Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It took us some time to realize that we had become a part of this family. Tucker being accepted as a part of the band was a big indicator. He began by just sitting with the singers, then inched his way up to the guy playing the congas so that soon he was asking if he could play after the service. After a few pointers and instructions on his behavior during the service, his natural talent and willingness to do what it took to play made him a regular.
Then there was the extra special part of it all – almost every Sunday, at least two kids and two to four grandkids filled the pew with us…in fact, we easily filled one and one-half pews when all the kids were there. There is something very special about having a family as part of one’s worship community.
All this came rushing home to both Debbie and me this past Sunday, the first one after Christmas. As we sat in the midst of this beloved service, we realized just how much we miss our “family” – both the smaller one and the larger one.
While the lay and clergy leadership of Trinity played a vital part in remaining within the Episcopal Church, the parish itself goes about its business. Had I been a visitor with no insider knowledge, I would not have known that anything controversial was going on. The service was a traditional one with the readings that Episcopal parishes all over the country used that day. Even though the reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians had within it the verse, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian” and the disciplinarian of the diocese in the past is no longer a factor of discernment, the service was all about John’s declaration of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
C'est la vie.
Yet underlying all the “normal” stuff, I could feel the joy…maybe not as unbridled as at the Faith Community of Good Shepherd’s on Christmas Eve night but there nonetheless. It was an undercurrent, calmly flowing across the faces of all those we greeted. Maybe it was that the tension was greatly relieved as if the relief one feels after a painful injury was healed and what remains is the realization that the pain is gone. There was a sense of wellness.
We were not able to bend our schedule enough to attend the Faith Community of St. Stephen’s in Hurst. However, I have been told that it is much the same there. Then there is the combined community of faith in Parker County – remnants from three different west Fort Worth and Parker County parishes. There are so many more and all are growing rapidly.
Of course, there is a sadness in all of these communities. A part of each one is missing. But one thing is for sure. It is not about the building regardless of what many would like us all to believe. It is about the community of faith itself.
The thing we know is sure – when the community is well and the “gall of bitterness” removed, the work of Jesus becomes a simple task.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Almost immediately someone recognized us and gave us all big hugs and cheerful greetings. More greetings ensued all the while the sound of the laughter and talking grew exponentially. Tired from the 12 hour drive from St. Louis to Fort Worth (and that beginning at 4 am), I worried that I would not be able to stay in the room for long.
But suddenly, the fog in my head cleared to a degree and I realized that all the sound and the people were filled with a great joy. At that realization, the sound became a symphony rather than a cacophony.
It was Joy filling the room and pushing at the seams of the building, tumbling out through the door and into the cool night air.
This was Christ Mass in a Fort Worth Episcopal parish – Good Shepherd Faith Community in Granbury, Texas – a parish that is now so much more of a community than it was when it was just down the road a ways in its stone building.
This was the joy of celebrating one-ness rather than separation; the joy that comes from focusing on Jesus rather than on selfish desires. This was not pious and self-righteous or full of condemnation for those who disagree; this was about love and sharing that love. It didn’t matter that there was no processional cross or that there were no torches. It didn’t matter that it was a little cramped trying to get to and from communion.
It mattered only that there was abundant Joy at the birth of the newborn baby – and a way to be born again.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Today’s psalm, parts of which are used as a canticle for Compline, always creates a vivid image for me as I recite the words. “My crag and my stronghold” brings to mind pictures of Mt. Everest, a cold and forbidding place that I would never want to be up close and personal.
To think of this image as I recite words spoken to God gives me pause for contemplation. Should my mind picture something so cold, so terrifying and so personally forbidding as I pray?
When I think of mountain climbing in that respect, I understand the desire to “conquer” the mountain – the quest that drives a desire so overwhelming that nothing else matters. God-desire is like that. I cringe at the thought that I might wish to “conquer” God…and truly, I don’t believe that I do want that. What would be the benefit? But I can visualize standing as a part of the God-One, wind blowing through my hair and open fingers as I rejoice at the completeness of the moment. To feel that joy racing through every fiber of my being, knowing that I am no longer me alone but God-joined…part and parcel of the One and only One…climbing to the top of that mountain must feel something like that.
As I attempt to hold fast to this “crag” I know that I cling tightly to it if for no other reason than horror that I might fall…or fail. The thing that frightens me easily becomes the thing that holds me fast. But my panic at clinging to the “stronghold” could simply freeze me into a non-action which might result in my dying. It is then, at the moment of that paralyzing fear, that I know I have to depend fully upon that “strong rock” and for that very sake let it lead me and guide me.
It is not for my sake that I do this but for the sake of that Holy name, that I might allow it to lead me and guide me into that Oneness, a relationship that I am called into. Just as a mountain climber stands at the foot of that mountain, staring up in wonder and love, knowing full well that she will go, regardless, so I stand at the foot of this God-thing knowing that it wants me as much as I want it. Regardless of the sacrifice, understanding the fear that lies ahead, it calls to me.
And I will follow.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I feel disordered and disheveled. The old adage “a day late and a dollar short” is never too far from my mind. Busy people, busy time of year. One moment melts into the next until all that is left is a stream of the past flowing behind us. No wonder Advent gets lost in the midst of this time. The church itself is no less busy than the rest of the world.
Part of my own muddled feeling comes from the reality that everything I am doing, I am doing for the first time. This is my first year to plan out a calendar according to the church year (and in tandem with the rest of the parish); first time preparing others for Advent; first Christmas pageant to plan; soon it will be Lent and the list continues. Next year should be better…or at least I will have to find another excuse for not being better prepared.
Another problem is that I have had no time to write. Ideas and thoughts flit through so quickly that I don’t make time to write these down. I started this particular piece at least five days ago…maybe more. But it is time to either discard it or write more. So, I am making the time to write more. Hopefully, it will be a process by which an idea sticks and grows into something that I need to read and understand.
One thing that is strongly on my mind at this time is the Cathedral’s search for a provost. It matters greatly who the next leader of this Cathedral is. I only know a little bit of the history of this great, old building and the service it has provided. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu stood in the ornate pulpit and preached. Madeline Albright recently graced the Cathedral with her presence. The House of Deputies president, Bonnie Anderson, was the guest speaker at the annual Flower Fest last May. These are just a few of the voices that have cried out in this place. Many social services programs have begun at the Cathedral. It remains a vital part of the program that helps care for the sizeable homeless and under-employed population of downtown St. Louis. There is a vast amount of potential for the Cathedral to once again be that “voice crying out in the wilderness.”
A church without mission/outreach is like a book without type. It is empty, meaningless and a waste of space. A church which has the potential for vast amounts of mission and outreach yet under-utilizes itself shouts loudly to the world that its priorities are slanted towards a lesser-god. A church that is worried about money is a church that is worried about the wrong thing.
In times of bad economy, in times of stress and anxiety, where do people turn? Hopefully to the Church. So what if they don’t have money? They have need and the church helps them. One person with 100K or 10 people with 10K or 100 people with 1K or 500 with even less…maybe there is less money but there are more hands…hands that are often willing to work if for no other reason than to give in return for gifts received.
Church is about community. The more people that are in community, the better the church. Hungry people recognize the hunger in others and empathy is born. Empathy is different than sympathy. Sympathy brings about good work; empathy brings about a desire to make changes that alter lives. Church should be about altering lives – not about one group of people altering others’ lives; rather, it is about the community offering a place wherein lives can change.
I am not criticizing those who have money. I love a cheerful giver! But if we want our churches to survive, it seems to me that we are going to have to put those who need us as our number one priority. That includes the homeless, the under-employed, the overworked, those disenfranchised, the elders, the children, the sick, the needy and all the others named in the gospel messages. If we take Jesus at his word, this is really our only way.
I am not saying that we should forget about money. I know that money is a necessary thing but I also know that it is possible to pray to God as a community without it. Look at all the faith communities across the world where people live on less than $1 per day! I fully believe that it is by faith alone that we are supposed to work in this house of God.
I suppose what I am saying is that if we believe, all those things necessary to fulfill the promises of God will be made available. Money helps the world go ‘round but it does not make it spin and it can never ever be the reason for spinning. Decisions cannot be based upon the need of money. Faith makes the decision…then the plans on how to raise the money are made. We may not be able to spend that which we do not have but we also need to remember that there is no profit in zero population growth. Faith and witness grow a church.
As far as the Cathedral goes, whoever the next provost is, he/she needs to be a person with a vision from God and a belief that is as bold as that of a prophet, fully intent upon the Cathedral being a community witnessing its love of God to the people of God. The money will come as it is needed, maybe never more than is needed, but that's all we are supposed to want, right?
"Give us this day our daily bread."
Saturday, December 06, 2008
"I have chosen to follow this course rather than seeking consent of the House of Bishops to Bishop Iker's deposition for abandonment of the Communion of this Church because I believe it to be a more pastoral response to Bishop Iker's clear expression of his desire not to be a part of the Episcopal Church at this time," the Presiding Bishop wrote in a letter to the House of Bishops. "I believe this course best expresses my hope and prayer that reconciliation in the future can be achieved by God's love and grace." http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/episcope/
This is the statement from the Presiding Bishop of the Epsicopal Church. She did not "depose" Jack Leo Iker. She accepted his statement as a fact of abandonment. He made that statement on November 24, 2008 of his own will. (http://fwepiscopal.org/downloads/reFortWorthBishopInhibition.pdf)
He stated "Since November 15, 2008, both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and I as the Diocesan Bishop have been members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. " No one forced him to make this statement. Not only did he make this statement but the Standing Committee also made a similar disclaimer.
It is not a matter of whether or not the PB has "authority" over him or anyone else. It is fairly debatable as to whether she has that authority at all. It is also a moot question. He is subject to the vows he took. And that is the crux. He has abandoned by his own words the communion of the Church that named him "priest" and "Bishop".
As they say in Texas, "stick a fork in it!"
Monday, December 01, 2008
It is the 20th anniversary of a day designated as a day when people and organizations around the world come together to pray and bring attention to the fact that AIDS is still running rampant through our world. There may have been a lot done since 1988, still, there is so much left to do.
So, pray. And then do something to make the world a safer place.
I have spoken with my mom about the faith community at Good Shepherd and heard her relaxed joy. I have read the joy-filled emails from my friend at St. Stephen’s. I have heard of the steady stream of newcomers at Trinity. I know these are but the tip. But I have no need to write about it all from my far off status. Katie has already done so. She has several blogs on all the joy and thanksgiving. Read them all.
What else can be said but Thanks be to God? It doesn’t matter what the virtue-less one says…or David Anderson…or even what Jack Iker does.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is alive in this Advent season! Thanks be to God indeed!!!!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
RESPONSES TO ATTEMPTED INHIBITION OF THE BISHOP
FORT WORTH, Texas – A letter of inhibition and supporting documents were issued Friday, Nov. 21, from the office of Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, to the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth. However the inhibition is of no force or effect, since the Bishop and Diocese, meeting in annual convention, constitutionally realigned with another province of the Anglican Communion on Saturday, Nov. 15, and are now constituent members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Documents to this effect have been made public. Consequently, this attempted inhibition will not deter the Bishop from the continuance of his ministry.
Two responses are being issued at this time. From Bishop Iker:
Katharine Jefferts Schori has no authority over me or my ministry as a Bishop in the Church of
God. She never has, and she never will. Since November 15, 2008, both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and I as the Diocesan Bishop have been members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. As a result, canonical declarations of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church pertaining to us are irrelevant and of no consequence.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
Friday, November 21, 2008
Please see my friend Katie's site for the latest news about Jack Iker and the inhibition against him.
Prayers for all.
My words to Jack - you will remain in my prayers.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Across the United States today, people protested Proposition 8 which passed on Election Day in California, marring an otherwise great day of celebration. Proposition 8 effectively legislated hate in that State. What had been deemed unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court was discarded by popular vote after a great deal of money from different right-wing organizers intent upon outlawing same sex marriage was spent on advertising against the dangers of gays and lesbians marrying the persons that they love. They won by a very small majority.
Until today. Today, I proudly stood in the 35 degree temperatures with the diverse group – black, white, Asian, Latino/a, young, old, teens and tweens. We all stood cheering and holding signs listening to our city leaders tell us to continue on, that one day soon gays and lesbians would have the same rights as straights. We were reminded that until 1967, Barack Obama’s parents could have been charged with the crime of marrying outside their race. We were reminded that it took protests and lots of hard work for Blacks and for women to get the vote. We were reminded that even today racism is alive and running rampant in too many places. We were also reminded that we must take hope from the election just past. This is after all a major step that we have taken – electing a Black man to be President of the United States. We were reminded that as long as we accept anti-gay rhetoric and policies (Boy Scouts, work place bias regarding benefits, etc) we will continue to contribute to our own discrimination. That means that we also have to be aware of just who is funding the anti-gay rhetoric. Who’s money is it anyway?
I suppose that one of the most promising things about today was the number of young people that were there. Who knows if they were gay or straight – all I know is that they were against H8 and were ready to tell it to the world.
Today, I stood proudly with my family amidst the “Love makes a Family” signs. We stood right behind a sign that declared “Equal rights for my mom to marry” and thought of our kids back in Texas and knew that if they were with us, they would be holding that sign. We watched Tucker as he proudly stood with gay and lesbian teenagers shouting “We are gay; we are straight; just say No to Prop 8”. We watched a couple of moms standing with their gay sons and partners.
Today, I stood proudly, knowing the work ahead of us but ready and willing to take this on. I couldn’t help but hear in my head the Beatles’ song Revolution. It seemed appropriate. I don’t think that Howard Ahmansen or the Mormons realized what they were doing when they worked so hard to take away that which had been declared constitutional. I think they may have started a revolution.
I I don’t know how many showed up in the other protests across the nation but in St. Louis, Missouri, I and my family were three of the 1000. Proudly.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"Greg Griffith: Do you have any intention of changing the name of the diocese?"
"Bishop Iker: We'll remain The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, because that's who we are, and who we were when we were formed, before we came into union with General Convention in 1982. In 1982 the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth applied to be admitted into union with the General Convention (the wording of the resolution), and we were. This will be our 26th annual convention, and we've decided we cannot remain faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of scriptures while we're under the authority of the General Convention Church. But that doesn't change who we are; it changes our relationship with the General Convention authority."
I have this and this alone to say -- Jack Iker, you are illogical and near maniacal if not already there. I suggest counseling to help you undertand why you want to remain named the very name that you abhor. No amount of rhetoric from you will change the fact that you are totally illogical.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The fact that I am in a “safe” diocese is another. I am the Director of a Christian Education program. I am on a committee for Social Justice. I am also part of the committee planning a service for World AIDS Day on December 1. All of these are just a part of the privileges I enjoy in this truly Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Missouri that I never could have experienced to this degree in Fort Worth.
Yet another reason for putting it off is that I feel a bit out of place. I am not there. I know why I am here and it is because here is not there and that is good. I know what I have left behind – all the good and all the bad. I know that I left Fort Worth because of the fact that even though we attended a parish that “accepted” us as members, albeit it as noisy members, being who I am and what we are left us totally unable to work for the “church” simply because we might offend someone somewhere. Goodness knows, we would never want to offend narrow minded bigots … and add ignorant fear-mongers in that description.
So, even though I know all the reasons why I am not there, I am not there. As a result, my voice rings a little hollow from way up here in the land of all things truly c/Catholic and Episcopal (and orthodox to boot!).
Being who I am, that is, that part of me that is so offensive to those in Fort Worth even in parishes where I have been endured, here in St. Louis, it is not a problem. Or even an issue. I am not tolerated, I am welcomed, joyfully and warmly, as are Debbie and Tucker. There is an amazing amount of difference between being tolerated and being welcomed. It fits right in there with that “separate but equal” thing. It is a difference that the newly formed diocese of Fort Worth should set as a major goal as it reconstitutes itself as soon as possible after +Jack leads the schismatic group out of the Diocese.
The now-bishop of Fort Worth wants everyone to believe that his disagreement with the Episcopal Church at large is a just and right-minded affair of the Scripture. He feels that the Church has strayed from its biblical foundation. He has tried to call it to task yet far too many of the people within that same Church disagree with him and the small number of people who do agree with him. It is the polity of the Church.
So, this weekend, +Jack will lead the Diocese of Fort Worth as we now know it into a second vote to “leave” the Episcopal Church and to align “temporarily” with the Province of the Southern Cone. Jack will argue that he is not leading anyone anywhere but that is just an empty argument. He says it. It is so. It is what he says because he says 'I say it' therefore it is. I sometimes think that maybe the little bitty verse of Scripture, “I Am” got twisted and someone (who I will not name) may have thought that “I” was “he” and as a result, a whole lot of confusion resulted. It is all in the interpretation. And the people around him say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Perhaps I am wrong...maybe it is just a bad case of Popeye the Sailor Man syndrome.
And so I come to the very last and probably major reason that I have refrained from writing about the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as it now exists and as it ceases to exist in the very near future – It is just such a ridiculous thing to even contemplate from afar. Even I, having been so involved in trying to let the Church know that not everyone in Fort Worth agreed with Jack Iker, see it now and can hardly believe it.
There is a reason why the rest of the Church has allowed the Iker/Duncan/Schofield/Ackerman (and don’t forget Beckwith in Springfield) debacle to go on and on and on ad nauseam and that is because it is easier to ignore the brats in the room than it is to deal with them. Let's just talk over/around them and maybe they will just play by themselves. There is also the idea that “they elected them – they must want them” and it plays a large part. Too many in the pews just “want to go to church to worship” and don’t want to get involved in the “politics”. As a result, Jack Iker was called as the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. And as is always the case, silence is only considered golden by those who demand no disagreement. Lesson to note for future use, do not sit silently while those around you are fomenting schism. Sit up and listen. Stand up and speak.
And guess what - a note to others in the pews – we all want to go to church to worship. Sadly, too many of us have been refused that privilege OR been given it provisionally. We can be there if we are good little boys and girls. Don’t cause trouble; sit down and be still.
Reading this, one might come to the conclusion that I am still a bit peeved at the whole situation. That would be correct. I am. I used to be hurt though. I am not hurt anymore. And truly, I am not really, really peeved. I am just really into personal accountability right now.
I wasn’t really ready to write about that in relation to the Diocese of Fort Worth until this point. Now it's time.
So, here are my thoughts. Jack, you need to resign. Just step down. Go be a bishop somewhere else, retire or whatever but you know good and well that to keep up this farce of “taking the diocese” is a bunch of malarkey. You are the one who is tearing the fabric of the communion.
People who are following Jack, good grief, grow up. Use your own brain to read and interpret…to think. Stop and think about why you are following so closely to Jack’s coattail. And what is in it for you? What is it to you? Think about it. Seriously.
And to all of you who are in so much pain right now because of the true rending of the fabric – that is, the parishes you all have built and love and where you have raised your families (many of you alongside my own), grieved over lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you. I love you all – on both sides of the situation. I know and love some who are staying; some who are leaving and some who are simply following a building because they are too tired, too tied to those memories to walk away. May God bless and keep you everyone. And may one day come where we all will truly be One in the Body of Christ, united in the true idea of Love.
To all of you who are watching and waiting, anticipating a new day, I wait prayerfully with you. And I remind you (even though you already know it), there is a better church out here. You can be a part of it. Or you can remain apart from it. Don’t let the same things happen as have happened in the past. This is your Church. Keep on working for it. You all have come a long way and done a great job getting the word out.
Remember, the via media is broad and diverse. The other thing about the via media – there is no shoulder, not even a ditch…we all belong within it.
Major change in the anti-discrimination clause used by the Federal government - note the "gender identity" part.
Hail to the Chief (elect)!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new oneI
f you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.
Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music
Monday, November 10, 2008
For some strange reason, the original article has been altered. Rather than beginning with "A Town is Stunned" it now begins with "Slain father taught boy how to use guns, priest says". Most of the info is the same but it does now include a video of a defense lawyer from Chicago who represented a 12 year old that was charged with murder.
The problem that I have with charging the 8 year old is that 1) he is a baby, 2) he had no advocate present during questioning, 3) he is not old enough to know his rights or to know a lawyer even if these rights were read, 4) charging a child under the age of 16 as an adult is absolutely heinous and 5) there is not a 6-18 year old in the western world that has not at one time or more screamed loudly to a sibling, friend, cousin "I hate you! I wish you were dead!!!!!!".
This is all part of that "change" thing I wrote about...we have to change the way we look at things. We have to see how we - individually and as members of a society - have failed/are failing. If we judge our society by the way we treat our children and our elders...we are in serious trouble.
It is immoral to charge an 8 year old child with murder. To add "premeditated" to that charge says far more about the person doing the charging than it does the charged.
It is written that a child's personality is basically developed by the time she or he is 5 years old. That being said, who is the one that forms that personality? It is not formed in a vacuum.
Our minds are warped; our ethics convoluted. We are a jaded society.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
I often wonder what in the world am I doing, seeking God’s will in my life. Verses like this make me stop and wonder. Make me stop in wonder.
We lose ourselves in the thought that all will be well…we are trying to be good little humans. We go to church on Sundays. We give our tithes. We volunteer our time. And if all else fails, we have Jesus to fall back on. After all, he died for our sins…he died that we might have eternal everlasting forever and ever life. So, we are ok, right?
Sunday’s lectionary includes Amos telling the people of Israel that what they are doing is not enough. In fact, since they are not doing the one thing that God wants them to do, those things which might be considered good are basically despised according to God.
The gospel is no better. The author of Matthew tells the story of the bridesmaids who ran out of oil for their lamps and didn’t think to bring more. (25: 1-13) They left to go get what they needed and while they were gone, the bridegroom came, locking the door behind him. The bridesmaids were willing but too late. Good intentions meant nothing. Desire meant nothing. None of it was enough. They simply were not ready.
In the couple of verses prior to the reading in Amos, the prophet tells the people of Israel to “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate” and that if they do that they might have a chance that God would be gracious to the “remnant of Joseph.”
Giving them orders, though, is not enough. He goes on to tell them the reality of what it is they will find if they do not change. The day of the Lord will not be a day of rejoicing; rather, it will be a day of “darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake.” The Israelites, who have come so far, are seeking a resting place; a safe place where they can relax and believe that all is well. They want to know they have escaped from the lion or that they can lean upon the wall. They want to believe that they have done enough to be in God’s good graces forever. Yet the burnt offerings, grain and fatted calf offerings – these things that the Israelites had always offered to the Lord as a way of seeking God’s favor, these things are just not enough to save them from future harm. Nor is the music enough – these have become the “noise of your songs”. None of these things make up for the lack of justice and righteousness within the community.
But what is justice? What is righteousness?
According to the Law, that is, Deuteronomy, justice is the establishment of what is right and of that person which is in the right. Righteousness is “that quality of life in relationship with others in the community that gives rise to justice.” [i]
Amos rants at the community that makes offerings to Yahweh as though Yahweh was a lesser god to be appeased by small material things. More than any festivals or solemn assemblies, music or offerings, God wants a just and right community of followers. God wants the people to love one another and actually act as though they do. No offering is good enough if the members of the community are not willing to live in right relationship with one another.
It would be grand to think that we were smarter, wiser than the Israelites…more prepared than the bridesmaids. It is a nice thought to think that simply believing in Jesus will save us…regardless of what we have done or left undone.
But that is not what the authors of Amos or Matthew are telling us. Both of these scriptures are telling us that we have to be ready…we can’t wait for a later date to do those things that we need to do. We have to be ready…today.
Regardless of our good intentions or our desire to live our lives according to God’s will for us, it is not a matter of want…it is a matter of action. If we are not willing to act, we are subject to the outrageous statements of “I hate, I despise your festivals.” “I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” “Take away from me the noise of your song.” Regardless of how much we want to be a part of that glory, if we are not ready, the door may be locked. For what good are these festivals, these solemn assemblies, even our music if we do not reach out to love our neighbor? What good is it that we come into this House if we are not willing to love that person across the aisle? What good are our lamps is we don’t light them?
Amos tells us that justice will roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream…regardless. Regardless of our offerings, regardless of our ceremonies and music. Regardless if we work for it or not. Justice will come regardless of whether or not we are ready.
Justice and righteousness will prevail…eventually. We can either be a part of that movement towards a just and right society…or we can be washed away as it rolls down upon us.
This past week, the people of the United States voted for Change. It was a majority consensus that change was needed. But we can’t do it on the coattails of any one person – not even on the coattails of the first African American president elect…we do it one on one, one with another…individually and collectively. Individually responsible in community with one another.
“Yes we can!” means nothing unless we are willing to join in as individual instruments of change. And change means getting out of our comfort zones into areas where we would not normally go. It means doing things that are more difficult or tackling those things which take more time. Change means being an active part of a community working for the good of the individual members within that community.
Justice and righteousness will prevail sooner or later and not only must we be ready, but we must be an active part of it. Then when justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, rather than being broken or crushed by the velocity of the water, we can ride the waves, in balance with the nature of it all.
[i] Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, 1993. Footnote for 5:24. P. 1364.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
As it well should be…
In the name of all that is holy, how can anyone do this?
An eight year old child – a child most likely born in this new millennium – 8 years old…a child that was not even walking six or seven years ago, a child who has only had the capacity to make more than goo-goo gaa-gaa sounds for the past seven years, a little boy who doesn’t even have all his permanent teeth yet has been charged with premeditated murder. He supposedly shot his father and a boarder who lived at his home.
Note that this child has no record of bad behavior in his three or four year school history. Nor is there any record with the child protective services of any prior problem. It appears that a fairly normal child of a single parent with no apparent problems noted by anyone supposedly not only confessed but was questioned by police without a guardian or advocate with him.
Oh my gosh…I am so totally floored by the idea that some cockle-headed adult would automatically assume that a little boy not only shot and killed his father and another adult in two different rooms on two separate floors but thought about it long enough to plan it. I do not care what the evidence shows, this is not an idea that should just rush into anyone’s mind, pint size or otherwise.
I am even more amazed at the idea that someone would not know that most children would confess to anything after a siege of questioning by strange adults.
What have we come to that we can think of charging little children with premeditated murder? What kind of society can we claim to be if we put our children in jail when they appear guilty of a crime or even are guilty of one? How warped and jaded are we that we could even think that prison is an answer to children who commit violent crimes?
Children, people…I am talking about a little boy that is the age of my grandson and my granddaughter. I am talking about a little person who doesn’t even know (possibly) the product of 10 times 10 . I am talking about a baby who has only wiped his own behind for three years (maybe more, maybe less).
My God in Heaven, have mercy upon us…have mercy upon us.
Friday, November 07, 2008
However, Tuesday, November 4, 2008 is a day that is now in the past, a historical marker. While it will live forever as the day that Americans crossed the color line as we elected our first Black, African-American President, we can never forget that it was a decision made by many based upon greed, not entirely upon the man’s overall message. As 401Ks shriveled across the nation, so did the need for the racist (overt or covert) idea of a white face in the White House. For many, it was a decision based upon the fear of poverty, impending or already in place. For others still, it was a day of reckoning and awakening to the current crisis of our world at large. Pocketbooks are hurting and it causes people to care. Sad but true.
Still, the shame of racism lives with us. As I watched the local news Wednesday night, I heard a woman state that many in her small town in Missouri did not vote for Obama because he is black. I know it is safe to assume that many counties in my beloved State of Texas and in many other parts of the country did not vote for Obama for the very same reason. It is important that we understand this. While we rejoice in the victory we must also confront that bigotry that still exists, not silently but blatantly.
I used to work with a guy who proudly proclaimed that he was not a racist; rather, he declared, he was a bigot – he hated everyone. I think he was telling the truth. But the case of the matter is this – it is not racism that is our only problem. It is that bigotry. It is a bigotry based in hate and fed with fear.
On Tuesday, shameful votes were cast, even by some who voted for Obama. It is a day when the largest state in the nation declared a ban against same gender marriage even though California’s Supreme Court had said that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. It was a definitive stance for “separate but equal”. What had been a decision ruled by law became a farce fueled by the evil twins, Hate and Fear.
Two other states, Arizona and Florida, also passed new laws that deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The people of Arkansas did something even more shameful – they denied the rights of foster children to live in the homes of gay or lesbian foster parents. Arkansas also denied the rights of foster children by declaring that they could not be placed with single parents. Maybe I have been wrong about Arkansas all this time.
It has been said that we have to take the good along with the bad. I suppose that is a true axiom.
The fact of the matter is this – the idea of “separate but equal” is unconstitutional. Another fact is that “civil unions” do not make up for that which is denied. It is like a cracker tossed out to feed the starving animal.
No, gays and lesbians do not have to sit at the back of the bus nor do we have to eat at separate diners or drink from different fountains. But we are discriminated against in many work places. We do in some cases have to worship in different churches. Many people have left the Episcopal Church in the South Central region simply because it is too painful to try worship in such a toxic atmosphere. ( I mention SC region because that is what I know)
We do have to worry about being attacked, verbally, emotionally and physically. We do have to worry about being murdered. We do have to worry about our children being bullied. We cannot marry the person that we love and with whom many of us have spent the better part of our lives. Our partners cannot adopt our children -- the children we have raised. (at least not in most places) We do not get the rights of inheritance or the right to be by the side of a loved one in sickness and in death. There are so many things that are denied.
The history of the US in its treatment of Blacks is shameful. Add Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans…as the list goes on, the shame grows. We crawl out of one cesspool of shame and find another at our fingertips. That is what the vote of these four states (not to mention all the other states that already have anti-gay marriage laws) brought us into on this day that should been seen as a barrier breaker. Yet, it is only one of the many barriers that we as United States Americans face. The unconstitutional treatment of gays and lesbians is just one more shameful pit from which we will one day climb. And have no doubt, we will climb from it.
November 4, 2008 is a great day to remember regardless of the actions of four states. It is a day of reconciling and healing. It is the beginning of the change that is to come.
It is not something that is going to change just because we have a Black man in the White House. It is something that will change because we now have a leader that is calling us into personal accountability to help change the wrongs in this world. And we are ready.
And I have an idea -- How about all of us who have been discriminated against in one fashion or another, without regard to how much or how often, what if we all banded together as one?
I just bet we could change the world.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
From today’s Daily Office Lectionary:
"Of Solomon. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!
May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon;and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.
May his name endure for ever, his fame continue as long as the sun.May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.
The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended."
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I voted last Tuesday. Early.
The first time I voted was for Richard Nixon...yes, I admit it. I thought it was right at the time but then I wasn't very old. I was certainly not very experienced in life much less politics. But I voted. As soon as I was able to do so.
In each voting opportunity that I have had since that first time, I voted because it was something I should do. Being in Texas as a voter, rarely did I ever vote for the winner of the race, regardless of the race. It seemed as though I was always on the losing side of that. Clinton winning made me feel as though my vote counted over all. At home in Texas...no, not at all.
Regardless of the results of this current race, I have to say prior to a winner being announced -- this particular vote that I placed, I did so with the greatest amount of pride. This is the first vote that I have ever placed that felt as important as that very first one.
I voted for a candidate who happened to be something other than a older-middle-aged white male and I have to tell you it felt GOOD.
Regardless of the projected outcome...I did something good.
I voted for Barack Obama, son and grandson of white women, son of a Kenyan man, husband of Michelle and father of two young daughters, Sasha and Malia...
I voted for Change. I voted for Hope. I voted for Barack. And it felt right...and just...and good.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
May I just say that I have been terribly remiss in writing lately...not that so many will be affected! None the less for those who care, there are many things to write about. I have been sort of caught up in the drama of children lately, both my own and those about whom too few seem to care. Then, too, there is this awesome election that is ongoing. And I just happen to be a swing state this year! In the past few weeks, I have had the absolutely awesome privilege of listening to Barack Obama and Madeline Albright in person! I was at the Obama rally in St. Louis...no, you can NOT see me in the photo! Madeline Albright was at Christ Church Cathedral to promote her new book, "Memo to the President Elect". I even shook Ms. Albright's hand -twice!
The point of this is that I have been involved in my own self and have failed miserably to note the absolute idiocy of the current bishop of Fort Worth. May God have mercy on his silly self. Who needs enemies when one has such an ego?
Regardless, because I am so far behind, please, go to my sister Elizabeth's site...or to Mark Harris...both say it well. And surely it is not worth repeating. Elizabeth also has a fine post about the rally in St. Louis that I just happened to attend. I am one of the 100,000 that attended!
I bow to their eloquence...and I thank them both profusely.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the National Observance of Children’s Sabbath. Thousands of multi-faith churches all across the US advocated for children during their worship services. While Christ Church Cathedral did not use the suggested Prayers of the People, I did hold an Adult Forum on the subject.
When I worked on this last week in preparation for Sunday, I noted no political undertones necessarily. Yet, as I went through the statistics and my own conclusions, I could hear the voice of Barack Obama. We had the good fortune of going to see him at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Saturday.
The idea that I might be promoting one political agenda over another in the midst of a church setting sort of concerned me at first. Quickly, I realized that the message I was sending, the same one endorsed by Obama, was not a political message per se…it was/is the Gospel message. It was rather comforting to think that Barack Obama is pushing the Gospel message to help those who are not able to help themselves to the people of the United States.
Below is the information I used to begin the Forum.
Prior to any discussion about poverty, there are several terms that need defining:
Welfare is the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being: to look after a child's welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society. (according to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/welfare)
Extreme Poverty is the state of not being able to meet basic needs – food, water, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare. The World Bank states that it is defined by those living on less than $1.25 per day. Tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS are considered crucial factors and consequences of extreme poverty. Currently, 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty worldwide. Extreme poverty most often results in death.
Severe poverty in the US is classified (as of 2005) as thus: individuals earning less than $5,080 a year (< $100 per week, $14 per day) were considered severely poor; a family of four with two children was severely poor if they lived on less than $9,903 (< $200 per week, $28 per day). In the year 2005, nearly 16 million Americans were living in severe poverty.
We know the Millennium Development Goal statistic that states 30,000 children die every single day of the year from extreme poverty. We have a tendency to think, yes, but not in the US. And that is true. Far fewer in the US die from extreme poverty. But what about the life altering effects of just plain old everyday poverty?
Here are a few statistics.(all statistics come from the Children’s Defense Fund) Did you know that a Black boy born in 2001 has a 1-3 chance of going to prison sometime in his lifetime? Or that a Latino boy has a 1-6 chance? A White boy has a 1-17 chance. Or the stats for girls – Black girls, 1-17, Latinas, 1-45 while White girls have a 1-111 chance.
Personally, I think it reprehensible that we live in a society that uses prison as a means of behavior modification. Even a 1 in 111 chance of being in prison is far too high. Did you know that a majority of the minority children in the US attend racially segregated and unequal schools? That 86% of Black children; 83% of Latino/a children and 58 % of White fourth graders cannot read at their grade level? Or that 89% of Black eighth graders; 85% of Latino/a eighth graders and 59% of White eighth graders cannot do math at their grade levels? 579,000 Black males are serving sentences in state and federal prisons while only 48,000 Black males earn a bachelor’s degree each year. Black youths are almost 5 times as likely and Latino youths are about twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as are White youths.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian who died when he returned to Nazi Germany to oppose all that Hitler was doing, “believed that the test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children.”
In the US:
Every 36 seconds, a child is abused or neglected.
Every 35 seconds, a US citizen is born into poverty.
Every 41 seconds an American baby is born without benefit of health insurance.
EVERY THREE HOURS an American child is killed by a firearm. As Sarah Palin so recently urged us”, Do the math.”
Tell me. Are we passing Bonhoeffer’s test of morality?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Since Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were murdered in 1968, 1.1 million Americans, including more than 100, 000 children and teens were killed by guns.
The Children’s Defense Fund asks this question:
What is it going to take for you and me to stand up and build a movement to stop the senseless deaths of children and adults from gunfire and poverty, neglect and abuse and the denial of health care and the indifference and inaction in a society deadened by “affluenza” and the unjust structures and budget priorities that support and enable it?
How is it possible that we not only allow but support the idea that nearly 1.7 million families lived on less income than was received last year by one private equity firm executive? The gap between rich and poor is at its highest level ever…the average CEO of a large company makes more in a day than the average worker makes in a whole year…the number of children in poverty has increased by 1.2 million since 2000…the number of children without health coverage leapt by more than one million from 2004 to 2006.
The current political contention is that we cannot afford to provide healthcare for all children and pregnant women (this would cost about $70 billion) but that we can afford to continue to give tax cuts to the top one percent of the richest Americans (this cost us $76 billion in lost revenues this year alone).
These statistics are indicative of a profoundly demoralized society. These instances of poverty are not caused by disasters such as famine or war…at least not a war on our own soil. This poverty, neglect, and abuse are caused by decisions and choices that we as US citizens have made…or have not made. The good thing is that these are all changeable. We really don’t have any choice but to change these errors in judgment.
So, how do we do it?
First, we must educate ourselves. There are many occasions for enlightenment: The Children’s Defense Fund, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, the ONE campaign, ONE Episcopalian, The Episcopal Church’s Peace and Justice ministries…there is not one excuse for ignorance in this day and age.
Then we must speak out…speak Truth to the power, just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did…just as Dr. King did. Just as they did not ask what speaking out might cost them, neither can we worry about that. We are charged by Holy Scriptures to care for those who cannot care for themselves. We are not asked to judge…we are just told to DO. We have no choice…not as Christians. We must speak out on behalf of the poor, the young, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger who cannot speak for themselves. It is the only thing that we can do.
There is a difference between charity and justice. Charity is the recognition that need exists and caring about it – it’s the giving of a gift; justice is the acting upon that recognition of a need and attempting to right that which caused the wrong in the first place. Charity is empathy in action and is often the difference between life and death. Justice is more long term and requires work rather than heart-jerk reaction.
The Children’s Defense Fund suggests several things that we must do:
To End Child Poverty, we must invest in high quality education for every child, livable wages for families, income supplements such as Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, job training and job creation and work supports like child care and health coverage.
We must ensure that every child and Pregnant woman has access to affordable, comprehensive health and mental health coverage and services. Well care ensures that we have healthy citizens which will result in less cost to the health care industry, fewer missed work or school days and a better capability to work and to learn. Healthier people – healthier economy.
We must work to make certain that high quality early childhood development programs are available to every child, not just the ones who can afford it.
We must advocate for each child – that he or she may reach his or her full potential and succeed in work and life – we need to ensure our schools have adequate resources to provide high quality education to every child, regardless of that child’s need.
We must protect children from abuse, neglect and connect them to caring permanent families. We do this by improving the child welfare workforce and increase accountability for results for children. The thing is, idyllic as it may seem, if we work towards correcting the issues that create poverty, there may actually be less abuse and neglect from which we must save those children.
We have to stop the criminalization of children at increasingly younger ages. Detention and incarceration of children have to be reduced – this can be done by increasing investment in prevention and early intervention programs.
In a short sentence, we have to invest in our future by investing in our children – in their health and their welfare. All of this is sort of like the Ten Commandments being condensed into the two – Love God and Love Neighbor. If we follow both of these with our whole heart, mind and spirit, then all the rest of the commandments fall into a natural order of obedience. The same is true for all these things that we can do to end poverty: if first we devote ourselves to the welfare of our nation’s children, all the other problems will be rectified thereafter.
Welfare is not a four letter word. It is a call for justice. It is the call of the Holy Scriptures. It is what we all must strive towards – not just for the few whose parents can afford it but for “the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity” of all children.
All who have children know that when the children are happy and well, there is peace in the house. Let us work for Peace in the house.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"Imagine All God's Children" -- by Barbi Click By Mike(EGR - MDG) Barbi Click is the Director of Christian Education at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis, Missouri. She wrote this piece for her blog "Feathers and Faith" on Sept. 25 for World MDG Blogging Day."What One Can Do" - The Episcopalians... - http://e4gr.blogspot.com/
Thursday, October 09, 2008
What is a politician but a prophet? He or she stands there before the crowds, shouting out oracles of doom and gloom if the people continue on in their wicked ways but glorifying his/her own natural abilities to lead the people into a shining new future. Each one claims to offer the “right” way. Too often, both are false prophets.
The lectionary’s reading today from Micah 3:1-8 speaks to that very thing. In this particular instance, he is calling the religious leaders of Israel false prophets. Micah calls them to justice and compares them to cannibals, for by the very fact that these leaders live off the hopes and need of the people of Israel, they consume the people as they lead them astray. Their time is coming, Micah says, when the leaders will realize how wrong they are and finally turn to God but it will be too late. The sins that they have committed are those of injustice and greed. Micah has no compassion for those who plunder and pillage that which the Lord has declared Holy.
I love these violent, gory scriptures. It is a heck of a way to get a reader’s attention. Rather than be turned off by the images of skin being torn “off my people, and the flesh off their bones” and those who would “eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a cauldron,” I feel a great need to get past the violence and into the message that Micah was attempting to convey. It seems that the more gruesome and violent the image, the bigger the message.
We have to say that Micah was passionate if nothing else. His major concern was justice. He saw these religious leaders, these people who held great influence over the people of Israel and he knew that these same leaders were feeding off of the need of the people. The people were oppressed and the leaders justified it through the “Law”.
We have much the same thing going on today. Sarah Palin makes wild and outrageous insinuations that Barack Obama is a terrorist, enough so that one of the spectators in the crowd yells out, “Kill him!” John McCain asks “Who is the real Barack Obama?” and a member of the audience loudly answers, “A terrorist!” Neither of these candidates shush either person. McCain at least has the grace to grimace. Regardless, both are inciting people to react with mob mentality. Both are feeding off the ignorance, fear and bigotry of their audiences.
So, what does Micah proclaim the Lord has to say to those who lead the children of God astray? Micah’s prophecy (ala the Message interpretation): "Therefore, you're going blind. You'll see nothing. You'll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They've had their day; from now on its night. Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They'll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance."
But what will happen to the people? Will they change their idols? Will they stop listening, gloating, reacting to the outrageousness of those they claim to follow?
What about those who still, in this age of 2008, refuse to vote for a person because she is a woman or he is a black man…what lies in store for those people? Will they remain blind and bigoted?
Ah, but there is more to the verse…sadly, it isn’t about all those people at all. It is about the rest of us.
“But me—I'm filled with God's power, filled with God's Spirit of justice and strength,Ready to confront Jacob's crime and Israel's sin.”
We are alive with the power of God. It is within us, surrounding us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and that awareness that bigotry in any shape or size is unjust, this is our charge. Not only must we understand that we are filled with “God’s Spirit of justice and strength” but we must be ready at every moment to confront that crime and sin of bigotry, hatred and fear.
We cannot allow the cannibalistic plundering to continue. We are living in a world where people have manipulated the fears and ignorance of others for far too long. Our way of living has changed to the point that basic civil rights have disappeared, not for criminals and terrorists, but for ordinary citizens who happened to be now openly profiled as “other”. We are not safer now with Homeland Security; rather, we live in a world controlled by rules and regulations made up by those who are not as concerned about keeping us safe as much as they are about maintaining a certain amount of power. Our system of government has been dangerously compromised with the increase of power in the Executive branch with a lessening of power of the Legislative branch. The Judicial branch has become a tool of the Executive office. We are lopsided for the first time since the framers of the Constitution designed this system. We are drowning in our own refuse all the while consuming more than we can afford. Our lives are dependent upon a rapidly diminishing fuel source. We are being driven to distraction by corporate greed.
Everything we do is based upon a desire for immediate satisfaction.
And to what expense? We allow others to manipulate us. We are the unjust. We are the sinful. The price that the manipulators pay will be high. Our price may not include living in “dark shadows and knowing nothing” but it will be high. Life as we know it must change if for no other reason, it is wrong.
We are “filled with God’s Spirit of justice and strength” and it is time that we use it to confront not only those who would manipulate us but also our own dark selves. We cannot allow our fears or our ignorance to be used as weapons against us. We are “filled with God’s Spirit of justice and strength.” It is time to live into that reality.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
According to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Maverick:
"(initial capital letter) an electro-optically guided U.S. air-to-ground tactical missile for destroying tanks and other hardened targets at ranges up to 15 mi. (24 km). "
Monday, September 29, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
We have read all the statistics. But can we relate?
We know we have poverty here in the US. We see the people standing on the street corners with their little signs stating they are homeless and will work for food. But do we believe them?
If we have children in school, at the beginning of each new semester we have to fill out a form saying that yes, our children qualify for the “reduced” or free lunch or we say no, we can afford to pay for their meals. But do we realize as we sign no how many little children in our own school districts, maybe sitting in the desk right next to our own, go to bed hungry at night?
We read about the hundreds of thousands of US citizens who do not have insurance. But do we really understand that they don’t have insurance because they must choose between insurance and food? Or housing? Or a car? Do we realize that the person without insurance maybe as close as the very words that we are reading? …such as me?
And what about foreclosures? Great deals if one can get them. But do we stop to think that a little child may have had sweet dreams or nightmares in that bedroom? That familes may have grown up in that home? Or that a couple may have grown old in that home? It is not just a "good deal"...Life happened there. Somebody cried there. Somebody laughed there. Somebody loved there.
Schools in the US are falling far behind when compared to schools in many other countries. Our children have their backpacks checked each day prior to walking through the metal detectors as they head to their classes. The classes are overcrowded with children, each one with a special need whether it is detected or not. Kids are offered drugs on the playground. The teachers are underpaid and overworked. Too often, not only are they disrespected but their physical well beings are threatened. Our schools are war zones. And we worry about whether or not some little white kid in the ‘burbs can pray out loud or whether or not he can wear a t-shirt with offensive language comparing Obama to terrorists.
These are instances of poverty that exist within our daily lives yet we ignore or justify these signs.
Can we pull ourselves out of our self absorbed nature and realize that life as we do not know it is happening all around us? If we cannot imagine a life in poverty as it sits or stands right beside us, how can we wrap our minds around the magnitude of extreme poverty that exists in the world outside of our national boundaries?
30,000 children in this world die every day from preventable and treatable diseases caused by extreme poverty. What is extreme poverty? Poverty that is so insidious that it kills. It is poverty that is preventable and for the most part, here in the US we have done that. It is the poverty that is so insipid that it kills the young and the old because people starve to death or die of malaria or measles or from many of the diseases that the western world has basically stopped from happening through vaccines and clean water. We can stop these deaths from happening in under-developed worlds just as we did in our own neighborhoods.
We seem so fond of lining up statistics so that we can relate to the actual number. Surely it does not take a mile marker or a football field to imagine 30,000 dead children each day, 365.2422 days of the year.
More than 100 million children world-wide don’t even go to school, bad schools or otherwise. Of all those children that do not ever get to attend school, most of them are female. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth does not allow women to be priests; far too many places in under-developed parts of our world don’t allow women to do anything but care for their husband and families.
There are 8 Millennium Development Goals in all. Go to http://www.e4gr.org/ to read them all and to find resources that will help inform.
Let us just think about these three goals – extreme poverty (which will help on all the other goals), primary education for all children, gender equality and empowerment of women. These are the three key goals. If these three are achieved, all the others will fall into a solvable category.
So today, let us try to wrap our minds and our hearts around these three goals. Let us open ourselves up – our eyes, our minds, our hearts – to all those in our own viewable world who live on the streets, whose children go to bed hungry, who work without benefits or in extremely underpaid jobs, to our school systems which under educate our children. Then let us go even further, with God’s help, to imagine our national problems multiplied. We do not even have to multiply it by a very big number.
We must be able to empathize. Sympathy is a Hallmark card. We have to feel the pain; smell the death; hear the cries. Only then will we find the compassion that drives us to DO something.
PRAY as if our own child’s life depended upon it.
FAST from all excess if not from a meal. With each bite of food, with every sip of water, remember that there are not just a few but a great many who have no choice in what they eat or what they drink.
WITNESS not only to God’ steadfast love but to the idea that we can love our neighbor and show that love.
Hold tightly to all these memories. Because it is in the re-memory that we learn. It is in this re-memory that we change.
And it is all about change. We have no choice.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed meto bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captivesand recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
At the Lambeth Conference a few weeks ago, the Anglican Communion called for September 25, 2008 to be a day of prayer, fasting and witness in conjunction with the “High-level event on the Millennium Development Goals at UN Headquarters in New York" on that same day. The Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation campaign seeks to involve as many people as possible tomorrow to Pray, Fast and Witness as we join in solidarity with communities of faith to change the world.
The goal is a concerted effort to pray with a primary intent for all who live in extreme poverty (poverty that kills); to fast by skipping at least one meal and to witness online through our blogs, personal pages (i.e. Facebook/My Space); and to act with advocacy groups (i.e. EPPN). I committed a while ago to blog about my thoughts on the MDGs and to respond immediately to all calls for advocacy. In addition to praying throughout the day, I will lead noonday prayer at Christ Church Cathedral using the designated Prayers of the People found at the EGR website. Also, I have continued to deliberate about the idea of fasting.
I thought about skipping breakfast because it is one of my most important meals, in fact, it is probably the only meal that I would actually miss, hunger-wise. Plus I just like all the different types of breakfast foods. I didn’t really want to skip lunch simply because lunch is when a group of us meet upstairs to eat together. More than that though, it is a time of fellowship and camaraderie. To skip the dinner meal is not big thing for me. I am always better off not eating in the evening.
All along, as I thought about this idea of fasting, some little something far back in my mind has bothered. About 2:30 this morning, in that wakeful sleep mode that I so often find myself, I suddenly came to full consciousness. The half awake/half asleep state is an irritating condition but one that I frequently find to be an illuminating time. So it was I was lit up in this early morning. What woke me fully was disgust.
Can I speak to the revulsion that I felt within me? Am I able to write exactly how ashamed I was to realize my high podium of privilege from which I found myself inanely pondering? No…no.
The very idea that I would actually think about WHICH meal I might skip – the idea that I have numerous opportunities from which to choose…the idea that after skipping that one I could open the fridge and eat to my belly’s content…the shallow thought that I would consider skipping only one meal for one day...
Meanwhile, how many people whose stomachs are twisting with hunger pangs do I walk by on my way into the Cathedral each day? How many children in this city alone went to bed last night without a meal? How many children throughout the world died from starvation in just the amount of time it took for me to ponder which meal I might ostentatiously skip?
God have mercy on my unearned privileged ignorance…I weep with shame.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
“So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”(Molly Ivins 1944-2007)
I have been feeling particularly homesick for Texas over the last few weeks. Instead of putting up a bunch of pictures of the most beautiful grandchildren in the world and thereby creating grandparent-envy in all who view them, I just decided to put up a quote from the late, great, much beloved Texas Icon, Molly.
Lord, I would love to hear what she has to say about this current election. I am thinking that she might be telling it like my good sister-friend, Lindy over at http://stillfruity.blogspot.com/2008/09/few-questions-on-race.html.
Yeah, sister…what she said! So watch out you "fraidy cats"! Our laughter is about to "ring forth"!
Monday, September 22, 2008
For the past couple of weeks, I have been unable to concentrate on writing. For one, I have been really invested getting Sunday School ready for a new church school year. I have to say, many prayers have been answered. It feels fairly good.
But another problem has been the disjointed uneasiness of all that surrounds us: the hurricanes, the melting Arctic, the extreme poverty in this world and our failure to do “enough”…and now Sarah Palin.
Actually, not Sarah Palin herself; rather, the idea that she has rejuvenated the campaign of an elder who should be sitting in the councils as a respected advisor but whose day has past as the leader. She is smart, witty, pretty and as one Republican spin-doctor said, “she is a blank slate.”
That is one powerfully and profoundly frightening statement.
Does Sarah Palin understand the profundity that lies within it? The idea that other people can write what they want and she will buy into it hook, line and sinker…the idea that she has nothing of her own (save her physical appearance)…that she is a shell waiting to be filled…she is a tool…a vessel and that is all.
If she does not understand that, surely she is not intelligent enough to run this nation. Being “bright” and being intelligent are not the same thing.
If she does understand it, whoa. If she understands that she is being used for her physical appeal and her allure (sexual or whatever) and she is willing to allow this to happen, that is even more profound than the blank slate statement. It says that she is willing to pander her physical looks and charm to get what she wants – power. That makes her dangerous. If this is the case, then we know what she is...we just are not sure of the price we will have to pay. I think it safe to assume that it will be high.
Do we really see Sarah Palin as a behind the scenes type of Vice President willing to go all the places the President does not want to go? Do we see her hobnobbing with the less-thans in the society of world order? Hardly.
She has already shown her hand about what she thinks about “Pro-Choice” but let us not forget that she is herself “pro-choice”. She chose to have her baby, just as hundreds of thousands of women do in this country every year. She is no saint just because she chose to have a baby that is extra-special. Good for her; she is human. She made the choice that she felt was right. But let us not forget that it was, indeed, a choice made by the body that would be carrying the baby.
In her acceptance speech she let all know how she felt about basic civil rights. As one journalist noted, she is no Atticus Finch.
I think that the major reason that I have not been able to write about this is because the people in this nation (those who vote and especially those who do not) scare the heck out of me. We have gone through two campaigns in the past 7 years and here we are in a third…are we going to screw up one more time? Is the press going to continue to be oohed and aahed about how Palin holds a shotgun or are they going to start writing like Mark Bowden (author of the article above)? Are they going to be afraid to call her what she is – a power-hungry human willing to sacrifice her own soul to get what she wants OR one heck of a stupid person – or continue to be panderers of the Republican armada?
If there is a sexist agenda going on in this campaign, it is the one being forced down our throats by the Republican manipulators of spin control. Using Sarah Palin to bolster McCain's sagging numbers not only because she is a “blank slate” but also because of her physical appeal is just damn terrifying. Touting equality for all while writing on the blank slates of women who look good on the cover of a magazine is not true equality. Of course, what would these people know about that? They think that a moose-shooting woman is sexy. What does all of this say about the people that these spinners are trying to reach?
I think that any who might consider voting for John McCain simply because of Sarah Palin ought to sit down for a little while and just ponder what “blank slate” actually means.
Reminds me of way back yonder in another lifetime when I attended a fund raiser for Congressman Jim Wright. Standing next to him, in a small group of people, I asked him a question that pertained to an issue of the day. He put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Honey, don’t you worry yore pretty little head about that. I will take care of it.” I supposed he thought I was a blank slate.
I haven’t voted Republican since.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Being in right relationship is so important. Reconciliation seems to be a main message of the Episcopal Church at this time. Reconciliation is the idea that the different Via Media groups, Remain Episcopal, and so many have attempted throughout these past almost five years since the first dioceses began cries of “otherness” and separation. Reconciliation is ongoing at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Missouri as it is in so many other parishes and dioceses.
As a nation, we are attempting to reconcile ourselves to the loss of so many during the tragic attack on U.S. soil seven years ago today. Would that we had only attempted reconciliation with those who hate us prior to that attack!
As a nation, we have basically reconciled ourselves into an idea that we need trade with China. All that means is that we want their money and the cheap labor they provide since they are not restricted to obeying simple human rights. Rather than reconciling, perhaps that is more properly named justification for greed.
So, why can’t we reconcile (or justify) opening relations with Cuba? The site is in Spanish but the message is clear. “Ike castiga la Isla.” Ike punishes the island.
Gustav on August 31; Ike on September 8. Gustav with winds up to 200 mph and waves of 50 feet; Ike’s winds were less but its' wave just as devastating especially as everything is still flooded from Gustav. Cuba has been overwhelmed. And we, as individuals, are not allowed to help. The Baptist men are headed that way. I am sure that ERD is there also. But if I had family members there, I could not help them. Not unless they were immediate family - and then I could only send $300. That is not a Cuban restriction. That is a U.S. one.
And Haiti…what about Haiti? The lowest of the low; the least of the less-than. How many actually died? Or are still missing? How many left “homeless”?
In the Episcopal Church, we are still arguing about gays and lesbians and whether or not we as individuals think these people are moral, immoral, depraved or blessed. Can lesbians or gays truly be called by God or get married? Some are so mad about it all that they are just going to quit…they are taking all “their” toys and going to South America. The issue of women as clergy is just as alive today as it has been for the past thirty years. The “judges” in Fort Worth have deemed their limited viewpoints regarding women as so important as to upend the Church to get their own way. Shame, shame…
For those who are so discontent – just know that prayers are following you and you are welcome to return whenever you get over your selfish histrionics.
On the House of Bishops and Deputies listserve they are cussin’ and discussin’ ideas and opinions on “adiaphora” (matters not essential to faith but permissible nonetheless). Arguing things such as these are important, I suppose…on days when there is nothing else that one can do. I guess that minds can be changed and opened…eventually.
Politically, we are blogging about pigs and lipstick and taking an overused aphorism that is so simplistic as to be stupid and turning it into a political talking point. Can we get back to the important stuff, please?
Let us get back to the facts. Let us talk about Justice for All, the assault on the economy, Global Warming; poverty that kills; lack of education; women and children sold into prostitution; lack of sanitary water, food, sewage systems and oh so many God help us problems…let us talk about death. And let us talk about our “neighbors”.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)
Why aren’t we, as a nation, reaching out – especially on this day of infamy – to our closest neighbors in both Haiti and Cuba who are in such great immediate need? Why can we not set aside the shallow, narrow political agenda of decades past to help those who are unable to help themselves? What better way to prove our nation is truly “one nation under God” than to reach out on this most painful day to that which has at times been considered an enemy? At what point do we learn to forgive? When exactly do we recall that we are not judges; rather, we are witnesses to the steadfast love of God.
When we become witnesses to that hesed, then we will be reconciled to God.
The rest will then be easy.