Today reminds me of my first winter in Texas. It was 1977-78. We had moved to Houston the previous August from Maryland.
It snowed once in Houston that winter. Let me clarify: almost 1/4 inch of snow fell. It wasn’t cold enough for it to accumulate except on cars, fences, and a little bit on the grass.
We, of course, got a day off from school. Who could be expected to dare the roads under such conditions?
Still accustomed to Maryland’s winters, my brother and I played in the ‘snow’ in wind-breakers, laughing at calling that winter.
So here we are, “iced-in” in DFW. It is barely below freezing, but everything is shut down.
I’ve learned, over the years, though, shutting down in Texas for ice and barely-freezing makes sense. In Texas.
You see, it doesn’t take nearly as much ice as snow to make roads dangerous. It also doesn’t make fiscal sense for Texas to invest in the amount of machinery and chemicals to face ice and snow that other places spend.
I’ve found this same principle is true in lives: hard is hard.
Each of us have different lives and face different challenges. What someone else faces might seem like nothing to you though it burdens them terribly. What seems insurmountable to you may be just about speedbump for another person.
May we all grow in our sensitivity to the challenges of others. May we approach them with a sense of shared responsibility for the world rather than judgmentalism.
I remember this afternoon that conversation I had with a friend almost 9 years ago. My friend said that blogs are rants and she didn’t want to be ranting all the time.
I had been blogging for a couple of years at the time. I took offense. Then, after getting over the offense, I realized she was onto something.
I thought of that this afternoon because I just deleted a rant-blog-post. It felt pretty good to type it out. The act of typing it out and editing and typing again really helped me sort through that story.
In fact, I sorted it through enough that I no longer felt the need to share it with you. Which will actually make your day better because you don’t need to read just another rant. You’ll find (and hopefully ignore) enough of those today without my contributing.
Now, it could be that blogs have evolved over the past 9 years. I know the way I deal with the internet has changed since 2006. I bet it has for you, too. Maybe we’re less ranty now. Or maybe we have come to realize that things we put on the internet have this incredible propensity to stay there, to get around, to end up in places we don’t want them.
There IS a place for rants! There are many,many more places NOT for rants.
May you and I continue to grow in knowing the difference!
Oh, and, BTW, that friend who suggested blogs were rants. I married her 8 years ago this coming Tuesday.
And I couldn’t be happier. Which cuts seriously into my need to rant.
Down with Indifference!
Give up not caring for Lent
Originally posted on TIME:
Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.
Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.
But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic…
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On our way out of a meeting, I struck up a conversation with the new guy. This had been his first meeting, and I’m not sure he felt like it went all that well.
He had raised a dissenting voice more than once.
“I’m really not a negative person,” he said after a couple minutes of interaction.
A thought hit my brain lightning fast: “Then you might try saying things that aren’t negative!”
The filter held. Just a minute or two later I realized I had a potential blog topic.
If you don’t want people to think of you as negative, don’t say negative things. Well, that’s a pretty short blog post. Maybe I could flesh it out a little.
Fleshing out such a seemingly clear and straightforward concept quickly caught me in potential hypocrisy. Sometimes I spout negative ideas or points of view pretty darn quickly.
Am I a negative person?
What’s more, I just began reading Wiser, a book about “Getting Beyond Groupthink.”
We need people willing to stand, to share, to question, against the status quo or the dominant direction of thought a group takes.
Do we need negative people?
Is there a difference between saying something negative and being a negative person?
Of course there is. And I had quickly dropped this “new guy” at the meeting into the “negative person” bin of my categorizing mind.
I was ready to leave him there.
But, then, I pursued conversation. As he and I will be serving together on a committee for at least the next year, I didn’t want to leave it at “the new guy is just negative.”
Sunstein and Hastie (co-authors of Wiser), write about the danger of groupthink. Spending time only with people who tend to agree with you and who tend to side with you on issues has the effect of making you -individually, and as a group – more extreme.
If there is one thing we need no more of these days, it is people at the extremes.
It would do us all good to spend time with people we don’t agree with on everything. We practice listening, and we practice saying things in ways that can be heard by someone not already on the same side of the fence we are.
Then, perhaps, none of us will be judged by the first words out of our mouths.
One Sunday morning a few months ago, I was asked by two different people within minutes of each other “where do we get the Lord’s Prayer from?”
One of the fallacies we live is that we (too often) assume that because we know something, or think or believe something, everyone else does, too.
So, I answered the question, to the best of my off-the-cuff ability. What ensued was some really good conversation.
This episode helped me remember that there are a lot of things floating around in my mind that aren’t floating the same way in everyone else’s mind.
And I assume the reverse is true: there are thinks floating around in your mind that I’ve never thought of or always wondered about.
Not only do we think different things, but I am quite sure we think some very similar things differently. Since we’ve each had different experiences, even if we have reached the same conclusions, we have likely reached them by different paths.
So, here’s a thought: sometime, over the next couple of days, strike up a conversation with someone about something. Choose a topic you know (and have thought) about quite a bit, or launch off of something the other person said about something. Make it a goal of your conversation to welcome the other person to talk openly about how they understand something.
(You might avoid a touchy religious or political topic, as it seems we have trouble talking openly about these without generating heat.)
Are you a better listener or talker?
Do you find it challenging to say what you think in a way another person can hear and understand it?
Three years ago I gave up blogging for Lent. This year I am moving in the opposite direction. it has been over a year since I have regularly posted here, so for this season of Lent, I will commit to blogging each day.
Except Sundays, of course. Sunday’s aren’t counted as part of Lent.
I know that six posts a week is way more that optimal blogging. Consider it making up for lost ground.
Feel free not to read them all.
I had already made this plan when I came across Jeremy’s latest at Hacking Christianity, “Would a Missionary give up Swahili for Lent?” Here’s the Len Sweet (@LenSweet) Quote that secured my commitment to blog this Lent:
Good luck with saying in the past 500 years “I’m sorry, I don’t do books.” Good luck with saying in the next 30 years, “I’m sorry I don’t do Internet.” As the book was the delivery system for learning and faith development, the Internet will be the delivery system for learning and faith development…
What’s the first thing a missionary does? Learn the language. This is the language of the world we live. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. You could go “okay, I don’t like Swahili.” Well, if God has called us to be ministry now in this kind of a world, so you don’t get to choose: you have to learn a new language.
So it looks like I’ve got a lot of writing to do over the next 40 days. If you’d like to help, send me a topic or a question for me to answer. Either comment here, twitter (@steveheyduck), find me on facebook, or email me at steve (dot) noncon (at) gmail.com