Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Register for East Coast Emerging Women's Event!

Registration for the East Coast Event is open.

There' s room at the Table for YOU. To register or see the Gathering descriptor go to:

Friday, July 21, 2006

Slippery Slope of Shifting Paradigms

I should have known I was headed for a coral reef of disaster when I began rethinking, redefining, and re-enacting my theology. The day I started 'nuancing' the characteristics of God, and naming (aloud) the holes I found in the long-held notion of the inerrancy of Scripture was the day I began my descent.

Such open-mindedness, such lowering of my guard to the Evil One, (didn't the Dobsons and the Robertsons of the world warn me of my inevitable fate?) has left me prey to a whole host of 'heretical' thoughts.

I have fallen so far from my conservative, fundamental, pro-American, daughter-of-union-members roots that I am now planning on voting for a democratic governor this fall, and will be buying a foreign-made, high mpg vehicle when the time comes for a new car.

Down, down to the Abyss I go. Oh, the slippery slope of shifting paradigms.

Emerging Women Leaders' East Coast Gathering

You are invited to the Table!!!

Emerging Women's East Coast Gathering
October 1 - 3
Virginia Beach VA.

We'll be staying and meeting at the Sandcastle Oceanfront Resort

The theme will be "A Seat At the Table" and will offer many 'table gatherings' (sessions) to choose from as well as plenty of time to enjoy our beautiful surroundings.

The registration fee is nominal and 'scholarships' will be available to those in financial need. Lodging, transportation and meals are not included. Registration will be available soon, but I wanted to let you to know you are invited to join us at this Table, and to encourage you to invite others as well. I look forward to sharing a place at the Table with you!



Effloresce - an emerging women's journal

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It is unanimous . . .

It is unanimous where I come

Everyone agrees on one

It's no fun
When God is not near.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The wise [one] learns what draws God

It is the beauty of compassion
In your heart.

(both from "It is Unanimous" by Hafiz)

The heart is . . .

"The Heart is
The thousand-stringed

That can only be tuned
With Love."
(from "The thousand-stringed instrument" by Hafiz)

There is nothing . . .

There is nothing but divine movment
In this world.
(from "The Heart's Coronation" by Hafiz)

More from Hafiz

How true this is we long to keep God and the relationship we share to ourselves - for it is unique, a delight, precious. And yet it is not meant for ourselves alone for She is not a selfish lover. And so we share "our secret.'

"What The Hell"
Real love
I always keep a secret.
All my words
Are sund outside Her window,
For when She lets me in
I take a thousand oaths of silence.
Then She says,
O, then God says,
"What the hell, Hafiz,
Why not give the whole world

And what a delight, how refreshing, to imagine God speaking in such a bawdy fashion, or with such a femanine accent. God's gender, for Hafiz, shifts to align with the metaphor or story he is unfolding.

"God's Bucket"

If this world

Was not held in God's bucket

How could an ocean stand upside down

On its head and never lose a drop?

If your life was not contained in God's cup

How could you be so brave and laugh,

Dance in the face of death?

[Dear one]

There is a private chamber in the soul

That knows a great secret

Of which no tongue can speak.

Your existence, my dear, O love my dear,

Has been sealed and marked

"Too sacred," "too sacred," by the Beloved -

To ever end!

Indeed God

Has written a thousand promises

All over your heart

That say,

Life, life, life,

Is far too sacred to

Ever end.

"This Constant Yearning"

We are

Like lutes

Once held by God.

Being away from His warm body

Fully explains




Reflections on "Night" by Elie Wiesel

Moishe the Beadle to the young Elie Weisel: True dialogue, he says, is this:
[Humankind] asks and God replies. We cannot understand them. But they dwell in
the depth of our souls and remain there until we die. The real answers . . . you
will find only within yourself.

Reflection questions:
Why would God’s replies be hard/impossible to understand?
Wouldn’t humandkind be ‘better off’ with clear and direct answers?
Explain the ‘need’ for/existence of mystery in our communication with God, as you understand it.
How does this concept of ‘the answer is within’ differ from/ correspond with Gnoticism?
In what ways might it be either dangerous or discouraging to a soul?
Name some ways this might be an encouragement to a soul?
Might this simply another way of naming the inner working of the Holy Spirit, or is something else being described/experienced here? Why do or do you not think so?

From the foreward written by Francois Mauriac:

On the last day of the Jewish year, the child (Elie Wiesel) is present at the
solemn ceremony of Rosh Hashanah. He hears thousands of slaves cry out in
unison, “Blessed be the Almighty!” Not so long ago, he too would have knelt and
with such worship, such awe, such love! But this day, he does not kneel, he
stands. The human creature, humiliated and offended in ways that are
inconceivable to the mind or the heart, defies the blind and deaf divinity.

He then quotes from Wiesel’s manuscript:

I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the
contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes
had opened and I was alone in a world without God, without man. Without love
or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than
this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these
men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger.(xx-xxi, 68)

Reflection Questions:
Describe your reaction to Elie’s response, or more accurately, inability to respond to the call to bless the Almighty.
How do you explain what he describes as the ‘strength’ he feels?
In what ways are his charge against God justified?

How have you come to understand God’s role in suffering? How might your ‘theology of
suffering’ be challenged or affirmed were you a Jew during WWII or a Tutsi in Rwanda in our day?

Mauriac’s foreward closes with his response to Elie Wiesel’s charge against God:

And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young
interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the face of a hanged child? What did I
say to him? Did I speak to him of the other Jew, this crucified brother who
perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world? Did I explain to him
that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for
mine? And that the connection between cross and human suffering remains, in my
view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood
was lost? And yet, Zion had risen up again out of the crematoria and the
slaughterhouses? The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is the worth of a single drop of blood, one single tear. All is
grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to
Him. That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was
embrace him and weep. (xxi)

Reflection Questions:
Mauriac wrestles with what he knows to be the ‘right’ response for a Christian to give someone who is suffering. As he faces Wiesel across the desk, what do you think makes the right answer oh so wrong to him? From your perspective did he ‘fail’ as a Christian when he chose
to hug and weep with Elie rather than ‘preaching the Gospel?’

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life
into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned
my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Never. (xix, 34)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Jeans That Fit: A metaphor for life and ministry Movement Four


I have an older brother, and at some point during my junior year of high school, I caught on that guys jeans came in custom sizes. You could find pants not only with the right waist size, but in the right length as well. That discovery revolutionized shopping for me, and from that day on, I began to shop in the men’s department at Penney’s. Soon, I had jeans in every shade of denim, and even corduroy too. (An interesting aside here is that I would often put a couple of pairs of jeans on layaway, and pick them up after I had earned enough money to pay the balance. These were men’s jeans, bought in the men’s department, but because I was buying them, I didn’t get 30 days to pick them up as a man might buying these same jeans. I could only leave them on layaway for 2 weeks because I was a woman. No one at Penney’s cared that this was “not fair” and this is certainly a mild version of discrimination, but it left a profound mark on me and served to sensitize me to the other unfairness that abounded (and still abounds to this day) in our culture.)

When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward and you can’t stay where you are without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself, you are on the edge of creation
(Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, San Francisco: Harper, 1996, p. 83)

Sharing Our Own Stories with One Another:

Think of a time in your life when you were looking for a custom or perfect fit. What were you looking for? Did you ever find it?
Briefly describe the situation.
What are some words that best express how you were/are feeling?
Name some things you did that were helpful, unhelpful to you in your search.
How did you know you had found a “perfect fit?”
In what ways has your definition of “perfect fit” changed over the years?
List the life lessons from this experience that could be helpful to you next time- (Oh yes, there will be a next time).
What other questions come to mind and how would you answer those questions?

Take a few minutes to capture in words or pictures the things you have learned about yourself and your current situation, etc. during this sharing time. What has your inner teacher shown you?

Jeans That Fit: A metaphor for life and ministry Movement Three

MOVEMENT THREE: Ripped vs. Ripped Off

Jeans that don’t fit constrict, feel uncomfortable, prevent freedom of movement, etc. Such discomfort can be ignored for a while, and is easily remedied at one’s convenience. Jeans that are ripped and full of holes are at worst, unattractive and better saved for doing chores, and at best, they serve as an excuse to go shopping. This is not the same as times when you feel as though your jeans have been ripped off you – where you feel exposed, vulnerable, or even in danger.

Sharing Our Own Stories With One Another:

Think of a time in your life when you have felt as if your jeans had been ripped off. Whether in a relationship, or career/ministry setting, etc., when have you felt unsafe, in danger, if you stayed where you were?
Briefly describe the situation, circumstances.
What are some words that best express how you were/are feeling?
Name some things that you did to get out of the situation. OR name the reasons why you chose to stay.
Name some things you did to feel safe again.
How effective were your efforts – in the short run? In the long run?
List the life lessons from this experience that could be helpful to you next time-
(Oh yes, there will be a next time.)
What other questions come to mind and how would you answer those questions?

Take a few minutes to capture in words or pictures the things you have learned about yourself and your current situation, etc. during this sharing time. What has your inner teacher
shown you?

Jeans That Fit: A metaphor for life and ministry Movement Two

MOVEMENT TWO: Letting Go – Going Shopping
I was shopping at Goodwill (more correctly, my son was shopping there because it has now become ‘hot’ to wear thrift store clothes?!?) And as I was browsing, I came upon a designer sweater marked “XL” (extra large) which due to improper care was now smaller that an “XSP” (extra small petite) Not even my high school nemeses could have squeezed in to it. Severe shrinkage had doomed this once lovely J. Crew design to a thrift store garment rack. Jeans, too, have been known to “shrink” as well, to become so tight that unbuttoning the top button brings no relief. Since sitting down in them is impossible and standing up all day in them is an impractical, to say nothing of exhausting, solution, no other choice remains but to put them in the donation pile and go shopping for new “jeans that fit.”

. . . when it comes to letting go, we have to arrive at a moment of
genuine readiness . . . we don’t use force to pry our clinging fingers away; nor
does God. Rather, granting infinite, loving freedom, God offers us the
experience, events, and encounters that help us find the courage to open them
ourselves, with gentleness.
(Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits, San Fransisco: Harper, 1990, p. 108)

Sharing Our Own Stories With One Another

Think of a time in your life when you couldn’t ‘make do’ any longer. You knew it was time to cast off or donate your old ‘jeans’ to Goodwill and go shopping. Briefly describe the event.
What are some words that best express how you were/are feeling?
How did you know what you were looking for, what would fit?
Where did you go, how did you go about finding it?
What did you do with your ‘old jeans?’ How did you part with them?
How did it feel to let them go?
List the life lessons from this experience that could be helpful to you next time-
(Oh yes, there will be a next time).
What other questions come to mind and how would you answer those questions?

Take a few minutes to capture in words or pictures the things you have learned about yourself and your current situation, etc. during this sharing time. What has your inner teacher shown you?

Jeans That Fit: A metaphor for life and ministry Movement One

MOVEMENT ONE: When The Jeans No Longer Fit
It is hard to find jeans that fit, and there are times when even our most beloved pairs, perfectly broken-in and faded, start to feel a bit snug – like right after a Thanksgiving feast, or in that in-between stage of pregnancy when you aren’t quite ready (mentally or physically) to start wearing maternity clothes. Sometimes that tightness is easily remedied by unbuttoning the top button or – as generations of mothers-to-be have done – using a rubber band around the button, through the button hole, and back over the button. Aaaah, it feels great to relieve the pressure when your jeans are too tight!

What has been valued in the West in women . . . is inadequate for life. We
mutilate, depotentiate, silence, and enrage ourselves trying to compress our
souls into it just as surely as our grandmothers deformed their fully breathing
bodies with corsets. (Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter)

Sharing Our Stories With One Another:

Think of a time in your life when you have felt like your “jeans” didn’t fit. It might have been a time when you felt either cramped (the jeans were too tight,) or overwhelmed (the jeans were big and baggie) in a relationship, or career/ministry setting, or any other situation that comes readily to mind.
Briefly describe the situation.
What are some words that best express how you were/are feeling?
Name some things you did to relieve the pressure/bagginess of those “jeans.”
How effective were your efforts – in the short run? In the long run?
List the life lessons from this experience that could be helpful to you next time-
(Oh yes, there will be a next time).
What other questions come to mind and how would you answer those questions?

Take a few minutes to capture in words or pictures the things you have learned about yourself and your current situation, etc. during this sharing time. What has your inner teacher shown you?

"Jeans That Fit" A Metaphor for life and ministry Intro

INTRODUCTION TO THE METAPHOR: These days, it seems that every other store in the mall caters to teens. This was not the case when I was growing up. Back then, there was only one store, Marianne’s, where a young girl was certain to find the latest hip-huggers, peasant skirts and halter tops – certain that is, if she wore a 3 or even an 11, which as a 5’8” athlete, I did not. Try as I might, I could never find jeans that fit – they were either too short, or too tight, or both. Time and again – why did I punish myself so? – I left the store dismayed, “Nothing fits. What’s wrong with me?”

Not finding jeans that fit at Marianne’s left me no other option than to shop at the “old ladies’” stores where things never really fit my teen-age figure, and certainly didn’t flatter it. The other problem with shopping at these “fuddy-duddy” places was that it was not yet acceptable for older women to wear jeans. So, I could find slacks in about any color and a wide variety of ‘easy-care’ fabrics (a vital feature, I guess, to women over 30) but nothing in denim. Can you imagine going through your teen years with nothing to wear but high-waisted pants in a polyester blend? (Shudder!)

It was hard not being the same size as all the other girls in school. It was doubly hard not to be able to dress like them. But what made this situation unbearable was that they noticed. I know, I know. I ‘should have’ considered myself fortunate to even be noticed by these high-fashion misses, even appreciative of the energy they expended to craft derisive little digs to direct my way. Or, at the very least, I ‘should have’ been strong enough to stand up to their taunts, to reply with some catchy come-back that would put them in their place. But I was neither grateful nor resilient. Instead, I would walk away from these frequent hallway encounters wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
I had taken a perverse pride for so long in struggling on alone; the struggle had given me a flicker of self-esteem, and besides, I had a horror of being a burden or a bore, and putting myself in danger of further humiliating brush-offs. When I was much younger, I had hoped to make friends but there seemed to be no place in the world of the thin for someone like me, and in the end, I’d retreated into isolation. Loneliness was painful, but at least it was silent, devoid of snide laughter and barbed comments. I was used to loneliness now. I thought of it as a chosen solitude, and was only occasionally aware of being unhappy.
(Susan Howatch, The Wonder Worker, New York: Ballantine, 1997, p. 40)

I am now middle-aged, and it has long ago become acceptable for us ‘old ladies’ to wear jeans, too. Not that that makes it any easier to find great fitting jeans at those fuddy-duddy stores I am still shopping at. I take some solace in the fact that my daughter, who wears a size three, and has lots more choices of where to shop than I ever did, also finds it hard to find jeans that fit. And I have noticed something marvelous. I have gotten to the place where I can leave a store empty-handed and never once utter that sorry little phrase, “What’s wrong with me?” Instead, as pair after pair of jeans is rejected as being too long (ironically,) or too tight, or too low, I find myself asking, “Since when did it become O.K. to wear high heels with jeans?!? In my day, that was a Glamour Magazine ‘Fashion Don’t.’ And I’m sorry, but butt cleavage will never be in style.”

I have stopped asking myself, “What’s wrong with me?” I wish I could tell you that it’s because I am in the best shape I’ve ever been, or because I’ve learned to ‘love the skin I’m in.’ Maybe it’s because I’ve grown too old to care. Maybe it’s because the only teens who taunt me now about my (lack of) fashion sense are my own kids. But I suspect that the reason I no longer ask, “What’s wrong with me?” is that my sensitive, self-conscious teen alter ego has found peace at last. All those petite misses in their high fashion jeans from Marianne’s are all middle-aged too – and shopping at the same “fuddy-duddy” stores I do. Even thirty years later, revenge is sweet.

Small Group Leaders Guide

Our “circles of trust” or small groups have been informed by Parker Palmer’s “A Hidden Wholeness,” Susan Scott’s “Fierce Conversations,” and Logan and Carlton’s “Coaching 101.” I want to share some gems from them with you in hopes that the words might inspire and prepare YOU to facilitate a circle.

From “A Hidden Wholeness”

Two over-riding assumptions:
#1 We all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader.
#2 We all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher’s voice. (p. 25)

A circle of trust:
~ holds us in a space where we can make our own discernments, in our own way and time, in the encouraging and challenging presence of other people (p. 27)
~ is hospitable to the soul. (p. 49)
~ has no agenda except to help people listen to their own souls and discern their own truth. (p. 53)
~ is a group of people who know how to sit quietly “in the woods” with each other and wait for the shy soul to show up. The relationships in such a group are not pushy but patient; they are not confrontational but compassionate; they are not filled with expectations and demands but with abiding faith in the reality of the inner teacher and in each person’s capacity to learn from it. (p. 59)
~ consists of relationships that are neither invasive nor evasive. (p. 64)

Five features of circles of trust:
~ clear limits (small, limited duration, intentional process)
~ skilled leadership (facilitate, participate; not a therapist, or expert; “I will do what I can to keep this space safe for your soul.” P. 81)
~ open invitations (participation is voluntary, without manipulation or coercion)
~ common ground (metaphors/stories that invite people with diverse beliefs to explore t heir own souls)
~ graceful ambiance (lovely surroundings, schedule with breathing-room, etc.)

Group norms in a circle of trust:
~ No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting straight. (p. 115)
~ We speak our own truth
~ We listen receptively to the truth of others
~ We ask honest, open questions
~ We offer the healing and empowering gifts of silence and laughter (p. 116)

If your problem is soul-deep, your soul alone knows what you need to do about it, and my presumptuous advice will only drive your soul back into the woods. So the best service I can render when you speak to me about a struggle is to hold you faithfully in a space where you can listen to your inner teacher. (p. 117)

The soul loves silence, because the soul is shy and silence helps it feel safe. The soul loves laughter because it seeks truth and laughter often reveals reality. But above all, the soul loves life, and both silence and laughter are life-giving. (p.153)

The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world.
The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down.
The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts.
The soul is creative: it finds a path between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes.
All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers. (p. 184)

From “Coaching 101: Discover the Power of Coaching”

(Aside: Please don’t be put off by the “power,” “rules” language – the authors are more gracious/flexible than these words suggest. How ‘natural’ it is for them to speak like that both makes me smile and gives me ‘the willies.’)

The coaching process and the ‘key’ questions for each step:
Relate – establish coaching relationship and agenda
How are you doing?
Where are you now?
How can I be praying for you?
What do you want to address?
How can we work together?
Reflect – discover and explore key issues
What can we celebrate?
What’s really important?
What obstacles are you facing?
Where do you want to go?
How committed are you?
Refocus – determine priorities and action steps
What do you want to accomplish?
What are possible ways to get there?
Which path will you choose?
What will you do?
How will you measure your progress?
Resource – provide support and encouragement
What resources will you need to accomplish your goal?
What resources do you already have?
What resources are missing?
Where might you find the resources you need?
What can I do to support you?
Review – evaluate, celebrate, and revise plans
What’s working?
What’s not working?
What are you learning?
What needs to change?
What else needs to be done?
What further training would be helpful? (Appendix)
Cardinal rules of listening:
FOCUS: give undivided attention to the person speaking.
SUMMARIZE: mirror or reflect back what you hear without interpreting, evaluating, or projecting
INVITE: ask questions which encourage coachee to dig deeper or be more specific or discover their own solutions
UNPACK: exhaust (again, strange word choice) coachee’s resources before sharing anything yourself
CLARIFY: check assumptions/understanding of what they are saying by asking good questions that help you understand their exact or full meaning (p. 35-6)

Three simple rules:
Don’t give advice.
Don’t tell something they can discover on their own.
Don’t fix the problem for them. (p. 40)

Three primary rules of coaching:
#1 The person being coached does the work.
#2 The person being coached does the work.
#3 The person being coached does the work. (p. 101)

From “Fierce Conversations”

“fierce” – robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed (p. 7, as found in Roget’s Thesaurus)

“fierce conversations” – coming out from behind ourselves to make a conversation real. (p. 8)

Seven principles of fierce conversations:
Master the courage to interrogate reality.
Come out from behind yourself and make it real.
Be here, present to be nowhere else.
Tackle your toughest challenge today.
Obey your instincts.
Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
Let silence do the heavy lifting. (xv, xvi)

Four purposes of fierce conversations:
Interrogate reality –
Provoke learning –
Tackle tough challenges –
Enrich relationships - (p. 107-8)

“Revisit, reclarify, and recommit to what your soul desires.” (p. 82)

“Authenticity is not something you have, it is something you choose.” (p. 68)

“There are insights and emotions that can find you in no other way than through and within silence.” (p. 227)

Seven steps to bring clarity, understanding and impetus for change:
1. Identify your most pressing issue.
The issue I most need to resolve is . . .
2. Clarify the issue.
What is going on?
How long has it been going on?
How bad are things?
3. Determine the impact.
How is this issue currently impacting me?
What results are currently being produced by this situation?
How is this issue currently impacting others?
What results is it producing for them?
When I consider the impact of this on myself and others, what are my emotions?
4. Determine the future implication.
If nothing changes, what’s likely to happen?
What’s at stake for me relative to this issue?
What’s at stake for others/
When I consider the possible outcomes, what are my emotions?
5. Examine your personal contribution to this situation.
How have I contributed to the problem?
6. Describe the ideal outcome.
When this issue is resolved, what differenc ewil it make?
What results will I enjoy?
When this issue is reolved, what results will others enjoy?
When I imagine this resolution, what are my emotions?
7. Commit to action.
What is the most potent step I could take to move this issue toward resolution?
What’s going to attempt to get in my way, and how will I get past it?
When will I take this step? (p. 87-9)

You are gifted and experienced leaders/facilitators/ministers of the gospel of grace. These above resources are meant to be informing and inspiring, and to help set the tone of our collaborative small groups/circles of trust. But we trust you to use your own gifts, graces, and discernment to create safe space for each woman to learn, and grow, and have fun. Thank you for your willingness to serve as a facilitator. We hope you will find this to be a rich experience. If you have questions before the 29th, please e-mail or call Liz or myself. See you at the Round Barn!