February 21, 2015 § 2 Comments
There’s an interesting discussion going on at Christianity Today’s her·meneutics blog. It begins with a post by Patricia Raybon, co-author of the soon-to-be-released Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace.
In “A Nation of ‘Suspect Thy Neighbor,'” Raybon writes about her husband’s suspicion upon seeing an unfamiliar car parked in front of their house. She writes that following 9/11, “We’ve become not just a nation of strangers, but strangers who suspect each other on principle.” And then she shares another family story.
Ten years ago, Raybon’s daughter, Alana, left the church and became a Muslim. Recently, while mother and daughter were together, a man saw Alana, with her head covered, and yelled to her, “Go home!”
That man wasn’t interested in a conversation, but Raybon is. In the comments following her post, several readers have responded. Some are supportive. Some are not.
Dagney Reardon writes, “I’m sorry—I’ve having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’m suppose to feel sorry for a Muslim-convert American woman for being subjected to a verbal insult . . .” He compares her situation to that of women in Islamic countries and then refers to the recent beheadings of Coptic Christians by the Islamic State in Lybia. “God has not even begun to give me the wisdom or insight to relate to a person who would deliberately choose to align themselves with a religion that condones such unspeakable horror.”
I don’t usually read comment sections on the internet. There’s just too much vitriol. But Christianity Today‘s policy of allowing only subscribers or registered users ups the level of engagedness and civility. And what I appreciate the most is the willingness of CT authors to answer back. I’m not sure what I would have said in response to the above comment, but Raybon was obviously prepared. “Thank you, Dagney, for your comments,” she writes. “Your argument is interesting. You are right, in fact, about one key thing. No reasonable person would deliberately choose to align with a religion that condones unspeakable horror.” And she ends her response with this:
I’m reaching different conclusions than you. But at least you and I are talking. For such a time as this, talking is a seriously good place to start. Thank you, indeed, for sharing your thoughts. Measured conversations need to happen on these matters. Thank you for taking part in this one. Kind regards, Patricia.
As I’m writing this, Reardon and Raybon have responded again to each other. And to another commenter who disagrees with her, Raybon writes, “Thanks, meantime, for sharing your thoughts. Another view always stretches my thinking.”
I appreciate the “measured conversation” that Raybon has begun. I hope it continues, at her·meneutics and beyond.
(Patricia Raybon, “A Nation of ‘Suspect Thy Neighbor,'” her·meneutics, February 20, 2015)
March 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
[I’ve written a new “page” to point readers to posts in this blog that are the most meaningful to me. It’s called “park bench,” and it’s linked in the banner above. And to save you a click, here it is below.]
The posts on this blog, while all under the umbrella of cross-cultural issues, cover an array of topics. All of these are interesting to me, but some of the most important to me are on the subject of transitioning between cultures.
It’s often a difficult process and lasts well beyond the plane ride. Though there are many voices telling us about the challenges of redefining “home,” many of the stories are not shared eagerly or in public. Rather, they come out in safe places and only in response to careful and gentle prodding.
There are several images that conjure up thoughts of those conversations: a kitchen table, side-by-side cups of coffee, the corner booth in a cafe, a front porch.
For me, it’s a park bench.
I’m not always comfortable with talking face-to-face. It’s easier for me to sit next to someone, with the option of staring into the distance or getting up for a walk. Some of my deepest conversations, with people and with God, have taken place on park benches—at the edge of a mountain trail, in a park, next to a playground, in the courtyard of an apartment complex, at a bus stop on a busy street.
At Clearing Customs, the park-bench talks center on the difficulties of transition, on the grief that comes from losses associated with moves, on finding confidants who are able to listen without judgment. If those topics are relevant to you, too, please follow the category links below.
All of the topics in this blog are interesting to me, but these are some of the most important to me.
September 6, 2013 § 4 Comments
Thanks to my daughter for showing me “It’s Not about the Nail.”
Point taken (all puns intended). It can be frustrating when someone—like a wife—won’t listen to common sense, ignoring a problem that’s as obvious as the nose on her face. She just wants someone to listen. No advice allowed.
Funny stuff. I feel this guy’s pain.
But wait a minute. Don’t I like to talk about the need for people to be heard, without having someone trying to fix everything? What about her pain? What gives?
Here’s what I’ve decided: Sometimes it is about the nail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop listening. Yes, some people, like this woman, won’t listen to reason. They don’t want to hear the truth or take responsibility, and they need to hear the truth clearly.
But much of the time, our friends on the couch know the problem well and already have the solutions. Maybe they’re in the middle of fixing it but it’s taking time . . . or the fixes aren’t as quick as they should be . . . or the most obvious solutions would do more harm than good (anybody got a claw hammer?) . . . or there are other issues that make things more complicated. And in those cases, the person with the nail doesn’t need to be pummeled with advice, they need someone to hear about their hurts and fears.
There are a lot of people in the world who don’t want to listen to the truths that will solve their problems, but there are also a lot of people who don’t want to listen to the problems of others, so they use easy answers to try to make their own discomfort go away.
I know, I know. It’s just a comedy skit, and I shouldn’t try to make too much out of it. But I wanted to post the video, and I just couldn’t do that without tacking on my thoughts.
Oh, and one more thing. The writer and director for “It’s Not about the Nail” (he’s the male actor, too) is Jason Headley. Here’s another one of his videos. It’s called “A Little French.” (This will be the last of my comments about learning French for a while.) It doesn’t have millions of views like the one above, but it’s just as funny.
How can you not appreciate the thought process of a guy who can say, “I don’t want to learn French, I want to speak French”? If only. . . .
October 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
[I]n the course of life’s seasons, we need to have spiritual conversations with people who are good listeners. Let me be clear here, most people are not good listeners. They listen for facts not feelings. They listen for what they hope to hear. They listen when it may not cost them something.
A spiritual conversation is a reciprocal dialogue between two people where thoughts, opinions and feelings are shared and received. It’s two-way. Not one way.
People who have gone through major transitions—and others who have encountered loss—need good listeners. But what is necessary to be someone who listens well, to be someone who nurtures spiritual conversations? How about compassion and empathy and comfort?
Following is a list of words that I associate with good listeners. We all know what the words mean, but we’ve become fairly complacent in using them. Therefore, as a way to jumpstart our thinking and to help us do a better job of living them out, I’m pairing them with the literal meanings from their origins (with the help of the Online Etymology Dictionary and other resources). My intent is not to “correct” their modern definitions but simply to give depth to what we already know.
For instance, today a companion is a friend or partner. But the word companion is formed from two parts that originally meant “with” and “bread.” So a companion was someone who shared a meal with another. Even now we understand the link between sharing food and sharing our hearts. Here’s what Smith says about companionship:
I wrote in The Jesus Life that spiritual conversations take place at the table where we eat our meals. . . . It’s never an intent when you ask someone for lunch–to share protein, carbs and water with someone. No, when you ask someone for lunch, you’re really meaning, “Hey, let’s get together so we can share what’s been going on in our lives. It’s been too long. How about next Tuesday at noon at the deli?” That’s the stuff of conversations where hearts connect and souls meet and people who are lonely become spiritual companions.
Now, here’s the rest of my list:
acknowledge: “to admit understanding or knowing”
from a blending of Old English on, “into,” and cnawan, “recognize,” with Middle English knowlechen “admit”
affirm: “to strengthen”
from Latin ad, “to,” plus firmare, “make firm”
advocate: “someone called to help or plead”
Latin ad plus vocare, for “to” and “to call”
comfort: “to strengthen much”
Late Latin com, “very,” and fortis, “strong”
commiserate: “to lament with”
from Latin com, “with,” and miserari, “to feel pity”
communicate: “to make common”
from Latin commun, “common,” plus the verb suffix icare
companion: “eating partner”
Latin com, “with,” and panis, “bread, food”
compassion: “a suffering with”
Latin com and pati, meaning “with” and “to suffer”
concern: “a sifting” or “comprehension”
from Latin com, “with,” and cernere, “to sift”
confide: “to trust strongly”
Latin com plus fidere, meaning “very” and “to trust”
console: “to give much comfort or solace”
from Latin com, “very,” and solari, “to comfort”
contact: “to touch with”
from Latin com, “together,” and tangere, “to touch”
conversation: “a turning with”
Latin com, meaning “with,” and vertare, meaning “turn about”
empathy: “a feeling in”
Greek en and pathos, meaning “in” and “feeling”
encourage: “to add heart or bravery”
Old French en, “make, put in,” and corage, “heart, innermost feelings”
sympathy: “a feeling together”
Greek syn, “together,” plus pathos, “feeling”
understand: “to stand in the midst of”
Old English under, “between, among,” plus stand
May we better understand these ideas and, in so doing, better understand each other. May we put them into practice. May we all become better companions . . . and better listeners.
(“Steve Smith, “The Power of a Spiritual Conversation,” Steve and Gwen Smith, September 26, 2012)