Empathy

Empathy is a word that has been on my mind lately.  I think it is something our society, country and world need and should exhibit right now.

I’m scared by politicians who think they can make a country great and who use their power to build themselves and their “foundations” more wealth.  I’m scared by politicians who don’t put regular, working-class people into positions of advisor and counselor and say they represent the regular, working-class people.  How can they have empathy for the mainstream when the only time they visit with them is a 30 minute stop at a diner during campaign season?

I’m scared by Christians who show a heightened interest in politics and brush off the beggar with “they need to get a job” comments.  I’m scared by “right-wing evangelicals” who have a very different message of truth and love than Jesus displayed.  I’m scared by “fundamentalists” who drive nice cars and live in big houses and sit in million dollar churches and don’t know a poor person, a person of color, a person who is psychologically wounded.

I’m scared of a world where we think that looking good means we are doing good.  I’m scared of a world that makes someone who has suffered physical/emotional/spiritual abuse be quiet about it and “push through it” instead of letting them be vulnerable, broken, and grieving.  I’m scared of a world where facades are more acceptable than truth and where toughing-it-out is more acceptable than crying a river of tears over pain.

These things scare me because I have been that person in all those examples.  I played the game until life drug me over rocks and briars and I was bruised, bloodied and ready to die.  It was then I experienced empathy and unconditional love from people I thought would turn away from me and despise me.  It was then I really met Jesus and learned he saw me all along, knew my failings and still provided a door to heaven one day.  It was then that I learned how to be empathetic to others and share the love I had been given in abundance.

Our world needs more empathy.  If you have experienced it, if you understand it, if you are willing to dole it out to those who want it and those who don’t even know they need it yet, join me in giving freely what we have experienced freely.  Let’s help the broken walk again.  Let’s help the bruised smile again.  Let’s help others set the burden of pain and brokenness and fear free from those things.  Let’s start an #empathy tour of such magnitude the world finds peace again.

Grace and peace.

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And we wonder…

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$1.7 million

Number of elective plastic surgeries in the U.S. in 2016, of which more than 200,000 were nose jobs. The plastic surgery business is an interesting one with a fascinating gender gap: 75 percent of the people who got those rhinoplasties were women, but 85 percent of board certified plastic surgeons are men. [Racked]

That statistic tells us a great deal about our country. The vanity. The pride. Almost two million dollars spent on changing something about the body to be more acceptable, more “loved”, more something. We wonder why hatred and bigotry and terror exist and the answer is often as close as the nose on our face.  We are an inwardly focused people.  We are caught up in “us” and how we feel, how we look, how we are perceived and how we are judged.  We worry about those things while assessing how we see others, perceive others and judge others for their actions, thoughts, or lack thereof…at least in our own minds.

We assemble in teams, in jobs, in churches and find the people most like us to be around and spend time with.  It’s easier.  It’s more comfortable.  We don’t work to get to know others and we sure avoid the difficult questions that might put us in uncomfortable territory.  Instead, we label other groups,

If we hope to overcome hate, racism, and our own caste system, we are going to have to change our focus from inward to outward.  We are going to have to learn to see people with openness, with fresh eyes and without our own baggage heaped on top of them.  We have to learn to see ourselves and others with a new set of eyes, clear and unburdened by our own experience, fears and false beliefs.

Change starts with the person in the mirror.

Grace and peace.

It Makes Me Sad

It makes me sad to see ignorance and hatred come together.  It makes me sad to see people rejected and put down.  It makes me sad to hear people only want their point of view expressed and heard.  It makes me sad when I hear people who claim Christ take up the banner of the powerful and not the weak.  What I have seen in Charlottesville makes me sad.  What I haven’t seen on Facebook makes me sad.

A football player who took a stance against what he perceived as an injustice was verbally whipped in public on Facebook.  Those same people who ranted so vigorously about the football have largely remained silent in the face of the horrible, disgusting actions of racists and hatemongers in Charlottesville.

I don’t agree with the football players actions and I said so in a post.  My dad and my uncle wore U.S. military uniforms and fought for our freedoms and, in my mind, standing to honor the flag is standing to honor them.  My dad and my uncle wore U.S. military uniforms and fought for our freedoms and, in my mind, not standing up and speaking against hatred and fear of someone because of skin color, country of origin or anything else does not honor them.

I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe he died on the cross for everyone.  I believe he sees us as equals and I believe we were all made in God’s image.  Somewhere, we messed that image up but in the meantime, for me to honor Christ, I have to love everyone in the face of ignorance.  I have to pick up the brother who is pushed down by the bully and I have to let the bully know that I love him because Jesus loved him first.  I have to stand in the gap for the one who isn’t strong enough to stand for himself because Jesus is standing in the gap between me and Satan.

I am saddened by what I see in our country but I also realize it is what we have been promised since the fruit was eaten in the garden.  This world is not our  home and I am ready to get home.  In the time between now and then, I have to love those who aren’t lovable and I have to support those who are the victims of ignorance, hatred and brutality.

I am a child of the south.  I appreciate much of my heritage while opposed to some of the things history shows my kinfolk supporting.  A statue of a historical figure isn’t worth the price of hate and hurt.  When we put our feelings about an object ahead of our concern for our fellow man who is made in God’s image just like us, we become idolaters.  Know object should stand between the love we must have for each other.  If that is what it takes to let people come together, so be it.

I have more to say and it will come later.

Grace and peace.

Back on the Wagon

It’s time to write again.  I took a sabbatical and may explain it one day, but suffice it to say I’m ready to share again, to use this space for dreaming and ruminating and healing.  I’m reminded lately of the challenges that life brings.

I have a friend who’s marriage is spiraling downwards.  A friend who is having to deal with health issues that are very challenging.  A friend who is having to look inward and figure out what is driving some bad behavior.  I’m in a Bible study with a bunch of men who have differing viewpoints on church, politics, and life.  Very interesting.  I’m in another Bible study with a young couple who are early in a journey of pursuing Jesus.  My dad recently died and I’m worried about my mom.  My wife’s parents are battling illnesses.  I am battling challenges at work and working on what the future might hold.

Life has lots of challenges.  Lots of conflict.  Lots of suffering.  It is also filled with beauty and things that can bring us joy depending on how we want to view life.  What do you look for…problems, conspiracy, shortcomings, failure?  If you look for it you will find it.  I think we all agree that is not a profound statement but one that is often forgotten.  The people I know who look for the beauty in life, the blessings, the things they can be grateful for…those people seem to find it often.  I’ve spent a few years making the transition.  I can see a lot of problems in this world but I prefer to look for the gems and deal with the problems as they occur.

I’m back on the wagon and will likely address problem issues but it is because I see so much beauty in life and want to move forward past the problems.  It could be a bumpy ride.  I have a lot to sort out and think through.  I’m not a rocket scientist and sometimes it takes me trying things multiple times.  My only perfection is in how totally imperfect I am…but growing, dreaming and looking for beauty.

What are you looking for?

Grace and peace.

10 Fun Things About the 2016 Election

  1. I have fun reading what youngsters who haven’t had a real job, paid real taxes, had a mortgage or car payment or medical bills or tuition payments think needs to happen to make our country better financially.
  2. I have fun reading posts on Facebook from people quoting Fox News like it isn’t biased.
  3. I have fun reading posts on Facebook from people quoting CNN News like it isn’t biased.
  4. I have fun reading posts of people who say you have to vote because your vote counts.  Tell that to the folks who voted for Al Gore.  I ain’t no genius but the Electoral College seems to have more to do with who wins than I do.
  5. I have fun reading posts by people who read “Republican” and see “Religious Right” when several Republicans have got caught not acting too religious.
  6. I have fun reading posts by people who think the next President will have a major impact on prayer, abortion and a host of other issues and miss out on the fact that Jesus told his disciples to deal with all that stuff.  Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasars doesn’t mean to expect the government to do Jesus-work.
  7. I have fun reading posts by people who think the Democrats will make life better for the poor.  How’s that worked out during the past few Democratic administrations?
  8. I have fun reading about different drinking games to play during debates and the election process.  They might be the most logical posts of all.
  9. I have fun reading about all the liberals and conservatives who say they are moving if one or the other gets elected.  No one really cares whether they move or not and I doubt any of them ever did anything they said.
  10. I have fun dreaming about a day when elections won’t matter.  Those are going to be the good ‘ol days.

In all honesty, most of those things aren’t really fun…or funny.  They are agonizing.  I thought about quitting social media but, like many things, have learned to skip over the parts I don’t like and move on to warm and fuzzy pictures of someone’s cat.  I’m 51 years old and I can’t tell how the outcome of any election has impacted my life tremendously.  I personally think Republicans are too worried about paying taxes and not concerned with the welfare of others.  I personally think Democrats are arrogant and think they know how to use my earnings better than I do.  I’m looking for that person who is in the middle, who wants me to pay less taxes so I can be more giving.  I’m looking for the person who will call out special interests and embarrass them into the holes they belong in.  I’m looking for the person who will call out the religious community to do what Jesus called them to and to leave the government alone.  I’m looking for someone who probably doesn’t exist and probably won’t appeal to at least 50% of the rest of the voting population, probably more.

Political elections seem to bring out the worst in us these days.  I’m sure our founding fathers would be ashamed of everyone involved, mostly the electorate that tolerates these buffoons reaching the top.

Grace and peace.

What if…?

What if we knew the problems the people around us were dealing with daily?  What if people knew my fears?  What if people knew the things that cause me emotional pain?  What if people knew I was scared they wouldn’t like me if they really knew my sins?

When I went through a divorce, I had several people surround me with love.  I could not have made it without them but it was always easier to think about the people who were telling stories about me.  Some were true, many were not and it scared me to think about how others would see me based on gossip and rumors.  Yet, it was the people who were empathetic to me who carried me through.  It was the people who cried with me and heard my pain stories.  It was the people who had walked in my shoes of pain and told me I would get through it, maybe a little battered and bruised, but I would get through it.

What if the world was full of empathy?  What if my community was full of empathy?  How much stronger would we be?  What if people who had a drinking problem felt like they could talk to someone about their fears or pains that caused them to drink?  What if people who had a pornagraphy or sexual addiction problem felt like they could talk to someone about their wounds that drove them to those things?  What if the person who has been abused sexually felt like they could tell someone how it made them feel?

I have been exposed to so much pain in the world in the past few years and my empathy runs wild.  It has pushed me to reach out to some folks I know who feel hurt by things in life and get to know their story and try to understand how to teach others to hear these stores and love on these people.

What if we reach a point where people really care about other people?

Grace and peace.

Omar and Orlando

An atrocity was committed in the early hours of June 12th.  A man went into a nightclub to kill and injure more than 100 people.  Their offense?  They were different than him.  Different lifestyle.  Different beliefs.  Different religion.  They were different than him.

Can you imagine killing everyone who is different than you?  I cannot.  It is more than sad, more than tragic, more than heartbreaking that someone would choose to kill because of differences.  Oh yes, it has happened throughout time and will continue to happen into the future, most likely, but that doesn’t change the atrocity of killing because of differences.

Those people who were murdered and injured are someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend, confidant, employee.  They are people.  Disagree with their lifestyle, disagree with their choices but do not kill and maim for it.  Do not let your fears drive you to hatred and then to destruction of lives.

Omar was not a good person.  He hated people for something that he didn’t like.  He was acquaintances with some really, really bad people.  Our FBI checked him out because of it but still let him have firearms and a security guard license.  (I don’t understand that one but little our government does resonates with my idea of common sense.)  He proclaimed allegiance to bad people, to ISIS, who kills and mutilates for their own agenda of what is right and correct…much like Hitler before them.  Omar wasn’t a good person.

Well hurting for the individuals and families of the victims, I struggle with the LGBT leaders.  They call their “community” to stand apart, to be singled out and yet seem shocked when they are singled out.  They want recognition of this event to shed light on their cause instead of being a reminder that we are ALL a part of this senseless killing.  A terrorist struck America.  Shouldn’t we all stand together as Americans?  Yes, he chose to strike a club catering to homosexuals but where should the focus really be.  On the smaller group or the larger group.  LGBT leaders are still trying to stand apart instead of claiming their role as a part of the national community.  One lady on TV last night who was labeled as the first openly gay commissioner in that are said she was frustrated by the people who chose to show up now to help the LGBT community.  Really?  Maybe all those people are showing up now to help their neighbors, their countrymen…not just a segment of the population.  Today, another person representing LGBT rights was sharing his thoughts on CNN that this event should spur Congress to sign legislation preventing employment discrimination.  Really?  Is this the platform to discuss that topic?

I’m sickened by the horrific crime committed against the people in Orlando.  I hope people will realize it is in these dark times we must be “a part”, not “apart” to combat these heinous actions by misdirected zealots.

Grace and peace.

Faith and Politics

Faith is belief in unseen things.  Politics is faith in unproven promises.

I’m not a Republican because they believe lowering tax rates and banishing illegal immigration will make our lives better.

I’m not a Democrat because they believe being inclusive to every thought and idea, except conservative thought and idea, will make our lives better.

Here’s what will make our lives better.  Eliminating pride.  Eliminating hatred.  Eliminating adultery and pornography and abuse of money, drugs and people.

Here’s what will make our lives better.  Giving.  Loving.  Relationships.  Compassion.  Empathy.  A burden for the poor, the hurting, the least of these.

If you believe a politician will make your life better, I wish you the best in waiting on the promises to come true.

If you believe living disciplined (disciple) lives following Christ will make your life better, I wish you the best as we wait together for the promise to come true.

Grace and peace.

I Like Dreadlocks

I’m sure I would look hideous with dreadlocks but I have thought I would have liked having them if I had the hair for it.  Then this article…http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/31/living/white-dreadlocks-cultural-appropriation-feat/index.html.

So, now there are folks who think their hair is a spiritual and historical part of their history who don’t want white people wearing dreadlocks.  Really?  Why is it people of non-white skin colors can claim racism at the drop of a hat and then say they are the only one who can say certain words, wear their hair certain ways, speak certain ways, enjoy certain benefits and community?

I don’t want to be a racist.  I really don’t.  But, there are times when I am excluded from certain things just because I happened to be born white that make me wonder why I tolerate things I do.

If you want inclusion, then be inclusive.

If you want tolerance for your ideas, be tolerant of other ideas.

This world is making me tired.

Grace and peace.

Conservative Christianity

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I’ve been thinking about conservative Christianity lately.  I’ve been thinking that I don’t find it in the Bible so I wonder why it is such a big deal with politics and those professing to align with the “Christian-right” or “right wing evangelicals”.

Jesus was radical but not political.  That was much of the confusion of his day, that he was here to do business at the local/national level when he was here to do business at the spiritual/supernatural level.

He was off being tempted by Satan.

He was healing and forgiving people.

He was telling people who wanted to follow him to GIVE ALL they had.

It just seems a bit strange to me that a political movement today that evokes self-responsibility and “good stewardship” is aligned with Jesus who told stories about the Prodigal Son (forgive without limits), the Rich Young Ruler (give and give some more), the Lost Sheep (the one who needs the most help is important), the story of the workers (the guy who showed up last got paid the same amount as the guy who had been there all day).

In Acts 2 we find the church coming together daily and selling all their possessions and giving to everyone as they had need.  That doesn’t sound anything like the Republican Party’s evangelical platform to me.  It doesn’t sound like socialism either.  It sounds like a group of people who were compelled to act individually because of Christ’s love, mercy and grace.  They didn’t wait on the government to act on their behalf and they didn’t tell those who were in need to get a job…they just helped.  Again, we see a theme of Christ-followers giving and giving generously.

I can’t align politics, Christianity and conservatism.  At the same time I don’t align with the liberal politicians either.  While I don’t think they should take my money and force giving, I also don’t think politicians need to legislate Christian teaching.  Take Roe v. Wade.  You see, I’m naive enough to believe that if the church really loved on single women who were pregnant, we would see abortions go down.  If we saw the church start adopting these babies and loving on them I believe we would see abortions go down.  I guess I see love as the way to combat abortion instead of the Supreme Court.  The people who do this now are people who are compelled to act because of who Jesus is, not who has political power.

We could also talk about the poor and immigrants.  I have had the conversation already with others and there are many different views.  I always leave it with them as “what do you think Jesus would have to say about immigrants if you were having the conversation with him?”

I can’t align Christ-likeness and this thing called conservative Christianity in political circles.  I’ve tried but as I really study Jesus I cannot imagine him giving a hoot about our political scene and I’m even further from seeing him line up with Ted Cruz or anyone else using the banner of Christ for a political office.

Call me crazy.  Call me soft.  Call me whatever…just please do not call me a conservative Christian.

Grace and peace.