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.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Leaving a church?

I haven't made a final move yet, but I am very close to quitting our UU church. We have decided not to renew our pledge of membership this year. We will change our status to "friends". Big J wants to feel free to go back occasionally if they should have any good sermon topics come along. I kind of feel a sadness when I think of leaving. But frankly, I hardly recognize the place anymore.

I won't get into the issues publicly, but there is a disagreement at our church that stands to tear the very fiber of the congregation into two. There is a very vocal bunch who just won't let this issue die. Their need to be "right" and "win" is so great that they are willing to watch the congregation implode as a result. As far as the disagreement goes, I don't really have an opinion one way or other about that. I do, however, have an opinion about a congregation which appears, these days, to be ruled by a group of people who are hell-bent (and I use that phrase purposely) on getting their way no matter what damage is done.

I think about the covenant that we say each week. I'm sure it is like most UU churches' covenants:
"Love is the Spirit of this church
Service is its law
To dwell together in peace
To seek the truth in love
And to help one another
This is our covenant."

Some of these people seem only to recognize the "Service is its law" piece of the covenant. They definitely don't consider Love to be the Spirit of the church, nor do they believe we should dwell together in peace, seek the truth in *love*, or help one another. They've become hateful and mean-spirited and are letting that control what is happening. These are not my values. The spiritual values that I think are most important to me are compassion and forgiveness and these people seem to be lacking in both. It is not a pleasant environment there anymore.

It makes me sad, but I see no solution on the horizon.

Today we visited the Quakers again for meeting. The compassion and joy I saw there is what I'm looking for.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

A new routine

So two weeks ago I started working at a different school filling in for a sixth grade teacher who just had a baby. I will be doing that until the end of March. It was a big change from teaching art. First of all, since it is at a new school, I am starting from square one. I have to learn all new student names, meet and get to know the other teachers/staff, learn the new routines for passing in the hallway, keeping records, grading, lunch/recess duties not to mention the specifics of teaching social studies and reading (the two subjects I teach). It is going well and I am adjusting. Everyone has been welcoming and I am getting used to it, but sometimes find myself homesick for the other school. This job actually keeps me much busier. I am going all day long without even a minute to check my email and I bring a lot more work home (either grading or lesson planning). I teach 86 students (4 classes) social studies and then I teach one reading class made up of 20 of the kids.

Meanwhile, we are freezing in Indiana. We had two days this week with a two-hour delay to the start of school because of weather. I am a nervous driver when it comes to snow and ice. I find myself fantasizing about summer and 80 degree weather. But tonight I will be hunkered down here at home with a fire in the fireplace, a glass of red wine, and the season finale of Monk (which we recorded last week and I haven't had the chance to watch yet!). I have a couple of books I've been reading so maybe I'll spend some time with them this weekend. Sometimes a weekend around the house is the best medicine for a hectic week. We do plan to go back to the Quaker church this Sunday, but that is the extent of our plans at this point.

Oh, one more thing...I have not been tempted ONCE to give in and drink coffee. I haven't had so much as a sip this entire Lent so far. And that is a real feat considering the cold weather we've had.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

My spiritual journey meanders in a new direction

My UU church is no longer feeding me. In fact, the environment there feels toxic these days. I have no desire to go there. (That is a depressing topic for another blog entry on another day.) But I feel the groundwork has been laid for the next branch in my seeking.

For several years I have been a fan of the books by Philip Gulley. He has co-written two books about universalism with James Mulholland. Gulley has also published a series of fictional books set in the small fictional Quaker town of Harmony.

Anyway, I was especially moved by Gulley and Mulholland's universalism books, If Grace is True, and If God is Love. They so resonated with me and helped me define my own growing Christianity. This is who I am as a Christian.

So it was only natural that eventually I would track down Philip Gulley's Quaker meeting house, Fairfield Friends Meeting, where he is pastor. It is ironic that it is only 10 minutes from my house and yet it took me 41 years to find it. I feel like his books and even my foray into Unitarian Universalism may all have been like bread crumbs left by God to guide me one step at a time in this direction.

We went to the Quaker meeting Sunday before last and I was surprised by how comfortable and at home I felt. This is a progressive Quaker meeting which includes things that make me comfortable - social justice efforts around the world, a non-literal interpretation of the Bible, and most importantly, the belief that Christianity is about love and compassion for all human beings.

I couldn't go back this week because of previous commitments I'd made at the UU church, but we will definitely be going back.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Teaching Art

Yesterday was my last day to teach art. My 10 weeks flew by before I knew it. It was fun and I learned a lot. I took a few pictures of the hallway displays I made of my students' artwork.

Here is a project the first graders made called Rose Window. They folded and cut shapes out of black construction paper and then glued different colors of tissue paper over the spaces. Very basic, but they were learning cutting and glueing skills at this age. I also tried to introduce symmetry and you can see that some got it and some didn't.

Here is another project done by the first graders. We studied the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. His artwork is noted for having black horizontal and vertical lines on a white background, with random primary-colored quadrilaterals. This is the first graders' attempt to imitate Mondrian.

This next project was done by the second graders. We studied the concept of value, or the spectrum of light/dark of a color. The students painted geometric shapes that began as white shapes and then gradually expanded in shades of gray getting darker and darker with each layer.

This last photo is of the chalk pastel artwork done by the sixth graders. They chose nature photos out of magazines and made observational drawings of the photos and then colored them with chalk pastels. This was an exercise in blending and matching color in addition to practicing drawing skills. I don't know how well you can see them, but some turned out really well.

I took a few more photos yesterday, but I don't have them in digital format yet. I'll post them when I get them.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lent - Breaking the Bonds

I meant to make an Ash Wednesday post yesterday, but my schedule being what it is, I wasn't able to get online long enough. Since I accepted Christianity, I've loved the seasons of Lent and Advent because of the opportunity for spiritual focus. I'm not a Catholic and don't do things "by the book", but like all matters Christian, I'm finding there is much to be gained by taking a closer look at traditions.

In my pre-Christian days, with chip firmly placed on shoulder, I adamantly opposed the idea that I should be forced to give something up. I rolled my eyes at the idea that God would like me better if I gave up chocolate for six weeks. But now that I'm looking at things differently, I realize that rather than a burden, Lent is an opportunity. Twice a year (Advent being the second such time) I can focus with more intention on my spirituality and grow closer to God.

I just read a Lenten sermon from 2006 written by UU Minister, Rev. Amy B. Freedman, about voluntarily giving something up for Lent. You can read it yourself at Lent: Voluntary Surrender. I had already decided to give up coffee for Lent this year, and this sermon just confirms what I already felt. For a while now, coffee has had an unhealthy hold on my life. I have been held captive by the need for coffee. In recent months I had gotten to the point where I'd have 4-6 cups per day. Some might think that my desire to kick the coffee habit is health related. I admit that I know that much caffeine is not good for me. But the real reason I want to break the coffee bond is the psychological hold it has on me. I don't want to *need* any substance that much anymore. I want to develop more discipline and control over my life. I think of this as a spiritual battle. I am also being more intentional about daily prayer.

On Fat Tuesday I made myself a nice big mug of steaming coffee with cream and savored every sip. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I made myself a cup of tea. I'm not a fan of tea. It's only okay in my book. It is to help me get over the initial hurdle and then I won't drink it. Tea will not be hard to give up.

So far (after almost 2 days) I have not missed my coffee much. The only times I have thought about having coffee, it was an emotional thing and not a physical one. I miss the comfort of a cup of coffee after coming in from the cold or early in the morning while still in my jammies. This emotional reaction just confirms my belief that coffee had too much control in my life.

My son laughed and said he didn't believe I'd make it all the way to Easter without coffee. I will. Just you wait and see.

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