Monday, February 29, 2016

Words to live by

A short collection of wise words to live by, by a wise guy (me)...

  • Don't be a douche tool
  • Do what you say you're gonna do
  • Don't walk into a conversation, say, "I don't mean to interrupt," and then proceed to
  • Don't be a constant Debbie Downer, or Cathy Complainer, or Blaming Bill
  • Don't waste time feeling sorry for yourself; it's not attractive (not just romantically, I mean, in ANY sense of the term "attractive" - as friends, as an employee, ...)
  • Don't act desperate
  • Don't panic
  • Don't ask a question, and then interrupt/cut off/talk over the response
  • Don't ask a question, then change the conversation subject back to yourself

In retrospect, maybe instead I should have titled this post, "Jeremy's pet peeves".

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Privilege

The devil on my shoulder has been dangling a carrot-cake-on-a-stick of temptation, seducing me far too easily back toward some familiar, destructive thought patterns, each longing to be vocalized: "just go get a job," "make better life choices," "solve your own problems" and "it's not my problem, nor my fault, nor my responsibility." The result is I'm finding it far too easy also to slip back into blaming the victims. That is not to say that no beggars are swindlers, or that no one ever "works the system" - some certainly are and do - but to blame ALL on account of a few is not acceptable. Each person is unique, and faces unique struggles. And I suppose many find themselves where they are because no one taught them the life skills they needed to do anything differently.

I've also tired of trying to explain privilege to my privileged friends. I'm not well-spoken enough to persuasively present the issues at play, let alone to argue against comments like "you know those beggars are just taking advantage of you, right?" or the "but I'm not a racist, so..." (both of which have been said to me). I don't have the words to prove my point because I've come to believe it's a heart issue, or a spirit issue, more than a fact issue. When one's heart is open to seeing injustice, then they'll see it, but until that time, my limited knowledge of facts and figures can't prove anything. Or at least I can't; a greater orator than I may possess the skills requisite for the proving, but in myself I find I am lacking. If it is indeed a heart and/or a spirit issue, though, then the best I can hope for is to plant a seed, and pray for the Spirit to open eyes, in a sense reminiscent of the roads to Emmaus, or Damascus.

Selfishly I am grateful: at least I get to choose to walk away from thinking about racial and financial advantage. Not everyone has that choice. With all the brokenness we read/hear in the news, and see in our own cities, no wonder my friend Jordan talks about his inner angry black man. I can't blame him.

And yet Community, which is something that God cares about, that Jesus cared about, a word I know the importance of not only from Beggars in Spain, but from Rob Bell's Jesus Wants To Save Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life, from Acts and Paul's letters - I know that Community needs to be the assumption, the default, the normal, and that I am part of that solution. I do not have the choice, or at least I ought not morally have the choice, of disengaging from those obligations to Community.

This is my struggle. Ask me about it. Challenge me on it. Disagree with me on it. Just don't let me ignore it.

If the system works for you, it can be quite hard to understand the perspective of people who have the boot of the system on their neck. If you have the power, it can be hard to understand the voice of those who have no power. If you have choice, options, and luxuries, it can be hard to fathom the anger of those who don't. If you have always had enough food, it can be hard to understand the shouts of those who's stomachs are grumbling from hunger. - Rob Bell, Jesus Wants To Save Christians

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Workplace Christianity

I've been thinking about this question recently: what does it mean to be a Christian in the workplace?

Obviously the answer depends somewhat on where you work, but I'm of the opinion faith should more often be lived than preached anyway. Also obviously, each person's answer is highly individualistic, so I'm just gonna share mine.

For me, living my faith means being present to listen to a coworker having a rough day.

It means my coworkers know that when I ask, "how are you doing?" I genuinely want to know the answer. And it means listening to their response without an agenda.

It means I have a reminder posted on my cubicle wall where I can see it as I talk to people standing just outside my cube, that says "you are in your mission field; remember to listen to the nudges" (meaning, spiritual nudges).

It means checking in with coworkers the day after I know they had a difficult medical or care appointment with a family member.

It means dropping off a card on the one-year anniversary of a loved one's death (a ministry I learned from my Mom).

It means taking small steps toward gossiping less (which I have been a complete failure at recently, but I'm trying to take small steps toward stopping).

It means praying for my coworkers each morning when I wake up.

It means not being afraid to bring my faith into a conversation if it starts heading that direction.

It means prioritizing relationships and not seeing people as "projects," but as fellow children of God who are worthy of being heard and listened to.

And it probably means a lot more than just those, but that's all I can think of for right now.

Monday, February 08, 2016


From November 26, 2015

Today is Thanksgiving. May it also be a Prayersgiving. In no particular order...

We pray for Jamar Clark, and the too-many other victims of guns and fear-of-otherness, who will not get to celebrate another Thanksgiving or Christmas. We pray for their families whose tables will hold an empty place setting.

We pray for police officers, who face the risk of violence every day. Please God, bring Your wisdom and calming influence into every interaction.

We pray for families in Lebanon and Paris who long for one more evening meal with their loved ones.

We pray for the terrorists who we (Americans) have driven to extremism. Bring them heavenly peace in their hearts.

We pray for loved ones of terrorist attacks that go unnoticed by our news media.

We pray for the systemic violence of American culture and of our world.

We pray for our own insecurities when colliding with people who look or act differently than we do, and our ignorance of our own privileges and advantages.

We pray for those in our communities that we have labeled unforgivable. Sex offenders, murderers, drug dealers, prostitutes, the ones that we label as beyond God's Grace, ignoring Jesus' love for them.

We pray for young women and men trapped in the sex industry, whom we judge rather than help.

We pray for politicians, for conversations rather than yelling matches.

We pray for those who have nowhere to celebrate Thanksgiving, no one with whom to celebrate it, and nowhere to call home.

We pray we would answer Your call actively to be Your Kingdom here on earth, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Monday, February 01, 2016

An open letter to my 5th grade classmate, Michelle Furst


I couldn't find you on Facebook, so I'll write to you from my blog, and hope perhaps you'll come across it some day. I didn't want to write this letter at first, because it won't be flattering to me (and as you know, people usually only post things online that make themselves look good). But, it's sincere. And maybe some other 5th grader will stumble upon this post and find encouragement, or empowerment.

5th grade was a long time ago (1996-97), and you probably don't remember me. I wonder some days if you've chosen to forget 5th grade altogether. I've never forgotten you, though. Our class was so. cruel. to you. Everyone teased you relentlessly. And even though I didn't pick on you myself, I also never stood up to the ones who did. I never stood up when they brought you to tears in our classroom. When they erased your photo from their yearbooks and wrote "too ugly to be seen" in its place.

It's not enough to brush this off by saying "kids are cruel." While that may be the case, it doesn't excuse my passivity and lack of action, my self-preservation because I didn't want to be the next target. I could have, and should have, done something.

For what little it is worth now, almost two decades after the fact, I am sorry. When I have kids of my own, I will tell them your story, and I hope I can raise them into better human beings than I was.

I hope the last 19 years have treated you with more dignity than 5th grade. I hope you have grown into a strong and powerful force for good in this world. May God pour out abundant blessings upon your life, and bring courageous men and women to your side. I wish you well.

- Jeremy