Saturday, July 29, 2006

Communion story and how this blog got its name

A friend just reminded me that I hadn't posted in a couple of days. Sorry if you happened along and there was nothing new.

When I started this blog I named it Chrysalis Dreams because I believe I am in the process of being renewed or rebuilt. Part of that rebuilding is from my own efforts; part of it is totally God's work. Isn't that the way it works with butterflies too? The "dreams" part was meant to reflect the idea of future self images. Today I was trying to plan this post and realized that the idea of dreams is also a concept about our realities that I picked up from "The Four Agreements" by Miguel Ruiz. According to Ruiz, we are all dreaming all the time, but we are dreaming awake. This isn't the same as daydreaming. Instead, it is building our realities. Our dreams can affect others if they let them. Other's dreams can affect us. When we are learning how to dream our parents, teachers and others who influence our lives teach us their dreams. That concept has a lot of room to play with. Admittedly, I don't have it all in hand yet. Probably I will refer back to the concepts I am gaining from that from time to time. Anyway, it occured to me that the word "dream" might have more meaning that I originally credited it with. last post was about retro learning and I mentioned a Communion experience I had that got me back on track with my faith. It was one of those surprising moments that really change your focus and perspective.

My faith came to completion in a small non-denominational church that was part of the grassroots faith movement of the 80's. It was a good "milk" church in that it was good for newbie Christians. Part of the character of that movement was the idea of a personal relationship with God. He was your friend. You communed with him in a loving but unassuming way that was very comfortable and intimate. He had your best interests at heart. To a large extent, all that is still true although the terms and labels of that decade have faded from popularity. So how does that translate for me today? Well I like to find that I have a very personal relationship with my church. I like to be friendly with the pastor. My church friends are special to me because I feel we share a life view and values that are similar and connect us together in ways that should help make us closer. That doesn't always happen but quite often it does. Most importantly, my faith has to have meaning to my life and vice versa. That part is kind of selfish sounding yet I think most of us feel that our lives have to have meaning or they aren't really good.

My church of today is a very "corporate" church. It is Episcopal. We do corporate confessions of sin, holding all of the body as sinners and asking God's forgiveness for all of us. We pray the Lord's Prayer in a corporate tone, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." When I am feeling particularly in need of forgiveness I find this corporateness disturbing and unhelpful. Yes my friends need forgiveness too, but I need to feel repentent to get to the point where I believe God wants me to be and gain forgiveness. When I have a lot of company as a sinner I find I'm less inclined to blame myself and thus feel less guilty. That might be a good thing for self esteem but not if I want to motivate myself to change. Nothing can get us moving faster than a real sense of self conviction.

Last year I had been at my present church for 3 years and was feeling rather alone there. I grumbled to others that I had no friends there. I accused the church of not being a welcoming body. And I had considered changing churches. That didn't happen. Everytime I started looking I'd find something I still liked about my church or something I didn't like about the alternatives and stay. Part of the reason for my lack of happiness in my church was that I didn't feel connected to the worship. My faith was formed in a charismatic church. Episcopal churches are anything BUT charismatic. You will seldom see people raising their hands toward God in prayer. You won't hear them exulting in the worship of the traditional hymns that are sung there. The service lacks the opportunity for most individual expressions of the faith experience. Nevertheless, the faith of most Episcopalians is very real and incredibly deep. That is what I think kept me there. Still I longed for that chance to find it personal.

The experience happened when a friend serving communion called my name before offering me the cup. This so seldom happens that it was totally new to me. I reacted with delight. He was making the service of communion a "personal service"! I am thinking akin to the "washing of feet" here. I looked up into his eyes, our gazes locked and down the channel between us came the Holy Spirit. He shot into our space and then filled the area around us. I could feel His joy in my reacton to this offering. For the rest of that day I glowed with happiness. I had found that personal connection to my worship there. That was it except for the aftermath.

For days after that I spent time reflecting on what had happened. Because I was so reflective on faith, when my life got overly busy the first solution I thought of was a retreat. I decided to go on Cursillo. Cursillo is designed to renew your faith and commitment to it. Since it builds lay leaders, I also hoped that it would provide me with mentors for my life. It did all of that and more. Once again my life is solidly on a path that I believe is taking me where God wants me. I am happy in my church. Friendships are happening for me there. I am learning about service too. Recently I went through Lay Eucharistic training so that I could help by serving at the altar. The response from my church to my personal growth and transformation has been beautifully rewarding. Finally I feel like a member of that body.

Sometimes I still reflect on that communion. There must be lessons to learn from so profound an experience. At first, I looked backwards trying to figure out why it happened. Now I am also trying to look forward. I think that, because of the "service" oriented nature of Communion, God wants me to serve. That hasn't been an area of strong performance in the past, but it seems to be time and opportunities are being provided.

There is also the idea of how "real" the concepts that we claim to believe about our sacraments are to us as we go through them. The other day I was talking about it to a friend when suddenly I had a flash vision. Call it insight if you want (I have been having those occaisionally since cursillo). It was a vision of Jesus on a plate all cut up like those home economics posters showing the beef carcus and all the different cuts you can get from the body. While a little weird, it wasn't excessive blood and such (I don't dream that way). Instead it caused me to think, "Wow, talk about service!" Also present was the awareness of the fact that he willingly gave up his life for those who, like myself, choose to accept and believe. That goes way beyond service and echos into my future. In that moment of perspective, I came to see how real the body and blood in our wine and bread feast are; and how a faith built on sacrifice and service can move through the ages transforming humanity. Like I said, I'm a retro learner. (grin)

Peace! Hope! and Joy!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Maintenance and Retro Learning

Cool! I finally got the link to the Tibetan singing bowl working. If you like neat sounds click on the link and then click play on the web page. You will hear this awesome sound wave that is just right for meditation or simply taking a mental break. There was this kid in my classroom last year that loved the sound. He would play it over and over again.

I am a retro learner. What is a retro learner? That is someone who doesn't always "get it" when you start your first lesson on any subject. Your lesson may have been well thought out and the other students might have gotten it just fine. But not this kid. What you have to do for this kid is go back and explain the baby steps that you didn't realize he needed. Let's say you are teaching fractions. You show the kid a pie chart and start explaining. He doesn't get it. Even if you have a physical representation of a pie he still might not get it. What he needs for you to do is go way back to the beginning. Further back than you expected to need to go. Take a whole pie (cookie or whatever) and explain that this is a "whole" pie. Then divide it into 2 pieces. Explain that each piece is a portion or "fraction" of the pie or the "whole". Show him that if you put the two pieces back together again you still have a whole pie. Let him practice taking them apart and putting them back together again. Help him with the headwork as needed. Once he understands how something "is" a fraction of a larger whole you are ready to start teaching him the number representations that go along with that concept. When he understands how dividing the pie doesn't detract from the whole but simply recreates it in a different way he will be ok with fractions. You can then pretty much teach him anything about them.

That was how I had to learn them. I didn't get it in the classroom. I got it from my grandmother who was teaching me how to bake. We did cups of flour and divided them. Cornmeal or sand works too. And did you know that your two hands cupped together make approximately one cup and one hand holds about 1/2 cup? Good enough for kindergarten or 1st grade. (g)

I had to learn faith that way too. I had heard all the bible stories as a child. Even grew up in a family where both my parents were involved in serving in the church (Dad - Lay Reader and Mom - altar prep). What it took for me to get faith was to have someone get up on a pulpit. Tell a parable. And then explain what each word meant in it and how it broke down into actual practice. It was the parable of the gate. The one that explains how you go out to do work and come back in through that gate and find pasture. The poor associate pastor who wrote and gave that sermon was really nervous about it. His words before he started it were, "Guys, I don't know how this is going to sound. Usually when I am supposed to preach God gives me a topic and lets me run with it. This time for some reason He dictated it almost word for word." I heard those words but they didn't register till after the sermon and service were over. The sermon worked. No one had ever taken the time to explain a parable to me before. I hadn't gotten it. Now I did. And suddenly Jesus wasn't just some guy who told nice stories. His stories had meaning. My faith completed and I received the Holy Spirit sitting quietly in my chair while everyone was saying the closing prayer. Yes, I actually felt the Holy Spirit indwelling. I still find it amazing how huge that whole experience was for me when it happened in such a quiet and non-spectacular way.

That was 23 years ago. It was the start of a long walk that hasn't always been smooth. But people aren't smooth. We are bumblers and stumble around like we were drunk or our compass had lost its magnetic north. We get distracted and go our own ways instead of staying on the path God has set for us. So here I am years later, have just gone through Cursillo and am back on the path again. What did God use to teach me the lesson that sent me there? It was another religious experience in the middle of communion on a normal Sunday morning. But that is another story.


Monday, July 24, 2006

What to say for a first post...

Well, I signed in for the most mundane of reasons. I wanted to comment on a friend's blog. Little did I know I would get caught up in the process of creating my own. LOL Said I was a work in progress didn't I?

I don't think I will have any major insights to pour out on the world here. I am just a woman who is in the process of changing herself one day at a time and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Probably should give a little history since you don't know me. I was born, grew up, went to college (3 times) (no, make that 4 or 5 now), worked in IT and banking for a few years and finally decided that I had grown up and wanted to be a teacher. So that is what I am doing now...getting another education and becoming qualified to teach. Hah! I think it is really an excuse to keep on learning. Hopefully I will have something to share with my students when I get them.

When I started working with kids (last year) I found it amazingly wonderful and also (as most parents know) awfully stressing. Never a dull moment and constant focus required. When I then went back to college mid year I got that feeling of windmilling your arms while running downhill. I needed a break...there wasn't one in sight. So I demanded a weekend. It turned out to be a 3 day retreat called Cursillo. That was in March. If you haven't been on one or some other flavor trust was beyond description...the most transforming and rewarding experience I have ever had. Since then things have been changing constantly. Did I mention I was a work in progress?

Best things since that time? I have finally got enough female friends to have one of those amazing support circles that you see in all the girl flicks. It is awesome! My girlfriends are so neat and so supportive. The word "service" has taken on a whole new meaning. My life perspective has changed. I have more joy than stress. And people have become a source of discovery and growth. I don't think this work in progress will end anytime soon. Thank God!