War, Politics, and Lifeboats: An Invitation

A political civil war is raging in the United States.

And in war, one must choose a side.

So, I did a little self-assessment. A political leanings quiz said I am 52% conservative and 48% liberal:  a centrist.

But centrism has no place in war.Uncle_sam_war_bonds (2)

Hugging the middle line makes me a pariah of modern-day American politics–a system that is notoriously and rapaciously divided. The leftists shun me for my conservative inclinations when it comes to the constitution and economic policy, and the “evangelical”* right sneers at my admission that some liberal policies have the potential to make our country and our world a better place.

*Does this word have any real meaning anymore?

It might be helpful here to explain that I attribute my personal brand of centrism to two things:

1) a liberal arts education, and

2) Jesus.

I can feel the cringes from Christians and academics alike as they read that sentence.

Many right-wing Christians, even theologians, wag a finger at my decision to study philosophy in a liberal university. They quote out-of-context Scripture and use buzz-word phrases like “guarding your heart” in an attempt to convince me that my God is too vulnerable to withstand my questions.

Many of my friends in liberal academia scoff at my belief in the sanctity of life and roll their eyes at my inclination toward conservative taxation.

I’ve taken mud to the face from both sides, but I’ve also slung it a time or two.  So, let me be clear:  this is not a prescription for everyone to be more like me.

Rather, this is an invitation. You try on my glasses, and I’ll try on yours. Maybe we’ll both see a little more clearly.

source: creative commons
source: creative commons

Political pundits on both sides of the aisle admit that any progress toward preserving unity  will only be achieved by both parties putting in real effort to bridge the divide.

For so long we’ve all believed that we could reach across the aisle with one hand while we cling to our chosen extremes with the other.

But we are learning the hard way that whatever bond is forged by opposing hands clasped in goodwill cannot withstand the blow from the closed fist of extremist ideology.  The idea that we can reach true compromise with one hand behind our back is, at best, an illusion and, at worst, an assault on the unity our very name claims.

My philosophical training served to convince me that, despite what I want to believe, I am not always right.

Jesus has taught me (among other things) that no matter how right I think I am, self-centered piety never serves me well.

And so,

I wonder if the best recipe for political progress is temperance.

I wonder if liberals and conservatives and moderates alike might benefit less from ardent self-righteousness and more from sincere exploration of ideas, both our own and our opponents’.

I wonder if it’s time for both sides to call for a cease-fire.

I wonder if we may be drowning in a sea of hypocrisy as we cry for a leader who would cross the aisle while we refuse to do so ourselves, even within the confines of our own hearts and minds.

And I wonder if our last chance for survival is a life preserver of grace

tossed to us from a boat buoyed by humility.

If only we could muster the courage to reach out and grab hold.


 

What do you think?  Am I overreacting?  Am I onto something?  Let’s discuss.  I’m ready to look through your lens.

Where You Should Go Next

I have read so many lovely things recently that I decided to curate a little must-read list.

Any and all of these are where you should go next.

 

Holding Onto Hope When It Feels Dangerous :: Hillary Rector for Storyline

“Maybe hope is not just the acknowledgement of a desire, but an action we set our minds to.”

 

Reflections on 10 Years of Marriage :: Becca Stanley

” If nothing else, ten years later, we have learned the value of not running away from the tension. Of leaning into hard things instead of away.”

 

Hope From Space After Super Tuesday :: Emily P. Freeman

“Election coverage is relentless and loud. It’s easy to forget to listen for the quietest whisper of comfort and presence from our Father who is with us in the midst of every question, every outcry, and every hope.”

 

Father and Son Discuss The Near Miss With That Flying Baseball Bat ::

Bill Chappell for npr

“That news drew a strong reaction from Landon, who clapped his hands to his head and stared at the camera. He pronounced, ‘My first baseball game was amazing.'”

 

 

February: A Look Back

I may be six days late, but I finally made time for one of my favorite exercises.  Pivoting in order to reflect on what I’ve learned stretches out something inside of me that I didn’t even know was pent up.

So, here’s a look back at some things I learned in February.

 

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| Sometimes a life-giving shift in perspective is just a mile further.

My mom lives about a three to four-hour-drive away. The trip from my house to hers includes a long stretch of boring. Sometimes I can power through without stopping, usually not. This month, I was traveling alone to pick up my son who had spent the weekend with her. I got a little over halfway, and I simply could not take it anymore. For every mile of dead grass I passed, I felt a little piece of me die along with it. I needed to grab some diapers (for my son, not for myself), so instead of visiting a gas station for a quick potty break and bottled drink, I drove a mile further to Target. I picked up a new CD I’ve been wanting, some Pizza Hut breadsticks, and a Coke ICEE, and it was like the heavens had opened up. Suddenly, the world was my oyster. The remaining drive felt like a fun (and delicious) adventure rather than the never-ending final leg of a lonely drive.

How much joy have I missed out on because I couldn’t spare a mile?

 

| Faith, like life, must metabolize.

I live through minutes and years and tragedies and banalities, and, whether obviously or imperceptibly, I am changed. And my faith changes with me.

 

| Words matter in miraculous ways.

I came across an article from NPR about 89-year-old engineer Bob Ebeling.   He worked for NASA in 1986 and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the infamous Challenger space shuttle grounded on the fateful morning of January 27th.

For thirty years, he carried a debilitating burden of guilt.

NPR aired his story on the thirtieth anniversary of the explosion. Soon thereafter letters from empathetic listeners began to pour into Bob’s mailbox. His eyesight is failing, but every word written to him was heard by him as his daughter, Kathy, read each letter aloud. The story concludes:

“I asked him one more question. ‘What would you like to say to all the people who have written you?’

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘You helped bring my worrisome mind to ease. You have to have an end to everything.’

Ebeling then smiled, raised his hands above his head and clapped again. Kathy Ebeling called that a miracle.”

 


 

| Your turn.

What did you learn in February?

My Love-Hate Relationship with Adele’s Latest Single

Listen, I dig Adele.

My feelings about her music have never before included the word hate. And maybe that’s too strong of a word, really.

Yes, it definitely is. I don’t hate any of her music. But have you heard her latest single, “When We Were Young”? My reaction to it threw me for a loop. {You haven’t heard it? Please go download it now, because Adele.}

For months I played the album, belting my way through “Hello,” crying my way through “Million Years Ago,” and wanting so badly to love “When We Were Young.”

I listened to that track dozens of times. It played while I cooked, while I wrote, while I drove, while I sat still, wondering.

I couldn’t deny its objective value. I wasn’t trying to. I willingly admitted the beauty of the lyrics.

I found no fault in its construction, in its progression, in its execution.

I typically enjoy nostalgia, even when it borders on melancholy.

I was truly bewildered. How could I not love such an exceptional song?

 

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A leisurely drive with my husband brought the answer. “When We Were Young” floated through the speakers, landing softly on our ears and mingling easily with our own melodic contributions. He remarked on his affinity for the song, and I commented on my unlikely aversion to it, even while I sang along.

The song continued and I listened with mouth moving and brow furrowed. Verse by chorus by verse, the song seemed to be tumbling and falling and taking me with it. I became aware of a low, humming anxiousness somewhere deep inside of me. Something about the notes and the nostalgia weaved together in that particular way apparently evokes feelings from me that I don’t necessarily enjoy.

And then it ended. Beautifully.

 

Did you download the song earlier?  Listen again.

She sings the final phrase in a new melody and in an instant, the entire song resolves.

And, listening to the track, I long for that closure. The waiting forces me into an exquisite tension.

 

You know that place.

It’s in a lover’s quarrel, a pining for the joy of yesterday tomorrow, or the last bitter days of winter when the trees are almost brave enough to bud.

It’s somewhere between somber and hopeful.

It’s uncomfortable.

It never resolves as quickly as I would like.

 

“It’s the tension. It’s the suffering. It’s the hard. I want to run from it. I don’t want to sit in it or feel it, because my brain tells me nothing is beautiful here.”

Annie Downs, Looking for Lovely

 

In Adele’s song, and similarly in life, it’s the hope of the long-awaited resolution—that single line of four words sung over two notes—that makes the song special.

And after four and a half minutes of anticipation, the last line frames the beauty that was there all along.

May we be enchanted by our days and our moments as we live fully in the tension—eager but not desperate for the payoff.

For When You Can’t Put Your Finger On It

I look at him standing there, tall and slender, the child God brought into this world two and one-half years ago. I, the vessel.

I marvel at his eyes, large and round, like a photograph of my own. I swoon at his smile shaped distinctly like his father’s. He has grown so remarkably. He is active, agile, able.

I remember my baby.

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I watch him play, and I see it—all at once. The meat that once made a home on his rounded thighs and belly has spread out, strong and even, on his lengthening bones.

His voice, limited to shrieks and coos in infancy now navigates the same sounds that have been spoken for hundreds of years.

What began at his birth as a rudimentary, instinctual communication has evolved into the cognizant dialogue I have craved for as long.

All of this, of course, occurs continuously, minutely, imperceptibly at any particular moment. It is always exactly impossible to point out a moment when any change occurred.

Yes, over the days and the nights and the meals and the laughs and the tantrums and the cups of milk, he has grown, but it is also more than that. He has morphed. He has transformed.

 

He is not a larger version of my baby. He is a different version of himself.

 

I watch him move, and I am moved.

For weeks I have spiritually wrestled and prayed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat, and I have struggled to understand why, exactly.  I have felt “called” one day and the next day wondered if that word might be meaningless.  I have heard the Holy Spirit speak but at such a whisper that I think I can’t quite make out the message.  I have scrambled to put my finger on it.

And where I have landed today, in our playroom, is at an understanding that continuous growth is the nature of faith itself.

I am not sitting at a crossroads, unable to move until some revelation informs my direction. I am moving even now. It is happening, minute by minute, imperceptibly at this given moment, perhaps, but happening nonetheless.

For, it is in the wrestling, the praying, the getting up, the lying down, the daily choices, the mundane minutiae, the struggling, the shifting that faith transforms into a different version of itself.

What I Learned in January

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman again today to look back on what I experienced in the month of January and what I learned along the way.

| Instagram forces me to find beauty in what is right before my eyes, and I love her for it.

My favorite January example:

 

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“After I learned yesterday that @carly_lifeofplenty and I have semi-twinkie bedrooms, I decided to pay homage with a capture of my own nightstand. I was going to send this picture to her directly, but the morning light on the stack of books whispered welcome words of promise and new mercies that I couldn’t keep between just the two of us.”

 

| I’m raising a very hospitable extrovert.

At breakfast one morning, my son shared his breakfast, water, and “coffee” with his toy truck that he had placed in a dining room chair. Every time he hears a knock on the door, he says, “Come on in!” And he offers his food, straight off of his plate, to our dinner guests.

I would be lying if I said it doesn’t give me all of the heart eyes.

May he live his whole life with open doors and open hands.

 

| For me, art is life-giving {and} it’s okay to make time for it.

I won a fiction writing contest when I was in the fourth grade. I remember it vividly. I remember the fun I had crafting the story. I remember carefully drawing the illustrations with my best colored pencils. I remember the thrill of holding the final copy—laminated and spiral-bound—and the delight I felt when I learned I had won. And I don’t remember ever writing a story again.

I took private art lessons for a couple of years around that same time. More than two decades later, I can remember a few of those lessons as clearly as if I were watching it play out on film. I remember the smell of the graphite, the feel of the paintbrush resting in my hand, the sense of capability, confidence, belonging.

I’ve done some creating over the years: a small painting here, a blog there, and I’ve all but apologized for it. I’ve never taken another lesson, never committed to mastering a medium—never again believed I could.

I suppose there are lots of reasons why I made myself forget about art. Maybe there are too many for it to be worth untangling, like a knot of hair that is so convoluted you just cut it out, but this January I uncovered what I think is the most disturbing.

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On a whim, I attended a free webinar hosted by Emily in which she offered some great advice and information on creating a book proposal. It was in the first five minutes that I collapsed into tears. She spoke about when she realized that God had given her the work of writing and she had work to do.  I suddenly understood that somewhere along the way that sense of thrill and confidence had dissolved into paralyzing fear.

I was secretly and unintentionally believing that I am incapable of creating good art and that I do not matter enough to try.  What Emily helped me to understand is that if God has called me to create, then I am capable because He is capable. I matter, because He says I matter.

So. I am making time for it. I have some plans and some dreams. It’s scary to plan; it’s fun to dream, but it’s life-altering to suddenly believe that I can give myself permission to do either.

| Your turn.

What did January bring your way?  I want to hear all about it.

What Airbnb Taught Me About Humanity

I’m always a little late to the party. Trend-wise, anyway. So, it should come as no surprise that I only recently used Airbnb for the first time…


 

 

It’s been entirely too serious around here lately, so I’m spending some time today over at The Lackadaisical Mom.  See you there.