February 18, 2012


Filed under: Children and Families,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 9:46 pm

There’s nothing quite like being called out by my own child, especially when the thing she’s calling me out on is at the heart of my vocation.

My daughter is one of five best friends who probably would dig through a roof if that’s what it took to care for one another. She is a cradle Episcopalian; two are active in the Methodist church; the other two, twin sisters, are unchurched.

In planning for the winter break, I gave my daughter permission to invite the twins for a sleepover. We agreed that the best night would be Tuesday…. When I went to put this in the calendar, I discovered my mistake. We agreed that the sleepover wouldn’t be a problem, in fact it would be a lot of fun to have Mardi Gras with her friends—we could make pancakes at home, or we could all go to the Methodist church and celebrate Shrove Tuesday with their other friends. The next day would be a little trickier—one of our sleepover traditions is fresh, hot cinnamon rolls, a distinctly non-Lenten indulgence!

We had just finished negotiating the cinnamon roll conundrum when she hit me with it: We can do ashes at home instead of going to church, and we’ll just share our tradition with her friends! (How does she know about that vial of ashes in my desk drawer? And what else does she know about my desk? Questions for another day….)

As I explored this idea with her, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by her easy sense of openness, her calm assumption that sharing her faith is the most natural thing in the world. Sharing her ashes comes as naturally as sharing make-up and doing each other’s hair. It’s who she is; it’s what we do; and if people happen to be visiting that day, just open the circle a little wider.

It was my own reaction that really struck me. Outwardly, I stayed calm and affirmed her sense of sharing tradition, suggesting that I would first want to talk with the girls’ mother to be sure she was comfortable with it. On the inside, however, my head was screaming—I so do not want to bring this up with another mom! And of course I had to laugh at myself—all those workshops, all that talk about congregational development and outreach, and now I have to actually do it; I have to suck it up and make the invitation. The fear of evangelism is real. I get it.

So who will I play in this week’s Gospel? Will I just sit there, claiming squatter’s rights to my place inside the house? Will I lie on my cot, wounded and helpless, hoping for a miracle while others do the heavy lifting? Will I make the commitment to break down the barriers? Will I acknowledge that in baptism I have something so precious, so deeply, instinctively valuable that people will do anything to share in it?

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. My daughter has challenged me to reach out the hand of hospitality. We know I’ll bake the cinnamon rolls. What other nourishment will I find the courage to offer?



  1. And I’m laughing, because I know where you got those ashes!

    Comment by Nancy Moore — February 18, 2012 @ 9:56 pm |Reply

    • Yep–those’re the ones! And right now I’m pretty darn grateful to have them on hand.


      Comment by Lisa Meeder Turnbull — February 18, 2012 @ 11:26 pm |Reply

  2. I’m curious to know if the other mom was receptive. Evangelism is scary, but out of the mouths of babes…

    Comment by Brenda Armstrong Eckles — February 24, 2012 @ 5:24 pm |Reply

    • The other mom was thrilled that I asked! She loved it that her kids would have an opportunity to learn about other people and be exposed to their traditions.

      The kids were great. I had to start at the very beginning–they had never even heard the word Lent. In describing a period of sacrifice I referenced Ramadan, to which my own laughed, “Mom, that doesn’t help if you don’t know any Muslim people.”

      When we actually did the ashes, one of the girls asked me if I believed that the crucifixion and resurrection really happened. Again, my own chimed in, “That part is true, but I don’t believe the stories about Adam and Eve.” It turned out that her friends didn’t know any of the Genesis story at all, so I got to listen while Mallory explained it in her own words.

      As the girls were leaving, the one who had asked the questions turned back from getting into her mom’s car, “Thanks again for having us sleep over. I really like Ash Wednesday.”

      Totally worth the risk…

      Comment by Lisa Meeder Turnbull — February 24, 2012 @ 6:12 pm |Reply

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