Starting With Lunch

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I grew up in the north side suburbs of Chicago in the 60’s and 70’s.  Back then, when I was a grade schooler, there were  two religions most of the children claimed to be, Jewish and Catholic.  The only real difference between us was that the Jewish kids went to Hebrew school after school and the Catholic kids went to Catechism classes. We worked together in the classroom, ate lunch together,  and  played together out at recess. It didn’t matter to anyone that the Catholic kids ate tuna sandwiches on Fridays or that the Jewish kids brought PB&J on Matzoh crackers during the weeks of Passover.
By the time I went to college, however, it seemed like students of different religions became divided into sterotypes. Some of the stereotypes I heard were,  “Christians think Jews are going to hell,” “Catholics aren’t Christians,”  “Jewish people are stingy and greedy,” “That other group is a cult.”

Today in 2011, our children eat lunch and play on the playground with  a much more diverse and pluralistic group of classmates than I had. As our children grow up in today’s culture, how do we free them from growing into young adults who stereotype or “otherise?”

Elizabeth Lesser, author of  “Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow” suggests starting with lunch.  She says,  “Otherising is the dangerous act of turning someone into the enemy just because he or she looks different, prays different, speaks different, or thinks different. Some of history’s most tragic events – wars, genocides, terorist acts – began with ordinary people demonizing other ordinary people.” She continues, “First, think of a person you may be otherising – maybe a woman from a different  side of the abortion debate or your brother who doesn’t believe in global warming. Next tell that person you’d like to understand him or her better. Ask if they would like to do the same with you. Agree to these ground rules: Be curtious, conversational, and real.  Don’t persuade  or interrupt. Listen, listen, listen. “
“Will the Heavens open and ‘We Are the World’ start playing over the restaurant’s sound system? Doubtful. But in  the lunches I have shared,” she says, “I have grown in compasson and patience…perhaps if enough of us take each other to lunch, we can give our country the civility makover it needs.”

So my challenge for myself this week is to have lunch or coffee with someone who I might have the tendancy to “otherise.” I hope in this encounter I can relive those days in the grade school lunch room.  I invite you to join me this week in this living enactment of prayer.


Pastor Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

That’s how God is…

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My husband Scott has an amazing green thumb.  Our back yard almost always looks like a thick green carpet. He has a couple dozen knock out rose bushes that are always pruned. More often than not, you would be able to see the sacrifice of his hard work in the form of many scratches on his arms and legs if you ran into him in the narthex. The flowerpots are all filled with an artist’s pallet of textures and colors; red and purple and yellow. Then there are the pots with herbs that I use in the kitchen, basil, sage, parsley, rosemary and more.  The zinnias, cannas, mums and a variety of decorative grasses look like a painted canvas on soil.

In the back, there is a small vegetable garden filled with onions, potatoes, cucumbers squash and a variety of tomatoes.


Two summers ago, Will, my 16 year old, build a compost bin, in a dried out area at the edge of the yard, and the end of the summer, Scott discards all of the dead foliage in there, along with practically everything from my kitchen that I deliver to it on a daily basis.


A year later, towards the end of last summer, I went out to the compost bin to throw in some coffee grounds and banana peels, and what do I see?  I see at least a thousand, if not more, of little grape tomatoes growing up around the backside of that bin.

I would pick a huge bowl full on Monday, and then on Tuesday there would be just as many that were ripe, and then Wednesday and then Thursday.  I repeated this process each day until the frost came.


Yes Scott has a green thumb, but did Scott do that?  No God did it.  God took dead discarded foliage, coffee grounds and old banana peels and brought forth more life and abundance than we could have imagined, at time when we least expected it.  That’s how it is with God, always multiplying what is good, and bringing abundance out of what we might perceive as scarcity.


And so it is with you.  You too are like a seed – a miracle of nature packed with potential. This week I invite you to pray for God to show you abundance in an area that you might perceive as limited or inadequate. Perhaps you can’t even fathom where God’s gifts will take root, so this week try to let go and hold enough trust in God’s wild Spirit to believe that God is at work in the unfamiliar, in the chaos, outside the boundaries we impose, bringing new life and new how to a world that sorely needs it.


By Rev. Nancy Pauls, Congregational Care Pastor JKL and Prayer

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