Hope in Waiting

Hope in Waiting at Evenings at the Hospital

Rick Durance, Spiritual Care Intern

As an evening shift chaplain, I see a lot of waiting. By the time I end up walking the floors, the day is almost over. Our day-time staff are busily finishing those last visits or last emails before they leave. Many of our families are packing up to return home. Even our cafeterias begin to empty out. And that leaves those of us who remain, patients who are here for the night and those who work these strange hours.

It can be disquieting or anxiety producing, this sitting amidst the unknown. And so, I see restlessness in folks trying to find something to watch, or frustration trying to settle into their beds. In such moments, just a night’s sleep can be a challenge or uncomfortable.  

Yet also I hear people’s hopes. I hear hopes for test results (maybe a cancer screening, something from a blood test taken earlier that day, or another opinion from a different doctor). I hear hopes for new medications (something that works quicker or maybe just has fewer side effects).  Sometimes, it’s just hope that tomorrow is when something changes or even brings the possibility to go home.  

And so, we wait together. It is one of the joys of my job, to be able to wait with people and witness to the fact that we are not alone, even in these moments. For we are always surrounded and supported by whether by our healing bodies, our busy doctors or nurses, and even just by our God.

Hence, I believe that this waiting, hoping, and just holding on amid all that we are going through is enough.  It is holy and blessed, even as it feels infinitely long and indescribably difficult. For as I hear from St. Paul in my Christian faith: I am convinced that nothing present or anything that may come separates us from God or each other. For God, creation, and all of those around us are here with us in this expectation and longing. It is heartening to not be alone.

It is why Lutherans pray: “God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Amen”

[Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Evening Prayer: A Simplified Form (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2006)]. 

It is not an easy calling to be the ones who have to wait and hope. But God is with us, leading us and supporting us. We are not alone, no matter what may come in these evenings or even in the days to come. There is hope in waiting.

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A Christian Perspective on Loving Relationship

By Chaplain Resident Deborah Metcalf

Theologian Amos Yong addresses a beautiful theology of relationship in his book Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity. The point of his book is to be in relationship, and where relationship fails, connection is lost, and injustice exists. Yong speaks to this in defining the image of God, or imago Dei. He writes “imago Dei is less about some constitutive element of the human person and more about God’s revelation in Christ and in the faces of our neighbors; yet the life of Jesus provides a normative account for what it means to be human, and the Holy Spirit creatively enables and empowers our full humanity in relationship to ourselves, others, and God, even in the most ambiguous situations” (Yong, 180-181).

Yong is not only speaking to the importance of being in relationship, he is expressing that being in relationship is the very nature of a trinitarian God (traditionally as Yong outlines, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). I value knowing God through deep, authentic, vulnerable, interpersonal relationships. These relationships should be built upon mutual respect, compassion, and seeking understanding. I believe that this extends not only between humans, but to nature and the way we care for creation as well— knowing that I have a relationship to all of creation. God dwells in the “in between” in the connection between two or more beings (human, animal, plant, etc.). This is also a good way to look at the trinitarian nature of God, that God exists in relationship and the trinity is a perfect model of God being in relationship to God’s self, and to the world made in God’s image multifaceted and juxtaposed.

Yong also writes that “God revels in plurality and difference…” we should embrace this intentional, celebratory, difference (Yong, 181). Gerard Manly Hopkins reminds us of this also through his poem called Pied Beauty in which he describes a creation celebrated for it’s beautiful contrast. He writes:

“Glory be to God for dappled things – 

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 

   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 

      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 

All things counter, original, spare, strange; 

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 

      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 

                                Praise him” (Manley-Hopkins, poetryfoundation.org)

This poem, to me, describes Imago Dei perfectly, that we should be working together to create a world that is intentional about embracing difference. It is through this image of contrasting creation in relationship, modeled after the trinity, exemplified by Jesus Christ, that we can experience a paradise where God is known as love in relationship. 

We are meant to be in relationship with others, to learn from each other, and to know that everyone has something beautiful to offer. A good, healthy relationship between friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, whomever— even nature, is one that seeks understanding, is compassionate, kind, and loving. When we foster these seeds of love and compassion in one another and in our relationships, this is one way we can truly know God and God’s love! God is both in and around everyone and everything, bridging the gap between humanity and divinity. God lies a little in each of us, God lies in between us, and love connects us. “Dear friends…anyone who knows love, knows God because God is love” (1st John 4:7-8). 

Works Cited

Yong, Amos. Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity. Baylor University Press, 2007.

In Need of a Gentle Summer

By Chaplain Resident Alyssa Muehmel

It’s sunny and 75 degrees where I am today. The official first day of summer is just around the corner, and I find myself limping out of spring into this new season. As is likely the case for you, this winter was a hard one for me. It was painful, lonely, scary, cold (I hate the cold, maybe that’s just a me problem) and seemed to drag on.

One of my favorite authors, Kate Bowler, writes blessings on her social media for everyday events. She titled her most recent blessing “A Blessing for a Gentle Summer”. As I read it, I felt my shoulders drop and myself exhale. I am in desperate need of a gentle summer and, after the last 15 months, perhaps you are as well. A portion of the blessing reads:

“We are wondering…what just happened? The tragedy on slow-release, the shock of sudden outrage, the variants of unusual size, the sweet sense that normal maybe isn’t obsolete. We are wondering…what could happen? We are at a threshold, a season that holds liminal space for what was, and what might be.”

It occurred to me that in this inbetween space with COVID not yet over, but slowing down as people receive vaccines, we might be hit even harder with the grief that has been piling up all year. We are all in need of gentleness.

So at the threshold of summer, how can you be gentle with yourself and others? Maybe this means letting yourself rest instead of doing one more house project, or going to one more social event. Maybe it means being understanding when a friend doesn’t have energy to see you, even though it’s been SO long. Maybe it means being patient with yourself when grief hits, even when you think you’re “supposed” to feel happy. In this gentleness, maybe there is room to hope. I am hopeful for a time coming that doesn’t feel so heavy. What are you hopeful for today?

The Power of Affirmations

By Chaplain Intern Elyse Cooke

“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”- Maya Angelou

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One of the ways in which you can work on your mental health is through the power of meditation with affirmations. An affirmation is really anything you say or think. A lot of what we normally say and think is quite negative, and it doesn’t always bring us peace. We can meditate to let go of the negative thoughts and allow space for peace. By meditating with affirmations, we keep ourselves present and grounded with simple, yet poignant phrases.

Here are some tips to get started with affirmation practice:

Always start an affirmation with positive words such as:

I can_____.

I am____.

I do____.

I have____.

Say your affirmation over and over when you think of it.

Say an affirmation when you are having a lot of unhappy or negative thoughts.

Look in a mirror and say your positive affirmations out loud.

Write your affirmations down in a notebook or journal.

Make a sign with your positive affirmation and hang it where you can see it daily.

—————

Here are some affirmations to get you started.

Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Begin breathing in and out slowly, counting up to three as you inhale and down from three as you exhale. In between breaths, repeat the following affirmations, pausing and repeating each one:

I am in this world for a purpose.

I am unique in many ways.

I can do hard things.

I am loved.

Way Maker: Theodical reflections from a contemporary African Gospel melody

Written by Chaplain Intern Dave C. Chikosi

Scottish Chaplain Ian Macritchie has argued that the hospital “is no place for a chaplain who does not have a theology of suffering and healing” (Macritchie, “The Chaplain as Translator,” p.208). I concur. Every chaplain must wrestle with the conundrum of human pain and suffering. And for chaplains from the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) there is the additional question of how to justify God in the face of evil.

Muslims, Jews and Christians all describe their Supreme Being as omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. But if their Deity is all that (plus omni-loving), why hasn’t He prevented suffering? The problem was stated succinctly by Scottish philosopher David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779): “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Muslims, Jews and Christians have responded (to the “Inconsistent Triad”) by offering counter-arguments that seek to justify God in the face of evil. The theological term for these arguments is “theodicy”(from theos ‘god’ + dike ‘justice’) – a term coined by 18th century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. In his book Théodicée Leibniz controversially declared that this world was “the best of all possible world” and that if a better alternative existed “God would have brought it into actuality.”

Of course Biblical Christianity rejects that thesis because it fails to take into account the doctrine of the Fall of Man. It was the ‘best of all possible worlds’ until Adam messed it all up. And it won’t be until after God has renovated this present world with fire and “the elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein are burned up” (2 Pet 3:10), that a new world shall emerge from the old. It is this new world that will be the ‘best of all possible worlds’. No more “death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev 21:4).

Leibniz’s philosophical optimism laid the foundation for a new “religion i.e. today’s massive Positive Thinking and/or Self-Help industry – estimated to be worth over $10 billion. According to University of Denver religious studies professor Cark Raschke, Positive Thinking is America’s secular religion. It is “an extension of our pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps frontier ethos” that permeates the present cultural landscape, and articles of faith are echoed in the mystical mind-over-matter certainties of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and others.

The Christian’s Bible-based optimism, on the other hand, is very different from secular mind-over-matter. It is Mind-over-matter i.e. the Mind of Christ over human matters. The Christian believer can be the eternal optimist precisely because Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death and the grave in the Resurrection. In Him all pain and suffering is woven into a tapestry and made to “work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Doesn’t make suffering easy, but it sure makes it bearable. Hence the exhortation to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

And even when I don’t see or understand the ‘why’ of a crisis, I know God is working on it, and He never stops working on it. This is the message of an extremely popular and contemporary African Gospel song that has been sung across the globe by almost every Christian denomination, from the most fundamentalist to the most liberal.

“Way Maker” is a song by African Gospel artist Sinach (full name Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu). It has been called “the American church’s quarantine anthem.” It made its way to the States from Nigeria and has since topped the US charts for both Christian airplay and church worship during the first months of the pandemic. It has been sung by demonstrators marching and calling for racial justice (see video clip).

The God of Sinach is not Deus Absconditus or literally “the God who has absconded.” On the contrary, her God is deeply involved in human pain and suffering. This is not always apparent to the naked human eye, but He is working all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The hospital chaplain can thus assure, especially the Christian patient, that in Jesus “we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15). He works to mitigate crises, and many times He will supernaturally intervene directly, but He is always working His purpose through it all.

Even when I don’t see it. He never stops working.

Making Impossible Things Possible

Faith and prayer are invisible, but they make impossible things possible.

Faith in God is what gives hope during challenging moments.

Maintaining faith and prayer always is a source of healing.

Always schedule prayer and worship as part of the day’s activity. They connect us to the creator who softens our hearts especially in challenging moments like sickness.

Prayer is an empowering moment that connects us to God, thus revealing God’s love in our lives.

Prayer is a moment that reveals who God truly is to us and helps us rediscover His will.

Remember always that an examination of conscience is key to reflect on our day, our emotions, our relationship with the creator, and our interaction with others.

Prayer is a practice that brings us peace, relaxation, and healing.

No matter what situation we may find ourselves in, faith and prayer should always remain part of our lives      

God who is With

I am not sure about a lot of things, but I am sure God is present. There are only few concrete things I can say for certain about God, and one thing I know for sure is that God is present. In my Methodist tradition, we believe that God is still living and active in the world.

God was there at the beginning of things, through the first choices, good and bad. God has always only desired a relationship with humanity, God’s creation. God has gone to great lengths to ensure that the God-to-human relationship could continue to thrive.

God has been present in the wilderness and present in the middle of sin and suffering, and even present during exile. God has been there in the wrestling, the restlessness, and in those moments of rest. In fact, there are moments when people have declared, surely God was in this place and I was not aware of it.

God was and is among the people. Not only is God with us, but his plan for us is to have life, and life to the fullest. God has been, and continues to be, at the party turning water into wine. God walks through life and shows humanity how to live rightly in the world. God will not hesitate to leave the group behind to seek out one lonely soul. God has wept, been betrayed, and even killed. And yet, God is still present, God still persists. 

There are times and situations where it is hard to believe that God’s plan for us is life, let alone that God is present. Living in an imperfect world with unfair outcomes can be a hard reality to face. Things happen often outside of our control at the hands of someone else or something else, seemingly random acts of chaos.

Unthinkable acts are perpetrated, life is cut short, violence and trauma are endured. Our loved ones die when we hoped they would heal. We couldn’t find the words that needed to be said at the moment we needed them. Freak accidents happen that change the paths of our lives in an instant. We have to deal with a chronic illness that becomes a lifestyle instead of a one-time medical event. Those who we counted on were not there when we needed them the most. Sometimes we have to pause our plan and priorities to deal with a medical emergency. Other times these situations can put a stop to our plans, an end. Life is hard. Life is not fair. Life is suffering. But life is also good. Life is full of joy.

 To be alive is to be present to life in all of its fullness. To be present is to experience love and the presence we give to others is the greatest form of love. So in the middle of your circumstance, setback, or struggle, God is present. God is there in your pain, your joy, your grief, and your loneliness. It does not always feel this way, but it is true.

Sometimes it feels to us as though God is absent in these moments when life grows dark and the difficulties continue to stack up. But, God is there even when it feels like absence. God is there in the warmth of the sunshine and in the garlic green beans from the hospital menu. God is there in that nurse, nutritionist, or doctor  that goes above and beyond to offer hope, healing, and encouragement. God may even be with the chaplain that stops by. Whatever the case, God is certainly with you and for you, walking alongside you no matter what lies ahead. God will continue to do what God always does, be present.

God will be present in this life and the next, calling you forward toward a life filled with ever lasting love. Today may you know the presence of God undoubtedly in your life, no matter what comes next. Remember this is the God who is with us.

Guilt

Chaplain Intern Rick Durance

I regularly find myself driving home from my shift at the hospital wondering, “Did I do enough?” I think about how many patients I saw, how long I stayed with them, and even how much comfort I might have been. At the end of the night, I judge my shift and myself by counting, measuring, and timing my experiences. Everything becomes about numbers and effectiveness. Did I do enough in the hours I was given to help our patients?  

And honestly, on those drives, I find myself feeling deeply guilty. I think of what I could have done better. I am often hard on myself. I think how I could have just walked a little faster, taken a few more moments to ask another question, or even spent fewer minutes drinking a cup of tea on my break. I almost always leave feeling as if I could have helped more patients. I am still heartbroken for our patients after I leave the room. I still worry about the families left to grieve over loved ones. I still feel the weight of the prayers and hopes that I voiced. I know I make an impact. I know I help as a chaplain during a global pandemic. Yet guilt continues. 

That guilt is not unique. When caring for other or when exposed to trauma, guilt is common. Guilt is one of the strongest emotions people feel when faced with suffering. Guilt is a primal, instinctual, human response to heartbreaking situations. It is a profoundly natural, especially in ministry settings,

It is not only us as spiritual care or medical staff that experience it; our patients and families feel it too. I have heard patients describe how they wish they could have been better parents (no matter how compassionate and loving they were). Families, especially spouses, describe regret, as if they should have seen illnesses coming sooner. Since this pandemic arrived last year, we have learned how much of our lives are out of our control. Yet, we want to control our lives, even if it means blaming ourselves and taking on this guilt. We do so, even if we know we did our best. I know I still feel guilty, even though I know I did what I could for my patients.  

We must engage with these ideas of guilt. Guilt can easily cause burnout. It can regularly affect our decision-making and judgments. It can sow doubt in ourselves and in our actions. It can cause us to neglect relationships and retreat inside ourselves. I know for me it is achingly painful. I regularly find myself sad or tired after shifts, even if I comforted my patients and myself in those moments. And guilt can feel almost inescapable. It feels especially heavy in those quiet moments of reflecting, like on my commute home. It can dull other feelings of joy, and I know it can follow me home. I suspect our patients and their families can sometimes feel the same way as they leave the hospital too. 

Yet, I think there is hope. From my tradition as a Christian, especially as a Lutheran, I know that guilt is not the end. I see in the hospital every day. I see it in the everyday moments of conscience, forgiveness, and compassion. As I often see guilt (in myself and in others), I also see the genuine desire for love and deep understanding. Parents want what is best for their children and ultimately to reunite with them (especially after the isolation of this pandemic), even as they acknowledge they could do more. Family members want to honor those who are dying in the humor, stories, and joys they might never have done in other parts of life. Spouses just want their loved ones to be well, no matter what happened before they entered the hospital. People want to help and make amends, even if they have done nothing wrong. 

In my tradition of Lutheranism, there is always hope for life beyond guilt and despair. We need not torture ourselves indefinitely with our concerns over guilt. It is a great joy of my job that I get to remind people of that fact and remind them of their own profoundly loving nature that I hear in their stories. I take pride in hearing beyond the guilt and to the love at my patients’ cores. And I appreciate being able to tell them honestly that they do not need to feel this guilt. I see the possibilities in people themselves and in us as ministers to give people this hope, this knowledge that they can overcome their own guilt.  I see how our rituals, prayers, and even compassionate listening to patients can help them process and move past this guilt.

While I still feel guilt, I also know that it does not have the final say. As I drive home, I now try to console myself a little (as I consoled others on my shift). We as loving people often do the best we can. We know we are not perfect, but part of the struggle is just to recognize that feeling of guilt and reasonably understand where we messed up.

And in the end, we can try to do better. For me, it is thinking about the better questions to ask of patients. It is considering what I might pray for with our people that might touch their hearts. It is in searching for ways to find a little sense of peace, and how to share that sense. Part of life is just reminding ourselves of the better angels of our natures, even if we mess up. I hope as we all leave the hospital that we can find ways to let go of this guilt. Instead of driving home and dwelling perpetually on what might have gone better, let us find ways to forgive ourselves. I pray that we all may find absolution for our guilts and grace on our journeys forward.

How Buddhism Taught Me How To Be a Better Christian

Chaplain Resident Deborah Metcalf

I’ve always had an affinity for learning about other people, places, cultures and religions. In college I did my best to study as many different religions as possible in the theology department. Through this, I gained some experience with the Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But I didn’t have the opportunities in my undergraduate studies to explore the other two major world religions: Hinduism and Buddhism.

Although I had this deep passion for studying religion and theology, throughout college, I was at a place in my life where I hadn’t really been going to church regularly. On top of this, the church I’d grown up in had not been a place where most of my open-minded viewpoints were accepted, and this caused me pain. So while church had become a sore spot, my intellectual interests in world religions was an exciting place for new exploration.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I moved to a new city to work. It was there that I first received the opportunity to learn about Buddhism. Someone I knew through work invited me to come along to their sangha (mindfulness community) and I was eager to learn more about this. So, I rounded up several of my roommates and went to my first meditation session. It was here that I found a beautiful community of people who were welcoming, patient, kind, and open minded to different ways of being.

I learned early that Buddhist meditation practice is better thought of as a way of life than a “religion” so to speak. Honestly, as a lifelong Christian, I think Christianity would be better described as a way of life too. Of course, like Christianity (and all religions) Buddhism does not operate in a bubble. Rather, it differs based on different schools of thought (like denominations for Christians) as well as culture, generation, and time throughout history. That being said, I do not speak for all Buddhists everywhere, I speak from my own experience within the tradition of the Order of Interbeing led by teacher and Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. I speak as a young, white woman, with a Christian background and a modern western experience of an ancient eastern practice. 

At a time in my life where Christianity was a pain point, Buddhism was a sweet and welcoming relief. Several folks were there because they had also been ostracized by the church. Others were atheists, some with a Hindu background, and others still were open minded Christians like myself who also identified as Buddhist, or simply enjoyed the practice without the label. Here, I learned how to bring my attention to my breath, and in doing so created space for deep understanding. Bringing attention to one’s breath is a practice in being fully present in the present moment. We practice this sitting in silent meditation to eliminate distractions, but so that we can get better at being present in the present moment throughout our lives, where there are lots of distractions.

Through the examples set by others in the practice who were also Christian, and through reading the book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” I learned that it was possible to be both Buddhist and Christian. I learned that Buddhism does not have a god, and therefore would also not interfere with my belief in a Christian god. I learned that it is important to understand where you come from, and if possible to return to one’s own tradition. Practicing Buddhism helped me understand the pain that came out of my Christian tradition, accept it, and heal. Because of the open and accepting community of Buddhists I found myself among, and because of the deep understanding I gained, I was able to begin to accept my own past of being pained by the Christian church and begin to return to my Christian tradition with deeper insight and understanding. I was able to find a Christian church that accepted me, shared my open minded expression of Christianity, and accepted my Buddhsim. This helped me heal too.

I also learned, through this mindfulness practice, about the connectedness of all things through deep understanding. I learned that we are all connected to one another and to the earth, a term called “interbeing.” Buddhists use this common example as an explanation of “interbeing:” that a flower is made up entirely of non-flower elements. There is no flower without the conditions for a flower, a seed (which is not a flower) must have rain, sunshine, and dirt containing nutrients in order to exist. The flower “inter-is” with rain, sunshine, and dirt containing nutrients. Without one of those elements, there is no flower. We are like this flower, and our ability to flourish, whether we realize it or not, is tied up with creating conditions for others to flourish as well. As activist Lilla Watson is credited for, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together.” In other words, we are all a part of God’s beloved creation.

Buddhism is a contemplative practice. Like Buddhism, Christianity, is also a contemplative practice. But for me, I had never really connected to the contemplative aspects of Christianity. Meditating regularly with my Sangha (mindfulness community) gave me a space to begin doing so. I found that the more I practiced mindfulness, the more thoughtful I was, and the more capacity I had to be patient with others. This in turn meant that I was living a life more in line with my Christian values too.

Christianity is for me, a practice rooted in social activism via Jesus’ social gospels. This is another element of Christianity that I was able to connect with Buddhism– particularly the kind I was involved with. See, Thich Nhat Hanh began his life as a monk in Vietnam amidst the Vietnam war. Utilizing mindfulness as a way of opening oneself up to the interconnected nature of all things, he began to develop a way of practicing Buddhism he called “Engaged Buddhism.” This means that he not only practiced by meditating with other monks, he took that practice and all he learned from it, and he advocated for peace in his communities, fed the hungry, and was with people as they suffered from the turmoil of war. For me, this philosophy meshed really well with my Christian perspective of how I thought I ought to live my life as Jesus did: engaged in the world, in relationship to others, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and with a willingness to not ignore suffering.

I now practice both traditions, because they continue to work together in my life to help me be my best self, the version of myself that is patient, kind, loving towards others, does not neglect the self, who will sit in sadness and grief with others, can celebrate joy. The ability to do these things is based in an understanding of interconnectedness of all people and all things. These qualities remind me very much of the Jesus that I was brought up in, the one I still believe in today. The Jesus who came for everyone, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and accepted with love those who were excluded by society. But of course, this is a practice. As I mentioned before, I find it helpful to think of both Buddhism and Christianity as a practice. This means that we are never perfect, we are always learning, growing, shaping and this is okay. I am not perfect, I am practicing. Continuing to practice means continuing to grow, to be alive. I have much to learn about both traditions I hold dear.

Ultimately, I learned to integrate what I learned through Buddhism with what I believed as a Christian, and they enhanced my understanding of each. I had a new lens through which to view Christianity, as I studied more and more my own Christian tradition, I felt that they integrated naturally and smoothly with one another. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” that “we can learn about others by studying ourselves” (pg. 8). Although it started out a bit the other way around for me, ultimately this became true. And, if it hadn’t been for Buddhism, I may never have come back to Christianity. Practicing Buddhism reminded me that I am not alone, that spiritual practices are important, and that returning to one’s roots can be healing and transformative (and I got a little help from Buddhism to get there). I am forever grateful for Buddhism which helped me return not just to Christ, but to the Church.

Of course, I am not advocating that they are the same religion, or even have the same message as one another. But rather, I find that truth, life, beauty, and grace can be found in both, though they are expressed differently. Buddhism is yet another community of people who are on a path towards enlightenment. When we can see the world for all that it is, with all of its complexities, we can begin to see that it’s really quite simple: love is the answer. Buddhism helps me not only understand the complexities of the world, but harness loving kindness towards it. As it says in 1st John 4:7-8 “Dear friends we must love one another because God first loved us. Anyone who loves knows God and has been born of God because God is love.”

If you, the reader of this article, were to take anything away from this, my hope would be that you have, or find something life-giving and grounding, something that connects you to others, that can nourish you as my Buddhist meditation practice has helped and continues to help me do. That, and if Buddhism is new to you, do not be afraid of it, it is a peaceful practice which in my experience has been a beautiful addition to my life as a Christian. If you’d like more information on Buddhist mindfulness practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh/Order of Interbeing, please visit https://plumvillage.org/ and check out the book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh from which I drew several quotes.