Breaking Bread, and Barriers

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I was really impressed by this article this week:

People Who Strongly Disagree Should Just Break Bread Together

I thought it especially appropriate for Some Grace With That, because it deals with one of the hardest topics in all of modern day American Christianity – listening respectfully to views with which you don’t agree.

If anyone should be masters of this it ought to be Christ’s followers. Sounds a little like loving our enemy, no? And I know some of us are.

I, however, am not, and I sense that I’m in the majority. At least, Christians like me are by far the best known version of us.

I really urge you to read the full article, it’s not that long and it’s well worth it – the end of the story alone is paradigm cracking. If you have an extra 11 minutes, there is even an embedded TED talk by the researcher.

But in case you have graciously shared with this little blog all the reading time you have right now (thank you!) I’ll briefly summarise:

  1. Locate someone with views very different from your own, and take them to lunch (or coffee, dinner, you get the gist).
  2. Ask them, in the course of this meal, these three things:
  • Share some of your life experiences with me.
  • What issues deeply concern you?
  • What have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side?

3.  And share your responses to the same.

This will require, of course, really listening, not attacking, but it can be done.

The article suggests that these three questions allow us to see the bigger picture of ‘The Other Side‘ and realise that we may have a number of values, interests and experiences in common – far more than we’d have imagined.

From my own experience, I can see that. I’ll be writing a handful of posts on the game changers that transformed my approach to Christianity, and as I think back on these experiences in light of this article, the common thread I see is that they allowed (forced?) me to see the bigger picture of the people starring in them, and to see how much more we were alike than different.

My dream for Some Grace With That is to become a sort of virtual lunch date like that proposed in this article.

So, pull up a chair, grab a cappuccino, (OMG try this lemon bar, it’s AMAZING! sorry, back on track) and if you will be so kind…

Share some of your life experiences with me.

What issues deeply concern you?

What have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side?

 

Feel free to reply in the comments, if you wish.

For the LOVE of Valentine’s Day

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THIS WEEKEND IS VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!

I just can’t wait.

Valentine’s day is my absolute, hands down, FAVOURITE holiday!

I wish it was a public holiday, with the whole glorious day off to just enjoy. Or the whole week. We need more week long celebrations in this country.

I’ve written previously about some of the big shocks of my early adulthood. Another was the realisation that many people hate Valentine’s Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love! What on earth is offensive in  that?!?!

Even if you have some curious distaste for love, Valentine’s Day also involves chocolate, for goodness’ sake! [note] Now, if you are allergic to chocolate, I admit you have a legitimate gripe. But Valentines Day is a day for creativity. I have faith in you. [/note]

Okay, so you don’t happen to have a boyfriend / girlfriend / spouse this weekend.

SO WHAT?!?!?

Is that really the ONLY class of person that has ever loved you?? The only class of person you can love?

Don’t you have a mother? Or maybe your mother makes Joan Crawford look like Mother of the Year. It happens. But I know there is at least one person, somewhere, whom you can celebrate, and who can celebrate you.

Everybody capable of love has at least one colleague, friend, family member, teacher, student, or associate somewhere who loves them or whom they love.

 

At least a little. I refuse to believe differently [note] And if you have a serious personality disorder rendering you incapable of love, then I refuse to believe you’d be bitter about not being paired on Valentine’s day! Bring a seasonal thank you note to your shrink and enjoy the day. [/note].

So go out there and wish them a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Send a frilly pink card to your Great Aunt Matilda. (If you’re really brave, call her up and ask her to tell you about her first crush.)

Take everyone in the office a piece of dark chocolate. One of the very few things I miss about working in a real office is being able to bring in cookies or cupcakes or flowers for everyone on Valentines’ Day. Sure Valentine’s Day is on Sunday this year; no one will mind an extra day of love.

Or bake some festive cupcakes for the neighbours. Afraid the hot new guy in 11B will get the wrong idea? Then give cupcakes to only the little old ladies in the complex. WANT the hot to guy in 11B to get some ideas? Start up a conversion as you include him in the cupcake celebration!

Still feeling contrary?

Then just give cupcakes to crabby old Mrs. Macgruder in 4B, who is always in a bad mood. Big fluffy ones with lots of pink frosting. Go guerrilla if you need to, and drop them off anonymously – it’s not like she’s going to admit to appreciating them anyway.

Can’t bake? That’s what flowers are for! Or a short handwritten note.

Simply a smile and a Happy Valentines Day! can go a remarkably long way.

Even if you hate the world just now, you ought to at least love yourself, so prepare some simple yet decadent treat just for YOU. Take yourself out to your favourite Thai restaurant, have a long hot bath, go for a run in the really nice park across town – whatever YOU love to do FOR YOU.

And if you happen to be a Christian, then seriously – where you gonna top THAT kind of love? Share a cupcake or a fancy coffee with God and enjoy the day!

Worst case scenario, bring some seed to the birds in the park or hand out a few single carnations to strangers on the street, grocery baggers, or your Barista, smiling and saying “Have a happy Valentine’s Day!”. You’ll be amazed how much joy it brings.

Whatever you do, CELEBRATE!! Valentine’s Day is NOT a time for bitterness.

And have a happy Valentine’s day.

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Be well.

 

 

 

The Poor, the Widow and the Orphan Vs. Guns, Gays, and Abortion: What then, HAS God prioritised?

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Okay, did anybody peek?

In my last post I talked about how the American Church is known for very strongly prioritising things that, frankly, don’t come across that heavily in Bibilical prioritisation, but I didn’t make it to the things God DOES prioritise.

So what does God prioritise?

The Poor and the Vulnerable

God makes a big deal out of these folks.

In fact, God prioritises the poor and vulnerable – specifically, making sure they have justice and meeting their needs –  more than any other specific group that I can find. I get the impression they are more important to him than pretty  much anything else except our relationship with HIM.

And actually, I suspect one reason they get so much Biblical air time is because of what our treatment of them says about our relationship with him.

How we treat those  who can’t certainly repay us, or enforce any demand upon us, says a lot about who we are, don’t you think?

God also mentions the rich a fair amount, but in not one single place does he say ‘You, my disciples, should do everything you can to be rich, or to make sure the rich get richer.’

In fact, he’s got some fairly disturbing things to say about Christians focusing our energies on the rich.

And what he says TO the rich is frequently a warning to be very, very careful because wealth and godliness are a tough combination to get right. *

Justice and Mercy

This is another focus to which he gives pretty solid weight.

Interestingly, from the wisdom of the Proverbs, through to the specific and very clear instruction in Isaiah, and on to pretty much every word Jesus ever said on earth, God, who is both completely just and completely merciful, reserves most of the justice work for his end of the deal and focuses our work largely on the mercy end of things.

I suspect this is because he is perfect, trustworthy, and objective in all things, and we are not.

When God does discuss justice in reference to our work, I generally find that he’s on our case about the fact that we are preventing others from getting that justice – usually, you guessed it:  the poor, the vulnerable (widows, orphans, aliens in our homelands), and such.

So where does that leave me?

In a philisophitheologicadocrinal show down between Guns Gays and Abortion Vs the Poor, the Widow and the Orphan, what’s a poorly trained Christian girl to do?

In my case, the answer so far is go with what you know. 

And what I know, so far, is that it makes sense to prioritise the most important parts of your message, so it probably makes sense to devote my greatest energy to those things God emphasised most.

And what I see God emphasising, old testament and new, is:

These things not only don’t reinforce a Guns, Gays and Abortion stance as the right priority for a girl seeking to live as a Christian, they are painfully opposed to much that has resulted from that view.

And my policy, when caught between God and Man, is go with God every time. (I’ve read the end of the story; God wins.)

SO, I after a couple years of reading the real Bible, and using my real God-given brains on what I found there, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some of the views and beliefs I had picked up from my Christian culture, just as I had had to do with my larger societal culture.

  • I started looking at policies, personal choices, values in light of what I saw there. And I changed what I put my energy into.
  • I changed how I pray.
  • I eventually changed how I vote –  started choosing political candidates based on the whole of their platform, and on the BIG PICTURE impacts of it, not just their rhetoric about THE BIG THREE.

It’s yet another opportunity to not fit in ANYWHERE!

But then I’ve gotten used to that over the years.

And it makes it possible for me to vote, and live, and think, in ways that reflect what I really believe, which takes a remarkable amount of stress out of the Christian life.

Every once in a while I even remember that God is omniscient and omnipotent and could probably run the whole thing without my input!

 

 

* Just a smattering of those verses:

Proverbs 22:16

Proverbs 23:4

Proverbs 28:8

Proverbs 28:20

Matthew 19:23

Luke 12:15-21

James 1:9-11

James 5

Revelation 3:17