Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Where I'm Coming From" by Tony

I was holding the door open at Jam’s Deli in Greensboro waiting for my daughter Ruth who had gotten us refills to go on our drinks when I became aware of Judy Collins’ sweet, clear voice singing one of my all time favorite songs

But now my friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
But something’s lost and something’s gained
In living every day

I chuckled to myself as I was driving away at the irony of hearing that old song when earlier that day I had received an e-mail from a good friend (Friend) who said he no longer felt like he understood where I was coming from. Funny how some songs can just seem to come to life in your own experience. Suddenly I had this flash back to our Wednesday night fellowship group where we are reading and discussing Brent Bill’s book The Sacred Compass, and I heard myself saying that one of the ways that God speaks to us might be a song we hear on the radio. That’s what the man said. That’s what I said. Be open to the possibility that God may be speaking to you anytime, anywhere, even through a song on the radio. Having been ever so gently smacked up side the head, I began to ponder this (actually I was just sort of thinking about it, but ponder sounds a lot deeper and heavier).

Yes, I have changed, or to phrase it more accurately I am being changed, and as result I am coming from a different place these days. I’m a little scared to name it because it sounds way too weighty and spiritual for somebody like me. So what I need to say is that it’s a place I’m hopefully moving toward, or on a journey to, and not some place I’ve taken up residence yet. The particular address is the center, that place where God’s love flows freely in all directions and to all. I heard a story a couple of years ago about some college kids in a city up North where a debate about gay rights was raging in the state legislature in the dead of winter. The snowy streets were filled with demonstrators both for and against the issue. Braving the icy cold, these college folks set up booth in the middle of the crowd and served hot coffee and donuts to all. Continuously asked why they were there and who they were supporting, they replied, “we’re here representing Jesus. He loves people regardless of which side they are on.” To me, that’s what coming from the center means.

It’s not an easy place to be. People on both sides are often disappointed or angry or no longer even consider you a friend because they perceive you are not in total agreement with them, or don’t understand why you have to look at issues from more than one side. It’s not an easy place to be because it demands that you act and speak from a place of love. This is how I know that I am being changed rather than changing myself, because I couldn’t do this in a million years. Some folks who know me well still raise their eyebrows or look at me a little funny when I talk about coming from a place of love because they know I am often insensitive, irritable, arrogant and stubborn (as one TV character used to say to another, “and those are your good points.”) This week I’m sure I raised some people’s hackles because I didn’t think everyone’s voice was being given equal weight in a committee decision.

But the good news is that God can and does break through all that from time to time, hopefully more often these days, and helps me see how much people need and want to be loved regardless of where they’re coming from or what their particular issues might be. And nobody does that like Jesus - Samaritan prostitutes, crooked tax collectors, convicted felons, and yes, even me. Early Quakers understood that principle which is how the phrase “let us see what love can do” became a part of our phraseology. If only it could be a part of our reality. For an organization that claims peace as one of its basic beliefs, we Quakers seem to have done an inordinate amount of fighting and splitting up among ourselves.

This morning I was reading the story of a paralyzed man Jesus healed and then told to take up his bed and walk. It happened to be on the Sabbath so the religious authorities rather than rejoicing because the man had been healed, were angry because one of their rules had been broken. They might not have ever even known about it had not Jesus told the man to carry his bedroll, so we might wonder why Jesus seemed to purposely attract their attention to what he had done, knowing it was going to create controversy. Maybe it was to remind them it was he who created the Sabbath in the first place, or maybe it was to show them that love and love alone was at the very center of God’s nature and that He always acts in love whether or not it was within the framework of their ideas of religion.

And there it is, the place I’m talking about, the place I want to take up residency, a place where everything is seen through the incredible lens of the love of God rather than the human constructs of religion. It’s a strange journey this one, to a place that I’m both coming from and moving toward all at the same time, which is impossible to do anywhere but in the all encompassing love of God.


Anonymous said...

Boy, can I relate! I often am on the other end of the spectrum in terms of belief and practice and it has stretched my patience. However, like you, I am endeavoring to come from a place of love, and even moreso, patience. I'm learning how to hold my convictions and yet allow room for people to believe what they want. I'm trying to be more prayerful so as to know when and how far to push people in their thinking and when to let a matter go. Ultimately, it's up to God if change is going to happen and I need to listen to Him to know what my role is, if any, in the matter.

Margaret Fraser said...

Thank you!

Comrade Kevin said...

We can follow earthly ways and earthly rules, or we can listen to the ways of the Divine.