Monday, July 30, 2012

Immersion Learning

I am an admitted Olympics geek. I love watching Olympic sports that I would never watch, in their non-olympic forms. At work this week I've even been streaming some games to keep an eye and ear on while I work, and I've been fascinated to find that some of them are being streamed without commentary.
There is something to be said about immersion in this. I just tuned in to badminton and it's impressive to see, but also sooooo quiet. I can hear the birdie hitting the racquets (or, vice-versa, I guess) with little clicks, and sometimes the squeak of a sneaker on the court. And when something good happens I can hear the crowd cheer. When something thrilling happens (a dive from one of the players, or a near-miss) I can hear the spectators say "ooooh!!!" I am learning a little bit about the game by experiencing it with my senses, even though no one is telling me outright what's going on.
I've learned a few things about a few sports already so far this Olympics, some of them through the commentary. I heard someone the other day talking about how fast that birdie flies, and that was pretty fascinating. But it was definitely a different kind of learning- facts, vs. experience. It was transactional, not communal. It's still good learning, but different.
It reminds me of the power of the community to teach. It makes me think of the catechetical power of attending Mass with a community, vs. sitting in front of a teacher, or textbook. And here's another thought: no one at the badminton game knows that I'm learning from them, but they're still teaching. They're teaching by being present, by caring about the game, by participating in their way. At Mass on any given Sunday, someone is learning from us as a community, even when we don't know that we're teaching.
We're teaching about how to behave at Mass. We're teaching someone that a lot of people care enough about the Eucharist to come to Mass every week. We're teaching that this Eucharist is good stuff, worth showing up for, and we're teaching that a community of believers exists and gathers.
What if we keep teaching, but no one comes to learn? What if someone comes to learn, and there are no teachers there? Just being Mass makes a difference- forms the next generations of Mass "fans". If we do it right, they'll catch on, and teach the generations after them.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Broken Watches

I wear a watch pretty much every day. I have a lovely watch that Scott gifted me for some holy day, which replaced the one he gave me on our wedding day. I have worn watches forever, I think- I remember I got  my first watch when I was just in kindergarten, it had a red alligator strap and gave me a rash, so my Mom painted the back of the watch (not the strap part...) with clear nail polish so I could wear it.
My current watch has a near-dead battery, and that means I've not been able to wear it for a week. I miss it! I can't tell you how many times I have looked at my naked wrist throughout the day. The other day while I was on my drive to work I thought about how weird I feel without a watch on and thought "I guess I could still wear it..." 
And I was struck by the silliness of that thought and thought "there's no point in wearing a broken watch." Of course there's no point! But it's tempting to wear it, useless as it is, because it's comfortable, it's what I'm used to. Even if it can't tell me the time, it at least would give me something to look at every time I hold my wrist up in front of my face... 
Really, it made me think of ministry (what doesn't?) and how we hang on to things that have become useless in our ministries. We know these things have long since lost their charm, relevance, ability to do what we want them to do, but we are comfortable with them. They fill space in our programs so that we can say "see, we're busy! We're doing something!"  Sure, we may say, hardly anyone continues with the Church after they're confirmed, but we have a busy program and they come to that consistently... until they are done.  They don't like it... but if it's there, it must be doing something-  no need to change it. 
I think it's a necessary skill for a minister to stop wearing broken watches. But not just a skill, it's... bravery. We need to step away from our comfortable, busy-looking, unproductive programs and try something new. If/when the new watch breaks, we change again. There's really no point in wearing a broken watch. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

God is Love, and Love is...

It's interesting (and completely understandable) to me how people start asking questions about God's whereabouts when tragedy strikes. It's then that our images of God so often turn out to be incomplete and unhelpful. If my idea of a God, of THE God, is one who keeps everyone safe and alive and comfortable, then what happens when the poop hits the fan?
What I'm suggesting is this: what if it's not God that fails in the hard times, but our understanding of God that falls short? A quick look around shows that God is clearly not a God who keeps us comfortable or safe or even alive. God is not like that, and believing in God that way does not keep anyone alive, safe, or comfortable.
But what if that's okay? What if God can be a God who doesn't make everything okay but still be a God who loves us? Would it be enough for God to be a God who walks with us, who weeps with us, who laughs and celebrates with us? Is the only God worth believing in a God who saves us from all harm and sadness?
If you're like me, then the more you think along these lines, the less comfortable you become with the kind of God that makes everything ok all the time. You start to notice how bad a job that God does, and how unfair the criteria seem to be. Why does this person get a "miracle" and that one doesn't? Why didn't God stop that man from shooting up the theater? Why did he "save" this girl once but not again?
The more I try to understand God, the more complex and simpler it becomes: God is love. Love doesn't fix things, love doesn't save us from harm, love doesn't make everything okay, love doesn't erase suffering. Love loves. God is love, and Love... patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In My Own Horrifying Words

In my parents' move from their home to "The Home" (an apartment in a senior living community, really, not a HOME. But that's what they call it, affectionately). I was given boxes of my stuff that had languished in their basement for years.
We have no room in our house now for anything. Seriously, we are full-up. The process of claiming or reclaiming things from their home was fraught and difficult, with worries about hurting feelings, and actual hurting of feelings, and JUST TRYING TO GET THE DAMNED HOUSE CLEANED OUT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, I'LL TAKE IT AND THROW IT AWAY AT A REST AREA ON THE WAY HOME IF WE CAN JUST KEEP MOVING... that kind of thing. Anyway, now it's done and everyone has a few (or, many many) extra boxes of things in their houses.
I was given a passel of my old diaries from high school and college, and this Summer I've read through them. Some of it is so fun to revisit, and some of it is so horrifying. It's a funny thing to see how dramatic I was, how typical-teen I was, how... (how to say this? I'll just say it) ...randy I was. I hope to God my mother and father never read these journals, for their sake. As for me, as an adult and as someone who has worked with kids for so long, some of it was horrifying to read, and it was about me! Ay.
I was telling a friend about how alarming my relationships back then were to me, reading them now. I want to go find my former self and give her a shake, tell her she can do better, tell her to play it COOL every once in a while for crying out loud. I want to tell her she's better than waiting for a boy to call, and that the boy is just messing with her head and probably could use a good therapist! (I'm not even being specific to a boy now, they all messed with my head and all could have used a good therapist, and I could have used that shake for letting them mess with my head.)
I told my friend that I wished someone had told me this stuff. My friend (who always asks me great questions!) asked, "who should have said that to you? Who would you have heard it from?" and that is a (see?) great question. It wouldn't have been my mother... in my reading I saw with 20/20 hindsight  some of the opportunities that my parents missed, to help me. I'm not sure my Mother could have done much right in my opinion by then, but I do think she blew some chances to be supportive and uplifting. 
I don't know if my siblings could have helped, either. The me writing those journals felt very much in control of the situation. The thing about being in a bad relationship (I remember well) is that you work so hard to make the world think you're doing just fine, and you convince yourself, in order to convince them. These relationships weren't abusive, I should clearly state here. They just weren't healthy, and didn't honor who I was. It was a pattern I lived over and over again, until I met my husband. By the time I met him, I was sick and tired of bad boyfriends, and was rewarded for my new strength with a prince. (cue: Awww.)
Anyway, I think that if I could have heard the advice, taken the shaking, it might have been from adult leaders in youth ministry. I had some great relationships with people through YM, and they really honored who I was. I think it was this genuine respect for me, in these wonderful God-loving people, that gave them the kind of credibility that I respected, that I might have listened to. 
We can't re-write our youth, and as it turned out I learned a whole heck of a lot from all those bad relationships and here I am alive and a-love to blog about it. I hope all those boys have found great therapists and mates who don't let them mess with their heads. I am at peace with the fact that my parents did the best they could, and I am so thankful to my YM leaders for showing me what was valuable in me, so long ago. All this makes me want to be a better minister to young women, and to be bold in reminding them that things can be different. They don't have to live like they've lived. And they are worthy of good boys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Peeves

I love Summer. I'm a Summer girl! I love it so much I always capitalize it! Heck, I'm a Leo, so, you know... Summer Summer Summer.
But I have some pet-peeves. I mean, no love is pure, right? Here are my pet peeves. Just two, really!
I hate the humming sound that is everywhere in the Summer. I don't particularly like silence- in fact, it has a similar affect on me. Both silence and a humming sound (like that of a fan or an air-conditioner, or our damned broken refrigerator, which has been humming like mad for over a year now, since the refrigerator repairman told our landlord that it would need to be replaced, and she said to let her know when it really does die, which it hasn't. It just hums, super-loud. But that is not a summ... Summer-related thing. Let's go back) drive me to distraction.
Air conditioners and fans and other humming things, and silence, they make me tense up. My neck and shoulder muscles cringe until I can't take it anymore, and I need a break. When the humming sound stops, I feel instant relief. So, there's a thing that I don't like about my otherwise beloved Summer.
Another thing is being COLD. I'm talking about how people crank up their Air Conditioners until the room is icy. I don't want to be cold in the Summer any more than I do in the winter. I am looking for a comfy medium! I want to be cool, is all! In the winter, do we turn the heat up to 90? No. Of course we don't! We don't want to sweat, we just want to be warm. Why doesn't the world get that concept, in the Summer? Come on, people. If it were 60 outside, you'd want a sweater. Your house should not be 60 degrees. And there's nothing worse than walking into a store in the Summer and wishing you had a sweatshirt. Because, and I mean this, COME ON.
Summer has other annoyances, I'm sure. OH mosquitos! Mosquito bites, ugh! Someday I'll blog about how much I loathe, hate and abominate itching. Stay tuned, friends!!
Otherwise, I LOVE SUMMER!!
PS: Earwigs. Bleah.

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, on a Friday! I so have my life together!!

1) take a look at this summerchini!
Look how massive it is! It totally dwarfs that tomato!!
Okay that's a very small tomato. But it's still a really big... something. It came from a cucumber plant, and when it appeared I thought it was a zucchini, but it never turned green. My (actual gardener) neighbor said she's never seen anything like it, and that it might be a hybrid. But seriously, it's big. Here it is with an actual remote control! Cable, even!!
 I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I am in the midst of a passionate love affair with zucchini, so I have lots of recipes cued up. I'll let you know how it tastes. 

2) we have two new kittens! When our oldest cat went to "kitty heaven" we tried to adjust to living in a catless house. It was a surprising hard thing to get used to. I didn't enjoy the freedom like I might have expected to. We started to hear from our scouts (Scott's family) that there were two adorable kittens in the lobby of a nearby cat hospital. On a whim and with nothing ready, we drove over to take a look adopt them. They're littermates, about 16 weeks old, gangly and silly. It's been so fun having them, so far, despite all the scratch marks on Scott's ankles and the broken items around the house. Scott is absolutely besotted. Well, here, have a look: 
We're still a little hard-pressed for good pics so far, they are awfully wiggly. Stay tuned. 

3) I'm a little bit trapped in my living room, as Scott and some of his youth group kids are out in our yard. Somehow he suckered invited them to come up and paint our deck for us. I love his kids but have kept my distance from the group today, because it's my day off and I'm home and in my garden clothes (unattractive!). But I've been listening in on their conversations and checking in on them. I do miss hanging out with a group of kids. 

4) My dream job is open in my home diocese. Oh, how awful! And what's worse, I'm qualified for it!! I moved out of Maine in 1992... good Lord can that be true? I've lived here longer than I lived there. I've forgotten where things are in Maine, and lost track of the situation up there...  but when I moved to Massachusetts, I never dreamed I'd stay. Now I'm without a country, in a way, not willing to claim Massachusettianism and not willing to give up my Mainer-ness, but really, I'm pretty settled in down here. I can't very well pick up and leave here now, I have a wonderful job and a big social life, and pretty much the best place to live that we could possibly hope for. But oooooh that job looks cool.

5) Maybe this is my alternate timeline, coming around even though I left that path. My plan was always to come here for a while, get some experience in parish youth ministry, then go back to my beloved Diocese of Portland and work in the Youth Ministry Office. This dream job is not in the YM office, but it's still a diocesan position and would be, as I imagine it, awesome. I'm teasing myself with it, thinking about this alternate universe of my potential life, and I'm 8% worried that I'll let it go by and then find myself without a job in the new reconfiguration plans here in Boston. Well. We'll see, I guess. 

6) I can't tell you how many times in the past few minutes I've had to remove a kitten from my keyboard and then delete "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeokj." Kittens are very different from old cats. Wow. 

7) I've got nothing for 7. So, you know, go read this instead! HOW ABOUT THAT??

Sunday, July 08, 2012

My Three Masses

I went to Mass in three different churches today. I'm not bragging. I only took Communion in one, and only really sat through one whole Mass. But the differences in the three were so fascinating to me.
At our own parish, I was there for the end of the 9. Maybe I'm too in love with this parish to be objective, but I could feel the joy at that Mass. People were nice, I was surprised to see how diverse the crowd was culturally, and the kids' choir was fun and happy and praise-y. The church is bright and wide open, and the feeling that I get there is overall joyful.
A friend and I then went to the 11 at another parish in town. Mass was in the lower (air-conditioned) church, and we were greeted by the staff (I knew them, and they recognized me, but we were by no means the only ones they greeted. The lower church is darker and smaller, but the feeling was friendly. The crowd was mostly late for Mass, and really very diverse. The priest saying Mass today was African, and we wondered if the crowd was mostly African too. But it didn't feel like an ethnic Mass. In fact, after the priest would start the prayers, the music minister would lead the response, and make it as white-sounding as humanly possible. I say this as one of the whitest people you'll ever meet. Anyway, my point is, if the people there were African, they weren't there because it would be an African-style Mass.
(Should I mention here that after Mass, the priest and the pastor were shaking people's hands, and my friend swore she saw him wipe his nose with his hand before shaking hers? Ew. We went directly to the car to douse ourselves in hand sanitizer.)
Finally, I met Scott (who is on vacation and so attending Mass in an exotic foreign location) for the last half of Mass. I just asked Scott how the homily was, now five hours later, and he said "it was fine." But he can't remember what the guy said. What was memorable was that there was no AC in this church, and that the priest was wearing a fiddle back. A frickin' fiddleback!! I've never seen one in real life. He told us after Mass that it was cooler. I don't know. Also, the altar was crowded with candles and a giant crucifix, gold and ostentatious. I can't help but wonder at a priest who is standing at table, with the honest-to-goodness body and blood of Christ in front of him,  but needs to look at a golden crucifix. Talk about missing the point. But hey, maybe that's just me.
All I do know is that I looked around that hot church and was amazed that so many people would come in there, on a hot Sunday evening, to sit through a less-than-memorable Mass. It gave me hope. People want to meet Christ, they want to worship, they want to pray. What if we made it just a little bit more pleasant, more meaningful, more inspiring? Just a little bit! Imagine!!