Category: Loving People

Asking for the Truth

I recently asked a friend to tell me the truth.  He, in turn and in part, asked me, “Do you think you’re BETTER than everyone else? Do you think you have to PROTECT everyone?”.  I spend lots of time thinking about my answer to that question.  My responsibility to answer isn’t to satisfy him.  My responsibility to answer is so I KNOW where I stand on these (at least) 2 issues.  Do I think I am better? Do I need to protect people?

I am a plain-old, garden-variety, flawed guy who is making his way through fatherhood, husbandhood, self-discovery, self-worth, self-doubt, professional effort and fatigue, the same as most other humans on the planet.  Maybe not everyone spends much time on the “what is my worth/value/magnum opus” issues of today.  I DO spend time on that – whether it is evident or not is very hard to say. We all have our individual journeys, but at our essence, we are much the same.  I think the difference is that I expect MORE from MYSELF.

I am a sarcastic SOB sometimes.  I don’t mean to be cruel with my wit, but I too often catch myself wishing I hadn’t said what I just said.  My understanding about the line between humor WITH someone and humor AT someone is paltry.  I speak to score the laughter before I really process WHY we will be laughing.  Conversational popularity is more important to me than the resulting damage, until I see the blood seep from the nick of the blade.  I need to stop doing that.

I am, however, good at recognizing and am sensitive to bullying,  browbeating,  heckling,  hazing, humiliating.  I probably see it in the “target” more than I see the initiation by the “perpetrator”.  I’m not good at seeing where the arrow CAME FROM, as it were, and am even worse at understanding WHY the arrow was fired in the first place.  I feel a responsibility to steer us away from thinning ice before we hear the cracking of a soul or spirit, for instance.  And I’m careful to couch my answers in calming words, rather than divisive rhetoric.

My philosophy and belief system start with “everyone deserves dignity”.  If that element of dignity is absent, deliberately or otherwise, I immediately stall in my understanding of any given situation.  My brain, when I listen to the better angels of my nature,  doesn’t move past the person or group of persons suffering.  It’s the golden retriever in me.

Another by-product of the golden retriever in me is a need to know how everyone around me FEELS.  “How do you feel about that?”, I’ll often ask.  Not so much as a counselor with a client, but as a curious observer of my world.  The good part of this drive is that I get to hear how people feel; they tend to open up, let down their guard, and share.  We, the five of us, had a wonderful conversation about spirituality and eternity with our children the other day.  No judgment, no guilt, no expectations – just ‘where are you’ and ‘tell us more’.  Driving together, after dark, seems a really safe place to have that conversation.  Dark takes away those ‘non-verbal’ cues that I tend to be hyper-aware about that indicate dissension or disagreement.  Truth dies when non-verbals take over.  Also, bathing a tough topic in grace lends itself to a truth and honesty that can co-exist with differing viewpoints.

The down side to wanting to hear it all is that sometimes I hear that I am the problem.  Sometimes my actions made the conflict worse.  Sometimes my words forced an issue that was better left alone.  Sometimes I charged up a hill of an issue that I didn’t need to attack, or that wasn’t my issue to force.  Although there are lots of instances where there is more than one truth, sometimes the stark reality is that I, indeed, even WITH my golden retriever need for peace and my negotiation superpowers, made things worse.

This truth in love  doesn’t always happen when I talk with people I care about – don’t get me wrong; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  That’s ok – peace and blessings and live and let live.

All this is prologue to my real point of this writing:  I can be afraid to hear another person’s truth and bottom line.

Because what if I can’t reconcile it to my world belief?  Or what if I can’t find a way to please us BOTH with our respective realities?  What if it’s a DEAL-BREAKER???????

Ultimately, I still want to know, “How do you feel?”.

Who’s right?

See?  My problem is, when trying to figure out who has the “right” interpretation, is that EVERYBODY’S heart is in the right place.

If I go into a discussion trying to gather knowledge or understand a differing viewpoint better, I usually trust that the person I’m talking with is “arguing in good faith”.  That is, genuinely trying to exchange ideas and not just trying to score points or barrage me with facts or overwhelm me with data.  I don’t do a ton of research on ANYthing, so it’s easy to just throw facts at me to get me off-topic.

That’s ok; I still think the person is coming from a place of sincerity in his or her position.

The PROBLEM is – what if we totally disagree????

What if we are on totally the opposite sides of an argument?  How can there be no right and wrong?  I can see that this happens politically all the time.  But it happens SPIRITUALLY, too.  How can 2 English-speaking believers in Jesus Christ read the Bible and come to 2 different conclusions about any given topic?

And, just to be mildly controversial, here are a few things I’m most confused about:

1.  Are Muslims going to infiltrate the USA and ruin it? Or are they going to move to the USA, worship as they please, and live in peace with me?

2.  Can we afford 4 more years of President Obama’s financial system? Or are we going to go bankrupt? Who do we blame for racking up all this national debt anyway?  Why do people on either side point fingers at the OTHER side?

3.  Gay marriage – what’s the big deal?  It doesn’t affect the strength of MY marriage at all.  Everyone should have a chance to love someone.

So, since MY heart is in the right place, and I try to be discerning about what God wants from me on His behalf, I ask you…

How do I tell?


I am thankful.

As I rode my Bianchi out in the flat Kansas countryside yesterday, I realized I needed to say this.  And describe why.

I am thankful to my friend Robin for telling me that ‘no one can take away my peace’, and that ‘I am responsible for protecting my peace’.  I haven’t been peaceful all the time this past month.

We took a truly ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to Europe with the kids this past July.  We saw stuff we’d dreamed about since gradeschool, where they make you study pictures of old churches and famous paintings and little cafes and those long sticks of bread and people who actually can rock a beret.

I am thankful for that time with my wife and three children.  We always get to have that set of memories; no one gets to remove that from us.  Seriously, we stood on the Eiffel Tower – at night, in the rain – and made an indelible memory together.

I am thankful for the health and ability to ride my bike, do pushups, jog (slowly), do pullups (right now 2 sets of 1 1/2).  I glare at myself for not doing these things more often, but I love that I still CAN.

I am thankful for my girl Angie – who has such energy and vision for this new graduate degree she’s working on.  Ask her about it; she’s loving it.  I don’t think there’s any way I could work that hard.

I am thankful that all three of our kids have a vision for what they want in their future.  I am thankful that they are taking responsibility for following their dreams and making them happen – and not waiting for someone to hand it to them.

I am thankful for my job.  To be employed, gainfully, isn’t a ‘given’ anymore.  To be challenged and to flourish with friends who started as co-workers is a bonus.  I appreciate being able to work hard when there’s work to do, and laugh heartily when we have a free minute or two.

I am thankful for having a true choice in my political choices and my spiritual choices – lots of places in the world just don’t trust their people with that kind of freedom.

I am thankful for all my relatives, many who I get to see quite a bit, and some that I don’t get to see.  All of them are really important; and I appreciate having them to cherish.

Windfall Profits

We had the best time tonight with our visitors!  Sarah, Ann, Kerri, and Matt came over to goof off and catch up on old times.  Angie and I were youth workers at church with Sarah, Ann, and Kerri, back in the early part of this decade.  The “aughts”, as I like to call them.  As in, “aught-three”, which would mean 2003.

We had taken two mission trips together.  2001 to Honduras and 2003 to Ciudad Juarez.  It is impossible to describe how bonding those two trips were and still are to me, to Angie, and to all of us.  Just how bonding is more clear than ever after we spent time together tonight.  We laughed non-stop from 7ish to after 10. I’ll tell you more another time.

Anyway – when I ask myself, “Did we waste our years working in youth ministry?”, I can add this night’s gathering to the loudness of my “NO”.  Now THAT is a good kind of humble.  THAT is a good kind of love.

pretty cool.