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.   



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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Robin Williams has died. Like me, you probably didn't know him personally. Consequently, my grief, our grief, if that's what it is, moves a bit strangely: real but detached; from empathy for him and his family and close friends to reminiscing on acting roles.

What are your Robin Williams memories? I remember, as a kid one summer, the Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack, including Williams' comedic monologues, played almost nonstop in my dad's car. Then, there came Hook, the genie in Aladdin's bottle and Mrs. Doubtfire. On my first date with my husband we saw The Birdcage, and the first time I thought I loved him came after watching Jumanji - odd, I know.  And, of course, there's Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams and others.

My favorite Williams' movie, though, is Dead Poets Society.  Being only 8 when it was released, I discovered it years later. I loved it; it was serious and sad, but also funny, inspiring and hopeful. It was life. I've shared one of my favorite scenes below. For me, then and now, this scene speaks to vocation - a spiritual word meaning what you are here to do, where you are uniquely called to love the world. Though grammatically I must put a period after its definition, for most of us, really, it needs a question mark. That is, we don't yet know what we're here to do, where we're called to love. And, even if we do, it's ever-evolving and hard, requiring faith and courage. This topic, among others, will be explored this fall in WAYgroups around Indianapolis; if you're interested, let me know. For now, though, let's LISTEN to and LEARN from Wiliams' words and begin to LOVE together. 

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