeze my hand for yes?” There was no answer.

After this, I mostly sat in silence, briefly pausing to hold a prayer pamphlet before Quiet and asking if I could read from it. Of course, there was still no response, save for Quiet’s eyes resting on the pamphlet for quite some time. I don’t really remember what I read, but it was an adapted and non-specific version of one of the prayers within. In retrospect I think I did that more for myself than for Quiet, and don’t think I’ll do it again with a non-verbal patient. No response discernible to me followed, however.

I remained with Quiet for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Every so often, Quiet’s eyes wandered to my face, rested there briefly, and then wandered away again, gazing to my left. Quiet’s hands also continued to move, and at one point, I reached out and held my hand close to them. Quiet’s hand moved gently over, explored my hand, squeezed my thumb, and briefly folded itself between my fingers. I was rendered completely motionless by this. It only lasted a few seconds – maybe a minute – and then the hand slipped out and made a motion that seemed to suggest, “You can take your hand away.”

The whole encounter was so beautiful to me I almost cried. Here in the space between two people, connection happened like a brief spark. I believe the spark was God.

Is that part of who God is – the spark in the space between us? We must have a current running through us already to allow such a spark to occur.

-Clarity

CPE Journal #10: June 10th

I just realized that almost all of the most important events of my life happened in a church. I was baptized, re-discovered God, was confirmed, graduated from EfM, got married – and will likely graduate from seminary (and may be ordained) – in churches. And holy hell – out of those 7 things, 6 have/will happen in the same church!

Location means a lot, and of course I’m being selective about which things I’ve labelled as “important.” My first kiss, first day of school, first time meeting certain friends, and of course my birth are also all very important. Now I wouldn’t want to diminish them by saying this, but those things in my mind are all a bit more…inevitable? They are far more universal as milestones. The seven things above, though, are less certain, and therefore, I think, more precious.

I think this is part of why physical church buildings are so important to me. Trust me, though, when I say that all of them are ultimately dust when you have come to see the sacred heart of God in a hospital room.

-Clarity