Friday, July 26, 2013

When Friendships End

by Rev. Laura Barclay

One of the more painful or disruptive events in life can be the end of a friendship. For various reasons, people lose friends. Sometimes we drift apart as our life experiences differ, sometimes one friend chooses a destructive path and the other one can't follow, and sometimes we try to make something work that simply doesn't. Occasionally, as in failed relationships, we try to look back and figure out where things went wrong.

We ask ourselves the following questions: What if we had done things differently? What if we had been more intentional instead of drifting apart? Should we have endured more before ending the friendship? What happened?

Some of mine have ended for a variety of reasons: geography; mutual drifting apart due to separate interests; he/she or I didn't have the emotional maturity to deal with situations in a friendship; selfishness  (again he/she or I); or, occasionally, behavior that crosses the line of what one can tolerate in a friendship (e.g. sexual harassment, violence, etc.).

The truth is, many friendships end. Rev. Shasta Nelson shares several questions one should ask before ending a friendship. These might be helpful in working through the situation you are in or have just experienced. What I really like about this article is that she stresses listening, compassion and forgiveness while understanding that if you have done your part, it might be time to "drift apart."

In the times when I have had to "drift apart" from someone, or someone has had to do that to me, I try to pray for forgiveness for my failings in that relationship and bless the other person. We tend to view everything as one-sided, though that is rarely the case. Instead, I visualize a prayer that is something like the following:

God, I am sorry for my failings in this friendship. Even as I mourn the end of this earthly relationship, I have hope in your heavenly kingdom. In Revelation 7:9, John tells us that he sees, "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands." We know that some day we will all carry the palm branches of peace, and we will continue to work in your name to do so. Please bless those who are no longer earthly friends to do the same and to flourish, and may we all keep hope in you, God. Amen.

This helps us acknowledge our own failings while affirming hope in our shared God and blessing those who we are no longer friends with to do the same and to be well. The worst thing you can do is to maintain bitterness that will only hurt your happiness and keep you from being the authentically beautiful child of God that you are. Remember that your former friends have taught you valuable lessons about yourself that you will carry for life and have probably made you a better, more thoughtful and less selfish person.

So blessings to friends, former friends and friends yet to be for your love, compassion, life lessons learned and still to be learned!

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Am My Grandma...and other Revelations

My Mammaw with my newest cousin, Tyler
Rev. Laura Barclay

As I transition to life in Kentucky, I am also learning more about gardening, vintage items, older homes, and new neighbors. I have spent more time with my grandmother, who has a love of antiques, canning, and telling my Pappaw to get out of the kitchen and stop telling her how to cook.

In my conversations with her, I have discovered that she is resourceful, tough, funny, loves children, and cares very much about preserving the past. As a women who watched one daughter suffer and survive polio and lost another suddenly only a year and a half ago, I understand that this love of the past is also deeply personal. Because of this realization, her words carry more weight as someone who has endured much and has life lessons to teach.

Mammaw warns about the costs of vegetables rising and supplies her own by canning the veggies from Pappaw's thriving garden. Yet she shares readily with neighbors, relatives, and whoever might show up at her door. She attends church and volunteers regularly. She could the quintessential character in a Clyde Edgerton novel.

I have since noticed the cost of vegetables and have considered canning. I learned we have an interest in estate sales and antiquing in common because you can get wonderful items at a great deal, and I think if either of us could live in a museum, we would. She was influenced by the times in which she was raised--the Great Depression. My generation has been shaken by the Great Recession--no longer do we believe in a guarantee of jobs, retirement, monetary success or a stable housing market. My grandmother watches her Social Security checks fail to meet inflation and wonders if she'll always have enough. For all our political differences, both believe the government has failed in its promise to care for veterans like my grandfather.  Instead of caring about living up to societal standards of success--whatever that means--we care more about the ideal of living in community instilled in us from church.

Now, on the eve of my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary, as we bond over gardens, antiques, church talk, looking at pictures of long-lost relatives and our concern for the present, I'm thankful that instead of thinking of all the years between us I can focus on our commonalities and learn more about my grandmother beyond her identity as "Mammaw."

How about you? Is there a relative of family friend you have had or wish you had the opportunity to get to know beyond their relational identity to you? What is your mother, father, brother, sister, grandma, or aunt like outside of their identity as family member?

Friday, July 12, 2013

You Are Enough!

by Rev. Laura Barclay

I had the fortune of spending July 4th weekend at a house party with some dear friends and setting off fireworks in the street like a kid. These friends have a 2 year-old daughter, Lily, who is sweet, agreeable, loving, and confident. Lily got her face painted like a butterfly, and when she toddled around and smiled, we all said, "Oh my gosh, you are so cute!"

She looked up at all of us, grinned even bigger and said, "I know!"

I was struck by the beauty of this statement in a world where women (and an increasing amount of men) are told by every form of media they aren't pretty enough, thin enough, strong enough, fit enough, healthy enough or give enough time to their partners, their workplaces, and their kids. The covers of magazines demand we lose "5, 10, 15 pounds now for swimsuit season!" and become "bikini ready."

This child, who is dearly loved by her parents, extended family and friends, knows that she is enough. I worry that her, and other little girls like her, will lose that confidence as they get older and tall enough to see the magazine covers and perceptive enough to notice that most models and many actresses are dangerously skinny.

In Apostle Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he states that is proud of the community for their hopeful outlook and expresses sadness at being away from this community. Toward the end of his letter, Paul asks them to continue to "encourage one another and build up each other" (1 Thess. 5:11 NRSV).

This is a fantastic piece of advise for us to follow. If we proclaim to be Christ-followers in a society that can be very shallow, how can we build one another up to be strong against the cultural forces that constantly tell us we aren't good enough?

Consider the following ways to build one another (and yourself) up:

1) Tell your friends and family that you love them regularly.

2) Tell others what you like about them on a regular basis--is it their thoughtfulness, presence, skill, compassion, etc?

3) Drop e-mails, Facebook messages, Tweets, texts or an old-fashioned hand-written postcard or letter to tell someone you love them and are thinking about them! Think about how you feel when you receive a message from a friend and pay it forward!

4) Get rid of the scales and encourage others to do this. Are you eating healthy and exercising? If the answer is yes, then great! Don't measure your worth by a number but by how healthy you feel. If the answer is no, think about ways you can be healthy with your friends that would build one another up, like taking Zumba or Yoga classes together, going on walks after work in groups, rotating cooking healthy meals for one another, or a weekend hiking trip.

5) Make a list of all that you are grateful for at the end of each day. This will end the day on a positive note, and lessen your anxieties. Did any person(s) show up on that list? Then see #3 and let them know!

I hope these tips encourage you to lean into your identity as a beloved child of God and encourage you to help others to do the same!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Night Gardening

by Rev. Laura Barclay 

Since moving to Louisville about two weeks ago and having a backyard, I have been covered in dirt and sweat almost everyday. I have long felt that my grandfather's love of farming and working the earth was an innate part of my being, instilled at birth. Living in a condo without even a patio to have a potted garden made me, on my best days, stare wistfully at nearby trees out the window. On the worst days, I could be spotted prowling the aisles at Lowe's or Home Depot, daydreaming about a future garden in another locale.

The day we got home with our plants and soil, the sun was setting, but my enthusiasm bubbled over. I just had to start now! My husband looked quizzically at my while I hauled plants across the yard and into raised beds. 

"Shouldn't you wait until morning?" he asked.

"I know. I'm just so excited though. I want to plan a few things tonight." And there I was--night gardening.

This leads me to two conclusions. First, I'm right where I need to be and the energy and enthusiasm of my actions seem to concur. Second, I must be getting old! Gardening after dark seems like a thrill!

In thinking about the last few weeks, I realize I have learned several things since embarking upon the cultivation of our yard:

1) There is little else in life as satisfying as working up a sweat, being covered in dirt, and seeing the fruits of your labor. This is a satisfaction that will never come from sitting behind a desk. God's vision for humanity to care for the earth and all the creatures in it in Genesis 1 never seems more true than when carefully setting aside earthworms and pill bugs as I dig, putting them back to symbiotically work in my garden. So, especially for those like me who mostly work behind desks, get out there and start a garden or help with a community or church garden!

2) Everything seems connected and anything that is in disharmony with God's vision is seen for what it is: disruptive, unimportant, and out of unity with God and God's people.  Road rage? It's a useless expense of hate and energy. Gossiping about that person you don't like? It won't do anyone any good and it will make you feel worse afterwards. Having divisive arguments with a family member or friend about politics? Well, being "right" won't win you any friends or convince anyone of your viewpoint!

3)  I am literally stronger now than ever before. Gardening is hard, messy, heavy work. But if you invest in it, your body will thank you after you work through the muscle pains. Your body will strengthen and respond to your efforts. Many Christians get hung up on the 1 Corinthians 6 text, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" They will preach never to have a sip of wine, yet sit down to Wednesday night church dinners of fried foods, bread pudding and sweet tea. As a result, the Bible Belt is straining from the excess weight. The most obese states are in the South. However, when we understand where our food comes from and have a relationship with the land, we can strike an appropriate balance in our lives.

I look forward to learning more lessons on gardening and life from neighbors, family and friends!