Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Keeping Secrets


I wrote this entry about eight months ago but then shelved it for a time. The secret I thought I had, ended up not being so much of one as I'd thought. Yet, keeping secrets and maintaining integrity is an real concern for me, and maybe for you...

As an Aspey[i], I pretty much gave up lying and secret-keeping about the same time I left my teen years behind – simply because I was so bad at it. I never had a poker face. And if someone asked me something related to any information I was trying not to share, I couldn’t come up with a convincing half-truth in that split-second before they expected an answer.

I admit that I once thought I was "holier" for doing this but I finally admitted that I simply stopped doing something I was bad at anyway.

Now I have a secret. Though I’ve shared it with a few people, it seems best to keep it to myself for the present.

And I don’t like it. Being so out of practice, it’s hard. As yet, no one has approached me with the dreaded question, but how long can I expect that to last? And what will I answer? Besides the whole “I’m a lousy liar” there’s the issue of integrity. I want to be honest.

Contrary to what we may have learned, keeping secrets isn’t necessary bad for a person. Michael Slepian, professor at Columbia Business School, studies the psychology of secret-keeping. In a recent study, Slepian surveyed people about the nature and extent of their secrets. Earlier, he had discovered that the bigger the secret, the greater the potential harm to its keeper. This time, he wanted to examine the connection between secret-keeping and lower wellbeing. He found that rather than the secret’s content, what mattered was how often a person thought about their secret – the more they thought of it, the lower their sense of wellbeing. For many people, the sense of inauthenticity is what is most damaging.[ii]

Hm. Inauthenticity is the biggest threat to my wellbeing.

In Wired for Authenticity: Seven Practices to Inspire, Adapt & Lead, Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc., talks about a leader’s need for authenticity. I haven’t read the book, but I read Skip Prichard’ conversation with Inam about the 7 Practices of Authentic Leadership that she proposes. #5 resonated with me.
Choose Be before Do ... ‘Who am I being right now? Am I acting from inspiration or fear?’ [This is a big question for me.] Who we are being is constantly changing. ... We are constantly doing – without slowing down and getting curious about who we are being.’[iii]
I'm so busy doing, doing, doing. I do because

  • I have a job and people expect me to accomplish things. I'm a people pleaser (and I need the paycheck);
  • Besides working at my job, I have a home to maintain, dishes and laundry to wash, grass to mow, etc.;
  • Beyond all that, I want to be out-of-doors, planting, weeding, pruning, walking. 
In the last year, it's come to me that even reading is doing and I've tried to be intentional about noting the difference between the being and doing. But doing is so much easier. In doing, I don't need to face that I'm not being the me I'm called the be.
‘Who am I being right now? [iii]

[i] A person with Asperger’s Syndrome

[ii] http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-20428-001 as referenced at https://www.thecut.com/2017/05/keeping-secrets-isnt-bad-for-you-with-one-exception.html

[iii] https://www.skipprichard.com/7-practices-of-authenticity/

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Is it really "All about Trust"?


Those with insight find prosperity;
Happy are those who trust in God.
                                Proverbs 16:20

The United Methodist Church is again in the news as The New York Times reports voting fraud at General Conference 2019.

In reading the article, this doesn't seem to be an issue of deliberate malice. As Germain Unda Mupasa, an unauthorized delegate for East Congo expressed, there are often visa issues, so African conferences have many reserves. These people of faith simply want to make sure that they have their assigned number of delegates voting for what they believe is the faithful response to the question.

Still, trust has clearly become an issue for the Church (and in other settings). The Book of Discipline has nothing in it about voting irregularities because in the past it's never been an issue. “The polity of the United Methodist Church presumes trust," explains Laceye Warner, a professor of Methodist studies at Duke Divinity School. But she adds, “The last several years, the ethos of the denomination has been characterized more by mistrust and misunderstanding.”

Have we been naive? Or is this legitimately a new and modern challenge?

Where do you find yourself in this conundrum? And I don't mean on which side of the divide do you stand regarding the right of clergy persons to marry GLBTQIA+ persons and of the acceptance of these previously, and again, discriminated-against persons to be ordained and to serve as pastors. 

No, what I am asking is:
  • Where is trust in all of this? Is trust truly being violated or are people still acting in what they believe is “good faith”?
  • In whom are we to trust? Of whom shall we be slow or hesitant to trust?
  • Is this voting issue really an issue, as the media has made it out to be? Or does this reporting merely muddy the waters, serving to keep the UMC debacle in the public eye?
  • What are your criteria for trusting someone?
I ask this last with all sincerity. A year ago, I found myself trusting someone... unreservedly. For a period of months, all was good. Yet things have changed. I defend them be reminding myself that we are not static creatures. We change with our experiences – our opinions, our feelings, evolve.

Still, the trust that once seems like an easy choice, I now question. Would I do the same today? I don't know...

Yes, I do. I can blame it on the AS[1], if I like – for good or ill – but I've always been recklessly trusting. This'll never change and I’m not sure I’d want it to.

I choose to trust – and to love – with equal abandon. Individuals and institutions may break my heart (and have) yet I will go on.

(Knowing who you are is a good thing. How would your three sentence self-definition read?)

[1] Asperger’s Syndrome

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Snowshoeing & Self-Care


“Woodland Encounter” by Bev Doolittle

How have you practiced self-care recently? What have you done to remind yourself that you are truly living and that life is good?

Go ahead and think about it. I'll wait.

...

That's great! Wonderful, even. And how did that feel for you?

...

This has been a tough few weeks for me – with more hours worked than my mind and body can sustain, with votes at The United Methodist Church's Special General Conference that left me (still) grieving, and with a few other personal and professional challenges as well. I'm not complaining. Life is like that. But all of this has left me sorely in need of sabbath rest and intentional self care.

Thursday evening, a friend let me use their piano while they were out (I know, me without a piano! who'd have thought?) and I played for 90 minutes. It's been ages since I played that long and oh, did it feel good!

Friday morning, I drank tea, ate and napped off and on as Beethoven symphonies played in the background. During an easy snowshoe walk in the afternoon, I was gifted with views of myriad branches against a breathtakingly blue sky. I had to go back.

So today, after sermon work and lunch I returned to Rib Mountain, this time choosing the longer trail. All were shades of gray and I didn't expect the beauty of the day before, so I was taken aback when I looked up. It was like a Bev Doolittle painting (only better) – the birches gray, black and white mottled against the leaden sky and snow. 

Continuing, I followed the red chips that marked the trail until they seemed to be leading back toward the road. “That can’t be right!” I headed in the other direction, recalling the old logging road below. Only, after descending about 30 yards, I conceded that the road wasn't where I thought it was. I heard voices ahead and continued on but soon discovered they came from some crazy downhill skiers who had left the runs in favor of the wilds of this state park. 
 
Climbing back up this Wisconsin-sized mountain in deep snow left me quite warm (I was on all fours part of the time) yet it was all thrilling. I felt so alive!

Eventually I found the path with its red chips and continued, exhausted yet at the same time energized.

There will be days when accompanying, letting another lead or even surrendering will be victories. For this day, pressing my limits and finding myself up to the challenge was away to remind myself that I am enough just as I am and that life is good.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Week Later

“If you want to know about wolves and their feeding habits, you have to ask the deer.”[1]
Friday afternoon, I turned to the first page of my (now) gratitude journal to a collection of thoughts and quotes from my first year of seminary, almost 12 years ago. This one – a remnant from Bob Alber’s “Intro to Pastoral Care” class hadn’t particularly touched me since I’d written it, until today, until this week when The United Methodist Church upheld its 1972 ruling that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The Church I grew up in, the Church that is in my bones, did this!

Rhaynen[2] can talk about it at least somewhat dispassionately since she doesnt value church. But what about Amy, J, D, B, J, B & K, D, R and all the rest? 

Actually, as Rhaynen discovered, the Book of Discipline (so far) says nothing about transgender persons. Only sexuality is addressed. Guess it wasn’t on people’s radar in 1972. Maybe those who’re quite anti-gay don’t realize that gender and sexuality are not on the same spectrum. 

How could they do this?! I mean, I get it. I can easily understand that many faithful people arent there yet. But wed hoped that the One Church plan would allay their fears about anyone trying to change “their” church while also affirming the acceptance and full inclusion that many others practice, or long to practice. 

I truly hadnt realized that the One Church plan would be so distasteful to them. As a friend asked Tuesday evening, “Were we so naive?” I hadnt thought so.

I grew up in a bubble and it pretty much lasted until I began my seminary experience twelve years ago. “How do I view GLBT?” is the question that became real during seminary. It was easily resolved as I sat in classes with and learned from fabulous, faith-filled, Spirit-led gay and lesbian persons. The question (now with a few more initials) became personal eighteen months ago. I love Rhaynen. I dont know her well but her welfare, her fears and sorrows matter to me as much as my other three kids. I marvel at her courage in choosing the path that will, I pray, lead her to wholeness. 

I pray for all of us, but particularly for those wounded yet again by the Church. When someone says this isnt a big deal, I think of the deer. Im a wolf. Its easy for me and my fellow wolves to think this isnt important. But were not deer. We havent been chewed up by the institution that is supposed to represent God in the world.

Bishops and other leaders within the Connection counsel us to practice caution and patience. Yes, dont decide anything rash. We humans tend not to think rationally when we’re grieving. Wait. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Wait also for the Judicial Council which gather April 23-25 to decide the constitutionality of the Conservative plan.

Still, I wonder, with many of you, “What will I do?”

God knows, but I do not. I’ll take one day at a time. I’ll listen. I’ll pray. I’ll offer people safe space to share their feelings. And one day when I’m feeling more prepared and less fragile, I trust I’ll know what to do. 

[1] I can find no validation for the reference I was given in 2007. Then we were told: Ruben Alvarez, 1979, Faith, Science, Future, World Council of Churches.
[2] Not her real name.