On Infighting, Social Media, and Weedy Noise

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” ― Henri J.M. NouwenOut of Solitude

1.

If home is where the heart is, we moved our hearts to a tiny green house on the outskirts of town.  When I say "tiny house," think less of the stuff of Netflix documentaries; think less of a 500 square foot dwelling built on the back of a truck trailer. When I say "tiny house," consider more a house that provides a tight fit for a family of 6 with a tiny dog.

 

The tiny green house is situated on the outskirts of Fayetteville, just across the White River Bridge in what was once the tiny community of Baldwin before it's annexation into the city limits. Next door sits a tiny Church of Christ, and its members, our neighbors, have welcomed us well. There are certain things that make for a happy home, they say. First among those things is a happy wife. Second among those things is a good relationship with your neighbors. By all accounts, we're off to a good start.

The tiny green house boasts a lovely English garden on both sides of the tiny walkway to the front entrance. And when I say "English garden," think less of a well-manicured green space in which one might choose to sit for tea. Instead, imagine two deep beds of perennials overgrown by a serendipitous mix of well-intentioned herbs, wildflowers, and a mess of greenery most would consider "weeds." There is a morning glory that has vined up from the ground, and it grows every which way, strikes out in all directions like the snakes on Medusa's head.

In the garden of the tiny green house, there is a particularly invasive weed that stands on a 2 foot stalk. It has spread into every corner of the garden, has swallowed up every spare inch of available soil. It has become a veritable redwood forest to the colony of ants that carry out their tiny work in the weed shade. Last weekend, as I was considering how to best attack this herbaceous infestation, I noticed a hint of pink peeking up from under the weed canopy. I pulled back the stalks and unwrapped a beautiful peony flower like a late summer present. The peony is my favorite flower, in part because it reminds me of the old rock house inhabited by 4 generations of Haines, and in part because it is the flower of the tattoo emblazoned on my wife's right shoulder. The peony reminds me of the rooted work of home, and of love. It reminds me that even the tiniest seeds can grow into bold and beautiful flowers.

2.

This is not piece about tiny houses, English gardens, or peonies. This is not a piece about sexy tattoos or neighborhood churches, either. This is a piece about weeds and noise.

Weeds hide the ants marching, the tiny but necessary work of surviving under the shade. The green noise of weedy foliage obscures the beauty of the peony bud, the way it pushes up from the ground in rooted glory. Weeds beat back the true prizes of the garden. Weeds, a metaphor in-and-of themselves, distract from every other good garden metaphor.

Consider the weeds and the noise of the day. There are people marching at home and abroad; there is work being done, and work left to do. And yet, the noise from the 24 hour news cycle and social media consumes every spare corner of thought and silence, distracts us from the boots on the ground. The infighting is at a fever pitch--the war of words is louder than ever--and if you listened, you might think that reconciliation is a pipe dream.

I wonder, "where is the beauty of rooted work?" And then I remember; it is hidden somewhere under all these distracting, noisy weeds.

Scriptural Imagination and Ferguson (Part II)

In light of the Ferguson protests,  I’ve been exercising "scriptural imagination," and reading the words of Jesus with fresh eyes. (Link to the series). Yesterday I examined Matthew 7:1-6. Today, I'm taking a fresh look at Matthew 7:7-23.

Follow the hashtag #ScripturalImagination on Twitter for more renderings, and feel free to add some of your own.

*****

Matthew 7:7-23

The Narrow and Wide Gates

“You’ll have to put down your weapons, crawl out of your MRAPs and tanks, perhaps lay aside your possessions, prejudices, and maybe even your picket signs to enter through the narrow gate. The gate wide enough to accommodate all the artillery, television trucks, helicopters, militia members, gangs, provocateurs, and even well-meaning activists, empties onto a violent and wide road that leads only to war and death. Too many well-meaning men follow the masses through that gate to their peril.

"The gate of peace and reconciliation is a very slim—in fact, it’s a super-tight fit—and only the smallest empty-handed children can fit through it. It takes great imagination to find this narrow gate. Stop walking with the masses. Strip naked! Get on your hands and knees, and search for the small entrance that leads to life and peace."

A Tree and its Fruit

"Beware of the provocateurs, anarchists, and activists looking to make a big name on a legitimate crisis; they seem to take the side of peace and reconciliation (have you heard the term 'sheep’s clothing?'), but they only fight for their own agendas. You will know them by their hate-filled backpacks, how they hide within the crowd and pitch bombs over your heads at the police. Their weapons of warfare belie their intentions.

"Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor strawberries from AR-15 assembly lines, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears the fruit of anarchy and violence.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a factory of warfare cannot produce organic, farm-raised, homegrown tomatoes (the kind you ate straight from the vine as a child; remember those?). The truth is, sooner or later these factories of violence and the societies that build them will go into the fire, just like every sick tree that bears rotten fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"Look closely; do you see it? You will know the reconciling children of God by their fruits.

"And one more thing: not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ cares about the kingdom of heaven. (Not really.) But he who does the will of a peaceful and reconciling God? He will enter the good and eternal kingdom. Many will say they belong in the kingdom, will say 'Jesus, did we not enforce law-in order in your name?' or 'did we not bring peace to a riotous, raucous crowd?' or 'did we not picket and protest for justice in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, ‘You did all of this for your own gain, which is its own sort of lawlessness. Did you take off your riot gear and join the protestors? Did you lay down your picket sign and talk with the police? Or did you just engage in a war of words? Get out of here. I never knew you.'”

*Photo by Craig Dietrich, Creative Commons via Flickr.