Come on! We can do better!

As I have gotten older I have learned, sometimes in painful ways, that the structure should support the mission, not the other way around. And, as I understand it, the laws of our country are there to benefit and support the people. Not the other way around. Whenever the laws (or policies, or “practices”, or presidential privilege) are used to justify demeaning people, young or old, citizen or alien, we have made an idol of the structure and lost the mission. We are humans and our mission is to respect the human dignity of our neighbor, near and far. Especially if we are going to use Christianity as the motivation for our decisions. A lot of things are nuanced in scripture but, not the way we are to treat children. Jesus was clear. Children are our future. All children. We owe them more than this. I don’t have the answers but I know what I see and hear is wrong. 💔 #stopthismadness

Something to chew, and act on…

Advertisements
Posted in Christmas, community, current events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

freedom’s respect, respect’s freedom

Today is national Flag Day, a day for celebrating the flag and the country it represents. The country of the United States of America. Our country. I, along with many thankful Americans, hung my flag out on the front porch this morning. It’s out there beautifully waving in the breeze.

The flag is a controversial lightening rod these days. Maybe it has always been and I’m just noticing it now. But, it definitely is now. There is so much divisiveness over how we are to treat the flag and what that treatment means.

If someone burns a flag it is easy to see that as a sign of disrepsect, even hatred perhaps for what the flag represents. But there are other ways of approaching the red, white, and blue that are harder to interpret.

I realize even writing this post I am opening myself up for criticism. I’ve not written nearly as often since the last presidential election, partially because I fear how my offerings might be received and interpreted and I don’t want to offend or alienate anyone. And, also, because I just haven’t been able to wade through the grief in my heart at what is going on in our country today to get the words down in an intelligent manner.

I’m giving expression to my feelings today, giving it a shot anyway. From what I can tell, at its best, the flag is meant to be an icon, a representative to point us to the larger picture of the country’s values, over which the flag flies. Values like freedom, equality, strength, generosity, hospitality, and humility. A country that celebrates, respects, and protects the inherent value and dignitiy of each human being regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, religion, or anything else that might threaten to separate rather than unite. At least those are the values I’ve always thought and still hope it represents.

I respect the brave men and women who serve our country, both near and far, at great risk and with great courage to protect our freedoms and the values the flag represents. We owe them our gratitude and respect, and whatever else they may need in recovering from the traumas of war and conflict. We ask much of them, too much. Too often they are expected to be ready and willing to do inhuman things in order to protect our human freedoms. Theirs is a burden no one should have to carry.

It is not hard to see from history that we, as a people, have not always done well by these values the flag represents. We, as a country, have struggled with the practice of equality, and in many cases even in determining the scope of its definition. But, for as long as I can remember we, as a country, have tried. And, when we’ve gone through rough patches, thankfully, there have been voices. Prophetic voices who have called us back to the ideal of freedom and equality for all.

Prophets are rarely welcomed. I mean no one wants to have their weaknesses pointed out. No one wants to be challenged to change. And yet, growth and transformation only happen through reflection, repentence, and a willingness to change. I’m thankful there have been those voices. And, appreciative of their ability and willigness to speak up even when it costs them. In ways I’ve been too coward to do.

So, today I’m thinking of a young man. A young professional athlete I really know nothing about. His name is Colin Kaepernick. I’m thinking of what he did, and the storm of chaos and hateful rhetoric that resulted from it. I’m thinking of the young man who, apparently, decided kneeling during the national anthem was the best way he could express his desire for the awareness and accountability of areas where our nation is not reflecting the best of values that we, as a nation, say we hold dear. I’m thinking of this young man who has used his privilege and voice to advocate for others whose voices are not being heard.

I’m thinking of the storm of hateful rhetoric that has resulted in painful divisions. I’m thinking of the “sides” that have been declared and the words I have read and heard to debase and dismiss this man, our fellow citizen. And, I’m wondering if those voices who have spent so much energy condemning him have ever taken the time to actually hear and consider his point of view. His perspective. And, what is their perspective? What did his actions stir in them that caused such backlash? I’m trying to understand. And, I’m thinking of the opportunities to build bridges that have been missed by the divisive rhetoric. Is there a way we can make room for different expressions of protest? Different expressions of respect?

Honestly, I personally can’t think of a more respectful way than kneeling to express the call for awareness and accountability in the quest for equal justice for all. Kneeling is usually seen as an act of humility. An act of humility that invites and encourages the growth of our better selves. And, as for this action taking place in a crowded football stadium. Well, where else would be better? Throughout history the words and actions of the prophets were heard and seen in public.

The notion that citizens and residents of a country would be forced by government or a corporation to stand for an anthem or a flag is terrifying to me. The day we are all “commanded” and forced to stand for the national anthem is the day we have made an idol for ourselves. Idols are lifeless voids. The day we make an idol out of the flag or the anthem, well that would be a day of disrespect for the country, for the military, for the flag, and for the ideals it represents. And that would be a sad day of disrespecting the value of freedom and basic human dignity. There is a difference between patriatism and nationalism. The former makes room for unity not uniformity. The other demands conformity. Essential distinctions to be made, necessary in determining the health of our future.

Like I said. I don’t know this man, Coln Kaepernick, his heart or his motives, other than what I’ve heard him say on TV and read in the news. And, I don’t know the people or hearts behind the hateful condemnation and negation of his actions. Only the content of their words and tone of the voices in which they have been spoken. I just wonder…if such a quiet action can be met with such loud and angry negativity, is there the possibility that he hit a nerve that needs to be tended to instead of denied? Is there an opportunity to grow in the ideals and values we say we hold so dear? The ones the flag and anthem represent? Is it possible that kneeling for justice might be considered equally as valid of a way to show respect for what the flag and anthem represent as standing is? Is there room for both expressions?

May we not grow weary in growing in our ability as a nation, as a people of connection, to be self reflective, repentent, and willing to be transformed. May we not rest until all are afforded the same opportunities, the same respect, the same freedoms, and the same protections. May we not grow weary until it truly is on earth as it is in heaven.

Something to chew on…

img_1099

Posted in community, connection, country, current events, peace, people, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

seeing jesus

This is still what I think of when I think of the woman anointing Jesus. #palmsunday

Chewing the Cud

I arrived early in the morning to begin my day as chaplain on duty. After checking in I made my way to the pediatric chronic care unit to check on Martin. Martin was thirteen years old and, due to many birth complications, had spent his entire life in and out of the hospital. He had fought fiercely and bravely in the midst of countless obstacles, but it was clear his strength for battle was waning. And so, on a midwinter’s Sunday morning, the vigil began.

As the day wore on he would struggle increasingly for each breath. His mother sat loyally at his bedside, full of pain, full of love. Throughout the day other visitors would come and go, but there she remained. In between other calls I spent as much time as possible with Martin and his mom. For the first time in my life, I got an inkling…

View original post 683 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

little bits of redemption

Now that I’m preaching regularly I thought I might share some weekly messages.  Since I don’t use notes when I preach I’m sure this message came out a little differently last Sunday but I’ve written it so that you might get the gist of it.  I hope it speaks good news to you. Something to chew on…

This past week I have been watching the PBS documentary series on the Vietnam War. It is stunning and powerful and terrifying and heartbreaking.

In one episode there is an interview with the first American pilot shot down in enemy territory. He was held captive for something like 8 years. He talked of life in the prison, of the beatings, the humiliation, and ultimately saying things on camera he didn’t mean just to stay alive. And he talked about the shame he felt at that. He was imprisoned and oppressed both by the enemy and his own sense of shame. I’m not sure his prison bars were any more oppressive than the prison of pride that kept president after president thinking they could win an un-win-able war.

And yet, in the midst of all the politics of any war there are those who bravely serve their country, putting their lives on the line and facing great danger with the motivation of protecting others. If you have served in military war or conflict you know, in a way I can only imagine, what it costs you, and, although there are no words to adequately express full appreciation of your sacrifice, thank you for your brave and honorable service.

We are a mixed lot, are we not. All created in the image of God and our lives purposed for love and for service. And, we are a bunch of cracked pots, vulnerable to the temptations of greed, hatred, pride…the list goes on. And then there’s life in the systems of this world. Systems where greed becomes an asset and poverty a source of shame. Where vulnerability is seen as weakness and what is true becomes anyone’s guess.

Yes, there are forces within and without that, every day, threaten the balance of who we are created to be.

That’s why the Gospels that tell us of Jesus are such good news. To be reminded again of the sovereign ability of God’s love to break through all forces of evil and negativity, bringing the restorative power of grace, love, and freedom. To be reminded again that their is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark portrays a Jesus of action. The writer is not so much concerned with what Jesus says but what he does and the power in which he does it. In this particular gospel Jesus’ first act of ministry is exorcising an unclean spirit out of a man that was ranting and shrieking. By choosing something this dramatic he is letting us know the seriousness and vastness of God’s power embodied in Jesus.

The people following Jesus would have been wanting a military king to come defeat the Roman oppressors and to restore Israel to its proper place among the nations. Jesus’ words and actions reveal that God has something completely different in mind. Jesus is anointed all right, even anointed with power of war and might. But not in a military sense. Rather in the sense of a self-giving love that breaks down any strongholds whether of this world system or any other. A power which no opposing power can defeat.

There’s a lot of push and pull going on here. The scene takes place in the synagogue. Which makes it weird that the man with the unclean spirit was right out there in the middle. In this society of honor and shame this man would have definitely been considered unclean. Anything that was wrong with you was somehow your fault. You had done something to make God mad at you. He wouldn’t have been welcomed in the synagogue being unclean. And yet, there he is with this shrieking evil spirit. Right in the middle of what was supposed to be pure and righteous there is this dirty evil. And Jesus reveals an authority that out powers any ritual or teaching of those who were considered to be the experts.

We too can experience evil in the places that are meant for good.

Some years ago when I was serving in another church I went on a mission trip to Budapest Hungary. The purpose of it was to try to establish relationships with the people of Budapest. There were nine young people and me. The rest of them were musicians and singers. I wasn’t quite sure why I had been given this assignment by the senior pastor. Most of the people we encountered were young, bright, beautiful individuals who had their whole lives ahead of them, and yet I couldn’t help but notice a collective emptiness or sadness in them.

We went to a park the first afternoon we arrived. As the musicians set up their instruments I made my way to a park bench way over to the side of the park. The way I saw it, the last thing any of these bright and beautiful young adults would want to do was to talk with an old American woman. I was feeling so stubborn about this that I remember praying to God that if I was supposed to talk to anyone God would have to deliver them to the park bench.

And, as you would expect, no sooner had I prayed that prayer than I looked up and sitting beside me was this young man with pale skin, wild eyes, and frizzy hair, looking like a young Bob Dylan. He said hello and then went off on a tirade for about two minutes. His sentences were so completely laced with profanity it was hard to hear what he was saying. I’m no stranger to profanity but I didn’t realize one could say the “f” word that many times in one sentence and still communicate a message. Honestly, looking back on it, he did seem a little possessed.

I guess because I didn’t flinch or run away, eventually his language calmed down and he said that his people didn’t need us “Christians” to come over with our pretty songs and shallow words. The way he snarled the word “Christian” it actually sounded worse than any of the cuss words he had used.

He told me his country had real problems and they needed real solutions. He went on to say that he never prayed. And, that he had done some bad things and now he got up every day and asked God to help him get through the day.

When I felt like it was safe, I asked him if he had considered what he was doing when he asked God for help might be praying. His look of contempt at my question made me think, oh, here we go again he’s going to let me have it. But instead, he said with an emphatic no that praying was reciting prayers over “there”, pointing to a nearby cathedral, and he then declared he would never set foot in that place again.

This conversation left me puzzled and curious. Later on that week I toured the Holocaust museum. The story of the war was told from the perspective of the Hungarian Jew. What I would learn is, by the time the Nazi forces got there, the evil was so completely ramped up that more Jews were killed in Hungary in a shorter amount of time than anywhere else during the war. There were pictures of the same street corners where we were now holding street concerts and speaking of the love of Christ, where the Jewish people had then been pulled out of their homes and businesses and put on busses to concentration camps and torture and possible death.

To my horror I also learned that much of this happened in full sight, and without much if any resistance, of the Christian church there. In an awful attempt to be able to continue to do business as usual, the Church had compromised with the powers of oppression turning a blind eye to the injustice that was happening before them. Not everyone of course participated in this, but enough to be a significant part of the honest history.

What was meant for good had been imprisoned by evil, gripped by the unclean spirit of silence in the face of injustice and oppression.

I still process what I learned in my time there. What I realized is that by those simple and sometimes awkward street concerts and through our feeble conversations, the love of Christ was communicated in small ways. Little bits of grace spread over the physical spaces that have endured so much evil. What I realized is that God now calls and uses us all, in the power of Christ, to be the in-breaking of grace wherever we see pain, or injustice, or need. In whatever small and ordinary ways we can. We are all purposed to use our authority of Love to be little bits of redemption wherever we are.

By the power of the same Holy Spirit the early followers were awakened to in Pentecost, we folks of the twenty-first century now have the same authority Jesus exhibited on that day in the synagogue. The power to dispel hatred with love. Un-forgiveness with grace. Oppression with freedom. Even when that spirit of negativity and oppression lies deep within our own hearts.

This is not easy work. The journey is full of temptation to give in to the negative pulling us from all directions. But, while it is hard work, we don’t do it alone. We are given everything we need for the battle.

I’m going to ask you to do something for me. It’s an exercise I hope you will take with you this morning. An exercise to do anytime you feel discouraged in your walk, when that spirit of negativity grips you and tells you that you just can’t get it right. When you feel small against the pressures of this world. When you’ve lost your joy.

Right now, wherever you are as you read this, I’d like you to listen to your own breathing. If you need to cover your ears. Feel the beat of your heart, listen as you inhale and exhale. The sound of your breath. Let it speak softly to you. Can you hear it?

Each time you take a breath, every single time, it is God saying “I love you”. It is God saying “You are mine” It is God saying “I am with you.” It is God casting out anything that is oppressing you by telling you that you are not alone. It is God saying to you that you will always be held in love. It’s right there with each breath. God’s yes to you.

Take a moment to breathe that in.

May it be on earth as it is in heaven.

IMG_0104

 

Posted in breathing, Christ, Christianity, Faith, Lessons Learned, Life, life purpose, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

making space

This morning I’m as excited as a kid on the first day of school. I’m starting my new call as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Kingsville! My living room is full of boxes stacked to be put in the car. Boxes of books to be put on the shelves in my new office. My “to do” list is written with notes about things not to forget on this first day. My car is full of gas, ready for the morning commute in the cold. I haven’t quite figured out what I’m wearing yet, but something will jump out at me I’m sure. Once I finally make up my mind to shed these comfy flannels.

Mostly my heart is ready for this new adventure. I think the new year is a perfect time to start a new season. And I’ve made some new space in preparation for the energy, focus, and presence it will take.

This past weekend we had plans to go to the hill country with some couples to celebrate the new year celebration. We’ve celebrated with these couples for 15 years or so. I look forward to the time spent laughing and sitting around the fire. I look forward to the comfort of their company.

But, this year it was not meant to be. The day before we were to leave Tom came down with a terrible respiratory cold. He was sweet and said he’d try to “grind through” but it was clear where he needed to stay was in bed.

Once we made the decision not to go my mind went into gear as to what I could do to occupy the time. I hate to miss anything and it’s my nature to worry about what I’m missing and so, in an effort to head that off at the pass, I decided to pack the books I wanted to take to my new office and clean out the closets. Make some space.

Oh my. Pulling out and loading the boxes was physically taxing but that was just the beginning. What was I thinking! The real challenge was when I pulled out boxes and boxes of old pictures to go through, sort, and organize. Pictures dating all the way back to when Tom’s dad was a baby up through our two precious granddaughters. Although I’ve realized most of those pictures are on my phone. Why don’t I print pictures anymore!

What started out to be a housekeeping chore became a poignant walk down memory lane and in many ways a reacquainting with my history and family. It was exhausting and exhilarating, comical and sad all at once. So many people who I’ve loved and who have loved me. So many life events, long ago forgotten brought to life once more. I re-watched my daughter grow up through these pictures. Re-watched Tom’s and my courtship and 43 years of marriage. He staying as handsome as ever. Me, through a whole series of hair colors and styles (some of them horrendous!) and my body changing from one of a young girl to… older woman (yuck). What a wonderful life we have had and are having.

At one point it became overwhelming, even backbreaking. At one point I wish I hadn’t started this silly quest. Talk about grinding through! I was past the point of no return though as I had the whole house involved with this endeavor. Boxes everywhere. Piles of pictures throughout. I’m not a linear person, usually work in a circular manner, or maybe whirlwind is more accurate.

What a gift this journey has been. With a significant amount of sadness I have been re-minded how quickly life passes. With a significant amount of regret I was convicted of how often I rushed through the moment in self-criticism or unmet expectation. With a significant amount of gratitude I re-membered how much love and joy I have and still am experiencing. With a significant amount of hope I am encouraged that the joy only continues to grow with each day as there is another opportunity with each sunrise to live life to the fullest and to show love in any and every way I can.

And, this morning, while it is not completely done, our life in pictures has found a new home and the next time anyone in the family wants to take a sentimental journey it will be a more well “paved” one. We’ll know where to go to look.

One thing I discovered in this process was that I have now made some space in my heart for this next season. I hadn’t even realized how, most of the time, I just jump from one season to the next without really ever reflecting on all I have experienced. In the midst of shuffling photographs and making meals I did just that this weekend. I didn’t even realize how much I needed it.  I’m reminding of the shepherd forcing the sheep to lay down in green pastures so that they can process and digest all the grass they have ingested while grazing.  This weekend I was “forced” to reflect and process.  And it was good! This morning I’m fully awake to this new season. I can’t wake to make some more memories. And my new year resolution? Well, to, hopefully, be present each and every step of the way.

My prayer for you is that you will give yourself the gift of making time and space to reflect on the goodness of your life. It’s a great encourager!

Something to chew on…

Painted in Waterlogue

Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6″ (Medium) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

Posted in life purpose, people, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

a beautiful mess

It’s right about dawn Christmas Eve morning. All is still and calm. I love this time of the morning when the whole day is full of possibility. What I’m chewing on is… birth. Specifically the birth of Jesus.

Thousands, maybe millions, will gather in churches today and this evening to give thanks for and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who Christians believe is Lord and Savior. There will be candles, choirs, and communion. There will be singing, scripture, and sentiment. It will be a time for families to cuddle in pews and friends and strangers alike to pass the peace with one another. It will be a time of great joy and good will. And, perhaps, party dresses.

There will be talk of singing angels and amazed shepherds. Of presents and adoration. Of the world changing forever for the better because of this miracle birth. It will all seem so holy and beautiful. And clean.

I love the beauty of Christmas Eve service as much as anyone else and, as a preacher, I live to bring good news. All of our worshiping and celebrating will be done in earnest devotion. This morning, though, I’m wondering what would Mary be pondering in her heart if she came to a Christmas Eve service today. Would she even recognize what we’re celebrating? This morning I’m wondering what this event would have been like for her.

First of all, in the honor and shame society in which Mary lived, being pregnant before marriage would not have left her in good standing around town. Today it is pretty much seen as no big deal but I remember in the late sixties when a friend of mine’s sister got pregnant it was scandalous! I doubt anyone had given Mary a baby shower. And, while Joseph had been clued in on the significance of what was happening, there had to have been all kinds of awkward conversations happening between he and Mary and friends and family. I wonder if the call for census and the trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth may have come as a welcome diversion from their uncomfortable situation in town.

It was a little less than a hundred mile journey for them to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Walking! This wasn’t a vacation. This was civic duty and hard traveling. Mary might have been riding on a donkey. Either way, traveling when you are eight or nine months pregnant would have been more than a little uncomfortable. I remember the night before Lauren was born walking across the room was an event! I felt I was going to expel a bowling ball at any moment. Not exactly like the graceful Mary you see in church Christmas pageants!

There were no four star hotels for them. No spa day for Mary to be refreshed. Just walking and depending on the kindness of strangers. Which, fortunately, was the expected culture of the day. One’s honor was tied in to how well they showed hospitality. Even so, they ended up having to sleep in a barn.

Which brings us to the whole manger scene. It all seems so serene when we’re singing about it in hymns. No crib for his bed. The little Lord Jesus lays down his sweet head. I’ve never sung a Christmas hymn that talked about how uncomfortable that must have been for Mary. How much it must have stunk from the animals. How unclean it must have felt. Between the animal sounds, mooing, baaing, roosters crowing, and primal birth cries, I can imaging it was anything but a hallelujah chorus.

Enter pesky, nosy, stinky shepherds. A visit from them would not have been considered a thing of class. And, with them, came more stinky animals.

And, from birth, came a crying baby. He might be Lord someday but, as a newborn, he was like all other babies. Precious, crying, hungry, messy. Demanding. I can only imagine what Mary was really pondering in her heart…

I sit here in the comfort of my home, listening to Christmas music playing softly in the background, drinking hot coffee, and looking at presents wrapped under the tree. I realize how different the original nativity scene was from the pretty ones I have scattered around my house. Even stretching my imagination to its fullest I can, in no way, comprehend the chaos, discomfort, fear, and confusion that would have been experienced on that birth day of our Lord.

And yet, I can, in this moment, reflect on all the times in my life when I have experienced the chaos, discomfort, fear, and confusion of being human in this beautiful and broken world. Times when I felt the full brunt of the messiness of life. Times when I knew no solutions to the situation and the best I could do was ponder in my heart and hope that Someone was in this with me. And, Someone, always was. And some new dimension of my life was always born because of it. Some new insight. Some new strength. Some new purpose…

Which makes the whole unclean messy birth of Jesus so much more relevant. An act of grace! I’m thankful for it all. Thankful that, through all of the uncertainty, discomfort, confusion, noise, and pain of the birth of Jesus, Love came to us as a newborn baby. Thankful this same Love continues to break through even now.

As I sing the hymns tonight, as I pray and pass the peace tonight, as I preach tonight, as I hold my family tight in the comfort and beauty of it all, I will once again be reminded there is nothing I will ever experience, no pain, no loss, no uncertainty, no confusion, no noise, that I will face alone. You either. We are forever wrapped in the swaddling clothes of a Love that will never let us go. And through it all we are continuing to be born in Love again and again.

Merry Christmas everyone! May it be on earth as it is in heaven.

Something to chew on….

Painted in Waterlogue

Posted in Christ, Christianity, Christmas, Faith, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

in the aftermath

I read there was a guest preacher preaching at The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas yesterday. I, too, was a guest preacher yesterday at a small close knit church community in Corpus Christi. I had been with this group before. They are a warm, vibrant, loving, and faithful community. From what I heard on the news, the church in Sutherland is such a community. I’m guessing they welcomed the guest preacher yesterday morning much in the same way I was welcomed. With open arms.

Where I was, we wrestled with the challenge of staying centered in the love of Christ as we seek to navigate the world of chaos around us. We talked about how many ways the message of Christ, the unconditional love of God in Christ, has been distorted in such negative and destructive ways and how important it is to remember that the true message of Christ is one of grace, hope, love, inclusiveness, and service.

I read aloud the passage when Jesus spoke of what it means to be blessed. Those to be blessed might be different than expected. The poor in spirit. The pure in heart. Those who thirst for wholeness with God. The peacemakers. The meek. Jesus said they would be filled. Filled with things like mercy. With God. He said they would be satisfied. Today, I think of all of those in Sutherland Springs who were seeking God and yet were, in those horrific moments, filled with shock, fear, and pain.

There is no easy formula in the harsh realities of living out the journey of faith. No transaction of security in the here and now. And yet, I remember Jesus also said that those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, those who are persecuted for their yearning for wholeness with God and one another, they would receive the kingdom of God. And those that mourn will be filled with comfort. Something to cling to in the aftermath.

We shared communion with one another yesterday, and prayed for our country, for peace for all. We prayed prayers of gratitude for our loved ones who are now in the arms of eternal unconditional Love. I noticed the emotions of these beautiful worshipers as they listened to the scripture washing over their souls and as they lifted up names of loved ones. I, too, felt an unusual amount of emotion during the service yesterday. Unknowingly, I guess we were also crying prayers for those who were at those same moments being terrorized and murdered. No doubt Jesus was weeping with us.

During communion a woman came forward pushing an infant, in a stroller. I had baptized this infant in this church a few Sundays ago. As she gave him a piece of the broken bread I knelt down and blessed him with the sign of the cross and whispered to him he was a beloved child of God. Today I think of the eighteen month old in Sutherland Springs who was met, instead, with a weapon of death.

We were vulnerable before God and one another yesterday. And, we connected in the sweet tenderness of joy. The folks at Sutherland also worshiped in vulnerability. Only, the cruelty of violence turned their songs of joy into tears of the broken hearted.

I, like all Americans I’m sure, am heartbroken. My two granddaughters, 4 and 5, spent the weekend with me. I can’t even let my mind…I can’t understand it. I can’t understand it. Thank God, I can’t understand it. Because, if I could get my head wrapped around it. If it, in any way, made sense to me, I’d lose hope. We must not loose our inability to understand such horrible and senseless violence. These actions must not be normalized or justified. Forgiven, yes, with God’s grace. Healed, hopefully. But never understood or justified.

Today, our president offered condolences and promised solidarity and support. And, said it wasn’t a gun issue, too soon. Said it was a mental health issue. (Although at last week’s massacre in New York he immediately called for revoking diversity visas because the killer had entered the US on such a visa…). Labeling the problem one thing does not eliminate another. Why does it have to be either or! Hell yes, it is a mental health issue, based on everything we are learning about the young killer. And, a gun issue, that such a weapon meant for killing was his means. And, stunningly, a domestic violence issue. And, maybe a military veteran issue. And, definitely, a hate issue. And, it is a United States issue as we are at crisis level of violence in our country.

It is a human issue, What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

When we will understand this reality? When will we even try to understand what loving our neighbor means and how all encompassing that command really is? It is complex and we need to be able to wade deep into the complexities if we have a prayer of stopping the madness. Our very lives, and the lives of all we love, are at stake. We must start talking to each other, instead of at each other. We must, together, seek the healing of the disease of hate and all of its consequences. We must stop the debating and see the conversations through to the solutions. If we don’t all win, we all lose. Please, let’s stop the madness. Our government should wade in before us, but regardless, we must all be willing to do our part. Laws may be legislated, but, changing lives requires transformation of the heart. We must keep showing up.

This coming Sunday I will be the guest preacher at another faith community. And, along with churches and faith communities throughout the world, we will gather together in vulnerability and hope and we will once again be reminded and remind each other that God’s love heals all and that we are called to be a part of the healing process. I think this Sunday our prayers may be more fervent, more urgent, more of a pleading perhaps.

I was inspired by the words of the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs when he addressed the public in a news conference earlier today. In the midst of his acute grief at the loss of his daughter and so many of his congregation, he talked about leaning in to love of Christ as his centering strength in the midst of all that is impossible for him to understand. Something to cling to in the aftermath.

To understand this love it is helpful to understand the cross of Christ. For some, the cross of Christ is about some kind of twisted violence required by God in order to be loved by God. Just like all other violence, I hope I never get my head wrapped around that kind of thinking. This is a violence of our own projection, not God’s. This is the kind of thinking that perpetuates and justifies violence.

The cross of Christ is proof that in spite of even the most violent actions we, as humans, might afflict upon one another, and, in doing so, on God, there is a Love that holds us securely in the center of Grace. A Love that says yes to all our nos. A Love that lives even through death.  A Love that saves us from ourselves. This is the love of Christ who has loved us all the way to the cross and beyond. This is a Love that holds us now in spite of all of the horror we feel. A Love that gives us hope of a better way of being. This is the thing to cling to in the aftermath.

Something to chew on…

IMG_0601

Posted in Life, news events, nonfiction, people, Uncategorized, wholeness;, world peace | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments