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picture of fruits of the spirit passage from the book of Galatians in the Christian Bible

Notes to Myself: Commitments for Talking Politics with Care

picture of fruits of the spirit passage from the book of Galatians in the Christian Bible

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” ~Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

Monastic rules of life have drawn Christians through the ages to the spiritual disciplines. New monastics often look to one of the most well-known – the Rule of Benedict – and then write their own rule of life to order their lives in community. I have never been terribly successful at thinking of the Christian path in terms of discipline. In fact, at the mention of living the spiritual life “by the rules,” my inner self goes running for cover.

However, the fraught reality of public discourse in our time demands more discipline and less venting, more intentional, measured speech and less passion. In fact, it requires every bit of spiritual discipline the Christian can muster (and then it pleads for more from the Holy Spirit). Amidst the ever-widening crisis of public discourse, I have found it necessary to set down a rule for myself about speaking to and around my children. We all have steam to let off these days, but heaven knows we all need to speak with a little more care.

I have found three motivations for this care-filled speech at work in me, nudging me to speak with intention. First, I understand the pastoral office to be a listening office. This is ironic, I know, since few other professions boast 15 to 30 minutes of public speaking to a more-or-less willing audience every week. Even as I must preach the audaciously good news of Jesus without apology, I must also use language that does not blindly parrot phrases from political parties, denominational in-fighting, or other popular influences. And yet, to pastor is to move people along the path toward God and the Kin-dom of Heaven (the place where, in Christ, we are all kin to one another). The pastor is always inviting and always listening, so she must choose her words with care.

Second, I confess that I deeply want to avoid alienating people. This internal motivation is possibly the least important of the three, but nonetheless the most pressing to me. It is a desire for everyone to continue belonging to one another, especially when and where I am in charge. As a natural-born mediator (conflict avoider), I have little capacity for conflict when it might lead to alienation. I am not the first minister who likes to be liked, but this is a character trait which must be examined daily to be transformed from approval-seeking to the truer virtues of kindness and gentleness.

The third motivation involves my children, and to some degree, older generations of my extended family: I want to maintain open dialogue with my children and my family’s elders. One day my children will disagree with me on some of life’s most important issues. At that point, it might be too late to begin trying to mind my manners in discourse. I hope to have spoken in such a way while they were young that dialogue will still be possible when I am old.

Given these motivations, I would like to share with you my commitments for participating in public discourse, particularly related to political speech: Read more

Making Coffee Kind Again

4332255678_04819c4c94_z“Smile, sweetheart, the c*** lost,” he said.

Not exactly how I pictured starting my morning the day after the election, the first day into a President-elect Trump world.

“It’s inappropriate to speak to me in that way,” I said, before walking away from the man in the infamous red hat. Yes, that red hat.

It was 8:30am, as I stood in line at Starbucks to pick up my grande coffee with steamed non-fat milk before driving across the state of Florida to go home after vacationing with family. Good morning y’all!

And then it began, the running tirade in my mind:

I’m not your sweetheart.

I don’t exist to give you smiles.

How dare you violate me in this way, with that word?

And in one of my sacred spaces on top of it all. Read more

Channeling Your Inner Leper

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” ~Luke 17:11-18

4101881178_fefea807b5_zI think a lot about the lepers these days. In my current ministry setting of waiting tables at a restaurant, I am asked for a lot of things every shift. A. Lot. More napkins? Sure. Another Coke? Absolutely. A seventh basket of chips and salsa (yes, seven!)? I’ll be right back. It’s my job to meet these needs the best way I can while doing what is right for the customer. So I grab a clean fork when you drop yours on the floor and remember the lemons and deposit them on the table with a smile. The words I only hear sometimes are “thank you.” I get ignored, I get looked at, people are rude, or stare at their phones not even noticing that someone has just set a plate hot enough to boil water on their table. I would venture to say that about 50% of the time, the people who sit at restaurant tables do not say “thank you” during their entire visit. Which is why it is so noticeable to me when they do.

So I think about the lepers. Especially that last one – the one who took the effort to go back to Jesus after he had received what he desired to say “thank you.” As the text makes clear, the leper is an outsider and one who is very different from Jesus. Which, to me, makes the act even more noticeable. I wonder how Jesus reacted, internally. Did he smile inside? Did he feel a sense of accomplishment? Did he feel valued and noticed? Those emotions are ones that many of us feel when someone says “thank you.” Read more