Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

I hear a lot today about agreeing to disagree.

You know, “I see it this way. You see it that way. We’ll just agree to disagree.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. 

As my friend and great social-minded theologian, Samuel Mudge said recently,

“Agreeing to disagree doesn’t work for a whole lot of people because sometimes, two people are discussing something that is an abstract idea to one, and life-and-death to the other.”

Think about that for a second. I’ll use my most personal examples for clarity.

Not having access to plastic straws might kill me.

Doing away with healthcare protections might kill me.

Using mental health or other disabilities as your excuse because you don’t want to talk about guns or other issues might kill me.

That’s how it works.

The same is true when you endorse leaders who overtly or covertly use their power and systems as a means of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

They aren’t all created equal. People are dying! 

I will say this. We do need to listen to each other more.

I do believe most of us are not as far apart as it seems. Outside the top few, the people from the middle down are all being squeezed economically and otherwise.

Let’s work together to answer these more difficult questions. Maybe life isn’t supposed to be completely found in easy answers.

agree agreement ankreuzen arrangement
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’ve lost our ability to sit across from each other; to hear each other, and to listen to our individual and collective pain. 

This isn’t a suggestion of mere tolerance. I’ll fight as long as I can against racism, ableism, and any other form of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

Inclusion is a table of equity and justice especially for people on the margins. 

That’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about. He restored people to equitable, just community.

This isn’t an over-simplified version of love the sinner, hate the sin. 

That’s just a slight modification of agreeing to disagree with a dash of power mixed in. That’s what got us here.

It’s just a reminder to listen because the cycle will never stop if we don’t do better. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

My Wife is No Saint

My Wife is No Saint

“My Heart”
Beneath the surface my heart beats full with thoughts of you
In accepting me just as I am, my life was made anew
You didn’t change me, yet I did
Because love has a special way
Of growing something greater still
Each and everyday

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Today is my 10 year wedding anniversary.

On one hand, just like any man, I wonder how my wife puts up with me? On the other hand, she puts her pants on one leg at a time just like I do.

It’s true, I’m just a man. As I coined jokingly at church, “I’m just a man, she can’t expect much.”

Come on, guys, we all know women have the hardest job in relationships.

Her ability to keep going is amazing. Her resilience rivaled only by her heart. Heck, if I get the sniffles, I’ll claim to be dying in a whimpering voice.

You know what doesn’t enter into our relationship? My disability.

If my wife got a nickel for every time someone sainted her for being with me despite my disability, she’d have a lot of nickels!

Just last week, a neighbor approached her sympathetically telling her how difficult it must be to be with me. …The neighbor approached her.

My wife doesn’t seek sympathy just like I don’t seek the latest miracle cure.

This neighbor even closed their conversation, as my wife deflected this line of logic with, “Well, if you love somebody, I guess things don’t always seem so bad.”

I might be difficult to live with some days. But, again, that’s not disability related. On the contrary, we live remarkably ordinary married couple lives.

Yet, it happens again and again, the sad nods to my wife as others pass by.
(Don’t worry. These comments and gestures mostly go over my head, literally.)

That’s if they think we are together as a couple at all. Oftentimes, people assume she’s my caretaker. 

They’re stunned to find out I was married before. Not only that, I brought my now 12 year old daughter into our relationship.

So, here we are, 10 years in.

I love my wife and she loves me. We care for each other.

Not despite my disability, regardless of it.

Here’s to many more years regardless of the bodies in which we live. 
Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Backlash!

Backlash!

“Fortune”
A Fortune of money is what you seek but a fortunate son is not someone like me.
A broken body, down on my luck, while you’re perched on top out of touch.
Running the business,
It’s always the same,
Making a fortune because you own the game

Heart with People

There’s always backlash.

Whenever an existing power structure feels threatened, you get backlash.

We see it in our world and, not surprisingly, we see it in the church.

It can be civil rights. It can be women. It can be the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability pride. It doesn’t matter.

In fact, it’s all of these things.

Wherever someone seeks equity and inclusion, you get backlash.

As we also often witness, you get cross sectional power players working together too. Think for a moment about how the powerful never seem to clamor for separation of church and state when they are colluding.

The power players all want to be in cahoots then.

It’s only when equity comes into play, such as when the church desired exclusion from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do power players scream.

There are numerous examples here. Disability is my primary marginalizing experience but, it’s no different with regard to the other people mentioned initially.

You don’t have to go very far to notice the powerful orchestrating together.

I could name names, however, I suspect I don’t have to if you’ve read this far. They’ll even use us as tokens if we’re not careful.

Most of us won’t do this, of course, but it does happen and it only takes a couple for it to become some insulating justification for those in control. However, there is a better way forward.

When working within the existing power structure doesn’t work, and I believe that time is now, the rest of us need to build together too.

I’ve seen some of this, though, not nearly enough. In many cases, I’ve witnessed the opposite with divisions and factions.

The powerful know this and they’re happy to let it continue and even encourage it. If we minimize each other, they can continue their dominance over all of us.

We need to work across communities as allies for each other.

We need to lift up advocates in each their respective areas.

Whenever possible, we need to empower voices of those who are intersectionally marginalized. (Those who face more than one marginalizing identifier.)

I say this because I do believe you can be marginalized by one trait (as I am with my disability) while also being privileged in other ways (as I am as a white man.)

Yes, there will be times for me to speak. There will also be times for me to yield the floor.

There is time for both and too many times for all of us as it is today.

That’s the backlash to seeking equity. The truly powerful, the ones dominating our world today, will not go easily, quietly, or willingly. That’s where we are.

It’s also why it’s important for us to work together, building each other up. Because, they don’t have to tear us down if we do it for them.

Next time, I’ll look at how Jesus and his early disciples resisted the powerful in their time.

I hope you’ll check back because I believe this is an important lesson for us no matter if you believe exactly as I do or not. Solidarity.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of Justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

Education and Exclusion

Education and Exclusion

The following guest post from my friend, Tim Vermande, is a continuation in a series of discussions on Inclusion and Exclusion. You can read more about this in my last post, Do You Struggle with Legalism? I plan to continue this discussion, following up from Tim’s words and continuing to focus on disability, next time. Tim’s original post and other work can be found at Flying Kitty Monster.

What does it mean to be “educated”? The author of this meme on Facebook has an idea:
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As most people will tell you, education is not just being able to spout information (or misinformation) in response to questions. While that kind of learning can be profitable, as recently watchers of “Jeopardy” might know, it does not mean that one is able to discern how these things happened (as watchers of the same show also found, at least until a librarian with discernment learned to beat the champion at his game).

Along with the signs of history repeating itself, there is a need to understand diverse events and discern their commonality. This is why professors ask students to write essays about apparently unrelated topics (one of my favorites was the link shared by movable type, color lithography, peanut butter, Spam, Clarence Birdseye, and avocado green).

This is also why we like open discussions, because people bring in new connections. One of these connections came to mind during the last week, while discussing church opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act. As it progressed, we developed a feeling that the early church was very inclusive. Jesus was denounced by the religious authorities for partying with sinners and undesirables. The book of Acts and the Epistles tell of attempts to exclude people–all of which collapsed. The Christian world expanded to include Gentiles, Romans who ate meat sacrificed to idols, Samaritans, and a host of other undesirables. Paul, constantly aware of his own past, constantly sought to include everyone.

But somewhere, that was lost. Part of this was self-survival. Creeds arose to draw boundaries. In the process, they did not just define a boundary, but to exclude (writers such as Elaine Pagels have explored this idea further). The Apostles Creed was a low-level form of this tendency, but the Nicene creed spelled out a great many doctrinal points and anathematized anyone who diverted from them.

Along the way, such definitions came to merge with cultural ideas (for an example in one field, see my review here), and in the late 1900s, disabled people found themselves excluded from the provisions of the ADA when it came to churches. Nearly every day I read on a disability site about this. As I and others have found, you can get in trouble faster for insisting that the accessible parking (if it exists) at a church be reserved for people with disabilities than for preaching heresy–I distinctly recall one incident related by a friend who was told that it “wasn’t very Christian” to call police for a violation (I asked if they had mentioned that it wasn’t very Christian to park there without the proper permit). And, as this article asks, why are so many excluded from ministry positions? Will we face the challenge, and will our allies rise to join us?

By the way, if you’re wondering about the exam question, here’s a hint: the link has do with technology that was popularized and made profitable by someone other than the inventor.

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

I’ve been in a funk lately. I hope to share more about this on Monday but, for now, I’m just tired. I want to sleep. To be embraced by the night; a time ironically when I often find myself awake. Still, there’s something comforting about the night, awake or asleep, that sometimes seems so elusive for me during the day. Acceptance – Even when you’re tired – I wrote a little about it.

Let me know what you think.

scenic view of forest during night time
Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

“Nighttime”
Morning
Quiet time
You speak of it softly
A time when mysteries unlocked find their place among the awake, the alert, the early risers
“Try it,” I’m told, this thing of beauty
Try rising with the light of day and be transformed
And, I’d like to find this space, this new morning life, I really would – This time of glory
It’s just that it comes so early
Early, not easy in this restricted body though, in truth, it’s never been easy – Even in my nimbler days
I much prefer the night
Its cast of characters, its shadows unlocking truths not so easily revealed in the daytime sun
Sure, this morning of which you speak seems a lovely sort, a perfectly fine fellow, I might even meet someone new who, until now, I’ve only known in passing
But, the night greets me like an old friend – the kind of friend not too warm or too friendly – and yet she is
She’s the kind of friend, we are the kind of friends, you meet, and you know, with a kind of understood silence
A silence that says, “Be who you are, we are in this together.”
So, I take my place, embraced by night, alongside the other daytime outcasts. The broken, the hurting, the misunderstood
Together we move through the darkness, though, it’s brighter than you think
Each of us helping the other find our way – Perfection not required, our scars not readily apparent as the would be at other times
Yet, even if they were, these scars more visible, it would be ok
This peaceful cover is provided for my comfort, for the night has accepted me long ago, just as I am, faults and all
The same is true of my people
In fact, we are the broken-unified as we journey together
Therein lies the beauty
Our salvation is found in the now
We are not told to come back at some ungodly hour
We are met right where we are, and we are loved
So, keep your morning sun-squinted eyes
Mine are more likely to be closed just then
And, it’s ok to be different
I mean, “Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a night person”
Besides, I wish you well
I’m just following the night
If God is everywhere, after all, God is there too
Finding me, loving me, loving each – Even long after most have gone to bed
This is my nighttime
This is my life

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember night or day, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance