Clinging to Trust as a Lifeline

Four years ago I stopped watching the news. For most of my adult life, I had been in the habit of watching at least the first twelve minutes of the 10 o’clock news before getting ready for bed. Until I realized that images from the news creeped into my dreams, resulting in fitful sleep and occasional nightmares. The volatility of the world, the anger and division in our country, and local crime combined to inflict tiny paper cuts in my heart, each more shivery-painful than the next.

I began reading the news instead, looking to various sources in order to get a fuller picture than any one outlet would present. A simple change, and it helped in many ways: better sleep, better informed, less heartache.

Four years ago the world seemed in a bad way. Four years later, it’s inconceivable. What simple change can I make now that will prove as helpful?

image by Morgan Harper Nichols

I’m clinging to TRUST, my one-word lifeline as this year keeps dishing up bad news like overcooked casseroles at a church potluck: think green bean casserole, iguana green, limp and milky. In so many ways 2020 has been gross like that.

So, trust. I trust that there will always be moments of beauty, no matter what, like flowers blooming in sidewalk cracks. I trust that if we look for beauty, we will find it. Mr. Rogers taught us to look for the helpers. From now on, let’s trust that we will find ways to be the helpers.

I trust that God is still in control on bad days as well as good. I trust that God loves me, and you, and the whole wide world He made and redeemed and is redeeming – the latter being work in which we get to participate.

In just 45 days, we have the opportunity to make a difference. I want to trust that Americans are going to show up to do the right thing, to elect leaders who exhibit compassion and common decency, and who above all will consider the needs of all of their constituents and not just those who possess wealth and power.

As RGB modeled for us, we get to fight well – not scrappy-mean, but with dignity intact on every side – for things that matter. Hildegard tells us that we will “rise vigorously” toward justice for the things we love.

Watching the news hurts my heart because I love my community and my country. I love this fantastically diverse planet and its diverse inhabitants. I believe we can be better and do better. We need to take a collective deep breath, hold our tongues, open our ears, and for God’s sake, take our fingers off the trigger. We can choose to breathe out animosity and breathe in love…and more and more love. I trust we can if we try.

It Takes Courage to See Eye-to-Eye

In this fast-spinning gyroscopic world, society clings to hard-and-fast categories.

Black or white
Red or blue
Foreigner or citizen
Us or them

Categories give us a handhold to grip, something to steady us as we try to make sense in the dizziness. These days, we’re holding on for dear life.

Not for their dear lives, mind you, but for our own.

We should recognize, though we often don’t, that people don’t precisely fit into categories. Individuals fit into multiple categories all at once. We are all of us out-of-the-box, bursting through barriers, blurring the edges. No one neatly fits the stereotypes. Labels itch in the wearing; the only accurate one-size-fits-all = HUMAN BEING.

It takes courage to look into someone’s eyes and see them for who they are rather than who you think they should be. Face to face, eye to eye.

We say “eye to eye” to describe our agreements, when we and others see issues from the same perspective. But how often do we actually look someone in the eyes? Especially someone with a different background, or someone with whom we disagree, or a stranger?

How long do you think you could sustain eye contact with anyone, even a loved one?

A 2016 study at Stony Brook University discovered that four minutes of sustained eye contact increases intimacy. Amnesty International recreated the study in Germany, arranging strangers, many of them recent immigrants, seated across from native Europeans. The results feel tangible. I dare you to watch it without emotion.

I asked my husband to sustain eye contact with me. I set a timer on my phone and for four minutes we sat facing each other on the edge of the bed. Even after almost three decades of marriage, those four minutes felt strangely, uniquely, intense. I chattered like a talkative preschooler almost the whole time (I didn’t read any rules about not talking, and I couldn’t help myself). Even with the safest, most loving person in my life, it took uncommon courage to intentionally look into his eyes.

No wonder we prefer categories, boxes, stereotypes. Eye contact fosters intimacy and intimacy requires courage. Intimacy requires more from us; it might ask us to change.

Most of us prefer to view others from a safe distance. These days, that distance has gotten wider, so much greater than our newly-required six feet. We’ve physically and emotionally entrenched ourselves…and others.

Obviously it would break all social norms to recreate this study throughout our days with each person we encounter. Talk about awkward.

But what might change if we made it a point to always look people in the eyes?
What might we do differently, practically during these days of pandemic panic, to increasingly look through the eyes of others?
How might our perspective change, shift, alter?
How might we see others, and the space of the planet they inhabit, differently?

In movies I’ve heard the battlefield order, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!” In other words, don’t react too early. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we all put down our weapons and looked into the eyes of those we suppose to be our enemies?

Brene Brown continues to remind us, “Courage is contagious.” It seems to me, especially now in this increasingly divided world, that contagious courage is exactly the virus we need to spread.

In the comments, share one practical way you have or will look someone in the eyes. Let’s enCOURAGE each other!

This is Day 3 of a 7 Day Writing Challenge with Hope*Writers. Follow me on Instagram for more.

Cover image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Reminder: YOU are Essential Even if You’re Not an Essential Worker

Essential: s·sen·tial
/əˈsen(t)SHəl/
adjective
Definition: absolutely necessary; extremely important.

Who knew the word essential would take on such significance in 2020?

At midnight on March 17, 2020, Californians were suddenly under lock-down orders due to an unprecedented pandemic. Everyone but essential workers would stay at home, leaving only for exercise (and that on foot or bike) or essential needs like picking up groceries or prescriptions.

Essential workers are those on the front lines: health care workers and first responders; government officials and those employed to maintain needed infrastructure like water, electricity, transportation; grocery workers and minimal restaurant staff; mail carriers and delivery people; and a few others somewhat randomly defined. Yet even essential workers were asked to work from home whenever possible.

My Guy’s a pastor. Pastors inspire hope, essential (anytime and) in a pandemic. He works from home for all but a couple hours each week when a very few people gather to record elements for the now-online services.

Pre-pandemic, I worked at a wine bar. While some might argue that wine is also essential during a pandemic, you don’t have to go to a wine bar to get wine. Our bar closed. Guy can work from home; I can pour wine at home all I want, but I’m no longer paid for it.

He is considered essential; he can continue to do his job. I am not considered essential; my job can’t be done remotely; I can’t do my job. 

That right there is the fly in our ointment: essential and essential worker have gotten mashed up-messy like mud pies. Just like we’ve mashed up our occupations and identities since forever. Guy’s job may be that of an essential worker whereas mine is not; however, we are both essential. We are essential because we are.

You are now and will always be essential even if your work is currently not that of an essential worker.

Your occupation occupies a lot (or, currently, little to none) of your time, but what you do is not who you are.

You are who you are; you are not what you do.

Who you are matters regardless of what you do.

I’ll admit, it’s been a struggle. Guy’s done a lot of what he’s always done, plus a few newly-related things, just differently. Meanwhile, now and again I’ve floundered trying to figure out what to do next.

What you do matters, but it doesn’t make up all of you. It doesn’t create your identity. Purpose and Meaning are different.

For example… Purpose: my job required me to pour wine for customers; Meaning: As I poured wine I also offered generous hospitality and, when invited, a listening ear. I made customers happy not just by doing what I had to do but by serving wholeheartedly.

Currently unemployed, I spend a lot of time doing stuff for my family. Most moms know that can be a thankless job but it depends on not just your purpose, the activities that fill your day, but also the meaning you give to those actions. I do dishes and laundry, I cook and clean. But what I’m really doing – the meaning in the purposeful actions – is providing tangible care for the people I love.

Payment doesn’t provide meaning, either. A paycheck doesn’t equal value. I don’t get paid to care for my family. I’m also not getting paid to write these blog posts. But I write because it’s who I am, how I process the world and my place in it, and I hope that my writing extends hope to others. Purpose: I write words. Meaning: I write words that offer hope.

Please remember: You are essential. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you matter. You have purpose (your To-Do list, whatever that looks like these days) and meaning (the why behind it). You are unique, one-of-a-kind, with strengths and gifts to offer to a waiting world that needs you. You are absolutely necessary and extremely important. You are loved.

Cover image by Jessica Joh from Pixabay

Challenging the Challenge: Why I Passed on the #challengeaccepted

When Instagram began to fill up with black-and-white photos of women tagged #challengeaccepted, I googled it. The lead article mentioned some female country singers promoting natural beauty – no makeup/hair, no special lighting or filters, no glam, just women being themselves. Women supporting women being real women.

But that wasn’t what came across my Instagram feed. Instead, I saw superstars coiffed and posed. Even among friends, I’ve seen very few “just being me” photos. Oh sure, I’ve smiled back at the great smiles on faces of people I know and love. But really, why would anyone risk a natural shot when the # had morphed into something glamorous?

People simply follow suit; my friend posts a B/W selfie and challenges me, I’ll just do the same. Right? Except I didn’t.

When my friend challenged me, I passed. Good friend that she is, she asked why. I am all for women supporting women, but how do B/W selfies support women, exactly?

On the surface, the words sound right. Women should support women. We should challenge each other to grow, to be and do more, at times to do less in order to care for ourselves and others more. On the surface, there is certainly nothing wrong with women posting beautiful pictures of themselves – one of the hallmarks of social media, obviously.

But just as selfies are superficial, I’m digging down below the surface to clarify two things bugging me: inclusion/exclusion and competition/comparison. “Supporting women” means challenging them to post a selfie, and then the selfies themselves become an online beauty pageant? C’mon, ladies, we all know that we do and can do more to support one another in meaningful ways.

Playing tourist with the Strong Girl statue in NYC

Going way back, it reminds me of slam books in elementary school, handmade books with questions like, “Who is the nicest person in our grade?” or “Who is the cutest boy in our class?” You felt a secret thrill if a friend passed you their book and you hurriedly scanned the pages for your name scribbled there. You felt great – or, more likely, not – if you found it.

Our teachers had good reason to confiscate and trash those books: they tended to salute those already on top while confirming for the rest of us that we were as gross as the dried up chewing gum stuck to the bottom of our desks.

Another google search turned up indications that the # might be related to interpretations of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s powerful rant against the sexist comments made to her on the Capitol steps (talk about a strong woman; now she’s inspiring!); or a years-old cancer awareness campaign (that makes no sense); or a Turkish campaign against femicide (more logical if yet ineffective).

The friend who challenged me was herself challenged by someone who is “competition” in her professional field. However, that challenge was intended as encouragement that they are both members in a professional community with a common goal. My friend also recognized that, as it’s not her typical style to post pictures of herself, posting a self-portrait was an actual challenge nudging her beyond her comfort zone (okay, that helps; I relate). And, as photographers, showcasing their skills is also a professional move.

Still, I’d rather see real women being themselves. I’d rather see women doing what they love, being strong, achieving or learning something, engaged in a favorite hobby, taking risks to grow. I’d love to see action shots that will inspire my own action. I’d rather see women truly challenging, supporting, and inspiring women. Wouldn’t you?

In the spirit of women supporting women, please check out the links below:
This may be one of the best #challengeaccepted photos I’ve seen – she’s doing something active, demonstrating her strength and sense of adventure; plus, she writes some stellar words about women supporting women.
And my friend who challenged me and then listened, my favorite creative collaborator has inspired me yet again this summer by redoing her beautiful website to showcase her immense talents.

Cover photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Who Will Be the Good Samaritan?

When someone tells you they’ve been hurt, you wouldn’t tell them they haven’t.
When someone shares with you about their experience, you wouldn’t tell them that can’t have happened because you have a different experience.

When a whole group of people tell us they’ve been hurt, a compassionate response involves listening.
When a whole group of people share their experience, a compassionate response involves trying to understand how and why that happened to them.

An appropriate, compassionate response does not include setting about to prove them wrong, declaring that that can’t possibly have happened because it hasn’t happened to you. They must be wrong, right?, because what they’ve described seems so wrong.

If I tell you I’ve been hurt, and you tell me I haven’t; if I describe my experience and you tell me I’ve misunderstood what happened to me; if you choose not to listen and try to understand, not to bear my pain with me but instead to defend those who have hurt me, I will not trust you. In aligning yourself with the one who hurt me, you have added insult to injury. I will call it like it is: you have heaped additional abuse upon the abused.

And if you don’t listen but instead want to tell me to buck up, that God loves me and God will take care of me if I just trust Him more, I won’t believe you. Because we know of God’s love through the ways we are loved, and you haven’t loved me.

We cannot love well unless we listen well. And once we’ve listened, we have to be willing to do something. We have to be willing to lean in and shoulder the pain with those who’ve been hurt. It’s time to stop defending the abusers, even though they may be us.

Jesus told a story about a traveler who got robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the roadside (Luke 10:25-37). One after the other, some VIP’s passed by on the other side of the road. Jesus doesn’t explain their excuses but it’s not a big stretch to imagine that it might have had to do with ceremonial cleanliness–they couldn’t afford to get blood on their blouses since that would mean additional time to ritually purify themselves before they could get on with their very important business, ironically (or not) of helping others come close to God.

The story’s good guy is the least likely of the passersby to stop and help. Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix. The Samaritan should not have wanted to help a Jew, and the Jew might not have accepted the help if he had been aware enough to have an opinion. At this point, though, it’s pretty clear he needs help or he will die.

This Samaritan allowed himself to be moved by pity for their shared humanity. He got on his knees in the dirt to do roadside triage. He examined and then treated the man’s wounds, cleaning and anointing them to prevent infection. He put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn. He spent the night caring for this stranger when surely he should have been on his way to his intended destination. When he had to move on, he made sure the injured man would have continued care; he paid the expenses and promised to check back in and cover any overages.

The Samaritan went so far out of his way and then some. Clearly the story tells us that he didn’t have to. He could have kept on going like the others. Jesus’ listeners wouldn’t have expected the Samaritan, of all people, to stop. Yet the Samaritan who showed mercy has become the Ultimate Example of what it looks like to love your neighbor.

You know, the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as yourself. The two basics of living in God’s kingdom, the non-optionals above all others for what it looks like to follow a God who defines Himself as Love (1 John 4:8).

Our brothers and sisters of color have exhausted themselves trying to get us to hear and understand that they’ve been hurt. They’ve been beaten and left for dead. And so many of us have crossed the street, looked away, held our noses to avoid the stench of blood. We’ve said we’re too busy, the problems are too big and they’re not our problems. We’ve said that there aren’t any problems, that they’ve misunderstood their own experience, that they’re bringing the problems on themselves. It has nothing to do with us. We’re good people, and we’re not racists. Obviously we would never beat someone up.

Obviously. However, if we haven’t been part of the solution, we have been part of the problem. We are complicit if we walk on by with our heads full of excuses held high. Getting involved will be costly. So I ask: who will be the good Samaritan? And what will that look like today?

I’m listening.

Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

My Days of Wine & Movies

Yesterday marked what would have been the third anniversary of my first shift working at the sweetest little wine bar.

Three years and one week ago, I arrived at the bar for the first time to attend a private party in honor of a friend. Some months earlier, I had seen an ad that the bar was hiring and joked to my guys that I was going to get a job pouring wine. They replied, “Yah, right…” and that was that. I didn’t apply.

That night, however, I unknowingly struck up a conversation with the owner who offered me a job on the spot. The next morning he called me. Laughing, he asked, “Are you serious?” Laughing on my end of the line I responded, “You know, I had the strangest dream that I accepted a job I hadn’t meant to apply for.” A week later I started my new job.

I started that job much to my family’s amusement and my friends’ amazement. I had no restaurant or retail experience. I’m an introvert and a homebody. I had spent my entire adult life working in and writing for churches while I also earned a Master’s degree in Divinity (an M.Div., common among pastors) and raised two boys. Working at a bar seemed off-topic and out of character.

Still, the very idea brought me joy. I like wine and I like people. Besides, I had four weekends, eight shifts, before my older son would leave for college and I would take two weekends off to drive him cross-country. I could do anything eight times and then, if it wasn’t a good fit, I could quit.

To the contrary, I loved it. Over time, I recruited four friends to work there as well.

Sure, sometimes it was slow and other times so busy I broke a sweat. But I discovered that I delight in offering hospitality, making someone smile as I suggested a wine they’d like or served them a beautiful cheese plate. I’m not big on small talk but often we discussed the movies playing next door, and sometimes those who sat at the counter came in for the company; they wanted to share the struggles and joys of their lives, and I was happy to listen.

The bar’s co-owners, business partners for 20+ years, also owned that gorgeous historic Art Deco movie theatre next door. They held an annual film festival that brought in stars and rising stars. They also developed a cabaret concert series in which Broadway stars traveled to our small town outside of San Francisco to share their flare for fantastic music. At both the bar and the theatre, we hosted receptions that included delicious wine and beautiful food. It was fast-paced fun and I had a lot of creative freedom to execute a vision for serving our honored guests and VIP ticket holders. The opportunity to support the arts added a new layer of meaning to my life.

I made friends at the bar and we definitely had our share of colorful characters. We became a real-life version of the TV sitcom Cheers, where everybody knows your name, as the staff and regulars developed a rapport that extended beyond the bar walls. We celebrated many special occasions together: birthdays and anniversaries, births and baptisms, home sales and purchases, holidays and blockbuster premieres. On Sunday evenings, talented local singers came in for Open Mic Night. On occasional weekends, musicians played guitar and sang for us. A local artist decorated the walls with movie-inspired paintings. We held monthly karaoke nights that month after month gathered steam to become the best party in town.

Four months ago yesterday I worked my last shift at the bar. The previous night had been a karaoke night; we anticipated a low number given the increasing amount of information regarding the pandemic and the correlating caution/fear. Instead, our regulars showed up in force and we had one last blast together before the bar came to a sudden close.

COVID-19 took my job. I miss getting out of the house, serving guests, seeing friends. But that’s small potatoes, as C-19 took a lot of jobs. What makes my heart ache is that it may take down the theatre altogether. The theatre’s fixed costs (rent, insurance, equipment maintenance, etc) total as much as $18,000/month, and clearly the longer movie theatres are closed the more difficult it will be to afford to reopen. Our community stands to lose not only a spot for gathering and entertainment but a theatre that has provided so much more than just movies.

The theatre is running a fundraiser, a One Ticket Challenge. If I’ve ever poured you a glass of wine; if you’ve ever enjoyed chatting with the server in your neighborhood’s version of Cheers; if you’ve ever taken in a movie at an independent historic theatre; if you’re willing to donate the amount of just one ticket to help save this historic gem, please visit their GoFundMe page. Thank you in advance for your support!

Racism and Radical Compassion

How’s everyone doing?

It’s been a rough few weeks. It’s been a rough few months. Aw, seriously, let’s just call it – what the heck with 2020? For all the jokes about this being a year of clear vision, we’ve never more clearly seen the mess we’re in.

I suspect that the pandemic oddly prepared us to be able to rightly see the wrongness of racism, individually and systemically. I’m not sure how or why, but it seems like in this already strange time our country has responded with renewed vigor to something that has been happening in our midst forever.

Personally, I’ve been feeling sad and overwhelmed. I’m listening, through social media and interviews and reading, to the stories of BIPOC. And it’s hard not just because the stories range from ridiculous to outrageous but also because – and this feels incredibly selfish and vulnerable to admit – it’s not about me. I feel like I don’t have a right to feel all the feelings. I’m late to the show and I want to cry but that centers me and my job in this is to center others.

It’s a lot.

Just over a week ago our small NorCal town held a peaceful gathering mostly led by high school students. I didn’t go (pandemic) but I talked to a friend who went. She said it gave her hope that real change is in the pipeline, new diversity committees for teens and adults and new curriculum offerings in the schools. And the teenagers who are willing to speak about the way they’ve been treated and all those willing to listen to their stories.

Hope. Yes. Amen!

Less than 24 hours later, a video surfaced of three high school students spewing racist garbage. Obviously drunk, in a car with a dad who responds with next to nothing, the girls laugh as they say the most egregious things as if it’s one giant joke.

My stomach flipped. How dare they? And what about that dad – why didn’t he pull over the car and set them straight? At least take the phone and delete the video?

From The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, this was May 1974:

Now, a senior in high school, not a day went by that I didn’t hear someone yelling “N*!” [abbreviated because it’s not my word to share] in my direction. It didn’t matter if I was just walking down the road or standing at my locker or even if I was playing baseball and helping the team win. I was about to graduate, and what I’d learned most in four years besides biology and arithmetic was just how much people can hate you because of the color of your skin. People can want to hurt you for no good reason other than you look different or talk different or live different. Oh, I got an education by going to the white school, just not the kind of education the politicians and lawmakers had planned on. (19)

Not enough has changed. Has anything changed?

Cue all the online chatter in every local forum, ranging from wanting to lynch the girls (deliberate reference) to excusing them with a “kids will be kids”… Cue the conversations with my own kids, who know or know of these girls, who tell me their own stories as young white men growing up in a predominantly white entitled community and, as adolescents, need to argue with Mom because it’s kind of their job to argue all sides of everything.

I hate that hate seems so normal to their experience, that they hear racial slurs and don’t actually hear them. It’s startling to see white male privilege so clearly in my own sons. I know I’ve taught them better, and yet they also breathe toxic air. I can’t rid society of all its pollution, but I can do my best to purify the air in my own home. In my own heart.

A few days later, we went for a long hike and along the way crossed paths with neighbors, one in tears being consoled by others. Her daughter was in the video. She cried like someone had died, grieving for her daughter.

The video was taken years ago. An anonymous someone shared it to publicly shame girls who have literally shed every skin cell since that night. That doesn’t at all excuse what they said, and it’s a super scary lesson in the permanence of anything posted online, and consequences will make a heavy load. And a mama’s tears revealed more of the story.

Oh, I get the anger toward these girls, the disgust at what they said. I suspect there’s also fear around the edges, and guilt because these girls are our girls, growing up in our community, and they surely must have known better and still did wrong.

Sadness weighs heavy on our town like the coastal fog that seeps over our hills and settles in our valley. Sadness for the victims and the perpetrators of racism. We all need to know and do better.

A few weeks ago I posted about guilt versus shame. Guilt: I did bad. Shame: I am bad. Related, but different. Guilt can be confessed, but shame hides in the dark. Compassion is necessary to shine light and love and make change.

I was struck by this quote from Alice Walker included in Radical Compassion by Tara Brach:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered.
All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length.
The tribal ceremony often lasts several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

Obviously this would be easier done in a tribal culture with set rituals than in a small, individually-minded town. Not that it would be easy; likely it’s never easy; forgiveness is usually effort-full.

Obviously, we’re not ready for anything like this. And yes, my fingers shake as I recognize that I am a white woman suggesting radical compassion for white girls and maybe that’s out of line. Can compassion ever be out of line, though? If grace had to be earned, even the best among us would be doomed.

It seems to me that change will best happen in compassionate dialogue. When we look one another in the eyes and listen well. When we take shame out of the equation and spread compassion.

At least, I hope change will happen through compassionate dialogue. I imagine these girls set in a circle of community, loved ones and acquaintances, all willing to speak compassion their way. Not because they deserve it but in truth because they blew it big time and still they are human beings, living and hopefully learning and in need of love. How far would that go to redeem their guilt and alleviate their shame? How would they then, having received compassion, be better able to extend compassion?

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Lent 2020: We Need Him a Lot

…the people God uses don’t have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things–they just have to need him a lot.
Jesus called out to them, “Let’s go!”

My creative collaborator and I created a day-by-day prayer card to guide our church and unify our prayers during Lent. Of course we had no idea how the world would change from the time we created it to its actual season of use. I’ve been struck repeatedly at how God directed the choice of prayer prompts to specific days. For example, our first week of shelter-in-place included praying for patience, trust, hope, joy, love, and faith; the second week began with perseverance and also included kindness, humility, and flexibility—all qualities we need heaping doses of these days.

I tucked the prayer card into my Jesus Storybook Bible as a bookmark/prayer reminder. Today while I read, I couldn’t help hearing my working-from-home pastor-husband on a call discussing the numbers of people in our church and community who need help as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how our church is preparing to mobilize in response. The conversation moved on to our local and global mission partners struggling to meet the needs of those they serve, and who quite sadly may be unable to continue by the time the pandemic has run its course.

Today’s prayer prompt is to pray for those who need help…

Jesus, we all need help. We all need you a lot, now more than ever. Help the helpers, Lord, and be extra-especially present to all those who need help in body and soul. Amen.

Now come on, helpers. Let’s go do what we can do!

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

What the World Needs Now

On Monday before the mandatory shelter-in-place began, I had to run a few errands that included picking up a prescription at the pharmacy. Surprisingly, the line was short, with two people already being helped at the counter and one person ahead of me. She was covered head to foot: a colorful rag-style hat on her head, sunglasses, long pants and jacket with a buff pulled up over her mouth and nose. She didn’t make eye contact.

I arrived just in time, apparently, because suddenly there were several people behind me. An older lady two behind me leaned forward and called: “Hey, I really like your hat. It’s so colorful it’s making me smile.” Hat gal turned, lowered her sunglasses and buff and smiled as she said thanks, adding that we all need to find opportunities to smile in these uncertain times. We resumed our line-standing.

After a beat, I turned to thank the woman who offered the compliment, adding that we all need a huge dose of human kindness as everyone feels the weight of stress. My simple comment led to a line-long conversation: how we can be kind to one another; what shelter-in-place will mean and what constitutes “essential services;” price-gouging and TP alternatives; the beautiful art we might expect as a result of people in quarantine expressing their feelings; and “at least I can walk my dogs,” which led to a discussion about pets.

As each person left, they waved goodbye to our little crowd, wishing us well. In a matter of moments, having acknowledged our shared experience and at least a few of our feelings about it, we became a community. Neighbors rather than strangers.

It was an example of how uncertainty can unite people in beautiful ways. We may be alone in our own homes, but we’re in this together. Let’s find creative ways to care for ourselves and others, to share kindness that will unite us when this eventually passes.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
–lyrics by Jackie DeShannon

Cover image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 

Leap Day

Four years ago on Leap Day, I put out a box of colored cards and envelopes and a mix of markers. I asked my family to write a letter to themselves four years hence describing what they hoped their life would be like. They did it willingly, writing themselves short missives, and the whole process only took about five minutes.

They expressed doubt that I would remember where I’d put the letters. Oh, they of little faith! I knew exactly where they were. I’d seen them often during the years in their tucked away but obvious-to-me spot. I’d never so looked forward to Leap Day.

The guys, however, were confused, having completely forgotten the whole exercise.

I felt just a little disappointed at the generic note I sent myself. My hopes had to do with creativity, energy (health and wellness), and relationships—all good, and all things I work on regularly. One line stood out: that I would feel slightly uncomfortable taking on creative challenges. Nailed it.

The guys’ cards read true to their personalities: Guy’s cheered him on for a job well done; C21’s card was light, funny, relationally-focused; Q15 encouraged himself to be wise, faithful, and truthful—my sweet, old soul.

On the back of my card I’d written… Wise words: “Insist on yourself.” No idea where those words originated or why I thought that was what I’d need to hear now, but again, spot on. I haven’t been good about it, and I am done with that nonsense. I am again insisting on myself: getting strong and healthy, growing, taking risks, looking for opportunities. Not forcing things that aren’t meant to be, but trying to live authentically, with open eyes and hands to receive the present moment and its gifts.

This week I will again pass out cards, envelopes, and markers. It will be interesting to see who we become four years from now and what wisdom we will share with ourselves.