NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART: The wild world of Facebook

Artist: Jubly-Umph

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.” –Anne Lamott

It seemed like a good idea. 12 weeks before the presidential election I thought I would post little encouraging videos every Tuesday to see if they might encourage dialogue about how we could make this season more healing, less wounding. That didn’t happen. I was quickly introduced into the wild, wide-open world of social media.

Usually, I post to my relatively small circle of friends – pictures of family, life events, and once I posted a picture of an extraordinarily rare meal I actually cooked myself. These posts in my adventure into a wider world of social media were public. I created a “business” site and allowed Facebook to circulate my posts for a small fee. I learned Facebook can reject my content; and they did – about subjects from addiction to the election. So I registered to be a “political operative,” giving Facebook the right to identify that I was the author of the material and paid for the post. Me? A political operative? I can hear my adult children laughing.

Here was my thought: it would be worth it to give a piece of my soul to Mark Zuckerberg to get a chance to promote my new book – Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another; to plant seeds of kindness; and to talk about good news in a world way too full of bad.

I was not prepared for the comments. Although Facebook told me 1000’s watched the videos, I’m not sure how many watched to engage with my content. Many wanted to post their own content – about our president, our former vice president, each other, and me. Let’s just say I’ve never heard so much “potty” language since my children were toddlers. (Just maybe that says something about the mindset we’ve accepted for grown men and women in the tumult of these times.)

Art by HollowTreeVentures

I have two more weeks to go to fulfill my commitment (to myself) for this weekly Tuesdays Together project. I’m really not offended by the responses I’ve received. Many have been kind, supportive, and encouraging. But I am sad. We are living in a world marked by distance, division, and disconnection. Experiencing this world in a new dimension (for me), made me ponder:

What stories are you willing to walk into? Whether it be on Facebook, in a small group, or at the grocery store? What makes the Gospel good news is who it pursues not who it excludes. This project has made me ask again: Am I willing to stop debating other people’s perspectives (and potty pictures) and, as Brene Brown writes, “show up, be seen, and love without an agenda”? (from Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another) I’ve always been challenged by the words of Donald Miller, “Real love stories don’t have dictators. Love is an ever-changing, complicated, choose-your-own adventure narrative that offers the world but guarantees nothing.”

Several months ago my friend, Nick Richtsmeier, and I were talking about the high cost of being right, and I expressed my fear of being known and seen – especially on social media. I despaired, “What about all those trolls hiding between our posts – ready to fight, show off, diminish us?” Nick quietly spoke profound truth. He said, “What if I’ve become one of the trolls?” Wow. If we want to be “liked,” our side to be winning, we can easily use our words as weapons. The good news is the opposite is true. This is why before we engage in any kind of conversation, we need to ask: “What am I really looking for?” As I learned in my Tuesdays Together adventure, we do not live in times when we can impulsively post our perspectives and not count the cost.

Art by

As I’ve pondered this experiment of engaging more fully on social media about potentially controversial subjects (What isn’t these days? Even pumpkin spice lattes are cause for debate!), I’ve been reminded of the good news I really do want to flavor all of my conversations with, because:

If Jesus will go to the end of the world and hang on a cross to get one self-absorbed, fear-filled, people-pleasing woman who can be petty and easily perturbed (that’s me) – he will go to anyone, anywhere – even on Facebook. You see I am really the image-bearer of God – loved before the foundation of the world, brought into a deeper story of beloved belonging and allowed to invite others into that story as well (from Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another).

Where is this strange season we are in taking you? The Kingdom of God is for democrats, republicans, trolls, toddlers, oddballs, outcasts, liars, addicts, fools and the totally uncool – willing to “show up, be seen, and love without an agenda” – because we are hungry for More.

Will you join me in these next weeks – come what may – in answering the call of our Storyteller God: “Go. Invite everyone. Whisper or shout, Welcome. There’s bread and wine. Come sit and eat with us and talk. ‘This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.'”(Rachel Held Evans)

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Relational Violence: Change in the Ruins

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Tuesdays Together – Weeks 3 and 4

We are counting down to the next presidential election (now 7 weeks away), and I have invited you to join me on Tuesdays to wonder together if and how this season can be healing instead of further breaking us apart.

In Week 3 I talk about The Day I Learned I Had Covid 19. I crashed into an unexpected and confusing illness, and pretty quickly wanted to know who to blame. Blame seems natural to us when we feel betrayed, hurt, and afraid. Blame also plants a crop of suspicion, entitlement, anxiety, shame, and disconnection. Is it possible that wrecks can be a relief – revealing we cannot fix ourselves, save ourselves, rescue ourselves . . . we need a rescue story.

During week 4 the headlines in the news are about Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage; the Kardashians exit from reality television in 2021; the terrible fires on the West Coast; the shutdown of John MacArthur’s church in California. But what are you really thinking about – as you drift off to sleep at night, load the dishwasher, or wait in traffic to get home from work?

Most of us feel the brokenness of these times deep down inside – where we really live. What kind of glue do you use to try to put together the broken pieces? Pleasure, power and control, work and busyness, relationships, or spirituality?

Are you disappointed in your efforts to make life work or ignoring that it’s not working? Are you hungry for hope? The challenge this week is to let go of your coping strategies and see what remains. This can be a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes we need to experience an absence to get ready for a Presence.

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Tuesdays Together – Break Some Rules, Bring Socks

Last week I invited you to my birthday wish – that we get together every Tuesday over the next few weeks. In two months we will elect our next president. What if this season – instead of pushing and pulling us away from each other – becomes our way back to one another? I asked you to bring a piece of glass with as many colors and patterns as possible and to bring a hammer. Here is the video:

My Birthday Wish

September 1, 2020 is our first Tuesday Together. The challenge is to break that piece of glass – indicating two things: we are willing to break a few rules in the way we engage with others. Belonging is something we nurture and grow. It requires that we show up as our most vulnerable selves and be deeply seen and known while we offer welcome and worthiness to others in their vulnerability. Secondly, breaking the glass is a way to hope that this season of dissension, division, distance, and disconnection is a gift. It is a gift that may cut our hands and make them bleed as we open it, but it is a gift. What if we were uniquely created for this time and 2020 is not a nightmare we hope to awaken from on January 1, 2021? This time is a gift in which we can find our true selves, one another, and the God who is writing this story – filled with sneaky viruses, tricky topics, pain-filled events, a volatile presidential election . . . and us.

This Tuesday I invite you to say something – not about the headlines of the day. There are stories of the day and stories of eternity – we get to those by acknowledging we are all wired for struggle and for the worthiness of belonging. And I invite you to do something – outside of your comfort zone. It could involve socks. Here’s the video:

I hope you will join me each Tuesday and bring your jar of dust and broken pieces. We are just getting started. We can create a movement toward belonging in every moment, every conversation, and with every person we meet. This is how we change the world. Together.

See you next Tuesday.

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Belonging: Therapy and the Healing Path

Here is your personal invitation to join Jim Coffield and me as we talk all things therapy. How do we find the healing path in the midst of uncertainty and alienation. See you Monday night!

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Belonging: What the Church Needs

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Belonging: Videocasts

JOIN ME for six incredible videocasts. Livestream with Q&A at The programs will also be recorded on social media.
Chuck DeGroat (author of When Narcissism Comes to Church: The Church – Where do We Go Next? August 3, 10:00 AM CDT
Dr. Jim Coffield (clinical supervisor and masterful storyteller): Therapists – How Do We Help Clients Find Belonging? August 3, 7:00 PM CDT
Grace Casper (senior at Baylor, inspiring) – How Do We Step into the Future and Find Connection with Our Adult Children? August 4, 7:00 PM CDT
Kristen Wheeler (supermomwannabe): Moms – Where Do You Find Belonging? August 5, 10:00 AM CDT
Lisa Peretti (recovery coach) – How Do We Step into Recovery and help Those We Love? August 5, 7:00 PM CDT
Lisa Brockman (author of Out Of Zion): How Do We Have Meaningful Conversations with People We Disagree With? August 6, 7:00 CDT

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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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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 . . .
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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