To keep my mouth shut. To turn away my face. To walk back down the aisle. To slap the bishop back when he slapped me during Confirmation. To hold the word no in my mouth like a gold coin, something valued, something possible. To teach the no to our daughters. To value their no more than their compliant yes. To celebrate no. To grasp the word no in your fist and refuse to give it up. To support the boy who says no to violence, the girl who will not be violated, the woman who says no, no, I will not. To love the no, to cherish the no which is often our first word. No - the means to transformation.
- Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay's Dance

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten season. Maybe, possibly, you're even now making plans to give up something during this time. I usually hear of folks giving up the Starbucks drive-thru or going to the movies or dark chocolate or crazy, Kama Sutra sex; you know, common everyday stuff. I'm not always sure how I feel about giving up those kinds of things. The original communal Lent has devolved into almost private discipline; it used to be the whole gang was prescribed the same thing, but now I get to choose my own medicine.

Here's a thought, just a thought. What if you gave up saying yes during Lent? No, not the yes of did you brush your teeth? or did you pick up the kids? I'm talking about that compliant yes; you know of that I speak. It's saying yes to any and every old thing that comes our way. It's often hard for folks who want to be Christ-like to refuse much at all, us wanting to have a servant's heart and all. Yes, there are times we entertain angels unaware and then there are weeks on end we let devils wring our souls dry.

What if this Lent was a returning to what is often our first word? The beautiful No. I agree with Erdrich; it is possibly the means to transformation. And you'd get to keep the chocolate and sex.

It's just a thought.


  1. Thought provoking...I loved the quote. I could definitely learn to "value their no more than their compliant yes..." with my children.

    It's such a fine balance teaching them respect and obedience while allowing and encouraging their own voices. Almost an art...

  2. GRA-CIOUS! This is soo timely, my friend...I'm in the throes of something RIGHT NOW that I said "yes" to and I am miserable!

    I am absolutely certain that I should've said "no"...with a grateful heart even. But, alas, I said "yes"...I felt twisted and watched so I said it. And now, what do I have in return?? A once a week freakin' commitment for TEN ding dang heart is not there.

    I SOO appreciate your words, John and they are RIGHT ON...I am absolutely certain, too, that I am being called to learn this valuable, precious, ok-to-say word "NO"...

    what a great birthday read :)!

  3. Finishing up the auction quilt this week, dammit.

    But after that.

    No means no.


  4. Well, I'm all for keeping the chocolate and sex!

    Ha! I gave up all my caffeine (because it must be sweetened, and that's a lot of calories) AND THEN I found out it was Lent. I don't even get to be pious about it. Man, we Baptists miss all the fun!

    By the way, I am here on the suggestion of your wife.

  5. Kama Sutra sex?! Dude, I am busting a gut from laughing so loud! You're out of control and I love it.

  6. Anonymous9:19 AM

    That's a challenging discipline ... it's so easy to be compliant. Or maybe it's so damaging.