Saturday, October 20, 2007


Integrity. I wish I really had it. It would be nice to be perfect, after all. I actually fear writing about it, because that means I need to start living it.


  1. an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.

  2. moral soundness. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University.

In typical Christian useage we speak of integrity in a moral sense. This is not wrong, but I think we can gain some more understanding by seeing it in its' definition of wholeness, totality.

Note the additional understanding gained by looking at the derivative integral:



  1. of, pertaining to, or belonging as a part of the whole; constituent or component.

  2. necessary to the completeness of the whole.

  3. consisting or composed of parts that together constitute a whole.

Here's where I'm going with this. We only can live with integrity as we are undivided and complete in Christ. We only have integrity as we recognize that we are only part of the whole—He is 'necessary for the completeness of the whole'.

You and me, Jesus. Not just me. If you only knew! I am so not complete in myself.

One more derivative, the mathematical term integer. A whole number. Not a fraction.

Let me repeat, I am not complete in myself. In myself I am a fraction. With Christ I am whole, I am complete, I have integrity.

At any time that I start to separate myself from Christ, I am no longer whole; I am just a fraction, I do not have integrity.

Integrity. It's really only possible in Christ. With Him I am whole. Without Him I am not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lowered Expectations

I ride the bus. A lot. Sometimes it seems like I'm on it way too much. I suppose that realization comes when I see some riders pretty much acting like the bus is their personal taxi. No one else matters.

They sit right up front where the seats are intended for people with mobility problems, or baby strollers, and have to be told to move, or just sit there while someone unsteady on their feet has to carefully work their way back to an empty seat.

Or they slouch all over 2 seats, and still have enough body left to hang out half way across the aisle. Or they sit in the aisle seat, when there is no one in the window seat, and people end up standing because they are too polite to ask the person to move over. Or they don't offer their seat to someone who needs it worse than they do.

And then there's the phone calls. Oh, those phone calls! At least you usually only hear one side of the conversation. One side is definitely enough! It's worse when it's two friends together on the bus discussing ..... Well, if you've been there, you know the kinds of things they are discussing!

And that's only on the bus!

So, I think I have a solution. Lower my expectations. Don't expect young men to act like gentlemen. Don't expect the young women to act like ladies. (Oh, I know that sounds like an old guy complaining about the kids these days, but you tell me it isn't true!) So, if I don't expect decent behavior from people, then I won't be disappointed. If I don't expect people to speak English with proper grammar, or write it with correct spelling, then it won't bug me if they miss the mark a little. If I don't expect basic body grooming, I won't complain about the smell. If I don't expect others to have standards, then it won't come as a shock if they don't.

I think there is value in this philosophy. I probably would be more willing to accept people as they are with this attitude of lowered expectations. I'd be more likely to cut them some slack when they don't live up to 'my' pre-conceived notions. If I realized that they are just fellow humans, fallen from grace, I'd be treating them the way I often want to be treated. No, I'm not quite perfect, and I know I don't live up to your expectations all of the time.

I kind of think that is what grace is all about. Cutting someone some slack. Recognizing that we are all human. Humans in need of Someone bigger than us to lift us up, to change us, to transform us. I am totally dependent on grace. So are you! So, it's appropriate that I endeavor to walk in grace toward others as much as I hope they (and God) will walk in grace toward me.

I have just started to read Gregory Boyd's Repenting of Religion. I think it will be along the same lines. The sub-title of the book is Turning from Judgment to the Love of God. Not figuring out all of the ways that you aren't perfect, but loving you outrageously. Not so much loving you anyway, but loving you because. Because God does. Outrageously.


It's one of the buzz words of the day.

'Find your center'.

It's not something I have heard much about, but the navel gazers toss the phrase around like many other mantras. To me, it seems it should mean: Figure out where you are coming from, and direct your energy on focusing on that one thing. Bring it all to one place, and then start living from out of that place. I may not be describing it the way the new agers might, but I think that's what it should mean.

Particularly, because it makes sense to me. Do a bit of self-analysis, and see what really makes you tick. And then do a good job of ticking that way.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

It kind of started in church when we were singing 'Jesus be the center'. We need to figure out if He is. The center. Of us. Of who we are. Of what we do.

I suppose there are various ways of figuring out what philosophy is really the core of who we are. Like another thing I heard in church--”Who are you when you are alone, just as you go to sleep at night?” Or what takes priority in your life—energy, time, money. It's one thing to say your faith in God is everything, but does it translate in daily life? I know for me the answer isn't always yes. Way more often than enough my center is sometimes me. My toys, my enjoyment, my stomach, my free time.

This is another of those places where the Grace of God needs to be allowed to overtake us. Let Him gently point out where His Lordship isn't. And then allow Him to change us. It's not like we have a lot of success in changing ourselves!

Jesus, be the center,

Be my source, be my light, Jesus.

Jesus, be the center,

Be my hope, be my song, Jesus.

Be the fire in my heart,

Be the wind in these sails,

Be the reason that I live,

Jesus, Jesus.

Jesus, be my vision,

Be my path, be my guide, Jesus.

© 1999 Vineyard Songs Words and Music by Michael Frye.


Dignity and affirmation

It started with Social Insurance Numbers and Account Numbers. It seemed so much better to use numbers to identify us instead of our names. Instead of dozens of John Smiths in the country, now there is only one 123 456 789. So much more efficient. So much more impersonal. So de-humanizing. (I'm not sure where the whole identity theft issue enters in, since it requires both names and numbers.)

People have been decrying the loss of individuality for years, to no avail. I was watching a brief promotional video for a certain street ministry, and they touched on dignity. Now there is something that is missing in the whole number ID style of dealing with each other. But it's also missing in many other interactions we have have with people. It's so easy to just stick to business, to take care of the matter at hand, and not take the extra time to see how the other guy is doing. We are all so busy—lineups, busy signals, call waiting, voice mail, etc. If you stopped to ask the bank teller how his day was going, the guy behind you would be put out. If you stop to discuss the present political situation with the cashier as you buy groceries, the nice lady in line behind you will be looking daggers at your back. We hardly even talk about the weather any more!

But the realization that started hitting me was regarding the Friday night street ministry I am part of (CARTS). “But”, you will say, “That is all about people, it must be personal, it has to be touching people.”

True, but it is easier than you think to start treating individuals as just part of the whole crowd. Forgetting that they are unique. That they deserve you undivided attention, even if it is for a short time. Taking the time to listen, to encourage, to affirm.

Affirmation. That's another part of the story. If we only knew how many of the people we see each day think they are inferior, deficient, secondary, lacking in some way. Not as good looking, or smart, or coordinated than everyone else. Not as rich, or famous, or important. Not loved, not valued, not appreciated.

I expect this situation is bad enough in the 'general population', let alone among those who find themselves on the fringes of society. The more I hear the stories of people on the street, the more I recognize the broad scope of reasons for them being on the street. You certainly can't generalize, but for many of them, they come from a difficult homelife, job history, or health situation. Too many of us have been told we are hopeless, stupid, unteachable. Shouldn't have been born. Useless to society. Good for nothing. How many kids didn't fit into their parents hopes and expectations, and so moved or were kicked out?

When we pause to think about it, we can see value in all of God's children. Weren't we all made in His image? Even people who are mentally ill, criminals or queer (in any definition) deserve respect as human beings. They may not see life the same way we do, but is that wrong? It may be a challenge to be with them, but does that give us the right to snub them? Even if they smell, flail or cuss, they are still loved by God. (Remember the story of the 99 sheep? The shepherd left them to find the lost one. In other words, he acted more loving to the wayward one than the 99 well-behaved “normal” ones.)

So, how do we truly affirm people, show them the dignity that God does?

Well, what makes you feel wanted, respected, acknowledged? “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” Matt. 7:12 The Message

  • Take the time to talk. More importantly, take the time to listen. Probably shut-up lots and talk little.

  • Look the guy in the eye when you are talking to him. Give him your undivided attention.

  • Recognize his right to his opinion, even if it is diametrically opposed to yours. Honestly seek to learn from what he has to say.

  • Love without conditions.

  • Look beyond the cothes, hairstyle, persona. Accept them as they are, without an agenda of planning on changing them into a duplicate of yourself.

  • Have compassion, and let it show. Not some fake crocodile tears, but honest emotions. Most people can see right through your counterfeit smile. Be real.

  • Each person you meet is different. Don't categorize and stereo-type.

I wish I found it easier to live up to this ideal. I wish I wasn't so prone to ignore the druggies, the drunks, the forsaken. I wish I was a brighter light. I wish I would stop wishing and start doing.

I think I will.



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