Posts Tagged ‘acceptance’

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Personal Culture Wars

October 8, 2014

Lil’ man just started kindergarten. He spent almost three years going to a Montessori preschool. He loved it. We loved it. The school and staff were great. He made friends. We made friends with parents. Most days he loved going to school. We recently moved and were unable to find a Montessori school around us. The closest one was more than forty-five minutes away. The local public school has a good rating. Parents seem to love it. So with great hesitation and reluctance we chose to enroll him in the public kindergarten. And his teacher is great. He still seems to enjoy school. He definitely seems to be learning a lot. The teacher is pretty good about keeping parents informed about what is going on at school. But something has changed. Something I don’t know how to deal with. Something that probably has more to do with where we have moved than the public school environment. Kids are making comments that lil’ man takes to heart and now we are faced with fighting against a tidal wave of opinions we are not okay with.

When we paint our nails lil’ man likes to get his painted. Almost always orange, his favorite color. He had his nails painted at school and another kid told him only girls paint their nails. We’ve faced this before. In our old state. And he responded “my uncle paints his nails, and he’s not a girl”. Which is true, and was enough. This time his teacher told us his response was “I’m not a girl, I’m a grown-ass man” (which is something we tell him regularly). But now he won’t paint his nails because he doesn’t want the kids to think he’s a girl.

On the walk to school one day he saw a little girl riding a blue bike. He asked me why the girl was riding a boy colored bike. I was floored. We have always taught there are no such things as boy colors and girl colors. We talked about it again. Where is he learning this?

This morning I pulled out a shirt he hasn’t worn for several weeks. A shirt he had picked out and loved over the summer. He didn’t want to wear it. When I asked him why he answered “what if the kids don’t want to be my friend anymore?” We talked with him and ended saying “If someone doesn’t want to be your friend because of the shirt you are wearing then you don’t want to be friends with them”.

It’s frustrating. It’s heart-breaking. He is such a sensitive soul. He takes everything personally. He is legitimately hurt by things that most people shrug off. How can we help him stay true to himself amidst such things? How do I teach him to let these things roll off his shoulders without making him callous and causing him to lose such a vital part of who he is? How do I help ensure he doesn’t turn into one of those kids causing hurt to another? I feel so inadequate, so limited, so unable to help him be himself in a world that is determined to make him think a certain way and act a certain way. I don’t want to see his spirit damaged by others and at the same time I can’t bear the thought of seeing his spirit damaged by compromising who he is to fit in with the world.

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What if?

February 1, 2010

An online network I am part of recently started having a discussion in response to the question: “What if you died and found out the Jesus you believe in does not exist?”

I found the conversation a little bothersome. The overwhelming majority of people said that if that were to happen they would be disappointed, but not regret having believed because it has made them better as people. That’s not what I found troublesome so much. What bothered me was the complete lack of considering that we might be wrong and another religion/faith might be right.

I do not believe that another religion is right. I believe with my entire being that Jesus is Lord and Savior, that it is only through his redeeming work that I am saved, and it is only by claiming that work in my life that I accept my salvation. But, the issue of Christianity vs. atheism isn’t the biggest challenge we face. C.S. Lewis and Blaise Pascal both said essentially the same thing- if it’s a question of believing there is a God or not believing it’s better to err on the side of belief than disbelief because in falsely believing we lose nothing, but in unbelief we have everything to lose.

To me it makes it very easy and simple to say that if it is simply a choice between believing in God and not believing in any god, choose God. But the truth is, there are many other faiths that believe in a different god than we do as Christians. Muslim’s are the most obvious, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness’, and even Jews all believe in a god, just a different god than we do. I’m not suggesting that we should stop believing what we believe about Jesus and God, absolutely not. But I don’t think we can effectively minister to, effectively relate to, effectively understand people of differing faiths until we take time to answer the question: what if we’re wrong, from the assumption that they might be right.

What if Christianity is false and Islam is right? What if the Jews are correct and God hasn’t sent a savior yet? I’m never going to fully be able to see from another person’s view point, I’m never going to be able to really believe they are right and I am wrong. But in taking the time to actually consider that maybe I’m wrong and they’re right I’m giving them respect, and also opening the door to the possibility that I don’t have it all figured out. Yeah, I know the important things, but that doesn’t mean I’m right about everything. I think considering that maybe we are wrong allows us to be open to listening to what other people say. But that doesn’t mean we are wrong.

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Alienating People

March 16, 2009

From before I was 3 until the summer I came here I belonged to the same church. The church, like the majority of reformed churches was unbalanced by age- there were a lot more people with gray hair than without. When I graduated high school I was the only high school graduate still attending the church. My Sunday School class from kindergarten through middle school was 5 people- 3 girls, 2 guys.

Despite all this, my freshmen year of high school I was part of a decent size youth group. There were over 30 people in the group- fewer than 10 actually attended the church. My fellow youth would sometimes swear, they talked about partying and they showed little respect for the church building. I often felt uncomfortable with the way they would act in church, although the actual behavior wasn’t so odd to me since I had always gone to a public school.

My sophomore year I was part of a youth group of fewer than 10 people. This is not because more than 20 people graduated. This is because the parents of the youth from the church said they didn’t like the negative influence the kids from outside the church were having. In college, perhaps before college even, I decided that when I was youth leader I was going to make sure kids from the church and outside the church were equally welcome at youth group.

Today I have kids from outside my specific church building, but I have virtually no youth from outside the church. I highly doubt that anyone coming in from outside the church would feel welcome here. I would love to have the diversity, but I don’t know how to create a space for it. Too few of these kids have practical experience relating with other youth with no church background, I don’t know how to make our space friendly to those outside. But I do know that I never want to be party to alienating anyone from the church.

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Learning to Dance

January 30, 2009

Last weekend I went line dancing with my roommate and some of her friends. I learned some line dances when I was in 6th grade, or something like that, but since then haven’t really done any line dancing. The extent of my knowledge of this particular type of dance was the grapevine. I thought it sounded fun (I figured at worst I would be able to enjoy the music). I am not a natural dancer, so the entire night I had to really concentrate on what other people who knew what they were doing were doing. I messed up a lot, and I imagine I looked really funny attempting to “dance” with no real idea what I was doing. But it was fun. I was thinking about how we can make people feel more welcome at church, and this experience immediately came to mind. I don’t think church is really that much different than learning to dance.

When a new person walks into church they most likely have some sort of idea or experience with religion that they are bringing with them. However, this experience or idea may or may not actually help them as they enter. They probably are looking around the room, trying to find someone who knows what they are doing to follow. I imagine they fell awkward as they try to “fit in” with the people there. Trying to pretend like passing a bowl for money or raising your arms in worship or greeting every person around you is something they do every week. The more they participate, the more comfortable they get with things.

The connection I am seeing is this realization that I would never have gone out and danced if someone had announced- “hey look, a new person, everyone watch as she messes up”- or on a less tacky note- “we would like to welcome the girl in the brown whose with us for the first time”. Yes, I think it would have made me feel good to know someone was acknowledging my presence, but there is no way I would have danced. The only reason I did was because I knew people weren’t going to make fun of me for looking like an idiot. (Granted, I know some people stood on the sides and laughed, but that’s not the same…) I also appreciated the couple of times when someone took the time to explain an especially confusing step, or give me a heads up about what was coming next. I think church needs to be more like this. When new people come, we shouldn’t draw attention to their newness, we should welcome them and help them learn the reason for what we are doing. We should let them do their thing, and if it’s funny looking or different than what we do, that’s okay. We can’t laugh or give them weird looks. We can’t expect a new person to church to have it all figured out. And I don’t mean just the actions done in church, I mean all of it. If they swear, don’t make a big deal of it, if they are living with a girl who they are not married to, just take it in stride, like a missed step on the dance floor. You know it needs to get better sometime, but for now, just the fact they are trying is enough.

If anyone had said that I needed to be perfect, or even good, the first time I tried a line dance, I would still be sitting on the sidelines observing, thinking it looks like fun, but not willing to go out there. If I were a new church goer and people expected me to act like a mature Christian right away I would run the other way fast, even if I really wanted to be a part of the church, I wouldn’t feel good enough to be.

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Closed Borders

November 14, 2008

America is a country of immigrants. The only people who can say they are not immigrants are Native Americans, and they are a distinct minority in the U.S. now. So why is it that we are so strongly against letting people in? Are we afraid of losing jobs? Are we worried that by letting more people in we lessen our value as an American? Have we actually become so elitist that we think we have a right to be here, but the woman fleeing the middle east because she has no rights and no freedoms doesn’t? I wonder what would happen if anyone could come to America and live with our freedoms. What if the only thing required to live in America was an agreement to the rules and regulations of America- you pay taxes, you follow the same laws, and you can live in America. People argue a lot of legitimate reasons to not do this, but isn’t this what America is all about?

Why are we so closed off in the church? Aren’t we all sinners saved by God? The only person who had a right to judge was Jesus, and he chose to spend his time with the scum of his time- prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, beggars, lowly workers. I wonder what would happen if the church threw open it’s doors welcoming in everyone- alcoholics, porn addicts, homosexuals, abortionists, prostitutes, drug addicts, beggars, etc.  Preaching and teaching the Word, the Truth, but not judging those walking through the doors. I understand the arguments- what if these people cause us to sin? what if the prostitute distracts the good Christian man from his worship? what if we start to see these “sinners” as people like us? What if the only thing required to be a part of the church was a desire to be? How might we see God move among us in new and powerful ways? What could possibly happen that would make it not worth the risk? Who are we to keep these people out? What will it take for us to change?

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Father forgive me…

September 24, 2008

How do people ned up going around begging for gas money and money just to make ends meet? Is it drugs? Alcohol? Lack of motivation?  Bad luck and/or choices? How come I am sitting in my above acceptable office on my perfectly useable computer completely content simping my Dr. Pepper and knowing I will go home to my comfortable apartment with a decent view and luxuries I rarely take advantage of and not living out of my car wondering how I’m going to pay for gas and food and where I will get cleaned up before heading to my minimum wage job? Where did my life (at least up to this point) take the “right” turn and there’s the wrong? Why am I so obsessed with people less fortunate than me these days? Why do I still refuse to do more than write my monthly check to the organization doing the work and feel sorry for them? Why do I feel sorry for them? Is this an appropriate response?

A woman came to the door looking for gas money. She sounded desperate- is there anywhere else I can go? Is there anyone here right now with just a couple dollars? I have been driving around looking for help and my tank keeps getting lower and lower…and I stood at the door judging her. Wondering to myself why she wasn’t able to pay for gas and what stupid thing she must have done that brought her to that point. And I told her sorry, but no one here can help right now, but if you come back on Sunday a deacon will be here you can talk to them then…I truly didn’t have any cash save for 13 cents in pennies, but that’s not the point. 

Instead of loving her I judged her. And now I am left feeling guilty for doing that…and wondering when I will stop being so selfish and judgemental and start truly loving people. Sure, she might be a drug addict, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need gas.