Story Wonders: Why Turning the Other Cheek Doesn’t Mean Rolling Over and How It is So Freaking Hard

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Many years before crows feet landed under my eyes, I read a book about forgiveness.

I had long thought that forgiveness meant you just sucked it up, whatever someone did to you and then tried to move on. Over time, this became unsustainable. I could not keep walking away, biting my tongue, or taking the hits. My feet hurt, my tongue bled, and my arms bruised from the practice.

Then I found this book.

(I can’t find it now. I’m sure I gave it to someone, and I think it was my father, who worked so hard to let things go and not be angry.

A few minutes of scanning Amazon and the wide web did not find it. I’ll be sure to post it if I ever do come across it.)

The book said things that made me question what I thought I knew about Christianity.

It explained that turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving up your cloak–all things Jesus insisted we do–actually were forms of non-violent resistance.

If you turned the other cheek, for example, the Roman soldier hitting you would either have to punch you like an equal or give up slapping you as an inferior.

In other words, Jesus did not advise that we roll over and become doormats.

He did not advise that we turn away from injustice or the pain. Martin Luther King, Jr. also wrote of this third respond to violence-not returning the cruelty or passively accepting it but defying it in a way that values everyone involved.

At first I was sure my new understanding of turning my cheek was fabulous. Then I discovered how terrifying it is to creatively and compassionately stand up for what I believe is right while giving the other the chance to change.

It’s hardest, I discovered, when I want to protect my son or another loved one.

Last week, I listened to Rob Bell revisit these ideas about Jesus’ often misunderstood advice. Bell gives a much fuller picture of the historical context if you are thirsty for more.

And so I’m looking for more ways to do this and, because it works best, I am starting small.

How, for example, can I creatively address aggressive behavior in traffic?

How can I talk to people who disagree with me politically without shutting them down or withdrawing into my comfortable shell surrounded by people who only ever agree with me? (Okay. This is not small. Perhaps I’d better start with my son’s meltdowns over his brother’s teasing instead.)

When I am honest, doormat is my default. I’m grateful Martin Luther King pulls me up off the floor and chastises me for this, telling me that is only allowing violence to continue.

And so I keep at it in my small way, one act at a time, trusting that I’ll get better with wholehearted practice.

Do wish me luck, grace, peace, and all that jazz. I’ll need it.

Update! Beth the librarian extraordinaire found the book. She added ‘Jesus comics’ to the keywords. What didn’t I think of that? Here it is!

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My Water Birthday: Overflowing with Our Abundance

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(A short break from the Kitty Channel)

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I listen to the Rob Cast every week without fail and this past week gave me some way to pay back the deep joy I’ve gotten from his words.

In his podcasts, Rob speaks of how to move from a false shallow happy light, to a place of crushing darkness, and then back out the other side to a deep soul shining light.

He speaks of the spirit that is here all around us in magic and miracles in every precious moment.

He speaks Truth to me.

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Recently, Rob interviewed Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water, an organization with a mission to get water to the people in the world who so desperately need it.

In the interview, Harrison spoke of women and girls who walked for miles to get the life giving liquid for their families. One girl committed suicide because she accidentally spilled her supply on the trip back after walking all day. The shame of facing her thirsty family without water was too much.

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When the communities that Charity Water helps get a well, they flourish. Many of the problems with disease, lack of opportunity and employment dissolve. Women and girls in particular prosper when they can do more than trudge from their homes to a water source and back again all day every day.

In the end of the interview, Harrison describes a woman who feels beautiful for the first time because she has enough water to wash her face.

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Here’s more on the Charity Water project if you like photos and audio by Rob to go with your stories.

One hundred percent of any money we give to Charity Water goes directly to digging a well because they have separate funding source for their overhead. (Rob Bell and his wife Kristin and several other well-known people give to keep the lights on. )

Plus, we get to see the well our money helps to dig with GPS. How cool is that?

Rob Bell has started a water campaign for his 45th birthday on August 23rd. The idea is to ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.

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I gave money to dig a well for women who can’t turn on a faucet and are now carrying water on their heads. It’s the best way I know to pay Rob back for what he’s given me this year.

I considered starting my own campaign since I am so close in age to Rob and our birthdays are nearby. (This sometimes makes me feel inadequate. I mean, sheesh, look what he’s done with his one big life. I need to up my game here.)

But I think I’ll keep my numbers quieter in the Internet space and ask you to give to Rob’s campaign for my coming up birthday. 

To give to Rob’s campaign please click hereIf you have ever enjoyed what I’ve written, I’d love for you to give.

He’s asking for 45 dollars or whatever you can manage because he’ll be 45. I’ll soon be 44 so you save a dollar if you give my birthday number. (I couldn’t swing that much myself, so I understand if you need to give less). 

Heck, you could even start your own water campaign for your birthday or some other holiday.

The people who desperately need water win and, I believe, so do we when we give.

I wish you the water that comes from wells and that other kind, too – the kind that quenches that thirst you have to love and be loved.

May you always have enough to drink-

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P.S. Please tell me if you decide to give. It would mean much to me.

Lesser Known Holidays Part Two: The Everyday

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I know it’s a bit of a cheat to call The Everyday a lesser known holiday, but I’ve been turning over which holiday to write about for weeks.

At the same time, I’ve been taking Rob Bell’s eCourse called Practical Guide to Finding Joy and Meaning in Everyday Life and soaking in the notion that each moment we live in is filled with the miraculous.

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I am hoping he won’t mind if I share a piece of his message here. I am betting he won’t even notice. And you may want to check out what he has to say because hearing it second hand won’t be as good as the real deal. Bell has a fabulous way with words that rings in my heart and mind long after I’ve listened to him.

One of the best messages I heard in his six week course was  that what I am doing does not equate to the importance of the moment. Bell says, “Task does not equal depth.”

To illustrate, he described a monk who peels potatoes with such prayerful presence that people came from miles around to watch him.

Now, when I am sitting in traffic or trying to wrestle a shirt over my son’s head or counting my students’ attendance hours, I often pause to think about the miracle of what is happening in that second. It feels like I wake up from a dream and open my eyes to how amazing each moment can be.

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Sometimes it’s exhausting. Maybe that’s why we so often don’t. Really peeling those potatoes or tallying hours prayerfully takes focus and energy. But it is so worth the effort. 

This small pause at the wonder of life in the everyday has been incredibly powerful.

This week, I stopped again at Seymour’s Conservatory to take pictures of the flowers, pick up a fallen bud from a tree and look closely at the apple blossoms. I’m so glad I noticed those glorious moments even on the road where they have taken down the blackberries.

(I didn’t take a picture of my attendance spreadsheets but those were honestly beautiful, too. Each name on them represents a person with hopes and dreams.)

Wishing you all the gift of seeing the beauty all around you. It’s not a new message by any stretch. It’s just one I need to hear over and over again.

Happy Everyday to you!

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