Sunday, May 31, 2009

Voice

My daughter-in-law has a lovely voice, a rich alto that reminds me of...well, as I'm trying to think here, strangely enough perhaps, it reminds me of reality. I like soprano voices, too, but rich deep alto voices remind me of the kind of reality that just grabs me and makes me want to pay attention to the world with all its angst and beauty and substance. She, my daughter-in-law, has a great post today about "voice"--not the singing kind, although that's a means of expression, too--but more on the fear of claiming the power of our voices, something lots of people can relate to, I think, and a subject that interests me greatly.

Her words remind me of how difficult it is to sift through the cacophony of "voices" we have in this culture to find those that make sense to us, that provide meaning for our lives, or offer comfort and hope. We have so many idiotic cowards on the national scene who daily scream their vitriolic hubbub. I heard Senator Lindsay Graham on NPR today saying how disturbed he was that Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor said "her voice was better than a white male's voice." I found this on Politico:

She should apologize for a comment she made positing that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.”

“It is troubling. It’s inappropriate, and I hope she’ll apologize,” Graham told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “If I had said something like that – or someone with my background and profile [had] – we wouldn’t be talking about this nomination going forward…. she’s got to prove to me that if I find myself in court with a Latina woman, in front of her, I’d get a fair shake, and that’s up to her to do.”


Yep. Leave it up to a white male to use his voice for something like that -- a white male who obviously has NO CLUE how his own privileged social location as a white male can blind and deafen him. Out of his blindness and deafness comes his call to silence the voice of a woman who has experienced life in a way that he, apparently/obviously, could not even imagine. All else being equal, YES, with the richness of that experience her decisions would obviously be better.

Honestly. Get real. There are days when the way we privilege these dishonest, un-thoughtful voices, like Graham's, makes me crazy. I have to turn the radio off.

Existentialist that I am, it's when I hear people speaking with or about authenticity that my ears perk up. The voices I love to hear are those I recognize as coming from a place of genuineness. I want to hear them. I want to know: how have they faced their inner obstacles to self-knowledge? what has their life journey been like? what did they learn? what gives them courage? how does their story of claiming their voice match my own? That's why I loved Obama's Dreams from My Father.

Someone I know was telling me recently about the new minister at his church and how he could tell that this man was a bit nervous in preaching his "try-out" sermon at this huge church. And who wouldn't be nervous, right? The sermon started rather weakly but gained in strength, I was told, when the minister opened up and revealed to the congregation something genuine about himself. That's always a real tightrope...how much to say about oneself in a sermon without making the sermon about you... But this new minister was appropriate in his self-disclosure and that helped the congregants really like and appreciate what he said.

The metaphor of voice is so powerful, isn't it? I spent most of my academic career in silence, listening carefully to the teachers but rarely contributing to the dialogue myself. It's different now. When I have something to contribute, I do, and when I don't have anything to say, I don't worry about it. What freedom!

I wrote something once about "voice" and how important it is for the church to pay attention to this issue. Carol Lakey Hess wrote a great book about it. In the chapter "Rebuilding Our Mothers' House," Hess writes about how pastors can move toward the empowerment of girls and women:

If a leader wishes to create an environment that encourages women as well as men to participate in the conversations of the community, there are a number of small but very significant ways to start, especially in the area of leading discussions.

Leaders often inadvertently reinforce women's invisibility by missing women's cues. Watch for signs -- eye movements and slight body gestures -- indicating interest in joining a discussion and thwarted attempts to enter a fast-moving conversation. Notice these signs and then create a space for her contribution.

A woman's "pause time" may be longer than a man's, and therefore she may wait too long between comments and be unable to insert a comment before another speaker begins. A sensitive leader will watch for this, and will moderate a discussion so that slow pausers who become silenced will have opportunity for re-gaining the floor.

Be aware that the "tentative language" (hedging, qualifying, tag questions) women sometimes use may prompt discussion leaders to tune them out or cut them off prematurely. A leader who recognizes that tentative language may have little relation to a person's grasp of the subject matter is better able to support women's contributions.

Exclusive language contributes to a feeling of invisibility. While using the generic "he" and "mankind" can reduce women's participation, the problem goes beyond that. I've been in countless numbers of lectures where the speaker will say to the audience something like "suppose your wife says to you . . .," which makes women (not to mention single persons) feel as if they are not included. Additionally, it is liberating for leaders to provide examples that do not "mark" women as deviant. I feel that general humanity includes women when I hear someone say "according to biblical scholar Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza," rather than "according to female biblical scholar Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza."


I loved her recognition of "pausers." !! I'm someone who will pause a long time between sentences/thoughts in order to think about what to say next. I've never had the "gift of gab," able to just spew out word after word after word in any kind of coherent way. My synapses just don't work that way! Reading Hess awakened me to this issue in a new way. I listen now for how different people use different styles or modes of speaking in a conversation, and I'm usually quick to go back to someone who was interrupted and ask them if they'd like to continue their thought. And when I'm interrupted repeatedly it makes me angry, angry enough that I have to take action to stop it--or else be angry with myself!

Reminds me also of an article a friend sent to me years ago. It was a Harvard study of the phenomenon of women "feeling like fakes" both in the academic and business worlds. The culture is so anti-women that even when we are perfectly qualified, we still end up thinking we're just faking it, and wondering when someone, someone Who "Really" Knows, is going to pull the curtain back on our "Wizard of Oz" act.

This same article mentioned also what Hess calls "tentative language" and how women are more apt to begin their contributions to a dialogue with "I'm not sure about this, but...." or "You may not think this is right, but....." or "This probably lacks (whatever qualifier), but....."

And of course I was influenced, as many of us were, by the groundbreaking research Carol Gilligan did about girls typically losing their voice after grade school. That's powerful stuff. And Belenky, et. al. and "Women's Ways of Knowing." And Mary Pipher's "Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls." Oh, such great books. So formative for me on this issue.

It's just such a perfect metaphor. VOICE. Finding it. Claiming it. Holding it firmly, with love and openness. When we do that, unlike what we get from "newsmakers" on Fox News, our voices are authentic.

And, for me anyway (oops-there's a hedging qualifier for ya!), that's worth hearing.

Let me write that again:

Holding our voices firmly, with love and openness. When we do that, unlike what we get from "newsmakers" on Fox News, our voices are authentic.

And that's worth hearing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Bible does not close discussions; it seeks to open them"

From William Sloan Coffin in The Courage to Love:
The opposite of love is not hate but fear. If we are to broaden our vision and enlarge our hearts, we must allow risk to enter our lives, permit doubt to walk hand in hand with belief. It is a mistake to sharpen our minds by narrowing them. It is a mistake to look at the Bible to close a discussion--the Bible seeks to open one....
The Bible is no oracle to be consulted for specific advice on specific problems; rather, it is a wellspring of wisdom about the ambiguity, inevitability, and the insolubility of the human situation. It sings praises to God who...provides minimum protection but maximum support....
Finally, the Bible is a signpost, not a hitching post. It points beyond itself, saying "Pay attention to God, not me." And if, as the Bible claims, "God is love, and she who abides in loves abides in God, and God abides in her," then revelation is in the relationship. In all Scripture there is no injunction more fundamental than that contained in these simple words: "Love one another."


by William Sloan Coffin

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vacation in the Ozarks

View from our front porch...


Vacation was wonderful. Very relaxing....the condo turned out to be everything (and more) that we'd hoped. When David and I first saw it and walked up to the front door, we were both a bit stunned by the beauty of the setting. It was perfect.


We did little touristy things near Eureka Springs in the mornings. Afternoons and evenings were spent reading and relaxing together. David is a fabulous cook--we didn't eat in a restaurant a single time. Sat out on the front porch watching the lake, the birds, keeping an eye out for deer and other wildlife, listening to the wind and the silence. Ahhhhh!

Here are a few more pics:
David on the trail...




I don't know what these are...any ideas? They looked like blueberries...


I'm hamming it up at the top of our HIKE near Beaver Lake Dam.




This is Blue Springs (in Heritage Park...really lovely)

And the best part of all? I still don't have to go back to work until Sunday! A whole week (well, most of it...I do have a couple of clients to see) to do with what I want! Yippee!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

...And this is miracle....

I'm alive. I'm here. I was born. I'm living. I will die.

Who can explain it? This is miracle.



Sitting in the majestic sanctuary of Broadway Baptist church this afternoon, this is what came to me. And I was filled with joy.

The service at Broadway was a special one. People gathered to pray for the new senior minister about to be called, for the search committee, for the congregants...the service was deep and rich and stunningly beautiful. It was in the midst of my awareness of that soul-searing beauty that this thought/prayer came to me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Workshop for survivors of "childhood sexual abuse," and for those who care for the survivors

I chair the Advisory Board for the Pastoral Care Center at the seminary where I was trained. We work to 'get the word out' about the high quality pastoral care & counseling that is available there on a sliding scale. The board met tonight, and I was struck again with how important this work is. The acting director told us that the AVERAGE fee paid there is $25.00 per session. It's such a wonderful resource for folks without insurance who need good counseling.

Our project for this year, in conjunction with the Wellness Team at my church and our local area Community of Churches, is to sponsor a workshop/conference on childhood sexual abuse. We are attempting to bring in Mary's Hope, an organization based in Colorado that specializes in the spiritual healing of those who have survived childhood sexual abuse. The event is targeted at survivors AND those who care for them--mental health providers, chaplains, pastoral care workers, foster and adoptive families, first responders, etc. We hope to have lots of local therapists get interested in this, not only so that they can offer better care for their clients, but also so that they will know that the Pastoral Care Center is there for clients who cannot afford to pay them. (The average therapy session in this area is something like $120-140/hour.)

Mary's Hope provides wonderful resources for both survivors and for therapists. We hope to attract 80 people or so to this event on Oct. 10 (and Oct. 8 which will be an introductory Q&A session led by Mary's Hope). Please keep us in your prayers!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day...and Children Everywhere, It Seems!

Diane has such a beautiful post, "Mother's Day Reflections from a Non-Mother." She expresses so eloquently much of my own feelings. Thank you, Diane.


I blogged last year about the grief I finally was able to experience at not being a mother. (See: Two Souls) And I was so blessed to receive comments from dear Lovely Passionate Feminist and from blogging friends that, to this day, have stayed with me and given me such solace. LPF, GannetGirl, Linda, Jan, thank you. (GG, I am holding you in prayer, holding you in prayer, holding you in prayer...)

This past year I have seen mothering in new ways. Although I am childless, children are playing an increasing role in my life. The children at my church, to whom I am "Pastor Katherine," are amazing. I'm with them for a couple of hours once a week, but many have revealed their hearts to me. It's probably the best thing about my "job," relating to these children, loving them. This picture shows some of them underneath our communion table, being the kids they are!!!


And Little M, our granddaughter. Oh, what joy she brings us. David and I are always talking about her and miss her so much when we don't see her on the weekend. She calls me "KK," and she wants to "nuggle with KK," which means sit it my recliner with me and "snuggle." Oh, I live for it!!!! The photo is when I babysat her at my church--she took my reading glasses and tried them on for size!

And here she is with Little Julia, my friend Life Giving One's 3 year old. She and Little M are friends now, since we love to babysit them along with Julia's little baby brother, Miles. What fun! Their imaginations just mesmerize me, how they create little worlds all their own.


I've always loved being around children. My niece Ashley and nephew Keith are grown now and in South Carolina, where they've been since, gosh...1991, I think. Long, long time. Oh, what fun we had when they were children. This picture is from one of our many trips, this one to a little central Texas town where we dressed up like ol'-timers!


And of course I have always, and continue to this day, believed that it is the inherent right of ALL children to jump on beds....












As I wrote last year, I love my three children-by-marriage as if they were my own. At least I think I do, not having borne them. I miss them when they're not here. I want only the best for them. I burst with pride at their accomplishments and happiness. I'd give them anything they asked for. (Well, ... you know.) Oh, and I felt incredible, just incredible joy at the privilege of officiating at YMI and IR's wedding last month. What a day that was! Here are some pics--






















I LOVE this picture! So much fun and laughter that day...







And Little M had an Easter egg hunt that day, too!





Young Man with Integrity is proving the name I gave him. :-) He's working now to support a family. He's the kind of employee that business loves--dependable, smart, and hard working. Irrational Rational has written of how he accepts her, all of her, and what a gift that is. (Oh, so true, IR.) It's joy beyond belief to see the way he loves IR and Little M. He's a good father and husband. David and I talk a lot about his gifts, his way of being in this world, his growing sense of himself--all of which just evoke these feelings of deep gratitude and satisfaction somehow.












And Irrational Rational is the most amazing person. Super-smart (unbelievaly HIGH score on the SAT), gorgeous alto voice, most definitely her own person, and her blog is so moving...she is one of those persons whose writing can envelop you in her world. Such a gift.



Lovely Passionate Feminist is finished with school, except for one semester of student teaching. Oh my. It's pure joy to watch her move into the new life she is creating for herself. I'm going with her sometime soon to put a deposit down on an apartment, one she'll move into (her first!)in August. (My first apartment was government rent-controlled, not very nice--but I didn't even know it! When I think about everything I didn't know...ohhhh...only by the grace of God did I survive, I'm sure.) She works so hard, is brilliant, thoughtful toward others, and so articulate. She'll be the best history teacher in the State of Texas.



This photo is LPF with Julia and Miles, on one of our many babysitting days...I'm always SO thankful when she can be here to help me!


And the youngest, Beautiful Genuine Girl, has changed her major to political science. Oh, I love it. Like her siblings she is blessed with passionate compassion and a towering sense of social justice. She also has a sensitivity that astounds me. Such a generous and good heart. And an intellect of which I think she's only begun to plumb the depths. Watch out, world, here she comes! Here is Beautiful Genuine Girl with David -- isn't her smile beautiful? (and his ain't so bad, either!)



And with Little M....I remain aware of what an overflowing gift these children, no matter how old they are!, are in my life.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rainy Day, Memory, A Little Break

It's raining here in north Texas. About 30 minutes ago it was a "gully washer," as they say, but now that's finished and it's just dripping.

I brought my chair out here to the our backyard, (the covered part), just to listen to the birds (amazing!), watch the squirrels jump from tree branch to tree branch, and enjoy the coolness of day.

I've been working on my class for the Fall, Spirituality and Psychotherapy. Somehow it feels important to me to start with our embodiment, so I've been rereading, and taking notes on, James Ashbrook and Carol Rausch's The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet. It's a little old, 1999, but I think most of it still applies. I'm thinking that I might show Jill Bolte Taylor's video about her stroke, and then have students read certain chapters from this book.

Taylor is a neuroanatomist, so for her to have a stroke (and survive it) allowed her to understand something of the brain from the inside out. I read a couple of critiques saying that her scholarship on the right brain/left brain dichotomy is out of date, but I'm not sure I trust those critiques. I'll have to do some further research in this area, obviously.

Anyway, I've been doing that for three days now. Yep. I'm basically typing that book into a Word document on my computer so that I'll be able to have it online and can search it. I know that sounds like going overboard, but I've always studied that way. It sinks in better for me. Better for my brain, if not for my aching fingers! This little break is much needed.

It's such a luxury to have three days straight to just work like this. I got exposed to the flu (swine, supposedly, although that's not yet verified) when I spent so much time with the little girl at my church who contracted it. The incubation period for this thing is 7 days, so I still have one day to possibly get sick. David has urged me to stay put, just in case, so I cancelled my appointments on Thursday and Friday, and today we told our kids not to come visit, so we're missing out on seeing our little granddaughter, son, and daughter-in-law. That's a real bummer. Kinda nice, though, to have a free Sunday tomorrow!--we have cancelled church for tomorrow since our location is right in the heart of the schools with verified cases of H1N1.

That makes four straight days to work, huh? wow.

Glad my aching fingers enticed me to come here outside, just to relax for a moment. I hear some thunder, although it's still just dripping here. Oh, I love thunder. It's like God speaking ..... BOOM! :-)

The air smells so clean--sweet, even, from some of the bushes that are blooming around here. Makes me feel wistful. Memories close at hand now.

Here's a wonderful quote from St. Augustine on memory.

Great is the power of memory, an awe-inspiring mystery, my God, a power of profound and infinite multiplicity! And this is mind, and this is I myself. What then, am I, my God? What is my nature? It is characterized by diversity, by life of many forms, utterly immeasurable. See the broad plains and caves and caverns of my memory. The varieties there cannot be counted, and are, beyond any reckoning, full of innumerable things. Some are there through images, as in the case of all physical objects, some by immediate presence like intellectual skills, some by indefinable notions or recorded impressions, as in the case of the mind’s emotions, which the memory retains even when the mind is not experiencing them, although whatever is in the memory is in the mind. I run through all these things. I fly here and there, and penetrate their working as far as I can. But I never reach the end. So great is the power of memory, so great is the force of life in a human being whose life is mortal.
Isn't that beautiful? I'm sorry that his ideas led to such a dark and rigid view of sin, but oh, Augustine does have such a magnificent way of beaming into the human psyche. Here, as he writes about memory; also some of his writing on temporality is stunning; and, of course, our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee, O God. He was so right about so many things.


.......
Well, the thunder, with its attendant lightning, has chased me inside, but I'm refreshed now and ready to get back to work. Here are some pictures I took from my little break: