Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Local!

Living in a small community is a lot like sitting near a pond and dropping pebbles to watch the ripples move outward. It is possible to see the effect of events ripple across the community. It invokes a certain solemnity to important life events that can be lost in the impersonal life of a city.

Last week there was a fatal car accident at the edge of town. I first learned of it on the church's Facebook page where one of my pastors posted:
"Hearing reports of a fatal car accident in BP this morning. God who shines light in the darkness, we pray for those involved and their family or families...and thank you, God, for our local first responders who answered a difficult call to serve today. Lord, in your mercy,"
The post elicited a flurry of  Hear-our-prayers responses, and undoubtedly set many people to praying. I was one of them. The local news reported that there had been a one car accident and that there were three people in the car, and one was killed, one was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and one person was uninjured.

Later in the day I heard more details: It was a woman and a couple. . . The man had died at the scene. . . He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt. . . The woman was their daughter. . .They were from a nearby town. . . The helicopter had come from Mayo but was too late. . . The victim wasn't wearing a seatbelt because he had a colostomy bag. . .  Thursday morning I learned that one of the EMTs who responded was the woman who teaches 8th grade confirmation. She said it was a very difficult morning. And that it had been her third morning ambulance call that week.

Thursday night I went to hear a biologist speak on the prairie bio-sphere. (Coincidentally, he also teaches 8th grade confirmation!) His talk was mainly focused on the plant life of the prairie but he couldn't resist sharing some information about cowbirds. Cowbirds are those big birds you see where ever there are cattle (or bison). They follow the herd, and so never build a nest anywhere. Consequently, they lay their eggs in other bird's nests, and the babies are hatched and nurtured by other birds. The nests are carefully chosen, and the cowbird incubation period is slightly shorter than that of the other eggs in the nest, so the cowbird is almost always the first hatched and gets the best care and feeding of the nestlings.

It would seem that one more egg in the clutch wouldn't make a bit of difference - but anyone who has raised a family knows that every time you add another child, yours or someone else's, there will be ripples (and sometimes tsunamis!) The same is true for the cowbirds. For healthy species of birds it poses few problems, but for certain endangered species the presence of even one more egg can have a very negative impact so the cowbird eggs may sometimes have to be relocated again, by people, to protect the other eggs in the nest.

Small changes can have a big impact. A tiny patch of ice, an adopted egg, and confirmation teachers who are intimately involved in life and death, can spread ripples that will go on and on. Perhaps a Texan dropped into a small town in Minnesota will cause a few ripples too. What we do matters. Thanks be to God!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Get-Away

This week I attended a great retreat/continuing education event at Good Earth Village, a summer camp and retreat about an hour from here. The cold was brutal, but everything else was comfy and cozy. I think I found my perfect retreat setting! I just wish I could invite you all to Minnesota to go to Good Earth Village with me. The shot on the right is the meeting space at the Log Lodge where we met and stayed. Everything was very "North Woods-y" and very, very cozy.

The workshop was about Multiple Intelligences. There were three main segments devoted to: 1) getting to understand the theory of multiple intelligences,2) learning about our individual strongest intelligences, and then 3) figuring out how to use this information in a congregational setting. Good stuff!

Since I'm blogging about this, it's probably no surprise to hear that Linguistic (Words) is my favored learning style/intelligence. Reading, writing, talking, listening . . . all my favorite ways to LEARN. Learning is really what multiple intelligences are all about.

So far researchers have identified eight separate ways to learn. These are the "intelligences": Linguistic (Words), Logic (Math/Patterns), Visual-Spatial (See/Visualize), Body-Kinesthetic (Move/Touch), Musical (Music), Interpersonal (Getting along with others), Intrapersonal (Going within), and Naturalist (Animals/Outdoors).  We all have all eight,  but each of us leads with some more than others.

We took a simple assessment where we gave each statement a score of 1-4 from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. I made some predictions before I took it and got one surprise from my final score.

Music rose to the top and surprised me. While I have made music for most of my life, I don't usually think of it as a way that I learn. As I thought about it I remembered something I discovered at another retreat long, long ago. My faith life has a definite sound-track. Every major milestone as I have grown in faith has a theme song. The first was Oh Who Can Make A Flower? from my very first Vacation Bible School experience (I'm told I sang it in my sleep in the camper on the family vacation that immediately followed) to the most recent background music of the Kyrie we sing here every Sunday. My kids have long teased me that unlike most people, I do actually live in a musical. It is not unusual for me to accompany daily life with a bit of song so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I just need to remember how easily I learn things set to music and seek out more music in my life! Sadly, rhythm, which is spatial, did not rise to the top.

My roommate for this event was a Children Youth and Family person from a nearby congregation. We had previously met but I really enjoyed our time together and made plans to travel together to future CYF events and save the gas and the planet (that's where Naturalistic Intelligence shows up.) She got engaged two days before this event (Interpersonal) so we are also getting together to talk about stamping and DIY weddings. It was a very happy pairing. We also had a great room with a private bath. Check out the picture on the right.

There are nine rooms with this set up in the Log Lodge. It would be so perfect for a women's retreat. I'm mentally working on how to build interest in a retreat for the women of my congregation.

One other thing made this the retreat center of my dreams: a double-sided fireplace in the center of the upper level. We kept it roaring the whole time we were there. Welcome heat in the cold winter!  
Saturday night I went to a heart-warming event at the Servicemen's Club - a gala to raise money for the local Boys & Girls Club which is a very important organization in Blooming Prairie. The Club provides a lot of child-care in the summer and after-school care all year round. It won't be quite the scale of the gala for the New Life Center that many of you attend, but it should still be an evening of fun for a very good cause.

Another familiar thing to warm my heart here in the cold north: I looked out my front window this weekend and saw that the minivan that lives across the street is FILLED with Girl Scout Cookies! It filled me with fond, and not so fond, memories, and a longing for a cookie. I'm very much looking forward to keeping cozy with a side of Thin Mints, 1100 miles north.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wild Life

Far too quick for my camera to catch him, a jack rabbit hopped past my office window, across the street and into a neighbor's yard. He looked like Thumper from Bambi, with a huge white puff of a tail and a happy, hoppy demeanor. Watching him I remembered the funny tracks I saw in the fresh snow on my way to the garage the other day. Pretty sure those were from my resident gray squirrel, but they were very funny looking tracks and the route was very squirrel-ly: curious, circular, and ultimately disappearing, presumably because he went up.

There's a bird's nest in a small tree out in the courtyard that perfectly illustrates why birds fly south for the winter. This time of year the only birds I ever see are crows: big, black, ominous looking crows. They stand in such stark contrast to the white snow rather like black writing on a white page implies there must be something important here (which we know is not always the case!)

Sunday was Groundhog Day, and, according to Stephen Colbert, Superb Owl day. Two teams from named after wild life went head-to-head someplace cold and the birds won the day. I only watched the halftime show and the commercials so I can't really discuss the game. However, I did watch Groundhog Day, for the umpteenth time, which tickled my funny bone yet again. Here are a few comments on this movie from my weekly letter to the Sunday School teachers last Thursday.
Sunday is Groundhog Day and, I have to confess, Groundhog Day is one of my guilty pleasure movies. I watch it nearly every time it comes on and I always spot some new thing that just tickles me. For those of you who are too young or sophisticated to be familiar with this movie, the basic premise is that  weatherman Phil (played by Bill Murray), is sent to see the groundhog come out and gets stuck in a loop where he has to live the same day over and over. At first he is desperate to get out of the loop, but after a while he starts to have fun with it, knowing that he'll probably get to do it again the next day. 
Teaching Sunday School is kind of like Groundhog Day. Each week you encounter the same little tribe of kids. The incessant talker will talk incessantly. The shy one will volunteer nothing every week. The anxious mother will continue to hang around and make her kid nervous. You know what's going to happen. And so, one day, you start to have a little fun with it:  
  • You offer the incessant talker a pipe cleaner to play with for as long as he doesn't interrupt. 
  • You give the shy kid a sock puppet and let the puppet do the talking.
  • You invite the anxious mother to take all those dull pencils to the Parish Ed Office and sharpen them.
You just have to live into some things. 
I share this mainly as a glimpse into my daily life. In my new job I am charged with equipping church members to work with children, so I spend a lot of my time writing, coaching, and finding out what gifts people have, and far less actual time with kids. Some weeks I really miss being with the kiddos, and some weeks (like this one) I feel so excited to be able to help other adults experience the joy of being with them. This Sunday we had our very first closing music time with kids in second grade and younger. It was great fun (everyone sings here!) and hearing a little one loudly proclaim "And also with you!" in worship shortly thereafter made my heart sing. Small joys.

Lest you think there is no wild life in Minnesota, I would like to point out that hockey up here is called the Wild. I am delighted and amused by the fact that the best hockey player in the entire youth group is a girl who can apparently hold her own with the boys on almost any rink. And through the same window where I saw the rabbit, I sometimes see three boys, maybe 10 years old, walk by with skates around their necks and hockey sticks in their hands headed to the rink near my office.

It's been a wild adventure moving 1100 Miles North. May you have a little wild in your life this week!