Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fasting For Freedom

From Isaiah:

"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of Yahweh will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And Yahweh will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life At Four

Look at me Papa I’m gonna jump from here
Look at me Papa I’m gonna climb up the slide
Look at this Papa see I built a lawnmower
Look at this Papa see I fixed it with the hammer

Uncle Jared let’s run round and round
Uncle Jared let’s wrestle on the floor
Uncle Jared I just want to go in your bedroom
Uncle Jared can you tell me a story

Grammy come here I can’t make the game work right
Grammy come here I need more juice and cheese
Grammy come here see I helped put away the clean dishes
Grammy come here see I picked this green tomato

Mommy I need you to put on my socks they won’t go right
Mommy I need you to go to the bathroom with me
Mommy I just need you to come by me on the couch
Mommy I just need to give you hugs and kisses I love you

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Uncommon Land

Earlier this week I found myself sitting across from my son at the food court of the local mega-mall. For several weeks the two of us had talked about going to see a movie that we both thought we might enjoy. Going to a movie at the theater has always been a rare occurrence for our family. It’s typically the sort of mind numbing entertainment we have chosen to avoid, but here we were almost 2 hours before show time indulging in Subway.

We were mostly making small talk about girls, faith, and the start of the new college semester and trying to determine which restaurant in the food court was getting the most business. We decided it was Subway, the only restaurant there that was well known. That led us to a discussion of people being comfortable in a culture and amongst people and places they are familiar with.

To my left was a man, woman, teenage boy, and small baby sharing dinner together. They were far enough away from us and talking quietly enough that we couldn’t pick up most of the conversation, but it was clear that the man (dad it appeared) was talking quite stridently and straightforwardly to his son. I did hear some words that sounded like “only thinking of yourself” as dad left the table to take care of his food tray. For the minute that he was away from the table it appeared son was looking for consolation from mom; with mixed results. I assumed that probably wasn’t going to be a fun car ride home.

To my right sat another family. At first it was just a mom with two young daughters. After a few minutes a man dressed in a suit came walking up and I heard squeals of “daddy, daddy” from the two little girls. After some hugs and kisses they had some pleasant family time together and most likely went on to enjoy a nice evening.

Since we had a good stretch of time before the movie started we stayed at our little table for quite a while watching and observing as people flowed in and out of our space. We eventually finished and made our way to a Barnes and Noble to kill a little more time (I used to read a lot of science fiction when I was younger and so decided to peruse that section. I was disappointed to learn that classic science fiction has mostly devolved into fantasy and horror masquerading as sci-fi). A group of teenagers were making their way through the bookstore pushing the limits of the understood quiet nature of such a place, but not quite going far enough to get themselves reprimanded.

So here’s the thing; in that time and place, me, my son, and all of the people flowing in and out of the food court, the bookstore, and eventually the movie theater, all stood on common ground. We all knew the rules, we all understood the limits, and we all had a clear grasp of the culture and society in that little world. The dad talking firmly to his son understood his behavior was acceptable and wouldn’t be questioned. The young family understood it was perfectly okay to show their affection for one another in this spot. And the teenagers in the bookstore barely operated within the rules of the bookstore, but didn’t pass the limit.

When we look alike, when we think alike, when we are familiar with what is expected of us, it is simple and easy for us to behave in ways that don’t offend our neighbor. When we are put into places and situations where we don’t understand the culture, we don’t understand the rules, and we’re not privy to the proper decorum, there is a lot more opportunity for us to offend or be offended.

Many years ago my family and I visited a small congregation of people for a worship service. We had never met these folks before and so we walked into the sanctuary and took a seat near the back. Within about two minutes a gentleman informed us we were in his seats. That was a new experience for us. Other members of the congregation quickly came to our defense and told us we could stay in those seats, but it was easy enough for us to move. In spite of that initial greeting we ended up making that our congregation for the next two years. We came to understand the rules. Everyone there had their place to sit every week. It was unspoken and unwritten, but a rule nevertheless that we had to learn, to be accepted into that microcosm of the greater society.

Now I’m going to present something I’ll call the uncommon land. It is a place, a time, a culture, and society that also offers a spot to function in our commonality, but not because of any external sameness. In fact it is a place that allows us to function with order, with decency, with dignity and love, because it forces us to understand our sameness has nothing at all to do with what is on the outside, but instead recognizes a more powerful unity we have in a shared vision of what flows out of our hearts. It’s an uncommon land, because it is not a place we choose to visit too often. It’s a place that compels us to look beyond all of the common ground we experience with our five senses and to embrace a firmer, clearer bond we have of a vision of what awaits us if we choose to operate from this place of the uncommon.

What we know with our senses is so unreliable in gaining insight into the heart of another person and yet our interaction with the external is the ground upon which we mostly choose to make our judgments about one another. As a child of the Most High I hope to be able to implement the idea of choosing to interact on a level beyond the purely physical and enter a realm where our interactions are spirit to spirit…heart to heart. Surely this will be easier said than done for any of us.