Under The Collar Experiment

Monday, July 21, 2014

She's got a ticket..

She’s got a ticket…

I had a dream last week that a man, who I knew was God (but who looked vaguely like Rev. Marlin Lavanhar), came to tell me I had won a million dollars.  I was skeptical.  What was this -- some kind of Publisher’s Clearinghouse invading my dream world?  “No, no," he said,  "You entered a photo contest with your dogs.” He held up a picture of my two deceased pups together when they were young.  For some reason that seemed legitimate. I took an envelope from him, and he disappeared.  

I opened the letter and found it was indeed a check made out to me, but my name was spelled wrong (which is a familiar experience).  As often happens in dreams, the next time I looked, the letters were moving around on the page and my name was becoming all jumbled.  I couldn’t possibly cash this check; I couldn't even be sure it was even mine.  After some time talking this out with someone else in my dream, I realized that all I needed to do was take the check back to God and ask him to re-issue it.  I felt relieved by my solution, and was looking for the check to do just that when I awoke.

 I journaled nonstop for 30 minutes about how beautiful this dream felt to me.  I had already won.  I merely needed to redeem what was mine, and I needed to do so with MY NAME, who I was, all of me, no misunderstandings or rearranging of pieces of me to get there.  

Fast forward to Saturday.  I am leaving Portland, Maine, to get on a plane to return to Tulsa. 
I checked my bags at the counter and proceeded to the security line.  At security, the TSA agent she was warm and friendly but said, “I am sorry ma’am.  You can’t come through. The name issued on your ticket does not match your driver’s license.”  “How could that be?” I asked.  I looked at the ticket that read Tamararev LebakOK. Keenly aware of my dream I felt like time slowed down and every word was underscored.   "Oh… I see what happened," I said. "The computer added my salutation to the end of my first name when I bought my ticket online. I'm a minister. If I had put Mrs., it would read Tamaramrs. And it seems to have added my state abbreviation to my last name.”  I had about 15 minutes to board at this point and was nervous about missing my plane.  I looked at my watch and expected her to just say, “I get it; come on through.”  She did not.  She was no longer smiling. “You are going to have to have a ticket with just your name and spelled correctly.  No title and no state abbreviation. You’ll have to go back to the counter and have the ticket reissued.” I needed to redeem what was mine.  I needed to do so with just MY NAME, who I was, all of me, no misunderstandings without the confusion of added titles or geographical locations.

I preached at the church that ordained me last month.  It was a beautiful reminder of an incredible event.  My ordination was truly magical: the participation, the music, the laying on of hands, the silence, and the feeling of a presence larger than all of us assembled.  

Eight years later and my call still sings to me as loud as it was that day. The chords are the same but the melody now has expanding layers of harmony.  Instead of a sabbatical, I will be embarking on reissuing my call beyond the walls of church. The church I have served, that has loved me into life as a confident and driven minister, has inspired me to flare up like a flame and make big shadows God can move in.  I will serve them as long as they will have me, and, I will pray to expand this ministry, to empower leaders grounded in their values who will better serve our state and, ultimately, create  a more just and compassionate world.  

May it be so.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So a minister walks onto a beach...

So, A minister walks onto a beach…

I'm in Maine all week leading a conference.  East Coast beach culture and the clerical collar make for an interesting dichotomy.  I have multiple short sleeve collars that are made of T-shirt material and have paired them with lightweight pants, skirts, and cargo shorts.  When my legs are bare, my two calf tattoos -- one of a peacock and another of a tree of life --  flow into my flip flops (standard retreat shoes around here). At the beach, I am in a bathing suit like everyone else.  Changing from the collar into my two piece tankini made me wonder what it might feel like for others to see their minister at the beach.  Each version that we present of ourselves for various purposes has its place. And the truth is, I am comfortable in a variety of seemingly discordant settings, but is everyone comfortable with me?

For example, I had this incredible teacher in high school, and I remember distinctly the day I first saw her in a pair of jeans at the grocery store.  It was shocking.  She wore skirts or dresses every day to work so the jeans felt out of place -- like she was formal but her clothes were not. In the jeans, she came across to me as uncomfortable, not herself.  I realized that is how I felt, and not, probably, how she actually felt.  It added another layer to my experience of her because it did not fit my preconceived notions. It helped me develop  a much more complicated view of people now than I had when I was 16.

At one point this week, I went into town to pick up a gift for my daughter.   I was buying a toy, and said something like, "Yippee! I delivered on my promise to a 4-year-old for a stuffed lobster."  As I was checking out, an older man with a thick Boston accent said, "What's with the collar?"  I said I was a Unitarian Universalist camp minister at Ferry Beach for the week... that I was from Oklahoma.  My phone case has a picture of my daughter on it and he inquired,  "Is that your niece?"  Interesting assumption, I thought.  He must think I can't be married, and, therefore, am not supposed to have children.   "No," I said. "This is my daughter."

Now I realize I, too, am making assumptions about his assumptions, but my hope is that this man has a new view of all that is possible for clergy, as I did with my teacher in jeans.  Even if I am experienced as an anomaly, it is one more example outside of his expectations. Even if he thinks I, too, look uncomfortable in my collar and flip flops.