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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ask the Matriarch :: Ecumenical Work

As all of move into summer with its different rhythms, our pool of Ask the Matriarch questions has become quite small (as in, other than the one below, we have none). Is there a ministry issue that has been puzzling you, worrying you, or causing you problems? Is there a ministry topic you wish a community of peers would discuss? Please take a moment to put it in an email and send it our way: askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.


Here is this week's question:

Throughout my career I often found that doing ecumenical work was both a blessing and a curse.  I always enjoyed my colleagues and found that when we worked together in a town or a neighborhood we could get more done together.  But I often found that our differences to be impediments to worship together.  We often 'watered down' our faith for fear of offending others rather than helping others experience the richness of our particular denomination in order to teach.
 
Describe your ecumenical work and what are the blessings and curses of your experience inter denominationally or inter-faith.

Ruth responds:
I love this description of ecumenical work as both a ‘blessing & a curse’ - I have experienced some of both the greatest joys and the most intense pains in my ministry in crossing denominational boundaries.

On reflection, the colleague who was able to inspire me best to appreciate the treasures of his tradition was one who was never afraid to have me question him (he is Anglican, I am Reformed). Instead of feeling threatened when we encountered differences (for example in eucharistic practice) I always felt able to say ‘why do you do that, that way?’ and he would patiently explain to me his theology of what we were doing – and sometimes he would ask questions back to me, of course. I think it has taught me to be genuinely interested in other people’s ‘way of doing things’, and also to be careful to avoid saying ‘we don’t do it that way!’ but instead to say ‘we do it differently, because...’ and then ‘can you explain the way you do it’. I hope this approach also helps congregations to value the treasures of the ‘other’, as a different facet of the one body of Christ.

Personally, it has helped me grow to the point where I currently serve 4 churches – 2 Reformed & 2 Anglican – working in and valuing the theology and practice of each.

And Terri offers:
Ecuemenical expereinces can indeed be gratifying work. I appreciate what my sisters and brothers in other traditions bring to the conversation and work we are about.
 
At a previous call I helped organize a number of ecumenical worship services. In 2002, in response to increased violence in the Middle East and the events of 9-11, Christian churches in my community organized evening prayer services that included scripture, prayers, and Taize music. We also organized a prayer service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This service was held each year, for 8 years, alternating in one of the local congregations. It was loosely structured on Evening Song, a worship familiar to Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Evangelican Lutherans.The service incorporated the theme, prayers, and readings, as organized by the World Council of Churches for those celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So, to that end, I have had meaningful worship experiences with combined Christian churches that were not watered down. Rather the services were intentionally developed in an order of worship that invited prayers and song familiar to each tradition, but in a manner that all could participate. We did not offer services that limited participation, such as Holy Communion.
 
I am now in an interfaith community which challenges this dynamic even further. How to worship as a gathered community of Christians, Jews, and Muslims? Recently the congregation I served hosted an interfaith worship service as participants in the  Faith Shared project. To create this service I invited members from a local Jewish temple and Muslim mosque to join us in the church on Sunday morning. We created a worship opportunity, loosely based on the Episcopal order of worship - but including elements of all three traditions. So, we had a call to prayer chanted in Arabic, followed by the lighting of the candles and the prayer that begins the Jewish sabbath on Friday night, followed by the Episcopal opening prayer - the "collect of the day." That was followed by a hymn verse "Halle, halle, halle-luia" and then a reading and reflection on the Torah. the Qu'ran, and the Gospel. We offered prayers of the people from the Book of Common Prayer, and exchanged the peace.That was followed by a "sacred meal." We did not offer a Eucharist with the typical prayers of the Episcopal Church, but instead each tradition offered prayers for a meal. In the Jewish tradition it was prayers blessing the wine and the bread. In the Islamic tradition is was a chanted prayer for the meal, and in the Episcopal Church it was a prayer over a meal from the Book of Common Prayer. We then shared the bread, (a hearty loaf purchased at the local farmers market) and the cup, either wine or grape juice. Afterward we sang a hymn from the Torah, and offered final prayers for sending forth.
 
The most distinctive elements for me, were listening to the nine year old boy chant from Qu'ran, and the Jewish woman reflect on the reading from the Torah. I love that the meal was eucharistic, even though it was not a formal Eucharist. I love that we each maintained our identity and the language of our tradition, yet offered them all together. It was exciting to experience the similarities and differences in our worship traditions.
 
It's clear to me that this was possible because the three faiths involved in this worship have some aspects in common, including a foundation in the God of Abraham. Such an interfaith worship would be much more complicated if it included Buddhists, Hindu's or other faiths. I will learn more about how such worship is done when I attend the World Sabbath in January.
 
I do think that we have a lot to learn from one another. I also think that we need not try to smooth over or blend or water down our worship for the other. I do however think it is important to be mindful of the words and practices of our tradition that might feel hurtful to another. I was grateful that the Gospel reading was on "welcoming" the other, and not one that was accusatory of the "Jews." (As if Jesus were something other than). I think there can be a sensitive distinction between watering down our worship and being mindful of language, symbols, and actions, that will exclude or hurt others.

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Wow! Great responses from our Matriarchs! Let's continue this discussion in the comments section. What experiences and insights would the rest of you offer?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Postcards from Israel

Two of our ring members are in the Holy Land right now and sending out blog reports about their experiences.

First, at Quotidian Grace, Jody Harrington is sharing pictures of her visits to historic locations, including one of her most recent destinations, the Mount of Transfiguration. She writes:


The Mount of Transfiguration is in the Golan Heights, and the area belonged to Syria prior to 1967. The ancient site of Caesaria Phillippi is located there. Herod Phillip built a temple to Pan to curry favor with Augustus Caesar here. In fact the ruins of other pagan temples are on this mountain.

There is a stream that runs through the mountain and you pass by a beautiful grotto before you get to the site of the old pagan temple. It didn't take long for us to grasp the importance of water in this arid region, so it is not surprising that these temples were built near a spring...

I'll never think about the Transfiguration in the same way after seeing this area. The pagan altars would have been all around Jesus when he asked the disciples "who do you say I am"? (Matthew 16:15).


For another point of view, visit Hassophoret at Inscription. She is spending two months in Israel and commenting on the political and religious culture, including this post on Race in Israel:

Haunted by two people I encountered:

The first one was a young woman serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. She and another female soldier were at the Western Wall in their uniforms with their rifles in their hands, trigger-ready. I'm actually used to seeing armed soldiers everywhere in Israel, even and particularly at the holy places. And the truth is I've seen fewer on this trip than before. Armed soldiers inside the Kotel plaza, where people pray and not just outside at the entrances bolstering security have always bothered me. Some of the female soldiers pray at the wall with their guns. Others take photos with their guns at the wall. It's always hard to see. But this woman was a black woman. And when I saw her I felt both kinship and dissonance. She could a have been Mizrahi, an indigenous black Jew; she could have been Beta Yisrael, an Ethiopian Jew. She could have been the adopted child of American Jews who made aliyah (moved to Israel). I don't know her story. I just know that she is black like me and not black like me. Both of us passed through the womb of Mother Africa and we each found ourselves in different contexts. I though about her military service (so different from mine as a chaplain - I was never armed) and how much of it might be protecting settlements and clashing with Palestinians. I wondered what it was like to be a black Israeli with a brown face on that side of the line. I wondered how the Arabs saw her. And I wondered if it was like some inner city folk's experience black police officers, "black and blue, more blue than black." I didn't speak to her because I didn't know what to say. But I have not forgotten her.

Last night we were in the mother of all traffic jams. A big SUV came at us in what was left of the now single lane we were in going the other way as a result of all the cars parked on both sides of the road. It had Mad Max styled grills all over the windows. Our driver told us that Israeli settlers in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem were in so many violent clashes with the Arab Israeli citizens into whose neighborhood they had encroached that they had to armor their cars. As the man got out of his car to try to make us back up the street so that he could get through, our diver rolled up the windows and locked the doors, saying he's probably armed. He was. He was also black, and quite handsome with cornrows. And he was furious with us. Our driver refused to move. He got his car around us only because his mirrors were higher than ours, passing with inches to spare. I have never imagined the face of the Israeli occupation was a black face like mine and I was deeply troubled. I still am.

The folk who I've met here are all sympathetic to the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. And all socially and politically moderate to some degree. They are from the US, UK, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. They all have colonial histories. And they're all white, with the exception of myself, a Korean graduate student and an African American graduate student. I'd love to talk to someone who knows this place inside and out about race here, but it troubles me that so many of the experts to whom I have access are white, American or European or even progressive Jews and Israelis.

I am haunted by images of the occupation as black on black crime, to borrow a phrase from my own context, and it disturbs me deeply.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Not Doing What I Want Edition

We Pray: (Prayer from here)
We give you thanks, O God of compassion,
for the salvation you have revealed to the little ones
through Christ Jesus, our wisdom and strength.
Teach us to take up his gentle yoke
and find rest from our burdens and cares. Amen.


You can read the passages for this week on this page

So what does this week bring....

Genesis: A love story, or at least a mating story. But of course this reading is only part of the story. Maybe to deal with it fully you could read all of Genesis 24 and get the whole story?
PSalm 45: a wedding psalm it seems, or maybe you'd prefer to pair Genesis with the Song of Songs passage?

Zechariah: The passage Matthew uses in telling his Palm Sunday story; the coming of the king and the results thereof

Romans: Paul wrestles with his own nature. An opening to talk about human nature? Maybe to explore why we seem to do things when we "know better"?

Matthew: Jesus comments on people who are never satisfied, and their apparent intelligence. Then offers some apparently contradictory advice about burdens. How can the same man who exhorts his friends to take up their cross and follow him say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light?

And of course we can't forget that this weekend is Long.  Friday is Canada Day, when we became a country through and Act of Parliament, Monday is Independence Day, when the US launched itself into becoming a country through less peaceful means.  How, if at all, will these holidays shape your worship?  Are you able to ignore them completely or do they have to be acknowledged in your context?  OTOH, does the Long Weekend mean you will have a much emptier sanctuary?

Let us know in the comments how worship is shaping this early in the week.

Image Credits:
Yoke from here

Rebbecca at the Well from here

Monday, June 27, 2011

RevGalBookPals book for June: In the Bleak Midwinter


A review of the book; In the Bleak Midwinter (1st in the Clare Fergusson series) written by Julie Spencer-Fleming. The title is taken from the hymn by Christina Rossetti (1830–1894), In the Bleak Midwinter. Here are the first lines;

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

I stumbled on this book while recovering from Arthroscopic surgery. It was an easy read for my unfocused mind. Clare Fergusson is a newly ordained Episcopal Priest in her first appointment. She is a second career clergy after serving in the military as a Helicopter pilot. The book describes her as a square peg in a round hole of her new congregation. How many of us felt that way going to serve our first church, second church or third Church?

The book begins in the cold of winter with a newborn infant left on the doorstep of the church. But until the baby’s parents can be found and contacted, everyone’s in limbo. This leads to a search for the baby’s mother. It also leads to the bringing together of Clare with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. There is a quick development of a friendship that has some elements of attraction in it. It also leads to gossip among the church members and the town people. She seems oblivious to the gossip or the impact it could have on her ministry. I wondered when we have found ourselves in similar situations?

She joins the Police Chief in a search for the baby’s mother, which leads them into the secrets of the town, the family, and more deaths. (I won’t give away all the plot. The box that contained the baby and his blankets also had a note asking that the baby be named Cody and given to a pair of childless lawyers, Geoff and Karen Burns, parishioners at St. Alban’s who have been desperate to adopt a child. But the baby is placed with a foster family instead. The couple then try to enlist Clare to help them get the baby.

Finding the abandoned baby sparks Clare to begin a mission project to help unwed mothers, but her enthusiasm is rebuffed by the senior warden of the socially conservative church vestry, a retired army colonel. How many times have we run into this in churches we have served?

One of Clare’s weaknesses is that she is impulsive and jumps in feet first without thinking. This gets her into trouble. The other is she has a strong need to help other people. But you also get a picture of Clare’s dedication, her leading worship, and her praying. We can even read about Clare’s call to ministry

The last part of the book I thought was over done, but may have been that way to show some of her former military skills.

The cast of characters are well developed and enjoyable to get to know. The settings of the Adirondacks and the little town are well described. It has many twists and turns along with keeping the killer undisclosed for some time. There are moments in this book where spirituality comes into play but not in a preachy sort of way. Russ is an agnostic which Clare handles thoughtfully without over powering him with religion.

I think it is a good read and I look forward to reading the others in the series. If you are looking for a good book to read this summer, this book may just be it. After all it is a hot summer and this book is set in the winter.

Julia Spencer-Fleming, the author, was herself an army brat born at Plattsburgh Air Force Base. She says of these books: “Millers Kill is an amalgam of the towns and villages that I knew as a child. My family settled in the Adirondack Piedmont in the 1720s and I spent a lot of time tramping those hills . . . eavesdropping on the small-town gossip. . . . That part of New York, where poor farms and Saratoga money and the mountains all come together, has always held a bone-deep fascination for me.” Spencer-Fleming now lives in Maine with her husband and three children.



The series, now seven books long, has titles taken from hymns and psalms. Here are the titles for the rest of the books in the series:

A Fountain Filled with Blood (Clare Fergusson Series #2)
Out of the Deep I Cry (Clare Fergusson Series #3)
To Darkness and to Death (Clare Fergusson Series #4)
All Mortal Flesh (Clare Fergusson Series #5)
I Shall Not Want (Clare Fergusson Series #6)
One Was a Soldier (Clare Fergusson Series #7)

You can find the book at Amazon.com

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prayer for Proper 8A/Ordinary 13A/Pentecost +2



Loving God,
We come this morning first thanking you
for all the many blessings you have sent our way.
We thank you for your steadfast love that endures forever.
We want to tell you how often we feel so like Abraham
that we are being tried and tested.
We often feel like the Psalmist and wonder how long this testing is going to last.
We often wonder how long we will be in pain.
How long will this sadness last?
How long must we suffer?
Will we be able to go on with life when it feels like it has lasted forever?
Lord we call on you for your stead fast love to take us out of our pits,
We call on you for your mercy to reach out to those who need your healing touch.
We call on your faithfulness for all who are struggling with their faith..
We call on your care for those who are less fortunate to be the Lord who provides for their needs.

We call on you for the healing of the nations.
We pray for those in North Dakota who are dealing with major flooding. We pray for those whose homes destroyed or damaged by volcanic eruption in Chile and Ethiopia;
We lift up to you the violence and terror in the Middle East;
We pray for the people of Greece that there may be relief from economic straits they are in.
We cry out for those who are entrapped in modern day slavery that may be set free.
We pray for all who are still recovering from Spring storms.
We continue to pray for the jobless that they may find meaningful work.
We offer up to you the homeless of the world, especially the children, may there be homes and improvement in their wellbeing.

God of hospitality, may we remember that you welcomed us so that we too would welcome others into our churches, that we share with them the cup of cold water.
May we remember that as we welcome others we welcome you.

We pray all this in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.


cross posted on a place for prayer and revabi's long and winding road

Saturday, June 25, 2011

11th Hour Preachers Party: Binding and Unbinding

Admittedly I have an interesting opportunity this weekend. The Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary are at the heart of it all, along with the reality that my congregation is joining the Faith Shared project. As participants of this project, and in honor of the fact that this congregation is in Dearborn, MI - an interfaith community and a church that is a co-sponsor of the Worldsview Seminar - the readings for this week offer a curious opportunity.

In case you haven't read the texts for this week you can find them here.

I believe that the woman coming from a local Jewish temple is going to comment on the binding of Isaac, as that is also the reading this week from the Torah. I look forward to what she will offer. I also look forward to what the Imam will offer from the reading of the Qu'ran.

And, so, I am deeply pondering what I will say about the Gospel....

Matthew 10:40-42
10:40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple -- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

Wow. Welcoming strangers and prophets and young children who will sing the calling prayers from the Islamic faith...It's my first real foray into a truly interfaith worship service and I am curious how it will turn out.

What about you? Where are the texts leading you and what is the Spirit stirring in you?

I have lots of fresh produce from our local farmers market as well as delicious coffee. Pull up a chair and join the party! We're here to help if you have a quandary or need some feedback on your sermon. We're here to laugh with you, cry with you, hug you, pray, and support - in any way you need.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Five: Faith and Culture edition

This week the church I serve is a host site for the University of Michigan, Dearborn, Worldviews Seminar. It's a week long summer education course open to anyone, with continuing ed hours to be earned. It's a survey of the world religions with a morning lecture at the university, led by Lucinda Mosher. Then the group drives over to the church for lunch, a short lecture, and then they board a bus for a tour of local religious buildings. They tour Buddhist temples, an Antiochean Orthodox church, a synagogue, a mosque, and many other area houses of worship.This year is the tenth anniversary of the seminar.

In addition to the Worldviews Seminar the congregation I serve is planning to participate in Episcopal Faith Shared
and Faith Shared. I am working to have members of local Jewish and Muslim congregations present and participating in our Sunday morning service.

So, in honor of a week of interfaith study and celebration:

1. Have you ever had an experience of a religion other than your own? And, if so, what was it like for you to experience something different? If you haven't, what religion might you like to study, experience, and learn more about?

2. Have you ever studied, travelled, or explored other cultures? What and where, and when?

3. Any stories you wish to share about a person (author, teacher, etc), or a friend or colleague, from another culture or religion, who has impacted you in some capacity?

So, not exactly a five question Friday Five. You can respond in five easy answers, if you wish, or one reflection. If you play, please leave a comment, and you'll be likely to get more comments if you link directly to your post. Here's how!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ask the Matriarch: Summer Rerun

Due to storms and a loss of Internet for earthchick, we are doing something new and offering an AtM Summer Rerun. This column from June, 2009, not only had great responses from our matriarchs; it also received wonderful and helpful comments, which I have added to the post below.

I would also like to add a word of thanks to earthchick and revhoney who have been hosting this feature for over two years now, and to the panel of experienced pastors who have offered so much to us. If you are a reader/commenter and have been an ordained minister for ten years or more, we would love to add you to our panel. Send us an email to inquire further.

Now, here's our rerun, with answers originally gathered by earthchick for June 25, 2009:

This week's question involves a really tough situation - for both the parishioner and the minister. The minister writes:
A woman in my parish unexpectedly lost her adult daughter a few months ago. She has been experiencing severe, paralyzing, debilitating grief compounded by alcoholism. She rarely accepts offers to visit, although she will occasionally speak to me on the phone. She has been evaluated by social workers, but will not accept any alcohol or grief counseling. I am overwhelmed. I feel helpless to help her. I know I can't fix it, and I'm honestly having a hard time even being a non-anxious presence, because nearly every time I speak to her she repeatedly asks me how I would feel if I lost my child. I don't know what to say to that heartbreaking question - not the first time, and not the tenth time. I really don't know what to do.

Mompriest offers:

This is such a sad situation. There is no answer to the question she asks, it's rhetorical in its very heartbreaking asking. But there is a response - to care for the aching woman and her loss by taking the sorrow to prayer. Her decision to soothe her pain by drinking is her decision, a sad one, but it is a (unhealthy) way we humans respond to pain, stress, life.... Eventually she may awaken from her darkness and choose another response.
Prayer too is a response. One that brings God into the situation and the response. That is the primary action the clergy can take in response to this. Secondly the clergy can empathize with the woman, even if they haven't experienced it personally, and honor that her loss is one of the deepest magnitude. Sometimes all we really need in our deepest pain is to know that some one is listening, deeply listening, no answers, no suggestions, just listening. And praying.
A third option, as she is ready, is to refer to her a therapist who can help her understand why she is choosing to assuage her pain with alcohol, which in the long run only prolongs the experience of, and therefore the moving through, of pain.

Revhoney writes:
I can hear the anguish of a pastor’s heart in your words. We answered this call, at least many of us did, because we want to help others. Sometimes, however, we feel absolutely powerless, completely useless.
But we are not powerless or useless. We are the chief intercessors for our people. Pray fervently for this woman. Pray for her grief to be eased. Pray for her deliverance from her addiction. Pray for yourself to be fully present with her even if you have no answers for her questions. Pray for God to grant you words that may offer comfort. Pray for others who may be trying to comfort her. Pray before you call her on the phone.
When she asks “how would you feel…”, could you acknowledge some sense of how you think you would feel? Broken-hearted, beyond grief, hopeless? Perhaps all you can say is, “I can’t begin to imagine how it must hurt. I am so sorry.” And if she is silent or angry in the face of your response, let that be okay. Let her know that she is safe to express her grief with you.
For your own spiritual and emotional health as a caregiver, I strongly urge you to consider a relationship with a spiritual director. S/he can be a tremendous help for you as you learn to accept your limitations and embrace the means of grace that God so freely offers us.

Sunday's Coming adds:
I don’t know what to do either.
I am reminded of a wise chaplain in a psychiatric ward who once counseled me to listen to what my gut was saying when I sat with people experiencing mental health problems. Often they did not say very much, but how they were feeling was communicated to me in how I went away feeling (I hope that makes some sort of sense!).
As you describe this woman’s situation and your own response I feel lost, overwhelmed, helpless... I feel it, you feel it, is it too simplistic to suggest that she feels that too? So ‘all’ you can do is be the steady presence – continuing to ring and ask how she is, continuing to pray, responding with a visit when she is ready for that.
She’s in a rough sea – you’re the beacon of light when she’s ready to try and steer for shore.

And you don’t need to be alone – at least one other person needs to also be phoning her from time to time, and maybe if you have the right people a small group could pray for her and let her know they are doing that. It is all you can do – and I pray it will help in time.
There's a striking unity to the wisdom the matriarchs have written, with prayer at the core of what we ministers have to offer. What else might you say to this struggling minister?

***************************************
Among the comments on the post were the following:

Anonymous said...
I’m not a matriarch. I have sat with people and felt helpless and I’ve also experienced grief and been angry at some of the ‘help’ I was offered. I agree, get a spiritual director, or trained supervisor, who can help you with the ‘what is my role here’ question. At times I have been reminded I am not the person’s daughter, or sister, or counsellor, I am their minister, and that means reminding them they are a loved child of God. And that shows in that you keep ringing, even in 6- 12 months when everyone else has given up; and you pray for the person. I think the answer to her questions about how would feel – I don’t know, but it sounds to me like you feel…….... . When I was grieving I found it very frustrating to have people tell me how I should feel and how I should cope, rather than listening to how I was feeling. Grief is such an individual thing. I was reminded this morning, by a person I had been asked to visit [who feels that her family finds her grieving uncomfortable] , that there are few people who will listen in a non judgemental way. Yet that can be the greatest blessing.

Pastor Joelle said...
Having lost my husband I can this - a few months is NOTHING. The alcoholism makes it more complicated but I know I really resented it when people suggested I get counseling for grief. Grief is a normal response and not everybody needs to be hustled into counseling. There's really nothing you can do. You can tell her that you are there if she ever wants to talk to you but she probably won't call you. When she asks you how you would feel say "I don't know" because you don't. No offense to Anonymous but I would not tell her how it sounds like to you she feels. I would probably have smacked someone if they had said that to me. Although be aware the anger can be so strong that anything you say will piss her off because she's already so terribly angry. Just say I don't know. You could ask her "I'm willing to listen to you how it feels." Sometimes you can be helpful sometimes you can't. I had a young boy in my parish who was run over on his ATV by his father on the tractor. The father never got over it as far as I know. Call her once in awhile. Tell her she's in your prayers. And pray.
Gannet Girl said...
As you perhaps know, I lost a young adult son to suicide 10 months ago. I agree with much of what Anonymous said. I have been reading about what is termed "complicated grief" lately, just to check on myself, and you might find it helpful to explore that subject. I suppose it is a grace in my life that my grief is not complicated by alcoholism and is perhaps helped by my seeing a grief counselor and going to a survivors support group, and that I have been glued and re-glued together by two phenomenal spiritual directors, who mostly listen and listen and listen in completely nonjudgmental ways. I am reading about complicated grief because the depth and length and loneliness of grief after the loss of a child is shocking even for me, someone who had experienced much loss and knew a great deal "academically" about grief before this happened. I agree that someone who could help you articulate your own feelings might help you respond to this woman's question. As I have written in my blogs, one of the most devastating and isolating facets of this process has been the repeated "I can't imagine." The biggest "helps" have been the many notes I received periodically for several months from another woman in my church -- I couldn't really absorb them, but I was very aware of her noninstrusive effort to articulate a recognition of what we were experiencing; the occasional notes and emails and gifts -- a poem, an essay, a reference to a book -- from my directors, which also remind me that someone is aware of something that might speak to me when he comes across it from time to time; and the complete focused and listening presence of a couple of my seminary classmates, who seem unintimidated by my occasional meltdowns. I think that you should expect to feel helpless. You should know that the chances of your words being comforting, of conveying in words to her that she is a beloved child of God or that God is with her in this, are slim, at least at this point. Presence is eveything. My guess is that her inability to accept help arises not merely from her illness but from an intuitive recognition that few people are willing to accompany her on her journey. I am in seminary and I have two wonderful pastors, which means that I am surrounded by ministers and would-be ministers, and there are almost none among them who will venture into this dark place. Psalms 88 and 139 make up the guidebook, in my view.
Lucky Fresh said...
In case you aren't already, and because it hasn't been said already specifically, yes, pray -- pray with her on the phone. I think too often we assume prayer works best in person, so we don't do it when we're on the phone. But if phone calls are what you have, use them. And don't be afraid to put silence into those phone prayers. It is one way of reminding her that God is still present in her life, which is presumably something she's having trouble experiencing on her own right now.
Deb said...
After reading the wise words from the matriarchs and the commenters, I am grateful for them. What a wealth of knowledge! I am also a mercy person and that gets me in these difficult places and spaces too. I'm an extrovert as well and have to remember to give people space. I have a notebook that I write "pouring out" prayers. It's where I agonize and pray over things I can't change or fix. One of my mentors suggested this so that I can verbalize (a way that I process emotions and experiences) without overwhelming the person who needs a silent praying listener. I am grateful that you are present for this woman... Peace- Deb
Anonymous said...
Hi all, I’m by no means a matriarch, I am a lurker of several years duration and a long time hospital chaplain in Behavioral Health. There is much wisdom in the previous responses, but I’d like to add few thoughts which may, or may not, add some value. 1) Grief, especially after the death of a child, of any age, is a an excruciating and lonely journey, under the “best” circumstances; if this mother needs to drink and isolate this early on in her journey that is what she needs to do. Honor the dignity of her grief by honoring her need to sufferer in the wake of this horrible loss. I suspect that, as hard as it is to watch, in her own time, this phase of her grief will run its course; most likely because the drinking will produce its own negative consequences which will force her to stop and reevaluate. 2) My guess is the woman’s repeated questioning of the pastor as to how she would feel if her child died is a complex articulation of many things. On one level it seems to be a statement of profound loneliness and fresh brokenness: “I am so alone in my grief and shattered, how could you possibly know what I am feeling? And since you can’t, how can you possibly have anything of value for my life now that it has been ripped apart.” It should make a good pastor feel helpless and anxious. And who is to say that a non-anxious presence isn’t anxious on the inside. The point of the question goes to its second level: “Can you take this journey with me or will you run away from my pain or try to take it away from me like everyone else? Are you, pastor, in this for the long haul?” They only answer to the question is to be there with her in her grief and not try and fix her, because you can’t. This, in the long run, is this sad woman’s business with God not with you and not with the Church. 3) Which points the way to the next consideration—theodicy. It is the theological struggle at the heart of her journey. Where is God when God seems gut wrenchingly absent? Reread your Kierkegaard and Tillich’s the Courage to Be and the Dynamics of Faith, and your Multmann. Read Job, not for her but for you, read it prayerfully. Read Serene Jones’ gripping chapter in Hope Deferred, “Rupture,” it’s about grief and pregnancy loss, but speaks eloquently and with great respect to theodicy of pain in child-death. I’ll leave you with Jones’ prayer; no matter the age, when a child dies a mother’s body breaks, her life force pours out and the center of her life and creativity dies. “Please, God, receive this: our will, broken; our, hope, lost; our body, ruptured; our blood, poured out; our womb, a grave.” Try also compassionatefriends.org Hope there is some value here. Dorothy
Free Flying Spirit said...
I am certainly not a Matriarch...even after 40 years after Commissioning, but offer this... The others are right..you do not know how she feels, so you can only agree with her feelings. They are hers to own. but... Keep in touch, speak with her as she allows, be the listener, you don't know who else is offering even that. Alcohol will not. Prayers are for us really, and her. God already knows her intimately, and you as well. God is aware of her need for an ear, and whatever else. She may not be interested in God-talk, or church, but she's still sometimes connecting with you. Let that flow naturally. We aren't expected to know it all, we cannot feel her pain, but we do feel our pain...walk with her, but it may need to be mainly a silent walk for now. Ask God to let his peace rest with her and touch her with his healing. God is the only one who knows where that pain's core lies: unfinished business with her daughter; guilt; feeling abandoned; or whatever...God knows. Rely on that fact. And allow yourself to also rest within God and let him hear your words of grief for this woman and her loss and for you own desire to help her. I find often it's best to step back from the deep worry, not from keeping in touch with her, but the emotional stuff that is triggered inside us. We are trained to act and to pray. But, we are not alone, God is with you in this too. Be at peace as are able, so you can carry on with other parts of your ministry, but be watching for signs in this woman who may at some point be ready to talk, vent, grieve,or be angry...it may come at you, BUT, none of this is about you. We can only walk beside someone's grief and let them know that we will not abandon them. And God will not abandon you as you do this. God's silence is often our own inability to rest within our soul and let God's peace permeate us. You will be in our prayers for your well being as well as hers.
Diane said...
I think all of the comments here, esp. those who offer wisdom borne of grief, are wise beyond all. Sometimes all you can do is pray, and listen. And that's so hard.
earthchick said...
I am so moved by the many wise comments here. Thank you, all, for sharing, esp. those of you who have dealt with or are dealing with terrible grief of your own.
Sally said...
I would say quite simply that it is OK to be overwhelmed. I buried two young people last year, a 5 yr old and a 20 yr old, their parents entered a deep darkenss and are starting to come through. One set handled grief in a healthy way, the other turned to alchohol. Being there is essential, and waiting until they are ready to move is frustrating, but you must, and you must continue to be there. One of the most helpful things you can say is probably to admit that no you don't understand her pain ( inless you do), but that you love her and care about her. Keep being available, and keep being present, and keep trusting God... That is enough.
*************************************
Thanks to all who wrote. If you have other thoughts about ministering to the grieving, especially with the added complication of substance abuse, please share in the comments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Those Kids

Today's post is by RevHipChick. I think it will resound for anyone who has raised a girl, or been one. Or maybe anyone who has ever been a teen. (That's everyone.)

Raising children is hard. Raising tweens is hard. Raising teenagers is hard.

Not just hard, it's heartbreaking.

One of my favorite lines about parenting is that it's like watching your heart walk around outside of one's body.

A few days ago I was driving to a volleyball game listening to music from 20 years ago. As Tracy Chapman's "This Time" began to play I couldn't help but cry. There are 3 albums that I listened to nonstop during a very depressed and broken time when I was 19--Tracy Chapman's self-titled album & Crossroads, and the Indigo Girls's self-titled album. It never fails that as soon as a song from one of those cds plays I remember all the heartache and emotions of that time in my life. It transports me to that time in my life but it's not like a flashback and it's not emotionally crippling. This last time I cried during "This Time" I cried for the girl I was, wishing that I could hold her and tell her that everything would be okay. I wanted to assure her that life was going to be wonderful and good.

Today, I wish I could hold my middle girl and tell her the same. Of course I tried but I'm sure she didn't hear it. I know her nearly 40 year old self couldn't break through. I fear walking those years with my girls. I know how tender and fragile I was, I was close to ending it all and never making it to 40. I hope and pray my girls don't know, don't experience walking on the edge of life, of sanity in the way that I did.

Some days I remember that they have a life that I did not. They have two parents who love and care for them, there's no abuse. As my eldest pointed out yesterday, she and one other kid in her class are the only two kids who have homes in which their parents don't fight all the time and aren't already or in the process of divorce. We're not perfect but our life is good.

Then some days, I wonder about how much genes play a role in our lives. Are they doomed to struggles with depression and anxiety due to my lovely gene pool? I know better. I know it's a mix of both. I pray that they have it easier than I did but will be as compassionate, loving, and strong as I grew to be because of my struggles. I hope they can learn through my mistakes and make their own that aren't quite as devastating.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lectionary Leanings -- You Want Me to DO WHAT with Isaac? Edition

We Pray:
Faithful God,
your love stands firm from generation to generation,
your mercy is always abundant.
Give us open and understanding hearts,
that having heard your word,
we may seek Christ's presence in all whom we meet. Amen.

(Prayer found here)


Another Sunday, another sermon.  Or at least that is how it sometimes feels to those of us who have to prepare them

You can read the Lectionary passages for this Sunday here.


It is an interesting mix.  In Genesis 22 the brave (or foolish--they often seem the same don't they?) can take on the question of child sacrifice.  Or in the alternate Hebrew Scriptures reading from Jeremiah one could take on the question of how to know a true prophet.

Or maybe you like Paul's letter to the Romans.  In this week's section Paul is talking about sin and law (Paul? Sin and law?  What a surprise!)  And includes one of his best known phrases "The Wages of Sin is death"  (which in English is poor grammar since Wages is plural and so it should say "are" not "is").

Or do you prefer to talk about the Gospel reading.  Here we have Jesus telling the disciples how blessed the people who will welcome them are.  Of course that may be a way of hinting that there will be many who will not welcome the disciples or their preaching...

And of course sometimes we like to look at the Psalms.  Both suggestions this week serve as invitations to talk about God's steadfastness and trusting in God to protect/sustain us.

Or maybe now that we are in Ordinary Time you are deciding that the Lectionary is going to be set aside to allow a focus on a certain theme or to explore a specific story/book in Scripture.  Wherever the Spirit (or the Church) is leading you this week please share it with us in the comments.  And if you have a link that you find helpful feel free to post it too! (for help on how to post a link check here)

Welcome image found here
Sacrifice of Isaac image found here (lots of other options on the same story there as well)

Registration Deadline Reminder for BE 5.0

Would you like to spend five days with friends and colleagues, new and old, cruising in the Gulf of Mexico while also getting the benefit of a program led by The Text This Week's Jenee Woodard, designed to prep for Ordinary Time in Year B? Then join us on Carnival Elation for the RevGalBlogPals' fifth annual Big Event, Take the Book Out of the Box, a unique combination of education, recreation and "galship."

To get the full brochure and registration form, please email RevGalBlogPals. The $100 deposit is due on July 1, which is only 11 days away! We have reserved more berths this year than in the past, but we've also set an upward limit for the first time. So don't delay!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Prayer for Trinity Sunday


Oh God who created the world,
You are still at work in this world creating.
Your handiwork is shown everywhere in this world.
Every time there is a newborn we see your creating work

Your keep showing us your created children your fatherhood.
Your fatherhood is so different then our earthly fathers.
It is neither too harsh nor too soft.
It is neither too much nor too little.
It is neither too stiff nor too malleable.
Our earthly fathers try to love us the best they can given how they were loved.
Often they fail us, often they are quite capable.
Some of us miss our fathers terribly and some of us have had to put up boundaries with our fathers who were abusive.
Some of us have been abandoned, deserted or left by our fathers.
But you have always been our Father who loved us without fail.

You loved us so much that you sent your son into this world
To spend time with us,
To teach us, to show us your love,
To heal us, to save us,
To give us joy, and to give us your peace.

His death and resurrection made way for the Holy Spirit
Who keeps your creating work happening.
Your Holy Spirit keeps us knowing you are with us always.
Knowing that you love us, we pray for those who feel unloved.
Knowing that you heal us, we pray for those who need to be healed.
Knowing that you save us, we pray for those needing to be made whole.
Knowing that you give us joy, we pray for those whose lives are joyless.
Knowing that you give us your peace, we pray for those who live in war zones.

We pray all this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

11th Hour Preacher Party: Mission Possible Edition


Mission Impossible
 "Your mission, should you choose to accept it ..."

Remember the classic TV show "Mission: Impossible"?  The team always took the impossible mission and somehow made it possible. 

Today's mission: SERMON COMPLETION

If we choose to accept this mission, here are the lectionary texts of the week: 
We are given the (so called) "Great Commission" by Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20 and there is so much about Jesus' expectation that seems impossible, or at least implausible. Even that first word "Go ..." seems uber-challenging at times.

So, what did God have in mind (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) when dream became urge became labor became creation?  What was possible for God to set in motion has become impossible for humans to sustain. Or has it? 

Psalm 8 affirms that human beings were created to be a little lower than God?  How low will we go?  Is it possible to find the place where we belong?

Paul's final word to the energetic and contentions Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 13:11-13) was to "put things in order." Is it indeed possible for the word of a preacher to inspire change?

Which of these texts hold possibilities for your sermon?  And ... Trinity Sunday or Great Commission? Or something else entirely?

Welcome to the 11th Hour Preacher Party where it is totally possible for your sermon-to-be to become sermon-ready-to-go!  Ask for help, work out whatever loose threads are hanging and share ideas for themes, illustrations, children's time, and anything else you have to offer of a liturgical or non-liturgical nature. Lurkers and non-preaching cheerleaders are urged to join in!

May snacks and humor abound! 

"Good luck, friends!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Five: Stairway of Surprise

I am currently reading a book entitled Stairway of Surprise: Six Steps to a Creative Life by Michael Lipson. His premise is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "I shall mount to paradise by the stairway of surprise." Lipson's book is about practicing or developing six inner functions--thinking, doing, feeling, loving, opening, and thanking.

So these categories of attention are a jumping off point for today's Friday Five:

Pick five of the six actions and write about how you are practicing them today or recently. For a bonus, write about the sixth one you originally didn't choose!

What or how are you

1. thinking?

2. doing?

3. feeling?

4. loving?

5. opening?

6. thanking?

If you play, please leave a comment, and you'll be likely to get more comments if you link directly to your post. Here's how!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - Collared?


There are no questions in the matriarchs' queue this week, so let's work one that appeared on the RevGalBlogPal Facebook page this week...

"Does anyone know where to get good fabric (not plastic) collars to fit a standard clergy blouse?" It's not precisely a ministry question, I know, but hot plastic does not improve one's pastoral skills!"

And let's expand it...do you wear clerical collars? When do you wear them?

Tab or Roman collar?

Do you have a favorite brand or supplier of clergy blouses?

And if you don't wear a clerical collar in your ministry, why not?


Inquiring minds want to know... so join the conversation!

May you live in God's amazing grace+

revhoney

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Take a Rest Wednesday Festival

Today's post is by Melissa Bane Sevier at Contemplative Viewfinder. She is beginning a sabbatical and thinks about what that means. Praying for peace and rest for Melissa and, in some form, for every one of us....

Yesterday I began a twelve-week sabbatical. It is with great interest, then, that I notice one of this Sunday’s lectionary readings is Genesis 1:1—2:4.

God was certainly busy during the creation process. Heavens and earth. Light and darkness. Sky and seas. Plants and trees. Sun, moon and stars. Creatures of sea and sky. Wild animals, cattle and creeping things. People.

Whew.

Then there’s this: So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that had done in creation.

God rested?

I often wonder why the biblical editors, with all the oral and written traditions they had to choose from, chose certain passages to include over others. From a theological perspective, especially if we assume Genesis was compiled during the exile, the inclusion of the concept of the seventh day (Sabbath) makes sense. A Jewish people in a foreign land were reaffirming their identity, their separateness, hanging onto their cultural and religious uniqueness. A day set aside for worship and rest reminds them who they are. If that observance is designed in the very fabric of their creation story, then the meaning is even more significant.

I fully understand why we humans are told to rest. We need it to replenish our bodies, minds and spirits. But why talk of God’s resting? Was it merely instructive?

Or could it be that there is something as important in rest as there is in work? We tend to think of rest as the lack of something (labor), when maybe we should imagine it more positively.

The verse I find most interesting immediately precedes the one I quoted above: And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done.

The seventh day, the day of rest, was the day on which God finished the work of creation. You’d think it would’ve been finished on the sixth day, making it okay to take a day off. But the resting is apparently part of the creative process.

This speaks volumes to our human requirement for rest. It isn’t just because we’re tired, though we certainly do get tired. It’s also because we were designed to function in the cycle of labor and rest and creativity. It is a whole, not just a series of parts.

I imagine God sipping a cup of coffee that seventh day and reflecting, “Nice. Good colors, phases of light and dark. And those puppies—how cute are they!” Maybe a day off gave God a chance to come up with some adjustments. “Those flies seem always to be bumping into things. Maybe compound eyes will be better.”

God’s seventh day was a day of rest, and it wasn’t until that seventh day that the work of the other six was completed. Resting isn’t separate from what we do when we’re not resting; it’s part of the whole.

You may not be able to take an entire day, whether it’s on the weekend or not, to do your resting. But the cycle is still between work and not-work, wakefulness and sleep, finding the times and the places for rest, embodying the full expression of the seventh day of creation.

There’s always something more to be done, isn’t there? More meetings, more housework, more gardening, more creating. But before we get back to that, we must complete the cycle, our “seventh day” of setting those things aside so that we may return to them renewed. The seventh day is an essential element of who we are and what we do.

So give it a rest. God did.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lectionary Leanings -- Creating the Three-in-One Edition

 We Pray:
God of delight,
you Wisdom sings your Word
at the crossroads where humanity and divinity meet.
Invite us into your joyful being
where you know and are known
in each beginning,
in all sustenance,
in every redemption,
that we may manifest your unity
in the diverse ministries you entrust to us,
truly reflecting your triune majesty
in the faith that acts,
in the hope that does not disappoint,
and in the love that endures. Amen.


I once read about a man who wasn't crazy about getting to church on Easter but never missed Trinity Sunday.  His reason?  He knew that the church folks could come up with an explanation for Easter.  But he always wanted to see if the preacher could explain the unexplainable Trinity.

The Lectionary texts for Trinity Sunday this year are here.  In year A we get the hymn of Creation (seriously, it is so hymnic--does anybody have it set to music?), a blessing from Paul to the folks in Corinth, and the Matthean Commission to baptize in the name of Father Son and Holy Ghost.


So how do you explain the unexplainable?   What do you do with Children?  Anybody copying St. Patrick and bringing in a shamrock?  Or are you from a lower Church tradition where you have more flexibility to ignore the Trinity Sunday designation?  How would you preach the Creation Hymn without getting into the Creation-Evolution/Faith-Science debate?  This site has some great icons to go with the Genesis reading.

Let us know in the comments where you are heading, or at least where you think you are heading, this early in the week.

Prayer from here
Stained Glass Window from here (the text with it is kind of different though)
Shield graphic is from here

Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Event 5.0 -- in case you missed it!

Have you heard about our plans for the next Big Event? The deadline to register is July 1, and we have had a lot of interest already, so be sure to email us if you want a brochure! Our presenter, Jenee Woodard of The Text This Week promises, "It is going to be SOOOOOO educational. It will help you prepare to preach, teach, study & live Ordinary Time B and leave you with your own set of resources we will develop together. And I PROMISE that part of it will be completely painless - interesting, engaging and really fun. Otherwise I wouldn't do it!"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: Come Holy Spirit




Come, Holy Spirit! Many of our assemblies were bursting with the Spirit today, lit by songs of fire and wind. I could not help but think of John Donne's

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

The Spirit often feels like a boisterous presence among us, shaking the timbers of the churches as well as our souls. Two weeks ago I was in Japan, plans to take a ferry across the Inland Sea scuttled by a great wind - a Tai Phun. Yet it was not the great winds and deluging rains that took my breath away, it was the post-typhoon clarity. The water pouring forth from a steep mountain side, folding and re-folding the light of the sun, molten gold in the afternoon sun.

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's setting of the traditional Pentecost sequence, Veni Spirtus Sancte, has that same stilling clarity for me. Clear, ringing quietly, in the space cleared by the great winds and flames, the Spirit works here, too...

Prayer for Pentecost Sunday







Lord,
We are excited to be celebrating the church’s birthday today.
However, we are not sure what it would be like
if the Holy Spirit blew through our churches again as it did on the day of Pentecost.
In fact we not so sure we want that to happen again in our church.
It scares us this power of the Holy Spirit, and
yet we know that without the Holy Spirit
we are unable to accomplish the vision you have for your Kingdom of God.
We need your Holy Spirit.
It is after all your church.
So we pray;
come Holy Spirit come,
pour out your power into us your people and your church.
We do want to be your body of Christ in this world
that is often hurting, hungry and cynical.

We want to bring the good news to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, preach deliverance to captives, bring recovery of sight to the blind and set at liberty all that are bruised.
We want to be your body of Christ by praying for all who suffer, are poor, despairing, burdened, blind and battered.
So we pray for them right now and
claim the power of your Holy Spirit to do your will in this world.
We pray for your power of healing for those who are physically sick, for those who are emotionally ill, for those who are mentally ailing, for those who are money sick, for those who are spiritually unwell and for the world that is sick.
We pray for the healing of your creation,
and the renewal of the face of the land.
We pray for those who are thirsty,
that they would drink from your fountain of living waters and
never thirst again.

Thank you for hearing our prayers in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit!


Picture Pentecostes from church forum.org

Saturday, June 11, 2011

11th Hour Preacher Party: Pentecostal Edition

Good morning, gals and pals!  Are you ready for the wind and fire of the Spirit tomorrow? 

Me, neither.

It's practically the middle of June and Sunday is one of the major church festivals, although, in my humble opinion (and for lots of reasons) Pentecost never seems to get its due.  There are more than enough lessons to choose from on Sunday, from Numbers and 1 Corinthians, a couple of Gospel choices from John, and, of course, the basic story from Acts, with all of its strange and dramatic elements:  wind, fire, tongues, and many languages spoken (at the same time).  You can prime your sermon-writing pump with some great ideas here. (By the way, the picture is a banner commissioned for my church -- love in many languages.  It seemed, somehow, appropriate.)

so, what are you going to do?  do you have any Pentecost whooping-it-up planned?

I have pre-Pentecost blueberry pancakes (can you smell them?) and turkey sausage cooking, and fair trade coffee brewing.   I have plenty of room at the table.  I have a few good Pentecost stories to share.  I don't have a children's message.  anyone?

I hope you'll join us.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Experiences Friday Five

I have a little story to tell.  Earlier this spring, my husband won three tickets to a concert presented by the symphony orchestra of a nearby city--featuring Mozart's Requiem.  We debated for a few days about taking Trinity, our four-year old granddaughter, to such an adult event.  In the end we decided to give it a try.  After all, the tickets were free, so we didn't have a great deal to lose if we had to leave.  (There she is in the picture, all dressed up and ready to go hear, "my Mozart!")  You may wonder why we would consider taking a preschooler to the symphony, but this child loves Mozart and listens to a CD nearly every night at bedtime. Once I tried to sneak a CD of Bach in, and she cried, saying, "Grandma, that is NOT Mozart."

She was hopping with excitement, but we gave her lots of coaching, and when we arrived she gazed about with wonder at the lovely venue, and when the orchestra began to tune up she sat up straight and gazed, enraptured, with her mouth literally open. It was pure delight to watch her enjoying brand-new sights, sounds and surroundings.

This experience led me to remembering times of discovery, of new experiences.  Some were my own experiences and some were remembered from my children, or those of others.  Share with us today about five memorable moments of insight, discovery, awareness--from childhood or later, something you experienced or something you shared with someone else.

It is always helpful to post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to click here.