The most embarrassing thing I’ve done… this week… so far

The most embarrassing thing I’ve done… this week… so far

Monday morning.

I’m rather proud that I’m getting an early start on my lengthy one mile commute to the office.

Briefcase packed, cell phone in my purse, jacket on – I’m ready to go.

Except I can’t find my keys.

keysI usually put them on a coat rack just inside the door. They’re not there. They didn’t fall to the floor beneath the rack. I check my pants pockets. I paw through the dirty clothes to check the pockets of the clothes I was wearing the previous night.

I check the kitchen counters. The dresser in the bedroom. I check in every room of the house and then I do it all over again. No keys.

By now it’s time for my first client who, thankfully, is running behind herself.

As I try to figure out the mystery of the missing keys (thank you, Nancy Drew) my hand brushes against the vest I’m wearing. It’s a cute vest, and being as it’s from Eddie Bauer, it has lots of pockets.

One of which holds my keys.

I still beat my client to the office and all is well.

Later I thought about what a great life parable that was. We search high and low for something while in reality, it’s been with us all along.

We read a hundred self help books. We talk endlessly with friends and family and coaches and therapists, all in a quest to find that missing something.

Direction. Peace. Hope.

The great family therapist Virginia Satir was completely flummoxed after World War II. She began seeing people who’d survived Hitler’s camps. She was overwhelmed by their stories and felt completely helpless to help them. She thought about it and meditated on it and even prayed about it.

What could she offer to them?

One day she realized that she’d gotten it all wrong. She felt helpless in helping the victims of those camps but in truth, they were survivors. If they didn’t have some kernel of strength inside they wouldn’t have made it through, much less making it to her office.

Her job was to help them reconnect to that strength. Her job was to reconnect them with what they already had inside but had just forgotten.

(If there is a single story that guides my work as a therapist, it’s this one. If you’re able to make an appointment and make it into my office, you have more strength inside you than you know)

We run hither and yon looking for answers but never take the time to stop, be still and listen to our own voice of wisdom. We’ve gotten disconnected from that voice through the years, or maybe we never had a chance to connect in the first place.

If you want to start listening, journaling is a great way to start. Ask that wisdom to write a letter to you, and see what it says.

You may need someone else to help you listen, whether a wise friend or good therapist. We learn early on to discount our own wisdom so it helps to have someone who can provide a different perspective. Or tell us if we really are full of it.

What keys have you tucked away in your pocket? 


Need some inspiration for your reflection? I’ve just launched a Kindle version of my devotional book, Strugglers, Stragglers and seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us.

If you order by February 14, you can save $3.00. Find out more here.

When Your Home Runs Away From You

When Your Home  Runs Away From You

house-moving-1 Flashing lights stopped the early Sunday morning traffic. I caught my breath. Could my timing really be that perfect?

It was. My childhood home was coming down the street.

I’d grown up next door to a private school, and they’d never hid their lust for our land. When my parents moved into a retirement home the sale was made.

At first they were going to demolish the house. The school had no use for a brick ranch in the middle of the new soccer practice fields.  When I learned that someone was relocating it so that a new family could grow up in it, I burst into tears. Grateful tears.

I shed a lot of tears over losing that house and my mother’s beloved yard. I tend to attach myself deeply to places. Maybe you do too.

Losing a beloved place is a kind of grief, a very real grief. And yet, there are not community rituals to support us, to allow us to give voice to our loss. Sometimes we may feel shamed – or shame ourselves – for our feelings.

I’m going to talk about such losses in my upcoming webinar, If Nobody Died Why Am I Grieving? We’ll talk about losses like home and pets and relationships and dreams and how we can grieving them.

Come and join me. It’s free and you have a pick of three different times. (All webinars will be live.) You can register here.

I still miss having that home to drive by and revisit, although I go there often in my memories. Maybe you revisit the places and people and pets you’ve lost as well.


 

Hop on over to LinkedIn and read my latest article about letting go of what works.

Friends around the Table

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper this morning, something we do once a month. Today we did it around the table. A number of small tables were set in front of the sanctuary, a minister present at each one. We gathered around the table in groups of six or so, serving each other the gift of bread and (in my church) juice, the stuff of life and peace and hope.

I was so greatly moved as I looked around the table this morning and watched us serve each other. Eyes sparkled with genuine affection. We weren’t just serving another person. We were serving a friend.

I’m in the choir,so gathered together around the tables. As we shared the supper we shared the connections of long rehearsals and laughter and missed notes and the triumph that comes when we finally get that difficult section right.

I couldn’t help but think about my first experience of communion in this church. It was a strange and dislocated feeling. I’d come from a church I’d been a part of for decades. Coming forward for the Lord’s Supper always meant smiles and a hand on a shoulder and the recognition that comes when you spend twenty odd years in a community (some of them odder than others.).

But here in this new place I knew very few people. I felt like the cousin’s neighbor hauled off the to the family reunion with a pity invite.

What a difference a few years makes. I was now sharing the Supper with friends. The transformation didn’t just happen with time. I joined up. I showed up. I worked very hard to learn names, which can be intimidating in its own right. I invested myself in this community.

One of the things that I see people struggling with is a lack of community and connection. But community and connection don’t happen while you’re home binge watching Netflix. It takes the willingness to be inconvenienced. It takes the willingness to walk through the door of something new. It takes the willingness to  make a commitment and invest of yourself. When you drop in and drop out as they winds of your whims blow, you’re not going to find the community that your soul needs.

Where do you find community? Where are you investing yourself?

 

Miz Agnes and the Miracles

In the good southern way, children and youth alike called her Miz Agnes. In real life she was Mrs. Agnes Joyner, a fixture as a Sunday School teacher, an intimidator in a Bible study anyone else led (you best be prepared because Agnes was going to ask questions) and the keeper of the wearing hats to church tradition.

She also became the designed sitter in our church. When both parents were in the choir or divided between choir and preaching, Agnes was the person with whom parents could leave their children. They knew she’d welcome their wiggly presence with her in worship but had the gravitas to keep them from getting too wiggly. For a while she also came early to meet with children in the library and read to them. The children loved Miz Agnes.

As they also loved Miz Jane who taught generations of children in the preschool Sunday School class. Parents begged her not to retire before their children came through her class. When she died her body was carried from the church to the strains of Jesus Loves Me and a congregation filled with her now grown-up preschool children cried a bit for the deep hearted gift of having known her and the sadness of having to say goodbye to her. She told me once that in all of her years of working  with children she’d never met a bad child, only ones who needed a little more attention and care.

I thought about Agnes and Jane this week as I read an article about the impact of older adults in the lives of youth and young adults. A survey of college students found that the ones who had adults over fifty in their lives – regardless of the health of those adults – reported lower levels of illegal drug use.

It’s one of the best gifts we as the church have to offer and it’s a light we keep trying to hide under a bushel. Children used to have the benefit of lots of contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles. For many children these days such contact is infrequent.

But in a church, well it’s a different story. That’s the miracle of it. Here children can sit with Miz Agnes and be loved by Miz Jane. Here they can be friends with the volunteer helping with the youth. Here, unless we fall into the trap of segregating ourselves too rigidly by age, children and youth can find the extended family that we all desperately need. In a wonderful win-win, adults of any age can also find purpose and meaning in those connections.

Who has been Jane and Agnes for you? How might your church nurture those connections?

What do you do when you’re anxious?

What do you do when you’re anxious?

Two dogs shouting at each otherHave you noticed? Lots of people are feeling anxious these days.

Some people are feeling anxious because in not so many days we’ll have an inauguration that will lead us into uncharted waters. What will it mean for us as a country? For the world? What will it mean for me as an individual?

Some people are anxious because no matter who is president, the problems at home are still the problems at home. The car is still making that funny sound. Every time you start to get an emergency fund saved up an emergency comes along to wipe it out. You don’t quite know what’s happening in your relationship and the not knowing is as anxious as dealing with the problems. There’s still the matter of that test the doctor ordered. The lab is being awfully casual about getting your results back, not knowing that you can’t sleep until you know.

Some people are anxious because, well… it’s just what they do.

One of the keys to dealing with anxiety is to identify what’s under your control, which probably a lot less than what you think in your imagination. Once you identify that, focus on taking concrete actions where you do have control.

Sometimes those actions feel small and useless in the face of worldwide events. Sometimes they seem to be hopelessly inadequate baby steps in light of the mountains we have to climb in our lives.

But take enough small actions and they  add up.

This summer I went to a birthday party for a friend. Included in the guest list was a family whom she’d been helping. I watched the children playing soccer and saw their wide eyes as they surveyed what was probably the biggest birthday cake they’d ever seen.

And then I thought about other children, the hollow eyed children of Aleppo. You see, this family was a Syrian refugee family. They were here because of the work of a lot of people but also because my friend had decided to do the things she could do. She couldn’t broker peace in Syria but she could help one family find a new start and a new life. Or maybe find life itself, away from the bombs.

This month I’m offering a webinar on anxiety, “If I love Jesus why do I need Xanax?” We’ll look at what causes anxiety, how our brain feeds it, what faith has to do with it as well as talk about some tools for dealing with it. I’ll also share one of the roots of anxiety that I’ve discovered in over ten years of working as a therapist. It’s not one people talk about a lot, but it can make all the difference in how you handle anxiety.

Click on the link to register. You’ll have three different chances to attend, and the webinar will be both live and free all three times.

https://my.demio.com/ref/4C6tOUT8I2EeSuAU

In the meantime, what helps you when you’re anxious?

 

 

Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror

Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror

The leftover turkey is transformed to hash stage and the last of the dessert is gone. But before we leave Thanksgiving completely, I share with you a Thanksgiving sermon… about not leaving Thanksgiving completely.

The Responsibility of Gratitude
Deuteronomy 15:7-15
I Corinthians 11:17-34

Have you ever been a part of the start of something new?
A new company.
A new organization.
A new club.
Even a new division.

If you have, you know that there a thousand decisions to be made.
Earlier in my ministry
I served on the boards of several groups
that were just getting started
or were still very young.

Oh my, there are so many decisions to be made.
Bylaws.
Officers.
Voting procedures.
And let’s not forget…..
budgets.

Like building a house
you have to figure out everything from scratch.

Why are we doing it this way and not that?
Do we need to improve upon the old models
or create something new?

Moses was the leader of a group
in such a situation.

With the immediate danger of Egypt and the Pharaoh behind them,
they had to figure out how they were going to live
as free people.

That’s a lot of what the book of Deuteronomy is about,
about how a rag tag bunch of escaped slaves become a people.

Part of these bylaws was a provision for the sabbath year..
Every seven years the land was to lie fallow, a sabbath for the earth.
Debts were to be cancelled. Slaves were to be set free.

Now we could spend our time in this text
thinking about best practices for our earth
or the conversation between economics and theology.
Instead I want to keep moving forward
to the last verses of this text.
The reason why they were to do these things.
“For you were once slaves in Egypt.”

You free your slaves and treat them
with justice and kindness
because you were once on the other side.
You knew what it was like
to have harsh taskmasters
demanding more bricks
with less straw.
You knew what it was like to cry out to God,
to cry from your bones
for something, anything.
For freedom.

We were once slaves
and with a strong hand and mighty arm
God brought us out from Egypt.

This is why you do what you do.
Not because it’s a good idea for interpersonal relations.
Not because it will make you a swell person.
But because you’ve been there.

You know that ring of authenticity, don’t you –
That realness that comes
when someone’s been there.

When I did my clinical pastoral education residency,
they told a story to us
about another student in another time.

It was back in the days when
they still delivered babies at Baptist hospital.

This chaplain was called to check in on a woman who’d had a particularly difficult delivery,
hours upon hours
of agonizing labor.
The chaplain came in the room,
introduced himself,
sat down by the bed,
took the patient’s hand
and in his most gentle, pastoral voice said,
“Mrs. Smith, I know just how you feel.”

This being a chapel of worship
I will not repeat verbatim
what she said,
but it was to the effect that he really didn’t know
and would never know.

“You do this for your slaves,” the book of Deuteronomy says,
“because you were once slaves in Egypt.”

Granted,
this is not the most popular text
for a Thanksgiving service.
In fact,
I may be the first preacher in the history of Thanksgiving
to use it as such.

But as I thought about this sermon I kept coming back to that phrase…
“for you were once slaves in Egypt.”

We like our Thanksgiving celebrations
a bit contained.
Many of us will celebrate tomorrow.
Some will go for the reduced scheduling conflict
of getting together this weekend.
But come Monday
we’ll have the sense of having Thanksgiving
behind us.

On the other hand,
the biblical witness is clear
that Thanksgiving isn’t a day we celebrate
but a determining factor in how we live.

We were once slaves,
and the Lord brought us out with a strong and mighty arm,
and because of that,
we live differently.

We cannot offer one hand in thanksgiving to God
and close the other hand to God’s other children.

I’m not talking here just of a Thanksgiving food drive,
as important a they are.
In my own church last Sunday
we filled the altar with bags of groceries that will help
sustain the needy in our community.

No, I’m talking about what we do
the next week and the next and the next.
How we treat those who are despised and rejected.
How we take the time to see
those who are invisible.
How we seek kind hearts
in an age where the prevailing wind is a mean wind.

You see, we were once slaves in Egypt.

Now perhaps you have had a golden life.
You’ve never despised yet felt beholden to an addiction
or felt lost in your grief
or wondered how you were going
to pay the power bill this month
or waited out an endless dark night of the soul.

Still,you join in the song…
We were once slaves in Egypt.

For there is not a one of us present
and not a one of us on the planet
who has done enough
and done it well enough
to earn the boundless love of God.
It’s why we call it grace.

Because we were slaves…
because we were flawed,
stumbling,
soaring,
struggling,
seeking,
sinning,
sometimes compassionate
and sometimes clueless
children of God,
and God reached out
and welcomed us home,
that is why we are thankful.

And that is why we must be different.

Paul said as much to the church in Corinth.

In some traditions the Lord’s Supper
is known as the eucharist,
after eucharisto – he gave thanks.

He took the bread, and after giving thanks…

Some people in Corinth
were treating the Supper
like an all you can eat buffet
and they were coming hungry.

They filled their plates
and their bellies.

As a result,
there was none left for those who came later.

By the time some folks got there
others were full
and some of them were drunk.
And there wasn’t always enough
for all of God’s children to share.

It should not be so in the body of Christ,
Paul said.

This isn’t a place
to get as much as you can get for yourself,
forgetting your brothers and sisters.

“Do you show contempt for the church of God
and humiliate those who have nothing?” (11:22)

Having given thanks, he took the bread and broke it.
Having given thanks,
we share the bread with all of God’s children –
the bread of sustenance for our stomachs,
the bread of hope for our spirits,
the bread of kindness for our neighbors,
the bread of welcome for those
whom we’d rather not call neighbor,
the cup of grace for the broken places in all of us,
the cup of gratitude for all we have been given
and all the roads we have traveled through,
the cup of comfort for grieving hearts
the cup of the waters of mercy and justice
that still long to flow
like a never ending stream..

Tomorrow night
after the leftovers have been divvied up
and the dishes have been washed
and sleepy children put to bed,
thanks giving will not be done.

For you were once slaves in Egypt.
For you, his body was broken.
We were all once slaves in Egypt.
For all of us his body was broken.
Thanks be to God.
With our very lives we declare,
Thanks be to God.

 

copyright Peggy Haymes
November 23, 2016

Houston, we have a problem

In the movie Apollo 13, after Tom Hanks has uttered those famous words the guys at Mission Control finally identify the source of the problem. They abort the moon landing and reroute the capsule to get them home. The problem is that they have to make sure they have enough breathable air and part of the spacecraft that kept the air breathable was damaged.

The director of the mission gathers some of NASA’s best and brightest in a room and dumps a box full of assorted stuff on the table. “This is all they’ve got to work with,” he says, “find a way.” They are going to have to duct tape a spacecraft back home.

Houston, we have a problem.

Shootings no longer make news unless the body count is high enough or the target population is new enough. Schoolchildren are gunned down and nothing happens. Moviegoers are gunned down and nothing changes. Kindergartners are murdered by the classroom weeks before Christmas and for the rest of the country life goes on as usual. And now patrons at a club are killed by the dozens. And for the rest of us, life goes on.

Life goes on of course, after the grief and outrage and vigils and prayers and declarations that something must be done.

But it never is.

Meanwhile, toddlers have become one of the most lethal groups in the country. Over and over again they find a gun in a parents’ bedroom or at a friend’s house and someone winds up dead. That child or adult is dead, and that toddler will have to live forever with that knowing.

Something must be done.

But it never is.

Houston, we have a problem.

What we’re doing – or not doing – isn’t working. In my business, we call that the everyday definition of insanity. Doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.

It’s time to do something different.

We have a lot of smart people in this country. I know we do. We have a lot of people who care deeply. I know we do. Can someone not gather in the best of them into a room and say, We have to fix this…

We need to get them in a room: People who know about guns (but not lobbyists.) Police officers who have to deal with such shootings. Experts on the constitution and our legal system, who know what can and cannot be done. Sociologists who understand culture and society. Lawmakers who are not in office and do not plan to run for office who nonetheless know how our legal system works at its best. Can we not round them up and say, “This is what we have to work with – this messy, freedom-loving, deeply divided, deeply hurting country. You have to find a way to bring us home safely.”

Perhaps – and I know I’m just dreaming here – we could study what other countries have done who have successfully reduced the amount of mass shootings. I know –we’re different. We have a different culture and history. But maybe, just maybe we could learn something from someone else in the world.

We need to clear away what we think we know. What we think we know only leads us to more rivers of blood. We need the courage to admit that it isn’t working and the resolve to do something different. Whenever a shooting happens we first cry out that something must be done but the answering echo is always all of the reasons why that something won’t work.

Can we not embrace the problem without assuming that we already know the answer and that answer being defeated before it’s begun?

Houston, we have a problem. And giving the same speech only louder isn’t going to fix it.

I’m tired of vigils.

I’m tired of prayers for survivors.

I’m tired of mass shootings having to be qualified as today’s mass shooting because you see, we have so many.

Houston, we have a problem.