Welcome, Grace & Peace...

Welcome to my blog, a transdisciplinary place of reflection on creativity, pastoral theology, and psychotherapy. Posts are few, so check back periodically to see what's new. Enjoy!

The Rev. Martha S. Jacobi., PhD, LCSW


Advent musings

I like Advent. I like its liturgical color, blue. I like the extra candles, the sense of movement in the church year binding first and last things, endings and beginnings, creation and recreation, incarnation and redemption, story and promise, repentance and hope, sin and grace.

I liked Advent as a child, back when the color was purple. Though I surely did not understand why Advent felt the way it did, I had dutifully learned that Advent means "coming, " and that Jesus was coming. The expectancy of his coming was palpable, at church and at home, despite the competition from St. Nick.

A bit of age has brought me a deep appreciation for the simple complexity of the season. Historically, it's a season of waiting, watching, preparation, penance, and prayer -- all somewhat somber -- but hidden within it, on the 3rd of its 4 Sundays, the color is PINK! And the theme of the day is JOY! "Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your sovereign comes to you..." Already, and not yet.

It's not unlike the therapeutic process. There's a lot of waiting that goes on in it: waiting for clients' timing and readiness, waiting to see "what happens next." Waiting and watching, staying attentive and attuned to clients' deepest sorrows and pain, terrors and rage. Waiting and watching, as their healing process works deep within, with "sighs too deep for words." Waiting and watching, sometimes week after week, even year after year, waiting for the pink to emerge, living in hope for the freedom of the already-and-not-yet healing being wrought, deep within.

And I realize the extent to which EMDR and Brainspotting have taught me how to wait and watch, with patience and curiosity, with humility and steadfastness, whether in the therapy room, or in life. To wait and watch for "what comes next," to receive it for what it is, in open expectancy for all that is to come.

I like Advent.

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you..."


EMDR Solutions II & Marginality

Robin, the editor, says the book is on its way to final editing and should be available early in 2009. It will be a tome. My chapter is last, chapter 26: Using EMDR with religious and spiritually attuned clients. It is my initial written effort to help secular therapists find their way in working with such clients, presented from the dual perspective of being both a clergyperson and a clinician. I say "dual perspective" but marginal is probably the better description.

The ELCA doesn't quite know what to do with the handful of pastors like me, whose ministries are by nature integrative and incarnational, and may or may not take place in a congregational setting. Nor do many secular psychotherapy colleagues. ("You're a what?") Are we "neither fish nor fowl"? Or both "fish" and "fowl" (hopefully not foul). However defined, we live and work in the intersection of two professions. We live and work, sometimes, on a single point of intersection; other times, in a nearly global sphere thereof. We work with those who share our faith and those who don't, and those who claim no faith life at all. And we work with those whose faith has been wounded by both religion and the living of life.

Yet when all is said and done, when churchly institutions and state departments of the professions have each made their case, for me, it is Christ who grounds and models this lifework (vocation) and ministry. Christ--fully God and fully human--engaged in salvific healing for all. ("Salvation" and "Healing" having the same Greek root.) Christ--who comes to live within my very human life, not some ethereal "spook" but in my very flesh and blood, my human-beingness. Christ--whose ministry with the poor and outcast placed him in the dual perspective of voluntary marginality out of which grace flowed.

Likewise, in the dual perspective and voluntary marginality of pastoral psychotherapy, grace-moments "happen" when a particular type of listening hears clients' religio-spiritual joys, sorrows, and themes in the cares and concerns of their lives. It is a listening-into-grace that becomes healing movement in a sacred space.


Brainspotting and the Bishop's Installation

We have (another) new bishop in the Metropolitan New York Synod of the ELCA. He was installed in October, at Manhattan's Central Synagogue -- yes, Synagogue. It is a beautiful and inspiring worship space; the Rabbi apparently has a good and close relationship with a number of Lutheran clergy in Midtown--most notably, Pr. Derr at St. Peter's. Remarkably, the synagogue permitted us Lutherans to hallow the space for Christian worship, including celebration of the Eucharist. Even more remarkably, one of my colleagues remembered that I have a background in dance, including liturgical dance...and with much ambivalence, I agreed to participate.

It was kind of a last minute thing...I wasn't sure until a week before that I'd even be available. There was only one time to see the space, feel the space, grasp the flow of the liturgy and endeavor to get inside the thinking of the worship planners who thought that having dance would be a good idea. A concept & choreography evolved--acknowledging the Ark and the prophetic word of God's salvation, turning and "delivering it" to the people gathered, movement to hallow the space with the sign of the Cross, movement noting the pulpit and brought-in-for-the-occasion-water-bowl for the font, setting of the table, filling the font, and a joyous call to worship, danced in procession.

The catch being -- I hadn't performed anywhere in 5 years; and hadn't done liturgical dance in a good while longer; age has begun to catch up with various parts of my body. I had performance anxiety. What to do? Brainspotting to the rescue.

Brainspotting, a therapeutic modality that bridges the psychological and emotional/physiological, can be used to process trauma and other distresses of life, for strengthening of internal resources, and/or to quell anxiety and enhance performance and creativity. In Brainspotting, a bodily, felt sense of activation is connected with a particular eye position and focus, and processing unfolds from there. Dr. David Grand, its developer, is my mentor, and he has taught me well. He encourages my creativity as a therapist, with Brainspotting -- and without it.

Back at the Bishop's installation. . . "Spirit-spotting" began. I "went inside" myself, to pray, and to ascertain my felt sense of the Holy Spirit within, the Source of all creativity. The felt sense was in the crown of my head, my shoulders, and my breath. Incarnational spiritual resources. I found the eye position that maximized the felt sense of the Spirit, and at once, my heart palpitations released, my breathing became deeper and slower, and I felt a reassuring groundedness. Out into the "chancel" I went, consecrating space, table, pulpit and font in movement. . . then into the center aisle, for the processional. Halfway up the aisle, my eyes made contact with those of Sharon Wilson, a faithful laywoman who works tirelessly for healing for women, especially those who have been abused at home. She was beaming. And I relaxed into the joy of healing movement in that sacred space. I remembered why I so love to dance. Dance is freedom, liberation; full-body worship. It is also hard work, requiring discipline and constant training. And flexibility -- of body and mind.

Flexibility, when the organ improvisation usurps the best-conceived choreographic plan--and calls forth improvisation, or extemporaneous, movement. Sometimes, such flexibility is just plain fun.

The Bishop was installed; the juice and cheese reception was "lovely" in the Citigroup Atrium. And I danced, in spirit, all the way home.



It was a recent-history attendance record at my church today~~101 worshippers~~of whom almost 10% have movement difficulties and need to use canes, a challenge for them and for the architecture of the church.

Older church buildings may be exempt from accessibility builing-code legislation, but not from theological assessment. "Stairs everywhere" in churches are, frankly, exclusive when there is no other means of access to the space. Church buildings need to be able to be accessed by all--not only the sanctuary of the worship space, but the educational and social spaces as well. How sad that accessibilty is not a priority in so many congregations. Yes, it will be expensive. No it is often not convenient and may change both the exterior & interior landscape. But when I watch the members of my church, valiantly willing themselves to ascend the many stairs into the sancturay... and know that their days are numbered to be able to do so...I know that accessibility is ultimately, about grace. Costly grace, but grace nonetheless. Accessibility to sacred space is a mirror of God's love. It is a concrete expression of a congregation's welcome and an extension of the graciousness of Christ.