| Anne Williamson |

Bill Maher once said, "Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease." Interestingly, I don't know whether he said this in support or opposition of the shift. I assume he doesn't like the "religulous" word sin; and yet, I experience him as a strong believer - yes, believer - in personal responsibility, which "disease" diminishes.

Either way, remove "everything" from his statement - obviously Maher hasn't been to marriage counseling where absolutes are a major "no-no" - and it rings true. Liberal camps, even those of the religious persuasion, hate blaming sin on the sinner. Admittedly, I lean this direction too. Hang around me long enough and you're sure to hear me repeat Maya Angelou's famous words, "When you know better, you do better." 

The thing is, Maya's words aren't meant to "let us off the hook;" they're meant to call us to better....

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In the faith world, this is a week for powerful stories. Christians will tell and hear of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It will remind them hate never has the final word, and peace, wholeness, is possible. Jews will begin the Passover celebration. They'll recount the story of their ancestors' deliverance from slavery in Egypt, as well as ongoing struggles against tyranny - both external and internal. They'll hear the story and remember freedom need not be a mere dream.     

These are big stories, meaningful. Stories that have been at the heart of Western cultures for centuries. They inspire us. Confuse us. Won't leave us alone - often, even when we're intentionally trying to leave them behind. They're a part of our histories, families, secular and sacred rituals, literature and movies. They are stories in which people all over the world have faith.  

Yet, they are stories about which our beliefs differ. Outside the traditions, and within them, we hear these stories and interpret them differently, allow them different places of meaning in our lives. What are we to make of this? Are we to assume some of us have it "right" and others "wrong"? Namely, me, I have it right, and you, you have it wrong. Or, can we imagine a different way? Can we allow each other different versions of the s/Story, different meanings, as long as those meanings soak in love? As long as they move us to live deeper and love better than we did yesterday. Can we begin to define faithfulness this way? 

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Do this, and you will live. Jesus spoke these words in The Story of the Good Samaritan. It comes after the lawyer, "to test" him, asks, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" We are told upon Jesus' prompting, the lawyer offers an answer to his own question: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus tells him he has given the right answer, and then adds, "Do this, and you will live." 

It's an ambiguous response. Given the context, we might assume Jesus meant the lawyer would have eternal life. And yet, in Jesus' final response - after he tells the Good Samaritan story - he says, "Go and do likewise," cutting offer any reference to life after death. 

Is it possible Jesus, once again, hoped to shift perspectives? Just as a neighbor, through the story, becomes not who we serve but who we are, "life" is not some eternal destination, but here, now, today. We live not by multiplying our number of breaths but by multiplying, opening, this moment through love. Of course, we may want more literal breaths - especially for our loved ones - but it's not really the life in and of itself we want, it's the living.

It's the love. The love of this world's pulse; Jesus called it God, call it whatever you like: the music, spring air, her laughter, his warmth, that "Oh, my God" view, taste, smell, touch. This is the love we receive - as gift, grace, ordinary miracle. Living is also the love you give - increasingly, better, braver. It's being open to and moving into the spaces you are uniquely called to love - at home and along the roadside, for the sake of your friends and the bruised and beaten stranger, world.

It's up to you. No one will force your hand. But, do this, and you will not just have life, you will live.  

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Loving well. Some days it seems easy. My heart feels open, light, and the problems, straightforward enough. Other days loving well is crazy hard. My stories, my hurts and fears catch up with me, and I close up, pop my head into my shell and greet any softness encountered with rough, hard edges. And, that's just my stuff. Some days loving well is crazy hard because the problems are crazy, complicated messes.

Where are we to begin, when loving well is hard? 

One of the best love stories I've heard was told by Jesus. We call it, "The Good Samaritan." For many of us, we know this text, or at least, think we know it. We’ve heard the gist of it: Go out. Be kind. Do good. Essentially, be a good Samaritan. The term, and thus the story, have been so watered down we've stopped noticing its provocative plot, its exceptional loving well wisdom, including how it says to begin.

In the story, a man from Jerusalem falls into "the hands of robbers" and is stripped, beaten and left half dead. Two other men, who see the bruised and beaten man on the roadside, "pass by on the other side." Then, a third man, a Samaritan, passes by and chooses differently: he decides to "come near." The Samaritan starts by drawing near. (Read the whole story here.)

This may seem simple, boring even. But, drawing near can be, often is, crazy hard. Cultural and ideological barriers, not to mention geography, time, energy, our personal wounds, keep us at arms length. And to love well, proximity is a must. We must draw close enough to see another's face, to hear her story, to feel his spirit. 

This is the idea behind WAYfinding's new speaker series called "Table Conversations With A...." In it, we'll hear from individuals whose stories are in some way unfamiliar to our own.  We'll listen, reflect and ask questions, practice empathy, and hopefully, walk away having been changed from drawing near. 


This week I invite you to love by drawing near. I invite you to mark your calendars for "Table Conversations With A... Millennial, Black Man" on Wednesday, March 4 at Flat 12 Brewery (414 N. Dorman St.). Doors open, libations at 6:30p; story-telling at 7:00p. James C. Wilson will be our guest. James is a native of the Martindale Brightwood area on Indianapolis' east side. His was a childhood consumed with loss, drugs and violence, eventually landing him in prison. While there, mentors helped him change his outlook, and he began preparing for a new life once released. Today, James is a father, and President and CEO of Circle Up Indy, an organization helping youth - and whole communities - resist violence through mentorship, law enforcement dialogues, job training, peace festivals, and more! We are honored to have James as our first Table Conversations story-teller. Please RSVP here, or on Facebook.  

If you cannot make it next week, consider how else you can draw near to another's story. Articles, books and documentaries are good places to start, but eventually, you'll need to take it "live." Maybe there's a similar event happening in your city? An organization with which you can become involved? A person to whom you can take a few extra minutes listening? Be brave, draw near, love well.   



In lieu of my usual blog post, this week I offer you my sermon from WAYfinding's Community Christmas Service. I hope it sparks your imagination, helping you imagine a more peaceful, joy-filled and compassionate life and world.

I also wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, as I'll be taking a two-week hiatus from posting.

Out of what's stirring in you, imagine... What is the thing you most need to imagine for yourself this Christmas and beyond? And, what is the thing you think the world most needs you to imagine on it's behalf? Write down your imaginings. Share them with s/Someone. Pray for guidance and the courage to begin the hard work of making your imaginings realities.  




There's this Jesus scene in the Bible that used to scare me and now I love. In it, Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem during Passover and begins overturning tables, driving out the money-changers and sellers of doves. (Yep, that was a thing.) He's angry, proclaiming, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a den of robbers." 

As a teenager, I didn't find Jesus' behavior very "Christ like." Ironic, I know. Where were the children on his lap, healings, and words of peace? Why was he so angry? LEARN, LISTEN, LOVE... 

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Did you know only 10% of long-term happiness is based on the external world? 90% is how our brain processes the world we find ourselves in!* 90%! It's quite a staggering number, and a number that begs the question, "How can I train my brain toward happiness?" 

This week in WAYfinding, we're asking this question and exploring its connections to faith, to spirituality. One key connection is through something I call our "belief narratives." At WAYfinding, we are open to all beliefs. But, this has never meant we think beliefs are neutral or don't matter. We think they matter a great deal! Perhaps the main reason why is this: our beliefs shape how we process the world; they are the narratives that play "on loop" in our head, shaping our joy (or lack thereof) and actions.

For me, I've always been a fan of the Jesus story. Specifically, I like the resurrection. Now, understandably, you may be sarcastically thinking, "Real original, Anne" or "Oh, here we go, she's finally going to tell me how Jesus saves my soul." But, bear with me, because that's not my point at all. I like the resurrection story best because it shapes my thinking on pretty much everything; it is my central "belief narrative." However bad things get in my own life, however absurd the world seems, the resurrection story reminds me this day is not the end. It doesn't much matter whether it's a "true" story - at least not for me - because, for me, either way, it points to the nature of God, the universe. It says to me that with God there is always tomorrow and tomorrow is a resurrection story.  

This is my belief. It's how I process the world, my life, and because of this, I'm ultimately optimistic, internally resilient. I believe God is for me, for you, for the whole world, that God desires our resurrection - in my mind, just a fancy, theological word for our healing, wholeness, spiritual unfolding.

What about you? What stories, what belief narratives, play "on loop" in your head? Are they ultimately helpful, opening you to joy and love? Or, not? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE below and join us this week at WAYfinding:

Tuesday, 12:00p - 1:15p
Wednesday, 7:00p - 9:00p
Wednesday, 7:00p - 9:00p (Mom's Group)
Email me for locations. All in Broad Ripple/SoBro area. 

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One of my favorite books to read my daughter is The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring. It runs through a series of shapes and their role in our lives concluding with, “And this is the shape I love you with. This is the shape of my heart.” So sweet. 

Lately, though, it’s become more than a heartwarming children’s book for me; it’s become a question: how do we form the shape of our hearts? How do we? How do we actually become more compassionate, more loving? 

There are a thousand stories every day – personal and not – that pull us to explore this question.  But, recently, none has pulled my attention like the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. (You may find a timeline here.) The analysis of, and responses to, this event and its aftermath has been so diverse, it begs the-shape-of-our-hearts question. How is it that we feel so differently? 

Perhaps it is because we’re not actually practiced in changing the shape of our hearts? The reason being: to really change the shape of our hearts requires deep discomfort. It can’t be achieved through loving someone you find easy to love. It comes when you expose your heart to that, to who, you struggle to understand, you struggle to empathize with, you struggle to love, and then say to your heart, repeatedly, as many times as it takes, “Open.” Whether a spouse we know intimately or a young urban black man we don’t know at all, we change the shape of our hearts by, as Jesus said, loving the “enemy” we perceive in them.

It is my belief this is the work of real spiritual growth. Whether we call it “salvation” or “enlightenment” or “nirvana,” it is not a destination but a process of changing the shape of our hearts. It’s a process where, instead of hoping to love some people well, we, in time, shape our hearts into a form where there is nothing but love… for all. 

What do you think? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE…

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It's a big week in the Christian tradition: Holy Week, Easter. And, I'll be honest: I don't know what to do about it. The story, and thus its commemorative days, is deeply meaningful to me; yet, I have little desire to attend church. I want my daughter - and myself - to experience traditions beyond bunnies and eggs; yet, I don't yet know what to incorporate or create.

I've been rereading the book of Mark over the last few weeks, and it strikes me that Jesus too was celebrating holy days at this time: Passover. Of course, his circumstances were unique. And yet, amid the extraordinary, I also read a deeply human struggle: how to remember an old story in ways that feel honest and connecting, personally. For Jesus, given his obvious disdain for the practice, we can assume temple sacrifices went off his list (Mark 11.15-19). He also seems to have taken a traditional meal, the Passover Seder, and infused it with new meaning for himself and his disciples, what became The Lord's Supper (Mark 14.22-24).

Since that time, many new (Christian) traditions have arisen. We don't have to label each "good" or "bad" to discern whether a tradition is personally meaningful. What feels honest and connecting for you may not for your neighbor. Jesus' reimagining of his own traditions teaches that what matters most is to discern the story's point and live authentically from there. What would it look like for you, for me, to do the same? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE... 

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