Month: June 2015

Seeing Jesus

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My friend gave me her JESUS sign for me to use as an illustration in a  Vacation Bible School class. The story was on the Bartimaeus, a blind man, whom Jesus heals.  Once he is healed, the first person he sees, is Jesus.

None of the kids had ever seen this optical illusion.  Every age group loved the moment that their eyes allowed them to see the word “JESUS.”  “Oh! I see it!” they would say.  “I see it! I see it!  I see Jesus!”  “Do you see it?  Here let me show you…so you he can see him too!”

Vacation Bible School was a month ago, and JESUS is still  in my car.  He’s a quiet passenger, listening in on conversations.

He has driven with me all around town, He has been with me as I have talked on my phone, talked to myself, talked to the radio, and talked to my kids.

He is with me as I leave an early morning Bible study, and hear on NPR that my brothers and sisters in Christ in South Carolina have been murdered, while studying the Word and being in prayer, and tears run down my face, and my only words are “Dear Jesus…”

He is listening in on conversations as I pick my children up from their week of church camp, and I ask them what Bible verse they learned and they tell me that the theme was on Wearing Love and the Fruits of the Spirit, and I think about their spiritual formation and how their formational theology is the message that Christianity is above all about love and acceptance. As I drive them home, sun-kissed and weary from a week of prayer, play and fellowship, I hear them list the Fruits of the Spirit and talk about wearing love, compassion, and kindness, I wonder if they will ever need to defend their beliefs to other card-carrying Christians.  I wonder if some day they will be told that their theology of grace and love is insufficient for their salvation.

I look over at JESUS, and I wonder what he sees.

He is with me as I hear the Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage and I hear the radio use the word Christian, and I pray, “Dear Jesus, once again we are divided.” I lament that I cannot see how Christians will ever be one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.

I look over at JESUS, and I wonder what he sees.

Could it be that when we look at each other, we have not quite trained our eyes, because if we could look beyond black and white,  we would see JESUS?

I realize there is only way for us to see Jesus. It’s Grace. Not flimsy, cheap, pithy grace, but deep, abiding, amazing grace, that sees our wretched, sinful, violent selves and saves us all despite of ourselves.

Dear Jesus,

Help me to see grace. Help me to see grace in myself and in others. Help me to lean into grace. Help me to be an example of grace to others.  Help me to see you in the daily.  So often I cannot see you, because I am too judgmental, or angry, or afraid. Sometimes in the wake of violence, I doubt if you are really there.  But then I see grace, and I believe.   Give me the eyes to see you. Give me the joy of a child when you reveal yourself to me. Give me such enthusiasm, that I cannot wait to exclaim, “Oh! Now I see Him!”

Amen.

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Mean People

“People are just mean.”  Have you heard that before?  “People are just mean?” Like somehow that excuses or permits or allows for mean people to go on being mean.

I don’t buy it. I don’t think people are just mean. I think they learn to be mean. I think they say really mean things to themselves. I think they are hurting.  But I don’t think they are just mean.

But, man, people can really be mean.  Have you seen those mean text videos that Jimmy Kimmel has celebrities read on his show? Yikes. They are awful.

I had to post this picture of my favorite mean girl. The mean girl of all mean girls: Nelly Olson!

r-MEAN-GIRLS-3-large570At the end of the school year, my eleven year old daughter, started acting funny. My daughter’s friends noticed it before I did. She started acting withdrawn and quiet. Her stomach hurt. She wanted to quit ballet. She wanted to quit singing. She was grumpy and irritable. I called her ballet teacher and told him she was ready to quit.

He sat down with her, asked her what was wrong, and she melted into a puddle of tears. Someone had put a note in her cubby at school and wrote, “You suck at dancing and singing.” Nice.  She didn’t know what to do. It threw her off course. She had internalized it and owned it and was ready to believe it.

What it is about our tender psyche’s that allow us to remember put downs and insults longer than compliments and affirmations?  Why do we give cruelty more power than kindness?  Could it be because when people are cruel, we feel threatened and so we go into that reptilian part of the brain and either want to fight or fly? Could it be that cruelty is more toxic in our brains, and therefore harder to clean up?

We all have our personal stories of mean people who spew out cruel comments, that stay with us. I remember one time a parishioner called me and said she had to tell me something for my own good and then proceeded to tell me what an awful preacher I was.  She just thought I needed to know that I was the worst preacher she ever heard and that I should do something with my hair. It took me far too long to get her comments out of my head, and to figure out what to do with my hair.

Ignoring them is not the answer, because clearly they have not been ignored.  Their voice has found their way into the psyche. Fighting back is not the answer, because it takes way too much energy, and they aren’t worth it.

How do we help our children respond to mean people and cruel comments?

The only way I think we can counter cruelty in our world is by responding with sympathy and empathy. Remembering that cruel comment says more about them and their pain than it does about us. Jesus said to pray for our enemies.  I wonder what would happen if we taught our children and ourselves to respond to mean notes and cyber bullying etc. by suggesting that they pray for that mean kid. I wonder if we could model a prayer that went something like this:

Dear Loving God,

I’m having a hard time today. My feelings are hurt and I’m offended. Someone made fun of me, criticized me and now I feel self-conscious. I don’t like this feeling God and I need your help in getting this yucky feeling out of my mind. Help me to remember that you made me and love me just the way I am.

And God, about that mean person, I know you made them too. I  know you love them and I know you understand what thoughts they have going on in their minds. God, would you enter their thoughts and shine light in their darkness? Help them to not feel they have to tear other people down in order to build themselves up.  Help me to not feel I have to do the same. Help me to  make sure I am a light for those who are in dark places. Help me to move on from this moment and give you more power than anyone or anything else.

Amen