Love til it hurts ...

I am reading through the Psalms again,

always finding words, phrases, passages, thoughts I have not noticed before.

Here is today's finding ....

In Psalm 15 where King David asks,

"O Lord, who may abide in your tent?

Who many dwell on your holy hill?"

One of the answer he gives; one of the people who may live in God's presence is the one 

"who stand[s] by their oath even to their hurt ..."

Ponder that for a moment as we head into these final days of Advent,

these final days before the Christmas celebration is upon us with the gathering of

dysfunctional family,

the pressure on already pressured marriages,

the chaos of near strangers thrown together to make merry ...

What might it look like for those of us who follow Jesus to stand by the oath to love our neighbor as ourself

even when standing by that oath hurts us?

When we are disappointed once again in our family.

When Aunt Joan or Uncle Ricky shoot verbal barbs our way.

When we remember afresh why we don't often gather with our extended family.

Or, even when we are filled with joy and love toward our closest people, but still feel some hurt and pain over not feeling fully understood.

Meditate on this idea, my friends:

God is close to those who stand by their oath even to their own hurt.

For that is what God did for us in Christ.

Loved us, redeemed us, saved us, rescued us, kept his oath to us

even to his own hurt.

And now we are called to follow in his footsteps.

You got this ...

Love til it hurts. This is the way of Jesus the Christ.




As a woman, I have a few words ...

As a woman who works in the church, as the mother of three grown adults,

and frankly, just as a human being,

I have a few words to say about sexual harassment and sexual abuse of power that is rampant in our world:

It has been going on since the beginning of time.

Ask any woman you know, and I bet she will have a story, or three.

I have mine,

including one in which I reported a pastor from a previous church who had a habit of touching women inappropriately.

I was one of those women who thought long and hard, but eventually decided to speak up.

Times were different then.

Those of us who reported were scorned.

The pastor was seen as a victim.

The outcome was dark and ugly and divisive and so hurtful.

Ever wonder why women don't come forward right away and speak their truth?

It is because too often, we tend to shoot our wounded.

Why do you think Jesus had to save the "woman caught in adultery" from being stoned, mostly likely by a group of men? Surely there was a "man caught in adultery" as well, right?

Listen, I love men.

I love and admire my dad, my brother, my father-in-law, my husband, my son, my male colleagues and friends ...

This is not an anti-men rant.

It is a strong shot-across-the-bow, though, for all of us.

The day and age where women will just "take it" and be quiet out of fear of backlash may be over, at least for a time.

Let's hope so.

And my plea is that the church - of all places - should be known as one of THE places where women are honored, respected, valued and believed. Where women can walk in and KNOW that they are in a harrassment-free zone.

My fear, however, is that too often the church is the exact opposite.

Too often, we are part of the problem.

It is time - well beyond time - that we instead become leaders in the move toward a solution.

Let's start by seeing women and men as equals.

Let's start by bringing our own darkness into the light and being appropriately repentant about all the ways we as Christians have either mistreated women, or have allowed them to be mistreated.

Let's start by promising to believe women when they work up the courage to be honest about what they have experienced. Let's not cherry pick Bible verses to toss at them like grenades in order to silence them.

Let's start by taking any and all kinds of harassment and abuses of power - sexual or otherwise - very, very seriously as violations of the belief that every human is a divine bearer of the image of God.

Let's just start, church, shall we?

The world waits.

Jesus waits.

How weakness is made strong ...

 I read this poem this morning (slowly, a few times through) and was so touched by its simply beauty and powerful truth.

It is by leaning on another frail human being when we fail that something beautiful and strong can unfold.

We are truly better together.

Take a breath, take a moment here. Read this aloud if you need to. Read it two or three times until the truth of what the poet is saying forms a lasting image in your mind and marks your soul with wisdom.

Most like an arch — an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.

Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

Most like an arch — two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters…

It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

(John Ciardi, 1916 – 1986)





Spiritual malpractice ...

A few more great thoughts and insights from Adam McHugh on listening to people in pain ...

McHugh writes about how a colleague of his was headed to visit someone in the hospital and announced, "Time to speak some truth."

McHugh says, "This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering.

Whether it's sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound biblical exhortation.

I have a number of issues with this.

First, it assumes that hurting people do not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency. They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling.

Second, preaching to people in pain preys upon the vulnerable.

It's stabbing the sword of truth into their wound and doing surgery without anesthesia.

Unwelcome truth is never healing.

Third, 'speaking truth' into situations of pain is distancing.

You get to stand behind your pulpit or your intercessory prayer that sounds a lot like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth.  [Alice here ... I couldn't love this last phrase more!]

Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone, like a scolded child."

This entire section in my book is bolded, circled, underlined and marked with ten exclamation points!

As a person who suffered through a couple wicked years of post-partum depression while my husband was in seminary, I was "preached at," "prayed over," and scolded with Scripture more times than I can remember.

It was always horrible.

It always made me feel worse and more alone.

It often made me feel like my depression was very much my fault.

And it insinuated that, if I just believed the right thing, memorized the right verse, or prayed the exact right prayer, I would be miraculously (and very quickly!!) healed.

"Speaking truth" to people in pain is spiritual malpractice.

That is what I wrote to one "Christian physical therapist" who did nothing to treat my physical pain, but simply told me that the reason I was suffering was because "the devil did not want my husband to go into the ministry."

Incredible that this stranger knew this very bizarre truth, huh?

Then he charged me for a medical visit that never took place.

Even in the midst of my depression, I knew enough to tell him I would report him for spiritual malpractice if he tried to collect on this bill.

I never heard from him again.

Thank God.

We walk with people in their pain.

We save our preaching for other venues.

People in pain ...

Adam McHugh's book "The Listening Life" is an incredible read; life-changing to tell the truth.

His chapter on listening to people in pain is worth the price of the entire book.

A few excerpts for you to ponder today:

"Few things shut down a person in pain faster than quoting the Bible at them ... sometimes people use the Bible in a way that makes hurting people feel like God is telling them to shut up.

... it has been my experience that Christians are often worse at dealing with people in pain than others with different beliefs. Truth be told, I have chosen on many occasions to share my painful moments and emotions with non-Christians rather than Christians because I knew I would be better heard ...

A hurting person is in a storm. They are cold, wet, shivering and scared.

Preaching, platitudes and advice will not get them out of the storm.

Don't tell someone in a storm that it is a sunny day.

There will likely come a day when the clouds part, but it is not today.

It's not your job to pull them out of the storm.

It's your job to get soaked with them."

As you come across people in pain, notice what their grief or sadness stirs up within you.

Most often, it is our own discomfort with other people's sadness that causes us to blurt out Scripture,

propose pompous platitudes,

or subtly blame them for their tears.

This is 100% unhelpful.

But very often we are not primarily seeking to be helpful to people in pain.

Most often we are simply trying to get them to stop being sad,

so that we don't have to face the truth that life is hard,

that into every life some rain will fall,

and that on this side of eternity grief is a road we must all eventually walk down.


Christians are talking ...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said this:

"Many people are looking for an ear that will listen.

They do not find it among Christians,

because these Christians are talking

when they should be listening."


Passive conversational narcissism ...

What, there's more?

More than one way to be narcissistic in our listening?


We can actively try to turn conversations to ourselves - this is active conversational narcissism.

But we can also passively refuse to really listen to another human being.

This is how Charles Derber describes it:

"Passive conversational narcissism entails neglect of supportive questions at all discretionary points and extremely sparse use of them throughout conversation.

Listening behavior takes place but it is passive.

There is little attempt to draw others out or assume other forms of active listening.

This creates doubt in the other regarding the interest of their topics or their right to attention.

A second very common minimal use practice involves the … delay of background acknowledgements.

Although weaker than supportive questions, background acknowledgements such as ‘yeah’ or ‘uh huh’ are nonetheless critical cues by which speakers gauge the degree of interest in their topics."

How often does this happen in your life?

A person starts to speak to you, you gauge their importance to you, your level of interest in what they are saying ...

and then you ACT like you are listening,

but you refuse to ask them a follow-up question,

you barely look them in the eye,

you don't even nod your head or say 'uh-huh' as a cue to them to keep going.

You THINK you are listening,

you may even congratulate yourself on not shifting the conversation toward yourself,

but in no way do you make the person feel listened to.

In fact, just the opposite happens.

Your lack of interest, response, question-asking or non-verbal approval

causes the person talking with you to conclude you are uninterested,

maybe even that they are uninteresting,

and they move on.

Conversation over!

Now you can check Facebook or Instagram to see what your "real" friends are saying ...