A Letter to the Shunners

Dear Shunners,

I write out of love. I write because I must. I write because I am tired of it.

Yes, I have three children and yes, they are all unique and varied individuals. Right now, only one of them is an adult and free to make choices that are many times in direct opposition to what we believe, as his parents.

If you know him and see how he has changed this last year, it may sadden or shock you. But what you can never know are the conversations we have behind closed doors; when no one else gets that intimate glimpse into his heart or sees the confusion and insecurity in his eyes. Nor can you hear him wrestle with the magnitude of what it means to grow up, the fear of having to take responsibility and become financially independent.

To those that don’t know him and have either listened to juicy morsels of gossip or taken advantage of moments when in a quest for transparency or vulnerability, I’ve shared too much, shame on you. You are culpable for making a judgement call based on a snippet of information. Your limited knowledge has gone to your head and given you license to shun- him, our other children and maybe even us. Just so you understand what I mean, here’s what shun means: avoid, evade, eschew, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one’s distance from.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to do these things. Maybe you shun because you are afraid of a rebellious child and the implications of it on your own child/family. I understand the fear. I used to feel that way before providence would have it that we would need to love our own prodigal of sorts. Or perhaps you have forgotten the priority of Jesus’s message was to seek and save the lost- not shun and avoid the lost. This is the message we carry to the world.

So, I lovingly plead with those who cannot empathize with us or him during this season, to stop. Stop shunning. Stop standing in your high and lofty place as judge of our family, our parenting methods, or especially our son. And please stop assigning guilt to our other children based on the struggles of one.

Most of all, be mindful of self-righteousness, a lack of grace and the tendency to eschew someone whom you perceive as a rebel. Recognize that no matter what decisions our children make- good or bad- our love for them remains zealous and unchanged. Our fierce sense of protection still wants to “assault” those with intent to hurt them.

We don’t make excuses for wrongdoing. We accept culpability for mistakes we have made in parenting. Conversely, we embrace in gospel love those who think differently than us, look differently than us, live differently than us- especially when they happen to be our own flesh and blood.

Grace will reach farther and soften a heart more than shunning ever could. Grace will lead the rebel home.

With tenacious boldness,

Jane

Look Here

Perspective.

In light of this recent cold snap, I was reminded that so much of life truly is perspective. The word, as defined by good ol’ Webster means:

~the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

or

~the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed

You see, I say, “I’m freezing. It’s so cold outside”, then I hear that the town we used to live in in Idaho is exactly 0 degrees and I stop complaining. Later I read about parts of Montana that have a wind chill of 50 below zero and I think that you might have to be part crazy to live there!!!!! I’ll take my 27 degrees any day!

I remember the first time I really grasped the meaning of this concept (although at 17, it would be years until I was able to really apply it to life). It was my first semester of college and I was FORCED (note that word) to take an art appreciation class. While attending a field trip to the L.A. art museum, we were instructed to write observations on all kinds of paintings. There was one that I’ll never forget. It was an idyllic fall scene of a sleepy town. The rich golds, crimsons and oranges still stand sharp in my mind, but it was how the light morphed that really struck me. I had to view the painting from a variety of angles and distances and as I did, the canvas evolved before me. It was as if light was coming alive inside the painting. As my perspective changed, so did the scene before me.

Throughout my life this has happened time and time again. I have been sitting around, wallowing in a large vat of self-pity filled with stinky stuff like: financial woes, child-rearing woes, health woes etc. then BAM, I hear about a friend’s problem or a natural disaster that trumps my vat o’ crap by 10,000 stink points. I immediately admit that things could be much worse. Conversely, I’ve been sitting prettily atop my high horse thinking “I’M ALL THAT”, when BAM, someone rides by on an even higher horse. All at once I get knocked flat on my derriere, taken down by pride. I am forced to look straight up from my new perspective lying on the ground.

You see, no matter where you are, in the valley or on the mountain, you know by now that things can and DO change in a heart beat. Not only that, there is, in the wide world over invariably someone out there better or worse off than YOU! (The nerve of some people that seem to continually fall into the “better off” category!)

So here’s my challenge for you and myself:  Change your perspective. Shift your focus. Embrace where you’re at. Try to change where you’re at. Step back. Step forward.  If you get knocked down, lie there a little while and take in the view. If you are at a pinnacle moment type of place, look out into the distance and realize where you came from. See the bigger picture, the sum of the parts. Find the beauty in the broken, the meaning in the muck, the purpose in the plight. Recognize and appreciate the fractal light features that appear as you shift your perspective.

Erase the Lines

We’ve all drawn them, at different times and for particular reasons.

Lines.

Lines we will not cross. Lines we put up as a type of guardrail along our comfort zone. Lines to protect us. Lines to insulate us from influences or more pointedly, insulate our children. Lines to make us fit into a specific social strata. Lines because of innate fears.

Depending on who and where we are, our drawn lines will morph greatly over the course of our lives. Hopefully, they will move for good conscientious reasons, not condescending or contentious ones.

There are well thought out, well-placed lines. Parental boundaries put up for the protection of our children – this is an example of a good line drawn. Then there are ugly ones- the ones drawn because of pride, prejudice, arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, hate, selfishness.

The older I have grown, the more I despise these lines. They sicken me frankly. I want to go over and erase them, but I can’t. They are there to remind me that I “DON’T BELONG” or my kids shouldn’t attempt to cross them or my ideas just don’t mesh. And here is what puts my blood at a simmer level: There are sometimes insane amounts and even uglier lines within the church.

Socio-economic lines are inevitable, but I do declare, around our hoity-toityville town, they have a pronounced presence. Sadly, most people that have drawn them never even realize it. I personally have lived on both sides of the tracks. We have had the big new house. We’ve resided in the low-class all ethnic group neighborhood. Nowadays, some might even call our neighborhood “white trash”. They draw their “I would never live there” line. Let’s face it, we generally like to be with other people who are “like us” and balk against those who are not. These lines are often drawn inadvertently, but must always be looked at with a critical careful eye and erased immediately if done with malicious motives.

Ethnically speaking I’m white, pasty white in fact. But I grew up in Los Angeles- arguably one of the most diverse places in the good ol’ US of A. Besides off-handed comments from a few family members, I grew up color blind. The first time I had a “white” best friend was in seventh grade.Here’s what I knew: God made the world and EVERYONE in it.  Lines drawn because of the color of someone’s skin make the world a small place; a place where the beauty and richness of diverse people groups or cultures are replaced by small-minded bias, by fear of the unknown and an air of superiority.  This line, especially in the church, should never, ever be drawn.

The other lines can be petty, picky and perfunctory. Often times they are unnecessary, unkind and uncouth. These are the how we parent our kids lines or the how we school our kids lines.  There are political lines, eating habit lines, media or music preference lines. They are endless. In and of themselves they are not bad and these differences are what makes the world go around. BUT, when we draw them in permanent marker, they serve to exclude all who are not on the same side as us. We become guilty of group think. We become aggressive defenders of preserving our line instead of being open to the possibility of erasing it. Every once in a while, our hand is forced to erase a line we had so carefully marked and when we do, we suddenly find that we had kept out others that needed us or the line was a stupid idea all along.

My challenge to you dear reader is to think long and hard when lines are drawn. Mark them in chalk if you must. Always be willing to step across them for the sake of abandoning a prejudice or erasing them altogether in order to love someone who is on the other side.

Super Glue Connections

Dizzying.  Astounding. Bewildering.

 The choices we have to stay connected with friends new and old, family near and distant, and (even) almost strangers are practically limitless.

But sometimes, every now and then, step back and consider what it all means. All the notifications, likes, comments, loves, shares, subscriptions, shout outs, upvotes, et al . What value do we feel or worth do we derive from it all?

Are we like a drug addict that needs a fix? Are we like the athlete that needs a medal? Perhaps we need applause, award, recognition or accolades to make us feel accepted.

I fight it, yet sometimes I am over taken. Pride creeps in. Self gets the best of me. I’ve abused the very tool that was meant to help connections, facilitate relationships, bridge communication, and share news.  Instead I have used it to feed my ego, waste my time, squander opportunities, miscommunicate thoughts, dwell on unsavory images, etc.

This video says it masterfully. Hoping you and I will thoughtfully pause to listen to what David Bowden articulates.  

David Bowden- “The Inner Net”