Monday, January 26, 2009

Delusions of Slendor

For the last two months I've been doing a diet and exercise routine to lose weight and get in shape. I've battled the idea for a long time....mostly ok with my body but knowing I should be in better shape and should lose weight, but not quite motivated enough to do something about it. Well, when the Riverside Activity guide came out with an ad for "Boot Camp", I inquired and signed up.

The first week of working out was painful!!! Apparently even though I worked out a lot in high school, not working out (besides walking or hiking) for the last 1o years made it kind of hard to maintain that same level of fitness. Novel. I know. =) Anyway, I was so sore that first week I could hardly sit down or stand up. Getting on and off the pot was a serious chore. It was ridiculous. But I stuck with it. After one week of workouts, can you guess the total weight loss?!?

Zero. Yep. A pitiful, measly nada. It was super frustrating. So then I got started on the diet. It's called a carb rotation diet 1) High carb, 2) Low carb, 3) No carb. (Just for the record, "high" is not high in my book....I'm the kind of girl that eats cereal and a bagel for I'm lucky if I get a piece of bread on a high carb day). After one week on the diet and two weeks of working out, total weight loss: 3 pounds. Better. For sure.

On and on it went. The workouts got harder (in intensity) but easier because I was (re)gaining strength etc. I did fairly well that first month--a total weight loss of only 8 pounds, but 17 inches came off my body from all sorts of places. I was pretty stoked.

It was interesting though to see how my motivation flexed and changed. Even though I signed myself up for the program (all willingly and without coersion), those first two weeks I was primarly motivated by the thought "I don't want to let the workout lady down" (or catch flack for being a slacker). I wasn't motivated by my own desires, it was purely external. By week 3 or 4, I was making enough progress and looking better to the point that I became motivated for myself. I even started getting feedback from the other women in the class and that too was encouraging.

Then I hit the wall. The wall of I-just-want-to-eat-what-I-want-when-I-want. It's a big looming wall that can knock all motivation to stick to a diet clear out of the park. It's hard to go out with friends or family or parishioners and constantly be refusing tortilla chips at the Mexican food place, or a biscuit (my favorite), or dessert, or even something other than water to drink. It's tough.

And early on I made some theological equation to where exercising (after a period of not) was like adding in the good stuff (worship, Bible study, prayer, etc), but that dieting was what really made the difference (abstaining from sin, addictions, bad habits etc). Can I just say that was not helpful?!? Equating foods you want with sin is not a healthy idea.

Unfortunately it sort of stuck. So now I have a nice shame/guilt relationship with food. Woohoo...... It's not that bad, but it isn't great either. And at this point (4 days from being done with the diet and the exercise class) I'm so over the diet it isn't funny (which at this morning's weigh in I was not only done with losing weight, but was back to gaining...).

Part of me thinks that this might be a little like my relationship with books in seminary. Apparently I don't like "requirements" because whenever there was "required" reading, I drug my heels about doing that work. But then as soon as the class was over the reading was no longer "required" I was really excited about reading the books. Odd, I know. So part of me thinks that because the diet is "required" that I am dragging my heels and that as soon as it becomes a choice of free will, I might actually go back to it.

It's all really maddening actually. And if you don't have to fight the weight battle....thank your lucky stars because it is a BEAST!!!

I enjoy being in shape. And I like the compliments about how good I look. But it's not like I was in horrible shape either. It wasn't my high school cheerleading body, but it was liveable, likeable even.

I've tried to restrain from blogging about all of this because I'm not sure it's really anything you all are even interested in. But yesterday the sermon was about perseverance and this morning I kept thinking "that idea of just getting in shape and being skinny and getting back to life as usual was a delusion. You were thin in high school because you worked out 5 days a week almost all year long. And you had the metabolism of a teenager...let's not forget that little tidbit." To be in shape now is going to take a lot more work, dedication, and perseverance.

I'm actually hoping that I can go back to a healthy diet (of veggies and fruit and the occasional indulgence with fewer carbs in general) and that that will help me keep losing weight if I can keep up with exercising on my own. If not, guess I better learn gratitude for being able to eat so well and exercise when I want without physical limitations. Or maybe I should learn that anyway and just get over myself....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The need for community

I believe we need the church not simply to find God, but to be held accountable and to be uplifted by others. The great commandment is not simply to love God, but it is to love neighbor (and self). The problem with living faith in isolation is we miss the relationships and as such we miss both the accountability and the encouragement.

This week has been one where I was reminded of the need for community. While I work with people all the time and am fairly connected, I have seen how our church has been working on it's own. We have been lone-rangering (yes, dad, I know that's not a word...) and in many ways blowing in the wind.

As I heard about the church down the street that was both struggling with the same 2 youth we struggle with and struggling with the issue of homeless sleeping on their campus, I thought, "It's time I go meet the other pastors around here and talk with them about what they are doing. Surely, we could be more effective if we put our heads together." I also went to a Homeless Care Network meeting where I met all kinds of folks that are trying to do their part in serving the homeless and ending homelessness in our city. It was a breath of fresh air to think about how others are doing something so we don't have to, we can encourage them in their efforts.

We need the community. We need it to be effective. We need it to do more. We need it because we are meant/designed for community.

I also need community so that I don't become arbitrary in my decision making. As any good human is, I am subject to my emotions and often make decisions based simply on an emotion and not on logic. We all do it. People with greater wisdom and experience hopefully do it less. But we all do it. It's human nature.

As I've dealt with tough issues in ministry I have noticed on occasion that sometimes my emotions make me arbitrary. What do I mean? hmmm....well, I get along well with M, and she's a she, so when she needs a shower, I let her come to my house and take one. I've decided for safety reasons not to let men shower here, but I'm not sure I would let one of the other women shower here....why? Um...I don't know them or like them as much?!? See how that's arbitrary?

Then there's the men at the church. One in particular has wanted showers. I have told him he has to wait for the trustees and outreach to make a decision. Well, he didn't wait, he played both sides and went to a parishioner instead. So he got his shower. Now he's asked me for a shower 2 times since. I said yes. Reluctantly, but I said yes. (In retrospect I should have said no since the trustees and the outreach committee still haven't made their decisions...) Now, we've had trouble with him. He's come drunk to church and got into a verbal altercation with a church member. He's left a door propped during the day when he came for the bathroom so he could stay at night. He's gotten on my hit list for his misbehavior. I am still frustrated (and hard-hearted...???) for his misdeeds and so I don't want to help him with anything right now. Again, it feels arbitrary. I don't have rules or guidelines for the appropriate consequence for cussing out a parishioner or propping a door....and since I am the main decision maker on these issues right comes down to whatever I want. If I'm peeved, then I'm inclined to *punish* someone and refuse whatever...not a good plan.

I need community. I need other perspectives and ideas and input. So, that's what I'm working on. There's the subcommitee about the homeless....I'm going to leave it to them to decide (or at least present a proposal to trustees to propose) what we should do. And we have a different team of folks getting organized to work with our challenging youth.

I can't keep making all these decisions. There's too much pressure and I am only one person, who is sinful and falls short of the glory of God and needs (desperately) others to help balance these decisions and enforce these rules.

Hillary was right....It takes a village. Not just because we need a village worth of resouces, but because we need the accountability and wisdom of the whole village.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Breaking Point

Everyone has a breaking point in my opinion. A threshold of sorts. We will tolerate certain things to a certain point but everyone has some point at which they declare, "ENOUGH!!"

As we've talked about homelessness around the church, for many parishioners that threshold was one or two people sleeping on the church grounds. For others it was 5 men sleeping by the main door.

Today I learned that my threshold is 6 men plus one woman. It's no magic number and there's no rhyme or reason to it. All I know is that when one of the other homeless women came by for a shower and told me, "Oh yeah, there's a new lady staying now...she was sleeping next to J," the first thing I thought was, "for goodness sake, we're not a friggin shelter!!"

Now, don't ask why 6 plus 1. I do not know. And I'm trying with all my might not to react strongly. We are meeting with all of them tonight for dinner to try and figure out what would be an appropriate and necessary response for their needs.

I guess the surprising thing is only that this is where I hit my breaking point. Like I said, I believe we all have a threshold....some point where enough is enough. I know that. And I knew that about myself, I guess I just didn't expect that I would be hitting it now, or that 6 + 1 would be it....or something....who knows.

Meeting tonight to flesh things out. Then the subcommittee meeting in a week and a half to discuss further options. And prayers in the meantime that I don't go ballistic and kick everybody out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Living the tension

Ministry is full of tension and paradoxes.  There are a multitude of faith questions that force us to live in the in-between zone.  There are scriptures that say we are saved by faith and others that say we are cast into eternal suffering if we do not act in a certain way. Is i faith or is it action?  There are passages that tell us to evade relationships with non-believers and others that demand us to be in relationship with them....which is it? Avoid or embrace?  There are more tensions than that, but this post isn't really about all of those....they just lay the foundation.

In ministry I've found there is a regular tension between what we do for our members and what we do for others.  Right now, as we deal with issues of the homeless sleeping on our property, we are struggling with the tension of "protecting our members" and "being in ministry with those in need."  Believe me, it's not an easy battle.  

If you follow this blog at all, you know the discussions about ministry with the homeless have been constant in my 7 months here.  Those discussions continue and it seems they have come to a head.  There are now 5 men sleeping at the church and their choice of location is right by the main entrance door for our fellowship hall.  That means that anyone on campus for a night meeting has to walk by/through them to open the door and do the alarm and back past them to lock up.  That's put a strain on folks.  

One woman spoke to me the other night and told me of how she had been surprised when she happened upon them to open the doors and then took someone with her when she locked up.  She said, "Pastor Debbie, you wouldn't make your grandmother walk by those men at night."  She was right.  Now, I know these men and don't expect trouble, but four of them are new and I am not yet fully convinced I trust them.  And in any case, walking through 5 unknown men sleeping on the floor at night can be intimidating, especially if you are older and don't trust you could defend yourself if push came to shove.  

I volunteered at a homeless shelter my senior year of seminary to wash feet each week.  And coming and going I regularly walked past sleeping bodies.  I was never fearful, but was always aware.  I had a year to deal with my issues, prejudices, and concerns in an environment I chose to be in.  By allowing the homeless to stay on our property, church members are being forced to deal with their issues, prejudices, and concerns, but the difference is they aren't choosing to be in that situation.  It's being thrust upon them, in a way.  

It's hard.  It's beyond hard, but I'm not sure I have quite the right word to explain it to you.  It's even harder when the 4 new guys don't clean up after themselves or respect the property in the way others have.  And it's hard when there's one guy who's kosher and 4 who are do you tell 4 to leave and let one stay (especially when you know he's afraid to stay by himself)?  

More and more people of the church are talking, fussing, and threatening to leave.  So the trustees have formed a subcommittee to try and figure out what to do.  We have a list of questions for the homeless so we can make a more informed decision and the plan is to have dinner with some of them this weekend so we can ask those questions.  I also know we aren't the only church in our area struggling with this.  The Nazarene church down the street is considering hiring a security guard to kick everyone of their property.  Their Board is discerning as well.  

Today I went to a city "Homeless Care Network" meeting, which was really nice.  I've been feeling like we were floating along by the seat of our pants trying to figure out what to do and know we could do more and do it better if we weren't a loan ranger.  So it was nice to connect with people and know what others are doing.  It was nice to forge connections and see that there are other ways we could approach these issues.  I didn't come up with a perfect answer, but I was encouraged by the work of others and the possibilities and the resources of people, money, and ideas we could call upon to be better in this ministry.  

I'm struggling now because I'm weary.  I feel like it's a battle.  A battle to get the guys to clean up after themselves.  A battle to keep the bathrooms clean.  A battle to share why we are in ministry in these ways. A battle to assure people of their safety. A battle to determine the best course of action.  It's all a battle.

I think I'm ready for a paradigm shift. Battle implies fight.  And fight implies a winner or a loser and that's probably not the healthiest way to go about this.  Especially because my guess is that if I keep up at this "battle" that I will forever be the loser, and I'm not real keen on that idea.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On finding a life

The problem with being a work-aholic is that when you finally get that "life" (meaning a social life) you've been wishing for, you feel like a slacker.  How's that for irony?  

I have a strong work ethic and work hard most of the time. I am diligent in my efforts, andam  fairly thorough and have occasion to be demanding even because I like to get things done and I like them to be done well.  All of which is fine and helps me be tremendously productive and fruitful.  

But in the midst of all that, I've longed for a life.  I've longed for something to do with my free time, for responsibilities and commitments that have nothing to do with the church.  And, more often than not, I end up working instead of playing.  

So then this fall/winter, something odd happened.  I reconnected with a former classmate and we hit it off. We started out spending time together "just as friends", where both of us were quite clear we were not looking for anything romantic.  Well, you know how the best laid plans work out...and somehow our "quasi dates" were just an illusion in our own minds, because before we knew it, we realized we were dating and decided to "make it official"--whatever that means in modern dating terms.  =)

So now, I have a life.  I have this person I adore and spend lots of time with and laugh with and cry with and vent to and date, and it's wonderful.  Except, I'm not as productive as I used to be.  Now, in my head I realize I was working too many hours and not allowing myself enough personal time and that working less is not a crime.  Yet somehow I had grown accustomed to said level of productivity and now I have a guilt complex.  

The demands I place on myself have not diminished, which is a problem since the number of hours I am willing to commit have.  So it's been an impasse.  Fight the guilt.  Enjoy my personal life.  Revel in it.  That's more the way it's supposed to be, I think.  Nevertheless, that head knowledge has not yet hit my heart...or my gut, or whatever part of my being is responsible for that stupid nagging voice that tells me I'm not hacking it b/c I'm not working 12 hour days.  

Catch up stupid nagging voice!  Let me live a balanced life. Convince me that it's okay if I don't get everything done.  Seriously.  Hush already! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Methoblog experiment

Kevin Watson at deeplycommitted has started an experiment to see how much social capital Methodist bloggers have. This experiment was prompted by the feeling among some Methodist bloggers that United Methodism does not always do as good of a job as it could at getting the Wesleyan message out there, particularly on-line. So, he wants to see how many views a YouTube video can get if Methodist bloggers work together to promote it. The experiment is to see how many hits the video will receive in two weeks.

If you want to participate you can: First, watch the video below. Second, copy and paste this entire post into a new post on your blog and post it. Third, remind people about this experiment in one week.

Based on the results of the experiment, Kevin will get in touch with the folks at Discipleship Resources and let them know the ways in which Methodist bloggers are often an underused resource.

Here is a link to the video:

HT: Joseph Yoo

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Word for the day

A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.
--Ecclesiastes 7:18 (The Message)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Word for the day

You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hardwork of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
--James 3:18 (The Message)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Word for the day

Start with God--the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. --Proverbs 1:7 (The Message)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Word for the day

Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. that's how it always is with God. --Ecclesiastes 3:15 (The Message)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Word for the day

Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor. --Proverbs 22:9 (The Message)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Word for the day

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back to you, but not merely give back--given back with bonus and blessing. Giving not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." --Luke 6 (The Message)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prayer Jar

My parents were here for the holiday and during their stay we talked a little bit about prayer. I'm not sure how it came up, but they said they knew someone who uses a prayer jar. They write the name/concern down on a piece of paper and then put it into a jar. Then each day when they pray, they pull out a few of the names/concerns and pray for those specifically.

It is meant to help you be mindful of the prayer concerns, rather than praying just for those who come to mind. Today I started to use the 2009 Prayer Calendar (Thank you Jack and Peg) and started my prayer jar. I took note cards and cut them up into strips to write on. I easily wrote down 50+ names concerns. It was exciting actually. I liked coming up with names and thinking of areas of their lives I might pray for. A couple of times I thought, "oh yeah, I used to pray for K & G all the time during their first year of marriage, it would be good to keep doing that" or something of the sort.

I think I will keep two jars, one for "those prayed for" and the other with the rest of the concerns and then just keep switching them until 1 jar is empty and then go the other direction.

All of this is linked to praying more. I pray regularly throughout the day and with people all the time, but still think I should pray more. As the fruits of the ministries around here have increased, I have seen signs of "critters" trying to get in the way. I've become more convinced that I need to more tightly clothe my ministries in prayer so they can not be foiled.

I've also been known for awhile as a "prayer warrior". I enjoy praying for people. It comes easily and naturally (though I think I had to work/practice to get that kind of fluidity). The phrase, "(s)he who has been faithful with a little will be entrusted with more" has been in my head a lot on this issue. Sometimes we ask for greater abilities--musical, physical, interpersonal, whatever, but we haven't actually been faithful with the small measure of gift we have already received. We somehow think that if we had more ability we would do more with it. But realistically, if we don't do much with a little bit, why would we do more with more? So, I've thought, "Have I really been faithful with my inclination for prayer?" Yes I use it, but honestly, I don't think I have been in the measure I should have been. So, it's time to step it up and be faithful with my little so I can grow more and more in prayer.