Commit The Neighbor = Me Fiction Until…

One of our greatest human traits is compassion, which means, literally, “to suffer with another.” But this high art is seldom born in an instant as a response to watching the TV “news,” or even in response to firsthand experience.

More often compassion’s seeds are sewn via a preliminary magic known as empathy.

And empathy begins with a fictive act:

What would it be like to be that black girl four rows in front of me?  a little white girl wonders in school one morning.

Her imagination sets to work, creating unwritten fiction. In her mind she becomes the black girl, dons her clothes, accent, skin, joins her friends after school, goes home to her family, lives that life. No firsthand experience is taking place. Nothing “newsworthy” is happening. Yet a white-girl-turned-fictitiously-black is linking skin hue to… Read More

Availability, Vulnerability, & The Fragility of Presence

On Sundays, I like to give a few shout-outs – sharing with you what I enjoyed online this past week. Here are two excellent posts worth your time:

nathan foster post

1. This Post: Practicing Availability & Vulnerability by Nathan Foster. Here’s my favorite line(s): A quote from my friend Robert speaks so strongly and deeply to my predicament:

“Busyness is greed.”

By filling my life with events, activities, and responsibilities that far exceed the boundaries God has set for humans to function well, I am being greedy. Greedy for… Read More

Are You Prepared To Be A Kingdom Anthropologist?

I see that all are carrying the weight of their own histories—an entire world riding piggy on each back. They’re all fighting their own battles, wearing their own scars, bleeding from their own wounds, pushing through their own struggles.

We’ve all got chains and walls and masks and metals. We’re all haunted by devils and ghosts and lies and losses.

I see that you and you and all of you are bent with your own heaviness, just like I’m doubled over with mine. I see humanity has seven billion different molecular codes informing their responses and reactions, comebacks, knee jerks, wisecracks—persuading the spectrum of their emotions and decisions.

I see the guy who seems whole on the outside—his features are symmetrical and his clothes are pressed just so and his teeth are advertisement white—but his soul limps half-cocked like a zombie, diseased and mostly dead.

I see the one in the dark-alley shadows who perpetuates unspeakable evil, and I look at him extra long, taking the time to trace his life backward in my imagination with the hope of understanding what… Read More

So The Whole World Falls In

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Evangelism as embodied by Jesus… implies the all-embracing love evident in Mother Teresa’s prayer:

May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.

Not just her fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, potential converts. The whole world.

It gives me pause to realize that, were such a prayer said by me and answered by God, I would afterward possess a heart so open that even hate-driven zealots would fall inside. There is a self-righteous knot in me that finds zealotry so repugnant it wants to… Read More

Why Did Jesus Tell Them To Buy Swords?

A friend recently asked me the following question:

My reading this morning is in the latter chapters of Luke. The Last Supper is finished, they’re heading for the garden and what Jesus knows is His arrest and murder. He tells the disciples to bring swords. They say they have two, and He says “It’ll do.” Off they go.

Yet, in John, when stuff starts to go down and Peter actually uses one of those swords, Jesus tells him to put it away, because answering violence with violence is not the answer. Then He fixes the damage that Peter did.

So here’s the conundrum:

Why did Jesus tell them to bring swords in the first place?

If He didn’t want anybody using them, why did He… Read More

This is the World I Want to Live in.

My friend Jackie Frazier shared this beautiful story with me, so now of course I want to share it with you. It’s entitled “Gate A-4″ by Naomi Shihab Nye – the poet, songwriter, and novelist – born to a Palestinian father and an American mother… she calls herself “a wandering poet.”

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:

“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.”

Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing.

“Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her… Read More

Jesus, Hyperbole, & Ignoring Him Completely

*note: picture above is a statue of Jesus in Hallgrímskirkja – the iconic church in Reykjavík, Iceland.

I got into a crazy discussion with a pastor friend recently.

It all started when I answered a question honestly. My answer was something like this: “I don’t believe in guns.”

Chaos erupted in the room. Every eye was on me as I attempted to explain myself.

I tried to describe how, as a follower of Jesus, I embrace his way of non-violence, forgiveness-times-infinity, enemy-love, blessing those who curse, etc.

There were more questions. Hypothetical situations raised. Some ridicule. Maybe a little genuine curiosity too.

But then it got weird. Somehow the question… Read More

Have We Lost Our Imagination?

I recently said, “I think compassion is a muscle and the church has atrophy. Time to build some muscle.”

Another muscle withering away due to neglect is imagination.

We have lost our imagination.

I think this happens because we are so easily tempted to mimic, copy, follow, and accept status quo as reasonable and good enough.

In the church it happens like this: we look to another church in some other part of the state or country that is considered successful because of one or more of the “B’s” – buildings, budgets, and butts-in-seats. We esteem these other churches as having or being something that we also should have or be. We podcast them. We fly over to them and scribble notes about everything we see and hear. We meet with their leaders to get their secret recipes. And then we bring it home to our state, city, neighborhood.

This whole thing reeks of a lack of imagination.

What ever happened to… Read More