Hear what they hear

If we could stand in someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear…

slide #5In our video, a man just heard he lost his job. Imagine hearing that, and you are a middle-aged man with a family to support, and you’ve had that job for 20 years, and it’s a job requiring very unique skills that you have learned and targeted to that specific situation, and there are no other jobs quite like that one out there. You specialized yourself right out of the job market that, of course, you never thought you would be in. You’re going to have to take a non-skilled job — or two — at non-skilled pay. Not to mention the humiliation. That’s what he’s feeling. Right now it’s just what he heard we’re thinking about, and it’s ringing in his head. If you could only hear what he hears…

slide #3The little boy, trailing behind in the video, has a learning difference. He’s smart, but he can’t access that smartness so that it connects with the language and math centers in his brain. He’s smart, but the tests won’t tell anyone that. He’s smart, but the intellectually disabled kids in the special ed group don’t know that. Won’t know that. Neither does he. He must be like them, he thinks. Why else would he be in this group? He’s smart, but all he knows is that he is behind. Way behind. If he can’t talk quite right, it’s because he can’t hear quite right, or maybe he can’t process what he hears. He hears it, but maybe to us it would sound like gibberish, or distortion, or like lots of words jumbled together. In a few years, he’ll be thinking trade school, or, if he’s really mad by then, criminal activity. What do most of the people in prison hear? Chances are they’ve never heard that they are smart, or talented, or bright, or good looking. What you hear can make or break who you are. If you could only hear what he hears…

What if she can’t hear anything? Could you stand inside those shoes? What would that be like? Can you only imagine? What if it’s a beautiful girl you fell in love with who can’t hear anything. If you really loved her, you would learn sign language in a heartbeat. But what if he wasn’t so beautiful, would you learn it anyway, because you see his beauty in other ways? If you could hear what the people around you hear every day (or don’t hear), it might break your heart. Knowing them as you do, imagine what the people in your life are hearing, and if you can’t imagine, ask them. Go on, ask them. Ask what they heard today that made them happy or sad. Imagine someone hearing they are a miserable failure every day. Even if it’s nothing, everyone’s hearing something. If you could only hear what she hears…

As bearers of the Gospel of Welcome, we want to learn to stand inside someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear. If you can’t even try to do that, or you don’t care, the gospel will not be very welcome. The gospel might even be hurtful or abusive. The gospel will be how we bring it, because we are the gospel to those who don’t know it. We have a pretty big responsibility.

Our responsibility at the Catch is to help you carry the Gospel of Welcome where you live and work and play. It’s what we are committed to doing, and we’re learning how to do it better all the time, and how to create better resources to help you be the Gospel of Welcome in your corner of the world. But that costs — especially when you are doing it full time, as we are. That’s why we are running a membership campaign right now. Becoming a MemberPartner will inspire you to be a better representation of the Gospel of Welcome; it will provide you with more contact with us, and more resources, and it will help us meet our expenses and grow into the future. Clicking on the video screen below will take you to our contribution page where you can see the video we are talking about and find an appropriate amount for you to commit monthly to the Catch. Or, if you prefer, at the bottom of that same page is a link to where you can make a one-time donation as well.

But whatever you do, step into the shoes of the people in your day today and ask God to help you hear what they hear. He’s very good at this kind of thing.

GTO SCREENSHOT

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Through each other’s eyes

slide #8Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?  – Henry David Thoreau

How much greater is the miracle that Mr. Thoreau was referring to when one considers that, during the instant of looking through someone else’s eyes, we are not looking through our own? The miracle is getting a break from ourselves — something we all need — some more than others. Believe me, the people around me would love to have a break from me, too.

Marti does this well. She’s always looking through the eyes of others. Me, I am more likely to epitomize the Bette Midler line from the movie, Beaches, “But enough about me; let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”

Accordingly, Marti says I have a tendency to fill up a room — and most conversations — with myself. At least that’s what she says. I wouldn’t know because I’m so comfortable talking about me that I don’t notice we’re not talking about anyone else. It seems quite natural, true and right to be talking and thinking about me. It’s what I do. If I’m thinking about me, I’m sure you must be too.

Now I could say this is just one of the curses of being a performer (I’m writing this for my benefit, now), but that would be a cop-out. I can get out of myself just as easily as the next guy; the question is, Do I want to?

It’s like a friend of mine (who, incidentally, happens to be a performer, too), said in a hospital room when his wife, who was in labor, complained about being too cold, “Why? I’m not cold.”

Actually, it’s not the curse of being a performer, it’s the curse of being me. But there I go again, talking about me.

Lately, my neighbor has been giving me a run for my money. She’s the one who fell recently and has been requiring our assistance much more than usual. She’s a spinster who has lived by herself for 84 years; you can imagine she’s pretty used to her own company. Though she is known and appreciated in our town for years of selfless service in the community, at home, she’s pretty set in her ways.

Which explains the ridiculousness of us butting heads two days ago over the proper use of the remotes for her TV. She has a system that requires her to use both remotes every time she wants to turn her television on or off. Well, I thought I would simplify her life by showing her there was a way to set it up so she only needed one. Problem is, when I tried to show her this, she started insisting, very stubbornly, that she needed two. Suddenly, we lost the point of which way was easier, and it became an issue of who was right. That’s when I should have backed off and looked through her eyes, if only for an instant, and realized I was doing her a big disservice by insisting on being right. So I win this argument. By the next morning, when she wants to watch “Good Morning America,” she’ll probably be so disoriented over her remote controls that she won’t be able to turn her TV on at all.

As it turned out, I won the argument and felt awful. Her life is much simpler at this stage doing what she knows how to do, even if it takes an extra step. Had I looked through her eyes I would have understood that, and understood her better.

This is a small issue, but a big point. It takes a relationship to introduce the Gospel of Welcome, but I can’t have a relationship if I insist on being right all the time and looking only through my own eyes.

If you’ve been enjoying the Catch, you’ll want to become a MemberPartner. Click on the video below to find out how. GTO SCREENSHOT

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A message from Rob Stutzman

To become a MemberPartner, click here.

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Pioneers

slide #8The Gospel of Welcome is more than a message. It is a boots-on-the-ground movement to love people into the kingdom of God. To do that will take a new approach; one full of open arms and empathy. The Jesus movement died so that something else could spring up, and that something else is here.

Last Monday, Marti and I arranged a conference call with some of the people who were leading voices of the Jesus movement 45 years ago. We wanted to find out what had happened to them. Were their prophetic mantles hanging out to dry on a line somewhere, or were those mantles covering a new work, and if so, what was that work? What we found out was that, in every case, like new wine in new wineskins, something new had been born, and that something new was small … grassroots … close in, but thriving.

We found out, among other things, that Pat Terry was writing songs with songwriters in Nashville, watching the impact of the gospel through the relationships that formed around that. That Paul Clark was singing in clubs and house concerts, expressing his faith in non-Christian settings through songs of vulnerability and truth. That Mylon LeFevre was preaching the gospel and mentoring young artists. (“There are no hypocrites in rock and roll.”) That, like David in the Book of Psalms, Phil Keaggy was weaving the Spirit of God into music without lyrics. That Nancy Honeytree was learning to sing in Arabic so she could bridge a culture gap with the gospel. That Barry McGuire was announcing forgiveness because of what he himself had been forgiven of. And that Arthur Blessitt was still carrying a cross down the streets and highways of the world, talking to whomever wants to walk along with him about the only subject he’s interested in talking about — the only subject you really could talk about with a heavy wooden cross on your shoulder and rolling down the street — Jesus.

Sounds like a movement to me. A quiet, real, down-to-earth movement; but a movement nonetheless. As they did 45 years ago, these people are all operating as pioneers, and they are all spreading the news of grace — grace turned outwards.

People of the Catch, we are onto something. We are on the right track. We haven’t skipped a beat. We are right where we are supposed to be, but we won’t be here long, because we are on the move. We are done being just a daily devotional or a daily blog. We are citizens of the kingdom of God and citizens of the world, internalizing the Gospel of Welcome and teaching each other how to walk and talk it into our neighborhoods, our communities and our world.

Will you pioneer with us?

We are looking for 24 people today who will partner with us in bringing the Gospel of Welcome to everyone everywhere. Twenty-four people who will help start a movement that will cause people to run to Jesus and not away from Him. Twenty-four people who will be part of a miracle to look through the eyes of those around them — people who are saying, “I not only want to help John and Marti introduce the Gospel of Welcome, one-on-one, through the Internet, I want to BE the Gospel of Welcome to the people in my life each and every day.” Twenty-four people who, by committing themselves to regular support of the Catch, are saying they are putting their money where their lives are, on the street and in the world.

We are the Citizens of the Catch Community.

GTO SCREENSHOTprch

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Your place in this world

One of our readers in her comments turned me onto a Michael W. Smith song with the following lyric:th-1

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world

It’s an accurate description, I think, of how we all feel in regards to the search for meaning and place. Everyone wants to know why they’re here and what is it that will bring significance to their lives.

As I think about it, though, I come to the conclusion that our place in this world comes not in the form of a location — certainly not a permanent place to relax and call home. That place is eternal in the heavens. But our place in this world is realized in discovering our purpose — our task to do while we are here. It’s our purpose that provides “place.”

Our place in this world is found in the loving and accepting of others and the sharing of the Gospel of Welcome, which is that Jesus wants a relationship with everyone and has removed the barriers to that relationship in order to make it possible. What greater “place” could there be?

Your and my place in this world is found in acting out our purpose. We can do that from a place. Indeed, if we have a hold of this, God can move us around from place to place. He may change your job because of the people you will meet and share your life with in a new one. He may put you in the hospital because He wants you in a room next to another patient who is waiting to hear about Jesus. He may move you to a new neighborhood for the same reason.

Our address on earth is not our destination. Our destination is heaven. Our address on earth is our launching pad to effectiveness. Our address is a community of people God has for us to love. That is as much “place” as we need.

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

Jesus had no place to call home; the whole world was His place, and through us, His followers, He’s been just about everywhere. The next place He has to be is the next place you will be today. How about that for knowing your place in this world?

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Grace turned outward

th-27Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God.

It is the knowledge that you are pleasing to God right now regardless of what you have or haven’t done.

Grace is the realization that you have already earned a place in the kingdom of God, but you didn’t do anything to get it.

Grace is knowing that the law has already been fulfilled. There isn’t anything more you can do or anything you can add on to make it any better.

Grace is knowing you’re forgiven.

Grace is receiving the gift of being everything you wanted to be.

Grace is looking in the mirror and liking what you see, only because you know that’s what God does.

Grace is a starting point. It’s starting at a point at which you never thought you could be, even if you spent your whole life working for it.

Grace is the absence of judgment.

Grace is utterly and completely received. There is nothing you can do to get it.

Believe it or not, we don’t like this. Grace, as wonderful as it seems, gets turned down every moment of every day. We don’t like it because we have nothing to do with it, and that doesn’t set well with us. We don’t like receiving free gifts; we get very nervous around that. We feel much better being in control of something. We were made this way — made to earn our way.  We want to get somewhere by following the rules or sit around and complain about how we can’t. But to start out where we are already pleasing to God … what is that? That doesn’t compute using the math we learned in school. It just doesn’t add up, and that makes us nervous, because if this is true for us, it’s true for everyone. And if this is true for everyone, then it changes dramatically how I see and treat other people.

Or as a friend of mine just taught me: “How dare I judge anyone that Christ gave His life to forgive.”

How dare I lay on other people burdens that Christ has not laid on me.

How dare I have one set of rules for me and another set for everyone else.

How dare I make a big deal about anyone else’s sin except my own.

These last few observations are all about grace turned outward. Once I realize and accept God’s grace for myself, I must of necessity apply it to everyone around me, or I am merely showing that I have, in fact, not received it for myself. You can’t turn grace outward without fully taking it in.

Surrender. Receive. Jesus paid it all; there’s nothing more you can do but accept it. And once you’ve accepted it, you won’t look at anyone the same way again.

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‘Turn, turn, turn…’

th-26We have a dear neighbor, a retired school teacher named Anne with an “e,” just like our daughter. She’s a fixture around Laguna, having served this community for over 50 years in any number of volunteer capacities, and even now has a regular shift as receptionist at the Friendship Center for homeless families. Last year she was honored at a well-attended reception for her years of service to the community.

Anne is wry, feisty, and very funny, and she’s lived alone all of her life, but for the companionship of her dog, Stanley, who is a stand-in for her beloved Hannah who died a few years ago. Like Hannah before him, Stanley is part of her telephone voicemail message stating, “Stanley does not do phone.” Cracks me up every time I hear it, even when I know it’s coming.

Anne fell last night, and when I returned from being out with Chandler, I found Marti next door tending to her. Well, I didn’t exactly find her; she came home, solving the mystery of where she had been for the last 45 minutes. She had left no note and her cell phone and glass of wine were out on the counter as if she had simply vanished. I was about ready to put out an all-points bulletin when she showed up. So, after about an hour, she went back over to check on Anne and took me with her.

It was a little embarrassing being in an elderly woman’s bedroom where she was sitting on her bed in a nightgown, her bare white legs hanging over the side. She didn’t seem to mind. And after calling our Anne at the hospital and determining she did not need to come to emergency, Marti and I set about helping her get ready for bed.

As you can imagine, an older person, alone, as she is, had a specific routine around her bedtime that included, much to our surprise, readings from two devotional books and a section out of the Bible. A regular at what I would call a non-evangelical Christian church, we didn’t know if her church involvement was more social than spiritual. I noted with joy that she was very connected to this ritual, receiving comfort when the words were comforting and anxiety when they were not. It was a little like being at the lottery, waiting to see what the words of that day’s reading would bring her, especially in light of her current affliction.

When she started to struggle with the fine print in the faint light of her bedside lamp, I volunteered to read for her, and for a while she allowed me to, but then she took the book back, because I could tell, she wasn’t getting as much out of it when I read as when she did. Struggling with the words as she read out loud to us was much more engaging than hearing me read and getting easily distracted by the many things around her that were not just so. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was reading out of the wrong month when so much of what was read seemed to apply directly to her need at the moment. My superstitious self told me I needed to set that straight, but my spiritual self told me God probably directed her to the wrong day because that was the message He had for her today. God’s truth is not relegated to calendar days; that’s our limitation, not His.

Marti and I remarked later what an honor it was to be ushered into someone’s intimate devotional life with the Lord, especially when we had no idea she had one.

Of course the Bible reading was from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “To everything there is a season…” th-25“Turn, turn, turn…” I sang, thanks to Pete Seeger and the Byrds. Don’t you love moments like this when unrelated, God-ordained elements converge to show the obvious direction of the Holy Spirit on our lives? Such is life within the Gospel of Welcome. You just never know what might happen.

Before putting these treasured books away, Anne went back a few days in one of them to show us one of her favorite messages. Apparently the Chinese word for “crisis” is made up of two characters: one means “danger,” and the other “hidden opportunity.”

I thought maybe you could use that today. Truth is everywhere. If it’s true, it doesn’t matter whose name is on it, it’s God’s anyway.

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