Monday, March 20, 2017

We confess to you, Lord.

I have never been a fan of the Affordable Care Act. I refuse/d to call it “Obama”care. That name was/is ridiculous and ignorant. I always felt that it put a burden on that middle swatch of people who made just enough to find themselves in a world of hurt should a catastrophe happen.

While I do see the good that the ACA created, it was never enough and was barely adequate for a good number of people, especially those who lived in the 30+ states that did not expand Medicaid coverage to the people in between the haves and the have-nots.

But this isn’t about our messed-up healthcare system. It’s about a story and I don’t know how to tell a story without giving a personal example. So, here is mine.

This year, we were blessed to have a more than decent income. We always seem live from one paycheck to the next; nonetheless, we have luxuries, we have far more than enough.

We did our taxes this weekend past. Already, we knew we would have to pay some. Debbie has two sources of income in which, and one has no taxes taken out. However, we made a mistake in our guess.

One mistake was in trusting a “broker” to take care of our insurance needs with the ACA/Marketplace. We estimated our 2016 income because we knew that one of the two jobs I had was going away in March. We ended up making more than we estimated; therefore, it was determined that we owed the credit given to us – an approximate $8000.

Now. Imagine.

That is enough to devastate a family. Seriously. I have never in my life had to pay the IRS any more than the simply deductions from each paycheck. In fact, I have always received at least of modicum of money as a return. To pay anything seems ridiculous to me. But to pay closer to $10000 seems absolutely criminal.

I won’t even go into how crazy unfair it is for a working person to have to pay such taxes while a lying, cheating, crotch-grabbing pervert sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and vacations in Florida every weekend. But this is not about that scum.

It is about the sorry state of our minds for allowing such travesty.

This news is enough to devastate an average family. Because an average family does not necessarily have stocks/bonds sitting out there because their grandparents happened to save their money. An average family may have a little saved back for small emergencies but emergencies usually are not small. I know people who are thousands of dollars in debt due to illnesses and extended health care needs. I know people who worked hard all their lives just to lose it all because he or she had an illness. I work with people every day who must make the choice between feeding their families or paying rent. This is the type of emergency that could cause some people to lose their homes. Or end up with huge fines, punishable by prison.

I am not a part of an average family.

I was one of those who had a grandparent who frugally saved money, made some great financial saving choices, handed down those savings to her three children. One of those children was my father. He died on March 25, 2015. He, in his turn, left his part of the inheritance to my sister and me.
I am so thankful that I did not go through the money. I could have. I have done just that before. But this time, I did not. I left it in stocks and bonds. In these past months that the current president has been in office, I could have made a “huuuge” amount of money. However, when I took over my part of the inheritance, I told the broker to put it into “clean” stocks and bonds. There was a long list of funds that we did not buy into because of their corporate greed. As a result, any gains over the past two years have been modest. The point it, the money is there.

So, being thankful for that gift from my daddy/grandmother/grandfather, we began to crawl out of our fear and anxiety. We had a way out. So many do not.

This was our attitude as we entered church on Sunday morning.

Then, it being Lent, the celebrant led us in the Litany of Penitence. If you want to read the whole of it, go to the Book of Common Prayer, page 267 or here:

This part got our attention:
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

All the readings only enhanced this sense of Too Much. The people quarreling with Moses because they wanted water…they forgot why they were doing what they were doing. They forgot that God had led them thus far and that God alone would get them where they were supposed to be. They focused their anger on Moses because he was there.

Paul told the Romans that they needed to remember that hope in Jesus Christ is the only thing we should remember. And, of course, Jesus, according to John, how often are we seeking the wrong source of water and food? We set our thoughts and our deeds on seeking the wrong water and bread.

When Debbie and I headed out in the summer of 2007 to go on the road, we purposely left behind many things. Fear of the unknown was the number one thing. Many material possessions another. Family, friends, community – all left behind because we were following what we believed to be God’s call to us to go out and share our story, to listen to the stories of others, to share the good news that regardless, we are loved by God, steadfastedly, forever.

When we finally settled ourselves in St. Louis, we knew that we were here for a reason. This was/is the place that God called us to be, to do, to share. And so, it has been.

However, somewhere along the way, we forgot that material things are not important. We became comfortable with more than enough. We began to live to the edge again, incurring more debt than savings.

And here is where we are. Brought up short from the midst of our comfort. Rug pulled right out from under us, because of us. Here we are.

It is time to reboot our hearts. We will reset our sights. We will right the wrongs. We will set down our anger, anxiety, and frustration and focus on getting rid of the debt and not incurring any new. We have more than enough. We will live within that. We will focus on need rather than want.

And then we will hang on. Because one thing we have learned – when we listen to the Holy Spirit, she gets all excited. She loves our attention. And this makes me happy.

Here we are, God. We are yours. We will probably forget again. Our prayer is two-fold: that we won’t forget and that if we do, we remember quickly – to God be the Glory in all things. What we have is not ours. It all is for God, because of God, to be used for God’s purpose.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Relentless as the Tide

Lent has always seemed to sneak up on me. But this year, one of my new year goals was to live more intentionally, more fully into the life of Jesus. I have, by no means, been totally successful. Yet, I must say, I have done a better job of it this year than any before. I actually made time to anticipate Lent. Music has played a large part in my prayer life. 

Two songs have been playing in my head over the past three weeks. One, as I stood at the edge of the Gulf with the waves tickling my toes, is "Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew; that I may love what thou doest love and do what thou wouldst do." I felt the breath of God and I have held that feeling close in my heart over that last couple of weeks. 

The other song is "O love that will not let me go". 

I do not listen to "Christian" radio or even too many songs. A bit of Gospel Bluegrass now and again, or Willie Nelson and the Nelson Family doing Gospel large - that is about the extent of my listening to that type of music. Otherwise, I am much more into instrumental, Taize, or Gregorian chants. But  a few years ago, I searched for "peace" songs on Spotify. Several Chris Rice songs came up and I do listen to those. This past week, I have played "O love that will not let me go" so many times as to memorize it.  
George Matheson (1842-1906) wrote the lyrics.

What attracted me initially was the guitar. Then I came to love the sound of Rice's voice - so soothing, so peaceful. It helped me de-stress and breathe properly. Recently, I began to pay attention to the words and came to realize how strongly these verses resonated with my own feelings. 

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

I feel as though I have wrestled with or run from God for most of my adult life. I told God so many times to leave me alone, let me be, yet, that Love hangs tenaciously, relentlessly, steadfastedly to the core of my being. 

That Love wore me out. It overcame deep wounds, scars, and fear. I stopped running, turned and fully faced the power of the Love that will not let me go. As a result, I realized that this life was never my own. I actually knew that as a child, but somewhere in the midst of young/middle adulthood, I lived in a false sense of self. I have offered this self that I thought was my own back to that Love to whom it has always belonged in hopes that the richness of my love will be fuller still. 

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

That light that has shone through me has never been my own. It has always been God's Love shining through me. I know this now. That knowledge allows the light to shine all the brighter so that it is more clearly known to be from God alone.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

I have been blessed with the ability to feel joy, unbridled. My heart has leapt with a hope that is beyond my knowing. Sometimes, that joy comes in the midst of pain and I know...I know that all will be well. 

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

The Cross has always confounded me, in my youth and later. It seemed an icon in some ways - almost a worship of the cross itself rather than what it stood for. Maybe that is the Baptist background in me, always fearing false idols. I see it now as a significant part of understanding that death of this mortal body does not mean the end. It is merely a portal through which we shall pass to get to that "life that shall endless be." I know that death in this here and now is inevitable, even necessary. I cannot escape it. I cannot let the fear of death keep me from following the path of Jesus. 

I read articles I have written in the past and I see such a depth of yearning. I have an understanding of that longing now that has remained elusive previously. I want to be fully a part of this thing called Church. I want my life to be fully about God. Just as tenaciously as God's Love has held onto me, so I want to cling to that Love. 

Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew; that I may love what thou doest love and do what thou wouldst do.

I am on the right path.