Monday Morning Musings for 12.5.16

  1. "Non-complementary" behavior refers to what happens when we do not "mirror" the behavior we are expecting or receiving. Typically, if you are nice to me, I'll be nice to you and so on. When you break that pattern, psychologists say it shakes up the situation, often changing the outcome. This is the essence of Christian faith – and of Advent. God shakes up the world by coming not in cultural power but in absolute vulnerability. He also breaks the pattern in that EVERYONE (Gentiles in Luke 2 is literally "ethnos" in Greek – meaning every "ethnicity" is included in God's redemptive plan) is included, and they are included in something substantive. (Today, the notion of inclusivity is false. You can't be included in nothing. Our culture has removed everything that could be offensive to anyone, leaving nothing. The inclusivity of Christian faith is an invitation to what is concrete and substantive, grounded in the person and work of Jesus.). Further, let's remember Jesus was not a white guy. He was a middle-eastern man who lived as an ethnic minority, a Jew under the oppressive Roman rule. That ought to "shake up" how we see one another not as "separate from" based on worldly barriers, but "united with" based on Christ, our Lord. Love, not hate. Forgiveness, not condemnation. Generosity, not greed. Inclusion, not exclusion. It's the pattern-busting nature of Jesus, revealed at Advent.
  2. I have been reminded of this yet again when our staff went on our semi-annual solitude retreat. We spend a half-day at a local retreat center in silence for the sole purpose of listening - being with God. These times felt awkward at first because they are so "pattern-busting" from normal life, but that's the point. It shakes things up and brings you back to the things that matter. You actually engage in listening to God through His Word - and the simple joy of being in His presence. In the mad pace of our world, it is a refreshing, life-giving change. I always leave wondering, "Why do I not do this more often?"
  3. Regarding that same point, exhaustion is not a status symbol. Why do we seem to compete with one another to see who has the craziest busy, quasi-insane life? If you choose to live an unsustainable pace of life, you will be of no good to the very people you are trying to love and serve. Stop buying into the "exhaustion as status symbol" model.
  4. CHRISTMAS CARD TRUTH: So this year, Leigh and I finally admitted what we have been subconsciously doing the past few years – we don't send Christmas cards anymore and here's why: it used to be a means of communicating with our friends far and wide, showing how our children had grown and giving people a flavor for what the past year had been like. Don't get me wrong: we still love receiving cards and thank many of you for taking the time to do it. However, with the advent of social media, anything we might send has already been seen and any information we might offer has already been shared. Our photo this year would be from John David and Caroline's wedding, which 95% of our list would have seen 17 times on social media. We certainly want to wish you all a Merry Christmas, but we are investing our energies in communicating that in new ways.
  5. SAD TIMES FOR STATE OF TEXAS FOOTBALL: For the first time since 1997, there are no college football teams from Texas ranked in the AP Top 25. That's like Germany having a bad beer or Maine having bad lobster or Wisconsin having bad cheese. Come on people, football is what Texas does. Oh, wait… the Cowboys are 11-1. All is well.
  6. I love Bob Dylan. But I'm sorry, I think he's being an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk in not going to receive the Nobel Prize or the Medal of Freedom. Show some respect.
  7. I wrote a book two years ago called Everlasting Life. It speaks to grief, loss and the promise of heaven. I spent one chapter practically talking about things to say and not say to people who are either grieving or dying. In the interest of caring for one another better, I came across another such list regarding what to say and not say to a cancer patient. Given our family's history with that, I'll spend the rest of my space sharing these:
    • Bottom line, the greatest support comes from being there. That's the best thing you can do. Be there in a non-anxious way to listen, observe and love
    • Don't make light of a patient's physical changes like "well, you wanted to lose some weight anyway!" Not helpful.
    • Don't talk about your experience with cancer or the experience of others you know those experiences are in no way normative for the patient. 
    • Don't say the person is lucky to have one kind of cancer over another. This downplays the magnitude of what they are going through.
    • Don't say "I know how you feel." You don't. Ever. Ask them instead, "Would you like to talk about how you are feeling?"
    • Don't suggest the person's lifestyle is to blame, even if there are lifestyle issues. You don't know what caused it and often there is no explanation.
    • Don't preach about staying "positive" – this induces guilt if things don't go well or if they have a rough day. You enforce the "I'm here no matter what" idea.
    • Don't ask about prognosis. If they offer it, fine – but don't be overly curious.
    • Don't burden them with how hard their illness is on you. Don't go to pieces in the room. As soon as you do that, you make it about you and any help or support that you might be to that person has been lost. Now you have added to their burden.(Credit to Jane Brody, WSJ)
  8. So, what do you do? You love – hard, consistently and faithfully. And you pray. You show up and you sit. You ask what you can do. You listen. You serve. You lighten with memories that bring levity. You do incarnational ministry, becoming the presence of Jesus in their life for that season.