Sunday, August 31, 2008

After six days of being outside of internet, cell phone or newspapers. I return to find that NOLA is about to receive another hurricane with the rest of the Gulf Coast. My prayers are with you all, especially St. Casserole, her family and dog and cats. It's just not fair. Not fair at all.

And I'm in Alaska, two blocks from the governor's mansion. I can actually see it if I were to walk outside. And, of course, she's not here. It's interesting being here and reading the Juneau paper.

Focus on the Family asked for rain for Obama's speech in Mile High Stadium. Rain is coming to disrupt the Republican Convention. If one believed in divine intervention. what would one say? (OK I've had a bit of wine).

I walked for one hour and forty seven minutes today, up a few steep inclines.

Juneau is wet, but when the sun does poke through it is among the most beautiful places in the world. The mountains are steep, dropping straight down into the channels. Just across the way is Douglas (Douglas Island?). So on one side are high mountains dropping down into the sea and across the channel are more high mountains.

Wonderful fish-- salmon and halibut and dungeness crab. What more could anyone want? And good friends, wonderful friends.

I exercised for the last five days, running two days, hiking three days. I've done more exercise than I have since sometime more than a year ago, May 2007 when I was hiking. It is wonderful. I hope that I am well.

Friends I haven't seen in a while asked me what it is like to have cancer. What can I say? It's like being in a car accident. At least I've never remembered what happened. It's a blank in my life. Cancer is like that. But, I'm waiting. Will the next CT scan be clear? And the next? What about the one after that? And when I reach five years? What about eight years?

On the other hand, cancer hangs over everyone. It's just that most people don't know it. Half of all men and one third of all women come down with cancer. It is no longer a death sentence.

My eyebrows are coming back. I think I have whole eyebrows.

Praise God. I am alive, I am eating really good food with really good friends.

Tomorrow I return home and begin my life again. Working full time. Listening to where God may be calling the congregation I am called to lead. Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Death

My lectionary group is meeting in Juneau and I'm off tomorrow morning. It's supposed to rain all week and there's no internet (or cell reception) where we're going, so either we will get a lot of discussion done about Mark, or we will drink a lot (or probably both). A couple of guys are already there catching our meals. I've been promised halibut and salmon. (One of the guys lives there).

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I woke up this morning feeling depressed. Really depressed. After bemoaning my fate and wondering how it could be connected to the fact that I really don't want to be here and then considering how much wellbutrin I should take, reality grabbed hold of me.

I have been reading books on death and cancer. I am trying to come to grips with my own mortality. I truly believe a major problem with our society today is our fear of and subsequent denial of death. Paradoxically, if we want to live, we must acknowledge the reality of death. But, we do so much to avoid that knowledge: addictions cover the knowledge (addictions to work to computers, to substances, to shopping, to just about anything you can imagine). Addictions and everything we do to avoid facing the fact of our own mortality brings immediate death. We swap grappling with our ultimate death with immediate death of the soul.

And so, I think my early morning (and continuing) feelings were not depression but sadness and grief. Sadness and grief at my own mortality. I find it interesting that among my first reactions was to reach for a pill to remove the suffering and let me get own with "life."

(Now, for real depression, medicine can be a great boon. Depression can prevent people from living and medicine can help.)

Suffering is a part of life. If we do not feel pain, we cannot feel joy. When we deaden the pain of suffering, we deaden the receptors for joy also.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Good News from CT Scan

My doctor just called to tell me my CT scan was normal. My CA-125 levels were within normal range (though they had been before my surgery, too).

Dates--from RevGalBlogPals

From Songbird:

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?

Electronically. In hopes of buying an iPhone, I've switched from my Palm calendar to iCal on my MacBookPro. But I also have a paper calendar on my fridge. Mostly for doctor's appointments. UGH. I was really afraid I'd forget my CT scan this morning. I rarely look at my calendar, cause I don't have a lot on it. Mostly my pilates classes and doctors' appointments.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date?
Hmm, I didn't forget the date, but the time for a wedding that I was officiating at. I remembered the time of the rehearsal and thought the wedding was at the same time. I woke up from a nap and wondered why there were so many cars by the church (I lived in the manse next to the church). Then I checked my calendar. The wedding was in about 10 minutes. I officiated with unwashed hair. Between the ceremony and the reception, I ran home and washed my hair. Living in a village has some benefits (but very few) (Of course, that was when I had hair.)

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?
What's a date? You mean a social engagement with someone of a different gender (or the same gender depending on your preferences)? Years, I guess. I haven't met anyone that interested me in years. I have friends who've done the internet thing (and one who actually married a guy she met on the net), but I've never seen anyone on any of the sites who looked the least bit interesting. I have this feeling that if you have to use the net, there must be something wrong with you. I'm pretty happy by myself. At my age, the thought of having to be neat cause someone was living with me is not something I want to do.

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.
All my clothing is dated. In fact, it's so dated, it's back in style. I'm so pleased I can wear my blue jeans again, for the first time since January.

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?
Don't really like dates the fruit. Never have. Don't know why, just don't appeal to me.

CT Scan and the reality of cancer

I had my first post chemo CT scan today. The reality of this hit me: I will be doing this 14 more times over the next five years--if I am lucky. The fear and anxiety struck anew. How long do I have? How long do any of us have?

I began (again--the beginning part, not the reading part) Becker's Denial of Death. What immediately stuck me was how geared it appeared to be to men. Not just the ubiquitous use of male language, but the assumptions that the male experience is the experience. He begins by talking about how the quest to be a hero is driven by fear of death. Are most women driven to be heroes? Does the fact that our bodies bear life, continuing life, change the dynamic? Not that women don't fear death, but is our experience the same as men? Are our means of coping the same as men's? Do childless women experience the fear of death in the same way that women who have borne children experience it?

Anatole Broyard: It's not that I'm courageous, it's that my attitude is what I would call irresponsible.

That's me: irresponsible, not courageous.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What is truth?

I get emails from Preaching Now, an evangelical group. There was a piece about "truth and grace". Now, mostly I read, hear, speak about the polarity between law and grace. From the writing, it was clear the writer meant law when he wrote truth. My immediate reaction was, "but isn't grace truth, too?"

So, have the conservatives ditched the word "law" and embraced "truth" as its alternative?


Purechristianithink suggested the congregation might be depressed. I immediately thought, yes, that makes sense. I discussed it with a colleague at lunch and she agreed. So, now the question is, what does one do as pastor to a depressed congregation?

I know that with depressed people about the only thing you can do is pray. Until the person can understand what is going on and decide to get help, there is really little that can be done. So, I have decided to up my prayer time for them. And not try to push things or activities on them.

I know I can say to a depressed person, "get up, go outside and exercise and you will feel better." The person will say to me, "I just don't have the energy" and the person will know the truth of my statement and I know the truth of his/hers. I pray that God will help me find the words the say.

If any of y'all have suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Waiting to die

I visited one of my parishioners at lunch time because another parishioner said the first was dying. Well, she isn't dying today. She looked better than when I saw her last, was up in her wheelchair ready for lunch. She says the food isn't good. I saw it standing in cabinets for at least 45 minutes before they began to serve anyone. Plates were covered with those plastic plate covers they use in hospitals. Even the best food would become less palatable cold and standing for 45 minutes to an hour.

But, what struck me was my parishioner. 94 years old. She said she was the oldest in the room and then saw a woman who is 103. My parishioner commented that the 103 year old loved to read. I asked my parishioner if she liked to read. She was noncommital. I asked if she were watching the Olympics. She said she might tonight. I asked what she liked to do. "Nothing." Boy, I can't imagine anything more depressing that being stuck in a nursing home, no family and not liking to do anything. And it leaves me with nothing to talk about. I don't gossip about parishioners, so there really is not much to talk about. I talked a little about my sermon.

She talked about how depressing some of the other folks in the nursing home were and that they shouldn't be put with her and the others (who are less depressing, I suppose). I can understand separating those with dementia for their safety and the safety of others, but just because someone's physical deterioration is depressing doesn't seem to be a reason to separate them.

I think our next conversation may be about death. She seems ready to go, but I'm not sure. I am going to try to be open but not push the subject.
I returned from vacation and found that the CE committee has decided not to have an installation for Sunday School teachers during worship, but to have them recognized at the family night dinner. The email from the CE committee chair said that "As you may remember last year, we only had a few of the teachers even show up for that worship service. Seems like we might have more present at the dinner so that is what we would like to go with."

Hmmm, what does that say about the CE committee and even worse about the Sunday School teachers.

I'm disappointed and unsure what to do. It's just more evidence that this is not a church, but a club.

Tourist or Traveler?

A tourist, IMHO, is one who is on tour, who gets off the tour bus, goes and sees the sights listed in the guide book, gets back on the tour bus (or cruise ship as the case may be), talks with other people who look like him/her, gets off again and sees the sights. A traveler is one who goes to the country, reads the guide book, explores, talks to the locals (as best one can without knowing the language), reads the local paper, tries to get a feel for what the country is like. A real traveler would know the language, or at least a smattering, stay for a while, try to make friends, visit the local coffee shops or pubs, try to engage people. A traveler is changed in some way by the experience: new understandings of the country or self.

What I think was dissatisfying to me about the trip to Mongolia was that I was more tourist and almost not a traveler (not that I am ever fully traveler).

I wonder thought about my congregation. How many are tourists and how many are travelers? How many come to church and go home unchanged? How many come because this is what they learned to do 75 years ago? How many come expecting to engage in some way with the Holy? How many come expecting in some way to be changed by the experience?

Saturday, August 16, 2008


My journal and pictures are at my other blog

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Five (RevGalBlogPals)

For this Friday's Five, share with us five transformations that the coming fall will bring your way.

Bonus: Give us your favorite activity that is made possible by the arrival of fall.

Transformation 1: Back to a "normal" life whatever that is. I have a CT scan scheduled for next Friday and I hope it will be "clear" of cancer. I'm feeling good, the best I've felt in months, so I'm hopeful that there are no bad things growing in me.

Transformation 2: The congregation here needs to come to terms with death. They are in denial. I am familiar with denial, but while denial is often a postive, when one holds onto denial for too long, it is destructive. The congregation does not want to change and will not face the facts that if they do not change they will die. I need to come to terms that if they do not change, this is not a call that gives me life and I will have to make changes in my call. I am willing to stay with them if they actively choose to die, but I don't think if they continue in denial, I can stay with them.

Transformation 3. Weeding my yard. I have avoided gardening. (As I was beating myself up over lagging in making plane reservations for our vacation, my son reminded me that I was caught up in something else this spring.) I also want to figure out something to do with the two narrow beds along the drive. One the landscaper planted, to no avail and the other the landscaper ignored (despite my directions to do something with it).

Transformation 4. I am dieting. I decided I did not want to live the rest of my life as large as I am. I would like to lose 20 pounds (the same 20 I have been wanting to lose for about five years). I walked an hour yesterday! I want to get back to running and resistence work and yoga.

Transformation 5. Giving up my computer addiction. I spent way too much time with my laptop.

In Memphis, fall when it finally arrives brings evening walks, being able to get out later in the morning to exercise, long hikes in the park on Fridays. Being able to be outside more during the day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home Again

I'm home. Arrived yesterday evening. Am up, awake, doing laundry. My hair is beginning to grow!

I found an article in which the woman talks about cancer and her personality. It isn't exactly how I am feeling, but it's close and certainly closer than a lot of that swarmy-sweet cancer stuff I get in emails from well meaning but stupid people.

On Sunday, I walked about 5 miles in Seoul. We walked to a palace, toured it, then took the subway back to a shopping area to eat and then walked back to the hotel. Later that day, we walked back to the shopping area for dumplings. On Monday, we took the subway to a large hill. I climbed at least 300 feet up. We reached the end of the trail, but it was about 25 feet below the summit. We then took the subway almost to the hotel and ate shwarma at a stand. The owner had arrived four months ago from Iraq. Later in the day, we took the cable cars up to the top of Namsam hill and walked down. I was pleased with my ability to do the walks and climbs. I was tired and I can't do as much as I could a year ago, but I was really pleased.