Word of the Week

Can you remember the last time you received instructions from someone but didn't fully comprehend what was said? So . . .

You ended up lost in the middle of a parking lot. You wore the wrong kind of attire to a party. The gift registry you consulted wasn't for your person.

Frustration quickly rises. You so wish that those in charge could have been a little more of our word of the week: clear.

Clear a word that means is easy to understand, see, or hear.

It's easy to think of the word clear in the category of work assignments (don't you love a supervisor that gives clear instructions?), directions from one place to another (don't you love a GPS that takes you on a clear route?) as well as doctors' orders (don't you love a physician who gives clear post-op instructions?).

But what about in relationships? Think about the last time your feelings were hurt by someone (or vice versa) simply because of a lack of clarity. We don't say what we mean. We don't do what we say.

"Maybe I'll be there." (But then you don't go)

Or even more common: silence. But better explained by the modern term called "ghosting" where the no reply is the reply.

But recently I heard author, Brene Brown say this (that has stuck with me ever since) "Clear is kind."

Or in other words, just tell people the truth. If you can't come, say that. If you can't commit, say that. If you don't want to join a club/ board/ activity/ church/ whatever, just say that. Don't leave people hanging. Don't just disappear. Be brave. Tell the truth.

To be clear is to be kind.

Even Jesus talks about this in his teachings when he says in his Sermon on the Mount, "Let your yes be yes. Let your no be no."

So I'm wondering, how can to you be kinder this week by simply being clear with the feelings of your heart?

How can you say YES right away when it's something you really want to do (that will really encourage the host who has invited you)?

How can you say NO right away when it's something that is not yours to do (or you simply don't have time for)?

How can you be clear with who you are and what you want this week?

It may not always be easy to be clear, but the results are in the long run leads to mutual respect of feelings and our time.

Working on my clarity alongside you-



Can you remember the last time something big happened to you?

Maybe it was a time when you started a new relationship that surprised you with its joy.

Maybe it was a time when you got a new job and were busy learning all of the things.

Maybe it was a time when you got some medical news that rocked you to your core.

Whatever it was the only response to "take it all in" was this week's word: pause.

Pause, a word that means a temporary stop.

To invite a moment of pause is to show respect for whatever news you've heard or whatever life event has transpired.

To pause is to give your soul the space it needs so that it can catch up to where your body has found itself.

To pause is an act of trust, the belief that what you are temporarily not doing will be there when you get back!

Most of all it's an act of kindness both for yourself and those around you. You do the work that is yours to do at the time.

As for me, my latest pause has come because of a BABY!

Thanks to the wonder of adoption, my husband and I are now parents of not just one but two precious ones. Two weeks ago this morning, Andrew joined our family and we are all overflowing with delight in his coming to us!

These days everything about my life schedule and routines have been overturned. I'm waking up every couple of hours at night for feedings. I'm washing more laundry than I have in years. And I'm doing a lot of starring at a beautiful little face and precious little toes that have been entrusted to our family. I'm practicing saying that I have 4 people living in my home now. (How crazy is that after all we've been through!) Andrew's coming into our lives was truly a gift of grace.

With that said and in celebration of this news, I want to "practice what I preach." So, I'm going to hit the pause button on Word of the Week until the fall. I'll look forward then to being back in this forum then.

But in the meantime, know I'm thinking of you with fondness-- for your willingness to be a on a spiritual journey, for your hope in all good things, and for your work in your corner of the world to bring light and hope to others.

In the meantime, I'm trusting that the Spirit is planting beautiful things in your story even if you can't see it or believe it quite yet. If my journey has taught me anything it's this: you just never know what lovely things can happen if you keep showing up. Wonderful surprises truly are possible for us all. Keep the faith!



P.S. Love from our family to yours!

12092015-refugees-welcome-pictured-hundreds-of-752x501Welcome to a new series of posts here at Preacher on the Plaza at the beginning of every week from now until who knows when . .  Wresting with how do we live in these days? These very hard days as people of faith. How do we live in these days of discrimination? Of Hate? Of fears realized? 

If these aren't questions you resonate with, feel free to stop reading. But for those of us deeply concerned about the tone of our country, our relationships with our muslim brothers and sisters, our inclusion of our brothers and sisters of color and our brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ, and most of all with our relations as an American people with the rest of the world, check back here every Monday for some encouragement. We're in this together. And I want to keep having conversations that matter right now. 

Yesterday, I heard a sermon from the Old Testament lectionary text, Micah 6:1-8-- one of my favorite scriptures which contains these words.

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?"

The sermon challenged us to consider what our religious practice looked like. Is our religion for the sake of doing religion? Or is our religion living out what the Lord requires of us?

Afterwards, I couldn't help but let my mind keep wondering over these verses again and again. I've certainly preached on them many times myself. It's a text that helped form my essays to seminary-- why I felt called to ministry. I even have a re-usable grocery bag with Micah 6:8 on it (A great conversation starter at the grocery bagging table).

But for the first time yesterday, I considered the relationship between the three key words in the verse.




Justice is such a hot button word in Christian communities these days, isn't it?

Church folk speak of "justice" as the reason why their faith seems all the more political.

Justice is what led hundred of thousands to protest a week ago last Saturday at women's marches all over the country. Justice is what moved thousands of people on Saturday to drop everything they were doing and protest at airports all around the country chanting "No hate. No fear. All people are welcome here." Justice is what is leading thousands today to jam up the lines of their Congressional representatives and fill their Senator's boxes with "I need to share with you my concerns . . . " mail.

I am a fan of justice. We need to keep making our voice heard as people who believe that God loves and welcomes us all the same (though America's policies do not right now).

But, next comes kindness. Micah says the Lord asks us to "love kindness."

Some translations of this text insert the word "mercy" instead of kindness. I like mercy too. For living a life of mercy means in acting in compassion or forgiveness toward others. It means looking beyond what a person deserves and loving him or her as a beloved child of God, just the same as you want to be treated.

When I was at the Women's March in DC, this sign was one of my favorites.image1 3

Because on a day full of calling our country toward more just policies and relationships-- here was a woman with her heels firmly planted in the ground of kindness. She wants her country to be kind again.

There's a reason I believe that we're called to kindness after our call to justice.

For if we want our messages to have any chance of shining through to hearts who need to hear them, we always must remember to be kind.

Kindness can look like stopping to have a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you in the airport or in a pew at church. It can look like smiling. Opening doors for strangers. Going out of your way to lift someone up who is discouraged. Most of listening (and not posting too quickly on Facebook).

I picture justice and kindness are social activism twins. We can't have one without the other and be effective.

And lastly we are asked to "walk humbly with our God."

In a journey of faith, humility is an essential virtue, we're reminded.

Because after all, God is God and we are not.

And if this is true, sometimes we're going to be wrong. Sometimes we're going to miss the mark. We're going to speak to soon or not soon enough. We're going to make a mountain out of a molehill and cause more damage than the goodness we bring.

So, if our justice wrapped in kindness work is truly going to be what God wants from us-- we've got to walk humbly.

We've got to stay connected to our life-source. We've got to take times out to pray, to think and to re-focus. We've got to move in the spirit of Thomas Merton's famous prayer: "The fact that I think I am following your will doesn't mean that I am actually doing so."

My friends for today: where and how is God calling you to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God?

We've got work to do.