Tag Archives: God

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

 

The Church is Changing

We are in the process of rethinking who we are as church in our congregation. The transition period is a little unnerving for a woman who likes structure. I have been praying a lot in these many months. I’m trying to discern where God wants me in this. As is always the case, when I pray there is hope and a sense of well being in me. It is still uncomfortable but I know God is present and active and I trust that I will be called where I will grow.
So, that was not enough, the region has decided to undergo a complete transformation as well. Here is one way I am being called to act. I have taken on some leadership at this level. It is a bit uncertain as well but I am trusting that I was led this direction for a reason.
I just returned from General Assembly and guess what? The entire denomination is beginning a transition. The writing is on the wall and we are at a place where we either change or die. WOW!
In every case the movement is away from a corporate model to a model much more like the beginning of our Christian movement. I mean WAYYY back when people were gathering who still knew the person Jesus or his disciples.
I am all for that kind of thinking. It pains me to see what some people do in the name of Jesus. They act like they have never read the Bible or heard the stories of Jesus’ ministry on earth. The man was passionate about justice, about caring, about equality and about living a life filled with love. If we can get ourselves out of the confines of the church building we might find that living a life that is truly Christ-like is actually easier than we thought. He said love one another. If we take that to heart we can change the world.

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.

 

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.

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

Rest

Last weekend Opening to the Sacred, the retreat ministry I share with a friend who is also a spiritual director, offered a retreat called Rest For Your Soul. We had a good group and it was a lovely day of exploring scripture, prayer, and reflection.                                                 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon     you and learn from me, for I am gentle  and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.     Matthew 11:28-29

My partner considered the nature of aspen trees.  A stand or grove of aspens grows from a single seed.  It the the root system that spreads and the trees multiply in this way.  We related that to our connectedness as people of God.                                                                       For as the days of a tree , so will be the days of my people.  Isaiah 65:22b

It was a quiet, wisdom-filled and restful day.

Moved by the sharing of ideas and thoughts about the Matthew text, I  wrote a poem

      YOKED yoke

I thought a yoke was limiting
But it depends on the "yokees"
Being yoked to Christ means freedom
   Trusting in loving guidance.
We are led in the Way designed for us
   Specially and lovingly for us
Not sent where we don't want to go
But in the direction we must go 
   to fulfill our destiny
         Our own path but side by side
With the One who knows us 
         better than we know ourselves.
I will take your yoke and I learn from you
         In gratitude and humility
                In Awe
                      In love

2014

Truth is I am glad to see 2013 end. What a year. There was much stress and anguish and grief yet I was able to get through it with the great comfort of knowing I was loved and supported by God. I felt this in the beautiful relationships I share. We tend to think of the difficult times and overlook those blessings that come to us in the midst of the trials. I am reminded of the joy of seeing my husband come home from work, of talking in the late evening with my son, of keeping up with my daughter by text and phone and sometimes Skype. I have good friends. There is music, worship, chats, puzzle making, enjoying the colors and shapes which surround us. I had the joy of being a prayer guide and of working with lovely people in spiritual direction. Even sitting in the hospital I was able to be grateful for medical technology and for people who care for the sick. So I am thankful that the challenges of 2013 are behind us and look forward to what might be in store for us in the new year. I pray that I will remain open to the grace and blessing we are given in abundance.

Advent

Snowart2aI wrote this in 2009 for an Advent Devotional but it spoke to me today and I’d like to share it with you.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” – Jude 17-18

Godlessness. At the time when the Letter of Jude was written the people were being led astray by those “who will follow their own ungodly desires.” In our own times there are so many things that appear to be ungodly. Greed is rampant, there is a loss of concern about others and a self-centered disregard for the effects of one’s actions on others. We are bombarded with images of violence, exploitation of persons’ bodies, and denigrating language — all in the name of entertainment.

In the season of Advent we are particularly vulnerable to being drawn into greed with the commercialization of a most holy time in the church year. How can we remain true to God in a climate such as this?

Perhaps the words of Jude’s letter ring true today as we face a world at odds with our understanding of the kingdom of God. When we regard one another as children of God and care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we catch a glimpse of the world as God intended it to be.

The Jude text offers hope. “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love…”

There are always choices to be made. We can allow ourselves to be swept up in the craziness of the season or we can remember that we have been given an amazing gift. If we can remain true to our belief that Jesus is the Christ and he is the lens through which we can focus our lives on God then we can combat the negatives in our lives that try to keep us from staying on the right path.

It is in this season of Advent as we await the coming of Jesus once again, that we, too, can be born anew in him and build ourselves in holy faith.

Godless world? No, we are in a God-filled world. We just have to be open to the many wonders of our God and turn to God in spite of all those things that pull us in other directions.

There is hope in Christ. We are called to that hope. We pray that we will find it as we await the coming of Christ anew. Amen.

Fall Color

Fall color

Fall color

This fall colors in the American Midwest have been especially beautiful this year. I have been drawn to the yellows but I have seen so many shades of green, red, yellow, brown, and orange. This month I have talked about the senses on my webpage and the experiences I’ve had with color this past few weeks have put me in a place of peace and holiness. With so much chaos in the world and in our country I welcome the joy and comfort these fall colors bring. I find myself understanding the word “breathtaking”. At times my breath is taken away in a simple gasp as I am amazed at the absolute splendor of these glimpses of God’s creative spirit. As the wind blows and the sun dances on the leaves the colors change and what I see leaves me in awe. It soothes my soul and for a while I can bathe in the beauty surrounding me and forget the pain and sorrow and ugliness that beat me down. I am inspired, I feel renewed, I feel creative and nourished. Perhaps it is the enjoyment of such beauty that strengthens us to do our part in the work of making the world a better place. I am grateful for this.

Life is so precious

Fall butterfly

Fall butterfly

We were moving along nicely minding our own business feeling great when out of the blue things happened reminding us of our fragile nature, of our mortality. My son got sick, I got into a car accident. He could have died, I could have died. But we didn’t. I took notice and started to feel the reality of humanity. We are born, we die. In between we live. It is so easy to take that life for granted – Until you think you about the possibility of losing it. I’ve read many accounts of people’s brushes with death but until now it was not an experience I have had.
My life has been relatively easy. I’ve had my ups and downs but overall it has been good. I often marvel at the wonder of life. The amazing human body, the birth of a child, the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Look to the heavens and they tell the story of the creator who made the universe in all its splendor and yet loves each one of us and truly each little piece of the creation. Yes, life is precious and each moment holds possibilities for experiencing the wonder of God who is manifest in all there is. We just need to pay attention. I am grateful for this life.