Posts Tagged ‘respect’

Body of Christ 2I like putting jigsaw puzzles together. My family thinks this hobby is one of the lamest activities of all time. The only other person who enjoys them is my brother when he visits for the holidays or comes along to the beach.

Usually, it’s just me and a thousand little pieces. And yet slowly, even the most difficult puzzle, will come together. A whole emerges from all the slivers. I love putting in that last piece, always with a breath of satisfaction. But nothing is worse than a missing piece: disappeared as the result of cat sprawl or a son and his pizza box.

All the pieces are needed, even the seemingly identical blue ones from the sky or the monotonous gray from the shadows. A finished picture is ruined by the loss of even one small fragment. It doesn’t matter where the gap lies in the puzzle, it’s loss is felt, the eye straying to the tiny abyss.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  [I Corinthians 12:24b-27, The Voice translation]

If I can understand this concept in a puzzle, why is it so hard to really embrace the idea when it comes to the Body of Believers? Is it just because some (most) are different from me? Can’t I suspend my judgments long enough to allow them to play out their role, their part in the “God Scheme” of things?

Wretched truly am I.

When I start working on a puzzle, I usually tackle it the same way every time: edge pieces first, then I look for the most vibrant colors or stand out images in the overall picture, then I look for patterns and long lines, and slowly, my box of remaining pieces becomes more and more monochromatic.

This is how I must look at the Body too. I am easily drawn to the people with clearly defined gifts and abilities, then there are the very talented ones who shine in any group, and then there are the organized ones who work to bring order out of chaos. But the rest become a blur.

In a puzzle, in order to figure out where the same color pieces go, it’s a matter of looking for a tiny, but identifiable mark or a specific shape that will only snug up to its likely friends.

I need to give much more attention to Body who have been indistinguishable. It’s time to honor their individuality by even the smallest gift because everyone has something to give to community. And as each gift comes forward, something beautiful begins to emerge. And soon, it’s not just flat sky, but clouds and mist and rain even. It’s time to look. It’s time to honor the pieces of the whole and give thanks for them.

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ancient tomb    The whole point of buying the field and the cave from Ephron was to avoid burying Sarah on or in foreign soil. Once purchased, the land became an oasis of Abrahamic land, a place and purchase that took him and his household out of “stranger” status (vs. 4). And although he might continue to lead a somewhat nomadic life, this place would root him to that area by the very same laws of the Canaanites. It was a serious transaction.

Genesis 23:12-13Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the landand he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

Austrian Cemetery

Austrian Cemetery

I am sure other people in Abraham’s household had died in the thirty-plus years that had lived, worked, and traveled the Negev desert. But, when his own Sarah died, she was almost royalty to those who lived in that time period. Abraham was considered a “prince” because of his great wealth and tribe and herds. To stop and lay down his wife in that place was huge to his household as well as the Canaanites. What Abraham created here was the family burial ground. This would be sacred ground from that time forward and their direct descendants would be expected to be buried there.


German Cemetary

In modern times, we have lost some of this respect for the burial ground. In Ancient Israel, burning of the body was forbidden (this form of burial was considered to be a punishment for idols and enemies. I am not saying we should not do this in our world, but I do think it’s interesting, this difference in cultural norms.

But in the United States, even those who are buried are not respected. While in many German and Eastern European cemeteries, it is the family joy and obligation to care for the family burial plot, to beautify it, to make it a place one would desire to go and spend time. They are like a series of mini-parks, each plotted area touched by the uniqueness of the family. The burial ground is part of the cycle of life and death. But not here.

New York cemetery

New York Cemetery

In our world, we have relegated the dead to sweeping greens where  paid workers run lawn mowers and weed whackers. In some cases, we we might see  long-lasting plastic flowers jammed into the ground or perhaps an artificial wreath. What is the point? Who is blessed by these? Neither the dead or the living.

Polish cemetery

Polish Cemetary

In my life, I have no burial grounds anywhere. My mother cremated my father and requested the same for herself. They now share an urn which I have in my possession and although it has a small shelf with pictures, I do not think about them much anymore. There are stories that erupt every now and again, but there is no sense of place for them. My husband has asked to be donated to science and then, as far as he is concerned, the body can be cremated and disposed of, like a family pet whose ashes were not saved. For him, it is the soul that continues and has no need for the corporeal flesh. He is probably right.

But I keep thinking about this idea of a selected place, different from today’s norEarthm, but more like ancient times, a place for family to extend itself in memory. Sometimes I think the Japanese and other orientals have it right, their nurture of the ancestors.

And yet, I know, Jesus left the tomb. He was not buried with his family. There was not talk of transferring the body after the Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea embraced Jesus as family by giving him space in that tomb. Jesus left it and in essence, his departure also said that no single place could embody him. He was of the entire Earth.

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I Corinthians 13:4b-6
. . . It [love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

If love is not these things, perhaps it’s a good idea for me to consider the antonyms. I can’t really “do” or “practice” a “NOT.” So I looked them up.

The opposite of the verb envy is to be confident or contented, to be generous and giving. Do I reflect love in this way? Is my love toward others unwavering and confident. Am I content with the love I have as well as the love I can give. Interesting though, these are actually “states of being.” I cannot practice contentment and confidence, not really. I can turn a corner and choose. And generosity comes from within. Generous giving comes from confidence and contentment. So, perhaps, “not envying” what others have is indeed the first step toward contentment.

The opposite of boasting is to be modest, quiet, and deprecating (playing down what one has). It’s not that I don’t have the “stuff” or the relationships or the love or the ability, it’s that I don’t brag about what I have. This brings to mind the “ugly American” who travels with a chip on his/her shoulder, expecting service up to certain standards. It’s an “I deserve” attitude. All of those cliches like “keeping up with the Joneses” are counter to the basics of not boasting. Our of pride in the accomplishments of our children, we often provide litany after litany of their successes, their grades, their jobs, their scores.

The opposite of rudeness is kindness, politeness, and respect. This I can practice, if I choose to do so. The more kindness I show, the more politeness, the more respect, the less rude I will seem. Politeness has gone out of favor. Our children do not recognize politeness as necessarily important. But do we realize that love requires this of us? If I love my children, I should also be kind, polite and respect them for who they are in each stage of life. It is my job to model that.

The opposite of self-seeking is similar to the opposite of envy — it’s giving, benevolent, and caring; moral and ethical. This is the essence of mindfulness of “other.” These are the traits of the humble. Really, it reminds of stepping out of costume, the selfish costume, and showing the tender center within. It’s casting off the habit of selfishness.

The opposite of anger is joy, pleasantness, calm and being soothing. I cannot practice joy, it’s a result, but I can be pleasant instead of not, I can look for my inner calm and bring it to the surface, I can be soothing to the one who is hurting. I cannot be angry if I am doing any of these other things. There is no longer room for anger.

The opposite of “not keeping a record of wrongs” must be forgetfulness, choosing to “not recall” or dismiss the offense. And of course, forgiveness. They go hand in hand.

The last antonym for “not delighting in evil” is provided for us and is a surprise: rejoicing in truth. I would have thought it would be delighting in “good,” but instead, Paul chooses truth as the powerhouse to overcome evil. I can indeed practice truth and with it, I will be able to walk away from evil and lies.

The opposite of pride is humility. And each one of these opposites is embraced in this one word. Oh Lord, I am so far. Give me courage to embrace and exercise those aspects of love that will help me evolve truth in humility.

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This is a freedom I don’t practice as much as I should. It’s so easy to get caught up in tracking all the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” in our lives. What is it we fear so much? Why have we lost our confidence in grace?

I Corinthians 10:23-24
Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. [The Message Bible]

My daughter was working with some dear counselor friends of mine the other day and in the course of their time together, she said she was planning to get a tattoo. Now, I am not a fan of tattoos at all. Five or six years ago, I told my three teens, “If any one of you goes out and gets a tattoo, I will cut it out with a spoon.” Yah, I’d say I had a bit of an attitude. But, over the years, it’s become evident that cultural acceptability of this practice is going to outweigh my threats and I can either fight it and watch them sneak into a tattoo parlor some weekend in Ocean City or I can speak lovingly, reasonably and simply abd ask them to plan it: plan it well, and to be sure it’s what they want. So far, no one has added one yet.

But that’s not really my point. Those friends ended up pulling out scriptures and telling her that getting a tattoo is a sin (I assume this is based on Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves…” and other similar Old Testament passages). But, aren’t we missing the phrase, “for the dead” in this passage. The cuttings and tattoos referenced here are cultural and clearly ritualistic. Most kids and young people are not participating in a satanic ritual any more than they are by going from house to house on Halloween saying, “trick or treat.”

This reminds me of other “do nots” that have been conveyed to me in the name of sin, such as practicing yoga or visualization. Can these things be abused? Of course, but then, so can practices in the name of Christ, such as “miracles” of gold dust floating off the hands of a “healer.”

What is essential here then? Motive and intent. Christ brought freedom and that freedom “completed” the law [Romans 8:1-2].

Needless to say, we must remember, if participating in an activity gives pain and anxiety to those around us, it’s probably best not to do it, for their sakes and out of our love for them, the other (the sacred other). We can’t always know that, though, and we can’t go through our lives second guessing these things. But when we do know, when a child chooses NOT to act in a particular way out of respect and love for parents, that is a good thing. And I’m sure there are other examples of these choices.

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Interesting juxtaposition of these words: taxes, revenue, respect and honor. In the arena of respect, it seems we hear more about earning respect than paying. Perhaps the greater problem is on the payment side. In the same way we cheat (just a little) on our taxes, we are probably cheating on respect.

Romans 13:7
Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Should someone or something be paid respect by position alone? Teens, in particular, unless drilled repeatedly, show more disdain for showing respect than any other debt. Position is no longer enough to garner respect.

I remember when there was a huge brouhaha when a woman’s sports team showed up at the White House to meet the President and a good number of them were dressed quite casually, including flip-flops. Some folks were up in arms about the “lack of respect.” I’m pretty sure the girls didn’t intentionally decide to diss the President the of United States by dressing down. It just didn’t occur to them that it might appear disrespectful.

But what does respect look like? Is it simply a matter of etiquette? Is it a set of actions or is it a frame of mind? To whom should we be paying respect?

I think we’ve missed the boat in our culture and as Christians, we should be picking up the slack. In the same way that we are to express love, we are to pay respect. We must show love and pay respect to the “sacred other.”

Instead of waiting for someone to “earn” respect, we should give it and something wonderful can happen. Can I do this? I really don’t know, but I want to think about it the rest of the day. Help me Lord to be mindful of you and your creation, to pay respect from the inside out.

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John 9:28a; 34a
Then they [the chief priests] hurled insults at him [the formerly blind man] and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!” … Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple!…”

I confess, I love to be around people who are really smart. I am intrigued by their knowledge and enjoy learning something new each and every day. It’s one of the reasons I read so much.

But the way in which someone hurls his/her knowledge around can be intimidating. In fact, there are folks who use knowledge as a sledge hammer. Little do they know that knowledge flung about like that becomes diffused, unfocused and useless. People stop listening.

In one of the books I’m reading, “Why We Make Mistakes” by Joseph Hallinan, the author maintains that as people (particularly men) collect information, the more confident they become to the point of actually becoming over confident. And in that over confidence, they begin to make mistakes.

The chief priests were over confident. They thought they knew the whole story. They could not integrate anything new. They could not integrate the miracle. They began making unfounded accusations. They were grasping at straws.

There is usually a moment when I go from appreciation of a person’s knowledge and intelligence to total intimidation. I think that moment happens when I hear or see or sense the other person is espousing his/her views with such certainty that there is no room for other possibilities. It’s a lack of humility.

Lord, don’t let me become this kind of person. Keep my heart and mind open to the miraculous. Keep my mind and heart open to the evolution of your spirit in our world. Keep me humble.

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I Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

Gentleness and respect for the other! But also, be gentle with yourself. This scripture used to send me into fear and trembling. Oh my… I’m going to have to lay out the facts of my faith. I’ll need to have scriptures memorized. I’ll have to know the 4 Spiritual Laws. I’ll have to answer tough questions about the complexities and apparent discrepancies in scripture. Oh no!

But now, I read this verse with thanksgiving. I thank God for the Christ of my heart. I thank God for the works He has done in my heart so far… and what He will continue to do … for you see, it’s all part of that “sanctification” process. And so, all I can share is what I know. God is not asking me to be more than I am. He’s not asking me to be a preacher or an apostle or a polished speaker. All I need to tell is my story. My story is God’s story. I am just one sliver of God’s grace. And for that I am grateful because without it, I would be dead, literally.

When Christ found me in New York City in 1979, I was spiraling down a very slippery slope while living a decadent life. Everything about me was self-centered and self-destructive from drugs to alcohol to sexual improprieties. And yet, when He touched me… it was with gentleness and respect. Oh yes, and I know, if He could do this for me, when I was living the darkest of lives… then He can do it for anyone else. And shouldn’t I do the same? Shouldn’t I, then, be able to offer gentleness and respect to all persons … for who is say, who might see the truth of Christ through me? Just the way I am… so far.

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