Friday, December 14, 2012

When a Kiss is a Prayer

I am often aware when I kiss my children's heads at night that the act of my lips touching their hair is more than a gesture between parent and child, it is a prayer...a word of thanks and awe to the divine.

Today many of us have been glued to the television or internet following word of too many lives cut too short in Connecticut.  We have watched the tears of our president, we have anticipated updates from our newscasters, we have cried at the reality of others' pain.  And all of us have been imaging the horror of such an experience being visited upon our families, our communities, our children, our grandchildren.

We have hugged our children a little tighter.

We have been a little gentler and a little more patient with them.

And our kisses today have truly become our prayers...

As we have given thanks for the lives of these wondrous little ones among us...

As we have sat in awe of the love that bursts from our hearts at the mere mention of them...

As we have wondered how we would survive the loss of one of them...

As we have asked God to help we humans become more human...

As we have asked God to offer protection...

As we have said thank you for God's presence and love even when we don't understand.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Choosing December's Language (Not a post about cussing)

As is typical of me I have seen glimpses of a conversation without really knowing where it started nor participating in it.  However, I am going to comment on it.  :)

The conversation I've been hearing is about calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree.  Which is simply a follow up to other conversations in the past about store clerks saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  And both of these have a connection to conversations about whether nativities should be displayed on lawns of county courthouses. 

Before saying anything else, let me say that my thoughts are based in the following assumptions: It is okay to be Christian and to claim that. It is also okay to be not only sensitive but respectful about the people who are not.

So, for what they are worth, here are some thoughts...

When you see "Xmas" it doesn't mean someone is x-ing Christ out of Christmas.  In fact, "X" is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter of the word Christ.  "Xmas" is proper shorthand for the word Christmas.  (Technically, so a college professor told me, it would be shorthanded starting with a letter that combines the letters for chi and rho - the first two Greek letters in Christ - but since our keyboards are not equipped that way, "X" will have to do).

What about greeting from clerks?  Personally, I am delighted when a clerk tells me "Happy Holidays."  Unless I am in a store that claims a particular faith (say a Christian bookstore) I believe it is not only a safe but a kind assumption to believe that some of your customers will be other than Christian.  Therefore, it makes sense to give a greeting of the season without presuming to know about another's faith.  At the same time, I do and will happily greet my Christian friends with a jubilent "Merry Christmas."

Christmas tree or holiday tree?  Why not consider the circumstances?  A week from today when my  husband and I host a party for our church staff I have no doubt we will all call what is in our living room a Christmas tree.  That is what it is in our home and why we put it up.  However, as I drive past the lighted tree on Main St. in our town, holiday tree might be the best word.  After all, I have the pleasure of knowing many Jewish and Muslim as well as non-faith people here and the tree brings them joy as well.

Here's the thing...perhaps if we spent near as much energy being kind to one another as we do criticizing language (especially language that is meant to include) we might be better off. 

If we are really concerned about the message and meaning of Christmas then let's quit buying more stuff for our family and friends who already have too much stuff and let's use our resources not only to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the lonely, but to work to change systems that keep them in such conditions. 

Perhaps, if we are really concerned with the Christian message we will take down our trees altogether and set up nativities in their place or Advent wreaths around which we gather with our children or friends as we pray that God's will might be done.

Perhaps, if we want the name of Jesus to be known we might want to start living and loving as he did.  And I suspect how we choose our language might just matter to him.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When I was growing up I was not told that I couldn't have friendships with certain people.  I wasn't told that kids who made bad choices were to be avoided.  Rather I lived in a household where a safe space was created for those friendships. 

I am certain my mother knew (perhaps not the extent, but) the reality of some of my friends' bad choices.  And I am certain that she treated all of my friends...from my friend who never cussed, never drank, never stayed out past curfew to my friend who drank and smoked pot and said many words that would have made my mother blush...the same. 

It was something I appreciated in my childhood and especially in my teenage years.  It is something that I try to model my parenting after. 

I do not believe that we can avoid every bad influence.  I do not believe that those who make bad choices are to be discarded or considered of little or no worth. 

I do believe that parenting is more about helping our children learn to make good choices than about protecting them from the possibility of bad ones. 

Remind me of what I just wrote because...

My four-year-old has been learning bad words at preschool.  And I don't mean words of the "stupid" and "shut up" variety (though he has learned those, too).  Think of the word that is commonly considered the worst cuss word...and when you get it in your head picture a sweet four-year-old saying it. 

I am working through the urge to demand that the preschool expel the child who is teaching this (and other) words to my four-year-old (as well as his classmates). 

When my four-year-old was about two there was a classmate with a desire to bite who decided that my child was the tastiest.  Day after day my little one would come home with a new bite mark.  I knew the teachers were taking it seriously.  I knew the child had just been put in foster care and was going through a lot.  I knew my child would survive.  I did not demand expulsion.  The biting fascination passed.  My child lost no flesh.

I have been the patient parent.  I believe in being the patient parent.  I believe there is much going on with the four-letter-word-loving four-year-old that being expelled wouldn't help.  I believe my child will be exposed to four-letter-words (as his seven-year-old brother recently was on the school bus) soon enough. 

But hearing it come out of his not-yet-even-in-kindergarten mouth has me in an anxious state. 

And I don't know what to do.

When I consider who I think I am and who I want to be I feel it's fair to put patient and reasonable and compassionate on the list of identifiers.  I'm not feeling very much of any of those. 

Tonight if his teacher tells me that my four-year-old said bad words at school we will go home and I will wash his mouth out with soap (I've only done that one other time and it was when he was one and put his hand in toilet water then in his mouth!).  I have warned him this will happen.  I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but he needs to know that there are consequences for his behavior.  And he will.

But, darn it, he should have never heard the word in the first place (there will be time for that in years to come).  And it's not his fault he did.  It's not his fault that he doesn't understand how bad bad words can be.  But it's his to deal with now.  And his mommy and daddy's to deal with as well.