I turned off the news, disgusted, angry, sad, not sure what to feel. I have tears to fit them all. With raised arms I shout, I scream, I cry,
Guns do not help. violence does not help. silence in the face of violence does not help. I am at a loss to find what helps.
Ears are blocked with hate. Hearts are blocked with hate. Minds are blocked with hate. How do we move past the hate.
I hear the names; George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Travon Martin, too many to name. Too many tears.
I see the violence, police with guns, tear gas, stun grenades, protestors with guns, bottles, rocks. I understand the frustration, fear, and anger. Answers are not found in violence. The call for peace, compassion, understanding of the other lost in the chaos.
Leaders call for dialogue and forgiveness yet that seems so trite, so little when so much is needed, but maybe, it’s right. We need a different way, we need to let go of old ways. This world can’t wait.
I have been watching the protests, the reports of the violence and I am heartbroken and angry all at once. I am ashamed of white people who have profited from the abuse and suppression of Black lives, and all persons of color who seem to think that creating chaos and violence will make people of color submit to their will. I want to see them severely punished for disrupting peaceful demonstrations held in the memory of lives abused, oppressed, marginalized.
But I too am white, and I have benefited from my privilege as a white person. Whether or not I have directly done anything, at some level I AM also responsible for marginalizing, abusing, and oppressing blacks and other peoples of color.
Whenever I have been silent in the face of abuse, walked on the other side of the street in fear, or purchased products at “reasonable rates” I have contributed to the culture of racism. I can claim I had no choice in how others are treated. I can claim that I am afraid of somone in a black skin. I can say at least those who make my clothes have a job, or it’s not my business, but that is just to make me feel better. It does nothing to change the cultural systems that perpetrate them.
For thousands of years, communities have allowed so called leaders to dominate, abuse, and, in most cases, enslave them, all in the name of community safety. When communities began to resist that enslavement, they turned to the communities around them. When white populations resisted systematic oppression, those rulers turned to Africa and the indigenous populations. They destroyed communities as old and culturally advanced as Europe’s and after the destruction lying that they never existed. Racism was created only because white leaders, and their willing communities, wanted cheap labor, and someone to feel superior to.
We who are white have much to repent for. We have perpetrated the lies of racism for hundreds of years. We have perpetrated lies of less intelligence, less sophistication, less humanity for hundreds of years. There is only one human species, Homo sapien sapien, all humans are brothers and sisters, all have the same humanity.
My black friends are different from me only in their passions, there interests, there desire to do things in ways different from me. What they do differently complements what I do, that is why we are community. My black, brown, yellow sisters and brothers are not objects for ridicule, abuse, or enslavement, rather they are kind, compassionate, loving, merciful, peaceful, intelligent, amazing people who I am proud to call friends.
I apologize to all my friends, Blacks and persons of color, if I have ever, ever, been less than respectful of your humanity. I hope you will forgive me for my stupidity and I will, I am, trying very hard to be a better defender and ally for you in your struggle to end the injustices being perpetrated today, and right the injustices of the last 4 hundred years. All I ask for is your forgiveness.
Thomas where were you
when Jesus came?
What was so important
you couldn’t stay for a while longer?
Did you have to do that
laundry, or groceries, or maybe clean a closet?
What could have drawn you away?
I know how it is to have all those tasks
to always have no time to finish those all important tasks.
I understand you
I am like you, . . .
to busy to stop
to busy to listen
to busy to wait
You won’t believe
unless you see
you must feel the wounds to have faith
Oh so like you am I . . .
I too wasn’t there to see and touch the master
and sometimes I find it hard to believe,
to just have faith.
It took you the touch of the Master to believe I have the words he spoke to my heart to believe It took you putting your hands in his wounds to believe I have his love warming my spirit to believe I have not seen the Master as you have done But I have seen the Master in the face of a newborn child, in the morning sunrise and evening sunset, Yes I’ve seen the Master, for the he is all around me If you weren’t so busy you would see the Master too
Birthdays make me reflective and as I get older the more
reflection I seem to need. I just had my birthday and I have been contemplating
memories of the last 72 years. I find it
hard to believe that I’m in my 70th decade and it is even harder to
believe I survived all those years.
Have you noticed memories are kind of weird? We never really
remember them as they were but as we want them to be. I also don’t remember
them in order and one memory seems to trigger another that may have happened
years before or years after. But, the
act of remembering is a re-membering of me.
It is a process to remind me from where I came and how each memory
created me. It is a little like a yearly
‘Examen.’ It isn’t just remembering but an accounting of my life. It is an opportunity to remember the good
times and the bad, to forgive others, and to be forgiven, and to offer myself
I find God’s grace in memories, grace I hadn’t noticed when
I was living them. I sometimes discover angels who have been my guides or
protectors that I didn’t recognize when they entered and left my life. Each
grace and angel helped form me into the person I have become. Unfortunately, I
have also recognized a few individuals who lead me from my path, and I had to
struggle to return, often with the help of one of those angels. It is one of
God’s enduring graces that angels come when we need them and it’s usually when
we have gotten everything all wrong.
I have been rescued so many times that my guardian angel carries
an extra-large emergency kit. I am sure
she is grateful I haven’t needed to be rescued for a while. I started very
early with getting my self into trouble. I was 6 when I pulled a deep-fat fryer
down on top of me, resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns
over 75% of my body. My memory of the incident is I wasn’t alone, I was being
told I would be alright, and I was. An
angel in the shape of a plastic surgeon came and volunteered to perform all the
skin grafts, paying for the hospital himself, and not charging my parents. Without the skill of Dr. Meany, I would have
been severely crippled. I would have been unable to live a normal life. My
gratitude for the Doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save and heal me has
no bounds. To give back the gift given
to me I have tried to be present to those who have been burnt, giving them
comfort, and sitting and listening to their fears.
Passing on the gifts of grace has become part of who I am. I
have been on the verge of homelessness a couple of times in my life and each
time one of those angels was sent in to help. To pass on that gift I have
helped others who have been on that edge, never expecting I will be repaid but
always expecting that they will pass on their gift of grace. If everyone did that no one would ever be
Those are nice memories, but I also have memories I am not
proud of. In my early 20’s I worked with
a woman who could be abrasive and, quite honestly, we didn’t just not get
along, we disliked each other intensely. I am ashamed to say that I started a
not so nice rumor about her. There was a small, very small, bit of truth to it but
essentially it was an exaggeration of the facts. I never apologized to her, in fact it wasn’t
long after it happened that I left for college. I regret that. I will never see
her again, I don’t even know if she is still alive. A few years ago, during a
ritual of forgiveness, I asked God to let her know, wherever she is, that I am truly
sorry. I also offered a prayer to forgive myself in order to let go of the feelings
of guilt, and, anger I had felt towards her. It took a while to feel within the
forgiveness I sought but eventually I did.
Memories are funny things, I don’t remember the same ones
every year but the ones I do seem to be the ones God wants me to remember. As I am 72 I have a lot of memories, I sincerely
hope I have enough time in the life left to me to ask for forgiveness, and to
express gratitude for those I haven’t remembered yet. Only time will tell.
Birthdays are not something I celebrate, but I find them useful. They offer a time to recognize grace, ask for forgiveness, and find peace in a life that has seen some rocky roads. I have no idea what memories I will form in the next years and I hope they will be good ones. I also hope they won’t be too embarrassing, but if they are, I know God and the angels will be nearby. After all my guardian angel has that huge emergency kit just waiting for me to mess up.
A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.
There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.
Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.
Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.
What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.
I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.
I have been trying to make sense of the events of the last week. The deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, the Dallas Police targeted and killed, and the bombings in Iraq and Turkey. And, just today a new shooting in Michigan. My heart is filled with sadness and tears and I could only cry out to God “Where Are YOU.”
“God where were you . . .
when suicide bombers chose to end their lives and take the innocent with them?
Where were you when 29 men and woman
enjoying a night out were used as target practice?
Where are you when cops shoot people,
when people shoot people,
when cops are targeted,
When people die, the good and the bad?”
God where are you . . .
when we are filled with emptiness by shooting after shooting,
when bombings and assaults become common place?
Where are you when we turn the news on and
another child has died, another cop is killed,
another person of color, differing abilities, or characteristics is assaulted or killed?”
“Why Oh God do you not answer?”
God said “I am there . . .
Holding the bodies as they bleed,
I am there leading the survivors’ out of danger.
I am there, holding the victim’s family’s in my arms
I am there in the broken hearts of witnesses, law enforcement.”
“When the darkness is greatest
I will sit with you, and listen to your sorrows,
I will hold you in my arms when you are weary.”
All I can do is lead the dying home to my arms,
to comfort those left behind, if they let me.”
“When pain and grief grip you
I will be there to tell you everything will be alright.
When you scream into the night,
I will come and comfort you,
I will dry your tears, and wrap you in my embrace.”
“I will be there when you are weary and in pain,
I will be there to lift you up, and comfort you,
All you have to do is call”.
God said, “I cry when you do not hear my voice, and
I cannot stop you from harming each other,
that choice is yours alone.
“All I can do is encourage each of you to stand up for justice and mercy.
All I can do is hope your hearts will soften
and let the love I have for each of you awaken your love for each other.
All I can do is wait for you to choose the path of justice, mercy, love and peace
between your selves and all that is created.”
God says “I gave you the choice of right or wrong,
It is up to you to choose. I will not make that choice for you
nor will I force you to choose one path over another!”
“You asked for freedom, it is your responsibility to choose.
Choose to use that freedom wisely.”
A recent meditation had the following journal question “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?” That question stopped me cold. What would I say to grandson and granddaughter, Liam and Amelia? How would I describe my love, and fears, for them? How would I tell them of my life lived with my own loves, fears, and regrets? What would I say, what would you say?
During this Easter season I have been writing about the ways we express our feelings of the resurrection, and the many ways we witness to others our faith in the resurrection. Sharing ourselves with the next generation is also a witness to our beliefs in the resurrection. The question above is an important one, challenging us to inspect our past and present lives and how that information could impact the lives that follow us. I thought long and hard about what I would, will, say to my grandchildren and all of it wasn’t bright flowers and sunshine.
What might say, well I would of course tell them I love them very much, how grateful I am for having them in my life, and I will miss them. I would ask for their forgiveness in my part for leaving them a world that is wounded and in pain, and a political system that doesn’t function. I would tell them that no matter what they do in life their parents and I would always love them from wherever we are. While their future is impacted by the world I leave behind it is still their future to make into what ever dream they reach for. Following those dreams may not be easy, or always fun, but are worth the effort if they truly believe in them. I would also tell them it is OK that they don’t believe in the Divine as I do, but, discovering their own pathway to something greater than themselves is important in finding their moral, loving, compassionate lives. I would want them to stand up against injustice even when it is hard to do so, to see the good in people and all creation even when the night is darkest. I want them to climb their most difficult mountains and to not be afraid of the challenges because I will be right there beside them cheering them on. I want my grandchildren to be fearless in the face adversity, to be strong when everyone else is weak, and to be gentle when touched by beauty.
What I want most for my beloved Liam and Amelia is to live a life that is not self-centered but other-centered. I want them to live a life that sees the best in the worst, the beauty in the ugly, and love in what is hatred. I can’t leave them with much but when I make my final passage from this world to the next I want them to know I cared about them, and want them to be the best at whatever they want to be.
So that is some of what I would tell my grandchildren, what would be in your letter to your children? We live in and uncertain world and we never know when our last day in this world will arrive. We all too often leave too much unsaid to those we love the most. So my journal question to you this week is: “If you knew you were dying what would you write or say to your children or grandchildren?”
May you find the words in your heart for those you leave behind.
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God,
serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
–1 Peter 4:10
Jesus Washing Peters Feet
Ford Madox Brown, 1821-1893
My morning’s meditation topic was “service” and it started a train of thought (ok it was actually a brain worm but let’s not quibble) about how I “serve” others. I must admit there are times when I am not very nice and I do it only because I have too or to prevent an argument. I am quite good at rolling the old eyeballs in those instances.
But that is not what Jesus taught; the Gospel of Mark records Jesus saying “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b) In fact all through scripture we are called to be God’s servants and, from my perspective, if we are all, humanity and creation, images, the manifestation of God in the world then it makes perfect sense that we are also servants of all we encounter, human or otherwise. To be a true witness of the resurrection is to serve, with joy, our fellow travelers on this planet. That means caring for the earth and all that lives on it. It means caring for those who cannot care for themselves, speaking up for those who have no voice and doing all with grace and with every ounce of our God given gifts. One of my favorite rituals is foot or hand washing. To personally hold someone’s hand or foot in your hands, pouring the water over them, wrapping them in a towel and then look them in their eyes and tell them they are beloved by God gives me chills.
But rituals aside service means anything that places you in the position of servant. Cleaning the home of an elderly friend or family member, mowing the lawn and weeding the garden when you know the owner can’t bend over anymore, creating a garden and sharing the harvest with neighbors or a shelter all are ways we may offer our service. But there are even simpler ones that often get overlooked; such as picking someone up for an event, calling on the ill, taking out the garbage or keeping a room clean. These are services that make life easier for others and, when done with joy, happiness in our own lives.
So this week I am challenging you to 1) notice when you do a simple act of service, and 2) if the opportunity comes up to offer your special gifts to others to give it a try. When you do you are witnessing the resurrection in action and love blossoms.
“Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job: 42:6
“You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition I knew about Ash Wednesday but the community I worshiped in didn’t celebrate it. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and living in California, that I really understood that having a smudge of ashes on my forehead meant repentance. Repentance is not just saying sorry, it means examining my past behavior and then changing what I do in the world, turning my actions around to behave as the faithful follower of Jesus I wish to be. And unless I begin the process of change, or at least try to repent, I have not truthfully repented. Because repentance is a spiritual practice God knows I will stumble and have to start all over again. Failing isn’t seen as failure, but as one more step in changing from the old me to the new me.
In today’s world people blithely say they are giving something up for Lent. Often it is some type of food, drink, or action, such as weight loss or smoking none of which really affect our lives and like New Year’s resolution never keep. That is not what the repentance of Ash Wednesday or the time of Lent is. No, it means looking closely at what we do every day and then vowing to the Holy Spirit to change some aspect of our life to fit more closely with the teachings of Jesus. To do that is a truly meaningful act of fasting and repentance; also a very difficult one. But remember failing to keep your promise is only failure if you don’t start over right where you left your fasting path.
So the spiritual practice for this week is to prayerfully look at your life and what you do every day. Is there something in need of changing? Is there something you could do better, or begin to do, which would bring new meaning to your life? Then, for your Ash Wednesday statement of repentance, choose to promise God you will repent and change; then practice changing your actions for Lent. Don’t feel discouraged if it is difficult and you have trouble getting started, just keep trying and taking your discouragement to God in your prayer practice. After all there is a reason it’s called a “practice.”
May your Lenten meditations and fasting bring joyful changes into your life.
Many of us live in nice safe neighborhoods with few opportunities to interact with those who are disadvantaged except maybe on the street when we are approached by a homeless person. And while disasters are all too common today I would guess that most of us are relatively unaffected by such actions as shooting incidents or natural disasters. So today I would like you to put yourself, through your imagination and pictures, in places you might be uncomfortable with. I have chosen three pictures only two are images that may disturb you or make you uncomfortable. The third is a quiet scene and I would like you to ask compare your feelings of that scene with the others. This is not my usual spiritual practice but using our imagination to be in a place of comfort or discomfort is also a spiritual practice for it opens our hearts and minds to the possibilities of where we need to grow or what we fear. Finding God in uncomfortable places is just as important as finding God in places we are needed but don’t want to go.
Follow the directions for using the imagination combined with Visio Divina:
Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
What feelings arise within you as you gaze at the images? Do you feel fear; are you uncomfortable? When you gaze at pictures 1 and 3 then contemplate picture 2 what changes in you as you look at this serene scene. Do you see the sunset in a different way?
Respond to the images with prayer. Did the images remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in the quiet moment. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.