Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Hear You and I See You.

The other night I was telling Scott about a frustrating situation I was in, and he looked me right in the eye and said "bummer."
I know, it sounds like nothing, but it's an old understanding we have. When we were engaged I was telling him something about a frustrating situation, and he tried to give me solutions, tried to solve it for me, and I said "Scott when I'm telling you my feelings, there are only three things you can say that will be helpful: 'hmm,' 'wow,' and 'bummer.'" I wanted to know he was hearing me, and that was all I needed. Not rescue, just... acknowledgement.
Last week when I was at the height of my laryngitis (does it get called that anymore? I had a cold and my voice was nearly gone, lots of croaking and squeaking instead), I visited a friend who said "it's really exhausting to talk like that, isn't it?" I felt weirdly affirmed- Yes! It is so exhausting! I was touched that she acknowledged that for me.
It reminds me of a homily I heard several years ago, in western MA when we were on a camping trip. The priest said "sometimes we spend all our energy justifying our existence." YES, so true. There is such power in acknowledging someone's feelings, their state, their existence. People want so badly to share their stories, to be heard. It's a large percentage of my job at the parish, just hearing people. At coffee and donuts, old men want to tell their war stories, their church stories. Married couples want to tell about their romances, kids want to talk about their days and ideas. Parents want to tell their fears and tough days and moments of hope. Everyone wants to be acknowledged.
On a tv show a while back we watched an older married couple use the tool they were given in marriage counseling. When one would say something to the other, their spouse would say "I hear you, and I see you." It was awkward and contrived, but it made the point, and now every once in a while we'll say it to each other, and weirdly, it works. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why buy the cow?

I met a dear friend and former colleague for lunch today and we were catching each other up on our parishes and lives. She was talking about her young adult children and how none of them are being married in the Church, but are having their babies baptized. It made me think about the conversations (or lack thereof) that we've been having with our parishioners lately. What brings these people back for their children's baptisms? Why do they still bother, even while the bother of the onerous process of being married in the Church isn't worth the trouble? The parents of teenagers who gathered with me last week said "this is what we need: for our kids to have a good church." But the parents of very young children didn't even show up. Twice.
My friend and I talked about what people need from the Church, and what might be our future- I told her I've been thinking about how the people I've heard from who have left the Church, for the majority, didn't leave over dogmatic issues, or even in anger against the Church (although of course many have left for these reasons)- they've left in good part because they just don't see the need to pray, pay and obey, when they can just talk to God on their own.
They seem to have a faith and value their relationships with God, and not feel like they need a middleman to connect them. I said to my friend "maybe when the Church started teaching in earnest about love, we put ourselves out of business." I was certainly raised to know that God is everywhere, God loves us, forgives us when we are sorry, wants us in heaven, never leaves us. What if the problem is that everyone believes that now?
Okay, what if that's true? Maybe the Church needs to re-envision our role in the salvation process from that of dealer to... what? I heard a speaker once say "it's okay to think of the Church as a filling station- " a place that fuels your journey, clears your vision, keeps you healthy and running. Is it okay for the Church to be resource, rather than sole source? After all, we all still need to have our tanks filled. It might be a revolutionizing thing for our Church to have to work hard to appeal to people, to draw people in and offer them programs that fill them, feed them, fuel them. What would the Church look like if no one felt they were duty-bound to attend? It might look a lot like it does now... with parishes who are doing a good job of ministering finding success, and parishes who are relying on compulsory attendance losing members at a steady drip. Only, in twenty years our 4:00 people will be gone- who will replace them if we don't start reaching out?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We're Listening... parents of teens

Last night we had our third Listening Session, this one with parents of Middle and High School students. It was a lovely, chatty group and they had some great things to say. Looking back on the night, I see that we (me, and the parents) went in to this conversation with agendas- neither of them bad, by any means- but telling.
The group was mostly women, and mostly people who have been involved in the parish for a while now. We had one new parent who has just joined the parish after difficulties in a neighboring parish with their confirmation program, and brought her daughter and five other families with her. I started by asking them how they ended up at our parish and why they stay. Some were lifers, some had ended up here after struggling at other parishes, and some came when their former parish had been closed.
I asked them then (and this is where those agendas revealed themselves), I asked about their faith, and what they need for their own faith from the church. To the last one, they answered by talking about what their kids needed. I tried re-directing them, pointing out that my question had been about their own faith and their answers were about their kids. They said "that IS what we need- we need our kids to have faith, to have a community, to have a safe place to come with questions. We need to be part of a place where we don't have to fight our kids to come to Mass."
I was surprised that their faith needs were so wrapped up in those of their kids, and they set me right. At the end, they identified a need for a support group for themselves (with wine), where they could come once a month to just talk and laugh and ask each other "WHAT AM I DOING WRONGGGG?" I've always wanted to have a group for parents of teens called "whine and wine" and they loved that idea... so we'll start that up in the next few months.

By the end of the evening my throat was on fire. It hurt to talk and I could hardly wait for everyone to leave! I headed straight home to bed and am home sick today (the day before Ash Wednesday, for crying out loud!) sweating and watching terrible daytime tv. I'm hoping that resting today will mean I'll be ready to roll tomorrow. Because away we gooooo!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Simple Woman's Day Book: Blizzard of 2013 Edition

Simple Woman's Day Book
FOR TODAY 2/9/13...

Outside My Window...
it's still snowing and blowing, as it has been for over 24 hours now. We have over two feet of snow, lots more in some places and lots less in others, due to the blustering wind. Our plow guy has come (thanks, landlord!) but we went out to shovel out the cars and porch. It's fluffy snow, but I wouldn't call it "light"- in fact, the farther you dig, the denser it gets. I know my back will be sorry later.
I am thinking... about the way Facebook has changed everything, including the way we experience snowstorms now. We stayed fully connected throughout, posting pictures and seeing our friends' babies standing as height indicators in front of snow drifts. Everyone had pictures posted by the time I woke up this morning. I got a message from my childhood next-door-neighbor, checking in on us. I really like being a part of Facebook, even if I know I'm being manipulated by the media marketing machine.
I am thankful for... the fact that we have not lost power, and that we got all our groceries in before the storm started in earnest. I'm thankful to have Scott to wait out the storm with. I'm thankful to have a warm home and an electric blanket and snuggly kittens. Thankful that my family is okay and that no one has to go shovel out my parents' driveway.
From the kitchen... yesterday I gambled that the power would stay on and cooked an oven-stuffer-roaster chicken in the crock pot for 8 hours (just put half a stick of butter and an onion in there with it). In the end it was so luscious, moist and falling off the bone. I pulled out two cups of juice out and froze them for future use, and today I'll make chicken salad or something with it. OH yum. I also made coconut flour blueberry muffins, which were pretty good but definitely had a coconut meal kind of consistency, which if you like coconut, probably wouldn't be bad.
I am wearing... pajamas, natch. But for a while I was all geared up in lots of layers, mittens, hat, boots... you know, all you need. By the time we were done, I was sweating! Now I'm cozy and ready for a nap.
I am creating... hm, not much at the moment, outside of clear paths through the snow. Oh and a bad back.
I am going... to take a nap and keep pumping Aleve. We're not allowed, actually, to go anywhere, as there is a travel ban until 4:00 this afternoon.
I am reading... Still reading Forming Intentional Disciples, just finished SUM (you've gotta read it), sometimes I dip into I Wasn't Dead When I Wrote This, and the book my brother gave me I Am (oh shoot, I can't remember the girl's name... I'm having trouble getting into it but still plugging along)...
I am hoping... for another snow day tomorrow! I should be having cabin fever and getting anxious to get back to work but I do love a snow day. Well, let's just call it win-win either way. We were supposed to have GOF on Friday, and Scott and I were to run a retreat today. Tomorrow, GOF again. I guess we'll see!
I am hearing... snowblowers! I thought the other day that the sound of plows is one of my favorite sounds. They sound just like they did when I was a kid. It's the sound of FREEDOM my friends!!!
Around the house... the usual, snoozing cats. Good food, ready to eat.
One of my favorite things... Oh, I answered this already, didn't I?
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Lent starts this week!! How is that possible? I've got some cool plans for Lent this year, and it's my favorite season. So many opportunities for ministry, for connections, for renewal. I think it's going to be a good one.
Here is picture thought I am sharing. Token snow shot!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Do You See What I See?

As an educator, one of my most embarrassing moments of failure is that, after trying twice, I could not teach my brother-in-law how to play the game Minesweeper. It's tricky, teaching Minesweeper, because playing it really involves a way of seeing in a particular way. I was trying to get him to see the numbers as the center of the squares, but he was focusing on the flags.

Teaching a new way of seeing is difficult, but I remember the teachers who were able to do that for me. English teachers like Mr. Anderson who would start on one topic and then magically guide us along until- WOAH! We are talking about semantics!! How did he DO that?? And my Psych professor in college, who taught us to read headlines and "stats" in advertising in such a new way that I've never been able to go back.

This reminds me of that old optical illusion... my Great Aunt Lucy had a cross-stitched version of this in her living room, and I remember one boring Saturday afternoon during one of our visits with her when I suddenly saw the word "JESUS" appear where I had once only been able to see blocks of black and white. I spent the rest of the visit watching the squares shift back and forth between the word and nonsense, fascinated.

I think religious education and Youth Ministry are all about teaching a way of seeing. Finding Christ, being aware of God's presence and love in our lives, cultivating thankfulness, living faith- none of these can be formed out of a textbook.