Monday Wakes with an Invitation

Rockyneck sailboats

Monday awakes, warm and muggy from rain that fell during the night. While the sun is trying hard to break through the clouds, it’s not quite succeeding – as though the clouds are saying “It’s our turn! You got Saturday!”

Sometimes anthropomorphizing the weather is incredibly satisfying. It is perhaps easier to cope with clouds and rain if I can attribute human characteristics to them!

But the real thing is that Monday awakes. It wakes from a summer weekend of wonder. It wakes from a Sunday of liturgy and rest to a day of work. It wakes from leisure and reading to schedules and to-do lists. It wakes with stubborn resolve saying “You will pay attention to me. You can’t afford not to!”

Monday also wakes with an invitation – an invitation to breakfast. 

While I rarely eat breakfast during the weekday, on the weekend I love it! I love sitting with a beautiful breakfast and hot coffee.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives an amazing invitation to his disciples. He says to a work-weary crowd “Come have breakfast”.

The verse comes after Jesus has been crucified and has risen, appearing to different people. First he is seen by Mary, then by the disciples and finally by others. He’s on the banks of the Sea of Galilee watching the disciples fishing in a boat. They have fished the entire night and they’ve caught nothing. Their nets and stomachs are empty. But this man on the banks of the sea tells them “Just try it one more time.”

Just one more time.Just do it one more time! 

So they do it. Weary, frustrated, hungry – they still try one more time. And the result does not disappoint. They catch so many fish that they can’t even bring the full net in. It’s too heavy. You can picture it – fish jumping around in the net, strong men trying with all their muscles to hold the net but they have to throw some back.

And that picture is amazing – this picture of trying one more time and succeeding! Just one more time – and it happens.

But the compelling part of the passage is on shore where Jesus takes the fish and fixes it for them – those hungry, weary humans; those men whom he has eaten with, walked with, and stayed with for three years. He knows them. He knows their frame, he hears their hearts – and he invites them to breakfast.

“Come and have breakfast!”*

The words are said with full knowledge of all that the invitation means. Come rest. Come sit. Come and be filled. Come – have breakfast!

It’s an early morning here in Boston. The quiet of the city morning is broken by a raucous group of homeless who are waking to the day. Except for coffee shops and the Walgreens that boasts a 24-hour day, all businesses are still closed, their doors closed until the business day begins.

And I have an invitation to breakfast from One who will give rest on a weary Monday.

Maybe you haven’t fished all night – but maybe it’s something else. Maybe your worries have kept you up during the wee hours, your mind occupied with so much that concerns and hurts you. Maybe something else has kept you up all night – tears flowing because it’s safe when no one can see them. Maybe grief and loss; maybe worry over children; maybe fear of the future. No matter what it is that has kept you out all night, with nothing to show for it but bone-weary tiredness, you have an invitation to breakfast from One who gives rest.

*John 21:12

A Safe Place to Land

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A colleague phoned me early yesterday morning. “Do you have a minute? Can you come up and see me.”

The timing was perfect. We both get to work early morning and no one else was around. I walked upstairs to her office.

So much is going on in her life. She is overwhelmed. From a mother with dementia to a son stuck in a conflict zone; from changes in her department to physical storms – it’s all too much.

So many of us feel like this right now. It’s all too much. 

All around us physical and emotional storms are raging. From a horrific bombing in Mogadishu to the triggered trauma of #metoo and the number of women who know what it is like to be groped, grabbed, and assaulted; from worldwide tragedy to personal pain – It’s all too much. 

We need peace. We need shelter. We need a soft spot to lay down our burdens, we need a safe place to land.  

It’s during these times that I go to the Psalms. I read Psalm 91 and I am not disappointed. Today, this is my safe place to land. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge

Psalm 91:1-4

Election 2016 Detox Plan

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No matter where you live, you are probably completely fed up and exhausted by the U.S Election 2016. If you are a U.S. citizen, you are even more tired of it, even if you were on the winning side. So it’s time to purge and detox. Like a colon cleanse, this list is designed to rid yourself of the impurities that collected in your system. Add your own through the comments — that way we will have more ideas.

  1. Bake. Baking not only fills your home with delicious aromas, it also is a way of creating and getting your mind off that which is disturbing.
  2. Read a book about a group of people who you know nothing about. You will grow. You will learn. You will grow more empathetic.
  3. Apologize to someone who you offended during the election cycle. If you think you didn’t offend anyone, think again. If you were on social media expressing your opinion, you probably did.
  4. Hold and cuddle a baby. Babies will remind you of all that is good and holy in our world. Babies will remind you that God still wants the world to go on.
  5. Don’t post false news and information. There is a plethora of false news going around. It’s worse than it has ever been and it is hurting people. Before you post anything, please do the following:
    1. Read it – People post things without reading them all the time and then they’re upset when others call them out on something the article says. If you post it, first read it.
    2. If it’s from The Onion, The Babylon Bee, or another satirical site, remember — it isn’t real. The goal of those sites is to make us laugh at the ridiculousness of news headlines.
    3. Check the date! There are so many pictures going around from a year ago, two years ago. Check the date and the story. The story may be outrageous, but if it’s an old story, then we already had our chance to be outraged and for god’s sake, don’t make us get outraged again!
  6. Eat homemade bread with raspberry jam.
  7. Put on classical music and let it flood your soul.
  8. Make friends with someone who doesn’t look or believe like you do.
  9. Take a long walk.with a good friend and make election talk off-limits.
  10. Get involved in some sort of service project. Whether it’s feeding the homeless, volunteering at a shelter, making refugee kits or something else, I guarantee that there are organizations that need your time and skills. Winter is a time when social service agencies need all the help they can get. Check with your local homeless shelter, community health center, Salvation Army or other community based organizations.
  11. Limit your time on social media. Hide the posts of people who you feel aren’t helping. Give yourself a one day sabbath. Consider Pico Iyer’s quote “In an age of movement, nothing is more critical than stillness.” In a book called The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. Iyer writes that many people who work in Silicon Valley try hard to observe an “internet sabbath.” For 24 or 48 hours each week they go completely offline to get a sense of focus and perspective, so that when they go online again, they will have the creativity to do what they are paid to do. The irony is profound. They sit in stillness in order to create programs and platforms so that we never want to go offline. Defy the creators of social media and find time every day to be still and away from social media of all types.
  12. Invite someone for a meal or tea.
  13. Play a board game with friends. On Thursday of last week, we played Ticket to Ride India version with my daughter and her boyfriend. It was perfect timing. We didn’t once talk about the election – we just concentrated on building trains from Bombay to Calcutta. It was therapeutic and fun, just what we needed.
  14. Set boundaries for yourself. If you are going to be having Thanksgiving Dinner with people who you disagree with politically but love deeply, then decide ahead of time that you won’t go there. It’s not worth it. Relationships last – politics and elections don’t.
  15. If you are someone who prays, pray that you will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  16. Read these books to better understand the worlds of others:
    1. Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates
    2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    3. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (I’m in the middle of this one now – hard but excellent read.)
    4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  17. Read the beautiful When Breath Becomes Air and thank God you are alive.
  18. Head over to this piece and think about what it is to love well. What does it mean specifically for you?
  19. Watch The Crown on Netflix. It is an excellent series that follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Watching another country’s system of government that includes a monarchy is a breath of fresh air. The resounding cry of “God save the Queen” and “Bring back the monarchy!” are on my lips after every episode.
  20. Lastly, you will never regret being kind. A couple of months ago I was in a hard spot. I felt hurt and sad about something that had happened. As I was thinking about it, I realized this: I would rather be sad and hurt then bitter and angry any day. Sad and hurt can heal, bitter and angry tends to fester into a wound that needs surgery. So I’ll continue to choose kind.

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
―  When Breath Becomes Air

That’s all I have. What can you add? 

A Little Break

Hey everyone! Sometimes you just need to admit it – and so we will: Robynn and I are really tired. We have both had major life events happen (her first graduated from high school, my fourth graduated from college – and yes I was a child bride. Just kidding.) We are both in the midst of busy seasons at work and home, and we aren’t going to do our best by you if we don’t take a short break. So we will offer up some old pieces that perhaps you haven’t read and ask for grace. Neither of us want to write things that will be a waste of your time, and so we step back for a short time.

Please know how much we value your time, the fact that you read is a gift! Please know that we love, love it when you connect either in this public forum or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. Please know that your affirmation of this space means so much!

Here are a few pieces you may like:

Parenting Series by Robynn. This is a wise and wonderful series!

Series on Suffering by Robynn. An amazing, powerful series that will make you want to highlight, copy, and re-read.

Posts on Rest:

My Weary Wheels Need a Rest

In Praise of Idle Moments

Breathe

Posts on Transition and Goodbye

Honor the Grief, Honor the Goodbye

Transition: Building a Raft

I’m from….

A Stretch-marked Soul

To the One who is Left Behind

How to Give Yourself Grace: Advice to Someone Returning from a Long Journey

To Challenge You

Challenging Assumptions

Churches too Empty, Mosques too Far

Sometimes You Can’t Keep Silent

You Can’t Empower Those You Pity

I pray rest for all of you! Thank you for being a part of this blog.

Travel Quote:

Between the pages of a passport

Burning Bright and Burning Out

tea light

It was probably a  year ago that I reached out to Robynn and said “I think I’m burned out.”

Now what I love about our friendship is that she didn’t dismiss it or make a funny quip, she asked serious and hard questions. And as I read them I started to cry. I just nodded and cried and nodded and cried. And then I curled into a little ball and cried some more.

It was so clear that I had all the symptoms of burn out. I was empty – from inside to outside. I was apathetic – it didn’t matter if I had a major deadline looming, I just didn’t care. I was cynical – it didn’t matter how bright the bulb, how great the cause, to me it was dim and unworthy. I was tired – so tired, all the time; I just couldn’t get enough sleep. And worst of all – I felt complete despair. Nothing would ever get better. Nothing would change.

I was so determined to burn bright that I had burned out. I was so bent on making sure my family, my job, my friends both close and distant, and my writing were all functioning and doing well that without realizing it the candle had melted down and burned out.

All that was left was the wax in a fetal position.

There are times when you are allowed to withdraw from life, there are times when you are forced to withdraw from life, and then there are times when you can’t. When you have to keep going even as a ball of wax. Just ask refugee moms in Syria – they are not allowed to give up, and so they won’t.

And such was the case for me. It wasn’t a time when I could withdraw from life, I had to figure out how to continue going without collapsing; how to withdraw without completely disengaging; how to rest without stopping completely.

C.S. Lewis, that modern-day Church Father, says “It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.” It’s an odd quote coming from this scholar/apologist. It’s more like a “mom” quote. And there is much truth to it.

Because sometimes you can’t quit even though the candle has gone out. Sometimes you can’t worry about the flame, you just have to continue to be a candle.  Sometimes the goal is not to burn bright, or even burn at all, instead it is just to ‘be’ one day at a time.

Some days you feel like the tiniest tea light that will be gone in a couple of hours, and somedays you feel like one of those gigantic, decorative candles that never stop burning.

So these months I’ve tried to figure out what it means for me to be a candle that doesn’t burn bright, that doesn’t really burn at all. But by God’s grace I am still here. I am still standing. I am still seeking to be faithful. Just flickering along.

There are some beautiful verses in the Bible that speak to these feelings, that recognize life can be difficult. I read them continually, because they express what this candle can’t:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”*

How about you?  

*2 Corinthians 4: 7-10

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/candle-tea-light-burn-light-hand-711339/

Exiting the Noise

Around noon yesterday the electricity went off in our cottage in Rockport. The dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, and lights all stopped. Suddenly it was silent. And it was so welcome. 

If it hadn’t been for friends coming to stay and wanting them to have a good time, with lights and all appliances working properly, I could have sat in the quiet for hours. It was a gift to be free of the hum of background noise.

I realize how much noise is in my life, and how much I need to escape this noise. 

Last week I thought I would scream for the voices raging all over social media. I thought I would explode if I saw one more essay on how someone was going to commit suicide but they didn’t. How the pills were counted, the day was set. It’s not that I don’t care. I deeply care about mental illness. As someone who has sat beside loved ones in psychiatric emergency rooms my heart stops every time I hear about someone struggling, someone who doesn’t want to live, whose depression is so thick that they can’t see through.

But it felt like so much noise. How would knowing a stranger’s methods for taking her own life help me cope with the suicide of a well-loved Hollywood comedian? The answer for me was easy – it wouldn’t. The noise continued through all the tragedies and issues. The verbal sparring, a hallmark of today’s online communities, was non-stop. Like heavy traffic after a car accident so that you no longer care about the accident that took someone’s life – you just want it all to end. You want the traffic to stop, you want to get home so you can cradle your head in your hands and think.

I don’t want to be fed reactions 24/7; I want to be able to quiet the noise, escape the crowds, and think.

I want to go away to the mountain and pray.

“Think about it, Mom” says my son “prayer is the highest form of empathy, the greatest act of compassion.” 

This son of mine, nineteen years old, yet so wise, so beyond his years in wisdom and compassion. And he’s right.

So I need to exit the noise. I need to remove myself for a bit. I want what I write to be meaningful and to connect us, to start dialogue and promote thought and healing. I don’t want what I write to be the noise of one more opinion.

So today I’ll exit the noise for a bit. I’ll try to figure out what I think and feel. Most of all, I will pray. I will learn to pray more. I will seek to have the highest form of empathy and live out compassion for those far removed from me by geography, race, and circumstance.

Thank you for connecting in this space! I pray this week is one of peace and grace, that in the midst of the noise of a million opinions, you know who you are and what you think. Because sometimes I think I’ve forgotten.

Three essays that I would recommend this week: 

  • A Life of Prayer Amidst News of Death” recommended by my friend LaraQuote: “Neil Postman introduced the idea of the “low information to action ratio,” the concept that technology has made it possible to know details of suffering so remote from our everyday lives that we seemingly can do nothing in response—we have information without any clear action with which to respond. A low information to action ratio leads to callousness—we desensitize ourselves to suffering—or to despair because we are overwhelmed by the scale of world-wide suffering. We are small people who, for the most part, live quiet lives, but we have access to endless stories of pain and brokenness.” 
  • The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail” by Christena Cleveland. Quotes: “Can you see the Imago Dei in these young men? Can you see the suffering Christ in their rage?” “And make no mistake, our God is a God of justice. The young black men who launch Molotov cocktails at the police are misappropriating God’s justice by taking it into their own hands, but the rage they feel is the rage that God feels towards injustice. In a sense, they are imaging forth God’s justice to an unjust world.Seeing the suffering Christ in these young men isn’t achieved by theological gymnastics, deep pity, or altruism. It’s done by listening to their stories, sharing life, standing in solidarity with them, and experiencing their rage.”
  • An Allegory of Faithfulness” at She Loves Magazine by Rachel Pieh Jones. Quote: “The man who covered her turns away from her, for a time. But he does not forget the covenant he made, his oath that bound him to her, and her to him. She turns away from her sin, back to the one who had saved her before and he receives her again. He once again, washes her, restores her and dignifies her. He bestows his splendor on her so that again, she is beautiful.”

Between Worlds has a giveaway through GoodReads! Between now and September 14 you can enter the give away! If you have purchased Between Worlds and want to dialogue about it or would like a copy of the discussion guide, send me a message – I’d love to talk to you. Email communicatingblog@gmail.com

Read reviews of Between Worlds here: 

Purchase here:

I’m Back

She’s BACK! Robynn is back and with it our regular Fridays with Robynn resumes. And I’m so happy……Enjoy! 

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I’m Back!

Whenever Lowell comes home from work, from a long trip, from a coffee shop, from a walk to the library he announces his return with a question, “What’s going on in here?” The “what’s” is elongated and punched, the rest of the sentence quickly follows like the cars behind an eager train engine. He does it every time. And it’s always the same question. It’s his way of declaring that he’s home. He has returned.

When our youngest child, Bronwynn, was five she started kindergarten. One day during those first few weeks of school she came home, burst through the front door, and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Hello my people!” She too wanted us to know she had rejoined her family. She had come home.

Similarly allow me to proclaim my return: Whaaat’s going on in here? Hello my people!

I’m back.

It’s been a long summer. We have grieved. We have made major decisions. We have purged, processed and packed our things. We have un-papered, painted and primped our new house. Renovating, sorting, shifting, boxing, lugging, moving, shoving —all of that and more has happened this summer. I’ve boasted many bruises from bumps I couldn’t even remember. I’ve sprained toes and blistered fingers. Many of you are familiar with our story. It wasn’t just a move (although can one really ever say, just a move!??). The Move was set on a stage of grief surrounded by an interesting cast of characters. There was mystery and intrigue. It was a thickened plot from the start.

And during all of it I didn’t typewrite or pen a single word.  I simply stopped. Partly because I was exhausted, partly because my writing would just have sounded like whining. There wasn’t much to tell and even if there had been, I was sick of my story. I was weary of it.

However looking back on the summer, I am beginning to see meaning in the madness. There are broad strokes of colour in the dismal grays of those long days. I see glory sprinkled in the gory stuff of life. Retrospect is catching glimpses of hope that I missed the first time through.

I suspect that now that I’m back sitting in a different chair, working at a new desk, looking out a different window (which I realize still needs to be washed!) that I’ll begin to see this summer in new ways. The summer of 2014 will give me lots to write about as I look back: still sorting, shifting, boxing, moving and shoving the things I’ve learned into the new spaces my stretched soul now occupies.

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your encouragement along the way. Many of you have looked me in the eye and enquired after my heart. Many of you came alongside our family and you literally carried us from the old spot to this new spacious place. We’ve been prayed for and fed. We’ve been deeply blest. I’m grateful especially to Marilyn for the space and freedom she gave me to take this sabbatical of sorts from Communicating Across Boundaries. Her early morning affirming text messages meant the world to me. I’m doubly thankful she’s welcoming me back.

Because here I am! Hello my people, I’m back!