Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reclaiming Mercy

Humans of New York posts always grab my attention. 

The photographs and short stories of  Brandon Stanton help me see through the eyes of people whose religion; ethnicity; sexuality; choices or circumstances are different to my own. Through his work he peels off layers of bias and prejudice like grubby bandages, and reveals people in a way that is closer to the way I believe God sees us--loved and precious regardless of what we've done or who we are--because he knows the whole story...

Currently Brandon is telling the stories of inmates from five different prisons across the North eastern United States. Often the stories are heartrending, but the face and story from February 8, stayed with me longer than usual:

The words, "honest people like you," resonated, maybe because they could apply to me. And in a plight as desperate as hers, mightn't I have responded with the same naivete? I don't know, because I haven't experienced such poverty and desperation.

It must have been playing on my mind, because this morning I woke up with the vestiges of a wacky and disturbing dream in my consciousness. I had been given an illegal substance by someone who offered me a business opportunity to make some money. They left it with me while I decided. I hadn't been quick enough to say, "No thank you,"and was now "in possession."

Stuck with this greenish brown substance, I felt trapped, desperate and afraid. The people who'd given me the drugs knew I could identify them and I knew they would apply pressure to gain compliance. I hid the drugs in pie boxes and the last thing I remember was kneeling down and stuffing the pie boxes under a hedge...I was so grateful to wake up and know it was just a dream.  

Thinking about how easy it is to judge, I find it's a daily discipline to stay open to mercy and kindness. I don't like judgmentalism but ironically I find myself judging those who judge.

Jesus Christ loved the outcast and the different, and they sought him out and were comfortable with him. I believe he would love Humans of New York for what it accomplishes; the tenderness and compassion it inspires.

Today I read about the "Royal Rule," in the book of James. Far from being a rule of iron, it tells me that I need to love others as I love myself, and that I am to, "talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free." Our stance towards our fellow man matters. We should be scared when we find ourselves harsh, because the harshness with which we judge others is how we can expect to be judged. 

James 2:13New International Version (NIV)

13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Silence is Golden

I would dearly love to do-over a recent conversation. A friend needed to share some tough news and  her feelings; but I could not still my brain, which jumped to action, searching for something that might help and I'm afraid my words followed not long after it. My lack of inner peacefulness filled the air with unease; a faint heaviness like cheap perfume. 

There are many bad habits in listening and I'm thankful that I was only aware of one biggie at work in that conversation--feeling compelled to help by searching for a solution. Awareness is the starting point for correction. 

Fortunately there are lots of tips available on being a better listener. Huff Post Healthy Living, for instance has a good article on the topic: 9 Things Good Listeners Do Differently 

Image result for good listenerOf the 9 things discussed in the article, the one I want to work on is posing significant questions to draw out more information.  I want to replace thinking about solutions with asking questions to help me understand the situation better. I'm not good at this now, but I have hope.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to another is to simply listen; be a sounding board; or, as someone else put it recently: Help someone discover their own heart, or find God's purpose. I'd love to be "that" person. 
Image result for good listener