One Emotional Check Away

It was stated in the Prosperity Now report that 40% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. This is just one more reminder that so many of us are living week to week and it is vitally important that there is a net floor that provided by society that no one can fall below. I am not an expert on how good America is at providing that floor, but 40% seems rather high for such a wealthy country.

While it may be that 40% of us are one paycheck away from financial poverty, I would add that it is at least that many who are one “emotional check” away from devastation.

Photo by  Sydney Sims  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Most of us receive love and support from family, friends and community. It is something that I see each week when I attend worship. People coming together to remind one another they are loved, that God is with us, that we are bound together and that when life crashes down there is a foundation that you will not fall below..

These "emotional checks” are regular in most of our lives. However, in tragedy, loss or just circumstances, there can be a lapse in those “emotional checks” and many of us are not able to sustain that loss.

While the government opens back up and we still make our way to try to build up the social floor of support, let us not overlook the sources of our “emotional checks” in our world. Break bread with friends, call a loved one, connect with strangers, practice mercy, share in love, participate in a worshiping community - these actions are among those that help each of us through those times when our lives shut down but we still need our emotional checks.

"Community is a consequence."

Plough is a quarterly magazine that my wife has subscribed to now for about six months and it the type of publication that makes you proud of the print medium. Within the Winter 2018 edition, there is an essay from Philip Britts entitled The Gods of Progress. Britts wrote this essay after World War II and so it makes one wonder why it is up for the 2018 conversation, but it is among the more timely essays of our time. I hope you would take the time to read the essay and would encourage you even more to subscribe to Plough.

Here is pull quote worth considering:

"Community is not a system for solving the economic-social problem. Community is a consequence. Many such communities have been organized and have failed to stay the course. Community is the consequence of people being kindled with the glow of love.
Photo by  Joris Voeten  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joris Voeten on Unsplash

I submit that when thinking about community, it may be helpful to think of a fire. The smoke is the by-product of the fire, but smoke allows the fire to be discovered by others. It is the flames of love that build the smoke of community. And just as fire is lit by flint and steel, so too love is lit by the flint and steel of humility and curiosity.

Community is a consequence of love which comes from humility and curiosity. 

God calls us on a party line

Here in Saginaw, Texas many people have told me about what it was like being a kid and having a party phone line. This was a time when people had telephones in their homes but several homes used the same phone line. Each family had a unique ring for their home so that if you heard the phone ring two shorts and one long that was a call for your neighbors but if you hear three shorts then someone was calling your home. 

Since the party line was open to everyone on the line, you might be having a conversation on the phone but then a neighbor might pick up the phone to make a call only to discover that another family was on the line. When you lived with a party line there were good chances you heard other's phone calls.

I owe  Rev. Nancy Allen credit who said, in passing, God calls us on party lines not private lines. 

When God is calling you for something, God does not just whisper that to you so that only you can hear it. God understands that the world works through the relationships that exist within it. As such when God calls you for something, others will hear/see that call as well. God calls us on a party line not private lines.

So if you are trying to discern what God may be calling you for, perhaps it is worth asking others what gifts and graces they see in you. Maybe they have heard something on the line that God called you on.

Authenticity is the too Difficult, Give Me Plastic

Authenticity is a buzzword these days. Not that it is a bad value, but it is interesting that there is so much talk about something yet we all cannot seem to acquire it. In economic terms, there is a market for authenticity yet we cannot seem to meet the market demands. It makes one wonder if the decline of Church participation correlates with the rise of the "authentic" craving?

Many of my millennial peers are in pursuit of authentic experiences. Where previous generations may have collected stamps or baseball cards or porcelain frogs, many in my generation collect authentic experiences. We sit around and listen to one another's stories of travel. We brag about who has eaten the most authentic food types. We talk about what is "real" and what is "plastic". We compare notes on what new technology is rising in order to help us stay connected and (even better) give another platform for us to share our authentic experiences. 

Despite our expressed desires, we millennials are not good at authenticity in ourselves. We are just like any other generation that has come before us, we are more interested in finding our tribe (those who walk, talk, live and more like us) than finding authentic community. When our search for authenticity leads us to people that are just like us, we can be certain we are in a fabricated world full of mirrors pointed at ourselves. 

True authenticity requires that we engage with the world and not just our tribe. Because only when we engage with others that are not like us do we being to discover who our true "authentic" selves are. As Joan Chittister said in Wisdom Distilled From the Daily

"It is in community where we find out who we really are. It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that gives notice to my nagging devotion to the self. Life with someone else, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about his or her shortcomings as it does about my own."

And so, if we really desire authenticity the first step is not to find those who are like us, but those who may not be like us. Authenticity does not begin with another, it begins within. Could it be that the desire for authenticity is not because we don't know if the other people or groups in our world are "plastic" or "real", but that we don't know if we are.