I often find the holidays to be refreshing.
Though some may find it trite when their Facebook feeds fill up with posts about gratefulness, I enjoy the gentle reprieve. To hear people intentionally looking for the good when so many days it is the bad that is easier to find.
Holidays perhaps have a way of enlarging our hearts a little; of luring us into a more generous hospitality.
It all reminds me of a book about hospitality written by Christine Pohl which was titled Making Room. A very wise Free Methodist pastor handed me this book shortly after it was printed in 1999. Its spirit felt both brave and sacred; frustrated and loving. And Pohl's became another orienting voice in my often awkward journey to face the world's deficits and still hold onto a little grace.
I've been observing a lot of this -- this making of room -- around the internet lately. And today, I wanted to spend a minute highlighting a few voices who work hard to create space for others year-round.
From Ed Stetzer who encouraged making room for people from diverse political parties:
Statistically, the unchurched lean heavily Democrat. So -- and I know it's just me talking crazy now -- if you want to reach the unchurched, maybe constant Facebook/Twitter posts about how stupid Democrats are might be a bad idea.
From Osheta Moore who made room for people of faith who didn't feel called to live in urban areas like she does:
My "all or nothing" will never look like your "all or nothing" and I think that's the mark of a true disciple: knowing your Shepherd's voice and following him into your specific all or nothing.
From Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves who made room for those struggling financially:
While some of the items on [the list about what rich people do on Dave Ramsey's site] make common sense (reading more of anything is always a good thing), if in my most desperate financial need someone handed me this list and told me to hop to it, I'd never seen Jesus poking through these words.
From Tony Jones who made room for alternative responses to schism (specifically mine) and, in doing so, made room for progressives and conservatives to think about women in ministry together:
Of course, this is not the Civil War, and I'm no MLK. And where I think I overshot my target was asking others to make sacrifices that are clearly more dire than any I'd have to make.
I'll do what I can in my spheres of influence, and you do what you can in yours.
From Jonathan Merritt's call for conferences to make room for women and diversity.
By my count, that's around 19 percent of female speaker representation at these major Christian conferences-presumably better than it was even a few years ago, but still lower than it should be. While I don't think we can conclude that the Christian conference industry is downright sexist, we can say that most conferences have some serious work to do if they want their stage to look anything like the 21st century church.
(Or from his calling out of those whose language fails to make room.)
From Jen Hatmaker who was making room for women unlike herself:
The Mythical They creates straw men to disparage, propping up stereotypes and strengthening our prejudices while eliminating the actual work of relationships. It is the easy way out to be sure. We are excused from personal contact entirely, imagining ourselves as their victim or their target or their adversary. We can actually invent an entire conflict without speaking a solitary word to a live human.
From Christena Cleveland who makes room for those outside the middle class:
It seems as though many Christians have succumbed to society's pattern of class segregation, so much so that many well-meaning people lack the cross-cultural tools to love well across class differences. Many Christians have also forgotten about how much our leader Jesus went out of his way to value and embrace people from lower economic classes.
From Austin Channing Brown who wants churches to make room for their whole communities:
Discover the whole community. Going to Samaria can be a great opportunity to move beyond the media coverage. Some of what you find will confirm the news stories, but at other times you will wonder why you've been exposed to so little.
These writers' words offer comfort to the younger angst-ridden version of myself who penned Dear Church: Letters From a Disillusioned Generation in 2003 (published in 2006).
From Dear Church:
I want to whisper the word church because I know that as soon as it leaves my mouth, someone in the room will flinch, inevitably thinking of steeples and crosses and roadway signs sporting inter-changeable cheesy sayings. It's like playing one of those psychological games where I say the word and everyone else says the first thing that comes to their minds. Only when I say "church," they tell me their reactions with their eyes, with their body language, and yes, sometimes with their mouths. ...I want to whisper the word church because sometimes the person in the room who is flinching is me.
In that book, I mourned the lack of authenticity in the church and painstakingly contrasted the church's lack of diversity against the life of Jesus. As I traveled around discussing the themes of the book in churches and at church-related events, my honest and sometimes jaded words were not always popular with churched listeners. And in the years since, as I've worked at capturing more of the story in Portable Faith or Beyond the Broken Church and other work, there have been stretches where I sometimes feel alone in my yearning for a church that makes room.
So while I don't always agree with every point championed by the people above, I am grateful for every day they raise questions. For the days they both speak and listen bravely. For the days they heatedly debate and the days they develop and maintain friendships across divides. For the days they call out injustice without perpetuating hate. And for the days they inspire me to do the same.
As Kathy Escobar reflected recently, "... Christians should be known as the wildest, craziest, risk-takers and lovers of people in town. But we all know that's not always the case. We are often known as the scared ones, the protective ones, the judgmental ones. The ones who take care of our own -- and that usually means people who are at the center, not the edge."
In this holiday season of giving thanks, but even more so in the other 11 months when our culture's hospitality may wane, I am thankful for these and others who leave the comfort of center to stand on the edge and make room.
We may not all agree on every facet of life or faith. But if you are trying to make room, I will walk through any door you open to me. And I will pledge to open my door to you as well.
Perhaps in all this room that is made we will find shared hope and encouragement. After all, progress is rarely made when the only people we are willing to listen to are the people who are already on our side.