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Tag: joy

holding on to hope and compassion

holding on to hope and compassion

A New Year’s reflection from Rachel Held Evans: 2016 and the Risk of Birth

An excerpt …

For me, the dissonance of this strange year is compounded by the fact that motherhood turned my bleeding heart into a hemorrhage. It’s as though I’ve become porous, my skin absorbing the pain of others, particularly other mamas and babies. (Speaking of which, why did all the good shows this year involve children in peril? I’m looking at you, “Stranger Things”!) Every night, as I nurse my boy in that cozy armchair in his nursery, I think of the Syrian mama nursing her baby in a raft adrift in the Mediterranean Sea. I think of the shell-shocked boy from Aleppo. I think of how every Latino kid taunted by classmates, every soldier sent to war, every autistic kid who will lose his therapy when ACA is repealed, every black man shot by police is somebody else’s baby boy, somebody else’s most important person in the world. I still, almost every day, think of Sandy Hook.

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

Motherhood invited me into other people’s skin in a way I’ve never experienced before. So my joy is big and real and consuming, but also incomplete. I am overwhelmed by the conviction that every mother should be able to feed her baby like this, in safety and contentedness, and I am haunted by the reality that this is still far from the case.

In 2016, I became more aware than ever of the darkness around us, and more invested than ever in lighting the path.

a great man died tonight

a great man died tonight

Lynn Nielsen A great man died tonight …

Lynn Nielsen was great by the only measure that matters, that so many of us loved him.

We loved him for his courage, living and dying with multiple myeloma. Eventually it claimed his life, but it could never diminish his vitality or his humor or his eagerness for what tomorrow might bring.

We loved him for his faith, unconventional and genuine and exuberant, a faith that understood that God’s desire for us is life in all its fullness, here and now.

But, above all, we loved him for his joy. Teaching was joy to him, that unique setting where teachers and students come together to challenge each other and grow each other and put personal gifts and skills to use to nurture the skills and gifts in another person. A most unselfish profession! His students, from Iowa and from all points of the globe, brought joy to him, and he to them. And he found and made joy in his colleagues, my wife among them. He was the one who brought my wife into the College of Education and the University of Northern Iowa family, and for that she and I are most grateful.

And he found joy in making beauty, extraordinary beauty for all of us to relish! He made beauty with his music, playing organ for worship or jazz piano for the delight of the patrons of Elms Pub at New Aldaya Lifescapes and for concert-goers at other venues including our church. He made beauty at his home on Tremont Street — lovely backyard gardens, an interior decor warm and inviting and eclectic and elegant. He made beauty with his parties! Good food, good drink, extraordinary dishes and desserts, all carefully prepared and arranged by Lynn, the consummate host, the consummate friend. Parties for laughter and for music and for bringing people together, for making new friends and for treasuring every happy moment with friends old and dear.

He was a friend, old and dear, to so many. We loved him, for many good reasons, but we would have loved him regardless, just for how he loved us and for how he loved life. No one can replace him. No one could. No one should.

It is grief for us to lose him. But what joy it was to share some of our life with him!

mia or barry?

mia or barry?

Mia Hamm and the 1999 World Cup Trophy

On our way home to Iowa from our vacation in Maine, we stayed with a friend in Oneonta, New York, and visited the National Soccer Hall of Fame. On August 26, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy will be honored there as 2007 inductees. Here’s hoping that Barry Bonds, the new “home run king” of baseball, will not merit such an honor in nearby Cooperstown …

Let’s see, Mia or Barry?

One an athlete of character, intensity, passion, compassion, humility, generosity, and unselfishness. The other almost certainly a cheater.

One a player of America’s game, discrediting the game, discounting his teammates, and casting a long shadow over a hallowed record. The other a player of the world’s game, doing more than any other single individual to inspire a new generation of girls (and boys) to a love for that game, for sport itself, and for joy of being team.

One taking the fun out of the game. The other reminding us that fun is what games are supposed to be about!

i’m back

i’m back

I’m back … after twenty-six days of vacation, 5300 miles on the road, passing through eighteen states and two provinces, time shared with many, many friends and dear family members, time in boats on Lake Superior, on Lake Huron, and on the Atlantic Ocean. It was glorious! I am filled up once more with deep wonder at the grandeur of what God has fashioned and the extraordinary blessing of being allowed to enjoy it.

And my question today is this: which is more “real” — home and work, or vacation?!

Of course, both are real. Human life is about being productive, about “making a living” and about “making a difference.” It is about providing and contributing and about doing something worthwhile with the heart and brain and limbs God has given you. We are in some sense measured by what we have done … for the sake of those who depend on us, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the kingdom.

But I am convinced that much of what God intends for us is pure joy! … that we are given life and breath not merely to be productive, but to see and hear and taste and feel and smell some small part of all the wonders and delights and surprises to be found in the world God made and called good … that life is being as well as doing, being alive in the world and being alive to the world, breathing deeply of all that is around us and giving God thanks.

I have breathed deeply … and today I give God thanks!