Friday, September 23, 2016

Choosing Life on the "Wrong Side" of the Tracks

I'm guest posting today over at the QPlace blog.

"...we were getting a little desperate to experience the mess of the gospel, the parts that come with rowdy and wide-eyed trust, and even parts that promise pain and land good folks in the same trenches where Jesus chose to spend his time. We wanted to feel something beyond ourselves. We wanted to be free." (Falling Free, Shannan Martin, HarperCollins ©2016, p.8)

This quote from Shannan Martin's newly released book, Falling Free, describes the initial moments when she and her husband Cory realized...read more


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Tie That Binds

I grew up singing an old hymn with the following lyrics: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that Above.

I have been part of the community of faith since my birth. While I've not always been aware of how that reality shaped my life, last night I glimpsed its influence and felt its impact again.

We were sitting around our dining room table, enjoying a simple meal together. David and I had become acquainted in college through a mutual friend from his hometown. He was the layout editor for the school newspaper my senior year when I was the editor-in-chief. I only knew of Donalee because she and David began dating that year. I settled in the Chicagoland suburbs after college and married. They married and also settled there. We shared a few evenings and spent a weekend camping together, but we were never really close friends. They moved out of state and we lost touch.

Donalee and I.
Fast forward to 2013. TWENTY-THREE YEARS LATER. We meet again at our alma mater during the dedication ceremony for the new science center where my son would spend the next four years studying to become a chemist. Donalee and I talked about the unique joys and challenges of raising only sons. We decided to stay in touch.

Two years ago we began meeting online weekly to share our lives and concerns. We prayed over her son's choice of colleges. We prayed for my son's need for friends and community. We prayed for our husbands and we prayed for ourselves.

We live over 900 miles apart, but our hearts share a supernatural bond that had been initiated in personal faith and established during our time together at a place that holds as one of its core values intentional community and "doing life together."

Last night, those friends sat at our table and slept under our roof. We talked about our lives as empty nesters and marveled at what was birthed in the community we experienced then and didn't fully comprehend.

Experiencing community and "doing life together" is both a blessing and a curse of sorts. I feel the ache of their departure this morning. While I do not wish for the past (because that is not where real life is lived), true community seems harder to find the longer I live. Although I'm always on the lookout for it, last night was a rare gift, 27 years in the making. Grateful.

Who are you in community with today? Tell them what their presence in your life means to you.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Cheerleader

My athlete, holding up one finger to commemorate his first ride on his new bike.
I've never been a cheerleader. To those of you who know me, this is no shock. Several weeks ago, though, I became one, serving as a personal cheerleader to my dear husband. He decided to start exercising after over a decade of believing he couldn't.

I've been surprised at what I've learned about cheerleading.

A cheerleader can make a huge difference in the life of an athlete, not because she wears a cute outfit (I don't) and not because she whoops and hollers some encouraging chant as loud as she can. (He can't hear me above the '80s rock blasting through his headphones.)

If it's not the cute outfit or the vociferous callouts, how does a cheerleader make a difference? In my case, it's by getting up with him at 6:30a, prepping his water bottle, remembering to grab a towel to soak up his perspiration, and riding shotgun to the practice parking lot.

This cheerleader, and others like her, impacts her athlete through the power of her presence.

I discovered (after he instituted headphones) that the power of my presence during the half hour Bob rides has its limitations:

  • I can't ensure he has a good night of sleep the night before.
  • I can't make him get out of bed.
  • I can't ride for him. 
  • I can't make him pedal faster. 
  • I can't encourage him with words.
  • I can't motivate him to push himself up that hill. 

But what my presence can do is demonstrate my belief in my athlete's ability to "just do it."

You may not realize it, but you've been a cheerleader. 'Fess up--you were standing there in front of the television screen, yelling as your favorite athlete competed during the Olympics last month, weren't you! Everyone likes to be part of the athlete's "squad" when it's go time, the time when the results of all those hours, days, weeks, months, and years of practice shine.

Only a select few know what has gone before that moment: she was there, sitting quietly on some bench for 16 years, yawning into her coffee after chauffeuring her daughter at o'dark-thirty for swim practice, or because she's sat in the ice rink for over a decade, bundled against the cold, shivering while her boys skated after a puck and sweated. Those who accompany athletes to their practices are ministering to them with their presence. Not their words.

Because I cherish words and like influencing others with them, this is a hard reality. But I have to take my athlete at his and believe that my cheering is impacting him. The results of his performance are his alone.

Results aren't what I'm there for anyway. Yes, I'll slap his butt or knock knuckles with him and make positive listening noises when he shares his heart rate and calories burned. I now know that my job isn't to motivate, but to encourage.

Just by being there.

Who are you cheering for?