Marshawn Lynch is big.  He is a beast-strength football player.  He has overcome big adversities in his life, some several times over. He doesn’t like to talk to the press (which they hate, so they obsess over why he won’t talk.)  He has big plans and personally, I think he has an even bigger heart.

When I logged onto Facebook yesterday afternoon, two news items caught my eye:  Robin Williams had died at 63. Marshawn Lynch is being investigated by the Bellevue police, regarding an ‘Incident’.  The first item broke my heart.  I hate depression and addiction, and how they take someone brilliant and beautiful, and twist and defeat and bully them into a crevice that feels inescapable, except for death.

I then turned to the supposed news about Lynch.  Perhaps the Bellevue police felt they had to inform the public of a “suspected” incident because Marshawn is big.  I am sure that most of the police officers in Bellevue are dedicated,caring professionals who care about people.  I’m also hazarding a guess that there were a dozen other ‘incidents’ that evening/morning that were actually painful, devastating, life changing.  But it’s not too often that the non-big people of this world get press.

I attended a women’s ministry meeting last evening; hosted by a gracious member of our leadership team.  We had ice cream (even though I have to pay $6 for coconut ice cream, I assure you it was worth every dime), and were wrapping up the final details of the new year.  I tried to reserve my voice for something I was actually needed for, so I kept fairly quiet, at least that’s my self assessment.  My mind was wandering near the end of our meeting, when the agenda note about “giving/volunteering” came up.

Another woman and I have been co-leaders the past three years mostly because if we hadn’t, the ministry was in danger of dying.  We both have persevered through confusing pastoral leadership changes, staff changes, women taking their families and leaving for healthier churches.  Last fall, we were just beginning to grow again, albeit with a small group of faithful, a half-dozen give or take.  The desire has been for our larger overall group of women in our church to be able to give to a certain very deserving and meaningful charity/ministry in our city.  The option had been explored to help, and what was most needed was to host something in December for the residents. Most of us in the group, while wanting to help, felt like it would be difficult to fit in our schedules.  So, we decided to do what we could, donate whatever we could to the ministry.  Maybe not the best choice, but it was what we felt we could do at the time without sacrificing our own ministries at church, home, work.

The mission/charity portion of our women’s ministry fell apart, again. For the third year in a row.  There were opportunities that just didn’t materialize into reality due to overworked people with big hearts.  

It doesn’t feel good, and wasn’t what the team wanted to happen.  We revisited the whole notion of supporting another ministry, if we felt we could follow through in action instead of just words.  I remembered that one person had spoken up last year, just as a question, to ask if we felt we needed an outside ministry in addition to our ministry to the women of our church, so I threw it in our conversation ring last month.

Last evening in a cooling garden, as the dark thickened around us, I slowly returned to the conversation, leaving the one in my head, because of the cacophony of words pouring from one person.  I heard frustration in her voice as she spoke of her frustration with our group inaction.

I shared that I remembered that we all wanted to help, but felt as a group that we couldn’t stretch ourselves to take it on.

The conversation was left with agreeing to disagree, and the words of our host, “Well, we try, and if we fail, God has grace.”

I don’t enjoy conflict, but I do like to talk things out, to make commonality where there is misunderstanding.  I love a good conversation, I’ll take on a light-hearted debate or two, words and relating with people drives me.  I love to talk (and even the motormouth nickname from my parents didn’t stop me).  I have, in recent times begun the practice of listening more.  I’ve consciously taken a step back now and then; to really listen to what someone is saying.  I won’t be teaching a seminar on this anytime soon, or in my lifetime.  But when I do slow down my fast running thoughts and answers (yep, first-born), and focus on the person I’m talking with instead of reacting, it is always produces a far richer connection.

Can I see the women’s ministry volunteers. point? Her frustration was valid, and held in it a kernel of truth.  What we have/haven’t done looks horrible on paper.  How could a women’s ministry not reach out to their community??  It’s the kind of actions that those hurt by Christians like to point to as another sign of how unloving we are.  

We did the best we could.  Did the speaker last night take up the cause on her own, or with another? I don’t know. I also don’t know what anyone else “did unto others” that December.  And I don’t need to.  Nor, does anyone need to know what I may have done to help a brother or sister.  What I’m going to say next is considered crazily radical talk in particular groups of believers. But it needs to be said.

WE ARE NOT TO SPEW JUDGEMENT ON EACH OTHER.

Yes, you heard me.  And in that typographic tone.  I’ve learned the hard way, the painful way, in ways that still make me wince, that judging is not our job.  Not as a pastime.  Not in the name of God.  Not up for conversation around a table of like-minded people.  Not now. Not then. Not ever.

I in no way think that I am immune to falling into this particular sin again. And again. Probably even in the last few minutes.

The line between humility and pride is so faint, that you can cross in a heartbeat.  When I was up at summer camp a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in this very position.  Judging can come very silently, slithering through our mind, dropping words of offense and self-righteousness.  It is tinder dry, and burns hot, quickly and fiercely-consuming love and leaving bitter ashes.  I am thankful that God brought my judging thoughts to my attention, and that I listened.  I wrote this description of myself down in my journal that day:  “Hypocrite dressed in a good girl disguise.” I let that sit with me, until I felt the humiliation of sin, and the forgiving of the Sinless One.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23-24 nlt

~~It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.~~Billy Graham

Extra Credit:  a good read about Marshawn Lynch

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