Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wise Guys

During the Advent season this year our family has been doing some daily readings that basically retell the Christmas story. Today's reading was about the star that the wise men saw. I thought about this star and about those wise guys all morning while ironing, making beds, and washing floors. I had thoughts that I had never had before about what all this might mean. (I love time spent inside my brain!! Oh, for the love of manual labor!!))

I also love looking at the stars on a moonless, clear night. I don't believe that stars are random or placed in the sky without thought. I was recently in El Salvador and the stars looked different than the ones I see at home. The planet Venus was featured in the southern sky, bright and beautiful. Back in Canada, Orion, my long time favorite constellation has come to grace the winter nights. That light travels thousands of miles and I can see it with my naked-eye shining in the sky, leaves me speechless.

The wise men that the Bible talks about were star watchers too. The heavens, in all of their splendor, spoke volumes to them. The stars were telling a story of a baby King that would be born in Israel. One star in particular shouted his arrival. These wise men listened and responded to what they saw clearly written in the sky. Their response was to gather some gifts befitting a king and to begin a trek into an unknown land not knowing what lay ahead.

The questions that arose in my mind were: What did the wise men see in the sky? How did they know that the star heralded the birth of a King? Why would God reveal to these men, not likely Jewish, not likely sharing the same race, customs or religion, the birth of His Son? Why did they feel the urge to seek Him? What prompted that seeking?

I came up empty in terms of any solid answers, but my questions did lead to other thoughts... Is the night sky still telling the story of Jesus? Does God use those we may consider on the 'outside' to show us, who think we have a firm grasp of 'the Truth', what joyful worship and seeking truly means? How did the wise men's encounter with a little baby change their lives? Does God want us to seek him and give him gifts instead of waiting for him to show up when we ask? Is faith, is Jesus, available to anyone who would acknowledge him as King?

I am learning more and more that answers are not necessarily faith. Questions leave me with greater awe, greater faith. I love that God is so interesting, not cookie-cutter, not rigid in His creativity, not bound by my finite thinking. I look forward to this Christmas and the astounding, mind-blowing, heart-shattering gift of Christ that is for everyone.
I plan to seek.
I plan to bring Him gifts.
I plan to worship the King.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fight Nice

"Fight nice, kids."

Who didn't hear those words coming from a seemingly calm Mother seated in the front passenger seat of the car, directed to the children duking it out in the back seat? What exactly does fight nice mean? Does it mean no punches in the general face area? Does it mean no kidney shots? Does it really mean that you are allowed to fight but there are certain guidelines in place? Now, years later, coming from a place located in the passenger seat of the car I know that "fight nice" really means "knock it off" and "you know better"!

There's something in us that wants to fight. We feel like if we don't stand up for ourselves we will end up being trampled with our faces shmushed in the dirt. We fight because we feel our points are valid and that we need to be heard. We fight because we believe that we are right and that the people we fight against are wrong. We fight because if we don't, we're not sure how to communicate what we feel. Those feelings may be valid and probably need to be voiced in some way, but we defend and clench our fists instead of communicating our thoughts and emotions in ways that don't tear down. For most of us, we have been socialized to the point that we no longer throw physical punches, but our words can almost have the same affect. Fighting with words, in my humble opinion can have more devastating affects! My question is, is there an alternative to 'The Fight'?

One of my absolute favorite television shows is "Parks and Recreation" with Amy Poehler. It's one of those that you either love or hate. I love it because of the dry humor and that I feel like I know the people in it.The issues that the characters face are mostly about relationships. Amy Poehler's character, Leslie Knope, works in public service, the parks and recreation department of her city. For almost any issue regarding parks people have issues, usually that have nothing to do with parks. In every "town hall" meeting there never fails to be these crazy people that stand up and say something that has nothing to do with the real issue at hand. It's good for a laugh, but in reality this is the "fighting spirit" rising to the surface. I find it interesting that  people everywhere are the same. There is history, personal experiences, feelings of nostalgia, and resistance to change that rise up in all of us that create an urge to do something. We want to preserve what we like or prefer and if something is being presented that we don't like or prefer we fight against the death.

Life is full of things that we disagree on. There's a meeting happening in my community today that addresses an issue that has many differing views. No two people will think exactly the same way on it or any other issue. I believe that this fact: our differing opinions, is what makes us unique. I also believe that fighting for our point of view will never draw us close together or help us to solve the problem. In every relationship there are things that come up that we feel strongly about. Is this really an opportunity to put on the gloves and get in our respective corners and have it out? Will that solve it? Will the carnage be worth it? Will relationships still stand when the dust settles? In no way am I saying to avoid the things that need to be talked about, the white elephants are there for everyone to see. What I am proposing is that we see the people that we are disagreeing with as people like us, people with thoughts and ideas and emotions. We need to see these people with value...value that exceeds our opinions, even our brilliant and witty retorts. These people are the people that we work beside. These people are the people that we sit next to at the hockey rink, cheering on our kids. These people are the people that we promised to "love, honor and cherish" and we lay our heads down on the same bed every night. These people are the people poking us in the ribs in the back seat of a 1982 Grand Marquis. These people are the people that cared enough about us tell us, in a roundabout way, that fighting isn't the answer. These people are not our enemies. These people are our community, our family.

Things that I am learning:
Communicate...without attitude or agendas or sarcasm.(No eye rolling!!)
Listen...with understanding (without defending your point of view).
Respond...with kindness and respect, with the true value that you see in that person.
If you are 'disagreeing' with your spouse, talk it out while holding hands.(It's hard to touch someone that you love and let your words come out like daggers!!)

Fighting nice is not about taking the cheap shots that you can technically get away with. Truly fighting nice is about growing up and being able to shake a person's hand, in genuine good will and with a smile on your face knowing that you may never agree. It's gonna be okay...breathe!