Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Deeper Meaning of Pentecost

"She Is the Holy Spirit To You"

On Thursday, Rebekah and I celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary. As I think back over the past twenty-one years, I can’t help but give thanks for all the blessings that God has given us, not least our four wonderful children. But I am also struck by how much I have grown as a person as a direct result of being married to Rebekah.

I have a friend who is a priest, his name is Fr. Jim Clark. And Fr. Jim once told me how he does marriage counseling. He sits the couple down, and offers two pieces of advice. First, he looks at the woman and says, “You have a project on your hands.” And then he turns to the man and says, “She is the Holy Spirit [to you.]” Now when I first heard this, my egalitarian sensibilities were slightly offended. After all, this didn’t seem to be particularly balanced or mutual. But for the most part, I think this is how our marriage has played out. Let me offer just one example.

When we were first married, Rebekah would come home from school or work and begin telling me about her day. If it hadn’t been a particularly good day, and she was feeling bad, I would listen, and then I would do one of two things. I would either explain why she didn’t need to feel so bad, or I would offer suggestions on how to fix the situation. I thought I was being helpful, but my advice and explanations rarely made her feel better, and in actuality they generally had the opposite effect. Rebekah would complain, “I want you to listen.” And I would say, “I am listening.” But I wasn’t listening, not really. I hadn’t learned to listen or empathize. Instead life had taught me to solve problems and fix things, to such a degree that I really didn’t know the difference between listening and giving advice, the difference between empathizing and fixing.

So early on in our marriage, Rebekah gave me John Gray’s book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. I read it. Reluctantly and suspiciously, I read it. And my eyes began to open, ever so slowly. For example, Gray writes:
When a woman is talking about the problems of her day, rather than assuming she is looking for solutions and giving solutions, a man can instead recognize that she is just needing to talk about her day and as a result she will feel better. With this insight, he is free to relax and listen without trying to interrupt with solutions (xxii).
Today, this all sounds like common sense to me, but twenty years ago it was a complete revelation. I found it incredible. How could the simple act of listening help Rebekah feel better? But it did, and it does.

“Mrs. Anderson, I don’t want you to do anything; I just want you to listen.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Agents of God's Comfort — Engaging in a Ministry of Presence

Empathy Cards

Last week, I was driving in my car, and I turned on the radio and tuned it to NPR. And I got in on the tail end of an interview with an artist who designs and sells greeting cards online ( Her name is Emily McDowell. Emily was being interviewed because she had just released a new and rather unique line of cards, which she calls Empathy Cards. Not Sympathy Cards, mind you, but Empathy Cards, which have been especially designed for people with a serious illness. Emily herself is a cancer survivor, and she writes:
The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.
She continues:
Most of us struggle to find the right words in the face of a friend or loved one’s major health crisis, whether it’s cancer, chronic illness, mental illness, or anything else. It’s a really tough problem; someone we love needs our support more than ever, but we don’t have the right language for it…..
With Empathy Cards, my goal is to help people connect with each other through truth and insight…. I want the recipients of these cards to feel seen, understood, and loved.

Here are a few examples of her cards.  The first one is very simple. The front of the card simply says, “There is no good card for this. I’m so sorry.” 

Another one says, “I’m really sorry I haven’t been in touch. I didn’t know what to say.” And you know that situation. Where you don’t know what to say, and so you don’t say anything. And time passes, and the space becomes awkward, and you don’t know how to break that awkwardness. Well here’s a card for you. It lets them know that you care in an honest way.
Now the next two cards are my favorites because they use humor.

This next one has to be my absolute favorite.

Emily McDowell writes about this card:
Why is it that when you’re sick with a life-threatening disease, so many people feel the need to tell you about someone they know who died of the thing you have? It’s crazy how often this happens. Not only is it unhelpful, it’s actually quite terrifying. Please, everyone, stop doing this.
And so if this happens to be your impulse, buy the card and send it instead.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Day of the Ascension • 6th Thursday in Easter

I like to bring color, beauty, and word together, and so I like to create bulletins for feast days and saint days when we are celebrating them at a special Eucharist.

I am making my files available. Feel free to use them as is or modify them to your own needs.

2015 PDF • Word
This year we actually celebrated the Eve of the Ascension

2014 • PDF • Word