Sabbath Monday: A Week in the Life

I lead a pretty ordinary life.

I get up, go to work, come home. Sometimes there are evening church meetings. Sometimes gatherings with friends. Sometimes I treat myself to a movie. Sometimes family time.

But mostly my week consists of just me.

Unlike many, I don’t have a daily routine. I don’t have a routine with children or a husband.

Ok, maybe I do have a routine. Sort of.

But every morning is different – Some mornings I get up early to read or do the dishes. Some mornings I “sleep in”. Some mornings I make lunch to take with me, other days I come home for lunch.

Every work day is different too. Ministry is all about the unexpected.

My average week sometimes turns out not so average for whatever reason – a random get together or multiple runs to the store.

A week in the life of me is often typical and also not so typical.

Though it is my story to share. My story matters.

This week I’m embarking on a Week in the Life with Ali Edwards. (I’m also currently in the middle of the One Little Word project with Ali as well.)

Week in the Life is exactly what it sounds like – A week in my life, documenting the daily doings of where I go, what I do, what I eat, who I meet, etc… Though the project is also more than that. It’s looking at things in your daily life differently. Like, noticing the sun blazing through your picture window and casting shadows on the wall.

This is my first year doing this project and I’m super pumped.

Last week I organized my book and supplies, taking notes and reading Ali’s blog for inspiration. This has helped me figure out what I wanted to do with this project.

Ali is doing her project this week, April 17-23, and I decided to do it along with her. With some minor edits.

I started yesterday, April 16, Easter Sunday. I chose to start then because though that day isn’t super ordinary, it is a special day in my life. I am a pastor after all. Plus, my family is the center of my life. I may go weeks without seeing my sister and her family but they are important to me and part of my life story. I wanted to document that particular family time.

Also, this is likely the last Easter with my Grandmother. Her transition to eternal life has been the focus of our family for a while now and a focus in my life. I may not see her every day but I talk to Mom about how Grandma’s doing sometimes in the week. And she’s in my daily prayers. I wanted to capture these last moments I have with her.

This week after Easter is super busy and a bit out of the ordinary. But whatever. I wanted to capture it.

My schedule changes daily sometimes. Meetings pop up, plans to meet friends for dinner come up. Last week as I prepared and planned for this week’s Week in the Life documenting, my calendar started to fill up. And you know what? That’s not unheard of so I’m rolling with it. It’s not unheard of for me to have a youth event on a Saturday night or book group or church meetings. Why not capture those sort of out-of-the-ordinary moments? Those moments make us who we are, they often define us. Why not capture and document them?

I started printing pictures this evening. I started laying out my book and figuring out what to do where. I’m using Dad’s professional like camera and I’m super excited. Bummed my little snap and shoot has issues but love the idea of playing with lens and angles. I feel so professional! LOL

Mondays are pretty blah since I’m usually home cleaning or resting. Today was about the same. I slept in and watched TV. I cleaned. But while I did this weekly routine I set the timer on the camera and took pictures. Pictures of me cleaning the bathroom, the sun on my plants in my window sill. Pictures of eating dinner and the outside of my apartment building.

I’ve spent most of the evening sorting pictures and printing. Realized I need ink for the printer and more photo paper, so I see a Target run tomorrow.

It’s interesting to be documenting the daily things I do each day or the sort of daily things I do every day. I look forward to taking a ton of pictures this week and documenting the things in my life – some I do daily and some I do occasionally.

But all make up my life story. It’s a story to be told and shared.

Like all of our stories.

 

 

 

Sabbath Monday: Palm Sunday & Start of Holy Week

20160320_084648.jpgSunday was Palm Sunday. It’s the one day during Lent that the church is joyful with palm branches waving, ‘Hosanna’s’ ringing, talks of donkeys. The one day in an other wise dark season that there is a bit of light.

In church we waved palm branches and sang. The children and I paraded around the sanctuary.

I brought palms home to Mom, Grandma and my aunt. Grandma’s face lit up when I gave them to her. (I love seeing those moments of pure joy on her face, something I experienced as a child but really have embraced over the last few months.) And now my dining room table looks as if it has a tree growing from it because the rest of the palms I put into a vase on the table.

A great reminder of the beginning of Holy Week.

And the shadow that’s looming.

As Christians we know what’s to come later in the week.

Sunday the focus was on Jesus and his arrival into Jerusalem.

There was a meme going around Facebook with a picture of Jesus on a donkey and the title, “The party don’t start till I walk in,” a nod to Kesha’s song, Tik Tok, from a few years ago.

It’s true though: on Palm Sunday the party doesn’t start until Jesus walks in.

Pictures and movies I don’t think grasp the pure giganticness of that parade into Jerusalem. I’ve been to some pretty big parades in my life and nothing compares to what I envision that Palm Sunday thousands of years ago to be in my head.

First, Jerusalem was already swelling from the number of people in the city. The Feast of Passover brought Jews from all over to the city for worship and observance of Passover. Then add Jesus’ followers, who numbered (in my opinion) into the thousands as well. The Gospels tell us about the 12 Disciples and Mary Magdalene but I’m guessing Jesus had more followers than that after word spread about what he could do and what he was preaching.

Second, Rome was watching. The Pharisees and Sadducees, the Jewish priests, were watching. And, shocker, they weren’t happy. The crowds were getting out of hand. They were loud. Caiaphas (a Jewish high priest) sings it best in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar:

“Tell the rabble to be quiet,
We anticipate a riot.
This common crowd,
Is much too loud.
Tell the mob who sing your song,
That they are fools and they are wrong.
They are a curse.
They should disperse.”

Later Jesus replies with a (rather pompous) reply about why wasting your breathe to calm them, there’s no point since the noise would continue even if everyone were still. I realized in the car yesterday that Jesus is referring to a Psalm that says even the stones and rocks sing praise to God. Or at least it seems like a Psalm.  And ok, maybe Jesus was a little full of himself. Maybe he was simply enjoying this moment, the good before the end. (Keep in mind, JC Superstar is an interpretation of Christ’s passion so…there you go.)

Thirdly, this grand entrance of Jesus was something a king or a Roman emperor would have, not some lowly Jew who claimed he was God. To prove he wasn’t a king (or at least not like a king – king, like Herod), Jesus came in on a donkey, not a horse. Kings would ride into towns on horses. Donkeys are small and ugly. Their nickname is ass – need I say more? Point made Jesus.

Finally, Palm Sunday kicks off a week of events – Holy Week:  the money changers in the Temple and angry Jesus flipping tables, the Last Supper, Jesus washing the feet of his Disciples, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ arrest and trial, and eventual crucifixion and resurrection. Some scholars suggest this didn’t take place in one week but over a few weeks. I’m not sure of that, not that those details disrupt my faith in anyway.

However, Palm Sunday sets in motion the shadow that’s been looming over Jesus’ head for three years, well his whole life actually. It’s almost as if Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem was a trap – the culprit who’s been causing trouble comes to the city where everyone is watching and now those officials have him and probable cause to arrest him.

I wonder sometimes: What was Jesus thinking as he walked with the crowds along those celebratory streets that day?

He had to have known, right? That by entering Jerusalem it meant the end to 33 years of life. He had to have known. I mean, he’s been preaching about the Spirit coming in his absence; he breaks bread and tells his friends that it’s his body, broken for them.

And yet, Jesus is seen praying in the garden, asking God to intervene and to do something, to take this burden away. Jesus’ humanness comes forward in the moment when his divine nature was sent to create a new covenant for the world.

Holy Week, the week of Christ’s Passion story.

It starts out with joy and celebration and ends with tears. Well, up until the stone is rolled away anyway.

It’s a week of raw emotion from the characters in the stories, in Jesus, in us the faithful believers. It’s the central week of our faith.

And it’s a week filled with Hope.

Stay hopeful this week, my friends. God is walking with us on this journey towards the cross and that empty tomb. Listen to the words of Christ and his story with open ears. Remember how the cross connects us with God and with each other. Remember the hope the cross brings – of life eternal, of a resurrected life.

 

 

 

Friday 5: Goo goo g’joob

As a kid growing up, the stereo in the living room was massive, well to my child’s eye it was. And we were only allowed to touch it once we learned how to use it.

I have memories of family dance parties, my mother standing at the dishwasher belting out the female portion of Meatloaf’s  “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” while we picked up. I remember certain albums were for spaghetti nights when Dad cooked and Saturday mornings cleaning the house. I remember my father threatening us with a Rare Earth song while we cleaned (probably because we weren’t listening). And this wasn’t just any Rare Earth song – It was 20+ minutes!

Good memories! (Totally not sarcasm, they are good memories.)

When I finally got my own musical taste and my own CD player, I played Metallica’s black album on repeat, much to the displeasure of my sister with whom I shared a room. Ok, maybe I did it to piss her off (it worked). I remember being kicked out of my room and hooking myself into Dad’s stereo, cranking Enter Sandman as loud as I could handle it via headphones.

Until Dad peeled the headphones off me.

Not to turn it down though. Oh no.  To hell with eardrums.

He came to give me a musical education: Metallica vs. Black Sabbath.

I was unimpressed at the time.

As an adult, and out of  all my siblings, I’m the one who listens to Dad’s music the most. And he and I talk about it. Plus, I’m realizing now that I get a lot of my musical taste from my father, as well as my need for CDs and digital music. (And one day I will own his vinyl. Got that, Dad?)

So it’s no wonder the other night while watching the movie Sing, Dad went: “That’s a Beatles song” out loud, probably because he thought I’d agree.

I didn’t.

So I said, “Prove it.”

Sure enough – off Abbey Road – “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” – was in the movie. How did I miss that?

Since then I’ve been on a Beatles kick, listening to them off and on this week. Dancing in the car along to  the early stuff, such as “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You.” Listening to the lyrics from “Revolution” and how it so applies to today. Figuring out a way to use “Magical Mystery Tour” in a sermon (it’s totally doable). And completely singing the wrong lyrics to many songs because let’s face it, there are just some words I can’t understand from Lennon or McCartney in their Limey-Liverpoolian accents. Tonight I put in the movie musical Across the Universe, which is about the 60s, Vietnam and set to the Beatles.

My week with the Beatles and this long explanation of words above have led to this – My Friday 5.

My 5 favorite Beatles songs, which is so difficult to nail down. I mean, first there’s a ton. And second, it’s The Beatles.

I mean, come on.

But I do have a few Go-To songs that I listen on repeat so…

Number 1: Hard Days Night – the album. See, I can’t pick just one. Though “If I Fell” is up there. And “Happy Just to Dance with You.” I remember watching the film as a child and loved Lennon’s humor. (And feeling sad for Ringo).

Number 2: “In My Life” from Rubber Soul – I cry…every….damn…time.

Number 3: “Here Comes the Sun” from Abbey Road – That simple opening with the guitar…Love! It’s so beautiful. And it’s gotten me through some tough times. I love that album too.

Number 4: “All You Need is Love” from Magical Mystery Tour – It’s like the best peace rallying cry song ever. It’s what I imagine Jesus would sing if rock-n-roll existed in ancient times.

Number 5: “I Am The Walrus” from Magical Mystery Tour – I LOVE this song. Like, hit repeat kind of love. First, have you listened to the lyrics? It’s super silly and yet totally spot-on. Second, ok yes, they were totally stoned out when they wrote it, I mean, eggman, what is that? Walrus makes no sense but whatever. Third, Ringo had “Octopus’ Garden” which is plain dumb if you ask me. Lennon can totally have Walrus. Wasn’t this the song he wrote in reply to folks who said they couldn’t understand his lyrics and they were evil or something?  I can’t remember.

My sorority pledge class had to pick a motto. Someone suggested the opening line of Walrus, but with she’s instead of he’s. So it was “I am she as you are she as you are me and we are all together.” Walrus has meaning for me. (And seriously – what an opening line? Love!)

There you have it – My top 5 Go-To Beatles songs. Songs I crank up loud in the car or at home. True, I’m missing a ton of others. “Help!” and “Sgt. Pepper” and “Lucy” and, “Eight Days A Week” and, and…I’m realizing I like a lot of later Beatles.

I love how much music has shaped my life. And how many music memories I have with my family. Such good memories to carry with me.

And yes, Dad influenced me the most in terms of my musical tastes. But to hear Mom say “I Love this song!” when Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” or AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” (and ok, perhaps some Backstreet Boys too) come on is pretty awesome too.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the memories.

Goo goo g’joob, Everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misc. Wednesday: Hope

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a scene from the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar,  where Jesus is completely overwhelmed, screaming things like, “Slow down!” and “There’s too many of you!” at the lame, blind and sick who wish to be healed. Or another scene where he’s in the garden praying while his disciples sleep off dinner. Jesus is scared and seen begging to God to not allow him to die, completely overwhelmed by emotion.

I’m reminded of those images because I can relate. Not that I’m trying to heal people or anything like that but I understand the feelings Jesus is going through. Jesus is coping with feelings about figuring out that he probably cannot heal everyone who comes to him and angry because God let him down.

Jesus, up until that point, has done everything God has asked of him – he’s gone and preached radical words about hospitality and love, he’s traveled and made “fishers of people,” he’s tried to spread the message of hope and God’s grace to any and all who would listen. And yet toward the end, the disciples abandon him; he’s left scared and alone and filled with this sense of, I don’t know, it’s not failure necessarily but perhaps it’s this feeling of “I tried and look where it got me.”

My reading and understanding the humanness of Jesus could possibly be something I’m reading into the story. Though maybe not. Maybe Jesus did feel all of those emotions, which allow me to relate to him because there are times where I feel totally and completely at a loss, where I feel overwhelmed and scared and left on my own island. I cry and scream and do what I need to do to feel better but the sense of let down and loss gets to be too much sometimes.

I don’t like letting people down. I don’t like feeling hopeless. And yet, life can do that. Work can do that. And in a society that promotes success and frowns on failure, it can be even harder to swallow and take in. It’s hard to hear you’re out of options and there’s nothing more you can do. You’ve tried and the outcome might not be grand but you’ve tried. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that be the hope?

Jesus might not have felt like a failure or out of hope. The Gospels don’t tell us that. The writers didn’t want to make Jesus anything less than perfect, remember. However, in my mind, he might have felt that way. He was human and the countless number of people who came to him for help in whatever form probably exceeded what was written about in the Gospels. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus felt as if he let people down. And towards the end, that night in the garden, I wouldn’t be shocked if he felt hopeless, knowing his life was to end and thoughts about not reaching everyone crossed his mind.

Sometimes in life we try our best, we embrace the storm and do what we can. Sometimes in life people fail us or we fail ourselves. Sometimes life leaves us feeling hopeless. And it hurts and it’s ugly and scary.

However, the hope is that there are people and experiences that can give us comfort, peace, grace, forgiveness, and a lifting up. Sometimes there are people who remind us of all that is good and that there is this sense of love that surrounds us. Sometimes the hope is the thought of resurrection and new hope and new life. Sometimes hope shows up in ways unexpected, to show us that trying and doing our best is in fact good enough. Sometimes it’s our faith that gets us through.

As we head into Holy Week and Easter, I pray that wherever any of us are on our journeys of life and faith leads to hope. I pray that when life gets rough for whatever circumstance, we are reminded of love and hope and know that even if we feel alone, we are not. God may seem light-years away but God travels with us everywhere. I have hard time believing that recently, but it’s true. God is never too far from us.

Peace, Amanda

(from the church April 2017 newsletter)

Misc. Wednesday: Embrace, Part 3

The past two nights I have sat at my dining room table/craft room table surrounded by my scissors, double sided tape, magazines, catalogues and more. It was like a scene from a project I would have done in elementary school or something.

The March creative prompt for my One Little Word project is to create a vision board or pages actually, as they were going into my book and not on a large piece of canvas. A vision board is essentially a collage. Magazine and catalogue clippings of pictures or words I find interesting, in theory connected to my word. Ali Edwards invited us to do 4 pages, to tell a sort of story with our vision pages.

I did 6.

I created 6 – 6×8 page inserts because I had all of these fantastic photos and words that I simply had to put into my book. The great and wonderful thing with the OLW project – There are no rules. Ali gives ideas and creative prompts and guidance but for the most part, she leaves assembling your book and pages all to you.

I stressed about this project too. I hadn’t done something like this since elementary school and I don’t read magazines. I forgot to ask Mom for left over magazines from her office and I really didn’t want to go to like Half Price Books or something to purchase used magazines, even if I was going to cut them up.

Instead, I found inspiration from the few magazines Mom had at home, mostly about food. And to my surprise an IKEA and Crate & Barrel catalogues had a wealth of pictures and words. Who knew? Goes to show that when the Spirit of Creativity moves, it shows up in strange places.

Are my pages perfect? No. Did the collage turn out to be what I wanted? Nope. Are there spaces of white from the background paper showing because whatever images or words I had didn’t cover the whole page? Yep (and it bugs me and I’m embracing letting it go).

One thing I’ve learned through this whole One Little Word process is that this doesn’t have to be perfect. My book needs to reflect me and I’m certainly not perfect. I tend to try and be perfect but I’m not. I’ve learned to “let it go” and try to be the best self I can be. Same is true of my OLW book. It’s my own personal reflection of my word, Embrace. It’s my own and yes, I want it to look nice and pretty but it’s not going to be and I’m embracing that. It’s a difficult embrace for someone like me who likes straight edges and smooth corners but I’m trying.

So, what else did I learn from this vision page exercise?

I learned I love to cut up things from magazines and catalogues. I found this incredible sense of magic, play and child-likeness in my 2 nights of cutting and taping (not gluing – gluing is messy).

I learned that creativity is something I crave and I need to embrace it more. I need to spend more time in the act of creating, whatever that might look like.

I learned that God shows up in strange and wonderful ways, which I always knew. However, when I flipped through random catalogues and magazines for inspiration and ended up with 6 pages worth of stuff, I say that’s a God moment.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll make more of these vision pages over the year, perhaps using images from Pinterest or Google. Either way, I love embracing my creative side and feeling God’s presence as I craft.

 

Sabbath Monday: Practice & Lent

Practice of any sort is good for us; it makes us better at whatever it is we are learning. The same is true for a spiritual practice or discipline. Spiritual practices or disciplines come in all shapes and sizes, mostly because they adapt into what fits best for our individual lives. From daily prayer and devotion to walking to meditation, spiritual practices are different for everyone.

During Lent many of us practice the art of giving up something, such as meat or soda. Or perhaps we take on a Bible study or group study at church as a way to practice and deepen our faith. Or we do mission projects or attend church more. Or we write notes to people or take photos of where we see God in our world.

In February my One Little Word group invited the participants to take on a practice, something small and easy to obtain, though also challenging for us. I decided to embrace (my word) rest and renewal. Being a night-owl, I’m usually up really late and mornings tend to be difficult. I make up for it by drinking coffee and taking the occasional afternoon nap like I did in kindergarten. However, it’s a bad habit and something I hope to squish in 2017.

I haven’t been all that successful in my daily practice, a new spiritual discipline as much of my One Little Word project has become. Sickness set me back a bit, though I was in bed early, rising in the morning was hard when you’re not feeling too great and the bed so warm. However, I don’t feel defeated.

For Lent, I hope to continue my daily picture taking as I did last year but I also hope to continue my practice of rest and renewal. I hope to embrace a sense of Sabbath beyond my other self-care moments. It won’t be easy (and possibly not fun) but I also find that I not only function as a better human with sleep (like us all) but that I’m more connected to my faith. It’s strange and hard to explain but true.

Whatever your spiritual practice or discipline is this Lent, I pray it challenges you and allows you to grow closer to the Holy. And if you don’t have one, embrace a spiritual practice! Perhaps it’s something small like drinking more water or walking around the block. Often times it’s the little things that connect us even more to God when we don’t realize it. And often times it’s the things we don’t think will connect us to God that really do.

May God surround you all on your Lenten journeys.

Peace, Pastor Amanda

(from the March 2017 church newsletter)

Misc. Wednesday: Love Your Enemies

Placeholder ImageThis past Sunday’s Scripture text was about loving your enemies, about turning your cheek and to not retaliate with vengeance, from Matthew 5.

And once again Jesus goes there: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5: 44-45a)

I love Jesus. He’s so bold. (And I often wonder what some of our government officials would say if Jesus confronted them with the Gospel message.)

Anywho…Since what our children do in Sunday School is the same text that’s the main Scripture reading, I talked to the children about loving your enemies during the children’s moment, a sort of precursor intro to what they would do upstairs.

I cut a heart out of some red paper, held it up and asked the children what they think of when they see a heart: “Love,” they said. I asked who do they love: “Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, teachers, your pastors, friends, etc…” Then I asked if they have ever dealt with a bully or someone who isn’t so nice. “Yes,” they said. And I asked if they loved that person. I got a lot of darting of eyes, no one really wanting to fess up.

I went on to explain that God and Jesus ask us to love everyone, which can be hard. It’s easy to love our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, people at church. But the person who isn’t nice to us or others, that can be a bit harder to like, let alone love. It’s hard and sometimes really difficult to do but that’s what Jesus’ teaches us to do – Love our enemies, love those people who wrong us, who aren’t so nice, who have hurt us. It might not happen overnight or right away but the point is to try and love our enemies as we love others too.

And then I sent them away to Sunday School.

And worship continued.

And then worship was over.

As I stood in the back, ready to greet people, a gentlemen came over and proceeded to tell me this:

“I’m not angry or upset or anything but I don’t agree with what you said to the children this morning. I’m a science and math guy and what you told them hasn’t worked for 5,000 years and I don’t think it will work.”

Me: Ok (smiling nicely and nodding my head)

“If you have a different answer, I’d be happy to hear it but I just don’t believe in that because it hasn’t worked for 5,000 years. Again, not upset or angry or anything, I just don’t agree because it hasn’t worked.”

Me: Ok, thank you for sharing.

My head: Grrr…And what the fork?

I went about the rest of my Sunday as normal and thought about his remarks. It hasn’t bugged me, ok, perhaps it has but not to the point of annoyance or anything.

After much thought, this is what I’ve come up with:

First, did you listen to the sermon? I wasn’t the only one preaching about loving your enemy that morning. In fact, my colleague did a nice job at explaining this.

Second, what part of “love your neighbor” don’t you understand? It’s Jesus’ main message. And neighbor could mean your enemy too. Jesus doesn’t define “neighbor.” If you heard my sermon from last week you’d know that Jesus calls us into relationship with everyone, which means this whole loving others thing isn’t limited to only neighbors and enemies. It’s the whole human planet.

Third, ok, so maybe loving your enemy hasn’t worked. But shouldn’t we Christians at least try? Shouldn’t we be the ones to spread God’s message of love and peace to the best of our abilities? And yes, you’re right, it’s possible that the world Jesus was envisioning will never be a reality but I’d much rather fight for that and live a life in which I love everyone than not trying. Plus, I’d rather plant a seed of hope in our chaotic, messy, violent world.

Fourthly, well obviously it upset you because you’ve told me twice that it hasn’t upset you. Plus, you wouldn’t be standing here telling me this if it didn’t upset you.

Fifthly, ok, so…how do you interpret the Gospel message? How does math and science coincide with your faith? Because I think they fit nicely together.

Sixthly, what part of “love your neighbor as yourself” do you not understand?

As I thought about this over the last few days, I kept thinking of the Facebook meme that was going around awhile back. The picture has Jesus teaching his disciples and he says, “Love your enemies.” A disciple asks, “But what if they are Muslim.” Jesus: “Ok, I’m going to start over. Let me know where I lost you.” No idea who came up with that but so good! You can substitute Muslim for person to betrayed or person who lied or bullies or etc… In the end Jesus is going to still say, “Ok, I’m going to start over. Let me know where I lost you.”

At this point, I’m not going to seek this person out to talk to him about this. They made their opinion known and I’m leaving it at that. Maybe one day he and I will talk.

But it pains me to hear someone say this, especially in our world today. I mean, we’re Christians, called to live the life Christ laid out for us as best as we are able. We’re also human, which means we’re messy and not perfect. So loving our neighbors/enemies can be tricky at times. I find it hard to like someone who bullies people and yet I’m called to love them. There have been people in my own life who have harmed me in some way. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. However, I love them to the best of my ability because that’s what God says I should do, that’s what my faith teaches me. It may be an on-the-surface sort of love, you know, fake smiles and such but I’m trying, right?

God and Jesus know that being human is tough. And that doing some of the things Jesus teaches us can be downright difficult and painful. However, I think that if all we’re able to do is try, Jesus would be happy. And isn’t that faith? To try and understand, to try and live out the Gospel message to the best of our abilities?

Perhaps loving our neighbor/enemy is more about planting a seed of love. Perhaps if we try to show others God’s love, they’ll know God’s love. And perhaps that will lead to something greater.

Perhaps not but…

Shouldn’t we at least try?

 

Sabbath Monday: Love Thy Neighbor

0206171649-1.jpgOk, so I’ve been really absent in the blog-sphere. Life has gotten in the way. And writer’s block.

Ah, well…Moving on…

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Though I sent some pretty adorable valentines to my nephews and nieces, I’ve also been thinking about what Jesus said about loving your neighbor. It’s an idea that has been missed lately, which is sad really.

Yesterday I ascended the steps to the pulpit and preached on a difficult Scripture: Part of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 (verses 21-37), where Jesus expounds on divorce, adultery, anger and murder, and taking oaths. Bleh.

BUT…I made it work.

The Sermon on the Mount is all about calling the disciples out, making them think about what it means to follow him and God, what it means to be called a disciple, a bearer of God’s kingdom or KIN-dom.

And because I’m not going to retype a whole sermon, here’s part of what I said.

And yes, I did go there.

Portion of a Sermon by Rev. Amanda. Preached on February 12, 2017:

“Jesus was the counter-cultural guy. He taught a new way of interpreting the law and what it means to be a disciple and what it means to be in relationship to God and to one another. Jesus stood up to a society that brought fear and hate, war, oppression and more. Jesus made it alright to welcome the stranger, to welcome the other – whomever they may be. Jesus broke down humanness and looked beyond race and gender.

Because at the heart of life is humanity and relationship. That’s Jesus’ point. He told us “to love one another as I have loved you.” He taught us that relationships should not be taken lightly. And we’re not talking only the relationships we are in with family and friends, or our UPS deliverer.

What Jesus is teaching and what God wants for us as bearers of God’s KIN-dom is a mutuality and respect, to honor our neighbors, the strangers, the down-trodden, those who are not like us, as ourselves. Plus, how we conduct ourselves in life reflects onto others. How we show forth God’s love connects us to the rest of humanity. It’s a domino effect because at the heart of all this humanness is a connection to each other – strangers, friends, any person we encounter. Karoline Lewis says, “Nothing we do as disciples, as believers, is an autonomous action” (commentary, workingpreacher.org). Meaning, nothing we do in our day-to-day lives is done on its own. Our actions effect everyone around us.

It takes one person to ruin an image in a heartbeat. It takes one person to instill fear. It takes one action to change history.

So we build walls – any sort of walls – to keep people out, and the effects are felt globally. Love is lost.

I’ve been a fan of the X-men comic book series for years. The X-men comics present this idea that humanity has evolved to have other DNA genes that create mutations, allowing for special “powers” to heal or read thoughts or control metal or walk through walls. So if you’re Professor X and you can read minds, you are forever stamped a mutant. The X-men is fiction and fantasy and yet the same time so incredibly real as basic humanness is revealed and this idea about welcoming the other.

The other night I caught the latest X-men movie on TV. The bad guy (because there’s always a bad guy in the comics) is creating a robot to take out the mutants. Like many of the X-men movies or comics, mutants are not equal; they are not, well human. And so the government does some extreme vetting in way of allowing this guy to create such robots because mutants are seen as dangerous.

Anyhow, my epiphany moment came when I realized that though this was all fiction was that – that’s today. Instead of mutants it’s immigrants or refugees. Instead of mutants it’s Muslims and gays, transgender people. Instead of mutants it’s women or African Americans who are still standing up for equality. They are all deemed dangerous because they don’t fit into a certain box of what it means to be human.

I hope there’s not some guy in a lab creating a robot to take out any one who is deemed a threat or different in the eyes of those in power. Then again, maybe guns and other weapons are the same thing. I mean, it’s happened once before right? Gas chambers, work camps and furnaces that murdered thousands of humans from a single religion, all because they were condemned different by one person, all because they didn’t fit into some ideal box of what it means to be human. Or one person opening fire inside a nightclub because the people inside were not equal as humans.

At the end of the X-men movie, one of the mutants is given a choice – be angry and murder the bad guy or be the better person, walk away and fight for equality in other ways. With the world watching, she walked away.

As disciples, Jesus calls us to stand up against hate and fear. He calls us to be the better person and fight for what’s good and right in the world, to love those whom society has deemed different. Basic humanness goes beyond skin color, sexual orientation, or what religion we practice. Because the other side of this humanness, the dark side of being human is hate, it’s fear, and it’s shunning those people who at the heart of it all share the same human nature that we all do.

So what kind of relationship and connectedness as disciples are we going to show the world? Are we going to allow hate and fear to take over or will we stand up for justice and equality? Will we break down walls and barriers, welcome the other and stranger as God and Jesus taught us to do? Or will bigotry, racism, anger, lack of understanding and hospitality take over? Frankly, I’m not sure that’s a world I want to live in.

I’m not sure I can live in a world where my Indian and Afghanistan neighbors divert their eyes at me in the hallway because I’m a white American. I’m not sure I can live in a world that doesn’t allow for justice and equality of my African American neighbors. Or a world that doesn’t allow women to speak their mind. Or a world where children are raised to live in fear of violence with lack of food or clean or water, no place to go because the world has turned its back on their war-torn country. I’m not sure I can live in a world where my LGBTQ friends are shunned and told they are ill and not welcome. I’m not sure I can live in a world filled with so much hate.

That’s not the gospel message, that’s not what Jesus was teaching. Having fear and hate in our hearts is not what it means to be bearers of God’s kingdom or KIN-dom, to be disciples. That’s not the message of our loving, creating God. That’s not what it means to be in relationship with one another.

Maya Angelou said, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Amen sister.

At the heart of it, will love prevail? Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Thoughts: Dark Places

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
~ Romans 6: 4

cropped-alternate-sidebar1.jpgDeath sucks. There, I said it.

Death hurts and it’s messy and ugly and painful, so utterly painful. Death isn’t supposed to be easy.

As a pastor, I have sat at too many bedsides with grieving families as their loved one entered new life. I have led memorial services and funerals, co-leading with my colleague and also flying solo.  I’ve stood at caskets and said prayers of comfort and hugged and even cried as I reminded everyone about God’s love and promise of new life.

As a pastor, I’m supposed to be the one with the words of comfort. I’m supposed to be the face of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the voice of faith. It’s never easy to tell someone their loved one is in a better place, in a new life with God. To remind the grieving that death isn’t the end, but the beginning to something even better. I’m called in to be a presence of God in the darkest of moments. It’s truly a blessing and also one I struggle with.

Then, there’s me as a person (because pastors are in fact human). I have lost grandparents and friends over the years. Each time sinking me into a dark place. As strong as I am as a pastor for others, I find little comfort from fellow clergy who tell me the same words I say to people during those times of loss. I find little comfort in people who tell me they are there for me or ask if I need anything. I find little comfort in people reminding me about new life in Christ, even though I know that’s what I believe. Bleh.

You know what I need in those moments? Those moments I’m grieving? To be alone. To grieve on my own. To yell and be angry at God because even though I know what Scripture tells me, even though I know my loved one is going to a better place, I want them here. And if you can’t let me be alone to grieve on my own, then find a bottle of rum and help me drink.

Kidding.

Sort of.

My faith tells me one thing. My theology tells me the same thing.

My heart tells me otherwise.

I think the hardest part about death is knowing that person is no longer with us here. Yes, they are going to a new life. Yes, that place is grand. Call it heaven or whatever, it will be spectacular. But it’s the losing of the human, physical form that’s the hardest for us the living. All that’s left for us is memories. Though, let’s be honest, what we really want is to sit and have coffee with that person, to laugh with them, to hear their voice and be with the person we miss.

One day we will be reunited with those who have gone on to new life. I have no idea what the afterlife will be like – fluffy clouds or a projection of what life was like on earth. No clue. Until that day, all I or any of us can do is grieve and move on, cherishing the moments on earth we do have and celebrate knowing that one day we will enter a new life.

It sucks to lose someone we love, to know they will never be physically here with us again.

Whatever our faith tells us, whatever our head or our hearts tells us, death is a part of life. And it hurts.

But…

God is with us in those darkest of moments when it feels as if we can’t go on living, when the pain of losing someone we love hurts so much. God reminds us that there is new life.

And that’s about the only comfort  I can handle in those dark moments.

God, be with us in the darkest of human moments. Help us to grieve and allow us to grieve in what is fitting for us. Allow us to yell and scream, cry and sink into despair. But also be with us, lifting us and reminding us that death isn’t the end – it’s the beginning. It may be difficult for us to hear, but constantly remind us that death’s sting is but a moment. New life in Christ, in You, remains forever. Amen.

 

Sabbath Monday: Voice Matters

img_20161108_144802.jpgI found an article by Seth Millstein, who wrote an excellent article for Bustle.com called, What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now. (click the italics for the link)

Read it. It’s good.

The article got me thinking…

Much of what I’ve been feeling was summed up in that article. Much of what has been going through my head was neatly explained in those few words by Millstein.

And because I believe I have a voice, here’s my take:

The minute I turned 18 I registered to vote, not out of a sense of obligation but a sense of pride.

I wanted my voice heard.

I wanted to make sure that my vote counted and that the person I felt was right for the job got elected. I voted with a conscience, allowing my faith and my heart to guide me in the voting booth.

The same is true now.

This last election was hard on everyone. Mom and I yelled at the TV a few times during debates. I still have a hard time stomaching some Facebook posts from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named supporters.

However, I honestly had a hard time voting for Hillary, for a whole bunch of reasons (not email-gate). I also had a hard time voting for Bernie in the prelims, just so you know. I didn’t feel any of the candidates were worthy to be called POTUS. Though I couldn’t vote for bigotry. I couldn’t vote for a child, who can’t handle criticism. I couldn’t vote for hate and fear and ugliness. Call me crazy, but I couldn’t.

On Election night, I wept and not because my candidate lost. I wept because the whole country lost. I wept for my sisters across this country, for African Americans and Muslims and my LGBTQ friends. I wept because fear and hate and backwards thinking took over.

Fast forward to January, 2017. The 45th president has been inaugurated. And I accept this.

I accept that a new regime sits on Capital Hill and in the White House. But that doesn’t mean I’m alright with it. That doesn’t mean I accept their agendas.

This is why my sisters and brothers marched in Washington DC and Chicago and all over the world on Saturday. Because none of us are okay with this, though we accept the new president. He’s just not my president. And as Millstein and others have reminded us: our country is a democracy, so I can voice this.

I can voice that bigotry is not alright. I can voice that lying is not cool (alternative facts? really?). I can voice that women have the right to their own bodies. I can voice that a cabinet filled with men seeking their own agendas is not acceptable. I can voice that a woman who doesn’t understand education shouldn’t be sitting as head of the Department of Education. I can voice that banning Muslims is unacceptable. I can voice that fear and hate cause more problems than good. I can voice that putting up a wall is deplorable and down right uncalled for. I can voice that repealing a healthcare act before coming up with something better, therefore causing millions to suffer, is not okay. I can voice that the LGBTQ community doesn’t need conversion therapy, but rather love.

I can voice.

I have a voice.

My voice is powerful. Your voice is powerful. And we should use it.

I couldn’t march on Saturday with the thousands of women and men in Chicago. I wanted to but I couldn’t.

I wanted to march because my voice matters.

Again, I’ve accepted the fact that the new president is in office and lives in the White House. But that doesn’t mean I accept his agenda. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with his policies that send us backward, instead of forward. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with allowing other men to control my body. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with building walls and bigotry and hate and racism.

That doesn’t mean…Ugh…I can feel my soapbox getting a work out…

You get my point.

As a clergy woman, I’m careful with what I say and do politically. Though there are times, like now, that I need my voice heard. And I’ll be careful as to how that plays out. But I’m also a citizen and I will never be alright with the new POTUS or his VP. As long as evil is control, I will continue to voice and stand up for what I believe is right. I will buy Kellogg’s cereal at full price because they stood up against hate. I will make it known that all immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and more are welcome and loved. I will make sure that my sisters and brothers in the LGBTQ family are loved and safe. I will stand in the pulpit and preach a message of love, welcoming, good, and an end to hate.

I will Accept and Resist.

To all who think I should get over it and accept the state of things: Duh! I have.

So go ahead, call me names. I don’t care. Sticks and stones, baby.

But don’t tell me to get over it because I lost the election. Don’t tell me to be quiet or to stop marching or stop using my voice. And don’t call me a snowflake. I’m from Chicago. I know what snowflakes do.

Use your voice to talk to me, not at me.

Because for the next 4 years, I will use my voice to end hate and fear, to stand up for equality and against division.