Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Hanging of the Greens (#WeekendUpdate #Haiku)


Cats hide under here
and there as decorations
appear everywhere.

-- Stephen R. Clark

This poem is included in this collection:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

And for what we got, oh Lord, we thank Thee?


What a wonderful day of food, fun, fellowship, and football. We gather with friends or family, enjoy a lovely feast, and contemplate how fortunate we are.

We are thankful for our health, wealth, and whatever. We each have our lists of the “things” for which we are grateful that we contemplate like beads on a rosary.

But I’m not sure we’re doing it right. I mean, doesn’t it all feel so -- what’s the word -- smug?

After all, being thankful for what we have carries the unspoken implication that we’re also thankful that we’re not without. Or, in other words, we’re not one of those “have nots.”

Which is a convoluted way to say, “I’m thankful because I have what others don’t and am what others aren’t.”

Which, if we’re brutally honest, ultimately boils down to thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, and not enough about Who we ought.

A Pharisee & a tax collector walk into a temple

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He did and that’s how we got “The Lord’s Prayer,” a lovely little litany nearly all of us can recite from memory.

The disciples did not ask Jesus how to be thankful.

But he taught them anyway, using a cutting little parable from which we get another prayer that Jesus says we shouldn’t pray. But I think we do, in some form or another, all too easily, and all too often.

It’s “The Pharisee’s Prayer.”

It goes something like this: “Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this mere tax collector [aka, someone I view as beneath my station]. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income. I’m a good person -- a better person -- a thankful person.”




Standing a distance from the Pharisee, the tax collector, “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”

This is thanks of a different color.

Thankful for the “who” rather than the “stuff”

Being thankful is a good thing. Paul encourages us in Colossians 2:6-7, writing, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (ESV).

But when we exhibit an “attitude of gratitude” by giving thanks for stuff and social position, it can be wrong-focused, even marginally idolatrous.

For example, when expressing our gratitude on Facebook with a list of the “things” for which we are grateful. You know, the new car we've been blessed with, the big promotion at work, the good test results from our recent health check up, the expensive exotic vacation, and so on.

Sounding just a tad like the Pharisee, eyes open and heads up, we display and show off our thankfulness to God for these “things” that He has blessed us with to our benefit. And look around to see if anyone’s noticing our good fortune. And our “gratitude.”

So what might be a better approach?

The Apostle Paul was a very thankful guy. Maybe he can offer a few clues.

I thank God for you & you & you

In Romans, Paul shouts out thanks to Prisca and Aquila his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus who risked their necks for my life.”

In 1 Thessalonians Paul tells us to give thanks in “all circumstances” even when things aren’t going very well at all.

In 2 Thessalonians he advocates that “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”

In Ephesians he explains that he does “not cease to give thanks” to those he ministers to by unceasingly, and long-windedly, praying
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
Whew! Take a breath and let’s continue!

The point?

Paul expressed and exhibited an attitude of gratitude. Not so much for what he had, but rather for those who were being Christ-like by allowing the grace of God to be expressed through them as they were being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

He gave thanks to God for the manifestation of caring, love, and provision that was evidenced within and out of the extended body of Christ, the church.

This overriding attitude of gratitude was directed toward God, the Great Provider, who gave them more than money could buy.

To God be the glory & our thanks

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to be thankful for stuff as long as the stuff we have is not the ultimate focus of our thanks. We need to keep in mind that our having stuff or social position doesn’t necessarily glorify God. It doesn’t feed our faith.

Focusing on the stuff we have makes us aware of the stuff we don’t have. This opens us up to buying into the “Black Friday” hype that misdirects so much of our attention at Thanksgiving toward getting more stuff.

When we gather with our families on this special day, will our thanks-focus be, “Boy, howdy, I’m sure thankful I was able to get to the store before everyone else and score those great deals!”

Or, rather, will we humbly, like Paul, say, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

My hope is that, along with Jude, we will center our thanks-focus by praying, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

May you and yours have a God-directed, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving!

How do you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving? What are favorite memories and traditions? What / who are you thankful for? Share in the comments!

Just for fun and because I love Garrison Keillor’s wit:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stance & Slant: Stand and deliver with respect

(Originally posted April 15, 2011;
posted here with minor edits)

There’s a great commercial by Xerox that shows a guy interacting with a cardboard cutout of the “Fighting Irish” mascot. The mascot, of course, doesn’t speak a word, but his “stance” speaks volumes.

Stance refers to a person’s posture, body language, and the physical expression of their attitude: the way they hold or carry themselves.

For athletes and musicians, the stance is the position they take just before performing. The attitude being expressed is to perform well and win.

Stance also can refer to a person’s attitude, state of mind, or the specific position they hold on a topic.

People who hold liberal views are referred to as left-leaning, which is their stance; while those of a conservative bent are said to lean to the right.

The stance we hold when we take a stand on an issue translates into writing as slant, but with a bit of a twist.

Slant is not just about where we stand, but is more about connecting with our intended audience.

Avoiding the spin cycle

When someone abuses slant, they move into spin. To put a spin on something usually means bending facts, stretching truths, and embellishing reality to make something more appealing; kind of like trying to gild a cow pie and presenting it as an acceptable centerpiece for the dinner table.

On the other hand, the purpose of slant is not to distort, but rather to clarify, connect, and convince using clear facts, plain truths, and unvarnished reality.

Slant takes into consideration the intended audience and casts messages in a tone and style acceptable to that audience. Wording and terminology used are selected and crafted carefully to ensure the audience will be able to receive and understand the message.

Engineers, lawyers, and accountants

For example, when I was developing technical sales proposals with AT&T, the majority of these documents were written by engineers to engineers and incorporated a ton of acronyms and technical terms only engineers could appreciate.

However, these proposals also included financial sections, legal sections, and the always critical executive summaries. Each of these sections were crafted to appeal to their intended audiences.

The executive summary was always one of the more challenging sections to write. It was slanted toward a non-technical reader who wasn’t a finance or legal expert, while providing a brief but thorough overview of the entire proposal that would allow the reader to make an informed decision.

Engineers, lawyers, or accountants didn’t write executive summaries primarily because their personal stance was too heavily weighted toward their specialties. This made it impossible for them to slant their content in a way that would connect with someone who was not deeply versed in their specialties.

Leaning in to make connections

Writing slant means you need to be objective about your own viewpoint while being sensitive to your intended audience. It means you lean toward them like you lean in close when chatting with an intimate friend.

Slanted writing is real, personal, and accessible. It isn’t loud, acrimonious, or pointedly insistent.

We all have a variety friends, relatives, and acquaintances who are very different from one another. The way you chat with your buddy, Gus, the 30-something architect, can involve more complex ideas and language than when you chat with Aunt Gertie, who is in her 70s, dropped out of school after 7th grade, and spends all her time watching reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

With each, you’ll modify your conversational style to match their conversational style as well as taking into consideration their frames of reference, etc.. If you don’t, there will be a lot of “Huh? What?” going on.

Slanting expresses respect

When you write slant, you are being aware of who you are writing to, what’s happening in their world, the key points you want to get across, and how to connect with them in a respectful way at their level.

You will want to be aware of essential demographics, but more importantly, you want to see the people you are trying to reach as human beings and not just an “audience” you are “targeting” with a “message.”

To slant your writing never means to “dumb it down” or come off as if you are talking down to your audience. That’s just another form of spin. Slant is about getting close to your audience, leaning in, looking them in the eye, and respectfully sharing your story in a manner that draws them in.

Tell it slant

To best connect your message with your intended audience;
  • Be aware of your own stance on the topic
  • Stay away from spinning your message
  • Tap into the language of the audience’s community
  • Lean in and write to them as if you are addressing a friend
  • Talk to them, but never down to them
  • Be respectful.
Carefully crafting a message means to slant it to be accessible to the various audiences you are trying to reach. It’s about finding away to talk with them, not at or to them.

It means stepping off your soap box, putting down the megaphone, and standing alongside those with whom you wish to connect.

In his book Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers,” author Eugene Peterson advocates for “...cultivating a language that honors the holiness in words; the God-rootedness, the Christ-embodiedness, the Spirit-aliveness.” Emily Dickinson declares in a poem:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
In what ways do you incorporate slant into your writing? What are the dangers of writing slant? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stifled Yarns, Unknit Stories (#WeekendUpdate #Haiku)


Standing, holding coat,
the best chairs bearing samples,
I yawn amidst yarns.

-- Stephen R. Clark

This poem is included in this collection:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Booklovers (#FlashFictionFriday*)

“Description is a bunch of crap. Waste of time,” the short, large-framed, rumpled man spoke disparagingly as he manhandled the stack of marked-down-to-a-dollar novels.

“I want something that tells the story straight with none of that fancy schmancy elaboration. You know, no dream sequences, no flashbacks, no mood setting narratives. Just give me the damn story already. And action. Lots of action. All the rest is just a waste of words. Not to mention ink and paper.”

No one was standing near him in the warm, musty-smelling second-hand bookstore. He was talking to the dust motes, or maybe to invisible elves watching over him from the tops of the bookcases.

“Hmmm. This one looks interesting. I like the cover. The title is catchy. Yep.” He headed to the counter with his prize gripped in his thick-fingered left hand as he dug in his pocket with his right hand, grabbing a wad of crumpled, damp bills. He tossed them on the counter next to his book and went back in for the coins.

“That’ll be $3.17, sir.” The female clerk spoke with confidence and a smile, looking straight into his eyes. She was an inch taller than him with a smattering of pale freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose and dusting the tops of her cheeks. Her hair was a natural reddish brown and her smile was genuine and charming.

He stared at her for a moment, eyes receding into his head as he calculated what was happening, then spoke with a gruff hoarseness, “The sign says all those books are only a dollar!”

The clerk continued grinning pleasantly as she glanced back at the book and the price tag adhering to the cover which illustrated in violent graphics the general plot arc of the story. Something on the cover made her blush as she replied, “I’m sorry sir, but another customer must have put this in the dollar stack by mistake. This one is $2.99, plus the tax of course.”

She spoke with a lovely lilt, her tone not condescending and only slightly apologetic. It was soothing and sweet. He was entranced, disarmed.

“Well, okay, I guess,” the words falling from his mouth like half-chewed food as he counted out the exact change from his sloppy cache of money.

The clerk picked the bills and change off the counter, sorted everything neatly into the cash register, closed it, bagged his book with his receipt, and handed it to him nearly singing, he thought, “Sorry about that, sir. Here you go. Have a nice day and come again!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he growled and grumbled as he shuffled toward the door. “You have a good day yerself, missy.”

He stepped outside into the cool early-winter air grasping his treasure in one hand as he closed his coat with the other. It was a windy and snow-streaked day. “Time to go home,” he spoke spewing steam, speaking to the wind, the snow, the day, the elves. “And meet these new friends.”


* It’s flash fiction Friday! (To learn more about FFF, click here and scroll down.) 
Flash fiction is nothing more or less than a very, very short short story. This one is 500 words. What do you think? Know anyone like this guy? Who are the new friends he is planning to meet? What is the story really about? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don’t be fleeced into thinking of this mighty introvert as one who shilly-shallied

When you’re a kid growing up in a small Pentecostal church, knowing God’s will is a big deal. You want to know the formula for getting it right.

Just when you thought you came across something in the Bible that might be “it,” the “anti-fleece” sermon would roll around the next Sunday to remind you that you were wrong. Again.

The “anti-fleece” was a popular sermon I heard a lot growing up. The gist was what not to do when seeking God’s will.


But that’s not the reason I’m bringing this up. The antihero of the “anti-fleece” sermon was poor, old Gideon. Gideon was characterized as a cowardly, hesitant, God-doubting wimp.

In fact, he was described the way a lot of people think of introverts.

Be honest. When you hear someone label themselves as an introvert, adjectives that come to mind probably include at least one of these: backward, bashful, cowardly, fearful, halting, hesitant, indecisive, shy, slow-witted, stand-offish, tentative, timid, wimpy, one who shilly-shallies.

While an introvert may possess one or more of these qualities, none are true synonyms for “introvert.”

In fact, there are many extroverts who are cowardly, indecisive, and more. And there are introverts who are quite courageous.

For example, Gideon.

Gideon’s story is found in the Bible in the book of Judges, chapters 6, 7, and 8.

Other than a brief mention in 1 Samuel 12:11 where he’s referenced by his alternate name, Jerubbaal, the only other notable place he’s cited in scripture is in Hebrews, but I’ll get to that later.

Introverts are cautious

The story of Gideon opens with him hiding in a winepress, secretly threshing some wheat.

And, therefore, he’s a cowering coward.

Of course, this characterization completely ignores that Gideon was hiding from marauding hordes of ruthless Midianites and their buds who “would come like locusts in number,” laying waste to the land, taking everything and anything they wanted by force.

Within the context of the story, hiding in the winepress seems shrewd and responsible, especially given the viciousness of those he was hiding from.

Typical wise introvert behavior.

Introverts tend to avoid the spotlight

As an introvert, Gideon is not shy, timid, or cowardly. His Creator doesn’t believe he’s a cowerer, either. God sends an angel who addresses Gideon as a “mighty man of valor.”

Gideon’s first reaction is typical of an introvert. He tells his angelic messenger, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold...I am the least....”

In fact, his overall response is very introvert-like:
  • He asks for more information so he can better assess what’s happening.
  • He takes time so he can process what’s happening.
  • He seeks clarification to ensure he’s heard correctly.
After all, Gideon is being instructed to go against savage hordes and save his entire people.

True to his created nature, Gideon carefully weighed what was happening before launching into action.

Introverts build on smaller victories

From what I’ve observed in extroverts, they’re response might have been to shout an enthusiastic “Yo! Let’s roll!” while grabbing a sword and running headlong into the fray to do battle, and probably die on the spot.

Extroverts act before they think. Introverts do the opposite.

Gideon’s first task was to destroy an altar and idols Gideon’s father, Joash, had built to Baal, a false god. He plans, gathers trusted helpers, and waits until the whole town is asleep to do the deed, then quietly goes to bed. He recedes until someone points the finger at him.

In the morning, after discovering his involvement, the townspeople demand that he be stoned. But Gideon escapes this close call thanks to Joash intervening.

This would have been a knee-knocker moment for Gideon or anyone; he was only inches away from being killed. But emboldened by the grace God administers through Joash, Gideon uses this success as encouragement to keep going.

Introverts are creative problem-solvers

As the Midianites rally with their allies in preparation to ravage the land, Gideon is empowered with the Spirit of the Lord to sound a trumpet-call to arms.

Following this burst of energetic enthusiasm he has a reasonable crisis of faith and needs a little more reassurance. After all, he was about to confront a godless, head-lopping mob of thousands.

With reverence, humility, and respect Gideon seeks a visible sign from the Lord to ensure he’s heard correctly and is taking the proper course of action.

He gets creative and sets out his fleece.

Some view this as “testing the Lord” and another example of Gideon’s many flaws, pointing to Deuteronomy 6:16 where God cautions the Israelites, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”

But what happened at Massah? The children of Israel had just recently witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, among other miracles, and were traveling in the wilderness guided by an ever-present pillar of smoke by day and fire at night. Now they were thirsty and threw a tantrum. Like grumbling, fussy children they demand water, claiming they were better off as slaves in Egypt! They were “testy” and impatient with Moses and God.

This isn’t what Gideon is doing. He comes humbly before God seeking one final assurance. This is a natural expression of Gideon’s introvert temperament and personality. The Lord shows no anger or impatience with Gideon.

Introverts appreciate feedback & assurance

Once reassured, Gideon asks for no more signs, but without hesitation does what is asked. And what he is asked to do next is pretty remarkable -- to trim his fighting force from 32,000 to 300!

Later, again recognizing the person Gideon was (and how He had created him), the Lord offers Gideon an opportunity to seek further reassurance even though Gideon didn’t ask.

God tells Gideon to go eavesdrop on the enemy camp. There, he hears a man reveal a dream predicting an Israelite victory, is spiritually bolstered, and without hesitation launches a massively successful assault with only 300 men.

Introverts make bad decisions under pressure & when tired

After successful conquests, with peace and safety restored, Gideon is ready to settle back into a quiet life. But the men of Israel press him to be their king, an opportunity he eschews.

I can imagine the introvert Gideon tired of having to be “on” for such a long time, just wanting to live out the rest of his life in peace. He’s fought a lot of hard, exhausting battles.

Tired introverts tend to make poor judgments, especially under pressure. And that’s what Gideon did. Instead of agreeing to be king, or suggesting everyone take a break so he could think things over, he creates an “ephod” which was a kind of idol.

While the details are sketchy, Gideon takes this ephod and erects it in the city, perhaps in the same place where the altar to Baal he’d torn down a few years prior had stood. His intention may have been to create a visual reminder of all God had done for him and his people, but instead, the ephod became an object of worship and a “snare” to those who worshipped it.

Introverts can adapt to cultural expectations

In the concluding verses of chapter 8, it’s noted that Gideon had “many” wives, a concubine, and at least 71 children. Only sons are mentioned so he probably had some daughters as well. How, you wonder, could someone with such a large extended family be an introvert?

Simple. Introverts know how to adapt to and live within cultural expectations. This ability often causes introverts to be mistaken for being extroverts.

As the influential patriarch of his family, Gideon would have had control over his environment. In his culture and his time, the women watched the children and the men did what they wanted to. It would have been easy for him to manage ample times of solitude to recharge.

Introverts are quiet leaders

Sadly, after his death, “the people of Israel...did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel” (Judges 8:34-35, ESV).

Talk about tossing the baby out with the bath water!

But God viewed his situation differently.

Hebrews 11 is known as “the faith chapter.” In it, the writer lists heroic Old Testament characters. These are extraordinary individuals whose stories serve as examples to encourage and challenge our own faith.

Despite his faults, Gideon makes the cut.

Along with others, such as David and Samson (both marked by glaring flaws by the way), they and Gideon are described as having “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”

The story of Gideon is a wonderful example of how God acknowledges different personality types, and in this instance showing how He deals patiently and encouragingly with an introvert.

The result was Gideon rising to the occasion as an exceptional leader.

He was not an extroverted, outgoing, charismatic, or flashy warrior. He was a quiet leader who faced a tremendous challenge successfully. He was not in it for his own glory. He was in it for the Lord’s glory, and to help his people.

Yep, introverts can be heroes, too. They may not be as visible as Gideon was in his day, but you probably know one.

Or, maybe you are one.

Do you agree that Gideon was an introvert? What other Bible characters would you view as introverts? Why? Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? How do you view those with the opposite personality style? Sound off in the comments!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Freak Storm Blues (#WeekendUpdate #Haiku)


Snow falling on leaves,
Leads me to stew, wondering,
To shovel or rake.

-- Stephen R. Clark

This poem is included in this collection:

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Walking Fled (#PoetryMonday*)

It takes no sixth, but only common sense
To know that in event of zombies near
You are hereby advised to please stand clear.
Do not block my escape route looking dense
Because rather than curling up fetal,
I will promptly flee the undead people.


  * It’s PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here and then scroll down. 


You can stand and fight them if you want, but I’ll just be on my way, thank you very much. This is what’s called in the poetry biz, light verse. What do you think? Do you like this one? Talk to me in the comments! Share some of your own light verse.

Bombus! Away!

The bumble is a humble bee
Buzzing so sedately,
Until I get a tad too close
Then "Ouch!" he stings me bravely.

This poem is included in this collection:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sticking out our tongues and going “Neener, neener” isn't helpful: Turning swords into honeycombs

As kids we all learned the absurd childish retort for being called names:“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Eventually we kids grew up to learn that this is far from the truth.

Whenever I hear one person call another “Jerk!” (or worse) I cringe. Especially when the name-caller is a fellow follower of Christ.

Why? Because we who are Christians know that all people are created in the image of God. Sure, God’s image in us is flawed by sin, but name calling doesn’t help spread the Good News.

So, Christian or not, it isn’t cool for one image-of-God-bearer to call another image-of-God-bearer a jerk, or worse.

Words can cripple and kill from the soul out. Yet still, we freely lob insults and word-grenades around like candy tossed at a parade.

The name-maiming intensifies around the particularly hot topic of politics. This intensity really ramps up around elections, like the one we’ve just endured.

Now that the voting results are in, the verbal guns continue to come out blazing as insults, false accusations, innuendos, spin, and suspicions are splattered everywhere.

As if any of this is productive!

You dirty, no-good, crazy, son-of-a-@#$&@, lousy evangelical!

In his new book, Vanishing Grace: Whatever happened to the Good News?, Philip Yancey exposes how many Americans view evangelicals. He references surveys by Ellison Research of Phoenix that reveal:
“Evangelicals were called illiterate, greedy, psychos, racist, stupid, narrow-minded, bigots, idiots, fanatics, nut cases, screaming loons, delusional, simpletons, pompous, morons, cruel, nitwits, and freaks, and that’s just a partial list....” [Emphasis mine.]
It’s not just evangelicals who get mindlessly blasted like this. Sadly, these labels and worse get tossed around by a lot of people aiming them at a lot of other people.

You’ll hear these slander-bombs going off in church, at PTA meetings, on the road, at the football game, in the grocery store, on the street in your neighborhood, and in the news.

But you’ll especially hear them in politics.

Republicans toss them at democrats. Democrats toss them at republicans. Liberals toss them at moderates. Moderates toss them at liberals and conservatives. Tea partiers and independents toss them at everyone.

Ironically, a lot of the yelling revolves around accusing “them” from refusing to cooperate with “us.”

And we wonder why very little real work gets done in D.C.

Civility and understanding are impossible when verbal grenades are blowing everyone to bloody bits.

It needs to stop. We can do better.

Emerging from the bunkers to shake hands

We need to behave and play nice. If it won’t happen at among our elected leaders, then it needs to start with us at the grassroots.

Instead of viewing each other with contempt and mistrust and telling “them” to reach across the aisle, “we the people” need to set the example.

Peace in any conflict doesn’t happen until someone risks taking the first step in the midst of conflict. Peace comes at a cost to the initiators who have to be the first to lay down their weapons.

Seeds of peace are planted when we change our perceptions of one another.Adversarial ways of seeing each other will not bring us together, promote understanding, or produce civil discourse:
  • If we view others as a target, we’ll take pot shots at them.
  • If we view others as an enemy, we’ll seek to defeat them.
  • If we view others as stupid, we’ll ignore them.
  • If we view others as wrong, we’ll always fight them.
  • If we view others as bigots, we’ll be on guard against them.
  • If we view others as hostile, we’ll pounce on them.
  • If we view others as pompous, we’ll discount their value.
Get the point?

Jesus offers two antidotes to counter these antagonistic views:
  1. The first is the traditional “golden rule” that says simply, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). You know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s pretty easy to understand.
  2. The second brings it a little closer to home and is given in the form of a command, not a suggestion or guideline: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, ESV).
This isn’t simple stuff. It’s a lot easier to hate than love. Revenge and slander are easier than reconciliation. Unity can be messier than discord.

Laying down our verbal weapons and coming out of our bunkers makes us all vulnerable. But being vulnerable is the only way to get to where we need to go.

Even the strongest, healthiest families have to work through issues when they come together under one roof for the holidays. That’s just the way it is with us humans.

But the strongest and healthiest families got to be strong and healthy by listening to one another, caring about one another, respecting one another, accepting one another, overlooking faults, bearing with one another, and learning to live with differences of opinions.

We need to do the same as a nation, starting with the neighbor we can’t stand or the co-worker with the crazy ideas or the outlier with the odd tastes in music or those in that “other” political party.

We all want to be treated with respect & taken seriously

In the third episode of the TV show Madam Secretary, sensitive documents are leaked revealing that U.S. government workers have tagged world leaders with insulting descriptions in memos. These revelations lead to serious rifts in relationships between the U.S. and important allies.

These careless and demeaning words could lead to nuclear powered sticks and stones being brought to bear.

The Secretary of State, played by Téa Leoni, defuses the situation and then orders a “decree” to be sent to all 31,822 staffers in her purview stating, “From now on I expect all correspondence at every level of confidentiality to be civil and respectful, worthy of the office being represented.”

I’d like to see such a decree actually implemented, in Washington, D.C. and beyond, on memos and mouths!

This should be standard operating procedure in all walks of life in all communication, verbal or written.

Especially for those of us who claim God as our creator, Christ as our savior, and the Holy Spirit as our empowerer.

A much less hostile and far more positive discourse will emerge simply when we stop labeling each other with derogatory adjectives such as “illiterate, greedy, psychos, racist, stupid, narrow-minded, bigots, idiots, fanatics, nut cases, screaming loons, delusional, simpletons, pompous, morons, cruel, nitwits, and freaks.”

In fact, Proverbs 12:18 cautions that “rash words are like sword thrusts” while promising that “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

If there’s one thing we need as a nation, it’s healing.

Proverbs 16:23-24 offers path forward stating, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (ESV).

Let’s lay down the swords and bring out the honeycombs.

If you’re a democrat, how do you view your republican friends? If you’re a republican, how do you view your democrat friends? How do you talk about others with whom you disagree? What kinds of emails do you forward to your friends? What steps have you taken to increase civility and respect in your circles?

Some justify name-calling by pointing to Jesus’s calling the Pharisees “serpents” and “vipers. Is this really a legitimate argument for insulting others?

Monday, November 3, 2014

At least it was a colorful death (#PoetryMonday*)

The leaf falls
twists, turns, tumbles
       twined in the wind
held up

Perhaps I can fly
it thinks

       But no
alas it lands
at last
       to die
returning to the earth
returning to earth


  * It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here and then scroll down. 

  It's fall. The leaves turn and tumble. What more inspiration does one need to write a poem? Have you written one lately? Do you like this one? Talk to me in the comments!

This poem is included in this collection: