Truth to Tell
“You’ll never make everybody happy.”
“Don’t do other people’s jobs for them.”
“We’ve been doing it this way for years; we’re not going to change now.”
Like many newly minted ministers, the people in my first churches taught me far more than I could possibly have taught them. Their lessons have stuck with me over my decades of pastoral work. But one gem in particular stands out. I’ve shared with more people than I can count. “I look for a good thing – just one small, good thing – each day and hold on to it.
It’s Christmas and our power is out.
Like so many others, our area was hit by a powerful storm that featured everything from unseasonably warm temperatures and rain to a rapid chill with fierce winds. That’s a recipe for a power outage.
But we’re among the lucky ones. We have a generator that supplies enough power to keep us warm and well-lit.
Until it didn’t. After running continuously for more than 24 hours, it quit.
I received the paperweight in this photo more than 40 years ago during what had just become the darkest Advent season of my life.
“This is a gift from Mrs. McCord and me,” the president of Princeton Seminary said to me as he pressed it in my hand.
A freak accident had injured my (at that time) husband, and radically altered the course of both of our lives. Sitting in the hospital chapel, having just received the news and allowing the gravity of the situation sink in, I was surprised to look up and see President McCord slide into the pew beside me. “I’m here to pray with you,” he said. Keep reading
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly five years since a major renovation to our house was nearing completion. As I look back, I’m thinking about what that project taught me – lessons about far more than tearing down and rebuilding physical structures. That project taught me not to fear letting go of what no longer works in my life, whether it’s a job I’ve outgrown, a toxic relationship, or a living situation that no longer meets my needs.
Letting go means leaving behind what has become familiar and comfortable, even though it may have long since ceased being useful or lifegiving. It means stepping into the new and unknown. That can be overwhelming and frightening.
Expressing gratitude is something I had always taken for granted. By that I mean that I just did it when I remembered (like sending thank-you notes), but otherwise didn’t think much about it. I certainly never considered expressing gratitude to be a spiritual discipline. And the possibility that such expressions might be therapeutic never occurred to me.
But recently that changed
Have you ever noticed that anxiety seems to have a life of its own?
When I’m anxious I have a sense of a storm growing inside me. My thoughts run away from me, creating a doomsday scenario of ferocious winds whipping up dark clouds and heavy seas into a fearsome storm.
Over the years, what I’ve found most helpful is to develop self-awareness. In other words, to both pay attention and to, and detach from, what’s going inside my head.
A few days ago, as I was going through boxes that hadn’t been opened in years, I ran across this little sculpture that my daughter made in a high school pottery class. As I held this little figure in my hand I was transported back to that time in my life. I was a single parent with one child in high school and another in college. And I held a high-pressure job for which I wasn’t particularly well-suited, but which paid the bills. It always seemed that the days were a blur of scheduling activities, carpooling, and traveling around the country for work.
To refresh your memory of the ancient story that holds us all enthrall this time of year, read Luke 1:2-55; 2:1-20. As you reflect on the Christmas readings from Luke’s gospel, I invite you to use your imagination to call to mind and into your heart some of the people who have been important to you, and who may or may not be with you right now. As you do that, you’ll be guided by several of the characters youâ’ve met in this ancient story. First, the Angel Gabriel who invites Mary to do the impossible and assures her that…
It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, a day that falls pretty much in the middle of my favorite period in the season – the week of the O Antiphons. The O Antiphons are verses that are sung or chanted at vespers from December 17-23. They are called the O Antiphons because each of these short verses begins with the word, or letter, O, and addresses Christ by a different title: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of Nations, O Emmanuel. The hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is based…
I’m tired. I hear this every day. I hear it from family caregivers who miss the opportunities for the much needed breaks they once had in the “Before Times” when people could come into their home to relieve them for a few hours. I hear it from the newly bereaved whose grief is complicated by pandemic-induced social distancing mandates that come at a time when they need to be physically close to those they love. I hear it from front line health care workers and teachers and therapists and pastors and activists. I hear it from parents who are desperately…