In a culture that elevates a “winner takes all” approach to life, it is often hard to have “common ground conversations.” Most of our conversations quickly de-escalate into a “who is right, or here is why you’re wrong” type which serves to insert a strong halt to the topic(s). This is acutely seen when it comes to religion, right? Many feel religion is the source of all conflict, Marx believed it to be the opiate of the people, others wonder which one is right, and each one thinks their belief is the right belief.
While surrounded by religions today, we tend to live religiously illiterate lives preferring a 140 character understanding, or better yet an amazing Facebook meme.
Our knowledge concerning the belief systems of others runs only as deep as our tweets. This creates fear, hate, antagonism and worse.
I am excited about a new conversation I am starting at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance this weekend called Common Ground. We will be looking into seven religions that seem to have the most power and influence in the world today. My goal is to focus on the truth that exists between us rather than simply illuminate our differences. When we find areas of common ground we expand our understanding beyond our personal bias or a great tweet. We are able to experience a greater level of community with our neighbors who think and believe differently than we do. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul first sought to find common ground with people, and the result was a radically changed world.
I believe that when we have a better understanding of other religions, we become more confident of our own faith. This removes the fear, hostility, and animosity that is created by a lack of understanding. In its place we will experience a new level of grace, humility and compassion…and boy, does our world need more of that.
If you are like me, there have been times where you have given God the Judas kiss; cast greedy lots for holy garments; or horded divine manna out of fear God may withhold His blessings…
I’ve been the Prodigal Son covered in the dirt of my choices; Eaten the tempters-fruit turned brown in the heat of the sun; and, like Ananias and Saphira, held back wealth while looking benevolent.
When God gives you the gift of awareness, revealing who you really are, and then cascades His love and acceptance over you (even though the real you has been discovered) is alarming and incongruent.
We expect the axe…We expect the torrent of angry words…We expect the reproach of angry gods…but,
God is waiting in the pregnant moment of possibility with words of mercy, grace and acceptance that scatters the old stories aside, swept up in a divine rip-tide of forgiveness and tenderness unexpected, fierce and freeing.
Brennan Manning captures this in his book, A Glimpse of Jesus, where he writes:
To live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is to let go of cares and concerns, to stop organizing means to ends and simply be in each moment of awareness as an end in itself…We can embrace our whole life story in the knowledge that we have been graced and made beautiful by the providence of our past history. All the wrong turns in the past, the detours, mistakes, moral lapses, everything that is irrevocably ugly or painful, melts and dissolves in the warm glow of accepted tenderness. As theologian Kevin O’Shea writes, “One rejoices in being unfrightened to be open to the healing presence, no matter what one might be or what one might have done.
~Brennan Manning; A Glimpse of Jesus
You are loved in this moment…hold onto that.
Feeling stuck, tired, ready to throw in the towel? Then you need my perseverance quotes roundup! Remember, it’s always too soon to quit.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ~Maya Angelou
“When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” ~Henry Ford
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” ~Mary Anne Radmache
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” ~Confucius
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela
“One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.” ~ Napoleon Hill
“It’s hard to beat the person who never gives up.” ~ Babe Ruth
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them.” ~Ann Landers
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~Aristotle
This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
I have a love hate relationship with “community.”
As a person who falls a bit more into the introverted side of personality yet works as an ambivert (both intro and extroverted), choosing to connect is not always an easy choice. I recharge best alone, and living and working in a world of people I notice my energy levels deplete pretty fast. The last thing I want is to connect with more people.
However, I have also noticed a tendency towards depression when I choose to isolate too much, and it is actually people (community) that have been the key to re-infusing my energy levels, remind me what is true, and love me as I am…and this is life-giving.
Experiencing real community in a culture that is immersed in rabid individualism is rare and scary but oh so powerful. In community we cultivate our “others-ness” which opens the path of love that is only available when we are authentic, vulnerable and real. This creates a spiritual and emotional connection that is a greenhouse for affection, trust, risk, honesty and love…these things require that we open ourselves up in community, with-and-for-others, resulting in a mutual if not global effect.
Here are five great quotes I came across concerning community today…chew on them…
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne, No man is an island
“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
“Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good. We are a community. Our individual Fates are linked; our futures intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says: “We can move mountains.”
“When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word….”glory.”
–M. Scott Peck