BREAKING NEWS: There Really is a Conspiracy

As the season of coronavirus continues, we are less “in this together” and more divided as we pick our perspective on the pandemic:

* Electromagnetic waves from 5G networks caused the virus to hit.
* Bill Gates released the COVID-19 in a plot to vaccinate the world’s population.
* The virus escaped from a Chinese lab.
* COVID was created as a biological weapon by anti-American forces.
* The Americans imported COVID into China as a “geopolitical ploy.”
* Genetically-modified crops are to blame. (I might continue to avoid vegetables, just in case.)
* COVID-19 doesn’t actually exist. It is a plot by the globalist elite to take away our freedoms.
* The pandemic is a “deep state” plot to undermine President Trump and the Republicans.
* Big Pharma perpetuated the virus to infuse the pharmaceutical industry with the needs of sick people.
* The Left is inflating the numbers regarding the virus for its political agenda.

Our response to all the possible conspiracies behind COVID-19 is written all over the social media walls. We are back to our old tricks of deciding who is right, who is left, who is in, and who is out. Engaging in debates about the virus on social media may have created another virus: depression, anxiety, and addiction have increased during this pandemic, further depleting and diminishing human interactions instead of linking us in “togetherness.”

We’re All in This Apart

The failure of the current cultural story of the coronavirus to cultivate Christlike love, and instead cultivate conspiracy narratives, has resulted in a lack of empathy and drawn even more dividing lines based on political parties, whether we want to wear a mask, or the choices we make about social distancing.

Sadly, evangelical Christians seem to be disproportionately drawn to conspiracy theories” (Ed Stetzer, “On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies,” Christianity Today, April 15, 2020). As a result, according to another author, the church is less relevant than ever as “fewer and fewer Americans identify with any particular denomination. About a third of Millennials have no religious denomination, and some studies indicate that about half of Generation Z has no religious affiliation. 26% of people over 65 identify as white evangelical, but only 7% of people under 30 do” (Brynn Tannehill, “Here’s the Reason Why Fewer Americans are Christian that Evangelicals Don’t Want You to Know.”) During a season when the church might actually be a hospital for all those wounded by this virus, it is fast becoming a polling place for the most popular conspiracy theory.

These statistics matter to me because they are about me and my children. Do I live in a way that makes anyone, much less my children, curious about why I still go to church – even if it’s on Zoom? Is the way I’m living drawing people back toward wholeness—or pushing them (and me) further away? One author summarizes the dismay many of us feel about the fallout from conversations about conspiracies:

Over the past two years, as our American political process unfolded, and as respected and high-profile evangelists and preachers and Christian speakers endorsed candidates and took to social media with ever more bigoted, hateful, alarmist claims—and as millions of pledged Jesus followers gleefully rushed to celebrate and defend and accompany them in their crusades, I’ve come to find myself estranged; pushed to the furthest periphery of ‘God’s people.‘ “(John Pavlovitz, “Maybe I’m Actually Not a Christian After All.”)

You may be able to debate every statistic and quotation I’ve listed, but how do you answer the sixteen-year-old boy who sat in my counseling office and asked, “Why would I have faith or trust love when I can’t find any real evidence of it right now at home, school, or church?”

In our modern culture, many of us have been reprogrammed. We don’t know how to have real conversations representative of our beliefs while being kind and respectful of others. We have been programmed to talk (or post) about what grabs our attention for a few minutes and then move on—often leaving behind a trail of missed connections and hurting people. We don’t know how to shape our interactions in ways that reflect our stories of being loved by God. We don’t invite others to belonging and finding grace in the pandemic. Instead, we invite others to debate or be left behind. (The paragraphs above are excerpts from Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another; to be released August 18, 2020.)

Falling Together

I’m not writing this to pick a conspiracy. I am not defending NBC Nightly News or Dr. Anthony Fauci. I wear a mask, and I actually had COVID-19. I also have the privilege of talking to many people every week who are sheltering at home, home-schooling their children, and working in-between helping with Algebra and putting a meatloaf in the oven. I know most are feeling restless, confused, isolated, and wondering when or if this will ever be over. Before we post about the Plandemic or the carelessness of people congregating at the beach, I want to invite you to consider three realities that we are all in together.

We Are All In Trauma

Trauma is any reality that keeps us from being fully present to ourselves because we are on overload – in too much pain, anger, or despair. Whether we describe this season as uncertain, unprecedented, or the “new normal,” we are all experiencing trauma. How can we watch the evening news filled with images of isolation, joblessness, food insecurity, broken families, and death without being a little less present to the questions these realities compel?
* What is God doing?
* What if my elderly parents get sick?
* Will I be able to pay my rent next month?
* Will baseball ever be back? (okay, maybe this isn’t traumatic for everyone)
* What is it like to line up at 3:30 a.m. to get a box of groceries from a food bank?
* Where is the money in government aid coming from and how will we replenish it?
* What if there’s another surge in the Fall?
* Is God good?
* Who can be trusted?

When we can’t answer the questions trauma uncovers, we disconnect . . . . from our own heartache; from the homeless woman asking for a donation in front of the grocery store; from a God who seems much further away than the current six-feet guidelines. The essence of trauma is disconnection.

Disconnection is a deceptive category. Most of us don’t walk around like vacant zombies. We reconnect to something less threatening, like a conspiracy theory. When we are debating, defending, and dismissing we don’t have to feel the core questions. Parker Palmer writes that joining a cause, arguing a conspiracy, or defending our rights come from a desire to dismiss our feelings of loneliness, keep us from courageous introspection, and blind us to seeing loneliness and hopelessness in others so we don’t have to take action. (“Feeling Welcome,” January 2016).

Perhaps the first step toward falling into true togetherness is acknowledging our suffering. I wonder if researching and rallying around conspiracy theories is a way to delay facing our pain-filled questions and a heavy burden of maintaining a false front suggesting we are not really in need. When we are defended by our rightness and consumed with the wrongness of others, we miss the first promise Jesus preached on a mountainside to another group of uncertain people: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3).

We All Need Compassion

If I listened to your theory regarding the coronavirus and told you I thought you were stupid, blind, and duped by Fox News or NPR, would you trust me? Probably not. This is what we do: we post our opinions, dismiss all others, occasionally throw in a Bible verse, and then hope our friends on social media will be attracted to our faith. Remember the last time you debated conspiracy theories and then everyone wanted to talk about the love of Jesus? Me neither.

What if you knew the man defending the Plandemic video or the woman demanding everyone wear a mask were covering up wounds of insecurity, stories of betrayal, or experiences of soul-shaking loneliness with their dogma? Perhaps instead of posting a quick retort or a longer rant, we might ask a compassionate question – “Why is this important to you?” We could ignore the post altogether and stop by with cookies and a hand-written note of encouragement. We might courageously disclose that this is a lonely season for us and we need mercy, grace, and an occasional prayer.

I love the words of philosopher/poet Wendell Berry: “True social change may stick, not through large heroic acts of defiance but rather through the small acts each person makes because their conscience and integrity would be shattered if they did otherwise.”

The coronavirus will not shatter us, but disconnection, division, and distance will. If we throw out the conspiracy theories and really try to get to know someone, (Do they have money for their mortgage? Are they crying themselves to sleep in loneliness? Are they embarrassed that their parenting is wearing thin?) we might need some compassion ourselves . . . because we don’t know how to love others; we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing; and we really don’t have any answers. When we hang onto our opinions, we pay the cost of trying to always be right and miss another promise from Jesus: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (Matthew 5:4).

We’re All in A Divine Conspiracy

There is a conspiracy at play here. Failure, suffering, and loss are tricky invitations to experience our need for others. The self-sufficiency we find in choosing a conspiracy theory to feel some sense of control in an out-of-control world is a mirage. We need each other and we need God. Uncertain and unprecedented experiences do not have to become soap boxes for our self-rightness and self-certainty. All this suffering can be the doorway to real community.

Dallas Willard describes the true conspiracy we are smack-dab in the middle of right now, “The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.”

Don’t think I’m writing this blog for you – you conspiracy conspirators. No, I’m also prone to choose a tangent over an open heart to God and others. But here is the greatest conspiracy ever told: If Jesus will go to the end of the world and hang on a cross in hell to get one self-absorbed woman like me —he will go to anyone, anywhere. You see, we all are really the image-bearers of God—loved before the foundation of the world, brought into a deeper story of beloved belonging and allowed to invite others to that story as well (a far more scandalous story than any other conspiracy).

Are you ready to join the divine conspiracy? Bruce Anderson describes this scary choice: “If I could have one thing, just one thing different, it would be to touch that stone-cold part of my soul and give it light. To walk, wet and shivering, out of the river of fear with a heart that no longer needs to hide.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to stop hiding behind my opinions and dogma, and lean into belonging – to truly being in this together. Author and lawyer (I bet he’s debated a few good conspiracies) Bob Goff tells us how to live The Conspiracy:

I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules. It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel—“God with us.” I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us. It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people.

The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in a Hallmark card. But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. . . . It’s a brand of love that doesn’t just think about good things, or agree with them, or talk about them. . . .[It’s] the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story:
Love does.

The divine conspiracy comes with a promise: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your heart and mind – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (Matthew 5:8).




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WE WANT MORE THAN NORMAL, DON’T WE?

It started with a runny nose. Allergies? Within twenty-four hours I was glued to my bed with a centrifugal force. Aches, chills, and fever paralyzed me. I started coughing . . . and then I knew. The coronavirus was calling. I was fortunate. I recovered at home, and by the time I could smell and taste again I started to echo the chant of so many, “When can we get back to normal?” I missed my favorite restaurants and was tired of eating the same thing four days in a row. I wanted to see my parents. In fact, as I thought about it, the losses from coronavirus began to accumulate faster than the money the government promised to spend to ease our pain and impatience.

There’s the toilet paper crisis, and even more disheartening is the disappointment that Amazon can no longer promise to deliver within two days. We’ve lost baseball, Oktoberfest, the National Spelling Bee Championship, and the Running of the Bulls. There are other losses that are much more painful – no graduations, weddings, or long-saved-for dream vacations. Other losses are staggering – the death of family members with no opportunity to say goodbye – the loss of jobs, and the harsh reality we can no longer deny: many of our neighbors live with empty cupboards.

No wonder everyone wants to get back to normal or at the very least longs for this “new normal” to become more like the old. Think about your life only one month ago. For most of us, our daily lives would fit into that category of normal. Do you really want to go back there? The words of Brené Brown cut to the heart of the matter: “Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.”

Do we dare hope this is an opportunity for a new garment stitched together with generosity, inclusion, rest, connection, clarity, compassion, and love. A new garment that feels like belonging. I describe belonging in my new book (Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another,to be released in August):

Belonging is a story
that makes you feel at home just by hearing it.
Belonging is like a family where everything’s all right.
Belonging turns a light on in the dark.

Something about the coronavirus has made us know – deep down in our bones – that we need a better story. We long to feel at home. We have a greater felt need for each other. We’re in this dark together, and desperately want someone to turn on the light. But we are also feeling something else in our bones. We are feeling normal. The old divisions, accusations, hate-filled social media, taking of sides, and deciding who is right and who is wrong are filling up our lives again, along with masks and social distancing.

We want More than normal, but that could be scary and messy. I am reminded of the Israelites, who escaped Egypt into the social distancing of the desert, only to want to go back to normal. They cried out in despair, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat. You’ve brought us out into the wilderness to starve us to death” (Exodus 16:5).

The Old Testament wanderers were not that different from Adam and Eve. God placed them in paradise, and they still weren’t satisfied. You know the story – it’s part of the history of us. We always want more, but we either believe we have to settle for the familiarity of slavery (maybe that’s why the sale of alcohol has risen by 75% during this season of Covid19) or we have to figure out our own way back to life that feels more manageable.

What if we give up normal? Could this crisis really teach us to join together to stitch an extraordinary garment of belonging – welcoming new beginnings and tragic endings; mourning and laughing; pain and healing; social distancing and emotional intimacy; tearing and mending; confusion and certainty; and unrest and peace?

I hope so. I suspect we all feel like this time is a bit surreal, don’t know who to trust, and aren’t spending a lot of time thinking about the opportunity to stitch a new garment. I have thought about it some – because the weeks are filled with hours that seem like days and I know – heart and soul – I want More than normal.

Let’s Say Goodbye to Blame

The first thing I wanted to do when I learned I had Covid19 was figure out who to blame. We choose social distance, even when the Governor doesn’t order it. We decide who is right, who is wrong, who is in, who is difficult and who is worth our time. We don’t throw a covering of love over that mess. We create churches, theology, politics, and engagement with others around our “rules” for social distancing.

If we don’t really believe in a story deeper than our own stories, we’ll be committed to blaming the characters in our stories. We will construct a narrative filled with our justifications, our knowledge of right, and our good deeds. When we live in a narrative constructed out of the fear of coming face-to-face with the whole truth of what has grown to be “normal,” we separate from ourselves, one another, and God – and that’s actually bondage and death. Blaming is a way to be numb to life – to love.” (Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another)

Let’s Stitch Ourselves Together with Laughter

The reason we blame, divide, disconnect, and distance is because we take ourselves way too seriously (don’t forget the hoarding of toilet paper). I am not denying there is much to grieve in these challenging days, but I want to take a cue from my friend and writer, Brooke. Brooke knows some loss from the virus. She lost two trips to see her boyfriend (that included a concert and backstage passes to meet a favorite comedian). Brooke’s boyfriend lives on the other side of the country and she is about as tired of video chats as we all are (there’s even a new diagnosis of “Zoom fatigue”).

Brooke decided to connect over laughter. It really is better glue for relationships than complaining – even if she suggested the now-infamous Netflix series, Tiger King, as the “glue”for her relationship. Brooke and her boyfriend decided to watch the show together, using Netflix Party. Yes, she was sorry later. She aptly described the outrageous series as the “Lidocaine to the pain of the things taken from us while this pandemic tears through the world.” She explained further to me, “What watching Tiger King taught me is a lot of people in America are one bag of meth and two pet tigers away from marrying Joe Exotic or wanting to be him.”

I laughed out loud. For a few minutes, Brooke and I escaped the world of masks and monstrous germs we are smack-dab in the middle of, and we experienced a sense of belonging. Tiger King? A little silly, perhaps. Unless you consider the inspired reminder: “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22).

Let’s Let Go

Last week I had some time. It was sunny on my deck. I picked up a novel I started in January and sat outside and read. It took me a while to concentrate on the story, because I felt strange. I felt relaxed, and I was overcome with the awareness that I want More than normal.

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if God just allowed Adam and Eve to stay in the Garden? They would still have lost the belonging they’d once known with each other and with God, but they’d be in Paradise. I mean why couldn’t God allow us to stay in normal. We’d still be stressed, tired, divided, and disconnected, but wouldn’t it be better than this?

“I think that might be more like the captain on a sinking cruise ship deciding to make the passengers as comfortable as possible while the ship goes down, rather than disturbing their normal existence with blaring sirens. I don’t know about you, but if the ship is going down – I want someone to unsettle and upset me.” (Belonging: Finding The Way Back to One Another)

I am not wise enough to even begin to understand what God has in mind for us during this ship-sinking season. I can’t begin to know what the solutions will be, but i do know we have much deeper problems than Covid19 in need of a much deeper story than our individual stories. God does not allow us to be comfortable in our alienation from him and one another. He doesn’t want us to throw a party as the ship sinks. He allows desperation in the hope that we will find our way back to him and to one another.

Let’s Hold On

I don’t know what you need to hold on to as a result of this season of uncertainty.

I want to hold on to the confidence that I can cook my own dinner.
I long to hold on to rest and time for a glass of iced tea and a good novel.
I need to remember that the mall doesn’t have anything for sale that will give me a sense of belonging.
This may sound strange, but I want to hold on to the suffering – the anxiety of contracting Covid19; the uncertainty of employment; my dwindling bank account; those restless stir-crazy house-bound hours; the loneliness of no one to ask in the middle of the night if my cough sounds worse; and the questions about God. I want to hang on to all this pain, because we are connected by our wounds. My pastor explained last week that “Jesuslearned obedience through what he suffered.’ He never sinned, and yet he was perfected by bleeding for us, as if his wounds are his perfection . . Every wound is an invitation to love; every wound is a door leading to life. A body is bound together at the wounds, where one member bleeds into the next.” What if all this woundedness binds us together and teaches us to love?

Let’s Kiss this Monster on the Lips

My friend, author and radio host, Steve Brown says that pain is a monster that we run from as fast as we can. We want to run back to normal. Steve says, “That’s one of the reasons we aren’t free. Jesus hangs out around pain and when we run from it, we run from him.” Maybe there is a counterintuitive response to the coronavirus. I’m not suggesting we don’t follow all the suggested medical precautions. I am wondering, though, if we can keep it from infecting our hearts – making us suspicious of others and God? What if we confront the pain and inevitable fear and don’t long for normal. We run toward the pain. Face it. And then kiss it on the lips, because it is a place of powerlessness that just might convert us because Jesus will be there to set us free from suspicion, fear, hard-heartedness, cynicism, and the exhausting determination that we have to save ourselves with ourselves.

Let’s Remember We Really Do Belong to Each Other

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, we have forgotten we belong to each other.” This is our opportunity – to ignore the trolls on social media; to not be a troll on social media; to offer healing grace to every hint of fragmentation. Some of us are feeling a little insecure because our resumés have taken a hit from the Covid monster. We’ve taken a cut in pay, can’t afford a lot of things, and have accepted help from the government after years of expressing disdain for those people. The good news in this downward slide is that God writes our true resumé, and he will reveal it in every moment, every conversation, and every interaction now – not back when things were normal. And the day will come when he will read our resumés – which will actually be our stories. I long for mine to sound something like this:

“You gave me a cup of coffee when I had no money for groceries.”
“I was hungry, and you shared your frozen pot pies.”
“I was lonely, and you called, sent cards, and asked about me.”

Normal is overrated. Let’s take this opportunity to stitch ourselves together, covered in Love and heed the wise words of Wendell Berry:

So friends, every day do something
that won’t compute.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand . . .
Ask the questions that have no answers . . .
Laugh
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. . .
Practice resurrection.

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The Way Back: Becoming Real


The way back reminds me of a familiar childhood story. Let’s read it again, thinking about our way back to becoming real:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, as they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, just before Nana came in to tidy up the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.” [i]

The Way back is the love of God, the heart of God, the Son of God—Jesus, “loose in the joints and kind of shabby”(Psalm 22:14), crucified for the love of us. God uses painful, difficult relationships to make us real, in the image of Christ, to help us find the way back to one another.

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Little Earthquakes Everywhere

From Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another

Before the summer earthquake in my story, I believed a relationship with my daughter was too painful and too hard. I didn’t know that the heartache and the challenges were grace to show me the way back to the One who loved me, despite the pain and challenges of me, so that I could love others. The way back is filled with potholes and danger and inexplicable pain. It is populated with characters we’d just as soon write out of the story. The Way back is the One whose name is The Way (John 14:6)—the One who was alienated, misunderstood, judged, condemned, and crucified for us. His body was broken and blood shed to pay for the violation of his law in the Garden and to ratify his new and eternal covenant of grace. He chooses to be bound to us by his own eternal nature of adamant love. God’s love also binds us all together in a covenant (Ephesians 5:21), and Jesus shows us the soul-shaking way back to finding one another.

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WHO NEEDS CONVERSATION?

Three weeks ago my friend, Nick Richtsmeier and I began The Convos – a conversation on Facebook (about the worst place to have a conversation) based on our belief that conversations make us and break us.

This week we talked about Thanksgiving table talk, gun violence, trolls, the “love zone,” the Orlando nightclub shooting, and changing the conversation to stretch the tent to be wide enough for all of us.

You can listen at http://thirtysixwords.live/convos2

During our conversation I anticipated my family’s Thanksgiving convo.

My daughter would talk about the recent shooting near her neighborhood involving five people and express her exasperation at political gridlock with regard to the growing shameful legacy in our country of one mass shooting after another.

My son would talk about “identity politics,” and how everyone’s need to defend their issue is contributing to the lack of much being accomplished in the halls of our government.

My sweet mom might murmur something like, “We’re not going to like it when we have socialism in this country.”

And my dad would say, “Let’s pray.”

Well, that isn’t what happened at all.

My daughter expressed gratitude to everyone for coming to the hospital after a car accident in March and told us that was the time when she felt the most loved.

My son shared that he is finding peace and respite these days in some good books.

My mom cried a little as she recalled the selfless love of her parents who adopted her as an infant and always made her feel like they had just won the lottery when they got her (they did!)

My dad said that if money wasn’t an issue, he’d travel the world – even though he’s 84 years old. He gave thanks for being cancer-free for three years and his voice wobbled a bit as he read a poem that his mother wrote over thirty years ago about giving thanks for everyday blessings.

I marveled at my privilege to simply be with my people and was reminded that we don’t feel love when we are informed. We feel loved when we are accepted, listened to, vulnerable, and undefended.

I left that evening hungry for more conversation.

How did you leave your Thanksgiving table?

Did you feel like Jesus might love you more if you didn’t have flaws, foibles, or unpopular opinions?

Did you venture out on Black Friday, only to be cut off in traffic, flipped off, and left steeping in shame when you didn’t do anything wrong?

Did you trust and feel trusted by the people you were with?

If we don’t learn to trust anyone (even ourselves), then we will not experience love.

Did you spend the  day wanting to hide from your parents, your children, your spouse, your friends?

Did you wear a pretty great mask, get lots of accolades, and still felt empty because you knew people just loved the mask – not the real you?

Then maybe you need a good conversation.

A conversation where you really talk and really listen.

A conversation that embraces flaws, foibles, and unpopular opinions.

A conversation that breaks the barriers of shame with shared humanness.

A conversation that is unmasked, undefended, and so it’s trustworthy.

“What if there is a [conversation] that is so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less but more in the telling of it?” John Lynch, The Cure

Maybe the conversation we are seeking is seeking us . . .

From a friend who has a big mouth and is always spouting their political sound bites to cover their lonely hearts.

From a child who says they are too busy to talk, too cynical to go to church, too consumed with finding the “right” picture to post on social media.

From a parent who is wondering if they have anything relevant to say.

From a co-worker who has $48 in the bank and orthodontics bills and a gas tank on empty.

Be the change in the conversations you have this week.

Don’t expect to be unwaveringly brave or endlessly compassionate or to always have the right response.

Just be with people.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10

 

 

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THE CONVOS: SAVING CONVERSATION

If you missed CONVO #1 on SAVING CONVERSATION, you can listen by copying this link and clicking: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Asfc_1Nx41LwgYdffizom47EM7fPHQ or go to www.facebook.com/sharonhersh.

Yes, I introduced myself as an almost 60 year-old woman (holy cow!) who is half Republican, half Democrat; part introvert and part extrovert; a recovering alcoholic; fierce lover of Jesus; and as someone who just voted in my first mid-term election for the first openly gay governor in America. My co-conversationalist didn’t see that one coming! Quite honestly, I was afraid after I said it – afraid that the only thing people would hear during our thirty minute conversation would be my sound bite about this one vote. I was afraid of being judged, misunderstood, and harshly criticized, because that is what happens on social media. In fact, 70% of the content on social media is negative. I found myself wondering what I was doing trying to have a conversation on social media that was honest and vulnerable.

If all you heard is that I voted for Jared Polis for governor of the state of Colorado, then I’m afraid you missed the point – you missed me, because mostly what I wanted to say is that I’m lonely and longing for more. I’m one of those people who goes home at the end of the day and doesn’t have anyone to talk to. I long for meaningful conversations and yet often find myself in a room full of people with no one to talk to – I mean really talk to.

I often feel like I have a heart – with no one to give it to. That is why I invited Nick to join me in The Convos to practice really talking and really listening to one another in hope that we might learn to love each other better and that would ripple into other relationships and conversations.

If you are wondering why I voted for Jared Polis, I will tell you. I am not an issue-driven woman. I am energized by relational realities and that influenced my vote. Someone very dear to me was lost in the loopholes of our healthcare system because she was denied treatment for mental illness and addiction. I heard stories of this candidate teaching in marginalized communities and giving school supplies (in secret) to families that could not buy them for their children. I voted with a heartbroken sense of believing that what doesn’t work for “them” shouldn’t work for me.

I could say some negative things about the other candidate, but the truth we all really know is that every candidate is human, has skeletons in their closets, and looks good in those campaign photos but doesn’t always look so good to the people who know them the best.

I will admit there is something about politics and about this mid-term election that breaks my heart, and that is what I want to talk about. In his beautiful essay, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted,” Parker Palmer acknowledges that politicians are adept at “using” issues that break people’s hearts – abortion, gay rights, marriage and family, faith, terrorism, gun violence, patriotism.  Nick and I are going to begin a series of conversations about politics and these topics in the next Convo (Tuesday, November 20 7:30 p.m. MST at www.facebook.com/thirtysixwords LIVE and reposted on my Facebook page). I want to approach that conversation as well as reflect on our current political realities with a broken heart.

A broken-open heart.

Palmer writes: “Broken-open hearts are in short supply these days, at least in politics. Formed – or deformed – by an impatient and control-obsessed culture, many of us do not hold social and political tensions in ways that open us to the world. Instead, we shut our hearts down, either withdrawing into fearful isolation or angrily lashing out at the alien “other”: the alien at home becomes unpatriotic, the alien abroad, an enemy. Heartbroken and heavily armed, we act in ways that diminish democracy and make the world an even more dangerous place.”

Our commitment, in The Convos, is to hold our hearts open in hope that we will love better and that perhaps the world will be a little bit better, even as we know that love can break out hearts.

Last week I was talking to a 16 year-old girl about politics (did you know teenagers like to talk about politics?). She was lamenting that she couldn’t talk about politics with her parents because they disagree with her perspectives and even think she is dangerously close to not being a Christian because of her beliefs. My heart broke wide open for this beautiful young woman when she told me why she even bothered trying to discuss the president and Brett Kavanaugh and immigrant rights and health care with her parents. She said, “I know it won’t really change anything, because I can’t even vote, but I keep hoping it will change us, and my parents and I will know each other better and feel more like a family than a group of individuals.”

And a child can lead us.

What if talking and listening to each other about the most contentious topics could break our hearts wide open and change us so that we know each other better and feel more like a family?

I am willing to give it a try.

I hope you will join us in THE CONVO on politics and that “holy cow!” will shift to holy ground.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35).

 

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The Convos

Do you want to have a conversation after the election? A conversation that’s not about “them?” This is about us. It’s a conversation about listening. It’s about speaking without resorting to the intellectual gymnastics of trying to be in control. It’s about the making and unmaking of the human soul.

Out of deep passion for the power of transformative conversation, Nick Richtsmeier and I are setting out on an experiment.   We come from different genders, different ages, different parts of the country, different life experiences, and different perspectives,  and yet we love to listen to each other.  So much of what happens today in conversation is chatter, defensive pontification, and propping up our fragile egos. We end up divided, disconnected, defensive, and more lonely than ever.

 What if we tried to really hear each other? Learn from each other?  And what if we did it on social media –  one of the least conversational places on earth. We have this theory that we might just learned to love each other.   The Convos  is a place for us all to be inspired to do just that.  We won’t always talk about politics, but we imagine we will be talking about it when we begin THIS THURSDAY, November 8 at 7:30 pm MST LIVE.  We are going to go live, but the program will be recorded and posted later on Facebook and Instagram.

 You can get notifications and be connected by following http://www.facebook.com/thirtysixword

You’ll also see updates on my Facebook page and Instagram.

Join  us as we discuss our experiences with the loss of conversation in our lives and some actionable tools on how to bring it back.

We need to talk. Join us.

#theconvos #thisisaboutus #lovelistens #lovetalks #holycow! #hokyground

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HOW THE BACHELOR SCHOOLED STANFORD WITH WINE & KISSES

The-Bachelor-The-BacheloretteI kissed watching The Bachelor goodbye. Yes, I have joined millions in watching many episodes over the seasons of the wildly popular show. Overall, 8.33 million viewers tune into The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, and the programs pull their highest rating share in the 18-49 year-old demographic. I laughed at the ridiculous antics of contestants to win the rose. I cringed at the lengths that some would go to in order to gain attention or a promise of affection. I hated all of the sexual innuendo and casual kisses with multiples partners in one day. I must admit I viewed the stories in this show in the same way I can’t look away from a traffic accident on the highway.

Until another story made the headlines this week – the story of an unconscious young woman raped and assaulted on the Stanford campus by a drunk 20-year-old boy after a night of participation in what his father described as “20 minutes of action” in the drinking and hookup culture of college campuses. This is a story I cannot look away from, and after listening to so many women and men in my counseling office – already in this short week – whisper terrible stories with way too many similarities, I cannot remain silent.

I am going to write some things that may cause confusion or anger, so let me preface what I write by saying that in a world that has not gone mad with substance abuse and objectified, distorted sexuality, a woman or man ought to be able to lay naked in the middle of a room of partiers and be covered and cared for.

heart and blood on wooden background, medical symbol concept

But we don’t live in that world.

Rape and sexual assault are heinous crimes that come out of a complex mosaic of patterns and experiences that extend way beyond the boundaries of what I am concerned with as I write this post. Brock Turner is a convicted sex offender who lied about his past history of substance abuse and bad choices, and he should be sentenced to the maximum amount of time allotted for the crimes he has been convicted of. I am angry that cronyism and coverup, once again, shroud victims of sexual abuse in shame, disgrace, and secrecy.

I applaud this young woman’s bravery in telling her story unflinchingly, and I pray that in the telling she will find healing.

I have posted on my Facebook page two wonderful blogs about this subject – one from the perspective of a father (johnpavlovitz.com) who rightly replies to Brock Turner’s father’s obnoxious plea for leniency for his son by writing:

Brock is not the victim here.
His victim is the victim.
She is the wounded one.
He is the damager.

barbwiredheart

Sadly, every son does not have a father like John, willing to hold his sons accountable and model to them how to live decently in the world.

 

I have also posted Ann Voskamp’s blog (aholyexperience.com) on my Facebook page, and was inspired by her poignant plea to teach our sons to honor the beauty and dignity of women. I could not agree with her more:

The Stanford rape case is about having a conversation with sons about hard things and asking sons to do holy things.

ambivalentheart

Sadly, not every son or daughter has a mother like Ann to herald the truth about beauty and integrity.

This crime has a context. It is a cautionary tale about a culture that contributes to the rape culture with ideas, images, and television programs like a steady IV-drip. I am compelled to write about The Bachelor – not because I believe this show caused this horrible crime – but because I believe it represents some cultural realities that play a role in the terrible stories of sexual abuse, assault, and woundedness. I know too much to remain silent about these categories.

The Culture of Substance Abuse

On The Bachelor, young people (not much older than Brock) dress in expensive, sophisticated clothing and it is hard to find a scene where someone does not have a drink in his or her hand. There are too many scenes when the drinking gets out of control and mayhem ensues. Chad (from this season) punches his hand through a door and threatens to beat up everyone. Kaitlyn (from a past season) has sex with Nick after one date – before she’s given the other disappointed suitors a chance. The response of the cast the next morning is usually to survey the bottle-strewn “mansion” with shrugged shoulders, or to promise that everyone will get a chance to spend time with The Bachelor or Bachelorette.

This is not a judgment on drinking. Scripture says that drunkenness is a sin, but does not specifically forbid enjoying a glass of wine in the hot tub while you wear your bikini and are surrounded by shirtless men who are imbibing their favorite beverages. I’m simply suggesting that might not be safe.

  • By the time adolescents reach college 1 out of 5 students is already an alcoholic.
  • Young people who are under the influence are seven times more likely to have sex and twice as likely to have sex with four or more partners during a party experience.
  • Almost half of 14-24 year-old victims of crime said they were drinking and/or using a substance at the time they were victimized.
  • One of my clients who attended a prestigious college with an active Greek life, told me that by the end of her freshman year she and all of her friends had been raped.
  • I’ve heard too many stories in my counseling office – from a young woman who drank a six-pack and had sex with a guy she didn’t even know; a young man who had “a few shots and a couple of beers” and walked around his college campus breaking windows and destroying school property; a young woman so desperate to be loved that she deliberately drank at the frat parties so she wouldn’t mind if a few of the guys fondled her. I have my own stories that still cower in the corners of my life because I should have known better, I shouldn’t have been drinking, and I should have never let a stranger get that close (those are the lies that keep the whole truth in the dark).

A culture that glamorizes substance abuse by putting cocktail glasses in the hands of designer-dressed young men and women lies about the dangers that lurk in this lubricated world. When we use drugs and alcohol to slip in and out of relationships, we actually become imprisoned in an experience of false intimacy, and may experience far worse.

Every time I see the antics of the men and women on The Bachelor or Bachelorette I think of a phrase I said 10,000 times to my children when they were navigating adolescence:

We need to teach our children, “You were made for more than this.”

The Culture of Objectification

Ben, a popular former contestant on The Bachelor, was recently asked how many women were vying for his affection. He proudly answered, “Twenty-eight.” I cringed at the narcissism that inevitably grows in experiences like this. It is almost a given that you don’t have to play by the same rules as others who are dating and want to find love (much like star athletes or sorority queens on college campuses):

  • It’s okay to kiss and make out with someone you’ve known for a few hours, and then again with someone else.
  • Sexual content is the glue in the relationship. In the most recent season of The Bachelorette the young men were asked to talk about an embarrassing sexual experience. The stories of threesomes, using the alphabet for a guide to oral sex, and forcing themselves to have sex “just to get it over with,” broke my heart. And they provide a context for the perverted, criminal actions of a young man who fingers a girl, inserts objects into her vagina, and believes she likes it.
  • And then there is the fantasy suite – the night when the final four each get to spend the entire night, off camera, with The Bachelor or Bachelorette. Is their sex consensual? Absolutely. It is nothing like the young woman in this rape case experienced. However, there is a hint of similarity in the aftermath. In her letter to the Court about her experience, the young woman who was brutally raped, wrote a lot about what she didn’t know, didn’t see, couldn’t remember, and the horror of trying to make sense of it. I have watched episodes of this silly reality show where the newly engaged winner watches the season in shock as she sees her betrothed passionately kiss other women, declare his love for them, and have sex with them – all in the same days that he is doing this with her. Did she consent to that? Probably. I’m certain these contestants sign all kinds of legal waivers giving up their rights, but I’m not sure they are aware they may be giving up their hearts. They don’t consent to that.

on the kitchen table

I agree with Wendell Berry that desensitization to the human realities of intimacy, the thrill of attraction, the pursuit of knowing each other, the power of a kiss is “part of the disintegration of sex into a cold-blooded abstract procedure.”

When pornography is easily accessible on the 275 million pages online (that’s a separate page for each person in the United States), the objectification of the other is inevitable. One study found that almost 1/3 of users becomes hooked on cybersex (the act of having sex between two or more people in a chatroom or in emails, without ever hearing the voice of the other, but by simply viewing words typed on a screen).

When a young man or woman is immersed in pornography or the gaming world where you can do anything to gain an advantage and take out any threats to your glory, that world often becomes more real than the mundane world of work, school, or family.

The purpose of this post is not to detail all of the dangers of online activities, but to suggest that maybe a culture that encourages the “meat model” of sexuality, with millions of viewers watching a handsome, nice man choose his wife-to-be on the basis of externals and sexual arousal might make sense of someone treating another man or woman as if they are just a body. It doesn’t matter whether they are conscious or not. Wendell Berry describes the sexual consequences of the objectification of men and women in our culture as “a dispirited working of a sort of anatomical machinery.”

We need to teach our children that it might not be a safe community to pursue a relationship in when the goal is to act like a man or woman without having to really be one or truly get to know one.

The Culture of Distorted Sexuality

C. S. Lewis wrote this:

You can get a large audience together for a strip tease act – that is to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill the theatre by simply bringing a covered plate onto the stage and then slowing lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained bacon. Would you think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? We might conclude that the people in that country were either 1)starving, or 2) the natural appetite had been perverted.

When over 8 million viewers tune in for 2-4 hours every week to watch men or women compete for “love” by using sex as the means to win their future spouse, I think we might conclude that we live in a country where people are either 1)starving, or 2) our natural appetite for intimacy has been perverted.

We need to teach our children that our private parts are connected to our hearts.

When we engage in “casual sex,” we fuse our hearts to the other’s heart, and then when that hookup is over, we tear off a piece of our hearts. Fuse and tear. Fuse and tear. Over time or sometimes just with one experience of our bodies being sexually aroused or violated, we can decide to harden our hearts so we don’t feel the connection between the two. The result is the more we get naked physically, the less we are emotionally. And that is tragic.

Sexual intimacy is intended for the covenant of marriage where we surrender our nakedness, our differences, and our humanness to another. Unlike the carefully scripted and rehearsed scenes on television, real sex is full of human mistakes, smells, and sounds. God did not intend sex to be the perfect passionate moment, complete with a bed of rose petals. He intended sex to be the place where we lovingly cover one another. Sex becomes a way for two people to not only engage and honor one another’s strengths, but one another’s weaknesses. Sexual intimacy is meant to represent a daily intimacy that forgives, accepts, and offers grace to each other. That kind of intimacy is a bit different from competing for a kiss by having the sexiest body or being willing to surrender your nakedness and differences to someone you barely know in front of 8 million people.

SEXUALITY IS NOT WHAT WE DO. IT IS WHO WE ARE.

oldercoupletrust

What does The Bachelor or The Bachelorette say about who we are? What does the Stanford tragedy say about who we are? They certainly reveal some troubling realities that cannot be labeled cause and effect, but they are related. And that is why I cannot watch The Bachelor anymore.

I do not need to watch this reality show to know that there is no other reality that reveals our failures and foibles, our goodness and our brokenness, our passion and our self-interest, our vulnerability and our capacity to become a predator like intimacy. I think we’ve all been so deeply affected by the Stanford story because we know – at a cellular level – we have our own stories when our bodies were at times out of control, when we entered into relationships foolishly and got out of them foolishly as well. We hurt people and we have been hurt. We have been naked when we shouldn’t be, and we hide when we shouldn’t.

And we desperately long for someone to heal us from all this sexual brokenness.  Healing does not come from getting a rose. Sex is a deeply spiritual issue. It is a joining of our private parts, connected to our hearts to another’s private parts connected to their hearts. It is an expression of our deep desire to be known, accepted, and loved forever. Sex is a taste in human relationships of a banquet we will eat in Heaven with the perfect Lover of our souls – the One who knows us fully, accepts us unconditionally, and loves us eternally. Scripture calls this banquet a marriage supper when we will be joined to our Groom, Jesus.

I am sorry, so sorry for the young woman brutally raped on the Stanford campus. There was no banquet of being known, accepted, and loved. And I am sad, so sad for Brock Turner and all of the lies that continue to tell him that his 20 minutes of action was no big deal.

Do you see why God is so continually concerned with sexuality? And do you see why Satan continually tries to desecrate it? Because it is God’s premier reference to His relationship with us – His delight in us, how He enters us, gives us the seed of His Word, bears fruit through us, and has communion with us in the sanctuary of the eternal covenant of grace.

The Enemy has been brilliant at using the culture to distort this reference point so that if we think sex and sexual behavior is no big deal, then maybe we’ll think that an intimate, passionate relationship with Jesus is no big deal either. Satan wants to take our broken, difficult, disappointing, even abusive relationships and turn them into the reference point so that we may believe our relationship with God will be broken, difficult, disappointing, and even abusive.

Reorienting the Categories

We have to look at the context of this tragic crime on the Stanford campus and take substance abuse, objectification of others, and distorted sexuality seriously. We have seen how much is at stake. When we reorient our hearts and minds in these categories we will want to develop intimate relationships that reflect passionate physical, emotional, and spiritual connection, and the way we do that is by developing an intimate relationship with Jesus – so that He becomes more real than the disappointment, sadness, fear, and heartache that we experience in relationships.

Reorientation, for me, means there will be no more rose ceremonies.

 

 

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REMEMBERING COLUMBINE AND 4/20

Huge wave over old lighthouse of Porto, Portugal Continue Reading »

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THE TERRIBLE, BEAUTIFUL WASTE

Water drop falling on parched, cracked ground. Concept for importance of water resources, breaking the drought.

I kicked a gas pump last week and shouted a word I hardly ever use. The gas pump gave me 1-2 gallons of gas and then shut down, and I had to cancel the transaction and start the process all over again. And then I took my car through the car wash, which trapped it between its brushes and took small chips of paint hostage. And then I waited for two hours while the clerk waited on everyone else before he could file my incident report. What a waste!

We don’t like waste and we go to great lengths in this country to conserve and compress and dispose of our waste wisely.

I’m not writing about plastic bottles and gas-guzzling cars. I’m writing about a deeper waste that we all feel somewhere in our stories.

  •  There is the waste of a marriage – whether it be two years or twenty – that ends with words of heart shattering squander: “We’ve been together all this time and have nothing to show for it,” or “I never loved you. I just wanted to get away from you.” The judge validates the waste by proclaiming the marriage is irretrievably broken – wasted. There’s even the intact marriage where there is no trust, no friendship, no connection or communion. A waste of a marriage.
  • I’m sure you know the waste of painful relationship – a relationship that you’ve trusted, poured your heart into, and relied on; until one day for no reason, good, or bad reasons, the relationship withers away like droplets of water poured into the desert.
  • There is nothing like the pain of seeing our children seemingly throw their lives to the wind. We’ve prayed for them, nurtured their gifts, and anticipated deepening relationships; and then substance abuse, mental illness, bad choices, a cancer diagnosis, not meant for a child, makes us shake our heads at the inexplicable waste.
  • I have friend who started a booming business before the crash of 2008. He travelled the world and accumulated successes until the locusts of failure and bankruptcy ate everything. He sat in the ruins of the waste, certain he could never show his face to people again.
  • I think often about those bright and shiny gifted people we put on pedestals who fall into waste. We shake our heads at their wasted giftedness, and quickly pull all their books and sermons from the shelves, so we don’t have to be reminded that believing in them was a waste.
  • I have another friend who was sexually abused by her pastor for ten years – trapped in the cycle of shame, despair, and hopelessness. A lot goes to waste in ten years.
  • I listen (for only a few minutes) to the political candidates, turn off the television, and think, “Really, is this the best the most powerful nation on earth can do. What a waste!”
  • Of course, I feel most deeply my own waste – waste of money, relationships, time, grace – in the black hole of addiction.

I suspect your own stories are flooding your brain with painful memories you’ve tried to forget, cover, and compensate for by trying harder, doing better, making it count.

heart and blood on wooden background, medical symbol concept

It’s not that we have so little time but that we lose so much . . . The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.
-Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The Terrible Waste

Most of us store this waste up like we might need it someday. We become exhausted holding down the pain, keeping in the toxins, and building up resistance to ever being vulnerable to feel wasted again. Because of my recent brush with acute renal failure, I’ve learned a little about what happens when you hold on to waste. When our kidneys fail to filter waste from our blood sufficiently we are at risk for:

  •  toxic exposure to environmental pollutants
  • acute and chronic disease
  • severe thirst
  • trauma

water jet filling a glass on white background

If you take a teaspoon of salt, stir it into a glass of water, and take a sip of the water from the glass – Ich! The water is too salty to drink. If you take a teaspoon of salt and stir it into a lake, then take a glass of water from the lake and take a sip of water from the glass, the salt is completely dissolved in the vastness of the lake.
-Linda Graham, The Power to Heal Toxic Shame

The Beautiful Waste

The Bible is filled with strange stories, and there are two stories about waste that are compelling, and yet, so foreign to our natural tendencies to not waste, to hide waste, and to be ashamed of waste.

One story is in the Old Testament. David, the pride of Israel who led armies to slay thousands of enemies is on the run – hiding in dark caves, paranoid about his enemies, and plotting to become great again. He had lost so much – the pride of his countrymen, his integrity, and his family. I think maybe he was feeling the parched waste of a life when he said to his raggedy band of soldiers, “Oh, that one would give a drink of the water of Bethlehem . . .” I think David was thinking of his hometown, of a time of innocence, of a tenacious faith that fueled him to fight wild beasts and slay a giant. Maybe he was remembering that unfathomable day when the prophet Samuel showed up to anoint the next king of the nation. After surveying all of Jesse’s fine, qualified sons, he asked, “Are all your sons here?” You can almost hear Jesse scoff, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is just a shepherd.” To everyone’s surprise Samuel looked at this handsome young man with beautiful eyes and said the words no one expected, least of all David, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”

David’s soldiers weren’t thinking metaphorically, and so they risked their lives to sneak through enemy lines to bring a pitcher of water to David from the well in Bethlehem. I imagine their anticipation of his delight and satisfied quenched thirst; but this is where the story gets strange.

David refused to drink; instead, he poured it out to the Lord.
-1 Chronicles 11:18

Can you imagine all that stirred in the hearts of his soldiers – confusion, anger, hopelessness. What a waste.

The Waste of Strange Women

This story might become obscure if not for some stories in the New Testament about strange women. All of them pour their tears or expensive perfume to wash the feet of Jesus. One woman, who crashed the Pharisee’s dinner party, used her tears (she must have been weeping like I do when I watch one of those emotional episodes of Grey’s Anatomy) and expensive perfume (perhaps the proceeds of her prostitution) to wash Jesus’ feet. The outraged hosts of the party wondered what she was even doing there, and then in seeing her action, they exclaimed, “What a waste!”

BANSKA STIAVNICA, SLOVAKIA - FEBRUARY 5, 2015: The detail of carved statue of Pieta (Mary of Magdala) as the part of baroque Calvary from years 1744 - 1751 by Dionyz Stanetti.

Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing . . . but she has soothed my feet with perfume. She has done a beautiful thing!
– Matthew 26:6-10

Waste and Worship

Waste strangely can be a path to life. The source of hope for our desire to love and be loved; to have mutual, authentic relationships; to find meaning in this disintegrating world is is to let go (pour it all out) and let God transform what seems like waste into worship.

The only ones who can accept the path of Jesus are those who have nothing to protect, not their own self-image or their reputation, their possessions, their theology, their principles of their certitude.
– Richard Rohr, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go

How do we “pour out” all that has seemed like such a waste? I am grateful to the storyteller, Rod Bell, for his thoughts on these stories in “What to do With Waste.” He suggests a ritual or a ceremony where we pour out something to symbolize that we are not holding that waste within us any more. I love that idea, and I’m thinking of all the pouring I need to do.

I am also thinking of a daily ritual – when my heart and mind swirl with anger, fear, doubt (and a desire to kick a gas pump) – that I need a moment (okay, many moments) of saying, “I surrender. I’m pouring, laying, throwing this at your feet.”

And He calls that beautiful.

Of course He does, because in that seemingly greatest waste of history when the God of Glory became the King of our waste. He knew all that waste would be so painful. He prayed to His Father, “If there’s anyway this cup can be taken from me, please take it.” He knew all that He was to pour out. He hung stripped and naked to that tree pouring out His tears, sweat, and even blood. I imagine all those droplets falling into the dry earth. I suspect His followers who peered out from their hiding places, and especially His mother who saw her child – who could out-think and out-talk religious scholars grow into a man who healed the sick, fed the hungry, and encouraged the desperate – she must have agonized, “What a waste.”

It was not until all our waste was poured out through Him, that He said, “It is finished.” He died, and those strange women sat vigil at his tomb surely wondering what was happening in this seemingly God-damned world. They looked like lonely, foolish women who had squandered their outpourings on the wrong man.

But then . . . but then the earth reeled and rocked as the stone fell from the tomb’s opening. An angel  – a messenger of Good News – said, “Go tell everyone that He is risen from the dead.” They went to find Jesus, and once again covered his feet with their tears . . . and worshipped Him.

Maybe the best we can do is to take all those confusing, painful stories of such prodigal waste and not try harder, do better, or never let anything slip from our grasp – but to limp Home with dusty feet and all our losses and hand them to Him, saying, “Here. They are all yours.” Despite our fiercest attempts at conservation, we don’t eliminate the waste, God does.

As Rich Mullins sang, “Surender don’t come natural to me . . . .”  I tend to take surrendered things back, and so if you hear me muttering, “Here,” a lot, you’ll know why.

“I am already being poured out as a drink offering.” 2 Timothy 4:6

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