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Saturday, January 28, 2017

I’m Not Trying to Proof-text, But…



I have to be honest.  I woke up, this morning, upset about immigration reform.  Before I had even made my cup of coffee (and this is a big deal, because I haven’t had coffee in weeks), I was already thinking about what could be done to bring some compassion, mercy, and reason to this process that seems to have imploded overnight.  I knew, when I sat down to read through the daily office, that I might project my feelings about this onto the Scriptures.  Maybe I’ve done just that.  If you think so, go ahead and call me out.

Last night I saw something that indicated that the vast majority of people (I think a study showed 92% or so) don’t actually care what clergy have to say about social justice.  This falls squarely on us.  This is a failure of clergy and the Church at large.  I apologize.

I read Psalm 55.  The whole Psalm is certainly worth your time, but here are a few verses that stood out to me:

“Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city.  Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it.  Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets” (v. 9-11, NIV).

Then, Mark 7:1-23.  Again, I would highly suggest reading all of it, but for the purposes of this post:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (v. 7, NIV).

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (v. 13, NIV).

“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?” (v. 18, NIV).

“He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person’” (v. 20-23, NIV).   

May God help us, we seem to have forgotten that the problems we have are internal ones.  In Scripture, this is almost always the way it goes down.  Jesus confronts those who are on the inside—those who live in comfort and prosperity.  Far too often, the response is, “Oh, it’s not me.  It’s not us.  Look at all of those dirty outsiders.  Heck, Jesus.  It’s you.  You are the problem!  Leave us alone so we might build our walls of protection and exclusion in order to be safe!”

Safe from whom?

Quite frankly, I have experienced more backstabbing from within the walls than from outside of them.  This is always… always… where I get myself into trouble with people who identify as religious.  Many years ago, when our family started saying things like, “Everyone is welcome here,” we found out rather quickly that this was a sore spot for the religious elite.  Interestingly, we have suffered abuses at the hands of those who hold themselves in high esteem, but I know quite a few drug dealers, prostitutes, widows, orphans, inmates, and people riddled with disease who would give me the shirt off their backs if I needed it.  Something is wrong with this picture.  Really, really wrong.

Now, I want to be extremely clear that I am not comparing refugees to any of those listed in the categories above.  If there is any comparison to be made, it is simply that we have marginalized them as people.  That’s my point here.  We have decided that they are somehow worth less than we are, because they are unlike us.  Even though they are fleeing in fear for the sake of their lives and their families, we are the ones who are afraid of them.  But I can’t figure it out, because it’s backwards.   We should have no fear of what is outside of ‘the wall.’  The evil comes from within.

My heart is so broken, today.  As I have indicated before, one of the biggest dangers in this is that I will think I have done something to help just by being sad.  Please, let’s not fall into that trap.  I have a friend who is an immigration attorney, and I am anxiously awaiting her suggestion for how to move forward with some practical steps to make a difference.  In the meantime, I have an online friend (who is friends in real life with people I know personally) who offers great insight into what is happening with Syrian refuges in Hungary, where she lives.  Her blog can be found here.  It both touches and breaks my heart every time I read it.

I certainly don’t know everything about every organization that is reputable, but I know that if you donate to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries at this link, the funds actually go to help Syrian refugees, in Hungary, right now.

I hope to have word on an action plan that will make a difference locally, in the near future.  For me, it’s a both/and proposal.  Help now, where you can.  Keep helping as new opportunities arise.  And then, when you’ve done something practical, it’s OK to break down in tears for awhile over our brothers and sisters, over their babies, over the sad state of a world in which the people on the inside don’t understand that we are the problem.
 
L.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I Didn’t March Yesterday



And…  Here we go…

Up until about a week ago, I had every intention to march.  I had every intention to go to Washington, D.C. to march.  I really wanted to be a part of this, primarily because I am a woman who believes in the equal rights of women, I know what it is to work and live life in a male dominated field (truth: most of the time it’s great, but sometimes it isn’t), I am raising two spit-fire daughters whom I hope will be stronger than me as they grow up, and I am also raising three sons who understand what it is to love and respect women and to advocate for equality.  Just a note…  Sometimes I think we forget how important our sons are in this whole mess.

At any rate, I knew we had a family schedule conflict yesterday, but I was still pretty sure I was going to march.

Originally, I had a ride to D.C., but that fell through when my friend and her family came upon a truly unavoidable scheduling issue.  She didn’t march, because she needed to be somewhere else, making the choice that was the very best for her family and life.  That’s sort of what this is about, right?

Plane tickets kept escalating, because, of course, inauguration weekend is not a cheap time to fly to D.C.

I thought I would just drive, but I really didn’t want to go alone.  It’s not that I couldn’t go alone.  The trip is about 550 miles (each way) for me, and I drive long distances alone, rather frequently, but I felt as if this particular trip required community.  On short notice, I just couldn’t find anybody who could make it work.

Now, here’s where I legitimately messed up…

Somehow, until I scanned my FB newsfeed yesterday afternoon, I didn’t realize there were several opportunities to march closer to home.  Had I known this, my day might have looked differently.

It might have, but there was one thing about the march that started to irritate me a little bit as it drew near.  It seems that in the days leading up to the march, one pro-life women’s organization was excluded from official partnership, simply because they are pro-life.  And here’s where I get in trouble with everyone… again.

About a year ago, I wrote a piece describing how very pro-life I am.  It can be found here, and I would highly suggest you read it… actually, I beg you to read it… if my being pro-life is offensive to you in any way.  Although we may not agree when you finish reading, I do think we can live with one another and maybe still be friends.

Even though I am vehemently feminist, I can’t stand on a pro-choice platform.  I can march side by side with my many friends, relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues who stand on a pro-choice platform, but my choice… every time… is life.  I need that to be clear, but I am concerned that this point may have been a little muddled yesterday.

I can’t tell you how happy it made my heart to see pictures of my friends and their children marching for equality all over the country.  Many beautiful words were penned, and I tried to ‘like’ all of them… until my FB app stopped working right.  But my heart sank a little bit at the thought that I don’t count, simply because of the different values I hold on one issue.  May I express to you how very difficult it is when you don’t fit neatly into any one camp?  It’s ironic, really, because these are the people for whom we’re supposed to advocate, right?  And yet…

Well, wouldn’t you know it, there are a few words from Scripture that seem to speak to this:    

I Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (NIV).

This is a hard teaching, maybe especially right now.  I don’t think Paul is actually suggesting that we become like the aliens in “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” and submit to the ‘unimind.’  We’re going to have differing views on a plethora of issues, and I want to be exceptionally clear that I think it is completely appropriate for all of us to protest peacefully and certainly to step in passionately to defend the marginalized!  But could we maybe, just maybe, begin by agreeing to offer love and hope at all costs?  Don’t we all want that?  I’m going to choose to believe that we do.
 
L.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Blessings



I think we might have it all wrong…

I was recently reading about Jacob and Esau.  Jacob is generally considered a hero of the faith, and we all kind of turn our noses up at his hairy, Neanderthal-like brother.  OK, I don’t know if that’s really how everyone sees him, but as a kid that’s surely how I imagined Esau, and the image stuck.  There are many things that could be said about the relationship between these two, but there’s an angle I’m not sure we often consider.  Jacob was willing to do anything, to step on anyone, to push and push and push until he got what he wanted.  And it wasn’t just a onetime deal.  He displays this character again in the Leah and Rachel debacle.  But I don’t have time to get into all that, today.

What struck me anew was the interaction between Esau and his father, Isaac.  Upon learning that his birthright had been stolen, Esau pleads,       

“Do you have only one blessing, my father?  Bless me, too…” (Genesis 27:38, NIV).

Isaac doesn’t have another blessing.  Or, at least, so it seems.  Interestingly, though, Isaac has blessed Esau with his presence for Esau’s entire life—a presence Jacob did not experience.  I think that has to count for something, but, as human beings, we often don’t count things that aren’t quantitative.   

Later in Scripture, David (with whom you may recall I have a love/hate relationship) says,

“Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6, NIV).

He’s talking about himself.  ‘Unending blessing.’  That’s a huge declaration coming from someone who has had so much strife and devastation, but that’s not his focus at all (at least, not in this passage).  No… Here it comes again… David is focused on presence.

Well, interestingly, I just picked up a book called, Presence and Encounter.  I probably have close to 200 books on my Amazon wish list, but this is the one that jumped out at me when I had $7.00 to spend on my ever increasing, overrunning my home library.  It’s like there’s a theme or something!   At any rate, this statement jumped off a page: “The simple truth of our being gets lost in the metanarratives we spin.  We become the fictions we live.”[i] I wonder if Jacob got lost in his metanarrative.  I wonder if Esau got lost in his metanarrative.  I wonder if I got lost in my metanarrative.

As is typical, this got me thinking about all kinds of things that may or may not relate, but as I considered Jacob’s persistence, even at the expense of others, I remembered this quote, which I have used before:

“I’m not interested in competing with anyone.  I hope we all make it” –Erica Cook   

I wonder how Esau’s life would have been different if this was Jacob’s philosophy.  I could stop to wonder how Jacob’s life would have been different, too, and it’s a valid question, but it’s easier to discern how compassion and unity affect the weak, the marginalized, and the slighted. 

My reading, today, brought this full circle for me.

Ephesians 4:1-16…  Just… All of it…

Perhaps if we focused more on who we were created to be than on how we might get ahead of others, we would sense the presence of God, filling us every step of the way.  That’s blessing.  God is near, wherever we are.  God is near, whoever we are.  Breathe it in.  Breathe it out.  Repeat.

L. 


[i] Benner, David G., Presence and Encounter (Brazos Press: Grand Rapids, 2014), 7.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Some Goals for the New Year, Two Weeks In



Wow, I’m behind…

I’ve had several important thoughts and connections running through my mind regarding the daily office this week.  Well, actually there’s a whole comedy of errors in regard to the daily office, at all, as I began this year, so maybe I should share that first.

Last year, I received a Sacred Ordinary Days Planner for Christmas.  I absolutely loved it!  It was an excellent place to keep track of… well… everything going on in life.  It provided me with ample space for reflection and vision casting, and it also included daily quotes and the Daily Office Scriptures from the Book of Common Prayer.  I asked for a new one, this Christmas, and I found it under the tree!   Yay for Christmas lists!

Well… several days into the new year, I was like, “I don’t think this is the daily office.”  Other bloggers who tend to follow the BCP daily office were blogging about stuff that didn’t add up, and there were not enough Scripture references in my planner.  As it turns out, the creators of Sacred Ordinary Days decided to go with the RCL daily office references, this time around, so I wasn’t crazy… I just had a different list.

It took me until a few days ago to figure out how I was going to handle this, and right now my plan is simply to read both the BCP and the RCL, so if I’m blogging about Scripture that doesn’t line up with your version of the daily office, please note that I’m not wrong.  I’m just diversifying

Anyway…  This one struck a chord, this week, as I frantically tried to pull together the most poorly planned party I have ever thrown in my life…

Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I don’t fancy myself as a people pleaser, but lately I am literally, physically sick when I feel as if I have disappointed anyone in any way.  That stinks, because the chances that I can get through a single hour (let alone a single day) without disappointing someone are close to non-existent.  I have a lot of people.  I can’t make everybody happy, even though I try really hard.  Did you catch that?  Turns out, I am a people pleaser.  I don’t even know when it happened.  I used to be great at offending everybody!  I think I’ve lost my edge.

If I’m honest, I don’t really want to be offensive, but I also don’t want to back away from being who I was created to be in every situation.  There’s a fine line.  Actually, I’m not even sure there is a line.  Sometimes it all just gets garbled together and the best I can do is to pray I’m a little more like Jesus than I was yesterday and to look for ways to put that transformation into practice.

One thing I’m trying to work on this year is intentionality.  I’m trying to spend my time, energy, and resources on things that make a positive impact on the lives of others—not to please them, not to gain any kind of accolade for myself, but to minister to them… to meet needs… to serve Christ.   It’s super hard.  It’s expensive.  And other people don’t ‘get it.’  Guess what?  That’s totally OK.

So here’s to nonconformity, intentional living, and more daily office Scriptures than I ever thought I’d try to incorporate into my life at one time…

L.

PS  I would love to hear about practical ways my readers are impacting the lives of others, especially ways that I could support/promote with FGT in coming weeks.  Please feel free to comment!