This week I’ve been hanging around at home with a few grad students as they stay at my house.

It’s interesting! They’re fascinating as representatives of new perspectives on lots of things, coffee, float spas, Confucianism, pedagogy (the art of teaching), gender sensitivity, racism, children’s literature, body shaming, academic culture, LGBTQ issues, Christianity.

There’s been a cultural shift that they represent. Many of our young adults are disillusioned with institutions, hard-and-fast rules, black-and-white thinking, moralistic traditionalism, judgmentalism. Of course, I am friends with other young people who remain quite conservative, comfortable with the conceptual categories and ethics they’ve been taught, but I to gravitate toward these more open thinkers. I have made the journey with them.

Why? Why do I like the questioning, the openness, the desire to move beyond our past understanding.

Because I think they treck a wiser path, and I think Christians in particular should listen to them.

One of my young moderns told me recently she was doing yoga and that her Catholic friend told her it was from the devil. Of course that’s not true, and of course she found that offensive and ignorant. She also told me that she had been raised Catholic but she decided she didn’t want to hate gay people and so she left the church. Of course, not all Catholics hate gay people, nor does the pope, but she was describing a kind of intolerance that didn’t seem loving or wise to her.

Another of my young progressive friends told me recently that he was reading Confucianism. I’ve read Confucius. I like him. Some Christians categorically oppose all eastern religions and philosophies. But there is another way to look at this. There is an ethos in Confucius that aligns with the ethos of Jesus. Confucius emphasized respect in relationships, filial piety, righteousness, human heartedness, goodness, benevolence. These are good things, Jesus things; these create good relationships. Christians can honor these teachings without turning them into religion, without abandoning what Jesus taught.

And one other of my young friends can’t seem to find a church where women are equally respected with men in pastoral and leadership roles. She wants that. She won’t compromise. I respect her for that. There is good Biblical support for that, if you want to see it. But in her community, that’s not to be found. I suspect many modern young women feel the same.

It’s good to remember that Jesus is simple. He taught us to love our neighbor. He taught us to love God. He taught us to be friends to strangers, to include the alien. When Jesus told us to go into all the world to represent him, he didn’t mean to go out and beat people up with morals, systematic theology’s or our preferred culture. I can imagine Jesus, even Paul, having a respectful conversation and debate with friendships with people of our worlds many different traditions. Jesus was motivated by love, not hate and he wanted to have dialogues not just preach sermons.

I’m not at all suggesting that there isn’t ignorance and falsehood and misinterpretation and oppression in the many philosophies and religions of the world. We all error in our thinking and believing. Christianity itself has often been mistaught, warped beyond recognition. And I’m not suggesting we l don’t contend for what is valid, true, wisest the best we know.

But consider Paul. When Paul went to Athens he identified with some of the things the Athenians believed. He started out with the truth that in God we all live and move and have our being. He honored their thinking.

In approaching our faith communities, other lifestyles, in approaching people on the other side of a political line, Christians need to remember that the people in all other groups are created in the image of God, God sends his sunshine and rain and blessings on them too, they too live and move in God, aware of that or not. They too have truth.

Let’s not turn Christianity into a bunch of rules, a raft of intolerance, a bunch of propositions or judgements we write on slate and present as a systematic theology that all others must accept to be loved by God or to be spiritual. That’s not working. Many modern people are abandoning the church because of that very kind of thinking. Intolerance isn’t attractive. It isn’t the mission Jesus started. He himself said he didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it.

Humility would suggest we go out into our world to learn, to listen more, to realize that truth is often a balance between two extremes, to realize we are the not the only ones who know stuff. How fascinating to explore, to better understand. How wise not to be threatened, to be willing to accept new interpretations, new perspectives, a different way of looking at the same old thing. How fascinating to be like Jesus. to love people.

Here is what we were taught to do.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:7-8

Jesus — he was pretty curious about things, interested in things other people weren’t.

He was fascinated by vacant lots, the things growing in them. He wrote the book on neglected areas; he catalogued the things living there. He hung out in disturbed areas; he knew the names of weeds.

Along this line I have a confession. One the books that has had a big influence on my life is Natural History of Vacant Lots by Wessel and Wong. Really!

I’ll give you a taste of it.

In the opening, the authors state that there are no so-called weeds but instead plants that voluntarily colonize disturbed and wasted areas. These plants are best referred to as ruderal plants or pioneer plants. No negative connotation. The authors consider them worthy of attention, study, notation. They have value as habitat, they are niche communities for a great variety of life.

The authors go on to talk about the vast, fascinating community of organisms that make up vacant lots — mustards, wild radishes, thistles, dandelions, pig weed, clover, mallows and flea bane. And then there’s the creatures, monarch butterflies, mourning cloaks, swallowtails, cabbage white butterflies, bee flies, crickets, western fence lizards, robbins and mockingbirds and hummingbirds.

Why know such things? Because life, life on the edges of the main stream, life in the ditches, life in the neglected areas, weedy life, ruderal life is life and it has value on the planet as part of the ecosystem we all inhabit.

Back to Jesus, back to people. Seeing, observing, identifying, naming and valuing the people on the edges, the people overlooked, the people that were not considered to have value, Jesus pushed that.

Check this out.

Jesus said to his [one of his hosts], “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14

Many of us will not hold such a banquet, although we might work in a food distribution, but the point here is that in every day life as we passed through life’s vacant lots — and everybody eventually resides in a physical or mental or social wasteland — we are to take note of, see, name and value the creatures living there.

The world is fascinating. Jesus thought so. The world is full of different types of landscapes, inhabitants. All around us are those wanting and waiting for us to know their names, call out their value, even the members of our own homes.

Look around. Note the edges, verges, borders, waste places in your family, your social circle. Note the weedy places in yourself.

What’s there?

Who is there?

Be fascinated. Be gentle with your own inner vacant lots and others. See what grows there, even your less attractive plants and creatures, your thistles, your bugs. They are part of you. Invite them to the banquet.

And as you pass along the road, through your family and friend circle, look to the edges. Note the cripple at the edge, your daughter, an uncle, someone who has moved away, a friend.

Don’t avert your eyes. It’s life, part of life, the vacant lots, the people living there, to be known, to be invited in.

Interesting that we call those places vacant.

They aren’t.

The lots are all full, for those paying attention, those with the loving curiosity of Jesus.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6

Yesterday as the sun set, I saw three doves light in a tree, the golden sunlight illuminate their light tan chests. They were loved with light and warmth, and they took a moment to perch, turned to the sun — before dark — to bask in this.

Whether our circumstances always point to this or not, God is completely aware of everything that is happening to us, and he values us highly and he cares about us!

No matter how you feel today, what might be overwhelming you, what might not seem to have a solution, God knows, and he cares.

So don’t be afraid and put worry aside as much as is possible because you’re very valuable to God and he knows precisely how things will work out and how he will be involved.

Be gentle with yourself today, and retain a sense of your value.

God values you!

He shines on you too.

Like the doves, perch and bask.

I met a young woman recently who was from China. She lived in the north where there was snow six months of the year. She told me that she had a cold disease.

When it got very cold, she would break out in hives all over her body even around her eyes. She lived that way for over 20 years. She is a very small person and I can only imagine the suffering she experienced in the unrelenting northern cold.

She also told me her grandparents raised her. That indicates another difficult narrative.

In her mid-20s she came to San Diego and got a job. She has an uncle who lives here.

She says even here in San Diego when it gets cold in the winter and rains sometimes her hives come back.

I looked at her, smiling at me, noted her very gentle manner, and I thought that inside that little body, inside that sweet soul —  grit.

Grit is defined as courage and resolve; strength of character, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

Inspired by my Chinese friend’s grit, I penned some thought proverbs. Here they are for your ruminations.

Tough times?

Grit and bear it; the grin is not required.

Grit your teeth if you must, grind on anyway.

Grind on; sans grit.

True as grit; false as grand.

Grit in the face of danger.

Grit is found in two places; in the dirt and in the person in the dirt.

Sandpaper your words; use a fine grit.

Eat sand; blast injustice.

The good life requires grit — and gratitude.

Where Is God?

Posted: November 2, 2019 in god
Tags: , , , ,

Ever wonder, “Where is God?” When scripture makes so many positive promises, and then you don’t see yourself experiencing them.

Here is one.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement …

Romans 15:5

Or this one;

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3

Endurance and encouragement — God gives it.

Comfort— God gives it.

Yesterday my daughter called and reminded me how tough and strong I am.

My friend Jerry texted me reminding me of his respect, care and love for me.

My wife sat with me and brought tender care. She held my hand. Patted my back.

God gives encouragement and comfort, but it may not be the voice in the night, even a sense of his presence in the day.

God and his comfort often come through others.

Leo Tolstoy illustrates this beautifully in his story Martin the Cobbler, and if you haven’t read it, find it and do. Martin lost his wife. He is so lonely but one day he senses a promise —- the Savior will come to his house

All day looks at his window watching. First, he sees Stepanitch shoveling away snow. Martin invites him in for a warm drink and they talked for a while.

Then he sees a woman with a baby who is cold and He invites her in for some food and gives her warmer clothes and money.

Then he sees a boy stealing an apple and he intervenes and pays for the apple.

That night while Martin wondered why God had not visited him, the three figures appeared in his home, the very ones he had showed hospitality to that day. They said that when he helped them he was helping God. Martin then realized that God had indeed visited him in those he helped.

When we comfort others we are God to them. When they comfort us they are God to us.

So at the end of time the truth will be known.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

God does come — in others, in us — helping others.

Let’s talk turkey! Let’s talk about the real stuff. Let’s have a conversation about our bodies, our thoughts, our behaviors. Let’s be friends and talk openly.

Guilt, shame, regret, insecurity — over our bodies, over our thinking, over our behavior, over our eating — it’s a rough go

“I ate too much, I eat the wrong thing, I shouldn’t of said that, did that, thought that.”

Of course guilt over things actually done wrong and forgiveness for those are real and important, but so much of the negativity inside of us is not that — it’s just a crazy kind of insecurity, false-guilt and self-flagellation.

Our minds naturally go there, critique ourselves, and tend to be negative too much of the time.

I know. Lately I’ve been ill. I have needed to think differently about my body, about eating and about doing.

This happens to all of us at times. Life is not static. Our bodies and our circumstances and our success rates and our opportunities change over time. They change in pregnancy, they change in illness, they change as we age. They change with other people’s decisions. They change because the world changes.

Enough thinking that life is anything different than this. Enough thinking that we have to maintain some standard, some image in order to love ourselves and to be loved by others. Go to the grocery store. Watch the people. They come in all shapes and sizes, limping, running, with walkers, in their beautiful workout clothes, in their stained and old clothes, life rich, life weary and poor. You see it all. What should we think of it? How should we reflect on the change in circumstances of our lives and other’s lives? How do we navigate the vulnerability, changeability, the ephemeral nature of life?

Not by being self-negative.

God made us good! God built into us a sense of what to do. It’s called intuition. And he gave us a conscience. It knows right from wrong. And if we listen to scripture, the fact is that God is living within us, ready to guide and advise and encourage. He gives us who believe his Spirit.

Because of this I believe we often intuitively know what we need to do and not do, eat and not eat, think and not think, and instead of living by a pack of rules and a bunch of social judgments — a raft of diets, workouts, behavioral codes, and unrealistic expectations about body image, moral perfection and peer acceptability — we need to lighten up.

Seriously! Take it easy on yourself. Be kind to yourself. Trust yourself. Be intuitive. Live intuitively. Be an intuitive thinker, chooser, eater. Deeply care about yourself as a unique and special created being not like any other one.

Consider eating — it can be by the book, or by the hook and crook or by a simple sense of honoring the moment and your body.

We need freedom here! I need deliverance from old ways and old thinking here! We would do well to become intuitive eaters.

An intuitive eater has been defined as a person who, “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honors hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.”

Yea! I need that.

Freedom!

And intuitive lifestyle the same. Of course as you live apply the knowledge you have about health, about behavior consequences, about your limits and needs, and about morality, but live more by the Spirit, who gives you a built-in sense of what’s best for you.

Live intuitively by the idea that there is no “normal” when it comes to any part of us. Listen to your body and your heart and make the best decision given the unique circumstances you are in at the moment. Then be okay with yourself. Rest in what you’ve decided and don’t rethink it it

“Our life is what our thoughts make it,” said Marcus Aurelius.

If your thoughts are self-shaming they’re not from God. If you’re always trying to do what somebody else has done, you’ll only end up frustrated. If you don’t honor how God has made you or what he has allowed in you life that makes you who you are at any given moment, you will harm yourself.

Intuit the divine.

Intuit your life!

Be free my friends from law and from judgement — because you are!

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

Our country is divided and not simply by the Mississippi.

Racism, political perspectives, gender, immigration, our President, religion, foreign policy, climate control  — we are even divided on how to fight about all this.

It’s a fight. So how do we fight?

Do we call each other out? Publicly, online, in social media? Or do we call each other “in,” privately, “Let’s have a talk,” then hug.

Loretta Ross wrote an article in August published in the New York Times,”I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic.”

She wrote the following, “Call-outs make people fearful of being targeted. People avoid meaningful conversations when hypervigilant perfectionists point out apparent mistakes, feeding the cannibalistic maw of the cancel culture. Shaming people for when they “woke up” presupposes rigid political standards for acceptable discourse and enlists others to pile on. Sometimes it’s just ruthless hazing.”

“We can change this culture. Calling-in is simply a call-out done with love. Some corrections can be made privately.”

Karla Thomas writing  for Medium in an article called, ‘Mad About Call-out Culture?: Stop Centering White Cultural Norms & Feelings” disagreed. She says there is a clear need to publicly call out wrong, loud and clear, in order to reform our culture and move toward fairness.

Interrupting racially offensive behavior, (or any other –ism,) in the same forum or elevated forum and at the same volume as the aggression was made, is paramount to ensuring that anyone from the oppressed group in ear or eye shot knows that those transgressions were seen and will not go unaddressed.”

“It is critical here to realize, that when an aggressor makes a transgression then is called out, and the rebuttal is, “well you could have told me in a nicer manner” or “it’s rude to call someone racist,” there is a clear and purposeful choice to avoid the message that points out their racism and to focus on the messenger.” 

Both make good points. The articles would be worth your time. They were published in August and are easy to find.

How do we heal our divide, particularly over what divides us the most.

Call people “in” and work together, that is for sure needed. Call out abuse, lies, hate, racism, gender inequality — that’s needed too. We must never silence oppressed, harmed voices.

Let’s talk about racism. The articles focused on that. For you who are white and think racism is not a big deal for you, I’d encourage you to read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Her books are worth your time. School yourself! Open your minds.

What do you think?

I think racism is a huge problem in the United States and we need get to talking more and better about this soon. This is important. We better take some action to bring about change. This matters now!

What would Jesus have to say to us about all this. He sure did some publicly calling out of wrong. He was ruthless on the people who thought they were the best class, better than others, but then he defended the women called out for adultery. Jesus always defended the oppressed. He always confronted the powerful, privileged elite. What does that tell you?

Wisdom knows when to say what! And wisdom chooses the most powerful and effective way to say it.

Feel free to post a comment. Just click the talk bubble at the top of this post and comment there.

Thanks!

This morning my wife corrected me, and she encouraged me to think differently. “Think less about yourself,” she said.

Perfectly fine.  She was correct. I’m too self-focused.

Yesterday on the phone my youngest daughter gave me some help by referring me to three good Ted’s talks. I listened to them and learned a lot.

Today I spent much of my day in silence. Not typical. It’s because I’m sick. It happens.

In the afternoon I sat in my backyard and listened with my eyes to the sun, then the trees and then I saw a hummingbird eat. A blur, a hard stop, a hover, a sip — gone!

I also spent some time silencing my mind. That seldom happens.

The following thoughts come to mind.

Which one speaks to you?

………..

To the watching ear the sun speaks of consistency; the trees speak of provisionality; the birds speak of dependency.

We need other’s ears to help us understand what we ourselves are saying.

We have trouble hearing because we won’t stop whispering — in our own ear.

We can hear without ears and speak without a tongue.

God gave us a powerful inner ear of empathy, and he gave us a powerful way to use it —  compassion.

The brain keeps hearing after the body stops speaking.

Silence heals the listening eye.

Nerves have loud voices; they need to shut up!

Nobody can keep a secret; what isn’t said is spoken by eyes, signed by muscles, articulated by hands.

Mindfulness has a gentle ear.

I’m particularly shocked by how bad our hearing is — all of us. People talk, we miss so much.

The environment speaks; we walk through it uninformed of what it is telling us.

What to do? Stop paying so much attention to words.

The numbers are debatable when it comes to communication, but all the experts agree that tone and body language communicate more than words do.

Words are a small part of communication in our world.

The wind is blowing the leaves my orange jubilee trees outside my window. This tells me the sun is at work heating the earth, and that warmer air is rising and cooler air is moving underneath. The dancing leaves are telling me that the consistencies of our solar powered planet are functioning well.

“Yea, says the plant, life will go on!” But there are no words.

This is consistent with scripture:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19

It is fundamental to the universe to communicate without words. Yet voices surround us from the stars, from the galaxies, from our sun. The earth itself is filled with unheard voices. Even the rocks will praise, said Jesus, if we don’t.

So much more hearing needs to take place, the nonverbal kind.

My wife came home from a medical appointment today where she waited for more than an hour to get a few stitches out and left with no help.  Her first words upon arriving home conveyed frustration. Her tone told me most of what she wanted to communicate.

People speak far more in feelings than in words. Look closely and you can hear.

Liars will often deliberately hold eye contact in an attempt to cover up the fact that they’re lying.

Raised eyebrows signal discomfort.

Exaggerated nodding signals anxiety about approval.

A clenched jaw, a tightened neck, or a furrowed brow are all signs of stress. Crossed legs or arms signal that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically blocked off from what’s in front of them. It’s not intentional, which is why it’s so revealing.

We can hear what isn’t said; it’s spoken in the eyes, whispered by the muscles, shouted by tell tale legs and arms and hands. 

One can hear without ears, speak with no tongue.

I think of the deaf and hard of hearing community.  There are many in this community who resent that idea that to have a normal life, a good life, they need hearing, for example cochlear implants, small, complex electronic devices that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. 

Some deaf find the pushing of cochlear implants on themselves and their children as  insulting, biased, discriminatory. We who think sounds and words rule need to listen to them.

Deadness is not a disability in need of an oralist’s prescription; it has created a fully-gifted culture of it’s own facilitated by sign language and sign culture. Oralism, the system of teaching deaf people to communicate by the use of speech and lip-reading rather than sign language is sometimes pushed on the deaf community. But sound is no more superior to sign than male is superior to female.  

Our biases may make this hard to understand, but we are so confused about disability and normalcy. What is normal is usually simply the way we live, but their are other normals. The signing community is a fully-gifted community. They are enriched. They have enough.

Why so much emphasis on words, talk, sounds. So much of the universe communicates in silence, in sign. We all need to learn the sign language.

I want to become a student of sign, universal sign, of silence, a listener to behavior, a watcher of movement, an interpreter of tone, being, essence, identity.

To do this I must open to listening with my mind, listening with my eyes, listening with my fingers, listening with my nose, listening with my taste buds. I must let the plants, the wind, the sun, the people who are different from me teach me. I must listen with my spirit. I must listen with my soul.

Everything and everyone is saying something. How exciting to begin to try to hear using different modalities.

Everything is speaking; are we listening?

Today I wrote a few proverbial thoughts that came to mind about listening. I love short pithy truth. Hope you like a few of them too.

Listen before you leap.

All things talk; very few things listen.

Listen to words; act on body language.

Listening is not a art; it’s a choice.

Listen to those who disagree with you.

Invite criticism; edit yourself.

The most important thing to listen for is what’s not said.

Listen to them with your eyes; watch them with your ears; touch them with your heart.

Be wise; listen to silence.

About each moment, movement and memory your body speaks to you — listen.

Don’t let your listening stop your thinking.

Hang on words; swing on sentences; beware long speeches.

More like this at http://www.modernproverbs.net