LEARNING. HOW CURIOSITY CHANGES EVERYTHING

What else don’t I know? That’s the question that keeps me curious. And curiosity is a way of flourishing. Albert Einstein explained his fame like this, ‘I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.’ In our Amplify Peace strategy this curiosity is called ‘learn’ and is the second stage of becoming a peace maker (right after ‘listen’). What’s important about this stage is how it is the basis for everything else.

I read a book a few years back called ‘How The Brain Changes Itself’ and it debunked a lot of myths I had believed about myself. I had thought that my brain was static. That whatever things it had learned up until my adulthood was what I had to work with. Actually, I had believed that it was even worse than that because I did a fair amount of drugs as a teenager and figured that my memory ‘issues’ were most likely related to the damage I did to my brain which was now stuck in that condition. When I read that book it introduced the truth that our brains are dynamic not static. Which means that they are in the process of becoming and changing and shifting and learning ALL THE TIME. Your brain never stops making connections and new connections. It is discovering ways of functioning better and healing areas that have been damaged and creating new ways of doing the same thing when the old thing becomes blocked somehow. It’s amazing. And SO hopeful.

I was excited about this idea of a dynamic brain because it shifted my thinking from STATIC thinking –  ‘it’s too late’ and ‘I’m stuck with what I’ve got’ and ‘nothing I can do’ to DYNAMIC thinking – ‘I’m going to challenge my brain’ and ‘wow, what an amazing creation’ and ‘what else don’t I know?’ I went from a ‘too late’ to a ‘what else could we discover’ attitude and that’s the stage that makes way for EVERYTHING else. See how this is important?

When I made that shift in my thinking about how my own brain worked it transferred over to every area of my life. And this is why a curious, learning posture is so key to the flourishing of our lives, relationships, communities and our world. To consider myself a ‘learner’ means I am committed to a life of discovery. There are new ways of thinking and living.

That curious spirit keeps me from atrophy not just physically (although that could also be true if I refused to move –  if you don’t stretch you literally shrink) but in every other area of my life. Instead of judging people about what they are doing or thinking or discovering what if I tried to understand what they are trying to do/believe/experience? How could that posture change our interactions and relationships?

A while back I was the church leader for a group of indigenous Canadians (First Nations People). They had been told by a previous leader that their ‘cultural practices’ were pagan and wrong. This kept many of them from practicing their cultural traditions. One day I overheard one of my co-workers making plans to go to a sweat lodge (a traditional ceremony for cleansing). When she got off the phone she was very embarrassed that I had heard her plans and apologized. I asked her why she was sorry and she explained about the previous leader.  Then she asked me what I thought and if I thought she should go. She was genuinely curious (which is the posture that is so key for discovery).

Since I’m not First Nations and had never been to a Sweat Lodge, I asked her what it was for and why she went and what happened in the ceremony and how she felt and well about 25 other questions. Because I was genuinely CURIOUS. What she told me was that the ceremony connected her to her family/tribe and to God and was a way to take space and time out of her everyday life to intentionally think about what she needed to confess and repent of and that mostly she felt amazing after and closer to God and to her family. So I asked her why on earth it would be wrong for her to connect with God, her community and her own soul? And our mutual curiosity to learn from each other resulted in her rediscovering the freedom of finding God in every place and losing the fear that cuts us off from relationship and putting down the judgement that keeps us closed. And it also resulted in me being invited to lean into another culture and learn the practices that connect other people to each other and the earth and their creator that have been helping me and enlarging my understanding of my own journey in my own practice of following Jesus. We both grew and our understanding, practice and relationship enlarged. We both learned to stretch because we were ‘learning’ from each other. We became larger together. We stretched into more.

What would happen if we relaxed into the stretch of curiosity and leaned into each other as co-learners? What would happen if we left judgement and critique at home when we went out to discover the beauty and opportunities of this incredible world and it’s people? What are we so afraid of? Aren’t you the least little bit curious about what else you don’t know? I’m committed to being a life long ‘learner’. Because that means that I’m in the process of becoming and changing and shifting and learning ALL THE TIME.

If I Don’t, Who Will? How Using Your Voice Can Amplify Peace

In Proverbs 31 King Lemuel’s mother instructs him: Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, and for the rights of those who are left without help. Open your mouth. Be right and fair in what you decide. Stand up for the rights of those who are suffering and in need. (GN Translation)

Amidst the emergence of increasing interest in social justice issues swirling all around us, you may have reflected on how many people have, in droves, begun to speak out, whether it is against racial inequality, harassment in the workplace, how guarded or helpful we should be toward refugees, equal pay, equal rights & respect, or against many other forms of injustice that have been bursting forth in our country and in our communities.

Admittedly, it is exciting to see people get passionate in the name of justice, and the efforts being made to create better lives and better policy. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a turn from complacency towards action; but even more so when it’s done as outlined Biblically; sacrificially, selflessly, kindly, and with love.

The Lord has told you what is good. He has told you what he wants from you: Do what is right to other people. Love being kind to others. And live humbly, trusting your God.  – Micah 6:8 (ICB Translation)

Around the world today, atrocities are happening in areas where the poorest of the poor live; those that live on less than two-dollars a day. As Americans, who live with such abundance, we may not be able to fathom what it’s like for more than half of humanity living in the world today. Things like hunger, rampant disease, scarcity of clean water, lack of health care, need for education, and depletion of jobs are plaguing our brothers and sisters across the globe. What’s worse, it’s not that one of these perils is happening to a developing community, they’re all happening, largely at the same time, creating and perpetuating the complex web of utter poverty.

Living in the U.S. and leading busy lives, it’s easy to feel inundated with so many things going on right here at home. It is fair to argue that there are plenty of issues that need tending right here, and that’s true. It can be hard to remember that our calling as Christians is to love and help those in need and that doesn’t begin nor end with self-preserving boundaries. The Bible doesn’t say you should only help someone in need “if” they meet a certain set of criteria. Our calling is to love and help everyone, everywhere.

And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (GN Translation)

Specifically, did you know that every year, complications from pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of more than 303,000 women and permanently disable many more? 99% of these deaths are in developing countries, and 80% are preventable. Did you also know that more than 795 million people around the world suffer from hunger and nearly one in three people worldwide suffer from malnutrition? Globally, more than 36 million people are living with HIV, more than 10 million infected with Tuberculosis, and over 200 million cases of malaria. Many of these afflictions leave families torn apart in their wake. These are just some of the complex issues facing our neighbors today, and we can help.

As the Prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 1 verse 17: Learn to do right. See that justice is done — help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows. (GN Translation)

Each year our U.S. tax dollars go to work for various programs domestically and globally. What most Americans grossly overestimate is how much goes towards foreign assistance, which provides education and resources to many people in the greatest need around the world today. In fact, the majority of Americans believe that the U.S. (a global leader in foreign assistance) spends approximately 28% of our budget on foreign aid. In reality, we spend less than 1%. A penny to the dollar. It’s not enough.

You may be thinking, where is my voice in all this? What am I willing to stand up for?  And in finding my voice, how do I make it effective among the multiplicity of issues we’re facing? What you may not realize is that just by living in the U.S., you have more resources and power to make change globally than you realize.

Through advocacy, you can call, write, or request to meet with your member of Congress asking them to protect the International Affairs Account. You can go to house.gov, senate.gov or even whitehouse.gov and find your representative or senator and engage them on these crucial issues. If you need help in your efforts to reach out to Congress, Hope Through Healing Hands would be glad to assist you. Your voice matters and you can move the needle to bring about positive change globally from right here at home.

Advocacy supports global peace-making efforts by providing much needed assistance to those who have been carrying the burden of poverty, disease, and hunger. When dire needs are met, wounds are salved, sickness is healed, and hunger is fed; friendship and peace are born.

So then, we must always aim at those things that bring peace and that help strengthen one another – Romans 14:19 (GN Translation)