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Monday, May 18, 2015

Throw Kindness Like Confetti

Oh my friends, we have got to do better.
I, me, you, we have got to be better. 

I've been so burdened lately by the way I treat people. By the way we treat people. I've been so burdened by the stories I've heard lately. The stories of unkind words, unkind rumors, unkind tweets. I've been burdened lately by words. From all of us, but come on ladies, by how we're treating one another.

I read something Taylor Swift (yes TAYLOR) posted a few months ago, and after the stories I've heard lately, I keep desperately clinging to it. She posted that "we are at our best when we cheer each other on and build each other up."  I wholeheartedly - with my whole heart - believe this is so true to its core.

I saw a movie this past weekend that was supposed to be so funny, but I walked out thinking that wasn't very funny. It's not so funny to stereotype and demean, to judge and joke at the expense of others. And Taylor thundered in my ears as I drove home - we are AT OUR BEST when we cheer each other on and build each other up. 

We must be cheerleaders and builders, not destroyers and dissenters. 

We've got to speak better of each other
encourage one another
believe the best about each other. 
We've got to decide that we're all going to be on the same team.

Ain't nobody got time for drama. 
I crave something hopeful beyond the gossip and rumors and cruel words that cut to the core. Yes, something hopeful to choose before we choose to tweet or text or group message or screenshot. We are all capable of great kindness. 

And because people can be cruel and it's hard to be kind back, or for the moments we're cruel for a reason or maybe no real reason at all, can we practice these things together? I am so with you all. 

Can we change the way we communicate? Can we just decide that a tweet just won't do? Can we decide to look people in the eye instead of retreating behind a phone? Can we decide that when something happens, it doesn't end up with a third party (or a fourth or a fifth..)? Can we decide that words are of the utmost importance and when we choose to use them well, we pass value and courage to one another? And when we don't, when we exaggerate or lie or spread something untrue, something settles deep into the souls of our people? People are so much more than the words we say, can we make sure they know that?

Decide we don't want revenge. This one is weird and huge and hard and messy. But the quest for revenge tears holes and puts up walls. It tightens our hearts and retracts it into distrust. It gives power to seeing people in a light that isn't always true, a light that doesn't reflect others' fullest and freest selves. But instead, decide we want forgiveness. Forgiveness is elusive and mysterious and oftentimes a process, but somewhere deep within, it is the purest satisfaction for the thirst for revenge. And maybe for you, right now, it just looks like letting that person off the hook.   

Throw kindness around like confetti. I saw this on Pinterest once and I loved it so much. I can see it, this throwing kindness like confetti, I can really see it. Confetti is not glitter (amen) and it is appropriate in moments of celebration, of joy, of friendship. It makes me think of a party, of laughter, of showering others with love. Does it put those images in your mind too? And I can just see us walking around throwing kindness in the air and watching it rain down on one another, filling them with joy and goodness and laughter and freedom. Oh, it would be so abundant and so full. 

To begin to throw this confetti and to begin to pass this courage and kindness starts with an understanding who we are. We must understand who our friends, our enemies, our co-workers, and our classmates are. We must believe that we are all more. We're all created in the image of God, so our value is indescribable. Our worth is through the roof. When we look one another in the eye, when we say "I forgive you," when we acknowledge "you are more," oh it just gives power to our inherent and infinite worth.

Let's see people differently. Let's see them as the dearly loved, intricately valuable, wonderfully worthy, lovely human beings that have been made in the image of our Creator. Our looks are valuable, our gifts are valuable, our abilities are valuable, our personalities are valuable.

Grab your handful of confetti, let's throw some around today! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Didn't They Say Only Love will Win in the End

Kindness and love, they just might be everything.

Lately, my mind and heart are being opened to the fullness of kindness. Of what love may really mean. The thought of welcome still catches in my gut and steals my breath away. It's be free at its core. I keep tossing these questions around in my mind and my heart, the idea of welcome. The what if of welcome. What would it really mean if everyone was welcome, if we told everyone they were in? everyone. welcome. here. 

There's this new Mumford and Sons album out and there's this new song on it about loneliness and hunger and thirst, and that maybe love is the key. Maybe it's the answer. 

Can you just imagine? I've been imagining lately, and it is gloriously and incomprehensibly good. All people are invited and welcome and as obvious as that may sound, I am just imagining the sheer vastness of it. It screams safety and belonging, things all people so desire in the core of their souls. No one is outside the reach of the Love and Goodness and Grace and Peace or outside the Body of Christ. Everyone has a story and everyone is welcome. 

I read Isaiah 61 lately and I see it differently.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, 
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound

That all people everywhere and all the time and me and you are the ones. We're the brokenhearted, the captive, the blind, and the prisoners in need of being set free. The people in our midst, these are the ones to love. At the very beginning of his ministry, in Luke chapter 4, in a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus unrolled the scroll and read just that. And I think that these words are just what Jesus came to do. Freedom, good news, healing, value. Divine Love.  

My mom and I went out this past week for an evening with Bryan Stevenson. I could talk about him for hours, his work is just so astounding to me. He's a human rights lawyer in Alabama who believes that every person is more than the worst thing they've done and that forgiveness is a necessary means to achieving equality for all. I am inspired by him and by what he believes. He believes in an identity of hope, mercy, grace, and courage. 

He works exclusively with our criminal justice system, with poverty and racial inequalities that exist there. And Bryan goes in our prisons and onto death row and helps free the poor, the innocent, the ones wrongly accused, the mentally unstable. He sits down with them and he hears them. Children and teenagers who have survived traumatic childhood experiences are on death row for crimes committed in moments of danger, coercion, vulnerability. They kill the abusive stepfather or participate in the gang initiation. And Bryan sits with them and he hears them. Some of these people are in tight spots and no one to speak for them. It's excruciatingly heartbreaking. Bryan Stevenson goes in and says YOU ARE MORE. He says, you are more.

I love this quote from his book Just Mercy. He writes, "whenever things got really bad and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind them that each one of us is is more than the worst thing we've ever done. I told them that if someone told a lie, that person is not a liar. If you take something that doesn't belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you're not just a killer. You are more than broken."

Mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven't earned it, who haven't sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each one of us. 

I know how broken and sad and afraid people can be. I know, me too. I know how fear can eat people alive. How the belief that they have become the worst thing they've done can turn people into the worse and lesser versions of themselves. People can shut you out so fast, just because they believe something untrue about themselves. It's so hard, isn't it? It hurts so bad, doesn't it? When people can't look you in the eye anymore or something is broken in how you used to operate. 

I am learning that there is this clear and present peace that exists within kindness. Kindness is power. It changes everything. There is this assurance within that there is a better way to treat people. There is a better way to respond. We have it ingrained in us to shun people who mistreat us, to turn our backs on those who are cruel, to return the favor to those who don't make us feel welcome. But I believe it is kindness that can save us. Love that saves us. Every time we choose to acknowledge the fear and sadness and believe that people are more, we set one another free. The people in our midst, they are more. 

Love, it's got to be the avenue through which we bless others. 

But if I'm honest, there's sometimes a dissenting voice that resides within me. A tiny part of me. She will squeak, but wait. could love and mercy and kindness really be this good??  Sometimes she'll yell louder that indifference is the answer. The difficult, fearful, broken, the insecure, the jerks, they need to be ignored. Just don't acknowledge those who you feel shouldn't be loved, the voices of Narrow-mindedness and Fear and Selfishness and Pride say. 

My lioness, though, she roars in response. It's what I call the brave and good and true, confident thoughts.  She will roar, "wait but no. I don't think that's it. I think it's kindness. I think being kind and showing love to people, I think that's it." She roars back deep in my core, WHY NOT. who is on the outside, isn't everyone in??

Love. It must be the avenue through which we bless others.

The way we invite others in, the way we treat others, the way we love and show grace.
Maybe Mumford and Sons have got it all right. Didn't they say only love will win in the end?