Tag Archives: church

God’s Vacation

We haven’t been to church in a month.  I went 6/27 with the kids but I was the childcare volunteer that day.  The following week we were in Connecticut and the week after, the human alarm clocks slept until 9.  This past Sunday, my folks were in town for M’s birthday.  The pastor and organist have called to make sure that we are okay, which is so reassuring and. . . I don’t know. . . quaint? 

As a kid, missing church was a joy. But I feel kind of unsettled now.  The Congos have summer scheduling (an hour earlier) and no coffee hour, which is making it more difficult to get everyone up, dressed, out the door and remotely on time.  But I’m telling you now, vast multitudes of readership, I really want to try and make it this week.  I will bring my own snacks, but I need to go.

And it’s not that I haven’t been contemplative for the past month.  I have.  I’ve been having my personal chats with God, He’s letting me know that we’re on the right path.  But I need to go to the physical building (which will be beastly hot) and sit there for an hour (really more like 45 minutes– the Congos tend to go for shorter in the warmer months too.) Why is it different to go and pray in the church?

I just hope there is childcare.  The goob-keteers don’t go in for sitting.

But both Mr. AFT and I have been feeling unsettled.  There’s been some changes afoot at HQ (an understatement.)  We have no plans whatsoever to reverse any of those changes but we need the balance of contemplation.

Do you?

Prayer for the Spiritually Challenged

One of the premises of this blog is that I believe in God and go to church, but I’m not a typical “church lady.”  I’ve done many things that one normally wouldn’t associate with church-going and in my current incarnation I fancy myself a hip and somewhat together mommy type.  Sometimes, people express disbelief that someone like me prays.  Well, I’m certainly not saying a rosary.  Following is a rough recollection of my internal monologue during the prayers of the people in service last Sunday.  Mads was in day care, not goobing around and causing a ruckus (for detail on her behavior, check on this post: https://afunnythinghappenedontheway.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/the-noises-of-children/) , so I actually got to pay attention.

God, please help and guide Ann on her journey through chemotherapy . . . she hasn’t been to church in a long time . . .I’m not even sure she believes. . . she needs Your help. . . hey, remember when we took her kids on the Freedom Trail and Madison announced, loudly, in Old South Church that she’d never been in a church before. . . funny stuff. . . I wonder if they will come to Charlotte’s christening. . . back to praying. . .help those in Haiti. . . You must be getting overload on the Haitians. . . what’s the plan down there. . . what do You call me to do. . . wow, these shoes are ugly. . .I can’t believe I even wear these shoes. . . they are practical, though. . .when did my life change from a black high heels kind of life to a hideous fleece-lined mocassin things kind of life. . . God, guide me on the journey to care for others. . .guide us on our journey to adoption. . . is Charlotte waking up. . . thank You God for our sweet Charlotte. . .I never thought I would have this life and thank You for making it for me and bringing my husband and my children to me. . .is someone snoring. . . Amen.

In case you missed it, my God is a casual guy who chats with me in His particular way.  As my pastor put it in her sermon a few weeks ago, “My Jesus is sarcastic.  He’s wholly human.”  This I can relate to.

A shout-out to Kristin G-W, who actually sent a comment when I asked lurkers to identify themselves.  You don’t need to; I’m just curious.  Hi G!  An email is coming to you, should my girls ever be quiet enough at the same time that I can compose one.

Over and out!  Have a great day.

The Responsibility of Caring

I’ve been watching and listening to a lot of news reports for the past few days.  Despite the volume of information I’ve taken in, I still cannot fathom the extent of the destruction in Haiti.

I’ve only ever experienced one earthquake, even though I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for three years.  That one earthquake was in Connecticut, in the early morning.  I woke up instantly sure that the trembling was indeed an earthquake.  The tremor was small so I didn’t panic.  What strikes me is the oddity of what we think of as immovable suddenly moving.  If the very earth was not stable, what could I truly depend on?

I imagine that the above sentiment must be compounded in Haiti.  There is precious little that be counted on in a country where the majority of its citizens survive on less than a dollar a day.  What little stability and infrastructure existed is gone now.  I cannot comprehend it.

In church, we often talk about the stewardship of others.  It is easy to care for those you know and love (well, not always easy, but you get the point.)  Now we are all called up on to care for the people of Haiti.  The blogosphere is rife with calls for donations.  Make one.  We will be.  The Red Cross is always a good choice for donations:  http://www.redcross.org.

The Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
E-Bulletin

 

 

 

 

 

UCC Responses to Earthquake in Haiti

 

January 13, 2010

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  Psalms 46:1-3 (NRSV)

Haiti earthquakeLet our prayers and generosity mount in response to the emerging news of Haiti’s devastation from a 7.0 earthquake late yesterday afternoon.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS:

100% of all donations will be used to directly help the disaster victims. We are able to do this because of Our Church’s Wider Mission Basic Support.

Make the check out to MACUCC and mark in the memo portion “OGHS – Haitian Relief”.  Mail your check to the Conference office.

MACUCC  . 1 Badger  Road . Framingham, MA 01702

Individuals may also give directly on line: click here.

For more information on the disaster, and how the UCC is responding, click here.

www.MACUCC.org

“Nurturing local church vitality and the covenant among our churches”

 
 

The Noises of Children

My kids are loud but not in the typical non-stop way you might think of for small children.  C is still so little that she can’t make much noise.  Even her cries are pretty low key.  M has her quiet moments.  She is slow to warm up to new situations but once she does, all bets are off.  She does involve herself in reading and quiet play sometimes, but when she is involved in a noisy activity or gets it in her mind to be noisy (as 2.5 year olds do), she is really noisy.  She also is extremely confident and fearless in known situations, so she thinks nothing of flinging herself on and off the sofa at my mom’s house, for example.  Or dashing up to the piano at church to play a few notes.

I’ve mentioned before how wonderful and accommodating everyone at our church is.  It’s a very small congregation and mostly an older one.  Madeline gets a steady stream of cookies at the coffee hour after services, even after John and I tell her no more.   We have child care at church, but it is sporadic and when Maddie is the only child in attendance, I feel guilty asking someone else to miss services to watch my child.  Besides, we want Madeline to experience service.  Our pastor regularly gives thanks for children and for the noises of children.   I try to get my praying done quickly, because I know that after a certain point, usually about 15 minutes into the service, I will have to switch over to containment mode and try to keep M occupied and quiet until the end.  John helps, but since he does the collection and often reads, it’s difficult.

Usually, this is all ok.  Sunday, M was in rare form and C was having a day.  That meant that I was bouncing C while chasing M around the back and sides of the church.  I didn’t always catch her before she had a happy outburst of singing, wishing everyone “happy holidays!” or hitting the piano during a silent prayer.

See how I foreshadowed that?  It’s the English teacher in me.

Bless our wonderful pastor, she took it in stride and made a small joke.  I was kind of embarrassed that I hadn’t scooped M up in time, but no one seemed bothered.  I thought.

Apparently, someone was bothered and mentioned it to our pastor, who in turn mentioned it to me.  She said, “On the one hand, I want to tell them to get over it but on the other hand. . . ”  I agreed at the time.  But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  What were my options?  Physically restraining the child with a leash and tethers?  A muzzle?  Sedation?  We didn’t have in-church child care that week, and the distractions of books, crayons, juice and crackers only last for so long.

On the way home, John mentioned that he had been asked to become a trustee of the church.  He asked me what I thought and I said nothing.  Finally, I told him what had transpired and he immediately got angry, for all the same reasons I did.  We were ready to quit all of our committees and find another church for the following Sunday.  When we got home, I called our pastor and left a message saying that John and I needed to seriously reconsider our involvement in the church if our children could not be accommodated.  We waited for a call back and after about 15 minutes, called her on the cell phone.  She came right over.

Apparently, this individual (and there was only this one) said that he would have to look for another church if behavior like Madeline’s was going to be tolerated.  This made me even madder– he was threatening to leave, knowing that every member is precious in a small congregation.  The pastor apparently said to him, “How are we ever going to attract families with young children to our congregation if we don’t allow those young children to make the noises that young children make?”  I don’t know the individual’s response, but I imagine it was a harrumph and a hasty exit.

Of course, our hotheaded reaction to leave the church was just blowing off steam and we still serve on all of our committees and we’ll be back in service next Sunday.  But the intolerance really bothered me.  It’s not as if we let our children roam free and destroy with reckless abandon.  But M is two-and-a-half and full of joy.  She is curious and gregarious and open.  I thought we were all supposed to emulate that attitude.   Church should be joyful.

Our pastor’s last comment on this is that if this individual has further concerns about M, she plans to make him write Luke 18:16 100 times– “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Heh heh.  🙂

Why God Wants Me to Be Frugal

Before I start, I have to confess to great reticence with this title– and the reticence kind of applies to the whole blog.  It seems that whenever we hear about someone who attributes God as part of their decision making process, that person or persons seems a little dump-tastic.  Think about the last time you saw a television interview where the interviewee talked at all about their spiritual beliefs. It tends to be in the context of “God spared my double-wide from destruction in the big twister!” and the individual being interviewed generally looks like he or she just got spit out from the swirling vortex of that twister. Seriously, people, did you not know that you were about to be on television?  Could you not have spared a moment to perhaps comb your hair or tuck in your shirt?  I keep waiting for the interviewee who professes faith and wears Christian Louboutins, lipstick and a decent blow out.  I can get behind that doctrine.

Please note: as research, I just checked out The Faith Network on television.  Women in pastel suits and thick glasses with egregious ash blonde bouffant hair-helmets are featured.  Just as disturbing as the sweatpant and oversized tee shirt ensembles.  This is the collective vision of what it looks like to believe in God.  No wonder I’m reticent.

My renewed frugality coincides with my renewed faith in God.   It seems awfully coincidental for there not to be a link.  Perhaps frugality and faith are both products of difficult circumstances.  If that is true, I would expect both to wane as difficulties ebb or as I get used to the difficulties.  John and I have agreed that even when (if?) our fortunes improve, we are unlikely to go back to our previous ways.  That, of course, remains to be seen, but our intent belies transience.

(BTW, if one of my students used that many SAT words in a single paragraph, I’d tell them to revise because it sounds stilted.)

So I figure either frugality drives faith or faith drives frugality.  I’m choosing the latter.  Because I believe in a higher power and a purpose greater than acquiring stuff, I choose to be frugal.  Frugality means I spend less of my resources, monetary and temporal, on worry and therefore I can spend more (mostly time) on what God (or Whomever) wants me to do.  What G or W wants me to do is a different post. 

I have to add that because of my belief, frugality doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.  John and I look back at our stupid days with relief, not nostalgia.  As in, “wow, that was dumb.  I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.”  I admit that I do miss wantonly ordering takeout but I recognize that the food I make is generally tastier and healthier than takeout, besides being significantly more cost-effective.  I don’t miss random shopping for “stuff.”  I occasionally miss John’s previous car, which I only drove rarely but enjoyed greatly when I did.  I don’t miss staying out until a bar closes and I sure don’t miss hangovers.  I don’t miss a zillion cable channels, since I don’t watch that much TV anyway.

I’m trying to catalog all of the ways our lives have changed because of economics and I’m hard pressed to think of more. Makes me think that we have genuinely changed, rather than a temporary shift.

What I Can Handle

“God doesn’t send me anything I can’t handle, but sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me so much.”  I’ve seen this quote widely attributed to Mother Teresa, which I don’t quite believe because it sounds so secular and I always expect saints to sound more, you know, saintly.  Whoever first said it, I find myself repeating it when I feel overwhelmed- which is often.  I am kind of hard on myself, always have been.  Apparently my second grade teacher first brought this to my parents’ attention and my mother likes to remind me, still, more than 30 years later.

But sometimes I do feel overwhelmed.  I keep going, because there really isn’t another option.  When I have the opportunity to reflect in kind of a detached way, I think maybe I feel overwhelmed with cause.  Here’s a list of all of the stuff on my plate:

  • Newborn daughter
  • Very busy 2.5 year old
  • Husband (who is in graduate school) (My husband is a general great guy and a fantastic, helpful and involved father so this item is in no way an indictment.  He’s also my only blog follower at this point.  Hi HOG! 🙂 )
  • Two dogs
  • A fish
  • A housemate (who I’m not responsible for per se, but it is someone else living in my house)
  • The house (cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, vacuuming, baking– some of this is my preference,so I could make my life a little easier by not baking, but that’s breaking one of my resolutions)
  • My career (I’m on maternity leave now, but normally I teach high school English in a large urban district.  Teaching is an overwhelming job and more so in our particular environment)
  • My professional development (I want to get my PhD at some point)
  • My grandmother who just moved into a retirement complex about 45 minutes from here
  • My sister-in-law who has breast cancer
  • Her husband who has prostate cancer
  • Their son and daughter who understandably are feeling some fear and stress
  • Our upcoming adoption
  • Church and spiritual life
  • Maintaining our church website (we do this as a team, so it’s not all me)
  • My brother who is looking for a job and is very concerned about it
  • Same brother is also trying to adopt a child
  • Trying to maintain my own friendships
  • “Me time” – HA!  No, seriously, I know it’s important, nay vital so that I can support all of these other people and things.  But guess what often gets short shrift?

There’s very little of this that I don’t want (with the obvious exceptions) and in the actual moment of living it, I don’t think about the volume of stuff.  But when I think about it or talk about it, I suppose it is a lot and I have to give myself credit for handling it fairly well. 

I recently had a postpartum “tune up” with a psychiatrist who just does acute and postpartum appointments, not ongoing therapy.  She was really pleasant and competent of course, but as I told her about everything in my life, she kept gasping.  I figure that when the shrink is shocked, maybe it is pretty overwhelming.

Which brings me back to Mother Teresa (or whoever the pundit was.)  I can handle it.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be happening.

In other news. . .

In our quest to reduce monthly expenses by 10%, we just changed our phone plan and saved about $32 a month!  That’s almost half of our monthly home phone expense.

A group of my friends is on a New Year weight loss mission.  We worship Our Lady of the Clenched Ass (OLCA).  I’ve received a flurry of email detailing what everyone is eating and prayers to “Our Lady.”  I love these people!

Today’s recipe at thefrugalgirl– tortellini soup.  http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/  We’ll be having this next week.

The Holy Family

Our church planned a living nativity for the last Sunday of Advent.  Nature planned a snowstorm for that day so we rescheduled to today, the Sunday closest to Epiphany.  Our pastor asked John and me to play Joseph and Mary, since we are the only family in the congregation with an infant.  We’re actually only one of a handful of families in our church with small children.  Madeline ended up as an angel, although I lobbied hard for her to play Jesus’  little known older sibling, Frank. 🙂

Our church is rather low-key and very intimate.  The Nativity was extremely low-key and intimate, since yet another storm arrived and left us with close to a foot of snow.  This kept a few of our regulars at home.  But we soldiered on in and donned our robes.

It felt a little odd, to sit up in front of the church in tableau (as much as tableau can be achieved when trying to corral M), having our friends come up to greet “Jesus”.  Charlotte was actually awake and delightfully snuggly.  As I sat there, feeling a little foolish, it struck me how lucky Charlotte was.  Every baby should as honored as Jesus was in the manger and as my sweet girl was today.

Props to everyone at our church for not just today but for their encompassing welcome and endless patience.  Madeline rarely sits still throughout the service and everyone is kind enough to tolerate her roaming and occasional commentary.  She has sat in many a lap there.  Today, John (still dressed as Joseph) carried Madeline while he passed the collection plate.  Other days, she makes a break from the pew while he stands in front of the church for Doxology.

We “heathens” played the Holy Family.  John and I referred to the whole event as “hell freezes over” and with two snowstorms, I guess we weren’t far wrong!  Our pastor is the only person we shared this joke with and thankfully she gets it.  She’s fab!

And so we begin. . .

My main resolution for 2010 is to take action on the elaborate plans in my head.  One of those plans is this blog.  I have no idea if anyone will ever read this but me and potentially my husband.

Here’s my premise:  I am apparently a contradiction but I refuse to believe that I am wholly unique. 

Let me explain.  Several months ago, John and I had dinner with our friends Katie, Andy, Jenn and Christoph.  John was relating some story that including a reference to our regular church attendance.  Jenn gasped, “You can’t go to church!  You’re heathens!”

It seems that an affinity for alcoholic beverages and making snarky comments would classify one as a heathen.  Who knew?

Yup, we go to church just about every week.  We take our kids.  We believe in some higher power than ourselves and in regular reflection on what we are meant to do in this life.  We read scripture.  We sing in the choir.  We are full-bore church people.  And we still drink and use sarcasm.

The thing is that both John and I agree that when we go to church each week, it makes our problems seem much more manageable.  2009 was a tough year financially, but it didn’t consume us as it has in the past.  I feel as if we have more money when I give money to the church.  Makes no sense logically, but it’s true.

So part of this blog is to help me explore the connection between spirituality and calm and how that spreads throughout my life.  There will be more stuff too, but let’s not get carried away with the elaborate plan.