Category Archives: General thoughts

What should our nation be?

Hello. I am finally emerging from a place of despair. It has been quite a while since I last posted and the worst possible outcome for the election has occurred.  I could not have in my wildest imaginings predicted this outcome.

Our new president is so unfit for office yet a large enough number of people came out and voted for him that we are stuck with him and praying wholeheartedly that he will not destroy the country.  I cannot believe that people in the United States would not take the time to vote, would choose not to vote, or honestly thought Donald Trump would be okay in the highest office.  So far, he has done some crazy things.  He stands for only a few of the people of the country without regard to the rest of us. He even has betrayed those who voted for him.

I was truly in despair for a while but have focussed my energy on forms of resistance, care for others and limiting my “news” input.  There is such potential for damaging our country and taking steps backward in our progress.  It is encouraging that so many are engaging in peaceful forms of resistance.  There is serious dialogue about some of the most important challenges facing our nation.  Conversations about race and gender and injustice are far more frequent and meaningful.  The election of Donald trump may have in fact exposed some very deep injustices that have up until now been ignored.

The big question now should be what do you want your nation to be?  We can be a country which values all of its people or one that continues to enrich a small number at the expense of everyone else.  We can be a country that respects human dignity and sees all of its citizens as human beings wanting the same things for themselves and their children or we can continue to dismiss segments of society.  We can be a nation that supports a clean green world, even as we have to come to grips with the fact that we are responsible for the state we are in or we can continue polluting and denying the problems.  We can honor our constitution and hold that all citizens of the US have rights, including basic needs to support life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or we can throw it out the window and treat some as expendable to provide a luxurious life for a few.

I would like our country to be a model to the world.  We have great resources. We should be a nation that excels in caring for our people. A place where hatred does not exist. We can call others out on human rights violations when we discontinue that here. We are great innovators, producers, manufacturers and developers.  We can reach great heights without diminishing others.  It would be great to see our economy flourish from bottom to top.  If our “poor” are still able to have a decent life, the wealthy can continue to build business and succeed.  But until there is no poverty in the U.S.  it is sinful for individuals and corporations to amass such wealth as is unusable. True positive Power comes from using wealth to improve the world.  Many in power now only horde wealth, or squander it.  There is so much potential for the United States.  I will continue to pray for a miracle – change of heart so that all people of our nation realize that when all are cared for, all of us benefit.  It would be a miracle if each person saw themselves as part of the human family and not as an entitled one.  I pray!

A PRAYER FOR OUR NATION

Oh God in Your mercy free us from ourselves.
Let us love.  Let hatred leave our thoughts.
Let forgiveness come to us and from us.
Open our hearts wide to embrace rather than shun.
Open our minds to understand that we are all human beings with needs.
Open our hands
To let go of some things that control us and
To grab on to things that make the world a better place
Open our mouths to speak the truth to ignorance and injustice
To give voice to those who currently have no voice
To encourage others to care
To offer words to uplift and support and not diminish or shame
Open our ears and eyes
To see the needs
To hear those who cry out for help
To witness the good in the world and make known the cruelties
To acknowledge and accept people in their desire to live their life freely
O Holy One, give us a sense of self worth that dictates our treatment of others.
Let us live our lives as if we know that each action matters
Let us behave as if every life on earth matters
And Let it explode throughout humanity
AMEN

 

Speaking of Bullies

Are you scared?  The GOP Candidate is terrifying to me.  He sounds like Hitler before he became the killer.  He spews hate speech. He acts like a child who misbehaves to get attention. He recently said he would hit someone so hard their head would spin.  Bullying language!  He claims he wants to make “America great again”, but what he really means is he want to take us back to a time when only certain portions of the population had a say, reaped the benefits, and held all others down in the process.  He wants it to be a man’s world, a white world, a straight world, a wealthy man’s world, a world where only a few prosper on the backs of others and those “others”  have no say.  It was horribly wrong back then, even though they got away with it, but it is sinfully wrong today where women, people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, and  people of many religious convictions are finally getting recognized as what they are – citizens of the United States of America.  It is time to accept that we are all Americans and we all have rights according to our constitution (with amendments that spell it out). He will bully other nations too.  We don’t want or need that in a president.

Scarier still – the number of people who are rallying around this bully.  We knew there was systemic racism, though we hoped that it was changing for the better. Donald has revealed a deeply racist part of our society that has always been there but seemed to be decreasing.  He has revealed sexism, gender bias,  homophobia, and transphobia.  He espouses xenophobia.  He is a fear monger of highest degree.  He tells these people to be afraid, that all these factions are out to get them.  He goes to the core of their fears that they personally will not be able to thrive if any of THEM are allowed to thrive.

What is sad is that, contrary to that way of thinking, when we join together we can all thrive because we build each other up. Those at the top like the Billionaire GOP candidate benefit greatly from the rest of us fighting each other because if we are keeping each other down, the wealth flows to them. This is what Jesus fought for.  Recognition of the human being for everyone. Respect, care for basic needs, a voice, support for a decent life, where everyone could live healthy and productive lives. Do they really want a dictator?  I think they believe they will prosper with someone like this because they are like him but maybe that’s what Hitler’s followers believed.

This is so important for our country where we could be even greater if we cared for all our citizens.  If we stop blaming each other and trying to ban entire groups, we can come together to find those who mean to do us harm.  If we are fighting each other we play right into the hands of the real enemy.  Hatred spawns hatred.  Together we can fight terrorists, apart we are going to be victims of the same. Hatred will lead to more terrorist activity.  Love and care for one another make us stronger against all this negativity and able to help in the fight against terror.

I pray that we realize this.  What I heard at the RNC made me nervous and scared to my core.  What I heard at the DNC gave me hope.  It was good to hear that there are people who understand the real problems in the USA and are willing to move us in a direction that will help improve our lives.  Yes, OUR lives not just the few at the top but all of us.  I pray that those who are afraid of losing what they have if someone else gets what they need, will stop and think about it.  The biggest danger to middle class is the greedy 1%.  Believe me, they have no intention of sharing that with anyone.  Our greatest hope lies in our willingness to join together to build a stronger middle class, and make a way for poorest to enter into that.  Hold the richest among us to paying their fair share and participating in making the whole country better for everyone.  After all who needs a fourth jet or another villa when anyone in the country is hungry?  Seriously.  There is enough wealth in this country so that we don’t have to see anyone hungry or homeless, sick without care or suffering for lack of basic comforts.  When the Kochs (for example) can flitter away millions to buy elections, they can afford to pay more taxes to alleviate  the struggle for hard working people who just can’t make ends meet.  That’s just human decency.

 

Bullying

There have always been bullies.  Yet it seems that the bullies today are getting meaner, uglier and relentless.  Social media has been a venue for horrible attacks on young persons and even adults.  There is a boldness that comes from feeling protected by the technology.  It scares me.

I ran across this music video recently and it was really uplifting.  It is called Love Yourself by Khari.

I wish every person could feel good about him/herself and revel in the person they are.  We are not all the same but unique and special in our own way.  God created someone beautiful and loves each one of us exactly as we are.  Our job is to find out how to be the best “me” we can be.  It starts by respecting who we are and not who someone else says we are supposed to be, or some ideal placed upon us by media or persons who think they know everything or trying to sell us something.  I am okay, I am a child of God, I am loved.  I can love myself.

Christmas 2015

This was a very special Christmas.  With all the stuff going on in the world that makes you want to curl up and hide, it was especially nice to think about Jesus and how he came into the world to be a fighter for justice, to show that love is a cure to all our woes, to help us see that being in relationship with God and with each other is heaven on earth.

Decorating the tree was great- I got to pray for so many people as I hung each ornament.  The house looked cheery and I noticed that many people chose to decorate early this year.  My guess is that like me, they needed something bright and happy to counter all the killing, abuse, violence and hatred in the world.  Celebrating Christmas gives you strength and energy to make a difference in the world around you.  I am grateful for my faith, for Jesus and the celebration of His birth.  Worshiping with my church family was special this year.

I was surrounded by my dear wonderful family.  It is fantastic having adult children who want to spend the Holidays with you.  I am abundantly grateful for family and friends.  I pray for all those who are lonely, grieving, or can’t enjoy Christmas for whatever reason.  I wish them comfort.  My prayer is for the deep peace of Christ to enter into their hearts to help them heal.

 

Month of Thanksgiving

image2    I am thankful for color! I have been so elated with the fall colors this year.    I     hIMG_3717aave seen so many gorgeous colors changed in sunlight and cloud. Even the browns are spectacular. I have seen brass and copper and gold. Yellow has been bold and intense. Reds, oranges, salmon etc.etc. Wonderful! image1The lateness of the change of color seems to have offered many multicolored trees. This takes my breath away. God, the Artist, painting an extraordinary canvas. It reminds me of the line from How Great Thou Art – “I scarce can take it in.”IMG_3661a

2015

I just realized that I almost 2 months have passed since the new year began.  My latest posts have been surrounding the “black lives matter” work happening in the St Louis area.  It has been on my mind and in my heart.  I have been praying and supporting those who are in the trenches.  I will continue to do so.

I have also been fretting (meaning keenly aware of and maybe obsessing a little – definitely preoccupied) about my entry into the third part of my life. Well, unless I live to be over 90, which I suppose IS possible, I am in the last segment of my life.  Using the 4 seasons, I am in the autumn.  The body is definitely showing signs of wear and tear.  Vision is going, hearing isn’t too bad, but things are starting to sag. Hair is changing.  I am starting to forget things.  I actually am getting hot flashes.  My mountain climbing days are over!  haha  I laugh because I was never much good at climbing but now I can’t.

What surprises me is that I am not upset about it, I am not depressed or thinking that “It’s all downhill” from here as in doomsday,  Although that metaphor would be good since the hard work has been done and now I can coast.   I have been thrown into another time of disequilibrium where I am not really sure what my place/role  is in this new episode. In the past I would be very stressed, ill-at-ease, worried, and anxious but today I am relatively calm and patiently waiting for God to reveal what comes next.  The funniest thing is that this fretting about the decade change is about to be resolved because I will be one year older in just a few days.  Now I can get on with it and stop thinking I’m in a new decade.

What has come to me is that I must let go of some things to make room for others.  This has been hard to do.  After some 25 years of youth ministry, I have chosen to love those kids from afar <smiles>  that is not to be involved in the day to day work of that kind of ministry but rather help from the periphery.  I took a leave of absence from the praise band and am focusing on getting my voice back in shape as a soprano singing in my range.  I will be ever-grateful to the musicians I have worked with for giving me the opportunity to grow musically in ways I never thought possible.  Styles I’d never tired, songs I didn’t think I could do, and always a chance to feel my way into something different.  I’m also letting go of children.  Yes, I know you never REALLY let them go but you do give them the space they need. We are empty nesters now (again!) and it is all about letting go so you can be something else.  My spouse and I are discovering each other again.  This is fun.

So what is next?  I’m still in discernment but what is coming clear is that I will be doing spiritual direction and more retreat work.  I am very much drawn to the visual and musical arts.  While I have been involved in this way in the past, I seem to be moving into different areas.  I am utilizing my writing skills for liturgical work, curriculum writing, and blogging!  I look forward to what new directions I am being called.  In all things prayer is keeping me steady, patient and grateful.  I know more will be revealed.  I trust in God’s time and I am feeling gratitude for the life I have had, excitement about the life to come.

 

God Bless Those Who Work Toward Peace and Justice

I am so grateful for all those who stand alongside those who are marginalized for one reason or another. It is not an easy place to be. It takes a lot of courage to get outside your own protected box and help those who are not so protected. Injustice is often veiled/masked in a way that you miss it unless you look hard at it. In our happy little world where we have what we need and more we can completely be unaware that there are many who are hungry, homeless, working poor, or ignored. While most people in the US have enough to eat etc, there are still many who struggle to have all basic needs met, like food AND medicine AND job security AND a decent safe place to live.  Choices have to be made and quite frankly I think it is horrible to have to do that in a country as rich as ours. Before someone says anyone can “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” let me tell you that that phrase is nonsensical. You can’t. There are systems in place (racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist) that make it hard for people to ever escape from poverty, or have the luxury to just relax about life from time to time.  So, thank you to all those who are working to make a difference, who are trying to move our country into the 21st century, who think lives matter. Thanks for helping those who are struggling to help themselves, thank you for standing beside them. Thank you for helping those whose voices are not heard.  Thank you for supporting those who are are saying enough is enough, we are tired of fighting these systems.   The work is hard and can be so frustrating but as we inch toward real justice and yes, though it seems glacial at times, it is really the work of love and compassion. Peace is possible. Justice for all is possible, but love must be the basis for this. We have to love one another and remember that if some of us suffer and we do nothing about it, we are all the worse for it. Equality does not mean we all have the same stuff. It means we are all valued as human beings and that we all respected for who we are.  Children of God.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I have been trying to process the events around the country involving the police and people of color. I’ve written a bit about the immediate situation but overall it has been very difficult coming to grips with what has happened and continues to happen.
There is racism in the United States and if you don’t believe that you are living in some sort of insulated world. These events of the past several in Ferguson and New York etc. have brought a well known (in minority communities) injustice to the common knowledge. People are outraged, people find it incredible that this is happening in our country. It has been happening but in places most of us never go. As a result, it seems it doesn’t exist. I have to give the social media some credit here. The sad part is that once it is no longer “newsworthy” it will fall back into the “out of sight out of mind” category.
These events have sparked some dialogue in the communities involved and I can only hope that some good will come of it. If there is a move toward conversation and relationship building in the communities, there will be improvement. Fear is decreased when people get to know each other.
There is an effort to press for reform of the criminal justice system. It is broken ad much needs to be done about it. I am hopeful that the energy will propel this forward. There is a strong clergy involvement. People are still talking about it.
I have to come to terms with my own frustration about the glacial pace of Reconciliation work in my own church. We have been working on this for some 70 years and still we struggle. I work on the area team but find little interest in the regular church going crowd. I was drawn into the work by my son who as a teen and young adult was very interested and active in the work. As leadership ignored him and showed little interest in his participation he fell away from the work and from the church itself. I have remained but have seen the work become less and less shared. We have had to change our approach because attendance at programs has dropped. People just don’t want to talk about it. We have moved out of the churches and into the community. Still it is hard and frustrating work. The events of this summer and fall have made a opening for our work. I remain frustrated but hopeful. It hurts to think about these things.  I know God has a different plan for us, one of equality where basic needs are met and all are given respect and care.  It is too easy to let this very important need for change in our society slip back on the shelf when something big like the terrorist killings come to light.  We must be diligent. We must keep praying and we need to keep it in the societal conscious.

Preparing for the Grand Jury Decision

There is tension in the air.  The whole area is waiting for the Grand Jury to come back with a decision on the Darren Wilson case.  Is there enough evidence to indict him and bring him to trial?  We are preparing for the worst.  Governor Nixon has called a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, clergy and other volunteers have been trained to help control crowds if there is unrest.  Pins and Needles.  People are very worried.

Churches in the area are providing 24 hour presence for those who need solace, prayer time, or just a place to go to talk or rest and be away from the news for a while.  I’m happy that my church is one of those offering this place of caring for the community.  There continue to be peaceful protests.  People are talking about the issues.

O God, please bring healing to your people.  Help us all to find ways to live together in peace, caring for one another. Strengthen relationships for a better future.  Amen

Ferguson and More

It has been a while since my last post and there has been an outpouring of support for the African American community in Ferguson.  Many clergy have been participating in peaceful protests.  Today several members of the Eden Theological Seminary community took part in a protest in the pouring rain.  It resulted in several (I believe it was reported as 49) persons including activist and author Cornell West and my pastor being arrested for civil disobedience.  There was a concurrent Vigil held at the chapel on the seminary campus where we prayed in support of those at the protest and in the neighborhoods affected by shooting tragedies.  A second death of a young black man by multiple gun shots occurred this week.  Some colleagues who live in the area were involved in a prayer service and protest where there was violence.  We have been trying to process these events in our own back yard.

It is difficult to wrap your head around these kinds of events happening in the 21st century but the sad fact is that racism is alive and well. We have seen some definite progress but it isn’t enough.  There are too many persons for whom these events are common occurrences.  They don’t get the press that we’ve seen here but maybe it is time for another civil rights movement.  Maybe people are waking up to the fact that there are people in our country (the great United States of America) that are treated as expendable.  No, we are not talking about a 3rd world country we are talking about the USA. Institutionalized racism. systemic racism,  is so much a part of the fabric of our society that we often fail to even be aware of it.  It is a power inequality that leaves some having control of and benefiting from the wealth of our nation while others struggle to get by and are actively blocked from moving ahead.  While often unconscious, privilege is given to those with white or lighter skin while those with darker or black skin are treated as threats and made to suffer humiliation, disproportionate  scrutiny and simply poor disrespectful treatment, often for no other reason than the color of their skin.

There are many who just don’t get it and it is because they truly have no idea what it is like to live as a person of color in the society.  They don’t take the time to get to know anyone and simply choose to be afraid either because of media portrayal or because they have been told or taught to think this way, or perhaps because of one encounter with an unsavory character.  It isn’t about prejudice.  It is about the power that one group has over another because the society allows it.  That is systemic racism and it is ingrained, unseen unless carefully inspected.  My denomination has taken on the task of becoming a pro-reconciling, anti-racist church.  It is a slow moving process but we have training about white privilege that really helps people understand the real problem.  The problem is power.  In the past when a group of whites felt like it they might go out an lynch a black person or two.  The authorities did nothing about it and very sad scenes of people hanging from trees made other people of color terrified.  (Yes, acts of terrorism).  Now the lynching takes the form of our police officers accosting, harassing or shooting young black men at will, and getting away with it because the system allows it.  It is abuse of power. As a friend of mine said,  “It is a lynching of the spirit.”

I have been thinking about how there was that stop and frisk policy in New York, which has since been outlawed.  The officers claimed it was needed to keep crime down.  But the problem was that they only targeted minorities, It occurred to me that the simple solution to the problem, if it was truly a crime deterrent, was to randomize it  and  stop and frisk everyone.  Statistically more drug abuse and thus criminal possession occurs in white populations.  I’d bet the same is true of gun possession. But we all know how long that would last.  (Privilege)

I must stop now,  This is weighing heavy on my heart and I just wanted to write a bit of it down.  Perhaps I will write more later.  I will end with one of  the prayers I prayed today in the chapel:

O God of all, please enter the hearts of those involved in this terrible tragedy and all those who think like them. Break open the hardened hearts  to allow fear and dislike to flow out and  your love to fill them up.  Anyone who knows your love cannot help but love.  That is what is needed.  Love which leads to respect which leads to relationship and mutual care for one another.  Your love is powerful – help those haters to love.  Help those who feel disrespected and treated as if they have little value to turn there anger to energy to continue the fight and protest the injustice.  Bless those who walk alongside the Ferguson and Shaw communities and give them courage and strength to continue to work toward justice even when things seem impossible.  With you there is always hope.  Amen