Who Is Your Heart Listening To?

 

One of the greatest disrespects we level at others is to make assumptions about who they are without ever listening to them. Without ever considering their story. To have another base their opinion of me on what they think they know about me without ever having spoken to me is disingenuous and hurtful.

When I was younger, Mom once accused me of stealing cookies from her special container because I happened to be in the kitchen reading a book when she made the discovery. She became angry, making accusations without asking me anything. I was disciplined because of circumstantial evidence–the wrong place at the wrong time.

What hurt the most was she never listened to my explanations. I had no voice; I was just a scapegoat.

Unfortunately. there are those without a voice, who are silenced by others by the circumstances of their birth, their heritage. This doesn’t mean their voice has less value. We need to learn to listen, to appreciate what others who are different from us have to say.

It’s how we learn.

People are protesting now to be heard.

Some are listening.

Police knelt with protesters in Orlando to support those without a voice. Many in Minnesota, especially from churches, have turned out to help clean up the damage done by looters.

Pain happens, and if it isn’t addressed it can grow into a hatred that doesn’t care about respect or responsibility. It is a self-serving and uncontrolled emotion that impacts all who enter its domain.

Booker T. Washington, who was born into slavery and grew to be one of the most influential African Americans of his time knew what hatred was. He experienced it first hand. But his attitude about allowing hatred to motivate or control his actions was clear. He said, “”I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equality for people of all colors, said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”

Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa, spent 27 years in prison for leading a campaign to sabotage his government. Upon his release, he worked at reconciliation between his country’s racial groups. He stated, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Our souls long for love, the love inspired by the God who made us. God loves us and gives us the ability and capacity to love others–even those we may perceive as unlovable.

The greater good is found in taking the time to listen to others. Even if what they’re saying are things I struggle with wanting to hear. My focus needs to be on the needs of others who are hurting and afraid.

Riot isn’t the language of the unheard; love is.

We can all be taught to love.

Will we choose to love and listen?

 

 

 

 

He Was My Brother

When did it become acceptable for individuals to judge the value of another human being?

Over the past week, anger has escalated to the point of rage and destruction. What began in Minnesota and then spread throughout America has impacted cities around the world.

But let’s not lose sight of why. It began with a man, whose life was of value because he’d been given that life by a loving God who made George Floyd in His image, the God he chose to follow. A man who had a story worth telling. His ethnicity added depth and complexity I can’t begin to understand because I was born into the majority culture.

I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid to have one of my children leave home, knowing that just because their skin is a certain color, they may be singled out for harassment or unjust punishment. I’ve not been fearful of them running through neighborhoods for exercise wondering if their motives may be unfairly questioned.

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, I’ve not had those fears.

But I’m white.

What I do fear is that we’ve lost sight of the incredible value of our diversity, how each of us, very different in our own right, adds to the beautiful tapestry that is our nation. That judging the worth of others has become a national obsession instead of recognizing how much better we are in our wonderful kaleidoscope of color, experience, and gifting.

We need each other more than we realize.

Nationally we’ve lost sight of the need for respect and responsibility. In an era when managing a social image is more significant that being a person of true integrity, it’s easy to make statements and be critical of things we’ve little to no understanding of. We need new lenses to really see what’s happening around us, pause to learn from those who know what’s really going on, and not fall into the spin many want to put on this.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider how to help one another, how to care for those who are not only downtrodden in circumstances but in their hearts because they’re misunderstood or unaccepted?

That’s what God made us for. To live in community, in all its messiness and diversity, its ups and downs, its radical unfairness. He created us to be compassionate to others, to love others as we do ourselves, to see others as more important than ourselves.

To not judge others because we are just as messed up as the ones we like to point fingers at.

What’s happening in our country right now isn’t going to be fixed by politicians condemning what’s happened, by new laws put into effect, by curfews being upheld in problem areas. Those are bandages that don’t heal the wound.

We need heart transformation. Try as we might, we can’t do that alone. We all look at our world through personal lenses that have been adjusted by our stories, our experiences.

We need God to change individually the way we choose to look at those around us. We need Him to change our hearts.

Only God.

The alternative is more hate, more fear.

Not a place any would call home.

 

 

Could I Just Cozy Up For Now?

There’s something so calming and decompressing about the loving arms of a caring father.

As our family grew, I was the one that was on the front lines daily, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, supplying the needs for our six children.

But when Dad came home, all focus was on him, his presence, and all the kids would rush to him to tell him of their day, to grab a hug, to just be with him.

He’d lie on the ground when they were little, and they’d crawl all over him.

I’m seeing that duplicated now with our daughter’s family as they’re with us. With their six kids, our son-in-law is the Game Master for family fun. Evenings are spent over board games, with everyone participating. Jeremy orchestrates it with humor and kindness, which attracts kids like bees to honey.

Two-year-old Cal, who isn’t yet into board games, wants to be part of the action. He tags along after his dad, putting himself in the space his dad needs to be.

Not always convenient.

Jeremy has to exercise his leg because of ongoing pain. Prostrate on the floor, stretched out so he can roll his knee to reduce the pain, his position cries out for interactive engagement from his son, who just wants to be up close with his dad.

What was fun to watch was how Jeremy accommodated Cal, carefully adjusting his position to keep him close.

I grew up with a dad who was not only present but engaged with each of us. He was the fun one, the safe place, the keeper of all our secrets. He knew how to console us and make life seem normal when it felt all out of control.

I was fortunate to have had a father who was kind and loving. So many have father wounds that stem from distant or absent dads, dads who are uninterested or choose not to be invested in the lives of their kids, or who are nothing more than big bullies. And yet fathers are typically where young men learn how to treat women well and where young women learn what it means to be treated well by a man.

People who don’t have solid father figures often find it hard to know what kind and caring men are supposed to be like. As adults, they struggle with healthy role models.

The beauty is we all have access to a Father who is there for us whenever we need Him. One who knows us and won’t turn His back on us, no matter how messy or miserable we become.

God has made us for a relationship with Him. He’s the perfect Father, who is always available to listen to what we have to say, to be present with us when life is overwhelming and pain intrudes on all that’s good. He’s full of grace and mercy, forgiving us even for those things that seem unforgivable.

That’s true Fatherly love.

All we have to do is receive it. He is ready and willing to give it.

It’s a remarkable thing to cozy up to a perfect Father who sees me as His delight.

Never as an inconvenience.

 

How Would You Answer The Question?

photo courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”                                                              President Ronald Regan’s Memorial Day speech, 1982

Though it wasn’t made an official holiday until 1971, Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868, to honor the sacrifices of those who died in the Civil War. It was a celebration organized by former Union soldiers and sailors. It’s become an opportunity for us in our country to show gratitude for all who have fought to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. And now we have the chance to thank those on the front lines fighting a disease we can’t see until it has attacked.

Loss right now is a shared experience as a result of the pandemic and all the circumstances that have arisen from it. Remembering the good times, the blessings we all still have can help orient our perspective to what is good about our country and our circumstances, the hope we have even in the midst of the unknown, and the fear it causes.

One of God’s favorite words in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is “remember”. The Hebrew people had been promised a nation and land, and there have been times throughout history where they’ve lost sight of both. God encouraged them to remember what He had said and how He’d already fulfilled promises to them He’d made. He has promised He will finish the good work He’s begun in His own.

Living in a broken world where people so easily hurt themselves and others, it’s easy to forget goodness and hope. It’s easy to overlook the blessings when what pushes at us the most are the disappointments.

Our troubles aren’t over. They’re part of this life and learning to embrace them as they come and deal with them–more easily with the help of God–is what life is about.

Our anthem does end with that question and challenge. Who are we really, as a country full of diversity and uniqueness that makes us better together than alone? Are we really free in our souls? Do we display bravery in light of the challenges against us?

We are a people made in the image of God, and we have the incredible gift of freedom. It’s not perfect, but it acknowledges that we are each a person of value, with a contribution worth sharing. Those who have gone before us laid the groundwork we are building on.

We’ve not gotten to where we are on our own; we need to do life together. As we celebrate Memorial Day, offer your gratitude to someone who has helped you, who has impacted your life in a positive way. Remember the cost of getting to where we are.

Ask yourself the questions: Are you truly free? Mind, heart, and soul? Do you have the bravery to live your life with dignity and integrity?

God makes it possible.

 

 

 

 

Just Go To Your Corners

They bicker constantly, and their voices can be heard throughout the house.

It would be understandable if I was speaking of the kids. Or even adults. Being together constantly wears on everybody’s niceness after a while.

I’m talking about the dogs. Aspen, the three-year-old male Lab, and Estes, the year-old female Australian shepherd. Their annoyance with one another has ramped up in the past week, and they tussle and battle from room to room.

They may be picking up on the angstiness among the people living here. We’re getting along well, but everyone needs to walk away from a situation every now and again. To separate from others for a moment of decompression. We’re all becoming more aware of how we need to do that and when.

The dogs don’t have that judgment. If they get too rambunctious with each other, they’re kenneled, away from everyone else and each other.

Doggy isolation.

We’ve all been kenneled in our homes of late. If I go out without concern for my safety and the safety of others–not wearing a mask, not social distancing–I’m acting like a stray that has no one to hold me accountable.

It takes a village to live through a virus. We’re in this together, and we need to be aware of one another’s needs as well as our own.

Personal frustration leads to disruptive behavior when our plans are hijacked and we can’t control our circumstances. We’re not free to do as we please. Freedom isn’t acting anyway I want whenever I want; it’s a heart response of respect that recognizes we’re all different, with different needs and stories. True freedom is living within the boundaries of kindness and consideration.

The dogs don’t fully appreciate that. Being in a kennel is their time out, and they aren’t always able to connect the dots to understand their behavior has put them in seclusion. They bark their dislike of being constrained and taken away from those they want to be with.

Am I any different? I whine about my dislike of restraint and push the envelope on what I can and shouldn’t do. Those around me are affected by my crabbiness and discontent with restrictions.

We will become irritated with one another over small, foolish things. Isolation creates a vacuum of perspective where the focus too often becomes just me.

We need to be willing to share our inner angst with those we know and love.

More importantly, we need to share those emotions and attitudes with God. He willingly listens without judgment; He hears the heart of our misery and understands our pain.

And He’s always available. I don’t have to make an appointment to speak with Him.

I just do it.

It’s so easy for me to be reactive during times of frustration and disappointment. I need to unload these feelings in a healthy way so they don’t build up in my heart. Talking with God and knowing He cares about what I’m going through helps me realize I’m not alone.

I don’t need to be kenneled for bad behavior. I need to talk about things with Someone who will listen.

No angst required.