Smiling at Difficulties

Another skill I’ve learned from yoga:

smiling when what you want to do is growl, or frown, or scream.

This week, as the Amsa community continues to live into and unpack the ramifications of dear leaders moving to a new community, I’m noticing even more the ways that starting to practice yoga there has helped me to respond with more generosity to people, events, and  moments in my life.

When I read an email that stung, my knee-jerk response was to smile.  Smiling, which you may know, brings on good feelings, lowers tension, and takes less energy than frowning.

During our “warm” yoga sessions, as we hold ourselves and breathe in chair pose (a wall-less squat) for the third or fourth time, Kim always tells us to smile.  Smiling helps us to release the tension we may be holding our bodies during the challenging position.  In life, smiling helps us to release the tension we may be holding our bodies during a challenging moment (or interacting with a challenging person!).

Singleness & Marriage – Trinity Cathedral Young Adults

This subject matter deserves all kinds of reflection and discussion (which is why it’s taken me a week to even make a draft of this post…), but in the interest of trying to say something rather than nothing, here’s a little recap of our conversation at Trinity last week, some passages we considered, and a video to stir into the mix as well.

Thinking about singleness and marriage brought up discussion about divorce, loneliness, cultural perceptions and expectations about marriage, singleness, and divorce, and concerns about intimate relationships in the church community.

Our conversation about loneliness considered technology’s impact on our culture, especially our close, or intimate, relationships; this video supplements the discussion we had very well.

With respect to marriage and divorce, we talked about the sacramental commitment made during a wedding service, and how little this covenant is discussed and emphasized in our culture–perhaps taking marriage less seriously than we ought is part of the reason for our divorce rate (though, we noted quickly, the covenant takes two people, and sometimes one is much more commitment to the sacrament than the other, and also that because we are imperfect humans, we can and do hurt each other beyond the point of relational repair sometimes, which causes divorce too).  (a sermon from last year on the subject)

Finally, and perhaps most fruitfully, we talked about how counter-cultural the church is and ought to be with respect to community.  Our blood relations aren’t our be-all, end-all “tribe” if we are Christians; our brothers and sisters in baptism are our family.  They are just as important as any person who happens to share our genes–it’s a truth that tended to mean a lot to those of us at the event who either didn’t have much family left, or didn’t have family nearby.

In sum…

We wondered:

How does being a Christian affect your life as a single person or as a married person?

How is the church counter-cultural when it comes to community?

What are we made for, as humans?

We looked at:

Matthew 19, Mark 10

Genesis 2

1 Corinthians 7

(what do YOU think?)

Whose Children Are They?

“That which we have heard and known, and what our forefathers have told us, we will not hide from their children.” (Ps. 78:3, BCP 694)

A few years ago, while in seminary, a friend of mine and his wife welcomed their first child.  In a facebook status post soon after the birth, he said something to the effect of, “God has entrusted this child to us–he is God’s child, not ours.”  It’s stuck with me, and the sentiment in the psalm appointed for Morning Prayer today echoes my friend’s wisdom.

The speaker in this verse sounds like the generation caught in the middle, the generation of parents is very much keeping the children they bear in trust for their own elders.  Children belong not to their individual parents, but to the tribe in which they were born.  It’s not even up to the parents whether they pass along the faith and truth with which they’ve been entrusted–to teach the young about God is simply what parents owe to their own parents and forebears.

Have you ever thought of your children (or siblings, or kids at your church, or elsewhere in your life) as simply being entrusted to you by God or by your whole lineage of ancestors?  The world feels a lot more like a family when we think about our children collectively.

“work/life balance” versus energy-giving/energy-sapping

In the last few months, I’ve start to run into articles challenging this pervasive idea of a “work/life balance.”  The work/life balance idea is that our lives generally don’t fit into neat 9-to-5 boxes anymore, and with the growth of families where both parents work, the lines between our home lives and work lives continue to become more blurry.  We’re supposed to divide up the hours of the day or the week, and commit some to the “work” column and others to the “life” column–maybe bloggers work mornings, take the afternoons off to be with their children, and then work a few evenings a week.  For me, putting parts of days or weeks into “work” and “life” baskets creates pressure to be ALL WORK or ALL LIFE at particular moments and inevitably, bits of the other try to sneak in.

Enter Lifehacker’s “When (and If) You Should Ever Work for Free,” and ABlogAboutLove.com’s “I Don’t Believe in Work/Life Balance, I Believe In Managing Energy.”

Managing energy and looking at the sorts of things that bring you joy provides a different set of categories for evaluating your life.  I’ve heard people talk about their lives as a wheel, too–with God at the center, and all the rest of your activity (or non-activity!) expanding from that one central place.  I wonder if this “managing energy” method–though I’m not sure what I think about this “limited energy” idea (as described in ablogaboutlove.com’s article)–might be helpful to get on the path toward getting God to the true center, touchstone, and energy source.  I’ll be that if God is the true energy source, our energy wouldn’t be so limited…

Who is my family?

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(Cathedral of St. Mary, St. Cloud, Minnesota)

All of my genes come from one county in central Minnesota.  Spending time there as a girl with my father’s family, seeing my paternal family name on gravestones in churchyards, hearing my grandmother’s stories about where the first pioneer of our family settled on “that very hill!”  My mother’s family, from the same area, was the quiet, present, forbidden topic.  I don’t remember a time that my biological parents were together, and rarely visited the area with my mother, so my experience of this county is fragmented, though my relatives may very well have sat next to each other in church.

Last week, I went back there, to St. Cloud, for my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I saw the county and its people through my mother’s eyes again–the dozens of people who came to the wake lived on the same roads I’d traversed numerous times with my father’s family, but hadn’t stopped to introduce myself or say hello.

I remember always being so curious about my mother’s family and her own time in St. Cloud where exactly she practiced throwing pots, where her grandparents had lived and worked, the places that meant something to her and to that ancestral half of me.

Running the St. Cloud State campus the morning of the funeral, I realized that my mother’s family was something like God’s family should be for each of us: my father’s family (while visiting the county) was present, obvious–they sat next to me at the dinner table and drove me around; my mother’s family was there too–in the grocery store, perhaps, or walking along the same street toward a movie–I just didn’t know they were next to me, too.  God’s family is not always easy to identify–we don’t know who is part of our family in God–but we know as surely as they are part of our blood that they surround us and we belong to each other.