Category Archives: issues

Are you an expert?

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“Rats.”

I got to my daughter’s house to watch the kids all day and forgot everything – my writer’s notebook, the book I was going to start reading, and, darn it, I should have remembered to bring my laptop.

Nothing.

Oh, well. Ana always has really good books ready to read, so I selected searching for sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Although I can’t yet recommend the book, so far, so good. I usually read with a pencil, but it didn’t belong to me, so when I came to a particularly riveting line, I stopped to make a note of it in my writer’s notebook.

Rats. No notebook.

And I said, out loud, as if reprimanding myself, “Evidently, you’re not a real writer at all.”

Thankfully, and just as quickly, I snickered, shook my head, and began to wonder where that came from. It didn’t take long to figure it out. It came from “experts”.

I am the member of at least 4 on-line writing groups. We regularly comment when a question is posed, some have broken into smaller groups to read and critique each other’s writing, and we post things only fellow writers would enjoy. And each group has been organized by a professional writer with a lot to offer. They have generously made themselves available to those of us investigating ways to improve our own craft. They don’t offer all of their experiential knowledge for free, but they suggest reliable resources and can help point you in the right direction if you are looking for professional guidance or a new perspective.

In other words, they are experts. A well-deserved title and I give them all the props. They have paid their dues, worked hard, broken through big obstacles, and revealed inevitable pitfalls for those of us who are just beginning.

Yes, they are experts.  But, that doesn’t mean that everything they say is a requirement or that they are all-powerful and make the rules. Rules like If you want to be a real writer:

  • you must write everyday.
  • you must write at least 1,000 (or 500, or 10,000, or some other random number) words a day.
  • you must always carry your notebook so you can write down brilliant ideas, thoughts, and epiphanies.

Yes, they are experts in the craft of writing, in the process of publishing, in knowing which resources are the most valuable. And most of them write eloquently and cleverly and have ingenious stories to tell. But they are not experts of being an artist. They are not the experts of who God created me to be.

Once again, and please do not misunderstand. I’m casting no aspersions on people who offer assistance, guidance, advice, or wisdom about anything. And I’m grateful for the mistakes I have avoided because of them. But, just because someone has a website with 243,819 followers does not mean that they can do the work God asked me to do – nor can they necessarily judge it.

So, no – my day was not ruined. As it turned out, I took cell phone pictures of a couple of pages from Rachel’s book and found a piece of very un-remarkable notebook paper to document my thoughts. Not eloquent, but purpose serving.

So back to my reading and these words in searching for sunday:

Our church believed the Bible, so we practiced immersion. Believer’s baptism, we called it. Had we lived in sixteenth-century Switzerland, we might have been killed for such a conviction, symbolically drowned or possibly burned by fellow Protestants who considered the “second baptisms” of the radical reformers heretical. (Fun fact: more Christians were martyred by one another in the decades after the Reformation than were martyred by the Roman Empire.)*

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Now, stay with me. This has been on my mind for some time. Not the drowning or burning or martyring.

Not that those issues are insignificant. And truth be told, we are not doing a better job of being humans than any generation past.

Not when you consider the constant and consistent stories of child abuse and racial conflict. Not with the random storms that rage against those who believe differently. Not with the condition of our government; no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself, the future does not look bright. The disregard of those who have no voice. The subtle and blatant ways that those with less than are run over or simply dismissed.

But that is not what has been so heavy on my heart.

Just as alarming as the violence or injustice is the assumption that God will smooth it over for Us. That because we are Believers, our political and social positions should and will prevail and our lives of comfort and security restored.

As if lives of comfort and security for Believers are Biblical or guaranteed.

As if everything would be fine and dandy if everyone would simply believe in Jesus and conform to our expectations.

As if we have finally at this very point in history gotten it completely figured out. That our understanding of the Bible is the proper understanding. That, as a Church, we know God better than any generation before us ever has.

As if we are the experts. Like the sixteenth-century Swiss Protestants thought about their faith and beliefs.

As if, had we lived in sixteenth century Switzerland, we would have been able to set those other Protestants straight about baptism and any other subject they cared to bring up or argue.

As if we have the inside spiritual scoop on every ding-dang topic and story from politics to sex to alcohol.

My sweet and dear lovelies, I don’t believe for one second that I have it right. Except I’m pretty sure I don’t have it all right.

But I do know this: I’m responsible for me – not for what others believe, or how they vote, or who they love, or when they get baptized.

And I know Jesus loves me and wants me in Heaven with Him and my dad and granddads and all others who have gone before me. He didn’t come here to briefly lose his human life in the most agonizing way to impress me or as a suggestion for eternal life. If there were other ways to God the Father, I’m pretty sure Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and avoided the whole “life on earth” thing.

And I know I’m not supposed to keep the love of Jesus for myself. I’m supposed to spread it around like crazy, freely, with wild abandon.

Not because I’m an expert or the boss of you or because I have all the answers. But because that’s the only way anyone will ever want what I have. That’s the only way they’ll know I’m a Christian – by my love.

 

I’m supposed to spread the love of Jesus around–like crazy, freely, w/ wild abandon. Click to Tweet

 

*Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 11: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 71.

Deserve

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whatever you did
for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for Me.
Matthew 25:40

Boy oh BOY, I’m so excited!

I’ll start at my version of the beginning. Andy, my son-in-law, got my daughter, Ana, a purse for Christmas and asked me to wrap it. I confess I thought briefly about finding something else to put in the box, hoping that Andy wouldn’t notice I kept the bag for myself.

Oooo-la-la, I LOVE it.

On the front of the bag, a small patch was appliqued: Carry the Story. And underneath were the words Handmade in the USA by a woman who sought refuge here.

Good golly, Miss Molly. I was hooked.

This little bag was made in Glen Ellyn, right there in a little shop on Main Street. The sewing studio is at the back of the store, open to the public, where women who sought refuge make a living for themselves and their families.

Families who have run for their lives from situations so desperate, most of us will never be able to either picture or imagine.

Situations so ugly or cruel or dangerous that these women and their families were willing to leave everything behind just to escape.

Some of these women left professions of prestige and value. Some of them are educated at the post-secondary level and brought a wealth of ideas and wisdom with them to the United States. But language, connection, and wardrobe barriers have gotten in the way of finding positions worthy of their abilities.

So they come to Re:new five days a week. Having learned how to use the powerful industrial sewing machines in the studio, these artisans work with their hands, make friends and quality products, and live a life they never expected – but for which they are grateful every minute.

As I left my first ever meeting as an Associate Board Member of the Re:new Project, I thought how much these women deserve respect … how much they deserve a life of peace and contentment.

As I said the word deserve in my head, a few bells went off and pretty loud. For in recent days, I have seen this word used so many times it has become like a drone in my ears. He deserves this or that because of his good – or rotten – behavior. She deserves something so much better because she is such a wonderful person. They don’t deserve a bad rap just because they made a mistake.

I am particularly off balance about deserving happiness. As in …

  • You deserve to be happy. stevemariboli.com
  • You deserve happiness simply because you were born. (LiveLuvCreate.com)
  • I won’t settle for anything less than I deserve. (facebook.com/YouAreMyOxy)
  • You deserve happiness just as much as the next person. (awesomelifetips.com)
  • You deserve happiness in your life… (wisdomtoinspirethesoul.com)

You get the idea.

It’s just wrong. We here in the First World take a lot of time and exert a lot of effort making sure that we – and all of the ones we love – are happy.  We find what makes us happy. We get rid of what doesn’t. We expect it, we work toward it, and, when we have it, we take it for granted.

Happiness. Being happy. Being free of misery and burden. We deserve it, don’t we?

I’ve heard stories about families that fled the Rwandan persecution and genocide, starting over and making their homes in the United States with the help of compassionate organizations like World Relief.

All I can think of when I hear Rwanda is the story told by an observer whose name I don’t remember, but whose words I’ll never forget. As an outsider, a member of one of the relief organizations, he told of how he witnessed countless and nameless, bruised and bloody bodies crashing down a river, getting caught in swirling currents, unceremoniously dumped there as victims of a sweeping wave of violence and hate. A force so ruthless, 800,000 Tutsis were killed in three months’ time, the result of a twisted sense of revenge by a majority being ruled by the minority, and a government-led insurrection encouraging neighbor to kill neighbor.

I don’t know all of these Rwandan families’ stories, but I know that what they endured reached far beyond the inconveniences of a leaky roof or disrespect by a boss or colleague. I know that what you and I may consider unacceptable could be in the little detour category for these brave refugees.

I know that running out of half-and-half, making my morning coffee wimpy and sad with only 1% milk, cannot compare to days without enough to eat or drink while sustaining a life on the run.

I know that being assigned a queen room when we booked a king with a view of the Magic Kingdom – and booked it well in advance – cannot compare to sleeping on a cot, or even the floor, with a sense of dread and anxiety.

Honestly, my lovelies, just writing these words leaves me humbled and ashamed of my own sense of entitlement.

I hope and pray that my contributions to the Associate Board of the Re:new Project will in some small measure contribute to the comfort and happiness of a refugee woman who simply longs for peace and safety. I hope and pray that every moment I spend planning events or raising money or getting to know these admirable souls will enrich their lives – as I am sure they will enrich mine.

I hope and pray the next time I grumble about an empty container of half-and-half or a room without a view I remember writing these words. I simply must not continue to feel deserving of happiness or safety or convenience or peace.

And I hope and pray if – and when – I am confronted by sadness or danger or inconvenience or war that I demonstrate the same determination I see in the faces of those who have gone before and lived to tell their stories.

The faces of these lovely women who sought refuge here.

If you have any questions about the Re:new Project, please comment. I’d be honored to tell you more about what we have in the works!

 

I must not continue to feel deserving of happiness, safety, convenience, peace. Click to Tweet