But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are still the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is.
from Endymion, Book II, l.153-159.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
It works in all kinds of crises – medical, legal, even existential. It's the 'Ring Theory' of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out. (Los Angeles Times Op-Ed)
April 07, 2013| Susan Silk and Barry Goldman
When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you."
"It's not?" Susan wondered. "My breast cancer is not about me? It's about you?"
The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie's husband, Pat. "I wasn't prepared for this," she told him. "I don't know if I can handle it."
This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan's colleague's remark was wrong.
Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.
Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."
If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.
Comfort IN, dump OUT.
There was nothing wrong with Katie's friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn't think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.
Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.
Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.
Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.
And don't worry. You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.
Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of "The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators."
Sunday, March 31, 2013
...But the men said to them, “… He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee?...”
Then they remembered his words.
In the turmoil of our complex life we normally rely on different gadgets to remember what needs to be done and when. I hang 2 paper calendars in the fridge, use Gmail calendar and use the app on my phone to noisily remind me of appointments one or two days before…and somehow I still manage to forget things! How then, in this busy world can we remember what Jesus said? By the time the women went to Jesus’ tomb and found out his body wasn’t there, it wasn’t too long ago that they had heard him talking. So when the Angels said to them “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee…,” they readily remembered his words because they had heard them relatively recently and also because Jesus’ actions and words started to make sense after his resurrection.
But a long time has passed since Jesus spoke directly to people. It was up to the Apostles to spread the message of the Gospel to all nations as Jesus had told them to do. And when Jesus sent the Apostles to spread his message, he was calling us to remember his words and to put them in to actions. Nowadays, Jesus’ words not only can be remembered but also all his teaching and ministry can be more fully understood. We can remember Jesus’ words by studying the Bible and going to church, but even more important is doing what he commanded us to do, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Every time we do something good for others, especially those that we don’t know, we are remembering Jesus’ words.
Dear Lord, do not let me forget that Jesus died for my sins and was raised to life for your glory. Please help me to remember his words and to make them my way of life so that I too, can work for the glory of your name. Amen.
Yolibeth Rangel-Fitzgibbon was born in 1971 in Caracas, Venezuela. She and her two brothers were raised by her mom, grandpa, grandma and 3 aunts. Her family was Catholic, but didn’t go to church very often. However, they instilled the faith by actions. Her mom, and especially grandma, always helped those in need as much as they could (even though they didn’t have much), and prayed every night. Yolibeth went to college in Venezuela and graduated as an Agriculture Engineer.
She came to UW-Madison to work on a PhD in Plant Pathology.
She met Jim (her husband), and continued working at UW-Botany department
until her first child was born. She became a USA Citizen in February 2012.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,
he said to them “Have you anything to eat?”
Jacob, an aging, weathered mid-western farmer grew up during the depression and knew what it was to be poor. Over time he scrimped, bought a modest farm and somehow eked out a living. For years energy companies leased the right to explore for oil on his land and on most of the farms in the county. One day a geological exploration team came to the farm. Jacob was heartened but doubted anything would become of it. Months later a company representative stopped and told Jacob the company planned to drill for oil on his farm. Jacob couldn’t allow himself to be too hopeful even though he wanted to. So many past promises had fizzled. Drilling began. Then the report came the well would be a very productive and yield a royalty. Might he become wealthy? No, this couldn’t happen to him. One well led to more and Jacob became very rich.
The disciples also doubted what seemed too good to be true. Christ was seen five times on the day that he arose: by Mary Magdalene alone in the garden, by the women as they were going to tell the disciples, by Peter alone, by the two disciples going to Emmaus, and now (v. 41) at night by the eleven. Christ appeared before the disciples, as they were weighing this evidence of his resurrection. He demonstrated to them he had arisen by showing them his wounded body and then having something to eat. He was alive, in a real but immortal body. This seemed too good to be true!
The promise that we will live and be with God forever is so foreign to our earthly experience that it too seems too good to be true. Remember, all of God’s promises made through the ages have come true. God loves us and is faithful. Through Easter he assures us that we are his forever, only if we will open our hearts and believe. Then we can experience unrestrained joy.
Lord, help sustain our belief in the resurrection so we can live in joy knowing that we are forever yours. Amen!
Vern Leibbrandt is a retired professor of Animal Sciences at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and his wife Judy have been Bethel members for the past 18 years. Vern has been involved with Hope House for many years and is currently Church Council President.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village
called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
This passage tells the story of two disciples traveling to Emmaus, discussing events following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus happens upon them and begins talking to them. The two don’t even recognize the person they are with until later that day, when Jesus reveals himself to them.
How true this scenario seems in today’s times – that we often can’t see what’s right in front of us. Very often it feels like we are moving down the road of our lives and can’t recognize that God is with us in our travels. We may wonder how or why many of the things that we have planned don’t take place the way we want them to. This may illustrate that when we walk independently of God’s guidance, we become blind to his presence even though he may be right next to us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your resurrected Son. Help us to see more clearly that you have risen victoriously and not forsaken your promise to be with us always. Forgive us for not seeing you due to our own desires and rationalizations. Continue to create in us a clean heart and help us to walk in your ways.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tim Semmann has recently finished serving his third year on the Church Council. He enjoys participating in almost any outdoor activity and, along with his wife, loves spending time with their nieces and nephews.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn,
they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Then they remembered his words.
What were the women of Jesus’ family thinking as they walked towards his tomb? Mary Magdalene and the other women were bringing spices to finish the burial process of a family member. They certainly weren’t expecting to find that Jesus had fulfilled his prophecy of resurrection. I’m certain the tumult of the days following the crucifixion were filled with stress and grief and that it might have been easy to lose sight of prophecies fulfilled and yet-to-be fulfilled. Just as we lose sight of what it means to fully give ourselves over to God. The stress of work, school, family, etc. fills our minds and our days and we forget that God is our guide in all we hope to accomplish. So many things seem so much more important. We doubt God’s role in our modern lives. God takes a backseat to afterschool activities and work responsibilities. Faith can be hard to remember. But faith is just what the women are reminded of when chided by the angels. The women, preparing for the final burial tasks, had doubted the word of God and the promises of Jesus. The angels remind the women to remember Jesus’ words and to not look for the living among the dead. We, too, need to be chided to remember. When God is central in our lives we walk in harmony with God and the world around us. And yet we forget to put God and Faith first. The Resurrection story is our reminder to heed the words of Jesus and to believe in Him. He has great things to teach us if we remember to listen.
Precious Lord, forgive our doubts, and our questions, and our forgetfulness. Help us to be receptive to the miracles you grant to us. Open our eyes, and our hearts, and our minds to all that is possible through you. Amen.
Susan Straus is Parish Life Coordinator at Bethel, mom to 3 amazing kids and 7 incredible exchange kids, and wife and caregiver to Thom. Susan has been a Bethel member for 23 years and has a deep love for Bethel Horizons and its ArtVenture programs.