We’re all speaking in tongues…

“Denominationally, we have chosen to be at war with one another. We use our words as weapons…words central to our faith.” – Charlie Kaufman

“I’m looking for couples who express the fullness of God’s gifting in their lives to walk along side me in a new work.”

I cocked my head to the side and looked hard at him for a second.  It’s taken me years to learn to say these next words….

“Tell me, exactly, what you mean by that…what does that look like in real life?”

He began again in simple words, but strung together in way that sounded more like poetry than the mathematics I was looking for, and I had to stop him.

“I’m not sure you’re speaking a language that I understand.”

It was his turn to cock his head and look at me quizzically.  We had been serving together in ministry for years, and, I think, misunderstanding each other for about that long.  I watched as that realization broke like dawn over his face.

“I need some couples who are mature and secure enough in their faith to pray with me, to serve in church with me and, most of all, to tell me when I don’t make sense.”

This conversation got me thinking…as a person who began her religious education as a practitioner of Wicca, converted to Christianity and practiced as a Southern Baptist, and now finds herself as an ordained minister in a non-denominational church plant while working on staff at a Lutheran (liturgical) church- I have a fairly ecumenical vocabulary.  But I have noticed that we, the  people of the church, often use the same words to mean vastly different things…or perhaps at times incrementally different things…and either way we use those differences to draw a line in the sand and create a deep sense of disunity.

Some of my most frustrating conversations find their source in these misunderstood words.  I generally have no problem asking about words I have never heard before.  This is a good thing- my work in the Lutheran church has forced me to rub up against a whole new Christian vocabulary, but I do find myself wondering if the words my friends, pastors and other Christians are using mean what I think they mean.

Surely, I am not the only one…so I asked my Facebook community to share with me words they found were commonly misunderstood, particularly across denominations. I found the replies very interesting.  I guess I was fairly certain we would misunderstand the larger theological concepts between denominations (and we do, largely)…but the words folks struggled with the most were words like:

God

Saved

Jesus

Gospel

Holy Spirit

Grace

Words formative to our identity as Christian.  Words that are central to our religion as a whole….these are the words that, by and large, Christians are unsure of in a general ecumenical context. Or, worse yet, we think we are all speaking the same language, but in reality have very different understandings of the these words that we interact with every day as Christians.

Turns out…we are all speaking in tongues…and most of us don’t even realize it…

Perhaps what we need is more folks with the gift of interpreting….

Or religious dictionaries that strictly define these words…

Or better yet, lots of coffee and tea and open discussions about faith, belief and the foundations that form our traditions…

That’s scary business and requires a disciplined insight into your own language and the ability to step into the fire of the question, “what does this word mean to me?”

It’s time though…

to stop drawing lines in the sand and start pulling chairs up to the table…

Coffee, anyone?

Five Minute Friday- Fly

 

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Fly

Ready? GO!

There is a moment when time stops just before I jump.  There is a split second, blink of the eye instant where doubt creeps in and I pray that my people see me, that they hear me and that they know me well enough to know that I am going for it. There is a moment when I wonder if my troupe will catch me…or not…and my launch into the air will be met with gravity and floor.

But it’s just a moment….because in this world- as it is in the world of improv…you have to trust that when you jump, you will be caught.  And because I was born without wings or a superpower and my cape is dirty and in the wash :), when I jump, the only way I can fly is on the hands and strength of the people I trust to catch me.

In our improv troupe, when someone assumes the role of a superhero or bird or some other flying character, the troupe will come together to "fly" the individual by lifting that person into the air (or catching them as they jump).  It is a profoundly moving and frightening experience, and so magical to watch.

In our improv troupe, when someone assumes the role of a superhero or bird or some other flying character, the troupe will come together to “fly” the individual by lifting that person into the air (or catching them as they jump). It is a profoundly moving and frightening experience, and so magical to watch.

STOP!

Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

The Dream Interpreters…for when you need a heart to hear

The last two weeks have been amazing in their lessons for me.  Last week, my silent directed retreat to Little Portion left me rested and better prepared for the journey ahead and while there I learned so much about my relationship with God and my need for rest.  This week, I have just returned from the Jumping Tandem Retreat in Ashland, Nebraska and what an amazing experience! I have learned more about living my God-sized dream, what that means and what it is.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing reflections from both these experiences.  Here is the first, an introduction to Jumping Tandem.  

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After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.  

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” 

Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

– Genesis 40:4-8


There were a hundred of us gathered in a small chapel room at the Carol Joy Holling Conference Retreat Center in Ashland, Nebraska.  We came for different reasons and at different stages in our journey. Each of us fancied ourselves writers or artists of a sort, but all of us were dreamers…and that’s really what we came for…to learn about God-sized dreams and spend time fleshing out our own.

My sweet friend and heart sister, Holley Gerth, kicked off the weekend with a challenge- put your dream on paper…and then tell someone about it.  She asked us to lay down the sword of criticism and pick up the Sword of Truth, and turn to a heart sister we hadn’t met yet, pull up our ribs and show off our beautiful, captivating, Jesus-imprinted hearts.

The room erupted in the fervent sharing of each other’s dreams and smiles and encouragement floated in the air, divine appointments were met and I had the intense sensation that this weekend would be one of openness and vulnerability, of encouragement and deep thinking, and that somewhere in that room was a heart that would help me interpret my dream.

Dreams are funny things, you know? They have life and breath and emotions. They teach us about ourselves and our world and how we view it.  They make us yearn for something more and reach beyond our lives and experiences to a bigger understanding of the mystery that is this existence.  But, if not carefully interpreted and shared, they can invite doubt and fear and anxiety and comparison to set up camp in our lives and breed together to birth resentment and bitterness.

I know that the passage above from Genesis is addressing specifically prophetic dreams, but I think there is something more in it for the dreamers of the world.  

“Why do you look so sad today?” Asked Joseph.  “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”

Don’t we feel that? When we have dreams and no one to help us make sense of them? No one to hold us accountable to them. No one to go along with us on the experience?

tandem-skydive-burnaby-ontario-toronto-girl

Tandem, by definition, is the arrangement of two or more persons, or objects, behind each other. So in essence, tandem skydiving is arrangement of two skydivers, the student and the instructor, where the instructor’s harness attaches them to each other. During a tandem jump the student sits in the front of the harness and both the student and the instructor share the instructor’s parachute.

Jumping Tandem Retreat was about not going it alone.  Was about having another heart hear and interpret your dream and about making the leap together using the same big God-sized parachute.  Our “skydiving” instructors this weekend shared with us their own God-sized dreams and how God was making them happen (most often in unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable ways), they shared with us their own fears and they shared with us how they learned to jump anyway, and then they helped us suit up to take the leap.  I have never experienced anything quite like it…and I can’t wait to go back next year and hear the stories that are being written on the hearts of those who attended this year.

AVFM: And Then the Bells Rang…for when you send someone home

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

woman-dying-from-cancer

Walking with a loved one in her final days is a sorrowful and daunting experience which brings up age-old questions of faith and fairness.  It tests our beliefs and wrings our spirits.  But in the end, there is always a signal of God’s presence and solace in our pain.  Today, the church bells were mine.

church-bell-224x300

And Then the Bells Rang

Home, surrounded by my refuge,

I prayed for comfort for my dear one,

Grateful for knowing her

And saddened at her suffering,

Pondering what new dilemmas

Would be faced in coming days.

I questioned what possible good

Could come from this horrendous pain

And why such gracious people

Should have to relinquish every

Remnant of dignity and joy

In this final stretch of the journey.

And then the bells rang

At the church down the street

And the answer was clear.

Heavenly Father says, “Welcome Home.”

© Carlene Welch, 2012

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM: Precious Moments…for when your little ones are all grown up

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

“Precious moments. . .sneak up on us. I don’t think it matters how young or old our children are.Sometimes it’s just a quick, funny smile, or a small gesture they make, that sparks that overwhelmingfeeling of total love.” – Shari Cohen, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul

I got to see my grandchildren, Elizabeth and Alexander, in their annual school presentation last weekend. Their parts entailed making a biographical presentation of an historical person, including costume and 10 minute first person oral presentation.

They were brilliant!

lizzy as clara

Lizzy was Clara Barton

Xander was Nikola Tesla

Xander was Nikola Tesla

I enjoyed it immensely. . .almost as much as I enjoyed watching my eldest daughter taking in their work. It prompted memories of hours of Odyssey of the Mind competitions, volleyball and basketball tournaments, and academic honors ceremonies. That search for excellence is still within her and drives her daily. It makes her loyal to her husband and children and tireless in her faith. For this and many, many other qualities, I am truly proud.

On Saturday, I got to see my grandson, Crawford, and my new grandson, Roman. We joined my
daughter, Lora, and son-in-law, Dustin, at Crawford’s soccer game. It was a first experience with Roman, and a cherished one. Crawford was excited to have his grandpa there to watch the game and Roman was excited to pick the newly discovered grass from the field and place it in a bucket. Our parting moment, when he kissed my cheek without being prompted, ranks right up there with most beautiful moments in my life.

Lora Crawford and Roman

Roman, Lora and Crawford at the orphanage in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

I look at my sweet, sweet Lora, and so understand why God gave her the perseverance to rescue this child from his homeland. She has all the technical skills needed, certainly, but she and Dustin are the most consistent parents I have ever seen. If, as I believe, it is true that we can change this world one person and one act at a time, this desire to raise these two beautiful boys will make a huge change. What a legacy!

On Sunday, we joined my youngest daughter for lunch before she returned to an afternoon of homework as she pursues her Master’s degree in education. I watched her interact with others in the restaurant, taking in how beautiful she is and how charming she can be. She has a gorgeous love of color and surrounds herself in it. She teaches art, you know.

alexis

My beautiful daughter, Alexis.

She possesses an amazing talent—not just the artistic talent, but the ability to convey a joy of learning to the children she teaches. She has survived some traumatic emotional events, and continues to display an amazing amount of personal strength and determination. She is a natural caregiver, displaying a loyalty that few people ever possess. Give her a project, and she will accomplish it. Give her a challenge, and she will overcome it. I do so admire her inner strength.

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

Yes, it is true: it doesn’t matter how old or young your children are. There are those moments when you behold a smile, a turn of the head, a mannerism, and feel that total, unabashed love for your “little one”. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for my blessed family!

Blessings,

welch's

Me and my family….aren’t they beautiful?

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM: I Am Not a Winter Person…for when joy falls like snow

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

snowy bench

I am not a winter person. The cold weather and cloudy skies have a claustrophobic effect on me and I have a deep desire to hibernate like a mama bear until the jonquils bloom.

But this morning, when I arose, there was a pristine blanket on the ground.  Soft, white petals were drifting listlessly toward the sidewalks, and silence filled the air.  I sat on my front porch for a few minutes just taking in the grandeur of life’s simple joys.  I breathed in the chilled purity of a morning cleansed in snow.  It amazes me that such a small amount of beauty can quiet our world for just a little while, wrap it in serenity and give us a moment of peace.

The snow melted off during the day, but the afterglow is still with me.

It was a high performance kind of day. . .I got the taxes done, the office has been rearranged, my daughter will be home from the Ukraine in a week with our new grandson, my granddaughter got her braces off, I had a lovely dinner with my youngest child,  Jim is feeling a little better today, and our doggies are freshly groomed and beautiful.  I also got to visit with old friends this week, I’m on the last load of laundry, . . .on and on.

I could look at all these things in a different light and tell you it took forever to get the taxes done, I had to make some changes in the office, my daughter has been in the Ukraine a very long time, my granddaughter had to have braces, my child didn’t talk much at dinner, Jim has been feeling ill, the dogs were really looking scrungy,  . . .see how this can go in an entirely different direction?

I am not a winter person.  But one cannot arise on a magnificent morning such as this and fail to see the work of our Heavenly Father as he cloaks us all gently in white snow feathers.   To wake up each morning with a grateful heart and search for the blessings in the day is a way of life that begets itself.  Joy produces joy, appreciation grows gratitude, and love for one another is contagious.  Please Lord, let it continue to be so!

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.