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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feeling strength from attending church

We have rededicated ourselves as a family to attending church regularly. We'd gotten out of the habit over the last several months (prior to summer to be honest). As a result, we are feeling strengthened.

This past weekend we made ourselves go to church even though we'd been running all weekend without a break. We'd had two soccer games Saturday morning, a marching band competition Saturday afternoon/evening, my mother-in-law came and spent the night after the marching band competition and we had a Boy Scout awards picnic scheduled for Sunday afternoon. It would have been nice to sleep in. But we went anyway.

And even though we were tired, I don't think any of us minded going. This week the service was entitled Reason and Reverence. It was much more Humanist than last week's discussion about the bible. But it was presented as a bridge between the two. It is obvious that our minister is trying to bridge the gap between the Humanists and the Spiritualists in our congregation. Frankly, there were parts of the service where I realized I was zoning out and hadn't heard what had been said. All the scientific talk and worship of knowledge just kind of runs dry with me. But I sat there alongside Big J who enjoyed it much more than me. I figured, last week was my week, this week is his week.

But after the service I was able to talk to so many friends. That made it all worthwhile to me. There have been times when I'd go to coffee hour and not find one single soul to talk to. That's a terribly lonely feeling to be in a room full of people and have no one talk to you. But the last couple of weeks I have run into several different friends and we connected about the service or our kids in RE or outside concerns. That is a wonderful feeling.

Another wonderful thing about church lately is what I'm seeing in my kids. Little J still won't attend so we leave him at home. He's old enough to make up his own mind and I refuse to force him. But the younger two we always take. They may grumble a little, but we take them. Well, lately they are grumbling much less. Both boys already knew some of the kids in their classes, but they are building friendships.

E is in 5th grade and in our church the 5th/6th grade class is sort of a transition between the younger kids' RE and the junior/senior high youth groups. They are given more independence, they are treated more like young adults, and they are given their first social justice projects to work on. As a result, their behavior improves so much. It is like they feel like they are being taken seriously. So E has been hanging out with 5-6 boys in his class and they run around in a pack. It is so cool to see since E is normally a shy child.

Meanwhile, until this week I hadn't been able to get D to attend his K class without me. I'd walk him out into the social hall after the Children's Focus for him to meet his teachers and walk to his classroom. But he'd cling to me. And once we got to the classroom he'd insist I stay. It was often 15-20 minutes before I managed to sneak out and head back to the adult service. BUT! This week as he met his class and they started to walk over, he waved and started walking on his own! I couldn't believe it! Then after the service when I went to pick him up, they were all sitting at the little tables having snack and he was sitting there telling jokes to the other kids sitting around him. And he was having so much fun with the other kids that I had trouble getting him to leave!

We are off to such a good start this year and I am so relieved and excited about it.

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Monday, September 17, 2007


An anonymous person (or persons) has done something very generous for us and it couldn't have come at a more useful time. Big J and I are so grateful for this unexpected blessing. I'm sure that whomever is responsible knows who they are and what they've done and we can't thank them enough.

Humbly and gratefully...

Mama G

Starting a new church year

Even though it meant cutting into what little cash we had on hand to buy gas for the van, we made our way to church yesterday. We are wanting to start this year off right. It was a very uplifting day and I'm glad we went.

The topic of the service was "Who Wrote the Bible?", a fairly overt Christian service for our congregation. I was very interested, but expected an academic snore-fest, frankly. But I'll take any little nugget I can get and I'm trying to get in the habit of giving the benefit of doubt rather than jumping to judgment. Big J, the religious humanist with Native American spiritualism tendencies, was not looking forward to the service but went along as a commitment to start going to church more often. He did mention some moments of discomfort related to the baggage he brings from a conservative Christian upbringing. I imagine his discomfort was milder than that of some in our congregation.

In our congregation it is our custom to keep everyone together through the opening hymn, lighting the chalice, reciting the covenant, welcome and announcements and then a Children's Focus story. After that, the children are released to go to their RE classes. Yesterday's Children's Focus was the Old Testament story about Daniel in the lion's den. I personally thought it was great to hear a bible story in church and see that its message (as interpreted by our Worship Associate) was totally in line with our UU values: if you believe something in your heart, you have the right and should stand up for that belief and not let others forbid you from it.

The main service itself was interesting. It was not as academic and boring as I feared (except for one reading with lots of convoluted big words because we're "so smart"). It wasn't terribly informative for me because I've studied the bible so much on my own already. I was already aware of the theories of multiple authorship of the Old Testament and the J, E, P, and D versions. But it was absolutely fantastic to hear our minister say that the bible has stood the test of time because it has something meaningful and worthwhile to say and that it was never intended to be read literally but rather metaphorically. I sat there nodding my head throughout the service. And the postlude after the service was a wonderful piano arrangement of Amazing Grace. These things are such a rarity in our church that I was brought to tears just sitting there basking in it all.

Coffee hour afterward is also good for the soul. I had a friend come up to me and whisper that she is thinking about starting up a monthly prayer group to meet once a month before the service and she wondered if I'd be interested. Hallelujah! While the number of UU Christians at our church is small, there are lots of people who are "spiritual" and believe in some sort of God. Lots of spiritual talk is left out of the services (with yesterday being a notable exception) because of a very vocal athiest minority. (My friend says that only 19% of the congregation self-identified as Humanist - a fact I found very surprising.) Anyway, those of us with a more spiritual hunger are going to have to join together to find ways to fill our own needs. I am so excited to find others who, while maybe not theologically the same as me, are interested in bringing more spirituality into their lives.

I was happy and basking in the afterglow of the morning on the way home. I asked the boys about their RE classes. D is in the kindergarten class and they are doing the "Stories about God" curriculum this year. He was telling me that they talked about how, "God is everywhere: in the volcanoes, in rainbows, in the oceans, and oh, in people." :-) E is in the 5th/6th grade class and they are studying Jesus and the "Kingdom of Equals" (a.k.a. New Testament) this year. He said they discussed what Jesus might have looked like and how different cultures have portrayed him over history. They also watched a scene from a movie called The Nativity. His only comment was that afterward, one boy suggested they watch Monte Python's Life of Brian. ;-) The class (which happened to be all boys this week) loved the idea and they were all familiar with the Monte Python movies. Gotta love UU kids.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Permanent solution to a temporary problem

Last night around 8:30 our phone rang and the sobbing voice was almost unintelligible. It was Little J's girlfriend. A classmate of theirs had just committed suicide. Within minutes, Little J and I jumped in the van and as we left the neighborhood we stopped by and picked up Little J's best friend. I drove them the half a mile to the church the boy had attended. There was already a huge group congregated in the sanctuary - most of them teenagers and youth leaders.

Apparently the boy had come home from school yesterday and had an argument with his mom. Angry words were said and he went into the bathroom and hanged himself. The kids are shocked and devestated. He was a well-liked and friendly kid.

I remember him from elementary school. He was often in Little J's classes.

Of course, I immediately think of the parents. The thought of losing a child, especially under these circumstances, is mind boggling. I've been praying for the family and all the friends who are now walking around dazed and trying to cope. Such a terrible loss.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Christians for the Mountains

Was the earth made for humans to use or are we merely stewards of the miracle of nature around us? When I talk to many of the people around me who identify themselves as Christians, they often believe that God made the earth for humans to use as we see fit. And if we trash it, it doesn't really matter because it's all about the afterlife anyway, right? And these people often claim that the Climate Crisis (formerly known as Global Warming) is all a big hoax made up by liberals (to what end, I haven't figured out yet...but anyway...)

So that has been my (obviously limited) experience with Christians and their views of nature. And then recently my husband discovered a movement of Christians in the Appalachian Mountains who see what human beings are doing to the earth as an affront to God. Basically, this centers around coal extraction methods used in the Appalachians that involve blowing the tops off of mountains and stripping the life from the land. Besides the devestation to tree and animal life, runoff from the mining is getting into water sources and school children are getting sick in large numbers. In August, the government just announced new rulings that basically void some aspects of the Clean Water Act in order to make coal extraction from the mountains easier. Let's ravage the land and the sanctity of life for the sake of a misguided energy crisis.

I do admit that I have trouble understanding how people who call themselves Christians and presumably love God's creation, can so callously cause such widespread devestation. It was so heartening to me to see a group who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. You can check out their cause on their website at Christians for the Mountains. My husband feels a special connection to this issue since his family is from an area where strip mining was prevalent in the early 1970's in the Appalachians of eastern Kentucky. He wrote about it on his own blog at A View from the Crossroads.

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Ministry of friendship

I've been trying to figure out what exactly it is about friendship that can lift us up out of the dark and murky low times of our lives. It seems magical because it isn't, I think, intentional or deliberate in any way. It can just appear out of nowhere just when we need it. Or maybe it is a holy gift...

As you know, I've been going through a dark spell lately. It feels like I imagine quicksand would be because it is so difficult to climb out of. But the one thing that has helped me the most is friendship.

I'm a band mom who chaperones marching band trips every Saturday. (BTW, our band took first place last week!) Anyway, I am making new friends with other band moms and they have welcomed me into their group. We went through all the motions of getting to know each other better including chatting, laughing, commisserating, etc. And the warmth I felt from their welcome lifted my heart and almost made me forget about the other parts of my life.

And then Sunday afternoon I met with my UU Christian Circle. I was so down and worried about spending the gas money that I almost didn't go. But my friends talked me into it. It ended up being another blessing. I was hosting a talk on the various versions of the Lord's Prayer and I had to admit that my heart just wasn't into it. That academic discussion just wasn't fulfilling me. But then we spent a lot of time talking about everyone's lives. Two of us in particular are going through a rough spell. Everyone rallied around us and buoyed us up so that we could go out into the world and face our lives again. Just knowing that those people care about me and support me no matter what I'm going through is worth more than anything else someone could offer me right now. Okay, a job would be nice. But I wouldn't trade my friendships even for a job.

Thank you, God, for bringing these special people into my life.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Silence is better than a blubbering rant

I remember when I first discovered the blog world a couple of years ago, I stumbled on some random blogs where people seemed to want to air their dirty laundry. Lots of personal information that made me uncomfortable to read and foul language that railed at the world at large. I remember wondering what the point of the tirade was (attention?) and feeling a little embarrassed for the anonymous author.

So I have chosen to be silent a lot lately. I am currently in a very dark place and almost anything I can say or write comes out sounding either weepy or full of rage. And my blog readers don't deserve that dumped on them.

Sometimes life is very very difficult and you wonder how you'll manage to hold on for one more day. But then by some miraculous feat you do only to face the same dilemma the next day. And the next. I'm waiting for some spiritual enlightenment to make sense of all this but it isn't coming yet.

I had a dream the other night. I was driving my van down a familiar local road and I went around a pond. As I made a curve to go around it I realized that the road had flooded and my van was sinking into the pond. My automatic windows were rolled up and it all happened so fast that I didn't have time to lower the windows. In an instant I knew that I was done for. Almost instantaneously the brown murky water rose up the outsides of my windows. I woke up with my heart pounding and gasping for breath.