Friday, July 30, 2010

The Other Kind of Grief

Most of the time, we think of grief in terms of death.  But there are other forms of grief too.  We grieve all kinds of losses (both good and bad).  We grieve when there is a divorce, a breakup, the loss of a job, the loss of trust, the loss of physical or mental abilities.  We grieve unrealized dreams.  We also grieve good things, we may grieve when we get married because we are no longer single. Or we may grieve as new parents, lamenting the freedoms we once knew while celebrating the amazing miracle of new life.  We may grieve during a promotion because we don't have the same relationship with colleagues.  We grieve all the time--almost daily even, big and small things. (or at least we should take the time to grieve those things, otherwise they weigh on us and continue to hurt our hearts). 

I'm in one of those should grieve but haven't stages.  For the last 3 years I have had the privilege of working with my spiritual mentor, friend, and pastor GP as co-dean for summer camp.  By privilege, I mean immeasurable and indescribable blessing.  GP is an amazing pastor and he has taught me so much, and accompanied me through many difficult transitions in my life and in my ministry.  He told me last year, in confidence, that he would not be returning to camp this year because he would be moving to his home conference to be closer to his mother.  So, in a sense, I've had plenty of time to grieve.  Only, the part where it was "in confidence" really meant I couldn't talk about it with folks.  There was no last goodbye from the campers (nor from me either), there were none of those "lasts" (at least not in the marked and special sense) to help me tap my grief and gain closure over a soon-to-be deeply felt loss.

Well, in recent weeks, as the pressure has been on to get ready for camp, I have missed GP greatly.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great new co-dean with amazing gifts of his own who brings a whole new dynamic to camp--something to be cherished.  But, if you know much about grief, having one doesn't have much to do with not having the other.  No matter how much I enjoy or learn from the new co-dean, he's not GP, and that's the loss to be mourned.  But instead of allowing myself to feel deeply how much I appreciate GP, I have busied myself with all the work of preparing for camp.  On occasion, I have tried talking about my frustrations with folks, but it has not been to much avail.  Most have responded, yep, that's life, now move on and finish getting ready.  I understand their responses and I don't fault them for it. It's only that I've wanted to grieve. I've wanted to talk about all those things I miss and all the fears I have because I won't have my mentor there (after all, when there is a senior elder/mentor/pastor it takes a bit of the pressure off...he was the default guy, now I'm the default gal and I so don't feel ready for that burden responsibility).  It's lame in a sense, since I know I can do the job.  We've shared responsibilities for 3 years, I've done pretty much every aspect at one point or another. But then again, grief isn't logical.  Lame or not, that's how I feel. I liked our rhythms (which did take time to develop). I liked the way we leaned on each other and were able to fill whatever gaps needed filling.  I wasn't desiring such a major change.

The ironic part to me is that normally I tend to be an agent of change.  I tend to be the one to shake things up--intentionally and unintentionally. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm rocking the boat, it just works out that way.  So all of this feels like Karma.  A new dean. New expectations. New ideas.  New ways of doing things.  The new things are good.  I'm not knocking what's new.  It's just that I had gotten comfortable.  Apparently too comfortable.  It's one of those lessons where when I step back I go, oh yeah, I got so comfortable that I started leaning on my own skills (and those of others I knew) that I wasn't opening myself fully for God to do God's thing.  After all, when you don't need God, you don't seek God and when you don't seek God, you don't find God.  Not that God isn't there, only that it's hard to find something you aren't looking for.  I mean, for me, it's hard for me to find the new thing God is trying to do in me when I'm not needing to try any new things.  And so I get stuck in my ways and hardly change at all, until my co-dean is reappointed out from under my comfort zone and I get a whole slew of new things....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sermon Prayer

Heavenly Lord,
please give me the message you would have me deliver. 
Please clarify for me what is happening in this passage 
and how it relates to us. 
Teach me O Lord.  
Empty me of my own agenda and my eisegesis.
  Fill me with your Spirit and your holy Word.  
Shine your light on my mind 
that I may truly understand your holy Word. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

10 things

I work with a lot of people each and every week.  Sometimes in worship. Sometimes in meetings.  Sometimes in classes. Sometimes in counseling.  

One thing I have noticed is how hard it is for people to accept how beloved we are.  We can easily judge ourselves and one another.  We can easily write the laundry list of all those things we can't do or don't do well, but really struggle to write the list of what we do well.  

Self-esteem is an issue for a lot of people, particularly women (though I think the issue is equal for men, only that women are free to articulate that self-esteem is an issue).  One thing I have found myself doing more and more is encouraging people to name 10 good things about themselves.  I have them take a sheet of paper and number 1-10 and then write 10 good things about themselves.  

Surprisingly, everyone struggles. Some folks give one or two, others may make it to 5 or 6 and then almost without fail, they stop.  They don't know what else to put.  So, I throw out possibilities and tell them to choose those that seem relevant.  (intelligent, creative, honest, loyal, persevering, determined, helpful, kind, gracious, merciful, funny, thoughtful, helpful, empathetic, sympathetic, risk taker, joyful, faithful, etc).  

Then, typically, I have them number 11-20 and have them do it all over again. Most roll their eyes or groan and look at me like I am the meanest task master ever (which is ok since rumor has it that I am 40 times more demanding than my dad)  ;)  But they do it.  Resentful, but they do it.  

Then I have them number 21-30 and write down 10 things they are good at (it can be simple or profound). Laundry. dishes. gardening. cooking. photography. cleaning toilets. mowing the lawn. music. playing an instrument. reading. teaching. learning. biking. skiing. the list goes on.  

And then, 31-40.  10 experiences that have helped shaped them. Again this can be simple or profound.  This can be places you've traveled. Places you've lived.  Being the eldest/youngest/middle child.  Cultural heritage. The languages you speak. The schools you've attended.  Anything that has shaped you. Accidents. Illnesses. Awards. Anything that has made you into the person you are.  

Then if they are really lucky I might have them number another 5-10 and list physical attributes about themselves that they like. 

I want people to see how amazing they are.  What an incredible package God has helped make them to be.  I also want them to have all kinds of affirmations on the ready when those self-defeating and self-deprecating comments come to mind.  

So, give it a try.  If you're brave, do the whole set!