Sun is shining. Cool spring air embraces me. Suddenly sirens all around. “Oh, it’s Friday at 11 a.m. A weekly test of the tornado alert system.”

This is what Sunday worship is for me. A weekly test. It is a heart check. To determine its strength so I can count on it in stormy weather.  This isn’t the heart test several of my friends have taken—getting numbers to indicate heart disease. It is a test to of my courage—my heart’s capacity to do what I believe.

We do four things to test our courage in worship. First we gather with all. We greet friends. We meet strangers. We run into enemies. But we are all there—those who nourish us and those who threaten us. And I gather with them to see if I have the heart to welcome into my life all the creatures created by the divine hand. Sometimes I pass. Too often I balk at the presence of all.

And when we worship, we also listen. We listen to words from tradition, words from the world, words from the hearts of others on the journey of discovery.  And we test our ears. Can we listen well enough to hear a divine word in the words we hear? If so, maybe we can hear the divine spirit in the words we hear everyday. After all, the divine pulses through creation. Do I have the patience to hear? Sometimes I do, but often I don’t take time to listen for love in the others’ voice.

The third test of courage comes when worship calls us to make an offering. How generous is my heart? We come together to practice giving. Do I have the courage to sacrifice what I value for the greater value of divine love and justice in my world. Do I have the heart to risk some of my time and money for the well-being of others.  Sometimes I do. Often I hold back.

And the final test of Sunday worship challenges my resolve. We are sent from worship to be a presence of peace, a champion for the outcast. Do I have the courage, the heart to live my life daily as a loving companion for those around me? I have done that.  And at times I have not.

It is a good thing to test the tornado alert system in our city. Likewise, it is good for me to worship each Sunday to test my courage to live my faith well.


Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

I have heard it said that “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” And indeed, as the body ages there are issues, or as Leonard Cohen sings, “I hurt in the places where I used to play.”   And the mind—the mind—that too seems to slow down and not recall things as quickly—and when it does finally recall them, the conversation has moved three steps beyond.

But, as I think about life, “Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart” either. After all, the heart explodes in a panic as we are awakened by cries of terror from the nursery. The mind “awfulizes” as you sit in the mid-hours of the night, long after the curfew has past, and your son isn’t home from his date. And what about the ache that fills in around the hole that is left when your daughter drives away, heading for the college.

And while we are at it, I don’t think that “being a teenager is for the faint of heart.”  Remember those years?  Remember the confusion when the body, racing with hormones, chased the longing for love and the urge to connect with unrelenting energy? Remember when you wanted to be your cool, unique self almost as badly as you wanted to fit-in and belong?  And then when you were left out? Ouch!

And maybe being a child is “not for he faint of heart.” The 5 year old in Indianapolis or Honduras stands at the door of the school, kindergarten waiting for him, trying to steel himself by getting a glimpse of what is to come. The unknown reaches around the half-open door to signal a hint of hope for the unsteady heart.

Maybe all this simply points to the fact that to live almost anytime and any situation in life requires a strong heart. Courage (heart, or inner strength) is required as we face the changes, losses, discoveries, unknowns of life.And maybe we can gain some strength in knowing that what ever stages of life we are in, we are not alone. Others around us are also drawing from deep wells of courage to stand in the midst of their fears and challenges. Maybe it helps to know that to be human is to have the capacity to face the unknown future to find heart enough to love life in the midst of the troubles.


The winter air was still, icy. More silent than usual. The only sound; my boots crunching in the snow.  Then I heard it. A scratching, a dry leaf rattle. I looked, and there on the white ground a red tailed squirrel, head in the snow, feet frantically scratching the brown leaves under the snow. It pulled out an acorn and ran up the dry limbs of a bush.

There, hunched over against the cold and with its tail wrapped, shawl like, over its back and looking like a mohawk on top of its head, it peeled the nut, dropping shells onto the snow. It worked its magic till finally it nourished itself on the nut.

When winter comes in our souls, we sometimes need to dig deep to find nourishment. When the icy wind of disappointment or betrayal freezes our hearts, we find it hard to get under the soul’s hardened ground to something that would nourish our hope. Fear piles up like snow over  the heart’s vulnerable membrane and we can’t find courage to move forward.

So, we have dig deep. We know life will wither in the winter if we do not dig through the cold and find the food that is hiding under the dead leaves of fall. The ground of our being harbors life in its dark and frozen soil. There are tastes of light, whispers of hope, scents of love. They may be small and hard-shelled, but when we take time to look, when we take time to unwrap them, they will give is enough to get through till the thaw comes. 


When I am open to hear and see, insights come from every direction. A friend posted an article on a blog called Momastery.  In this particular blog, "Our Sacred Scared" author Glennon Doyle Melton says that there are two kinds of people who have one thing in common. "The people who are running the world and the people who are sitting life out are exactly the same. They are all messy, complicated, confused people who are unsure of what to do next. They all have messy relationships and insecurities and anger and blind spots. They are ALL AFRAID."

I find this statement (and the whole blog) to be right on target. When we all get down to the core of who we are, we find that we are complicated and filled with conflicting desires and motivations. Our relationships are often confusing, frustrating and satisfying (sometimes all at the same time). We are afraid of losing ourselves in the midst of sharing in community but we are afraid of not belonging to communities and being left out. (I remember very keenly the longing to be included as a teenager in the "cool" people while at the same time desiring to express my unique individuality). We are all scared.

And as Glennon continues in her blog, there are two kinds of scared people: Those who show up and live in the world and those who are waiting till they get it all together before they show up. She quotes the artist Georgia O'Keeffe who said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every second of my life- and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”  Glennon suggests that when we show up in relationship to each other with the messiness being revealed, we offer encouragement to others to go ahead and live even if they are afraid.  Sharing our fear is a sacred scared.  It creates courage for life.

I don't know about you, but I think life is too short not to show up. And knowing that fear is going to be there, I want to not let it keep me from doing what I choose to do.