Monday, September 13, 2021

Be Open

Be Open. Jesus told the deaf man to be opened.

In 2007, Debbie and I sold or gave away most of what we owned. We stuffed the remainder in a storage unit, the little we could into a 27 ft. old motorhome, grabbed up the two dogs and the boy and set out.  We were following what we perceived to be a call to go out and speak to those who wanted to know why 2 moms and a boy would stay in the Episcopal Church with so much disharmony happening.

We began a cross country pilgrimage, speaking at those places we were invited. Yet, our friend Pepper Marts (may God bless him forever and always) told us that we were not on a pilgrimage because we did not know where we were going. Rather, we were on a peregrination, a search for new understanding and a radical new beginning.

Although that journey ended with us settling in Saint Louis (a very radical new beginning for this country girl), now after Tucker’s death, I find myself nurturing another new thing, a small ember that feels like a pregnant expectation. I have not yet felt the heartbeat but I do feel the flutter. Something new is growing.

What new understanding and radical new beginning is happening?

In John Philip Newell’s Sacred Earth Sacred Soul, he writes about the Celtic poet Kenneth White. He states that a pilgrimage becomes peregrination when the destination is unknown. It is a journey of “seeking one’s place of resurrection, setting sail into the unknown in search of new beginnings.” White writes about Brendan the Navigator of Clonfert (6th CE Celtic Monk and Irish Saint) who did just that:

“When the boat was ready, firm and true
he gathered men about him saying:
“this will be no pleasure cruise
rather the wildest of wild goose chases
around the rim of the world and farther
a peregrination in the name of God …”
(pg 241)

It is a sacred journey.

Be open.

Friday, June 25, 2021

empathy or equity? Both.

Over the past year or so, I have learned more about empathy, what it means to be an empath, and how that all fits in with the ministry I do.

I have also learned that while I am very empathetic to the emotional and physical troubles of other people, and while I have many empath tendencies, more than empathy, I understand that everyone walks a path, and each path is full of obstacles that only that person will understand. My job is not to “walk a mile in their shoes” nor is it to feel empathy for their troubles. My job is to understand that while everyone has obstacles to overcome, some obstacles are set in place by our culture, our society, our racist, self-concerned elected officials, all of which makes the obstacles of some far greater than the obstacles of others. My job is to walk with them as I can as they come to these obstacles. It doesn't hurt to empathize; in fact, it is good. Yet empathy by itself does little. It is like faith without works. 

As an example: a loved one has an accident or illness and ends up in the hospital. After a long while, many expensive different tests and procedures, that loved one dies or is severely disabled. This happens to many people and is very relatable. We can all truthfully state how sorry we are for this happening.

However, depending upon where one lives, grief can be compounded by extreme debt which can result in any number of calamities. As an example, when the loved one is in the hospital, the employment status of the parent/spouse/partner can be in danger as that caregiver is by the side of the patient. If there is family or compassionate leave in one’s employment package, all is well. However, if one holds a job with no such thing, that person may find themselves without employment on top of the other concerns.

Those miracle tests and procedures that often save lives but sometimes cannot in the long run are expensive and may become the mountain that comes tumbling down. This is the difference between states that have Expanded Medicaid and those states which carelessly, selfishly, even sadistically do not.

Those medical bills and the loss of job due to family crisis can result in homelessness and full disruption of family life. Suddenly, families – minus one loved one, or with a medically compromised life – are not only mired in grief but also impossible debt, jobless, evicted, hopeless, homeless.

Only a part of this happened to my family. Two months of extremely expensive medical care would have been far different had our precious boy lived in Missouri rather than Oregon. Oregon has expanded Medicare. The governor of Missouri, kowtowing to the ignorance and self-concern of lobbyists and conservative politicians, deemed it prudent for his political life to ignore the demands of Missouri voters and deny the voice of the people to enact expanded Medicaid in this state. Had our loved one lived in Missouri, he would have first had to be approved for disability before he would become eligible for Medicaid. Even though he lay basically comatose for two months, who knows how long it would have taken to get him declared disabled? All this means is that his medical bills would have begun to pile, higher, and deeper.  

Another important part that makes our situation different from those of too many is that our jobs are stable and while there was not an official compassionate leave aspect, the employers we work for are indeed compassionate. Our income continued even as we were debilitated with concern and grief. Our home and our dogs welcomed us as we returned. No bills went unpaid. Only the mountain of grief towers over us. From that, even if it threatens to crush us on some days, we will arise.

What has this to do with empathy? While the reader may be able (or not) to fully empathize with this situation, one does not have to have a heart moment to see the differences that exist for too many. How many families in Saint Louis City alone have lost all they have – ON TOP OF THE GRIEF – because the system proves daily that it does not care about them? This is not a matter of heart, of empathy. This is not an urban vs rural thing, conservative vs liberal. It happens to people across the geographical and political spectrum.

Grief is difficult enough to experience. No one should have to be concerned about healthcare, job security, or unpaid bills on top of grief. Our political system is corrupt and immoral. We have the power to change that. It is our job to make certain it happens. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

The Prophetess Anna, an Interpretation


Luke 2:22-38

Sometimes I get so tired and hungry, fasting and praying night and day. It has been decades since I first came into this temple seeking your will for me. But what choice did I have? You were my only hope. My husband was gone. I had no sons to care for me. This temple was my only solace, being in this sacred space set aside for the Holy of Holies.

Every day, all through the night, my life is a prayer, seeking that which is unknown, understanding only that it is yet to be. So many years I have been doing this, calling out to you, my Lord God, to hear my prayer. In a moment of weakness. I fell to my knees thinking that it was my end time, asking one more time for you to bring me into the understanding of what it is that I seek, what it is that I know you wish me to see. Open my ears, that I might hear. Open my eyes and help me to see. One last prayer …

And then … suddenly, I hear Simeon’s voice exclaiming wonder and glory. I see a light shining around him as he cradles something in his arms. He joyfully exclaims, “My eyes have seen your salvation, Lord God! Right here in my arms I hold the light of revelation for all the people of the earth, all to your glory, Lord God.”

What was I to do but turn aside to see this strange thing, this light shining for all with eyes to see? And see I did! And I knew! In his arms he held the wonder of the world! That for which I had been longing was revealed to me in the flesh of this tiny babe, in the light that shone around him, in the glory of all that he was and is and is to be. Before me, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings and the Glory of all Creation!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise God that I have seen this pure and precious sight! Praise God that I may now rest in that peace which passes all understanding, knowing that our Savior has come into the world! Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

We are Not "Normal" People.

Offered for Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO, April 26, 2020 COVID-19 Time

Acts 2:14a,36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35, Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

As I read the Gospel for today, I thought of the collect in Evening Prayer. It asks Jesus to stay with us, because night is near and the day is past, to be our companion in the way, to kindle our hearts and awaken hope that we might know him both as revealed in Scripture and in the breaking of the bread.
This is a time when many of us are afraid and lonely. We miss the people we love, both near and far. Our hearts ache for community and our arms for physical hugs. We want to know we will soon be close again. We strive to remember that Jesus is with us even as we feel alone. We yearn for those moments when Jesus is known to us in the breaking of the bread as we gather again, in the communion of all the saints. We hope that time will come soon.
Surely, the apostles felt that same way. All that was known to them was suddenly gone. One moment, Jesus is with them, telling them that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood and they are to remember that each time they eat or drink. They hardly have time to consider that before everything changes, and he is gone. This anxiety keeps them from fully remembering that he told them that the Son of Man would suffer many things, be killed and then on the third day, rise again. Or that he promised that he would be with them always. We can empathize them.
Right now, we are hearing a lot about Traumatic Stress and how we are being affected in this unprecedented time. I wonder about the disciples. Can we imagine the trauma of loving Jesus, giving up everything to follow him, going with him everywhere; suddenly he is taken away, arrested, tried, lashed, humiliated, and nailed to a cross? He dies in agony. The grief. Oh my God.
And then, Mary Magdalene and the other women telling them the astounding news that the tomb is empty, Angels saying he is still alive! How can that be!
I can imagine the emotional whiplash they experience as the sensations flash through them. And now, here they are walking with this stranger, telling him of the past few days. It is the third day – What was so different about his physical self now, that they did not know him?
Perhaps they are so caught up in their own shock that they could not recognize him in that place and time. He seems amazed that they do not understand or remember the things they had been taught, so, he begins to teach them. And they listen.
Because night is near, the two disciples invite the stranger to stay with them. So, he does. At supper, the man they still did not recognize takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, then he gives it to them.
And they know. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us?”
The collect for today says: “Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work!”
The eyes of their faith are opened. Even though he is now gone, they know!
Talking with a friend this week about the Gospel and these times, we lamented the idea that we feel as though we are on a rollercoaster with no buffers. Everything seems fine and suddenly with little warning; we plummet into a new low. Those buffers that might ordinarily soften the impact of the unexpected are missing right now. We are extremely vulnerable.
Surely, this must be the way the disciples felt. The highs, the lows, the shock, the grief, the hope, the joy. And all the points in between. Sometimes the memory of the promise of resurrection is lost in the middle of the moment’s anxiety.
Resurrection is a very big deal to believe. Our bodies dying, rising from the dead, life made new, eternally. Forever. It is a promise. Believing in resurrection is THE thing.
We are not “normal” people. We are Easter people. Even in our busiest times, we continue to be an Easter people because we believe in the Resurrection, daring to imagine what our lives in Christ are about.
Resurrection is so much more than we can dare to imagine. Yet we do dare, every time we pray. We remember that to love God, to love one another, to allow ourselves to be born anew again and again by that imperishable word of God. Are not our hearts always burning with that understanding? Even if the disciples were not able to recognize him with their eyes, they surely knew that Jesus was with them. They knew in their hearts, in the eyes of their faith.  
Easter is about Transformation. Surely, we are in times of transformation in the midst of this pandemic.
This threat came into our lives, untamed in its potential, unbound within our understanding of normal. This tiny virus disrupted our world. Unwanted, unheralded, what is this tiny thing opening before us? Maybe, even in its chaos and damage, this is an opportunity for us to see with new eyes things that were always before us. `
One of the special things to come from this pandemic is the opportunity to pray with others the Daily Office throughout the week. The number of people who are now praying in this new way is amazing! In our physical separation, still, we can pray with one another any time of day. The same is true for Sundays as we worship with people we love -- online.
Perhaps, this time is an opportunity for us to use what Walter Brueggemann calls the “Prophetic Imagination”, looking more deeply into those things which we often take for granted. Prophetic Imagination asks us to know through faith beyond our fear and anxiety. That does not mean that these fears or anxieties are not real nor that we can make these go away. Simply, it asks us to remember that God is with us always, regardless. That even during the most frightening times, there is something new that God is doing in our lives, with our lives, for us and for this world and that we are a major part of that.
These are anxious times for many who are concerned about housing costs, job losses, grief, or health concerns. For others, it has offered moments of reflection, rest, and possibly boredom. Then there are those in between. We know there are great discrepancies in our societies’ economic levels. What helps the least of these, helps all of us. Thinking about it economically or spiritually, when all have equal access to food, water, housing, education, and healthcare, society as a whole benefits. This is an opportunity to see more clearly the injustices in our society. The prospect of intentionally working towards righting that which is unjust awaits us as we come out of this.
As we look toward to what Dean Kathie Adam-Shepherd calls “re-membering” our parish communities and our society, of once again being with each other physically, hopefully, we will remember the discoveries that we are making. Whether these are the injustices that beset so many, or the amazing awareness of the new spring growth, or the long walks, the moments spent playing or new ways of praying – hopefully, we will hold onto these. We can forget these moments when we are rushed. We do what needs to be done as the demand arises. Yet, if we can hold on to the new awareness, to see with the eyes of our faith, to cling to the knowing that Easter is here, this can carry us into whatever new thing God is doing.
“Lord Jesus, stay with us; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

“The OnBeing Project: Walter Brueggemann – The Prophetic Imagination”
Found on April 24, 2020

Monday, September 30, 2019

For Dennis Kinealy Who Left This Life on September 16, 2019

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

I am the Rev. Barbi Click, Deacon and Manager of Trinity Food Ministry. 

I had not been Manager of the Trinity Food Ministry very long when Dennis came up to me with his hand outstretched for a shake.

“You don’t know me, but I know you. My name is Dennis and I used to be somebody.”

His statement stunned me, shaking many preconceived notions. It also humbled me and taught me a valuable lesson. New to the ministry of working with people who were unhoused, it had never occurred to me that losing one’s sense of identity was even a possibility.

This incident was simply one of the many times that I learned from Dennis in the six years that I knew him. He taught me that being homeless was only one small aspect of who he was as a child of God. A bigger lesson, I came to understand that love and addiction will always be at war, but that love will win eventually, no matter how long it takes. My job was simply to be there and offer my love.

Dennis helped substantiate what I had already begun to learn. Everyone has a story; some people have many; some of those stories are tragic. He could not be identified simply as “The homeless”. He was Dennis Kinealy who was so much more than what his current condition implied. Through him, I came to understand the profound depth of what community means. Sharing our stories is vital to building relationships. These stories lead us past the exterior into the real life, opening a new understanding that we are all connected, that we are one in the body of Christ.

And Dennis did love sharing his stories and the pictures he carried with him!  Las Vegas cab driver, farmer, urban mountain man, adventurer, teller of tales, son, brother, uncle, father, Trinitarian, Episcopalian and a member of our Beloved Community – these were just a few of the terms that described Dennis.

He loved being called Dennis the Menace. His grin just got bigger when he heard that term. He loved being funny, cute, even coy. He loved people loving him. Of course, for many of us, loving him was easy because it required little of us, we had no expectations of him and his power to hurt us was very limited. He came and went as he pleased, with very few demands. We at the Pantry met him where he was and walked with him for a little while. We were often his audience as he played the stage. Yet love is complicated. The toll of worry and concern on those who loved him longer was much heavier, more broken and far more painful to them and for him.

He was a proud man, pleased with some of the things he had done, proud of his family, of being a part of Trinity. He was proud to have had the actor Debbie Reynolds as a passenger in his cab. He had a pride in having owned a bit of land at one time. He was honored to be the father of his two sons. He almost burst with pride when Debbie, his sister and her family came with him to the Trinity Art Club.

However, he was a man of many sorrows. Some of these things that made him the most proud also were the source of his guilt which brought him such disappointment in himself. He was unable to forgive himself for not being the son, the brother, the uncle, or the father that he wanted to be. He knew that he had a lot of grief for people he loved.

He knew that his addiction drove a wedge between them and himself. But that is what addiction does. It burns bridges with no regard for love. The addict becomes a passenger in a runaway vehicle. Being out of control is a very lonely place to be.

I don’t know the back story of what brought Dennis to this place in life. There were times when his sorrow rushed out of him in a torrent of tears. His pain and guilt were so evident, so real. I and others reminded him that we are called to forgive, not only others but ourselves. He simply could not see, on this side of the veil, that we all fall short of the glory of God. Yet, that is God’s promise – forgiveness, regardless of our lack. He did not see himself as worthy. That is the wonder of all of this – he was and has been and is now forgiven, just as we all have been for whatever we lack.

Most times, he was happy. He loved to talk, especially about being an “urban mountain man.” He was one of the most resourceful people I ever knew. I would introduce him to people new to the streets so that he could give them pointers on how to survive. He helped a lot of people.

I teased him that he was like a cat with nine lives. Something was always happening to him that would have laid out a lesser man. I cannot count the number of times that Dennis would burst through the doors and head straight for me. His hello would always be sidelined by, “You won’t believe what just happened to me!”

Dennis used a few of those lives after he was hit by a vehicle in December 2016. I think he coded once at the scene and twice in the ambulance ride to Barnes. Many broken bones and a brain injury laid him up in intensive care for a while. He was totally amazed when Fritzi Baker and I visited him. After his long rehab, St. Patrick’s Center connected him with a group that got him permanent housing. Fr. Jon offered to bless his new home so Jon, Debbie Wheeler and I attended the blessing of his new space. He never forgot that day. He never forgot anything anyone ever did for him. It always amazed him that someone would do things for him.

Dennis is an example of how having a house is simply not enough in this world. Home is where community is, and a place to share our joys and the sorrows. God calls us into community because we need one another. Dennis was proud of his confirmation as an Episcopalian. To him, that was proof that he belonged, Trinity was his space, this was his community.

Dennis looked at small things as great blessings. Every ask might not be met with a stated thank you; however, every offering was accepted with a great deal of thanksgiving.

He told me a few weeks ago that he didn’t know if he could go through another winter like last year, that maybe Maddie from the City would be able to help him find a place. Dennis had burned many bridges with help organizations – they wanted to help him, but they had exhausted their resources for him unless he was willing to make some dramatic changes. I reminded him of what he had to do to get help – go into long term rehab. As he turned to walk out, with a wave of his hand, he said, “yeah, I know.”

Dennis left this world in a flight of freedom. The prison gates of addiction broke open. He was rid of all the guilt and all the sorrow. He finally understood that he was forgiven.

I know that Dennis was not alone at the end. I know that “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Take my hand and come with me.
I can hear him saying the same words he told me when I first met him:
“You don’t know me but I know you. My name is Dennis and I used to be somebody.”

However, I also know that God immediately told him, “I do know you. I know every hair on your head, I have known you since before you were formed in your mother’s womb. You are somebody because you are mine. I have a perfect place already prepared for you. Come and see.”

 Memorial Service for Dennis Kinealy   
John 14:1-6
Trinity Church, September 28, 2019           

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Joy Comes in the Morning

Swirling through life,
  pulled between yin and yang with no clear connection between the two,
  occasionally joined together to make a whole,
  the only surety is that chaos exists above all things.
My soul longs for rejoicing.
My body aches for warmth.
My heart wants not to be broken.
My mind wants only to rest.
In You alone my soul in silence rests,
  yet … there is never silence.
Where is the One who out of chaos created order?
Where is the Spirit that comforts the afflicted, the disordered?
I fear the silence will not come until to ashes I return.
I know that joy comes in the morning.
I hold onto that while I weep through the night.

Friday, August 24, 2018

REAL Reality TV World, Thursday Food Pantry

On Thursdays a group of people gather at the Pantry. They gather there on other days as well but the later pantry time (4-5:30) offers a time for more socializing, I suppose. The traffic at Pantry slows down and they rev up. On that day, everything is much livelier at closing than on others.

Several of the people help with the cleanup. Volunteers begin taking down chairs and tables after C, a tiny woman, maybe 100 lbs, wipes them down. She tells people to finish up with their dishes “so Miss Barbi can close this place up on time.” T, aka Dogg, sits in his place and watches everyone as he sips his coffee. Miss H directs others as to what they should be doing. Pfollows M around as he gathers up all the trash. Reta, the Deaconess Nurse, finishes with her last patient. On the days that he is there, A finishes cleaning up the kitchen. At this point, most of the volunteers have left the building. A couple of volunteers never leave until I give them the go ahead. They are just making sure I am ok. This particular group is always ok.

I wonder if the group of people remaining wait until the other volunteers are gone to be their crazy funny selves. Or maybe it is because I can finally pay attention to them that I actually see how they are. All the drama of the day is over, and the comedy begins.

During the pantry, the drama comes in many forms. From people needing someone to pray for them, right then, right there; to someone bumping into another’s elbow and spilling coffee, threatening the start of World War III; to Mr. W talking non-stop to everyone, to someone, to no one, in his sometimes staccato, sometimes jabberwocky style; to our garden lady (she sleeps there), getting mad and calling everyone the “n” word – most especially black men who happen to get in her way (although I have been called that by her on numerous occasions); to another demanding attention, good or bad; to others wanting me to hurry because they are going to miss their bus. Everyone poking me in the shoulder, calling my name (most calling me “Barb”, some call me Mama), pulling at my elbow, asking for this, asking for that. The need is constant, and one need is always more important than the next.

It is 5:40 p.m. and the doors are locked, the lights are dimmed, the kitchen is closed, the trash is out, the tables are wiped clean and put up. I start singing my closing song that none of them recognize – “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. All good things must come to an end. Turn out the lights, the party’s over and tomorrow starts the same old thing again.” That’s Willie Nelson, y’all. Whatever.

Miss H always says, “The fat lady’s singing.” M says, “Ok, Barb, it’s time for us to go.” P always says, “You’re right, M. It’s time for us to go.”
Then, Miss H says, “Before I go, I need to go to the little girls’ room.” C replies (always), “Miss H can’t ever go before closing time. She has to wait. Now we have to wait on her because she needs help carrying her bags to the car.”

One after another says, well, it’s time to go, but C reminds everyone that they are ‘waiting on Miss H to come out of the bathroom because she can’t ever go before it’s time to leave.’ I remind them that they could just carry the bags outside and wait on her there, to which no one pays me any mind.

P sees a bag sitting on one of the chairs and wonders aloud as to whose it is. One or more of us always tells him that it belongs to M(we know this because it is where he was sitting). P says, “Oh. Oh. This must be M’s.” To which we all agree ...  yep, yep, it must be …

Reta and I look at each other and can’t keep from grinning. No one wants to leave. Reta says that someone ought to film this and put it on TV. We are watching some real reality comedy. It’s called community. And it is beautiful.

Finally, they are all on their way. Reta stays for a minute and we talk about the day. Then she is gone, and I am alone, not only in the South Parish Hall but in the entire building. I soak in the quiet and marvel at what has gone on in that space in the past week. God is present always, even when I get rushed and forget. Moments like these remind me that God is also good, always with me.

Friday, June 15, 2018

On Becoming Beloved Community

One day this week, Wayne clapped me on one shoulder and loudly claimed, “You should have run for mayor!” I laughed, and he then proclaimed, “No one can steal a stove!” To which I replied, “Or a refrigerator!” He clapped me on the shoulder again and said, “Exactly!” Last week, he had told me that he had been accused of stealing the refrigerator where he was staying.

I have known Wayne for most of the almost five years I have been working at Trinity Food Ministry in Saint Louis. Our relationship began as reactionary and tended to escalate quickly. He would come to the Pantry for groceries at least twice a month. The regulation is that a guest may get groceries once per calendar month. To get around that, he would claim that it wasn’t him who came the first time; it was his brother. I was fairly naive so it was allowed for a couple of months.

But then he became more belligerent and irritating, so I shut it down. I told him he had to prove who he was each time he came. I didn’t care who he was, but he had to show me if he wanted groceries.
In that he rarely had his ID, this caused him to be even more aggressive in his attitude. His eyes would narrow, he would “get his face on” and he would ready himself to scare me into backing down. I didn’t.

This went on for at least a couple of years. We had several shouting matches and stare-downs. Then, Wayne didn’t show up for a long while. As is the case on a normal basis, I wondered a few times about him but was too busy to search out an answer. Plus, the Pantry was quieter when he wasn’t there. It was easier.

By the time he returned, I was different. In that period where he was gone, I learned that a big problem with many people is that they do not know they are loved. Or they do not believe themselves lovable. When I saw Wayne return, I greeted him with an exclamation of not only surprise but of joy. I said, “Where have you been? I have missed you! I am glad to see you!”

He looked at me as if I was crazy. Yet his response was a smile. While it took him a few visits to believe me, he came to understand that things were different.

Wayne had not changed much in that time he was away. He still aggravated the bejeesus out of people. He continues to do so. But I have learned that when he narrows his eyes and his face appears to be confrontational, often, he is trying to figure out how to respond to the one causing his confusion. He can be lead away from confrontation by redirecting his attention.

I don’t kid myself. I know that out on the street he has a tough time. He has been put out of more places than I go into. He is classified as a problem and treated as such by most people who do not have the time or the desire to meet him where he is. His life is difficult.

I have watched his mental health decline over this past year. Most conversations are like the one with which I began this. His main themes include his father whom he loved, his high school years, and whether I have Spam or sardines to give him. Interspersed between these themes, a strange statement about refrigerators or stoves or me being mayor will be tossed in. For the most part, he knows he is safe at the Pantry and that I will listen to him for a little while. Somewhere during the conversation, we will laugh.

I would like to say that Wayne is the biggest problem at Pantry but he isn’t even close. But I have found the key to getting along with Wayne. It is to let him know he is loved and that he is worth my time. He knows this because I call him by name and tell him so. He is fed in body and in spirit. For a minute, it is enough.

I try to use that key with others but for some, addiction or mental health problems are just too much of a barrier. These problems filter out love.

Yet life continues.

There are so many things about each of us by which we can be judged daily, moment to moment. Too often, we judge in a flash, mistaking confusion for arrogance, taking one instance and identifying a person by that forever.

We are always beloved, regardless of our knowing this or not. When we get to know one another, when we listen to one another, when we see one another, and, in those actions, we learn that we are loveable and that we are loved. When we set aside our judgmental nature, we enter what Gregory Boyle says is God’s “jurisdiction.”

Within that God-place, we become Beloved Community. This is Jubilee.

Are we there yet? Are we even close? Maybe so, maybe not. For certain, we are closer than we have been.

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Left foot, left foot Right foot, right. Feet in the morning Feet at night." Thank you, Dr. Seuss

I am thinking about feet. My feet often demand that I think of them. Short wide feet with high insteps and high arches, my feet often scream for attention. But it’s not my feet that I am thinking about. I am thinking of the feet I washed last night.

I can’t tell you if the feet were in good condition or if these feet hurt. I can’t even tell you if the nails were painted. I know the feet were soft. I knew that I had to treat those feet as though they were beloved. Because those feet were beloved. Because those feet reminded me of other feet.

Blistered. Callused. Feet used for transporting a body everywhere that body needs to go. Feet that do not have clean socks every day. Feet that are covered in shoes that do not necessarily fit properly. Feet that are wet in rain, cold in winter, sweaty in summer. Imagine.

When I go to Sedona AZ, I walk a great deal. I hike to the vortexes, along the red dusty paths that lead to big red rocks. My black sandals are no longer black; my feet no longer tan. Both are covered in a fine red dust that does not brush away easily. This makes me think of what feet must have looked like in Jesus’ time. Dusty. Dirty. Tired. Responsible for carrying the weight of a person’s life upon them.

Feet are important. Between Tuesday and Thursday of this past week, I walked 25,935 steps, an average of 8,645 steps on each day. That was simply to and fro, back and forth, going nowhere but doing many things. (one of many privileges, my iPhone health app)

How many steps did Jesus walk between the beginning of his ministry in Galilee and that cross at Golgotha? Approximately 106 miles if one walks straight from Capernaum to Jerusalem, but he didn’t. He went into Samaria and crossed over into Judea beyond the Jordan and other points between here and there

Thinking of Jesus walking makes me think of some of the guys from the pantry I know who walk everywhere. Often they are walking to and fro, between one meal and the next, into one area and crossing over into and beyond another. I have seen their feet. I have given out a pair of socks and bandaids in a too meager attempt to ease the burden of those poor, sore feet. Swollen, red, painful.

I wished I had thought of these feet sooner. I wish I had washed these feet on Maundy Thursday. I wish I had warm water and soft towels, clean socks and more bandaids, lotion and soothing balms.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Eyes

“To begin to see with new eyes, we must observe—and usually be humiliated by—the habitual way we encounter each and every moment. It is humiliating because we will see that we are well-practiced in just a few predictable responses. Not many of our responses are original, fresh, or naturally respectful of what is right in front of us. The most common human responses to a new moment are mistrust, cynicism, fear, defensiveness, dismissal, and judgmentalism. These are the common ways the ego tries to be in control of the data instead of allowing the moment to get some control over us—and teach us something new!

These words of Richard Rohr’s offer me a lesson I have opportunity to learn each day.
Recently, an incident reminded me that regardless of the job that I do, there is always so much more to alter in my own actions.

There is a guy who comes in to the pantry and hot lunch. He has no concern for anyone but himself. He pushes to the front of the line, demands attention regardless of whatever else is going on. He has no idea whatsoever that there are other people in the world with needs. His are his only concern. If I give him one pair of socks, he wants two. He always lifts his pants leg to show me he has no socks on, to prove his need. He doesn’t like the individual size toothpastes or deodorants. Nor the small hotel size soaps. He wants full size. And t-shirts. Always t-shirts. No matter how many belts I have given him over the past year, he always has a request for another. These requests come at least two days per week. He is pushy and demanding, cajoling and pleading, dependent upon how receptive I am to his requests. He tries to be charming by complimenting me in hopes that he can sway me. It is like dealing with a difficult child.

When he comes into the pantry, he leaves behind a mess.... dirty dishes, food crumbs/spills. He is a mess.

One Sunday, he came to the Hot Lunch...35 minutes after the official closing.
If we run out of food prior to that official closing, I open the pantry and retrieve Vienna sausages and any fruit or crackers we might have. It is not a fit meal but it fills the stomach for a while. However, when food is gone after the closing time, it is gone.

It is easy to understand that people who do not have watches or phones do not always know what time it is. It is just as easy to realize that bus schedules do not always fit into our timelines conveniently. I understand that some people are going to be late. It isn’t on purpose or because they are lazy or doing something more interesting. It just happens. Also, from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. is not a very large window of time.

So, when he came in so late this day, he was already irritated. Who knows why he was late. It didn’t matter. There was no prepared food left. As a result, I had to tell him he was too late. He knows that we have a full pantry and there is plenty of food in the building. He wanted me to get something for him. By that time, he was on my last nerve because he was demanding and rude. Actually, there are several people who can get on my last nerve rather quickly.

The thing is, regardless of how much he asks for, I always give him something. I try to err on the side of good. Maybe he sells the stuff; maybe he just likes what he likes. Who knows? I give if I have it to give with only an occasional exception.

However, when he is rude, demanding, and acting like a super spoiled brat, the mom in me comes out and I send him out of the room. So, this day he left angry. As he left, his bag caught on the door handle and that really ticked him off. He turned around and kicked the door. With all his irritation and his blustery bravado, he knew that he was past getting anything. He left, angry, frustrated, cold, and hungry.

It made me feel the same as when a situation sort of spun out of control for my kids or grand kids. I would be irritated and angry as they would escalate but later I would begin to think about how that particular child was feeling or what might have been the source of the outburst. The situation we witness is rarely the cause of the escalation.

I could have made one more exception for him. I could have opened the pantry and given him a couple of cans of ravioli. I could have, but I didn’t. I stood on my principle that he knows the routine, he was late, and I wasn’t budging. I am not looking for kudos for my “tough love.” I am exploring how I might have done this better, how I may have missed an opportunity to seek the divine. Rather, I judged harshly and most likely cast out a hungry person. I feel a bit of humiliation at understanding this.

Rohr finishes his meditation by writing that the “way to any universal idea is to proceed through a concrete encounter.” I am always seeking universal ideas. Rohr continues with “The one is the way to the many; the specific is the way to the spacious; the now is the way to the always, the here is the way to everywhere; the material is the way to the spiritual; the visible is the way to the invisible.”

I appeased my conscious a little bit the next time he came in by simply giving him a little more than he asked. It had been almost a week since he had tossed his tantrum and I pulled the mom card. I had what he requested so I gave. He, in turn, was appreciative.

But here is the rub. Do I, as manager of the Food Ministry, have a right to let my “mom” come out in me? How does that offer respect or dignity to an adult (or child, for that matter) if I pull a superior tone and/or condescending or give and take action?

I would rather be judged for giving too much than too little. What is given to the ministry is given with the idea that it will be available to those who need it. Is it mine to determine need? I know the answer to that is basically that all who come in are in need. So, yes, I do determine that there is need.

However, should the concern of having someone taking advantage of me weigh into the equation when a person is obviously in need. ‘In need of what’ is a question that I am not sure I have a right to ask. I cannot spend my time wondering if someone is trying to rip off the pantry. If someone does choose to sell the food they get, then perhaps that little bit of money was what he needed. It is not mine to determine what a person needs most.

What I seek is to make certain that my ego does not get in the way or try to be in control, mainly, that the moment does not control me. None of this is about me, should not be about me. It is about offering sustenance to those who come seeking nourishment. While limits must always be in place to ensure that there is enough for others also, when there is abundance, a portion of that abundance should be share.

Life is too short and hard to live out of our fears of scarcity.

It is important to see our habits and how these cause us to act in each moment. These concrete moments, the one, the specific, the now, the here, the material, the visible, offer insight into something so much larger than the me, the ego, the knee-jerk reaction. It offers an opportunity to open ourselves up to what Rohr calls “a fully sacramental universe where everything is an epiphany.”

I cannot live with the idea of being dismissive, judgmental, cynical, defensive, or fearful. These things make us mistrust the idea that Love is supreme and the only way to respond. These actions give us cause to justify our own reactions.

I want love to be my first response, and then every response following that. If someone takes advantage of my love, well, then, so be it. Love has the power to win over all else.

Quotes from “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation” Contemplative Consciousness, Awe and Surrender, January 12, 2018.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Blessings in Woundedness

I can’t tell you how many times I ask the question “How are you?” and receive the reply, “I am blest.” Often it is a woman who answers that way. Sometimes the men do. I have heard it said as in thanksgiving, as a reminder that within all the worry and sorrow, there are blessings. But sometimes, it is offered more as a challenge, almost as a dare to dispute it. I hear within that dare a pronouncement of “I AM WORTHY AND YOU BEST KNOW IT NOW.”

That most recent statement was declared by a man. He said, “I am blest by the grace of God who makes me whole.” It came with a sideways glance to see how I took the statement. There was a look of something that could not be noted as love on his face. There he was, a black man, taking what he considered to be charity from me, a white woman. He seemed belligerent, not angry, but definitely tired of the abuse of power, tired of the foot on his neck. I saw all of this in a short few seconds. I held out my hand to him and I said the first thing that came out of my mouth, “Thanks be to God” and I smiled. He shook my hand and nodded his head, keeping eye contact with me for the full shake. His eyes softened. I knew that the Spirit had given me the right words to say. She always does that, if I let her.

Being a healer doesn’t mean that a person can make a physical or mental sickness be gone. Poverty and all the things that go with it are still there in the morning. Yet, in the words of Becca Stevens, “Answering the call to become a healer means you are willing to experience empathetic pain and feel others’ brokenness.”

I saw the phoenix within that man. He was broken. He was wounded and tired. Yet he stood up by calling on the grace of God. He knew he was worthy because God told him so and that gave him the power to stand tall. Just because we are broken does not mean that we cannot rise up.

I am reading Becca Steven’s newest book, Snake Oil. Her writing always has a powerful effect on me but this one is touching the core of my being. It helped me understand a lot of my feelings.

There are some days when I am so exhausted, my heart hurts. I want to curl up and cry. I am so tired that I don’t even have the energy to question why God led me into this place. Yet, I wake up in the morning and I head out into a new day, not always totally refreshed but enough so that I am able to move back into the midst of the people.

The thing is this – woundedness is not something held aside just for people living in the struggle of poverty. It is something that can happen to all of us. Woundedness often is a part of an unconscious condition, an unresolved trauma that we thought we shook off.

Many people think that money is the answer. If I get enough money, all my worries will go away. Money can sometimes glitz up the cracks of brokenness yet the pain seeps through those crevices no matter how well concealed. Arrogance, belligerence, hatefulness, bullying, violence, fear, intimidation, even greed – all these acts can be the effects of woundedness. In this world of provocative language and actions, it is difficult to look for the provocateur’s pain.

Yet if we were able, if it became imperative for each of us to see, hear, taste, feel the pain behind the dare, behind the power, behind the false bravado, would we view the arrogant or belligerent person differently? Rather than reacting in anger, would it be easier for us to speak peace in the face of challenge? Would we be able to hear the Spirit as she gave us the words to heal the woundedness? Would that person be able to hear or feel the peace?

I often wonder how long I can continue to stretch the limits of my physical self. Yet, there is no time nor even the desire to ask whether I should continue. That is never the question. The real questions are how could I not continue? How could I live a life outside of that brokenness?

My own self has healed or at least, is in the process of healing. I rise up, just like that phoenix, just like that man, because I know that this is what God has told me to do. This thing I do is the way I offer myself, my story, my own wounded heart. It is this offering that people recognize and respond. What difference does it make in the long run? I don’t know. I only know that I recognize the recognition when I see it.

I will never stop asking people, “How are you?” I hope they never stop answering, “I am blest.” It tells me so much about the person.  

Be Open

Be Open. Jesus told the deaf man to be opened. In 2007, Debbie and I sold or gave away most of what we owned. We stuffed the remainder in ...