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June 2013 Issue

Responsively Yours: Really? Say More

By Harriett Jane Olson

If we are going to learn, especially in this time of change, we need to figure out how to take in new information, even if it is from unexpected places.

I get some really interesting e-mail. Sometimes it is from people who are thrilled that United Methodist Women understands the issues of women, children, youth and other marginalized people. Sometimes it is from people who are growing spiritually because of something we have produced or promoted. Sometimes it is from people who are furious. I recently got an interesting reply when I answered one of the latter: “I have thought about your reply for the past two days. Everything you say is true. I am reevaluating my position.” I was shocked. It made me think — what do you do when you encounter something that conflicts with your expectations or doesn’t align with your values?

Some of us whip up a sarcastic reply. Some of us clutch our foreheads and lament that we’re going to [very bad place] in a handbasket. Some of us ask questions: “Really? Say more.” And others of the “live and let live” variety say, “Cool,” and continue about their days. Others begin debate.

Sometimes it’s easier to question an idea than to present a challenging idea yourself. And sometimes a “live and let live” view can be dismissive. When I present an idea I want someone to take it seriously and hopefully indicate that it affects her or his thinking or worldview in some way. If we are going to learn, especially in this time of change, we need to figure out how to take in new information, even if it is from unexpected places. Several of the articles in this issue of response offer what may be new information or insight. Will you hear a prophetic voice?

I learn best when I am interested in and open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. This is my hope when I read about topics like leadership, science or theology. Even though it’s sometimes easy to dismiss a contrary idea, my e-reader is full of authors who have provoked me to say, “Really? Say more.”

Some of my most compelling learnings started out as forehead clutching, sarcasm-inducing rejection. Some of these perspectives got under my skin, connected with emotions and (eventually) changed the way I see God and the world.

People respond to the word of the Lord in many ways. Think about the parable of the seed and the sower, for example, or the various ways people responded to the prophets and to Jesus’ teaching. We must ask ourselves: How will we keep on listening to the word of God? Through scripture, song, sacrament, brokenness, service and advocacy? In new ways we can’t know yet?

We believe that the God who spoke the world into existence is still speaking. And we believe that we are “moving on to perfection” — actually making changes in our lives, our habits, our work and our allegiances because of the work of God in our hearts.

Let’s press on, through emotion, resistance and surprise, to see more clearly the world that God loves and the call of God to us and to our organization. Walk with me, as we listen, learn and put love into action.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women
holson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Last Updated: 03/14/2014
 
 

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