Archives for category: Christianity

  So it turns out that the way the human throat is designed – the way our larynx sits a bit lower in the trachea – helps makes it possible for us to create a multitude of sounds and also makes it easier for us to choke on our food.

That’s quite a trade-off: Voice or safety?

“Words can draw us together or drive us apart, but every time we speak, our throats physically risk choking in pursuit of community,” Rachel Hackenberg writes in Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian. “We can be silent, or we can be together. We can embark on faith alone, or we can use our words to reach out to God and to one another along faith’s journey.”

I think of that after I tell my teenager to stop knocking on my office door when it is closed, after I lecture him on the importance of my work. I risk choking to deliver a message I should have choked back.

But the truth? It’s hard to think of the feelings of others when you are gasping for air because you’ve swallowed the idea of the white picket fence. It’s easy for the idea of perfection to get caught in your throat. It comes with weighty to-do lists and piles of commitments, and before you realize it, it all begins to feel like a million splinters passed by your larynx.

And when the vibrations of our voice make their way upward, those are the shards and shapes they hit. So, yeah, sometimes by the time the words make it past all our hurts and disappointments they aren’t building up anything or anyone. Sometimes our words aren’t worth the risk of choking.

How do we change that? It starts with what we allow in. We can guard against gossip and negativity, and we can welcome what is noble and true. We can find what is lovely and admirable and let it work like a balm on our scratchy throats. When the stress and the worry seem to grow, we can breathe in God’s peace and exhale grace.

Then, what we say will build community. Then, what we say will have real value.

  I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be surrounded by boys. I collected dolls. I made crafts. I liked dainty, vintage tea sets. I grew up with sisters, and all I wanted were girls.

Until I had boys.

What they say is true. They are loud, and they frequently wrestle after dinner. They talk of things like Minecraft and Star Wars. They wear holes in the knees of every pair of pants. They climb trees and require frequent trips to urgent care. And they are glorious.

In our tender moments, they dance with me in the kitchen and they ask me to marry them. They bring me flowers from the side of the road and they hug me and tell me it will be OK when I spill candy all over the floor. The younger ones take my hand in the movie theater, and sometimes even the teenager says he loves me when we are on the phone.

And on the days this mama feels less than her best? They provide a generous mirror, a way to see myself the way God does. They tell me I’m beautiful, or they wrap their arms around my neck and say that they’ve missed me all day. They think about the kind of video game I might enjoy playing – because they want to spend time together. They love me, and they forgive my faults.

None of us is perfect, of course, but that’s when a generous mirror helps most. It’s encouraging to be reminded that God and others still believe in you, that the people who know your heart see potential and not limitations.

Friends and cousins and co-workers. Sisters and husbands and mamas. We can all be a generous mirror for each other.

We can choose to tell one another that it will be OK. We can find ways to be together, and we can look for beauty. We can cut through our judgment and our unfair expectations and simply shine God’s love.

And when we do? I think we’ll all appreciate the view.

  In my faith tradition, we often point to one moment when we chose to follow Jesus. A time when we understood we needed forgiveness and grace – and we knew that God could give us both peace and mercy.

For me, that moment came April 9, 1980. I was sitting up toward the front of the church on the left and the preacher told us how God would help us always, that His yoke was the lighter, less burdensome way. And I believed.

A handful of days later, I stood in front of the church and was baptized. My going under the water symbolized the end of one way of life and my rising showed what had happened inside my soul. A new, clean start.

That day was April 13.

To read the full story, please visit the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle…

many ways to wash feet and serve othersI must have been about 6 or 7 the first time I remember sitting in on our church’s communion service. It was after the official Sunday morning service, after most of the casual visitors had left to see to their pot roasts, when the men slipped off their socks and the women pushed their dress shoes under the pew.

By the time our pastor began to break the bread, a sacred hush had fallen. When the grape juice passed in its simple water glass, all you could hear was the reminder: Do this in remembrance of me.

Then, one-by-one they knelt next to each other and washed their neighbor’s feet. The man who had studied his Bible for decades washed the feet of Daddy, who was new to faith. The woman who owned hundreds of acres knelt before someone just scraping by at the end of the month. There, with the towel and the basin, all those differences washed away.

And there was communion.

All these years later, I still count it as one of the holiest moments of my life – a moment where I saw God’s love for all of us. While I can never recreate that memory, there are many ways to wash feet, many ways to serve one another. Many ways to do this in remembrance.

First, though, we must sit close enough to our neighbor to know her needs, so when she whispers that her very best friend is dying of cancer we can hear her above the din of our own busyness.

When we sit knee to knee, maybe we’ll hear a single dad needs someone to babysit or a friend is overwhelmed and could use help preparing his taxes. Maybe we’ll add a few extra tomato plants to share with an aunt whose arthritis makes gardening almost impossible.

Maybe we’ll know who to add to our prayer lists – and we’ll have people who are willing to pray for us. People willing to wash the dust from our feet. People willing to break bread with us in church and at home and at the ball field. People willing to remember God’s love in the everyday, in the mundane and in crisis.

People willing to have communion.

  For years I’ve been a member of a group that raises money for women’s education. We meet monthly, sometimes more, to discuss scholarships and low-interest loans and to hear the stories of women who are changing their families’ lives, bringing business to their neighborhoods and solutions to the world.

Our seven founders – all students at Iowa Wesleyan College in the latter part of the 1800s – wanted to create a group built on true friendship. Now the Philanthropic Educational Organization has become a sisterhood of nearly 250,000 throughout the United States and Canada.

And all of those sisters? In all of those local chapters? They start their meetings the same way and with the same prayer: that all with whom we come in contact with will be purer, braver and stronger for having spent time with us.

That’s a big prayer. A hard prayer. Leaving every one we meet in a better place than when we found them.

The kid with the runny nose who has asked for the iPad at least 28 times before noon. The woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles who tells you – even in the year 2015 – your debit card is not welcome there. That guy everyone brags about at work, you know which one I mean. The person who only likes things that are her idea.

Purer. Braver. Stronger.

That’s an investment, friends. That’s saying I’ll recognize when a policy is out of your control. I’ll see when you are hurting, when you are afraid. I’ll listen to the whining and hear that you really don’t need more technology, you just need more interaction and more time with me.

It means in the rush of the day, I’ll take a moment to really see you. I’ll choose compassion over completing my to-do list. I’ll pick building you up instead of bullying you into doing what I want. I’ll join like-minded sisters and raise millions to offer formal educations to thousands of women – and I’ll know that the fundraising is the easy part.

Purer. Braver. Stronger.

That’s where the real work lies. And there’s plenty for all of us.

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