Daughters for Life — Reflections of haha at the end of an illuminating week

I am empty nesting for daughters who are not mine by birth – but mine by love. This morning, I dropped Miki and Manami off at Shenandoah University so that they could continue their journey across the United States – starting with the White House and finishing with Mickey Mouse and Disneyland (a topic for a different blog).

The parting was difficult. In one short week, these lovely college students from Japan worked their way into the lasting affections of every member of my family. As we embraced one last time, Miki said, “We are your daughters now.” With tears in my eyes, I responded, “You are my daughters for life.”

This week, my daughters for life took a new and unfiltered look at the culture I often take for granted. From them, I learned that the things that annoy me about daily life in America also overwhelm visitors…the supersized portions of food, the overabundance of “stuff”, the need for everything to be bigger and better.

But more important, and I learned this from the girls, rather than dwell on our differences, it is important to dwell on what draws us together.

Music is a unifier. Whether it is giggling over “What Does the Fox Say” or belting “Let It Go” in Japanese and English as you let sand trickle through your fingers at the Discovery Museum – music is something that unites us. I half expected the Disney influence – after all Disney has done an incredible job marketing its films and music in Japan. The surprise for me was the pervasive influence of BROADWAY in their culture. Although my Japanese was non-existent, we communicated ideas through “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Edelweiss,” and “Good Morning, Baltimore.”

What makes a daughter for life? Young girls are the same around the world. They laugh at the same things. They enjoy sharing what they know and are good at, whether it is taking funny pictures with their cameras, playing trumpet or flute, or creating beautiful origami cranes (the paperfolding still confounds my clumsy fingers, but I am trying). They seek friendship, particularly from other women and girls, to support and sustain them. They stress over big projects and working outside their comfort zone. They don’t want to appear foolish or at a disadvantage. They worry about saying and doing the wrong things. They want to stand out. They want to fit in. They need affection and love, need to know that someone is trying to understand and that someone loves them without reservation and without judgement.

I learned that more than being bilingual, it is important to be multicultural – thank you for that insight Doug Fisher. While language was sometimes an issue – and google translate not always ideal (did you know that mannequin is doll with no sweat?) – we found our way to each other’s understandings – and more important to one another’s hearts – by listening to and by being present with one another. I love the fact that Mother is “Haha” in Japanese – and bless the girls for reminding me to seek the joy in all that I do.

Because of Miki and Manami – I am looking at my own world through the eyes of the stranger – and I am startled at what I lack. I lack nothing in the material sense of the word. I am blessed with a nice house, a car, a lovely family, food, clean water, vacations, books, education, theatre, small luxuries.

What I lack – and what they helped rekindle without knowing it – is purpose, the idealism that led me to AmeriCorps twenty years ago, that passionate belief that I can change the world. The girls showed me that it is important to listen from the heart, that being quiet lets in understanding, and that love is the true bridge builder between cultures.

Miki and Manami are starting on their journeys, as are Miranda and Ella. The world is alive with possibilities for them. I am in a different place on my journey, yet the world remains alive with wonder and potential. From my place on the spectrum, I am no longer as interested in the grand gesture. While acclaim and worldly advancement are nice – and I’d be lying if I said they weren’t – they aren’t as important to me any longer. My purpose now is to listen, to learn, to observe, and to act from the heart, to do the little things that need doing without thought of reward or praise. Change starts from within and the journey of 1,000 steps begins with both a willingness to say yes and the courage to simply take the first step. Thanks to Miki, Manami, Miranda, Ella, and all of my daughters (and sons) for life, I feel that I have friends to help along my path.

 

Four of my daughters for life...

Four of my daughters for life…

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And they left their nets…

Follow me and I will make you fishers of me. And they left their father and the boat and the nets and followed him. They just left…how did that work? Um, sorry, dad, I know it’s the busy fishing season and all, but this guy we just met, we’re going to follow him around the lake for a while. What did Zebedee think? What did Peter’s wife think? Did they think they were lunatics? Maybe suffering from sudden and unexplainable sunstroke? What about Jesus made them get up and go? It’s not like he was wearing a big badge or waving a banner proclaiming: Follow Me. I’m God’s Favorite Son.

I wish calling and discerning calling was as simple as those phrases from Matthew make it sound. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And they left their nets and followed him. I wonder if the first disciples really understood the call when they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Do I understand the call? Do I understand where the call could lead me?

Aha…maybe you don’t have to completely understand the call. No one gets a crystal ball and gets to see the future ahead of them. The disciples couldn’t have known where that road would take them. They couldn’t have foreseen the teachings, the miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the scattering of themselves to the corners of their world to proclaim the Gospel. I’m looking through the lens of “I know the ending” – all they had to go on was “come, follow me.”  The road could have taken them in so many directions when they left their nets. There could have been so many endings to their stories. And maybe the endings themselves are less relevant. Maybe it’s the faith journey that’s important.

I don’t know the ending to my own story. It’s not like a good novel or mystery where I can peek at the ending and then read it to see if I can pick out the clues the author scatters throughout the rest of the book. I don’t know where the bend in the road is leading. All I can do is put my feet on the road and trust that the call to “follow me” ultimately makes sense – or not – in the end.

I think the disciples put down their nets for the same reason I’m contemplating the call. They sensed that Jesus was different, sensed a real-ness to him and his message that wasn’t coming elsewhere. Hard facts are lacking. Sometimes we walk by faith alone. My nets, my fishing boat are the trappings of my own life – the house, the car, the career, the children, the social status, the ego, Barry, running, the nice things money can buy – and I’m being asked (I think) to put them to the side, to let them stop defining me and who I think I am, and to walk by faith alone and follow Jesus.

Where is he leading me? I haven’t a clue. But if he’s calling me on the journey, I have to have faith that all I need will be provided on the journey as well. And the first step is letting go. I don’t have to be in control of my destination. I just have to be willing to walk…and listen…

So I’m listening, God. Shall we walk?

 

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Who Is Our Neighbor? Thoughts on the Good Samaritan

Who is our neighbor? Jesus asks that question eloquently in the parable of The Good Samaritan. We’ve heard this story so often that it’s easy to gloss over the story, to assume it contains no surprises. Who was the better neighbor in the story? Not the priest or the Levi. Obviously, it was the Good Samaritan.

But is it so obvious? Think about what Jesus was doing with this story. In one parable, he turned the establishment on its ears. Ask any three year old who your neighbor is….odds are you’ll get an eyeroll and a literal answer…”DUH, Mom, it’s Mrs. Belew next door.” The neighbor, in the traditional sense, is from the same social  circles, shares the same beliefs …both cultural and spiritual…has the same family background, is from the same neighborhood.

Jesus turns this concept on its head…and this is a central point of his message, one we, as a society, have conveniently ignored for centuries. When you read the gospels, who is Jesus constantly with, who does he dine with, who does he live with, who does he champion? The women, the widows, the lepers,  the sick, the uneducated fishermen, the people on the fringe of society. The Good Samaritan was so far outside the fringe of good Jewish society that he was the least likely person to have been the hero in the parable. Shunned by Jews, he would have been forgivable for passing by on the other side as members of the robbed man’s own society had already done. But he didn’t. He crossed the boundaries established for neighbors and reached out a hand to people in need. And in so doing, changed the notion of neighbor forever.

I just got back from a week in the Berkshires. While Miranda did Shakespeare camp every day, Ella and I explored the region. We even played golf with a die hard Red Sox fan on Tuesday, establishing a new friendship, and proving that the concept of neighbor can even extend across the dreaded lines of baseball fanaticism. Hey, if a couple of Yankee fans and a Red Sox fan can play golf together and share a few laughs along the way, anything is possible, right?

On this Berkshire trip, we spent a day at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. When you think of traditional Americana neighborhoods, Rockwell’s paintings for the Saturday Evening Post definitely come to mind. For much of the 20th century, he captured the everyday details and culture of white, middle class, idyllic America. And yet…his most powerful paintings are the ones that challenge the very portrait of neighbor he helped to establish. In the twilight of his life as the 60s dawned, Rockwell, at great personal risk and facing a great deal of backlash from certain segments of the public, became a strong crusader for redefining how we view our neighbor.

MOVING DAY portrays a typical Rockwell scene, two sets of children making the tentative motions towards friendship in a new neighborhood next to a moving van in the early 1960s, except these children were white and black, the family was integrating a white neighborhood, and while the kids had no problem establishing friendship, the adults are shown peering fearfully from the windows.   His GOLDEN RULE, a copy of which is now a mosaic mural at the United Nations, captured the faces and religions of the world, showing how our world is growing at once larger and smaller and how EVERYONE, no matter what their religion, social status, or cultural background is our neighbor. The older Rockwell got, the broader the definition of neighbor became.

In today’s parable, the lawyer told Jesus that the one who showed mercy was the injured man’s neighbor. How do we go about showing mercy in our own lives…and how do we keep ourselves open to receive that kind of mercy from God and from others? Mercy without boundaries is quiet and unheralded. Often it involves risk…and no reward.

Being a true neighbor means living actively in the kingdom of the God. It means allowing God’s mercy to wash over you and flow through you. It means actively living with hope in a better tomorrow. It means recognizing God at work in people who are different from you, whether they are Baptist, Hindi,  Jewish, Muslim, rich or poor, New Yorkers or Virginians, or Red Sox fans. And it means extending the compassion and love offered to you to the people you encounter everyday.

In today’s second reading, Paul tells the Colossians that he and Timothy are praying for them so that they “may lead lives worthy of the Lord … as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” Our faith journeys take a lifetime.

A month ago, we repeated our Baptismal Covenant when the Bishop celebrated Confirmation here at Grace.  As a congregation, we were asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer is always, “I will, with God’s help.”

We cannot do this alone, and it is clear our work is never done. Just like Norman Rockwell did in his paintings, we continue to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” And just as Norman Rockwell’s definition of neighbor changed dramatically over the course of his lifetime, we should not be surprised to see how our own definition of neighbor grows and evolves over the course of our lifetimes. We start by recognizing our neighbor in the person right next door and in our families and friends. And Jesus continues to raise the stakes, encouraging us to recognize our neighbor in the bullied middle school student, the uncle struggling with Parkinson’s Disease, the person who just moved in next door from another state or community, the single parent struggling to make ends meet, the person who  drives the flashy car.  We are encouraged to recognize our neighbor in ourselves, as well as in those who do not fit our prescribed boundaries.

Jesus calls us to live a merciful life in which we are called to love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves.  Living a merciful life is not a one act thing. Helping someone once doesn’t let you off the hook.  We are called to learn to live lives of mercy, compassion, and hope.

Or as Mahatma Gandhi put it:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

May we answer God’s call to live our lives like the Good Samaritan. The call is challenging, transforming and the work of our lifetimes. May we be blessed with God’s mercy, hope, and compassion as we strive to share those same blessings with our neighbors, near and far. Amen.

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Martha and Mary Sermon July 21, 2013….Finding a Both/And in an Either/Or World

So, I have a confession to make. I’ve always thought that Martha should have thrown her dish towel at Jesus. Think about it….and if you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinner for the extended family…this shouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Word comes to Martha and Mary that Jesus and his disciples are coming for dinner. Martha responds by planning for the comfort and care of her expected guests. Instead of dinner for three, she is now planning dinner for sixteen.  Imagine the care she brings to shopping at the market for the freshest fish…or maybe a perfect lamb.  Perhaps she harvests the vegetables from her own garden.  It isn’t baking day, but Martha decides to brave the heat and bake several loaves of her famous Bethany bread. After all, it isn’t every day that Jesus drops in for dinner.  Is there enough honey to serve with the fruit for dessert?  Which set of dishes should she use?  It would be nice to use the fine dishes, but maybe Jesus would prefer the plain set of dishes?  She’d like to consult with Mary, but her sister has been sitting with Jesus and the disciples all afternoon.

As the sauce for the lamb starts to simmer, so does Martha.  And she forgets the reason she started preparing this feast in the first place. It becomes less about the comfort and care of her guests and more about her frustration with tasks of putting this feast together. And she takes out her frustrations on the nonhelpful Mary.

At this point, the story seems to beg for us to take a stand. Whose side are we on? Which of the sisters are we most like? Which sister is most important? Most faithful? Most valuable? The active doer, Martha, who has gone to so much trouble and effort to please Jesus?  Or the receptive, contemplative Mary, who seems to get it right by just sitting and listening to Jesus?

And to be fair…we need the Marthas to make our church life…and daily life…work. Where would we be without the Marthas who run the golf tournament and organize the rummage sale and arrange the flowers and balance the budget and cut the cake for coffee hour and teach the Sunday school and contribute to Grace notes and write checks to support our ministries?  All so that the rest of us can be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen? Our shared life in the church is dependent on the activity of many.

Martha is drowning in the details. And she wants a little help. Is that so wrong? “Lord,” she asks. “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”

Those of us who live in the land of Martha might wish that Jesus had responded by saying, “You know what, Martha, you’re right. Maybe we can visit and talk while we all do a share of the work.  Let’s all come help you in the kitchen. After all, many hands make light work.”

But Jesus didn’t say that. Instead, he says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.  There is need of only one thing.”

And this is the point in the story when I usually feel that Martha could be justified in throwing her dish towel at Jesus. But, another thought struck me this time. It’s been a busy week of doing for me. There was a golf tournament on Monday, a farewell hike on Mount Beacon on Tuesday, a grant report to write Wednesday, a final board meeting on Thursday, preschool transition meetings all week, birthday/farewell parties for the girls on Friday and Saturday.  Oh, and this sermon to write. It’s been a busy, busy week. And all of the things that I had to do were necessary and important.

And sometime mid-week…okay, it was really last night…a thought struck me.  In last week’s gospel, we heard the story of the Good Samaritan. And the main point seemed to be “go and do.”  Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself.  Martha seems to be DOING plenty…and in the name of showing hospitality and love. But Jesus throws a monkey wrench into all of this. Instead of just “going and doing”…Jesus seems to be telling us this week that we also need to “stop and listen.”

Maybe Jesus isn’t asking us to play favorites with the sisters. Maybe he isn’t trying to pit the doer against the listener either.  What if the point of the story isn’t to divide Martha from Mary, isn’t to decide which of them we are more like, not to choose either of them at all in fact, but to choose Jesus? Maybe we aren’t being asked to pick between making time for nightly prayer and contemplative study and hands-on service at the food pantry? Maybe, instead of an either-or story, we are being asked to look at the story of Martha and Mary as a both-and?  What if Jesus is asking us to be both contemplative and active? What if we are to listen and then act? What if Jesus is simply asking us to keep our focus on him, to be in the moment and to be attentive to what he’s asking of us right now?

The story of the Good Samaritan showed us how to love our neighbor with acts of compassion, hope, and mercy – going and doing. Then, a chapter later in Luke, Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha and we see Mary loving God without distraction, without worry, resting, and listening.  Jesus tells us to choose Him through compassionate action, through single-hearted, focused listening. By going and doing AND stopping and listening, we will choose Jesus AND love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s dualistic thinking, a definite BOTH/AND, that leaves us with lots of questions.

How will I know when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to act?  How will I know when it’s time to do and when it’s time to sit? How will I know when I will meet God through service and when I will meet God during contemplation and prayer.  Jesus doesn’t spell it out for us. But he does give us a clue in the way that he tries to help Martha after she threatens to throw the dish towel at him.

Martha does the right things in this story. She invites Jesus into her home. But she forgets to spend time with Jesus or Mary or the disciples. She loses sight of her community. In asking Martha to choose the one needful thing, Jesus is inviting her back into the community. He does not order her to come back into the community. He does not intentionally shame her. Come join us in the living room, Jesus seems to say. I want to be with you. We want to be with you. In choosing me, you will find peace and may even be able to love yourself as well as your neighbor.

The many distractions and important busy things we do sometimes get in the way of showing love to Jesus, love to our neighbors, and love to ourselves. We are not what we do. We don’t have to earn God’s love or prove anything to God or impress God. That’s something I have to remind myself of over and over, especially when I get lost in the busy-ness of my own life. So listen to it one more time. There is NOTHING that we have to do to earn God’s love or prove anything to God or impress God.  There is NOTHING that we can do or not do that will make God love us any less or any more than God already does. What if we could see ourselves through the same compassionate eyes that God sees us with?  What if we could look at ourselves with the same love that Jesus has for us?

Stop and listen. Go and do.  Take time to allow God’s love to wash over you this week and to see yourself through the same compassionate lens that Jesus sees you. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Grace Under Pressure

Sometimes we need to remember there is something out there bigger than we are…

Grace under pressure

Collapsing
Crumbling
Defeated by false expectations, dashed hopes, crushed plans
Rubble of a cherished dream,
Littered with the shattered glass of false idealism,
Now seen through the glass darkly
A distorted vision of what is…
and what might be
And yet…
Light breaks through darkening storm clouds
Like naked fingers of hope thinly streaking the sky
Despite logic, despite reason, despite expectations
Hope, love, grace,
Something fills the broken places
Something larger than me, larger than us —
grace so large that rivers, mountains, universes cannot contain it
grace as intimate as a lover’s kiss
grace for our nakedness
grace for our brokenness
the healing balm that fills the broken places
takes our shattered souls
and rearranges the tangled fabric of our lives
into something surprising
yet twistedly beautiful

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Ritual: The Comfort Food of Life and Faith?

Ritual is on my mind this morning. As Ella packed up for an audition in the city, it struck me what a creature of ritual she is. My seasoned ten year old actress packed her clown, her coconut water, and her lucky wishing stones in her bag. She donned her blue audition scarf and sprinkled the tiniest amount of fairy dust in her hair. Some thirty minutes outside of Manhattan, she did her vocal warm ups. Right outside the audition studios, we had to take the now ritual picture. All of these rituals, designed to put her into the right mindset to sing and dance her heart out.

Ella is not alone in being a creature of ritual. Certainly every actor I know has some variation of the pre-audition, post-audition, pre-show, post-show ritual. Ritual is the mac and cheese of life. It is comfort food, designed to sustain and support us in the daily stresses of our lives.

Ritual also supports and sustains our churches. As a childhood Catholic and a current Episcopalian, I appreciate good ritual. I love the comfort of walking into a church and being able to join in immediately with the familiar outline of the service. I love knowing the responses, love the comfort of the prayers. I love the smells and bells, the things that evoke comfort. Ritual gives you the feeling of being “in the club.”

Ritual gets us in the door. It comforts and sustains us. But it doesn’t transform. True transformation requires love and compassion. The spirit enters through ritual, seeks out the love and compassion, and transforms the people who make up the church into active, caring change agents….people who see need and suffering and respond. All life is fragile. Ritual supports and sustains us in our fragility. But love and spirit transforms our fragility into bold, fearless action.

Ritual isn’t enough. Any actor knows that all the ritual in the world won’t get you past the first cut at an audition if you don’t have the talent and hard work to back it up. A church that relies on ritual alone to fill its pews, without the transformative power of spirit, love, and action, is destined to be an empty shell. Ritual without action is shadow without substance.     

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”We cannot choose the time we live in. We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”

A dear friend suggested today that “the darkest hour is before the storm.”  She meant the darkest hour is just before dawn, but what slipped out unintentionally rang with truth.

I know that for me the hardest part of grappling with trouble and strife is the time of uncertainty, the time before all hell breaks loose, when you don’t really know what you are up against.  It is kind of like watching and waiting for a storm to come…the sky darkens, the wind picks up, the thunder rumbles, everything becomes threatening, a perfect crucible for fear and anxiety.

There have been lots of anxious and fear ridden moments in my life over the past few weeks. I feel as if I have been standing at the window watching the storm clouds gather. There are financial worries, worries about work, worries about loved ones’ health and well-being, worries about not living up to expectations, worries about change. Each worry is a storm cloud, threatening to catapult me into disaster or paralyze me with fear.

And yet,  I am reminded again and again that the Bible tells us “be not afraid” — 365 times in fact, one for each day of the year. The truth is, sometimes it is hard to trust, hard to see the grace shining through. Sometimes, all I can see are the tangled threads, forgetting that I am looking at the wrong side of the tapestry.

So instead of being fearful, I need to look through the storm, knowing that ahead is the calm of the eye, the place of rest. I don’t understand where the road is leading. I don’t pretend to know what God’s plan is for me and mine right now. I guess it is enough to know that there is a plan, that there is grace, and somehow we do get the grace we need to deal with the most difficult burdens.

Today, for example, when the storm seemed ready to do its worst, help came from wonderful and unexpected places:  an unlooked for phone call from a wise and cherished friend who reminded me to be gentle with my loved ones, that stress has a way of causing us to be impatient with those we love the most; an email from a couple offering to provide enrichment activities at the preschool in return for a barter; a call from a recent transplant to the area seeking to register her child at the preschool immediately. None of these things will change the world, but all reminded me of the sunshine and grace behind the clouds.

Which brings me to my favorite theologian from Asheville, NC: David Wilcox. There’s a song of his that seems to fit my mood and my need today:

“Lightning cracks the darkness
And for a moment I can see
It’s just a spark to start with
But I follow where it leads
I won’t spend my whole life hiding
Where no soul could ever thrive
I can’t live with just surviving
My heart wants to feel alive

Life is change and change looks frightening.
Watch that wind I’ve been warned.
But I live to feel this lightning
In this perfect storm.”

My daughters and I are currently on a Tolkien spree. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo the hobbit receives a “call” to destroy the one ring to rule them all before its power destroys all of Middle Earth. This call involves a long and extremely dangerous journey, and the likelihood that Frodo will not return alive. The hobbit expresses his fear and his wish that the ring had never come to him to Gandalf, the wizard, who replies, “We cannot choose the time we live in. We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”

Grace is boundless…in hobbits, in wizards, in clouds, in storms, in lightning and thunder, in peace and thanksgiving. Grace appears unlooked for in phone calls and emails, even in blogs. It gives us the courage to face the storm and journey on. “We cannot choose the time we live in. We can only choose what we do with the time we are given.”

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Mercy, Compassion, and Hope in the Aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary

Mercy, Compassion, and Hope

Standing in Penn Station today waiting for a train to take me home, I experienced the strangest sensation of feeling frozen in an instant, trapped in a bubble of silence in the middle of rush hour noise. As I stood in the waiting room, a lump rose in my throat. I watched the weary travelers on their way to somewhere else, presumably home, and I thought of those who would never make it home again.

Ever since the news broke of the senseless massacre of innocent children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, I have found myself caught between tears of sadness and a heart filled with gratitude. As a mom, I am heartbroken at the loss of 20 innocent little children, all of whom are just a few years younger than my own girls. I cannot even begin to imagine the magnitude of the loss being felt by the families of Newtown, CT.  And I am so thankful that I will be returning to the hugs and kisses of my own daughters and husband at the end of this trip.

As a teacher, I weep at the courage of the teachers and staff members who sacrificed their own lives to save those of their young charges. They are the true heroes in a society that overvalues celebrity and flash.

Often, we feel pulled to settle for life in an increasingly contentious dualistic society. You are right or wrong. You are a Republican or a Democrat. You root for the Yankees or the Red Sox. You are happy or sad.  We like clear cut lines. We like good guys and bad guys. It’s so much easier to make snap judgements when there are no shades of gray.

But the reality is, we are called to live in a world that is holistic. We are called to shed tears of sadness while counting our blessings. We are called to see the world for the messy, corrupt, blessed, and wonderful place it is. We are called to work together, across party lines and across our differences, to find common ground, to leave this world a better place than we found it.  We owe that to our children.

Compassion has to live alongside outrage, mercy must dwell with grief and anger, hope shares a home with our darkest fears. We can choose to continue to live in fear or we can choose to live in love. Living in love doesn’t erase the fear, but it helps keep the fear in perspective.

God is heartbroken with us, pouring out grace in the aftermath of our grief and despair.  Grace is boundless, wild, and free. It finds the darkest corners of our lives, seeps through the ragged edges of our griefs, illuminates our hours of joy, and pours itself out with free and messy abandon.

I cannot bring a single life back that was lost in Newtown. But I can allow the tragedy to work its grace upon me. I can thank my children’s teachers for all they do every day to love, nurture, and educate my daughters. I can forgive more quickly the everyday hurts and trespasses. I can hug my children. I can cry and pray. I can write and call my Senators and Representatives, asking for real change in the ways we protect our children and provide mental health services in our country. I can be a little kinder, love a little more, and practice the tenants of mercy, compassion, and hope.

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