Thursday May 26, 2016

MY FATHER’S TWO MOST COMMON PARENTING PHRASES were, “You should be seen and not heard,” and “Put your hands in your pockets, and keep your mouth shut.” These pieces of advice helped me navigate times when I found myself in adult company or someone’s home filled with expensive items. But as a way of life, following his advice seemed impossibly restrictive. I remember feeling that there was no way for me not to be a pest, an annoyance, and a source of embarrassment to my father. ….

I see now that my father had his own tensions and troubles that prevented him from finding delight in parenting me. As a chattering, curious, irrepressible child, I only added to his stress. I tried to keep myself quiet, but that was like trying to settle a soda bottle that had been shaken and opened. When I spoke, my thoughts bubbling over, his angry words humiliated me, put me in my place as quickly as possible, and effectively silenced me. While Dad got relief from my chatter, I began to believe that I was, at the core of my being, an annoyance. This belief took its toll on me over time.

Not surprisingly, I recall with clarity and gratitude the time an adult asked me a question and listened with interest and appreciation to what I had to say. One of the ladies at church asked me if I had dyed Easter eggs. I told her I had tried to make a rainbow egg by mixing the colors together. I said, “I thought it would make a rainbow, but the colors got too mixed, and it made more of a mud swamp color.” When she laughed, I braced myself for criticism, thinking this was yet another time I had been an annoyance to an adult.

Instead she responded, “That is such a wonderful description!” And then she repeated my words back to me.” ‘A mud swamp color!’ What a way with words!”

Her complimentary observation was living water to me. Through this simple exchange, I realized I could be delightful, that I had good ideas to share, and that others would want to share their ideas with me as well. Decades later, I still cherish this memory and replay it when I need a source of hope and joy. I held onto that memory and locked it away in my heart so I could take it out when needed – whenever I got thirsty – to remember that I matter. This encounter gave me the fresh perspective I needed for a different view of myself and eventually for a different view of my father as a person with his own struggles and feelings.

– Jane Herring

Wednesday May 25, 2016

WE OFTEN CONSIDER LISTENING something the young must learn, along with obedience to their elders. We tell our children, often with evident impatience, “Listen to your teacher!” But proper listening, or listening properly, is essential in all seasons of life, and is surely a fundamental constituent of eldering. What such listening depends upon is our fierce acceptance of what is true in our life, and not some abstract notion of “truth”; and that means embracing what is real in our lives – however broken – beyond preconceived opinions or the category of moral judgment.

Such an attentiveness depends on the quality of the silence we are able to cultivate within ourselves, for as the poet Jane Hirschfield astutely suggests, “silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.”

Silence is the gateway to listening, the threshold that opens us to and allows embrace of what is real, beyond ideals and illusions that we often confuse with wisdom

Tuesday May 24, 2016

HOSPITALITY HAS ALLOWED ME to break down divisions, barriers, and misperceptions. Any border-crossing I have done has been possible because of hospitality. Ultimately, people have welcomed me deeply and invited me to make myself at home with them. More than anything else, this extension of some intimacy, some trust with their lives, is precisely what allowed me to begin to see the world in a different way.

People have taken me in – shared their houses, their food, their families – and shaken apart all my assumptions. I have taken people into my home, which sparked an internal journey into knowing myself better. The hospitality of others is the most transformative force I know. It made me wish to live in a way that was worthy of their generosity. Hospitality taught me to love better.

– Dee Dee Risher

Monday May 23, 2015

LIVING A LIFE OF JUSTICE involves pursuing equality for all people, seeking fairness in dealing with others, and championing the rights of the powerless. When we take Micah’s directive [in Micah 6:8] seriously, we engage in relationships and projects that promote matters of justice in the intimate world of home, the communal world of a nation, and the global world of the planet.

– Linda Douty

Sunday May 22, 2016

PRAYER PRACTICE is just that: practice. It is taking time to learn how to listen for God. It is taking time to see the hand of God at work in our lives. We need to take this time because this listening, this seeing are difficult tasks. …

Prayer practice is the art of setting aside our own individual desires to seek the desire that God has placed on our heart. It is becoming aware of the distractions of our minds and then letting them go, and as we repeat the disciplines over time, we become more skilled at seeing God in all that we do.

– Daniel Wolpert

Saturday May 21, 2016

A FORM OF PREPARATION for prayer, practiced from time immemorial by Roman Catholics and increasingly used by thoughtful non-Catholics, is to make the sign of the cross on oneself as a confession of obedience to the Christian way. This is accomplished by placing the thumb against the first two fingers of the right hand and thoughtfully touching the forehead, the heart, the left side of the chest, and the right side of the chest.

I once heard a nun, who had been a Protestant and a homemaker until she was 40 years old, say that she wished her Protestant friends were not so afraid of this simple gesture of relationship to Christ. Even if she were to leave the Roman Catholic Church, she said, she would continue to make the sign of the cross before prayers, for she found the inward dimension of this symbolic action exceedingly helpful.

– John Killinger

Friday May 20 2016

THE POWER OF THANKSGIVING and praise is like contagious laughter whose ripple effect can reach epidemic proportions. Heartfelt gratitude goes beyond a thank-you note; it’s a gracious way of being in the world. Folks who instinctively move to the rhythm of thankfulness alter the very atmosphere around them.

One inspirational elder (nearing her centennial birthday) shared her daily mantra: “God, show me how I can bless someone today. Make me the giver of holy gifts – even if it’s as simple as a smile.” These generous souls have a way of pulling a golden thread from a patchwork of gray and inspiring the rest of us to do the same. They foster hope, engender joy, and celebrate beauty. They build bridges instead of borders. A grateful heart paves a pathway to the best thing an elder has to offer – a legacy of love.

– Linda Douty Mischke