Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

Building Up Women’s Status

October 25, 2018

Certainly the history of the Christian church’s attitude toward women is not so progressive. Even today in the United States there are denominations that teach women are inferior to men. What shocks me is when I meet a strong, yes even domineering, woman who belongs to such a church and seems to agree with it.

They justify this attitude by lifting certain “rules” from the apostle Paul and ignoring the bulk of the New Testament.

I’m reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey. He helps explain things I’ve read and could not articulate well. Such as the dichotomy between what Jesus taught and did and some of those “rules” from Paul.

Jesus was a gender revolutionary. For example:

The accused adulteress whom the Pharisees wanted to stone to death. Jesus turned the mob scene into an individual responsibility event and then told the woman he didn’t accuser her and to go and sin no more.

There was Mary “sitting at the feet” of Jesus meaning that she had become a disciple. But women could not be disciples of a rabbi–as Martha tried to point out. Mary’s place was in the kitchen away from the men. Jesus told Martha she was wrong.

There was the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, uncovered and unbound her hair to dry them, and then anointed them with perfume–all to make up for the inhospitable behaviour of Simon who invited Jesus for dinner and then snubbed him. Jesus pointed out that Simon had the wrong attitude toward her.

There was the scandalous behaviour of Jesus permitting women to travel with the group and even fund their travel.

We can read these and miss the significance of the acts at that time in that culture.

Thanks to Phil for recommending the book.

Can People Change To Improve

June 28, 2018

Do you believe people can change?

It’s a simple question with tons of meaning.

Surely if you are a Christian, you should answer, “Yes!”

But how many Christians would answer no? Or, answer no to certain groups or types of people?

Tim Ferriss is a famous author of such books (I recommend) as 4 Hour Workweek, Tools of the Titans, and Tribe of Mentors.

Tim also has a podcast. You can find it on Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Stitcher, or my favorite Overcast. In the latest episode, he interviews three men in a maximum security prison. Two are in for gang-related murder and one for armed robbery. Their stories of life in prison, what got them there, and how they have changed for the better are moving and encouraging. I urge you to listen even though it is more than an hour.

I believe that people can, and do, change.

God loves each and every one of us humans no matter where we were born or what we look like or what our disability is. Usually we just need the right mentor at the right time.

Extending Love In Everyday Situations

March 13, 2018

“And then I felt his hand going up my dress. When I brushed it away and said ‘No’, he wrote a big ‘0’ in the place for a tip.” –A server interviewed by The New York Times

The life of a server in a restaurant or bar involves dealing with all manner of people from nice to aloof to rude to threatening. Restaurant owners in the US have discovered that they don’t have to pay them, either. Maybe they give $2.00 per hour. It is expected that customers pay the servers through their tips.

Remember when the recommended amount was 15% for good service? Then 20%? Now restaurant owners are suggesting 25%.

Traveling to other countries is a challenge. In some no tipping is customary. I was just in The Netherlands. I looked up online what was customary and how it is usually given.

The State of New York is considering legislation mandating a minimum wage for servers to help the situation. So, The New York Times sent a reporter to interview servers. Hence the quote at the beginning.

The challenge for women is how to be friendly, maybe a little flirty, in order to get people to tip without encouraging bad behaviour. It’s a fine line in many instances. You never know that men with a couple of “adult beverages” will do.

Therefore the commandments given to help us live a good life. Treat others with respect as we expect to be treated.

Women can be boorish, demanding, and cheap, I suppose. But some men go way too far into threatening behaviour.

Going out for a good time and a good meal doesn’t give us a license to forget our instructions on how to live. A smile, a kind word, and, yes, an appropriate tip, can make someone’s day.

What Breaks Your Heart — Church As A Club

January 19, 2018

Sometimes news comes to me in bunches of related packets. Most likely described by the mathematics of the Fast Fourier Transform. (Sorry, just had to do that.)

This week’s bundle of news seemed to relate to organizations called churches who proclaim to be following Jesus who draw dividing lines among human beings. It’s like a club. Yes, you qualify as a member. No, out with you. Your kind doesn’t belong here.

What pride we have as humans that we think we can know the mind of God and make those sort of proclamations!

I’m reading in the Proverbs today, “The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”

Andy Stanley suggested that in lieu of self-improvement new year’s resolutions instead we ask what breaks our heart. I wrote about that last week. Have you contemplated your own response.

One thing that breaks my heart to hear these stories of churches that are so divisive. They don’t ask “how can we help you” instead asking “do you agree with us”.

Bill Hybels led a group that grew into the Willow Creek Community Church to replicate the Acts 2 church. Then he discovered that even that was not intentionally inclusive.

Read about that early church. Study the list of leaders that Paul often includes in his letters–women, men, rich, poor, free, slaves. Everyone who was a spiritual seeker was welcome. And leaders grew up due to character and talent. Paul’s writings (especially if you just pull out one verse from amongst everything he wrote) are often used for justification of divisiveness. But if you study Paul, you discover that he did not intend that at all.

I don’t think I can fix that. But if I had a magic wand…

So That You May Lead Lives

September 13, 2017

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,”
Paul writes these thoughts to the Colossians. 

In our rush to parse through the Bible in a rush to pull out rules that make us different (better) than others or in a rush to apply to politics, we miss the “so that.”

Why do we study, pray, meditate, grow in knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding?

So that, we may lead lives worthy of the Lord. What kind of life? Pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work, strong in character able to withstand those who are against us.

Thinking of descriptions such as compassion, joy, kindness, humility, patience.

What we know is only a foundation or a guide to living a better life. Paul, Jesus, James, Peter, the whole lot of them stretching back to Moses and all the prophets explain what that better way of living is. 

Yet, so many Christians miss that point. It is so sad. They miss the joy in the midst of their anger or pride.

For years I have made it my prayer that from the time I get up in the morning or when I leave the room after a study group that God will guide me to living a life pleasing in his sight.

The Strength To Engage Wits In A Conversation

June 6, 2017

Don’t get into a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Do you ever notice how much more powerful and moving a stage play, or even a movie, can be than reading a book? Nuances of the language and conversation can be conveyed in 3D, so to speak.

Sometimes I think we read stories in the Bible and use a “Church” voice. Rather we should often read aloud–with feeling, and maybe six-part harmony.

Take, for example, Jesus’ two conversations with women. People seemed more shocked that he was talking with a woman in public than their race. But one was Canaanite and the other Samaritan.

When we read them, they can sound too dry. Intellectual. I imagine the conversations in full color and noise. I think in both cases, Jesus was engaged in a subtle battle of wits. And in each case, the woman stood up for herself. And in each case there was change. 

The Canaanite women had been a pest. Jesus decided to stop, acknowledge her, and deal with the situation. She stood strong. Her child was healed. 

The Samaritan woman was an outcast due to many bad decisions in her life. I grew up in a small town. I can imagine her shame. She’s alone. That fact alone tells us volumes. This is the social media gathering spot for the women of the town. Catch up on gossip and who has done what to whom. She’s alone. Jesus asks a question. That was shocking. She hardly expected a Jewish man, a teacher even, to speak to her. But she held up during the conversation. Changed her life and the lives of her entire town.

A couple of questions.

How often to you engage someone unexpectedly in a conversation that can move deeper?

Where do you find the strength to respond to such a conversation?

Living In An Always On Video World

May 12, 2017

You lose your emotional balance. Start yelling and screaming at someone. You do it long enough for at least one person, perhaps more, to point their smart phone and click video / record. One Facebook post later, and 2 million people see what a jerk you are.

You step outside, and someone could be taking your picture. If you have caused anger in your significant other, even in your house you could be the subject of a new “film at 11” on the Web.

You would think that all this surveillance would make us behave better.

I wonder if Biblical writers such as John, who often wrote about light and dark and things we do in each, or James, or Paul even in their nightmares could envision the public exposure extending their thoughts about doing good.

The problem is that we see one video over and over and our brain starts to think this is a common occurrence. It isn’t. I just completed two trips–two continents, 10 different flight segments, five airports. Not one thing worth videoing. Darn, I’m not going to be famous (he said facetiously).

Someone asked me last night, wouldn’t it have been better for the person shooting the video to step up and try to be part of the solution? Sometimes we can’t. But I bet most of the time we can.

What if someone videoed us doing an act of kindness? Of being a calming influence when tempers start to kindle? Of preventing a friend or neighbor from becoming the next Internet Star?

Overcoming Our Own Ignorance

March 10, 2017

“Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance.” John Climacus

The Ladder of Divine Ascent has been on my “to read again” bookshelf for a long time. John is so perceptive. It’s an education in psychology as well as spiritual development to read his work.

It is easy to see ignorance everywhere–everywhere but in ourselves, of course. Does your heart ever ache at those times when someone seems ignorant on purpose? Proud of it? The answer is right there in front of them, and they stubbornly cling to an idea completely different?

I actually took a couple of years to study brain science to figure that out. But, I digress.

Have you ever stared at a passage of Scripture and then exclaim, “Oh, that’s what he’s saying???”

Happens to me often.

I try to be open to new ideas. New interpretations. Open to God breaking through and going “Open your eyes, dummy, and learn this.”

Two things help. One is to read a lot. I watch about 3-4 hours of TV a week (well, plus another 4-5 hours of soccer, but that’s s different story). Otherwise I read.

The other is meeting people. Not just seeing people. Meeting them. Christian fundamentalists. Ordinary Christians. Atheists. Pagans. Muslims. Hindus. Buddhists. And having conversations. And listening. And seeing people as people–God’s children.

Know what? People are different from what you see in the news. Some people like to see their names in the news. Most people try to live a moral life as best they can. Most Christians I meet no matter what flavor of theology are just trying to live a spiritual life an hour at a time. Quietly. No headlines. No anger. No hate. Just people.

We have to watch our minds. Root out our ignorance through continual learning. Listen to someone today.

Are You Prejudiced?

March 3, 2017

Remember how Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Recently I saw one of my many friends from India. “Are you prejudiced?” he asked me. Three times.

I don’t feel any, I thought. But I was raised in the rural Midwest. I know I was raised with prejudices. Some were taught outright–never marry a Lutheran, my mom often said. They are almost as bad as Catholics. (Whatever that meant.)

My first date, when I was a senior in high school by the way, was a Lutheran. Go figure. But I married a Baptist–who was born in Kentucky. Oops. A family of outsiders had moved into town when I was little. All the old women whispered about “hillbillies.”

Except my wife was raised in Michigan. Oops. Everyone around is an Ohio State University fanatic. Hate Michigan.

Prejudiced? I don’t know. Nothing came to mind quickly. It’s hard to get past your roots. I’ll admit it takes me maybe a minute or so to get past piercings and tattoos to see the person underneath the rebellion.

There are behaviors I don’t like. Strong opinions not backed up by facts. Hate. Injustice. Am I prejudiced against the people? I don’t know. Maybe.

The first time I talked with a person of another race was when I was a freshman in college. Never had a problem with that. Gay people? Doesn’t bother me. People are people.

Even when I look at my Teacher. Jesus had no trouble with the Samaritan woman. But he did have quite the discussion with the SyroPhoenician woman about prejudice of Jews toward other tribes. “Even the dogs get table scraps,” she told him.

So I am still watching. Where are my prejudices? I must have some. You must have some. The way to get past them is to first recognize them. And then realize that all humans are created by a God who loves them.

Travel Is Fatal To Prejudice, Bigotry

February 23, 2017

Found this article on “Big Think.” This confirms observations that I have made over the years. It’s often said that there’s safety in numbers, and unfortunately, the bromide applies equally to people with hateful attitudes when they operate in groups. Racism, for example, is easy to maintain when surrounded by other haters, but a different matter altogether when a racist is alone with his or her intended victim. At that moment, it’s much harder to ignore the fact that the object of hatred is just another vulnerable human being with the right to be treated respectfully and decently. 

Author Daryl Davis knows this, and as a black man has been disarming members of the Ku Klux Klan, one by one, since the 1980s by asking each one he meets, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” he tells the Daily Mail. He says he’s gotten over 200 KKK members to quit.

Davis is about to release an updated version of his memoir, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan, which describes his experiences. 

Davis cites Mark Twain in explaining how all the traveling his family did when he was young gave him a different view of racism, and an unusual patience with the ignorance underlying it: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I hear so many blanket statements about groups of people. In today’s immigration argument, it’s a frequent topic. But, I think, they just don’t know any. It’s all theory. And theory is a killer. This man is a genius. I have none of his courage (or the social skills to pull it off).

Recently a message came my way–visit new places, meet new people, read new things. Good idea. Deal with people in the particular, not in the general. 

Now, to go forth and practice my own preaching…