Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Thoughts on “Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts” by Jonathan Franzen

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Over 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote in Corinthians, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians, 1:22)  A beautiful line in which we see a mirror of ourselves.

We often do demand of faith miraculous signs, the “hallelujah” moment of glorious insight and conversion.   At other times we yearn for the deep wisdom of faith in which all fears and doubts are allayed with a thunder-clap of certitude. But that is not Christianity.

What is it then?

Christianity is the drawing alongside of suffering with the transformative force of self-sacrificing love … a preaching then of “Christ crucified.”  It understands that “Liking (in the Facebook sense) is for Cowards.  Go for What Hurts.”  And what hurts is learning to love in a specific way.   As Jonathan Franzen recently wrote in a Op-Ed piece for the New York Times …

Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self….

When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them.

Welcome to what hurts!  Welcome to what serves.  Welcome to what saves.






Thursday, June 7th, 2012

A blessing it has been to listen to conversation around women’s roles and their connection to ministry.  Such conversation is one part of a larger picture – a picture of creating churches/ synagogues/ mosques/ worlds inclusive of all voices.

Much of that sounds admittedly soft headed.  But it is not.  Conversation takes courage for all involved.

A popular online podcast, defending “THE true Christian faith” lists its mission statement as, “… an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contemplative mysticism, seeker-sensitivism, liberalism, relevantism, Emergent nonsense, and the sissy girly Oprah-fied religiosity that is being passed off as “Biblical Christianity.”” That brand of fundamentalism deifies a certain rigidity that is at best hard to move forward in the face of.  At its worse, it is downright scary.   All religious institutions I am aware of evidence in a given number of their adherents a tight draw to that very form of calcified faith, a faith that loudly proclaims (a) there is one and only one true way, (b) it is best exampled by those who follow that way to the letter and (c) it is under attack by those with whom the edges are more soft. The list of those who are “in” then becomes very short.  The list of those who are “out” grows ever longer.

In face of such opposition, it is easy to beat a hasty retreat, leaving to such people the Christian high ground.  Hence the need for courage.  I don’t believe we need ever beat a hasty retreat.  Christ’s model was dramatically clear.  It was a holding firm but not holding firm in the form of reflexive defensiveness of “THE Christian Faith” but a holding firm in love – a moving into the Christian life.

Look none of that is easy and if one thinks it is, you probably are not pushing your faith far enough – really allowing God in.    The interaction of faith and life should be challenging and transformative.  None of that occurs in arenas of smug rightness – “rightness” from liberals or conservatives.  It only occurs when we dare to allow ourselves to sink into the arms of a loving God … and MOVE.    Then we stop building bomb shelters and start speaking to new worlds.

What can you learn in 20 minutes?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Returned this weekend to our old “home” – the Pocono Mountains.  We spent our first years as a couple and family here – teaching at Pocono Mountain High School.  It was the birthplace of friends and connections that last to this day.

We have so much impact on one another.  At times the blessing of that simple fact almost overwhelms.  This has been a week of it.  The 9/11 service gave birth to over a 100 connections.  And these connections -  many are very real – including grateful thanks as well as requests for prayers and just simple reaching out. Paulette, for example, sent a beautiful prayer for peace for her parents, one that just sang in my heart this morning.

And then there are the old Pocono Mountain students and swimmers from days gone past.  They are now often getting married (congratulations to Jenn and Pat who are getting married today!)  or now have children of their own.

Spent time last night with a dear family.  I used to teach Theresa – over 15 years ago. Her and her husband Neal are doing an incredible job raising a rather outgoing young son, Brayden, who is courageously moving forward through health challenges.  As a fellow Star Wars fan, I can safely say, “The Force” and “The Phillies” are with this crew!

And all of this just brings me to my knees.  Because the fact is, no matter how many times as a teacher or pastor I get thanked, I KNOW in an absolute way that I have received infinitely more than I ever gave.  You can’t be around the Walsh’s of the world and not think “courage” and “grace.”  You can’t be around Jenn and Pat and not think “joy.”  You can’t read Paulette’s prayer and not think “peace.”

So what can you learn in 20 minutes?  I sat by the lake for 20 minutes in simple prayer.  Of course my brain skittered away from the task at hand – distracted by silly in-my-brain debates and construction noise – but there were a few moments of quiet clarity, times where the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork in this world gently spoke to a world far deeper than words.  It is a world that connects with Neal, Theresa, Brayden, Jenn, Pat and Paulette – with Life.  It breaths into that place of depth – where “deep meets deep.”   My normal hampster-wheel of ego driven noise is silent there.  And what do we learn in place?  Do you have 20 minutes?