Sunday, January 27, 2013

Choosing Life

What matters?

It’s been a very cold week in our part of Pennsylvania.

And in many ways a sad week.

I started the week off in an encouraging meeting with people deeply interested in food and farming. I was planning to write this week’s post about “loving the real world”: real food, real places, the real beauty and goodness of the world we've been given.

Then came the celebration of President Obama's inauguration, the genuine joy of so many who had felt shut out of the mainstream of American life. I listened to the hopeful reflections of aging freedom riders, interviewed in front of  the King memorial, so happy to have an African American president return for a second term. For them, the inauguration underscored the hard work of Martin Luther King and so many who walked beside him, and marked how far we've come, how far we have to go.

I’m not much into style, but it was fun to hear the raves about Michelle Obama and her lovely daughters, to celebrate a smart, strong, beautiful first lady whose confident poise gives hope to women unsure about their own opportunity or value.

Then the week took a sadder turn.

Reminders of unwanted babies: more than 54 million in the last forty years.

A statement by Rush Limbaugh, circulated with glee on one side, outrage on another:  “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.”

Thirty-seven hostages killed in Algeria.

Another school shooting, sad reminder of the deaths in Newtown.

The senseless murder of a promising young doctor, strangled then burned in her own suburban home. 

Endless discussion about guns: why we need them, who should have them. As if guns will be the solution. As if guns will somehow keep us safe.

What does it mean to choose life?

Twenty years ago I marched in the pro-life marches in DC, sometimes with my own small kids in tow.

In the years since then, I've spent time with many women who've wrestled with poverty, abusive relationships, a powerlessness so deep any choice seems beyond them.

And I've spent time with many who claim to be pro-life, yet speak with contempt of  poor, unmarried mothers, of women who've given birth to children in hard circumstances and struggle to raise those children with little help from any direction.

What does it mean to choose life in a culture where guns are easier to get than safe, affordable contraceptives?

In a culture where violence seems a reasonable solution, where appeal to guns is part of political discussion?

What does it mean to choose life in a culture where children, teens, adult men and women, find fun in games where the point of the game is death? Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Medal of Honor, Mortal Kombat, the list goes on – a 17  billion dollar industry in 2011, with many millions of Americans spending vast amounts of time wiping out opponents, blowing up anything in the way, moving toward ever more violent objectives.

What does it mean to choose life, cherish life, nurture life, celebrate life?

On a cold January day, I sit watching the birds at my feeders. I’m cheered today by a hermit thrush, flicking its rusty tail, hunting seeds in the stubble of my garden.

Pine siskins press in close at my finch feeder. A nuthatch savors suet near my window. White-throated sparrows scratch for seed in the frozen ground.

We are smart people – with power scarcely imagined by men and women just a century ago.

We can talk to friends on the other side of the world, see their faces as we talk.

We can rearrange genes: we can make pigs so fat they can’t walk. Wheat that kills any insect that tries to eat it.

We can terminate life in more ways than we can count: pills, injections, electric chairs, unmanned air craft, heat seeking missiles, viruses, bombs, drones. any kind of gun.

We can make imaginary deaths look so real the audience turns away in horror.

We can make real deaths so casual no one even cares.

I believe life matters. And I grieve.

I grieve the 54 million babies - tiny lives unwanted. Inconvenient. Terminated.

I grieve the millions who die each year from dirty water and preventable disease.

The millions who die from lack of food.

The deaths from war, from illicit trade in drugs, weapons, humans. 

The lives spent in fear: women in their homes, families in their border towns. Lives spent watching for the raised hand, the reckless gun, the hidden bomb, the sudden flash of light.

And yes, I grieve the billions of hours wasted imagining death. Celebrating death. Practicing death.

The billions and billions spent supporting death in all its forms.

What would it mean to choose life?

What would it mean to insist that imagining death is not entertaining? Not acceptable? Not part of a culture of life?

What would it mean to support women in hard choices, to make children a joy instead of a burden, to value people more than profit, to rethink the bottom line?

What would it mean to imagine a world where every child has a safe home, clean water, healthy food, adequate schools, the hope of productive work somewhere out ahead?

Some days that seems almost possible.

Some days, the best I can do is feed the birds, hug those near me who need a hug, and pray.

Some days, even prayer seems out of reach.

This is the fourth of a series for the new year: "What Matters"
Please join the conversation. Your thoughts and experiences in this are welcome.
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Seeking Justice

What matters?

The prophet Micah’s words on that have echoed through three thousand years: 
 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." 
As we pause to observe Martin Luther King’s birthday, I’ve been reading his less-known final speech, a summary of his last book by the same title: Where Do We Go From Here.

While it talks about racial justice, it focuses even more on economic justice, and the call to act justly, and to love mercy: 
"What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." 
I’m not sold on the specifics of King’s economic vision, but his questions resonate deeply. He dared to challenge the orthodoxy of capitalism, the belief that free markets will solve all our problems, that unfettered commerce is the answer to our ills. 
"[O]ne day we must ask the question, 'Why are there forty million poor people in America?' And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, 'Who owns the oil?' You begin to ask the question, 'Who owns the iron ore?' You begin to ask the question, 'Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?' These are questions that must be asked. " 
In questioning the most firmly held belief of his day, and ours, King knew he would be branded a communist or socialist, as is the case today with anyone who dares to question the orthodoxy of free market capitalism.  He answered that accusation in the course of his speech:
"Now, don't think that you have me in a 'bind' today. I'm not talking about Communism. 
"What I'm saying to you this morning is that Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
"If you will let me be a preacher just a little bit - One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, 'Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying.' He didn't say, 'Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that.' He didn't say, 'Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery.' He didn't say, 'Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively.' He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, 'Nicodemus, you must be born again.'
He said, in other words, 'Your whole structure must be changed.' A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will 'thingify' them - make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, 'America, you must be born again!' 
To use King's term, we have “thingified” not just people of color, but all people. In unexamined capitalism, a person’s value is measured in productivity, contributions to the GDP. Children, full-time moms, retired elderly, have no inherent value, no dollar contribution.

As Wendell Berry lamented in an essay on “Home Economics,” 
"The industrial economy . . . reduces the value of a thing to its market price, and it sets the market price in accordance with the capacity of a thing to be made into another kind of thing. Thus a farm is valued only for its ability to produce marketable livestock and/or crops; livestock and crops are valued only insofar as they can be manufactured into groceries; groceries are valued only to the extent that they can be sold to consumers. An absolute division is thus made at every stage of the industrial process between 'raw materials,' to which, as such, we accord no respect at all, and 'finished products,' which we respect only to the extent of their market value. . . .
"But when nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted. Once the values of things refer only to their future usefulness, then an infinite withdrawal of value from the living present is begun. Nothing (and nobody) can then exist that is not theoretically replaceable by something (or somebody) more valuable. Things of value begin to be devalued. . . .
"In such an economy, no farm or any other usable property can safely be regarded by anyone as a home. No home is ultimately worthy of our loyalty. Nothing is ultimately worth doing. No place or task or person is worth a lifetime's devotion. That 'waste,' in such an economy, should include several categories of humans--the unborn, the old, 'disinvested' farmers, the unemployed, the unemployable--is simply inevitable. Once our homeland, our source, is regarded as a "resource,' we are all sliding downward toward the ashheap or the dump."
King looked toward a new economy, something beyond either capitalism or communism, an economy rooted in work for the common good, with dignity, security, and opportunity for all. Berry describes something similar:
"We face a choice that is starkly simple: we must change or be changed. If we fail to change for the better, then we will be changed for the worse. We cannot blunder our way into health by the same sad and foolish hopes by which we have blundered into disease. We must see that the standardless aims of industrial communism and industrial capitalism equally have failed. The aims of productivity, profitability, efficiency, limitless growth, limitless wealth, limitless power, limitless mechanization and automation can enrich and empower the few (for a while), but they will sooner or later ruin us all. The gross national product and the corporate bottom line are utterly meaningless as measures of the prosperity or health of the country.
"If we want to succeed in our dearest aims and hopes as a people  . . we must see that it is foolish, sinful, and suicidal to destroy the health of nature for the sake of an economy that is really not an economy at all but merely a financial system, one that is unnatural, undemocratic, sacrilegious, and ephemeral." 
What would King’s, or Berry’s, new economy look like? We've been led to believe there are only two approaches: capitalism, as unregulated as possible, or "godless" communism. But that binary approach misses the point, and also misses the alternative example described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, an economic system based on periodic redistribution of wealth and regular reallocation of the means of production, shared understanding of resources as God's, not man's, emphatic condemnation of usury (profit through lending), insistence on margin and moderation in the use of land, time, seed, water, and the labor of both workers and creatures. 

Men and women around the globe, economists, lawyers, business owners, workers, farmers, and dreamers, are looking for ways to shift our unjust economy toward something more sustainable, less consumptive, more wise, more just. They speak of a "triple bottom line" economy, where human good, environmental wisdom, and financial profit are held in careful balance. 

Click here to access the Fair World Project's interactive site

Gar Asperov, a spokesman for new economy initiatives, summarized possibilities, opportunities, and challenges in a discussion of the new economy movement in The Nation. His New Economics Institute, Herman Daly’s CASSE (Center forthe Advancement of the Solid State Economy), the new Coalition for the New Economy  and others offer academic frameworks, practical examples, and encouragement to professionals working toward the kind of just economy King dreamed of. And Byron Borger, of Hearts and Minds bookstore and book blog, just posted a reading list of books and videos challenging the church to explore the call of justice more deeply. 

I’m not an economist or policy wonk, but I can still participate in the movement toward a new, more just economy.

I can buy local, buy fair trade, avoid companies known for their unjust practices, take care when buying products associated with the modern slave trade, invest in funds that throw their weight toward a new economic vision. The prices may be higher, the stock gains lower, but if justice has a cost, am I willing to pay it? 

I can do my best to understand the issues,  think about where my money goes, refuse to be valued for what I spend rather than who I am or what I do for love, not money. Understanding the system may take time and thought and effort, but "seeking justice" has never been simple. 

I can advocate, inform, pray, look for ways, in every transaction, to “act justly.” 

And I can object – sometimes gently, sometimes strongly – when friends suggest that faith in capitalism as we know it is a corollary to faith in the one who more than once said “leave it, sell it, give it to the poor, and come, follow me.”

A few of the books reviewed by Borger at Hearts and Minds Booknotes

This is the fourth of a series for the new year: "What Matters"
Please join the conversation. Your thoughts and experiences in this are welcome.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Traveling toward Hope and Freedom

When I think about how we decide what matters, how we determine which desires or goals are legitimate and worthy, which are destructive, or simply dumb, I’m struck by the odd confluence of confusing, conflicting theologies surrounding us. Our modern secular religions, often unstated, influence priorities and moral values in unexamined ways.

One theology, biological determinism, or “biodeterminism,”  insists we are no more than the sum of our genes, neurons, and biochemistry, simply acting out the unexplained impulses generated by internal physical processes. Our character and apparent choices are controlled by genetic disposition. We are, in every particular, “born that way”, and thus have no responsibility when we find ourselves eating to excess, drinking destructively, resorting to violence, using force for sexual gratification, compulsively desiring experiences, individuals, objects apparently denied us. We can’t help it. That’s who we are.

Somehow, I missed Richard Dawkin’s highly popular The Selfish Gene when it was first published in 1976. I was busy editing my college newspaper, playing field hockey, juggling two majors. I missed his description of the ways we’re enslaved by the “selfish molecules” that control our behavior:  
Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators? They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up their freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines. (The Selfish Gene, 19-20)
 The book was widely discussed, widely quoted, sold over a million copies, and has been translated into more than 25 languages. It was republished to great fanfare in 2006, and continues to serve as the sacred text of bio-determinism. 

While the science of genetic determinism falls consistently short of predicted outcomes, and repeated studies show that genetics influence but in no way determine sexual identity, intelligence, behavior, class, the creed continues to shape our moral dialogue: We are what we are. Change is not possible.

As Dr. Marvin Minsky, professor of cognitive science at M.I.T. explained in 1988:
According to the modern scientific view, there is simply no room at all for freedom of the human will. Everything that happens in our universe is either completely determined by what is already happened in the past or else depends, in part, on random chance. Everything, including that which happens in our brains, depends on these and only on these: A set of fixed, deterministic laws. A purely random set of accidents. (Society of Mind, 306).
Put doubt aside: there is no room for freedom of human will. None.  Everything is fixed.

Specific aspects of biological determinism are eagerly embraced by specific parts of the population: Surely homosexuality and transgender behaviors are genetically determined?  Research has repeatedly failed to discover the long sought “gay gene,” but identity politics holds firmly to the idea that homosexuality is fixed, despite significant evidence to the contrary.

Popular writer Tom Wolfe repeated the creed in a 2002 Duke Commencement address
[L]et's not kid ourselves. We're all concatenations of molecules containing DNA, hard wired into a chemical analog computer known as the human brain, which as software has a certain genetic code. And your idea that you have a soul or even a self, much less free will, is just an illusion. . . Your fate is preordained and if we had . . . enough data and sufficient parallel computers, we could predict everything you're going to do, including the fact that within the next 20 seconds you'll touch your forehead.   
In 2011, biologist and cheerleader for the “new atheists”, Jerry Coyne, explained in a USA Today forum:
“Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output.. . .  The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we're characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we're puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics.
--Dr. Jerry Coyne, (biologist, U. of Chicago)  
Do you believe it? Do they?

Studies in epigenetics, brain plasticity, and the ways behavior and experience can shape and reshape both brain and body long past adolescence undermine the foundations of deterministic doctrines.

According to the UK Council for Responsible Genetics:   
Biologists have known for a long time that gene expression is complex and DNA does not determine biology, let alone other characteristics of physical and mental health, behavior and intelligence. Nevertheless, over the years, the deterministic model that genes alone define biology has become enshrined as the prevailing paradigm. . . Why do scientists, with the full knowledge that various aspects of the cellular machinery and the environment work in cohort, continue to apply and propagate the DNA mantra? The motivations may be many, but chief among them is the simplicity of the "DNA is everything" model, and the outside commercial and scientific incentives available for such a focus. The application of DNA ideology has led to a problematic construction of race, sexuality, and intelligence, as seen through a lens of genetic determinism and has fostered the belief that for each of us our physical and mental well-being are pre-programmed and reflect the composition of our individual DNA. This scientific interpretation enhances a sense of inevitability and forecloses efforts at promoting social justice by presenting them as futile.”  
That word, "futile," haunts me. 

During the season of Epiphany, the dark time of the year, I find myself repeating John 1:5: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

What a dark world, when possibility is locked in the grip of invisible genes, when violence, war, infidelity, rape, abuse, addiction, poverty are guaranteed, and any hope of wisdom or grace is simply an illusion.

I think of the wise men, heading off in search of a new king, a new kingdom, drawn to the light of an unexpected star. What constricted world were they hoping to escape? What tyrant gods did they slip past as they traveled?

Matthew’s story tells us of their encounter with ruthless, power-addicted Roman King Herod, of their exchange with tradition-bound Hebrew priests and scribes. Surely there were other constructs they left behind them: idols, kings, brutal practices assuaging lifeless gods.

I find myself wondering about the difficulties of the journey: long, risky passages over barren deserts, cold lonely nights, glaring sun. What doubts distracted them? What marauders threatened their success?

Yet they continued on. And isn’t that the journey of hope? Refusing to live in darkness, insistent on traveling toward the light. Hungry for something beyond “what is.”

I’ve heard, more times than I can count, “This is the way I am.”

Impatient, angry, tempted and twisted by desires, unable to connect with others, unable to focus, unwilling to think, fractured, unforgiving. “It is what it is.” “I am who I am.” “I was born this way.”

I find myself saying: “No.”

Gently, sometimes.

Then with more force: “No.”

We are not bound by our genes, determined by inner chemistry, trapped in a hard-wired narrative that leaves no room for change. We are not puppets of physical laws, unwilling agents of an inhumane agenda.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The refrain of light and freedom echoes through the story of the church.

We were slaves to sin: but set free.

We were slaves to law: set free.

We were slaves to the demands of bodies wired to eat too much, drink too much, reach for all that would destroy us: free.

We want it to be easy. Wave a wand. Say a magic word. But even the magi knew it wasn’t easy. It’s a journey, a long hard journey of obedience, prayer, longing, struggle. Setbacks. Defeat. Wrong turns. Painful encounters.

Good to have fellow travelers pointing us toward the light ahead.

Good to have the witness that’s gone on before, reminding us – the story isn’t over.

The story isn’t written in stone by uncaring, unthinking, selfish genes.

It’s written in love, in struggle, in longing for what's real and true and right
“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  
On a long grey day, in a world weighted down with war, poverty, injustice, it's good to remember that change is possible, and to walk in the Light that promises hope and freedom.
Journey of the Magi, James Jacques Tissot, 1897, France

This is the third of a series for the new year: "What Matters"
Please join the conversation. Your thoughts and experiences in this are welcome.
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Learning Compassion

This month's Synchroblog topic: New Year’s Resolutions are usually somewhat self-serving. But is there a way you can serve others in 2013? . .  Where, when, how, and to whom will you be the hands and feet of Jesus? 

My son asked a few years ago, almost casually: “How do you teach compassion?”
The question caught me a bit off guard. We exchanged some ideas, moved on to other things, but I found myself returning to the question: not just “how do you teach compassion,” but “how do you learn compassion?”

The more I thought, the more I saw that my idea of compassion, of teaching it, of learning it, was very small: an occasional activity. A box on a check-list. Something picked up and set down. A weekend, even week long project, not the ambition of a lifetime.

I've been praying God would give me a deeper view of the compassion lived out by Christ, when he came to be one of us, aligning himself with us so deeply that our grief became his, our sin became his.

That prayer has been answered in ways I couldn't have imagined. As I dig through "what matters," and consider this month’s Synchroblog topic, "Serving others in the New Year," this word, compassion, asserts itself: compassion shows me what matters, and teaches me to serve.

Just over a year ago, a mom I’d come to know through my years in youth ministry called to ask if I'd talk with her son. He was struggling, needed someone to talk with, and had mentioned he might be willing to talk to me.

A few days later, we met over hot wings and soda, and he poured out his story.

His family was in trouble, for a host of reasons, some that made him angry, some that made him sad. He couldn't change anything, couldn't fix anything.

He was exactly the age I was when my own family fell apart, when we lost our home, separated to different households, changed schools. I had felt very alone, and fearful. I heard that aloneness in his voice, that fear.

Somehow, in the course of that diner meal, and the following conversation with his mom, his challenges became mine. His family became my own.

And God sketched out his curriculum for compassion. It means “suffering with.” Or – more broadly – “feeling with.”

I agreed to spend an afternoon and evening a week, helping with whatever needed to be done. And I agreed to align myself with the challenges the family was facing, to do what I could to help with practical, emotional, spiritual obstacles that had become almost overwhelming.

That first evening I experienced the frustration of a single mom with teens who don’t listen, mountains of dishes, laundry everywhere.

I experienced the anxiety of too much noise, too little space, the frantic search for school papers lost in a mountain of debris, schedule out of control, all priorities lost in the jumble of what comes next.

And I caught a taste of a long-forgotten refrain: not enough money, and no way to make more, with the endless juggling of bills, gas, postponed repairs, school trip permission papers set aside, requests for clubs and teams answered, again, with "we don’t have the money."

Compassion means seeing it all from a different point of view. From inside, rather than outside. From the place of pain, and weakness, and poverty, rather than the place of sheltered comfort.

Compassion ate several weeks of last winter, as God opened a door for the family to move to a house that offered more room.

And compassion led me back to thrift stores and yard sales, looking for furniture, bicycles, a lawn mower for the new yard. I discovered freecycle, and also discovered that there are people who will “give away” things that are far past any hint of usefulness.

Compassion invited me to explore local Laundromats: I can tell you where people are friendliest, where the washers are biggest, which stays open latest.

And recently, compassion led me to sit in our church's food closet waiting line, thankful in an entirely new way for the gracious hospitality of the food closet volunteers, and the generous contributions of our local grocery stores.

I have learned, again, how much I don’t know, and how much I do:

I don’t know why some people are given resources beyond measure, and others start life with far less than enough.

I don’t know why those with much find it so easy to judge those with less.  

I do know that prayer is most real in situations where my own wisdom, strength, and patience fail.

I know that God’s love is not dependent on performance, appearance, contribution, compliance. And I know I feel that love more deeply as I learn to love those others he loves, as his children become mine.

I know, too, in a much more tangible way, that our own feeble attempts to share God’s love are surrounded, energized, and blessed by riches far beyond our own.

When I left youth ministry, I grieved the loss of contact with kids, of random outings with strange mixes of teens, the incessant questions, the rowdy card games, the conversation and prayer with parents.

All that has been given back in new formats, in a freer, more organic way. No permission slips needed. No planning months ahead.

This past year included trips to several local farms, a fishing expedition, a paddleboat outing, multiple picnics, my first ever go-kart ride. Car conversations, long and short. Doubts shared over dinner dishes. Card games. Projects.

Yes, I have kids of my own. But they’re all grown and doing well. I’m thankful beyond words for who they are, the good work they’re doing, and for the fact that they grew up in a stable home, with two parents who loved them, money for school outings, lessons, camps, clubs.

And yes, I have grandkids of my own. I have fun outings with them as well. Some the same, some different. They have two parents of their own, four very attentive grandparents, aunts and uncles happy to teach them to fish, take them to parks, make sure they have wonderful vacations.

I find myself aware, far more than ever, of all the families who have no back up, or not enough, or contingent in destructive ways. Single moms whose extended families have few resources, little experience of success. Immigrant families with no community support, struggling to understand the complexities of life in a new country. Families with special needs kids with no safety net of available grandparents nearby. Families struggling with mental illness, addiction, long histories of multiple dysfunction.

How many of those families can I walk beside, “suffer with,” consider part of my own family? More than I would have expected.

And what would our churches look like, what would our communities look like, if every family with resources to spare walked alongside an individual or family needing support? If every beleaguered parent had the phone number of a compassionate friend willing to share inconvenience, anxiety, frustration, joy?

I’m not sure what the year ahead will hold. I do know my life is richer as the walls of my household extend toward others, as the boundaries of my heart melt with compassion for families not my own. I expect challenges I’m not prepared for. Questions I can’t answer. Setbacks and successes.

I pray God will draw me deeper into living his word, until compassion shapes each thought, and writes its agenda on each day. 
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. . . .  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.  Romans 12

This post is part of the January 2013 Synchroblog. Here are posts from other participants:
This is also the second of a series for the new year: "What Matters"
Please join the conversation. Your thoughts and experiences in this are welcome.
Look for the "__ comments" link below to leave your comments