Fragrant Grace

The Round Table Discussion: Life and the Verbal Volley

If you read my first post in this Round Table series, you know I’m responding to a cultural stick of dynamite reverberating through every form of media. Nefarious practices within the Planned Parenthood organization landed in a hot spotlight, and everybody’s talking about it. Rightfully so, don’t you think? I believe we—the citizens of this nation who financially support the industry through tax dollars and the larger global community receiving “care” through the organization—should be aware of the real mission, procedures, and practices. (For that reason alone, I am thankful the ugliness has come to light.)

The flurry of media activity surrounding the release of each undercover video has created a big, loud conversation near-impossible to ignore. I mentioned there are many voices seated at the Round Table. Today I’m looking at two general, competing views identified as Pro-life and Pro-choice.

Clash in the Culture
The passion in this emotionally-charged conversation runs deep. Imagine something like a fast, powerful river cutting to bedrock. Each point of view generally flows in a single, unstoppable direction. (I wouldn’t expect anything different, would you?) It would be one thing if each perspective existed in its own space. “Birds of a feather flock together,” so they often do. But when the owners of these two views sit at the table, they can take aim at each other with passion, intentionality, and sometimes hostility.

So, what is the core issue at stake between these two intense groups? The foundational concern is life. For both. Don’t be surprised. No matter what anyone says, both groups are dedicated to core values and beliefs that are all about life. (Now, before anyone backs out of this blog permanently, hang on just a second!) It’s what each group believes about life that matters critically!

Most of the Pro-life group recognizes the pre-born life as intrinsically valuable. While they hold the life of the mother equally precious, this group refuses to dismiss the tiny, unseen life in the womb for light or selfish motives. I won’t discuss the deeply-held beliefs which typically undergird the worldview right now. Can we agree this group’s passion is fueled by non-negotiable values and beliefs?

The Pro-choice group now recognizes the pre-born life. Older arguments were once constructed with inaccurate terms designed to paint the child in utero with “inhuman” language, but that is less and less the case. A few voices perpetuate earlier talking points, but today’s culture has no problem accepting more biologically accurate verbiage. Comparing the value of the two lives, the mother’s quality of life is typically of greater importance. The life decision is hers alone, whatever the logic or reasoning behind it. (This touches on a whole other topic: freedom. I’ll address that down the road.) The “choice” part of this whole thing is obviously in favor of one party (the mother) to the exclusion of the other (the child).

What Makes a Worldview?
The clash is really about something deeper than perspective; it’s about worldview. Our worldview is the lens through which we see and process everything, and it differs depending upon the foundational core beliefs and values. Let’s explore some life worldview-shaping ideas together.

Suppose you believed the following to be true:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 HCSB

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31a

How would your perspective on life be impacted based on these three verses alone? If Scripture genuinely informs and transforms those who hold to it, then an all-powerful Being (God) existed before anything else and created everything that was made (also see John 1:1-3). In all of creation there is one final pièce de résistance: man. Verse 1:31a emphasizes the significance, completeness, and goodness when man is added to the existing creation. For the first time, all of creation is “very good.” ¹

Add unwavering belief and conviction to the above, and passion is a given. It should be. The miracle of the universe, existence, and life (Shucks, just taking a single breath!) becomes an amazing gift and the most humbling experience.

But, suppose your worldview is informed otherwise…

If the lens through which you read and process everything omits or is opposed to an intelligent Designer, certain pieces of information are filled in some other way. Typically, time and chance are expected to fill the gaps. Can we agree that, under those conditions, something like the following script wouldn’t be surprising?

“Lucy” is one of the most complete skeletons found to date from the early hominids that flourished between 4 and 2 million years ago. The skeleton consists of bones from a single individual, presumably female, who stood well under 4 feet tall.

Discovered by scientists in 1974, the 3.18-million-year-old Lucy was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which the researchers listened to as they celebrated their remarkable find. (www.amnh.org. August 2015.) ²

If you believed random chance and an extraordinary length of time created all we see, then perhaps life is still remarkable. (Actually, life evolving from nothing would be incredible, but I digress.) Add single-minded belief and whole-hearted conviction to the worldview informed in this manner. What happens when this perspective bumps up against the first one I mentioned? They are diametrically opposed, aren’t they? Passion might begin to describe it.

Wait! Isn’t this Oversimplified?
Yes, it’s more complex than that. So no one feels left out, I’ll give the obligatory nod to the crowd. Theism, Polytheism, Atheism, and Agnosticism are some general worldview categories. The truth is, there is either one God, many gods, or none at all, so the first three perspectives cannot all be true at the same time. The Agnostic is openly and honestly uncertain and needs to inform his worldview. More problematic is the “theological chemist” mixing elements from more than one category. This worldview is also uninformed, since any two categories are ultimately incompatible. (I would love a discussion about the problematic “flexible” positions one day.) I’m sure I just disappointed someone with another too-simplistic overview, but what can I do? My point is to highlight the fact that beliefs and values will conflict. (Don’t believe someone will take their core beliefs to the grave? Think about Christian martyrs and Isis members.) How we handle core beliefs and passionate expression of them is another matter entirely.

The Verbal Volley
So, what happens when deeply held beliefs come in conflict? The best case scenario is discussion leading to considerate, robust debate. That means both sides listen to the other’s perspective and feel free to maintain their values and beliefs without fear of retaliation. A worse scenario is an agenda-driven debate that becomes ugly and self-defeating. There’s a difference between engaging in conversation with spirited debate and lobbing verbal hand grenades.

I know this simplified piece of writing will never plumb the depths of the worldview clash, but I felt the need to begin to take a look at it. If nothing else, this very basic discussion could create healthy, spirited dialogue or some introspection.

Worldviews Compete. Now what?
What’s the point of knowing there’s a worldview war going on? Call me Captain Obvious, but this is nothing new. While we don’t always call it what it is, we see the fractures in culture from it. Pick a hot topic in the media—abortion, faith, freedoms, racial tensions, Second Amendment rights, treaties and sanctions, wars in any part of the world, political-anything—it won’t matter. Each of these topics is filtered through a worldview. People are fighting for something, and it’s something they believe is worth fighting for! They are fighting for their life on some level.

So, what do we do when we take a seat at the Round Table?

  1. We have to be who we authentically are!
    This means a couple of different things. At the Round Table authenticity is critical. How can we have a real conversation with a chameleon or a shape-shifter? That said, the definition of “who you are” is sourced from somewhere. Identify that and know where it comes from. (Church, I’m talking to you and me: your character and identity are sourced from Scripture, the Spirit, and the One who died for you. Be THAT!)
  2. We have to seek to understand.
    This is tough for most of us. This somewhat narcissistic culture over-communicates as a rule. We seek to be heard before seeking to understand. Our core beliefs, values, and perspective trump the importance of others’ sometimes. We might interrupt others for that reason. Or, we’re perfectly happy with rapid-fire status updates, tweets, or whole screens of rhetoric rooted in our opinions. (I’m not perfect on this one. Words can hit the page or escape my lips in person before I listen.) Try pausing or making a temporary vow of silence to see if this is a problem. The Christian is called to die to self, and that generally means pride, feelings, and agenda are secondary or possibly sacrificed.
  3. We simply must learn to communicate with gentleness and respect!
    This is a tough one. When passion overrides common sense, it’s too easy to let emotion drive the agenda toward perceived victory. We forget our listener has perspective, experience, and equal value. (Ugh! I’ve seen this mess up close and personal.) Speak out of something deeper and more meaningful than Emily Post’s rules for polite company, but start there if necessary. (I suggest some reading below.)
  4. Know when to let it die.
    What is it? Our pride. Our sacred cows. Feeble core values and beliefs in light of stronger, biblical ones. The conversation altogether. Any or all of these things may need to die. We may need to walk away temporarily or for an extended period of time in order to think clearly, evaluate, reflect, or diffuse tension. Be willing to graciously slow down or step away from heated or confused debate.

When seats at the Round Table are filled, a humble, others-focused mindset is critically important. Spirited conversation is constructive if the parties at the table are gentle and respectful. The same gentleness and respect does not take in, embrace, or own others’ perspectives without thought. It’s perfectly acceptable for everyone to leave the table with their very same worldviews in place if they wish. No one leaves maimed or obliterated. Simple as that. Civil debate takes place. Thoughts, emotions, and core values and beliefs are exchanged over the table without destructive discourse. (Can worldviews crumble under the pressure of debate? Yes, but the conversation can be loving rather than doused in bloodlust.)

If you’ve read this far, I love that you’ve hung in with me this long. Thank you! You’ve blessed me with your time and thoughtfulness. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you witness this clash in our culture in your experience? What is your place in it within your circle of influence?

~Jennifer

Edited to Add:
It’s been brought to my attention that I have been too “loose” on my definitions of both Pro-life and Pro-choice). I would love to discuss that on this thread. What do you think?


Questions to Think About…

  1. Do you see how your worldview was formed and gradually informed?
  2. Regardless of your position in a discussion, is it generally easy or hard to communicate with others in a respectful way? What makes it easy? What makes it hard?
  3. Awareness is a tool. Who could help you take a look at your worldview (to sort it out) or your typical conversational style (passion levels, interrupting tendencies, blatant indifference to others, personal agenda-driven talking points, etc.)?
  4. If you inform your worldview through Scripture, how might your conversation be transformed by the following verses:  2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 3:2; James 3:13; 1 Peter 3:15-16?
  5. In light of Colossians 4:6, how should these robust debates look to an outsider?

 


¹ See for yourself—God speaks of the individual elements of the universe in Genesis 1, calling them “good,” and while the meaning is far beyond our casual understanding of the term, emphasis is clearly stated and understood.

² I choose not to address any issues with the “evidence” for Lucy here, since my time or space won’t do the topic justice. (There are problems with the evidence.) 

Scripture sourced from http://www.biblestudytools.com at http://www.crosswalk.com.

Images sourced from http://www.morguefile.com or where otherwise noted. I have edited images within the the specified guidelines.

Time Marches…Even in the Waiting

A speaker once suggested a lovely, brain-teasing thought:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. ~ Heracletus

An unknown author posits, “Time does not pass, it continues.” Is it that simple? Short of think tank theorists, I don’t suppose any of us debate time’s monotonous march or swift stride forward. We measure progress by change and evaluate quality by experience (positive or negative). Tension, when it exists, is often sparked by expectations and limitations. Notice the common denominator is personal: the “self.” No, the progression of time isn’t questioned; the experience of it becomes the thing.

Disappointment.
Isn’t that when we struggle?

“I had three days. Three days!”  The treatment worked surprisingly well, but the results are intermittent.

“I know there must be a child out there for us! How will I know where?”  Heartbreaking news wreaked havoc in the adoption plans that seemed straight forward.

“I’m in transition.”  The belongings that crowded the desk were packed up in boxes. Three months ago.

What we know…
Time is the one-way path disappearing into the expanse beyond. We like to think we can see so many steps ahead, but if we’re honest, the path is obscured just in front of the footprints we fill. We’d prefer to know every twist, turn, and “happily ever after” that simply has to trail behind each circumstance, wouldn’t we? But we don’t. And we can’t.

7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?
Ecclesiastes 8:7 NIV 

It’s impossible to know what’s next. Reading the present is hard enough (and that has real potential to be misread). What can we do to infuse time’s progress with biblical truth or find the grace, regardless of how we experience its speed?

…always fear the Lord. 18 For then you will have a future, and your hope will never fade. 19 Listen, my son, and be wise; keep your mind on the right course. Proverbs 23:17b-19 CSB

There is a future here and hereafter. We have no idea what it is. Hope for what we have yet to experience takes root in reverence and trust in the One who does.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29 NIV

5 Lord, You are my portion and my cup [of blessing]; You hold my future. Psalm 16 CSB

 Something for me to think about when I’m challenged to remain in the present while my eyes range the horizon searching for clues to my future…

Do you find yourself struggling with this, too?

~Jennifer


Heracletus quote: www.brainy quote.com
Scripture sourced from www.biblestudytools.com
Bible translations referenced: New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB), and the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).

Waiting: on the Way to the Big Reveal

Hi, everyone! Remember me? *Sigh*  My last post was much too long ago.

My family was in a season of waiting, if you remember. While a little longer than my impatient self wildly embraces, it was graciously brief in retrospect. A few months feels so long. Eyeballing the last of “normal” becomes overwhelming, if we let it.

But our waiting wasn’t devastating. We know the “pressured in every way but not crushed” part of life, really (2 Corinthians 4:8, CSB). Even that is an overstatement, I suppose. I know families waiting for things—no end in sight, no relief from the stress that accompanies uncertainty, no solutions to the problems invading their daily lives, their minds constantly battling for sanity and rest. There’s always a little perspective available, if I’m open to taking a good look. Circumspection begins with families I know and wings out to my state, nation, and (if I’m really lucky) something global.

It’s only when I measure the wait after the fact that something comes to light: perspective in the waiting room matters. Why is that? It always concerns me that big picture point of view seems easy to grasp when everything is said and done. I have so much to learn when it comes to an eternal perspective in the waiting room. Things I want to remember for the next waiting opportunity I’ll face have been bubbling to the surface. It’s the difference between thriving and merely surviving, I think. Some of what I’ll share seems to be the grace I’ve been given to embrace next time. And there will be a next time.

I want to remember….

I’m Being Watched
Okay, so that sounds a little strange, maybe even creepy, but listen to what I’m really conveying. We all have eyes on us all the time, and I’m not referring to “Big Brother.” If the Bible contains pure truth (and my biased opinion is that it does), then I’ll run there for some perspective. That’s when I encounter things I have to contend with in my heart and mind while I’m waiting.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help. Psalm 34:15

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.  Proverbs 15:3

because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.  1 Peter 3:12

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us,  Hebrews 12:1

Scripture suggests life is not lived unobserved. Maybe social media plays into the cultural perspective. Any one of us could promote the best and worst of moments in a status or tweet. It’s easy to exist in virtual, carefully managed reality, isn’t it? We’ve bought a lie. When I remember my life choices are casually (or scrupulously) watched, I begin to think about the audience.

God is not fooled. He is not judgmental by the culture’s broad brushstroke definition, but He is watching and aware of every detail. When the stress of waiting caused me to reduce to a salty puddle, He was aware. When I allowed the circumstances to become an excuse for my angry, sharp attitude, He was there. My pain was never too much for Him to handle, but I suppose I wish I’d managed a quicker attitude adjustment in my weak moments. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have more trust to fight the emotional battle next time.

I am a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend—you get the picture. My home, the neighborhood, a store, the doctor’s office, and the church lobby are filled with people. If I believe no one sees me, I’m probably delusional. If I’m a “people watcher” in almost all of those scenarios, who else around me is doing the same thing? The “great cloud of witnesses” is often connected to the Christians before us who have passed into eternity (see “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11), so I’m aware of the context of the verse I’ve selected. I ask your permission to break a bit of a Bible study rule. Can we say there are two realities (the here-and-now and the hereafter) that fit the bill? Our lives are observed, or we would not be referred to as “witnesses” so frequently in Scripture.

What Does It Mean?
If our lives are genuinely closely watched, I want to think carefully about my waiting room experiences. The God who loves and sees me is more than the culture’s benevolent, omniscient Santa Claus. Holy God, who cannot coexist with sin, sent Jesus (John 3:16) for me. If that’s true, and I advocate that it is, then how I handle waiting in front of the “eyes of the Lord” is a more precious thing than what I’m waiting for. What do you think?

If people are watching my choices in life, listening through thin walls, or observing a snapshot of my day is that important? I may be tempted to think it’s only critical if observers have made a connection between me and the Christian faith, but is that the truth of it? That’s when behavioral management becomes a danger. I might even be tempted to be on my best behavior when I’m “on” in front of certain friends, family members, or public audiences. (That triggers thoughts about key differences between spiritual formation and transformation, but I’ll save that for another time.)

I’m not certain of what all this means to me right now, but I know I’m walking down the road kicking the can, as it were, thinking about it as I plod along. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you have some. I’m aware this is a tricky place to land, and it could end up leaning toward freedom or legalism. Friends who know me are aware this very thing troubles me more often than I can say.

I have more thoughts to ponder on this topic, so it looks like a series may be in the making. These are the other things rambling around in my mind when I think about the path to the “Big Reveal” in the waiting room:

Time Passes

What will be…

He is Good!

Thankfulness!

Let’s see if I get to these….  😉

Thanks for reading along! Be blessed as you live your “very closely observed life” today!

~Jennifer

Questions to Think About:
Have you considered the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God?

What does it mean to you when you hear “God is watching every moment”? Does that have a positive or negative emotion associated with it?

Have you wrestled with the observed life, too? If so, where do you rest when it comes to God and others watching your life?

Knowing that God and others are watching, do you feel a particular pull in any area of your life? It might be a call to change, but it could easily be conversation with God or others.

What might look very different in your life if you considered the observed life more frequently?

How might you walk the line between awareness of others and the warped “chameleon behavior” that results from “fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25; Isaiah 51:12)?


Scripture sourced from http://www.crosswalk.com.
Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
Images sourced from http://www.morguefile.com.