Monday, October 17, 2011

Vocabulary Words

I hate catch words. I use the word hate here in the fullest sense of the word. There are always the latest words that come down the line of business and church books. Synergy is one I regard with particular loathing.

Why does this bother me? Probably it does so on two levels. First, many of these words are made up. There are so many beautiful, descriptive, and unusual words in the English language. You really couldn't find one that worked for you? Unless you're the 21st century Shakespeare, please stick with one of the many, many words you can find in the dictionary.

Second, so much time is spent tossing around these teasing terms. We read them, write them, speak them, debate them in committees, and nod agreement at meetings. If we're going to get so caught up in the term du jour (sorry to drop some French), then can we at least focus on some that have real meaning, drive, and perhaps are not so much term of the day but ancient and meaningful terms?

So please, should you see me rolling my eyes at a committee meeting or conference call where synergy, fusion, or what ever hot word o' the day is tossed around, forgive me. Perhaps I will claim one odd word for myself, snarky.

I promise to be more of my usual cheery self in my next post. Just had a frustrating morning of emails and committees (that will easily dampen the most shining spirit). Enjoying the soundtrack to The Way and I relax before my next committee call.

Watch for a post with my thoughts on the incredible film, The Way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Lesson from the Cable Company

My cable company is pretty far down on my list of favorite businesses to call. In fact, it is probably at the bottom of the list.

However, during a conversation with a sales representative last night, I had a surprising lesson.

I was calling simply to reduce my cable channels - getting a big packet of channels just to watch Doctor Who for a few weeks of the year was silly. I never watched the vast majority of those 200 channels.

Anyways, I digress. The gentleman who answered my call, we'll call him Joe. In my ever on-going effort to get better at remembering names, I say, "Hi Joe, I'm Jennifer and I would like to change my service." We go about the business. He does the usual little sales pitch about whatever special they have going on at the end of the call. Then he says, "Thank you and have a nice day." I in turn say, "I hope you have a nice day too, Joe." I could hear the shock in his voice at what I assume was my using his name and doing so in a positive manner.

I found that a profoundly sad commentary on the state of the world. I've been the disgruntled customer, but I try my hardest to never take it out on the representative on the phone. It isn't their fault, they just are the messenger. I also try to be personable, it just seems right.

And therein lies the rub. I think what I learned in this call is how we are losing touch with recognizing the humanity, the person-hood of those we interact with on the phone, web, and other non-face-to-face ways.

Why am I writing about this on a ministry website, well, because isn't that what we're all about - incarnation? If we believe that each person is a holy creation of God, shouldn't we treat them as such? Shouldn't we at least recognize a person's individuality and honor that?

As those in ministry, should we not be doing this ourselves? Should we not be modeling this?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."

~Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"

That, in a short and oh so Scottish way, sums up my week. All those little things and routines have fallen apart at the seams.

Without going into overwhelming detail about my less than relaxing day off on Monday, we'll just say it set things up well for what was waiting for me here in the office yesterday.

For the past few years I have taken a small group of teens down to New Orleans during winter break. We work with Catholic Charities - Helping Hands. I was notified via a voicemail yesterday that the organization would be shutting down, so our trip was canceled.

Thus I have spent all the spare moments of my day tracking down alternatives for lodgings and work sites. I have encountered many kind individuals, but unfortunately none have been able to help me out with this problem.

So like many moments in ministry, we soldier on looking for how to "Make it work!" as Tim Gunn says.

On the bright side, later tonight I get to go to a screening of The Way where Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez are to be present for a question & answer session following.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quote of the Day

It is a busy day here. So I simply leave you with what I love, a quote that makes you think...

God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
~Regina Brett

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For St. Francis

I'm a dog person. How can you tell? Well, let's gauge me and cats. Cats love me, I mean find the cat that hates all humans as lower life forms. That cat will adore me. Ironically, all those cats that love to come and find me when I visit friends houses result in me scaring away all other life forms with monstrous sneezes and a horrifically congested nose. My theory is that the cats derive some sort of pleasure from causing such suffering. Just a theory.

Now, enter a dog. Specifically my dog, Gracie. Gracie is, without much ability of anyone to argue the fact, one of the most pathetic canine creatures on Earth. I got her about 2 and 1/2 years ago from a rescue. She had no fur on her hind legs as that is where the puppy mill bound her for two years. She had several litters for the mill. Her entire being would quake and cower whenever anyone approached her. Yet, for some strange reason, I just had to take her home.

For the first few months she and I struggled to find our groove. She ate her way out of a plastic kennel I would put her in while I was at work. She actually ate a hole in it. Somehow she managed to destroy a giant terry cloth robe, a 2x2 foot square pillow, a sweatshirt, and various other items all while in her kennel (with no opening more than 1 inch square!). I replaced the plastic kennel with one that was metal. She figured out how to open it.

After two days of her exiting the kennel after I left and me returning to a happy dog and tidy house, we had a new routine. She ruled the house (i.e. napped) while I was at work and let me think I ruled the house while I was home.

Until that fateful night last spring. I came home from a long day with the teens and just wanted to go to sleep after a short walk with Gracie. It was past 10 and I was beyond exhausted. Apparently Gracie was too. She had destroyed nearly everything! My bedding was gone. Fabric crates in the shelving unit were decimated. The living room looked like a war zone and my bedroom gave the impression of a winter wonderland from all the fluff.

This was the climax of a week of escalating destruction. Gracie had developed severe separation anxiety. This manifested itself in destroying my bedding and eventually her things too. I went through 6 sets of sheets, 2 bed skirts, 2 mattress pads, and a king size comforter before a desperate 2 am call to the vet that night. Thankfully the vet was able to help me out and now my high maintenance little dog gets Prozac (yes, human Prozac).

Now that I am able to come home to a normal dog and a tidy bedroom, I can say that Gracie is the best catechist and spiritual director I know. So in honor of St. Francis, here are a few of the things I think Gracie would say if she could preach to you (or the birds):

  • All that is needed to make me happy is to have my human at home all day. If my human could just sit by me, maybe pet me a bit or comb me, I'd be thrilled. I don't need treats or those frilly sweaters the lady down the street makes her dog wear. I just want to lay there in the sun with my human. Don't you think that ultimately all God wants from you is the same thing - to just be?

  • When you are totally frustrated and at the end of your leash - sit down. Pulling on it will only cause you to hurt and look ridiculous. Just stop, be still, and listen to what comes.

  • When the storms come, know your safe place. Don't be afraid to go and retreat to it.

  • Being fearful isn't a way to live. No matter how badly someone may hurt you, most people just want to pet you and play with you.

  • Playing games is great. Take time to play. But remember the most important part isn't chasing the ball, it is bringing it back to the one who threw it.

  • Protect what you love. Especially from those crafty woodchucks. If you love something, fight for it.

  • But if you have to lose something you love, like your most favorite fuzzy toy, let it go. Something new and better may be around the corner.

  • Always greet people with a wagging tail and not a noisy bark.

  • Show great joy even over the little things like meaty treats and tennis balls.

Yeah, Gracie's pretty wise. And best of all, when I'm done tonight with Theology on Tap, I know she'll be right at the door with her fuzzy bone waiting with a wagging tail.