Eyes Blinded

It was pretty easy to ignore. I mean, why not, right? I could simply just not pay attention. I could simply just not read, watch, listen….But then, what would be the point? I lived overseas, and really, could have completely turned a blind eye to the happenings in my passport country (the country I was born in). And, with everything that has happened in the last 12 years, some say that would have been wise. But would it?

I didn’t want to forget about my family and friends who were still there. I didn’t want to forget that that was the country that I was from. And, I didn’t want to get rid of that part of my identity. It was part of who I was and am today. Just like being a son, husband and father. It’s a part of my story. So, I made my homepage a news feed that collected stories from all over the world, making the world headlines the top of the page, the States-my passport country- second and then onto other headlines, science, sports, entertainment, etc. It continues to be my homepage. I stay on top of not only the news internationally, but cultural changes and shifts here in the States. Even though we have moved back, I desire to stay abreast as to what’s going on.

My desire is for my world to get bigger, as I mentioned in the last post.  It’s no secret that racism is alive and growing here in the States. Since Charlottesville, I have read social media posts as they flurried about, watched reactions, listened to interviews, etc. Though there were several of the people I interacted with that were willing to take what has been  happening head on and engage with it, there have been as many people that wanted to stop reading, hearing and watching about all the “bad news” and “negativity” that was going on.

Yet when negative and bad and hard are the reality, what do we do? We could turn a blind eye toward it, never talk about it, stopping our conversations with the weather and never engage passed that. We could. We could say “it isn’t that bad” or “it’s just the media going crazy” and pretend like it is no big deal. And, our world and perspective of Christ can remain small. But why?

Admitting that it is hard, that what is happening is chaotic, that the racial tension and divide is bad, is not allowing that reality to govern us or even have power over us. It is admitting that there is massive brokenness in this world, dark sin, incredible hurt, and pain. Lots of pain. We are allowing ourselves to not only see, but to also feel. We are allowing the realities of the brokenness of this world effect us. And yes, in many cases it won’t feel good, nice, pleasant or even comfortable. Pain isn’t comfortable. And yet, neither is love. With love comes pain. Letting our guard down, opening our eyes and seeing, isn’t just about seeing all the pain, it’s also allowing others to feel for us, love us,  Jesus to love us. It’s allowing  Jesus to care for our deepest wounds, and for us to show love by caring for someone else’s deepest wounds as well.

There are mammoth wounds and hurt in this world, and we cannot become part of the solution unless we are willing to face those realities.  We cannot entertain others love without also entertaining their pain. Henri Nouwen once wrote that our hearts need to have the room to show hospitality to others. That our hearts should be living rooms, welcoming other people with their stories of joy and loss, happiness and woundedness. This is, after all, what Jesus has done and continues to do for us. He didn’t ignore me, and I am so very thankful. Perhaps when we open our blinded eyes to the world and allow ourselves to see the pain, only then can we truly love. Perhaps when we see and address the anguish God sees with race against race or rich against poor, can we then show the love Jesus had for us as well. Perhaps the first step, is removing the blinders.

be blessed today

 

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When We Stop To Listen…

I enjoy hearing stories. They may not have the happy ending where everything is tied up in a nice little bow. They may be painful, hard, even uncomfortable to listen to sometimes. But stories, people’s stories, are fascinating to me. And everybody has one. It doesn’t matter how dull or boring you think your life has been, you still have a story. A narrative that runs from your family history, your earliest memories all through the course of time until this moment we’re in.

One of the most interesting parts of this, is that often times as I am listening to someone’s story, it’s as if I become more and more engaged. I learn things about them that allow me to make connections. Cognitive connections of thought in regards to why they live in a certain place, have a certain kind of job, even why they have a certain color of hair. But there are also emotional and human connections where I can identify with parts of their story-similar situations, similar feelings, similar memories-that make them more, well, human.

We’ve all been there. It’s the reason why we like to watch comedies (what’s funny is we can identify with the comedian in a certain way) and/or dramas (same reason). And when we make that connection, we feel valued, heard, acknowledged, respected, not alone. Maybe even loved.

Last week a friend from college was passing through Portland. I was able to contact her and make a plan to get lunch. It’s been, oh, I don’t know, 16 years or so, but thought it would be great to catch up since we’ve been overseas for so long. We met, got lunch and we walked around the college campus she used to work at. We talked about culture, politics, Jesus, Portland, faith and memories of college so long ago. It was good, really good. And, amazingly, I learned something. Her job, at a different campus, deals with sex crimes, seeking  where there is wrong doing and passionately pursuing respect and reconciliation. I listened. I learned. I learned about issues and fears that I don’t have being a white American male. I learned about issues we push for but in the end end up hurting so many people. I learned about how we think we are being Jesus to those around us, but end up doing more harm than good. And I learned about her story as well. There were things I never knew about her 16 years ago, but now, I see why some of these things are such great passions of hers. And, I learned a little more about myself in how I act, relate and engage with different demographics of people.

The guys I work with who are in recovery, giving up a life they knew and taking on fairly humbling jobs to get their life in order, teach me things everyday. So do the mentally disabled, current drug addicts and homeless people that walk into my store everyday. There are those around us on a daily basis who may not even know Jesus, but have so much to teach us if we are willing to learn. When we stop, acknowledge who they are, and hear their story, it’s amazing how much we can learn about life, ourselves…and yes, how much we can learn about Jesus from someone who doesn’t even believe in Him.  I pray we all learn more about Jesus and ourselves this day.

…more to come…

be blessed today

 

take posture of learner, I learned something, humility, etc

Poverty- Timber

It was black. No color, no light, simply blackness. It took me a few moments to figure out and process what had just happened. This was due partly from the concussion and partly from the oddity of the event that took place…… wait, what did just take place?

I was cutting wood with my brother and dad in my parent’s woods. I was flipping over a small dead tree so that it could be easily cut into smaller, more manageable chunks, and so that it would be easier to fit all the wood in the wagon we were using. As I flipped the tree vertically, the top of the tree broke off about 20 feet up, and came plummeting back towards the leaf covered ground…all 10 or so pounds of it. With my eyes looking down at the ground and not paying attention, the chunk struck my right temple, and I instantly hit the ground.

My dad seeing what happened, threw the chainsaw down and ran over asking if I was ok. But like I said, all I saw was….nothing. My glasses had flung off when I was hit, and so all I could see was brown and yellow blurs from the leaves…out of my left eye. But out my right was black- the empty, hollow darkness of nothing. Over the course of a few months, my vision would regain, mostly. I am still slightly color blind in that eye and have blind spots, but they are minimal.

From my experience, we in the West tend to look at the world only from the perspective we were born and raised with. This is not the truth for everyone, but more often than not this is how we view the world. We get comfortable in our worldview. And like a really good sofa, when we get comfortable in it, it’s hard to get out of it. social-icons-01

I mentioned a few posts ago that I believe all of us are truly impoverished. Maybe not financially, but I do believe we can be impoverished in our understanding of God. In the last post I mentioned that in the parable of the Widow’s Mite in Mark 12, that maybe the story revolves more around the scribes and pharisees than it does the widow herself. They created systems that oppressed those below them to the point where, financially, those lower classes were in poverty. But I’m not sure they actually saw it. Blinded by their own greed and lack of generosity, they couldn’t see the system they had created. And I wonder how much we are like that today.

We have massive amounts of information. Far more information than they did in biblical times. CNN, FoxNews, BBC, Google news feeds, newspapers, journals, magazines and more, are constantly presenting information for us to digest. We have so much information, yet in terms of understanding, it seems that we can’t see the poverty that we are in. We are blinded by the log in our own eyes, only focused on the specks that everyone else may have. We cannot see that we don’t understand what the pain of a war across the ocean, or the stink of the squatter town in the dumps, the fear of the minority or oppression of the label of terrorist. We are in poverty in regards to ignorance.

Either we want to remain ignorant of these different perspectives, or we simply are so stuck in our own ways we can’t see…I’m not sure. But, from my experience, we have a hard time understanding that the way an Asian (and even that is a broadly different term depending on where you are in Asia) looks at God or culture or politics or love, is different than white Americans. Or how an African (and again, that varies differently on what cultural microcosm, religious beliefs, gender and country you are talking with) views community development programs. Or how a European (lots of different ethnicities, in Europe as well) views nationalistic pride.

We will  never be able to fully understand in complete entirety of everyone’s perspective in this unraveling world, just like we will never fully understand the depth, width and height of God’s love for us. But…..we need to try as hard as we can to understand better day by day. Not gain more knowledge…no. That’s what the Enemy would like. No, I mean gain in understanding…in empathy…in love.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Do You Know How to Love Fiercely?

To love is to lose it all. To love is to willingly accept pain.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.    -C.S. Lewis

Our only daughter finished up her kindergarten career this past Tuesday. The school she attended was entirely in Mongolian, made up of mostly Mongolian kids, a few Korean children and her. There was only one other classmate that spoke English and that’s because her parents spent considerable time in the States studying. She had her final concert performance the week before and did simply awesome. But now it was Tuesday, her final day. Because it wasn’t a state run kindergarten, most of the kids will move on to other schools. But not hers. No one from her kindergarten will be attending her new school in the Fall.

As we walked out the door of her school, the contents of her locker and all remaining art work of hers in tow, the sobs from this little six yer old began to take over. We hopped into the car, she got buckled, and we began to drive out of the parking lot onto the main road. Her sobs became louder, her tears bigger as grief began to set in. Mourning this time in her life and all the friends she will miss and probably never see again, was where she was. She was fully engaged in it. She was fully embracing her losses. As Iris puts it, our little girl loves fierce. But with such fierce love comes a just as fierce pain of loss. She is six and thankfully she hasn’t learned defense mechanisms that hold her back from embracing such grief. At least I think she hasn’t learned them. Perhaps she has chosen to embrace the grief  instead of putting up walls, putting p her defenses or  running. Perhaps that is the case which makes her far more mature than I.

Oh to have her courage.

When we decide to love someone, we decide to lose. Lose what things we want for selfish gain and pride, to simply love someone other than our self. We decide to let down all barriers and accept that pain will now be a part of our lives. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to lose. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to accept pain. In order to love someone, I mean truly love them, we must be willing to lay it all out, bare it all, give the scalpel to the other person trusting that they will return the same openness, honesty and raw courageous love that we are giving them.

This means that we are accepting pain. We are accepting that no one is perfect and we will be hurt by them, just as they will be hurt by us. And it means that we are willing to walk through the path of pain to the joy of reconciliation and peace on the other side.

With this kind of love and pain comes a joy deeper than anything else. Jesus did this. He really did bare it all because He loved us. When He was on His knees pleading with the Father to not let what was about to happen, happen, we are not told if the disciples heard his ongoing prayer and plea. But, we are told of this. How intimate of God to reveal this to us.

To experience more of the fullness of God, His joy, His love, we must love Him like this. The more courageous we love Him, the more we understand the depth of His love. We are not meant to live in this world alone. God has called us to Himself and to those around us. In order to experience and understand more of God’s love, we must also love others just as fierce.

That cost is heavy as it comes with the price of pain. And the reward is something far greater than what we’ll suffer. This life is far more painful to live alone, never having that kind of openness, vulnerability and humility with others. The pathway to peace, they say, is hardship. My hope is that we, myself included, may we all live and love so courageously. Living how Christ lived to those around us. Living to the depth that He created us for.

Do you love like this? I know that when I begin to tell people I’m fine (which is an acronym most church folk may not like….I can tell you later) or OK, and brush it off like no big deal, I am not loving ferociously. In fact, we have banned that word from our house. I’m not being honest with them, and perhaps not honest with myself. When I begin to “not show up” with all of who I am, I am not allowing the other person to see me. I’m guarded, I’m defensive. These are walls I’m putting up. I am not saying bare everything to everyone around you. Some people are simply not in a place where they can handle that information well, nor treat you well. I am saying set up healthy boundaries where you are still showing up, being honest and vulnerable with others and using wisdom to determine how much is appropriate to share. But to not show up at all is based in the fear that we don’t want to get hurt. That is fear based, and our God is not a God of fear.

It takes being brave to love that courageously. Brene Brown says “It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter.” Love is how we change the world.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. Love Fierce.

be blessed

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/k2i4n6g8/6471148825/in/photostream/