Everybody, Always: A Litany on Bob Goff’s New Book

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You may have noticed, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, that I have opinions. Opinions about a lot of things. Many of them could be classified as “political,” although I prefer to classify them as following Jesus. I believe them to be well researched, thought out opinions.

Opinions and Other People

But the stunning surprise every time for me is—not everyone agrees with me. I don’t even know what to do with that. Shouldn’t everyone see things the way I do?

Not only is that divergence disturbing to me, but it has brought out parts of me that could not be classified as following Jesus. Anger. I do know that not all anger is wrong—anger over injustice is not wrong at all. How many of us, though, stray away from anger over injustice toward anger at people, rather than problems? (Insert raised hand here.)

Frustration. Doubt. Mostly, lack of genuine love for sisters and brothers who are completely on the other side of the issue. I devoutly believe they are wrong—but lack of love is not following Jesus. I don’t like that. Fix it, Jesus.

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Enter Everybody Always

That’s why I wanted to be on the launch team for Bob Goff’s new book, highly anticipated after a couple year’s hiatus from Love Does. He promised that he would tell me how to love Everybody, Always. The subtitle said it all: Becoming Love in a World of Setbacks and Difficult People. I needed that book.

Fortunately, I made it on the team and got to pre-read the first part of the book. When it came out in April, I ordered the whole thing on my iPad, because I needed the rest of the story–now, not in two day Amazon prime shipping. So here is your reason to get the book—if you haven’t already.

I wanted to preview this book because Bob raises the question I am struggling with—how do we really love people who try their hardest to be unlovable in today’s political and religious climate? Bob manages to open eyes to not only how we do that but, of course, how we sometimes are those unlovable people to someone else. His striking humility and hands-on personal testimony about how this works are enough to sell his authority.

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Resisting the Offer

One of my favorite quotes right off was: “I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.” Knowing it’s many of our struggle, not just mine, was a great start. It’s a daily thing, not a one and done. We have to resist that bait every single day it’s offered. And believe me, it’s offered a lot. Every time we turn on social media. To realize that it’s darkness trying to get me to click, swallow, and react helps make the right choice.

It doesn’t mean I have warm, bubbly feelings for everyone whose posts make me cringe and scream quietly into my Earl Grey. It does mean that sometimes the better part of love is to scroll past them, know what’s being offered, and refuse to take it. Say a prayer for the person and move on. Nothing to see here. Nothing to trade my peace and kindness in for. The people aren’t dark, but the temptation is.

A few of my favorite sections:

What I’ve been doing with my faith is this: instead of saying I’m going to believe in Jesus for my whole life, I’ve been trying to actually obey Jesus for thirty seconds at a time. Here’s how it works: When I meet someone who is hard to get along with, I think, Can I love that person for the next thirty seconds? them. I try to love the person in front of me the way Jesus did for the next thirty seconds rather than merely agree with Jesus and avoid them entirely, which I’m sad to say comes easier to me. I try to see difficult people in front of me for who they could become someday, and I keep reminding myself about this possibility for thirty seconds at a time. It’s easy to agree with what Jesus said. What’s hard is actually doing what Jesus did.

Right???

I love this. What can’t we do for thirty seconds? If we love for thirty seconds, I suspect it gets easier to love for thirty more, because for at least that much time, we’ve listened, heard, and looked at someone with new eyes. It’s hard to go back to anger and hate and dissension after we choose to love for thirty seconds.

Whether we want to or not, we end up memorizing what we do repeatedly. It’s the way we were wired from the factory. Because this is how we’re made, it’s a great idea to pick actions worth repeating. People who are turning into love do this. They adopt beautiful patterns and surrounding imagery for their lives. They fill their lives with songs, practices, and habits that communicate love, acceptance, grace, generosity, whimsy, and forgiveness. People who are becoming love repeat these actions so often they don’t even realize they’re doing it anymore. It’s just finger memory to them. They don’t need anyone to clap for them. They don’t need validation for things they know are inherently right and true and beautiful. They don’t need all the accolades that come with recognition. They also don’t feel a need to criticize people who have gotten a couple of things wrong or hit a couple of sour chords in their lives.

I want this. I want to practice grace. All the time. Until it’s the song that flows from my heart, fingers, and mouth every moment. Thirty seconds at a time.

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OK, this might be my very favorite quote. 🙂

Each day I start with the things I’m certain about and try to land my weight on those things. It always starts with a loving, caring God who is tremendously interested in me and the world I live in. I’m picky about what else I add after that.

That sounds like fantastic advice to me. It sounds like Jesus advice. What do we continually add to the basic facts that God loves me, God loves all the other people as much as me, and he cares what we do with it all? I want to land my weight on what matters and know that it’s going to hold. All the requirements we add are what makes us bounce off the runway, overweight and unbalanced. I want to travel light with what matters as my baggage, pilot, and landing gear.

There’s much more, told in his storytelling style that makes you want to go out and do half of what he does. (Except the skydiving part. I still have zero desire to skydive.)

I’m not sure how this introvert will manage to be such an active inspiration in peoples’ ives as he is, but at least I know how to start. Thirty seconds at a time.

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Five Hopes I Wish for You and Me

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I learned about mercy and hope this morning while watching my daughter prep for oral surgery.

I had not known, until the technician informed me, that the Pope had declared this next year, since December 8, a special jubilee of mercy. I’m not Catholic; I didn’t know what a special jubilee was, no did I know the pope could call one. But he has, and he has opened up the special bricked up door in St. Peter’s to symbolize it.

I saw that door when we visited St. Peter’s Basilica. I remember it. I didn’t realize it’s significance.

All I could say to her was, “I dearly hope he’s right.”

The Friday Five linkup at Mrs. Disciple is on Hope. Five things we hope. This morning, I can’t think of anything I hope for more than exactly this.

I hope and pray mercy on you. On me. On all of us.

I pray more than anything we learn to extend it beyond what we believe is possible in 2016.

“I am convinced that the whole Church — which has much need to receive mercy, because we are sinners — will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”

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Is there anything more important, in this world of fear and confusion, than to hope for these words? So here are my five hopes for all of us in the Year of Jubilee (An unfulfilled celebration in the Old Testament that I find particularly beautiful and hopeful.) They are all hopes of mercy.

I hope for us the wisdom to listen and learn from those who are different.

Let’s learn the particular mercy of hearing others. We can give no greater gift, I’m convinced, than to see and hear another person. Would it be a beautiful mercy to go out of our way to hear those we may not normally listen to this year? Wouldn’t it mirror Jesus’ willingness to hear the people around him, really hear them, not assume he knew all about them? (Even though he did.)

I hope for us the patience to give second chances.

It’s the popular thing to give up on people as soon as they disappoint us. It’s easy to delete a friend. Easy to move on to the next honeymoon relationship, until the next crack appears. But what if we chose not to? Does it sound hopeful to think we could do the hard work of inviting the cracks, repairing them together, offering second, third, and fourth chances? We might need a few, too.

I hope for us the freedom of feeling forgiven.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.  Psalm 103

Completely, absolutely, unwaveringly forgiven. By God. And by ourselves. Nothing offers more hope than to know you are forgiven. Nothing prepares us more for the next hope.

IMG_4468I hope for us the release of forgiving others.

Who needs your forgiveness? Offer it in this year of mercy. Be liberal in your offering of forgiveness. You are the one who will feel the free release of hope fill your lungs.

I hope for us the joy of offering mercy to anyone, anywhere.

The one who does not deserve it. The one who cannot hope for it. The one who doesn’t look like you. The one who looks disturbingly too much like you. The one who speaks another language. The one who lives and sleeps next to you. Everywhere. Without consideration of who is keeping score.

This — this is peace on earth. This is the only hope we have. This is the hope of Christmas.

on the same team

By now, most of you have probably seen this video. I love this video. I hope you have enjoyed it as well. But there is a specific reason I love it.

What do I love about this besides a) She’s a GYMNAST, or b) She’s freaking awesome, or c) She’s an inspiration to short women everywhere?

I love the crowd. They may be the best part of this video. At every moment, you can hear them. Cheering her on. Holding their collective breath when she falters. Screaming at her that she can do it and she’s amazing. And she was. And so were they.


No one put her down for being a woman in a (previously) man’s sport. No one yelled that they could do it better. No one called her out on her form or finesse. They crazily, noisily, exuberantly cheered her every effort. They held her up when she struggled. They were a community. They were one.

You go, girl.
I’ve seen this before. When my daughter and I ran (ran as in, walked, but let’s not quibble) a Mud Run, I watched a crowd of women cheer another woman, overweight and on my side of older, as she attempted to run up a muddy hill and pull herself over with a rope. She did it, too. Probably because a noisy group of complete strangers stood there cheering her from the bottom.

We’e all seen the runner who stops, potentially losing a chance at today’s glory, to help another runner in need.

The amateur athletic community knows something the church needs to know. They know they won’t run any faster or compete any stronger by criticizing someone else’s form. They know they won’t improve a personal best by wishing for someone else’s fall. They know cheering helps us all to do better.

They know they need one another to push everyone toward being their best.

They know what community really means.

Church people—we don’t.

The New Testament uses a couple words when it talks about church and believers together. One is koinonia—a term that means to be in fellowship, sharing, united, in community. Another is oikos—which basically calls the church to be an extended family. People who are there for one another through everything, even weird uncles and difficult cousins. 

The Bible also uses the phrase “one another” often when referring to how believers are supposed to do life together. Be devoted to and honor one another (Romans 12.10), serve one another, (Galatians 5.13), accept one another (Romans 15.7), encourage one another (Hebrews 3.13), be kind to one another (Ephesians 4.32).

How are believers supposed to act toward one another? Like that. Like a team. Like a community. Like runners who look at one another as people on the same track with the same goal who help each other to do their best.

How do we act all too often? Um, not so much.

If a church member offends us, we’re more likely to walk away and find someone else than to say, “Hey, you’re family. Let’s work this out. I love you.”

If we disagree with someone’s point of view, we seem all too happy to use personal insult to “prove” we know better than to listen and learn.

One of the largest reasons given among Millennials for why they are leaving the church is this one—too many Christians would rather infight than love their world together. Too many are so focused on being right that they have forgotten how to be Christlike. They want us to care more about a hurting world than about our personal preferences.

Completely lost in the ensuing madness are Jesus’ words: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Perhaps, Jesus himself is completely lost in the madness as well. That is an indictment we should not be able to live with.

I’m picturing the revolution that might happen if, instead of calling someone out when we are unhappy, we racked our brains for ways to serve and honor that person.

This is not easy. It’s certainly a personal challenge for me. I can think of a number of people I strongly disagree with that I really do not want to honor. But what if I tried? What might happen?

This isn’t to say we always agree with one another. We don’t. We can’t and shouldn’t. But we can disagree compassionately, thoughtfully, without personal conviction or vendetta entering the picture. We can offer forgiveness, even when it isn’t asked for. Because that’s what the whole “one another” thing is about. We’re supposed to be different in a culture that considers relationships disposable. What if we were?

What if you tried, today? What would it look like?

Our team. We did it–together.
Over the next few weeks, I am planning to do a series of posts on another blog I work on about the church—what it is, what it’s supposed to be, and where it’s going. Please join me. Please tell me what you think about those questions. I’d love your ideas.