Shared and Sharing Experience

I have just listened to Wes Moore speak at TED on how to talk to veterans about their wars. 

His comments directed my thoughts to other individuals and groups whose communities and families may or may not approach them, or may unintentionally offend or wound through ignorance.

Social media and other communication mediums are replete with those who have endured war, abuse, rape, disability, pain, physical and mental illness, job-loss, moral and financial bankruptcy, child-loss, widow-hood (I could go on), all looking for others who have shared in a similar experience and/or a place to be heard and valued.

My simple hope is that we each would take an interest and the time to discover what another’s experience has been like, and share our own experiences so that someone else may not feel alone in theirs. Talking about our lives is healthy for the speaker, the listener and our social connections. Not talking, asking or listening only breeds our sense of isolation, negative identity assumptions (of ourselves and others), and disconnection from each other when we all have a desire to belong – somewhere.

Oh, Mother of Mine

Mum wedding day

 

Oh, mother of mine

Whose love, so divine

Was comfort to all

Whenever we’d call

Inviting us in

After thought or at whim

Grace and mercy all round

Loving arms to surround

Providing tastes to delight

Waiting up in the night

Home and clothing so clean

Diligence gone unseen

Growing gardens of flowers

Beholding beauty was ours

Grace was personified

In your life, now glorified

A piece of us left with you

When to Christ’s feast you flew

What joy it will be

When greets us, Saviour and thee

 4/5/2014

I love you Mum, my mum

Dad and Mum wedding day

VOLUNTEERS; GOD BLESS THEM

This is not original, it was on a newsletter but I didn’t know who the author was. But…I like it! (Perhaps DJ Harley)

 

Many will be shocked to find,

When the day of judgement nears,

That there’s a special place in heaven

Set aside for volunteers.

 

Furnished with big recliners,

Satin couches and foot stools;

Where there’s no committee chairmen,

No group leaders or car pools,

 

No eager team that needs a coach,

No bazaar and no bake sale.

There will be nothing to staple,

Not one thing to fold or mail.

 

Telephone lists will be outlawed,

But a finger snap will bring

Cool drinks and gourmet dinners

And treats fit for a king.

 

You ask, “Who’ll serve these privileged few

And work for all they’re worth?”

“Why, all those who reap the benefits

And not once volunteer on earth!”

From ‘John Plowman’s Talk and Pictures’

No man’s lot is fully known till he is dead: change of fortune is the lot of life. He who rides in the carriage may yet have to clean it…and he who is up aloft may have to take his turn in the pit…The thought that we may ourselves be one day under the window should make us careful when we are throwing out our dirty water…and therefore let us look well to dealings with the unfortunate.

Nothing makes me more sick of human nature than to see the way in which men treat others when they fall down the ladder of fortune…they cry, “He was always good for nothing.” Dog won’t eat dog, but men will eat each other up like cannibals, and boast of it too…The dog is drowning, and therefore all his friends empty their buckets over him…The house is on fire, and all the neighbours warm themselves. The man…has tumbled into the road…he is down and selfishness cries, “Let him be kept down, then there will be more room for those who are up.”

How aggravating it is when those who knocked you down kick you for not standing up. “What a pity he went so far on the ice!” That’s very true, but that won’t save the poor fellow from drowning…Good advice is poor food for a hungry family.

A man of words and not of deeds,                                                                                                            Is like a garden full of weeds.

…Help my old horse to a few oats, and then tell him to mend his pace. Feel for me, and I shall be much obliged to you, but mind you feel in your pocket or else a fig for your feelings.

…A noble spirit always takes the side of the weak but noble spirits do not often ride along our roads; they are as scarce as eagles…Most people will help those who do not need it…all the cooks baste the fat pig, and the lean one gets burned.

In times of prosperity friends will be plenty:                                                                                        In times of adversity not one in twenty.

While the wind serves, all aid…All the neighbours are cousins to the rich man…but Widow Needy is not heard across the park railings, let her call as she may. Men willingly pour water into a full tub and give feasts to those who are not hungry, because they look to have as good or better in return…unless it be some antiquated old soul who believes…loves his Lord, and therefore gives, ‘hoping for nothing again’? …When…folks are very polite and considerate, poor men had need beware. It was not a good sign when the fox walked into the hen-roost and said, ‘Good mooring to you all, my very dear friends.’

Down men, however, must not despair, for God is yet alive, and he is the Friend of the friendless…A good man…His hope may be drenched but not drowned. He plucks up courage and sets a stout heart to a stiff hill, and gets over rough ground where others lie down and die. While there’s life, there’s hope. Therefore, my friend, if you’ve tumbled off the back of prosperity, John Ploughman bids you not to lie in the ditch but up with you and try again. Jonah went to the bottom of the sea, but he got to shore again all the better for his watery journey.

A false faith can only float in smooth water, but true faith, like a life boat, is at home in storms. If our religion does not bear us up in time of trial, what is the use of it? If we cannot believe God when our circumstances appear to be against us, we do not believe him at all.

Charles Spurgeon – 1869

I know what it is to be kicked for not getting up by those who knocked me down. I know what it is to be financially, productively, relationally, emotionally, physically, spiritually down…and up. Because we have been made in the likeness of our Creator, we can care about the lot of others. We must choose. I know what it is to face, be within, and sail out of storms that looked as though they were intended to be life-taking. Life-taking can be life-giving; if what is taken was preventing life, and what is given fills the void with life.

Today, I choose life!

Healing and Restoration

So, subsequent to Community or Conformity, my questions would be:

  • what constitutes healing?
  • is healing the same for everyone?
  • do my limited knowledge and view of life inhibit what I understand healing to be?
  • I could probably go on!

Jim Stallard in “You Owe Me Dinner” said,

What is most beneficial to me is not so much a building that meets all the legal requirements, but rather an attitude that meets all the attributes of Jesus. And whilst Jesus certainly healed people, he didn’t heal everyone. I wasn’t healed, but I still needed all of my faith to help sustain me.

The Designer, Creator, Restorer and Sovereign God (as, to me, He has proved Himself to be) made us for relationship with Himself and each other. When we rebelled against His design and order, spoiling both types of relationship, He made the restoration of them possible by acting  in accordance with His own design. He made whatever sacrifice, and performed whatever action, was necessary to make available these restored relationships – if we desire to return to living according to design.

This God has declared that, for those who have chosen to return to this love-relationship, He will be using everything as part of the process of completing the restoration/healing He has provided for. Even the brokenness in individuals, and families, and communities as a result of their rebellion against design and order.

My response? This God, Father, has also declared that what He wants is for no one to perish as a result of their rebellion. He stated that He will use every choice, consequence, person and power; even rebellion itself, to draw those who will come, to His healing restoration. Sometimes we want to be ‘healed’ from the thing/s which are bringing us or someone else to restoration of relationship. And I see restoration of relationship as the ultimate in healing. I choose not to pursue the temporary, thereby sacrificing the permanent; the eternal. I would prefer the temporary at present, because this is the tangible which I have known. But I have had glimpses and tastes of  eternal healing and restoration. Therefore, I will trust the One who has proven Himself faithful and a promise-keeper; I trust that He is healing me and those around me from everything that hinders my intimacy with Him and those He has given me; I trust that He is healing others from everything that hinders their intimacy with Him and those He has given them.

I have witnessed and/or experienced healing after specific prayer; with and without the anointing of oil; with and without the presence of the one being prayed for; as a result of general living in surrender to the design and power of the Creator. I have also witnessed in one healed miraculously on a number of occasions, the healing of leaving the temporary and tangible for the eternal and permanent in death – because that free but expensive ticket had been taken hold of. 

I want for myself and for you, life according to design. Purpose, fulfilment, peace, unity, love, intimacy with the Creator and the created. May the process continue until its completion, may you desire to join me in this process. This is a journey with a certain destination. This journey is already paid for. Take hold of your free but expensive ticket and join me for healing, restoration and life according to design.

 

What would healing mean for you?

Community or Conformity?

For those in Christian circles, this may be a familiar theme. For others, maybe strange; perhaps ridiculous; novel…

My middle child (almost adult) was sharing a story from a friend/previous teacher concerning the desire of some people that they be ‘healed’ from their blindness. Someone pulled their car over to the side of the road to invite this friend and her companions to church, exclaiming that he had prayed for the healing of blind people in the past and they were ‘healed’. Her response was that she believes in and has seen God’s miraculous healing herself, and that receiving her sight was for God’s timing. Perhaps more importantly though, this passer-by came across as pushy and didn’t even address this friend directly but spoke about her to her companions (very common). My eldest has been stopped in the street by someone insisting on praying for his ‘healing’, which he was obliged to allow. Their father and I have repeatedly been asked (sometimes by the same person) to present our children at the front of the church building so that others can pray for their ‘healing’.

My daughter’s response?

 In relation to this subject, I haven’t been prayed for or have had this offer personally, but I know my parents have. I’m not sure how they responded in those situations, but I know from my perspective that I don’t consider myself sick. If I hadn’t been blind, there would be so many people I would not have met, people I wouldn’t have been able to share the gospel with and places I wouldn’t have been. I also think that if my sight were restored, I’d have all this vision and wouldn’t know what to do. I would have to learn to read and write again, and basically how to do basic every day things. Furthermore, I/we live in a developed country with services such as Vision Australia and Guide Dogs. In Jesus’ time when he healed blind people, they were “begging”. (No V A back then). So, while I have no sight I can live life, work, I have family and friends and a place in society. These people, because of their lack of sight, experienced absolute poverty: no food, money or social class in society. For Jesus to heal them was not only to heal their sight; but to restore (or rather allow) them a place in their communities. So basically, I’m happy the way I am. I will have my sight healed in one way or another (be it in this life or when I see Jesus in Heaven); but if God chooses to heal my sight while I am here on Earth so be it. If not, I’m feeling perfectly healthy and well and happy with my life at the moment.

My response? I’ll end with quoting myself from the Sympathy Versus Empathy post:

Sympathy alone would lend me to want to change another’s circumstances or person to suit me, make me feel better, achieve my goals, remove all that is a bother to me, include all that would make my life easier…A good beginning but a potentially disabling, judgemental, intrusive and ultimately self-seeking end. Not any of the things I associate with love, compassion or community. Empathy, on the other hand, and if an extension of the sympathy I first experience, would lend me to consider what would be in the best interests of the other. I might ask what their experience actually is, what their goals and frustrations are, what are their passions and hurts…the list could go on. I might then be able to feel and say, “I think I can see how you feel or why you would want that.”

Unity, inclusion, community, acceptance, respect, interdependence, individuality…cannot exist in conformity. I think we are sadly mistaken if we have imagined conformity to be the same as inclusive community.

Sympathy Versus Empathy

A well-intentioned statement in a conversation recently, reminded me of many others and the way we embrace the attitudes of sympathy or empathy and the subsequent out-working of those attitudes. I have been reading definitions of these two words from different dictionaries and psychologists and I have some musings of my own.

We often think that we know what would be best for someone or presume what their preferences would be, but our view is often born out of what we would prefer or consider best. My preferences and ‘best’ will not always, or hardly ever, be the same as another in similar circumstances. The fact that I was well-intentioned is almost irrelevant.

I think that it is perhaps better if sympathy is a step along the path to empathy out of which appropriate attitude and action can stem.

Sympathy is recognising that I agree with you about how you feel or view something, but it is my feeling or view that I experience and respond to. We need sympathy in order to consider how something would affect us, whether positively or negatively, and to then think about how we might react or take part in something.

Empathy is the ‘art’ or perhaps discipline of attempting to walk in someone else’s shoes. It implies to me an intentional effort of mind and soul to consider what someone else’s experience might be. I can do this through conversation and question of the other; through consideration of anything I already know of the other’s history and present; through observing the other’s outward expression of their experience – whether positive or negative, verbal or physical…

Sympathy alone would lend me to want to change another’s circumstances or person to suit me, make me feel better, achieve my goals, remove all that is a bother to me, include all that would make my life easier…A good beginning but a potentially disabling, judgemental, intrusive and ultimately self-seeking end. Not any of the things I associate with love, compassion or community. Empathy, on the other hand, and if an extension of the sympathy I first experience, would lend me to consider what would be in the best interests of the other. I might ask what their experience actually is, what their goals and frustrations are, what are their passions and hurts…the list could go on. I might then be able to feel and say, “I think I can see how you feel or why you would want that.”

Our Designer said that love is not self-seeking and that loving community involves each having the same love, and looking out for the interests of others as well as ourselves.

I’m reminded of a few quotes that have struck me in relation to empathy, community, met needs and contribution. The first from Edith Cavell, a World War I nurse on the day before her German execution – on patriotism (which I saw as a perceived ‘good intention’)

…standing as I do before God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.

The second is Kurt Fearnley – paralympian, Young Australian of the Year, OAM and much more

Without empathy and support from within my community I would have never found my way to the life I get to live now; a life that hinged on successful financial rationalisation, where a community found that the cost to support me was an investment into the lives of all of those who I have been able to interact with.

And my friend, Tom, posed the question this past weekend of what my biggest need is today following with

(Our Designer) doesn’t just pick you up, dust you off and send you on your way.

(He) picks us up and transforms us.

That’s what I want, transformation. That’s what I want for you too. Transformation is what I want for our communities.

I can suffer you sit by me while I live life. Or I can work with you, and you with me, so that we both live each of our lives with fulfilment, participation, community – but as interdependant individuals, not dominant/compliant carbon copies