Tag Archives: year in review

From Heartbreak to Hearts Full of Joy

originally posted February 21st, 2013

You may have heard this before, but I’m going to repeat it here for a second:

“Kintsugi” is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a resin sprinkled with gold. The effect is that the cracks and imperfections of the piece are made to shine and become instead beautiful. So it is with our hearts: when they become cracked, God seeps in to make them shine.

Last year there were two heartbreaks that shattered not only my heart but the hearts of many.

In May of last year my cousin’s little 16 month old son Avery died from an abdominal infection that spread to his brain. It was devastating. 16 months on this earth, 16 months to brighten the lives of my cousin and his wife and all he met, and then he was gone. My cousin’s wife was pregnant with their next son who was born the following month. (Blessedly healthy, Praise Be.)

My cousins had already lost two children, one in a miscarriage and one to stillbirth. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak and sadness that they have been through.

And then, at the end of the year, there was Newtown.

Hearing the news was quite a shock and I think it took a while for it to really sink in. All of those children, the teachers, Adam Lanza, his mother. Gone. No Christmas, no birthdays, only sadness and anger and hurt. And questions.

I didn’t realize how deeply these two events effected me until I was at my parents’ house December 15th celebrating Christmas with my family. My brother and his new wife were there, my other brother and his wife and their four children were there. My mother begged me to do ‘something crafty’ with the children to keep them entertained and occupied while our Christmas lunch was prepared.

I cherished every single glue and glitter moment of that day.

We made handprint wreaths, we decorated ice cream cone Christmas trees (the three year old kept asking, “Can we eat it?!”), we colored. We opened presents and the sheer delight on their little faces was almost unbearable. I thought about the little children that wouldn’t be opening presents this year. Kind of depressing on Christmas but it was bittersweet.

At the funeral for Avery there was much weeping. But there were also smiles, and laughter, and fond memories of his favorite things. We sang songs, we hugged, we prayed. My cousin and his wife have a deep faith and love for God, and while I know there was some anger and confusion and sadness, they know God suffers with them. The love from family and friends all over the world buoyed them up, and I know it was hard. We let balloons go out in the parking lot of the church and sang “Jesus Loves Me” and I almost couldn’t choke out the line “they are weak/but he is strong” for all of the tears.

This all lead me to my New Year’s Resolution. I have been an aunt for 8 years now and due to many circumstances I have not really been in their lives. They have lived kind of far off to make a day trip not feasible, I lived in another country, so on and so forth. I resolved to be more present in their lives, to cherish and honor their youthful innocence, and to be the best auntie to them that I can be. That Christmas was only the beginning.

This past weekend I went up to Louisville to play hostess to my oldest niece’s 8th birthday slumber party. It was just her and one other friend, and she had a whole agenda planned out. She, her little friend, my sister in law, and the littlest niece and I all spent the afternoon and evening painting our nails, watching movies and eating pizza, making beads with a bead making thingie I had gotten her, and playing with the toys she had gotten from family members. It was a blast. Arguably one of the best birthday parties I’ve been to. All of that precious, precious time spent with her that I will cherish.

She told me later that it was the best birthday she’d had, and her friend agreed, and they loved the little bead-making set I’d given her. I hope they have many happy afternoons making jewelry together and being silly little girls. I pray they enjoy every minute of their lives, full as they are, and I pray that I get to be there as much as possible. I pray we have lots more birthdays and summers and fun times ahead.

So the cracks in my heart from the sad events of last year have lead to it being filled up with love for my precious nieces and nephews. That is what I took away from those tragic events last year–not an agenda of gun laws and school security, or anger at God for things I don’t understand, but to love more. To let God’s love for little children shine through me.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

May we all open our hearts, cracked as they might be, to love one another more fully and deeply, and to cherish the time that we have and the people we share it with. Amen.

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Re-visiting a childhood favorite

originally posted February 7th, 2013

You know when you watch a movie or read a book that, when you were 7, had a completely different meaning for you then than it does at, say, 27? It’s that weird mixture of nostalgia and epiphany that gets me. Some word or phrase from a book jumps out and impacts me like it never did in my youthful innocence.

So it is with Calvin & Hobbes. I recently read an article that revisits the beloved comic 17 years after its final strip. The article discusses the strips from New Year’s Eve, a topic that Bill Watterson regularly used. Appropriate reading, I think, with Lent just around the corner. (Second Chance New Year’s Resolutions anyone?)

As a youngster I identified more with the strips that had Calvin and Hobbes in various adventures, running from snow goons or transforming into Good Calvin, or even the ones where they drop water balloons on poor Susie. It wasn’t until years later that the philosophical strips (the “boring” ones) had meaning.

The article linked to a series of essays on the Theology of Calvin and Hobbes, which as a confessed (ha) church nerd I ravenously devoured. Seriously, it is delicious. My favorite was in part five, when he compares Calvinball to the koinonia in the early Church.

It might seem to be a stretch to connect Calvinball with Acts 2, but let’s go with it. The connection I’m making is this. Calvinball and the church represent a kind of “coming out of” a world of competition and zero-sum adversarialness. Calvinball and the church represent a place were a new kind of game is played. A game that is built around a different set of dynamics than the ones we find in the world. Specifically, it’s a game that is built around koinonia rather than competition.

Like Calvinball, the church aims to create a game centered on trust, community, and joy.

How fun is this? I hope you all enjoy reading that as much as I did.

Thoughts for Thursdays

These are some of my favorite TfT entries from 2013. 

[3/21/13]
Happy the Man
by Horace

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite or fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

[5/23/13]

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

[5/30/13]

“…If we are called by God to holiness of life, and if holiness is beyond our natural power to achieve (which it certainly is) then it follows that God himself must give us the light, the strength, and the courage to fulfill the task he requires of us. He will certainly give us the grace we need.”

Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness

[8/22/13]

Prayer is not a monologue. It speaks to God and to the community. In the last analysis, religion is not what goes on inside a soul. It is what goes on in the world, between people, between us and God. To trap faith in a monologue, and pretend that it resides solely inside the self, undermines the true interchange of all believers.

–David Wolpe, In Speech and in Silence: The Jewish Quest for God, 1992.

[10/10/13]

Often we know the lonely and fail to reach out in love. We may be shy or find it hard to show love. We may feel that we are being insincere if we try. Then let us accept ourselves as we are–God’s imperfect instruments–and pray that he will use us despite our shortcomings.

Mother Teresa, 1980

2013 In Review

Well, here we are. The first Thursday of 2014. This week, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, we are looking back at 2013 at the ways we’ve grown as a community, website, bloggie thing, Christians, human beings…

As Rachel mentioned we started blogging a few months before we went live, trying things out and figuring out our voices. We’re still searching and figuring and becoming. You, dear reader, are part of that, too.

Going back through all of my Thursdays was fun. Time consuming because, unlike my fellow bloggers, I’m bad about tagging and categorizing. 2014 Resolutions include intentionally doing that…. Watching Thoughts for Thursdays happen–it started out as me posting my favorite podcasts (mostly Pray as you Go) and then morphed into quotes and poems that I found insightful, interesting, thought provoking, and sometimes just funny. I have a giant book that I keep near my laptop called “The Treasury of Religious & Spiritual Quotations: Words to Live By”. I love it. That’s where a lot of the quotes come from, but I do a lot of Googling too.

Towards the end of the year I started linking Thoughts for Thursday with a reflection on the topic/theme of the quote. I plan to continued developing that in 2014 and I invite you to submit your favorite quotes and thoughts and poems and whatevers.

I wish I had the time and energy to keep up with Pope Francis. He is just such a fascinating guy and I love reading about him and how he is energizing the church. Popewatch posts may be a bit more sporadic in 2014 but I’ve got my eye on the Holy Father.

So today I’m going to pick some of my favorite Thoughts for Thursdays and reflections from 2013. A great first year for us, and I’m so excited for what’s next. Thanks for coming on this journey with us, and I sincerely hope you will continue reading in 2014.

Grace, Peace, and HUGS!

Kathleen

While He’s Away: A Poem About Being Gone – 11/11/13

By Jason B. Ladd

 –

While I’m away

The mission’s first

We’ll put our best against their worst

But victory will fail to quench my thirst

While I’m away

 –

While I’m away

The silence settles in

The mood is calm, the air is thin

My kingdom for one morn’ of childrens’ din

While I’m away

 –

While I’m away

Diminished dawns

The flock is far, the shepherd gone

The sheep will grow and graze and carry on

While I’m away

While I’m away

Fools worship golden cows

With laps aflame and loins aroused

Let God protect our covenant of sacred vows

While I’m away

While you’re away

I start a new routine

The laundry’s neat, the house is clean

But soon I miss the manly mess unseen

While you’re away

While you’re away

Our things break down

With no one to repair around

In projects left undone our lair abounds

While you’re away

While you’re away

The evil freaks

Through sudden cricks and eerie creaks

Our settling house at nighttime speaks, I’m scared

While you’re away

While you’re away

It’s not the same

I’m thankful for the few who came

To help me play this sacrificial game

While you’re away

While he’s away

I’m turning ten

This milestone never comes again

I understand, but struggle now and then

While he’s away

While he’s away

I run the bases

Looking in the stands for faces

Sad to see the empty spaces left

While he’s away

While he’s away

I lose my teeth

And sleep with them at night beneath

The pillow where I cry myself to sleep

While he’s away

While he’s away

It makes me sad

Sometimes I’m a little mad

How come others get to have my dad

While he’s away?

While  he’s away

I’ll start to walk

And look up for my daddy’s gawk

But nowhere will I find his eyes to lock

While he’s away

While I’m away

Their father’s not around

I’ve taught them though, one comfort sound

Another Father always keeps them found

While I’m away

 –

This poem was shared with me by one of our readers.  I think it is beautiful and very touching.  Please go read this poem on Jason’s blog.  He has some lovely photography that increases the power of his words.

How do we overcome our treatment of others? – 10/18/13

I am a member of the Facebook page Pagans Tired of Being Misrepresented.  I enjoy seeing the things that they post and learning more about their beliefs and rituals.  This article from a Wiccan was posted on the page the other day and I found it wonderful and extremely sad at the same time.  Why do people of other beliefs have to write these kinds of letters to us?  Sometimes I get so frustrated by the limitations forced upon me by Christians I don’t understand.  I hate feeling like saying I am a Christian limits me from possible relationships.  Jesus was about being in relationships not keeping them from happening.  People should not be afraid to share their faith because they will be shunned.  Faith is to be shared!

Do you ever say that you are a Christian to someone you don’t know and they automatically shutdown?  It happens to me all the time.   I do what I call the Episcopal Dance.  I start with I’m a Christian – take a step back – but not that kind of Christian I am a nice Christian – take a step back – I like to learn from people of all faiths and from those with no faith – take a step back – I am an Episcopalian and we are very open, we ordain homosexuals and drink and have fun and don’t take our faith too seriously, we care more about people than we do about conversion – take a step back – I am not judgmental – and on and on until I am halfway across the country.  I hate it but I don’t ever know what else to do.  I don’t like having to talk about my faith that way but I also don’t like the shutdown and assumptions people get when I say I am a Christian.

I also don’t like the attitude that I am not Christian enough to some people.  Here in the South at least, Episcopalians are in an awkward position.  Most people have never heard of Episcopalians.  So when you explain our faith to them they put you in one of two categories – to non-Christians we are too Christian and to other Christians we aren’t Christian enough.  That adds to the ways we are blocked from relationship by the actions of others.  When will the day come when Christians are known for being like Jesus?  When will we be known for our loving, caring, and understanding hearts?  When will people look at us and say, that is something I would be proud to be a part of?  We are a long way off and the above letter, and the comments below it, make me wonder if it will ever happen.

The American Dream – 9/16/13

jfk2One hundred ninety-nine years ago on Saturday, Francis Scott Key penned the words from our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.  In doing that, not only did he create a poem that would become the anthem of a nation 117 years later but he penned some of the most quoted words in our country, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  But do we still live in the that land?  The War on Terror caused our government to make some serious changes to then current policy in order to “protect us from terrorists” and those powers our government now holds continue to get stronger and more invasive with every administration.  Please don’t get me wrong, I think there are certain actions our government should be taking to protect us as citizens but when will this culture of fear to subside.  The attitude after September 11, 2001 has been more of fear than proactive protection (which is what we are told to believe is motivating our governments actions) and I think this fear that drives our government to seek more power without questioning has led us to do the same in our personal lives.  It has been twelve years.  Will we let this go on another twelve/twenty/a hundred years.

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I worry about what this attitude is doing to us as Americans and how this has affected the American Dream.  I feel like our fear of the foreign other has developed into our fear of the local other.  As the government takes more power over our rights to freedom we attempt, in fear, to take power back by protecting ourselves and our families from each other.  The most obvious way I have seen this happen is with our public assistance programs.  In generations past we were quick to help those in need and did so as communities.  With this new culture, we not only hoard our personal resources but we defend it by demonizing those we should be reaching out to the most.  The days of communities banding together to help one another are gone.  Most of us don’t even know the names of our direct neighbors.  Where we used to help each other, now we sit back as rumors fly around about those on assistance that are demoralizing.  If you have spent any time with anyone on government assistance you will see hard working people who need help not a handout.  The possibility of attaining the american dream and climbing the income ladder varies in different parts of the country but it is difficult everywhere in this economy.  Hardworking people everywhere continue to slip farther into poverty and become even more less likely to get out.

It has also reared its ugly head in our views on immigration which is almost universally fear based.  What about our demonization of Muslims?  Or the great divide between political parties.  How has our fear manifested itself in the battle of the sexes? Our seemingly nonchalant attitude towards the VIOLENCE that is rape and sexual assault?  Our denying women access to birth control yet outlawing abortion?  The list goes on and on but the constant in this is our culture of fear.  Fear is a powerful motivator, maybe the most powerful motivator.  How do we turn the tides of our fear and become hopeful again.  Are we attempting to change this culture or are we fueling it by stereotyping those on the other side of the political/gender/religion/whatever divide?

quote-we-fear-things-in-proportion-to-our-ignorance-of-them-christian-nestell-bovee-21910

So is the American Dream still possible?  How does our continued loss of control over our government feed into our fear of each other?  What can we do to fix it and where do we start?  I love being an American and I love the idea that people come here to escape persecution and make for themselves a better life, but I am not sure that is true anymore.  I am afraid for the world we are leaving for my daughter.  I don’t know how to protect my hope for her future when I am barely able to protect mine.

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Why can’t more people see this? Parts I and II – 8/26/13

Part I 

I think this is a great opinion piece about young adults in the church! I don’t see this as a hard concept, so why is it so hard for the church to adopt? Do you agree with this assessment?

I LOVE being Episcopalian but sometimes it can be lonely, at least here in the south. To other Christians we are not Christian enough and to non-Christians we are “too” Christian (AKA. Christian at all). This means we must look inside the church for support and acceptance but too often we are the only person our age we see. To make matters worse, we are then either ignored by the church or told how we feel and what we need to be a part of the church. It is hard enough to hang on to your faith in this day and age but having the church practically kick you out the door because of their horrible “outreach” tactics is enough to make most people throw up their hands and quit. And then we wonder why there aren’t more young people in the pews.

There are some very brave people doing some very brave things in our church that go against the grain and challenge the status quo. I honor their work and hope that the rest of the church begins to listen before it is too late to get any of us interested again. I don’t need the Episcopal Church to be Episcopalian but I do need a community to be who Jesus calls me to be. I hope I can find that community within the Episcopal Church. I don’t fit anywhere else in organized religion. 😦

Episcopal-Wedding-Reading

 

Part II

I just came across this blog post from our friend here at the Daily Cake, Scott Gunn.  He attended a conference a few weeks ago that sounds amazing.  This is his reflection on the conference and its theme of Freedom, Creativity, and Accountability.  I love his ideas about our duties as Christians and I love the challenge he gives us, both as lay people and clergy.  I enjoy being put in my place when it is needed and there were a few themes he touched on that did just that.

I am not exactly sure the direct link between his thoughts and the thoughts I previously posted but I do know they are two concurrent things that need to be remembered.  I don’t know what the answers to our “dying church” dilemma are but I wish more conversations like these were happening.  We have a beautiful gift to give to the world.  We have got to find a way to share it.

Sick and Tired of Politics – 8/26/13

Although I call myself a Democrat, every day I am more likely to become unaffiliated.  I am tired of the way that our government is acting and I think most of the people representing us are behaving like children.  I tend to know quite a bit about issues but not much about politics and with the behavior I see I am happy about that.  I am also from the south which means, as a liberal, I rarely feel represented anyway. Which brings me to my first issue with politics – all the conservatives that surround me.

I love to talk about issues.  I care deeply about social justice so I want to discuss with and inform people about what is going on in the world and the injustices I see.  My main issue with this and my conservative friends is that they automatically assume I want to get in a political party battle.  Just because I think Bank of America might be unethical, that for-profit insurance companies should be done away with, that getting rid of SNAP is a bad idea, or any other things that concern me, doesn’t mean I am Obama’s biggest fan and think that Democrats are perfect and can do no wrong.  I didn’t mention politics!  How we ever to fix things if we can’t talk about the issues without people reading in to things and shutting down before we even start?

My second big issue is a subset of this.  Why do we insist on keeping our Rep’s out of social situations with each other?  Congress used to move themselves and their families to the Hill.  This meant that wives (or less often husbands) and children got to know each other.  They went to school, the gym, the park, etc. together and so it forced their parents together for social events that didn’t involve sides and arguing.  One of the worst things that has happened to our government is that our Rep’s now commute and spend almost no time together where they aren’t pitted against each other and put out for us to scrutinize.  If we don’t find a way to get these people back together for something that allows them to put down their guards a little, i.e. with their families watching, then I am not sure what hope we have of ever reconciling the hurt they are currently causing.

This leads me to my last issue.  Nobody’s perfect, but can we stop electing morons?  Someone who thinks that sending naked pictures of yourself  (the first or second time) over Twitter is ok, that the are levels of rape, saying that our President has no “negro dialect”unless he wants to, that allowing your son to simulate shooting himself in the head on youtube is ok, that defense attorneys should “make sure the rest of (victims of child sex abuse) lives are ruined” to keep their clients out of jail, that abortion causes breast cancer or subsequent children to be handicapped, that sending troops to Guam might cause the country to capsize, that aborted fetuses are used in food products  – I could go on FOREVER!!! – maybe that someone shouldn’t be representing us.  Do people say stupid things?  Yes, but sometimes that means you aren’t qualified to do your job.  Sometimes you mean the stupid things you say which is worse.

I am over politics.  Can we seriously start talking about the issues and stop pointing fingers, blaming the other, and making ASSumptions?  If we aren’t all ready to move a little towards the middle then I think we are doomed.  Arguing gets us nowhere and eventually you need to decide if you want to be the bigger person or if you want to continue to fuel hate.

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Which are you? – 7/29/13

We Met For A Reason Quote