Flirting with Leadership

Today’s post is by Carole Crumley (originally published in Shalem News, Fall 2004)

We were 25 women standing in a large circle, arms outstretched, only touching one another by our fingertips. In the center of the circle stood Flirt, a 1200 pound horse. It was our job to keep Flirt inside the circle. It was Flirt’s job to get out.

Guess who won.

Flirt gave one little flick of her eye, glanced around the circle and simply walked out underneath one pair of outstretched arms.

This was part of an exercise that uses horses to give feedback on leadership qualities. The setting was a large exercise barn at a horse farm in the Pennsylvania countryside. The horses were teaching us which behaviors encouraged their trust and what led them to bolt and run, which actions engendered confidence and what confused them. In other words, how to lead.

Horses are the perfect animal for this kind of experiment. Since they are herd animals, they will follow a leader. They also express their feelings directly, giving immediate feedback through their actions. They run when threatened. They go their own way if a direction is not clear. They can kick, bite or shove if one hasn’t established a trusting relationship with them. They are big, powerful, beautiful and sometimes scary in their unpredictability.

We tried again. We were still in a circle, only touching by fingertips, but this time we strategized that if Flirt moved towards any one of us, those on either side would lean closer. We imagined we could close any gap quickly enough to keep Flirt in.

Wrong.

Flirt was out of there even more quickly than before.

We regrouped. What had just happened? Why did Flirt choose a particular point in our circle to make her escape and not some other place? We learned that horses are exquisitely attuned to the dynamics of a group and the emotions of individuals. They easily recognize messages of doubt and unease. How had we been appearing to Flirt and to one another? Anxious or centered? Threatening or reassuring? Focused or unfocused? After considering these questions, we decided on yet another approach.

Once more Flirt came back into the center of the circle. This time we each concentrated on staying grounded, breathing deeply, being clear about our intent, non-anxious, soft-eyed. Our arms were still outstretched, fingertips still touching, and…. Flirt didn’t move. We looked around, secretly not trusting, waiting for her to bolt.

No movement.
We waited some more.
No movement.
We slowly lowered our arms.
Still no movement.

We stood there, with wide open gaps between each of us, and still no movement. Flirt was as steady and immov-able as a candle in the center of one of our prayer groups.

Eventually we realized that we could have stood just like that from the very beginning, relaxed, open, no outstretched arms, no touching of fingertips, no strategy, no anxiety. Just grounded, centered, present, soft-eyed and Flirt would have stayed inside our circle forever. As long as we were communicating that all was well, that there was no threat, no need to go somewhere else, Flirt was content. Evidently horses also recognize messages of peace and well-being.

Now, months later, there seem to be endless occasions to remember Flirt. When confronted with situations where there is hurt or anger, when fear, disappointment or anxiety fill the circle of life, there is an invitation to gaze softly at the situation and to remember that, in God, all is well and all shall be well. Having others in the circle, a spiritual director or other soul friends, who share a similar prayerful intent helps. Together we can remind one another of God’s faithfulness, collectively soften our gaze and turn to the larger Love that animates all of living.

When I am offering leadership and tempted to try to figure things out or make things happen, then just relaxing my stance can open my awareness in a new way. Being centered can shift my attention from my own agenda and willful striving to a prayer of surrender and a willingness for God to lead.

It is this kind of surrender that the 13th century mystical poet Rumi said gives grace a chance to “gather us up” and gives “miraculous beings” an opportunity to come “running to help.” It is also this total surrender to the beauty of God’s leadership, Rumi, says, that guides us towards becoming “a mighty compassion.” (“A Zero Circle” translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks)

I yearn for that kind of compassionate leadership in the world and pray for its realization in my life. Then perhaps one day all humanity, along with Flirt and all creation, can stand together in a circle of friendship, at peace and unafraid.


TPC_CaroleCrumley_bioCarole Crumley is Director of Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership, Class of 2016, an Episcopal priest, a widely respected leader of ecumenical retreats, groups, and conferences, and a seasoned pilgrimage guide to sacred sites throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Interested in expanding your leadership with compassion and contemplation? This May Shalem is offering With Hearts Wide Open: an online Contemplative Leadership Seminar with Leah Rampy. The seminar is available May 4-25 and can be accessed according to your schedule. Sign up today!

A Constant Steady Force of Peace

Today’s post is by Jamie Deering

Spring offers us evocative reminders of the power and strength in rebirth. Seeds wintering below the surface of soot and soil waiting for love’s signal to sprout. Birds of the air and fish of the sea beginning their long migrations to nesting grounds across testing terrain. My own inner spirit coming out of winter’s drowse to look up and see life teeming all around.

I live on a bay in a tiny alcove of Puget Sound in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula. This area in Washington state offers one of the most diverse, sweeping, explorable landscapes within the U.S. We are known for sitting at the feet of nature rather than inside a church.

As you drive into my hometown, Port Ludlow, there’s a sign that says “A Village in the Woods by the Bay.” Here I get a daily view of nature’s rhythms. It’s a constant steady force of peace in my life that I had no idea awaited me when I moved here three years ago. Coming from the busier metropolis of Tacoma, 60 miles south, I was unaware of the pace of life offered deeper in Northwest terrain.

PL Heron.jpgFrom my dining room chair where I write, I can look up at any moment and there is a different view than the moment before. The water has shifted, the sun is a bit higher. A bird keeping watch from the porch railing, a river otter frolicking with her family, tails flipping over the water’s rim. A constant changing land and seascape that says, “come and be with me.” Calling me to practice an ever-present awareness of God’s presence and space. Big, wide-open space.

It’s not always a gentle, loving message. The sweeping call of nature evokes the vast span of the call of Presence. Sometimes it’s a missive of courage and bravery that incites my own. Watching an eagle’s driving pursuit of a heron and hearing the heron’s screaming cry called me out onto the porch a month ago. The great blue heron was in a race for its life as the eagle gained ground. With talons flaring, the eagle caught up and shackled the heron, plunging it underwater and holding it there time and again. I had never been such a close observer to a fight to the death. The heron stopped struggling, submerged completely as the eagle sat atop it.

Neah Bay 3.jpgSuddenly, two crows began to dive bomb the eagle. They weren’t big, but they were noisy and persistent. Again and again they dived down to heckle the eagle. After several attacks, the eagle released the heron and went after the crows, which were more agile in the air acrobatics. They drew the eagle across the water toward the trees. I kept watch on the water where the heron was floating. I was rooting for the heron; willing it to get up. My husband had joined me on the porch and together we wondered aloud if it were too late. Yet hope kept our eyes on the heron. We spotted tiny movement, though it was hard to discern if it were hope-worthy. Then another and another. Incredulously, after several minutes, the heron rose out of the water and flew across it within inches of its surface to the waiting marina docks. From here it left our view. While this was happening, the crows continued to draw the ire of the eagle and lure it away from the heron.

Bald eagles are coming back from the brink of extinction. If the eagle had succeeded in securing its large lunch, this would have been perhaps a more characteristic playing-out of nature’s birth and death cycle. But on this day, the crows intervened quite deliberately to save the heron’s life. I am still meditating on this. Another day has dawned and I return to gazing in awe, respect, and wonder at the incredible scenes before me of nature’s story being told in the Pacific Northwest. What a joy it will be for me to share my love for this sacred space with Shalem pilgrims this September.


Jamie DeeringJamie Deering is a graduate of Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Groups & Retreats Program and offers contemplative experiences throughout the Pacific Northwest. She relishes life among the salmon, eagle, bear and orca in Port Ludlow, WA, the heart of the land for Shalem’s upcoming Pilgrimage in the Pacific Northwest. A licensed massage therapist, somatic therapy coach, and soon to be spiritual director, Jamie is active in creating a thriving global community.

The Olympic Peninsula, at the northwest edge of the continental United States, offers a rare and unique experience of one of God’s cathedrals. Consider joining Shalem on Uniting with Earth’s Rhythm: A Pilgrimage in the Pacific Northwest, led by Jamie Deering and Leah Rampy, Sept 24 to Oct 1, 2016.

 

Prayer Circles for Peace

Today’s post is by Patience Robbins

Right now there are about two billion Christians on the planet. If a significant portion of them were to embrace the contemplative dimension of the Gospel, the emerging global society would experience a powerful surge toward enduring peace.
-Thomas Keating

“I am a cosmic citizen, a planetary being who lives in the Americas in the United States.” This was a line shared by a teacher I had one summer. It sure blows open any narrow attachment to a certain country or geographical place and calls forth a whole new perspective on who I am related to and where I belong. This ties in so well with what I have been learning (and thus teaching) in my own life–the interconnectedness of all.

For years I have been quoting a line from Thomas Merton: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.” As I grow in the contemplative life, I continue to notice and experience the truth of these words–unity with others and the earth. In fact, now I am praying the question: How do we live out of this interconnectedness, especially as I notice that I often act, think and live as though I am separate, independent and self-sufficient?

One of my favorite people is Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived in a redwood tree in California for two years in order to bring attention to the destruction of the forest. In her book, The Legacy of Luna (which is about her tree-sit at the age of 25), she records a very inspiring transformational experience in which she gave over her life to God. She was willing to surrender her life, for good, for Love, for this deeper call she knew within her being. During this transformative time, she started noticing and experiencing her oneness with the tree, the ants, the birds, the people who were attempting to force her to leave the tree so they could chop it down as well as all the people who were supporting her. It is a very moving story of what can happen when we live out of our deepest self, available to God and experiencing ourselves as part of one living organism.

It is out of this conviction and reflection on this oneness that I woke up one morning with an image of “prayer circles for peace.” These would be opportunities to gather in community, recognizing our interconnectedness, intentionally praying for peace, and encouraging one another to claim and live out this vision of peace in our hearts, our communities and our world. I was reminded of Gandhi’s line: “My greatest weapon is mute prayer.” Thus our deep desire and longing to embrace the gift of peace is what creates that possibility for ourselves and our world.

I have begun a variety of these circles over the years. As we gather to sit in silent prayer, it may not feel or look like we are doing anything to aid the suffering and ease the hatred, violence, and destruction in our world, but there is a profound sense of holding the world and each other in a loving and compassionate way, of BEING love and peace for all that is.

So I continue to have hope and an ever deeper commitment to world peace along with a bubbling joy. I invite you to join me in acknowledging our oneness, being a loving presence for our world, and claiming and living into this vision of peace. Perhaps you, too, would like to start a “prayer circle for peace” in your neighborhood?

Article from Shalem News, Fall 2006 issue.

openhands_image1This New Year, journey with Patience Robbins for Open Hands, Willing Hearts, a  6-session eCourse series, beginning January 10. In this course, we will explore with the questions: Why am I here?  What is mine to do? Who am I called to be? And what can I contribute and offer to the world? Register here.


Patience Profile PicPatience Robbins is a graduate of Shalem’s Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program and has been a spiritual director for 30 years. She was the Director of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening Program from 2003-08 and the Director of the Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative from 2013-2015.  She is the author of the booklet, Parenting: A Sacred Path.

Banner photo by Susan Etherton

Silence, Seeing, Solidarity, Salaam

Today’s post is by Weldon Nisly

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. (Isaiah 62:1)
Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41f)

Isaiah sees injustice and invokes Jerusalem, refusing to keep silent. Jesus sees Jerusalem and laments our refusal to see peace. Jerusalem, a central and symbolic place whose name embraces peace — salaam/shalom – embodies violence.

To see what makes for peace is to know when to break silence and when to be silent in solidarity with suffering people seeking salaam or shalom—peace. Contemplatives know that we see and speak from our heart and head.

Before seeing Selma recently, I “saw” again Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967, sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” He dared to break silence to help us see that militarism, materialism, and racism reveal a nation “approaching spiritual death” by waging war on “enemies” at home and around the world. “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” he concluded. “We have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”

Seeing and speaking truth has consequences. A year later King was killed, but his life is not silent if we too see and speak truth.

Jesus, King, and my experience at Shalem give me eyes of the heart to see “what makes for peace.” The eyes of my heart turn to the war in Iraq, where I have been three times: 2003 (beginning war), 2010 (war presumably winding down), and 2014 (war escalating again).

Last fall I was in Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT has been a peaceful presence in Iraq since 2002, first from Baghdad and since 2006 from Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, at the invitation of and in solidarity with local people of peace.

Turkey KurdsThe simmering ISIS crisis boiled over in August, with ISIS controlling a third of Iraq and Syria. Once again the U.S. response is to see bombs as the way to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. Our CPT response is to accompany Kurdish human rights groups responding to victims of war.

Being in Iraqi Kurdistan is to have one’s eyes opened to see the people and place, to see their suffering, to see into the past as well as the present, and to hear their cry.

I saw welcoming people in the midst of war. When I arrived at the Sulaymaniyah International Airport, I saw Mohammed’s warm smile and heard his greeting, “Welcome to Kurdistan.” A school teacher and a leader of CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan Team, Mohammed’s hospitality helped me begin to see the Kurdish people and hear their story. One evening, walking along a busy street, someone on a motorcycle yelled, “Welcome to Suli” (as Sulaymaniyah is known). Later, traveling across Iraqi Kurdistan, a checkpoint guard, hearing we were CPTers, waved us on with, “Welcome to Kurdistan.”

We also saw damage from oil drilling at a village near an oil drilling company. In addition to trucks destroying the roads, the company’s earthshaking drills caused a jagged crack across the wall of the school. We saw the specific danger to schoolchildren and the symbolic damage of our insatiable appetite for oil. Invited home by the village leader, we sat on the floor drinking tea while he and his wife told us about the trembling earth and polluted air and water endangering their children’s lives. Endless empty promises to repair roads and rebuild the school have been made. They weren’t asking to stop drilling, they were asking to be seen and heard.

In a press conference in Suli, we saw Muslims, Ezidis, Christians, and Kurds calling for everyone to work together for peace. With others, I accompanied Zhiyan, a human rights delegation to Duhok, near the Syrian border, where we saw our Zhiyan leader, a Kurdish woman of diplomatic wisdom, speaking passionately with the Governor of the region and compassionately with the displaced Ezidi people in the IDP camps. We saw deep suffering as we documented women and girls abducted by ISIS. We saw lively children flocking round us in the camps. We saw traumatized Ezidis inviting us into tents for tea to tell us about missing family members. We heard countless calls for bombing ISIS as the only effective response under these tragic circumstances.

A contemplative challenge is to sense when to be silent and when to speak with suffering people while being committed to breaking the cycle of violence. It means seeing and listening deeply to those whom we accompany to hear their suffering and solutions for salaam. Out of silence we break silence by our seeing solidarity seeking salaam.


WeldonNislyWeldon Nisly is a Mennonite Pastor who has served with Christian Peacemaker Teams, seeking to bring a peaceful presence to Iraq and the Middle East. He is a graduate of Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program. Weldon, along with Shane Claiborne and others, has sought to tell an alternative story involving Iraqis and Americans working for peace.

Photo credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Do you long to lead from your spiritual heart or know a clergy person who does? Shalem’s Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership: Going Deeper is for clergy of all denominations and geographic locations who serve on the staffs of local churches or whose ministry involves the local church. This 18-month Program offers a dedicated time for nurturing one’s own soul and for deepening one’s contemplative orientation as a congregational spiritual leader. The deadline for this program is only two weeks away: March 15.
Learn more and apply here.

Learning from the Mountains

Today’s post is by Leah Rampy

Forty-five minutes west of home, I drive over just the next hill and catch sight of them: the gentle layers of the Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the distance. I take a deep breath and “drop down” into the center of my being. The traffic has thinned by now and, captured by the tranquil beauty of this ancient geology, I feel my breathing slow and my shoulders relax.

I did not always love the Blue Ridge. I’m embarrassed to say that the first time a friend pointed out the distant “mountains” to me, I burst out laughing. Growing up in the Midwest, “the mountains” were the Rockies, dramatic and breath-taking! It took time and many visits before I came to appreciate the difference that an additional 320 million years had made to softening the Blue Ridge.

mountains_LeahWhat is it about these time-worn mountains that calms my body and opens my spiritual heart? Perhaps because they are among the oldest mountains on the planet, they instruct me in deep time. How can I fail to stand in awe of mountains that began forming before modern humans walked Earth? The breadth of creation simultaneously stuns me and infuses me with joy.

And yet it’s even more that these mountains offer. It’s almost as if I pause to match my breathing with theirs. I reflect on how easy it is to come into the present during our Shalem staff meetings when we gather in shared silent prayer for 30 minutes.   As a part of a spiritual community, my prayer is strengthened, sustained, and enlarged by the silence and prayer of others. And sometimes are graced to sense that our prayer is one prayer, and we are blessed with an awareness that we are truly one.

So too it is with nature, I believe. In the same way that one heart entrains to the rhythm of another’s heart, our hearts are fashioned to entrain to the rhythm of the natural world. The heartbeat of the mountains, the rivers, and the trees steady us, support our open presence, enlarge our compassion, and remind us of our unity with all of creation.

In my busy life, I too often forget that I am – that all are – woven into the amazing collective of being. I return to the life-giving trees, the verdant valley and the primeval mountains to remember to be present to our oneness. Job 12:8 reminds us: “Speak to the earth, and it will teach you.” May I become an ever-better student.


Leah_FBLeah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and is a graduate of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening; and Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Programs. Leah’s 5-day online leadership seminar is registering now.

Top mountain photo by Ana Rampy; inset photo by Leah Rampy

Waiting for Peace, Walking for Peace, Listening for Peace

Peace is not something far away, nor is it something that someone else has to make happen. It is already planted in my spiritual heart, a birthright, given as part of my creation in the image of God and awakened through the gift of God’s spirit in Christ.

Today’s post is by Carole Crumley. This excerpted article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Best Practices for Peace in 2015. The full post can be read at Patheos.com.

Peace I leave you. My own peace I give you. ~ Jesus (John 14: 27)

Sitting here in the post-Christmas detritus of boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbon, and with a list of things left undone, it’s hard to be peaceful. Maybe peace will come when I get my house back in order. Or maybe peace will come when I’ve done all my end-of-the-year chores. Or maybe peace will really only come as wars cease, boundaries agreeably negotiated, and all is well in the world. Perhaps when we live in balance and our commitment to Earth is renewed we will know peace. Or, as my sister says, maybe peace will finally come when she has thin thighs. In other words, never!

I yearn for peace, and I’m waiting for peace to come.

Holy scripture, however, insists that peace is here, now, already given. Peace is not something far away, nor is it something that someone else has to make happen. No one has to go and find peace and bring it back to me. It is already planted in my spiritual heart, a birthright, given as part of my creation in the image of God and awakened through the gift of God’s spirit in Christ.

With this understanding, how do I tap into that peace? How, in my own lived experience, can I realize peace? What contemplative practices will support my desire for peace and help me live from that place? Here are a few suggestions.

Sitting Meditation: Going Deeper

We cannot touch that inner quality of peace by skimming along the surface of life. We have to go deeper. One thing that assists our going deeper is a daily, dedicated time of silent prayer/meditation. We bring to this time our intention to open more fully to God’s presence and to let our silent prayer water the seeds of peace already living in our spiritual hearts.

This requires a certain amount of trust, a trust that peace is already there beneath our thoughts, fears, anxieties, and agendas. If your trust is weak, perhaps the first prayer is for an empowered sense of trust that peace is there, living in you. It is yours, a gift to be received, opened, and magnified. A simple “thank you,” or sense of gratitude, acknowledges the gift, honors the Giver and opens the door into that inner chamber of peace.

This unambiguous set-aside time allows for spaciousness to emerge. In that spaciousness, there is a taste, perhaps just a tiny sip of the sweet waters of peace. At other times, it may seem like a waterfall cascading over you or a river of peace welling up and flowing through you. Peace then flows from you out into the world. You are the peace you yearn for.

Read the full article for more.


caroleCarole Crumley, Shalem Institute’s Senior Program Director, is an Episcopal priest and a widely respected leader of ecumenical retreats, groups, and conferences. She designs and leads Shalem’s contemplative pilgrimages and directs Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program.

Peace on Earth: Contemplating the Possibility [audio]

Today’s post is an audio guided meditation by Leah Rampy. Feel free to tune in on your computer or your iPhone or other mobile device, and find a quiet place to listen. Click the orange arrow or the title above to listen.

The greeting cards arrive extolling “Peace on Earth.” They come as messengers, revealing the longings of other hearts. And for a moment, they remind me that I too long for peace to flood my soul and to encircle our fragile world. Then I consider the violence, injustice, pain and tragedies that surround us. My heart breaks for our dying oceans and all the species that have perished by our thoughtlessness. In the brokenness and chaos of our times, can we hope to live in a way that honors our longing for peace on earth?


LRampyLeah Rampy, Shalem’s Executive Director, has a background in corporate management and leadership consulting as well as a deep passion for contemplative living and care of the Earth. She has a PhD in Curriculum from Indiana University and is a graduate of Shalem’s Living in God: Personal Spiritual Deepening; and Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats Programs.

Children, Chaos, and Contemplation

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef

There is never a dull moment at our house. My wife and I have four children—amid the flurry of homework assignments, birthday parties, sibling spats, and dinnertime squabbles—there’s a lot of constant noise and movement.

beach-jumpingOne of the delightful things about having young children is their unbridled enthusiasm and overwhelming energy. They are fully present, without a sense that there is anything else to be. They are fully in the moment. This is a gift of being a child, not being weighed down by thoughts of the future, or by a sense of responsibility, or worry. They are right here, right now.

The downside is that everything is so important, and when something doesn’t go their way, right now, it’s reason for complaining, crying, sometimes even—panic. Spilling milk really is something to cry over. A favorite toy breaking feels like the apocalypse. Even as I write this there is fighting in the sandbox. (Don’t worry – we have plenty of moments of calm and laughter as well in our household!)

I long as a parent to be able to maintain an inner calm amid all this outer chaos and confusion. I find that I am very seldom able to cultivate that on the spot. It is something I need to consciously develop in other moments, so that when the chaos comes, I have a reserve of calm from which to draw. It might be a daily time of prayer and silence, a quiet walk outside, Scripture reading, or some other practice. Daily I drive our children to school, about 15 or so minutes through a beautiful, rural landscape. I find this to be a very calming time—at least, the quiet drive home after dropping them off! Soaking in the scenery, I give thanks for the children I have, I look forward to what the day brings, and I have time to connect, in quiet, with God.

Of course the chaos doesn’t wait for me to be contemplatively grounded to begin! As any parent knows—these scenes erupt without a moment’s notice. When this happens, there are times when I haven’t centered myself, and it is only too easy to be caught up in the noise, and even add to it.

“She ate my last French fry!”  

“He always gets to go first!”

“I never get to do anything fun.”

“But I’m not tired!”

At times I’ve given in to the chaos, or even added to it. This not only exacerbates the situation, but it models to the kids that such behavior is OK—not only for them, but even for adults. Here’s where being centered is so crucial. When I’m calm within—I can sense what is happening and allow myself to pull back a moment to seek clarity above the fray. In these moments, the one thing that helps me more than anything is perspective. I try to see the situation from outside it. When I’m able to seek that bit of detachment, things seem to quickly scale to their appropriate place in the scheme of things. Sometimes I just need to remember to breathe, or hold onto a phrase such as “they’re just kids, after all.” Or: “this too shall pass.” Other times I tap into contemplative moments I enjoyed earlier.

Naturally I try to help the child see the larger perspective I’m trying to hold on to. “No more French fries? Well, they’re not that healthy anyway, and maybe we can have a yummy snack later.” But this often only goes so far. “But Dad…!” I can’t remove my child’s sense of imminent frustration, disappointment, or anger. I can’t remove them from the situation. It is a natural desire to help the child see what I see. To help him ‘figure it out.’

Yet what has the most impact, I think, is to simply be that presence of peace. Even if my children don’t understand it, they’ll experience it, and it will register somewhere for them, even if subconsciously. When I remain calm, the equation changes. There is now a presence of peace absorbing the cacophony. There’s a word of encouragement. A hand to hold. A hug to receive. A smile. Peace.

I’m a long, long ways from being a perfect parent, but I love it. I’m grateful for the daily gifts my children bring me—and my prayer is that my presence is also a gift to them.


Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer (and parent of four!) who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. You can see more of his writing at pubtheologian.com. You can follow Bryan on Twitter @bryberg.