Top 10 Post - #5

So appropriate for today. I posted this in 2017

A Mary Oliver poem for today ...

The Morning Paper

Read one newspaper daily (the morning edition is the best for by evening you know that you at least have lived through another day)

and let the disasters,

the unbelievable

yet approved decisions,

soak in.

I don't need to name the countries,

ours among them.

What keeps us from falling down,

our faces to the ground,

ashamed,

ashamed?

A prayer for today ...

God whose name has been used to enslave those who bear your image,

God whose name has been used to steal this land and kill those who bear your image,

God whose name was called upon by Moses and Miriam and Martin Luther King Jr and Sojourner Truth, Brionna Taylor and George Floyd.

God who raised up prophets to speak truth to power, and poets to speak truth to stupid,

We call on your holy name to give us what we need to undo what has been done in your name.

We call on your name to bring your fierce mercy upon us and remove our complacency and our complicity.

We call on your name to heal the wounds of those whose daily reality we do not understand.

We call on your name to give us a holy curiosity about what being Black in America is really like, Lord.

We call on your name to free us from our cherished notions of being “good” that keep us from hearing this truth,

We call on your name to give us this day our daily truth, our daily humility, our daily rage, our daily hope.

This country is burning Lord…may it be a cleansing Holy Spirit fire.

Guide us to believe that the true name of God is stronger than what has been done in God’s name.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Amen.

(Nadia Bolz-Weber)

Top 10 Post - #4

I wrote this in 2017 and it feels as fresh as if I wrote it yesterday:

As a woman who works in the church, as the mother of three grown adults,

and frankly, just as a human being,

I have a few words to say about sexual harassment and sexual abuse of power that is rampant in our world:

It has been going on since the beginning of time.

Ask any woman you know, and I bet she will have a story, or three.

I have mine,

including one in which I reported a pastor from a previous church who had a habit of touching women inappropriately.

I was one of those women who thought long and hard, but eventually decided to speak up.

Times were different then.

Those of us who reported were scorned.

The pastor was seen as a victim.

The outcome was dark and ugly and divisive and so hurtful.

Ever wonder why women don't come forward right away and speak their truth?

It is because too often, we tend to shoot our wounded.

Why do you think Jesus had to save the "woman caught in adultery" from being stoned, mostly likely by a group of men? Surely there was a "man caught in adultery" as well, right?

Listen, I love men.

I love and admire my dad, my brother, my father-in-law, my husband, my son, my male colleagues and friends ...

This is not an anti-men rant.

It is a strong shot-across-the-bow, though, for all of us.

The day and age where women will just "take it" and be quiet out of fear of backlash may be over, at least for a time.

Let's hope so.

And my plea is that the church - of all places - should be known as one of THE places where women are honored, respected, valued and believed. Where women can walk in and KNOW that they are in a harrassment-free zone.

My fear, however, is that too often the church is the exact opposite.

Too often, we are part of the problem.

It is time - well beyond time - that we instead become leaders in the move toward a solution.

Let's start by seeing women and men as equals.

Let's start by bringing our own darkness into the light and being appropriately repentant about all the ways we as Christians have either mistreated women, or have allowed them to be mistreated.

Let's start by promising to believe women when they work up the courage to be honest about what they have experienced. Let's not cherry pick Bible verses to toss at them like grenades in order to silence them.

Let's start by taking any and all kinds of harassment and abuses of power - sexual or otherwise - very, very seriously as violations of the belief that every human is a divine bearer of the image of God.

Let's just start, church, shall we?

The world waits.

Jesus waits.

Top 10 Post - #2

The world of the church, throughout history,

has tended to be a "man's world."

In many places, it still is.

And yet, even in the early church

there were whispers ...

names mentioned ...

women who led,

taught,

funded,

were at the center of,

Jesus' ministry,

and the start of the church.

As one who teaches,

some would say, preaches ...

(and happens to be a woman)

it has been an interesting ride.

Fifteen years

of serving God

in this unexpected way.

And as I take a look behind me

at the amazing young women God is using

all over the world,

but especially in my little neck of the woods,

I cheer.

I came across this poem the other day

and post it as a hat-tip to my fellow

"kitchen table theologians."

God sees you,

and he cheers, too.

Laywoman

Were you a man and single,

the Jesuits would have you in a trice.

But you are a man's wife,

lovely hair coarse and wild as a Morgan's tail,

on each hip a fine son, and one on your shoulders.

Your bent for theology is more startling

than your renegade humor,

your ease on a good horse, fast and wild as he can be.

You are no cut-out saint.

Bus-stop apologist,

training your eye for truth at your kitchen table,

turning worn pages in the weary night

as your tea grows cold.

The day has come for your kind.

Venerable Jenn,

you are better than you know,

stirring the oatmeal,

reading Aquinas,

shoveling the snow.

(by Nancy A. Henry)

 

My Top 10 old posts ... #1

In the Old Testament, a trio of people are often cited as deserving special protections from God and God’s people … The fatherless, the widow, the orphan. Often, the foreigner is added to this list.

God knew these people were at risk in the society of the Old Testament … at risk to be marginalized, neglected, oppressed, victimized, even killed.

And so God commanded his people to take special care of these particular people in their midst. He gave special commandments, even made special rules that protected them, gave them chances to enter mainstream society again, helped them escape the noose of generational poverty, protected them from oppression and violence.

And these rules spoke to God’s people and said, “I care for this group of people in a special way, and if you follow me, you must care for them, too!”

Who are the marginalized among us today?

Might they not fit into this same descriptive trio (or quartet)? The fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

It matters not your political persuasion, if you are a follower of God, you are to live in such a way that you protect the marginalized, speak up for them, watch out for them, care for them, serve them, give to them, pray for them.

Often, when confronted with the marginalized in our midst, we hope for someone else to help them.

Annie Dillard addresses this common deferral of responsibility:

“There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth --- only us … unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.”

There is no one but us.

Just that, Lord ...

Another prayer from Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Holy God hear my intercessions,

For those who are giving birth alone;

for those who are grieving without their people;

for the beleaguered parents who ran out of creative ideas two weeks ago;

for those who don't know where this week’s grocery money will come from;

for everyone who has watched the date of their wedding, or their graduation, or their birthday, or their dissertation defense, or their long hoped for vacation, or their family reunion, or the “non-essential” medical procedure they hoped would change their life, come and go;

for the exhausted and the despairing,

I ask that your comfort, your presence, and your peace be felt.

And if that’s not possible, could you just nudge the right person to reach out and call them?

Just that Lord.

Just that?

AMEN.

Keeping Quiet ...

KEEPING QUIET
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Ode to joy ...

Turn your volume up,

take a seat, 

and enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbJcQYVtZMo

Lyrics to a hymn written to this melody ...

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!


All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.


Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.


Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Courage!

Sometimes poems speak truth best.

Here's a great one:

Courage  (by Anne Sexton)

It is in the small things we see it.

The child's first step,

as awesome as an earthquake.

The first time you rode a bike,

wallowing up a sidewalk.

The first spanking when your heart

went on a journey all alone.

When they called you crybaby

or poor or fatty or crazy

you drank their acid

and concealed it.

 

Later,

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets

you did not do it with a banner,

you did it with only a hat to

cover your heart.

You did not fondle the weakness inside you

though it was there.

Your courage was a small coal

that you kept swallowing.

If your buddy saved you

and died himself in so doing,

then his courage was not courage,

it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

 

Later,

if you have endured a great despair,

then you did it alone,

getting a transfusion from the fire,

picking the scabs off your heart,

then wringing it out like a sock.

Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,

you gave it a back rub

and then you covered it with a blanket

and after it had slept a while

it woke to the wings of the roses

and was transformed.

 

Later,

when you face old age and its natural conclusion

your courage will still be shown in the little ways,

each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,

those you love will live in a fever of love,

and you'll bargain with the calendar

and at the last moment

when death opens the back door

you'll put on your carpet slippers

and stride out.

 

Thank you poets, artists, musicians, dancers, actors ...

Thank you for keeping us all human.

Thank you for giving us courage.

Stay, just stay ...

None of us like to be told what to do.

Our individual freedom is of paramount importance to us.

We rarely think about what is best for the rest; it's just not in our DNA.

But we are being asked to do that now. We are being asked to sacrifice a bit of our freedom for the good of our neighbor, near or far.

I know it is hard.

But - honestly - it is not that hard. It really isn't.

We complain, almost with  pride, about how busy we are.

We wish we had more time.

We wish we had more space, more margin, more time to just "be."

We wish we had more family time.

Many of us (not all) have just been handed what we used to wish for.

Let's try to settle into it with gratitude, with the knowledge that the simple act of staying home is an act of defiance against the subtle dangers of individualism.

Staying home is now an act of love.

Here is a prayer a friend of mine - a theologian, a pastor, a professor - that may help us settle into the sacrifice.

A Prayer for the Wisdom to Stay Home (by Scot McKnight)

God of All Wisdom, Father of All Light, Lord who knows all,

You know our past and our future.

You know our inner worlds and our outer worlds,

You know our thoughts and our desires.

You know Truth,

You alone are Wisdom,

You know,

We don't.

We think we do.

We are foolish.

We are being reckless.

Grant to us the Wisdom of Love,

To love our neighbors enough to stay home,

To cherish the elderly enough to stay home,

To honor those who come after us and those ahead of us by staying home.

That we may protect one another,

That we may turn the curve of the virus down,

That we may do our part in the world of ending this deadly sickness.

Through Christ our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,

One God.

Now and Forever.

Amen

Stay home, friends. It is an act of deep love.

If you must go out, go buy groceries for a friend. Get a drive-through coffee and over-tip. Go to the Food Bank and volunteer to pack food for those who desperately need it. Go take masks to the healthcare workers. Go hold up a sign outside a nursing home that encourages those inside. Go for a walk. Smile at everyone you see.

But mostly ... mostly just stay home.

AMEN.