Archives for posts with tag: understanding

 

My grandchildren speak three languages. Don’t leave me now. I promise I won’t bore you with an exhaustive description of how wonderful they are. This is more than a story about my grandchildren. It is an attempt to offer a parable for living.

Jamie and Felicia were born in Tokyo and lived there until 4 years ago. They are now ages 14 and 11.Thus Japanese is their first language but they are fluent in English as well. They have just moved from Spain where they have lived for the past two years. Although they spoke no Spanish when they arrived, they were immediately enrolled in Spanish schools. As result, after two years of immersion in Spanish culture they have added a third language. At the end of this month they are moving to Mexico and will have to adjust to the Mexican version of the Spanish language.

The main train station.

I promised that this was not about my grandchildren and it is not. Rather I offer their experiences as an example of the importance and the difficulty of being multi-lingual. For the first years of their life they lived in a “Japanese world” in Tokyo. Except for spoken English at home and with a small group of other English speakers, everything was in the native language of their mother. Their parents intentionally spoke only English at home so the children became comfortable in the languages of both my son and daughter-in-law.

Two weeks after moving to Valencia, Spain in 2015 both children (ages 9 and 12) began school where all classes and assignments were in an unfamiliar language. Their lessons presented in the classroom and their conversations with classmates were in Spanish. Homework assignments had to be translated from Spanish to English and then back from English to Spanish. This was hard but as a result they now can communicate comfortably in the new language they learned.

Now what does that have to do with anything?

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We live in a world that is increasingly diverse and all of us could benefit from learning a second (or third language). The purpose of this writing is not to suggest that in a literal sense. However, I am proposing that there is another “language” that we need to learn for the well-being of ourselves and our world. It is the language of love.

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One does not have to look far or know much to realize that our civilized society shows many signs of becoming/being very un-civil. We are seeing all too frequent expressions of anger and hostility instead of understanding and mutual respect. There is the increasing need to learn or re-learn the language of love.

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The language of love is not easy but I believe it is necessary for our survival. Let me suggest an exercise that might help in this effort. Every day for the next week read Matthew 5:21-48 and Luke 6:27-42 in the Bible. Try to understand and to practice the principles of that “new language.” I believe it will make a difference in your life and in our world.

 

Jamie Jenkins

 

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” but the word is often used in ways that has caused the real meaning to be lost. Rather than an expression of affection, the word is commonly used to indicate taste or enjoyment or as a synonym for lust and passion.

I love ice cream. I love my new car. I love the Atlanta Braves- even when they lose. I love spring time. I love to travel. These and other uses of the word love has diminished its significance.

Jesus said that love was the one undeniable characteristic of persons who would follow him. He said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, The Message)

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OK, so we are to love one another but what does that mean? What is “love?” An extensive definition is given in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth (I Corinthians 13). He presents a long list of the qualities and characteristics of love. He sets an extremely high bar when he says that love is more powerful than faith or hope.

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Among other things, I have come to understand that one significant characteristic of love is understanding acceptance. Understand and acceptance. A woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers reminded him that their law called for her to be killed by stoning and they asked his opinion of what they should do with her.

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Jesus stooped down and began writing in the sand. When the accusers continued to press him for an answer, he said, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” When they heard this, one by one they drifted away. When they had all gone, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and do not sin again.”

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Jesus understood the woman and accepted her as she was. That does not mean that he agreed with her actions or approved of her conduct. He loved her as she was even though he encouraged her to change her ways.

 

It is important to note that love and “like” are not the same. I had a college roommate who irritated me with his music and his insensitivity to others. His attitudes and actions made it difficult to like him. However, as I learned about the difficult circumstances of his life I understood him, accepted him as he was, and learned to love him.

Anais Nin, in A Literature Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, said “What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.”

 

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I am grateful that God does not wait for me to be “acceptable” before He loves me. I am glad that God loves me not because of what I do or think but in spite of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I pray that I will be able to love others like God loves me.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

I have often said that if two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. That is not to suggest that any person is expendable but simply a way to express the fact that all people do not or should not think alike. No one has all the right answers.

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It is not a bad thing for people to hold different opinions. In fact, differing perspectives are healthy and helpful. Unfortunately that is not always understood and appreciated. Persons with different opinions are often ridiculed and disrespected. Expressions of disagreement are sometimes unkind and damaging.

In our current environment, civil and respectful discourse are often lacking when significant issues are the topics. Hurtful and disparaging words are frequently heard in public discourse. It seems that we are yelling at each other more than talking with one another.

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John Wesley suggested a better way than argument and debate to approach issues on which we differ. He believed if people would confer with one another they would make better choices and come to reasonable conclusions. Thus he admonished the early Methodists to engage in Christian Conferencing. Wesley expected Christian conference to shape people’s lives.

Christian conferencing is sometimes called “holy conferencing.” Steve Manskar says, “The phrase is typically employed ‘to encourage people to have polite conversation with each other, particularly around issues where people are going to disagree’.”

United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said that “holy conferencing is not limited to a specific topic or a specific venue for decision-making. It is also not a strategy to shut down conversation or stifle impassioned speech. It is a means for staying connected to each other in spite of our differences.” In a study guide she wrote to assist churches and groups she offered eight principles for constructive dialogue. I share them with you as a better way of dealing with difficult issues as well as daily affairs.

  1. Every person is a child of God. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded that to love God is to love our neighbor. “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both” (1 John 4:20-21, The Message).

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  1. Listen before speaking. This means that you suspend judgment about the other. Welcome with open arms others who don’t see things the way you do. Do not focus on convincing others that you are right. Instead, listen to others so that you can understand better why they hold their opinions.
  1. Strive to understand from another’s point of view. Bishop James S. Thomas said that the truth was clear to him when he was thinking his own thoughts by himself. It was when he was in the presence of others that it all got confused! In other words, he had to confer with others to see more sides or angles or perspectives on whatever the matter was at hand.
  1. Strive to reflect accurately the views of others. To strive to express accurately others’ views is a matter of honesty, not to mention integrity. If we skew, or cast the worst light on another’s viewpoint, and give it a spin that is not accurate, then we are being dishonest.
  1. Disagree without being disagreeable. “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.”  (Eph. 4:29 CEB)

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  1. Speak about issues; do not defame people. Calling people names defames them and is inflammatory. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Words that defame kill both the spirit and the reputation of others.
  1. Pray, in silence or aloud, before decisions. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Praying for those who disagree with us is hard to do because it challenges our prejudices, anger, and malice.
  1. Let prayer interrupt your busy-ness. Praying in the midst of our disagreement might actually bring out the best in us and for the common good! It’s always appropriate to call for prayer and also to be in an attitude of prayer in the midst of discussion about weighty, divisive, and important conversations.

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Bishop Dyck concludes her study guide by saying, “In order to confer with others who disagree with us, we need to practice our faith in ways that challenge us spiritually as well as relationally. To love God and our neighbor requires nothing less.“

Jamie Jenkins

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Clarence Carter is a singer who was blind from birth. He was born January 14, 1936 in Montgomery Alabama and early on exhibited an interest and talent for music. He taught himself to play the guitar by listening to the blues classics of John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed. At the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, Alabama he learned to transcribe charts and arrangements in Braille. In 1960 he graduated from Alabama State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in music.

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Jason  Ankeny said his musical style “exemplified the gritty, earthy sound of Muscle Shoals R&B, fusing the devastating poignancy of the blues with a wicked, lascivious wit to create deeply soulful music rooted in the American South of the past and the present.” Between 1968 and 2015 Carter recorded 37 albums. More than 20 of his singles were in the top 100 songs on Pop and R&B charts.

Carter’s 1999 album, Everybody Plays the Fool, contained a song with the following lyrics:

You talk too much. You worry me to death.

You talk too much. You even worry my pet.

You just talk, talk, too much.

Do you know such a person? Have you been that person? I do and I have. I don’t know why but sometimes I just don’t know when to stop talking. I have been told that I can talk a lot and say very little. Guilty! I know there are times when words are not helpful or appropriate but I just cannot help myself. When I am uncomfortable with silence, I often break the silence by talking.

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Lydia Dishman, in an article entitled “The Science of Why We Talk Too Much (And How To Shut Up),” says, “The ideal conversation should be a total give and take, with each person speaking about 50% of the time. That means staying quiet half the time.”

OK, but how do you achieve this 50-50 conversational ideal? Rob Lazebnik, a writer on The Simpsons, says it is easy: just ask questions. Then actually listen to what the other person is saying, and find openings.

Easy? Lazebnik said it was but then he said, “Talking is like drinking a great Cabernet. Listening is like doing squats. Listening is like reading a corporate report. Talking is like eating a cinnamon bun.” Easy? Baseball fans can understand his analogy: “Talking is a Miguel Cabrera home run. Listening is getting hit in the head by it.”aaeaaqaaaaaaaalvaaaajge5m2mzngrjltjhzgqtndnimi04njhhlwfjotjmmdc5zmy3ma

Studies have shown that most people who are talkaholics are aware of the amount of talking they do, are unable to stop, or do not see it as a problem. I am confessing- I know I talk too much and sometimes I cannot help myself but I understand that talking too much is a problem.

I know that in silence one can hear not only what is being said, but also what is not being said. But how does one withstand the pressure to speak?

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In a conversation a long time ago one person said that he had no real talent, nothing to offer for the benefit of others. When pressed, he finally said, “Well, I am a good listener.” He seemed to have no understanding of the value of listening.

There is a time to speak and a time to stop speaking. A time to talk and a time to listen (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Lord, help me to learn the difference.

Jamie Jenkins