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Posts Tagged ‘teachings of Jesus’

I suppose it happens often, that we learn more about people at their death than we ever knew during their lives.  In fact, living under the sub-culture of a strict religious sect as a child, the first time I ever heard of Elvis was the day he died.  I was out taking my banana-seat bike off some sweet jumps we built, when a neighbor kid stopped me and squealed, “Did you know Elvis died??!!!”.  I had not yet learned it wise to conceal ignorance of matters that seem common knowledge so I asked, “Who’s Elvis?”  I don’t know if my friend was more shocked at the death or at the fact that I had never heard of him.

But one man who passed this week I knew a little of.  In 1986, Amnesty International held a benefit concert in my city.  I went, not because I knew much about their work, but because of the amazing line up of musicians coming. I still remember this as the best concert I’ve ever attended.  Five hours of some of the greatest music the 80’s had to offer.  The topic of the night was Nelson Mandela, still in prison.  We recoiled at the thought a developed society could, in our modern times, be so deeply and oppressively divided over race.

I later heard all the excuses surrounding the “it’s just the way things are” philosophies, as well as all the derogatory opinions of Mandela himself.  A co-worker from Africa of British descent, whose family fled Rhodesia during the transition to Zimbabwe, flatly stated that black Africans cannot govern themselves.  He astutely observed that all attempts at their own independence ended in bloody chaos, without taking into consideration what might be creating the challenges.  A client listening in to this conversation, a white, British citizen himself, had some choice remarks about their average intelligence and other things which I really prefer to forget.  This was right about the time when Mandela was being released from prison, soon to do the opposite of what white people expected.  Forgive.

Yes, Mandela had a different political ideology than most Americans embrace, and yes he did resort to violence in his past, as so many often do when they feel it is the only way to overcome their oppressors.  That’s not a foreign concept in America is it?  I think that’s what those canon shot fireworks on 4th of July are meant to commemorate?  Who is a terrorist and who is a liberator?  Just depends which side you are born on doesn’t it?  Violence is violence.  Either it’s a solution, or it’s not.  A worthy cause doesn’t make it prettier.  I understand why people believe it’s necessary.  I am sad when people (anywhere) see it as the first solution.

Often anger and hate boil over and create an endless cycle of killing and revenge.  But when Mandela walked out of the prison, he chose to leave the anger and hate behind and be truly free.  He led his countrymen in this path, and prevented what everyone expected – more killing than ever before.  I have read some of the most encouraging things in the last few days of his life and work.  They give me hope that peace and reconciliation can come, and hate can be put away in other places of the world where it seems to have consumed the minds and hearts of people.

There is no good side in a hate-filled land.  There is no bad side when Christ loves all the people involved with his own pierced hands and heart.  One side may be stronger than the other, but it is to the strong and those who have the power, to choose the path.  What if our enemies overcame us tomorrow?  What philosophy would we wish them to carry?  The one we now hold?  Or the one that Jesus taught, and Nelson Mandela learned to live and teach?  What if those First Nations that European civilization oppressed in America from the time the first ship landed, had a chance to rule over the kingdom built on their blood and land?  What would they choose and what would we deserve?

There are so many issues in this world we only seem to hear one voice from.  Often we may think there are only two sides when there are many.  We don’t seek to understand why, or walk in the shoes of another’s life to see through their eyes.  We want to be right, stronger, superior, victorious.

I discussed with my oldest son recently the phenomenon of super heroes in our pop culture.  Our society, in my experience, is overwhelmingly aspiritual, while at the same time very religious in some places.  But we still have our icons to worship – be they actual human celebrities, sports teams and players, or cartoons.  The heroes are strong, overcoming, witty, invincible avengers.  Yes, that’s the name of the movie even!  They are the opposite of Jesus, my superhero.  Are we a part of this culture that admires these values above all and not even realize how deeply drawn away we are from the heart of Christ?  We are so attracted to the patriotic Captain America, the strength of Hulk, and the self-centered humor and blind pride of Iron Man.  Mankind has always needed something bigger and  more powerful than themselves to worship.  The nature and heart of what we choose in this regard reveals our own desires.  I believe it takes the stronger man and woman to choose peace.  I am not sure I am that strong.  It’s hard to choose it even under my own roof sometimes.

My heart breaks for so many suffering people in this world – for the atrocities of the past, and the present.  This time of year, we think and speak of peace.  I shared a picture recently on facebook that said, “Dear God, let me worry less about putting Christ in Christmas, and more about getting Christ back in “Christian.”  It was shared more times than anything I have ever posted in my several years there, which shocked me.  I believe we deeply sense a problem in this country within the Body of Christ, but it’s easy to point the finger at all those “fake Christians” out there, when we need to look at our own lives – held up to the Light of Christ and His LOVE.  Let that Christ in the Christian begin with me.  Most of the time I feel like a paper-thin, invisible Christian.  I want the light to shine out, and for people to realize it’s HIM and not me.

Mandela’s heart was also tied with those who still waited for freedom.  I don’t want to argue about what that means, or what people deserve.  I just long for that with him, for all people.  When enemies collide in love – it’s the most beautiful thing on earth.  It began in the Cross, and may it continue to spread, one changed life at a time.

May we love all the people God put on this Earth, and consider ourselves in an honest manner.  

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Lately I’ve been learning or realizing things so quickly I am having an extremely hard time processing everything.  Sometimes I want to scream “slow down!” but there is a sense of urgency also.  One huge thing I’ve always been drawn to but am now understanding more deeply, is what constitutes genuine community.   My husband and I have always been drawn to this and had a long discussion about it today.  We’ve experienced it on some levels in the past, and greatly desire it in our future.  We visited a good friend today who lives in a community many would think less than desirable.  He lives in a tent but he has an amazing place to live on a beautiful creek in trees.  The other people there have much more connection to each other than the neighbors living on my street, partly because they need one another.  Most people in our culture have been led to believe they don’t need anyone’s help, or it’s shameful to even admit it.

We talked to our friend about our big dreams for people living together, helping each other.  Now people call them communes, or even cults.  In North America they used to just be called tribes, and it was a way of life that even some Europeans found more inviting than their own, so they joined up.  As I learn more about them, it strikes a familiar chord deep in my soul of what I have also always desired, and how I believe God created us to live in relation to one another.

I have recently made another friend who is terribly isolated – raising a small child nearly alone, and battling an autoimmune disorder.  Her husband works out of town a great deal and her own family who lives nearby, less than nurturing.  She doesn’t attend church because her experiences with Christians and their theologies have also been less than nurturing.  She lives in a brand new house on the good side of town – in poverty of a different kind.  She told me of her many failed attempts to find a play group for her daughter.  They all had some element of conformity she didn’t find herself to match into; too Texan, too granola (scowling at her Cheetos), too religious, or even too atheist.  Each one wanting community based on their own particular identity rather than just loving people as they are.  Sound like any place you’ve been?  Thankfully, she decided to start one of her own, of which I am a happy member.  It’s a small but amazing group of women who value simply BEING.. and being with their young children.  I guess that’s our one conformity.

I also know some amazing people who have brought in a beautiful girl off the street who was pregnant.  They already had an elderly parent living with them, and their own two teenage boys.  But now they will have a tribe also, with a baby and and elder to boot.  They are doing all this with an inspirational amount of joy and gratitude.

community-300x201An interesting paradox exists today.  In a recent documentary, Happy, the filmmakers identify elements that contribute to human happiness, drawing from cultures all over the world.   A sense of community ranked in the top five, along with other interesting characteristics not foreign to genuine expressions of Christianity.  While humans crave this, our culture has all but lost it.  Substitutes for real community, such as social networking, do attempt to fill a need – yet don’t require much in the way of the hard work that goes into living in close community.  We can turn it off – shut it out – hide the bits we don’t like.  We want togetherness, but we want it with people just like us.  We have made-to-order radio and video entertainment.  No one has to watch or hear anything they don’t like.  Not like the good old days listening to your top 40 radio station, waiting for your favorite song.  Or flipping through your six TV channels over and over and settling for re-runs of I Love Lucy.  No more.  You can now watch all the episodes on demand now if you want, commercial free.  But even the TV and radio of my day were the beginnings of social isolation.

We also don’t have to be around people we don’t like, even if we are married to them.  We want people on demand too.  Just the ones who don’t get on our nerves.  I am not judging anyone who is divorced.  I have been through that too.  But we have become a society that bails out instead of pushing through.  In a community, you learn to push through.  And some behaviors which tend to cause marriages to fail would probably be addressed in healthy, healing way.  Maybe.  Just a theory.  You can’t hide your junk when you live in close proximity to others.  If you hit your wife, it won’t be your little secret for long.

Even with all my idealistic dreams, I realized I wasn’t enduring too well in my own tribe.  We’ve had people live with us, and we’ve shared homes with others.  We bombed a couple times, had amazing success in others, but in none of those situations did we see it as a way of life.  We looked at it as something cool we get to do for awhile till we go back to normal life.  Normal, isolated, scrapping for survival one day at a time on the hamster wheel kind of life.  But now our family has grown and our living space stayed about the same.  I start to feel crowded, frustrated, wanting things to be my way.  I want the situation to go away, not work through to a solution.  My own selfishness has never been revealed more clearly.  As I told my husband today, there is a big difference in wanting the best for all the people in your life, or wanting them to arrange their lives to make your life easier and less stressful.  And I also realize I’ve left many situations myself because it was easier to walk away than honor a commitment to one another.

Well, after all this today, I ran across the most touching, beautiful video (by “accident”) about an intentional community started by a husband and wife.  They went where no one wanted to go, and are pouring out their lives as a living sacrifice.  It is showing in vivid color exactly the things I have been hearing deep down in my soul.  It’s only 10 minutes and I hope you take time to watch it.  I believe the time is now for these to be birthed everywhere, as living witnesses to the love of Christ.  There is no way to follow Christ alone.  He ordained that we should need and help one another, and learn to love as He loves.  We just need to build on a few rooms. 🙂

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In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us not to spend our time judging others when we have logs in our own eyes. He says that in the way we judge, we will be judged. He doesn’t elaborate how or by whom. And it almost sounds like Karma although I know Grace overrides what we deserve.

My theory … after an extremely uncomfortable situation this week, is that the internal voice we have which expounds frustration over other people’s faults will in turn condemn and accuse us when we find ourselves falling short or letting people down. Yesterday I experienced both of these simultaneously and realized I was the victim of my own critical voice. I wanted to lash out at someone else while feeling like a complete loser over some very small infraction. In my own case, nothing good I had done counted for anything at all in the face of a small failure for which I could find no excuse.

Maybe this voice was inherited from my parents, or maybe it is simply an unfortunate personality trait. Whatever the source, I know I can continue to let it own me, or I can pray for more grace. It is so much more than a theological position. Grace is to be in Life….even down to our thoughts and attitudes.

Today is brighter. No one is as much a failure as my internal judge would accuse. Not even me. Thank you Jesus.

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