Archive | Musings about faith, life, and more RSS feed for this section

The Power to Say No

Here’s my September column for my hometown newspaper, the award-winning @HollandSentinel…

I remember leading an especially tense meeting several years ago when, during a break, one of the participants approached me and whispered, “You have more power in this situation than you think you do.” And then she walked away.

It was a startling bit of coaching, but she was right. I had power at that meeting I wasn’t using. I had the power, for example, to say no. Instead, I remember feeling powerless. I had allowed myself to be taken advantage of. When the meeting resumed, though, I somehow found the courage to say no and set a boundary.

People in abusive relationships often struggle to say no. The reason, of course, is fear. When we are being abused or bullied, we fear getting hurt, emotionally, physically, or economically. But sometimes, when we can’t accept any more abuse or bullying, we find our voices and use them. “Stop it,” we say. “I’m not going to let you do that to me anymore.”

Many people in this country and around the world seem to be finding their voices and using their power. Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }

I’m hopeful, but not optimistic

Here’s my August column for the award-winning @HollandSentinel…

The mother of a dear friend lives in an assisted living facility in Florida. My friend hasn’t seen her mom since the outbreak of the coronavirus in late February, but each month the staff organizes a parade in front of the facility, so that children and grandchildren can drive by in their cars and wave and honk horns.

Sounds horrible (almost as horrible as living in a “facility”), but the photos my friend sent were touching. The older adults were in lawn chairs, close to the street, and many of them had tears in their eyes, grateful to see and hear loved ones without needing an online platform such as FaceTime or Zoom. Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

Let’s keep one of those monuments

Here’s my July column for the award-winning @HollandSentinel:

With all of the interest right now in taking down monuments and statues in public spaces, I want to speak up for one, which has had an outsized impact on my life.

First, though, I should explain that I have no problem with taking down monuments and statues honoring Civil War figures. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate Armies, led an armed rebellion against the United States, in defense of slavery, that resulted in 620,000 American casualties. (For comparison, World War II resulted in a little more than 405,000 American casualties.) Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Learning to listen

Here’s my June column for the award-winning @HollandSentinel…

I am no expert on race relations.

Where I grew up, in southeast Grand Rapids, our idea of cultural diversity was having Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church in America people in the same neighborhood. We were always so proud of our mutual forbearance.

Our next-door neighbors during my childhood were Roman Catholic and went to church on Saturday afternoon, which seemed strange and somehow not right. They were also Irish, and therefore different. I remember that we kept our eyes on them.

I was a young adult before I learned that, during my childhood, there was also a synagogue in Grand Rapids. I had no idea. I can tell you this much: none of the members lived on my street. Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }

“Pancreatic Cancer” — A Short Story by Douglas Brouwer

Pancreatic Cancer

I had been hoping for another repair this time, something relatively easy to fix.

(To continue reading, click here. This is a short story, a work of fiction, published in an online literary journal.)

Comments { 18 }

Crisis and Opportunity

Here’s my May column for the award-winning Holland Sentinel…

As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, I am becoming less and less enchanted with this whole quarantine thing.

At the beginning, it was kind of fun. Or if not fun, then at least a challenge, something I could overcome. I’ve never had a challenge that I didn’t want to meet. Just tell me that I can’t do something, and my response will invariably be, “Oh yeah? Watch me.”

But this feels different. And not in a good way. Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

A little something for holy Saturday

It’s Holy Saturday, the day before the big event. My younger daughter, who with her family is staying with us during the quarantine, asked this morning over coffee and the morning paper if I missed being a part of it, which was an unexpected question. I had to think about how to respond.

I think about all the Easters of my life, and how Saturday was not so much a day to pause and reflect, but a day to get ready, to make sure the sanctuary looked just so, to put the finishing touches on a sermon that had to be my best one of the year, though it seldom was. Saturday was the day I picked up corsages at the florist for my daughters, though the idea for that was really their mother’s. She was the one who got everyone dressed and ready and off to church on Easter morning. Most years I left the house in the dark before anyone was up.

Easter, for much of my life, seemed like a show that I was responsible for. Continue Reading →

Comments { 18 }

Plagues and Quarantines

 

Here’s my Holland Sentinel column for April…

Plagues and quarantines are nothing new. History isn’t crowded with them, but there have been enough of them that we should have learned a few things over the centuries.

One of the earliest examples was the Plague of Justinian. It arrived in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 541 CE. Historians believe that the pathogen came over the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt, a recently conquered land paying tribute to Emperor Justinian. No one knew what to do then to avoid getting sick except to avoid sick people. Continue Reading →

Comments { 2 }

Let me explain something to you

Here’s my March column for the Holland Sentinel…

I’m fed up with old white men. A few old white women too, but that’s a different story. Let me stay with old white men for a few minutes.

Hardly a day goes by when I’m not embarrassed by old white men. Listen carefully, because I’m not going to say this again, which is something old white men like to say. I know, because I am one. I like to explain things, especially obvious things, because those are the things we old men like to talk about. But listen anyway. Don’t even try to stop us from saying whatever is on our minds. We can talk louder than you. Continue Reading →

Comments { 15 }

I’m exhausted

Here’s my February column for the Holland Sentinel…

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by the news.

The House impeachment hearings, the Senate impeachment trial, the 2020 presidential campaign, the Iowa caucuses, the State of the Union address, the daily drama of it all—it’s too much. I find myself talking back to the TV, which can’t be healthy. I do it even if no one else is in the room. I also grumble aloud while reading the newspaper, mostly animal sounds, not actual words. Frankly, I don’t recognize myself anymore.

I did a news cleanse after Christmas and spent a wonderful week in California with my children and grandchildren. I glanced briefly at the headlines in the morning because, well, I get up earlier than anyone else and couldn’t help myself, but I spent most days playing, laughing, and being silly, which seems to delight the grandchildren, if not their parents. I can’t wait until next year.

But now I’m right back to old habits, as if there had been no cleanse and no detox. I don’t dare look away. Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }