Are We Neutral, or Do We Not Care?

Sometimes being neutral is just apathy. We claim neutrality, because we don’t want to take the time or effort to care. We don’t want to find out too much, because knowledge comes with responsibility. We’ve seen how information has impacted others. We’ve seen anger, stubbornness, and what seems to be futile arguments, and we don’t want any part of it. But when we avoid the negativity that can come with familiarity with an issue or situation, we also miss out on possible compassion.

We can’t be invested in every single issue, but when we’re faced with it, we need to explore it with honesty and sensitivity. We will always be able to find someone who knows more or is more passionate about an issue than we are, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to ask questions and make a difference in a small way.

As we pursue truth and justice, we might see a couple different perspectives, and we feel we’re neutral, but perhaps it’s just that we stand on some shared ground. We still care. We still listen. We’re not apathetic. We need to check out motivation behind claiming neutrality. If it’s the easy way out, we’re not taking responsibility. Apathy is dangerous, unstable ground on which to stand.


When Serving Hurts and Humbles

I was a small part of serving hundreds of families thousands of pounds of food so they would have the opportunity to struggle a little less through the holidays. Many came together to organize and serve, and I loved the face-to-face moments with people who were so appreciative. They came through with a variety of needs, some I could identify and others I couldn’t. But what I saw wasn’t a group of needy people; I saw individuals who had their own stories and lives. I tried to meet their eyes with encouragement and affirmation. So many wanted to pour their gratitude into me. I had many sweet interactions.

What surprised me was that I didn’t know but a handful of people who came through the line. It really bothered me. I wondered what I was doing wrong that I wasn’t coming in everyday contact with more people in need. How could I alter my routines to see more needs? It’s not that I never find people in need. It’s not that I don’t pause long enough to help people in a variety of ways. I’m not complacent, but I suddenly felt as if my routines were insufficient to see the needs that surrounded me. As I finished up the day, I sat in my car humbled and saddened, yet so full of joy for the opportunities and interactions of the day.

On the way home, my husband called to let me know our electricity was out. I had done the grocery shopping the day before, so I had a full refrigerator. Although my first thought was how important it would be to try to save the food, I quickly checked my attitude and priorities. So many people don’t have a warm home or a running refrigerator. Many people who had received food didn’t know how to prepare it. I began to think about whether or not they had spoons to stir or knifes to cut meat. I wondered if they had flashlights to see in their dark houses as the sun set or a warm blanket when the heat wouldn’t turn on.

I’ve helped some through the years. I’d like to say I’ve helped a lot, but since that day, what I’ve done seems to pale in comparison to what is possible. I don’t know what it was about that day, but it heightened my sensitivity. It humbled me to help even more, which I’ve done in the past several weeks.

But there is so much more to be done.

Give. Serve. Sacrifice.

God Pricks Our Hearts

God pricks our hearts, making them beat a little harder with compassion, conviction, or justice. But when we harden our hearts, we don’t feel the prick as easily.

We want to protect ourselves. We don’t want people to hurt us. We toughen up. And sometimes, that makes us less sensitive to God. We take pride in not be too sensitive with others, and in the process, we desensitize ourselves to Him.

Of course, He can be adamant and firm enough to still get through to us, but we miss out something. We miss out on our vulnerability to Him and His way. He miss out on sensitivity.

It takes humility, and it involves risks, but I believe it is worth it.

I want Him to prompt me, and I want to respond well. I want Him to prick my heart to feel what matters most to Him.

What about you?

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Others

I said it just to make conversation. I didn’t know the other two ladies as we were escorted to speak to employees of a factory. I noticed a sign stating the date of the last on site accident and said, “Doesn’t it make you wonder what happened?”

“No. I’d rather not know,” was one of their replies. I wasn’t offended. As I said, it was simple conversation. We continued to the meeting, made our presentations, and were just getting ready to leave when one of the women mentioned it was a struggle for them to be there, because her husband (who was related to the other woman, too) had been killed in an accident years ago at the same factory.

I was mortified.

Of course, I apologized, more than once, including a note I sent soon afterward. They assured me I had no idea of knowing and were in no way offended. It was healing for them to be on site. I still felt awful.

What would make me say such a thing? I meant no harm. I began to wonder how insensitive our words can be even when our intentions are pure.

We can’t possibly know all the details. But we need to pay attention to clues into what’s going in people’s lives in any situation we’re in. We need to be sensitive.

And on the flip side, we need to remember no one knows everything about us, especially people with whom we have limited contact. So, when people say something offensive or hurtful, perhaps we should give them grace and forgiveness.

I know I certainly appreciated it.

Gathering at the Water Gate

water-pakistan_1601384iAll the people of Israel gathered together in the square by the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the teacher to bring out the Book of the Teachings of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought out the Teachings for the crowd. Men, women, and all who could listen and understand had gathered. At the square by the Water Gate Ezra read the Teachings out loud from early morning until noon to the men, women, and everyone who could listen and understand. All the people listened carefully to the Book of the Teachings. Nehemiah 8:1-3

The Water Gate was where the water supplying the temple flowed into the city. It was a place everyone could gather and learn. While some places were reserved for men, the Water Gate was available for men, women and children. Families could learn together. Mothers could gather and hear. Everyone was welcome.

Learning as a community is a rich experience. It allows us to come face-to-face and listen. We share space, thoughts and lives together. Each of us as individuals experience the same situation differently. We have a different perspective because of where we stand. We have different distractions around and within us. We process what’s heard and seen at different speeds and through different filters.

Yet God’s Word doesn’t change. God doesn’t change. His Spirit works within each of us to coordinate the timing of where we are and what we experience. He can use a distraction to intensify focus. He can use an experience to prime us for sensitivity. He can use a filter to fan the flame of passion.

When have you clearly felt or heard God even if you were among throngs of people?

When have you been distracted among a crowd so you missed what you had gathered to experience?

God speaks to you personally, yet every time you gather with others, it’s not all about you. God can multi-task. He wants to nourish you as an individual, while at the same time he’s nourishing the community of believers around you.

Live It. Identify the distractions throughout your day. Notice how you respond to them. Be prepared at all times to focus on God. Encourage those around you to do the same.

Travel Toys

“Mommy! She has a toy, too!”

I sat across from a young family on an airport shuttle. The almost three-year-old was taking her first flight on her first visit to Disneyworld. Her eyes were wide, taking in all the newness around her. She loosely held her small doll. Her eye caught the small bear peeking from my laptop case, and she exclaimed the news to her mom. She had found someone who had a toy, like her.

Our conversation began. I introduced my travelling companion, a small polar bear – Polar Pop – given to me by my youngest daughter. He travels with me on all overnight trips. The young girl shared her doll with me and told me she was going to see Winnie the Pooh. Since Winnie is a personal and family favorite, we shared excitement.

When we find something familiar in the unfamiliar, it energizes us and ignites the possibilities of connection. I enjoyed my five-minute friendship and thoughts of my young friend’s probable enjoyment over the next several days.

We can find something in common with every person we encounter. Our common ground spurs discussion and friendship. Besides family, the people in your life were stangers at some point before becoming acquaintances and friends.

In order to connect, you must pay attention. You must notice details around you. We can get accustomed to our personal space bubbles and lose sensitivity to the connection potential around us. It took a young girl with eyes wide open to details to pop my bubble. I’m so glad she did.

Consider the bubble around you.

How does it affect what you see and what details you notice?

How does it affect your clarity of sound?

How does it affect your sensitivity to touch?

Are you using the bubble to shield yourself? What are you missing in the meantime?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25