Monthly Archives: June 2010

How Do You Define Violence?

Hello there, friends.

I have to begin by saying I so appreciate you.

Your thoughtful and gracious responses never fail to amaze me.

Our last posts’s discussion of capital punishment was no exception.

I think Terri said it best:

I’m so impressed with the responses of everyone who has commented so far.

You have a very kind and wise community here.

And to that I say:

Amen!

You are seriously the best part about this blog.

Thank you for continuing to be here and for lending your heart and mind to all we do.

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So, today I’d like to open things up for a brainstorm.

What say you to a gathering of collective wisdom?

Let’s gather our thoughts around this central question:

What do we mean by “violence”?

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For nearly six months, usually as I’m driving about town, I’ve found myself musing on this question over and over.

Usually it’s because I notice subtle violences sprinkled throughout my days and evenings.

  • Ways I wronged those surrounding me.
  • Ways I capitulated to pressure.
  • Ways I went on the offensive.
  • Ways I catered to my competitive streak.
  • Ways I failed to love others — and myself — well at all.

It gets me thinking of all the various forms this “violence” can take.

It’s so much more than physical violence.

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Yes, there are physical manifestations of violence.

  • Abuse
  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Murder
  • Acts of terror
  • War

We, of course, decry and grieve over those forms of violence.

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But there are other forms of violence.

Supremely subtle forms.

The kind that make this journey intensely personal for each of us.

The kind that gives this gathering space ongoing purpose as we each seek to grow in love.

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Take, for example, what I wrote elsewhere on this blog:

Violence lodges itself in each of our hearts every day.

In split-second flashes, we judge, hate, criticize, demean, condescend, covet, envy, and dismiss other human beings.

For much of our days, we think of ourselves more than others.

We blur the lines and choose the path of least resistance.

We instinctively compete and are altogether dedicated to our self-preservation.

These, too, are issues of violence.

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So I have to ask myself at any given moment:

Where is my heart?

Is it . . .

  • Regarding itself more important than another?
  • Straining to land on top?
  • Dismissing what others have to say?
  • Disregarding what others feel?
  • Criticizing what others believe and do?

To me, these are acts of violence.

I have to repent of them every day.

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And then there’s another form of violence.

The self-inflicted kind.

The kind I wrote about here that so often looks like self-judgment and self-condemnation.

The kind that inflicts self-harm, whether inwardly or outwardly.

Inwardly, this kind of violence can reside below the surface in a voice that incessantly berates us.

Outwardly, it can take many forms, such as:

  • Cutting
  • Overeating
  • Undereating
  • Promiscuity
  • Overspending
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of sleep

And many more . . .

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I would submit to you, then, the following:

  1. Violence can be directed toward others or ourselves.
  2. It can be a physical act or a posture of the heart.
  3. It can lodge itself in our thoughts.
  4. At any moment we can choose or not choose love, violence lurks in the shadows.

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Accordingly, I offer my personal working definition:

That which lacks love is violent.

Where love exists, violence is nowhere to be found.

That is why, for me, this nonviolent journey is ultimately about increasing one’s capacity to love.

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So, what do you think?

What does “violence” mean to you?

How would you define it?

Would you add any specific forms of violence to those listed above?

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At the Root of Nonviolence Is Hope

Hi there, friends.

So, I’ve been hemming and hawing about posting something here that’s been on my mind the last few days.

In some ways, as you’ll soon see, this is the most obvious place to talk about it.

But in other ways, it presses one very hot button.

Sheesh, does it!

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This means it could spark some lively discussion among our JTN tribe, which I would gladly welcome and expect you would too.

Especially because I think we all value what we can learn from each other’s perspectives and have learned to uphold a gracious dialogue here.

But it also could invite some search-engine traffic from those who are less — or in no way — given to the path of nonviolence we trod.

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So, let’s be honest.

In a space exploring a subject like ours, we’re bound to witness a level of engagement like that eventually.

It just hasn’t happened yet.

And I wonder if we’re ready for it now.

More to the point, I wonder if I’m ready for it now.

This is when walking the nonviolent path out loud begins to feel altogether daunting.

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But there are very real questions about this journey that need to be raised if we’re to stay intellectually honest with ourselves as we walk it.

And I, for one, want to explore those questions out loud with pilgrims like you.

That’s one of the main reasons I created this space to begin with.

And really, what’s to be gained by avoiding the real and hard questions when they come up?

I don’t want to limit my journey to the antiseptic roadways.

Do you?

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With that said, then, let’s give it a try, shall we?

And if the conversation takes an ugly turn because of uncharitable visitors, I’ll try to determine — perhaps with your help — the best way to handle it.

Sound good?

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Okay.

So.

I’d like us to try our hand at a discussion of capital punishment.

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Perhaps you heard about the man who was executed in Utah on Friday.

His name was Ronnie Lee Gardner, and he was sentenced to the death penalty in 1985.

At the time, he was allowed to choose the manner in which he would die.

He chose death by firing squad.

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It’s a grotesque story, and I’ll let Google fill you in on the details if it interests you to seek them out.

But it was this detail of the firing squad that made my breath catch in my throat.

(Well, that and learning that the Utah governor tweeted about the event as it happened. That is utterly strange and hard for me to understand.)

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But as for the firing squad, I tried to imagine the men who were given those triggers to pull.

I learned later that they were all volunteers.

Really, that just made it more difficult for me to fathom their experience.

I also learned that one of their rifles carried a blank.

This prevented each of them from knowing for sure if their shot carried one of the fatal woundings.

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I couldn’t help but wonder, as I considered those men:

  • What was it like for them to turn a rifle on a man sitting in a chair before them, totally defenseless?
  • What was it like for them to pull their triggers and watch him die?

Truthfully, I just couldn’t stomach those images.

Maybe you can’t either.

And I knew in that singular moment of revulsion:

I just can’t get behind capital punishment.

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Am I naive to feel this way?

Not to get on board with “an eye for an eye”?

Not to say, “He deserves that kind of death because he forced death on another”?

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I’m sure that’s what some would say of me.

That I’m naive.

Or that I care nothing for the victims and what they suffered if I hold this view.

(Although on that point, nothing could be further from the truth.)

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I guess it surprised me to notice how far I truly am from espousing capital punishment.

And this is what I’ve realized is the reason why:

At the root of nonviolence is hope.

Hopes carries with it the possibility of change.

Of an honest reckoning inside someone’s soul.

Of conversion of heart and spirit.

Hope carries with it the possibility of repentance.

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But capital punishment carries none of those things.

It carries only a relinquishment of hope.

It roots itself in the idea that someone is finished.

That change is not possible for them.

Or that change — if it is possible — is undeserved.

In short, it’s about totally giving up hope on someone’s life — so much that we’d choose to end it.

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Do we want to be people who believe those things — about anybody?

I don’t.

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But I’m curious to know what you think about this.

Do you have any opinions about capital punishment?

Would you be willing to share them with us?

On Being Kind to Ourselves

Hello there, friends.

I feel the need to begin this entry with a confession:

I haven’t been very kind to myself of late.

Nope.

Haven’t been kind to myself at all.

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Instead of grace, I’ve spooned out judgment.

Instead of compassion, I’ve unleashed litanies of self-criticism.

I’ve pointed out to myself with regularity all the ways I’ve fallen short.

And not measured up.

And let people down.

And really, just failed to hold up the world with perfect precision.

Isn’t that crazy?

But there it is:

Being an imperfect human feels quite intolerable these days.

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It’s such a strange place to be.

I spent years on an long, inward journey that led me to embrace grace.

To hold tenderly the broken places inside myself.

To offer those vulnerable places to God.

And to receive unconditional love and acceptance in return.

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It was such a beautiful journey.

I came to know know, deep down, that our humanness delights the heart of God.

And I came to fight fiercely for this truth on behalf of others.

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But these days?

That’s not where I’ve been living at all.

These days, all I hear is the cacophony of merciless self-judgment.

These days, I barely even remember grace exists.

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I’ll be honest.

All of this has made me near-blind and near-deaf to the nonviolent journey.

Because, really:

How can we walk the nonviolent path if we’re battering our own hearts and souls with fierce, heavy weapons each day?

The truth is, we can’t.

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There are long lists in my notebook of ideas worth writing about here.

There are so many things I want to say and ask and explore about the nonviolent journey with you.

And we will get to those things, I promise.

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But today, what I most need to say is this:

Nonviolence is as much a disposition toward ourselves as it is toward others.

And right now, I’m relearning that truth.

It’s humbling to be relearning, to be a beginner on a path of grace I had once come to know so well.

But there you go.

That’s my truth today.

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What about you?

Do you struggle with self-kindness?

What helps you find room for self-kindness these days?

Moment of Love Monday: June 2010

[An example for us on this Moment of Love Monday of what it looks like to offer love in the face of — and in place of our own — judgment, anger, or hatred.]

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Hi there, friends.

Just as we recently began a monthly tradition called Repentance Thursday, we also began a monthly tradition called Moment of Love Monday.

It happens every month on the Monday following Repentance Thursday.

Which means it happens today.

You can read the background on this monthly exercise here.

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At its core, Moment of Love Monday is an opportunity to share how we practiced love — particularly in a difficult situation — in the previous month.

This exercise is rooted in our belief that love is more powerful than violence and has the power to transform it.

It is also rooted in our commitment to offer love in response to any degree of violence or hatred in our lives.

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This will not always be easy, and we will not always have stories to share.

But it is a chance to learn from each other.

To get creative.

To see what is truly possible.

And to be putting into practice these things we say we believe.

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To start us off this month, I’ve shared a video at the top of this post that I discovered on Donald Miller’s blog several weeks ago.

It’s the story of someone who encountered hate and offered love.

I find it truly inspiring.

It embodies, for me, what the nonviolent ethic is really like.

I’d like to live this way more often.

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So, as you look back over this past month, consider the following:

  • How did you choose to practice love in a difficult moment?
  • How did the injection of love into that moment affect the circumstances?
  • How did the choice of love in that moment affect you in the aftermath?

I look forward to hearing your stories. You are such an inspiring tribe. I’m so privileged to be on this journey with you.

Repentance Thursday: June 2010

[A song for reflection on this Repentance Thursday, sung by me.]

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Hello, friends.

We began a tradition last month called Repentance Thursday.

It happens here on the first Thursday of every month, which means it is today.

To learn what Repentance Thursday is about and why it is important for us in the journey toward nonviolence, you can read the inaugural post here.

But in a nutshell, it is an opportunity to remember our humanity.

It is a place to remember our level footing with the rest of our brothers and sisters on this earth.

It is a chance to remember, confess, and repent of our own contribution to this world’s groans and pains.

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Today, you are invited to reflect on the following questions as you consider this past month in retrospect:

  • Into what dark mires did my heart traverse?
  • In what ways did I bring harm to my fellow man, either in thought, word, or deed?
  • How did I sin against God?

After reflecting on these things, you are free to leave a comment of confession.

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Please remember:

  • You are welcome to leave your confession anonymously.
  • You are welcome to make up an e-mail address (since the comment section requires you to leave one).
  • You are welcome to be as general or specific as you want.
  • You are welcome to write your confession as prayer.
  • Any judging or disparaging comments of another’s confession will be removed.

Thank you for joining us in this space of honesty and courageous conversation.

Happy Freedom Tour Launch Day!

As I shared with you in my last post, the Storyville Live Freedom Tour launches today.

It’s a day to celebrate!

As of today, we will be sharing the story of modern-day slavery with people who might otherwise not hear of it.

And we’ll be inviting them to turn their daily coffee habit into a ritual of freedom, dignity, and hope.

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And so to celebrate the launch, I’m offering you a song.

It’s appropriate to celebrate with a song because the Freedom Tour helps bring freedom through the profound, beautiful medium of music.

But it’s also appropriate to share this particular song because we at JTN believe that love is more powerful than violence.

And that’s what this song speaks about.

It speaks about the presence of love in the darkest of places.

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The song is written and performed by Grace Pettis, one of my favorite new artists who also happens to be touring with us this year.

My jaw about dropped to the ground the first time I saw Grace perform.

Don’t let her small, youthful frame fool you . . . her lyrics betray the soul of someone deeply wise and attentive to life.

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[Many thanks to Ami Lawson of Earth Angel Outreach for capturing this video at a private Storyville Live performance with Grace Pettis in May 2010.]

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Happy Freedom Tour Launch Day! Feel free to share in the comments:

What are you celebrating today?