When The Way Things Have Always Been Done Isn’t Best

Our tax season got off to a rocky start. Unmet expectations, a busy weekend, miscommunication, the stress of the unknown. After three rough weekends, I wondered if this was it. Was this how the year would go? Do I resign myself to a cloud over each family day?

IMG_8390Thankfully, Frank and I decided that, just because it started out badly, our tax season and our interactions didn’t have to continue this way. We talked, we made a plan, we recognized expectations that could be met and those that are too hopeful. We recalibrated and reset. This didn’t happen on a date or even over a glass of wine. It happened after I put the girls to bed by myself and he came home before 9:00, which is early these days. But we did it.

And I’m so glad we did. Last weekend was wonderful. We stayed in our pajamas after breakfast. We ate lunch at the Botanic Gardens and played in the sunshine. We talked and did all the things we do as a family when life isn’t stretched thin. It was a reminder that, in the midst of stressful times it feels like it is our new norm – that life will forevermore be unpleasant. It’s not, though. We had a choice to talk and listen. We chose to start fresh on a Monday night, three weeks into a busy season.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Way Things Have Always Been Done lately. When tragedy strikes, we dig our heels in and feel sad and hopeless but recognize that this is just how life is. What can we change? Or we say, It’s a heart issue as though there’s nothing more to be done.

For Frank and I, our miscommunication was a heart issue. We both wanted things done our way and we weren’t able to stop and listen in a heated moment. We let our hearts be hurt and a bit hardened. But we also chose to change those same hearts toward a better way. It doesn’t mean we won’t argue again this tax season (or after). It doesn’t mean that expectations will always be met or that our feelings won’t be hurt. But it does mean we’re choosing love and kindness. We’re choosing to fix and restart.

Looking at history, I’m thankful for people who have stopped the status quo and helped ignite a reset. Without abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights leaders, and contemporary activists, we would still be living in The Way Things Have Always Been Done. Because we had women and men bravely stop the cycle of injustice, we have moved forward as a nation. Sometimes this means changing laws. Sometimes this means fighting for new laws. It’s slow going. We are still struggling to fully reset, even a century and a half later.

But just because we haven’t fully arrived, does this mean we stop? Do we condemn ourselves to live in brokenness forevermore?

 

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Source: Alyssa Milano

When I think about mass killings and the statistics about gun-related violence, I feel like any conversation of reform immediately stops because we are still living in the stressful mindset of The Way Things Have Always Been Done. But is it true? Is this the way things have always been done? Or have we been fed a narrative that benefits a few people at the cost of the rest of us? Are we believing that this is how life has to be because it truly is or because we’re mired down in division?

 

I’m not saying that every person needs to surrender their weapon tomorrow. We have many gun-owning friends who are the most responsible people I know. But reform and restriction are two vastly different things. We need a reset. This is a heart issue that also needs policy reform.

Thank God we chose early on this tax season to stop, listen, and reset. How damaging would it have been to our relationship if we had kept the status quo? We’re still in early days of modern gun policies. I hope that we can stop sooner than later and refocus the conversation. It’s never too late.

What are ways that you’ve reset your thinking about policy or politics? How do you make sure to stop and check the status quo?

The Compost HeapTomorrow is the last Thursday of the month which means The Compost Heap is heading to your inbox! Make sure you’re signed up for these monthly “secret posts.”

Practicing Active Lament

Right before college finals, I remember thinking, I wish Jesus would just come back tomorrow. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about life and studying. Of course, I still studied and put in the work because that’s not how faith, Jesus’ return, or the imagery of Revelation really work.

IMG_2095I grew up being told that we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Sometimes being a Christian is described as being Jesus with “skin on.”

So when Christians pull out the verses of lament after a tragedy, I often wonder, why? Why are we willing to lament and wish for the return of Jesus if we don’t take the action part of his message seriously?

Jesus didn’t come to this earth to lament. He came to actively bring about a better way. He came to heal and to disrupt and to preach against the comfortable ideas of the time. He was subversive and made people squirm. He wasn’t popular.

My heart hurts with the news – again. I feel at a loss as to how to communicate with my congress whose pockets are lined by the gun lobby. I wish I could take the easy way out and send thoughts, prayers, and wishes that Jesus would come tomorrow.

Instead, I’m putting in the work of redemption. I’m raising kids who question, push back and don’t believe in the status quo. I’m educating myself on laws and the lobbying industry. I’m getting involved in efforts to change the way we do things. Yes, I’m still lamenting and praying. I’m even sending thoughts and prayers for the community reeling from tragedy.

But I’m remembering to DO justice, love kindness, walk humbly, and be the actual hands and feet of Jesus.

How do you practice active lament? How will your prayers move you toward action?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “why.”

Tracing My Own Story

Our speaker yesterday at MOPS led us through exercises in defining freedom in our stories. What are our yeses and nos? How do we achieve those? It was an incredible experience and made me reflect on my journey and what defines me.

vintage-2608934_960_720It also made me think of this journey in seeking justice. So many issues around the very word justice are polarizing. One person’s definition could be completely different from another’s. And it made me reflect that each of our stories have a defining moment of justice. No one responds to world events based solely on their news channel of choice. Though we may be influenced by those particular sources, our own stories and life experiences are really the lens that shades our response.

I grew up in a conservative military town. My family isn’t part of the military but I was surrounded by families and friends who were. I didn’t really think about gun ownership rights and privileges until I moved to France and was in discussion with those who had strong opposing opinions. When I trace my story, those experiences and conversations set me on a path to discovering my own opinions.

I’m thinking about looking at the issues that give me a strong reaction and mapping out my own journey with them. Why do I feel certain way about immigration rights and reform, about gun ownership rights and reform, about education rights and reform? Perhaps by really looking at my own story, I’ll better understand the stories of others.

My friend and fellow blogger, Andrew commented on my post about guns and I appreciate his point of view. (Check out his full, thoughtful comment here, but I wanted to leave you with this:

The problem facing our country is not gun control or an erosion of constitutional rights; it’s far deeper, and it’s called alienation.
We’ve become a country so fragmented by the ability to please ourselves, without having to plug into a physical community, that we consider ourselves virtual citizens of the world…but how many times have you heard the term ‘civic pride’ used recently, except in mocking scorn?
Just as alienation begets indifference, community begets responsibility and accountability. And that is what we need, now more than ever.
How do you step back to recognize your own story in your opinions? Have you ever taken time to map out your journey in relation to certain issues?

 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “story.”

BackyardThis post is Day 6 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

A Vulnerable God Invites Vulnerable People

cartridges-2166491_960_720One of our first arguments was about gun control. Frank saw the reasoning to own a gun; I just couldn’t wrap my mind around needing protection of that kind. I have trouble imagining taking someone else’s life to save my own.

This week, my daily dose of Henri Nouwen arrived in my inbox. It was an incredibly timely reflection about laying down arms in order to practice communion. He says,

When we gather around the table and eat from the same loaf and drink from the same cup, we are most vulnerable to one another. We cannot have a meal together in peace with guns hanging over our shoulders and pistols attached to our belts. When we break bread together we leave our arms – whether they are physical or mental – at the door and enter into a place of mutual vulnerability and trust.

Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

I think this so perfectly captures my inability to understand arming myself. Nouwen goes on to say, “The beauty of the Eucharist is precisely that it is the place where a vulnerable God invites vulnerable people to come together in a peaceful meal.”

How can we practice peace and vulnerability if we don’t trust our neighbors? I understand my privilege to live in an incredibly safe neighborhood – one where we leave our doors unlocked and garage doors open. If I lived elsewhere, maybe I would feel differently.

At its core, though I think there’s value in trusting first. How can we love our neighbors if we hold a level of distrust toward them? How can we trust that God will care for us if we feel like we need extreme levels of protection to ensure this? How can we live in openness and faith if we cling to our fear?

I know that I fear other things – things that don’t require guns for protection but that do create a foundation of fear and distrust. Conversations about gun control and protection make me reflect on ways in which I act out fear rather than faith; when I rely on a foundation of mistrust rather than love.

I know there are no easy answers. Our neighbors are gun owners and if everyone were as intentional and cautious as they are, I would have no reservations about citizens owning weapons. I know there are lots of ways of interpreting the Second Amendment. I know that there are ideologies and layers that will take years of shifting and unpacking to reach an agreement.

But I do think, in the wake of tragedy like the one we just saw in Las Vegas, we need to examine where we find our trust and how we actively show our love to our neighbors.

(For an enlightening history of the Second Amendment, I’d highly recommend the book The Second Amendment: A Biography by Michael Waldman.)

How do you balance fear and faith? How does your faith guide your view on gun control and gun rights? Any books you’d recommend on this topic?

BackyardThis post is Day 5 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.