Silence ...

I went out to lunch with my parents yesterday, which is always a treat.

My parents are almost 80 years old. My dad still works full-time as the senior partner in his law firm. My mom works for my dad most afternoons. They go out to lunch together almost every day. Occasionally, I get invited along.

We had great conversation. They are some of the only people besides my husband who love hearing about my kids … in detail!

However, during one part of our conversation, I noticed I was not listening well to my mom. She (a nurse) was trying to explain something medical to me, and I kept talking over her, explaining to her that I already knew what she was trying to tell me.

Yuk.

Why did I do that?

Why do I often do that?

I use my words to try to control people. To try to explain to them how much I know. To try to correct them; fix them, even.

I want to be a better listener. Do you?

First, then, we must start with silence.

“Silence frees us from the need to control others … A frantic stream of words flows from us in attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the Spirit because it puts the stopper on that.” (Richard Foster)

Oh silence, will you be my friend?

Truth at your kitchen table ...

The world of the church, throughout history,

has tended to be a "man's world."

In many places, it still is.

And yet, even in the early church

there were whispers...

names mentioned...

women who led,

taught,

funded,

were at the center of,

Jesus' ministry,

and the start of the church.

As one who teaches,

some would say, preaches...

(and happens to be a woman)

it has been an interesting ride.

Fifteen years

of serving God

in this unexpected way.

And as I take a look behind me

at the amazing young women God is using

all over the world,

but especially in my little neck of the woods,

I cheer.

I came across this poem the other day

and post it as a hat-tip to my fellow

"kitchen table theologians."

God sees you,

and he cheers, too.

Laywoman

Were you a man and single,

the Jesuits would have you in a trice.

But you are a man's wife, 

lovely hair coarse and wild as a Morgan's tail,

on each hip a fine son, and one on your shoulders.

Your bent for theology is more startling

than your renegade humor, 

your ease on a good horse, fast and wild as he can be.

You are no cut-out saint.

Bus-stop apologist, 

training your eye for truth at your kitchen table,

turning worn pages in the weary night

as your tea grows cold.

The day has come for your kind.

Venerable Jenn,

you are better than you know,

stirring the oatmeal,

reading Aquinas,

shoveling the snow.

(by Nancy A. Henry)

 

 

This ordinary day ...

One more post related to "my dad turned 80..."

One of the gifts we gave him was 

a letter from each of his grandchildren

recounting some of their favorite memories

of life with "Grandpa Dave."

Here's what I noticed:

None of the memories had to do with money.

None had to do with a big, fancy vacation.

None had to do with effort, or forethought, or intensive planning.

None.

Not one.

Instead, each memory was

incredibly "ordinary."

A moment that, while it was happening, if you blinked,

you might have missed it.

Some wrote about playing basketball together at the YMCA on New Year's Eve.

Others wrote about the family card game we always play, complete with prizes from Walgreens.

One wrote about a look of approval my dad gave her when she thought of others ahead of herself.

Several wrote about the power of my dad's presence in the stands at one of their athletic competitions.

One wrote about the power of a hand-written letter of encouragement my dad wrote to him after a major athletic loss.

Do you understand the point?

Each of these treasured memories in these young people's lives

was a very ordinary thing,

that happened in a very ordinary way,

on a very ordinary day.

Much like this day.

What happens today...

how you smile,

what you say,

what you write,

how you laugh,

has the power, the potential, the possibility 

of being

a

life-changing,

life-affirming,

life-giving 

moment,

or memory

for the people you love.

Don't miss it, friends...

This ordinary day,

every ordinary day,

is 

sacred.

 

Nonjudgmental presence ...

The practice of "nonjudgmental presence" explained beautifully here by Henri Nouwen has changed our family dynamic more than almost any other practice.

Parents of adult children... it is no longer our job to "fix" our children (it never was)...

It is no longer our job to tell our children how to live (it never was)...

It is no longer our job to constantly evaluate our children's lives (it never was)...

It is our job, however, to ponder our grown children's beauty, to love them unconditionally, to be amazed at God working in their lives, to offer them the fullness of our blessing...

What might our lives begin to look like if we simply offered others our nonjudgmental presence?

I dare you to try it... 

Listen to how Nouwen describes it:

"To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others.

Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence.

We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label.

When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division.

Jesus says it clearly: 'Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge;... do not condemn;... forgive' (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible.

But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation."

(Henri Nouwen)