Judging others

by Steve Brock on February 28, 2013

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3)

As someone who routinely walks around with an entire lumber yard sticking out of my retinas, I appreciate this command by Jesus to look at our own issues before we look at those of others. Not being one to argue with Jesus, I would, however, like to offer a few, how shall I call them, uh, caveats to this issue of judging, particularly as they relate to travel. I’ll start with one here on judging others and conclude next time with one on judging ourselves.

Regarding judging others, sometimes, especially in a foreign place, that’s not such a bad thing. Not in the way Jesus talks about, but in the sense of evaluating them, making the call as to whether you can trust them or not.

Grand Bazaar Conversation

These two guys at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey are having a much better conversation than we had with the taxi driver.

For example, I remember emerging with my wife and youngest son from the warren of alleys and corridors that make up the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. We find the line of taxis and head to the front. Unfortunately, the lead car looks a bit sketchy. Faded blue, dented and no markings other than a handwritten piece of cardboard on the dashboard reading “Taxi.”

Very reassuring.

The driver steps out and suddenly, he’s got a friend with him (where he came from, I have no idea). In broken English, they both ask where we want to go. We tell them and ask how much. The friend gives us a number that is three times what it cost to get here. We tell him so.

He explains this concept called rush hour. We inform him we’re aware of rush hour but that it was rush hour when we came here in the morning. Apples to apples.

It’s different traffic going the other direction. Harder. More cars and people. More expensive, he explains.

No thanks, we tell him and start to walk off.

Remarkably, the price halves.

My wife and I look at each other. Even with the lower price, something doesn’t feel quite right. But by now, the friend has started to usher us toward the car, one hand on my back gently moving me forward, the other extended toward the car as if he’s one of the models on The Price is Right pointing out the grand prize.

We hesitate. The driver opens the rear door. He looks at his friend. He looks at us. He spits (on the pavement, not on us). Then he smiles.

There are happy smiles. There are even sad smiles. There are genuine smiles and fake smiles. Laughing smiles and Mona Lisa smiles. But there are also creepy smiles. You can guess which one this is.

Now back to judging, I don’t want to imply that bad oral hygiene makes a person less than trustworthy. But combine this taxi driver’s few remaining yellowish/brownish teeth with what can only be described as a leer and you have an instant judgment: There’s no way we’re getting in that cab.

We tell them no thanks. They get angry (or mock angry). We move on and catch the streetcar across the intersection. We have a very nice ride on the street car and no one on the streetcar smiles at us in a creepy manner.

Sometimes judging pays off.

On trips, you have to make judgment calls in all sorts of situations. Is this the same thing Jesus meant? Usually not, but it is easy to let the one influence the other. We could have walked away from that experience in Istanbul assuming that all Turkish taxi drivers are rather, well, scummy. But that would have been the wrong kind of judging.

Ever made a judgment call on a trip and it paid off? Ever made the wrong call? Ever had an experience that shaped how you view everyone in a particular country?

It’s all a judgment call. The question is how you do it. I’ll let you be the judge of that.


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Meaningful Travel Basics: Traveling Expectantly Part 2

by Steve Brock on October 28, 2010

Kusidasi  vendor with Genuine Fake Watches

I was so relieved in Kusadasi, Turkey to discover that they had "genuin fake watches" instead of fake fake watches. They go so much better with the pink belly dancer outfit...

Last time I mentioned a story that illustrates to a small degree what traveling expectantly looks like. It took place the same day we visited Ephesus.

Our tour ended in Kusadasi, Turkey. This modern port city serves as the hub for excursions to ancient Ephesus which lies some 18 kilometers inland. After arriving in Kusadasi, I took off with my then 13-year-old son Sumner to wander the town. I had only two hopes for the afternoon. Hopes mind you, not expectations – I’d used those up back in Ephesus.

First, I hoped that we might find Sumner a Turkish soccer jersey since he’d been collecting them from other countries in the region. Second, I prayed that God might redeem the disappointment of Ephesus with something special here. I looked expectantly to God to surprise us. How he did that was up to him.

Every street becomes a pathway to discovery when you travel expectantly

The photos here tell some of the story as we wandered the streets and shops of Kusadasi. But what they don’t show is how God took that afternoon and transformed it into something meaningful. Instead, each encounter with shopkeepers or people on the street had a subtle significance, not because of any dramatic insight or revelation, but because we were simply open and present, content with whatever came our way.

You can chalk it up to a change in attitude, but traveling expectantly is more than that. It’s the realization that how your trip turns out isn’t up to you but up to God. In fact, sometimes we actually get in the way.

In Ephesus, for example, I expected the ancient stones to speak to me, to declare God’s presence there and reveal some historic or transcendent insight. Instead, they were to us, as my other son Connor noted, just a pile of rocks.

A simple demonstration of rug weaving becomes something more when you travel expectantly

But in Kusadasi, by traveling expectantly, looking for God to reveal his agenda not conform to mine, he did speak to me. Not through mute stones of the past but through living people of today. In the time together with Sumner on a shared quest, in the give and take of bartering for a handbag with a charming yet crafty salesman and in the extravagant gestures of an old man who showed me postcards that had to be at least twenty years old, I gained insights and had meaningful exchanges that I could never have scripted on my own.

The surprise in Kusadasi, as is often the case with traveling expectantly, is that there was no surprise, at least no big blow-your-socks-off startling moment or singular dramatic event. Instead, we experienced a number of simple, yet satisfying encounters that revealed that God understood what we needed far more than we did ourselves.

I’ve had many other trips that provided more dramatic examples of traveling expectantly, but few where I experienced such a pronounced contrast in the same day between traveling with expectations (Ephesus) and traveling expectantly (Kusadasi).

And certainly no other that offered “genuin” fake watches…

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Meaningful Travel Basics: Traveling Expectantly Part 1

by Steve Brock on October 25, 2010

When you travel with expectations, places like Ephesus can seem like just a pile of rocks. But when you travel expectantly, you never know what you will find…

In the last entry, we explored how expectations can inadvertently lead us to an unwanted destination: the land of disappointment. But I have discovered another way to journey, one that minimizes expectations. It’s an approach that has revolutionized how I travel. 

The alternative to traveling with expectations is to travel expectantly. Semantic difference? A clever twist of words? Perhaps. But traveling expectantly is as different from traveling with expectations as a dogfish is from a doghouse. 

When we travel with expectations, the focus is on us. We’ve created the scenarios in our heads, projected the outcomes, mentally mapped out the experience – often in exquisite detail. But it is all based on us and on our own imagination. 

Traveling expectantly flips that notion and puts the emphasis on God. In this form of travel, we venture forth looking expectantly for God to show up or at the very least, to reveal to us what we need on any given day or trip. Internally, we shift from an unconscious demand from our situation to satisfy our expectations to a hopeful, almost childlike request of God to lead the way and surprise us. 

When we travel expectantly, we travel open, looking to receive what God will bring to us. Traveling expectantly becomes one vast spiritual treasure hunt lived out in the gritty physicality of a new place with no expectations of what we will find, only the anticipation that it comes from Someone who loves us and knows what most delights us.
 I’ll tell you a story about traveling expectantly in the next entry, but before we go there, take a moment and ask yourself these questions:
  •  How much do expectations play a role in your life? One way to tell is to look at how often you get disappointed by people, events or places. Disappointment is a key indicator of high expectations.
  •  Have you ever done a God hunt? You can do this at home. Take a day or even a few hours, and look intentionally for God in everything you do. Look for “divine appointments” or curious encounters. Chances are, you’ll notice more “coincidences” and be more attuned to small surprises. This is really what traveling expectantly is all about.
  •  Do you really believe that God will show up? No, this isn’t a trick question. We believe a lot of things in our heads but don’t live them out. Do you actually believe that God can enter the here and now and orchestrate events in your day or on your trip? The more you truly believe that, the more you’ll be able to travel expectantly and trust that God will come through.

Ultimately, it’s all about trust and that’s not easy for most of us.

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Meaningful Travel Basics: Expectations

by Steve Brock October 18, 2010

Expectations are challenging because they too often lead to disappointment. A trip to ancient Ephesus illustrates what happens when we don’t even realize we’ve formed expectations and what we can do with our expectations to make our trips more meaningful.

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