Respect: got to have it

This spring I was leading a group of highly motivated, volunteer Sunday School teachers in a session about multi-sensory learning and the topic of challenging children came up. One of the teachers asked what to do when a child speaks disrespectfully. My answer was inadequate, and I’ve spent months thinking about respect.

Along the way, I’ve realized that I think it is better if a teacher can earn respect but not need it from students. Students do not enter a learning environment to meet the emotional needs of the educator, but rather, the relationship is one of giving – the educator gives a body of knowledge, skills, or expertise to a student in uptakable spoonfuls. When education is done well, respect naturally overflows unless the learner has other more pressing matters. And when education isn’t done well, well, respect is not likely to happen. All humans need regard, so we need to find the way for these needs to get met without demanding dutiful treatment from those we serve.

The meaning of the word and the way it is used do not always line up. Often deference seems to be what people actually mean when they say respect. Deference meaning:

  • yielding
  • acquiescence
  • capitulation
  • complaisance
  • condescension

Deference doesn’t seem to be my natural response to anyone or anything. Tell me not to do something, and that’s the first thing I want to do. My husband says, “Don’t touch this wire.” I touch it; I get shocked. A friend says, “Oh, you can’t drink that,” and I respond, “Yes, I can….” except that she reminds me it’s about gluten content not control. Through the years I’ve learned to be quiet until I figure out if I have reasons to yield, so this may not always show the non-compliance, but rest assured internally, there is only One I yield to.

On the other hand, I have a deep sense of the intrinsic worth of each person. Respecting the uniqueness of each person’s created in the image of Godness usually comes easily. When I am getting to know people, I become fascinated by who they are, what moves and motivates them, why they do what they do. When I’ve known people for a time, it can be awe inspiring to see how they walk through life’s pain and triumphs. I have not encountered a person who does not require a second look, which is after all what respect actually is.

My sense with respect is that people will always look (spect) again (re-) at someone who lives purposefully, intentionally, well even if we do not agree with all of the person’s reasons. If all I see is a shadow of who a person is, I’m going to look again for the substance of the person. People who are deeply respected do not have to demand certain treatment, require deference. Respect

  • appreciation
  • awe
  • consideration
  • dignity
  • esteem

naturally flows to those who love well, live thoughtfully, act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

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These people, Jim and Vivienne Yoder, I respect. For almost half of my life I have been inspired and in appreciation of their humility, kindness, hospitality, pursuit of excellence, practical helps, and I am in awe of their faithfulness to the Lord and in service to people. Never, not once, have they asked for others to defer, respect them, but many hold them in the highest regard because they live well.

I think Arethra Franklin is right; we’ve got to have respect. But no externally forced actions, duty, or demands will elicit genuine respect, awe, esteem. And when we disagree with one another, demanding actions, respect, or the cessation of actions will not foster genuine respect. If pain, self-doubt, discomfort, leave one unsure, then sit with these emotions until insight comes about what to do rather than demanding others act or speak in a way that pushes away the internal feeling of disrespect.

A child I know was told by a teacher, “You need to respect your elders.” He said, “I know I need to respect my elders, but you need to respect your youngers.” Deference can be forced, respect earned. Rather than settling for deference, live into

  • Life with a purpose.
  • Actions that express what’s in your heart.
  • A heart full of beauty, goodness, truth, love.

Second looks and considerations will come.

Respect, got to have it.

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When something awful happens, here’s what I need.

When my grandfather died, I learned a lot about myself in a short amount of time. When I am really sad,

  • I need time alone.
  • I need quiet.
  • I need to move – walk, swim, bike, whatever.
  • I need a few trusted people who will listen to me ramble, and it is rambling when I’m emotional.
  • I need to tell little snippets of life moments that somehow connect to the big loss.
  • I need to laugh at all of the funny things humans do when they don’t know what to do. (I like doing this with trusted people. The intent isn’t to be mean to the other people just share amusement.)

I also learned somethings I DO not need and really do NOT like.

  • Trying to diminish the gravity of the loss. “He’s in a better place.” While I understood the intent and kindness behind this statement, it actually infuriated me. He had been living as a part of the Kingdom of God for a long time, but my reality had utterly changed.
  • Trying to deflect my pain. Humour is great. Humour without acknowledging pain, NOT great.
  • Trying to deny the reality of the pain. “Well, he lived a long time.” “We all have to die.” “At least it’s good you had him until you’re so old.
  • Try to defend their own actions. “I didn’t mean . . . “

Other things may not be what I personally want, but because they come from a place of kindness, I can appreciate the intent. For example, at the funeral home during the days of viewing of my grandfather (Southern funerals were proceeded by a couple of published visitation times in the days before the funeral where people could come and talk and sit with the family, talk about memories, talk about how the embalmed, make-upped body looks like or doesn’t look like the lost loved one), there were two sweet little old ladies who didn’t want to leave us alone. We didn’t know them. We wanted a break. Actually, we wanted to eat lunch, but they didn’t want to go until the next folk arrived. Their empathy at loss may have been overidentifying with how they thought we were feeling, but in their actions was great generosity of spirit.

In the many years since Grandaddy’s passing, I’ve realized that people continue to diminish, deflect, defend, or deny other’s pain or needs in a myriad of issues. Recently a friend helped me get some insight about why people do this. Sitting with another’s pain, another’s request that’s beyond my ability to meet, means I have to sit with the awkwardness, the discomfort, and maybe the anger. Rather than fully looking at the other’s experience, we quickly slip into managing our own discomfort.

Go to a parent teacher conference and have  a child whose learning isn’t in the bell-curve middle, and count how many seconds before the learning differences are

  • diminished     “Oh, he can do it. . . .”
  • deflected “I have 200 students, I can’t . . .”
  • denied     “There’s no reason to give the quiz if the accommodations are in place. . . “
  • defend    “Well, I’ve got lots of experience, and I know . . . “

Bring up a racialized incident, and watch the unfolding

  • diminishing  “Oh, they’re just kids . . . .”  “You’re being too sensitive.”
  • deflecting      Weird stories get told.
  • denying         “We don’t tolerate that in our school/community centre/family.”
  • defending     “You know me, and know I would never . . .”

Social media conversations about, well, anything:  race, health, politics, current events. The D4 (diminish, deflect, deny, and defend) seem almost easier to enter on in social media. I don’t have to see pain to cross your face. Nuance of ideas take more time than we might give in a social media interaction.

For the last year, I’ve noticed lots of diminishing, deflecting, denying, and defending. I’ve seen people I love hurt by others 4 d’ing without realizing it.

Let’s learn to listen to one another.

Sometimes it’s ok to say nothing but “That’s awful, sad, or terrible.” Even about distant events.

Full stop. nothing more.

When something awful happens to me, please sit with me in silence. Feel free to say, “That’s terrible.” I’d probably like it if you hold my hand. Usually I’d be open to you praying for me and for the situation. If you can bear it, listen. Listen to hear my perceptions and my pain not to diminish, deflect, or deny where I am at this time. If I’m sharing my heart, I trust you, you don’t need to defend yourself, or if you’re feeling like you do, tell me that. I want to be teachable; I will be willing to listen later to more perspectives, to your take if I’m sure you’ve understood my experience.

“When in doubt, do the generous thing. It usually works out the best.”  Seth Godin

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be

  • quick to listen,
  • slow to speak and
  • slow to become angry,   James 1:19

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The elements batter and twist wood. And beautiful grain can then be seen in furniture, or the wood is weakened. When life batters people, maybe how other people respond influences if beauty emerges or lost potential.

quick to listen.  slow to speak.  presence.

I am trying to grow in these while shedding the 4 d’s.

 

Instrument of Peace

Christmas day our friend, Peter Yoon, spoke about what’s the proper song for Christmas, what song is in your heart? When you look around, everyone has earbuds in and enjoys their own songs.

Peter asked what song will you sing to Jesus? What song will  you take into the new year? Then we sang a beautiful, new to me song based on St. Francis’ prayer. Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace . . .

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Craig and I had this same prayer sung in our wedding; I’ve long liked the words. Since an early anniversary, we have had the prayer hanging in our home. But this Christmas day I thought about the words in a new way. What does it mean to be an instrument of peace?

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Well, instruments need to be practiced and played by another. I can be an instrument, well made, beautiful tone, but still someone has to want to play the music. When others “play” me, what song comes out?

As I thought about thought about being an instrument, I realized I want to be well tuned to the pulse of God’s love, peace, forgiveness, hope, light, and I wondered how to do that.

Currently, I am reading through a collection of Essays by Dallas Willard, Renewing the Christian Mind, and the day after I read his explanation of our

  • impulsive will – what comes out when we’re bumped, choosing what you want in the moment
  • reflective will – what you think about and do, choosing what is good
  • embodied will  – when reflective will becomes habituated in your body, when you’re bumped physically or metaphorically and what is good comes out in without effort.

Others play the instrument we are whether we want to be played or not. This summer when racial tensions resulted in dominoes of death, John Perkins called Leroy Barber and told him a story. You can hear the specifics here , but the gist is that decades ago Perkins was pulled over by a police officer. Perkins’ wife and children were in the car. The officer hit him, seeking a reason to hurt Perkins, to shoot him.

What would be your response to such treatment?

Perkins had so reflected on his experiences of having his brother murdered by a local marshal, that when the violence occurred, his reaction was “This man needs Jesus.”

This was not my reaction or response when I heard the story.

This is not my response to injustice.

I want to reflect on the ways of peace, on persons of peace, so that I can embody such grace. Peace, shalom, that directly reflects the wholeness, the integration that God intends for us, not absence of conflict but wholeness. When I am “played,” I hope this is the song that will come out – a song of hope, a song of truth, a song of wholeness and shalom.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely,

and may your whole spirit and soul and body

be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

 

St. Francis (1181-1226), Dallas Willard (1935-2013), John Perkins (1930 – present), Peter Yoon all my teachers in becoming an instrument of peace.

What song is being played in your life right now?

Liberal.Conservative

These terms have become confusing to me. Befuddling enough that I actually looked up the definitions on an online dictionary. As people bandy the words around – sometimes playfully, more frequently as curse words, it seems worthwhile to be sure my understanding of the words is crystal clear.

On a recent trip to the US, it came to my attention that my vocabulary had not kept up with the political times. Usually my family watches news reports from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(CBC), and I most regularly read online news from BBC. Traveling to the States made me realize how culturally specific news coverage can be. Alt – this and progressive that meant NOTHING to me until I looked up the terms. Entire perspectives to differentiate.

The funny thing – Liberal and Conservative parties have different platforms provincially and nationally. Liberal policies in the US may be conservative in Vancouver. The marker for what can be considered liberal or conservative always moves in relation to the speaker.

Back to the definitions:

Liberal – generous, free

Conservative – to preserve

I want to discern what in my life, my family, my household, my communities needs to be preserved, and then to savour, conserve, relish these things, relationships, experiences, practices. Inherent in this may be that I need to slough off preferences in consideration for others benefit and not demand the conservation for my personal ease.

Likewise, I want to discern where more generosity and freedom need to overflow in my thinking and living. Cheerful giving and I want to loose what needs to be loosed for others to thrive and for myself to branch out and try new things, to live trusting God’s provision for each day.

Recently I read the statement, “You have to give up the trike to ride the bike.” (I think it was on Becoming Minimalist, but I’ve searched and can’t find the link.) I want wisdom about what to give up and what to hold on to.

My prayer – To know what to free and bind and when to do each.

Preserving, giving, freeing all have a place in my life. I like the actual meanings of these words.

I had access all along

Friday Craig and I were heading home after a lovely concert, and he asked me how I was enjoying data.

?Hmmmm? I thought I would have data when I got the new phone.

No, you’ve had it since the day I told you about it; we’ve paid for it.

I had not had data on my phone because wifi at work and at home generally provided the internet access I need at least until I am lost or something on the car breaks. At any rate, Craig, always the careful budget manager found a cheaper plan that let us both have data and new phones, but the new phones have not arrived yet. Somehow I had it in my mind that the data and the new phones would coincide.

I had access to all that the internet brings. Books, quick answers, posting quickly while waiting for a kid in a lesson, etc, but I didn’t know or at least I didn’t understand what I had access to. So I missed out on the benefits of access to knowledge, ease, connectivity, and communication.

Yesterday at church we considered how Love Works in prayer, and the Scripture was Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 where an imprisoned Paul thanks the Lord for the faith and love of the Ephesian followers of Christ, remembers them and asks the Lord to grant them His Spirit of wisdom and revelation and to enlighten the eyes of their hearts so they can know, deeply know, the hope, riches, and power available in Christ and experienced through His body the church.

As I thought about the verses, I realized that I have had access all along to the

  • hope in the surety of God’s calling
  • riches in the varied and meaningful relationships of those who have answered God’s call,
  • power of Christ as seen in His resurrection and reign and infilling of His body, the church.*

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?

Power.  Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing.  Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer large enough, and it is time for birth.

Madeleine L’Engle in Bright Evening Star, p. 4-5

Power, as the Advent season so strongly reminds us, laid aside for a time in the most humbling of ways, so that I, so that all humanity who wants, can know the Creator of heaven and earth. I’ve had access all along to all that He brings in His goodness, wisdom, generosity, and strength. But I didn’t know or at least I didn’t understand what I had access to. So at times I’ve missed out on the benefits of access to knowledge, ease, connectivity, and communication.

God, who is all power, gave away power!  And yet the ability to give power away, lavishly, lovingly, is greater than hanging onto power as human beings try to do. With us power is control.  With God it is freedom.

Madeleine L’Engle in Bright Evening Star, p. 14

I am not on the outside looking in at the Kingdom of God; I am His daughter with open access that Jesus has already paid for. He desires I access His presence with freedom, ease, and confidence. I’ve had access to Him and to all the benefits of knowing Him all along; it’s been paid for.

*  I am aware of the complexities and challenges of “church” – those musings for another day, but I don’t want to lose sight of His intentions and what He is working towards within those who call His Name.

 

 

Come, O Come Emmanuel

Last night Craig and I attended a concert by Ordinary Time , and Jill McFadden commented on the need to hold the tension of longing and hope with in Advent. If we only focus on the longing for Christ’s coming to be fully realized in all of creation, all of humanity, and all relationships, we can sink into lament. If we only focus on the hope of the season, we can sink to sentimentality. In tension we acknowledge the beautiful and amazing thing it is for God to be in an infant’s body, and we acknowledge our hunger for more of His rule and reign to be evidenced in our realities. This song beautifully holds the already/not yetness of Advent. Thank you Javier and Mikayla for sharing it.

 

What is this confidence in which you put your trust?

This week I had a disappointment – the oh no a goal that is overdue to be achieved will take even longer, waaay longer, disappointment, and there’s nothing I can do but push through and wait. So I had to grieve – that’s nice for having rage, giveupness, frustration.

And then I had to connect a question  I’ve been kicking around internally for the last few weeks to the situation. “In what confidence have you put your trust?” walked all over my irritation, anger, sadness, despair. Since the question entered my mind, I’ve used the question as a personal diagnostic for

  • my life decisions that seem to be multiplying
  • my professional goals
  • my want to make a difference arenas
  • my children’s futures
  • my desire to travel
  • my sense of peace or the lack thereof
  • my prayers for people I care deeply about who are struggling
  •  . . .

But somehow applying “On what are you basing this confidence of yours?”  (NIV) to this big problem  that’s totally out of my control takes me deeper into considering my own foundational trust.

Initially the question came up as I am slowly reading through Isaiah 34-66 with John D. W. Watts as my teacher in the Word Bible Commentary. The question’s context in Isaiah finds King Hezekiah and the remaining Judeans in Jerusalem under the clearly more powerful Assyrian siege.

Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you [b]have? I say, ‘Your counsel and strength for the war are only [c]empty words.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me?  Isaiah 36:4-5 NAS

Hezekiah and his people faced annihilation, and everyone knew it. When the Assyrian messenger who challenged the obvious “false” trust in Yahweh to redeem His people, Hezekiah’s messengers best retort was to ask if the messenger could switch to a language not all of the hearers understood. At least the despair would be contained. Assyria had already obliterated Judea’s northern cousins, Samaria, deported survivors, and resettled other conquered peoples into the land. Not far away was a live example of what the destruction coming.

In facing my own despair, I like to contain it, and then I get a plan. Even if I don’t mean to, my mind goes solution searching, option finding. On what do you rest this trust of yours?  (ESV) I trust in God’s goodness, wisdom, power, and willingness to help in ways I can’t imagine, but I take a few days to lay down my own solution spinout mental machine.

My own mind became bemused when US election concerns in my heart bumped up against this question. What is [the reason for] this confidence that you have? (AMPLIFIED) While people rage out of fear, spew venom out of anger, predict horrors untold out of hurt, and news commentators only job requirements seem to be attractive looks and inflammatory speaking patterns, I am reminded that when I ask myself, “What is the reason for this hope you have?” (NLV) the reasons for hope remain deep and wide in the vast goodness and power of God.

What is the trust, in which thou trustest?  (WYC) Wycliffe Bible reveals the same Hebrew root in trust and confidence. I can rely, trust, depend on, have confidence in the Lord no matter whose name plate will be in the Oval office. I can rest easy, feel secure, fall down in ease, and put my trust in the One who directs the king’s heart, guides my endeavours and attempts, and makes paths straight that were crooked.

The water painted these trees in the sand, and the lovely painting may disappear with the next wave, but the one who created the trees, the sand, the waves, He reigns on His throne. He’s trustworthy.

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In what confidence do you trust?

Marriage Moment Week (+)

Recently a friend gave a social media challenge to show seven different images of our relationship over a week. As I’m posting the last image, I realized I have a lot to say, so I’m moving my final post to here.

Day 7 marriage moment:   My youngest drew us and it got me to thinking about how much of our self understanding comes from what other people call out or notice in us. Clearly this child noticed our smiles, my preference for colour which I hadn’t noticed in myself until black/grey loving Vancouverites called it out. My friend’s calling out my marriage has given me pause to notice the things I REALLY like.

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When we first married, a high school friend and I went out. I was one of the first in our peer group to marry, so she asked if I liked being married. I paused, like a long, uh oh what will she say pause, and then I found these words to capture the layers of early marriage “I like being married to Craig O’Brien. Being married is hard, and I wouldn’t like being married to anyone else.”

Dallas Willard noted that humans were created not to assuage God’s loneliness but to share and enjoy in God’s relational delight and intimacy experienced in the trinity. Fundamentally, I believe all humans are created for being known intimately, and all humans have a gap of knowing and being fully known that won’t be satisfied until later. Marriage, while not the only way, remains one of the more common ways of having our relational intimacy needs addressed. And when marriage is good, my children, extended family, neighbours, friends, community can experience the ripples of satisfying intimacy and when marriage is bad, others get caught in the tidal waves or ripples of the troubles.

Until Craig and I married, I really did not know how selfish I could be. The relationship called out places in my character that needed to mature, to change, to be rooted out, to grow, but the pruning process wasn’t pleasant for either of us. As iron sharpen iron means rough spots are getting shaved off or at least reformed. Craig has said that he never knew the intensity of anger that he felt in our first year of marriage. Funny thing is – I was clueless to his anger, and usually I’ve got a strong, clear read on his state of being. I was just too self-absorbed. Because of the rooting out of selfishness, I was mildly prepared for the next onslaught against self-centredness:  PARENTING. But what if Craig hadn’t stayed with me or emotionally present through the initial selfishness confrontation? My poor kids would have had even more hurt while the non-stop demands of littles spotlighted my selfishness.

Craig calls out many things in me, and one of them that I am deeply grateful for is that he lets me vent emotional responses without judgement. Once when I asked him why (I was feeling particularly ashamed for my feelings), he commented, “Well, you always end up in a place of life and godliness, and you seem to get there quicker when you can express the whole range of your emotions.” Glad for his wise listening, his noticing my pattern, and most of all for him calling out what leads to fullness and movement towards whole, pure thinking, feeling, and living.

There’s more for my kids to notice because Craig O’Brien has called out a lot of things in my life – usually things of hope, joy, possibility and occasionally foul. I’m a blessed woman. I like the photo that’s the featured image of this post; we were headed to a wedding, and we cleaned up nicely. But my real life this moment is in yoga pants, hair falling out of being up with unfinished projects scattered about, and I’m learning to walk that real with more grace because of the man I do life with.

called out. noticed. being known. we all need intimacy. we were created to enter the relational delight of our Heavenly Father.

Race. Speaking Up.

“You’re darker, and you cannot play with us.”

I’m white; I’m really white, like I turn red in the sun rather than tan. Life experiences have left me aware of racism in many forms and given me a deep hunger for what is right  and just. The reading and study of Scripture have pushed me to intentionally pursue open, diverse relationships. And I was utterly unprepared for these words. So unprepared that when I heard them, I left an older child in charge of the house and went to the grocery to get eggs, but I really went to cry and to call a friend. How was I going to walk with my precious daughter who had been told this if my own emotions (fury, grief, shock, anger, sadness) raged unchecked.

And the friend I called was what I expected and more. While not as surprised as I was, she was appalled and grieved and gave me the courage to go home and parent in an appropriately engaged way with the one who received the horrific words.

My husband and I had caught wind of unkind treatment and racist undertones a few months before.  We had talked with the teacher, tried to act proactively in several ways, and yet these words overwhelmed me. Over the next several months the situation escalated; the school did little. And there lay the even bigger challenge. It’s one thing for a child to ringlead a group into cruelty, but for the adults to let it go and want the child receiving words and then physical violations to toughen up – inconceivable.

Ultimately, I sat in the principal’s office saying your empathy, while kind, changes nothing. The adults not knowing what to do leaves all of the power in a 6 year old’s hands and all of the weight of the situation born by my 6 year old. Racism is against the law; a 6 year old may not understand the magnitude, but the school’s no response is systemic racism. The room was charged.

I left not knowing what either one of us would do next.

My daughter’s situation escalated.

“Black girls don’t do ballet.”

Spitting.

Pushing.

And then grace began to fall.

  • A coworker mentioned the school board has a multicultural liaison to help with racial matters; then she found the phone number.
  • A counsellor suggested that peer relationships that affirm who she is can counter the pain of the peer rejection. A friend, a really busy friend, brought her daughter to hang out with mine.
  • A classmate’s mom asked if my daughter was ok. Her own daughter was having trouble going to bed because of what she was watching happen at school between my daughter and the other child. This child gave more details and that mother went to the principal; she spoke up.
  • Friends prayed.
  • Friends of African or Caribbean heritage shared what their parents taught them or what they were telling their own children.
  • Some friends let themselves be videotaped to speak up and share with teachers what they as an adult wished their teachers had known about race.

Over twenty people acted with purpose and kindness to help our family address the ongoing racism from a child. Looking back, the response of some twenty people to address or counter the impact changed my child’s reality, and hopefully the reality for the other kindergarteners changed. Plain and simply, with all of our best effort, my husband and I could not have addressed the situation effectively on our own. It took other people purposefully entering the awkward, painful space of racism and say, “that’s enough” or “how can I help?”

Traveling recently I watched a little girl freeze at the edge of the moving sidewalk as her father who was a step ahead started moving. He called, coaxed, and she wasn’t budging, so the dad started running against the conveyor belt’s natural direction to get his toddler daughter.  Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria? offers conveyor walkways as a model of North American cultures’ moving in racist directions. Even people who choose not to personally engage in words or deeds that give advantage to people who are white, continue to go along with the broader culture’s giving advantage to white people. Unless a person runs against the culture’s conveyor walkway of giving advantage in the organizations, leadership, decision, images, opportunities, sounds, smells, etc. to white people, they just go with the flow and racism continues.

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When someone actively, purposefully runs opposite to the culture, society can change. Just like the father I watched started running to out pace the conveyor belt because of his love and concern for his daughter, people can choose to change our society with specific, thoughtful, informed words and deeds. My daughter was harmed when adults wanted to minimize the pain of racism, and the situation was greatly improved when more than twenty people gave voice, when they spoke up. She was seen, valued, and re-offered the space to thrive.

Speak up.

Pursue justice.

Listen to one another.

Choose to not diminish another’s pain.

Love mercy.

Reflect on who is advantaged in society and how to extend opportunities to others.

Long for equal weights and consider how to equalize. 

Let’s be the twenty people for another. Believing each person is uniquely created in the image of God, I ask myself as a parent, as an educator, as a neighbour, how can I help create an environment for others to thrive, to be who they are created to be?

“As a society, we pay a price for our silence.  Unchallenged personal, cultural, and institutional racism results in the loss of human potential, lowered productivity, and a rising tide of fear and violence in our society.”  Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum

Esther used her position and power to defend all Jews; she could have kept quiet and been safe.

Jonathan used his position to speak up for justice for David; he could have just sat back and become king.

Jesus used his life, words, and body to speak up for those who were on the edges of society (beggars, blind, tax collectors) and for us when we were outside His kingdom.

 

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

   for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;

   defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

I am so thankful for the people who spoke up in the time of need for my daughter; Lord, give me courage to see and to use my abilities, opportunities, and experiences to speak up for others.

 

What I mean when I say, “I’m praying for you . . .”

So recently I have seen articles and images disparaging or mocking the absurdity of telling someone in crisis “I’m praying for you,” and the concern raised makes sense. The frequency of the memes resulted in my pondering precisely what do I mean when I say, “I’m praying for you” and do I need to stop saying this. (I have no intention of ceasing to pray for people in crisis – just trying to figure out what to do with the communication about it.)

The other night at dinner I brought the topic up. Around the table were people born in five different countries representing three of the major world religions as well as people who remain dubious of God’s existence. Seemed a diverse enough group to get a variety of opinions, so I was actually surprised when the consensus boiled down to “it depends on who says it.” Basically, the table talk decided that people are not bothered, may even appreciate someone who says this, if we are pretty sure they mean it. I can tell they are for me and with me, but when the words are used to placate, then it’s irritating. Words and deeds need to match up.

What to do when friends walk in grief and pain?

Usually I do not know what to do for a bandaid-isn’t-going-to-fix-this, life is hard seasons – mine own or others. Sometimes there are practical things – a meal, childcare, errands, accompany to an appointment, listen, but while these gestural acts say I am with you and I am for you, the grief, the problem still remains front and centre untouched. The actual complexity of the situation and of human emotions boggle the mind and faint the heart for how to enter in any meaningful way. Simply put, when a friend, coworker, or acquaintance encounters life’s challenges and pain, I’m grieved with them. Even when the unfolding mess comes of the person’s own creating, the pain is still real and maybe the bad choices were in the context of brokenness and more pain I don’t know or see. Things can get really awful; being human is hard.

photo (28)

Years ago, during one of the worst seasons of my life, a close friend, one of two who knew the painful event and unfolding results from the event, gave me the book The Pain No One Sees. As I read it, I actually hid the book, so no one saw the title and would know I was pained. The season taught me that all may not be as it seems even with people who are naturally quite open. So I try to extend grace to others, assuming I don’t know or see everything.

In addition to band-aid helps, I pray. Sometimes I say, “I’m praying for you.”

So back to the what I mean when I say, “I’m praying for you.”

When I tell someone I am praying for them, I am offering the best I have –

  • the best source of comfort,
  • the most powerful source of wisdom,
  • the most all seeing, perspective giving  presence of the Creator of Heaven of and Earth.
  • the only, best, and lasting source of hope
  • the largest reservoir of strength
  • the smartest problem solver
  • the always present, never sleeping Comforter and Counsellor

My own experience suggests that when I may most need the Heavenly Father’s presence and guidance is when I’ve been least able to formulate words before Him. Times have come when all I could do was enter the throne room of heaven and forget praise and awe, forget begging and pleading. All I could do was eagerly put my head in the lap of the Heavenly Father trusting He would extend grace and mercy in my time of need. Friends had to pray the specific words.

So when I say, “I’m praying for you.” I hope you are entering the Father’s presence, and that you know the words, the hopes, the details are being carried by your friends who know both of you. Kind of like when a crying child goes to a parent or teacher, and all of the other kids explain what has happened.

When I say I’m praying for you, I’m acknowledging that even though you may have created this situation, got your just comings, or someone else’s brokenness just vomited all over your life, there is also a spiritual battle for your health and wellness. In the midst of walking with you, I’m praying for you means I know that ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood. Not only will I give you contact for a counsellor to help you face the emotional processes of this problem, but on your behalf, I will go to the One who created emotional and spiritual processes and expect the Holy Spirit to show up and to act quietly and powerfully.

When I say I am praying for you, I’m going to the One who can reopen and reidentify the vastness of life and options still open before you. Just as the ocean teems with life and storms and varying topography, when connected to the Lord, the limits before us can open again by the vastness of His character, His understanding, His creation. The ocean near my home looks simple on the surface, but it stretches all around the world, flows deeper than I will ever go, and contains huge mystery; a great analogy for me of God’s great power. So when I say I’m praying for you, I’m going to the One who can always be present with you and will consistently, never miss in guiding you into life.photo (29)

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and

the Lord will raise him up.

And if he has committed sins,

he will be forgiven. 16 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and

pray for one another, that you may be healed.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[a] 17 

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and

he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and

for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

James 5:15-17

When I say, “I’m praying for you,” I’m giving you the best I’ve got. But the lovely thing is I can give this gift without telling you, so let me know if you don’t want to hear about it.