Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Compassion and Confession Go Together

August 23, 2016

We read in the letter of James to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we may be healed.

Confession–a spiritual discipline I may never have discussed. It consists of the admitting to trusted others and to God the thoughts we have dwelled upon or actions we have done or not done that brought us farther away from God and others.

If we confess, then we are healed. Before we confess, we must recognize. When we see ourselves in those things and realize it, then we can tell others in a trusted atmosphere and seek healing. Just ask a therapist. Or an experienced pastor.

What started this line of thinking, believe it or not, was the serious lack of compassion that I see in our society. I hear or read so many callous remarks describing other people. It is so easy to dismiss people who are not like us by grouping them together and then trying to sound either funny or wise by describing them in sometimes very nasty terms.

This, by the way, is not an American phenomenon. I’ve seen it pop up in many cultures. It’s a human problem.

I’m not a “welfare state” liberal who believes I can absolve myself of responsibility for compassion by passing it on to the government. Can you imagine the power in society if all the congregations that call themselves Christian lived out Jesus’ teachings about compassion and helping the poor? Wow!

Some can be found helping others while remaining with a superior attitude. “I’ll toss them a couple of dollars,” they think. This is arrogance and condescension. Not compassion.

Compassion is not “bleeding heart liberalism” like many conservatives used to label people (or maybe still do, I don’t know). Compassion is controlled emotion. It begins with recognizing our own shortcomings. Realizing with gratitude the grace that has come to us. Wanting from the heart to share that grace.

Confession and compassion–a lifestyle of grace turned outward.

A Wise Person Lays Up Knowledge

August 8, 2016

Reading through the Proverbs this morning while reflecting on a recent conversation I was involved in. “A wise person lays up knowledge.” Then I saw that saying a second time. Then there was this, “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold.”

The discussion began as a political discussion, but it broadened into how so many people form opinions with so little knowledge.

One way to gain wisdom is to broaden our experiences. It is easy to hate people when it’s theory. They are not people, they are just concepts in our minds. When we think of them, we think of only a generic stereotype that exists only in our minds.

Then you go out and actually meet people. It should open your eyes.

When you hire the group of Mexican men to put a new roof on your house (because they will work hard in the hot sun and get the job done in a day, when you can’t find anyone else to work) and you talk to them. And find out about their families. And how happy they are to work. And discover that they are real people, not just words on a paper.

Seeking knowledge makes us less susceptible to baseless sales pitches–whether from politicians or the used-car guy. Or the woman on the Internet who desperately wishes to give you $1.5 million.

In my entire life, I don’t think I ever had a goal of being rich. But wisdom and knowledge–that was always something I coveted. Knowledge comes from asking; wisdom from experiences. Never stop.

To See Myself As Others See Me

February 16, 2016

I was in a queue. Complaining with others about something. Then my consciousness shifted. It was as if I were floating above the situation. I witnessed myself. It was painful. I shut up. Calmed down. Became more pleasant.

Roberto Assagioli developed a school of psychology–back when psychologists were discovering interesting things about mind and soul and not mindlessly arguing over what causes ADHD–called psychosynthesis. I read his books some 40 years ago. If you can find them, check them out.

He describes this process that I described from a life experience. It is a technique we can develop as a step toward self-awareness.

Yesterday’s note concerned being aware of what triggers our anger or temper. This is a technique we can use in the moment to help guide us back to a Jesus-centered life instead of a me-centered life.

We can expand this use from helping us relate to others or even understanding others in greater detail.

Perhaps we’ve expanded our level of consciousness so that we can see ourselves as actors in a larger context–that is, not just us and our wants but others, too. Perhaps we shift awareness to those close to us. We notice that certain things set off their alarms. We notice that other things make them feel better. Maybe we could even develop our interaction with the other person by becoming aware of them, aware of what they like, and then respond appropriately.

Some people are naturals at this. Others of us must develop the focus on others. Some can peek through their narcissistic shell just long enough to notice others, but they lack the will to respond.

I learned from Jesus and then from his brother James that feeling nice doesn’t count. It’s feeling and doing. Maybe even doing first to achieve the feeling (yes it works in reverse that way).

Or, as Robert Burns said so eloquently

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

He Broke The Walls

December 10, 2015

He knew there were people on the other side of town. But no one from his group ever went there. Rumor was they spoke a different language, didn’t wash, were vicious.

He told the stranger who came to town not to go there. They were violent. Had guns. He’d just get in trouble…or worse.

But the stranger went. He had a mission to see people.

Upon his return, he reported, “They are just like you. They even suspect the same things about you that you suspect about them.”

People are people the world over or the neighborhood over. Hopes, fears, needs, desires. Same feelings of being lost and needing connection with God.

Paul, the apostle, lived that situation. He was often that stranger who went to the outsider group. He found that they were open to learning how to live with God.

He wrote to his friends in Ephesus, “Jesus has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility that is between us.”

What better calling in life than to make it your mission to break down walls. It is easier, of course, to build walls. We feel safer. We can be important in our own little fenced in area.

I was there once. My friends were Catholic. Don’t go to that place, they told me. Those are Protestants. They get into fights and will hurt you. Funny, I was Protestant. I grew up thinking that way about Catholics. Now they were my friends and I was warned about my people.

But it was OK, I told them. They are people, too. And this was Ohio, not Northern Ireland.

Ah, but to break down the wall and invite others to the party. That is the calling.

Let’s Just Hate Them All (Not)

December 8, 2015

I am so saddened. A news alert just came across my iPhone. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for barring all Muslim people (I doubt that he calls them people) from entering the country.

OK. OK. I know that he is running for office and is on one of those populist platforms that plays to a segment of the American population. William Jennings Bryan (yes the guy who defended the creation-in-seven-24-hour-days lawsuit) ran for president four times as a Democrat on a free silver platform appealing to the lower middle classes of his day. He lost all by huge margins. We have a history of populist candidates.

I know better. I shut out most of that sort of news. Most politics are just not interesting to me anymore. I did spend a year in a Master’s level political science program back when it was hard to get into grad school. I got something like a 99-percentile on the Graduate Record Exam in Politics. I’m not ignorant–just not engaged.

From a spiritual discipline point of view, however, I am so sad that someone feels he can appeal to a large segment of a “Christian” nation by pandering to the lowest of fears and emotions. Judging by my Facebook news thread, many people who call themselves Christian are eating this up.

I have many friends who follow Islam. Also Buddhists and Hindus. Just as my Christian and sort-of-Christian friends, they are all good people. They were created in God’s image. God loves them. I am commanded by my master to love them. I need to show them as a Jesus-follower that we are not all Crusaders bent on wiping out all “non-Christian” peoples.

Yes, we need to deal with evil people. But to paint everyone as evil because of a few is a travesty.

Lord, guide me to following the spiritual disciplines of prayer and seeking wisdom. And so for my fellow citizens of my country. And every country.

Bringing Down The Walls That Separate

November 23, 2015

Business writers (like me) often write about new technologies that promise to “break down the silos” of the various departments within an organization–for example, manufacturing, finance, engineering, maintenance.

The same can be true in other organizations. A church may have organizations (committees) around finance, buildings, worship, children ministry, youth ministry, missions. A church without a strong leadership team will discover that each of these have become a silo working independently often at cross purposes wasting resources.

Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time had a wall beyond which non-Jewish people could not traverse. They were not allowed into the holiest of the areas. Paul the apostle had a problem when he was accused of bringing a “Greek” into the “Jewish” area.

Today we are still busy building walls. I read something about a bunch of governors wishing to erect a wall to keep refugees from the war in Syria out. Others desire a physical wall to keep Mexican people out.

We have church walls–even among varying persuasions of Christians. I remember playing guitar for a Mass in 1970. Father Ottenweller looked at me and said, “Someday, you will be able to take communion with us.” Well, 45 years later, still not true.

Several of my sources suddenly are all teaching on Ephesians. There is a chain of scholarly thought that this letter was not written by Paul. I guess these are the anti-Catholics (against priesthood that can be found implied in the letter). I’m not a scholar. This pretty much looks like a letter of Paul. And the second chapter has some interesting imagery. It talks of tearing down the walls that separate us. As Paul said elsewhere, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; male nor female; slave nor free; for we are all one in Jesus.”

Somewhere along the line, we as a people keep forgetting the simple facts of Christian life. We are meant to be wall removers, not wall erectors. Go find a wall to knock down today. And tomorrow.

Speaking About What We’ve Experienced

November 17, 2015

Coffee lovers have come to the opinion that their drink must be incredibly strong to be good. That is the power of advertising and peer pressure where you go to places that must over-roast their coffees to make up for the variation in the quality of the beans. In process control it’s called compensating for the variables of the input material.

When the quality of the raw material is more carefully controlled which can be the result of the way the coffee is purchased from the farmer, then the roaster is free to bring out the true flavors of the different varieties of the bean. The result is a coffee that is more pleasing to the palate.

We cannot help from speaking about what we have seen and heard. — Peter and John recorded in Acts 4

Christ-followers call it “witnessing.” Originally it meant “speaking about what we have seen and heard.” For us it is speaking from experience.

Sharing an experience is powerful. It is your story. But it is a story that can relate to other people. It is a story pleasing to the palate.

Followers of our faith for centuries have given us a bad name by coming on so strongly like that overpowering cup of coffee. They try to force feed their beliefs–often emphasizing peripheral beliefs ignoring the central belief that we have experienced new life as a Jesus-follower after coming to belief in his resurrection.

I’m thinking about Galatians 5 and Paul’s description of changed lives. And also of the especially powerful first five chapters of Acts.

Think of the growth of the early church and the lives that were changed because they:

  1. Shared what they had experienced
  2. Served others with no thought for themselves or their own well being

And we wonder why we’re not growing and thriving.

Living With Theological Tension

November 12, 2015

“What happens when two groups of people hold opposite views on a subject, yet each can point to Scripture to back them up?”

That question came up Tuesday morning in a small group study session I sometimes attend.

It’s a good question.

One guy in the group is very hard-core. He’ll flip to 1 Corinthians in a flash to show how we should judge people within our church and not be afraid to kick them out.

He has a point. Allowing people in the congregation–which should be like a family–to flagrantly mock the beliefs of the group is akin to a cancer that can grow rapidly. Treatment–remove the cancer.

However, others (like me) point also to Galatians 6. When you confront that situation, do not do so with a spirit of vengeance, almost glee. Do so with a spirit of love. Bearing others burdens.

Jesus had a name for the former. He called them Pharisees. John (the apostle) called them children of the darkness. But we can take that analogy too far. Sometimes they are mere rule followers.

But they do have a point. And so do the others.

Think of other issues. Right now a hot topic is treatment of or acceptance of homosexual people. One side takes a verse from Paul. The other takes a broader look at more Scriptures. How do you handle that?

There is no other way that is beneficial and in keeping with Jesus’ commands to love one another than to live in theological tension. It is not all bad that one side cannot “win” the argument. Sometimes we are asking the wrong question. Then we draw the wrong lines. Our human nature seeks resolution. It’s like ending a song on the Dominant Seventh. That note is tension. We crave to hear the Tonic note. Sometimes it doesn’t come. Sometimes we need to live in that tension long enough to

As I told another guy about the Creation controversy (which I again think we’re arguing the wrong question), “If your faith depends upon God creating the world in six 24-hour days, then far be it from me to try to tear it down. I don’t agree. But in the end, it doesn’t matter.” He and I agree on the resurrection of Jesus and coming into a right relationship with God by accepting His grace through faith. Other issues are merely straw horses meant to divide us. Instead we should just be witnesses to our receiving grace through Jesus. Just keep it simple–we both agreed.

I can live in tension. I sort of like it. Life lived in tension leads to a creative life. If we have resolved all the tensions, then we are in danger of becoming fat, dumb, and lazy as the old country saying puts it.

Big Mouth Little Ears

November 4, 2015

The dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth with some sort of high-pressure water hose. She told me, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, because you don’t.” 😉

You have to think of something while you’re at your annual visit to the dentist. Sitting in the chair that’s tilted far back. Your mouth open as wide as you can get it and stuck in that position for 30-40 minutes. It hurts my jaw.

The thought popped into my mind about what James says about the pain that a big mouth can cause in others. You open your mouth. Words come out. Sometimes without a filter between impulse and speech. Then you see the pain on the other person’s face. At least I hope you are not so self-absorbed that you don’t notice other people.

Once said, the hurt is there. Never to be entirely undone.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When someone else talks, listen completely. Most people don’t listen.”

That reminds us that most of the time it is better to keep our mouth closed and listen to the other person. Yogi Berra once said that you can hear a lot just by listening. Yep.

My problem in this regard is that I can be content to not say anything at a gathering. No, really. However, if you ask me a question, I’ll answer it. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll really answer it.

But, I’d rather be quiet. No regrets that way.

My lesson–when all is said and done, the less said the better.

Solve Disagreements Within The Church Family

November 2, 2015

“What happened to that couple?” she asked. “I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“She got mad at something someone said and quit coming,” I replied.

“Well, we should settle those things in the family instead of just quitting,” she replied.

Problem is that no one within the family reached out to them. I told a pastor who had a better point of view to address the situation than I. But neither one ever contacted the other.

Both Jesus and Paul addressed settling things within the family. They addressed a similar matter about taking a brother to court. But the point still was that we should settle matters.

Check out Matthew 18: 15-17 and the first verses of 1 Corinthians 6.

Let’s take a look at both sides and see if there is some discipline that we should apply

Jesus also told us a couple of time that if we have something against a brother or sister (meaning within the fellowship) that we should make things right before proceeding with worship. I think even modern psychologists and therapists would tell us that we bear some responsibility with initiating reconciliation.

Often people say things that they have no idea would be offensive to anyone else. If you don’t go tell them, they’ll never know. And everyone will wonder.

Sometimes you say something and think “Oops, I didn’t mean that.” Or sometimes you get upset and say things. Self-awareness brings the conviction of having hurt someone. It’s important to put pride aside and go make things right.

Letting things go never works. Don’t go off and pout. Confront with love. Respond with love. Work things out within the family.