Archive for January 2011

Running on Ice

January 20, 2011

I am a commited runner. My physique doesn’t show it because I am also a commited ice-cream eater…. but I am a happy slave to a running program.  Each week I follow a structured program that tells me how many runs I need to accomplish for the week…and how many miles I need to log.  It helps me to stay aerobically fit…and following a program takes the guess work out  of it all.

The tricky part, though, is that I don’t belong to a gym.  I used to… but florescent lights and 10 tvs bolted to the wall, each offering their own version of the morning news… not my thing.  I prefer the moon for my light… and to catch up on the ‘news’ by running through the town and seeing for myself what is going on.

Now… this all works out great… until it snows and ices.

This morning, I ran 4 miles on the ice.

I stayed on the road as much as possible, dodging cars and praying that my red flashing light ( thanks, Jon) and headlamp ( thanks, Glenn) would signal my presence… but there were the unavoidable stretches of road and sidewalk where I had to run on the ice.

As I ran -slipped- along,  it struck me that running on ice is an apt metaphor for parenting.

There is that fine sheet of black ice which can be successfully traversed if we step very lightly.  Trying to gain any purchase on black ice is foolish.  One only slips and looks like the Roadrunner cartoon, legs spinning wildly out of control under a motionless body.  Instead, to run on black ice- thin, smooth, glassy ice- you must lift your legs high and just prance over it.  Dance over the ice.

Haven’t we had moments like this in parenting when we know that the best approach to a situation is to go lightly… to step gently… and not to come crashing down with parental authority?  I wonder if some of you can think of times when this ‘light touch’ worked best?  My husband seems to have it mastered.

There are other times, though… other icy spots that require a different step.  You know when the sidewalk gets all slushy and the snow is broken up… and then… it freezes?  The edges are jagged… the terrain is rough… and there are ruts in the path.  That kind of ice, friends, requires a different tread:  a firm, stomping crunch. A gait that says ” I mean business.”  If we dance too lightly over this ice, we risk rolling an ankle.  Not fun.

I can think of plenty of times when I have seen the layers of a problem in my childrens’ lives building up… getting all ‘slushy.’  And then, one day, it is frozen and the kid is stuck.  That’s when the parent with the big foot can come in and extract the child… get out of the frozen mess.  There are times, I believe, when some good parental authority is called for.  Taking the reins every once in a while, can be a good thing,

When do you dance?  When do you, as a parent, crunch into a  place of parental authority?

We can’t stay in bed.  Our parenting roles call us to get out there in all sorts of weather.  Running on the ice… it’s a skill.

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please support Rhythms of Grace with this 10 Question Survey

January 18, 2011

For those of you who have been reading the blog and receiving print materials at our Rhythms of Grace services, PLEASE lend a hand and take this super-quick survey.  It will help me as I discern the value of this work…

please link to this confidential survey page:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NZGWYZY

Thank you.  Audrey

They (we) are Weak… but he is Strong?!?

January 18, 2011

 

 

Jesus loves me this I know,

For the Bible tells me so,

Little ones to Him belong,

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me,

The Bible tells me so.

 

At Rhythms on Sunday, we explored the story of the Baptism of Jesus.  We acted out the story shaking long swaths of blue cloth to resemble the  water in the River Jordan…. we had a giant foam-core dove that came out of the heavens and alighted on our heads… and we all played the part of God, the Father, booming:  ‘This is my son.  I love him. In him I am well pleased.”

We baptized baby dolls, glued feathers onto cardboard doves and played in the water table with shells.

We colored paper dolls to resemble ourselves and taped us all in a cardboard church…  It was a good day.

We  had communion.  At the end of the service, we always sing “Jesus loves me.”  Now, I have mixed feelings about this song.

For example:  don’t you think that we should have other reasons to believe that Jesus loves us other than the fact that “the Bible tells me (us) so?”  What about Anglican discernment and Reason?

The second and third verses are worse- hardly children’s fodder- they dwell deeply in the theology of atonement with neat rhymes: ” On the cross you died for me/ I will try to live for thee.”  The text to this hymn was written by Anne B. Warner, sometime in the late 19th c. when children were treated like miniature adults.  The theology of atonement, when understood quite simply, is nothing short of gory:  God sent Jesus to earth on purpose to be tortured so that we might benefit, somehow…”… and to pretty it up with a quaint tune and words that rhyme and feed it to children seems… wrong.  Thetheology of the atonement deserves some deep reflection and study and prayer.  Otherwise, it is dangerous, I think.  Especially for children who do not make the subtle distinctions that adults do in discerning Truth.

Anyway- we didn’t even get through the first verse before one of our Rhythms kids stopped us for a mini-theological discussion.

You see, she understands that Jesus is strong, but takes exception to being labeled “weak.” 

“I am strong, you know,”  she explained.

I agreed, that she probably was strong… and that was good.  Jesus, too, is strong… and sometimes we need to depend on him for some of his strength when we need it.

It is essential that our Rhythms kids- all of us, really– feel that we have some of our own strength.  We should not sit around and wait for Jesus to do all  the heavy lifting in our lives.   Working our muscles, no matter how puny at first, builds more muscles.  With our muscles comes a sense of competence and empowerment.  Don’t we all  need that?

I love the sweet time that we have singing our closing song each month.  But maybe it’s time for a new one.

Technology…

January 17, 2011

… is wonderful when we have mastered it.

Yesterday at our Rhythms of Grace service we talked about this blog and its sister, the new message board at www.rhythms-of-grace.proboards.com  Seems that folks are reading the blog… but not commenting ( ‘posting’ in blog-speak) for a number of reasons:

1.  don’t feel a need to post.  Enjoy reading it and reflecting on it but not called to respond.

2.  shy to be the first to respond.

3. too confusing to log on /join/sign up… questions about cost/security

4. one person said that they like reading it, but they haven’t commented because they are  not the parent of a child with (identified) Special Needs.

I am glad to have heard these comments.  I am glad that folks are reading the blog, but, as I said to one of my friends in the morning:  sometimes I feel like I am talking to myself….

I want to encourage people to respond… it is not too hard to negotiate the ‘log on/sign up’ maze… and doing so does not cost anything or commit you to any product of any kind.

As far as not being the parent of a child with Special Needs… this blog and its original intention was/is to serve parents of Rhythms’ kids… to form an on-line community of sorts for spiritual support.  That doesn’t seems to be happening.  What IS happening, though, is that through this blog the community of Rhythms of Grace is being extended and broadened.  Those who come to a Rhythms service can derive meaning from this blog… but others can, as well.  The Rhythms program is less, in its maturity, a program that serves those with Special Needs ( a program that ministers “to” folks) as much as it is an alternative worshiping community… an alternative eucharistic community.  All are welcome to attend-  in person and on-line- and to share the benefit of each other’s joys and struggles.  Rhythms of Grace has become a program of celebration and ministry WITH each other… not “to” or “for” a specific population.

What do you think about that?

I know that this blog is set up for Yahoo! and Facebook alerts… so… if you’re out there, give a holla!  What do you think of this blog?  the on-line community?  Take a leap of faith… comment.

Welcome to the Family

January 15, 2011

At one of my churches tomorrow, we will be baptizing two children.  Sisters.  Aged 2 and 5.

In our Tuesday playgroup, I have been working to explain what Baptism is… why we do it, and what it means.  Good luck with that, right?

I ‘ve shied away from long doctrinal discussions of  being washed of (our)original sin.  (-:

I have refrained from the image of ‘dying with Christ to be born to eternal life.’  Too confusing.

And…. what we’ve landed on… that makes sense to the kids- is the idea of belonging to a family.

Instead, I’ve explained that, tomorrow, these two will gain a whole bunch of new brothers and sisters… in Christ.

I love baptism days.  One of my favorite parts is when the congregation stands and affirm their role in the whole process;  that they will “support these persons in their lives in Christ.” 

God does not ask us to go it alone.  We enter the Christian walk with brothers and sisters at our side… helping to carry the load when it gets heavy… and there to dance with us when it is time for rejoicing.

I hope that Rhythms of Grace yields some of those feelings, too, for our parents and kids.

We do not walk alone.  We are there for each other… and always, in the presence of God’s abiding love.

At Rhythms of Grace we can be ourselves- sharing our struggles and our triumphs, and finding that the Church offers us a whole new family that loves and supports us.

Come to Rhythms tomorrow- we meet in Plainville ( CT) at Our Saviour (115 W. Main St) at 1 PM.

Come join the family.

The Relevancy of Love

January 14, 2011

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, lately, about the future of the Church…everything from sociological studies ( the latest of which claims that while Americans are the most religious culture, that they also exaggerate their actual church attendance by 40%…)… to optimistic tomes with titles like “The Next Christians,” and “Church in the Inventive Age…” to re-reading old favorites with less optimistic titles like “Why the CHurch Must Change or Die.”

As a pastor, I’m concerned about how to care for my congregations in the age of dwindling cultural enthusiasm for the Church… and how to continue the good ministry that we are doing… with fewer and fewer resources.  

 As a Rector, I am wondering how we can continue to operate with our big  budget deficits… and how we can make ourselves attractive to newcomers…  

but as a Priest… I am absolutely clear that the Sacraments will continue to nourish and nurture us with God’s great Love and Grace as long as we seek them out.

So- here’s the question:  I think that you parents of Rhythms of Grace kids know, too, the inherent value and relevancy of God’s Love.  The Church just happens to be the pathway to access that love, sacramentally.  Is that right?  Why DO we bring our kids to Church?

I hope that at Rhythms of Grace that you feel loved, accepted and cared for.  EVEN MORE- I hope that you claim this worship experience as YOUR OWN… as something that is not done FOR or TO you.. but as something in which you are an essential and organic part.

How DO you feel? Share some ideas here.. or on our new trial message board at www.rhythms-of-grace.proboards.com

Love,

Audrey

Belonging… is it a ‘phase?’

January 13, 2011

This week I am going to blog everyday … ( Wed to Wed) and see how it goes for our on-line community.

We’ve been chatting about ‘belonging’ and how it relates to our status as Christians… (this all started when we explored the story of Jesus’ baptism).

In 2000, Robert Putnam published a book titled Bowling Alone.  His premise, based on a lot of sociological research, was that Americans were becoming increasingly disconnected from each other dues to shifts in family, work and societal structures and mechanics.  At the time that his book came out, I was a  mother of three young children and full time graduate student up to my ears in PTAs, swim clubs, parents’ groups, the Christian Education Committee at my church, a liasion to the Board of Ed for the Elementary School,  part of a worship team at Div School, in a group for Group Spiritual Direction… I was up to my ears in groups and well- practiced at the Art of Belonging.  I couldn’t grasp what Putnam was saying.

I think  in our culture ( or at least my white, middle-class suburban world… ) that Belonging is, partly, a Stage of Life.

We see it in the Church.  Young parents join church when they have an infant to baptize, they hang in there- often as vital and enthusiastic leaders- through their children’s Confirmation… and then, some begin to drift away as their children, too, move away from the Church.  

At Rhythms of Grace, we have not yet experiened much ‘drift.’  We are too young.  Our founding member- 7 years old when we began- is now 14… but he seems to be going strong.  He and his dad find something valuable about their particiaption in our program.

How do all of you see the concept of  ‘belonging?’  What kind of commitments have you made to particualr groups?  Why some… and not others?  Are you bowling alone… or on our team?

This I do  know- no matter where we are.. how often we show up… or which church’s door we darken… we always belong to God.  Not in a suffocating, controlling way… but in the gentlest, most loving, protective embrace.  For that, I am grateful.