After four nights of loud and not-so-loud noise coming from the room above my room that lasted all through the night leading to four very sleepless nights, and now a whole lot of noise outside my door and window from a whole bunch of very young kids playing very loudly and running all over the place in the parking lot (yeah, the parking lot where cars come and go all the time), I’ve really just about had it with hotel living, not that I have another choice at the moment and not because I haven’t been trying to find a more permanent place to live on a very low income (Social Security).
Just this past week I visited yet another apartment complex that is brand new (it just opened in July) advertising one bedroom apartments for $354/mo. to those who qualify, but when I got there I was told those cheaper rent apartments had all been rented (with all of the renters signing a 12-month lease) but I could be put on a waiting list (I would have to pay a $250 deposit just to be put on the waiting list) or I could rent the same apartment for the normal rent price of $756/mo. I did explain that my Social Security check after the Medicare premium is taken out is only $934/mo., and if I rented an apartment for $756/mo. I’d be lucky to be able to pay the electric bill with what is left over let alone other living expenses. My experience of these past several years first in trying to find another job and now for the past 3 1/2 years looking for low income housing is that there is not a whole lot of compassion out there for anyone especially anyone living on a very low income.
Guess I might need to reread my last post written eleven days ago titled, “Being Truly Thankful,” again as if one keeps dealing with people who apparently are not inclined to be genuinely helpful it wears very, very thin (the thankfulness part, I mean).
A couple of weeks ago I bought a book on sale for $5.00 titled, “Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World” (2012) by Bob Goff, “a New York Times best selling author and a recognized lawyer for over 25 years. In 2001 he saw a need in India and founded what is now known as Love Does” (quote source here). A brief description of the book on Amazon.com states:
As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren’t good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.
Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.
When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.
Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too. (Quote source here.)
There probably couldn’t be a more perfect day for me to finally pick up this book and take a look at it as after these past four days where I have gotten a very big dose of what “Love Doesn’t” do it’s starting to show up in me, too. And I hear the very heavy footsteps of, no doubt, young kids on the floor above me as I am writing this. Don’t you wish you could live in a hotel for a while. 🙂
There is a chapter (Chapter 29) toward the end of the book that is titled, “Memorizing Jesus,” on pp. 197-202. Here is what it has to say:
“I used to think I could learn about Jesus by studying Him,
but now I know Jesus doesn’t want stalkers.”
Have you ever been stalked? I don’t think I have, but I suppose it would be hard to tell if the stalker was any good. Stalking is one of those creepy things where once yo start talking about it, you imagine it’s happening to you. More people trying to follow Jesus should think about what stalkers do, but not for the reasons you might think at first.
I get paid as a lawyer to collect information and memorize facts, and I’ve gotten really good at it. What I realized about my faith is that I was doing just that, collecting information and memorizing things about God. I collected pictures and gathered artifacts and bumper stickers about Christianity, and I talked about knowing Jesus like we were best friends, when actually, we really hardly knew each other at all. and I memorized Bible verses and the names of the books of the Bible in order and the sequence of a bunch of events as well as who was there. At some point I had to confess that I was stalking Jesus. I was actually creeping myself out a little and I realized I was probably creeping God out too. So I decided I’d stop.
The first think I did was quit going to what Christians call a “Bible study.” A Bible study sounds like a wholesome thing to go to, and honestly, it is. They can come in as many flavors as there are people leading them. At the ones I went to, I learned a bunch of facts and information about Jesus. We might be studying how a guy named Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. The leader would open up a reference book and say something like, “The word ‘dead’ means in the Greek . . .” And then he’s say, “In the Hebrew the word means . . .” Sometimes he’d get really into it and talk about the difference between the Greek version of ‘dead’ and the Hebrew version. Then he’d ask us a compelling question. Something like, “When was the last time you felt dead?” Huh? I asked myself. Honestly, who really needs to hear a definition of ‘dead’? And what difference did it make? I wanted to talk about how I could do a better job following Jesus, how to practice kindness, and what might be possible to do with my faith before I’m the Green or the Hebrew version of dead.
This guy’s intentions were totally pure, so I don’t mean to trash him or anything. Plus, most of the things we studied at the Bible study were true and all, but honestly, if just made me feel like a stalker. Like a creepy guy memorizing facts and information about somebody I barely knew. whatever it was that I needed, I wasn’t finding it because I never wanted to ‘do’ anything with what I had learned. Most Wednesday nights, when I left Bible study, I found I couldn’t remember a single thing we’d talked about either. It was like someone put a big magnet on my hard drive after the Bible study was over. I wondered if something was wrong with me. But then I realized the reason I didn’t remember anything was because, in the big scheme of things, it really didn’t seem important to me. In other words, it didn’t intersect my life; it just bounced up against my life on Wednesdays.
What’s up with equating “Bible study” with knowing God anyway? Wouldn’t it be a horrible thing if we studied the ones we loved instead of bonding in deeper ways be doing things with them? I’d never want to get married to a girl no matter how much I studied her. I’d rather take her sailing or fishing or eat cotton candy with her on a Ferris wheel. I don’t think knowing what her name means in Greek is going to help me love her more. In fact, they have a name for guys who just study things about a person they like but don’t do anything about it–they’re called bachelors.
So I started getting together with the same guys each week and instead of calling it a Bible study, we call it a “Bible doing.” We’ve been at it for fifteen years now, and I’ve found there’s a big difference between the two. At our Bible doing, we read what God has to say and then focus all of our attention on what we are going to do about it. Just agreeing isn’t enough. I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with Him.
Sometimes, the reason people try to memorize things is that they don’t have another reference point from which to connect with a place or idea or concept. I get that. But the funny thing is, until I’ve experienced something personally, I usually can’t remember it. You’d think that by hearing the same things many times, it would become part of us; but most of us just aren’t wired to merely hear things and remember them.
Not long ago I listed to a Taylor Swift song called “Love Story” on a flight all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast. I had the song on repeat on my iPod for some reason, and as soon as it finished, it would automatically start once again. It’s a happy song. Lots of banjo music at the beginning as I recall. If you want to know how many times I heard that song, divide three minutes and fifty-five seconds by North America. Even though I heard the words sung over and over, you know what? I can’t remember more than a few isolated lyrics.
I remember that it’s about a guy named Romeo and I’m not quite sure who the girl is. I’m guessing it’s Taylor. I think that they had to overcome some adversity because the girl’s dad wasn’t keen on young Romeo. As a dad, I can respect that. But at the end of the day, I can’t remember how the songs ends or whether they guy got the girl.
I don’t remember much about Taylor’s love story even though I’ve heard the song about it over a hundred times. Why, in contract, can we remember every nuance, every glance, and if we’ve fallen in love, our entire courtship story with such punishing detail? With our own love stories, every detail comes alive. Our own love stories are so poignant, so detailed, so unforgettable–at least to us. When it’s someone else’s love story, however, we will be polite and listen, but usually it’s entirely forgettable. It’s like looking at someone else’s vacation pictures.
When I have skin in the game, the outcome all of a sudden matters to me and I become engaged. Some people think of engagement as the time between proposing marriage to someone and getting married. I think of engagement as the time between hearing a truth and nodding our heads or making sincere “mmhms” in agreement and when we do something about it. That explains why Jesus never talked about just building consensus; He wanted us to build a kingdom instead.
If you get engaged like that, you’ll be able to remember Bible verses better because you’re “living” them instead of just reading them. Another by-product of engagement is all the canned answers we have to complex questions melt away. I think that’s because we see ourselves in the context of something larger that is unfolding. the details aren’t distractions; they are ladder rungs we can pull ourselves up on. We remember because we are no longer observers. I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be “believers” but “participants.” Not because it’s hip, but because it’s more accurate, more fitting that way. He wanted people who got to the “do” part of faith, not because He wanted activity, but because He wanted our faith to matter to us.
One of the ways I make things matter to me is to move from merely learning about something to finding a way to engage it on my own terms. For example, if someone asks what I think about capital punishment, instead of reciting the party line and parroting someone else’s thoughts, I think of a teenager named Kevin in prison in Uganda who had been accused of a capital crime. If the topic is same-sex attraction, I think of a dear friend of mine who is gay. Now instead of talking about an issue, I’m talking about a person, someone who matters to me. I think that Jesus wired us that way so that we’d remember. And it’s not about just being politically correct; it’s about being actually correct. We need to make our faith our very own love story.
What I like about Jesus’ message is that we don’t need to study Him anymore to know Him. That’s what the religious people at the time were promoting. Collecting information about someone is not the same as knowing a person. Stalkers are ordinary people who study from afar the people they’re too afraid to really know. Jesus said that unless you know Him like a child, you’ll never know Him at all. Kids don’t care about facts, and they certainly don’t study each other. They’re just with each other; they do stuff together. That’s what Jesus had in mind.
I listened to Taylor Swift’s song a few more times since my trip across the country. This time I took notes so I’d remember how the story goes. It turns out that it all worked out great in the end for Taylor. Romeo stuck around even though the dad told him to split, she got a while dress, and according to Taylor, all she had to say was yes. But I bet Romeo didn’t get to know her because he memorized her. I think it’s because he did things with her. It’s the same for us. (Quote source, “Love Does,” pp. 197-202).
Reading this chapter reminds me of the fact that we rarely take the time to really get to know another person unless there is a compelling reason for it (and, hopefully, that compelling reason is a good reason and not a bad reason for getting to know them). We too often make assumptions about others without knowing them, and we listen to (and often believe) gossip about them, but we never really get to personally know them. And most of the time we don’t care, either.
It’s like hotel living. People come and go all the time. It’s the most transient way I’ve ever been forced to live in my entire life (also the most expensive given it is also the tiniest space I’ve ever lived in, too). And I’ve learned over three years of hotel living at different hotels that, unfortunately (because I normally tend to be a very friendly person), it is best to keep to myself as all kinds of people stay in hotels for all kinds of reasons (and some of those reasons are very unsavory). This is nothing like living in an apartment complex.
Love is an action word. It’s not meant to be memorized or studied as Bob Goff stated in his chapter above. It is meant to be lived out on a daily basis. Yet, in this world there is not a lot of love going on out there, so it has to come from us. If all we (meaning those of us who claim to be Christian) do is “study” Jesus or attend church and maybe a Bible study but put very little of “how” (as in action) Jesus told us we should live with and around others, then we’ve totally missed the point of knowing Jesus. That does not mean we become doormats to the whims of others, but it does mean we ought to at least extend them kindness even if they are abrupt with us for whatever reason (and maybe for no reason at all).
After four days of noise when I’m here in my room during the day, and four sleepless nights from the constant noise from the room above me at all hours of the night, my feathers are more then a little ruffled by the actions of others who are causing it to happen. Maybe that is intentional on their part . . . who knows. The most I can do is to report it to the manager and hope it will subside a bit, but I have no ill will towards those guests who are doing it, and if I should run into them coming in and going out of the hotel parking lot, I will be kind to them. I do not know their motives, and they don’t know me at all (except that I’m a single and much, much older white woman which doesn’t fit in with the rest of the demographics at this particular hotel). The one thing every single one of us can be with others is kind. And that’s a good place to start.
Forgiving one another . . .
Even as God in Christ . . .
Forgave you . . . .
YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:
And here’s another YouTube Video of a song from 1971 with the same type of message: It’s titled “I Just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth: