“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” Mark 1:9-12.
[Note: I wrote this post in August, then forgot about it in the swirl of the start of the school year. It resurfaced recently and I thought it appropriate for the beginning of Lent, when we remember Jesus’s journey in the wilderness. Jesus was accompanied by the Holy Spirit and so are we as we face our wilderness in its many shapes and sizes.]
While driving my son to college – his first year, my first kid – I passed beneath a road marked Watson Road. One of my best friend’s last name is Watson so seeing it made me smile, and then I teared up as I thought of all the friends and family I have in my life. This has been a teary time in my life as I’ve prepared to send Conor off to college, saying farewell to the younger part of his life and this part of my life as his parent. I’ve commiserated with friends who have taken their kids to college, and who I’ve encouraged as they’ve faced this milestone. I know I will be fine and he will be fine, and that this is what we’ve been planning for and working toward for years. Still, or maybe because of all that, it is an emotional time, and I have gotten weepy at reminders of loved ones, special events, and ordinary events.
Seeing my friend’s name on a sign along the road was a good reminder, albeit a moist-eyed one, of the love that surrounds me each and every day. If I look, I can find reminders all around (as I typed that, we passed beneath a road sign for Lover, PA. I am not making that up!!) How blessed I feel and how thankful I am for the presence of a loving God in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. It is a privilege to raise children and to see them grow. It is a joyful (and challenging, tiring, exhilarating) journey that we are privileged to take together. The reminders of God’s love and the love of others are great companions on my trip today and everyday.
Gracious God, watch over all of us who are taking sons and daughters to college this season. Bless all those who work at colleges and universities too. Amen.
“The eyes are the window to your soul.” – William Shakespeare
“Look me in the eye and say that!” is a taunt used in anger or indignation, urging someone seen as cowardly or inferior to repeat the challenge or insult that has been spoken. Looking someone in the eye creates a direct and personal connection; letting someone look into your eyes invites communication, even intimacy. A helpful tip for travelers at friendly border crossings is to take off their sunglasses so that the Customs agent can see the eyes of the travelers. Doing so conveys openness and engenders trust.
I had a wonderful conversation with a colleague from another college at a recent learning community retreat. She and I have known each other for a dozen years, seeing each other annually at this retreat. We usually ask about each other’s families and have a pleasant conversation. This year our conversation became deeper, sharing more of the details of our lives and our histories, our ups and downs. In the midst of a lively, noisy reception we were had a heart-to-heart conversation about our hopes and dreams. I think the turning point was our eye contact. As I started to share more about myself I became aware of feeling deeply moved, and I realized that there was a decision I could make – I could move off to talk to different people, or continue the conversation at a lighter level by changing the subject, or I could look her in the eye and risk feeling the emotions – both sadness and joy – that were attached to the things we were talking about. I looked at her and we held our eye contact, our eyes tearing up as we did so, knowing that it was an unusual moment of connection and grace. The colleague and friend I knew professionally was now a much closer friend. We had given each other the gift of ourselves and our attention, really listening to and hearing not just the words of the other but also the emotions in those words and stories. Strange that eye contact had opened up my ears, but it was more my heart that was opened, the better for my senses to work.
When is the last time you really looked into the eyes of an acquaintance, a friend, or a loved one, holding that eye contact and listening to the emotions behind the words? Try it today for a jolt of connection, a powerful and bold way to give that person a gift of love and grace, an affirmation of his or her importance and worth.
Thank you, Lord, for eyes to really see into the hearts of others, and to let them see me too. Amen.
P.S. – a shout out to Barbara S., whose words of appreciation at the retreat made a huge difference for me, and got me back online!
Driving home this evening I listened to NPR – as I often do – and was touched and inspired by this story of using humor to reach across cultural differences. A Muslim researcher from Chicago gets some humor training from a Jewish comedienne from New York City. Heartwarming and lovely, thanks to Judy Carter and Dalia Mogahed for their laughter and courage in trying new things!
Seriously (lol), listen to this now – 9 minutes of great radio.
After listening to “All Tech Considered” on NPR today I thought I’d re-post this essay from my former blog. Are you sending Christmas or holiday e-cards or paper cards? It doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts! – Anne
I haven’t been a big fan of e-cards. I think it might have something to do with the ease with which they can be sent. This tells you something about my family’s Puritan roots and our adherence to a strong work ethic. (Translation: if it takes hard work, it has value.) My aversion to e-cards also may be related to the fact that they come into my e-mail inbox which I often feel is overflowing already. One more e-mail, I sometimes think, is not what I need!
Today, however, as I started to think about sending Valentine’s Day cards, I thought of how greeting cards might have seemed when they were created. Prior to greeting cards, people sent letters or notes, and they had to come up with the words all by themselves. Greeting cards added pictures, and that probably was a welcome addition. They also added words. What a revolutionary idea! All you had to do was add your name! But I’ll bet that not everyone thought greeting cards were such a hot idea—so impersonal, you know? Someone else wrote the words. All you had to do was buy one, sign it, and send it. And so it goes. New ideas gain traction—slowly at first. Maybe greeting cards were for birthdays first, then cards were added for sympathy, thank-you’s, anniversaries, and weddings. Now you can buy a greeting card for almost any occasion or day of the week. And now I can see how an e-card is no less a message of love than a greeting card that arrives in the mailbox at my house. It has been selected just for me and sent because someone was thinking of me and wanted me to know. Not only that, but e-cards are free! My ancestors would be proud.
Lord, thank you for prayer, which is the epitome of fast, free, loving communication. Amen.