Love, the Riskiest of Bets

Today’s post is by Juliet Vedral. It has never been difficult for me to say “I love you.” Maybe this is just my personality—I’m an ENFJ so that’s kind of our stock-in-trade. Maybe this is just my cultural background—I’m half-Italian and in some ways all the stereotypes of being passionate, emotive people are true. I hug my friends when I see them. I hug new friends after we’ve first met. It’s not hard for me to show love. Except when it costs me.

I am now over four months into a relationship that has gone from a casual, “why not?” set-up to serious conversations about serious, life-altering matters. I’ve discovered that the rules of dating are primarily defensive strategies, the cousins of the job interview technique. You carefully edit out the bad to highlight the good. Weaknesses are re-cast to appear as strengths, making you appear wonderfully vulnerable (but not high-maintenance or a mess). Above all, you guard your heart and do not give it away to just anyone.

But the strategies that work in dating will kill a relationship.

Radical Hospitality in the Woods

Today’s post is by Crystal Corman

It is easiest for me to connect with God when surrounded by nature’s beauty. I try to take in God’s gifts through the sights, smells, and sounds of the mountains, trees, or river. But most days of the year, I live in the middle of a city, surrounded by concrete, traffic exhaust, and the noise of urban living. This summer, I was surprisingly blessed with the opportunity to escape the urban jungle for an adventure in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

This was my first trip to the Wild Goose Festival and my first trip to North Carolina. With the theme of “Living Liberation,” I anticipated inspiring speakers and artists. While I did witness some amazing presenters, musicians, and performers, my most memorable experience was an atmosphere of hospitality that infused the air.

Hospitality is a beautiful spiritual gift that is too often condensed to “coffee hour” at churches. During my time as staff at a campus ministry in Lincoln, NE, we used a Benedictine book called Radical Hospitality to encourage us in our ministry (Paraclete Press, 2011). This small book spoke of simple acts of kindness that seem radical in a world where we are taught to be suspicious of others out of self-protection or privacy. As someone who did not grow up in a city (I’m a farm girl), I find that the longer I live in the city, the less I look people in the eyes when navigating around others in pursuit of my end destination.

The campgrounds at Wild Goose felt like another world as people greeted each other warmly, paused to listen to questions, and seemed open to an encounter with anyone and everyone at the festival. It was as if people’s hearts were open to the fact that they would meet Jesus in each person they passed or met. I slowly felt my defenses soften, opening myself to be truly present and seek to see the image of God in those around me.

Cultivating Discernment in Community: Another Chapter

Today’s post is by Lois A. Lindbloom

This is a season of grieving for me and throughout the college town in which I live. Jennifer, a beloved campus pastor, died at the age of 47. She was wife, mother of two young children, daughter, sister, friend to neighbors and colleagues, active supporter of children’s activities and concerns for the care of the world in addition to having a listening ear, prophetic voice, and liturgical grace on the campus. A year and a half ago she learned that an aggressive, cancerous tumor had established itself in her brain. That is what took her from us.

A few days before her death, I saw a health care provider in our community. Through her own tears of grief she asked, “Do you know Jennifer?” “Yes, she and I and two other women have been in a small group together for more than nine years, a spiritual direction group. We meet for three hours once a month.” Then the tears rolled for both of us.

Toward the end of her life Jennifer lost her ability to speak. In our last meeting less than three weeks before she passed, her remaining word was “ya.” She understood everything we were saying and offered her one word at appropriate times. Our moments of silence together that day were some of the most profound I have ever experienced. It seemed as though the rest of us were joining her in the silence that now was the only option available to her.