Monthly Archives: September 2020

When We Support One Another


My daughter Riley and I were on our way to an out of town football game when my husband Ben called.  I thought he was checking on whether we had arrived at our destination, which was over an hour away from home.  I hit the Bluetooth button, and his voice filled the van.  “Did you get my text?” he asked.  “No,” I said, proud of myself for focusing on the road instead of my phone.  That’s when he said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.”  I let out a loud gasp, almost a shriek, at the news.  Despite her age and significant health issues, her death was a shock.  As a woman who graduated from law school in 1999, I admired RBG and was shaken by her loss.  Whether or not one agreed with her legal opinions or dissents, she’d certainly had an enormous impact on many of us, especially women.

Riley asked, “Mom, are you okay?”  I told her this was a big deal, and I needed a moment before we went into the stadium.  Then, the phone calls and texts started from my female friends.  My friends from college, my friends from law school, my friends with whom I currently do daily life all reached out to check on me and share their heartache as well.  When I finally opened Facebook later, my friends’ outpouring of grief at RBG’s death overwhelmed and moved me.

This collective mourning that flowed from women for a woman like RBG made me think of a Biblical woman named Tabitha (also known as Dorcas).  The book of Acts called Tabitha a disciple and said she “was always doing good and helping the poor.”  After Tabitha became sick and died, the people who knew her went to a nearby town and asked the apostle Peter to come to Joppa where Tabitha’s body laid in an upstairs room.  When Peter arrived, “all the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.” Acts 9:36-42.  Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and the miracle caused others to believe.  

But for me, the main takeaway is that the women of Joppa loved and respected Tabitha because of the way she treated and supported them.  The widows were left adrift in that society.  As far as Tabitha was concerned, though, the widows in her community would not be ignored.  She took care of them.  She lived a life of service and built a legacy that honored other women.  She served God by caring for the people who could not adequately take care of themselves.  The Bible recognized the value of the relationships that Tabitha built with the women around her.

In our culture, women are pitted against one another on a regular basis.  We compare ourselves to each other instead of celebrating the successes of all women.  Life is difficult, and many women are working, raising kids, helping elderly parents, volunteering, pursuing creative endeavors, or simply trying to survive.  Often, women try to go it alone in carrying the burdens. Instead, we can work to build a community of women to help lift each other up.  Support can take many forms.  Serving as a sounding board so a friend can vent may be essential to her well-being.  Even just a text to remind someone she’s being thought of can be a lifeline in a time of difficulty.  

Women need to support other women.  Let us work to be the type of women that other women believe are for them, not against them.  In so doing, we will serve God and help women experience God’s love for them. 

Who’s Going to Act This Time?


I noticed an unusual situation in my neighborhood during a walk the other day.  I discovered a fairly tall and unruly patch of weeds growing between two mailboxes.  These weeds appear to mark the property line between the neighbors.  Both of these yards are neatly mowed on either side of the weed patch.  Of course, my imagination started spinning stories about the potential root of this problem.  Perhaps there is a turf war in which neither party claims this particular piece of land.  Thus, the households will not cave in and mow the area because it’s not theirs to tend, resulting in a stalemate.  Do they frown and mutter every time they see the overgrowth?  

It could simply be an oversight.  Each neighbor assumed the other would fix the problem, but neither has acted yet.  Pulling out the equipment to mow one lousy spot could be too much trouble, so they’ll just wait until they mow next week.  They could even have a landscaping service who missed it and is contractually obligated to come back and mow the area.  Maybe they laugh over the ridiculousness of the terrain while they get their mail.  I’m curious, but these folks don’t live in the immediate vicinity of my house, and I don’t know them. I can’t simply ask what’s going on.  But whatever’s happening, the weeds remain untended.  

I wonder who will blink first.  It seems like a silly dilemma in some ways.  Can’t someone just mow the overgrown spot?  My first thought is that the bigger person should simply step up and take care of the situation.  But in other ways, I understand the conflict.  I will walk right past a pair of socks in my living room floor several times as my anger flares because I think “why won’t anyone else pick up around here?”  None of us want to be taken advantage of by others or feel unappreciated.  If we volunteer to help or take care of the problem, others might come to expect that of us every time.  Those types of constant expectations can lead to resentment and burnout.  I’ve felt it sometimes, and I’ve definitely seen it happen to other people, especially in volunteer situations, church in particular.  

So, then how can we approach these types of situations in which it might be easy to act, but we don’t want to be stuck in a role that might not be one we want?   Maybe we could offer to do part of the work, but then ask for help in completing the job.  Some of us resist asking for assistance.  We often want people to read our minds and then offer to lend a hand.  But that’s not really how life works.  Many people focus on their own needs to the point that they don’t notice the issues around them, or they simply aren’t that observant.  But if they’re asked to do something, they would willingly help.  Perhaps they would even feel included and valued if we ask them to contribute.  

God wants us to work together in community.  Not even Jesus did all the work by himself.  He had twelve disciples who helped him in his ministry, fished when they were hungry, helped with the crowds, and did what Jesus asked them to do.  And while they worked, they also spent time eating, talking, and in fellowship.  They shared the work and also solidified their friendships.                       

The next time we see a situation that needs our help, let’s figure out what we will offer and who we will ask to help us.  Maybe we can mow the patch this week and our friend can mow it the next.  Or we can mow half and they will mow the other half.  But if we work together, we can make progress on the issue in front of us without feeling overburdened.  We can share the obligation and create a bond with the one who is working with us.  And, we can please God at the same time.  

P.S.      Someone mowed the weeds a week later – thanks be to God. 

Accepting the Tears


I’d thought about what I wanted to say, but I hadn’t anticipated the emotions that would bubble up when I tried to speak.  Summer was ending, and even though our family would see most of this group of friends again soon, we wouldn’t see them on an almost daily basis as we had for the last few months.  I wanted to tell one friend in particular with whom we’d become close that he was special to our family and would always be welcome in our home.  But I suddenly felt sad and overwhelmed.  And, then the tears started to come.  

“We’ll see each other next weekend,” our friend said reassuringly.  I knew what he said was true, but I couldn’t help crying because things were changing just the same.  Riley, my sixteen-year-old daughter, persuaded me to join her in the restroom.  “I don’t know why I’m crying,” I told her.  “I feel so stupid.”  I worried that I’d embarrassed her and myself at the same time.  “Mom, stop,” she said.  But then she refined her words, “I don’t mean stop crying.  It’s okay to cry.  I mean stop being mad at yourself for being upset.”  

As my tears continued to flow, we returned to the group and took some photos before I left the gathering.  Riley stayed behind for a little while longer.  I cried all the way home.  I cried with sadness because I wasn’t sure how the future with these friends would play out, but I also cried with gratitude for the friendships we’d made.  Thankfully, Riley allowed me to focus on the root of my emotions instead of the shame and guilt that came from displaying my emotions.     

How many times do we apologize for crying?  We say, “I’m sorry,” for our inability to control our tears.  So, in the midst of sadness, grief, or even joy, we spend at least part of our energy feeling ashamed and trying to stop the tears as well.  Our emotions become a tangled mess.  I’ve heard experts say we must work through our feelings instead of ignoring or pushing them down.  But we can’t focus on dealing with the underlying emotions causing the tears when we’re also feeling guilt at crying in the first place.     

I know we don’t want to make others uncomfortable when we cry in front of them.  We usually desire to stop our own tears and those of others as quickly as possible.  But I think most people want to help and only feel awkward because they don’t know the best way to provide comfort.  Perhaps one way to help both the person in tears and the one bearing witness is if we agree that the goal is not necessarily to stop crying.  Often, we’ve internalized our culture’s cues that crying signifies weakness. But demonstrations of emotion in and of themselves are not necessarily bad. 

In the Psalms, David often expressed his anguish and distress to the Lord.  He freely poured out his heart to God and asked for help.  David wrote, “I am worn out from my groaning.  All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.  My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Psalm 6:6-9.  David is honest about his emotions and his exhaustive tears.  Then, he says that the Lord “accepts” his prayer.  God welcomes and accepts our prayers and our weeping.  Perhaps we should better accept our tears as proof of our humanity, and not a reason for shame.  Maybe, we should accept tears as proof of God’s divinity – a God designed way to release our emotions and to show others that we need a listening ear, a comforting embrace, a shoulder to cry on.  

I struggled a little bit in the days after my crying episode.  I still felt somewhat embarrassed, but Riley remained vigilant in her insistence that my crying was okay.  I asked her to text our friend and thank him for his kindness when I was tearful.  While he confessed that he didn’t know quite what to do in that moment, his and Riley’s choice to accept my tears without judgment meant so much to me.  Instead of trying to make me stop crying, they both looked directly into my eyes and offered words of comfort, so that I could freely express my emotions and my heart.    

Empty Messages


During Covid-19, my family has stayed home together for most of the time.  Ben has worked, all four kids attended online school, and I’ve continued writing.  Even during the summer, we’ve generally remained in our house.  So, we’ve developed a few habits, including one in which we text on a family chat instead of talking face-to-face for every discussion.  It’s easier than yelling for everyone to assemble when we must make decisions.  We yell enough without adding to the noise when a text will suffice.  Usually, the texts are innocuous, like what do we want for lunch?  But a couple of times, someone pushed send before they’d typed any words into the text message.  The texts popped up containing the words, “empty message.” 

I feel like we send and receive a lot of empty messages these days because we talk a lot, but often our words lack value.  Or the opposite is true, we don’t say anything when we could contribute words with significance.  Do we have a worthy purpose in speaking (even if we might upset some people) or are we just talking to stir up people’s negative emotions?  Some of us have spent so much time arguing that we don’t seem to know another way to function in the world.

In a familiar passage, the Bible says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.”  I Cor. 13:1 (NIV).  Another translation says that if I do not speak with love, “I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.” (MSG).  Unless love motivates and inspires our words, it doesn’t matter how eloquent the words are or even how truthful.  We can speak clearly and persuasively, but if our purpose is not rooted in love, the words fail to reach the hearts and minds of others in a positive, uplifting way.   

When we do not speak from a place of love, we may speak from fear instead.  We fear being wrong, so we justify our positions no matter what.  We don’t want to feel vulnerable, so we deflect and defend instead of apologizing.  We don’t want to be hurt, so we hurt the other person first with words we can’t take back.  We spew hate because we worry that we will be displaced, become irrelevant, or fear people who may seem different from us.  

Similarly, when we do not speak, we may believe our goal is to keep the peace, but our lack of action may be based on fear, not love, in the face of injustice or unfairness.  We don’t want to be criticized, so we stay silent.  But failure to speak is not only a problem when the words are difficult.  We decline to send a kind word to another out of fear of rejection.   

In order to decide if our words are grounded in love, we must make a habit of taking a moment to assess before we act.  We need to pray and seek God’s wisdom to center ourselves in a spirit of love.  We must examine our purposes and motivations.  If we want to encourage and build up others, let us speak.  When we feel compelled to speak up to avoid silent complicity, let us speak with love to demonstrate that love to the oppressed.  When we feel led to reach out to another in love, we should follow that instinct.  

We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of empty messages that do not serve God’s greater purpose.  God can speak to others through our words and can change hearts and minds if we commit to communicating in love.  God’s love speaks volumes.  May God help us further his love with our words.