On a recent Sunday morning, a religious education teacher divided her third graders into groups as part of a lesson on values. Treats were unevenly distributed to each group. The teacher asked the group who had more than enough to go around if they might share some of their treats with the others. The response was, "Why would we want to share with them?" The teacher then turned to a group with too few treats and asked how they felt that the group with so much more was not willing to share. A voice from the group said, "We should kill them." It was her daughter.

Sometimes we ask ourselves: That is my child? Really? How did they miss some key concepts? Be kind. Don't hurt one another. Forgive. Do your best.

We can be frustrated by the disconnect between what we hope for our children to learn and the evidence of what has been learned. In her book, "In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as a Spiritual Practice," Bonnie Miller-McLemore insists that the very attempt to figure out what is true, right and good in our parenting is itself a spiritual practice. This attempt may be all we have to hold onto on some days.

In the Christian tradition, as McLemore points out, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, "pondered these things in her heart." Pondering can be a form of prayer. It is a turning over in one's mind, and a turning over to God, our deepest hopes and concerns. We may be at a loss for how to best parent. There is no way to avoid these moments. Spirituality is how we make meaning out of the very stuff of our lives, especially loss and disillusionment and uncertainty. Spiritual care of ourselves is one of the greatest gifts that we can offer to our children.

We want those we love to know that when they stumble, struggle or fail it is not the end of their journey. We need to remind ourselves of the same thing. We may call upon our faith, that which orients and sustains us, when we feel that we have no resources left within us.

Our faith traditions offer a vocabulary with which to reflect upon and wonder about the most profound, joyful and frightening aspects of our existence. And they may teach us some practices, among them prayer and meditation, as ways to pause and reflect before reacting. I know a parent who is learning about meditation in order to teach this to her children.

We don't have to have all the answers. We ponder things in our hearts. It also helps to ponder together. At St. Paul's we are offering a series on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings to explore how our spirituality, our understanding of God's presence in our lives, supports healthy relationships. Please join us.

For more information, go to www.stpaulsfairfield.org .

ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

661 Old Post Road, Fairfield

203-259-3013/www.stpaulsfairfield.org

PASTOR: Rev. Judith L. Rhodes, rector

EVENTS:

This week, the church began a forum series and small group discussions, to support healthy relationships. The forums are led by Elisabeth Tullis Schneider, a licensed marriage and family therapist, along with guest professionals for the various topics. Each Sunday seminar will cover a specific topic and offer a companion session on the following Wednesday evening for additional small-group conversation with Schneider. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Session One on Sunday, Feb. 27, focused on "Growing Healthy, Happy Kids." Discussion session on Wednesday, March 2, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the fireside room.

Session Two on Sunday, March 13, will cover "Building Relationships that Stand the Test of Time," at 10:30 a.m. in the parish hall. Discussion session on Wednesday, March 16, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the fireside room.

Session Three on Sunday, April 10, will discuss "Children and Stress: Helping Your Child Navigate Life's Toughest Challenges," at 10:30 a.m. in the parish hall. Discussion session on Wednesday, April 13, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the fireside room.

Session Four on Sunday, May 8, will cover "The Ups and Downs of Adolescence: Understanding the Mind of a Teen," at 10:30 a.m. in the parish hall. Discussion session on Wednesday, May 10, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the fireside room.