January 2011 Archives


As a "wholistic educator" (my spell checker doesn't like this word, but I just can't get into "holistic" as a substitute!) I have had the privilege over the past 32 years to work in Friends schools, honoring that of God in each child as all are growing toward goodness. My own path has included The Whole Earth Catalog, whole grains, "whole brain" learning techniques, and a "whole" lot of playing music with every group I join. So what about the "whole" meeting community: how do we nurture everyone in all ways?

In medieval times (think of the story of cathedral building in Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth) the place of worship was at the center of community life. Rather than a quaint building that comes to life once a week, might we look to our meetinghouses as community centers once again, with opportunities for each part of our meeting family to find connection?

And what of the "wholistic" aspect of meeting activities: do we seek to engage the body, the mind, and the soul? Are there opportunities for yoga class and Zumba dancing, Bible study and book clubs, clearness committee and worship sharing? Based upon the idea that Quakers will bring in new members through attraction rather than promotion, do we invite community groups to share in our space, or do we fret about those 18th century chairs we don't want anyone to break? And is there space for messy kids, loud adolescents, and quirky adults? How about 12-Step groups and local political organizations?

One of the teenagers I work with as a psychologist is a member of a Catholic youth group. This group meets twice a week, does a variety of service projects, records original music that gets played in church sometimes, and is seen as "cool" by the teens. We have wonderful youth programs (Powell House, Junior YM) in NYYM, but can we bring that energy back home to our meetings?

As "peculiar" people we Quakers are often seen as "thinking outside the box." Maybe our own "box" is a quietist dream of worshipful silence in a well-attended meeting room that settles into deep spiritual connection. But what about the crying baby, the nudgy child whose page-turning while reading is driving a nearby worshiper to distraction, and the confused adult who rambles on endlessly?

We, of course, know the answers here, yet questions arise: who is going to have the time and energy to do all of these things? With no "paid ministry" aren't we different from the Catholic youth group (with a paid youth minister on staff?) Well, Friends, if we says that Quakers abolished the laity and not the ministry, are we not the answer ourselves? And if we cannot tithe financially, can we tithe with our time? If we believe that each of us have gifts to share, can we help our members discern their gifts and thus draw them into the life of the whole meeting? And is there room for all types of worship, all types of activities, and all types of people?

During the Sun Dance - a very powerful ritual amongst Plain Indians - children would poke the dancers with sticks and laugh at their reactions while the dancers were experiencing the pangs of hunger and the rigors of the ritual they believed would lead to spiritual experiences. These children were not sent away - they were instead welcomed as young and innocent members of the community who one day would embark upon their own spiritual journeys. There was no original sin here - something we profess as well. Do we indeed welcome our own children so lovingly into our worship?

Every meeting community is a "(w)hol(e)y experiment" in living life on life's terms. Each meeting community will find its own rhythm and pace as the dance of life and worship continues. Let us be sure that we look to the whole person - physically, mentally, and spiritually - as well to the whole community - grandchildren to grandparents, single and committed, humans all - as we embrace everyone. Just think of the bumper sticker that says:


Setting Goals for the New Year

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"New Year's Resolutions" have become a part of the pop culture, usually in the context of "how long will it take before I am back to my old habits?" At the gym the staff often wink at one another as the crowds file in every January 2nd, only to have things settle back to normal in a few weeks. Nevertheless, I still make goals in January - if only to have some sense of the journey for the next twelve months. I am reminded of this every year at this time: I use two daily meditation books for morning readings, and that sense of starting over each January 1st (back to page one...) is a very real metaphor for the cycles of life.

Children often do well with goals, especially with some modeling and help from parents. Just as we adults might need concrete and tangible reminders of our progress - a lost on the fridge, daily weigh-ins, marks on a calendar, a regular deposit into a special account - children benefit from tangible reminders as well - stickers on a chart for days we accomplish our goal, marbles in a jar for jobs well done (with a marble taken out for days we miss our target), and money earned in the piggy bank for that special purchase that will take a long time to afford.

So how do we set goals with our children?

·        Be both realistic and optimistic: make sure at least some of the goals are easily attainable, while others might be idealistic dreams.

·        Think in terms of long term versus short term goals. Setting our sights on more distant achievements (getting a degree for an adult, or qualifying for the Olympics for a child) can build resilience and perseverance, even when there may be eventual disappointment.

·        Write your goals down and share them with others in your family. The list can be posted in a prominent place, and others can provide support and encouragement.

·        Start small - one goal for yourself, one goal for your child - and try to accomplish that goal within one month. Then move on to a new goal for each of you, maybe incorporating some long term goals along the way, and see how things progress.

·        Bounce back with style: make a good effort to show your child how to come back from initial defeats. With honesty, humility, and a good sense of humor - "Well, that was hard - no big surprise, huh? - I guess I didn't try hard enough to really change my eating habits and lose the weight, but I do believe I can make this goal happen in the next month with renewed efforts!" - we can certainly model the optimism we are trying to develop with goal setting.

So - don't just sit there, give this a try!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

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