Thursday, April 27, 2006

Job Hazard

I went to a funeral today. That's sort of an occupational hazard as a hospice chaplain. I go to a lot of funerals. I go to so many funerals, in fact, that sometimes I get a little bit, how shall we say? Um...critical of funerals. I sort of, well, let me just lay it on the table here, I sort of, um...rate them. And today's, well it was probably, on a scale of one to ten, about a two.

I liken this rating system to the summer after college when everyone was getting married, and I became an expert critic of different wedding styles. For instance, when lighting the unity candle, I would find myself mumbling under my breath, "Don't blow out the individual candles. Don't do it, woman. Don't do it! You're still your own person." And when the individual candles were blown out with a satisfied puff, I'd practically drop my head in my hands and sigh, "Well, they just lost points there..."

Today's funeral was a two not because of the musical selections, while I'm not a big fan of the Gaithers singing "Because He Lives," (actually I sang a pretty wicked rendition of it while at our seminary talent show while dressed as my alter ego Faith Fay, along with my partners in crime, Chastity Fay and Charity Fay, while we were all wearing 4-inch heels, teased hair, and long fake red fingernails, ala Tammy Fay in her prime. Oh, and I also may have partaken a teeny, tiny, wee bit too much of the "communion wine" at the time, which only added to the vibrato of the Fay sisters singing...but I digress) while I'm generally not particularly fond of funerals that involve an altar call at the end, what truly led to the unfortunate two rating was a particularly distasteful eulogy by a nephew of the deceased.

Now, before you think I have become the most negative and sarcastic of hospice chaplains, let me speak in my defense over why aforementioned eulogy was so utterly painful to hear.

Usually I find family eulogies delightful. I often feel as if I get the best sense of who a person was when I hear their families speak. Indeed, when I perform a funeral, I spend hours with the family, asking questions, questions like, "What really made your father laugh?" "What legacy does your mother leave you?" "What was your brother's favorite story?" "What did you grandmother teach you?" "How was your sister different than other people?" I love the stories about the special Coney island sauce that someone made their son every year on his birthday, or the fact that someone went out on the mornings that it was below freezing and took the garbage man a cup of coffee. I believe that families and close friends have much better insight than I, as a pastor could ever have, to remember a life. My job is to listen to the stories, and then to tell them, to tell the stories of this child of God.

So, why was today so bad? Well, the nephew, let's call him, Joe, was a young whippersnapper. I'm looking at him and thinking, "Hmmm...perhaps a young Oral Roberts University seminary student?" He wore his expensive navy blue suit with his American flag lapel pin and he told a few happy stories about how his aunt liked to kiss little kids, and how she was good at remembering birthdays. And that was all well and good. And then he went on to talk about his aunt's faith, about how she loved Jesus and wasn't afraid to die, and this too was nice.

And then, he turned to his cousin and her family, the deceased woman's only child's family and looked each of them in the eyes where they sat weeping in the front row, a young family with small children. The nephew licked his lips and said, "Jennifer, Scott, Caden, Ariel, your mother, mother-in-law, your nana loved you all so, so very much. Never forget that..." and this daughter began to sob and nod her head...and the nephew continued, "And she loved you so much that she would want for you to find Jesus Christ, and to welcome him into each of your hearts...because she doesn't want you to go to hell. She wants to see you again. That was her last wish."

Can you say "pastoral misconduct?" Can you say "family cruelty?" Can you say "manipulation?" Can you say, "Guilt trip?" I wanted to stand up and yell, "Out of order! Objection! Time out! No fair!" But, instead, I had to sit with my hands folded quietly.

And so I did what I do best in those moments...I began to pray, "God, help me to forgive this young man, just as you have forgiven me for my own inadequacies and judgments. And may this poor woman who grieves recognize Your unconditional love, and may she know You cradle her in her arms, just the way her mommy once did."

And perhaps in that moment, the fact that it was a two didn't matter so much anymore.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lexapro Induced Anesthesia

I don't cry much.

Thank you, Lexapro.

You know, I'm the sort of person who would rather just show you her wounds, and admit to her weaknesses.

Well, here they are...I struggle with some sort of generalized anxiety. And, thus, the Lexapro. I love it, and...I hate it. I love that I no longer panic at each and every little stress-inducing issue in my life (i.e. when I find a lump in my back I am not rendered incapable of functioning for fear that it's cancer), and I hate that I feel so utterly disconnected from my deepest feelings.

I used to cry often. I cried at Hallmark commercials, and the periwinkle shades of lilacs, and cried while watching my step-daughters dance. I cried while reading Lucile Cliffton poetry, and I cried at Indigo Girls' ballads. And now, I'm a little more...well, stoic. And while this keeps me from worrying about so much, it also keeps me from experiencing so much.

This all goes to say that for the first time in weeks (or months?) I wept. And the reason is this: (bear with me I don't know how to link things yet...) (essay on open communion). Oh my God(/ess). Why is it this makes me weep? What in me longs for this kind of meal?

My week is almost over. I am grateful. I need some space.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


There are days when you wake up and your sinuses are kicking the shit out of you with little mini combat boots between your eyes and you think, "Oh, but if I only could make it not hurt, if only I could make those things which make my eyes water and my nose stuff up not bloom..." And then you have a realization...Voila! And you think, "I should take me some of that there Claritin-D, it's on that there television ad and promises me that I'll feel good as gold." And you gobble down a little white pill and then...a l l d a y s t a r t s d r a a a a g g g g i n n n g g g. And pretty soon you think, "Well, freakin' devil bunnies, my nose is clear but my life, it is in slo-mo." Ever have one of those days? I'm still recovering from my Claritin hangover.

As of today, I have counted four, four close friends, acquaintances, or family members who have given birth in the past welcome to the world William Marcus and Emily Jane and Conner Michael and Alexander Joseph. But I'm wondering with four births in one week...what was happening 9 months ago that I missed...what party were these folks at...and what was in the water that was being consumed? Hmmm...

Three more weeks of being referred to as Professor. Three more weeks of having 2/3 of the class stare at me with looks of disbelief and/or apathy as I wax poetic about feminine images of God and the works of Mary Daly and Carter Heyward and Rosemary Radford Ruether. I think I'm ready for this gig to be over. Mostly, because I feel as if I am not gifted as a teacher, and I constantly feel inadequate, as if I'm not giving them enough as if we're not covering enough ground, as if there are miles and miles and miles of more ideas to mention and I'm doing the world of feminist theology a diservice by not being more eloquent. Oh forgive me, my erudite sisters.

R. found a yummy new creamer for our coffee today...coconut! How happy am I?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I can't say I'm an especially big Dixie Chicks fan, but seeing as how they got an especially hostile response from many rah-rah pro-war folks, this pacifist chick sort of sat up and took notice. I just found their most recent song and thought, "Yes. Yes. Yes." Especially in regard to their treatment by fervent pro-war Bush backers.

Check it out, if you have the inclination, at:

Only Beginning

I have been filled to overflowing with simple delight as I continue to watch spring unfurl and fling itself with wild abandon into a hungry world. After my run this afternoon, I lay my weary body down on the bench on our front porch and watched our birch tree leaves dance against the blue sky and again it occurred to me, "I am so utterly blessed to breathe in this mystery."

Last night one of the sisters, one of the circle of eight sisters, came to speak to my class about her spiritual journey as a woman with one foot firmly planted in the world of the organized church as a pastor, and with one foot treading into the mysteries of neo-pagan and goddess thought. I watched her speak so wisely to my students, and remembered the girl who was...the girl who initimidated the hell out of me when she lived on the opposite wing of Oakwood Hall, who amazed me with her intensity, and her intelligence, and her independence. And then I remembered the roadtrip to Pennsylvania to visit the parents of a friend, when I recognized how fiercely alike we were, the roadtrip where it seemed all pretense was stripped away and we became vulnerable and true to one another. And these images flashed through my head as I listened to her share of brother Jesus, and sister spirit and, again, I realized my joy at being connected to the souls of such good women.

Last night she said as we stood looking in a mirror together, "When I was in college, I was only beginning to become the woman I am now." And, as one who has a tendency to glorify the Christen of old, to feel as if perhaps I was my truest in those days, my most passionate and bright, I had to pause and honor that journey in my own life, for I to am still only beginning to become the woman I am created to be.

But, what an incredible trip it is.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Risen, Indeed

spring song

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

--lucille clifton

Thursday, April 13, 2006

But, Maybe You Misunderstood...

...that my new baby is nameless...

I know, I know, it's Maundy Thursday and all...but, let's put things in perspective here...[that was sarcasm...I actually do have my priorities in a reasonably appropriate order].

It's sterile to just be called FIELD-22 your whole life.

Okay, I'm off to bed now, with my new computer right in between R. and me under the covers. Nice and snug.


All A Flutter...

"And why," the dear reader may ask, "the exciting subject line? Praytell what happy news might the contemplative chaplain want to share...could she...after lo these many months finally be pregnant?"

Um....NO. No, not so much. I say, while taking a great big slurp of my $4.97 for a liter bottle of chardonay wine (which will, in my defense, take many days or weeks to consume), my pre-dinner appetizer of choice these days...

NO...the big news is this...wait for it...

I'm practically bursting with excitement...for friends, I am typing this entry whilst sitting in my favorite comfy chair, burning incense, listening to a soothing piano CD, in my upstairs hideaway, in the room the girls have taken to calling "Christen's sanctuary." And I tell you all this because I used to have to type while my bum rested on the hard wood of a kitchen chair in he oh-so-public parlour of our home. I NOW HAVE ACCESS TO A LAPTOP! Yippee Coyote! Woo Hoo! I cannot contain my joy.

Our hospice is currently "going paperless" which means that each field staff member is issued a brand-spanking new laptop computer with all of the accompanying doodads. I have a car charger, y'all. And since my husband was wise enough to suggest we get wireless internet access at our house, I am now mobile.

Now granted, this laptop, it is not MINE, exactly. However, my assignment today from our COO was this, "Go home with your laptop. Play some games. Surf the net. Whatever...get used to your laptop." And I said, with wide-eyed wonder, "You mean I can actually use this for that kind of stuff too?" And she said...well, actually, she said nothing. But she sort of smiled at me, and in none of the paperwork that I had to sign, promising that I would replace the laptop if, God forbid one of the cats pukes on it and renders it useless, did it say that the use of laptop for, say, writing a blog sort of related to one's work was forbidden.

During the laptop training, my fellow chaplain and I were sitting on one side of the table, being quasi-more skilled at computing than some of our peers who needed more guidance, and I actually got to pull up my blog and say, "Hey, Scott, wanna see pictures of my cat? Wanna see a picture of me when I was three?" He humored me. "I have a blog! See?" I proudly blurted out to the COO. She smiled as she passed in that way that says, "Poor little girl, she doesn't get out much..."

The only problem with this new arrangement, and I'm actually a little serious about this, is that my family--yeah, they may not see me much. And my readers? You may start to hate my frequent musings and random posts. Soon you'll be saying, "Geez, would she just shut up already...someone go get the damn laptop and vomit on it or something..."

And now I have an important task for you, dear readers. My new laptop needs a name. Somehow her identifying sticker is rather non-descript (FIELD-22). Please help...I'll consider all suggestions and perhaps even award some sort of special blog prize for the winner...don't let us down.

And now I have to go back to carressing my Gateway's smooth silver skin.