Monday, March 28, 2011


Here's another healthy does of Henri for ya. It's something I need constantly reminded of, and it's what I'd like my creed to be once I'm actually a counselor.

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Allow me to introduce you to my best friend . Hello, my name is Wendy and I am a germophobe.

I remember the very first time I considered germs to be hazardous. I was working at the time for the American Heart Association and was waiting my turn for the copy machine. The lady at the copier had sneezed two or three times, covered her mouth with her hands, and then she did the unthinkable. She touched the buttons on the copier.

I panicked! I took whatever I needed copied back to my office, sat down at my desk, and thought about what I'd just seen. How many times a day does this happen? How many times have I touched the copier buttons after someone who is carrying a communicable disease has wiped their hands all over it? The common eye...? How can I stop this from happening again?! My mind was racing.

This was in 2004, before hand sanitizer was plentiful and clorox wipes existed. What options did I have? After considering a confrontation with my co-worker (aka "the sicko") I decided I'd simply go about my business and remember to wash my hands immediately following my encounter with the copy machine. So I did. Upon drying my hands and reaching for the bathroom door, another thought occurred to me. How many people do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, and then touch this very door handle that I'm about to grab with my freshly sanitized hands?


Suddenly my eyes seemed open to a completely different realm. How could I have been so blind before? How did I survive college? I watched as co-workers used the copier, the paper cutter, the break room coffee pot, doorknob after doorknob - and then went back to their offices and snacked on something with their now-germ-covered hands. This was going to be a problem...

Fast forward 6 or so years. Purell has created a revolutionary new tool! I'm now working in a public school with middle school students. I carry my own pen with me so that I don't have to use a hygiene-deficient student's germ-covered pencil that they've probably been chewing on. I have hand sanitizer with me at all times and don't eat anything without supplying my hands with a healthy dose of it. Any time I return home from a public place, my first stop is the sink to wash my hands. I've read several articles regarding the germiest public places you visit in a day and recently discovered that shopping cart handles and ATM machine buttons are some of the worst offenders.

While you might call me nuts, I like to think of myself as prepared. Cautious. Smart. I don't let these things scare me into becoming a recluse, nor do I worry or frantically chase people around with clorox wipes and disinfectant spray (although I think that's more socially accepted when you have kids, I've seen it happen).

The last time I visited my doctor's office, he asked about my hand washing habits. Meekly, I mentioned that some might consider me a bit of a germophobe. He set down my chart, walked over to me and looked me in the eye. "Wendy," he said, "there is no such thing as a germophobe. You, my dear, are simply conscious of your surroundings and I applaud you for that." Relief washed over me and I felt justified.

Before you start to think I might be OCD, I assure you, nothing could be farther from the truth. Paranoid, maybe, but I prefer to think of myself as aware.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Healthy Dose of Henri

I've been receiving "Daily Meditations" from Henri Nouwen for about 6 years now. They arrive daily in my inbox and are still refreshing to me after all this time. They have cycled through a time or two over the years, but this is one of my all time favorites, mostly because it's both challenging and freeing. I remember the very first time I read this, in my little office at the American Heart Association while checking my email one morning. It has meant a lot to me and has helped to shape the way I see the world and the people in it.

"We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let's remember Jesus' words: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1). " - Henri Nouwen

Jack Handy puts it this way..."Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes."

Either way, the message is clear....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Shape of Mercy

This is the second Susan Meissner book that I’ve read and I absolutely loved it. Her style of writing kept my attention and kept the plot moving along. This is a story that spans two very different time frames and three very similar women. In “The Shape of Mercy,” a wealthy college student named Lauren is commissioned to transcribe the diary of a girl who was accused of being a witch in the famous trials of Salem. Lauren is attempting to gain perspective on life and break free of the mold that has been cast for her. As she transcribes, Lauren learns about the woman who has hired her, Abigail, and a relationship that neither expected is formed. In this story, Lauren learns about love, loss, and how to truly live. Meissner artfully wove themes of societal stigmas, mercy and forgiveness together into a wonderful story.

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review"