Category: Compassion

On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice

The daily drama related to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment process is thankfully over. But anger on both political sides lingers. Some are furious at his appointment; others at his interview ordeal.

I confess I share my thoughts here as if I’m standing on some very thin ice…but I’m skating ahead. Whichever side we took, or switched to, throughout the process, I wonder if we can agree on these observations:

Christine Blasey Ford was convincingly believable in her testimony. Over time and throughout the high pressure of the situation she went through, I was increasingly impressed by her calm, sincere demeanor; her patience with the invasive nature of the questioning; her honesty about details she couldn’t recall; and her emotional vulnerability at what she did remember.

Only a very few people know who it was who assaulted her at a high school party gone very wrong. But to me there is no        denying: that woman was mistreated, demeaned and probably assaulted by some man. It broke my heart for her.

Kavanaugh, too, was entirely believable, especially in his prepared statements. Like you and I would have been, he was clearly offended and hurt by the characterizations made against him by those who hardly know him—or those who only knew him 36 years ago.

I thought he had every right to express his pain and anger at the process. I wondered how I would feel if I was accused of behavior that I was convinced was not only unfair, but untrue. I got a lump in my throat when Kavanaugh spoke of the request his daughter made to “pray for the woman.”

The process is an indictment against the crude, myopic, disrespectful state of American politics we now live in. I wonder who in their right mind would want to be the next candidate, proposed by either political party, for a Supreme Court appointment. That used to be the honor of a lifetime. Now this is the kind of treatment and abuse he or she can expect from those who will reflexively oppose the appointment.

Seriously? This is how we want it to work? The current state of our politics should be an embarrassment to all of us.

The accusations against Kavanaugh, regardless of their accuracy, are actually an indictment against the morals of our own society. He’s a man who grew up in a male-permissive culture which—through countless voices from TV, movies, strutting “jocks”, fraternities, and the whispers and goading of his own peers—communicated the message, “C’mon be a man, get what you can. Take whatever you want. Your manliness, your value as a guy, is determined by how many women you get.” I know; I was there, too.

It saddens, bewilders and even angers me that a boy of 17 can be exposed to countless broken messages of entitlement by his society, then held to completely opposite expectations by the same society four decades later.

Then that man is publicly condemned, regardless of the transformation and lessons-learned that might have taken place in those decades of potential growth and change. What unbelievable hypocrisy!

I’m convinced Ford was abused by a man.

I’m convinced Kavanaugh is an imperfect, but talented man who is genuinely respected by scores of men and women who have worked alongside him throughout his career.

I’m also convinced it’s about time American culture learns how to encourage and respect real masculinity while countering the still-present voices that promote random sexual promiscuity from men.

Further, it’s stunningly hypocritical that our society urges women to assert that same random promiscuity in their own sexual lives. It’s if they are being told, “Don’t be women. Be more like broken men.” It boggles the mind.

I feel compassion toward Ford. I feel sympathy toward Kavanaugh. I feel anger toward our cultural hypocrisy and our gutter-level politics. When will we learn? What can we do in response?

How about if each of us commits to being a voice for respectful political dialogue? What if each of us commits to consistently demonstrating respect toward the opposite gender?

Given our current climate I know that may feel like walking on thin ice. I’ll go first.

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”
Bias From the Bottom

Bias From the Bottom

Author Richard Rohr makes an intriguing observation about the uniqueness of biblical authors versus most authors:

“The vast majority of people throughout history has been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have experienced history in terms of a need for change. The people who wrote the books and controlled the social institutions, however, have almost always been the comfortable people on the top. Much of history has been recorded from the side of the winners, except for the unique revelation of the Bible, which is an alternative history from the bottom: from the side of the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed, and the poor, culminating in the scapegoat figure of Jesus himself.

We see in the Gospels that it’s those on the bottom who tend to follow Jesus: the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, and the foreigners. It is demonstrably those on the inside and the top who crucify him: elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers. Shouldn’t that tell us something really important about perspective? Every viewpoint is a view from a point, and we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and follow the truth all the way through.” [Italics and bold are mine]

How might this insightful point lead you and me to evaluate our point of view and perspective? Do we automatically swing to familiar assumptions, especially about others, or do we pause to think through how issues look and feel from the “other side”?

A Spirit of Sadness

img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

Get Home Safely

Get Home Safely

3039844-inline-i-1-the-talk-in-americaI never knew this before, but apparently many African American families do.

Some parents of black kids have this talk in order to increase the odds that their kids will get home safely if they encounter the police when they are away from home: “10 Rules of Survival if Stopped By Police.”

I never had this talk with my kids; it never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure none of my grandchildren will ever hear this talk from their parents. But it’s considered crucial parenting wisdom for black families. I had no idea; perhaps that’s the case for others of you who are white.

You who are black may have heard this talk or given it. My friends, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you live with that.

One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, emphasizes the intellectual integrity of being able to hold two seemingly conflicting truths at the same time, and respecting the elements of truth in both. It’s the opposite of the “dualistic” or “binary” thinking we often see in our society that assumes that one position is 100% right, and a different perspective is 100% wrong. Dualistic thinking leads to the kind of broadly inflammatory statements we so often see in our politics.

I hold two convictions regarding this video and the sad, hard truth behind it:

  • I’m deeply grateful for the honest, courageous police officers who put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide security for the rest of us; and,
  • Something is horribly wrong when young children from one race in particular, are taught that, in addition to fearing gang predators down the street, they also need to fear their own police. Even when they are doing nothing wrong.

Surely we can embrace the truth about both of these statements, without assuming either one is always/never true. And if we do accept the truth that many black children have learned that the practices and biases of some police officers pose a threat, what do we do about that?

Here are three ideas:

  • No matter what our ethnicity as parents or grandparents, we regularly remind our children to honor, respect, african-american-teen-and-motherand be grateful for the police, firefighters and other first-responders who increasingly risk their lives while protecting ours.
  • For those of us who aren’t African-American, let our children know in the right way, at the right time, that some of their friends might have a very different perspective based on the still-sensitive racial issues we face in American society.
  • We constructively and respectfully support city, county and state-wide efforts to review and, when needed, improve the enormously challenging implementation of police enforcement and protection, especially to minorities in their communities.

What constructive ideas do you have?

Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then response with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others
Are You Constrained or Unleashed?

Are You Constrained or Unleashed?

Not long ago I heard a speaker, sadly I don’t remember his name, say, “Don’t just give people rules to follow; give them values to believe in.” I think that is remarkably perceptive advice.

Rules constrain people into obedience due to another person’s position of authority or ability to punish non-compliance.

Values unleash a person to action based on what he or she believes in; they form a powerful connection with ideas or principles that matter on a heart level.

At Peregrine Ministries, we guide and inspire men on their life journey, to help them leave a life-giving legacy. In doing so, we are compelled by the following values:

Legacy
Legacy is the part of us that lives in others after we’re gone. We receive an
inheritance we didn’t choose. Transformation determines the legacy we will pass
on.

Transformation
Every word we write and every action we take as a ministry is to see the hearts
of men increasingly transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Authenticity
We aspire to conduct our relationships with a commitment to being truthful about
ourselves, so that the man others see is increasingly consistent with the man we
are beneath the surface.

Community
We pursue the “Third Place”- not home, and not work, it’s a setting where we
know others deeply, reveal ourselves genuinely, and simply enjoy each other’s
presence.

Integrity
The commitment to make every decision with honesty, even when it hurts.
We willingly speaking the truth in love; bringing both courage and compassion.

Compassion
The conscious choice to feel what others feel, and to act on their behalf. It comes
from our own wounds that are healed and redeemed.

Redemption
When God takes a part of our story that is broken, and turns it around 180 degrees to
make it a powerful source of healing for others.

Mission
Being compelled to act, speak and live from the deepest part of our hearts for the
benefit of others. The unique combination of God-given talents, gifts and values
that create God’s calling in our lives. We can’t not do it.

Adventure
We embrace the risk, challenge and exhilaration of regularly engaging with
Creation.

Significance
Reminding ourselves, and teaching men, that our significance is not based on
our Power, Possessions and Prestige, but on the foundation of who our Creator
is.

Transcendence

Though we live in a broken world, we intentionally anticipate, plan for and celebrate the periodic glimpses of overflowing joy, jaw-dropping beauty and staggering glory we encounter in nature, music, art, writing, sports and relationships. These are all clues of an eternal, transcendent hunger in our hearts.

These values inspire us at Peregrine to do what we do.

Have you ever identified your deepest values? What do your actions, your priorities and your emotions reveal about your values?

I’d love to hear what they are.

Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward

milesSometimes kids do an amazing job of “reverse mentoring .” Demonstrating remarkable maturity and unselfish values while doing what comes naturally to them. Watch this boy give an officer a life lesson he’ll never forget.

Paying it forward.

“And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” I Timothy 4:12