Thursday, May 29, 2008

Senseless

In the midst of chaotic family visits, I read on Memorial Day that “more than 100 soldiers” have committed suicide in the last year.

That is a profoundly disturbing statement. I have no idea if this is high or low in relationship to other wars fought by U.S. soldiers but it seems horribly high regardless.

More than 100 soldiers lived and worked in an area in which their lives were endangered at almost every step and rather than rely on the good chance that they would be maimed rather than killed, they ended their own lives. No purple hearts…no sub-level hospital care…no worrying about broken promises, pledges or loss of benefits for their loved ones at home. They choose to die rather than to live.

Life was so intolerable, so fraught with despair that it became more simple for them to end it all, even with the knowledge that rather than pride, there would be a shame attached to the loved ones back home.

Then there are all the gay teens who are bullied to the point that they feel it easier to die than it to live. For both groups, death makes sense. Living doesn’t.

Or even the straight boy who chose to murder the young gay boy in California last February – it was so intolerable to think that another boy could ask him to be his Valentine. The idea of shooting Larry King in the head seemed to make more sense to the straight boy, Brandon.

Before someone somewhere voted George W. into office as President and when he was governor of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that Texas decrease its emission levels to a more acceptable level in compliance with the rest of the nation, he deemed it unnecessary. Not only did he deem it unnecessary but he also declared that the EPA had no right to tell Texas how to run its government. It made sense to him…cutting emissions meant that major corporate donors might get mad at him and not help finance those things that made sense to him. Later, his successor, Rick Perry, chose to ignore the dangers of the cement kilns operating in East Texas and gave the owners of the plants until some ungodly date in 2020 or something of the sort to clean up their dirty acts. This made sense to the power hungry governor of Texas.

Sort of like Jack Iker and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He and his disciples decided that they did not like the way the Episcopal Church made decisions…actually it wasn’t that the Church made the decisions in an incorrect manner…it was that Jack et al were always in the minority; therefore, the decisions reached never turned out the way they wanted them. Because the Church was always in disagreement with Jack and the others, they decided it was necessary to find an alternative. Separation and declaring a whole host of groups and people out of communion or in impaired communion with the Diocese of Fort Worth made sense to Jack and those who agree dwith him.

We live in a senseless world. A war that has killed thousands of U.S. citizens and even more Afghanis and Iraqis, both soldiers and citizens, not to mention the frustration, fear and despair that leads to the hundreds of suicides; gays and lesbians so hated and feared that suicide or murder seems more logical; a nation that runs on hysteria and misinformation rather than reality and truth all the while declaring itself in love with “reality” shows; and a diocese that works on a logic that is understandable only to those who live in the same mental world…this world does not make sense to me.

God gave humans dominion over all the earth. I have dominion over my child. That does not mean that I have the right to neglect, misuse or abuse him. Dominion may mean power but it does not mean power to use at one’s own discretion regardless of the damage that may be done.

We have taken our idea of dominion to a new low. In the name of our god (little “g”), we bow to the capitalistic greed that dictates our lives. We cater and court the desires of corporate America in the hopes that there might be some truth in the idea of the trickledown theory. The problem with that is that all the drips of the trickledown theory are gobbled up by the upper echelon before it can drizzle into the lives of those below upper middle class. The American Dream – winning the lottery or getting some of that which trickles down from the upper crust…

The further I walk on this journey the less I am able to justify the idea of corporate America walking hand in hand with Christianity. How can we serve two gods at the same time?

The argument that money is not our god is false in my mind. If it is not a god, why then do we strive so hard for it? How do we justify greed over need? How can we drive vehicles whose only purpose is to satisfy an insatiable desire? Why must a mom work three jobs to take care of her children – just to provide a roof, food and clothes? We are so ready to criticize the idea of “latch key kids” without ever thinking that $5.25 an hour won’t pay for all the necessities plus day care…not even if that minimum wage is for 60 hours or more per week.

Why are our children dying in foreign countries? Why are our children killing themselves? Why are we killing this planet? Why is power so important to some people? Why are we abusing the “dominion” that God has given us over this world?

We have taken that which God created, that precise, intricate, awesome wonder and made it into a senseless world. We have abused and misused the gifts that God has given us.

In the name of God, Creator of the Universe, Maker of all that is, seen and unseen, known and unknown, we fall down on our knees and worship a god that we have crafted in our own image.

All of this for the sake of desire. There is no way to justify or deny that. None.

May God have mercy on our senseless senses.

Friday, May 23, 2008

27 Miles East of Tulsa

Driving into the rolling hills, rolling wide and deep and slow in grass and live oak trees...more horses than people, more cows than horses…almost forgot what it felt like to be here to be in this area where, once in Oklahoma, no matter the friendly/enemy rivalry, a Texan is almost home.

I almost forgot about wood and rock houses, homes made from the land, made out of the materials at hand and once upon a time there were lots of hardwoods. Still, there is a lot of rock.

Humanity is on the tollway, going from one side of the state to the other or any point in between. Few side streets, no access roads for miles and miles of Oklahoma. Farm houses and barns dot the fields through which the toll road cuts through. Once upon a time, Native Americans, buffalo and wild horses roamed through this area. Now the buffalo and wild horses have died or been moved to Wyoming and the Native Americans mostly live near casinos, on reservations.

Gone are the three story, two or three brick thick homes and apartments with people on the street at almost any given hour. Gone are the car lined streets with kids darting in and out. Gone are the surprise glimpses of the Arch reaching gracefully, majestically toward the heavens, peeking here and there as one drives through the city.

I am glad to be heading home. But I do know that I am going to miss St. Louis for the short time that we are home. I guess I will just have to bury myself in the sticky hands and hugs of the little ones that are waiting for us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living Presence

My friend Lindy at http://stillfruity.blogspot.com/ tagged me to reveal the one book that I could not live without. (sorry about the full link - still haven't taken time to figure out the "here" thing of linking one word with the site...archaic, I know.)

In my mind's background I have been letting this thought run for the last few days. I could name "To Kill a Mockingbird," my all time favorite book in the whole wide world since I was young. Or I could name "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison..."My daddy's face was a study". I think that is one of the most profound sentences ever written. The rest of the book is just as profound. Or Renita Weems' "Just a Sister Away". Or Esther de Waal's Rule of St. Benedict. Each one of these books had a mesmerizing effect upon me.

But the one book that I would not want to be without is "Living Presence A Sufi Way to Mindulness & the Essential Self". I don't know if the book led me into a greater understanding or if I was just at that moment of awareness but it was in the reading of this book that I began to understand the Presence of God. Whether I was aware of God or not; whether I felt that presence or not, God was with me, around me, in me, in all I saw, in the wooden bench that I sat upon, within each and every face that I looked into. God was there for me to experience, when and if I was ready.

It was in the reading of this book that I gained clarity on how very small and insignificant "I" was. It was in the giving of "I" that I became whole.

The whole of who I am may seem complicated when I try to break it down into pieces but if I turn it into an Essential Self that encompasses me but is not me alone, I become a simple work. And it is in that simplicity that I now live.

An example: (please forgive or give thanks for the changing of the masculine into the feminine)

"Sitting beneath a tree in a park was a poor woman quietly murmuring, "Oh God, God, God..." Many people must have passed iwthout notice or care, until someone sarcastically remarked: "I hear you calling God, but I don't hear God answering." The poor woman was thrown into perplexity. Time passed and some tears flowed before a messenger from God appeared and said, "Sister, your Lord wants you to know that your calling Her IS Her answer to you."

And so it is -- by my being a child of God, by my attempts to follow God's will in my life, so God answers me.

So, thank you, simple child of God, Lindy, fellow student of Love and Infinite Wisdom, Thank you. By the fact that we are seekers, God answers us. "What we love, we will become."

Friday, May 09, 2008

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’ Matthew 9:16-17

Why does change terrify us so? That which we do not know, we fear.

I see that evidence amongst the fundamentalists who cry for Biblical literalism. I see it even among those who have taken a few steps forward but freeze up when what they have done is not quite enough...or when they realize the actual steps that they have taken. Fear is the thing that holds us hostage in our struggle for justice. I see it even at Christ Church Cathedral. We hold on to that which we know, certain that it is right, even when it is obvious to many that it is no longer working...or at least it is not working well enough.

Sometimes, I feel like a “piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak.” That is what Debbie and I both felt like in Fort Worth. We no longer fit onto the old cloak. As a result, the tear was made worse.

Yet now I feel as though I am a new wineskin in a place where the old wineskin has ruptured. The old wine is spilled out, never to be retrieved. Those who hold the remnant of the old wineskin continue to try to put the new into the old. Change looms up at them, frightening them into holding tightly to that which they know in an effort to ward off that which they do not know.

Historically, we fear change. That thought is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures. That is what the disciples of John feared as they questioned Jesus about why some fasted and some did not. Jesus tried to tell them that here he was, right then, a time to be learning, a time to be celebrating, a time to be embracing the new and setting aside the old.

Pentecost nears. Fifty days after the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit is ready to descend upon us and to share her gifts.

That is a scary thing to contemplate. For what is required of us if we accept these gifts? Are we called into Radical Hospitality? Are we called into true Listening? Are we called to Change?

I think the answer to all of those questions is Yes, we are. And yes, indeed, that is a scary think to think about. Yet, that fear is precisely what we have to set aside if we seriously desire understanding of God’s will in our lives. It means that we may be uncomfortable for a while.

So, let us toss aside the old wineskins – while these held that which we hold dear in safe stead for a while, as new wine is given to us, let us hold up ourselves as new wineskins that we might accept that which is being offered. We will remember the old, cherishing it for the fact that it has brought us safe thus far. Yet we will also hold close to us the idea that what is new today will be old soon enough. Let us grow strong in our dis-comfort.

That is the way of the Holy Spirit who is always leading us into new understanding.
Shalom.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

MONEY


"Money is the root of all evil." I can believe that. What angst is caused by the lack? What do people do for the lack of money? Well, we could get an earful at any jail or prison regarding the answer to that question. We know what people do because they need or want money.


It is a serious question . Money...money...money...how does it drive us? What decisions do we make that are determined solely for the desire of money?


Is having money sinful? No. I don't think so. But when it becomes the determining factor of the day, when it affects one's attitude or accounts for the actions that one takes, it can be determined evil.


The lack of funds is affecting us now. We began this journey with a nice little sum that we knew would one day be diminished. It has been at that point for a while now. But not that diminished lot is even less than.


So be it. All along we have fallen back on faith that God was leading us, God would provide for us. And guess what? We have never been disappointed...worried a bit at times but never disappointed.


So, what do we do now? A job like I have always wanted has fallen in my lap. A parttime job but a job and one that I really like as Christian Education Director at Christ Church Cathedral. Glory! I am happy.


But is it enough? No...we have to have faith. We have been led thus far...we will not be forgotten now.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Getting Over the Bumps

I miss Leslie. I miss the possibility that I will open my email and she will be there. I didn’t know her enough to have actually heard her laugh but I know that I heard it through her words. She laughed. And it was good. And I miss that.

But more than her passing, the thing that made me stumble on this journey was the idea that I could not cure her through my prayer. I know that Debbie felt the same way also.

We are told that all we have to do is to “ask and it shall be received”. We are told that our prayers are not only heard but answered, that it is our faith that will make us whole, make the prayer be realized.

Now, we know that prayers asking for $ 1 million are not going to be answered necessarily. We know that often we are glad that certain prayers are not answered…at least not in the way that these are asked. We know that we too often ask for the wrong things or the wrong solutions to a problem. And we understand that just because we don’t think we receive an answer, in time an answer is realized. And we realize that to be born is to die one day, regardless.

We prayed for Leslie – for her healing, for a miracle. Just like the psalmist, we reminded God that the world would be better served by the phenomenon of Leslie’s healing rather than her untimely dying, that God would be better glorified by her being made well. To be the product of a miracle would be a living, walking, praising testament to God’s great power in our lives – a modern day version of the leper, the blind man, the lame man, the woman whose daughter had a demon. We didn’t pray for God’s will to be done because we feared that leaving this life would be too much of a possibility.

More than praying…we believed that our long distance prayers could heal her.

So. We can look at this one of several ways. Prayer doesn’t really work. It doesn’t really matter because if God’s will is that someone dies, that someone dies. So, if that is the case, does it not seem logical that if a person appears to be dying and we pray that if that person suddenly recovers into life again, that prayer didn’t really matter? If it is time, it is time, no matter what?

Or we could justify – our faith wasn’t strong enough or that in her illness, Leslie served God well –how many lives were touched and brought closer to God simply by her faithful witness and presence? Would Angi be the same type of preacher that we know she will be had she not gone on this long journey with Leslie?

Well, we knew that it wasn’t a matter of our faith being strong enough. It was. We believed. Too many moments of God’s healing power through our own lives, made us sure that a miracle was possible. While I do not believe that God makes people sick to serve a purpose, I do believe that in that illness we still have choices on how to serve God. I believe that Leslie chose to continue serving.

Debbie and I sat yesterday and we talked. And cried. We both knew that we were experiencing what felt like a crisis in faith. But maybe it was just a bump.

In talking, we came into a thought that prayer isn’t always about or even for the person for whom we are praying. Sometimes it is for the one offering the prayer. We knew that Leslie’s time on this earth was limited. Each prayer we prayed brought us closer to that understanding, especially as her condition became more critical and her understanding of her own mortality became even clearer. Just as she was preparing herself, so were we getting ready for our loss.
The prayer was a way for us to come into an understanding.

Sometimes prayer is for the one being prayed for simply because that person is not able to pray at that moment. I know that I experienced a certain amount of anger after learning of her passing. I know from Leslie’s last few blogs that she was a little bit angry at the idea people were just trying to make her “comfortable”, as though they were giving up. Anger is a form of prayer, I suppose. Still, when one is angry it is difficult to believe that those words are prayers, no matter how much these are lifted up. Perhaps our prayers for miracle healing of Leslie were prayers to help her ready herself for the “transformation”.

I don’t know. I know that we should have been at the memorial service. I know that would have helped in our own healing and prayer crisis. But it just wasn’t possible.

I still believe in the power of prayers. I will continue to pray – the Morning Office and all day long. My very breath is a prayer of thanksgiving; each shortened breath due to anxiety or fear is a prayer for help, each long sigh a prayer for peace. I will pray. It is the only thing that gives me power.

Hopefully we are getting over this little bump. We will still miss her but we know that we are far better for having been called a friend by her. Our lives are better because of her. The world is a better place because of her time upon it. We give a prayer of Thanksgiving for the time we were able to share. We pray that we will carry her ideas of justice and love of laughter close to our hearts and minds forever.