I haven’t had much to say about image and specifics about clothing and such lately. I don’t know that I haven’t said everything I need to say about skirt lengths, frumpy cuts of dresses and hideous shoes, but then again, I suppose BTFM is sort of like a fashion magazine in that it has to re-visit all those details on a regular basis because new readers don’t want to go through old issues to find what they need to know. But because BTFM is not a money-making publication, I feel kind of like saying, “JUST VISIT THE ARCHIVES!” when any specifics arise. It’s such a shame I didn’t more carefully index the entries.
I have been working on and off all summer, and have indulged my introverted side on my weeks off. I have spent a lot of quality time with family, which feels great, and I have settled yet more deeply into my new home.
And there is this: I have rested and dozed, and dreamed and written down my dreams, and prayed and read and thought about stuff. I have noticed that I am absolutely without question changing and preparing for a new era in life, which we shall ambitiously refer to as Middle Age, but because I don’t plan to live to be 100, is really more accurately Just Getting Kind of Old-ish.
I won’t be fifty for another year and a half, but my father pretty much dropped dead at that age, so it has a lot of psychic power for me.
I spent quite a bit of time this summer re-training myself in the breath work I learned when I was on sabbatical in 2008 and I was in good, strong recovery from anxiety disorder. I have stayed healed from panic and anxiety attacks, but the breath is always the first to go, and it was time to re-center myself in good breathing.
I have listened to my weight loss and stress reduction hypnosis recordings many days.
I have realized, with some actual sadness, that overeating just doesn’t make me happy any more. Believe it or not, this is a loss. A full belly used to calm me and make me feel safe on some level. Now it just makes me feel wicked uncomfortable. But because old habits are so hard to break, I still find myself turning to snacks or big meals out for a “treat.” What do you do when your treat isn’t “treating” you anymore?
You have to find new delights.
So I’m feeling this out.
I am also changing relationally. Whereas for a very long time I have been oriented to giving my energy BIG and OUT and then retreating to silence and solitude to replenish myself, I now find that I wish for a smaller, gentler expression of energy and love OUT and more love and companionship in my private life. How do you get that?
You just ask God and see what happens.
This summer has been one for grieving. I am grieving the death of the institutional church that we all know and love. We know it’s dying. We do not know what is coming next, and what that means for ministry. We can tap dance all over the place with big ideas and buzzwords (entrepreneurial! missional!) but the fact is, we just don’t know what to do but follow the people out of the traditional institutions and find ways to minister in a new, beyond congregations way.
I love the church. I think the church is so important. The church is so flawed, oh my God, yes. And the church is so expensive to maintain, yes it is. So I understand. But one has to cry and hurt over what is lost before she can really open herself to what comes next. The road ahead is weird and windy. I can’t lead anyone along it unless my own footing is sure and faithful. I have been praying for faithfulness.
The killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO ripped my heart open. This is not the blog for that discussion, and I said what I needed to say back when it happened, and you responded with great beauty and strength and I love you for that. My heart is still broken and I am still enraged, which is just where I am about reality for black men in America.
Part of what is happening for me emotionally and spiritually is that my new ministry setting is more directly involved with social justice, and so is my new home. I am an urbanite now. For eleven years, I lived in an idyllic rural suburban setting and did a pastoral ministry that was much more about the hidden pain and suffering that goes on in economically privileged communities. Secrecy, addiction, financial fear that cannot be spoken, competitiveness run amok and people who want to know how to disengage from it, consumerism, abuse — all the human things, but less public. In this new setting, it makes sense that I would have to recalibrate my fiery pastor’s spirit. So I am doing that, with God’s help.
Do you know what? The Desert Fathers are awesome. That’s all I’ll say about that. I stuck with them all summer until I could connect with them, just because I thought their whole deal was fascinating but kind of insane and ridiculous. I wanted to see if they wanted to direct me in any way, and it turns out that they did. Of course they did! Why else would I have felt drawn to them, however skeptically?
We are having our Ingathering Service on Sunday and I’m really grateful that I’ll be seeing more of my congregation soon. I have missed them.
And that’s it for me, for now. Ciao, darlings.