FAITH5 – Talking as a Faith Practice
Wednesdays in Lent we are exploring thefaith practice called FAITH5 – a nightly routine in which families gather to SHARE highs and lows, READ scripture, TALK about how scripture informs their lives, PRAY for one another, and BLESS each other.
"Talking as a Faith Practice" –
a Lenten message by Gayle Beebe
I believe it was my destiny to stand here and “talk” about “talking as a faith practice”. Let me explain. When I was a kid, my report cards had comments like: “Gayle is a good student, but is very talkative in class”, or “I enjoy having Gayle in class, but she tends to talk - a lot - to whomever is sitting by her”. I should probably also mention the numerous recesses I missed because of my talking - my 5th grade BFF, Barb Goodlove and I had a lot of really important things to talk about. I also submit for evidence, the “polite” conversations I had with my teachers in the hallway, discussing my talking. I also tortured my high school band director with my constant talking...in the front row...right in front of him…I had no shame. So, I would like to formally, and publicly, apologize to my high school band director, Mr. Jean, for all of my incessant talking. In my defense, every day I had the goal to make my fellow flute player friend, Jenny Hainline, laugh - because she was far too serious. (Meaning - she was a good student.)
Now, I would like to think all of that talking in my youth was in preparation for this evening as I talk about “talking” as a faith practice. Faith5 practices suggests “talking” as a faith practice in the home, with the whole family.
My family sits at the dinner table every night - we share our highs and lows, open the Bible, and then share verses to discuss how they relate, and speak, to our highs and lows. Dinner is a fantastic, and peaceful, time of reflection and learning.
Oh, how I would love to say this is an actual thing I’ve experienced, but this does not happen at the Beebe house. In fact, this idyllic dinner scene seems like something out of a movie...this is nothing like real life...or, at least, nothing like my real life, right now.
Sharing highs and lows at the dinner table is a great idea. And then, connecting those highs and low with scriptures seems like a logical step to grow and strengthen faith. But, this would imply that my family is sitting at the dinner table together...or, even home at the same time for dinner!
I would love to stand here and tell you that I would give this one Faith5 practice a solid shot, but perhaps it’s the season of my life with two teenage sons involved in activities, and two full-time working parents that prevents this from becoming reality. I need something that doesn’t require me to add on another task. I need faith practices that fit into the motion of my life. I need something doesn’t make me feel like I’m a failure.
I think “talking” as a family faith practice is important, but I don’t think it’s always as easy, or convenient, as “sitting around the dinner table.” I would also like to think that the faith practice of talking could present itself in different ways - ways that may not really involve actual talking, but say a lot. More like “non-traditional” talking.
Perhaps it is saying a prayer together waiting in the drop off line of cars at school, as I did with my boys. Or, it’s talking about the Sunday morning sermon and sharing perspectives while you’re at the store. Maybe talking about favorite Bible verses, and why they’re your favorite. Or, even the classic, “What would Jesus do?”.
I would also like to think of my family consisting of more than just the people that live in the house on Prairie Court.
You see, I’ve had cause to reflect on family and faith these days following my husband’s diagnosis with tonsil cancer, and here some ways I’ve witnessed some non-traditional talking faith practice:
- My friend, Christa texting me during Steve’s initial diagnosis and biopsy; and, even this morning, celebrating the final week of treatment
- Pastor Mark sitting with me in the surgery center and just talking
- One of Steve’s student’s parent, who happens to be a nurse, coming into ER to talk and pray with Steve and I
- A fellow bell ringer, Paula emailing me words of support as a fellow caregiver
- My sister spending time with boys while we were at the hospital, in the ER, on Valentine’s Day
- Elise Barrett asking Steve how he was doing, while her own husband was at the end of his battle with cancer
- My friend, Barb talking and texting about medical tests and treatments
- Hearing my own husband’s name in the prayer of the day
- Steve’s students asking about him, making posters of support, balloon animals, t-shirts
And, numerous people bringing us food, sending us cards, supplying our pockets with gift cards, and giving out lots of hugs...and, even more prayers!
All of these “talking” examples are meaningful and powerful demonstrations of faith to me, and my family.
But, I’d like to think there’s even more to this “talking” faith practice...and that’s listening. I look to my own children to learn a thing or two about listening. You heard right, I’ve learned something about listening from my two sons, Joel - 17, and Mitchell - 14.
My oldest son, Joel, was the one who taught me how to listen...not because he was a great listener, mind you; but, because he challenged me to listen to things that were hard to hear. When Joel was in 8th grade he told me, and his dad, that he didn’t believe in God. He was finishing up a middle school career that was rough, to say the least. He explained his non-belief saying, “A good God wouldn’t put people on this earth who would hurt me like this.”
This was hard to hear, but it was important for me to stop talking at that point, and just listen to Joel. I listened...for years, by the way, to Joel explain his viewpoints (many I didn’t understand or agree with) and he answered my questions. We had some really great conversations about faith, God, the Bible, and just religion in general. Not all of those conversations were comfortable, but because I listened more, and talked less, I heard his honest story. I grew to understand his feelings, and worked hard to respect his faith journey. By that I mean, I had to shut up and listen (not something I’m really good at), and let him talk through, and think through, his faith journey. Secretly, there were many times I wanted to strangle him and pop his head off for the stupid things he would say. But, I digress. Taking the time, and exerting the effort to understand Joel’s faith story played an important part in developing our mother and son relationship.
Reflecting on those difficult, uncomfortable conversations I had with Joel makes me think about conversations Jesus had with all the believers and non-believers of his day. Jesus had some pretty uncomfortable conversations with his disciples - usually challenging them to think and feel differently. Jesus listened to other people’s stories, felt their pain, and in many cases healed them. Jesus didn’t just connect with people in his “family”, or people he was comfortable with, he took his message out to the world. And, I think that’s the real “talking” faith practice Jesus wants us to do.
Jesus challenges us to TALK! Not just to our families, at home and here at church, but out in the world where the safety net is gone. Respectful, meaningful, and authentic conversations about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. But, before we can have the confidence and comfortability of talking out into the world, perhaps we need to do some talking here first. Practice before performance, if you will. Talking and listening to one another to understand one another. Grow patience. Grow empathy. Strengthen relationships. Prepare for the world outside.
So, perhaps we start by doing this “talking”, and “listening”, faith practice even more here at Cross of Grace, and share our personal faith story with each other. What would our relationships look like if we each shared our faith story? How would our Sunday morning greetings change if we knew one another’s faith story?
What would you say differently to me if you knew I started going to church by myself when I was 11? Knowing this probably gives you insight into why I volunteered to teach middle and high school Sunday school, and lead the youth group for so many years.
Would you think of me differently if I told you I wasn’t baptized until I was 14, and no one in my biological family was there to witness it? Knowing that part of my story would help you understand why I get teary-eyed when I see an older kid or adult get baptized. I was that kid.
We do so many great things here at Cross of Grace, and I love that we challenge ourselves to spread our arms and hearts and wallets beyond these walls. But, what would it look like if we, as partners in mission, strengthened our “partnerships” by TALKING more about our faith stories? Listening to each other’s fears, doubts, triumphs, and blessings. Knowing each other’s strengths and weakness, and loving each other, not in spite of those weaknesses, but because of them. And, wouldn’t we be better prepared? Prepared to go out into the world to share our story, listen to another person’s story, share the story of Jesus, and love each other as Jesus loves us.