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Author Archives: freya407

I Will Listen

The following thoughts bubbled up this week while I read eyewitness accounts from, news reports about, and opinion pieces on Ferguson, MO. Said thoughts have been simmering for many years, however, through many tragedies and conflicts, both domestic and international. I hope to continue this theme, with a trajectory toward active Kingdom-building, for the rest of my life.

I don’t like it. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like it when things go wrong. I don’t like it when other people are at odds. I don’t like hashtag wars. I don’t like it when I can’t fix things. Somewhere inside me, a petulant, inconvenienced child complains that the yelling is too loud, puts her fingers in her ears and sings loudly, “LALALALALA!!”

I refuse to be that child anymore. I refuse to let my discomfort with the hashtag war govern my response (or lack thereof) to real wars, real tragedies, real shouting matches, real injustices, real problems with endless complexities.

To stop being that ineffectual child, I have to shut up. I have to listen. I have to open my ears, shut my mouth, and listen. I have to resist spouting reflexive rhetoric. I have to be quiet and let the stinging darts of another person’s story sink into the flesh of my pride and self-righteousness until it starts to bleed empathy. I have to accept the notion that there are worse things than my preconceived notions being proven wrong. I have to allow myself to feel empathy.

Denying empathy is dangerous. To hide behind a bastion of preconceived ideas and entrenched opinions dehumanizes the person whose story I’m hiding from, and it also dehumanizes me. I wonder if one of the reasons I cling to my habitual ways of seeing and opining on things is that I feel my personal epistemology/way of knowing is somehow essential to my identity.

News flash: it’s not.

I am more than a set of opinions and rock-solid beliefs about what the world is and how people are. I am a person. I am a bearer of God’s image. I am capable of listening to this other person, also a bearer of God’s image, whose story I do not know in its entirety. This other person is more than a news headline, more than a participant in a protest, more than a victim of ongoing conflict, more than a statistic, more than someone that I am suspicious of because of those pesky non-essential parts of me.

This person is a human. I am a human. I want to learn, fellow human, what being a human is like for you. And I promise to listen without jumping in to shut you up with an untimely story of what it’s like for me to be a human.

Setting aside my armor of political opinions, ingrained biases, desires for validation and justification, and discomfort at the possibility of being in the wrong in order to hear a fellow human being’s story will not make me any less a seeker and lover of the truth or any less a follower of God. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Empathy is the beginning point of compassion. Compassion is the beginning point of justice. Com – together, pati – to suffer. Compassion means to suffer with. A compassionate Lord compels me to be compassionate. Compassion is the very opposite of condescension and narrative imperialism. It doesn’t mean casting a benevolent eye on a suffering soul and heroically reaching down to pluck said soul from the depths of hardship.

It means saying, “No, I don’t know what it’s like to be you. Tell me. Show me. I want to know.”

Unlike many of my (much bolder) friends, I don’t know when or if I will ever become an activist in the traditional sense. I do know that when crises arise in this broken world, I will start listening. Will you join me?

For slightly more helpful reading on empathy, listening, and hope, I recommend the following:

In which God is transforming the world :: on hope, Iraq, and everything else

When Black Victims Become Trending Hashtags

That’s what SHE said: Reflections on #Ferguson

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Undeniable things

There are so many times when life is just a tantalizing hint of what I thought it would be. Times when the scenery is drabber, the food is more bland, the Northern Lights are less bright than I thought they would be. Times when maybe that was God moving me to tears…I think. But I’m not sure. Maybe lack of sleep. Quite possibly PMS.

But then there are rare times when life sneaks up and pounces with an experience that is so real, so tangible that I can’t help but soak it in with a derpy grin.

Times when the lights go out on a cloudless night and I saw the Milky Way and more stars than I ever dreamed existed.

Cathedrals…not all of them, but the first one.

The most delicious cheesecake ever.

Skipping to Victoria Station late on a spring night with nothing but a backpack for luggage.

Edinburgh…Arthur’s Seat…

Woods and lakes and rock-bordered rivers in Wisconsin.

The sun rising over a caldera in Nicaragua.

I know that all of life can’t be like that. But I want to chase that life, those undeniable things. I’m tired of living and seeing and experiencing in retrospect.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The new year’s note

Salut, tout le monde!

C’est un nouvel an, le…*ahem* pardon my French. Hello, world! It’s a new year, the third day of it to be precisely exact, and I thought I’d start things off by taking a leaf out of my dad’s book and sharing a spiritual thought.

I’ve been reading through the pentateuch of late and came across the following verses:

“Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”  Exodus 40:36-38

The description seems pretty straightforward, and I’ve no doubt read it several times without thinking much about it. This year, though, it stood out to me as a reminder to keep God in view at all times and an assurance that His eternal presence is my guide. Not a particularly new and strange revelation, I know. However, having spent the past 6 months waiting for the cloud to be “taken up” and not receiving any grand indication that it has done so, I find myself reassured that figuring out where (or if) God is leading me to go can be as simple as watching. It is also encouraging to be reminded that wherever God leads me to stay or go, His Presence is there, too.

So, here’s to a year of watching and walking, but never alone.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

An update

[The final post from the ill-fated blogspot attempt]

August 31, 2011

So…a lot has happened in the past two-and-a-half-ish weeks. Stop 1 was Harrisburg, PA, for Hannah’s wedding. Friends, riding around in a half-packed van, beautiful bride, rain…it was a good time.
Stop 2 was training. The Camfel contract/info packet describes training as “similar to a sports camp”. Naively, I believed this statement and packed far too few work shirts. In actuality, Camfel training is more akin to boot camp than a sports camp. Getting up early, doing manual labor in the hot sun for hours, so-so food…fun times. We were outside so much that I got a tan. As in a legit tan, not just post-sunburn discoloration.

Training covered setting up frames and fabrics (frames + fabrics = projector screens); setting up projectors and speakers (hereafter referred to as A/V); and evening sessions on the finer points of doing intros and conclusions, troubleshooting, and filling out monthly paperwork.

Most evenings, the worn-out trainees collapsed into bed not long after evening sessions. When free time and energy coincided, we played games, watched movies, talked, and went on self-guided field trips. I went into downtownL.A. twice. The second time, I and the two girls I went with (we were awesome) actually made it down to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We sighted many a famous character (no celebs, though), including Jack Sparrow, Davy Jones, Spiderman, Tinker Bell, the Mad Hatter, Shrek, Uncle Sam (black), Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Freddy and Jason, Sleeping Beauty and Prince Philip, and Charlie Chaplin. Other highlights were stopping every yard or so to take pictures of stars on the walk of fame, stepping on the hand and footprints in front of the theater, and eating a ginormous cupcake at Crumbs.
Downside to the L.A. area: traffic. The only time there isn’t traffic is certain times on Sunday. I wouldn’t mind living in L.A. if I didn’t have to drive.

Hangin' with the cool footprints

Hangin’ with the cool footprints

Photo op with the Chinese theater, like a good little tourist

Photo op with the Chinese theater, like a good little tourist

Cupcakes are hilarious. And delicious.

Cupcakes are hilarious. And delicious.

In summary, training was a hard but good experience. There was more than one time I wanted to quit. I credit God with causing me to finish.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Camfel

 

A list

[4th post from the summer-before-last blog]

August 4, 2011

Things I’m looking forward to in the next two weeks/4 months:

-trees! (if you’ve been to the Southwest, you’ll understand)
-friends (“This is the time of life when you either get married, or you die.”)
-hotel samples (free stuff!)
-rain (there’s gotta be some somewhere in this country…)
-wearing a sweatshirt (even if it doesn’t happen for a month or so)
-driving (“life is a highway…”)
-changing scenery (“I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.”)
-new experiences (“Dr. Jackson is going to die when he sees this!” “What, again?”)
-traveling by van, not by airplane (a journey of a couple thousand miles starts with a delay at O’Hare…)
-taking pictures (oh no, I’m my father’s daughter after all!)
 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Camfel

 

A conundrum

[Post #3 from the blog-that-was and is no longer accessible]

August 4, 2011

I have recently been confronted with and once again failed to answer one of life’s great mysteries: How does one pack light? The answer seems simple: Just pack what you need. But how do I know what I will need? A hundred different situations could arise, each requiring its own unique combination of clothing, toiletry items, electronics chargers, and miscellany. And though I’m not a boy scout, I like to be as prepared as possible whenever possible. So, I sit in the El Paso airport knowing I probably packed too much. As usual. Any enlightenment on this dilemma would be appreciated.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Camfel

 

In the meantime…

[Another post from the late blog of two summers ago]

July1, 2011

What in the world is God thinking? I wonder that sometimes. I believe He wants me where I am, but I wish He made more sensible plans. He led me here to El Paso instead of keeping me in New York. All in all, what with my current job situation (part-time at Michaels instead of full-time in Houghton) and the cost of travel, this has proven the more expensive/less lucrative living option for the summer of the two I was considering during my last weeks of school. Definitely not sensible.
But He has provided. A job until I leave in August, time with family, the means to pay off one of my loans. And change. Somehow I think He knew that I needed a change of scenery and gave me the freedom to choose the not-as-sensible option.
Isn’t it nice that our God isn’t always sensible? Where would be the fun and adventure in life?

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Camfel