Monday, December 23, 2013

adam and chavvah Genesis 3:8-15 Evensong Advent IV St. Paul’s Carondelet

adam –a neutral gender form – adam means human, not MAN –

chavvah –means Mother of All Living and known by Christians as Eve

Adam and Eve did something they were told not to do and like children, their guilt demanded that they hide themselves away and then, found, blame it on another.

Not only did Adam blame Eve but he went further and placed the blame on God --for it was God who gave the woman to him.

Eve, in turn, blames the serpent.

God, as parent, metes out punishment to all. If we read the entire text, the punishment seems evenly divided. But somehow, at least in my southern Baptist upbringing, the woman gets blamed for it all. She should not have listened to the serpent, she should not have tempted Adam and it’s all her fault. Had it not been for her, Adam would not have sinned.

Working for a living, the pain of childbirth…even thistles and thorns…all the woman’s fault. Even the serpent crawling on its belly from that point out, forever being hated by the woman and her offspring, that is the woman’s fault also.

Actually, perhaps the most severe punishment of all was the alienation created between humans and animals. But that is a whole ‘nother sermon…

Today…I think it is more about The Fear of being in the Presence of God.

As soon as adam and chavvah had eaten the forbidden fruit, they knew there was a problem. When they heard the sound of YHWH, they hid…

Fear of being fully in the presence of God without curtains or veils or clothes … fully naked, in all our glory…in all our imperfections – that actually is rather frightening.

If the forbidden fruit gave wisdom, opened the eyes so that humans might see as God sees, both good and evil, that was…is… enough to cause a great deal of fear.
Adam and Eve were able to see how susceptible they were – how responsible they might have been for whatever was wrong.

There is so much in this world today that can be called evil. Hunger, poverty, shootings, drugs, mental health issues, environmental disease, so much pain…so much terror.

We see the evil sometimes far more clearly than we do the good.    

But the evil isn’t ours, is it? What do we have to do with it? It is all caused by other people, by their own actions.               Surely it is not our burden to carry.

Fear lets us believe that we can hide from God, from our responsibility towards the evil. We use many techniques to do this – we are  busy busy busy – if we keep ourselves busy, there is no time to think about anything but the tasks ahead of us. We go until we collapse… too tired to worry about whether or not God is watching…too tired to hear any call.

We have to stay busy ……. what if God calls us to do something we don’t really want to do? What if what God wants pulls us out of our comfort zone, demands that we give up something or get involved in things we don’t really want to do? What if that prayer really means God’s will be done????

That could cause a whole lot of chaos in our lives.

May God have mercy…what if God wants us to do something about hunger, poverty, shootings, drugs and what not? God have mercy…indeed.

We want to think that God is close to us – close enough to swoop in when there is trouble, to save us, lift us up out of the angry waves. But on those other days…well, God’s presence can be a thorn.

I can’t let go of the question from last week’s gospel when Jesus asked the people – what did you expect to see? The work that is set before us is not neat or necessarily nice…it isn’t always fun and it is often heart-breaking.

But just like adam and chavvahImmanuel (which means God is with us) is with us…always. We can hide – we can think that we hide – but God is with us nonetheless. There is work to do but we are not alone.

 We are always in the presence of God – it is in our fear that God’s light shines brightest upon us.


Adam and Eve were given the gift of God’s presence just as we have been. it is to be used by us to bless the lives of others, to share that presence when there is despair, when all seems lost…ours to share given to us by God. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What did we expect? Matthew 12: 2-11

On this first anniversary of the Newtown Sandy Hook Elementary slayings, the outrage is reborn. Voices stilled by the great nothingness of Congress are once again resounding across Social Media outlets. Heads that had rammed ineffectually into the Great Wall of Gun Lobbyists for months after the shooting, voices that cried into the wind as one after another school shooting happened, finally in sheer exhaustion, became silent. Lamentations had no effect.

Pleas for the lives of innocent children, emotional blackmail – what if it was your own children/grandchildren? – requests for simple controls on the types of weapons that might be made available to a sick and damaged public – all these went unheeded. No, all these were pelted with scoffs and sick diatribes about the “rights of the people.”

The right of Adam Lanza to own a gun trumped the lives of those 26 people to live?

Logic does nothing in this war against the weapons of war. Those who are afraid that their “right to bear arms” will be taken from them cannot even see the innocent faces that have been removed from this life.
But here we are, one year after 26 people were gunned down as they hunkered down just as they had been taught, sitting ducks for a madman hell bent on murder. Clearly, it is a time for the voices to rise up again; for the battering rams to return to action. In light of the school attack one day short of the Newtown massacre, just a few short miles from the scene of the murders at Columbine High School, it is time to ask, What are we doing?

One can get all obtuse and make the disingenuous argument that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” But guns are made to kill. Guns in the hands of people who have hatred in their hearts or sickness in their minds are deadly.

Guns are made to kill. It is as simple as that. They are not toys. They are weapons of death.

Accept that reality.

Jesus asked the people what it was they expected to see when they went out into the wilderness to see John? They went to see him because of the things that he was doing. They must have been surprised when they saw a scroungy, scraggy guy dressed in fabric made from the cheapest of fibers. What did they expect to see? Soft robes? Soft words spoken in sweet tones?

John was not nice about it. He spoke of that which was to come and how there was a great need to be prepared. John preached that the kingdom of heaven was in fact there and that judgment was coming.
It seems very important to me this morning that those of us who believe guns are deadly and that those who scream for their rights to own these are dangerous, that we stand up and speak very loudly against these weapons of death.

The gospel messages cannot be whitewashed. We cannot be nice about it. Too many have died in this past year. Too many children died simply because people with grudges and with the ability to lay their hands on a weapon, picked up those weapons, walked into schools and opened fire.

What do we expect in a nation that allows people to purchase any type of weapon or ammunition? What do we think will be done with these weapons? What do we expect to see?

The first and foremost assumption that we must make is that people buying weapons and ammunition want to kill something…someone. It is simply that simple.

John was a messenger sent to prepare the way for when the messiah came. He called to people to hear, to see, to be ready. We are today's messengers.

At this time, the day after the school shooting in Centennial, Colorado, one year after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, this is the day that we must stand up and proclaim, This is Too Much. This Must Stop.

The insane killings can be no more.

The second and just as important thing we must understand is that the munitions manufacturers are behind this. There is a great deal of money at stake. The Gun Lobbyists are among the most powerful (full of money) in Washington, D. C. These lobbyists and the munitions manufacturers are the ones who gain from the killings of these little children.

Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

I can’t help but wonder how much harder it will be for those rich people who have the blood of innocent children on their hands. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Goosebumps and Shivers

It’s Advent again. Not Christmas. Advent. It is a time of waiting in certain darkness; a time of reflection and preparation for the coming of something bigger than what we can even imagine.

Every year, I want to fully participate in the Season of Advent by preparing an Advent wreath, making sure the Advent calendar is up and ready, knowing the prayers to say and when to say them, participating in the Advent Evensongs available at many different parishes. My intentions are good.

Yet every year, there is no wreath. The calendar finally makes its way onto the wall by the second week of Advent…maybe. Two Sundays in Advent have now passed and no Evensongs. There have been no evenings gathered around the table to offer our prayers.

Always a time of darkness for me, this year that certain darkness has overwhelmed me fully. My first desire is to curl up in a corner, pull the covers over my heard and just be – inert, unknowing, silent, unnoticed. Everything beyond that desire is done only with the greatest of will. I am simply functional…doing all that I do as need be…all else is less is simply a weak wish.

Right or wrong, I often feel abandoned, lost, useless and scared. In a stage of waiting for the past ten years, the period has taken on a feeling of perpetual reality. I am acutely aware of the fact that what is is not what is to be. Yet…what is to be seems stuck somewhere like a giant hairball in a drain.

The waiting of Advent should be a time of quiet expectation, much like the time of pregnancy, full of hope of future potential. The small body growing within the mother’s womb, alive and kicking, lives in its own excited anticipation of that which is to come. In its darkness there is a shivery excitement, knowing that something huge is about to happen; within that vastness, a great awe is waiting to be witnessed.

Christmas, as the noisy world views it, looms like an empty promise – full of material crap that will be rendered inadequate or useless, broken and discarded within a short period of time. For those who have much, much will be given. For those who have little, little is not enough regardless of how welcome.

I read Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s Advent message, “It’s a time to be still and listen, listen deep within to what is growing, ready to emerge into new life.”

Hearing the growth deep within is difficult because of that which is growing without. It is a scary world out there. As I sit at my table in front of my computer, hands chilly due to the thermostat being at 68 degrees, I know so well that there are those who are sitting outside in the 20+ weather waiting for a chance to get a cup of hot coffee, hopeful for a place to sit inside out of the cold. I know there are kids who go to school only because it is a place where they can get two meals whereas if they stay home they get far less or none.

I hear the cries of a desperate people, hungry for food and shelter. My own trials pale in comparison. Whatever my woes, these are disparate to those of others.

I can answer the Presiding Bishop’s questions of “What new concern is growing for the people around you? What new burden is on your heart for the woes of the world? What new possibility do you see emerging in the world around you, and how might you be a part of that?”

My concern is for the shallowness of a sacred time – the Holy shoved aside in a world that worships gold. I am concerned that those who have too much are blinded by their abundance; those who have too little are crushed in their lack. How much do we have to have before we realize how much we have in common, how much we have to lose?  My burden, old yet always newly emerging, is that I cannot fix the woes of the world…understanding that these woes are not mine to fix. I am here simply to be the hands of Christ trying to love, feed, hug, shake the hand of the people of God, in this moment, in this sliver of time.

Yet, in all this desperation, I hear the profound faith of others – mostly in those seeking help. Greetings of “How are you?” are met with answers of “I am blessed!” regardless of financial woes or family burdens. The new possibility emerging in the world…it is the age old faith through adversity way of life. It is the understanding of the girl child Mary as she awaited the coming of her special son in a world that doubted her, doubted the special-ness of the birth. It is the acknowledgment that God is with us always even in the most dire circumstance. It is the belief in something so much larger than our imagination that is awaiting us.

It is that in which I want to be a part. I want the words “I am blessed” to be the first ones on my lips when greeted with the question, “How are you?” I want it to be such a natural part of me that it is said before I think it. It is not a frivolous statement but one born of that shivery expectation that God is with us and will always be.

I want the goosebumps and shivers of anticipation to wash over me. I want to revive that faith born of a deep and abiding hope so entwined within every fiber of my being as to be a natural part of existence. I want to live as though at any moment, that long awaited event is just about to happen.

Living in that way, I will give “evidence of love incarnate to the world” around me. Hope will survive.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mystical Meerkat

There are many little quizzes going around the social media circuit now, all trying to figure out who we are.  Tests on spirituality, are we left or right brained, what type of animal or Lord of the Rings character are we according to Myers Briggs – all seeking insight into our inner ways.

I tried to take the Lord of the Rings one…but it was so long, I ran out of time…or grew bored. Not sure which.

I know the animal I would be if able to choose…a wolf. But according to what animal reflects my Myers Briggs type? That would be a Meerkat – ethical and idealistic, loyal to family and closest friends, guided by a desire to live a life according to values, curious about those around them, but unwilling to accept threats to the security of their adorable babies or their morals…even when it means a substantial loss of income! Oh well, the trade-off was fantastic, actually.

Why do we take these things? And I admit that I do take these quizzes…at least as long as these do not take more than a few minutes. What are we seeking?

I just took the Upper Room’s “What is Your Spiritual Type?”  My answers resulted in the answer of Mystic. The results?

You are a Mystic, known for your imaginative, intuitive spirituality. You value peace, harmony, and inner silence. Mystics are nurtured by walking alone in the woods or sitting quietly with a trusted friend. You may also enjoy poetry, meditation, wordless prayer, candles, art, books, and anything else that helps you connect with God.
Mystics experience God best through rich images and symbols. You are contemplative, introspective, intuitive, and focused on an inner world as real to you as the exterior one. Hearing from God is more important to you than speaking to God. Others may attribute human characteristics to God, but you see God as ineffable, unnamable, and more vast than any known category. You are intrigued by God's mystery.
Mystics want to inspire and persuade others, and need to live lives of significance. At times you push the envelope of spirituality, helping the rest of us imagine who we might become if we followed your lead.
Sometimes you may feel a bit guilty about your need for solitude and silence. If so, you probably have bought into the American myth that says being alone and doing nothing is lazy, antisocial, and unproductive. Stop it -- now. Give yourself permission to retreat and be alone. It's essential for your well-being.
On the other hand, don't get so carried away retreating that you become a recluse. That only deprives the world of your gifts and deprives you of the lessons that come from being with others. Some Mystics may have a true vocation for solitary prayer, but the rest of you need to alternate retreat time with involvement and interaction.

What I want is for this to be true. I don’t care about the label so much. What I want to be true is that these characteristics fit me, that my life fits into these characteristics. Once upon a time, I think these did. Now, I feel more seriously inclined to just run and hide, fully aware that I am too stressed, too crazy, too exhausted to do anything but go until I drop.

What I wish is that I could sleep at night without grinding my teeth, without awaking into a worry about one kid or another, or about money… What I want is for God to just give me what I need so that I can do all the things I need to do.

Peace, harmony and inner silence may be what I value but these are certainly not in my present scope of being. Whatever imaginative, intuitive spirituality I might have possessed once upon a time have been pushed into a corner with a tiny hope that one day I might once again pick it up again and use it.

I do have an inner world – I am well aware of it. It has always been there…I have even been inside of it often. However, lately…I am on the outside catching only a narrow view of the inside, knowing I am on the wrong side of the door.

I know that the life I am living at this moment is significant. I know how important some of the things that I am doing are. Yet there is such a heavy unrest in the midst of the nonstop activity. There is so little down time. It results in a feeling of ineptness, a wastedness…a feeling that I am on a never-ending treadmill looking at a screen of where I am going rather than actually going anywhere.

Maybe a retreat would help…but then, how do I afford it? How do I make the time for it? It is a luxury to enter into a retreat. Plus, it seems so very selfish…I am sure I am not the only one in our house who needs a retreat! Actually, what we both could use is a week on a Caribbean beach together! LOL

These little quizzes are fun but I wonder what better good these serve. I think there must be a better good. One of the things I know about me is that I do not believe things happen without purpose. Out of every instance, a lesson can be learned.

We are spiritual beings. We seek a higher level of living, an insight into the mind of God. We want to be enlightened, to experience an ethereal light that assures us that we are an integral part of the Creation. We want to know that there is a reason for our existence and that what we do does matter for the good. Sadly, as with so many other things, what we want and what we get are two separate things.

Basically a lesson I must relearn every day is that change begins with me. High ideals come at a price; few good things are easy.

My lesson is that I have to give up on finding peace and harmony through sleep. I have to find another way because I am just not finding it there. Reading, reflection, study, meditation…time will never be found for these things. Therefore, I must make the time, even if it means taking part of the precious time so desired for deep sleep.

If one can believe these quizzes, surely it is true that these things are essential for my well-being.

I accept my mystical meerkat-ness and strive to make it a holy experience.

What’s the use of taking these things if we aren’t going to pay attention? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ordinary


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Obviously, chaos is the order of the day…an ordinary occurrence. Regardless of the era, what is has been and will be again…and again…and again.

So it is that I find myself in ordinary circumstance. To many it may seem extraordinary, but to the majority, I believe it is too terribly ordinary.

From my perspective, it appears that greed, hunger, fear, and uncertainty are far more ordinary than their opposites for even in opulence, there can be these things. All of these cross economic lines, racial boundaries, ethnicities. There is always one whose greed is his/her god. There is hunger regardless if it is a hunger born of the physical need for food or for the psychological need of love and acceptance. Fear motivates us to act in far too familiar ways, often creating greed, always perpetuated by an uncertainty of steadfastedness.

I would guess that if people were asked for one desire to be granted, that regardless of what that wish was – wealth, peace, happiness – the one thing that they seek is happiness.

Perhaps it is our culture that equates happiness with wealth. Yet we know for so many stories, fiction and non-fiction alike, money does not ensure happiness. Nor does it alleviate stress. Yet, while it does not guarantee a healthy diet, money, at least, allows one the choice of a healthy food source.

So, while money does not make people happy, it does, in several senses, allow a person more choices that might create positive factors that can increase happiness. Therefore, it seems to me that money can indeed by some things that help ease stress and dis-ease.

Look at the rate of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. Mississippi is the number one poorest state in the Union. It also ranks as number one in the number of deaths due to heart disease – 244.1 out of 100,000 people – according to the CDC. Heart disease can be attributed to a diet high in fats, low in nutrients which can result in obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use – all conditions that can lead to heart disease.

It is a fact: organic foods, fresh vegetables, seafood are more expensive. A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetable, whole grains grown without of pesticides and nutrient-depleted soils, and omega rich seafood are shown to be healthier.
It is also a fact that money will buy insurance and easier accessibility to healthcare which in turn includes preventative measures that help keep a person healthy because concerns are addressed prior to becoming complex or lethal.

These facts are compounded by these:

44 million in this country have no health insurance while 38 million are under insured.

According to the National Poverty center, in 2010, 22% of all children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Within that 22%, 38% of those children are Black while 35% are Hispanic. Whites and Asians split the remainder almost equally.

The quandary for me is this: Why does greed drive a person to such an “all or none” type of ideology? Why must one person’s wealth demand that others are impoverished? Perhaps it is simply the number of people in need that scares those with wealth. 44 million is a very large number. Even if all of those people were only given $1, that would be an extreme total. Not that the dollars would come out of any one person’s pocketbook…still, the amount staggers the imagination.

We live in a time of vicious regulations. The laws of the land, rather than being legislated to protect the people, are set up to protect those whose wealth can be perceived to increase the well being of the estate itself, in this case, Corporate America. But that is not representative of the historical greatness of the American Dream.

The “Dream” was always based upon the idea that one could begin as an immigrant with nothing and rise up to great wealth and power. That “Dream” was played out throughout the history of the United States…until recent eras.

Yet, the historical idea of “immigrant” was of a Caucasian nature. The immigrants, for the most part, were white men, immigrant in that they were born in another country or perhaps were sons of immigrants. Those who “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” were the same – white men. They certainly were not Black men or Hispanic men…or women of any color.

However, those most in need of a break are those very men and women…and children…especially the children. If our hearts can be touched and our pocketbooks opened up to help those little foreign children on “$1 per day” why in the world can we not do at least the same for children in our own nation? Does the threat of death have to be eminent for our hearts to be moved to action?

I have far more questions than I do answers but I do believe a few things. I believe that fear is the god that too many worship. Fear makes us live out of our scarcity. We live in fear of losing what we have, whether that is a lot or a little. Fear makes us greedy. Fear demands that we think of self before thinking of others.

Fear demands that God be nothing to us.

There are so many discussions as to why the church is declining. We preach that we are to love God and love our neighbor but we elect people who do not care about neighbors…and give only lip-service to a belief in God. We bring people into government who talk a lot but whose past records do not show proof of their good will toward others. We elect people who accept huge amounts of money from corporate sponsors and from lobbyists. Their allegiance is owed to those donors. God has nothing to do with it.

Those laws could help that very large population of people living on the edge of uncertainty. But I go further and say, if we began to legislate so that we intentionally help those who are living in or near poverty, those who have no healthcare, the ones who are in need of a “hand up”, our children, our elders, lower income, we would begin to help all of our people living in fear.

If there was less need, there might be less greed.

Ordinary could become extraordinary. 


http://www.pbs.org/healthcarecrisis/uninsured.html
http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/maps/national_maps/hd_all.htm

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Putting It All Out There

I have walked the gossamer line of life these past months. Uncertainty haunts my every move. Those moments of feeling compelled to follow a way I believed to be of God vanished, evaporated in the unseen vapors of anxiety and human will.

Losing my mother to Leukemia rocked the boat of my experience to such a degree as to unsettle the balance of my life. My dad’s health issues and subsequent stay in a skilled nursing care last December accented the arrogance of my nonchalant living.

Add to this the loss of our beloved Jak, our 10 year old Newfoundland dog, our buddy, our dear friend, our protector and companion. I do believe that one reason my mom did not worry so much about us living in our neighborhood was because she knew Jak would protect us with his life…and scare the bejeezus out of any who threatened us.

Being fired, good thing as it might have been, threw open the doors of economic surety – we were not merely insecure, we were in trouble. Then, Debbie and Kyleigh were in a wreck that totaled our little Scion xB, a car we really loved. Thank God, they were both ok. However, the loss of that little car was emotionally and financially taxing. We could not afford to replace it with anything that got such good fuel mileage. Regardless, the idea that these two could have been severely injured or dead was a lesson in here today, gone tomorrow.

The timely (or some might say untimely) death of my 100 year old grandmother followed in the next month by the deaths of my beloved aunt (my mom’s sister) and her husband (on the day of her funeral), while natural to an extent, still served to expand my understanding that this life is fleeting.

My dad’s most recent health issue brought on by a fall, small brain bleed, and ongoing recovery in addition to what could have been a catastrophic event involving my sister, adds yet one more layer to the already heavy load. A driver running a red light slammed into my sister as she was returning my dad’s vehicle after having taken him to the VA for a regular appointment. The fact that she was not killed or seriously injured; that it happened after she dropped my dad off; and that my grand-niece was not in the car with her are huge opportunities for thanksgiving. Yet, in all of this, the wreck, the possibility of her, as my dad’s primary care giver, being seriously injured or killed, pointed to the fact that this could have been a life changing event for her, for my daddy, and for me and my immediate family.

The fact that I turned 60 this year simply complicates my own sense of worth, ridiculous as that may sound. While 60 is not old if one is fairly secure, psychologically, spiritually, and economically, it feels very old when all of these are compromised. I see the effects of poverty and anxiety on the faces and in the bodies of those who are clients of the food pantry where I work. I do not know the spiritual aspects of their hearts but I do know that each has a tale to tell and that most are full of sorrow. The effects are devastating in people younger than I but who look a decade older. It is all simply compounded by age.

I fully realize that part of the emotional toll is that which is brought on by having an additional two kids in the house. They are here for a year. Hopefully, their parents will be able to get their own lives in order so that the kids can return home. Moving from grandparent to parent role is never an easy one. It is also what throws us into the real definition of living below the poverty line…as opposed to right above it.

The emotional and economical nature of my psyche have been compromised by all aspects mentioned while the spiritual has been so by the very nature of spirituality itself – seeking the will of God while living in a world that demands immediate attention to the secular. It is one thing to take on Holy Poverty; it is another to take it on while juggling family responsibilities and economic uncertainty. Whereas my past conviction has been that God will provide for all of our needs, and while I strongly continue to believe that, the simple struggle of making ends meet, of having to constantly be aware of each penny spent, of every dime wasted, erodes a certain ability to set my trust fully on God’s provisions.

Basically, this is not a lining up of things for which I can lay cause of despair; rather, it is simply to put into words those struggles in which I find myself immersed.  More intently, it creates within me the questioning of my struggle to follow God’s will for me.

Did I fall off the path? Take a wrong turn? Is there a cause and effect in all of these recent happenings? Or is it just a part of that well known aphorism, “Shit happens.”?

Having been indoctrinated by a ‘bad things happen to bad people’ theology, regardless of how little I believe that, in spite of the fact that I do not believe that, still…that little worm wiggles its way into my mind, questioning my worth, my desires, my steps. Evil or reality?

I feel a clearly defined cynicism for the church. For the first time ever, I hold a kinship with the idea of Spiritual but not Religious.

I have always thought that working within the structure was vital. However, I am beginning to question that. What I have found, what I feel, is that where two or more men are gathered, the work of the Spirit is lessened. Is it God’s will that I continue butting my head into this human wall?

I remember my Ethics professor turning her steely glare upon one white woman who had the audacity to declare, “but I am so tired of trying”. The prof’s answer to that statement? “How nice for you that you have the luxury and privilege of being tired and giving up.” That sardonic statement has sustained me through this past decade. But I swear I am at the point of wanting to care not so much, of wanting to just escape into a mindless solitude that is without nuclear weapons, extreme and not so extreme but just as deadly poverty, from hunger and fear, injustice and oppression.

But, I do not have that luxury. My Holy Poverty and now Involuntary Poverty have intertwined. My full dependence upon God has been compromised by a radical dependence upon a broken social system and need to accept help from those who seem to hold a good deal of contempt for those in need. I have lost a great deal of autonomy. This, in and of itself, might not be a bad thing in that it has allowed me to view my own arrogance and self righteousness. It has allowed me to see power in its most vile form – a power in charge of the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens yet without a care for the welfare of those disenfranchised.

It has also allowed me to see more clearly how side issues misdirect us. We have spent years arguing, pushing and promoting the idea that all are welcomed and trying to make those who make that declaration actually live into its fullness. Yet, with our blind eye, we only give an academic nod to the reality of poverty and its effects on a nation at large.

Still, be that as it may be, for whatever good, there is a great loss of self-esteem…or even of worthiness. Yet it is not a sense of being unworthy to God – just basically useless, not being allowed to work in a capacity to which I am able in the society I live.

Suffice it to say, I am in the process of questioning all I have done, all that I have left undone, and all that is still required to be done. At this time, without a doubt, I live deep within that doubt. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Two Things That Just Do Not Make Sense…TO ME

I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but from what I recall, most firearm deaths of children happen in homes where firearms are owned or kept. Of course, I could be wrong, but I don’t recall having ever heard of a child shooting another child in a home where one child had to transport the weapon from one place to another to accidentally shoot the other child. But as I said, I could be wrong.

Is it a case of the shooting happening so far away from a gun owner’s reality that it just doesn’t seem capable of happening to that gun owner? What I mean, is a gun owner so arrogant (or naïve) as to think that would never happen in her or his own home? I know I have read numerous times the statements from parents who declared that they taught their children from an early age how to handle a weapon.  So, I suppose that means everyone is safe and no more children will be killed by other children. Dilemma solved. Not.

For what it is worth, I was taught as a young teen how to handle a weapon and how to shoot. I grew up in a household of ranchers and hunters. I don’t live on a ranch anymore. Humans never were the target of the hunt in my family.

It just doesn’t make sense that we are willing to risk one child’s life so that anyone who wants one can purchase a handgun or automatic rifle. Is it so inconceivable to think that one child’s life might be one we know and love?

Nuclear power plants are a mystery to me – not how they work but why we are willing to risk hundreds of thousands of lives, not just in the immediate but in the future. At this time, I am 84 miles from the nearest reactor in Missouri. That is not in the 50 mile radius evacuation zone but it is just west of St. Louis. Considering that the winds and weather come from the southwest a portion of the year, it is easily conceivable that I and people I know and love would be personally affected by fallout should there be a nuclear crisis. My parents’ home is 11 miles from the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Glen Rose, Texas. That means my dad, sister, and nieces would be immediately and adversely affected.

In light of the nuclear crises in the past – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl to name two – how can we white-wash the damage done? Nuclear reactors are environmental catastrophes waiting to happen – Fukushima is an ongoing frightening example of that.  We have been told a little bit about that current environmental calamity. Why in the world are we not paying attention to the news of the unstoppable leak? Are we so naïve as to think that if we ignore it, the problem will go away? Do we not realize that the ocean currents into which the radioactive streams are flowing will directly affect Hawaii? The West Coast?

This is not something that will affect a way in the future unknown generation. This is something that has the potential to affect people we know, people which whom we have relations. It has the potential to be as devastating if not more so than any terroristic threat we have experienced as a nation.
I know that there is the thought process that the nuclear plants already exist and that to shut them down at this point would be problematic; therefore, to continue these is better than to not. But to contemplate more? Or to allow old and aging plants to continue without immediate upgrades for environmental protection?

Are we so naïve as to think that the word “environment” only has to do with a few unknown plants or animals in a far away land? It means US – humans – and all the things that are necessary to sustain life as we know it – air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat.

It just does not make sense to me that some people in the decision making world would be willing to treat the lives of millions as though it was a game of Craps. They are rolling snake eyes and our lives are the stakes.

But the joke is on them – They, too, are human. The problem is the joke is not funny. We are all in danger. The difference is that they – the politician, the law maker, the rule maker/breaker – They are the guilty ones and the blood of all who have died and will die, those who have suffered and will suffer  is and will be forever on their hands. Any who have assuaged the mind of self or of others with the fallacy that nuclear powered plants are safe are just as culpable as those who made the decisions to allow these.

Riddle me this, Batman…if nuclear power plants and weapons are ok for the exalted United States to have, why do we work so diligently to keep these out of the hands of others? Why do we demand that others rid themselves of nuclear capabilities all the while we continue to use and build up these?

Regardless of the issue, the right to have handguns and automatic rifles or nuclear power plants and weapons, the takeaway for me is this – the lives of others are not important. All that matters is an ideology and for that belief people are willing to actively kill or allow the killing of others who are basically innocent.

Did you know the gun laws in Missouri? 
No permit required, no registration required, no license required, no carry permits needed, yes open carry is permitted, no purchase wait time, and no assault weapons ban.

In Texas? 
No permit required, no registration required, no license required, yes carry permits, yes open carry is permitted, no purchase wait time, and no assault weapons ban.

How close are you to a nuclear power plant? http://money.cnn.com/news/specials/nuclear_power_plants_locations/


Are you aware of what is going on in Japan? 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Rule or Be Ruled?


“The balance of power between businesses and their workers shifted in Kansas and Missouri this year — in favor of the boss.”


Unemployment Insurance is a new experience for me. This is the first time I have had to apply for it. It is a strange new land to journey within and one for which I am both grateful yet wish was not necessary.

Although it seems to tie me to a boss with whom I do not wish to be associated, still, I am grateful for the laws in place that protect an employee from the whims of such a boss.

That is what is frightening about this article; it allows whims to be acted upon legally. While I am one of those who believe that arriving at work at the designated time is important, anyone can be late occasionally. Chronic tardiness is a different thing.

But I don’t think we are talking about chronic anything here, except perhaps chronic greed. I think that the whole gist of the new regulation is pettiness. In a state that is supposedly an “at-will employment” state, what is the need for such pettiness?

One can be fired for no reason – at will – at the will of the employer – just because, on any given day, at any given time. Regardless, if the fire is not for misconduct, then the disengaged employee can receive unemployment benefits.

This is good for a minimum of two reasons.
1)      It helps keep employers accountable.
2)     It helps fired employees stay in their apartments/homes.

Homelessness is never ever good for the economy. I know for sure that without my unemployment insurance, my household could have been in a very serious and dire circumstance. As it was, with the UI, it was merely serious.

By the way, for what it is worth, speaking to the issue of accountability, my past employer appealed my benefits. The appeal was lost. That employer was unable to prove that I had violated any organizational rule therefore it appeared that I was fired because I made too much. This was substantiated by the fact that she actually said that I was one of the highest paid employees and that this was a problem. While that is a fully acceptable reason for her ridding herself of me, it is not a good enough reason (at this time) to deny responsibility for unemployment benefits.

So, at this moment, I am very grateful for whatever laws are in place that allow me to receive this benefit.

However, it is likely that these benefits will change. Never having had a need for unemployment insurance before, I am not quite sure how the next step goes.

So, the second scary threat of this article is that unemployment helps people maintain a certain place within the economy as opposed to at the mercy of the economy. 

I only can speak from my own particular place in this situation. I have accepted a temporary part time job which I like a lot. At this moment, it is for two months. I am happy to be doing this particular new job in that it is what I love doing – on the ground floor of ministry. Yet it is at a good bit less than past employment and less than my benefits received from UI. In that I have quite a few weeks left on the benefits, I am hopeful that UI will pay the difference between what I was receiving and what I now receive from the new temporary position. Then, when I am able, I will have another more permanent position (with “permanent” being a relative term).

But at the moment, I am considered under-employed. I am not alone. In fact, under-employment is one of the reasons unemployment figures are lower. More people are working but out of those people, more of them are employed in a much lower paying job with fewer, if any, benefits. Lower hours equal no overtime, no health benefits, no pension/retirement plans.

I get the idea that the world has changed. Corporations no longer care about loyalty or taking care of the employees that make them what they are. Employees are now considered disposable, replaceable. It is all about the bottom line – the profit margin. Employees are considered an expense and therefore, the fewer employees, the less time spent on the job, the less amount of money lost.

I understand that it is what it is. What I don’t understand is that the corporations don’t see the harm to themselves that can be done by eliminating that middle class and increasing the numbers that live in poverty.  I suppose I am not at all surprised that the states – the Red States with the ideas that there are some deserving while the majority are undeserving – are finding yet more ways to lessen the expenses of businesses with no regard for the actual damage done overall.

We talk in quantitative terms of majority and minority with our historical background based in the ideal of “majority rules.” If it is now true that we are “ruled” by a minority of 1%, just how long must the majority have slept to allow us to get into the state in which we now find ourselves? I am fairly certain that very few of the people holding elective office right now are working for me. I can see the good that some have done and I applaud that but seriously…how inept must a group of people be to be so ineffectual in speaking for the majority of the population? How the hell did we wind up like this?

And yes, that is a rhetorical question. I know that indeed the majority has been unmotivated to act if not actually asleep or unaware. And yes, I know that often, life its ownself wraps us up in a time warp that carries us into the future with little understanding how time passed so quickly. I also understand that we are inundated with “causes” – so many as to almost make us immune to the compassion needed to rile us up.

Or we get caught up in causes of the day – a badly mutilated innocent animal, abused and tortured – or the rape of women in the military – or five hundred other equally reprehensive acts of violence perpetuated upon an innocent populace. We look and react at the individual act without understanding that these are all effects of a much larger cause. Just as victims of war or those living and participating in violent cultures become immune to the daily acts, so we too – just likes kids watching too much violence in games and cartoons – become numb to the damage.

What can we do? What can be done? There is so much – so much damage, so much pain, so much violence? How can we change anything? These are questions that we ask ourselves – often to no avail.

That seems to be the point. We are paralyzed by what we know and the magnitude of the damage done. It is like looking into a basement into which years of discarded items have been thrown. Where to start? How to begin to rid the basement of the clutter?

It is difficult to begin. Yet the only way is to start at the doorway and work our way into the crap and clutter, discarding the majority of it…looking with nostalgia at a few things maybe yet knowing that the item has been there for who knows how long without having been missed. One piece at a time; one box of trash after another; tossed into the dumpster.

That is basically where we are at this time politically. We start at the place where we are – ward, city, county, state, national. Clear out, clean out the rubbish, keep those things really needed but put aside nostalgia for a time past. It is gone. We are in a new time and we have been sequestered, cast aside, deemed less than worthy. It is time to reclaim our rightful place as the majority. It is time to reclaim our voices and to proclaim loudly and clearly – corporate rule is over.

We cannot continue to support people that consider the majority as being unworthy of respect. Justice belongs to all – not just a few special people.

We have to look at the broader picture – what allows such injustices to affect such a large group of people? What causes the perversions, the prosecution, the anger and disorder?

No one wants to call it like it is but what we are looking at is the establishment of a caste system – a class order in a society that used to (erroneously but perhaps nobly) proclaim itself class-less.  To overcome a problem, we have to first see it for what it is.  There are those who would rule and there are those who would be ruled.

I don't know about the rest, but as for me, I am damn tired of being ruled...or of people thinking that I should be ruled.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Evensong, July 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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