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The first time my son went to Boy Scout camp without his Dad, one of the leaders, I was a little worried.  I needn’t have bothered.  A class where he knows no one.  Camp on his own.  A new job.  He finds a way to connect.

Introvert that I am, it is actually something that I’m pretty good at doing.  When I organized an annual writers conference in Missouri, I made a point of greeting each person as they came in.  When I attend a conference, I look for someone by themselves at lunchtime, then I ask to sit at their table.  If you want to be on your own, I’m good with that.  But if you are shy?  I can step up.  Introvert I may be, shy I am not.

Not long ago, in Bible study, we were discussing what it was like to be a Gentile who followed Christ.  You were the new kid on the block.  You weren’t from the tradition of Abraham.  It had to be pretty easy to feel like an outsider.

Now, we Gentiles have been around for a while.  We tend to think of it, whether the building or the Faith, as ours.  With that in mind, we need to remember to reach out.  “No, this is your place too.  We are all His children.”  Scooch over and make a space in the pew.


This past weekend, I attended a writing retreat.  It was sponsored by a university organization that helps teachers use writing in their classes.  The idea behind the retreat is that by encouraging teachers to write, they can better encourage their students to write.

I’m a writer but I’m not a teacher so how did I end up going?  I know the woman who organized it.  She invited me to go.

When she was contacted by a professor with small children who needed to work on the rewrite of a journal article.  Could she come so she could focus on her writing?  Technically, she hasn’t been through the program but the answer was still YES.  Please join us!

This experience has me looking around with open eyes.  How often do we say no, this is for just this group when we could say YES?

The Methodist church just did this with gay members who have been called as clergy.

Many other groups do this with communion  – you have to belong to partake.

Children’s programs that are only open to preschoolers.

Sunday school classes that are for adults.

Bible studies that are for the women of the church.

How many times do we build a wall by narrowly focusing who is welcome?  My suggestion? Let’s start breaking up these walls with doors and throw them wide open.  Christ, after all, has enough love to share.


In Carson McCullers’ play, “A Member of the Wedding,” young Frankie searches for the “we of me” — the people to whom she belongs, who will lift her up and help her soar to her highest heights. Maybe that’s what we’re all looking for. And maybe that’s what makes us break ourselves down into groups by ethnicity, skin color, religion, political affiliation and the like. We all want to find the we of us.

Often in pursuing this goal, we end up hurting others — the key word here being “others.” We reject those who are not the “we of us,” sometimes violently. It is what ISIS seems keen on doing. They do not seem to understand where this will lead them. Even if every “infidel” were wiped from the face of the earth, they would not stop killing; they would merely turn on their own. ISIS, if given what it claims it wants, would eat itself alive.

They are not the only ones. We base our exclusivity, our hatred, on the most random and outward of appearances. I find it worrying that in a season that celebrates the birth of a savior born to a Middle Eastern couple in search of a place to stay, many people are using the actions of a minority to support a decision not to welcome Middle Eastern refugees.

But don’t they see? Origin of birth, differences in faith, variations in skin color — none of these things should exclude belonging. In fact, if you believe that we all originated from a single pair of ancestors — a common Adam and Eve — then we are all related to one another in a very real way. They are we, and we are they. We are the we of us.

The best thing we can do in an often weary and wicked world is to hold out a hand, extend an open palm. Perhaps no one will take it. But maybe he will. And maybe that person will extend her own hand to another. And another, and another and another.

Small lights in the darkness don’t do much. But bring enough of them together and maybe, just maybe, we’ll all see clearly. We belong together. We belong to one another. Nothing — no one — can make that untrue.




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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