I want to float, not dive

7239cf715db990fa2babb5c00ec962e1.b2c7dcabcd02d6b1a207e0dffe7b5242.jpgNot quite ready for the day.

I have my tea and mouse is keeping me company.  I kinda want to be all on top of it and hit the ground running, but today I just want to ease into it.  Like when you are going swimming in the early morning and you slip slowly into the still waters, trying not to make a ripple.  You are one temperature and the water another and the change from one state to another can be a welcome shock, but not first thing in the morning.  Late in the afternoon, in the heat of the summer, you welcome it, along with the other swimmers. But early in the morning, you move slowly into the depths.

And today I have patients to see and meetings to attend and driving to do between one place and another,  all within certain times, all seemingly crowded together. There are notes too. Notes to say what I did and how I met the goals already written.  “Patient will transition through the end of life process with peace and serenity.”  ” Patient received pastoral presence and silent prayer.”  Today is like most days, but today I want to slip into it slowly and purposefully, not reactively. I want to slip into the sacred and let it support me as I go,  I want to float, not dive.

 

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Sometimes I wonder why I say yes.

Melanie our Priest at St. Paul’s asked me the  week before last if I would read some of Jesus’s last words for Good Friday service and pontificate about it for 5-6 minutes.  She didn’t actually say pontificate, she said “meditate” , but that is my feeling about talking in the pulpit sometimes.

I got the phrase that I can’t pronounce.  My God, my God why have you forsaken me? is the general translation.  Some translations say, abandon.  All are based on the 22nd psalm.

1.My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2.O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 

And the psalmist continues describing his anguish and ends with a prophecy of the coming of the Lord.  Next up, psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd reminding us that,

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. 

So that is my mini- exegisis and I can connect the dots to the scripture in Mathew pretty darn easily.  Jesus is on the cross, but we know the end of the story and his is raised, salvation all around. Easter lilies and chocolate bunnies for the rest of us.

This universal condition of feeling completely abandoned is a familiar one.  I see it with patients in their own dark hour.  Chaplain shop talk calls it “the dark night of the soul”. Alcoholics call it “hitting their bottom”. In depression, it is that point before you step off into the abyss of absolute aloneness because you can not bare the feeling or weight of it any more.

But here is the thing.  Hang on.   We know the end of the story.  We know that we will have Easter.  The tough thing is leaning into the depths of abandonment. Forsakenness. The psalmist says that he is lower than a worm, not even human.  Who hasn’t felt that before?

I certainly have. And I have wondered if there really is a God and I hit my bottom, I couldn’t see, or feel or even know that my God was there the whole time.

And yet, here I am.  Last night I was a guest lecturer at Emmanual College teaching a master’s level class of Nursing students, of all things.  The class is Spirituality and Ethics in Nursing,  and I got to teach on spiritual assessments.  Today I got one of the most  heart warming letters from the professor who said loads of good things about the class and my teaching.

Monday I brought a palm to a patient who was experiencing  their own dark night and “I said, you are not alone, I will be here with you” .  Monday night in the halls I heard the same thing from folks that have been sober for a while to the newcomers who are so very lonely and feeling  so very forsaken.  “You are not alone. Welcome”.

God never promises us that it will be easy.  In fact, there are tons of stories in every major faith that tell us the opposite.  Things are gonna get bad, but hold on.

Easter is coming.  I have meditated on it.  Might actually get up the moxie and just read the blog post  vs. cleaning it up for prime time.  At this point, I am gonna leave it alone and just stay fluid through the unknown.

 

 

 

Mouse Is In The Garage

I had a heavy week.  I thought I would get ahead of it by doing a spiritual assessment on a new admission Sunday afternoon and while I was at the facility, I would check in with another couple of patients.  I have a flexible schedule like that. However I also had a bunch visits that needed to be done, a week of lousy, rainy and otherwise dank weather, a memorial service and an online class.  Come Friday I was a bit fried.

Balance is the key and so knowing that, I got a kitten and named it Mouse. img_0788

I figured having something very alive was a good balance to being with those who are dying.

But after a long week, I figured I needed something else. Teary eyed and exhausted. I finished up work and even Mouse could not help lift the weight, so I headed down to the village, and I decided to go and get that bike that I have been wanting for a good long while.  I had been down to the Dedham Bike Shop at least a couple of times over the last few years and even bought a bike for my buddy Bea’s birthday. But didn’t get around to getting one for me.

I stopped riding a bicycle about 18 years ago when I was diagnosed with IC and was told that I had to change a whole lot of things in my life to reduce the pain and disabling effects of the illness.  Riding a bike was one of those things. Plus I was either a student or an unemployed CPE intern or simply unemployed, so a fun thing like a bike was out.

imagesYesterday I threw  caution to the wind and decided to go look at bikes and found one that seemed like a good fit. I put a deposit down on it with the plan to go ahead and pick it up this morning.   I felt like I was 5 again.  My first bike was red Schwinn Pixie but with a white seat and it came from the Dedham Bike Shop. I picked a purple one and got a purple helmet to match.  I felt like the kid at Christmas who peaked and saw a bike with their name on it.

It was a good thing too. When I returned home after a meeting last night I was called in to work to help the family of that new patient I had been with last Sunday.  The patient had put themselves on hospice and the family was not ready.  The Patient was ready for death and had said so to me, but the family wasn’t on the same page.  And despite the protests against the illness, the patient passed away.   I got the call and within 15 minutes was on site, but the family had left and so I did what I was called to do.

Went down the hall, entered the room and then spent then next little while with the deceased.  I had found the TV on, the bathroom door open with light streaming out, full light in the room and the sheets of the deceased all askew.  I turned things off, pull the covers up over her feet, shut the door and began to pray.  They had said to me last Sunday that they had forgotten their prayers, so I pulled out a Rosary and said it for them, as I laid the pink plastic cross down.  Returning home I took some time to decompress and thought about that bike.  I went to bed singing “Bicycle race ”

This morning I went down to the village and rode it home, singing.   These same streets that I rode my first little red bike on and all of those feelings of being free came back. Just like when I first learned to ride and go faster than on foot.  And getting the bike gave me some energy to do the chores and put the cat window in for Mouse. She learned to use it and has some freedom now herself.

In her new freedom she disappeared for a while and gave us a scare.  Turns out she went into the neighbor’s garage and before they went out for the night, the door was closed with her locked inside.  They are still out and she is still locked in, but at least I know where she is and eventually they will come home, see my note pinned to their door and I can go fetch her.

And here is where the balance pays off.  Mum was tired at the end of the day and when Mouse didn’t show up, Mum was upset.  Afraid of all the things that could go wrong.  On the other hand, I had an awesome day riding my bike and singing Queen songs.  I figured Mouse would either show up or she wouldn’t.  Either she lives a free life going out and coming, sometimes getting stuck and needing to be found, or she doesn’t.  I choose the former too.   And like Mouse I choose to play when I can.

 

Jonah and The Divine Deep Knowing

Penned by Tori Jamison

Many call to ministry stories begin with a deep knowing or a dramatic moment of realization, followed in quick succession with the knower running fleeing church life to pursue careers in business or as far from the church as possible, diving into family or art or literally anything else, until they can’t anymore – and then they show up at seminary. My story isn’t that at all.  I heard the voice, I felt the deep knowing and my community acknowledged that they also knew I had the knowing and so off I went, confident. I graduated seminary by the skin of my teeth and running as fast as I could get from the institutional church.

images.jpgAnd I’ve been thinking about a lot about Jonah, of “gets swallowed by a whale and is still a punk while sitting in digestive juices for three days and gets his own book in the Hebrew bible” fame. See, Jonah gets this call from God to do a thing (go preach repentance to Nineveh) and he runs. Lots of commentators make a big deal out of him running the opposite direction from where he was told to go, but what I find interesting about Jonah is his confident swagger. He runs but gets on a ship and when the sea gets rough, they draw lots and blame Jonah, who asserts with no nuance who he is and the name of his god, and that they are welcome to solve the problem by throwing him into the sea. The sailors oblige, and into the sea goes Jonah… only to get swallowed by a fish. He skulks and mutters for a while, covered in digestive juices in the dark, and then the text says that he petitions his god with a prayer that amounts to “God has to save me because I have work to do that God gave me to do so get on with it, God!”

I also ran with reasons aplenty from the institutional church but not ministry. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs and calls since graduating, and have met some incredible people, been a witness to the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve seen a baby born and held hands with the dying and everything in between, and yet, l

Like Jonah, I thought that shouting my call while going my own ways was enough.

It isn’t, and I’m worn down by running- the moving every few months to this or that pulls me farther and farther away from the divine deep knowing. What I’ve been doing is in the name of the good work and justice (mental health first responder! Care for the youngest! Communities of belonging and safety for everyone! Farm and feed the world!) but I am increasingly more disconnected from a call to contextualize sacred service in a community.

I haven’t been running from everything in life and I’ve certainly grown and learned.  I came out as queer last year as undramatically as I could conjure simply by putting on Facebook that I was in a relationship with a same gender partner.

Spoiler alert -if an ancient book can be spoiled –

Jonah gets out of the fish but his swagger continues. He preaches to Nineveh and then informs God that God should make good on God’s promise to smite them. God does not, and gives a shade tree to Jonah. When the tree dies, the last words of Jonah in his book are informing God that the tree ought to still be alive, and that Jonah himself is right to be angry, even to death.

I too had my very good reasons for running, but now that I am a distance away by time, geography and circumstance, perhaps now I can reconsider a retooled return. Like Jonah, I have never doubted the deep knowing, but unlike Jonah, I do not wish to end up under a tree angry that it is not enough.