This morning, I followed a link in my facebook news feed to an article about a family who was praying for a loved one fighting cancer. It wasn’t the article that hit me. It was the comments. Comment. After comment. After comment. After comment.
Strongly, condescendingly and sarcastically deriding prayer.
And people who pray.
The comments by this collection of seemingly unrelated anti-theists made me genuinely sad. And no, not condescendingly sad for them in a “because they don’t believe in God” kind of way. Sad because they are being so intentionally and aggressively insulting and offensive. To complete strangers. Some of those complete strangers have experienced suffering I can’t imagine. And prayer helped them get through that suffering.
At the time of this writing, there were over 250 comments on that article, a large chunk written by anti-theists.
So much time and effort to go out of their way to attack people who, when it comes right down to it, really aren’t important to them. Regardless of whether that family’s loved one lives or dies, the life of the anti-theist commenter isn’t going to be impacted in the slightest bit.
The question that comes to my mind is this: If prayer really is pointless and people who pray are really mumbling to an “invisible man in the sky,” why do these anti-theists even care? Why are they wasting time with faceless people they perceive to be so ignorant and insufferable?
I’ve intentionally been referring to these commenters as anti-theists, not atheists. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t believe in God and someone who goes out of their way – again and again and again – to aggressively express their disrespect, and sometimes their disgust, for people who do believe in God.
It makes me sad. As Elle Woods might say, “Happy atheists don’t care if Christians pray. They just don’t.“
I hate derisive sarcasm. I have some pretty strong opinions about it. It’s different from joking sarcasm. Derisive sarcasm reeks of contempt. It shuts down dialog. It erodes relationships. It demoralizes. It poisons trust. In my own personal experience, it’s a weapon often wielded by the cowardly and insecure. People who either avoid assertive conflict resolution or lack the skills to communicate openly and honestly. Do I think all people who consistently rely on derisive sarcasm as a
communication tool weapon are cowardly and insecure?
To be completely honest, yes. yes I do.
Did I mention I had some strong opinions about it? And don’t assume the reason I don’t use derisive sarcasm is because I think I’m above it. I don’t use it because I grew up a bleeding victim of it and I’m vehemently opposed to perpetuating that kind of abuse. It’s by the grace of God that I was able to break free of that destructive behavior.
Some people grow up barraged with sarcasm, develop a resilience to it, adopt it as normal and wear it permanently holstered to their side for easy and instant access when someone doesn’t meet their expectations.
When I witness derisive sarcasm or someone uses it on me, I freely admit that person instantly loses my respect. That’s my knee-jerk reaction. I have to ask God to help me respond instead of react. I have to ask God to help me see them as He sees them. Sometimes I have to ask God to help me want to ask Him to help me see them as He sees them. As just a different kind of broken. Deserving grace. Because He loves them.
I’ve learned that pain can sometimes manifest itself by causing more pain. Sometimes I forget that.
It would appear I’m not the only one.
Many of the professed Christians who commented exhibited the same arrogance and sarcasm as the anti-theists did.
And I said professed Christians, not Christians. Reading these comments, I can’t always tell if someone is a genuine disciple of Christ.
I think that very often, when we stumble upon these kind of comment thread quagmires, both the anti-theists and the professed Christians are so vocal we sometimes forget there are genuine disciples of Christ who respond to sarcastic smack-downs with grace. We forget there are open-minded atheists who support another’s right to believe something even when that belief differs from their own.
If you are a genuine disciple of Christ who personally knows an open-minded atheist or an open-minded atheist who personally knows a genuine disciple of Christ, you know what I mean.
The truth is, I rarely jump in these caustic conversations. Not because I don’t care, but because, from the intensity of the back and forth between the anti-theists and the professed Christians, I know there’s no point. My voice would be ignored and I have no need to hear myself talk. I have no confidence that anyone involved in these conversations is listening for understanding. There’s very little interest in an edifying dialog.
It’s more like a tit for tat. A theological and/or metaphysical urinary olympics. Notice I didn’t say spiritual. There ain’t nothing spiritual about these comment threads. Notice I said comment threads, not conversations. There’s not a lot of communication happening.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t jump in the middle of these mutual smack-downs because I’ve learned that people don’t change their mind as a result of someone berating them.
More often, people’s hearts are softened as a result of someone responding to them with empathy.
More often, minds are opened when they are allowed to doubt and explore without judgement.
More often, people hear better after someone has listened to them.
More often, people can’t see until they’ve been seen.
#seepeople #edify #discipleship #relationalevangelism
facebook fragments: 5/31/14 – 6/13/14 (fitness milestones, falling curls, FavoriteSon’s birthday & Magic Kingdom)
Saturday, May 31, 2014
I must admit, I was secretly hoping my personal trainer would forget our appointment today, but now that it’s over, I feel MUCH better having made it through. Today’s milestones include two one minute wall squats, the first while doing 23 bicep curls with 10lb dumbbells and the second while doing 22 hammer curls holding 12 lb dumbbells and three sets of 12 push-ups with two 2 minute forearm plank sandwiched in between the push-ups. Did the first 6 push ups wearing a 12 lb weight vest. (what a difference THAT made!)
Monday, May 26, 2014
“I woke up in America for the love of God.
I woke up in America for something bigger than myself.
More than fireworks and fanfare.
More than a star-spangled banner.
You’re still beautiful America”
(Looking back, these facebook posts just don’t seem like the should have been in the same week.)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Prayer warrior friends, please pray for my mother-in-law. She’s been suffering from severe gastroparesis (inability to digest food) for weeks. Every treatment so far has failed. She’s lost over 15 lbs. This evening she’s sitting in an ER waiting on a bed. (since about 5pm) The two remaining treatment options are either an implanted gastric neurostimulators (“stomach pacemaker”) or a feeding tube. Please pray.
facebook fragments: 5/10/14 – 5/16/14 (friends who avoid conflict & evil teachers who assign food projects)
Sunday, May 11, 2014
I was tagged in a facebook post my my daughter:
“So, I’m watching The Little Mermaid and I caught my mommy quoting some of it. #succes #ilovemymother
Happy Mother’s Day Mommy!”
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
If you have a conflict with someone, consider attempting to resolve it, even if it means facing something you regret or are embarrassed about…unless that relationship is one that you actually don’t want in your life anymore. Avoiding conflict, and ultimately the other person, is a surefire way to allow the relationship to fade from your life.
On the flipside, if a relationship is important to you but the other person is avoiding you to avoid working through the conflict, you may have to respect their decision to transition the relationship from friend to acquaintance…or to “someone that I used to know” status.
I had a horrible, horrible dream a few weeks ago.
In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.
She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.
And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.
In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.
Then everything changed. Instantly.
(remember, this is a dream)
In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.
NOTHING we did made any difference at all.
And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)
I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).
And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.
And in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.
So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.
As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…
I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)
And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:
I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter
Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout
And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.
There was no going back to sleep.
So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.
And I wrote this:
“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”
“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”
Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.
So. That’s that, right?
Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.
If you know me, you know I don’t believe in coincidences.
I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.
But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.
This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.
Or prays for him.
No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.
You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.
If you profess Christianity, please be careful in your discussions about controversial issues today. Please don’t be arrogant. You’re never going to change someone’s mind when you’re words are laced with arrogance or contempt.
What’s your goal?
You don’t have to try and get someone to agree with your point, but you can introduce doubt in their thinking by respectfully questioning the things they say that you don’t agree with.
If your goal is just to be right, you’re missing an opportunity. People are watching and listening.
When we profess faith in Christ, we are called to submit our minds to Him so that they would be transformed. Our words should be seasoned with salt.
Please pray before you speak and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you instead.
If you publish something on the internet about your belief or conviction or opinion or whatever word you want to use, please take a time-out between the moment when you think you’re finished typing and the moment you hit publish or post. I can’t tell you how many words haven’t made the cut when I take that time out. I’ve written thousands of words that never saw the light of the internet because the Holy Spirit showed me they weren’t edifying.
I’ve been saying that for years. To my kids, to students and to myself, whenever the situation calls for it. It’s one of my idioms.
Not ignorant in an uninformed or misguided way. There was no attempt to inform or guide. The writer declared “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, but as I read, I found myself thinking of the word contempt, not love.
The examples were taken to an extreme, seemingly in an effort to evidence the stupidity and expressions of hate by anyone who believes differently.
For the purposes of this post, the issue itself is irrelevant. I personally didn’t identify with either side of the specific issue being written about. The idea that no other (more complicated) possibilities of thought or action exist is implausible.
Issues under debate are not simple. If they were simple, there wouldn’t be so much debate.
Thinking about praise and worship music this morning.
In my personal experience and observation, more people seek God when they are hurting than when they are happy.
We should sing praise
and we should sing worship,
but we can’t forget lament.
It draws people to Christ.
Lament is not depressing, it reminds us we are not alone.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Came downstairs to see PinkGirl working on a poster board sized map for a geography project due Monday. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast playing DVD.
Me: “Why are you watching that?”
PinkGirl: “I needed something to watch and not pay complete attention to.”