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Archive for April, 2013

I believe that everyone in the world wants to be loved–in fact craves to be loved (and loved in healthy ways, of course). Love is how God wired us.

By the same token, we all yearn–even crave–to be heard, to be listened to, to be validated and understood. Who doesn’t want this? (And we shouldn’t be surprised if someone who feels unloved, unheard, neglected or misunderstood acts out, possibly in threatening or even violent ways.)

Today, try talking considerably less, but listen a lot more to the person or persons in front of you–they want to be heard, to be understood, as much as you crave to be heard and understood.

Read on for more thoughts on listening vs. jawing.

A cool moon photo for you by the fine and very fine photographer in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Katie Johnson, at
katiescamerablog.wordpress.com

I think there’s a reason that in creating us, God equipped us with one mouth and twice as many ears.

God created us humanoids to live in a blood family but also to be like family in community together with all people. Being part of a family or community requires that we do some talking. But, ideally, at least, it requires an enormous amount of genuine, active, conscious listening to one another.

Thus, we have two ears and only one mouth.

I submit that it was part of God’s plan that we have two ears with which to listen to each other in order to get along in love and peace and harmony. But we tend to use our ears so little that a sort of wax builds up in them, making it even harder for us to really hear what we’re trying to say to one another.

* * * *

Then, in our sinfulness and brokenness, we tend to have motor mouths.

Which is to say that we talk and talk a lot to each other, but also tend to talk at each other, often talking past each other, always mulling in our busy little heads what we’re going to say to someone in response to what they are saying rather than actually listening to what they are saying. If we’re unwilling to listen reflectively at all, we’ll speak in a reactionary way. And reactionary speech inflames passions.

We don’t listen with both ears God gave us, which is why children and teens feel unheard (and often why they are so rebellious as to be out of control).

It’s why divorce hangs at such a high percentage rate decade after decade.

It’s why government leaders get stuck in gridlock and end up refusing to agree on the time of day.

It’s why so many people, even Christians for God’s sake, diminish and invalidate one another with harsh, divisive words that run out of their mouths because of differences over what color the carpet should be in the new sanctuary.

As if God gives a squatting hoot.

(The color of carpet can be a hugely divisive issue in a church–ask any pastor you happen to see.)

* * * *

I’ve been reading and reflecting on the great Book of Acts lately–which, in addition to being a terrific (and sometimes funny) adventure story, is Dr. Luke’s detailed and well-written account of how the people of the Way (as they were known long before anybody called them Christians) created the body of Christ (i.e., the church).

I’ve noticed in my reading of Acts this time that the Apostolic Christians were quite good at actually listening to one another (as well as good at praying and fasting and listening to God before making any big decisions).

In Acts 11: 1-18, we find Peter going back to Jerusalem after making a bunch of excited new Christians, who were the dreaded Gentiles, in the home of the Gentile Cornelius. Upon his arrival in the Holy City, Peter was greeted with criticism from “the circumcised believers.”

His critics could have come down on him like a ton of bricks with some strong language, engaging him in fiery, argumentative debate. But like the good, early Christian believers that they were, they criticized–and then actually listened to what Peter had to say for himself.

After listening to him with so much interest and attention, they initially were silenced–and then got right on board with him.

Like I say, there’s a reason God gave us one mouth and twice the ears to listen with, if only we dare look another in the eye and listen to what another has to say rather than reacting.

Even your pet dog, after all, gives you the courtesy of just looking at you and listening when you need a nonjudgmental and interested listener.

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Downtown San Ignacio, Belize on a Saturday afternoon. Most of the central/downtown streets in San Ig are not this low-key and especially not on Saturday which is market day. Your chances of getting struck by a cab, bus or farmer's truck when you walk across the street on San Ig's main streets are real good until you learn how to dart, dodge and pray your way across the street.

Downtown San Ignacio, Belize on a Saturday afternoon. Most of the central/downtown streets in San Ig are not this low-key and especially not on Saturday which is market day. Your chances of getting struck by a cab, bus or farmer’s truck when you walk across the street on San Ig’s main streets are real good until you learn how to dart, dodge and pray your way across the street.


So people say to me, “Paul, how come you ain’t not been blowgin’ down thar lately?”

That would be cause I been writin’ real hard and trampin’ around in the very dry Bush country–it’s the height of the dry season here and that means peak summertime weather in Belize. Been in the bush looking for a place to buy here in Paradise and settle down when I decide to grow up.

Or maybe I’ll just settle down and still not grow up and if you’re a gambler put you’re money on your favorite Texas wild cowboy not grown’ up.

A little more taste of Belize for you, dear reader. . . .

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Evangelical writer and passionate pro-lifer Donald Miller gets it right, as usual, in a critique of the pro-life movement's excesses, failings and flaws. But ends, as usual, offering a quite positive critique at that.

Evangelical writer and passionate pro-lifer Donald Miller gets it right, as usual, in a critique of the pro-life movement’s excesses, failings and flaws. But ends, as usual, offering a quite positive critique at that.

I’m a big fan of the evangelical Donald Miller’s writing, even though I criticized him in a paid book review I wrote once (about his Blue Like Jazz, a terrific book I enjoyed immensely) for being very uneven.

Miller just isn’t that consistently good in everything he writes. He’s not as consistently good as so many far better women spiritual writers out there these days such as Anne Lamott (widely considered the best and most ground-breaking of Christian women writers and for good reason) or Barbara Brown Taylor, or Miller’s fellow evangelicals like Rachel Held Evans, who’s a little like Anne Lamott without the shock-jock vocabulary that made Anne Lamott famous and infamous.

What were we thinking giving women the right to vote? Now they write bestselling Christian books and insist on being heard. As Anne Lamott would say . . . .

Well never mind what she would say–there’s only so much of what salty Anne Lamott would say that one can quote in a PG rated christian blawg like Jitterbugging.

* * * *

Anyway, I noted in the review of Miller’s book that I was quibbling a bit in criticizing him given just how good Donald Miller is and can be. When he’s good he’s really, really good.

All of this is a lead-in to his terrific posting on his “Storyline” blog that I read via his Facebook link today; regarding pro-life, he knocks it out of the park with his usual honesty.

The best writers–men, women or horses who have a lot of life experience as well as horse sense, intelligence and some wits about them–always share that common trait: Honesty.

Miller is very much pro-life, but is honest-to-God in his critique of the pro-life movement’s excesses and failings in the blog posting to which I referred.

But he doesn’t just criticize the pro-life movement and leave it at that; he gives a list of six things he’d like to see Christians and churches do in the pro-life movement as an alternative to just being against abortion. He’s always a positive writer at bottom.

Here’s number 5 on his list:

5. “Begin supporting a culture of life. If abortion were to be made illegal (which it likely never will be) pro-life supporters must be prepared to care for an enormous number of unwanted children. If your church isn’t regularly talking about adoption, it’s not a wholistic pro-life church. Not only this, but abortion rates decrease when the marginalized and poor are given access to healthcare. Many women simply can’t afford to bring a child into the world. If we want to change the tone of the pro-life movement, we must start speaking compassionately and often of the plight of women who find themselves in very difficult situations.”

I’ve always noticed that some of the most intensely pro-life people–those who think abortion doctors and anyone who is pro-choice are simply murderers–do nothing whatsoever to support what Donald has described as “a culture of life.” (Some, and sometimes I wonder if it isn’t most.)

If they were half as passionate about adopting, or mentoring pregnant mothers in trouble, or supporting pregnant women who don’t have two dimes to rub together even if they work two or three jobs supporting other kids, or if the Christians were as passionate in supporting rape or incest victims, or supporting those weighed down with the exhausting, 24-7 care required of a parent or single mom with a child with a disability like cystic fibrosis if a mom chose that potentially exhausting life of nonstop caregiving over abortion.

Well . . . even legal abortion would plummet and plummet big-time if Christians walked the walk rather than just be dead-set against abortion.

Being against abortion–being against anything–is easy. Being a compassionate Christian who walks the walk as well as talking the talk is not always easy.

Donald Miller underscores that point quite well, so click here to read what this passionate pro-lifer has to say with his usual, refreshing honesty .

And read Blue Like Jazz if you haven’t already. It’s hilarious and deeply honest-to-God good.

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In which Ringo notes that he feels fine. . . .

And Beatles hero Carl Perkins does the original version:

Warning: This is a pretty dirty song actually.

Remember, this dude was a known rebel whose records were burned by righteous Southern preachers.

And 10,000 Southern preachers can’t be wrong. . . .

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“Christians are professional revolutionaries. ‘Revolutionaries’ because the values, principles & priorities of the Kingdom of God are relentlessly, fundamentally at odds with whatever earthly culture we find ourselves in.”

— Dr. Bradley E. “Brad” Owens, Baylor University Journalism Professor and “professional revolutionary.”

Journalism teacher at Baylor University and old friend Dr. Brad Owens

Journalism teacher at Baylor University and old friend Dr. Brad Owens

Brad Owens, an old friend and former cohort in the glory days of newspaper journalism in Texas a hundred years ago, is now a senior lecturer in the Journalism Department at Baylor University in Waco–not far from ground zero in West, Texas.

Click here for more info on him at the Baylor Journalism Department web page.

I wanted to share something that Brad wrote for the Emmaus Rockdale Project, a Christian non-profit that he’s involved with in his hometown Rockdale in Central Texas. (A town where I did a lot of tramping around in my own boyhood in summer visits with an aunt and uncles there.)

(*More on the Emmaus Rockdale Ministry down below.)

Here’s what Brad posted on the Emmaus Rockdale Facebook page last night.

Well done, old friend. . . .

Depending on exactly where you are, this week has been somewhere between really awful & borderline apocalyptic. It’s a good time to remember who we are & gird ourselves up for battle. Christians are professional revolutionaries.

“Revolutionaries” because the values, principles & priorities of the Kingdom of God are relentlessly, fundamentally at odds with whatever earthly culture we find ourselves in.

We are fighting cosmic warfare with potato salad & birthday cards. Our only weapon is love; we don’t rely on violence, force or guilt. Our goal is not 10-degree reform, but 180-degree metanoia.

“Professionals” because this is not a hobby, not a club, not a pastime, not a sideline – it’s who we are. We’re not walking with the lost & suffering because it’s fun, & we’re not going to stop just because we get our feelings hurt. We love work, we love sweat, we love lepers, we love Jesus. Sometimes we find we can only do things the hard way – but we keep coming.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36

——–
*About the Emmaus Project
The Emmaus Project is a Milam County-based ministry co-operative. We have served more than 10,000 meals since December 2009. We do Bible studies, build wheelchair ramps, etc., & support prison ministries in Bartlett and Madison County.

Mission
“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” – Isaiah 58:10

Company Overview
“Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” – Matthew 25:34-36

Description
Our job is to bring people together in a spirit of joy to show God’s love through community service. emmaus.rockdale@gmail.com. Details on our work are in the photo albums.
General Information
We cook and deliver a meal for about 130 Rockdale residents every other Saturday of the month (first, third and fifth). We build the plates starting at 9:30 a.m., and try to have all the food delivered by 11 or 11:30. Just watch our FB site to see what we are doing on a given week.
We are also doing some home-repair projects, and we are working on some activities for kids on our routes.
If you know someone who should be receiving a meal, or if you have an idea for a service project in the area, you can email us confidentially at emmaus.rockdale@gmail.com.

Basic Info
Founded December 2009
Awards: We get smiles, and we are rewarded in abundance.
Parking : Parking Lot
Products: Hot meals, wheel-chair ramps, basic yard and house labor; church and nonprofit presentations; newsletters

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Here’s the bottom line:

The darkness never quite overtakes the light.

That’s not so much Pollyanna optimism.

That’s the triumph of thousands of years of faith over thousands of years of always ugly, violent, excruciating, seemingly hopeless times and eras.

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“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord’” (Lamentations 3:17-18).
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“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24).

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Today like every other day

We wake up empty and scared

Don’t open the door of your study

And begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument

let the beauty we love be what we do

There are a thousand ways to kneel

And kiss the earth.

~ Rumi

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Sometimes all we can do is pray, but praying gives us real power.

So let us sing a psalm in our hearts and pray . . . .

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

— Psalm 112: 6-10

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A prayer for Boston,

Lord we ask that you be with the loved ones of those killed in Boston yesterday, that you be with all the victims and families of those suffering in the wake of the bombings.

We know that your mercies are steadfast, new and tender every day,

So we ask that you touch the hearts, the minds, the bodies and spirits of those struggling for their lives–and the suffering hearts of their loved ones–with the full measure of your love, grace, tender mercies and healing powers.

We know that you are with us in good times and walking with us through our darkest valleys, always there to pick us up when we feel we can’t go on.

Be with the families of those who were killed and those who are struggling.

Wrap your arms of endless love and endless grace around them, and around those of us who are feeling for them and hurting in our own hearts with them.

Be with all of those in this entire broken world who will suffer enormous pain today from violence and conflicts and events beyond their control, as you are with us all in our national mourning in America.

Keep us mindful that only love can prevail over evil, mindful that in the end, the longings of the wicked come to nothing in the light of love.

May this American tragedy be an opportunity for us to expand our hearts with more love, greater compassion, and more deepening peace.

We pray that your will for peace on earth and good will toward all, with loving justice, be done.

Amen

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