Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Step into the messy

I like people. I have some awesome friends, friends that I love hanging out with. People that encourage me, challenge me, welcome me. People that are fun to be around.
But these are the easy ones. They don’t necessarily expect or need a lot of attention. They are pretty self-sufficient. They can make it without my help. They are low maintenance. They are my peers.
Sure, we are a blessing to each other. Being together feeds my spirit.
But they don’t require a lot.

Not everyone is like that.
Not everyone is safe within a secure environment.
Not everyone comes from a stable home life.
Not everyone is able to be planning for the future.

Some people are messy.
Their lives are filled with sadness.
They have a dark and sordid past—abuse, poverty, violence, brokenness, emptiness.
They don’t have the history of a secure childhood.
They struggle with mental or physical illness.
Their basic coping mechanisms involve addictions and dependencies.

Oh, they are often more self-reliant than the rest of us.
They can survive on the stuff the rest of us throw away.
They have a support network that gets them through the darkest of days.

But they are messy.
They are black holes that will suck up every little bit of love around, and still seem as sad and empty as before.
They don’t necessarily exhibit the social niceties that we tend to expect from each other—‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, or ‘Excuse me’.
Not that they are boorish, they just live in a more gritty world where you need to move quickly to get what you can before it is gone.
They are often a little rough around the edges. Their language and behavior speaks more of the street than the board room.
They can be the nicest people you have ever met. They can be pleasant and polite. They can be very grateful.

But they are messy.
They require a commitment of time and love. Lots of time. Lots of love.
They require patience.
Because they often come from a history where trust has been broken so often, trust takes a long time to be built.
As much as they need to be able to tell their story, they are careful with who they tell it to. They don’t want to scare you off, or maybe they do. Some people have so little experience with genuine love that they don’t know how to handle it.

I invite you to step into the messy.
Put on your boots and get out into the real world.
Harden your ears to the coarseness of the language, but soften your heart to the rawness of the story.

Open your spirit to the hunger of their spirit.
Bridge the gap.
Enter their world.

Not as a savior.
Not as a deliverer.
But as a friend.
A friend that has no agenda other than being the best friend you can be.
As Gregory Boyle puts it, "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a covenant between equals." from Tattoos on the heart
As The Message puts John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
It’s not about ‘success’, it’s about faithfulness.
Again I invite you to step into the messy.
It’s actually holy ground.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What we really need

The world doesn’t need more experts.
Especially the kind that have it all figured out.
And know it.
And make sure that you know it.

The world doesn’t need more talkers.
It needs more listeners.

Sure, there are lots of people with lots of good things to say.

And that’s just it.
Not just one person has good things to say.
And no one person knows everything good that should be said.
We all have a piece of the whole picture.

So we all need to be heard.
And that means we also all need to listen.

It’s too bad that sometimes your good thing that needs to be said
doesn’t agree with the good thing that I need to say
because we tend to think that
one of us is wrong
and should shut up.

Instead, what we really need, is a place where we can all share our good things in safety.
And then sincerely and honestly look at what has been said
And encourage each other’s ability to see and understand and pass along good things
And help each other see and understand and adjust the parts that maybe aren’t so good.

Oh, it was so handy when we had an expert with his big black book.
An expert who knew exactly what the big black book said and meant.
We could pay him to tell us the good things we needed to know,
and the things we shouldn’t believe that someone else tried to tell us (because he was part of a cult).

But usually the person who was ‘wrong’ to our expert, was an expert to someone else,
And he was telling them
Not to listen to us (because we were a cult).

And more than once
They were both quoting from the same big black book.

So does that mean that everyone is always right,
Even if they don’t agree?
Or that the big black book is useless
Because every expert sees things
Just a little bit differently?

But it does mean (at least to me)
That we need to very quickly
Dismount from our high horses.
And just as quickly
Walk together.

Together with the expert we disagree with.
Together with the expert we can’t see eye to eye with.
And be willing to learn from him.

And we need to follow the teaching of the Master in the big black book
When he said we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
And that maybe what we should expect to see
Isn’t profound wisdom
But profound love.
(not only from our experts, but from all of us)

The kind of love that listens to someone with a different point of view.
The kind of love that tries to learn from someone who understands something from the big black book in a different way.
The kind of love that understands that being an expert
Isn’t really a good thing at all
If it comes across as being an arrogant know-it-all.

Because God knows there are way more than enough of those around already.
And for some reason we have tended to worship
The ground they walk on,
And the pulpits and TVs that they preach from.
And the books that they write.
And when the Great Moment of Truth comes,
And God sets us all straight,
Perhaps we will have to acknowledge why we
Exalted our experts
Over Him.
And worshiped our way of understanding the big black book
Over His loving character.

And why we didn’t even listen to the guy who disagreed with us
That God had sent to try to set us straight.
(although we certainly expected him to listen to us,
For the very same reason).

Yes, I’m sure there are absolute truths
Truths that cannot be denied.
But I doubt that any of us have really figured very many of them out.
You might have a couple,
And I might have one,
And some nice lady from India
And an old guy from Africa
Might have some more.

We really don’t have the right
Or God-given privilege
To claim that
My truth
Is better than yours
Because it was spoken from white lips of European ancestry.
Male lips
Straight lips
Rich lips
Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalist Born-again Christian lips.

‘Cause after all,
Our religion
Is (supposedly) based on the teachings of a guy
Who wasn’t European, white, rich, or a Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalist Born-again Christian.

He really wasn’t, you know.
He wasn’t even a Christian.
I’m not so sure if he would want to be if he was walking the earth today.
I kinda think Christians might well receive similar tongue-lashings
To what he gave the Pharisees.

The big black book says he is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

And I think that means that we aren’t.

Too often we are
In the Way,
Disguisers of Truth,
And more dead than Alive.

James says (near the end of the big black book);
“Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.” (James 3:1, The Message)
And from Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now” chapter called ‘Yes, but’ a few choice quotes:
“Yes, the mind is very useful, but when it does not recognize its own finite viewpoint it is useless.

Yes, the mind can serve the world, but in fact it largely serves itself.

Yes, the mind is needed, but we also need other ways of knowing or we will not know well, fully, or freely.

Yes, the mind likes to think, but until it learns to listen to others, to the body, the heart, and all the senses, it also uses itself to block everything it does not like to do or to acknowledge.

Yes, the mind is our friend, but when we are obsessive or compulsive, it can also be our most dangerous foe.

Yes, the mind welcomes education, but it also needs to be uneducated, to learn how much of what it "knows" is actually mere conditioning and prejudice.”
It is only as we are willing to listen to and learn from others that we really begin to “be the change that we wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)

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