Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

What my enemy steals from me ...

Some truth for these days:

"The moment I have defined another being as my enemy, I lose part of myself, the complexity and subtlety of my vision.

I begin to exist in a closed system.

When anything goes wrong, I blame my enemy.

If I wake troubled, my enemy had led me to this feeling.

If I cannot sleep, it is because of my enemy.

Slowly all the power in my life begins to be located outside.

And my whole being is defined in relation to this outside force, which becomes daily more monstrous, more evil, more laden with all the qualities in myself I no longer wish to own.

The quality of my thought then is diminished.

My imagination grows small.

My self seems meager.

For my enemy has stolen all of these."

(Susan Griffin, b. 1943)

A poem for today ...

Poetry has been saving my weary soul lately.

I have been reading Padraig O Tuama's spiritual memoir, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World and it is rich with his poems.

Here is one that took my breath away this morning.

Collect

God of watching,

whose gaze I doubt and rally against both,

but in which I take refuge, despite my limited vision.

Shelter me today,

against the flitting nature of my own focus,

and help me find a calm kind of standing.

And when I falter, which is likely,

give me the courage and the kindness to begin again with hope and coping.

For you are the one whose watchfulness is steady.

Amen.

God of silence,

who watches our growth and decay,

who watches tsunamis and summer holidays,

who cares for the widow, the orphan,

the banker, the terrorist, the student,

the politician, the poet, the freedom fighter.

We pray to be nurtured in our own silences.

We pray that we might find in those silences

truth, compassion, fatigue and hearing.

Because you, you, you see all, and are often silent.

And we need to hope that you are not inattentive to our needs.

Amen.

God of darkness

You must be the god of darkness

because if you are not, who else can we turn to?

Turn to us now.

Turn to us.

Turn your face to us.

Because it is dark here.

And we are in need. We are people in need.

We can barely remember our own truth, and if you too have 

forgotten,

then we are without a hope of a map.

Turn to us now.

Turn to us.

Turn your face to us.

Because you turned toward us in the body of incarnation.

You turned toward us.

Amen.

 

 

 

Why?

Why?

Why is the Old Testament filled with God's constant command for God's people to care for the orphan, the widow, the alien?

Why did the prophet Micah state that God has shown humankind what is good - Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God?

Why did the prophet Isaiah state that God wants a religious fast that looks like loosing the chains of injustice, untying the cords of the yoke, setting the oppressed free, sharing our food with the hungry, providing shelter for the wanderer and clothing the naked?

Why did the prophet Amos cry out - Away with the noise and pomp and circumstance of your festivals and worship services! But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream?

Why did Jesus say - Whatever you have done to the least of these, it is as if you have done it to me?

Why did Jesus say - Anyone can love those who love them! But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

Why did Jesus say - The greatest among you will be the one who serves?

Why did Jesus say - It is by this one thing that people can know you are my followers, if you love each other?

Why did the apostle Paul say - Because you are God's chosen people, clothe yourselves with things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Why?

And why, oh why are followers of Jesus allowing the American political system to pull us off course so badly right now?

Why?

 

Let's try these beautiful responses

If you read my post yesterday, you know I cited a list of things we should stop saying to struggling friends or acquaintances.

This list was composed by Kate Bowler and can be found in the back of the incredible memoir about her life with Stage IV colon cancer. The book is called Everything Happens for a Reason ... and other lies I've loved.

As promised, here is her suggested list of things to say to those who are hurting.

She calls it - Give this a go, See how it works: A Short List

1. "I'd love to bring you a meal this week. Can I email you about it?"

Oh, thank goodness. I am starving, but mostly I can never figure out something to tell people that I need, even if I need it. But really, bring me anything. Chocolate. A potted plant. A set of weird erasers. I remember the first gift I got that wasn't about cancer and I was so happy I cried. Send me funny emails filled with You-Tube clips to watch during chemotherapy. Do something that suits your gifts. But most important, bring me presents!

2. "You are a beautiful person."

Unless you are of the opposite gender and used to speaking in a creepy windowless-van kind of voice, comments like these go a long way. Everyone wants to know they are doing a good job without feeling like they are learning a lesson. So tell your friend something about his life that you admire without making it feel like a eulogy.

3. "I am so grateful to hear about how you're doing and just know that I'm on your team."

You mean I don't have to give you an update? You asked someone else for all the gory details? Whew! Great! Now I get to feel like you are both informed and concerned. So don't gild the lily. What you have said is amazing, so don't screw it up by being a Nosy Nellie. Ask a question about any other aspects of my life.

4. "Can I give you a hug?" *

Some of my best moments with people have come with a hug or a hand on the arm. People who are suffering often - not always - feel isolated and want to be touched. Hospitals and big institutions in general tend to treat people like cyborgs or throwaways. So ask if your friend feels up for a hug and give her some sugar. 

5. "Oh, my friend, that sounds so hard."

Perhaps the weirdest thing about having something awful happen is the fact that no one wants to hear about it. People tend to want to hear the summary but they usually don't want to hear it from you. And that it was awful. So simmer down and let them talk for a bit. Be willing to stare down the ugliness and sadness. Life is absurdly hard, and pretending it isn't is exhausting.

6. ******Silence******

The truth is that no one knows what to say. It's awkward. Pain is awkward. Tragedy is awkward. People's weird, suffering bodies are awkward. But take the advice of one man who wrote to me with his policy: Show up and shut up.

A FINAL PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TO SUFFERING PEOPLE:

Just remember that if cancer or divorce or tragedies of all kinds won't kill you, people's good intentions will. Take the phrase "but they mean well ..." as your cue to run screaming from the room.

Or demand presents.

You deserve a break.

* Note from Alice -

No hugs during Covid, unless you are part of the quarantine pod of the struggling person!

One more note from Alice -

So many people are hurting right now.

People we know are suffering all kinds of tragedies, large and small.

The very last thing we should do with our words is add to their misery.

If you have to, keep this list close by. Refer to it before you get together with a hurting friend.

And if all else fails, try silence, a small gift, a hug and a smile.

Lord knows we could all use some serious kindess these days.