Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Monday, July 31, 2006

They are making this so hard

Several months ago I made a personal commitment that I was going to stick it out with this UU church no matter how challenging that was. I have felt quite disconnected for a while now. The entire congregation is going through a difficult time now (attendance is down, key members have left the church, complaints about the minister and board run rampant, etc.). Over the summer we've been having communication (ha!) sessions to try to figure out what exactly is the problem and then in August we are supposed to take the information gathered and figure out how to fix it. A major problem they've found so far is poor communication (both in quantity and quality). There is a sense of "gatekeeping" at the upper levels and lots of people are feeling left out of the process.

I have to admit that I feel funny even talking about this publicly and probably will limit how much detail I give out just because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings just in case someone from church stumbled upon my blog. It feels very painful...almost like marital trouble. Going to church and even reciting the covenant has become very painful (for me, anyway). I have been avoiding the services and only going when I am teaching kids' RE.

Well, yesterday we had a guest speaker from the Heartland District (our district within UUA) to speak about building a nurturing community. Following the service was a "light lunch" in the social hall and then there was supposed to be a workshop for the entire congregation in the meeting house/sanctuary. I was teaching the Preschool RE class for the day and had my 4yo son along with me. Overall attendance was low (even for a summer service), but I had 5 kids in class. After the children had been picked up and I straightened up the room and vacuumed the carpet, I took my son over to the main building for lunch before the workshop I'd been planning to attend. I'd been "on duty" for two hours and needed to stop at the restroom first.

When we came out of the restroom and made our way to the food table, I was shocked to see that there was nothing left!! Well, no real food anyway. On the children's table all that was left were marshmallows, bite size candy bars, two trays of cookies, a bowl of jelly beans, a couple of tubes of gogurt and some string cheese. On the adult table there were maybe two spoonfuls of salad left and on the drink table there was one little cup of lemonade. I gave D the lemonade and he grabbed a gogurt and a cookie. I had water and the salad and a handful of peanuts.

It was crowded with no place left to sit so we took our things outside to sit under a tree by ourselves. There were a couple of other RE teachers behind me and I had to warn them there was no food left. Guess that's what you get for volunteering your time to teach RE, huh?

We ate what little we had, but I could tell this wasn't going to cut it. I was hungry and a hungry 4yo is no fun to be with, let me tell you. If we stayed, we'd have been there another two hours. I said forget it. We got in the van and left. I decided we'd eat lunch at home and forget the workshop.

So much for community building...


Saturday, July 29, 2006

God the Mother?

I've been away from the blog world this week because we were trying to catch a little bit of vacation time. Tuesday we went to Cincinnati, OH to Paramount's King's Island for an exhausting but fun day. All the walking took its toll on me and it has taken me a few days to get back to my normal self. Also youth soccer season here is starting and both of the younger boys had their first practices (separate teams). Finally, yesterday Big J decided to take all three boys fishing for the first annual family fishing trip. Everyone caught fish and had fun. I got to spend the day alone watching chick flicks and blog surfing.

During the time I've been away from the computer, I've had several ideas and topics pop into my head. I'm still cogitating over some of them and I'll get back to that.

I just this morning checked over some of the UU Blogs and someone (maybe ChaliceChick) posted about an upcoming UU Blog Carnival with possible topics. One that jumped out at me was the reaction I had the first time I heard God referred to as female. This is one that gets me.

I consider myself a relative feminist. I mean, considering where I live and the majority of people I interact with, I am about as feminist as you can get (fellow UU congregants notwithstanding). But in the big spectrum, I'm starting to get feelings that I am more conservative than I previously thought. Sometimes that bothers me. I don't like feeling like I am conservative. But then I ask myself what is wrong with being conservative? I think I have too many close-minded connections that confuse the matter.

Anyway, back to my original thought...when I saw God referred to as "she" I almost literally rolled my eyes. It just seemed silly to me. Like the author is Trying Too Hard. While I don't think God is male, I also don't think God is female. And switching back and forth between two genders makes God seem schizophrenic.

I don't have a problem referring to God the Father (but then I love my father so that image isn't problematic for me). The whole thing is metaphoric anyway so I have trouble seeing why it even matters so much. It seems to me that only those with open gender wounds are the ones up in arms about it. In my life experience, a father figure isn't bad.

I don't mind God in the feminine, but it does make the whole thing a little less serious for me and a little distracting from the main spiritual message of whatever I'm reading (generally I only encounter this in print). Well, now that I think of it, some of the Pagan-oriented services I've been to recently have invoked the name Mother Earth and I had the same reaction. I know this really works for some people, but it just doesn't work for me. It seems too fabricated. Strange, but the more traditional language doesn't.


Monday, July 24, 2006

A small group of friends...

I am so excited. Yesterday afternoon I went to the house of friends from church. Actually, they have recently stopped attending our UU church after 16 years. After I heard her story about why she left, I don't blame her. It does help me to understand the train wreck that has become our church lately and I feel more depressed than ever about the chances that this thing will get better before it gets worse. :-( Maybe I'll devote another post to this topic one of these days.

In the meantime, I am happy that she decided to start up a discussion group. When she called me about it, she described it as a discussion about Early Christianity (pre-Gospels). Besides the host, her husband, and myself, there was another couple from church as well as another woman and a third couple, all three of which attend the two local UU churches sporadically, but don't (I think) consider themselves UU's (yet).

It wasn't a real focused discussion. I had brought along The Secret Message of Jesus by McLaren which I recently finished as well as The Gospel of Jesus by James Robinson which I am currently reading. That started a discussion of books we've read and the messages of each. It was interesting to see the variety of ideas of what *exactly* was Jesus' message. In the end we came up with a long reading list for those of us who get into that sort of thing (which, of course, as UU's we do).

We also had a discussion about the problems of UUism as a denomination. One woman just recently returned from a retreat at Star Island where she said there was lots of discussion about how to hold this thing (i.e. UUism) together. So we spoke in general terms and then we also talked about specific problems within our church. And a couple of us brought up the differences that we've perceived between East Coast UU churches vs. UU churches here in the midwest (that being that here in the midwest, UU churches serve as havens to those burned by conservative Christianity so to proclaim any interest in Christianity is a bad thing whereas on the East Coast - generally a more liberal environment overall - you don't have that "haven" influence).

Lots of good discussion and food (of course). We were trying to think of a name for ourselves. Someone suggested Heretics for Jesus ;-) but the woman who was hosting vetoed the word Heretic. So we're still thinking. It looks like we'll be meeting every once in a while. Yippee!!


Friday, July 21, 2006

Bumper Stickers

In June this year, just after school was out, my van died. I'd driven it for 7 years and it was like an old friend. I was heartbroken to get rid of it, despite the fact it had been failing for years.

Anyway, by some miracle of God (almost literally), we got a new van. Well, it isn't "new" (it's a 2005), but it is new to me. And more significantly, it has no identifying marks. So I've been wanting to add something that identifies it as mine. My old van had a UU bumper sticker (Uncommon Denomination). Despite the controversy surrounding that sticker, at least it identified me (and made it easy for me to pick out my green van in the sea of vans at the grocery store parking lot). I don't want to get into the Darwin fish wars. A lot of those things, I feel, are antagonistic and fly in the face of Christ's message. So I don't want to be negative, but want to find something positive instead. The picture above this post is the one I ended up ordering this morning. I saw it on a car a year or so ago and have loved it ever since.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Feelin' Lousy

Have I mentioned before that I have Lupus? (I like to say that I have Lupus, but it doesn't have me because, generally, it doesn't.) Anyway, I've run into a snag. I ran out of one of my meds that I have to take daily. Last time I went to the doc, she gave me a new prescription for refills, but that was several months ago and now I can't find the prescription! I put it somewhere for "safe keeping". HA! I was going to try to tough it out until my August 1 appointment (stupid, I know), but I'm starting to notice I am feeling bad. It really feels like arthritis pain. My right knee hurts and my hips and shoulders are starting to hurt. Sigh. It makes it hard to do anything.

So I guess I'll have to call the doc once the office opens this morning and see if she can have something phoned to the pharmacy for me. No way I can make it unmedicated until Aug. 1.

On top of all that, I went to the dentist yesterday to have two crowns put in. I'm a baby so I asked them to numb my mouth so I wouldn't feel it. Well, wouldn't you know, I chomped down on the inside of my left cheek without even realizing it when it was numb. Last night when the numbness wore off I had this incredible bruised-like pain in my jaw. Took me a while to figure out what was going on.

So anyway, I'm not feeling great physically and emotionally I just feel grumpy. And the heat outside is oppressive so we're all stuck inside in the AC. I need to think of something creative for us to do, but I just don't feel up to the challenge right now.



Monday, July 17, 2006

Yard Sales

This past Saturday we had a yard sale. I'm not a huge fan of yard sales and never shop in them (I never feel compelled to buy other people's junk). But our neighborhood was having one of those big community yard sales anyway so I decided to set a few things out and see what would happen.

I've been so busy lately with all the kids' camps and other activities, that I didn't gather as much stuff as I'd hoped, but we still managed to cover our driveway and front lawn. Most of what I had was ... sniff ... baby stuff. My "baby" is now 4 1/2, but he's my last and I've been holding onto his stuff. But this weekend I bit my lip and let it all go. I sold his crib, stroller, lots of toys, baby clothes, etc. It was really hard and at times there were tears when I was going through some of his tiny clothes. A couple of little outfits were ones that I really loved to put him in. In the end, I took what was left and donated it to Goodwill. It does make me feel better to know that someone else will get some good use out of our previously used stuff. I know that the Buddhists believe attachment to stuff hinders us in our spiritual development. But it is so hard to let go...

We did make over $200 and we are planning use the money to take the kids to an amusement park before school starts again. And I did clear out a little closet space so that is good too.



Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Secret Message of Jesus

I mentioned the other day that I picked up this book of Brian McLaren's at the library. I've had a hunch I'd absolutely love McLaren, but this is the first chance I've gotten to read any of his books. (Our conservative public library doesn't own any of his books until this one.)

This book is wonderful. It touches on so many wonderful ideas. I'm going to have to go back through it once I finish and revisit several things.

For those of you who haven't read the book, McLaren basically says that the real message of Jesus is hidden and has often gotten overlooked. He says Jesus' main point didn't have to do with what happened to us after we die, but instead is that we have the power to bring about the Kingdom of God in the here and now. The Kingdom of God is at hand. His book helped me to explain the message behind the miracle stories that, up to now, I had trouble fitting into my understanding of Christ. The miracles show that the seemingly impossible is possible if we only believe. Most people who don't believe something can happen, live in that unbelief and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But by not letting unbelief stop you, you can bring about change. It's very exciting and overwhelming to think about.

Tonight I was reading chapter 17 (which speaks about the history of violence in Christianity) and it includes a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. which I love:

Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder.
Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth.
Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate.
Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.


Loving my enemy

Well, maybe not loving exactly, but at least making an effort to be civil...

I have been away from the computer this week because I've been a Walker (a.k.a. chaperone) for E's cub scout daycamp. Lots of fun activities, songs, etc. The adventure culminated last night at the family picnic where E was awarded a certificate from the woman who taught water conservation (via bug identification) for finding the only Snipe Fly Larva of the entire week! ;-) Woo hoo! I was proud and he was thrilled to hear his name called to go up front for an award.

This week has been a challenge for me too. The Head Walker in our group is a woman with whom I have clashed in the past. She has an older son who is the same age as Little J (14) and they do not get along. To make a long story short, she and I have not spoken for the last two years. She'd said some pretty nasty things about Little J and I have had a hard time moving beyond that.

But I've been particularly moved by a lot of religious things I've read lately, particularly the book The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren. The idea of turning the other cheek and loving your enemies kept resonating with me. So I decided before the week started that I was going to make every effort to get along with this woman and not let the past cast a cloud on E's daycamp.

Now that camp is over, I would not say that we are best buddies or that we would even chit chat. But we did speak and at the end of the final picnic last night she said goodbye to me as I left. And I said goodbye to her. That was a HUGE step for both of us.

I think if we are truly to bring about the Kingdom of God as McLaren said, we have to start in our own backyards, right? Sometimes that is much more difficult than doing things for strangers.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Struck gold at the library

Yippee skippy! I have to say I've nearly given up hope for my little public library's religion section. I've read just about everything they have that I'm interested in. I've browsed on and found tons of books I'd love to read, but here in conservativeville they don't often get ordered for the public library. I was thrilled that they have both of the Gulley and Mulholland books, a couple of Anne Lamott's books, God's Politics by Wallis, and one of Bishop Spong's books. But that's about it. I've been pining away for some Brian McLaren books, but that seemed like a pipe dream until I could scrounge up the money for

Last weekend Big J and I went into a Barnes & Noble. It had been AGES since I'd been in a real bookstore. (I don't get out much.) Anyway, I went straight to the religion section and found probably at least 10 books I'd like to get. I was practically salivating over McLaren's Why I am a ..... Christian but couldn't justify spending the money on it (yet).

Today I went to our public library and lo and behold they surprised me. In their new books section I found McLaren's new book The Secret Message of Jesus. On a whim I headed to the 232 section and stumbled upon The Gospel of Jesus by James M. Robinson. (By this point I was nearly giddy.) Then my eyes scanned down the shelf and found Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. I'd wanted to check that one out ever since I'd seen Ehrman on the Daily Show.

I feel like I hit paydirt at the library today. I do think I'm going to make a purchase request (or several) at their website and request some more books I've been interested in.

So many books, so little time...


Friday, July 07, 2006

My little Arrowhead

I am so filled with pride this morning. (I really don't see how pride like this can be a sin, btw.)

Little J is away at Boy Scout Camp all week this week. This is his fourth year and for those of you familiar with scouting, his rank is Star Scout (only two steps away from Eagle). He's 14. Anyway, last night was family night at camp. I made a cake that looked like an American flag (blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream...yumm) and took it for the family pitch-in dinner. Their camp is nearly two hours away by car, the last half hour or so on windy gravel roads in the woods.

Anyway, Little J (who actually isn't very little anymore - he's passed me up on height) is one of the older scouts now and I can see he's becoming a leader to the younger ones. He buzzes around talking to everyone. He's not the wallflower type, that's for sure.

But the best part of the evening was at dusk when they had the "tapping out" ceremony for the Order of the Arrow. It was reminiscent of a Native American ceremony. They began by lighting torches facing each of the 4 directions (N, S, E, W) with a blessing to each and to Mother Earth and I whispered to Big J that I was reminded of a UU service I attended a few weeks ago. LOL There is a huge bonfire in the center and it is done at dark so the whole thing is done by firelight in the middle of the woods. Very cool.

So there were 6 troops present...probably about 150 boys. The point of the ceremony is to "tap out" those scouts who have been chosen to join the Order of the Arrow. There were two boys and one leader chosen from Little J's troop and he was one of them. The leaders of the Order of the Arrow circle around the boys and someone stands behind the selected ones holding a cloth arrow pointing to each one. The leaders stop, tap the boy, and he is taken aside. Our scoutmaster let me be the one to hold the arrow over Little J's head and it was really cool. I was overcome by feelings that my son is becoming a man.

I have not always seen eye to eye with the BSA, but I can't help but be proud of my son and the man he's becoming.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ok, I think I got it

Well, as much as anyone ever can get such a contradiction as there being one God but three persons of God. Huh?

Anyway, the explanation that my untrained brain came up with from my reading is that there are three aspects of God - God the Father (a.k.a. the part of God who is not me and/or other people), God the Son (a.k.a. the part of God who became/becomes human through Jesus and other humans), and the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. the part of God shared by the two as in the air that we breathe and all of our interactions with the world).

Now granted, I realize this probably isn't totally theologically sound for all those seminarians out there. But spiritually speaking, this is a college-level concept and I'm still in kindergarten so give me a break. ;-)


Monday, July 03, 2006

This trinitarian thingy

I have been reading Christian Meditation by James Finley. It is a wonderful book, BTW. It is a discussion of contemplative prayer based on what Finley learned as a student of Thomas Merton. So far the book has referenced the book The Cloud of Unknowing as well as St. John of the Cross. Between these two and St. Teresa of Avila and others, my reading list is growing longer and longer.

Anyway, today after reading about the oneness with God brought about through meditation, he went on to explain the concept of the Trinity in light of this different perspective. I struggled to get my mind around it this morning as I was reading it. Now, several hours later I couldn't begin to make sense of it. I'm going to have to go back and reread it. The only thing I can remember about it is that, explained in this way, I was kinda able to understand the idea of the Trinity for the very first time. But talk about making your brain hurt. Whew!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sitting at the big table

When it comes to this idea of spiritual blogging, I feel like a kid who wants to sit at the big table. I've discovered this new (to me) group of bloggers whose ideas and posts really click with me. However, I can't help thinking who am I to jump into the mix. For the first 36 years of my life I had basically no religion at all. My parents were, at best, hostile toward organized religion and for the most part didn't mention it at all. It has only been the last 3 years that I've been going to church and it is of the Unitarian Universalist variety. So my religious education has been pretty sparse. I've read a lot and journaled a lot and meditated a lot. I've come a long way from where I was (spiritually speaking) 3 years ago. But I still feel like I'm worlds behind these other folks who can talk circles around me.

It all comes back to this nagging thought I've always had that I'm "not good enough". I don't know where it came from, but there it is. I've struggled to get to the point where I can accept that I am good enough. I am who I am where I am in my life right now and that's okay. But then I get a niddling little thought in the back of my head that I should keep my mouth shut because I don't know what I'm talking about. Sigh. It's a constant battle.