We were in the deep south of Alabama in July. It was so hot and humid that our hair was never dry. I was leading a youth mission trip to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. Mid-week, our Habitat leader drove us through neighborhoods in the area which were visibly falling down around us. Youth started saying things like, “If they would get off their front porches and get a job, instead of sitting there all day, their houses wouldn’t be falling down. Maybe they wouldn’t look so sad.” I waited for the guide to jump in and teach. He didn’t. Instead, he started, “I wonder why these neighbors don’t do that.” He continued, “I wonder what would keep them from finding jobs.” The conversation turned. There was discussion about economic downturn and the flight of industry from that town. The van filled with talk about what happens if you don’t have enough money to move and aren’t able to find a job; the emotional and physical effects of poverty were a major topic. Increasing throughout the dialogue was the youth’s use of the phrase, “I wonder…” Using that phrase launched an incredible exchange of thoughts and ideas. Even more, it moved the conversation from judgement to understanding.
That phrase followed us through the trip and has never left me. When one youth would snap at another, right before retaliation began, someone would intervene, “I wonder why they snapped? Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe their feelings are hurt.” Over and over again, that phrase built bridges between people and turned hearts to compassion and understanding. Years later, I was at a meeting where we used a covenant to guide a difficult discussion. The sixth point on our method of conversation agreement was, “Turn to wonder. If you find yourself becoming judgmental or cynical, try turning to wonder: “I wonder why she shared that story or made those choices?” OR “I wonder what my reaction teaches me?” “I wonder…”, once again, was a game changing practice.
We live in a critiquing society. We are busy judging the successes and failures of others. We are busy blaming others for what is done and for what is not done the way we believe it should be. Any glance at the news cycle or social media will reveal this mode of engagement. This continual judgment is in our families, our churches, and our schools. Many of us have adopted this mode as a primary way of thinking. Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) I don’t believe he’s telling us not to discern what is good, healthy, righteous or effective. In the next section of this scripture, he goes on to talk about discernment using the symbol of a tree that produces good fruit. And yet, he does remind us that we are equally as human and fallible as the people we are busy critiquing, yet we act blind to our own flaws and foibles. He calls us to first remove the speck from our own eye before we busy ourselves pointing out all the blind falls of another.
One practice that helps with Jesus’ call, is to turn to wonder. When we find ourselves criticizing, gossiping and blaming, let’s turn to wonder! Let’s wonder in our minds about how or why things might have turned out a certain way or why another acted in a particular way. In group settings when criticizing and blaming begin, let us be the first to say, “Will you wonder with me for a moment…” and then offer a question. Let us be a people who wonder, all the while building bridges and understanding.
Community Life: What’s Happening at Old Bethel
Committee Leadership Teams are busy at work: The Radical Hospitality Team is working on developing clear signage that will be more welcoming to our guests. The Trustees are busy working on cleaning up many areas of the church by working with those groups who are storing things. This will help not only with building upkeep, but will also insure we are using space for the building of Christ’s Kingdom. Finance is beginning its budgeting process. Each committee WILL need to submit a budget this year, in line with their ministry goals. If you see leaders on these teams, please thank them for the ways they are serving God and leading the church forward.
Summer Fare is almost here! Thanks to the amazing work of that leadership team. Please invite neighbors, friends and family to this important time of community connection. If you haven’t already signed up to serve, contact Mike or Janet Tucker at 467-4669 or 894-3672.
Youth Small Groups! Small groups are some of the most life changing times with Christ. If you know of middle school or high school students who could use a supportive time for laughter and reflection in Christ and with community, please connect them! Middle Schoolers (grades 5-8) meet Tuesdays, 6-7:00pm at Nancy Bellinger’s house. High Schoolers (grades 9-12) meet Wednesdays, 6-7:00pm at the Braeburn Clubhouse. Contact Nathaniel Asperger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359-9651 with any questions.
FX - Family Fun Night is next Saturday, August 29 at 6:00pm in Fellowship Hall. We will check out the Orange theme for the month (Initiative) and have some interactive learning and worship. Bring your grandkids, your neighbors, your work colleagues and families. This is an essential time of families connecting and laughing. By families, I mean that family which stretches into our community. This is for all ages!
Serving Christ Together,