Sharing about Family Conflict


Over the short life span of my blog, I’ve noticed sustained interest in a prayer  about family conflict. This may be because family conflict often glares in our eyes like the sun, and yet we have trouble naming it and standing in solidarity with each other as we live with its disturbing presence. Name and claiming this reality is hard.

Thankfully, this week’s worship included these inspiring and strong words as part of the call to worship:

The Scriptures are shot through with stories of people just like us:
men who grieved, women who questioned,
siblings who did not get along, parents who chose favourites.
God’s word of grace is meant for people just like us.
There is no need for pretense in this place.  (p. 70)

And yet, even though I don’t want to pretend I will not share about conflict in my family during our congregation’s time for sharing prayer requests. Would you?

We freely share personal reflections on troubling world events, we request prayer for ailing friends or family members, but we rarely share about family conflict.

However, I think this reluctance goes deeper than a perceived need to pretend. Doing so in a public setting doesn’t feel safe or respectful. That kind of sharing feels more suited to the intimacy of a small group, and I’m grateful to be part of a group where we can do so.

But that is not enough.

Our reluctance to publicly name these common, but oh so personal and painful struggles, creates a perception that those who sit with us in worship are not struggling with these issues. When our hearts are breaking because of conflict in our families, but we only see each others Sunday faces, we feel failure rather than compassion. This makes it hard to summon up enough courage to name our struggles in hope of finding the support and solidarity we need to live healthily with those struggles.

North American families are under a lot of stress as we live at the fulcrum of a society dealing with an incredible pace of change. Virtual communities as well as peers now compete strongly with congregational and family circles in providing group identity. Many youth and young adults individuate by rejecting the beliefs and community networks most meaningful to their parents. Parents feel guilty for inadequate parenting when their children make questionable or misunderstood choices as they individuate. Ways of remaining anonymous with our doubts and struggles abound as individualization makes it harder for us to sense and express our common human dilemmas. Add your own favourite stress factor here:_____________________.

How can we confess the fragility in our family lives, with their sometimes heavy loads of care, and be there for each other, without being disrespectful toward the family members with whom we are in conflict?

How do we get rid of the pretense and open channels for support and healing? Do our egos and sense of family pride allow us to let down our guards? Can calls to worship, like the one I began with help name and normalize our domestic realities? Could Sundays with a focus on the family include times of lament and praise? I hope so.  What would you suggest?

“Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need you to help us find our way.”

Posted in Confession, Congregational life, Family life, Healthy Habits, Lament, Pastoral Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Habits That Work: My Daily Hallelujah

Even while we bask in some glorious warm weather, we’re getting ready for winter. A work colleague just commented that she was looking forward to the snow, when I’d car-pool with her and we could pick up the good chats we’ve enjoyed while commuting.  Winter does have its perks. But what about the healthy and gentle work-out I’ve been getting by cycling to work since the snow dried off our roads last spring? April’s blog on this indoor walking habit has just given me a good idea. What do you think?

Habits That Work: My Daily Hallelujah.

Posted in Healthy Habits, Senior Spirituality, Women's concerns | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Companions of Change

River GeeseRiver Geese fly

Canada Geese migrate over Manitoba. They add colour and context to our life rhythms. A few stay around all summer, but in spring and fall they become our special companions as we prepare for significant changes. Their various calls and majestic landings inspire and accompany us as we plant in spring, and clean up yards and gardens in fall.

I love the geese, but their flightiness unnerves me. I know they need to be wary; always ready to flee. But really, our quietly approaching canoe hardly poses a danger! How can they know. Yesterday hunting season opened, and I heard distant gunshots. Perhaps they were fired from canoes as inauspicious as ours. So, they are right to be wary.

We are wary as well; wary of the approaching winter. We occupy ourselves with cleaning up gardens, banding Elm trees, putting up Christmas lights and doing outdoor repair jobs before bulky gloves or numbing fingers make these tasks unpleasant. However, wary or not, these changes are predictable, and we know how to prepare for them.

Harder than the seasonal change are the changing roles of denominations and the wider the church in our society. Even while we try to welcome and accommodate increasing levels of diversity church community seems to be taking a back seat. We now have access to many meaningful communities; real, face to face ones as we gravitate toward affinity groups within and beyond the church and virtual ones through web-based communities. So much is changing about the way we communicate and align with each other, the ways we think about spirituality and faithfulness, the issues we gravitate around, the ways we join with others to make a positive difference in the world. Church leaders struggle to discern what the Spirit is saying and what new realities the Spirit is leading us toward.

As with the geese that settle on the river for night, there are voices that squawk contentedly and others that keep us aware of potential danger. Do we have the goose-like inner voice that helps us navigate and make changes we need to survive and thrive.  The Celts connected migrating, squawking, noisy geese with the Holy Spirit. I wonder what they’d hear from these geese about facing our challenges?

This morning I wonder what a church trying to discern its future directions can learn from the geese. Are there lessons for us about shared leadership, about knowing where to feed, where to rest, how to build up strength for the journey ahead, or in learning how to stay on course? I wonder.

In this era of questions I’m grateful for geese as spirited companions of change.




Posted in Church season, Confession, Congregational life, Gardening, Vocation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“God in the Meltdowns”

This fabulous post by a young mom reminds me of the gracious wisdom my married kids use with their kids. I post it here as a tribute to all the parents out there who stay gracious, and don’t give in, to their children’s temper tantrums.

“God in the Meltdowns”.

Posted in Child Faith, creativity, Family life, Women's concerns | 2 Comments

Back for Fall

Life as a river 2

I’ve been gone for a season, but I’m glad to be back. It seems like a long time, but I was glad for the break from weekly posting. My fingers haven’t been idle, though.
Here are a few of the things that kept my mind and fingers busy:
A good garden was planted, tended, and most of it is harvested.
A five session study booklet on the topic of the many different ways Mennonites celebrate Communion has been conceived and developed. Yesterday, after a twelve hour day at my laptop, I mailed out the draft to a response group. I feel a little like having given birth.
I swam in the river as often as I could. Loved it! But now it’s too cold. last weekend the water was 15 Celsius. Even toes hurt after about a minute in the water.
I’ve listened to the wind in the trees and the birds in the sky. Two weeks ago, gardening was accompanied by Sandhill Cranes overhead. Last weekend the Canada Geese held centre stage. In the evening, as they settled on the river, some coyotes added their song.
Soon the geese will be gone.
I enjoyed friends and family, a lot. I’m glad they don’t migrate.
And I’m glad for the rhythmns of fall and the chances to reconnect more deeply with my church family again.
I’m leading a 3-5 year old group of kids during a Thursday morning Mom’s program for the third year. The oldest kids from last year are gone and in grade one, and the group mood is totally transformed. No more crafts for now.
I’ve started teaching the 3-4 year old class in Sunday school as well. It’s a blast. they love the new Shine Curriculum sessions, and so do I. It a lively group and I’m also extra glad for a Sunday afternoon nap.
These little ones are my new favourite age. Bigger issues of post modernism, post- denominationalism and post-Christendom fade away when we live into the good news together that God is our shepherd, he knows us each by name, and he gives us everything we need.
Even if you don’t get to enjoy worshipping with these precious little ones, I hope you can claim and enjoy that good news, too.

Posted in blogging, Church season, Congregational life, Creation Care, creativity, Family life, Gardening, Intergenerational worship | Leave a comment

Wild Raspberry Pie: Could You Survive as a Gatherer?

Melodie, who wrote this post, lives where Raspberry season is past. but for those of us on the Canadian prairie, it is rapidly approaching. I’ve never made a pie out of raspberries, but I think I’ll try Melodie’s recipe this year. check it out.

Wild Raspberry Pie: Could You Survive as a Gatherer?.

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Happy Summering!

Summer in Manitoba is too short to spend at a laptop. During the long winter months sign of NDD, nature deficit disorder, appear in the lives of all but the hardiest among us. But now, days are long, temperatures mild, and the outdoors is teeming with life. It is time for dirt under our fingernails, mud between our toes, For outdoor swimming and drying off in warm summer breezes.

This is my main reason for taking a break from blogging until the fall. The other is that I’ll be drafting a booklet on our varied communion practice and its implications for our practical theology, especially as it impacts the unbaptized in our church families. There’s only limited space in my brain for putting sentences onto paper.

When I return to this blog after the delights of summer, I hope to have some great tales and insights to share from my months of ‘summering’ and drafting. Until then, may the Lord bless and keep you, make his face to shine on you and give you peace.



Posted in blogging, Church season, Gardening | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment