Tag Archives: religion

Is This War?

Sometimes I think we are at war. At war with the environment. At war with each other. At war with other countries. At war with whoever disagrees with us. At war with those who are different…even with those in our own families.

Yesterday, we all got word of another mass shooting, in another place where people are supposed to be free and safe. Shortly after that, the predictable war of words started because no one can agree on what to do. People immediately started criticizing one another about Why This is Happening Again. Someone even lashed out at the fact that someone else invoked prayer because “if prayer helped, people wouldn’t be shot in worship.”

All I know is it feels like more than any one of us can bear. It is too much. It is wrong. We are wrong. Nothing we are currently doing is working. Tearing one another apart is certainly not working either.

This Texas church shooting hits home for me because I’ve served the last 30 years as a pastor in a variety of churches in Texas. In the last decade or so, I sat in on meetings where we talked about what to do if this kind of unthinkable violence happened during worship. The sad truth was that no amount of security would help because churches are such open and welcoming places, filled with all kinds of people with all kinds of issues. Our doors, lots of them are open. I believe the same could be said of concerts, sporting events, parks…well, everywhere.

One expert said, “The best thing I can tell you as a pastor on the platform is to hold up a Bible or a hymnal and maybe you can deflect a shot…and then run.” I remember thinking, “I’m pretty sure I could not deflect a shot nor would I run from my people if that was happening. Never.”

I can’t even find words. I’m writing today to say, I can’t even find words.

In Isaiah, there is a glimpse of how it might be without war and it has to do with living more into the way we were created. As a person of faith, I still believe in that vision…where God’s reality includes no war. Swords, spears and even guns, vehicles and other things that destroy us turn into shovels, plows and hoes…tools for growing things and feeding people. Isaiah 2:4

God, today, I have no words. Can you please help us stop these wars? We cannot do it on our own.

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Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Sloppy Wet Baby Kisses

No matter your politics or religion, we can agree that things are tense and unsettled right now. We can likely agree that we do not know how all that is currently happening will play out in our country, our world or with us personally. Christianity is being bandied about in a myriad of ways and as a Christian pastor, I feel called to speak out. The problem is, I do not know what to say. People who disagree and who think I’m an anomaly of beliefs will only keep not understanding and shaking their heads. I don’t believe my words will change anyone’s mind.

I believe we need supernatural help. I believe we need guidance that comes from a greater power than any one of us.

I’ve just returned home from a few days with our precious seven month old grandson. He’s learning how to kiss. Do you remember how young babies kiss? They open their mouths wide and come at you. They can’t pucker up yet or smack their lips like older people do. When I ask my grand baby to give me a kiss, he understands me. It takes him a little while to act on it and then, he moves, mouth open, approaching my cheek like a sloth. When he delivers his kiss, it is all drool, super sloppy and the most delightful thing I know.

He will even do it on FaceTime.  I ask for a kiss and slowly, sloth like, the screen changes from his face to his approaching wide open mouth. Those sloppy kisses anchor me. They bring me to the joy of the Present Moment. I know he won’t kiss like that forever. I know now that drool won’t kill me so I just savor it.

And, I think it is supernatural. It is grace. It is new life. This person who didn’t even exist before is now here, kissing me. This messiness is God in the daily sweetness of life.

A few days ago, awash in his sloppy kisses, I remembered a worship praise song called “How He Loves.” The song, in some versions, has this line “Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” The reason it is different in some versions is that evidently some people were uncomfortable singing about sloppy wet kisses in worship. To them, I say, “Are you kidding me?” This is it.  This is faith. This is the supernatural colliding with this physical, pretty screwed up world. It is supposed to be messy.

In the new hit show, This is Us, which is a great show about real life, Kevin is explaining to his nieces about life through a painting. His painting is a collision of colors and textures, lines and shapes. It looks like this super colorful, vivid, rainbow explosion. Kevin tries to explain it and ends up saying “I think life is just one big, sloppy, colorful, magical thing that never ends.”

There’s that word again, sloppy.

Here’s what I’m trying to say as words pretty much fail me. These are uncertain, anxiety-ridden times. If we look too long or too hard on what is happening and what people are saying, we will be lost in anger, paralyzed by fear. We need supernatural help. That help is all around us and it is delivered, strangely enough in the sloppiest of ways. When heaven meets earth, there is messiness, drool and discomfort.

My prayer for all of us today is that we will stop in the chaos and receive a grace beyond us…like a baby kiss. It is the only way forward. .

. .

Attention

If you read my last entry, you are aware that last week I had to move almost everything from inside the house to the garage to get ready for ceiling and floor work at our home. I ended the week sore, bruised and really sick of my stuff. It was particularly difficult in the pantry, finding foods that were at “their best if eaten by 2012.” Yeah.

The man overseeing phase one coached me on how to get the house ready. When I asked him what I should do while they are working he politely said, “Go on vacation?” He laughed but I can take a hint. Thankfully, we have friends that are very generous with their lovely lake house in Oklahoma. They let me squat there whenever I need silence or time away. I once asked them what they would do if I never left. They only laughed nervously and said “You are welcome to stay as long as you want.” Yes, these are the best of friends.

I’ve been here since last Saturday just soaking in fall at the lake. The leaves are contemplating their fall colors: red, gold or orange. The weather is crisp at night and never hot in the daytime. I’ve seen lots of deer, all kinds of birds and of course the squirrels are having the time of their life with a generous helping of acorns everywhere. Right now, I’m on a screened in porch while it rains and gently thunders all around me. It is delicious. Oh, and also I have coffee.

The election is really scarring/scaring me. I’ve been beside myself, addicted to Twitter in a “gawking at an accident kind of way.” My husband even told me, “you’ve got to disconnect from this stuff.” Here, it is easier. First, the wi-fi is non-existent. Secondly, my focus has changed. Here, it is more about the rhythm of the day than of the news cycle. Sunrise and sunset anchor the morning and evening. Walks are longer and without headphones. I’m reading actual books, on my fifth now. My journal entries and prayer time are elongated in a slow and gentle way.

I’ve been reading a book called “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle, a technology professor at MIT. She is like a voice in the wilderness lamenting our addiction to our phones and all things electronic. Our attention is fractured, splintered, shot. We are losing the art of long slow talks and just being able to sit in silence or watch the sky or look out over a body of water.

I’m no better than anyone else. I’m addicted. I can’t seem to pull away from my phone, even here. But, I am aware that I want something different. I am aware that my soul is fed and even anchored by nature, by quiet, by stillness. When I put my attention in the right place I’m assured in powerful ways of God’s goodness and nearness. This morning I was comforted by this old hymn line running through my mind, “Though the wrongs seem oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

I have no answers for anything except this: what we attend to matters. I’m going to do my best to attend to creation and the One who creates.

Just Do Something

We’ve all been saying it. We’ve been shaking our heads at the events of recent weeks and months. We seem to agree that we hate the violence. We hate the division among races, religions and cultures. We hate what is happening in politics right now. We hate floundering over which phrase is wrong or right to say. We hate that people are dying. We hate that there are no easy solutions and on and on.

I like it when people just start acting, don’t you? I like it when someone takes a food basket to the police station. I like it when someone puts flowers at a site where something bad happened. I like it when someone writes a note or says a prayer or marches peacefully for what they believe in. I like it when someone sends a card to a grieving family. I like it when someone offers a word of support to those in leadership during these trying times.

Do we really live in a society where young people can get guns easier than computers or books? I pray not. I want to be able to act in defiance of all that has happened lately. I want to do something positive. I know we can’t solve it all. So what, then?

In our community, thankfully, we have worked together for years to help economically disadvantaged children, especially around the issue of education. We seem to share an understanding that if these students in need are fed, clothed, healthy and equipped with school supplies and resources; we are all better off.

For the last four years, our school district, faith-based organizations, civic organizations and lots and lots of concerned citizens have worked together, in spite our differences of theology, politics, race and culture to provide backpacks, school supplies, resources and love to our struggling families at an annual Back to School Fair.

This is something positive we can do. We need new backpacks for the Connect/GCISD August 6 Back to School Fair which will be held at Grapevine High School from 9 a.m.-noon.  We love having a variety of backpacks and letting each child carefully choose the one he or she wants. Almost 1400 students are pre-registered to attend this year, the most we’ve ever had.

It seems like a small thing, buying a backpack. Could it make a difference?  I know it does. I’ve seen the children picking them out; wearing them proudly.  I’ve seen them when they receive those school supply packs supplied generously by the Women’s Division of the Grapevine Chamber. I see the relief on the faces of the moms and dads. It matters.

New backpacks can be delivered up until August 5 to the GCISD Administration Building main office at 3051 Ira E. Woods, Grapevine, TX, 76051.  Or, you can volunteer. Come to the fair and help us take positive, community-based steps for good. Sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-5thannual or go to www.connectgcisd.org for more information.

Just do something.