Who Is My Neighbor?

I just took a class about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I’ll be sorting through those ideas and perspective for a long time. Partly, because the class was taught by a Palestinian-Muslim woman and so I’m learning to take what she has told us about her experience as truth and also listen to the perspective and stories of my Israeli-Jewish neighbors (and dear friends) as truth. It’s not that they are calling the other side wrong or untruthful. But there are definitely sides.

51lRXUeov4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the midst of all of this, I read Mending the Divides: Creating Love in a Conflicted World by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart. Co-founders of the Global Immersion Project, Huckins and Swigart have devoted their lives and careers to building peace in conflicted areas.

What they’ve learned is that talking and summits are not going to mend the divides of conflict. A radical shift in response the the question, Who is my neighbor? is needed. Or, perhaps it’s not a radical shift. After all, Jesus answered this question through his parable of the Good Samaritan thousands of years ago. It’s a story we’re still learning.

I appreciate the story-driven but practical approach Huckins & Swigart take in Mending the Divides. Each chapter starts with a real-life story, links a Biblical lesson, connects some practical next-steps, and ends with a few questions for reflection. The book is built around four steps to peacemaking: See, Immerse, Contend, and Restore.

As I look for ways to bring peace to this world through my own daily actions, I appreciated the gracious and helpful tone in Mending the Divides. I was reminded that, while international trips are important learning experiences, the real sustaining work of peacemaking happens during school pickup and in our family’s values and actions.

My biggest takeaway, especially in light of walking humbly with God is that peacemaking starts with listening. The more stories I listen to, the more complex a conflict seems. Everyone has a valid point of view and it’s hard to pick a “right side” when you hear stories from all sides. So, I’m listening and learning. I’m remembering that everyone’s experience is true. And, I hope that if more of us stop and form relationships, those divides will be mended.

Have you ever immersed yourself in a global conflict through relationships? How has that changed your perspective? Have you ever intentionally immersed yourself in a local conflict through relationships?

BackyardThis post is Day 28 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.

Bridging the Gap

The other day I went on a field trip with our Family Literacy program to the Museum of Nature and Science. We have had a membership here since Bea was little. One of our favorite activities is exploring the dioramas, the hall of life, and the dinosaurs. As I was talking with other moms, I was amazed at the fact that this was most of their first time visiting! Even though their kids are my age, going to this incredible place just wasn’t on their radar.

IMG_7032The older I get and the more stories I hear, the more I realize how little I’ve had to overcome in this life. My parents were able to provide for college; my loans for grad school were minimal since I was going into a field that was underrepresented, both in interested workers and in finances. I’ve had opportunities to travel, to learn, to be continually supported in my decisions.

I am incredibly grateful for these privileges and would never want to trade them. As we plan for the future and make decisions about how we’ll raise our girls, a lot of these same values are guiding our choices.

But coupled with what I’ve been given, I think it’s important to remember that I am unique. Not all my friends were given the gift of a paid-for college education. Not everyone I know has had the support to travel and explore.

I think that this is what everyday privilege looks like. When we talk about the evils of privilege, I think a lot of us think of one group working really hard and another group living off of government support. People have a lot of big feelings about the word privilege these days.

Privilege, of course, isn’t limited to travel and education. It’s not worrying about the bills or knowing we can finance something if we had to. It’s knowing how to save and live within our budget. (And how to make a budget in the first place!) I think privilege looks different for everyone because we all take our values and make choices differently.

But, part of walking humbly with God is recognizing all God has given me and all that others may not have. It’s learning to bridge the gaps, not so that one side loses out but so that all sides gain.

When did you first recognize your own area of privilege? How do you hold that humbly?

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

BackyardThis post is Day 27 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.

The Blessing of Curiosity

When I was in Nepal, some friends came to visit and we decided to take an airplane flight around Mt. Everest. I wasn’t much of a hiker then, so even trekking to Base Camp didn’t hold much of an appeal. But I knew I wanted to see the highest peak in the world.

IMG_1243The flight was incredible. We were in a tiny plane and my friend, who once held the title of Navigator of Air Force One turned a blind eye to all of the FAA code violations. But, when we saw Everest through the windows, it was breathtaking.

I’ve always been someone who’s held a healthy reverence for Nature. I’ll be the first to turn around if a thunderstorm threatens us above tree line; I prefer to hike with buddies; I’ve never set out to push the limits or conquer a mountain or a trail. I feel like the vast majority of the time man goes up against nature, nature will win.

When Frank and I were talking about “walking humbly with God,” he said hiking immediately came to mine. The vast magnificence of nature keeps him humble. (Though, I challenge you to have a discussion about life with Frank that doesn’t somehow circle back to hiking and/or nature…)

There is something humbling about nature and all that we don’t know. When I’m on a trail or in the Grand Tetons, I’m in awe of how huge our world is. And then I read about new discoveries, deep in the ocean and am reminded even more so that we don’t know a whole lot about this earth. If I’m really ready to be awed, I’ll start to think about the scope of our small planet in a vast universe….

When I think about my friend’s advice to start reading the Bible deeply, one book stretched over many months, it reminds me of how vast this story is. I suppose that’s how we have hundreds of years of theology and graduate degrees uncovering all that we don’t know.

Her advice also reminded me to think about the humbling experience of walking through nature. I would never presume that I was conquering a trail or hiking a mountain for the sake of crossing it off my list. In some ways, that’s how reading the Bible in a year felt – like an accomplishment to cross off a list.

What if I approached my faith and study of that faith with the same humbleness I approach nature? What if I knew I was learning for the sake of asking more questions, rather than finding answers? How would that change my relationship with God?

I wonder how this would change my relationship with my community? If I went into conversations for the sake of finding out more and more, rather than knowing a story?

I’ve been reading more about God’s curious nature. In Jan Richardson’s In the Sanctuary of Women, she reframes the story of Eve through the lens of curiosity. For so long, we’ve viewed this character trait as the root of our sinful nature. What if this is an expression of the glory of God? How would we approach life and faith differently if we viewed curiosity as a blessing rather than a curse?

Walking humbly doesn’t come naturally to me. I want to know and to check off the knowledge boxes. But humbleness is grounding myself in the unknown and breathing in the slow walk of discovery.

What’s your view of curiosity – is it a blessing or a curse? How do you approach curiosity in your faith journey?

BackyardThis post is Day 25 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.

Reframing the Story Arc

Have you ever played that game, If you could only have one book forevermore on a desert island, which one would it be?

800px-Freytags_pyramid.svgSometimes, I feel like I’m playing that game with the girls. We listen to the same song over and over again in the car; Elle always reads Goodnight, Moon or Quiet Time with Cassatt before naptime; I sing Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs every night before bed with Bea.

I totally get it. Already I see the benefits of repetition as Bea is reading more and more and recognizing familiar words in unfamiliar texts. But it can also be mind-numbing. It makes me really reconsider which one book I would want on a desert island. (And, no. The Complete Works of Shakespeare doesn’t count.)

I’ve been having some conversations with really smart women about reframing the Bible’s traditional story arc. What would hope and expectation look like if Jesus, the Cross, and Resurrection wasn’t the climax of the story? What if we moved that all to the beginning? What if Heaven and the New Earth were set as the rising action? I’m just starting to mull all of these over, and I don’t know where they’re all going.

What I am learning is that the traditional story arc doesn’t apply to a lot of life. Seemingly right and wrong points of view are never as cut and dry. Conflict is made up of layers and layers rather than sides and clear lines. Redemption rarely follows the path I think that it should.

During one of these conversations, a friend suggested picking one part of the Bible and spending a year just with that. Look closely at the story and what the arc seems to be with what we know. Carefully peel back the layers of the text. Read books and commentaries about it.

I just finished reading the Bible in a year (though really, it took about two and a half years…) and I’m so glad I finally read it from cover to cover. But honestly? It didn’t really help with my understanding at all. It gave a foundation and overview, but I really do need to view this as a lifetime read – something that I slow down and take my time.

I’m learning that to walk humbly with God probably means to recognize that I don’t know the story arc at all. That I need to spend a lifetime reframing the rising action and climax. And that most likely, God’s story arc doesn’t look anything like the literary arc I’ve been taught.

My friend said that she hopes God is way more creative than we imagine and that even redemption and the New Earth is just the very beginning of the story. Who knows what worlds are to come?

Where do you find Jesus on the story arc? How have your views on the story journey been reframed?

BackyardThis post is Day 23 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 Blessing for Walking Humbly

On Sundays, I thought I’d highlight a blessing to start our week. This week’s theme is walking humbly and this song from Heatherlyn Music immediately came to mind. Heatherlyn was our artist in residence at church a year ago and her music has changed the way I worship.

EVER by Heatherlyn Music

Peace, ever
Joy, ever
Following you
Light, ever
Love, ever
Radiating through

Hope, ever
Faith, ever
Strengthening you
Life, ever
Breath, ever
Nourishing you

And everywhere you go, may you always be home
And everyone you meet, be messengers of peace

Let your light shine through
And your heart ever be true
Move in grace and gratitude
And walk in wisdom, sharing all that’s good

Peace, ever
Joy, ever
Following you
Light, ever
Love, ever
Radiating through

And everywhere you go, may you always be home
And everyone you meet, be messengers of peace

May we choose courageously
May we hope defiantly
May we love outrageously
And walk on lightly, in humility

Beauty and laughter, ever filling you
Friendship, affection, surrounding you

BackyardThis post is Day 22 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.