Posts Tagged ‘conflict

16
Mar
21

Healing Snow

Turns out, all it took was an epic 23-inch snowfall!

Let me back up a second and explain…

My wife and I are relatively new residents of this little eight house cul-de-sac in Fort Collins, Colorado. We moved here in late November 2019. 

As we introduced ourselves around, we found that some of our new neighbors were quite friendly and outgoing, while others were more reserved. One of the friendlier folks was Fred (not his real name), who lives right across the way. 

Fred is retired and lives alone with his 93-year-old mother. One day last fall, Fred invited Joan and me over to share some coffee and socially distanced cinnamon rolls in their garage. It was a lovely time with good, lively conversation. Joan and I left saying, “We should invite them over for dinner as soon as this virus stuff goes away.”

And then – a couple of weeks later – I put a political sign in my front yard, expressing my support of one of the presidential candidates. Clearly it expressed support of exactly the opposite person Fred supported. I say this because the next time I was out in my yard and hollered out, “Hey, Fred! How’s it going?” I was met with an averted gaze and stony silence.

I gave it one more try a few days later, but with the exact same results.

“Dang!” I said to myself. “Looks like Fred now considers me to be The Enemy. I guess we’ll have to rethink that dinner invitation.”

It got so bad that one day while I was out walking the dogs, I saw Fred and his dog coming toward me from the other way. I quickly made a right turn on a side street in order to avoid eye or voice contact with Fred. 

Great, Christian behavior, eh?

I know similar scenarios were repeated over and over again across this country in both the before and aftermath (is there such a word as a “beforemath”? If not, there should be!) of this most recent presidential election. Relationships with neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members from coast to coast were rent asunder by political disaffection. 

Names were called. Voices were raised. Vows were broken, all in the defense of being on “the right side” of the contest. 

“How will we ever get past this?” I wondered. “How will these deeply felt wounds ever be healed, and relationships restored?” 

Well, I am happy to report to you that 23 inches of snow in 36 hours turns out to be the magical healing potion!

In the blizzard’s immediate aftermath, all of the cul-de-sac neighbors were out shoveling or snow-blowing their own driveways. That worked for the first day. But then came the question of how we each might travel beyond the end of our own driveways out into the world beyond. You see, our little neighborhood does not appear anywhere on the city’s list of “streets we must plow.” 

We are left to fend for ourselves.

So earlier today, Joan and I were out trying to carve a path from our driveway into the common roadway. Immediately across the way, Fred was out engaged in the same activity. Feeling empowered by our common plight, I decided to chance it…

“Hey, Fred!” I called out. “Have you been able to get out of your driveway yet?”

And then I waited.

Straightening up, resting his snow shovel on its blade and turning in my direction, Fred cupped his ear with his gloved hand and said, “WHAT?”

“It’s a start!” I thought excitedly.

I repeated my question and waited. Fred then told me that he had not tried getting out of his driveway yet but was making a path in order to try. He explained that he was confident that his four-wheel drive car would be able to handle the immediate terrain but had serious doubts about the ice-jam at the end of the cul-de-sac. That was followed by a couple of minutes of commiseration about the snow, the damned city plows, our respective vehicles, and the virtues of north and south-facing driveways.

VOILA! Relationship RESTORED!

Well, maybe not fully and totally restored… but at least no longer stuck in a state of frozen hostility. 

So, if you find yourself today wondering how you will break through the frozen ice-jam of relationships damaged by recent political hijinks, be at peace. The solution is staggeringly simple:

PRAY FOR 23 INCHES OF HEALING SNOW!

Abundant blessings;

13
Feb
21

A Flickering Beacon

The lines are drawn. The boundaries are set.

Deep trenches have been dug. 

Walls, moats, and impenetrable barriers have been set up.

Razor wire traces curlicues across the top of our parapets.

Each side glares across no man’s land at the other, ascribing the most craven and baseless motives to their actions. 

“You want to know what the devil himself looks like?” they ask. “Just take a look at THEM!”

Red and blue no longer make purple. Today they just seem to make mud.

And rising up in the middle of this tense terrain we hear voices wailing, “We have NEVER been so divided as a nation!”

To which I reply, “Stuff and nonsense.” After all…

  • It was only 57 years ago that this country passed the Civil Rights Act, national legislation that made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their race.
  • It was only 59 years ago that relationships between two people of the same gender were federally legalized.
  • It was only 64 years ago – well within my lifetime – that the governor of the state of Arkansas, Gov. Orval Faubus, ordered the National Guard to block the entrance to Little Rock’s Central high school in order to prevent nine African American students from attending the previously segregated high school.
  • It was only 100 years ago that women in this country were granted the right to vote.

Oh, no. We are indeed divided, but please don’t tell me we have never been more divided. 

From the very first day of our founding as a nation, these United States have been dramatically divided between haves and have-nots, blacks and whites, gays and straights, Norths and Souths, natives and immigrants, Christians and non-Christians, males and females, white collars and blue collars, and countless other sub-groupings.

We have defended our divisions, too. Blood has been shed and lives have been lost in the attempt to maintain those walls of separation and inequality.

The difference between then and now is that the light has finally been switched on. In the old days, we could close our eyes to those cultural/racial/economic/gender/social divisions and pretend they didn’t exist…

… [a practice, by the way, reserved for those of us born into the privileged classes.]

Today, thanks to social media and a 24/7 sleepless news cycle, we have to look. And when we do look, we can’t avoid seeing the reality of a nation that continues to fall short on delivering its “liberty and justice for all” credo.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

The truth is, deep divisions still remain in this country.

The truth is, this country still experiences serious injustice based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity.

The truth is, lots and lots of people still value the maintenance of tribal loyalties more highly than the pursuit of the common good.

The truth is, this country can still stand as a beacon of civility, diversity, and honor in the world. 

The truth is, each of us is still invited to echo the words of King David, inviting God to; “Search me, God, and know my heart… See if there is any offensive way in me…” (Psalm 139:23 and 24, NRSV). 

The truth is, divisions are only dangerous if we see them as given, insurmountable obstacles instead of as the planks with which bridges might be built.

The truth is, God offers forgiveness to each of us who have helped foster greater division and animosity… and urges us to extend that same forgiveness to one another. 

The truth is, “… with God, ALL things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NRSV).

… INCLUDING reconciliation, justice, and healing.

Abundant blessings;

07
Sep
20

Picking Your Battles

“You have to pick your battles.”

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this sage advice?

Parents of young children have learned and lived the wisdom of this phrase. 

Most married couples I know have it tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. 

And wonder of wonders, it turns out that this advice is highly relevant to 68-year-old retirees, too!

By now you know the drill; there you are… going about your day, minding your own business when suddenly… IT happens. Something as trivial as the location of the salt-and-pepper shakers – that you know are always on that shelf over THERE – has been altered. 

You begin calmly trying out alternative solutions… without success. The frustration and tension begin to build. And then suddenly, before you can say, “Global pandemic,” this minor inconvenience has blown up to epic dimensions, usurping The Apocalypse as the single biggest threat to human existence.

Frustrations get expressed. Emotions get vented. Voices – sometimes – get raised. And somewhere in the middle of the fray, that advice to, “… pick your battles,” echoes in your head.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Clearly it has happened to me. And embarrassed as I am to admit it, most of the time I remember this great advice only AFTER picking the absolutely wrongest battle possible. 

Not surprisingly at all, Jesus never had this problem. Every one of the battles we see him fighting were perfectly picked. And the battles he avoided were likewise perfectly avoided. 

In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus wisely avoids the argument about whether children should be pestering him and taking up his valuable time. He told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16, NRSV). 

In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus skillfully sidesteps the argument about the proper punishment for the woman caught in adultery. He tells her sanctimonious antagonists, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NRSV). 

But for anyone who might be under the impression that Jesus was some kind of milquetoast peacenik, open up your Bible and read the withering tongue-lashing he gives the religious leaders in Matthew 23:13-29, including this devastating truth-bomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27, NRSV). 

And let’s not forget the scene in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple where we see Our Hero throwing over the tables of the moneychangers, driving out their sacrificial animals, and hurling every insult under the sun at them. 

Some battles – as Jesus well knew – were worth fighting. I suspect that for him, these were the battles that had a bearing on the eternal condition of people’s souls. 

Other battles – if the stakes were anything short of eternal – really weren’t worth the energy it took to fight them. 

For me personally, it is not difficult at all to apply the “WORTH FIGHTING” and the “NOT WORTH FIGHTING” label to my own battles…

… that is, after they’ve been fought.

The real challenge is to know the difference BEFORE fighting them.

Abundant blessings;

10
Aug
20

Like a bridge…

Simon and GarfunkelWhen you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all,
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a song that never fails to stir my soul…

… Every single time I hear it.

The lyrics are an eloquent testimony to sacrificial human compassion. The melody journeys from tender salve to triumphant orchestral climax, all in the span of four minutes.

It is the closest thing to a secular gospel song that we have in the American catalog.

Paul Simon wrote this anthem in the spring of 1969. For those old enough to remember, this was a time when the waters of this country were terribly troubled. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated the previous year. Racial unrest was boiling over in several large American cities. The endless quagmire of the Vietnam War raged on.

It was a time when we were in desperate need of a bridge over those troubled waters…

… sort of like we are today.

In looking back 51 years to the creation of this song, I find it fascinating that despite the fact that neither Paul Simon nor Art Garfunkel were professing Christians at the time, their remedy for our national maelstrom was – essentially – the cross of Christ.

I mean, how else would you translate the lyric, “I will lay me down” other than as an offer to give up one’s own life for the sake of others? Didn’t Jesus lay himself down so that you and I and everyone who calls on his name might live?

As a testament to its universal appeal, this song has been translated into many languages and has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Johnny Cash, Annie Lennox and Bonnie Tyler. It received its most recent revival by Jennifer Hudson as a tribute to the life and work of civil-rights pioneer, John Lewis… a man who laid his own body down for the sake of others on Selma’s Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1963.

Self-sacrificial love seems like a quaint, historical anachronism here in 2020 America. We are elbow-deep in the culture of selfies, “look out for #1,” “my way or the highway,” and “me first.” In this context, the idea of sublimating my needs to yours seems at best, old-fashioned, and at worst, just plain goofy.

And yet, that very self-sacrificial love is the force that created the universe. It is the force that divided history into “B.C.” and “A.D.” It is the force that rolled an impossible stone away from a tomb and raised a dead man to life.

It is the force that redeemed my life.

It is also the force – the ONLY force, I might add – capable of calming the troubled waters that surround us today.

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

 

Abundant blessings;

06
Jul
20

Ideal vs. Real

Flag on houseI flew my American flag every day last week.

No… I did not fly my flag because of some sudden, Fourth-of-July-inspired outburst of patriotism.

I flew my flag because that’s just what I do. Flying the American flag is a routine, everyday occurrence at our house.

“How can you?” some might ask. “When you look at the injustice, the racism, the corruption, and the greed that have helped build this country, how can you fly that flag and support all of that?”

I reply that I don’t fly my flag out of ignorance about the deep, ingrained flaws of my country and its leaders. On the contrary, I am VERY aware of (and deeply ashamed by) a lot of what is happening in this country today.

I fly my flag because I love and support the IDEALS our country was founded on; ideals which it still – I believe – stands for… no matter how poorly.

Joan and I also faithfully attend the church of our choice.

How can you?” some might ask. “How can you possibly overlook the role that religion has played in fomenting hatred and war around the world? How can you possibly square today’s vast storehouse of scientific knowledge with the unscientific mythology of a book of 3,000-year-old writings?”

I reply that I do not choose to be a believer because I am ignorant of the massive harm done by people of faith over the centuries.

I choose faith because of the IDEALS espoused by Jesus Christ and those who transcribed God’s Word into the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible.

Having said that, I need to level with you; the time is long overdue – both for this country and for the church – to start working a lot harder to reconcile the IDEAL and the REAL.

Because of the tragic confluence of recent events, this country has been offered a real opportunity for soul-searching and course correction. We can no longer cling to the illusion that we as Americans live under some kind of divinely ordained exceptionalism that allows us to sweep our national sins under a gigantic rug.

That rug can’t hold any more. It has finally burst wide open, vomiting out its shameful secrets for all to see.

The only acceptable way forward for this country is through a campaign of genuine repentance.

And even though its affliction might not be as pronounced or as visible as the country’s affliction, the same can be said for the church. The time for the church to actually practice what it preaches in terms of love of God and neighbor, justice for the oppressed, mercy to the poor, and outcast, healing for the stricken is long overdue.

It is time for the church to abandon its “edifice complex,” stop acting as a willing stooge for the Empire, and summon the courage speak truth to power, the way Jesus did regularly. (For a great example of this, check out Jesus’ blistering tirade toward the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23:13-30. It begins with, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…” and uses the next 17 verses to basically rip those leaders into bloody shreds.) 

Right now I find it incredibly hard to affirm my faith in this country. But I have seen dark times before. I have also seen us wipe off the muck, reconnect with our North Star, and get back on track.

I am just naïve enough to believe the country can do the same thing again.

Crazier still, I believe the church can, too.

You see, when the Apostle Paul reminded me that God gave me (and anyone else who follows Jesus) the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NRSV), he was thinking big picture. Yes, he was talking about the reconciliation of men with women, of slave with free, of believer with non-believer, black with white, and American with non-American.

But I believe he was also talking about the reconciliation of IDEAL and REAL.

And THAT might be the biggest miracle of reconciliation of all.

 

Abundant blessings;

30
May
20

Tipping the World

Angry guyI had a great bike ride yesterday.

The sun was out, the sky was blue, and my bike shorts were clean, so why not?

It had been a while since my last ride, so I cut this one a little shorter than usual. As I pedaled out of the driveway, I put in my earbuds, dialed up one of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcasts, and hit the road.

As you would expect, the podcast was really solid, first-class stuff. Brene interviewed Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. Murthy, as you might recall, was the Surgeon General of the U.S. from 2014 to 2017. He has just written a book called Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes-Lonely World.

It was a great interview and sounds like it would be a great book to read. Murthy talked about the actual, physiological effects of loneliness as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and emphasized the powerfully healing effects of human connection.

As they concluded the interview, Murthy and Brene both emphasized the need for each one of us to take an action every day that, “… tips the world in the direction of love.” It was one of the most secularly Christian (or maybe it was Christianly secular?) examinations of the Gospel I have ever heard.

Then… as I wheeled into our cul-de-sac… I was confronted by a truly ugly sight. My neighbor Tom’s (not his real name) two kids were standing in his front yard crying. Tom’s ex-wife – who had just dropped them off – was standing by her SUV yelling something I couldn’t understand. At the same time, Tom was striding angrily across the cul-de-sac screaming at our other neighbor Al (also not his real name), saying, “AL, YOU JUST SHUT YOUR F**KING MOUTH AND STAY THE F*** AWAY FROM MY FAMILY!!!”

I was stunned. The scene playing out in front of me was nothing like the warm, friendly Fort Collins, Colorado we have experienced since moving here six months ago.

Al, for his part, was standing in his garage holding his baseball hat by the brim. I hadn’t heard what he had said to Tom, but our remodeling contractor told us earlier that it seemed Al had been drinking as early as 9:30 that morning.

Because I have talked with both of them individually on previous occasions, I know that Tom is very politically progressive and not a churchgoer while Al is very politically conservative and a regular churchgoer. Tom is in his mid-30s and Al is retirement age.

For my part, I just wheeled my bike into the garage, took off my helmet and gloves, and closed the garage door, anxious to remain uninvolved in whatever was going on out there.

Is this how it starts?” I wondered as I poured myself a drink of water. “Does the tension of months and months of isolation, on top of mounting financial pressures, combined with a highly charged political atmosphere finally set neighbor against neighbor and unleash a widespread ‘Lord of the Flies’ scenario?”

That thought was followed quickly by this one: “What would it mean for me to take an action that might ‘tip the world in the direction of love’ in that very moment?”

I stood. And thought. And prayed. And came up with exactly nothing.

You see, that’s the really tough part of this whole discipleship thing. I am good with saying the right words in church or offering a cheerful greeting to the people I pass on my morning walk. But when it comes to stepping up, right in the middle of a situation that is fraught with pain, fear, and anger, I evaporate quicker than the morning dew.

Thinking back to yesterday, I feel I failed. And yet, I still don’t have a solid idea of what loving discipleship might have meant in the middle of that dust-up.

The thing I DO know with absolute certainty, however, is that there is no better time than RIGHT NOW to choose to live as an agent of love toward ALL of our neighbors.

 

Abundant blessings;

15
Oct
19

Dueling Drives

drowning_in_informationHow often do you find yourself caught between a pair of strong, yet diametrically opposed desires? For example:

  • Have cake? Eat cake?
  • Exercise body? Veg out?
  • Shave? Cultivate trendy stubble?
  • Spend? Save?
  • Blog? Think about blogging?
  • Rock? Hard place?

This mental impasse happens to me at least once a day. I ponder the features and benefits of Option A – find myself drawn strongly in its direction – and then immediately turn my attention to Option B…

… and then fall in love all over again.

Most of the time I resolve my stalemate by sitting down with a spoon and a big tub of ice cream and burying myself up to the elbows.

Today, however, I find myself caught in no-man’s-land once again with no visible escape hatch and no available answers.

Today I am helplessly caught between (A) a drive to be well informed about current affairs, and (B) a yearning to remain blissfully ignorant of them.

If you have watched the news on TV, read it in a newspaper (kids, you’ll need to go ask your grandparents what a newspaper is),or heard the news on a radio, you know exactly what I mean.

War, violence, hatred, and brutality abound. And that’s just here in my NEIGHBORHOOD!

I used to think of politics as an intellectually entertaining spectator sport… the arena where great ideas vied for my attention and allegiance. These days, however, civil political discourse seems to be as dead as the newspapers that once reported on it.

On the one hand, it seems irresponsible to choose to walk around in a state of willful ignorance. On the other hand, I have an active and curious mind that I believe God fully intended me to use!

And now, in my new status as a retired guy, precious little stands in the way of me binge-watching CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN… maybe a little Fox News now and then… with NPR on in the background ALL DAY LONG!

But honestly, it seems as if I can feel my soul eroding a little bit whenever I try to pay a moment’s attention to the news about events shaping my nation and community.

What’s an intellectually curious human to do?

Maybe this time, instead of pulling out the mint chocolate chip and eating myself into a dairy-induced coma, I’ll try something different. Maybe I’ll try…

… stopping.

… inhaling deeply,

… exhaling.

… listening.

Listening, for example, to the voice of 1 Corinthians 13:2 where the writer tells me, “… if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

So maybe it is time to take stock and realize I will never fully understand everything that is happening around me in the world today.

Maybe I have to ‘fess up and admit that one of the reasons I tune in to all this news is so I can work up a little righteous indignation… indignation that helps me feel empowered when I shake my fist at the man on the screen and tell him how wrong he is (and – in contrast – how right I am).

Maybe my current torn-ness is God’s way of telling me I ought to pay attention to the things that REALLY matter in his kingdom.

Maybe it is time to spend more time working on my capacity to LOVE instead of my capacity to STAY CURRENT.

Maybe. Just maybe.

 

What do YOU think?

25
Aug
17

Soul Sez…

So… how is it with your soul today?anxious-agitated-depressed-man

Tricky to tell sometimes, I know.

Souls can be at peace. Souls can be unsettled and restless, like this guy here to the right.

The one thing a soul CAN’T be is statusless.

I have recently discovered that all restlessnesses/unsettlednesses are not created equal. They can spring from different sources.

An unsettled soul can alert you, for example, that you have somehow desecrated your own moral compass… violated values you once said you stood for.

Souls can also be unsettled by facing a difficult, yet necessary task. For example, I once had to fire a friend from a job for which I had hired him just a few months earlier. (PRO TIP: only be as willing to hire a friend as you would be to fire that friend.) My soul was highly agitated in the days before the, “Fred, it’s just not working out” conversation took place. And yet it was absolutely the right step to take.

And so I wonder; can that same kind of duality apply to a soul at peace?

That is, can a soul be at peace for more than one reason?

Something to ponder, I guess.

How is it with YOUR soul today?




Russellings Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Russellings of the Spirit on WordPress.com

My Pastoral Ponderings

Pondering my way through God's beloved world

All The Shoes I Wear

Writing Down The Bones

Just Being Me

My life and faith - without a mask.

La Tour Abolie

An eclectic mixture of personal essays, stuff about writing, stuff about books and far out philosophy from an old baggage in a book-tower.

Eden in Babylon

a topical new musical and other progressive, creative works

_biblio.bing_

A law student and an avid reader. Along with your desired book reviews you're gonna get great book suggestions. Books of all genre with detailed review. Thank you, Visit Again ❤️

Humanitarian Explorer

Traveling the world to discover and meet needs

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Steadfast Pictures

Visual Media for God's Glory!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

yadadarcyyada

Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure

Pics and Posts

Goodies from my mailbox and camera

My Spirals

• Hugs and Infinities

Shreya Vikram

Blurring the lines between poetry and prose

LUCID BEING

Astral Lucid Music - Philosophy On Life, The Universe And Everything...

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: