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Direct Experience

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Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

  • By Karen G. Johnston
    I call the tall bush on my back patio “Burning Bush” because in autumn its leaves are a fiery red. All winter long I overlooked three uninhabited nests inside of it. For months and months I could have perceived—but didn’t—what was in plain sight. ...
  • By Lindasusan Ulrich
    We can’t always predict which choices will wind up having a huge impact on us, whether it's bringing home a stuffed animal or taking a particular train to Oxford Circus.
  • By Rebekah Savage
    A haircut, a cup of coffee, or just an honest “How are you?” can be transformed into a powerful moment between two people living in a hard world.
  • By Nathan Ryan
    I saw a woman surrounded by the pressures to conform to adulthood, being the adult she always wanted to be when she was a child. She was as God made her, not who everyone else wanted her to be.
  • By Monica Dobbins
    What could you accomplish this week if you knew you had a ground team wishing you well? Who are the other explorers around you, needing a word of encouragement that would mean so much coming from you?
  • By Erika A. Hewitt
    Despite being warmly welcomed over and over by the greeters, by the family sitting behind me, and by the lead pastor, I couldn’t shake that “guest” feeling.
  • By Elea Kemler
    It is deeply spiritual work to learn to treat ourselves with compassion; to learn to see ourselves, if only in moments, the same way we look at something or someone we find beautiful: a newborn baby, the ocean, a sunset.
  • By Kat Liu
    Outside of the meditation hall, we plan for the future and think of the past. But so often we replay past regrets and worry about future events to the point where we’re no longer present in the present.
  • By James Gertmenian
    Love without justice is not love. Compassion without deeds is not compassion. Faith without action is not faith. And religion without politics is not religion. In my view, people of faith are not entitled to avoid politics for the sake of a short-lived spiritual high.
  • By Karen G. Johnston
    Surrender is the last thing, often the only thing, available. And so we give ourselves to it. We fear it is our end. Sometimes—with grace or luck—we find it is our liberation.
  • By Rayla D. Mattson
    Traditions and habits can be changed or broken and that’s not always bad. It doesn’t mean we didn’t learn or like what we did in the past, it just means that we moved on to something else and that’s okay too.
  • By Rebekah Savage
    My soul nudged me from a hiding place to confess and to seek forgiveness, and only through the grace of the Great Mystery of Life unfolding around us did I receive the blessing of journeying with a beloved, grieving friend.
  • By Alix Klingenberg
    Once I quit drinking, my inner voice and I began the harder work: that of creating a life from which I do not need or want to escape.
  • By Misha Sanders
    In real life, sometimes grief looms largest in December. Sometimes there's one too many dress-ups and the gold tulle makes your legs itch. “I just needed it to stop for a minute. Next time I will take calm breaths.”
  • By Alex Haider-Winnett
    There's nothing simple about the holidays. Joy can feel empty when it is compulsory. The promise of liberation is hard fought and well earned.
  • By Robin Tanner
    Advent is about expectation—radical expectations that undo the status quo—and anticipation: a skillful search for the places where liberation rises from the ashes.
  • By Amanda Poppei
    What, exactly, are we doing when we invite love into our lives? Surely we know that it's much tidier without it, when things stay at a distance.
  • By Daniel Gregoire
    Something new could come out of this moment of discomfort; something like healing. This is our opportunity to reimagine what Thanksgiving could be — and who we could be.
  • By Rayla D. Mattson
    A white woman pulled over and ran over to me with a shopping bag. She noticed that I never have on a coat and I often stand in the rain. She didn’t know if the things would fit, but the receipt was in the bag. She smiled and drove away. As I looked down at the bag, I had very mixed emotions.
  • By Elea Kemler
    In the eighteen years I’ve served as minister of my small-town congregation, I have led 96 memorial services, most for people I have loved. The longer I stay, the deeper I love and the more I grieve.
  • By Alex Haider-Winnett
    God is not a distant force, far away. God is in the beating of our hearts and the backbeat of a funky baseline. God is in a four-on-the-floor drum fill, and in the achy joints and sore muscles the day after.
  • By Rebekah Savage
    What had to die was my shame: my belief that I was not worthy of such love. I discovered a greater love within myself as a creation of God, worthy of these gifts.
  • By Teresa Honey Youngblood
    We could see the main path to the swimming hole ahead, but we had to pick our way through sand spurs to get there. Behind us were rattlesnakes. What did the youth do? They started playing.
  • By Misha Sanders
    I trusted the woman at the pharmacy to be capable of hearing hard truth. Bless her wounded heart with its internalized misogyny. She just wants women to love and support each other. Thank you. Me too.
  • By Christian Schmidt
    Our family prays at mealtime to practice gratitude in our lives. I love that my children are taking it as their own, finding their own meaning.
  • By Yuri Yamamoto
    Who are the angry birds in my life? Do I avoid opportunities in fear of risks? What are the sticks I carry in my heart so as not to be hurt again?
  • By Amanda Poppei
    It's an impulse of the human self to be known fully, and that’s almost never possible unless we risk the conversations that help us see past our initial impressions.
  • By Robin Tanner
    This is a story of in-the-middle for those wondering how their story ends.
  • By DeReau K. Farrar
    Black people are so accustomed to being ignored and invisible that a simple acknowledgement—a simple I see you —from a peer goes a long way.
  • By Alex Haider-Winnett
    May we find unexpected ways to remember where we came from and imagine where we may go next. May we find touchstones of our pasts, and may they become a foundation for the future.
  • By Kat Liu
    If a friend were in my situation, I would have seen their failings as human. So why hold someone to an unforgiving standard just because that someone is me ?
  • By Misha Sanders
    It is my only memory of a lesson from Kindergarten Sunday School class. Maybe it’s the only one that counts.
  • By Teresa Honey Youngblood
    People move places for jobs, relations, opportunities, escape, hindering our ability to put down new roots. And yet, we carry a constancy: the still, quiet voice within.
  • By S.J. Butler
    I’d gotten in the habit of keeping my head down and hardly noticing where I was or who was around me. On this day, I decided to greet the world differently.
  • By Connie Simon
    Music is my solace and my comfort, the one thing that’s always with me. I feel its vibration deep in my soul; it’s my spiritual practice. Music tells the story of my life.
  • By Elea Kemler
    I choose to believe in community. I choose to believe in the difficult, slow work of building a common life.
  • By Mandie McGlynn
    Tell me the story of my birth, and help me understand how you were changed the day I entered the world. Help me know love, deep in my bones.
  • By Lindasusan Ulrich
    However imperfectly I may be living this life of mine, there’s no one better at it, and there’s no one else who can do it for me.
  • By Rayla D. Mattson
    My heart broke the day my son stood in the bathroom crying. He handed me a pair of scissors and told me to just cut it . I told him how beautiful his hair was and how sad I would be to see him cut it.
  • By Amanda Poppei
    In real life, we can only place the pieces, one by one, and see what kind of picture we create. Sometimes we turn out to have chosen the wrong piece. Sometimes the picture is wildly unexpected.
  • By Connie Simon
    What if we encouraged and celebrated each other for who we are? What if, instead of criticizing, we challenged with love, affirming the good we see in one another?
  • By Nathan Ryan
    Last year for Lent, I decided to say yes to any request. I made it all the way to Easter without having to honor my decision.
  • By Erika A. Hewitt
    To offer hospitality, we first have to identify ourselves — sometimes in inconvenient or uncomfortable ways — as helpers; as willing to offer kindness or connection to someone we might disagree with.
  • By Robin Tanner
    Being faithful doesn’t mean endless work. It also means attention to the movement of spirit that can appear as an hour of sleep, the truth of a toddler, or a donut in the middle of the day.
  • By Elea Kemler
    I wanted so much to believe that God was watching over this boy, that God was tender and protective and fiercely on the side of life and that this boy would not slip away.
  • By Rayla D. Mattson
    I spent time feeling embarrassed—that somehow I had failed—because I had filed for divorce. It’s been over nine years now, and I wake up every single day happy with my decision.
  • By Lindasusan Ulrich
    Spirit of Compassion, remind us that our task as humans is not perfection, but faithfulness.
  • By Mandie McGlynn
    I’m not the same person who stood in that tattoo parlor eleven years ago. Still, I don’t for a minute regret being permanently marked with this snapshot in time, of my wounds and my hope.
  • By DeReau K. Farrar
    I wanted so badly to break free and let loose—but I just couldn't. I was stuck in my own false ideas of the congregation's expectations of me. Luckily, there’s still time.
  • By Teresa Honey Youngblood
    Liking somebody, even loving somebody, is not enough to protect them from shade that you cannot even see, much less understand.

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