Connection in Conflict

As much as my natural instinct is to avoid conflict at all costs, there are times when I’m grateful for it. Maybe more accurate would be that I am grateful for the relationships that make conflict necessary.

Yep. Conflict is necessary, though not all conflict fits that description. When conflict happens as a result of attempting to use force to determine who wins and who loses, that’s completely unnecessary—and counterproductive—conflict. That’s true in marriages, workplaces, churches, countries.

Conflict that erupts because we are different and we care enough to be invested in each other’s lives? That’s the sticky, clumsy, messy nature of genuine connection. And it’s scary as hell. And it’s heart-wrenching when it breaches containment and spreads beyond what we know how to heal.

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Everywhere Down

As I’ve continued my prayer and meditation each day, greeting the vision of prayer I meet each day at the end of my customary prayers, I’ve continued to envision new images. Putting them into words borders on impossible, and even if I could, all meaning would be lost to the hearer. It would be trying to communicate raw experience through coded noises, nothing more. 

I began to wonder about poetry. I’ve thought before how wisdom literature in the Bible and poetry in general are attempts to communicate between the wordless part of the author with the wordless part of the hearer, mysteriously using words as the medium. I’ve also thought before about how I don’t have a great relationship with poetry. I try to make my prose engage with the artist in me, but I’ve always been intimidated by poetry. 

At last I found a task that would accept no other way, so I attempted to write about today’s meditation, and the writing itself was like praying.

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Reaching for Hope

Depression is largely the experience of losing hope. It doesn’t mean we don’t think hope is real or that hope isn’t worth having. But it’s like I set it down and then accidentally bumped it off. It fell on the ground and rolled out of sight, and I don’t know where to look for it. Sometimes, I have the time to search methodically. Other times I need it urgently and not having it is painful.

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What Hope?

When I think about fear and shame and their connections with the compulsion to self-protection and harming ourselves and each other (perhaps a word to summarize that might be ‘sin’), in some ways it softens me. It helps me have compassion even on those who are harming others. In my best moments, it helps me have compassion even on those who are harming me.

At the same time, it reinforces the overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness that anything in life can actually be healed or improved. I might be able to fix something in my own life, but can life for all people everywhere ever get better? It seems unlikely.

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In God’s Likeness

I recently taught on the dangers and harms of judging others, speaking against each other, and elevating ourselves above other people based on James 4:11-17 at a worship gathering of my church community. As I read through that passage, and then through the whole book of James, another story came to mind. A story most of us have heard and believe we know well—so well we don’t often pay close attention to anything new in it.

I’ve been writing on that story here in bits and pieces, about Yahweh and Eve and Adam and Abel and Cain and about fear and shame and purpose and the patterns set and carried out through history. But I’ve been talking about the story instead of telling it. I told the story at that worship gathering, and now I’m sharing it here.

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Fruit

I’ve taken something of a break for the last couple months from writing. I’ve had my reasons, my challenges from carving out the time. Something similar happens when we as the church read our Bible. The passages I explored this Spring about Creation and the Fall, Yahweh and Adam and Eve get a lot of attention. Then there’s something of a break. We have our reasons, our challenges around noticing the shape of the literature we call Scripture.

I get it though. Sustained attention is hard. We break after the story of Adam and Eve, and then we go on to more familiar stories or the ones that seem more useful. Give us some Romans, so we know what to do with it. Stories are entertaining, but some nice, dense teaching is what gives us something to do, right?

So we leave the stories for the kids. Isn’t that right? When was the last time you heard a sermon on Cain and Abel, or Noah, or Samson (and why are we telling these stories about murder, the death of nearly every person in the world in one shot, and seduction and mass violence to children, by the way?)?

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Open to Seeing

In the last few weeks, I have had several all day classes. I discovered a lovely route to take a walk along a road with a lot of plants and trees, and I’ve been enjoying the restoration I experience walking mindfully through that beauty. This weekend, I did the same. I noticed after about 10 minutes, though, that I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings like I had done before. They weren’t new anymore, and they didn’t automatically make me notice them.

I decided to be intentional about it. Last time, I was highly mindful of all the growing things, and they were lovely again, but what caught my attention once I encouraged myself to be curious were the things that were placed by human hands.

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