A Dream I couldn’t shake

I am sharing this because I had a dream last night I couldn’t shake. It wasn’t a particularly weird dream. No flying, no falling, no sense of hurry but my legs are trapped in slo-mo.

Nope. The dream I couldn’t shake was simply pulling into a parking lot, turning left to back into a parking place. There was one other car on the small lot, and I was backing in to park next to it.

I hit that car as my car arced backwards into it’s space. Even as I hit the other car, I kept going.

There was a passenger in the car, front seat. Beside me. I don’t recall who it was, so let’s say it was you. We were shaken up a little, but I distinctly recall saying something flippant about it after completing the parking job.

I don’t know what happened after that in that particular dreamiverse, because I immediately moved into analysis of both why I had hit that one car and why I didn’t seem really to care at all. Honestly, I think I was still dreaming as I moved into the analysis phase. During that phase, though, I went into that calming state of being awake enough to know I’m awake, but asleep enough to kind of stay in the dream.

(I don’t recall ever entering that state until about 10 years ago, but I don’t know if it is a function of age or not.)

Back to the parking collision. Even though my car has a rear-view camera, I didn’t use it. I scanned the space as I drive into the parking lot, and got a mental image of it. A lto of open space, one car parked right there. I pulled forward, put the car in reverse, and “looked” at a mental image birds-eye-view I had of the area. I backed accordingly.

Turns out my mental image wasn’t accurate. My ability to align my actual movement with the video-game-like image of my car on that mental image may also not have been entirely accurate.

And this, I think, was the point of the dream. I don’t believe every dream is dreamed to make a point, but this one was. The point is: while it is tempting to trust mental models and ideas for “how things ought to work” in our heads, the read world never entirely comports what is in our heads.

But I’m glad you were in the car with me. That way the lesson of this dream reminds me that the version of our relationship that I carry (or make up) in my head doesn’t entirely comport with our actual relationship.

Let’s live in the actual world – together – and not be satisfied with the versions of the world that we make up in our heads. Maybe it’s ok in a dream. but in the actual world, no one wants a fender bender when actually using one’s senses could have kept it from happening.

Am I a Racist?

I would like to tell you the answer to that question is “NO!”  But that might be a bit hasty.

I recently took the IAT (Implicit Attitude Test) for racial bias.  I did not do as well as I wish I had.

The IAT offers a variety of tests, all designed to identify the relative strength of a person’s positive or negative associations of a variety of issues.
blind spot
I first learned of the IAT earlier this year when I read Blind Spot. It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

But I’m sharing this now, rather than when I  read the book because the challenge of bias came up the other day and I got to be part of a very interesting discussion.

In a group of people who were all my age (55) or older and all of us anglo, we talked about the incredible progress that we have made as a society over our lifetimes.  I don’t think there is any denying this, but at the same time, I feel the need to be sensitive to people who don’t feel like we have made enough progress.

So I shared this thought, based on my own taking of the IAT and learning that I have a slight bias against people of color:

The real challenge before us all is not trying to convince ourselves that we have moved beyond bias, but being honest enough with ourselves what bias we do have.

Because you can only lessen your bias if you are willing to identify it. The IAT can be a helpful tool to do this.


Good, Better, Best

I had the great joy the other day of witnessing a good thing happening: a child gave his mother a dandelion.

woman holding flower
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Then, this even better thing happened. He realized what a good idea it was, and picked a second flower to give her.

Then, the best thing happened: the mother received the flowers exactly the way they were offered – as a gift of love from her son. She could, I suppose, have received them as a couple of weeds he had picked up. But she didn’t.

How much of the value of a gift comes in the spirit in which it is given? How much in the spirit in which it is received?

Why can’t I get this door open?

ancient architecture brick brick wall
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I have used this language before myself, but, when I recently heard someone say “God has closed a door…,” the metaphor generator that is my mind sprung into action.

The next thing I thought was, “I realized I couldn’t open that door because my foot was in the way.”

When you get to a closed door, or a door has been closed on your path, how do you know it was God that closed it?

And I can’t think too long about opening and closing doors without going to this:

Midvale school for the gifted - Imgur
courtesy Imgur

The time in my own life I have referred to most consistently was more than 30 years ago. While I was an undergrad, I remember wondering whether or not to pursue a call to ministry. I tell the story, and have for several years, that “all the other doors I tried were closed.”

But, honestly, I don’t know (now) how hard I tried anything else. I am pretty sure some of those other “doors” wouldn’t open because I was pushing instead of pulling or, maybe, I just didn’t try hard enough.

What does it take for you to interpret a closed door as having been closed by God?

Bored with Jesus?

Here is a story Andrew Root shares in his Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness.

A bible scholar meets a young man who claims to have a deep love for Jesus. They talked for some time about his commitment, about matters of faith, and the Bible. When Sunday worship came up, though, the young man explained he rarely went to worship. Compared to the adrenaline he felt from working out (he was a bodybuilder), he said Sunday worship was just too boring.

“I thought you loved Jesus,” the professor observed.”

” I do, I really do” the young man answered.

“Do you think you’d be willing to die for him?” asked the scholar.

The young man’s enthusiasm was lessened. Still, he replied, “Yes; yes, I think I would. I would die for Jesus.”

“So, let me get this straight,” he said, “you’re willing to die for Jesus, but not be bored for Jesus?”



An Argument I Cannot Win

black and white blank challenge connect
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As many as three times a week, I am tempted to argue with my kids. But in that particular setting, I know it won’t do any good. It would be to start an argument I cannot win.

We try always to eat dinner together as a family, even if I have an evening meeting. Then, when I do have a meeting, and I get ready to leave, nobody is happy. I would rather stay home; they would rather I stay home.

Sometimes one of them says something like

You’re always gone at meetings. You never stay home with us.

I know this isn’t true. I am home at least a couple of nights a week!  And, what’s more, I know parents who aren’t able to come home for dinner with their families as often as I do. And I know parents who simply don’t come home, even if they are able.

But when my kids say those things, I don’t respond with reasons, or justification, or by attempting to prove to them that I am doing better than some parents. None of those things would help. None of those are arguments I could win.

Instead, I hug them again, tell them I love them, and encourage them to “make good choices” while I am gone. I think they understand when I have to go to a meeting, and I think I understand how they feel.

I am very sure arguing won’t make it any better. In fact, taking up a case against their wanting their dad to stay home would actually work against me. I don’t want to convince them that I should be going to meetings, and I especially don’t want to convince them that they shouldn’t miss me.

So I accept their love and offer mine in return. Which is probably almost always better than arguing.


“It’s not you; it’s me” is not all bad

I remember saying this at least once: “It’s not you; it’s me.” Like you might expect, I said this, at least in part, with the intent that the person with whom I was breaking up not to take it personally.

Like every relationship, though, the actual truth would probably have been more “it’s some you, and some me.

I thought of this about a week ago, as reactions and reverberations to The United Methodist Church’s 2019 General Conference started to flow. Then I realized that I had done a good bit of blame placing of my own. I almost became a Facebook Troll of a fellow UM Clergyperson! I typed out and all-but-hit “send” several times. In fact, if I were confronted with everything I did actually post or tweet, I might find a few that I would now undo.

It was in that process of self reflection that the phrase, “It’s not me; it’s you” came to mind. This time, though, it was with this reference point. The ‘analysis’ and reactions to #GC2019 all seemed to share this one characteristic: The problem was, is, will be, with some “other;” the other side, my opponents, etc.

In other words, most of the early reflections on General Conference 2019 were

It’s not me; it’s you.

Which really just shows how easily we tend to get caught up casting blame away from ourselves.

What if some of the “It’s not me; it’s you” that has been going around within United Methodism for more than 30 years met up with a larger dose of “It’s not you; it’s me”?

What have I been doing or saying; what has my “side” been doing or saying that contributes to our inability, as Christian brothers and sisters, to find a way toward the future to which God is calling us?

As long as the other is the problem, we will not find a satisfactory solution.

Written in Stone?

balance business cobblestone conceptual
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A funny thing happened on the way to a memorial service. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but a granddaughter of the deceased said, “well, it’s not written in stone….” In that moment, I made a connection that seemed so obvious I was at once wanting to think more about it and also wondering how I hadn’t thought of it before.

The idiom “written in stone” obviously refers to something written permanently; unchangeable.

The most obvious and best known example of which is, of course, the 10 Commandments. Think Charlton Heston or Mel Brooks, but we’ve all got imagery in our minds now, right? Those commandments were etched in stone. Literally carved. Permanent.

The 10 Commandments seem to be the go-to source for law and rightness. We’ve fought over putting them up on courthouse lawns and teaching them in public schools. Some people want you to think they are the foundation for western law.

All of this came flooding to me as we walked toward the sanctuary for the memorial service. All this was inspired by the simple phrase “written in stone.”

And then, just a split second later, I also realized this: Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was.

He didn’t cite any of those 10.

Jesus went to Deuteronomy 6:5, which says

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. (CEB)

and that wasn’t enough. He wasn’t going for 10, though. He added this, from Leviticus 19, saying this one “is like it:

you must love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, CEB)

So, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he didn’t go to something that was written in stone.

I am still wrestling with what this means, but I really felt I had to share it with you.