Listening to Each Other

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.

As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what's said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.

Let the person who is without sin cast the first stone.—Jesus, John 8:7

While we were visiting family in Arkansas, we had the great blessing of spending a few days on a houseboat on Lake Ouachita.  There were 10 of us on the boat, anchored primarily on a beautiful, secluded island surrounded by deep, green, cool, clear water—perfect for swimming and fishing.  The island was an animal watching paradise—and, if you’re anything like Clivie, perfect for digging and gathering leaves, pinecones, and rocks—especially the sparkly white quartz that was absolutely everywhere.  For me, one of the great joys of this time was the nature walks I took in the evening with Clivie and Nora and Silas, my niece and nephew.
On one of our evening expeditions, the boys (who are close in age) got into a fascinating argument about relationships. Clivie was emphatic that Nora was his cousin. And Silas was equally sure that Nora was his sister.  This conversation went on for a while and began to escalate.  As they stood there screaming at each other—as only 3-year-olds can—they started taking the quartz rocks out of their gathering bags and prepared for battle.  Jeanne and I separated them, sat them down, and said. “Boys! Boys! You are both right! Let’s put down the rocks!”
And this situation of battling 3-year-old cousins reminds me of the many ways so many of us miss one another—and stumble over one another—by not listening to one another.  We often become so invested in being right that we allow some of our most important relationships falter, fail, and fall by the wayside.  Like Clivie and Silas, we are often driven by the fear of someone else’s perspective—believing that it challenges our own truth—rather than allowing our different truths to stand happily side by side.  And within that situation we allow ourselves to become defensive and angry—rather than looking for new insights, growth, and life-giving connections.
As the bright orange sun sunk below the Ouachita Mountains after the kids went to bed, I kept thinking of the story of the woman brought before the Jewish authorities, who were holding rocks and ready to stone her.  The authorities just knew they were right.  They had the law on their side—never mind that it was a law driven by misogyny, patriarchy, privilege, legalism, and fear.  In their worldview, the woman’s experience didn’t matter; her story didn’t matter.  All that mattered was that they were “right,” and they were following the letter of the law.
Jesus, however, upended the situation when he invited those authorities “who were without sin to cast the first stone.”  He pointed out the truth that we all sin, screw up, and “miss the mark.” And because of that, we are each called into deep self-reflection.  We are not called to focus on the marks that everyone else misses.  
If we undertake an intentional journey of self-reflection, we can learn to live the way Jesus calls us to live—in ways that are more compassionate, fearless, justice-seeking, relationship-focused, and world-healing.  If we don’t, we risk increasing stagnation, self-righteousness, and violence.  I know what I’m hoping for. . . .
See you in church,