“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Looking Back Over an Amazing Week

Admittedly, by the end of the week my brain was on overload. I spent more time with more people from more countries, nations, societies, cultures, ethnicities, and religions from around the world than any other time in my life. In a compressed amount of time I  learned an incredible amount about our global humanity, the issues we face, the violence perpetrated against women and children, of despair and cynicsm that comes from the overwhelming onslaught of despair and abuse.

Across the board - from every workshop, from every person, from every issue - I learned that regardless of what policies, resolutions, treatisies, or laws are adopted, there is no mechanism of accountability for the implementation of these.

Here is a brief overview of how I spent the week:

Saturday, Feb. 19 I arrived at LaGuardia about 2:00 in the afternoon. I took SuperShuttle to my hotel and called Kim Robey, chair of AWE  (Anglican Women's Empowerment) to get a sense of what I could do to help her throughout the week.  Check out this link to learn more about why I was in NYC, AWE and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women . Saturday evening I had dinner with one of my RevGalBlogPal friends PC.

Sunday I attended the Ecumenical Women's Orientation at the United Nations Church Center. It was fabulous.

Monday I attended the NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations) orientation (AWE is an NGO) at the Salvation Army. The keynote speaker was Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary General to the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women and former President of Chile. She is amazing!

Tuesday I  participated in the
  • ecumenical worship at the UN Church Center and then to the Episcopal Church Center to watch the opening session of the UNCSW.
  • Later that day I attended NGO workshops on "Girl's Speak" facilitated by four girls (from Finland, Wisconsin, Vermont - an immigrant from the Congo, and Hong Kong). Each girl spoke with eloquence and intelligence about the issues girls face in the world today.
  • at 3:00 I returned to the Episcopal Church Center to attend the session with Katharine Jefforts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the spiritual leader of the Episcopal Church in 16 countries, including the United States. She spent an hour talking with us and answering our questions.
  • 4:00pm I attended the NGO workshop on the documentary "Men are Human, Women are Buffalo" on issues and responses to domestic violence in Thailand.
  • At 6:00pm I attended the NGO workshop on Compassionate Non-violent Communication (a review of this workshop can be found below).
Wednesday
  • I faciliated a conversation at the Episcopal Church between ordained women and women discerning a call to ordination on the issue of ordination and social activism. I found myself in conversation with women from 9am until 2pm.
  • At 2:00 I attended the NGO workshop on "NGO Leadership Skills". It turned out to be a basic leadership 101 workshop including issues of NGO workers wellbeing and self care - I already know every point they raised, so I learned nothing new in this one.
  • Wednesday evening I spent writing.
Thursday
  • I attended a morning workshop on the Criminal Justice System and Domestic Violence sponsored by The Haven Wolverhampton. This workshop laid out the issues of law and domestic violence in Russia and Nigeria - and the very sad reality that there are no laws. I'll write more on the tragedy of DV and the efforts of NGO's to raise awareness and pressure governments to establish laws and safety measures for women and children.
  • The secomd workshop I attended on Thursday, Women's Political Participation in Leadership, Challenging Fundamentalisms,  was led by BAOBAB and Women's Leadership Partnership WLP. The room was filled with the energy and enthusiam of women grassroots leaders in Nigeria (primarily) who are working to change the condition of women in that country by raising up women who will serve in government leadership.
  • The third workshop I attended on Thursday was titled "Nonsexist Education and Human Rights" offered by CLADEM and AWID. It was in this workshop that I learned about "Substantive Equality." You'll have to Google it yourself to learn more since my effortst to link to it aren't working.
  • Thursday night I took the NYC subway south to The Village where I met up with a friend of mine. We had a quiet dinner and talked for hours before I took the subway back north and collapsed.
Friday
  • I attended a fabulous workshop offered by sociologist's that included the former UN Under-Secretary General, Ambassador Anwarul Chadhury titled "Women, Security and a Just Peace."
  • Corporate Responsibility, the Internet, and Sex Trafficking was the next workshop I attended. Among other statistics and concerns I learned about the grassroots effort (sucessful) to force Craigslist to remove it's multi-million dollar profit "Adult" sections which were a sites for prostitution and sex trafficking.
  • Friday evening I attended a workshop with Jean Shinoda Bolen called "Ecology and Feminism: Sacred Feminine, Circles, Valuing Girls and Trees" where I learned more about the related level of violence to women that is directly linked to violence against the land.
Saturday
  • The final workshop I attended was the Beijing Circles. I helped faciliate a circle discussion and learned more about this group which is now sponsored by AWE.
  • Following that workshop I took the SuperShuttle back to LaGuardia and returned home. As you can see I have a lot to proces from this truly amazing week!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Human Rights, Not for Girls Only

I am coming to the end of my week in New York City attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I have attended many workshops pertaining to issues of human rights, globally. A couple of key points seem to be universal to all of the workshops I have attended.

1. Countries and Nations around the world may readily adopt treatises and resolutions for human rights and gender equality...BUT there is almost no accountability for implementing and living into these, once signed.

2. We need to move away from policies and language that further diminish women by focusing on the victimization of women while failing to acknowledge the role and responsibility of perpetrators of violence against women.

3. Globally, victim-centered resolutions allow men/perpetrators to be invisible and unaccountable for actions.

4. The internet has contributed to heightened invisibility of sex-trade and sex-slave market, from the workshop Corporate Responsibility: The Internet and Sex Trafficking

5. Victims of sex trade should never be called "sex-workers". The word "work" is an effort to legitimize an industry that is founded on oppression, violence, and taking advantage of women and children who see no choices in life. For more check out The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

6. Giving women and girl-children access to quality education and then opportunities to earn a viable living wage are crucial to overcoming the systemic global crisis we face. Educating women and girls and helping them find quality work is proven to improve the overall condition of every country.

In other words addressing human rights agendas of gender equality improves the lives of all human beings, men and women, boys and girls.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Compassionate Nonviolent Communication

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Lessons in Honesty, Empathy, and Self-Care
Offered by Marion Little, MA Dispute Resolution, Canon Pastor, Diocese of British Columbia
Sponsored by AWE (Anglican Women's Empowerment)and the Anglican Consultative Council
An NGO parallel event offered Tuesday, Feb, 22, 2011 at the 55th UNCSW



The workshop invited the participants into a reflection on how to implement non-violent communication practices, with the self and others, when facing conflict. Using the Wizard of Oz movie as a "modern myth" Marion Little, the workshop leader, described the “compassionate nonviolent communication” process by which we can understand and articulate our “internal story” of navigating through times of conflict. Compassionate nonviolent communication addresses the inner turmoil by providing tools to recognize our deep needs; honoring both ourselves and others. Honoring the internal story is crucial for self-awareness and other-awareness in resolving conflict. To paraphrase Marion Little, “It’s hard for us to be the change we want to see in the world when are burned out and hard on ourselves.” The characters and events in the Wizard of Oz provide the foundation for the “story” and represent aspects of the inner struggle and our journey toward wholeness and peace.

The myth begins with Dorothy and her dog Toto. The dog represents the inner self, the vulnerable self that yearns to be loved and cared for. When the neighbor lady threatens to take the dog away Dorothy struggles to find others who will hear her and help her protect her dog (inner self). She pleads with her aunt, her uncle, and workers on the farm. However her family and friends are are busy and unable to listen to her and meet her needs. Feeling abandoned, and fearful for the safety of her dog/inner self, Dorothy runs away. Eventually she realizes that she needs to be home and returns. On her way home a tornado blows in. The tornado represents the inner struggle and rage at being unheard. Dorothy, having returned to the farm as the tornado is about to strike, is unable to get into the storm shelter with her family. This represents the struggle to be heard when we express ourselves out of rage. Subsequently she is hit on the head with a window frame as the tornado hits the house. She then enters into a time of disorientation where she “sees” people flying by her window, the neighbor woman as a witch, her aunt in rocking chair, and so one. A state of disorientation is part of the rage process wherein we fail to see things as they are. In this disoriented state Dorothy’s house is “flying through the air.” Eventually the house lands and Dorothy finds herself in a beautiful but mysterious place called Oz. Here she begins a journey of experiencing her inner needs and struggles, as represented by following the yellow brick road. She wears the ruby slippers – which will give her access to her inner sense of self-determination – but not until she is able to recognize that power within her. Along the yellow brick road she meets characters of her inner-self: the scarecrow, the tin man, lion, the wizard, and the witch.

The scarecrow, who claims to need a “brain”, represents our need to move through the initial fear and rage of unmet needs, to move from our limbic reptilian brains, to our frontal brains, from flight and fight to higher reasoning. The tin-man represents our need to access the deep yearnings of our heart and have them recognized. And the lion represents our need for wisdom and courage in the midst of struggle and conflict. The yellow brick road is the journey to self-awareness and other-awareness. The ruby slippers represent our inner abilities, which we always have but may not be aware of. The wizard is our critical inner voice and the witch is our anger and fear, both of which strive to inhibit our ability to navigate conflict with compassion toward the self and others.

“Nonviolent Communication is a conflict resolution and empathy development process espoused by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg (Rosenberg 2000). Rosenberg, a student and colleague of Carl Rogers, developed this process while successfully facilitating racial integration in Southern US schools during the 1970s. The heart of Nonviolent Communication focuses on the needs/values that activate feelings and impact behaviour.” (p. 6, Marion Little handout: A Capacity-Building Model)

The Nonviolent Communication model (Rosenberg, 2000) engages two components; assertive honest self-expression and empathic connection:
1. HONESTY: Observations distinct from evaluation; Feelings distinct from thoughts;
Needs distinct from strategies; and Requests distinct from demands
“When I see/hear _____, I feel _____, because I need _____. Would you _____?”
2. EMPATHY: for the Feelings and Needs of others, and for oneself.
“Are you feeling _____ because you need _____?”
“Am I feeling _____ because I need _____?”

This interplay between honesty and empathy supports:
- Resolving conflict, diffusing tension, and preventing violence, with more ease;
- Taking responsibility for one’s own thoughts, feelings, needs, & actions;
- Expressing appreciation & regret in ways that build mutual-respect. (ibid, p. 7)

Seeking to employ the practices of compassionate nonviolent communication will enable us to listen more deeply to the real needs of brokenness and access compassion for self and others. For people of faith compassionate non-violent communication is too to enable the healing love of God to flow through us as we create relationships of hope that address the real needs of our selves and others without engaging judgment.

Marion Little is a dynamic presenter and offered a thought provoking workshop. The material I discuss in this review is from her dissertation and practice in compassionate nonviolent communication and belongs to her and those she studied with.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Question of Activism

Sunday was an amazing day of listening, sharing, and learning between a large group of ecumenical women attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) and the parallel NGO events.

Monday many of us attended an NGO orientation at the Salvation Army on 14th between 6th and 7th streets in NYC. The keynote speaker was Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and current Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations and Executive Director of the new United Nations Women. In July 2010 the UN passed a resolution creating the UN Women, which formally combined four previous entities into an official structure of the United Nations. Having Ms Bachelet as the Executive Director of UN Women and as the Under-Secretary-General is amazing - women have a voice at the top level of the United Nations.

Michelle Bachelet gave an inspiring and informative speech articulating the goals of UN Women, which you can read here. She said, in part:

I wanted to share with you how UN Women will implement the vision on which it is grounded. This is a vision of a world where women and men have equal rights and opportunities, and the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment are firmly integrated in the development, human rights, and peace and security agendas.

To meet this objective, UN Women will centre its work around five core principles:
1) providing demand-driven support to national partners to enhance implementation of international agreements and standards;
2) supporting intergovernmental processes to strengthen the global normative and policy framework on gender equality;
3) advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment, championing the rights of women and girls — particularly those who are most excluded;
4) leading and promoting coherence in UN system work on gender equality; and
5) acting as a global broker of knowledge and experience, aligning practice with normative guidance.

This morning I listened and watched on webcam the opening session of the UNCSW. Once again Ms. Bachelet spoke with eloquence and clarity about the importance of eliminating violence against women, providing quality education, and enabling the means for women to have access to quality employment in order for countries around the world to create sustainable peace and economic growth.

The question floating around, and one I hope we have an opportunity to explore, is:

How do women clergy, and women who are discerning calls to ordination, incorporate activism into our vocational leadership?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Differences in Priviledge

Saturday I flew from Chicago to New York City. The flight, only two hours long, was smooth, until the final 30 minutes it took to land. The process of landing was complicated by high winds that caused the plane to sway and the passengers to become motion sick. It could have been a lot worse.

I'm staying at a cute little hotel on 42nd Street on the East side, just a few blocks from the United Nations. In the past, when I've visited NYC, I stayed at the southern end near Little Italy and Soho. But, that was almost thirty years ago.

So, it's interesting being in mid-town. But it's more interesting to be in the lobby of the hotel watching an international crowd gather around the bar. People of all colors and languages. Some loaded down with shopping bags from Burberry and Victoria's Secret. Some, like me, using the free internet available in lobby/bar area, saving me the expense of paying for wifi in my room.

I'm keenly aware, as I sit here, of the differences in privilege. It's an awareness that pokes and prods at me everywhere during this visit to NYC. Differences in privilege was part of our discussion yesterday when I attended the Ecumenical Women's Orientation at the United Nations Church Center. Many of us were acutely aware of our privileged status, being citizens of the United States. Privileged with education and a general security and safety unknown to women in many areas of the world.

We reflected on what it means to live in an age that seeks to be ecumenical and global while at the same time trying to grasp the vast differences in privilege.

In a world that seeks to be ecumenical and global how are we to manage the vast differences amongst us? Some of us live in places that are relatively safe, where we do not fear being raped, held against our will, and violently abused. Some of us live in places where we can count on a quality education and relative safety getting to and from school, while others risk being raped just by walking down the street. Some of us are forced into child labor to support the family. Some of us are forced into marriages at the age of 12, married to men who are 60. Some young girls become widowed at 13 or 14 years old, left vulnerable and ostracized by their culture.

We reflected on scripture: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female..." and the idea that a single identity denies diversity.

We wondered about the strength of finding how we can be one within our differences.

We acknowledged that we cannot get to a place of unity without first working through reconciliation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back to Ordinary

The festivities of the week are over. Back to ordinary time, back to green blogskin...

 The rest of this week will involve finalizing the insurance claim on our car - our son was in an accident last week. He's fine. The car, not so much. Plus I have to pack and organize myself for my trip to NYC. I'm use to short, two or three day trips. I'm use to week long, or longer trips, if I drive. But packing to be gone 8 days when I'm -  flying, staying in a hotel, and need to be "professional"  - is going to challenge my organizational skills in order to have two carry-on bags.

Still, I am excited to be back in NYC. I don't think I've been there since 1983.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Prayer, Epiphany 6A

Loving God, we seek to follow your desire
And walk in your ways
To observe your commandment
Love God, love self, love others

Bless, O God, this land and
All the lands of the earth
Fill the minds and hearts
Of leaders with wisdom

As your servants may we labor
For Your purposes, building
Gardening, watering,
Reconciling, growing – peace

May we work together
Sister and brother, brother
And sister, as God’s field
God’s gift to you, to me

Loving God, we seek to follow your desire
And walk in your ways
To observe your commandments
Love God, love self, love others
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Preparing for the UNCSW

From Feb. 19-26 I will be in NYC representing the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). I am being sponsored by AWE (Anglican Women’s Empowerment).

On Sunday, I will represent the Episcopal Church at an all-day orientation provided by Ecumenical Women I will also attend an evening reception for Ecumenical Women.

Monday all participants will hear keynotes, presentations and participate in small group discussions on the theme at an all-day program planned by the NGO CSW committee and hosted at the Salvation Army. NGO Orientation

Beginning Tuesday, February 22, AWE will welcome over 100 women and a few men to the Episcopal Church Center for the 55th Session of the UNCSW. The theme is Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

Hundreds of parallel events or workshops put on by NGO’s be offered at venues around the UN itself. NGO Parallel Events. I have plotted out my daily itinerary from the list of offerings – so many too choose from!

The AWE program, which offers daily morning worship and evening debriefing, a session with the Presiding Bishop, and a Beijing Circles workshop on Saturday, Feb.26, will provide a framework around these various events and allow participants time to have deeper conversation around meaning and purpose.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday Musings

It's no longer morning but I have just now been able to sit and muse about my week. It's snowing outside, a beautiful snow. And I'm enjoying a cup of early grey tea with skim milk and a piece of dark chocolate wit cherry swirl.

I have reading to do this week in preparation for my trip to NYC next week. I'm going to be in NYC Feb. 19-26 representing the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on Status of Women. I'm being sponsored by AWE - Anglican Women's Empowerment. There are many many workshops offered by NGO's in addition to training sessions, worship opportunities, receptions, and dinners. I need to get a grip on what workshops I want to attend...

That's my work for the week...what about you?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sunday Prayer: Epiphany 5A

God of righteousness -, enfold the suffering
in clouds of mercy.
Reach into the tragedies of this earth,
Especially the chaos and despair in (Egypt)
Help us Be Salt, enhancing your love
your compassion in all creation

Guide the leaders of nations – in grace
Teach us, your people to be Your heart,
your love abundant.
Like a mountain of love reaching to the heavens
A gift of the Holy Spirit given, that we may be
A place of refuge in the dust, hope in darkness
In your light may we see, may we be light

Merciful God, be with us all, - this day
The sick and the dying, the worn, and fearful
And all who suffer.
A fountain of mercy pouring forth
You who lift us up, known before birth
By the Spirit of God,
Salt of the Earth,
Light to the world.


Gracious and Holy One, we give thanks
For all the blessings of this life
Miracles of grace
Of birth, of air and water
Of food, song and prayer,
of peace
Enlighten us, salt from salt,
bread of life
cup of your delight.

Amen.

crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and A Place for Prayer

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Be Salt

A reflection on the readings for Epiphany 5A: Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 5:13-20

I woke up the other morning thinking of the word Iconic, so I decided to “Google” it, just to see what came up. Referring to iconic as something that has “cultural significance” I chuckled when I read on Wikipedia that The Christian Examiner nominated it to its list of overused words, finding over 18,000 "iconic" references in news stories alone. The third item on that Google page was a story published in the Seattle Times, titled, An Iconic Storm. The story described the experience of one woman stranded for eight hours in her car on Lake Shore Drive during the recent snow storm.

I spent 23 hours of that storm in a house without electricity or heat as temperatures plunged to subzero. I was grateful my family made it home and no one I knew was stuck outside in their car. In the snow storm of 1979 I was one of those trying to get home on public transportation – a forty minute trip took me over five hours as the train line shut down and everyone was forced onto crowded buses. Call it what you will, iconic or not, storms like these have cultural significance!

In ancient Israel salt was significant. It was the primary preservative for food as well as being used to enhance flavor. People had a special relationship with salt, more than merely useful, it was potent; salt impacted their lives. Most significantly to the Hebrew people, salt represented, in its iconic nature, something akin to God. Jesus says, “WE ARE salt.” Jesus doesn’t say we “ought to be” or “we should be” salt. Jesus says WE ARE salt. As salt our purpose is to bring out, enhance, the fullness of God - in and through - our lives. But, “salt doesn’t work alone. It preserves, adds flavor, and zests up food and drink. It changes the soil, the water, and the function of the human body. For salt to work, it must be used with something. To be a disciple, Jesus is saying, is to be salt, mixed right into the middle of life, adding some zest, working together, human beings, God, and creation, making a difference in the quality of life.” (Anne Howard, Claiming the Beatitudes: Nine Stories from a New Generation)

Last week in her sermon and address for your annual meeting, Patti wondered what we would say if Jesus, sitting in the front row, asked us what we were going to do to further the mission of God in 2011. What would we say to Jesus?

Our reading from Isaiah points us in the direction Jesus might intend. Isaiah, whom Jesus quotes often in the Gospels, reminds us that we are to “loose the bonds of injustice...and, in so doing, light shall break forth like the dawn.” We have a responsibility to be aware of the injustices in the world around us, to become informed and then to care, to have compassion, and to try and make a difference; to enhance God’s love in the world, to be the hands and heart of Christ, to be salty turning suffering into light.

As people of faith we pray for a peaceful outcome to the turmoil in Egypt. In this Diocese we are building schools and churches in Renk, Sudan, we help support their Bishop, Daniel Deng Bul, and we pray for peace there too. Recent news stories have highlighted the injustice that thrives in our own country – teen bullying, domestic violence, and human trafficking and slave labor particularly that of tricking young Latino and Asian girls into thinking they were being hired for one kind of work, only to become abused and held against their will – are just a few examples of the issues in our own backyard. There are all kinds of storms in life.

We Are the salt. I don’t know about you, but I find it daunting to be told by Jesus that I am salt and light, called to enhance the love of God in this world, to become aware of the world around me, and to bring forth justice through acts of compassion.

I know there are all sorts of things the congregation of St. Lawrence is doing to expand the kingdom of God’s love in this community and the world around you. Your contributions to the food pantry, support of the homeless, the day care center that shares your space, the local soup kitchen, and contributions to Episcopal Relief and Development, Episcopal Charities, and United Thank Offering – you are being “salty” - busy caring for friends and strangers alike! Likewise, I heard that you had an energetic annual meeting, filled with ideas for how you will be salt and light in 2011.

I have spent the last year working with the National Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church Center in New York developing, what we think will be a significant project. It’s called the WordsMatter Expansive Language Project and is a tool designed to help congregations and small groups have important conversations about who they are as a people of God. Centered in personal story sharing, the conversations are intended to increase our self-awareness and our sensitivity to others particularly around the language we use in worship and everyday life. And, by language we mean, the words, images, and symbols we use to talk about God, ourselves, and other human beings. The hope is this guide will help us expand our understanding and compassion within the context of an increasingly diverse world.

Some of the people I have taught to use the WordsMatter conversation guide have told me that it has come just in the nick of time. Just as they were thinking of leaving church, fatigued and worn thin from rhetoric that limits one’s view of God, self, and others, some people have found new hope. This is one way I am working to be salt and light in the world.
Jesus reminds us: “You are the light of the world. ..let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

In this day and age it’s a curious experience to be snowed in, stranded in a house without electricity or heat. 23 hours without power we were unable to watch the news, use our computer, recharge our cell phones, or create enough light to read. In a way we were isolated and disconnected to the world around us. I missed Ground Hog day all together – but I heard that the ground hog has declared that spring is coming early this year? Few words can describe the relief and joy that accompanied the moment the power went back on – just like that – and we had light again.

We do not live as isolated human beings – we live in a vast global network of creation – and all around there is pain and suffering and people struggling. It doesn’t require a major storm to remind us that we need each other. But always, even in the midst of the worst storm life throws our way, comes a light, an act of love, simple compassion, and we remember, God loves us, God is with us. So go, Be Salt!

Friday, February 04, 2011

RevGals Friday Five: Gifts of Ministry

kathrynzj, over at RevGals is pondering the gifts of ministry and asks us to reflect on five:

1. walking with people in their daily lives, through joys and sorrows, offering prayers and a listening ear and heart - this work is really a privilege and feels sacred to me.

2. attending to people in their dying hours and gathering the family for prayers at the end of life, standing on holy ground, guiding them as they help their loved one labor through the process of birthing the soul from this life to the next

3. preaching, thinking through creative and engaging ways to open the Word - challenges me and helps me grow - likewise I hope others grow in their faith too.

4. baptism - I love teaching people who are preparing for baptism about the beauty and mystery of the Christian faith and why baptism is still meaningful and relevant - then I love the baptismal liturgy and the power of water and the Holy Spirit to fill the moment

5. weddings - I happen to enjoy (usually) the process of preparing a couple for marriage. I spend about 7 sessions over the course of several months working with the couple, doing some work to increase their self-awareness and other-awareness around communication, hope and expectations, fair fighting, money, intimacy over time, children, in-laws, and faith. Marriage is difficult, the least I can do is try and help people look at it with their eyes open.

Yes, I also like the rhythm of life in the congregation from the day to day and the year in and out. I like working with clergy groups and attending conferences to learn how to be a better pastor and preacher. I like working with the larger church that supports the congregation. But mostly I am just a parish priest who likes to journey with folks from birth to marriage to death...it's the stuff of life.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Twenty Three Hours

My biggest fear a few days ago as we prepared for the worst of the snow storm was family members stuck in their cars trying to get home. The storm started in the late afternoon. But 6:30pm I had shovelled the driveway twice, with several inches both times. It takes about 45 minutes to shovel the driveway. By the time I was finishing the second round my husband arrived home, my son was safely at a friends, and our daughter was home.

I sighed with relief. Dinner was ready and we were prepared. Later, while watching a television show, the lights flickered. And a few minutes later the power went out. It was 8:30pm. Actually, the power outage left us with low level power, like a brown-out. So we had some low level light, as if all the lamps had 10 watt bulbs in them. But not enough wattage to recharge cell phones, charge computers, run a television, light the oven, or run the furnace. We did have hot water and I could light the stove top with a match. So. We made hot tea and climbed into bed and watched a movie on my computer until the battery died. I thought we'd have power some time in the middle of the night.

The next morning dawned to intense lake-effect snow. We were snowed in, unable to open doors to the outside. Snow drifts piled from three to five feet, maybe more. And the house was cold. I managed to make some coffee in the stove-top espresso maker, added hot chocolate and scalded milk - rich, satisfying mocha lattes. We got the dogs outside. And then pondered what to do?

Do we start to shovel our way out, even though it is still snowing? And, without power how were we going to get the snow-blower out of the garage? There's no second door on this garage, just a small window. Eventually I climbed through the window and opened the garage from the inside. We shovelled and snowblowed and after about three hours had the driveway clear. The same one that was taking me, one person, 45 minutes to shovel, now took three hours for two of us, a shovel and a snow blower, to clear. But by the time we finished the sun was shining and snow had stopped.

The rest of the day was spent in bed. I had to wrap my Ruby-dog, the short haired highly sensitive Viszla, in her sweater and her blanket (think horse blankets that strap on), just to keep her from shivering non-stop. We all, dogs, cats, humans, staying in bed, covered, listening to the one radio with a battery. I read and knitted. I made tea. And we waited.

The most discouraging was the inability for the electric company to give us any kind of an estimate on when the power would be back on. We understood, but we were worried. With temperatures expected to plunge to minus 2 and the house already cold, we were not certain we would be able to stay warm enough.

We ran the shower and steamed up the upstairs. We lit every candle we could find. We closed off all the rooms we were not using and closed the door to our bedroom - hoping that steam, and candle heat, and human heat, and dog heat, and all of us snuggled under covers, would keep us all warm enough.

Finally at 4:00 the electric company gave us a status update - 4:45 for power. But 4:45 came and went and no power. The sun was setting and it was getting colder! The next status update - 6:45. We hunkered down and prayed, and hoped. Finally at 7pm the power came on. Just. Like. That.

23 hours. A storm I will never forget. All I could think is, it could be worse. I could have been in my car, stuck somewhere outside.