Volatile, Historic Times and the Spider Who Doesn’t Care

Righteous indignation on each side; blustery public diatribes backed by legal or biblical authority; verbal wars among foes and friends and family which take no idealogical prisoners—this seems to be the state of current events.

But this tiny spider doesn’t seem to know, or care. She’s not angry, or justified, or changing the color of her web to the rainbow.1 She doesn’t notice at all. The sun came up, she made her web, she’ll eat if bugs show up, and the sun will go down again when the day is through.

spider

Yet we struggle, we fight, we vehemently beat back opposing views.

Views. That’s what we’re fighting. Views. Opinions. Beliefs.

I am a person. I have my own views. I do not think it’s wise to equate the marriage between a man and woman with one between two people of the same gender. I do not think it needs to be illegal, but to me—my belief, my opinion, how I would choose—it would be wiser to proceed as God designed us to be.

(Please note: in this post, I’m not going to address any “how we are made” thoughts other than the obvious reproductive gender differences which I am referencing above. Of course there are so many other mental/emotional/chemical/physical factors.)

Since God has said that it is unnatural for a man to have sex with a man, or a woman to have sex with a woman;2 well, I believe him. He also said he hates divorce; so I plan to never choose that, no matter how much “sense” it might seem to make at some future time, or how much I might want it (to be clear, I do not want it now). He also said adultery is wrong, no matter how much it might seem like a good idea, or we might want it. Sex is for marriage, between one woman and one man—that is God’s best design. (And nothing else.)

It is not our place to condemn sin. (As Romans 2 says, then you’re just condemning yourself, too.) Sin is anything which takes the place of our reliance upon our Father. It’s often a counterfeit of the good he wants to give us. Sex is great, of course, in the context above. But every other form will harm us, or somehow harm our relationship with God, who is our Life.

It is not just homosexual sex, nor any other “great sin” our friends on the conservative right rail against which is sin. Nor is it neglect of the poor, or greed, or religious bigotry against which our more liberal friends crusade. There is so much sin. None of us is free from it, or immune from it. None of us has never sinned.

(Sidebar: if you have never read John 8, please take a moment to read it now. So enlightening.)

Now that I’ve shared my opinion on the matter, do you think I hate anyone wanting to marry someone of their own gender? Do you hate me for thinking that is not what God intended for them?

Of course I do not.

I do not hate anyone. Really. I don’t. I think I might be labeled as hating, though, because I believe some things (behaviors) are harmful, and wrong. (I think drinking pop is harmful and wrong… so maybe I’m not a good test case?)3

Difference of beliefs is not hate. It’s really, really not.

But let’s wrap this up with a return to my new friend, the spider.

As I ate my lunch, thoughts of all the discord and self-righteous banter, Facebook photos and links swirled through my mind. In that mental maelstrom, I felt noticeable peace. (Despite the noise of the traffic which passes our house most hours of the days.) I saw that very tiny spider, quiet and still on her web, swaying with the gentle breeze. I could imagine her saying, had she the voice, “What’s all the fuss about?”

I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but they are not worth a war of words. Certainly they do not justify hate in return for perceived hate. If someone thinks differently than you (so long as they are not actually harming another) then just let them. Just let them.

The world will go on. Until Jesus returns, there will be harm and good, pain and joy. Both coexist together.

I think the spider would say that we should, too.

  1. It is ironic, though, is it not, that there are rainbow-colored pinwheels in the background. 🙂
  2. Read Romans 1-2, especially Romans 2 if you are a Christian reading this.
  3. One more sidebar: I am currently reading a very interesting history of the Confederacy. The Story of the Confederacy was written in 1931 by Robert Selph Henry. Should I burn this literary work? It is not condemning the Confederate flag, nor its people. Rather, the author is hoping to present both sides of the story in our country’s history. It’s important. Does my interest in this mean I hate black people?

Underneath The inside is what matters

Beyond our bodies, we’re all the same.

Lately I have had an interesting experience when seeing photos of people, current or historical. Somehow in my mind, I am seeing (thinking of?) the person beneath the exterior. Wondering at what unknown depths there are to that particular individual; wondering how we might be similar.

Not that we are not unique—we are marvelously unique. God’s immense creativity (beyond our imagination) is evidenced just in how different each of us is from another. Incredible diversity!

And yet, we are also the same.

On the outside we are different. One has dark skin, another’s epidermis could not be more light. One has long, curly hair, another has none at all. One is woman, with soft curves; the other is man, flexing firm muscles. Big and tall, short and small; seasoned with age, or fresh and youthful; healthy and vibrant, or broken down and hurting.

faces

All this is what we see first. Our impressions begin with what matters less. Because, when we allow ourselves to see (and also, when we allow ourselves to be seen), we are all so much the same.

We hurt, we laugh, we despair, we love, we fail, and we thrive.

None of those things are exclusive to one type of person; that’s because we’re all the same. We are spiritual beings, made in the image of our Creator, Father. In Christ, says Paul, there is no male or female, Jew nor gentile, slave nor free1. We are all one. Brother, sister, family. Wealth, position, race… none of these truly matter to who we are.

James reminded Christians to not show favoritism to the wealthier people among them. It’s so easy to do. On the outside, such a one seems to be more important. But when we can see past the outside, looking into another’s eyes, hearing their story, their hearts, their thoughts—this is where we are reminded that we are so much more alike than we are different.

Battles rage these days about these things. A young man in South Carolina, killed nine people, simply because of their skin color. Also, earlier this year, riots in Baltimore were caused by conflicts (real or perceived) due to our different bodies.

Concurrently, the story of Bruce Jenner demonstrates, in a way, how our bodies do not make us who we are. I do not fully understand his story, nor necessarily agree with the measures he has taken, but on one level, it illustrates that we are certainly more than just what we see on our outsides.

This is not easy. We trust our eyes first, and most. That’s why we need the reminder to “walk by faith, not by sight“—it’s in our nature.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

And, also, from Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.

I think we know that we are more than our skin, or our gender, or our social, economic, and political standings would seem to present. I think we know it. But so much conflict comes from our perceived differences. (Which differences are certainly present, but would be better to celebrate than used to separate.)

If only we could see others as we are seen; with God’s eyes to see that which does not age, that which he has made, his masterpiece. The part of us that can spend eternity with him, no matter what happens to us in this life, in this world.

In that we are the same. (John 3:16)

As one individual, I know I can’t really do anything to stop racism, or any other ism. But we can each try to remember to look deeper, see deeper, and focus on our great many similarities, rather than our apparent differences.

After all, those differences are only skin deep.

  1. In context, Paul is specifically speaking to Christians, who, when identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, living as “Christ in me”, with the old now gone, we no longer think of the differences on the outside. Galatians 3:26-28

[RePost] D-Day: When Things Mattered

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. June 6th, 1944. The Allied invasion at Normandy, France, was a key point in World War II, and certainly worth commemorating.

Below is an article I wrote a couple years ago, following our family’s own commemorating of the events of that day. It seemed a good way to honor the day this year, too.

Even if you read it when it originally posted, I do think it’s worth re-reading, and re-considering.

D-Day: When Things Mattered

June 7th, 2012

Last night we honored D-Day (June 6th) by watching an episode of Ken Burns’: The War (on Netflix). It follows the lives of four guys who lived through WWII, and specifically that day in Normandy.

It invoked so many thoughts and emotions… I certainly can not describe and share them all here.

The one prevailing thought I had, however, was that there is right and wrong.

These guys—just kids—were willing to give up their lives (literally!) in order to go over and make right what someone (or a large group of someones) made wrong… for somebody else!

That can not be emphasized enough.

The aggressors (Nazi Germany) were bent on eradicating the Jews (and just non-Aryans, right?) and were expanding their territory across sovereign nation after sovereign nation until the brave, heroic, persons of principle among the nations stood up and said, “You shall not pass!”

And they truly were brave. Heroes. Righteous. Courageous.

Not that they were flawless human beings. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Some of them were maybe even “bad” guys… but they stood up for what was right. That made them heroes.

They literally gave up their lives (I contend even the guys who didn’t die on D-Day were never the same again)… and it was for other people. Not the US. Not Americans (directly). It was not to expand our territory or influence or whatever… it was just taking a stand against evil.

Some today think that war is always wrong. They think that generations are not different. In a way that is correct: people are people. But there was something in my grandparents’ generation that was different. I’m not sure if it was a product of the circumstances of their day, or if it was that they had not yet removed God and respect and decency and morality from the general fabric of society. Maybe it was both. But whatever it was, we still owe to them (the world, not just America) an incomprehensible, inestimable debt of gratitude.

We mostly argue about ridiculous things today, things that really don’t matter. (We are free to do so in part because of the courageous choices and actions of these men.) Sometimes I think we argue for the sake of arguing. Political gaming. Blagh.

Things matter. People matter. Someday I think we (our nation, and as individuals) will be faced with a similar crisis. At that point, I wonder what that generation will do? Will their descendants someday label them the “greatest generation”? Or will that moniker forever be inexorably bound to the generation whose men bravely stormed the beaches at Normandy… until they had either given up their life, or succeeded in preserving freedom for the world?

I think we will someday find out, one way or another. Somehow we always get to decide if we’re going to stand, or stand by.

On D-Day… (and in many other battles) they chose to stand.

Special

A Crowd of Someones

This morning, as I passed a line of cars heading the other direction, waiting for their light to turn green, I began to notice the faces of their drivers. Most were nearly expressionless. Some seemed to have more than driving on their minds, faces betraying the distraction. Other faces were relaxed, even smiling.

As the faces I passed numbered into the dozens, I began to think about how each of the people I saw were special. No, not the platitudinal “God Loves You” kind of special. (Though that doesn’t need to be completely discounted, it’s not what struck me.)

They are special to someone, or someones else.

Each of those people are a daughter or a son; maybe a husband or a wife; related by blood or shared life-times to people who value them, perhaps even more than they value themselves?

Their faces may or may not reveal the hurt they felt when they pushed themselves out of bed this morning; the happy tiredness of a sleepless night with the new baby; the joy of the new job, or relationship, or realization of some wonder of God’s creation redeemed.

Everyone is special to someone. You are. You know people who are special to you. And every person—even the ones who are “just faces” to us—is beyond-words special to someone. Usually several someones.

I’ve had this experience (and chronicled it) before. Perhaps that means it’s really true.

You are valued.

I hope you know it. I hope you hear it. Often.

It is true.

What you can do, is make sure that you remind the people that are Special to you, that you esteem them, you love them. That’s important. And easy, all at the same time.

Recently a podcast I regularly enjoy reminded me that the Special is all that matters. “The trajectory of the world is changed one life at a time. It’s you loving the people God’s put around you today.”

The world is changed by how we love even just one person.

The people you see every day around you… the “extras”… are actually someone incredibly Special.

And so are you.

I’m (Not) The Awesomest Person Ever

superman

I’m really good at a lot of things. I think I always have been. My sister-in-law once called me “golden boy”, or something like that (even before I was her sister-in-law), because everything I touched “turned to gold”.

And yet, I’m really not awesome.

I wish I was. I would have lots of uses for supreme awesomeness. I think of what a fantastic Dad I could be; always there for each of my kids with complete understanding, compassion, enthusiasm—whatever they need, exactly when they need it. I know I could be the perfect husband to my wife; empathetic, again understanding and compassionate, kind, gentle, humble, gracious, and always considering each moment from her perspective, and for her good.

If I was really awesome, I’d treat every person I spent time with each day as though they were indeed the Son or Daughter of the King—which they are. It wouldn’t matter what they looked like on the outside, or whether I was in a good mood at the moment, or even if I had time in my day to give to them. I would see them, and know them, and listen to them, and give them the honor they are due as another of His Masterpieces.

I’d also probably do some pretty amazing things along the way; whether through my music, or writing, or even through some tasty culinary creations. If I was the awesomest person ever, the world would be full of my most amazing works.

But I am definitely NOT the Most Awesome Person Ever.

(Just ask any of those people listed above.)

And I’m glad I’m not. I’m glad for the reminders that my life is only full, complete, real, meaningful… LIFE… with, and in, and through Jesus, who IS the Awesomest Person Ever. (See Colossians, Hebrews, and several other sections of the New Testament for more on that.)

I fail my wife all the time. When she needs me to show her grace, I’m often at (or past) the end of my own reserves, and instead I offer her insecurity; words and actions originating in my own lacking. I fail my kids even more (if only because there are more of them to fail) with busyness, tiredness, selfishness, all taking me from them more than I care to admit.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matt 5:3)

Jesus said that.

And this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

As I was reminded by the book I recently recommended here, Jesus is clearly, far-and-away, without-rival, The Most Awesomest Person Ever.

Remember what Paul said, when he wrestled with wanting to be better (more awesome)?

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

No. I am not awesome. Neither was Paul (who was likely more awesome than me… even if he might not admit to it), and neither are any of us who are not Jesus, the full embodiment of God the Father.

His grace is all I need. All we need.

We may not be awesome, but he is. And that IS awesome!

Christians Being Christian

wwjdI am not very comfortable in “Christian” settings. For a long time now, I’ve said that I “don’t like Christians”, but that’s meant to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I know that Jesus is life, that there is no life outside of him; and for me, everything I do, and see, and experience runs through that filter.

I am also quite fond of others who see the world around us from that perspective: knowing the loving Creator Father who made it, and us, and Jesus whom he sent, and his Spirit in us. It’s wonderful spending time with others who share that same understanding, passion, and reality.

But I recently had a moment of clarity on this subject. It’s not Christians that make me feel uneasy, it’s being at any event or location where Christians are “being Christian”.

It’s that pretense, that front, that game playing … that is what gets me to put my own guard up, and, sadly, it’s why I usually try to avoid “Christian” events.

When the language becomes Christian, when certain behaviors are expected, beliefs—not in Jesus, but in the “traditions of man”, as Paul often labeled them—are silently presumed to be firmly held and agreed upon; this is when my stomach usually tightens into disquieted knots.

I love being with other believers, but if the reason for gathering is somehow labeled “Christian”, or all the participants know that they are there to “be Christian” … I think that’s where it starts to fall apart.

And the reason is that we are not supposed to BE CHRISTIAN.

We are supposed to love each other. Love God. Be loved. The things that we think mark us as believers are evidence of lives changed from within, by God himself. Not our own efforts at all. That’s so important.

It’s completely from, for, about, and through him.

So when we who live our lives wholly with Jesus are in a setting that is not specifically “his”, I find that those times are more relaxed. (As long as we’re not “being Christian” and condemning wrong behavior that is acceptably condemnable.)

This is part of the problem. “Being Christian” is often akin to thinking a certain way on various issues, behaviors, and doctrines. (This is why there are so many splinters of the church. Doctrinal spats create unending levels of division between believers.) Christians are against homosexuality and gay marriage; six-day creationism versus evolution (and every other theory of our origins); taking God, prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible out of public arenas like schools and other government buildings; and many Christians hold strong views about politics that they tie to their “Christianity”.

How do any of these things make us “Christian”? In what way do they distinguish us as followers of Jesus? How are we like him by conforming to these standards?

Jesus prayed for us. Did you know that? Right before he went to the cross, John records the words he prayed. He prayed for the people he was with, and he prayed for us. Listen:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”1

To Jesus, our unity was paramount. We in him, he in his Father, Father in him, he in us. That we as believers—centuries and millennia in the future—would be visibly, notably united was foremost in his heart and mind as he faced death on the cross.

Jesus’ unity was not just a doctrinal thing. He spent time with people who may have disagreed with him. He certainly spent time with some who were different from him. He was usually chastised in regards to whom he chose to spend his time with.

He was not “being Christian” at “Christian” gatherings.

Why can’t we just be together, and enjoy each other, and share the variety and diversity of our lives and selves together, with no need for judging, condemning, conforming, reforming, or any other manipulation of each other; whether directly or by inference?

I don’t know. But that’s why I don’t enjoy Christian gatherings. It’s a bunch of Christians being Christian.

We are most like Jesus when we love, accept, offer grace and truth together—which I think is much less common practice than many Christians admit—and truly love people who most need loving.

Which is all of us.

I don’t want to be a Christian. I want Jesus to live his love through me. (Just as he prayed for us above.) I want to be so close to him that people recognize his scent on me. Not through any of my own strength, or practice, or perfecting… just the work he is doing in me. It’s not at all about me. Only him. And you.

If we all live like that, being together with Christians who are truly “being Christian” would be the most amazing place on earth.

Because HE is embodied in us. (We’re not trying to be his body.)

Oh man. That would be spectacular.

We just have to stop trying, and let him change us. Stop being Christian. Be loved. And Christ will be in you.

Amen.

Respect

respect

What is respect? What images come to mind when you hear the word?

Do you think of military chain of command, with each subordinate respecting their commanding officer? Or maybe a similar, thought slightly more informal respect, shown by a young person toward an elderly ancestor?

A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements

Ah… respect is elicited by some ability, quality, or achievement. So, maybe a professional athlete? Some people respect them for their achievements and abilities. Perhaps a graduate of a certain academic program elicits your respect? How about a well-known historical figure who accomplished great, world-changing things in their lifetime?

Definitely.

How about giving up your seat to someone who looks like they need it more? What about trusting someone with something (or someone) you really care about? And do we show respect when we listen to someone; really listen?

Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of [another]

Hmm. That’s different. That respect is due to another simply because the are. They exist. They are another created being, with feelings, rights, wishes and even traditions.

Our value is not (only) in what we have accomplished. Our real value is found in our worth to the One who made us. We are worth everything to him; his own life.

I overheard someone speaking about respect recently. It was a mother, scolding her young child, saying, “You have to earn respect!” While there is some truth to that (see definition one above) the greater truth is that this mother will not likely receive the respect she is hoping for from her child, because her words and her tone are not giving respect to the other person she is addressing.

It’s always interesting with children. I speak from parenting experience. Sometimes you just need them to obey. “DO WHAT I AM ASKING YOU… NOW!” But I fully believe that when we treat others with full respect, allowing them to make a reasoned, willing decision, a respectful submission to instruction will be the most likely result—even from a child.

Treat others just as you want to be treated.

And…

For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

What if we did it backwards? Like Jesus said in those last two quotes above. It’s not ‘Treat other people the way they treat you’, no… it’s ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ You first. I get to make the first show of respect.

giving-up-your-seatI’ve seen this in action as a school bus driver, believe it or not. I’m sure you have a picture in your mind of what it’s like on a big bus full of young children. And… you’re right. It’s pretty loud, energetic, fun, and crazy! But the drivers who have the best ability to control their busses, when needed, are those who look kids in the eyes when they first get on the bus and offer a genuine, friendly greeting. When things get out of hand, they address the unruly ones by name, firmly but respectfully, and most often, the measure of respect that is given is the same measure returned.

Of course I know this doesn’t always work. Maybe not even very often. But doesn’t it stand the best chance? Isn’t it just the right thing to do?

Jesus thought so.

We have chances almost every second of our lives to show another the respect they are due simply because God has breathed life into them. You’ve probably heard that we will be known by the way we love, well that’s really the same thing—respect is love, is respect. Think about others before you think about yourself. Treat the person next to you like the heir to the throne that he or she is.

(And it will come back to you in the measure that you give.)

So listen to your spouse. Show your teenager empathy. Give heaps of grace to your little ones. Look a stranger in the eye and give a genuine, friendly greeting. Do something for someone that costs you. Maybe even a lot.

We love—we respect—because he first loved us. When we know how much we are loved, then we can treat the people around us the same way. It’s the same principle, on a cosmic, galactic, universal (and beyond) scale.

You have earned my respect because you are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Jesus to do the good things he planned for us long ago. Done deal.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Let’s try it. See what happens.