Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Little More Conversation

I think there will be dust-ups in our collective Christian family until the cows come home.  Experts say some conflict is healthy--vital even--for growth and change; however much of our conflict seems to utilize rhetoric that is neither helpful or charitable.  All sides are guilty.  Much of our language is patronizing.  What to do?

Like you, I've read lots of opinion pieces.  Some are helpful.  Others aren't.  There are people on all sides who make good and not-so-good points.  What seems to be lacking is conversation between the sides.  Where is the back and forth?  The Internet (blogs, facebook, twitter, myface, yourface, etc.) can make conversation difficult because "We're talking at each another rather than with each other." (see Saving the Art of Conversation). 

I developed a 'yes or no' list on how I want to talk with people, especially those for whom it is difficult for me to listen.  It is hard to converse with people who grate our nerves.  It's doubly difficult to learn from them.  I am not perfect, and I have missed the mark many, many times.  I share this list so maybe we can work on some of these together.  You might not agree with all of it, but that's okay.  We can talk about it...can't we?

How to talk to people…yes or no:

Engage in dialogue...yes
Water down my faith...no
Have strong viewpoints...yes
Be rude when sharing strong viewpoints...no
Listen to understand...yes
Listen only to respond...no
Be open-minded to people w/whom I agree...yes
Be open-minded to people w/whom I disagree...yes
Be funny (or at least try)...yes
Masquerade meanness as "funny"...no
Be fair...yes
Be fair without compassion...no
Be sensitive...yes
Take everything personally...no
Righteous indignation...yes
Anger at things that don't matter...no
Love the world God created...yes
Allow the world to define me...no

And since it's still the Christmas season...yes or no:

Say Merry Christmas...yes
Say Happy Holidays...yes
Say Merry Christmas to spite others...no
Say Happy Holidays to spite others...no

We've got to learn to talk to each other online and in person.  This doesn't mean we're doormats.  It means active participation with others to understand and learn.  Actual conversation can birth growth and change.  It is possible to learn a thing or two from people who see the world differently.

So what about it?  Ready to give conversation the good ol' college try?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

25 Cents at a Time

My eye is trained to be on the lookout for coins.  I possess this skill thanks to my dad, who can spot a penny from a mile away.  When we run together he will shout the denomination as soon as he sees it.  PENNY! NICKEL!  DIME!  It's so exciting.  Over Thanksgiving Dad told a tale (apocryphal?) of a floating $20 bill found on the mean streets of Beaver Dam.  

There is a strategy to coin-finding.  Aim your peepers where car doors open.  Check cracks and crevices in the pavement.  Stoplights are a popular destination for well-worn pennies (see below).  My Thanksgiving run yielded 14 coins.  I was ecstatic. 

A penny here. A quarter there.  It all adds up.  

Even though coins are relatively small in value, what a happy surprise to find them!  I used to all but ignore pennies, but not anymore.  I imagine them as little treasures eager to be found.  I even like to pay in pennies (apologies to those behind me in line)!

Sometimes in the church we wonder if calling the sick (nickel), washing the dishes (penny), or involving persons on the margins (quarter), etc. makes a difference.  One Sunday School lesson.  One dozen cookies for the parade. One hour volunteering at the clothing closet.  One hospital visit.  One encouraging word to the lonely.  

Sometimes we may even wonder if we're just spinning our wheels.  Do these 'little' things do any good?

Rev. Fred Craddock said, "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord.  I'm giving it all.' But the reality for most of us is that God sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1000 for quarters.  We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there.  Listen to the neighbor's troubles instead of saying 'Get lost.'  Go to a committee meeting.  Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.  Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious.  It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time.  It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little…" 

A penny here.  A quarter there.  It all adds up.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Horses with Braces

Tomorrow I go to my new dentist, which reminded me of my first dentist (there were others) in Arlington.

I selected said dentist based on the following:  She and her family were in matching Christmas sweaters on the website.  I felt like this was a telltale sign of "fun" and "good dentist." Apparently Christmas sweaters are not a good litmus test for whether or not a dentist is recommendable.

Disclaimer:  Fantastic dentist and teeth people, congratulations on being wonderful at your work!  This is not dedicated to you.

Let's roll back to 2007, friends.  Following my adventurous day at the dentist I wrote my pals an email version of this:

Today I went to the dentist for two fillings and by fillings I don't mean the silver kind.  Apparently this is not the way Arlington dentists roll.  They roll with white fillings that blend in with your teeth and cost lots of money.  Also why do I have cavities?  So sad.

I try to arrive early to find free parking, but this ends in travesty since all of the twisting and turning leads to motion sickness for Katie.  It's a special kind of amazing to cause your own self to be motion sick. I roll down the window to catch a breath of air, but my tummy continues to rumble.  I park way down the street and fumble around for change, load the meter, and run to my dental appointment.
During the filling process I was to raise my hand if I felt any pain.  By the end I had at least six shots of Novocaine in my mouth.  I feel like that's a lot.  At the end of the procedure my mouth was kinda just hanging out/down…lit-rally.  They asked me to sit up in the chair and rest for a minute. 

Enter the man I like to call Dentist Emeritus.  I feel like he was about 80 years old and apparently he made a major discovery in the world of teeth. He kind of sauntered in the room and had that "I'm awesome" air about him.  He clearly had dental wisdom to share.

My dentist asked me to bite down on something.  Dentist Emeritus was across from the room and said something like "I can see it from here." 

And here is where things got weird:  Dentist Emeritus looks at me and asks "Is your face deformed?"

"What?" I mumble in that mouth-full-of-dental-stuff way.  He's not smiling, but surely he's joking…right?  Oh wait:  Maybe he's talking about my Novocaine-d mouth that was hanging out on the floor. 

I smile and point to the lip and he says something like "No, not that.  I'm being serious.  Is your face deformed?"  

(Mouth-full-of dental-stuff silence.  Crickets for days.  More silence.)

Dentist E continues with disdain. "Who did your braces?" I'm serious.

"Well, I'm from Kentucky so you probably wouldn't…"  He cuts me off.

"Say no more" Dentist E replies.  He then explains to the dentists how orthodontists in Kentucky work on horses.

"They put braces on horses in Kentucky" he says to me. Are you kidding?  I. have. never.  I have never met a brace-face horse.  But guess what?  HE WAS NOT KIDDING.  Nope.

Next, the dentists tag team and tell me they can make this clay plate thing for me to sleep in for seven million dollars.  My dentist looks at me and tells me that as I get older things like my mouth will begin to fall apart and "I don't want to see this happen to you."  Thoughtful!

Needless to say, I left sans clay plate.  

I left the dentist for REI to buy some hiking sandals.  I'm walking around the store and apparently the 6-7 shots of Novocaine in my mouth meant hours of drooling.  An REI worker offers me a Kleenex to clean up the drool.  I love it.  They still sold me sandals.

The end.

*Here's hoping tomorrow goes a bit better!