Monday, October 31, 2005


Each week on Sunday evenings I help lead a junior high church youth group. Though many are intimidated and even frightened at the prospect, I for one am grateful for such an opportunity.

One summer during seminary, I worked as a counselor at a private day camp on the South Shore in Massachusetts. My charges were the CITs--counselors in training--ranging in age from 12-15. Since they were usually busy with their own projects, I was often assigned to help out other age groups. One day when I was with the preschoolers someone asked me if it was any different. I said no, they're just shorter.

I had forgotten how childlike a middleschooler can be. We play amoeba tag, all of us holding hands, none of us too cool not to play. This past Sunday during a Halloween-themed meeting, they bobbed for apples, getting their hair soaking wet. They sat in the dark as one of the other leaders read ghost stories by candlelight, eating doughnuts and drinking apple cider. And they still have that need for acceptance and attention from those older than they while at the same trying to reject it and strike out on their own.

But they can also be maddening as hell when they gravitate toward their individual selves like a star that's about to go supernova. They wheedle and cajole us grownups, trying to eke out any advantage that they can. Sometimes they can be cruel when they exclude the more uncertain and different ones of the group. Most Sundays after our meeting is over I wait for the Sr. High group to finish so I can talk to them and remind myself of what those middleschoolers will grow out of and into.

I also think about my own daughters, especially the oldest one who just turned nine (this is just not possible). Soon it will be time for "The Talk" and the sunset of her childhood will begin. I hope that I will be able to glimpse those childlike moments in her when she is in middle school and be able to play with her yet let her go at the same time.

When twelve-year-old Jesus got left behind in Jerusalem, he answered with typical preadolescent arrogance: "Where did you think I would be but in my Father's house", as in "Duh, Mom!" Perhaps Jesus was born old but I'd like to think that he derived some perverse preteen pleasure out of outfoxing his parents, while at the same time wondering when they were coming back for him.

I sometimes wonder if we aren't all 'tweens, proud of our self-sufficiency to the point of arrogance while at the same time just wanting to be held and loved and have time to play, living between the now and the not yet, between the dark mirror and face-to-face.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Actions speak louder than bumperstickers

I like to have reading material available while I'm driving. I'm talking about those 2 1/2" x 11" pieces of plastic (and others in varying sizes) that some folks use to boldly declare their convictions, loyalities, or peevishness. BUT...

Bumperstickers are only as true as the cars to which they are affixed.

Case in point: "Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." (Chief Seattle) This was on the bumper of a midsize Toyota SUV. Plus a "Save Tibet" sticker.

Then I saw a "Bush/Cheney '04" sticker (hello, the election was over a year ago) on a Volvo stationwagon. Go figure.

My all-time favorite: "Frisbeeterians: When you die, your soul lands on the roof of the garage and stays there."

Close second: "Somewhere in Texas there's a village missing an idiot."

But I have seen these two only in catalogs. I have yet to see a vehicle with the cahones to display them.

But then, what kind of car would be able to carry them off as true? Hmm...

Comment with your suggestions and/or favorite bumperstickers of your own.

Great place to find stickers, buttons, T-shirts for those progressives who piss everyone off:
Northern Sun

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's a Small World, part 2

October 2 was World Communion Sunday, the day when Christians are mindful that though we worship separately and in many different ways, it is Communion that binds us together. At my church we had people from the congregation read the words "These are the gifts of God for the people of God; come, for all things are ready" in Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, and Armenian.

Earlier this summer I spoke at the funeral of the mother of a member of the church that I was serving. The mother was Catholic so the funeral was held at her parish. The monsignor of the parish informed me that since Communion would be celebrated I could not sit up front with him nor could I or the mother's daughter and her family receive the sacrament. The odd thing was this did not seem to cause him any sadness or any need to apologize. From where I stood we were looking at each other across the gulf of history, a history that included the need for ritual cleansing when a Jew came into contact with a Gentile. Yet Christ ate and drank with Gentiles, and visited with them in their homes because God's love knows no barriers. However, this irony appeared to be lost on my colleague, my brother in Christ. And so during Communion I prayed Jesus' prayer in the gospel of John, "that they may all be one".

The highest court in our country may make a big deal about the first Monday in October but in the Church, the first Sunday in October is a huge deal. Different languages, different traditions all proclaiming the same truth: This is the body of Christ broken for you; this is the blood of Christ shed for you; do this in remembrance of me. Strangely enough, Christ's body is still broken into Catholic and Orthodox and so many Protestants we need more fingers and toes to count them.

Yet the new physics that is slowly becoming a part of our consciousness tells us that we don't have to be in the same room in order to be connected with one another. Once two particles have been associated with one another, no matter where they are, they behave as though they are still related. They behave as though they were the same electron. The reality we conceive as many is really and truly one.

There's a group of scientists at Princeton who are studying
global consciousness . They propose that human consciousness and volition can affect the material world, especially events of deep meaning, like New Year's Eve, natural disasters, a call to national or even global prayer, and September 11, 2001. Events that bring us together as a human family, that have a depth of emotion and focus, seem to be able to affect the results of random number generators, producing curves of numbers that suggest a coherence of thought and will.

The hope of Communion is that one day we will realize that we are one, not only with other Christians but with all people and all of creation; that our participation in this simple meal will affect our material world in such a way as to reveal our coherence, the delicate yet resilient web that we are all a part of.

My almost 6-yr. old daughter calls this sacrament "Community". From the mouths of babes.