Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Child in Aleppo, a Child in Scarsdale, and Ruth

Like so many, I've been haunted by this child, injured in the fighting in war torn Aleppo, Syria.


The sweetness of the six-year-old boy from New York, who wrote this letter to President Obama has also had such an impact on me. Especially the line where he says, "We will give him a family and he will be our brother."


One of my favorite passages in the Bible is from the book of Ruth, and somehow the cadence of the words and the sentiment expressed by this child continue to remind me of the lines that Ruth says to her mother-in-law that are also hauntingly simple and completely lovely.


Perhaps it is also the fact that these children, like Ruth and Naomi, are not connected by blood or country or religion or ethnicity. Just humanity and love.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

The saga continues. Not wanting to just disappear, I met with my pastor, and ended up having an awesome conversation. As always, I am reminded that the world does not revolve around me. There are so many things that are so much bigger and more important, and I always appreciate the perspective. This meeting, of course, also allowed me to connect with another human being in a very real way, and now, I'd like to go back and eat a few of my previous words spoken in haste and the heat of the moment. He is truly called to the ministry and is facing his own struggles and challenges, yet he put that aside to listen and support me and was willing to be so open with me. What a gift.

But the truth still remains...to paraphrase John Pavlovitz (a really interesting pastor who I enjoy following on Facebook)...I'm feeling a bit like an outcast in my own skin.

The current church no longer fits, and I'm exceedingly anxious about trying on a new one. What do I owe to the church family who welcomed me back to the church? What do I owe to my growing recognition that my views don't fit and aren't really nurtured here? Do I speak and try to change things, or do I move on to a place that is more in line with my beliefs and values? How do I best serve God?

So I'm in limbo. A time of discernment. Wishing I was just quietly following my familiar routine. Realizing it had become a rut.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Leaving with Integrity

I am usually the type to become quieter and quieter, more and more withdrawn. It's like I wish I could just disappear.


However, this time, painful as it may be, I'd like to try to do things a better way. 

Part of my nature is to be quiet and contemplative, especially when I'm troubled or faced with a major decision. I don't really gossip, though I may reach out for advice and guidance to a trusted few.

Now that it is clear to me that God is leading me in a new direction, I need to tell those who are important to me, and to whom I am important, that I am going. And I'm praying for the right words. The right time. 

So that I can be honest without resorting to gossip or cruelty. 

Clear without reducing this decision to game-playing. 

Resolute so that they can understand this was not a decision made lightly but only after much prayer, thought, and heartache.

Kind so they know my love for them is not diminished.

And then I will need courage to take the next steps. I am such a creature of habit. I love my routines, the knowing, the sameness. Adventures terrify me. It would be easier to stay, yet at the same time, impossible. This place is no longer my place.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

In Search of a Progressive Church

I've been attending the same church for years, and I'm attached to the people, especially my choir friends, but more and more I am realizing that it is not the best fit for me.  While I love a traditional service and hymns, I am progressive in my views, and more and more I feel the need to be engaging with others who feel similarly.

Today, the pastor talked about immorality, and he used Terrance McNally's play, Corpus Christi as an example of immorality in this country, and the congregation was gasping and shaking its head right along with him.  I was the only one sitting there cringing and contemplating leaving.

I'm not even that familiar with the play, but I am so grateful to live in a country with our Constitution, and I am a huge fan of the 1st Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.").  Sitting in church this morning, I was struck by the irony...the same amendment that allows us to gather together and worship in the church of our choice also protects Terrance McNally and his play and those who choose to actually watch it before condemning it.  God, this is a great country!

And more than the idiotic use of this play as an example of immorality, I was struck by all the much more disturbing examples of immorality that could have been mentioned but were not.  For example, early in the sermon, the pastor gave a lengthy list of the vast quantities of junk food that are consumed in this country each day; however, he failed to mention the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. (15 million, which is 21% of all U.S. children), the number of people who die of starvation every day in this world (21,000, the majority of them children), or the number of children living in war torn countries (more than 1 in 10 children), while we blithely go about our business.  Now THAT is fucking immoral.

I have a hard time believing Jesus is too worried about Terrance McNally's play, as I am certain He is far too busy weeping over all of those poor, hungry, injured, and terrified children.  But that's just my opinion.  It is also my opinion that the reason so many people are so irritated with "Christianity" is because far too many so-called Christians are more interested in judging others than in actually following the example of Jesus Christ.  From what I can tell, He was interested in healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting children, and loving and accepting the marginalized.

Yay, God!  Sign me up.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Life lessons learned from watching Phineas and Ferb

A few years ago, Jack and Sam attended the Discovery Center summer camp together, and their favorite counselor called them Phineas and Ferb. I didn't realize at the time how appropriate that was. 

Fast forward a few years, and Ben has discovered Phineas and Ferb on Netflix. It has dawned on me that the premise of the show is two brothers figuring out the most fun ways to spend summer vacation.

(My most favorite character on the show is Isabella, and I've taken to saying, "Whatcha doin'?" in the same sweet little sing-song voice she uses. It's completely adorable.)

The life lesson that recently occurred to me was compliments of Candace, Phineas and Ferb's older sister, who spends so much time being irritated by her brothers that she misses out on multitude opportunities for enjoying her own life.

Like so many of us, she often gets caught up in her own petty jealousies and is so focused on what she thinks she need to prove that she fails to see her own talents and gifts and joys and misses countless opportunities to live and appreciate her own life, whether it be her awesome singing ability or the boy she has a crush on who actually likes her back.

So, my observations for the day...you can learn all sorts of lessons if you pay attention...even from Phineas and Ferb.  Also, life is short. Stop wasting your energy being annoyed by and feeling  critical of others. Focus on your own situation and what you have to offer the world, however simple and small.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Three Revisited a Year or so Later

I kicked off this blog a year and a half ago by talking about three small things I did that ended up being big things:  I returned to Weight Watchers, I returned to church, and I returned to the public library.

I am less regular about attending WW and have gained back some of the weight I lost, but I am still making better choices about what I eat and I still exercise regularly.  More importantly, I like myself more than I ever have.  I dress my body better.  I am more comfortable in my skin.  I love myself more and am much kinder to myself.  My focus is more on health and well-being and less on a particular number on the scale or a smaller dress size.  That said, I still grapple with self-control and struggle to understand why I sometimes fall back into my old bad habits.  The good news...I rarely beat myself up anymore and am more able to take the long view.  Life is short, and I am ok.

The news on the faith front is better.  I still love attending church regularly, and I absolutely adore singing with our little church choir.  My choir friends have become some of my closest friends.  We gather every Tuesday for practice, and the joyful music and laughter we share is always a highlight of the week.  We gather again on Sundays, and the noise we make is truly joyful.  The church said good-bye to a beloved pastor and welcomed a new one who has already endeared himself to us with his sincere faith and hilarious sense of humor.  I've transitioned from the Board of Trustees to the Staff Parish Committee and am appreciative of these opportunities to serve.

Finally, I am still a library and book addict.  I read at least a book a week, and I track them faithfully on Goodreads together with a little blurb/review designed to trigger my memory of what I read.  This has also served to connect me with other readers/book lovers, and I enjoy sharing ideas for what to read next.  So many books...so little times.  If I could read 100 books per year for the next 50 years, that's only 5,000 more books.  So I choose wisely, track religiously, and enjoy completely.

In addition to continuing with my fundamentals, I've set a few goals for the new year:

1. Striving to keep my work in balance with my real life.  I love my current job, but it is stressful and would overwhelm me if I allowed it to do so.  My main focus is to stay positive, to develop my servant-leadership approach, and to replace angry and overly critical rants with time for reflection and a focus on all that I have to be grateful for.  I am also blessed to have found another possible avenue to explore, as I recently interviewed for an adjunct professor teaching position at our local college and am in the process now of completing the required hiring packet and looking forward to the possibility of teaching my first college course this summer.

2. By starting this blog, I wanted to develop my commitment to writing.  I began with great enthusiasm, only to write fewer and fewer blogs as the year progressed.  I dabbled in ghost-writing and quickly determined it wasn't my thing.  I have been most faithful in keeping up with my mini-reviews of the books I read, but even these are rarely in depth.  So, I have committed to something small for 2016--writing at least one blog per month.  I can do that.  Sometimes I wonder if I set the bar too low for myself, but in truth, small commitments seem to be the only ones I can keep long-term, and although they are modest goals, the benefits seem to be immeasurably large and rewarding in unforeseen ways.  So, I'm good with this, and we'll see how it goes.  I think pressuring myself less about writing may end up freeing me to do more of it.

3. I do want to regain and then maintain a healthier weight, and I am doing so by recommitting to tracking my food, exercising regularly, and returning to my weekly WW meetings.  The only things that have ever worked for me!  I would also like to incorporate some weight training and yoga into my exercise routine.  Right now, I just walk/run around the neighborhood, which is great for my cardio health, but I'm not getting any younger and I think the benefits of strengthening my muscles and improving my flexibility will help me feel better.  I've been having a lot of muscle spasms and lower back pain, which is my body's way of telling me, I need to take better care of all aspects of myself.  The back injury I suffered as a thirteen-year-old is finally catching up with my 45-year-old self, and it's important to me that I manage this and don't end up with serious issues as I age.

My number one goal always is maintaining a good balance in my life.  My husband and children are the greatest joys in my life, and I find I appreciate and enjoy them more and more.  Life is far too short, and I want to look back knowing that I made the most of it and especially of them.  They are my heart and soul and absolute joy.  I do worry and nag at times, but I more often focus on staying connected with them in positive ways and being open to enjoying each of their unique personalities as they develop and grow into the most awesome people I know.

The biggest sadness of the last years has been watching my sweet dad decline, but I am fortunate to have the means to travel to visit him regularly and to have been able to include my boys in the last years of his life.  He barely speaks now but he still smiles and responds to warmth that is shown to him.  He needs great assistance to move and walk, but he still enjoys food and has even been able to express appreciation for those who provide his daily care.  As painful as it can be, it would be much more painful to have declined to participate.

So, the state of the world is pretty darn good from my perspective.  Here's to a love-filled 2016!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Prayer



I've been thinking about this post for a long time. Or maybe putting it off might be more accurate. 

Prayer is such a personal thing. And something I have never begun to understand. Other than the above quote, which somehow makes sense to me, I'm not sure what I think about prayer. Which is probably why I've never done bedtime prayers with my kids and little more than the annual Thanksgiving prayer-ish thing of going around and saying what you are thankful for before digging into a meal.

I was taken aback a few months ago when a well-meaning church friend approached me about my youngest son's lack of knowledge about prayer. The other children were shocked, apparently. I didn't worry too much. I already know I'm no supermom and have a somewhat unconventional approach to the whole parenting thing, based in humor, individual choice, respect, and incessant nagging through which I am working out my own insecurities and perceived failures.

Which brings me back to my recent thoughts about prayer. What is it? How are you supposed to do it? Do you ask for stuff and consider your prayers answered if you get what you ordered?

Is it way more complicated than that? Or way simpler? Is it, "Thy will be done"? Is it not being afraid to pray big and having confidence you'll receive the needed (demanded) answer? Is it just being silent and listening? Is it fear in times of desperation? Groaning? Anger? Thanks in times of joy? Awe in moments of overwhelming beauty?

Is it formal or informal? Is it something you set aside time for or something purely spontaneous? All of the above? Or none of it?

And is it any wonder I have no confidence in my ability to impart any sort of wisdom or guidance to my children in this area?

I do it. Often. When I need to be reminded of my place in the world. That I am a tiny speck in the universe, yet God is familiar with every hair on my head and mindful of the fall of the sparrow. When I need to remember that I am not all-knowing or all-powerful. That I am not in charge. When I am overwhelmed by grace. When I am grateful for something simple and small that contains everything that matters. When I am trying to find my way in the dark yet am certain I am not alone. When I need guidance and the strength to act.

Prayer is so very personal. A mystery. I would have no idea how to have that conversation with my kids. I can't reduce it to, "Now I lay me down to sleep..." or "God is great and God is good..." or even the Lord's Prayer or the Hail, Mary that my sweet mom taught to me when I was a little girl.

I think the best I can do is wonder aloud and be open to discussion. Willing to share. Willing to listen. Ponder and reconsider. That's all I've got.