Tuesday, July 27, 2010


You can hear my mother's day sermon on the First Alliance Church website. I think it is easy to find. If not, call the church and get help.

So... I decided to add another blog right away so we don't dwell on the last one. Some things just need to be acknowledged and moved past.

I wanted to comment on something that has just happened to me. Over my years this same kind of thing has happened repeatedly. Now I recognize it, which is growth.

Re-formation (being changed) happens in this simple way: the movement is from - through - to.
It happens like this: I am living in some way of thinking or being. I am not challenging myself, not really able to see any other way of living or being. Without my planning, something happens or begins to happen that disturbs and challenges that settled way of thinking or being. I become disturbed, dissonant. Then I receive an insight or aha. And suddenly find myself in a new place, across the river, in a fresh way of being and thinking.

So... back to me. :-) I share this because I want to influence some women toward health. I have tried to be honest and one such honesty is that in the last couple years I have struggled with a sense of belonging and being loved. Interestingly this feeling mostly applies to my family.

Following the simple from - through - to it happened like this:
From - I have had a busy and faithful life creating and raising the Tribe Elliott. I have been the mama!
Through - Then dissonance begins. My adult kids phone me less and less and when they are in stress I don't hear from them. I wonder if I should call them, but am unsure if I would be welcome or if my call would add another stress. I feel my age. My body betrays me. Steve and I live comfortably but not like young lovers. I wonder if he has any physical attraction to me or if I am just what is. I question whether I matter to anyone.I doubt myself. This is how I am experiencing menopause, yet another season of a woman's life when she has to become reacquainted with who she has become and achieve a new level of acceptance (and humor!) about herself.

So... in dissonance. Uncertain. Needing an aha, an insight. Well, the aha came quietly and unexpectedly when I heard an Indian man talk about how India, in choosing whether or not to place sanctions on Iran, had to consider the fact that they would be neighbors of Iran a thousand years from now. (I blogged about this a couple blogs back.)His comments really startled me, though I was unaware they pierced into my deep self.

To - I didn't know this was my aha, until a week later when I realized I was no longer feeling any struggle at all about my place in our family life. Somehow the invitation to remember my life in a long perspective, (instead of whether I am losing the 'young Marilyn' or being set aside by my kids) entirely shifted my self concept. I see further ahead, and far back, all of which was available to me but unseen because I was in a knot. Suddenly I see the richness of my life as a whole, and I am grateful, joyful and able to let the other members of my family be where they are while I go on living as well as I can.

I know that we revisit our issues, and I am not through all my menopausal turmoil, nor am I in some kind of unrealistic bliss. But somehow the deep sense of un-belonging is washed away. I have crossed the river and am confident I won't go back. At least not til the next season of my life crashes up on the shore like a rogue wave.

My advice? Pay attention and be mindful of what is happening in your life. Notice when something you depended on is being assailed. This might not be a bad thing. Watch for insights. They come from strange places. And when you are given the grace of re-formation, live into it. This is gift.

Monday, July 26, 2010

thinking about the F-Word

On Mother's Day I had the joy of preaching to my church, (a church I love and feel a deep sense of family with,) a sermon about the Samaritan woman. I tried to take a perspective that opened the story from the woman's perspective as it happened. This, I have learned in my biblical studies at Asbury Seminary, is a valid and strong approach to the opening of a scriptural story - contextualized, human and attentive to the moment in which it happens.

Aware of the tendency in my tradition to condescendingly dismiss a woman's preaching as "woman's material suitable for women to listen to" I made the statement during the sermon that simply because this sermon was about a woman and spoken by a woman, it was no more a sermon for women than last week's sermon, spoken by a man about a man, was only for men. I simply wanted to name the demon in the room and possibly gain the audience of some who would normally dismiss me.All in all, it was a good sermon, if I say so myself :-). I had meditated on this text for several years and felt confident that I was opening the scriptures in a way that was valid, insightful and maybe a little provocative (in the sense that it might help people think newly about the text.)

The next Friday night, attending a fund raiser for a local ministry, a man from our church approached me and said something about my "feminist sermon." I was a bit shocked, knowing the derogatory sense of the f-word. I said, "You know that wasn't a feminist sermon!" He said, "Well, after the service I heard people saying, we all know she is a feminist."

My husband knows how strongly that short encounter wounded my spirit. I told him he could not speak of it in my defense - it was my experience to work through. I am not new to these kinds of offenses. I am not offended at being called a feminist in the sense that I understand the word. I am, however, deeply wounded by the word in the sense that was meant that day.

This morning I happened upon a short article written by a Christian woman and I thought it brought out some interesting facets of the discussion of this f-word. Should this conversation interest you at all you might want to read it.

Here is a snippet - this article opens up some of the issues from inside the evangelical woman's heart. Like all woman we as Christians experience common issues and struggles, and yet fear the f-word. I am not trying to make a point here, honestly. I am just finally able to talk about a rude moment in my life, not unlike many other rude moments of the same ilk. Just thinking.

My own evangelical students may be most inclined to accept the “nothing at all” label, affirming (as I once did) the belief that feminism is incompatible with their own Christian faith. As I read about Rowe-Finkbeiner’s subjects, I thought often of traditional Christianity’s response to feminism, about the young people in my classes, and also about my initial eagerness to reject feminism ...
Young evangelical women no doubt share many of the same concerns as Rowe-Finkbeiner’s subjects. Like those the author interviewed, my students worry about their careers, and about work and family choices they will make; they struggle with issues of self-identity, and with the inaccurate images of women they see every day in the media. Certainly the impetus for their concern may be different: many Christian women in conservative churches and households, for example, may face unique pressures about the tension between staying home to raise children and pursuing a career. However, like the young women featured in The F-Word, my students struggle to understand their place in contemporary culture, struggle to find a place in contemporary culture, even as they refuse to name that struggle feminism.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bali memory

Our kids, Ben and Kari did their first triathalon in Bali this summer. They swam in salt water with fish and waves, ran on sandy soft beach and then rode their bikes through incredible Bali traffic. I have been in that traffic and thought we would likely die. I am proud of them.

Steve and I think a triathalon is having dessert after appetizer and dinner.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

on perspective

When we were building our church in Calgary, Alberta there was great debate about what roofing material should be used. Truth told, it was more about money than vision, but the question was whether we buy the cheaper 50-year tile roofing or invest in a metal roof that has a longer roof-life. (Made that up. Roof - life. Like shelf - life, only on a roof. Pretty dynamic for first thing in the morning, huh?!)

Okay - my friend who is an ancient Franciscan Friar poked fun at our group when I told him of the dilemma. He pointed out that the Roman Catholics put tile roofing on their churches because they expect their church to be there in hundreds of years. Us protestants feel much more temporary, and build for this generation, expecting our church to become a pizza parlor in 50 years. Or the pastor has little vision of the church beyond his own life, while a priest knows the church is not dependent on him nor owned by him. So says my dear friar.

Today I heard an Indian man from New Delhi commenting on Iran and the issues of political relationships. The issue in question is the pressure India is getting to participate in sanctions against Iran in response to Iran's nuclear policies. The man said, "We are neighbors. We have to live with Iran now and a thousand years from now."His words took my breath away. I so often take a short cut view of the world. Short cut solutions. Expedient actions. What we can do today. Tomorrow be damned. That sort of thing. The sort of thinking that causes the Gulf oil disaster. The kind of thinking that makes me willing to fight with my neighbor, or the man in my church. They won't be here forever. It doesn't matter. What if I saw the world and life in a perspective that went far out from my life. Into my great grandchildren's life. Into a church generations past my own.

I have something to learn about this. Today I am going to look at everything I see and choose from this lens and challenge myself to a long view.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What I learned yesterday

This morning over my coffee I had a realization. I realized that I often form an opinion of a person from one experience of them. And I realized that this is far too small a framework from which to assess any life.

I even know what this is called: Implicit Personality. This theory suggests that within 30 seconds or a minute of interaction with a person we react to them based on a central trait. From that one trait which we notice (probably based on our own issues) we create a composite of traits - we add traits. Then we begin to respond to them based on the traits we have assigned to them even if these are not real. We believe the traits we have imposed on them are who they are, even though we are the ones who have plopped these traits on top of them.

Let me try to put it into a picture. I meet a woman who is laughing and communicating well in a social setting. Ah I say to myself, I know that kind of person. She is confident, smart, and knows how to manage her life. Then, if I feel insecure about that kind of women I might say, "I can't be her friend." Or if I feel confident and want a friend like that I might say, "I must get to know her. She is so fabulous."

Well, who is she really? I only know one thing about her. She is being present to this group in a relaxed way. Everything else I have added to the one trait I see.

The trait we notice is usually something that triggers us. If I have body issues, and I encounter a person who is overweight or not well groomed I might begin to add traits of thoughtlessness, insincerity, wastefulness. If I meet a man with a pony tail and a bit of a strut (this is actually one of my trigger traits) I think - this man likes power. He wants to dominate. And so on. I add and add.

Now, I have sometimes justified this by saying to myself that I am intuitive (which I am) and I can read people (which I sometimes can.) But you know what? I have gotten things wrong, terribly wrong, more than once. I have laden a life with traits - and dare I say it - even repeated those traits to others, without any real knowledge of a person.

We are all complex. Every personality has layers and snarls and large pastures of beauty. I am going to slow down in my evaluation of what a person is. I am going to give second chances and third chances. I am going to suspend my judgment and be one who thinks, "maybe this is the best she can be today, I do not know what is happening in her life."

That's what I know for sure today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

on knitting needles

Sometimes I feel concerned that I am not 'changing the world.' My best life happens in a quiet gentle way, it seems, and yet there are plenty of thumbs in my back pushing me to be a change agent, a leader, a world influencer.

But I feel a smaller, quieter voice calling me to the gentle life. Calling me to go quietly, to plow my field with oxen instead of a high powered tractor with air conditioning. Calling me to knit with fine knitting needles.Some people knit their life with big fat knitting needles. Progress is fast. Resources are used up quickly, maximized, renewed. What is created is big.

There is a set of these knitting needles in my closet. I have used them. I knit at a furious pace, clicking away and drawing interest from others as my large patterns came into view.

Now I knit with very fine needles. The pace is slow. I often have to pause and really look at my work to see what is being made. Not many people stand around watching me. And more than likely my needles end up stuck into the ball of wool while I answer the door and listen to children who look at me with sticky faces and tell me about their adventures.

I think I am okay with this.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Doin it wrong

For those of you who are on the invitation blog - I have to apologize - I just deleted it. ARGH. So I had to restart - and lost a bit but not everything. And had to change the address - I have re-invited you. If you don't get an invite re-nudge me okay? This is why I need someone to help me administrate it! ARGH!
And I had to change the address... sorry. Again. sorry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

on being uninvited

Since the air was so fresh this morning I opened our front and back doors wide and let the breeze blow through. Sitting in my favorite place on the couch I saw from the corner of my eye a swish and thought it was Walter (the cat) coming in the front door.

Then another swish and I saw it was a huge black cat who had breached the boundaries and was heading into the center of Elliott world. I jumped up. Smacked my hands. Yelled "You! Interloper! Out!" The cat looked terrified and scooted back out the door.
I closed the front door behind it.

It made me think about what it feels like to be uninvited or unwelcome. We all have those experiences where we walk into a situation with tip toes and a sense that we might be yelled at to leave. Not literally of course.

We are uninvited when obvious friends keep talking and we just stand there, obviously unincluded, looking stupid. We are uninvited when no one makes eye contact. Or when we try to participate and no one notices or says a 'yes.' When someone is protecting their space we are uninvited.

What if we took on a disposition of inviting people into life as one of our regular practices. Even if we are not the official owner of the space.
Take a grocery store. We don't own the store, but we can still invite people in. Talk to them. Treat them humanly. Smile. Make space for them.

What if we tried that today. Just for fun. See what happens.