Monday, July 22, 2013

Evensong, July 21, 2013

Psalm 103; 1 Samuel 23: 7-18; Romans 11:33-12:2

I have not felt transformed or renewed in the past little while. In fact, lately, I have felt as though the world has turned against me, sort of like David must have felt with Saul trying to kill him.

I am waiting for my Jonathan to stand with me against those who want to see me dead…or at least broken down.

I am waiting for God to strengthen my hand so that these worries might be done.
The past four years have offered one disappointment after another – often these feel more like failures.

Early on, my messed up discernment process – the subsequent fool I felt I made of myself before the Commission on Ministry...
Over the past year, having my duties at work stripped away from me one by one by a new boss, to the point of knowing that any day I might be eliminated from my position…and then… having it happen…I was fired...
Having my name besmirched by that narcissistic boss – my reputation sullied in an attempt to appeal unemployment benefits… accusations known to be untrue hurled out into the world for the sheer thrill of causing damage….
Seeking help through the Department of Social Service, having a caseworker send help through the mail … to the wrong address. …then, after I checked on it, be told I make too much from the unemployment (that finally kicked in) (that may be near to history) to receive help…

These days I am afraid to look up for the fear that yet one more crazy thing will be tossed at me.
If it is not an “enemy” out to get me, then it is at minimum the reality of living into a failing culture. 

Once upon a time, I was accused of “creating furor” and that might have been true but it was never vindictive, nor mean-hearted and never ever an attempt to do harm. In fact, I spoke truth to the power and it caused grief to that power.

Over the past four years, I have learned what it is to be powerless…to be at the mercy of not only those who would do me harm but of being an invisible player in a social welfare system. Even in the church, it feels as though I have mattered little.

I can assure you I have beat my chest and cried aloud in pain and anguish to God – WHY ME????What have I done to deserve this?

And Why me indeed? A better question would be Why not me? Why another?

Paul tells us:
DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD. Be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Is it the will of God that I go through this trial with a vindictive past employer?
No.
Is it the will of God that the caseworker from the Department of Social Services screws up when we need her to help?
No.

Be not conformed to the small minded pettiness or human error of this world.

It is not God’s will that meanness happens, nor human error…Life just happens.

I do believe it is God’s will that I understand the problems that plague people everyday…the situations beyond their control that beat them down, wear them out and run them over. I am one of hundreds of thousands and out of those numbers, I am one of the lucky ones. I have my community, my family, -- each one of you -- to bear my burdens with me, to walk this journey with me. 

I lost my job because I was na├»ve to the mean nature of some people. I innocently thought that truth could and would overcome evil. 

And I still believe that God’s abiding love will prevail. eventually

The only way it fails to do so is when I allow myself to be conformed by those things in the world that do harm.

I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your lives as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

Do not be conformed by the meanness in this world, by the petty nature of people who seek to do us harm. Do not repay hurt with hurt, hate with hate.

Do not be conformed by the inept functioning of a social system which has far too many desperate people that need help and far too few dedicated people to help. We cannot be angry at effects…we have to change the cause…

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind – by the steadfast love of God for each one of us – that love that gets us through each trial, each tribulation, each day.

Know that what we seek is good and acceptable and perfect when we seek that love.

It is there in that renewing that we make our covenant with God, just as did Jonathan and David. In that covenant, our bonds are strengthened.

It is in that renewing that we know we are living contrary to a good portion of the world and that it is going to be very difficult on many days.


But in that knowledge we also have one precious understanding – God is with us always as we live this journey together. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

We are Bidden

It never occurred to me that George Zimmerman would be acquitted…totally exonerated…free to walk away as though Trayvon Martin never existed. It should have occurred to me, but it didn’t.

Like many, I grew tired of the constant news coverage of the Zimmerman trial. As a result, I feel as though I feel asleep during the most important part of a movie.

With the verdict, I awoke – as obviously many did – with an exclamation of What the Hell???? 

Why would it have not occurred to me? Just because all the markers that indicated that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin, stalked him, confronted him and subsequently killed him were in place, the times we live in at this moment should have sent out all sorts of warnings that Zimmerman might get off.

The blatant racist remarks made over the past 5 years about the President of the United States, the growing war that seems to be in the midst of destroying the middle class and all that it was and could be, the violent rhetoric spewing at an unprecedented rate against women by Texas and other state legislatures, the absolute hate and virulent actions against all things outside of a very narrow ideology, the sinful amount of corporate and private money being poured into the promotion of that excessively narrow mindset…all of these things point to a nation turned upside down both morally and ethically.

I am not sure why the State of Florida prosecutor did not use the Stand Your Ground idea with the thought that Martin attacked Zimmerman simply because Zimmerman confronted and scared him. Certainly, Martin had as much right to confront his stalker as did the husband who awoke to find his wife in a less than platonic position with a male neighbor on the living room couch. I am also not certain why Martin appeared to be on trial even though as the victim of this shooting, he is dead.

The only things that Martin might be accused of were being a black teenager, wearing a hoodie, and not answering Zimmerman’s questions the way Zimmerman wanted him to answer. Not good reasons for receiving the death penalty, at least not in the “normal” sense. But these times are far from “normal”.

If every teen who ever sassed a wannabe adult got the death penalty for intended or perceived disrespect, there would be very few teens left in the world…at least not in the less-than-United States.

I can’t even begin to get into the insanity of the Stand Your Ground defense…nor of Florida being one of the 22 Kill at Will states.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=476611935762054&set=a.330756843680898.74066.328133157276600&type=1&theater

I cannot begin to describe my sense of amazement or rather, dumbfoundedness at the devil that lives within the minds of those who conceived the law that allows one person to kill another … legally…as long as it is not a fetus, of course.

I am sure I am not alone in my bewilderment, frustration, and sense of despair. Yet, today,  deep within that state of mind that make me want to fall on my knees – not in wonder but in anguish – and lament My God, My God…came a post on Facebook from Brian D. McLaren,” author, speaker, pastor, and networker among innovative Christian leaders, thinkers, and activists.”

What we call the secular is actually the realm or domain of the Spirit. The secular - literally meaning the world, the realm outside of church control - isn’t profane. Rather, properly understood, it is sacred because the Spirit is and has always been active there, evoking light from darkness, order from chaos, fulness from void, life from lifelessness, actuality from potentiality, and potentiality from actuality. - From Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (p. 151) (sic)
Learn more here:<a href=”http://bit.ly/R8fzUI”>http://bit.ly/R8fzUI</a>
In that post, I was brought back into the hope that is the Holy Spirit, into that sacred, crazy, chaotic space where She lives and moves and God breathes. Into that sacred terrifying space we are invited to not just exist but thrive. Into that space, we are asked to be a part of all that is holy. Into that space, we are not simply invited but bidden.

It is there, here, that we are called to share our love…right here in the midst of hate and venom, violence and distrust, anger and anxiety, pain and suffering.

Here in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, ruach…we are bidden…come...come and be a part of the darkness, the chaos, the void, the lifelessness, the light, the order, the fullness, the life...the actual potential of a life filled with the Holy Spirit.

Monday, July 08, 2013

circumstance

this is a holy time, a sacred time
             crawling on paths of change with no control
a time of fear uncertainty anger
a time of Why      Why Not
a time of rants/raves with few/no answers
a time for listening       but not wanting to
a desire for answers with no pain

fingers digging in the dirt stretching back eyes to search the sky
looking for God in the known and unknown
seeing only dregs of humanity
            the pain the suffering
identifying with the possibility     it could be me
not for the "Grace of God"
but for the sheer circumstance

hope's light a dimmer glow
buried in the angst of now
not lost in the midst is the presence of God
my mind wonders in God's silence. God struckdumb
by the humanity of it all?
or just biding in that God-time?

vengenance is mine saith the Lord so the scripture goes
heart blackened by unjust ways
makes it hard to care for God's justice
             somewhere down the road

That God-time thing again.

Monday, July 01, 2013

If you don't see it, does it count?

The other day I saw a friend’s reference on Facebook to the Mary Chapin Carpenter song lyrics, “sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug”. Certainly many can relate to that!

I do right now, for sure. The idea that God’s way is not our way has never been more apparent to me than it is at this time. The last year and a half has been very difficult and seems only to be getting more so as time wears on. I know that all manner of things will be well…eventually. But for right now, there seem to be a lot of people dying a long dang ways away and a lot of need in the immediate area of finances.

I love St. Louis. I really do. It is basically temperate – regardless of the high humidity and heat combination, I am telling you all – it is temperate when compared to five+ months of hot and the ongoing desertification of North Central Texas. The growing season here is amazing. There are a lot of the same types of plants in North Central Texas but who knew some of these trees and bushes actually bloom when allowed to thrive in rainwater and moderate temps?

I love the idea that when the temperatures in St. Louis rise above 60 degrees, the streets are full of people. Parks, sidewalk cafes, people sitting on their stoops – having a “stoop” even! I love it. I love my old house. Most of all, I love the Mississippi River and the Arch. Top all that with some of the finest people I have ever had to pleasure to come to know and love, it is just a great place to live, regardless of stupid magazine articles.

But I have been so tired lately.  I have not known what to do. Feelings of ineptitude, impotence have washed over me, making me weak and unsure of where I am headed. All the reasons why we came to St. Louis seemed to have evaporated above the multitude of trees into the beautiful blue skies.

I know that we are feeling the stress of loved ones lost to death. Knowing that it is a beginning of loss rather than an end makes the future seem dire. Being out of work adds to it, creating a negative sense of urgency. It allows us to wonder – what the hell are we doing? What have we done? Yet, always we are consciously aware that what we did was what we were supposed to do. And that all we have done can be claimed as good, regardless of what it seemed to be the cost.

But now, it almost seems as if there is a siren going off in the far distance, calling out to us…get up, go, it is time. Of course, whatever is calling is not giving a direction…just an order.

Mary Chapin Carpenter goes on to sing, “Sometimes it all comes together, sometimes you’re gonna lose it all.” Sunday’s gospel spelled it out basically the same way. (Luke 9:51-62)  I know beyond a doubt that we were called and continue to be called by God to live our lives according to God’s will. I know that sometimes we try to plow a straight line but forget and look back over our shoulders and the row goes all wacky. I know that sometimes we get attached to the things that hold us in place too long. It is so much easier to stay in a job that seems god-less and toxic than it is to say, “take this job and shove it, I ain't workin' here no more.” A salary is a very nice thing to have, as is insurance.

I have been on the margins for as long as I can remember. It is from there that my voice most often spoke. It was from there that people were able to respond. There are a lot more people on the margins that most (even those there) will ever realize. Yet in these last five years, I have found the comfort of the middle stream, floating comfortably along with the current, feeling safe. And if not “happy”, at least I was not anxious about the day to day worries associated with money. Bills were being paid, everyone in our house was basically healthy and if we weren't,  at least two of us had insurance. That is…until…until the jagged rocks popped up in the middle of the channel, catching me unaware, to change it all.

Perhaps that is what my unrest is all about – the reality of the precarious nature of our very being has slapped me full in the fact, not once or twice but several times.

This week past was such an extraordinary week – my unemployment kicked in, rescuing us from the brink of some serious problems; Texas Senator Wendy Davis managed to ignite the flames of unrest with her dogged determination to disrupt unethical practices by a convoluted Texas Legislature; and then, the Supreme Court said that section 4 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The “gutting” of the Voting Rights Act can actually been seen as an extraordinary event – it served to cause a lot of sometimes far too quiet people to stand up in outrage. That is a very good thing and will be needed if the US Congress does as the Supreme Court told them to do – fix the VRA so that it works properly. And then there was Pride. Pride celebrations were held all over the nation in the month of June but few that I have seen (online rather than in person) can compare with the elation of St. Louis Pride this year in particular. City buildings lit up in rainbow lights, gay pride flags flying throughout the downtown area, thousands upon thousands of people in downtown to express their support of their LGBT brothers and sisters and in celebration of the DOMA ruling.

All of these things happened from the edge…the margins. I watched intently from 8:30-ish p.m. to well past midnight on the evening of Wendy Davis’ stand against Rick Perry. I read of the Texas Legislature’s immediate response to the VRA’s gutting as they began plans to redistrict. And of course, the district that voted Wendy Davis into office is one of those areas to undergo remapping. I was up and glued to the SCOTUSblog the morning of the DOMA and Prop 8 decision. And I was in the midst of all the Pride events, working the Faith Aloud booth on Saturday, walking in the parade with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri on Sunday, and later just enjoying the excitement of a large group of people elated at the current state of affairs. All of these things from the margin…not the mainstream…

I have been too long doing things that were not in my gifts set; skill sets, maybe, but gifts, no. I have forgotten that God gave me the gift of speaking out when others cannot or do not feel able. I have been afraid to write for fear of offending; forgetting that offense taken is often not the problem of the one supposedly causing the offense. As a friend of mine used to tell me – rather often, actually – “Honey, it ain’t always about you.” 

Besides that, not writing what I am called to write doesn’t make a whit of difference to those making decisions – people will make the decisions that they will make – regardless. But my lack of writing harms me, makes me timid, makes me fearful, makes me stay silent. Silence is no one’s friend. And it makes me seek comfort.

I cannot do what God calls me to do from the middle of the stream…not even from the Via Media. I am not called to see both sides. I may not always be on the same side (yeah, I probably will be) but I can’t stand in the middle. I am called to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” How can I do that from the middle? Others may have an answer for that but I don’t see one for me…at least not at this moment.

So, who knows where this pull will lead me? Who knows the works intended but God? I don’t even know if I am ready. I just know that I had to write all of this.

But I do have to say, putting this all in writing and onto the blog, scares me half to death. If not that many people see it, does it still count?