what are you blind too? i am blind to community

What if we can not see what is in front of us? There are many cliché’s that try to answer this question. for instance , you don’t realize what you have until it is gone or if it was any closer it would bite you, but all these are doing is excusing and minimalizing the effects of being visually impaired. I often have to remind people that we do not have to be black blind to be visually impaired or blind. I would like to challenge you by asking what are you not able to see or what can be made clearer to you? for me it is quite easy to answer this because every day I have to live in the perpetual state of visual impairment. I would take the stance that we are all blind to something whether it is due to ignorance or arrogance. We can be impaired to see things we want to see and that is a tough reality. The cigarette smoker knows they should put down the cigarette, the child knows they shouldn’t go into the cookie jar, the students know they should take notes for the upcoming test. For me, I am not able to enter into community that I long for and that I know is good for me because I can not see people.

What happens when we can not see
Availability and impression are key in initiating the first steps to entering into a community. if you do not have anybody you need to find somebody that is available and somebody that you desire to talk to. I have realized those are two things that I do not have the privilege of being able to do at a glance. The normal things of entering into class and find that person you have a common interest with, I can not do by myself; striking up a random conversation with somebody that is not on their cell phone, is something I can not do by myself; introducing myself to somebody that is deaf, is something I can not do by myself. When we are not able to see it takes away our independence and limits us. This does not just happen with physical visual impairment, but with others things. it just happens to be recently I have been noticing that being blind limits my ability to enter into community.

What do we do with our impairment’s
If I just said I had one impairment I would not be honest with myself and honest with you, but it is not about the amount of impairments I have or you have. When we see our impairments it is not the quantity or even the intensity of our impairments, but how we use our impairments. My visual impairment is real and is tough and I bet the jealous impairment, the addiction impairment, the gossip impairment, the selfish impairment, the validation impairment, the hopeless impairment and all the many other tough and burdensome impairments are all real and tough things. we have a choice to get bitter or get better though. The getting better process is not quick and it is alright to be bitter through that process , but we need to come to a place to see our impairments as something that can be restored for good. The best way to do that is in the company of somebody else.

What to do when we can not see
I could just stumble my way to a seat inn class, I could walk out of church and straight to the car I got a ride in, I could try to start a conversation with a mannequin because it looks like a human body, I could stand on the outside and feel sorry for myself. It is hard to not do those things and the is even harder to fight the temptation to accept pity, but the one thing that keeps me pushing towards community is that I can not be blind by myself, I can not be impaired by myself, I can not get through this struggle by myself, I can not find community by myself. Whether you are interpreting this from a spiritual stand point or merely a relational stand point it can be observed that we need others to be involved in our impairments. Whatever your impairment is it is best to get through or to live the impaired life with somebody. If you do not have somebody use your resources. For me it was asking a professor or asking a resource desk or talking to a leader; these resources will be able to lead you to somebody that can accompany you. For me I use a friend as my eyes and my guide to help me find community. If you are impaired ask for help and if you don’t think you are impaired ask a friend what you might be blind too, but once that friend tells you remember an impairment is best dealt with if you have somebody to accompany you.

changing the culture of asking questions: the importance of asking important questions

What if we did not need taboo anymore? What if we were able to talk about the important things with anybody? A scenario that I am imagining is you are out shopping and you run into a friend that you have not seen for a few months and instead of doing the standard how are you what have you been up to and all the other small talk tools, we ask how is your hope or what are you worshipping. Both sets of questions are essentially asking the same thing is your quality of life doing and is it satisfactory enough and how are you spending your time and your resources. How often do we tell people how we are really doing and how often do we really tell people what we have been doing? I would say not too often. What holds us back from saying what we really want in both the question and response?

How are you loving people?
Questions not only have the ability for you the recipient of the answer to be enlightened, but it gives the opportunity to the other person to let you in and to connect. A question is a proposal and it gives the other person the opportunity to engage. We can not engage much if we do not have much to engage too so asking the standard how are you and giving the automatic response of good or alright then there is not much to engage too. If you asked a question with some penetration to it then the ability to connect would be much greater. It may be uncomfortable and it may take some boldness at first, but those are not things to hide behind. We have the freedom to express how we feel and if it makes somebody uncomfortable they have the freedom to express that to you. asking questions is not only allows feedback to be given to the person asking the question but it is feedback to yourself and how you feel when something is asked. You learn about your feelings and how to express them, which is something that we all can continually be improving on.

Switching the culture of asking questions
Often we do not ask what we really want to ask because we are afraid of imposing or being to upfront. What I see behind this is fear. I recently spent some time in a completely different culture and one of the things that I was challenged with was the ability to just ask for something. I already have a tendency to be timid so the encouragement to ask for whatever I wanted was challenging for me. the sentiment I was told was if you have a desire or need we want to be able to meet it. so asking a question is opening the door for people to enter inn and care for you. when we ask a question we are saying I have a need and I am looking to engage with you. fortunately for us humans we all have an innate feature of desiring to connect with something and asking questions gives us that ability.

A restored utopia of question asking
I am not promoting sticking your finger in somebody else’s wounds by asking sensitive questions or inviting yourself into personal topics like sexual history, but what I am promoting is the opportunity to ask questions that are life giving and give us the ability to bond in the ways we long for. I understand we have topics that are taboo to talk about like politics, religion, war, communism, oppression, child rearing, god, colonialism and so on. Many of these are controversial issues mainly due to the differing perspectives of which they are viewed, but I am here to say those should not get in our way of asking questions. if we were to ask people what are you worshipping we would have a better understand of gods in our world, if we asked people how are you loving people we would have a better account of generosity and charity, if we ask how is your hope we would be able to focus on joy and peace more often, if we were to ask how are you caring for your community then we could understand the politics of the people and speak with a greater voice. See it is all about what we are asking and what we are willing to ask. Asking a question shows we are willing to widen our understanding, to learn, to engage, to connect, and to care. if you think this life has meaning and purpose then lets engage with others in it and a great way to start is by asking questions.
starting 7 months ago at the beginning of January I started writing down a question a day. This was to not only to take note of my wondrous mind, but to note thoughtful questions to engage with others in that I don’t think should go to waste. We are creatures with great minds, we think in great complex ways, we are thoughtful, we wonder, so let’s share that. What are 3 questions that you would like to normalize in your question asking utopia?
Mine are: 1 what are you worshipping? 2 how is your hope doing? 3 how are you loving?

Let’s be question askers.

when life is dry pt.2: raising awareness and willingness to enter deserts, 10 things nott to say and what to say

so deserts are good and they suck, but they can suck less if we have somebody going through it with us. When somebody is in a desert or you can start to see they are going to be traveling through one then we can jump in for a ride and a journey. When somebody that is going to be embarking on a journey through a desert or is in a desert they do not know how tough things will get, how lonely it will get, how many questions they will have to face on that long tedious road. One things is for sure though that they are going to go through the desert

stepping into the desert life
somebody that is in a desert will have a hard time seeing or imagining what is ahead. It will be a long wearing journey to get through the desert and it will be best if they had somebody to go through it with them. It will need awareness and willingness by the person jumping into the journey with the traveler because what kind person would be excited about asking people to go on a long grueling journey with them. Be willing to jump in, but more importantly be aware. Look for people that might be in a dry season, that don’t have much direction or just aren’t feeling to excited about life. we all have those seasons, so be aware of them, but also be aware of yourself because there are things that we can say to somebody in a desert that can be very discouraging and make their desert experience much worse. Here are some things that can make somebody feel like their car is broken down in the middle of the desert in the summer.

Avoid saying I’ll pray for you. of course this is in a casual way because prayer is always needed, but often this phrase is used as an escape or the easy way out. This phrase is like you putting on your brakes and saying I am not going to be involved with your trip through the desert.
Avoid saying god is here with you . basic truths are fantastic, but they have their time. This is an important truth, but something even more important is allowing yourself to be the agent that will allow the person to see that god is relationally there with them.
Avoid saying everything happens for a reason. People can’t often find a reason why they are in a desert because there is always a path that looks better. this is not only not helpful but makes them dwell on their situation even more.
Avoid saying god loves you. this is another basic truth that is very important in the big picture life vision, but is often used as another escape phrase. Essentially what the person is hearing is that god loves me, but you don’t and I don’t believe that god loves me right now. This limits the person to understand love and see the love that god has for them by limiting it to a phrase. Let it be more about the action than the words.
Avoid saying look at the positives. Yes positives and pro/con list are great, but again in the right setting. In a desert things will seem cloudy or directionless because everything seems the same and most often you will end up getting a longer con list because the positive’s are hard to find
Avoid saying I am here if you need me. the all-time best nice person phrase that does not step on any toes or impose yourself onto anybody’s territory. Well there is something to be said for letting somebody process, but taking a journey through a desert is not the time to put the ball in their court. They feel like there is not much to talk about and most often will feel preoccupied with just getting through the desert. To the person in the desert it will come off as you do not want to be involved or do not know what to say. It is not about what you say it is about what you do.
Avoid saying call me if you want to talk. Another escape phrase that is a nice way to say if something life altering comes up give me a call, well that is the way it comes off. They do not want to pick up the phone in the middle of a desert to explain their new epiphany. They mostly need somebody to discuss things with when their mind is relaxed not when they are stressing so badly that they call a life line friend.
Avoid saying you are a strong person you will get through it. this is something they have a hard time believing because at this point they feel very vulnerable. They are in an uncomfortable area where there is nothing important around. Feeling strong is the last thing they will feel while they are lonely and giving that little slight encouragement at the end to remind them they can get through it, does not work. they need something they can believe in and connect with that is what will give us perseverance and hope.
Avoid saying things will get better. this one comes from a place of trying to empathize because you see their situation as something you have been through. Well that probably does not come off the same way to the person in the desert. They just think you are some fortune teller that can predict the end and discern the path that will have no bumps, sharp turns, accidents, break downs, or times of giving up. Don’t be a fortune teller it does not help.
Avoid saying there is light at the end of the tunnel. While in a desert it is really hard to believe without seeing, so if they can not believe what you are saying then don’t say it. yes there is light, but they are wavering in the darkness and in the uncertainty, so give them something that is certain or something that they can chew on. To see the light at the end of the tunnel we often have to get excited about something so that we can see a purpose for the long desert journey.

I don’t like when people right an article and point out all the negatives and give this robust critique and don’t give a solution, so here is my attempt at a solution. This is not a step by step or something that comes from a rule of fundamentals, but just something to be aware of as you are in relationship with people and you are walking in the world of people trying to connect.

Restoration in the desert
Here are some restorative things that can help somebody have a clearer vision of the big picture, of the promise land, of hope. It all starts with being involved so we have to be aware and willing to enter in. the best way to enter in is to engage with what I call the HFH which is 3 letters for 3 questions and they are what happened, what are you feeling, what is the hardest part. Sometimes people just want to be affirmed, so listen to their feelings and see where they are coming from. Bring it up again and ask them how they are doing with it at a later date. your role at this time is to not be a problem solver, but to be a friend and listen. At this point the lesser the words the better, but at the end give them something to chew on that is coming from an outside perspective for them to think about to get their mind of the pin point of the problem. I would say the most crucial thing you can do is to ask how you can be involved with them. People process and connect in different ways, but by you asking you are opening the door for them to invite you in to see how you can care for them. I would say it is really important to leave them with something fun and that can be as simple as asking them what are you passionate about, what excites you, or what do you enjoy. Then you can get to know them and you can use this to do something with them later that brings them alive or that shows you are investing in them in a way that brings them alive. with this they will be able to process, connect, and find a purpose for this desert. This is restoration happening in the desert, this is the great majestic river forming itself through the driest desert. This restoration brings hope, but most of all it brings love. we just have to be willing and aware

when life is dry pt.1 how to get through a desert

do you ever feel like you are in a season of life that is dry, not to exciting, possibly feeling directionless. Some call it depression, but I think depression is to extreme. Some call it being down or not living for much or even pointless. These of which are real feelings during this dry testing time, but instead of labeling with an extreme title of depression or a vague title like being down let’s call it a desert. When you are in a middle of a Desert you probably feel really dry and there is not much going on around you and that road seems like it is never going to end. That tempting question pops up, am I going the right way, and you start to think of other options that would lead to a road more exciting, but don’t do that.

Deserts are good
Without these dry lands we would not have things like the grand canyon with a rich vibrant river flowing through it. this great majestic river was not created by a single rain storm, but it took many years for the water to sit and work through the desert to be formed. Deserts are something to spend time in because that is where grit is formed, kind of like the rock formations in Zion national park in southern Utah. Determination, perseverance, hard work, and hope are all needed to get through the desert and when you get through the desert there will be a great character. Even though you will feel like you are suffering try to rejoice in that suffering for it will produce perseverance and from that will come character and from that will come hope(adapt from romans 5:3).
Going through deserts by yourself suck
Driving highway 10 across the southern part of the western united states can be dreadful, ask me how I know, but it does not have to be. the part between the beautiful California coast and the luscious Greenland’s of the deep south can be, well quite boring, sorry for people that live in that region. Driving on that long strip between the ocean and the Greenland can drive you crazy if you do not have somebody with you. just as we have deserts in our emotional, spiritual, psychological journey it can help keep us focused on the big picture or the promise land or hope if we have somebody with us. If our vision is clouded while we are in the desert then having another person with us will help us get through the tough dry testing period of the journey. We need to be willing to connect though. I use willing in a very purposeful way because we often dismiss people that are in a tough time or when life is dry because we do not want to get involved. Remember, Hope is much more clear to somebody when you live your life with them, so go on a journey through the desert. Check in on the next post for the second part of going through a desert with somebody and check the verse after romans 5:3to see why hope does not put us to shame.

the easy way to be a blessing

The blessed have a unique opportunity to bless others

There is this popular saying in our culture that goes something like, “you don’t realize what you have until it is gone”. Many people relate this to break ups, a lost job, something being taken away. As serious as these things are and how they are wounds that need to be tended too I am not sure that the popular saying is true. Now let me tell you why I think that.
When we see something as gone it shows we had possession of it and when we possess things we are often trying to live up to a standard that some person, society, culture, or institution has put in place. When we have standards then we think in the way of comparison and honestly I have been coming to believe more in the words that my dear friend wisely said to me “ comparison is a joy killer “see when we compare we don’t get to see what we already have weather it is salvation or a dollar in our pocket. This comparison blinds us.
See what we have
When we don’t compare, when we don’t possess, when we don’t live up to standards created by people culture and institutions then we can see that we are uniquely created. We have special skills, traits, characteristics, belongings, tools, and gifts. I purposely put gifts there at the end because I think it summarizes all the things previously listed to it. those things are gifted to us but more importantly with a gift we are to give it to others. I love the idea of white elephant gift parties because it is a giving of a gift that has been re-gifted. That is what our blessings are they are gifts that need to be re-gifted.

Take inventory
What has been given to you or what has aqquired? Take a look around you, don’t fall into the pessimistic ideology that says you don’t know what you have until it is gone, but take inventory. One thing that I have found to be helpful is make a physical list of gifts. This will open your eyes. It will give you joy to see what you have been blessed with, but more importantly it will give you the ability to see how you can bless others.

The opening of eyes
We can still be blind though, Even making list and not consciously taking things for granted by being appreciative, will still leave us prey to seeing what we don’t have. Blindness is something that does not have to be self-inflicted, but just coms by not stepping out of the comfortable area’s and having your eyes be opened. I was one of those that consciously try to force my eyes to be open, but things were seeming dull until I went to the Bridges Academy in South Africa. it was there where I realized I had many more gifts than I thought, I could sing, I could coach basketball, I could teach guitar, I could shoot 3 pointers. I could be me and I could be what I am where I was. These things I had been blessed with in seemingly small ways went to bless others. By small I mean really small because I am not a good singer or basketball player or guitar player. When we meet new people and step into the unknown we open up the door for new ways to share our gifts. We have to be willing to step and walk to enter in and connect, when we do this we are not only sharing but we are creating a restorative relationship. When we enter into the unknown we open up the possibility of small things being really big things. I guess you can say Continue reading “the easy way to be a blessing”