just in case you were ticked off today

About a month ago, Facebook changed its format (again). The response wasn't pretty - people formed groups on Facebook that protested Facebook (which is a bit ironic). There was incredible whining - threats of boycotting and going back over to MySpace... which again, was ironic, since most people who were came to Facebook did so since they were frustrated with MySpace. Since Facebook flustered some folks this winter with a change in their privacy policy, the company decided they might need to throw everyone enough bones to squash the overall frustration. So they did - a few changes were made, and most everyone quieted down. Keep in mind, most of the new changes remain... but are perhaps just better hidden.

Then there were the events of last week. Over one million, empty, red envelopes poured into the White House mail room from concerned pro-life American citizens. Coordinators expect that number to double, as the envelopes are intended to symbolize the innocent blood shed through abortion. Simply called The Red Envelope Project, it's the idea of a Massachusetts man, Christ Otto, who wanted a visual expression of his moral outrage over President Obama's position on abortion. March 31 was picked to mail the envelopes so they would be delivered near the beginning of Holy Week.

It's kind of fascinating to see the way people who are frustrated handle their frustrations. Some follow great steps - like someone who emailed me last week about an issue they cared about. Others, though, play games that exhaust everyone involved:

  • Some become activists - they organize every friend and former classmate from second grade to protest; they call all the newspapers and use every opinion page; they show up to town meetings and point their fingers at whomever is behind the desk; they make web sites or blog on existing ones; they talk a lot about the way things "are supposed to be," because they are die-hard proponents of that concept (whatever it is) - which can sometimes be productive, and other times be very unproductive.

    I've done this. Have you?

  • Some become demolitionists - they decide to talk about people versus talk with people; they gossip out of perception versus fact; they wait with imaginary catcher's mitts to hear the next words out of someone's mouth so there is something new to examine, cross-examine, triple-examine, write snarky one-liners in response, make snarky pictures in response, and produce snarky YouTube videos in response; they bring other people around them down in how they think about a person/group/issue, sometimes without even realizing it.

    I've done this. Have you?

  • Some become invisible - they avoid addressing the frustration at all costs - they use caller ID to screen every conversation that has a hint of challenge in it; they never return messages; they only go places the person they are in tension with is guaranteed not to be; at best, they may write letters and emails or TXT messages to appear engaged in productive conversation but will never talk on the phone or in person no matter how hard the other person tries.

    I've done this. Have you?

  • Some become diggers - they take the stuff that frustrates them and bury it down deep somewhere in soil that is actually quite thin - it's not gone, but just out of sight; until they use that same shovel to dig it back up - just a little bit - when the opportunity comes up to say something about someone... and they maximize the opportunity to say "just enough" about that person to sway another person to their perspective (I think this is why such things are called "digs" toward another person).

    I've done this. Have you?
I wonder how much time we have wasted - yes, WASTED - playing games when we could have instead spent that time reconciling with the people in our lives, coming together around Jesus Christ, and then pursuing the things that matter most.

Can you identify?

Admittedly, I am a naive optimist when it comes to working things out with people in my life whom I have tension with. The Scripture calls us to pursue one another, and so I "foolishly" do, often wearing my heart on my sleeve - right or wrong. I know this sort of refusal to wear the usual fig leaves makes me appear naked, but I won't/can't give up on the relationship. Because of what Jesus has done in my life and because of my love for them, I refuse to play the usual games we hide behind.

And yet...

and yet...

and yet...

consider these words of Jesus:

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? (Luke 15:3-4)

Notice that He speaks about a willingness to leave the sheep that know better behind for the sake of pursuing the lost ones who don't.

No, go back and read that again. Do you see it?

That breaks my heart. I don't want to leave anybody behind, and I don't think it's the shepherd's preference either.

But the story is about priorities. Where will we spend the bulk of the energy - on a search and rescue for the lost sheep or on keeping the 99 feeling happy?

By the way, "lost" sheep can be spiritually lost, relationally lost, or lost in many other ways.

But when it's a "found" sheep? The shepherd expects it to stay in community... to know better.

Let me tell you a little secret about yourself that you have forgotten.

You are originally heroic by nature.

You are probably trying to do the right thing.

But sometimes you don't....

sometimes you fail.

sometimes you play games.

So how do we stop doing this with the people in our lives?

With each other?

I think the answer to that question begins with some confession most of us aren't willing to make.

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