Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Life-long Mind-set

Now that my synthesis has been submitted, and I'm waiting to hear if the readers can tell what it was I was trying to say, I've been thinking a lot about lifelong faith formation and how different it is, mind-set-wise, from the "traditional" classroom model. Specifically about how thinking of faith formation as life-long frees everyone from the panic attached to a graduation-like Confirmation day. DRE's who assume young people will leave their programs on Confirmation day are concerned that they only have up until that day to teach the kids everything. Everything. So their programs are back-filled from that day, and packed with all the important topics. Textbooks are bought and used and finished, dammit, by the end of the year, so that the DRE can know that all the students are right where they're supposed to be.
Here's an example of a situation where this fear-based model came up against a need for pastoral care (in my opinion) and fear won.
Many years ago I got a call from a DRE in a neighboring town, who had just learned that in one year, 4-5 parishes in their town would be merged into one, with the others closing down for good. She wanted help figuring out how to merge the several programs into one, smoothly. The parishes that were closing were small, but historic, and some had strong devotions and some had ethnic religious practices associated with their parish.
Perfect! I suggested that they use the year to make the transition. I suggested they change their schedule to 5 sessions (or maybe that's all they had planned anyway? I can't remember, it was that long ago) and have each parish host one of the sessions. The host parish could serve dinner in their parish hall, featuring foods that reflected the ethnic or devotional background of their church. They could take their guests on a church tour, sharing the emotional connections and histories of the various characteristics of their church, and they could teach about what it has meant for their families to be part of their parish. By the end of the year, each parish would have had a chance to share their parish with the others, and would know each other, and would have learned about different devotions and ethnic practices, and have an understanding of the heartbreak their new parish-mates would be experiencing, too. They'd finish the year at the surviving parish, celebrating their new all-saints-or-whatever parish with a unique understanding of its situation in history.
Even as I write this, I think this whole plan would be awesome! So much good could come from a plan like this. But the DRE there just couldn't do it. She couldn't "waste" a whole year on this plan, because she had curriculum to cover. So, she didn't. She just went on as usual, hoping more volunteers would show up to cover the more kids she would have.
Maybe it went just fine, and probably the parish has merged successfully and is doing just fine. But this, I think, is a good example of the different ways of looking at formation. In a lifelong model, you can let go of the fear that you're running out of time to teach, because you have their whole lives long. And you can open up to the idea that many different ways of learning and teaching are acceptable. You can consider a year of pastoral care a very good use of your parish's time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The news from inside my chest

So, I have this flutter. That is, my heart has a flutter- feels kind of like when you'd swallow a pop rock, and you could feel it popping way down in your chest... remember that feeling? Anyway, it happens several times a week, at random times, and the worst it gets is giving me a feeling like I have to cough. I've had it for two years now, and have been on heart medicine (the same kind my parents take... neat, huh? Weirdly, this medication is also prescribed for people who suffer from stage fright...) have worn a 24 hour monitor, had an EEG, and it's been no big whoop. But apparently the medicine was supposed to have had some effect on the flutters, and it hasn't, so this year my pcp sent me to a real live cardiologist.
He was nice, and not bad to look at, and seemed very calm. He said "you could leave here and not take any tests or anything, and probably be fine, but I'd like you to do one test... a 30-DAY MONITOR!" He didn't say it in caps, actually, he said it totally nonchalantly, like oh, you know, a month on a heart monitor.
So now I am wired, and when I have a flutter, I press "record" and it beeps for 30 seconds. This is tricky if, like when it happened last week, I was in a meeting or like Friday night, when I was in the chapel.
I have a bad attitude about this and the stupid pack I have to carry around, and the stupid wore patches that are already leaving big nasty red marks on my skin, and the obnoxious beeping. But as my pastor has said now, twice, and so comfortingly, "you know for some people, the only symptom of heart disease is DEATH." He is a survivor of a triple bypass, so I guess he knows whereof he speaks, but still.
Curiously, my only fear in this all is that I am really just crazy and don't even have a flutter! It has been a very stressful time lately, and I was a little bit worried that they'd just tell me I was having panic attacks. I know that sounds crazy in itself, after all, panic is probably not as bad for me as my heart tweaking out. Anyway, today when I phoned in my "events" the tech said "oh there are some extra beats in there but nothing we have to call the doctor for." I didn't even know that was part of the monitor plan, but I was glad to hear that there really was bona-fide fluttering going on, in my heart, rather than my head.
On a related note, I need to buy some scarves and/or turtlenecks!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who's cool?

I wish I could remember what movie I was watching recently when one of the characters was asked about the secret of life, or was it growing older? Anyway, his answer was that when you get older, you stop caring about being cool, and you throw away your dungarees (his word, not mine) and you get some nice, loose-fitting slacks.
I kept thinking about this as I was shopping this weekend with my Christmas gift cards. I could get anything I wanted (you know, up to a limit), and what I really wanted was some LONG JOHNS. It has been hovering at under 10 degrees F here all weekend, and I've been wanting some for a while anyway, along with some nice knee socks, because I am so tired of having cold calves!
I have never been all that stylish, and between bouts of trying to be cool at various appropriate ages, mostly my philosophy has been similar to Gilda Radner's: "I base my fashion sense on whatever doesn't itch."
So today I'm snug and warm in my high socks and long johns and I get this secret of life. Warm is better than cool.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who's in the Pew?

I went to Mass at a parish not-my-own today, and as always it was a good experience, spiritually and professionally. I feel like I always learn from visiting other parishes, from what they do better than we do, and from what they don't do as well as we do. This parish had beautiful music, and helpful guides for the Mass parts (although the congregation was about 50% successful on the whole "and with your Spirit" thing).
Mass has been an emotional experience for me lately, because there is so much going on in our Archdiocese, and things are very tense among those who are paying attention. Those of us in the know (and it's not that we know a secret, the word is out about the upcoming changes, but somehow every time I mention it to a non-staff person, everyone seems surprised) can feel the anxiety like a weight, as we look to the future without a real vision of where we will be a year from now.
So while I sat there in my pew, surrounded by strangers but feeling at home, I thought about all the different people there and how varied their situations are. It reminded me that at any given Mass, any one or all of these people may be in the pews:
People who are stressed out and need to hear something hopeful
People who are elated and in the throes of a new love with God
People who are mired in doubt
People who are solid and strong in their faith
People who are hearing God's voice through the music
People who are doing internal exegesis on the Gospel
People who are on the verge of giving up on their faith
People who are back for the first time in years
I could go on, but you get the point.
I know this is true, because at various times in my life, I've been each of those people. It's sort of awe-some to think about the challenge of reaching out to all these people in all these situations, and more, but it's possible for God. Even though the movement is the Holy Spirit's, I want to always remember to be hospitable to all the fragile souls who fill the pews in our church every week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Youth Minister to Coordinator

I spoke to a Youth Minister friend this week who shared that she is struggling, is feeling frustrated and burned out. This morning as I was on my way in to work, I was thinking about her situation and thinking... maybe when we reach this level of burnout, it's because it's time to change the kind of ministers that we are/have been. This can be a great opportunity to change our way of working from being Youth Ministers to being Coordinators of Youth Ministry.
Here's a way to think about the difference between the two: what if we went into every YM job planning to leave after about 4 years? How would our priorities, planning, and strategies be different? To me, this is a big difference in thinking than I did in my first YM position. I planned to be there forever, and each year I would think about doing things differently next year. But if I were only planning to stay for four years, I'd be thinking much more about establishing a very solid foundation for ministry that could carry on beyond my time.
I'd be focused on getting leadership in place, on making sure there were a lot of adults empowered to minister, in a lot of different ways. I'd be trying to establish traditions of great service, retreats, and other programs that could be run by someone else besides me. I'd be concentrating on forming a vision for the parish, and transmitting that to important people.
Because, after all, four years is not that much time for this kind of leadership. It's a lot to accomplish or at least to get started. But four years is a really long time if you're trying to find your way one day at a time, and are trying to do everything yourself.
I think our souls have ways of telling us when God is calling us to make changes. We start to feel uneasy, tired, not excited by what used to excite us. And when we're stressed out, it's easy to think in terms of stay or go, but often, it's just time to reframe. My prayers tonight are for all the burned out Youth Ministers out there. I've been there! Don't forget to breathe, and hang in there.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Simple Woman's Daybook

Seriously, I'm going to start blogging more, and I plan to not be using these cheater-formats so often, so get ready for lots of free-flowing verse from yours truly in 2012.
But in the meantime:
FOR TODAY Outside my window...
There's still no snow! I'm starting to wonder if this will be remembered as That Snowless Winter. I am not a fan of snow, but I do feel a little bad about not having a real winter. Fortunately, it's cold enough that the plants aren't too confused and budding out at the wrong time.

I am thinking...
about all the possibilities 2012 could bring, along with the scary stuff I mentioned the last time I posted. Really, this year could be a classic roller coaster of emotions. I am going to try and just put my hands up and enjoy the ups, and close my eyes and ride through the downs.

I am thankful...
....that Zarley seems to be bouncing back, and putting on some weight, and is her old, playful and obsessed-with-me self. I'm grateful to have more time with her crazy old self. I'm thankful for good things that are happening for Scott and me, and I'm thankful that I'm near the end of my writing for grad school. And, while it lasts, I'm so thankful to work at the parish where I am now.

In the kitchen...
I attempted to make min-meatloaves tonight, but they didn't really hold together. So I ended up making a doctored up version of what we used to call "crummy hamburger," with a creamy mushroom sauce on top, and garlic-roasted broccoli. Scott's joining me on a low-carb, high-fat, no-wheat effort this year, and so far, so good!

I am wearing...
Ha! Pajamas. Of course! Today I changed into real clothes only to go to the library and slog away for a few hours, hit a local grocery store and hoped I wouldn't run into anyone I knew (I didn't) and then headed home to cook, back in PJ's for the night... I'm feeling celebratory, and that means loungewear.

I am creating...
A heck of a synthesis project, I hope! A dear friend of mine is editing my writing for me, and she's not only super-sharp and has great suggestions, but gets what I'm trying to say and is a personal cheerleader! As much as I'm looking forward to having it done and handed in, I'm enjoying writing it.

I am going...
Shhh, don't tell any cyber-criminals, but I'm hoping to go to Florida next weekend! Scott's got training for the summer camp leadership team he serves on, so I'm planning to tag along. The only hitch may be that I'm traveling standby on MLK weekend... but either way, I've got three books to read and my toenails WILL be polished.

I am wondering...
when Cougar Town will come back?

I am reading...
Only articles about Confirmation and Total Community Confirmation right now, but next week, it's books 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games series, and Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close. Wahhhh I can not wait to read secular fiction again!!!

I am hoping...
that the local Church, and I, will come through this upcoming transition time relatively intact, or maybe... better?

I am looking forward to...
Finishing this post. I didn't remember there being so many questions!

I am learning
Well I'll tell ya what I'm not learning, gladly, and that's moral theology. Thank God that class is over!

Around the house...
still, Christmas decorations. Maybe tomorrow, I'll get around to taking those down. Or, maybe Scott will do it!

I am pondering...
Not much, seriously.
A favorite quote for today...
Oh crap, was this one in the list before? I don't remember this one. Well, my fave quote of today is one that isn't actually words- Scott said something to me from the other end of the house today and it sounded like "wo- weebo fla ramala poody!" So I came in to the living room where he was sitting and said "Oh, wo- weebo fla ramala poody?" and rather than being annoyed, he said "Yes, right!" :)
One of my favorite things...
I've had the same slippers since the winter after we got married, 10 years ago. They're blue, from Land's End, monogrammed with my initial, and Scott has matching ones, in grey. I've tried other slippers, but these just endure as the favorites. Lots of happy lounging in these slippers.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
I am handing this damned paper in this week, if it kills me. I mean, you know... it shouldn't kill me, but if it does, I insist that someone pick up my posthumous diploma. Also, we're having fun guests for the night mid-week, and we're going to get those decorations down.

A peek into my day...
Once when I was in junior high, our social studies teacher gave us a test with a list of instructions. The last instruction was "ignore the other instructions, just turn your paper over and put your pencil down." None of us passed the test because we didn't read the instructions first, and clearly I am still not good at this. You don't want to know more about my day at this point, do you?
Anyway, here's a picture of bacon. :)