“Self-consciousness is the enemy of ‘interestingness.’” — Malcolm Gladwell.

iStock_000016049950SmallOne of the most beautiful things about small children is their lack of self-consciousness. They sing, dance, and whirl without pretext. Their shimmering self is uncloaked and skipping about with abandon. Spend some time with a three-year-old.

Jesus said we must become as children in order to see the kingdom. Yet, sadly, children are ‘older’ now at younger ages.

Author Marie Winn, in Children Without Childhood, wrote about the cultural changes and demands that put children at risk, causing them to grow up too early–things like family breakups, accessibility of drugs and premature exposure to sex and coarse language in books, movies, TV, and on the Internet.

I was privileged to be child for most of my childhood. In other families divorce happened, people drank too much, and sometimes adults fought. I remember the moment I heard JFK had been shot and watched Martin Luther King’s funeral. But those realities were mere shadows on the periphery of my otherwise sunny world.

HidingStill, sooner or later innocence is lost. And one kind of loss is the development of self-consciousness. While it’s good to know how your words and actions affect others, there is a dark side to self-consciousness that can become a lifelong tyranny.

Do you remember being unaware of yourself? A time when you didn’t know you didn’t have a hairstyle? A place of acceptance where any question could be asked? A season of dreaming and exploring and belly flops without embarrassment.

A shift comes.Continue reading

Spirit Whispers – Part 2

Spirit Whispers – Part 2

A formerly homeless man was interviewed on TV. He explained how many different places in New York City he could get a hot meal, a shower with fresh clothes, and a bed for the night. All that, and more, was readily available. But he didn’t know how to escape homelessness and dependency—because his real poverty was within.

Homeless Series - No TrespassingMother Teresa said, “People are hungry for love, they are naked of human dignity and respect. They are homeless because of rejection.”

Yet, we live in a time where skeptics say, “Watch out—everybody’s working an angle.” Good people become cynical in a culture where they feel played. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:12).

Talmadge Wright, a sociology professor at Loyola University Chicago said, “When you are desperate and poor, you will do anything to survive and prosper. Somehow we seem to hold a moral standard that says as long as you don’t scam and oppress others you are okay, but if you con others you are not okay. The point is…any poor population will have both tendencies happening at the same time. If you don’t like it, make it so they are not poor.”

So how do we respond to people on our streets or in the world at large for that matter?

spiritualThe apostle John said, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1John 3:17) Notice he did not say “give him stuff,” which includes money. That requires wisdom in each situation. The main point is to not close our hearts. At the very least, we can pause and pray.

Secondly, relationship may be the key—even if it’s relationship for a moment. Let me explain…

Picture 2009 169I remember strolling arm-in-arm with my two teenage daughters. While scoping out colleges in the northwest, we stopped in Seattle to shop for prom dresses. Talk about feeling privileged.

We came upon a man in a heavy brown overcoat, sitting on the curb. I’ll be honest—for a second, I considered crossing the street. Yet a still, small voice in my head urged me to go on.  He is also my son, the Holy Spirit whispered. A burning heat filled my chest.Continue reading

Fire In Our Bones

Fire In Our Bones

“Good night, good night!

Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall say good night

 Till it be morrow.”

So said Juliet to her Romeo, not knowing where a balcony moment of affection would lead. To truly love, is to open ourselves up to both extremes of sweet ecstasy and crushing sorrow. Shakespeare’s timeless play is at once beautiful and agonizing for that reason.

We want it to end differently.

Love between people is a cosmic mystery. It’s a vibrant, potent connection. Did you feel the chemistry between pair skaters, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, performing at the Sochi Winter Olympics?

And of course, it’s more expansive than romantic love. Have you watched any soldiers-returning-home clips on YouTube? Millions have. Children and fathers…mothers and sons…families reuniting after long separations. Tears weave down my cheeks, though I really don’t know them.

Parting ways for a season is hard, but completely losing our connection of love is worse.

Amish Family

I recently saw a documentary called, The Amish: Shunned. The story “follows seven people who have chosen to leave their closed and tightly-knit communities for the outside world. Each has paid deeply for their decision. Estranged from loved ones, these former Amish find themselves struggling to make their way.” The loss of connection and community seems to be much harder for these “prodigals,” than any challenge of the modern world.

An all or nothing choice is wrenching. I felt it in my gut as I watched. Continue reading