Sunday, March 25, 2018

Speaking & Silence

Today is Palm Sunday for many Christians around the world. (Orthodox Christians celebrate Holy Week and Easter a week later than we do this year.) Our worship at Wausau: First included a heavy dose of Mark’s gospel account as we first read Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem then, after a brief reflection, read of Jesus’ last night and day – two chapters interspersed with hymns and some silence.

It seemed to go over well. People spoke of how moving the service was. Since I plan such services with more time and energy than perhaps I ought, I’m glad it worked for people. I enjoyed it as well. Three people read at one service, four at the other. Hearing them with only an hour between, I was able to notice how differently each person read. Bonnie and Will read the same passage, yet Will emphasized certain words or phrases while Bonnie stressed others. All were quite effective.

Words are important. I once knew someone who was not careful with their words – not even when they knew that what they said could cause pain or conflict. “It’s up to you to hear my words the way I mean them.” I get that taking time to consider one’s words is work but how are listeners to know how the speaker means them? (For the record, I’ve historically been bad at this myself – though without the declaration.)

Yes, words are important. So is their delivery. I had to share the sad news this morning that a younger member of our congregation had died earlier this month. The death was unexpected. I was distressed when I first heard and I’d never met this person. How much more would people feel who had worshiped, ushered, broken bread and laughed together with this family? There is no good way to share such news. I could only hope and pray I didn’t do it badly. I prayed, the day I heard the news, yesterday and frequently in the time between.

When I was growing up I learned not to express anger; acting or speaking in anger was discouraged. When I married, I found that in my (now-former) husband’s family loud was fine and normal. So was anger. My Pandora’s box was opened and I struggled through the ensuing decades unsuccessfully trying to get the lid shut again. 

I can’t undo any of that. But I work each day at watching and hearing the person across from me. What do they hear? What do they notice? I’m again practicing silence – at least once in a while. Seldom do we do harm with that. (Methodist friends: Did you notice the General Rule reference?)
The Ecclesiastes writer mentions, “a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking” (3:7). I, for one, would be wise to continue practicing this.

If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. James 1:26

Monday, March 12, 2018

Keeping Pets and Partners

Watching an old episode of Enterprise, I’m slowly getting warmer. I'd draped a throw over the electric heater like a tent and am curled underneath. The space between the blanket and my neck create a chimney where lovely warm air wafts past my face. And I’m starting to feel cozy when Asriel shows up and drapes herself across my lap, flattening the blanket.

I now have a cat on my lap and this is a wonderful thing. But my feet are cold and the rest of me is cool. She's stretched out along the crease between my trunk and my bent knees. And I'd pet her except that then my hand would freeze in the cold room. Besides it's so seldom that this youngster is still when she's awake that I hate to disturb her.

During a break in the action on the screen, I occurs to me that this experience is rather like being partnered. It's a give-and-take. You need to watch your iron intake; they want beef all the time. Yet you (both, hopefully!) care enough  that either you sometimes eat beef and they sometimes eat chicken, or you prepare two separate meals. (A simplistic example.)

How do we ever manage? And am I truly interested in going back to such an arrangement, should the opportunity ever present itself? I think of 25 years of sleepless night time hours because of someone's snoring. Now I sleep easily and well. If you're partnered, you can surely make a list of all the things that annoy you or make your life challenging.

The lone individuals are divided between those who love using the whole bed and squeezing the toothpaste any which way and those who grieve their aloneness, longing, if not for the annoyances then at least, the companionship of someone to share their days.

The apostle Paul gets some things wrong in his letters – even in this chapter of Romans – but he’s right that “singleness might well be the best thing” for some who are living alone (7:8 Msg). Some.

Yes, singleness can be a good thing, but it’s hard. So is marriage. (And we can experience loneliness, which I'm not writing about today, in either state.)

Where does this leave us? I guess we just keep working at it – whatever “it” is for us, whatever our situation. For myself, I’ve been practicing contentment since leaving my marriage. I’m not brilliant by a long stretch, but I’ve gotten better. If I’m alone except for cats for the rest of my days, I intend to practice finding and creating joy and peace. If this aloneness ends and I'm again partnered, I'll make it my life’s practice to live in acceptance and contentment. And I’ll work to know joy (and peace) each day.

Shalom! (May you know God's peace.)