Posts Tagged ‘love’

Preserving the Union

October 31, 2018
ehrenamt-fachdozent-pixabay Pixabay, Fachtdozent

There are conversations that are not happening. So many of them that I don’t know where to start. These need to be long and thoughtful conversations where there is goal of understanding one another. These cannot social media bytes or monologues aimed at criticizing, but they should be conversations that are intended to preserve a union. In fact, in regards to preserving our Union, there are strategies for dealing with our current conflicts (ex: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/provide-information-enhance-skills/conflict-resolution/main or https://medium.com/@dbhurley/conflict-resolution-in-a-community-1fc1f1150296 ) it would also be appropriate to use fair-fighting rules already established for married couples (http://www.foryourmarriage.org/25-ways-to-fight-fair/ ). These kind of conversations are particularly important at a time when we have conflicts even on what it truth.

In our national conversations, we all see some things that we think need changing. In our impulse to make those changes we currently are gravitating towards legal solutions. The reason we are inclined to reach for legal solutions is that there has been a loss of trust. The problem with trying to mandate change with legal solutions is that mandates by themselves do not change culture as seen in the past by alcohol prohibition or in current times by forced desegregation. Laws by themselves do not change hearts or create new cultures. Change comes by the long hard work of changing community values. It has taken decades of challenging the value of smoking tobacco, replacing the value of smoking with the value of health, to reduce the popularity of smoking.

The situation we face is that within our country, we have multiple communities with different cultural values. Over time we have seen the isolation of those communities from one another which has brought us to this moment of conflict. Because the isolation has bred lack of trust, the impetus has been to enforce values through legislation rather than by building community. The problem is, if we simply try to force everyone to conform to our values by legislation without having the right conversations beforehand, we end up losing more trust and only build resentment, making any further changes even more difficult.

There is a place for laws as they can create a minimal framework for society to exist and, within some limits, to flourish. However, laws do not make a caring, committed community, laws do not encourage kindness and thoughtfulness, laws cannot create love. That said, our constitution helps create the framework for our society, but it does not create the values held by the members of our Union. The constitution can create the context for our conversations. but it cannot create those conversations. The constitution can provide the basis for our communities, but it cannot build those communities.

Our technologies provide a similar conundrum. Our technological developments have exponentially provided means for communicating with each other anywhere in the world, allowing us the opportunity to build community by communicating with many different people and learning many different things. But the same technology has also allowed us to isolate ourselves: 1) We can isolate ourselves into affinity groups, hearing only what we want to hear, not dealing with what makes us uncomfortable, self-limiting our ability to gain wisdom by only listening to only people who think like we do. 2) We can isolate ourselves from face-to-face contact, losing our sensitivity to a more robust human contact which makes us susceptible to violating others by disregarding their humanity and anonymously attacking them.

I think we can all agree that the state of our Union is broken. Our divisive politics reflects our divisive culture and our political and technological tools can amplify that divisiveness by playing on our fears. Our house may be on fire, but we can find a solution if can replace the calls for alarm and panic with a countervailing voice of unity and reason. We need to be smart about using the tools we have to counteract the panicked voices, to amplify the good and not just the bad. We need to become aware of the good that exists not just in our own communities but in the communities that we don’t know and don’t understand.

We also need to be willing to acknowledge our own weaknesses, to admit that we are broken just like everyone else. That will allow us to look beyond the brokenness that we are more prone to look for in other communities and also look for the good in those communities as well.  This is not easy work. We cannot do this work in sound bites and tweets nor by pontificating on the faults of others. We need to admit that we have faults as much as others find faults. We don’t need to find faults, we need to find solutions.

To find those solutions we need to look beyond ourselves and our own communities where we are prone to think we know all we need to know. We also must engender a sense of humility and be willing to admit that neither we nor our isolated communities have the solution to our conflict, that the solutions to end divisiveness in our Union will require the wisdom of the entire Union. We will need to be intentional: allow ourselves to be inconvenienced and made uncomfortable, be willing to go out of our way to listen to people who are not like us, listen to points of view we disagree with, spend enough time and thought trying to understand other viewpoints. All this so that common ground can be found, that the values of this greater community we call our Union, our country, can be defined and shared.

No one person or one community owns the Union. We all need to share in its definition.

 

Thanksgiving for the Social Order

October 29, 2018
hands-truthseeker08-pixabay Pixabay. Truthseeker08.

In light of recent events, this entry from the Common Book of Prayer seems appropriate …

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Singing to babies

October 26, 2018

beach_zinz25_pixabay

Jeremiah 18:6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

As I was walking down the street, I was privileged to hear a mother singing to her baby – in what language, I do not know. It occurred to me that, in probably every culture, parents must sing to their children. That made me wonder, in what language does God sing to us?

Our language may constrain our ability to understand God, but God is not constrained by our language. He is not constrained by our own lack of words, for he is able to speak to us through his creation – even the stars and children, through the works of the hands of his image-bearers, through our imaginations and dreams, through stories and poetry, through our conscience and sub-conscience. He is able to talk, even sing to us, in all sorts of ways even we are not listening.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 8:2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

It is his song that we sing to our children for he gave us the gift of music. It is his love that we show when we take care of our children for he gave us the gift of compassion. It is his provision we give when we provide food and shelter for our children because he is the one who provides for us. Even if the gifts we share are not perfect, they are his gifts. This world may be broken, we may be broken, but God is able to make broken things whole and good things glorious.

Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The love that we show may seem imperfect, but because it is his love we share then we cannot hide it. Even if we are incompetent or rebellious, we may distort but we cannot hide the glory of God. The lumbering train banging and screeching on ill-maintained railroad tracks cannot hide God’s transcendence made visible through his image-bearers. Even if we mistreat others, our misused gifts are nevertheless the gifts God has given.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

If we are aware of our own brokenness, we should not be surprised that our society as a whole is broken. If we can also admit that, within our brokenness, we are poor – that we need each other, that we need to be generous, mutually sharing our gifts with each other then we can all abound. It is within our mutual brokenness that we can be listening for God’s voice. Perhaps when we are listening to each other, particularly to those with whom we cannot understand and with whom we disagree, then we can hear God sing.

1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Psalm 96:11-13 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in  righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

 

 

The Problem Isn’t Politics

October 12, 2018

boy-prince-pixabay-victoria_borodinova

Photo: Pixabay, Victoria Borodinova

1 Samuel 8:4-7 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

 John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In the times of the prophet Samuel, the nation of Israel looked at the problems they saw and they thought the problem was political – they thought that the answer was to get a king, like everyone else. In the times of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jews looked at the problems they saw and they thought that the problem was political – they thought that the answer was a king, a Messiah, to overthrow the Roman government. In both cases, the real solution was much more personal. The enemy is not “the other” – the enemy as so pithily stated by Pogo is “us.”

Our national political scene is fraught with fear of “the other.” Our major political parties have deep concerns about what will happen if the other side gets their way and both sides have engaged in the politics of fear of what will happen if the other side gets more power. Again, the problem is not “the other,” the problem is us.

For several decades, the combination of politics and technology have combined to increasingly polarize our national and personal discussions. Our increasingly precision political gerrymandering has combined with our social media technology to create a toxic mix. Physically we can isolate our political communities with precision gerrymandering. Electronically we can both isolate ourselves in like-minded online communities while at the same time hide ourselves in online personas where it is safer to criticize “the other” because we don’t have to meet “the other” face-to-face in community and spend the time getting to know “the other” as a neighbor long enough to understand and appreciate “the other” as a person.

As with the problems stated in the first paragraph, we are seeking a solution in the wrong place. Our problem has more to do with our increasingly isolated lives in combination with our human preference to find fault in someone else other than ourselves. If we try to solve the problem through political power, we will find ourselves constantly battling to force our way of thinking onto others who will respond in kind. There will be no peace.

The soluton to our current turmoil is not to be found in politics or power.  The solution is goodness … To Make America Good … without quibbling over whether it has ever been or not. We each must seek the common good, the good of all people, to treat each other, even those with whom we disagree, with respect and dignity.  We must learn to listen respectfully, to seek out the common interest, to make sure that we hear each other and build trust. Once we build trust than we can take actions that transcend politics and power and instead build trust and community. Societies built on community, trust, respect and goodness will not need as many laws.

Politics and power by themselves, not built on a foundation of goodness, decency, respect, and trust is building a house on a sand foundation that will not withstand a storm. If we do not stand together, if we do not mutually support one another, if we do not trust one another, if we cannot be decent with one another, if we do not seek each other’s good then we will ensure the continued destruction of community, creating problems that no government, no laws can fix. If we build walls within our country it matters not what walls are on the border. But a country united by the common good and willing to regard the common good of other nations will be stronger than a divided country with the strongest border walls because we will destroy each other first. Politics and power cannot build community, cannot build trust, cannot build respect, cannot build goodness.

A president once said that we should ask “not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.” If t’s time to revisit that idea. It may be foolish of me, but I would rather be known to be good if not great, than to be great and not good.

 

 

Remembering who is in control

August 23, 2017

Zech 4:6 – So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

Zech 8:10 – Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor.

I am reading the above passages this week. So now, as I hear the responses to the President’s speeches, I am reminded that the Lord is still in control and orchestrating our affairs. Zechariah was written as Israel was in exile and the Lord was reminding them that there is hope at the end of His discipline – He is able to draw all His people to Himself. Unlike Trump’s claim during the campaign, that he is the answer to all our country’s problems – God is reminding us here that He is the one in control, even if God has ordained Trump’s presidency.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the statements made by the President, it is clear that, despite all our communication tools, there are groups in this country that do not know how to listen to each other. With insulting categorizations, quick responses and blanket statements thrown around, there is precious little communication (listening) actually happening. There are fears and doubts that are not being understood. There is healing of relationships that needs to occur. There is a need to understand that God is more than we can understand and is larger than our biased (whether we acknowledge it or not) agendas.

When “our side” is winning, we can become complacent – not bothering to hear what concerns others my have, and when “our side” is not winning, we can become aggressive – caring more about being heard than listening. In either case, the call is the old prescription, “to love our neighbor as ourself,” whether we don’t want to or need to. And for those of us who consider God to be on “our side,” we need to confess our brokenness, that we have not loved God or neighbor as we should, that we need to ask God how we can be used by Him to help bring healing to the land in which He placed us, and that we need to acknowledge that we need God’s intervention in our own lives as well as in the lives of those we disagree with.

The problems we see are bigger than the President, than Congress, than the Supreme Court, and bigger than the Constitution. The solution to the problems is not ultimately to be found in the laws we make, the culture we make, the schools we build or the walls we build. The problem is all of us – our sin. The solution is love and grace – taking the time to get uncomfortable and listening to those who are different, wrestling together with the messiness of all our situations and acknowledging that the fears and concerns of others are just as real as our own.

That said, the love and grace we need is from God. Once we have fully grasped just how much we ourselves need that love and grace, we can then share that with others in this broken world. Meanwhile we need to patiently wait for the time when He will complete His work in us.

No longer a sacrifice

February 5, 2016

We do not even consider it sacrifice, when give of ourselves to those we love (Acts 21:7-14)

silhouette-father-son
The apostle Paul had it set in his mind and spirit that he was to return to Jerusalem despite danger he would face there – a danger even confirmed by his friends who were warned by the Holy Spirit that the danger was real. However, Paul was driven to do anything that God desired of him. There was no sacrifice that was too great when it came to serving the Lord who loved him. Paul’s response to the pleas for him to stay away from the pending danger in Jerusalem was, ” I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I wrote the following poem to reflect that kind of spirit – the spirit that hopefully exists in my marriage and family and also in our relationship to God.

Was It Sacrifice

Was it sacrifice to have
More time to spend with you
More time to hear your stories
More time to see you through

Was is sacrifice to see
Your eyes so clear and bright
Your smile brighten up the day
Your face filled with delight

What was it that I gave up
What treasures did I lose
Whatever did I turn away
To have some more of you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
The things I could not hold
But to gain some treasured moments
And some precious time with you

Was it sacrifice to lose
Some time to be at work
Some time to make more money
Some time to get ahead

Was it sacrifice to spend time
On all our countless walks
On all our countless moments
On all our countless talks

What decisions did I make
What did I decide not to do
When instead of doing other things
Instead I spent time with you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
the things I could not hold
But to gains some treasured moments
And some precious time with you.


Already Not Yet

to him who was, and is, and is to come

Thicket of the Jordan

Exploring New Testament Scholarship, Anglicanism, and the Black Experience

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

This blog is a Christian perspective on the Old Testament and Current Events from Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary.

PastorBrianChilton.wordpress.com

This site shares information that can be found by the author at BellatorChristi.com

zacharypierpont.com

all for the glory of Christ

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Pew Theology

Faith | Life | Society

TLP

Finding Clear and Simple Faith

RJ's Corner

Think For Yourself / Question Everything

SaintlySages

The words of saints and sages.

A disciple's study

This is my personal collection of thoughts and writings, mainly from much smarter people than I, which challenge me in my discipleship walk. Don't rush by these thoughts, but ponder them.

Churchmouse Campanologist

Ringing the bells for Christian traditions and getting our story out there. If we don't, who will?

Global Sojourns Photography

Photography & Philosophy

Ellen Burch

art and illustration

Following Jesus Together

Experience Jesus with your neighbors

Johnathan L Baker

CONSIDERING WAYS TO REFLECT CHRIST

%d bloggers like this: