Tag Archives: peacemaking

resolving to listen

Yesterday, I shared the results of my 2013 resolutions, as well as my new resolutions for 2014. Today, inspired by the OneWord365 campaign, I’m sharing my word that I hope will describe 2014 well. I deviate from their mission a little in that I’m still a fan of resolutions, but I love the idea of focusing in on one word.

In 2014, I want to listen. It’s timely, for me. Social media is wonderful in many ways: it’s a fairly easy venue to express creativity, it connects us to like-minded people, and it helps us know we’re not alone, particularly during a shift where we feel less connected to a specific community than we once did. I believe that, in many ways, social media saved my faith. However, for all its good qualities, it doesn’t seem to encourage much listening.

Everybody find your tribe, everybody defend your tribe, everybody talk about why your tribe is the best. From what I’ve seen, this could be the slogan of the social internet. It’s not all bad, either: it feels good to belong to something,  and if I’ve chosen a tribe, it’s probably because those within hold the same things to be precious.

But sometimes, one tribe decides that another tribe is stupid, or wrong, or oblivious, and the arrows go flying.

I was going to give some specific examples, but we can probably all think of plenty without help, and I certainly don’t want this post to be about some hot-button issue instead of what it’s supposed to be about. Can we just pause for a collective sigh, though? Is anyone else tired of it? I am.

And so, I resolve to listen, especially when it comes to social media, but in person as well. I’ll voice my opinion when it’s warranted, but I hope that it’s only ever with a healthy dose of humility.

When I hear a statement and immediately think that’s outrageous! I’ll take a moment longer to listen. I’ll give people a chance to explain. I’ll do my best to assign positive intent, if at all possible. Then, and only then, I’ll offer my thoughts. My resolution to listen has nothing to do with timidity, but it is an attempt to resist the high of outrage.

And so, in the spirit of listening, I have a happy announcement to make.

Earlier this year, I asked a group of people ranging from acquaintances to close friends if they would consider writing a guest post here on the blog that described a “bread crumb” moment for them. Many of them responded; enough to host two guest posts a month here, starting tomorrow!

I have a confession to make, though: initially I only wanted to ask people who fall along the same political and theological lines that I do. It seemed like a risk otherwise: what would people want to say on MY blog? Would I censor it? Maybe I was setting myself up for incredibly awkward situations. And then I felt so, so convicted. It’s embarrassing to admit: I was thinking of asking people to share something quite intimate: a moment of spiritual clarity that was sacred to them, and then I was thinking of who might say the right sort of thing. Isn’t that the very thing, the very lack, that’s broken my heart; that almost drove me away from my faith?

I seemed to have forgotten, in my zeal for a particular tribe, that we have much to learn from each other. It was this realization, among others, that led me to choose listen as my word for 2014.

One of my favorite lines of literature comes from Jo March in Little Women. “I should have been a great many things,” she says, when someone notices one of her strengths and comments “You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.” She’s speaking mainly about opportunity, I think, but her words have another meaning. Each one of us already is a great many things, and we shouldn’t be defined solely by any tribe or affiliation. I’d like to take this year to remind myself of that, as often as possible.

And so, we’ll be hearing from people of faith with a broad range of views, because that is what Christianity actually looks like as a whole. I don’t know to what extent their views will influence what they choose to write about, and honestly I’m not expecting anything very controversial. It seems like a good way to practice listening, though. To practice not dismissing. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ, not to mention fellow humans, and I’m beyond excited to hear their stories and be reminded of all that we have in common.

Happy New Year to you! It’s a bit of a wild hope, but maybe this year we’ll listen better. Maybe we’ll hear each other.

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Imagining a Different Kingdom

This past week, I devoted a few hours to reading a Year-in-Review special magazine edition. I tend to love end of the year things, but this time the evidence of oppression in 2013 seemed to shout at me from the page: chemical warfare in Syria, the Boston Marathon bombing, three women imprisoned in a suburban house for a decade, a boy in a hoodie shot and killed as if it were his destiny, the high rate of sexual assault in the military, a song dripping with unapologetic misogyny being the big hit of the summer. The bad news in one day is fairly easy to dismiss, most of the time, especially because we’re so used to it. The bad news of a year, though? That makes everything go quiet in my head; makes hope seem utterly ridiculous.

Nelson Mandela died, and it seemed fitting for someone who chased after wild dreams, moving far beyond expectation, to pass on during a season of hope. The first anniversary of the shootings at Newtown fell during this season; it too seemed fitting. I drove around town with my two younger children buckled into their seats, listening to the remembrances on the radio, weeping for little AvielleAna Grace, and Dylan, for the unknown stories, for their brave parents. The world is still waiting, still groaning under a heavy weight.

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Yesterday we sang a hymn called Canticle of the Turning; one of many that I’ve never heard before. I’m most familiar with the hymns that speak of longing for heaven, and they are beautiful. But there’s a whole other kind of hymn: the kind that longs for justice in the here and now. This kind you sing with a shaky voice, if you can stand to sing the words at all:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, every mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age,

we remember who holds us fast:

God’s mercy must deliver us

from the conqueror’s crushing grasp

This saving word that our forbears heard

is the promise which holds us bound,

‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,

who is turning the world around.

When you press your ear to the ground, you hear all sorts of things.

Shane Claiborne speaks of the prophets who “invited people to dream of the world as it could be and not just accept the world as it is.” He turns guns into farm tools, even though there’s nothing much more valuable to self-protection than a gun; even though there is nothing much less valuable to immediacy than planting seeds. He imagines a different kingdom.

Greg Boyd does, too. He contrasts the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the ChurchIt’s an uncomfortable book, to say the least, even though I agree with most of what he says, because to believe these things and to act like I do are two different things. He writes:

The kingdom of the world is intrinsically tribal in nature, and is heavily invested in defending, if not advancing, one’s own people-group, one’s nation, one’s ethnicity, one’s state, one’s religion, one’s ideologies, or one’s political agendas. That is why it is a kingdom characterized by perpetual conflict. The kingdom of God, however, is intrinsically universal, for it is centered on simply loving as God loves. It is centered on people living for the sole purpose of replicating the love of Jesus Christ to all people at all times in all places without condition. (p. 47, Kindle edition.)

Some days this feels like nothing but imagination. Some days I have to face that it might just be. Then I hear Ana Grace’s mother Nelba speak of how she lit 28 candles to remember the dead (not 26, not even 27) and how she refuses to use words like monster to describe Adam Lanza, instead extending humanity to him. I think of how Nadia Bolz-Weber’s husband said to her that “every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”

There is unfathomable light, in the here and now. Maybe it’s true; maybe God is turning the world around. I don’t always see it, but I hope it’s true.

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