Saturday, June 26, 2010

Upside the Head

I love it when two areas of personal interest intersect. It's kind of like discovering a mutual friend with someone you really enjoy.

Last evening I was reading my group therapy text and, of all things, discovered an intersection between group therapy dynamics (area of interest #1) and church structure (area of interest #2). I'd like to share a quote from The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom, but first let me explain a couple of terms so that the impact of the text will be total for my kind readers.

In any group (which would include community groups, Bible study groups, etc., in addition to group therapy), there are always two things going on: content, and process. Content refers to what is said and done. But process refers to the "how" and "why" of the comments and actions. For example, if one group member is a single, young professional and another group member is a middle-aged homemaker...and the young person looks at the homemaker and says, "Parenthood is demeaning!"...the content is obviously very provocative and will probably start an argument.

But even more provocative and potentially life-changing can be the questions asked about the content, i.e. the process. Such as, "I wonder what is going on between these two individuals that he would attack her like this," or "Why did he set himself up for an attack with such a provocative statement?" These questions are referred to as process commentary.'s the quote:

"Process commentary undermines arbitrary authority structure. Industrial organizational development consultants have long known that an organization's open investigation of its own structure and process leads to power equalization -- that is, a flattening of the hierarchical pyramid. Generally, individuals high on the pyramid not only are more technically informed but also possess organizational information that permits them to influence and manipulate: that is, they not only have skills that have allowed them to obtain a position of power but, once there, have such a central place in the flow of information that they are able to reinforce their position. The more rigid the authority structure of an organization, the more stringent are the precautions against open commentary about process (as in, for example, the military or the church). The individual who wishes to maintain a position of arbitrary authority is wise to inhibit the development of any rules permitting reciprocal process observation and commentary."

If any paragraph in all of literature can sum up the problems I have experienced with the church, I think this would be it. Don't let the layperson ask how we did something, or why we made this decision. And if they do ask, give them confusing, defensive, or deflective answers. Because we have to hold this thing together! Right? Isn't that the church leader's job?!

Actually, no.

As I read the Scripture, it's Jesus at the top and then the rest of us. Variously gifted, but equal. And just because someone is gifted to be a teacher or visionary (is that word even in the Scriptures?) doesn't mean they automatically make better decisions than one who is gifted to be hospitable, for example, and therefore should restrict the flow of information or the give-and-take of an equal relationship.

I think the most unfortunate thing in all of this is that less change happens. Less personal change, because we're all hedging and angling and hiding our true (black) hearts. I think Jesus said something about white-washed tombs that may apply here...

And isn't it everyone's job to love God first, and then love people? A tall order, no doubt, that none of us will perfect (I am so far from this that I can't imagine myself ever, in all of eternity, perfecting this) -- but one that gets so clouded by our natural fears and faults.

And, I am now even willing to say, our institutions.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery...

Ok, do any of the other mommies out there wonder about yourself sometimes??

While I was pregnant with Jelly Bean, El Jefe and I discussed the benefits of cloth diapering which included financial as well as environmental concerns. We decided we'd do it, and I asked my sister - who has done this with her three children - for her advice. She directed me to this blog post, which she authored and which is fabulous. Additionally, when she was here helping us with JB a couple months ago she brought some covers and liners with her. Awesome! I thought. Diapers for free for the first few months!

Well, somewhere along the way, I lost one small piece of information. Cloth diapering consists of three pieces: the cover (furthest from baby's bum), the prefold diaper (in the middle), and a liner of some sort (closest to baby's bum, to pull moisture away). Remember, SB brought just covers and liners, and I was supposed to supply my own diapers.

I tried several times to put cloth diapers on JB, but every single time it would turn into a big, leaky mess. When people would ask how it was going, I would say, "I guess it's just not for us. I just can't get it to work. Maybe when she's older."

I just now in this moment realized -- I was only using the cover and the liner! I never inserted the actual diaper into the cloth diaper!! Oh geez...

You know...some people in this life are gifted with an ability to consider the practical details of living such as house cleaning, bill paying, and how to properly assemble a cloth diaper. Others of us are gifted in other, less tangible, ways such as writing a piano sonata or authoring a ten page paper in an afternoon, and are almost always completely eluded by practical concerns.

Nevertheless, I will not be bested by the cloth diaper! I will overcome! We are purchasing covers, liners, and (yes, even) prefold diapers in JB's current size, and we will use them with success!

Let it be written. Let it be known.

Monday, June 7, 2010

HB's Oatmeal Squares

I got this recipe from my sister, HB, and made them this weekend. They are yummy! And, as El Jefe and I figured it up...they cost about 40 cents per square. (I have a very budget-conscious husband.) He eats two at a time, but one is enough for me.

If you want to offer something homemade to your family for breakfast, but don't have very much time in the morning, these are perfect. I just cut them into squares, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and stored them in the fridge. So without further ado...

3 c oats (either quick-cooking or regular)
1 3/4 c buttermilk or sour milk (see below for sour milk directions)
1/2 c veg oil, coconut oil, or room-temperature butter
4 eggs
1/3 c honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2 c raisins (or any other dried fruit)
2 c chopped apples (or pears, or get the idea)
1 c chopped nuts

1. In a large mixing bowl, soak the oats and buttermilk or sour milk covered on the kitchen counter overnight, or at least for a couple hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Add the oil, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla to the oats mixture. Beat for 4-5 minutes, until ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in the fruit and nuts.

3. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean.

4. When completely cool, cut into 16 squares. They'll be very, very moist, so be ginger! Or be Maryann! Be whomever! Just take care not to tear them apart. They need to be refrigerated, and you can heat them up in the microwave when you're ready to eat them.

Other Options: Try whatever add-ins you think will be good in place of the fruit and nuts. HB said dried cranberries and white chocolate chips are fabulous, and I can't wait to try that variety!

Sour Milk: In a small bowl, stir together 1 3/4 c milk (less 1.5 tsp) and 1.5 tsp white vinegar. Allow it to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes to sour. This is kind of a gross step, and you can just use regular milk if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. There's just something about that acidity in the finished product that makes it so, so good.