Tag Archives: Collegeville Institute

Smile Like Nelson Mandela


Nelson-MandelaIt is tempting to not turn on the news this week. Once again I am out in Minnesota, being splendidly taken care of by the good folks at The Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. I have my own lakefront apartment and last night they welcomed us with local beer and wild rice and maple brats. Under the spell of such extravagant welcome, it would be easy to let the world fall away.

But being something of a news junky (and since I am here for a residency on digital media), I couldn’t resist a little peek at CNN this morning. Where I learned Nelson Mandela is in the hospital again. He’s 94 now. One of these times, we are going to lose him. When we do, the world will lose one of its great, great smiles.

Some say it’s the eyes that tell, but for me, it’s the smile. I fall in love with smiles. It’s where a person’s character is revealed. Who in this world has a better smile than Nelson Mandela? All those years in prison, that extraordinary capacity for forgiveness, delight, wisdom–it’s all there in his smile. One of these days the world is going to lose that smile. And it will be up to us to fill that void with other smiles. So start now. Smile like Nelson Mandela.

Feeling Like An Imposter

Most Sunday mornings, I spend an hour or so in church sitting on an oversized chair, a chair upholstered in sage green velvet .

When I’m perched to preach on that pulpit chair, I’m usually thinking, often obsessing, about the text and the topic I’ve chosen for the morning. Will the sermon I’m about to deliver be worth the time of those who listen?

But yesterday I was not in Hancock. I was not even in church. I was sitting in a different sort of oversized chair. One upholstered in pleather in an express spa/nail salon at the Philadelphia airport. No lofty thoughts yesterday morning. Just a slight obsession about which nail polish to choose and whether Miami Beet will be the color I want to see when I look down at my feet.

I expect to be looking at my feet a lot this next week. Like many people, I study the ground when I feel intimidated.

What put me in the Philly airport on a Sunday morning was a long layover on my way to Minnesota. I am spending this week at the Collegeville Institute on the campus of St. John’s University, in a workshop that is part of the Ecclesial Literature Project.

I feel like an imposter. Don’t tell anyone here, but I don’t actually know what “ecclesial literature” is. Never mind being able to produce it. I have read the writing samples of the other 11 men and women selected to participate and I am certain that they let me in by mistake.  I feel the same way I did when I was a pre-teen and got my first phone call about a paying babysitting job. Thrilled to be asked, but terrified that when I showed up the couple would realize they had called the wrong girl and would decide not to go out after all.

So this is a week about moving out of my comfort zone. And going where God leads me. And knowing that even if my writing is ragged, my cuticles aren’t.