Co-hearers of the Word

Scentsy scent of the day:  Welcome Home – Warm and welcoming with cinnamon and spices

I love these last days of summer as they transition into the first days of fall.  I’m so ready for a different view; green leaves erupting into magnificent yellows, oranges and reds, fierce heat yielding to cooler temperatures that invite  me to start baking again.  The aroma of cinnamon and spices emanate from the kitchen and invite at least one of the precious littles to hop up on a “stool chair” as my 3-year-old is fond of calling them, to help me stir, roll, or simply taste as we create together.

It’s in these mundane minutes of just being, being present to the people around us, being present to the task at hand, that truly divine conversations start with my children, conversations that make me stop and ponder in a most marvelous way.

“Mama,” my sweet 7-year-old started, “when we’re raised from the dead, will we be babies or old?”

Whew!  I can’t say I was ready for that one from my budding theologian.

I love that my kids ask these kinds of questions!  It’s so easy to go down the road to trying to figure out an answer.  More often than not, I find my mind racing down that road, thinking through logically, trying to reason out an answer based on what I from Scripture or theology. I like knowledge.  I like having right answers.

Deep down inside, though, the reality is, I don’t know for sure, and truth be told, I’m not convinced she needed me to have some fact or theological argument ready to give back to her.

I’ve been privileged to become familiar with a Montessori-based method of faith formation for children, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, developed by Sofia Cavalletti, that has expressions in Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful as much as it is challenging.  In true Montessori style, it does not set up a teacher as possessor of knowledge that must be given to children in carefully portioned quantities based on what the teacher thinks must be learned and when.

In the book that introduces the philosophy of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, The Religious Potential of the Child, Cavelletti writes, “In helping the child’s religious life, far from imposing something that is foreign to him, we are responding to the child’s silent request: ‘Help me to come closer to God by myself” (RPOC, 45).

Still later, she writes in chapter 2, “The adult’s task is certainly to initiate the child into certain realities. There are events at the basis of Christianity that the adult should make known; there is an inheritance of truth and values that the adult should transmit with the whole of his lived life, but also through the word. In other words, the adult should proclaim God, who reveals His love through His Christ…” and later, “The receivers of the kerygma [proclamation of the Good News] are the child and the adult; they are simultaneously announcers and listeners.”

(Note:  These are but short quotes – anyone with an interest in the religious formation of children would be well served by reading slowly and prayerfully!)

In stopping to mindfully listen to my children’s wonderful questions about God, I am discovering thanks to such wisdom that as in so many areas of parenting – I don’t need to have all of the answers.  Really – in this context, when it comes to living a life of faith, while I have some additional life experience to share, I am neither more nor less than a co-hearer of the Word with them; my role is both to actively listen to and proclaim the very same Gospel.

It’s both humbling and freeing.  It also begs a certain clarity of focus on that which is essential in communicating the truth of God’s love to my children at each stage of their lives in developmentally appropriate ways, and willingness to ponder that love and it’s implications with them as co-hearers of the Word.

It’s not that theology is unimportant; certainly one day I hope to pursue formal theological studies myself.  The time for helping them work through theological treatises will come.  In these tender years, though, I know that information without a solid rooting in knowing of God’s love for them is empty – nor is it the fullness of the Gospel.

It’s amazing to me, when and where these kinds of questions emerge, reminding me of the sacredness of the mundane moments of everyday life; witnessing my young children seeking the God who loves them.  What a blessing to be entrusted with listening to and reflecting the eternal Word – with apron on, sleeves rolled up, and flour just about everywhere.  Here’s to more catechesis in the kitchen all autumn long!

What about you?  How might you facilitate mindful moments with those you love this season? 

Blessings,

Pauline

The Work of the People

The faithful were gathered, or gathering, more accurately.  The preliturgy hustle and bustle of meeting and greeting, quickly catching up, and getting ready for the celebration seems a universal one, no matter a community’s size, makeup, or familiarity with one another.  It too is a piece of the universal.  Whole families, young children in tow both by foot and by stroller.  Families missing a deployed family member welcomed even more warmly.  A woman on temporary duty away from home, grateful to pray, for once, with fewer distractions while simultaneously missing the weekly wrestling of her own young children during the familiar 90 minute act of worship. (more…)

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round No More

One of my three year old’s favorite songs is The Wheels on the Bus.  He loves to sing it each morning as we take his 7 year old sister to school.  As we drop her off and he sees the line of big kid buses he wishes he might ride to kindergarten, he greets each bus almost tenderly, saying, “Hello, bus.”

After bidding Hannah a fond farewell, we find our way to his school, or as he calls it, his little red school.  It comes into our view as we approach the appropriate exit on the highway, and he exuberantly yells out, “My school, my school!” with a great deal of pride and happiness.  While I wrestle at times with being a work outside the home mama, I have noticed his social skills bloom and his confidence grow as he has become a preschooler, and for him, this is the right place.

The innocence of that place was shattered today when it became apparent that their own little bus, a large white van well marked as belonging to a preschool and filled with car seats of varying sizes for shuttling children around our little town, had been stolen between yesterday and this morning.

The school administrator started sharing the story with me – I suspect she needed a listening ear; unfortunately, the mama grizzly in me took over, and none of my active listening skills were employed.  My mind immediately went to indignation, anger, and the desire to fix this.

The timing couldn’t be worse.  The bus is used for well-loved weekly summer trips to places throughout town, weaving a web of fond summer memories.

The injustice of it is galling.  Theft is unjust in all its guises, of course, but the added sting that the victims were among our community’s more vulnerable members, our children, adds insult to the injury indeed. This is a school wonderfully diverse in the population it serves.  They go through the administrative challenges of providing exceptional care to all children, including those receiving state aid.  Looking at the range of children who come in each day, it’s clear that while some have nothing more than the innocent joys of childhood on their minds, others have already been victimized in some heartbreaking or another.

So this fresh assault on our community’s children is very much on my mind tonight, and in my own grief and anger, I want to do something to help.

The power of the Internet and social networking is powerful indeed.  I’m hoping that if enough people are aware, someone, somewhere, might see something; if enough information is put together – perhaps it will be found intact.

Please be on the lookout for:  A White, 1999 Ford Econoline 12 Passenger Van, California License Plate 4FLG065.

if this is a subject that touches you, feel free to repost this or cut and paste or include the information on your FB page, or use whatever means necessary to publicize the theft and a description of the van so that as many ordinary people in our community who feel so called might serve as eyes’ and ears, being on the lookout for the childrens’ van.  It’s my understanding that CHP took the report; I’m sure that any of our area law enforcement agencies, NCSO, GVPD, and NCPD would pass on and/or act on actionable information about this crime.

Please feel free to e-mail me with respect to this post.  Certainly as a writer I love reader feedback everyday; but this post is different, and I just want to get the word out there and see if we can bring the bus back to our kids, so the wheels on the bus might go round and round all summer long and beyond.

Blessings,

Pauline

But who is my neighbor?

.The other night, my sweet 7-year-old daughter was nonchalantly recounting some of the details of her day. Games played at recess. The kid-friendly food she’d had for lunch.

The friend who had disclosed having been sold for drugs by her mother.

I tried not to overreact. Not to scare my daughter any more than such a revelation from a friend might already have. Not to assume anything. I tried to ask careful questions. To find out what she knew. When it had happened.

My heart broke for my daughter’s friend. To be so young and so horribly betrayed.

My heart broke for my daughter. That her innocence has been chipped away, knowing the world does in fact include people who would sell their own child.

My daughter’s friend is safe, it turns out. She lives with a foster family now, a good one.

My husband reminds me that I can’t shelter her forever. I still ache for this unwanted knowledge.

It also pricks my conscience. This is atrocious, yes. But it is too easy to call it atrocious and then cross the metaphoric street, looking the other way like the religious figure in the story of the Good Samaritan. It is too easy to get caught up in the horrors of the foster system, or the inability to help every child, or the challenges that bringing a child into one’s family can cause for other family members. The idea that somehow, we owe a greater compassion to our biological family than to children whose own biological parents have abused, neglected, and betrayed them.

I can’t help but wonder, who is my neighbor? And in the context of marriage, where my husband’s understanding of this particular issue might be different than mine, where does this awareness lead?

This is not the only context in which God is calling to mind the plight of young girls being bought and sold as commodities. It seems that the closest metropolitan area, Sacramento, is a major hub for sex trafficking in the United States, according to the US Department of Justice. The thought of girls my daughter’s age being sold or kidnapped into sex slavery is horrific. And yet – averting our eyes – my eyes – from this horror helps ensure its continuance.

I have a friend engaged in a short term mission trip to Cambodia to help work with girls rescued from sex trafficking. Should you be so moved, email me for information how you might financially support her endeavor.

There is a new nonprofit organization in the Sacramento area, Courage to Be You, to help in the recovery process for girls rescued from sex trafficking; without a place to be restored, the victims are often put into the juvenile justice system. Not exactly an effective rescue, in my mind.

I’m not certain why this particular need is being called to mind at this particular time. If it’s simply that I have young children and, while I fail daily at parenting, the thought of hurting then on such a scale is simply abhorrent.

Or maybe it’s something deeper. A penetration of the Gospel in a way that is designed to take me out of my place of comfort and help me see God within these children, compelling me to find a way to work on their behalf.

Have you ever had a similar experience? What did you see? What were you led to do?

Be blessed,
Pauline

Towards transformation

Monarch emerging from chrysalis

We seek and desire sweet, spiritual enjoyment; I do not argue, it is pleasant—but it is lower than the cross. It is granted to us through the cross and without the cross it cannot last. It comes to us and leaves us according to the degree that we travel the way of the cross and humility. -St. Macarius of Optina

I had a thought that this Lent – my most observant in many years, and with a different focus as an inquirer to Orthodoxy, would be about transformation.  If indeed it is, it’s a slow paced transformation.  Frankly, I think I’m only scratching the surface of awareness, let alone progressing through any form of transformation.  Yes, I know awareness is the first step, and that it is in God’s mercy that we become of aware of these layers to our souls in such tiny increments such that it is not so very overwhelming.

But still.  Wow.

This past week concluded with some pretty disappointing career news for my deployed husband.  There’s nothing quite like getting excited by a new possibility that seems for sure and so very perfect – only to learn that it won’t happen after all.  After I had just prepared my heart and found peace about the thought of leaving my job in a workplace that is currently fraught with so much tension unlike any I’ve seen there before (though hadn’t actually turned in my resignation letter yet).  After a week in which, given the atmosphere at work, I really, really wanted my husband here as a source of strength and comfort.

Oh yeah, and throw in the fact that we’re learning about this disappointment while separated some 2500 miles, just to make it more challenging.

I thought back toward my post last week about accepting God’s will – a post written while in the midst of a horrible juggling act as a single mom, while at the same time harboring this secret hope about the new job for Carl.  I had written of a quote I had found at Molly Sabourin’s blog that was transformative for me, helping me to bear with my present frustrated exhaustion as, at the moment, God’s will for me, in His mercy, helping to shape and mold my heart to be a tiny bit more like Him, in union with Him.

But I admit – in the back of my mind, there was the thought, “I can bear with *this* if *that* (new job for Carl, being so frustrated and ready to be done with my job, etc.) comes true.  I’m okay with God’s will – if that’s what it is.”

I wasn’t really aware of it at the time; it is only in hindsight while nursing my profound disappointment both for Carl and for my own expectations lying smashed and scattered across the floor like shards of cut glass, that I have an inkling of the box into which I have attempted to place God’s will.  I am happy if my conditions are met, if this pleasant thing happens, if that unpleasant thing is avoided.

There is a principle in pop-culture Christianity, I think, brought on by our disordered desire for comfort at all costs thanks to the Fall, that when disappointments come, it’s only because God has something better in store for us.  That he’s really this Santa in the clouds sort of guy, and while sometimes it rains, he really is just holding out to give us something we’ll like even better.

Tell that to the martyrs.  The victims of the Holocaust.  Victims of violence and abuse.

I know my deep disappointment has roots in said disordered view of God – even while I know intellectually this isn’t a true picture of God, the effects of this view are clear when external events rob my joy and make it a more difficult act of will to say, “Thy will be done.”

Yet, as the testimony of the martyrs suggest – it is possible, though not easy, and it is precisely through the cross – an experience of humility and suffering that gives way to joy and resurrection – that it occurs.

Translation – it’s in these moments of heartbreak that I have the chance to choose my focus, either on myself, or on the One who knows what I need to grow in humility, union with Christ, and thus true spiritual joy.

This is simultaneously frustrating and freeing.  Frustrating, because in my all too human nature, I want the consolation of being able to whisper to myself, “God has something better in store.”  And it is true!  The cross and resurrection are proof that it is.  Yet not necessarily in the way my human nature would like – tangible consolations now; a world order according to what is comfortable for me.  Freeing, because of the whispers and proclamations woven throughout the Gospels.  Christ is within; the kingdom of God is within me, if I but recognize it.  Disappointments such as this can’t take that away and can even make it easier to shed the pride that so deeply obscures awareness of Christ within if I am willing to soften.  Surrender.  Yield.  Accept the transformation that is offered.

In the prayer of the early Church fathers and mothers, Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy.

So I’ll keep inching along, hopefully pausing from time to time to be attentive to this work being done in me, grateful for this inch by inch journey to healing, grateful for the chance to cooperate with our merciful God, working out my salvation, even when it hurts.

Be blessed,

Pauline

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