Tag Archives: fear

On this first day of Spring

Today, spring begins. It is the earliest the spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumn in the Southern Hemisphere has begun in 124 years. All of this has to do with the way the earth tilts and during the equinox the tilt is neither closer nor farther a way from the sun. The best explanation for  how these days are figured is found in this article

The only reason I note this, is because for many of us spring offers hope and promise. In fact the word we use in the church for this time is Lent which comes from an old English word meaning “spring season.” This time of prayer and reflection is used to prepare the followers of Jesus for not only the remembrance of his arrest, death and burial, but to be ready for his resurrection and the new life offered through this gift of grace.

Our world feels very “lenten” like with social distancing, self isolation, restaurants and stores closing and the spread of COVID 19 happening everywhere. Who knew we would have to give up so much for Lent!

People are afraid, I am afraid. I do not know what comes next. The timeline is uncertain. These moments are calling for more creativity and problem solving than ever. Teachers are trying to figure out how to work with students online, or through e-mail, or through video conferencing. Churches are worshipping online, with just one or two people and no congregation in the building. Pastoral care is being done with more texting and e-mailing and phone calls.

It is this very creativity that renews my hope in resurrection. In the midst of uncertainty, God is calling forth the very best of who we are to respond to this time. All over the world, people are reaching out, helping one another and putting their faith in God. This beautiful piece from Arte Carde has been making the rounds.

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It speaks of God’s presence in Christ. In the midst of it all…..God is with us. We are all trying to figure out what to do next, how to live, how to survive. Sometimes, for me and maybe for you, it’s important to let go and let God. This Casting Crowns song “Just be Held in some ways may be a little simplistic for this time and this season…..yet, I still find it comforting. May you find it so as well.

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Peace in a time of Pandemic

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and usually it is a day to celebrate being Irish, eating corned beef and cabbage and drinking green beer (which actually makes no sense to me, but still, it is something people do.) I have written about this  day before.  The story of Patrick and the history or lack thereof is fascinating. At least, in usual times, there are parades and parties and festivities.

Not this day, not this year. Events have been cancelled all over our country and world in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. New information and statistics are being rapidly and what feels like hourly.  People are afraid and anxious.

As human beings we often react in one of two ways: worrying about what may occur or minimizing and believing nothing can be that bad. It is normal to be concerned when something new happens and we do not have enough information and knowledge about what may come next.

I am not ashamed to name that I am a little bit anxious and a little bit sad and a little bit uncertain. We truly are living in an unprecedented time for most of us. There have been outbreaks of disease in my lifetime: SARS, MERS, different Influenzas and certainly AIDS. I have some early memories of measles and people quarantined, but nothing, nothing like what is occurring in Italy, China, Spain, France and the shutting down of large groups of people across the United States.

Discouraging people to gather is devastating to small business, schools, non-profits and churches among others. We have seen the stock market plummet and many are concerned not just about keeping their businesses open, but what of those hourly employees who may not have a job and no way to pay their bills Then many now have children home from school and no child care and how do you go to work? The homeless and those who are most vulnerable to disease are at risk in ways we can not imagine.

Panic would seem to be the response of many as we have seen from the reports of people buying toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer and other disinfectants. Retail stores are limiting the amount of these things that people buy so everyone will have enough. Store shelves are pretty bare and most are doing their best to be helpful in this time of anxiety.

Where is the peace in the midst of the panic and fear? When each hour seems to bring more bad news, how do we find a sense of calm and faith and hope? While I have no easy answers, I know what I do believe.

This is not the first time that disease has hampered people plans. This is not the first there has been economic uncertainty in the face of a rapidly moving virus. This is not the first time human beings have been faced with deep fear and uncertainty.

In all of those times, God has been there. In every moment of every pandemic, war, economic collapse, God has been there. God’s Spirit is at work in every medical professional, every scientist working on a vaccine or cure, in every retail worker trying to be helpful, in every helper of every kind that is reaching out to alleviate fear, to offer hope and to give the best they have to offer.

Every person has different ways to cope. Music is often key for me, I listen to those pieces of music that bring comfort and peace to my soul. I pray, I meditate, I read and I cook. Picking up the phone and calling people we love is a good thing to do when we are so isolated. E-mails, cards in the mail work as well.

Paul writes that Christ offers peace. He wrote those words when in jail to the church at Philippi. He didn’t know what he future would hold, what he did know was that his peace and his hope was found in his faith Christ. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

I do not know how all “this” will work out. I do know that our lives will different for the next few weeks and probably months. I also know that God is at work in each of us, calling us to a renewed faith and promises that we are never alone, not in joy or sorrow, not in despair or hope, God is with us always. I suspect we will all find new ways to be connected and creative ways to celebrate the events of lives.

On this Saint Patricks day, I am remembering and praying this prayer attributed to him:

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
 
I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
+ + + + + + +
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + 
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
 
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

 

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Speaking out

I am tired. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the hate-filled rhetoric. There are many times I might have blogged, but chose not to. I,often, have no words, I who am supposed to have a “word” for everything. I am a preacher after all, and am called to have something to say in times of joy, in times of sadness, in times of uncertainty, in times when words seem to fail.

I often have had to something to say, when there has been horrible violence:

Horror and Violence in the nth degree

Prayers for Paris,  

Another Shooting

When there are times that are anxious:

Anxiety, Fear, and Rumors of Wars

When I am upset and overwhelmed by racism or sexism:

Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

#MeToo

And my blogging started years ago with the shooting of Dr. George Tiller and then the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in a post:

Words Matter

Today, once again, I KNOW that words matter, that denigrating human beings and their homelands is bad, period. I can not be the only tired of the words that are coming from our nation’s capital. Words matter, language matters, manners matter and holding one’s self to a higher standard matters. It matters when the president of the United States does not condemn racist language or hateful speech. It matters when the president of the United States uses twitter to belittle other people, to bully other people, to make policy statements or post anything untrue. Words matter, even on twitter, even in private meetings about immigration.

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As an “old pastor,” one who has been around for a while, I often talk with new clergy about things that matter, words, certainly, but also dress and behavior and the higher standard to which we are held. It isn’t fair, it isn’t! When I was young, I lived in a very small town and not long after I was there, some of the people came to talk to me about how I dressed when coming downtown to pick up my mail. I saw nothing wrong with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Some people saw it differently and said they didn’t want to be embarrassed to introduce me as their pastor.

Did that upset me? You bet it did. However, I decided as a young clergy woman, I had enough strikes me against me that I didn’t want my appearance or my clothing to distract from my service, my work, my calling, my ministry. I probably over dressed for a long time, but no one ever said they were embarrassed again about the way I dressed.

I also over the years have become aware that my facial expressions, my aside comments, my overheard comments and critiques can also be incredibly damaging. I confess, I have not always done well or that I don’t still fail pretty regularly. Rolling my eyes at things I think are ridiculous, making comments about situations or people, these are not only unhelpful, they are wrong and hurtful.

Anyone in public service, whether ministry, or teaching, or government are held to a higher standard of behavior and they should be. We are called to be leaders, we are called to thoughtful rhetoric. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean there can not be deeply held beliefs that are divisive. It doesn’t mean there can’t be heated argument, debate and disagreement.

What it does mean is that WORDS MATTER. Using offensive language to describe a person’s home country, making insulting and derogatory comments about human beings is unacceptable as a public servant, or for anyone. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have made this statement about the offensive remarks .

I would invite the President, but more importantly all of us to re-think how we behave in private and in public. What he says, what we say can make a difference for good or ill, for peace or violence, for what is right and what is wrong. As a follower of Jesus, I am convicted that I must stand against racism, bigotry and words that incite hatred and violence.

My words matter, as do all of ours. I call on all of us to stand up against hatred, against racism, against any language that is used to put down, bully or insult other human beings regardless of their race, their age, their nationality, their gender, their orientation, their religion. I, we, can do better than this. Let us choose justice, let us choose goodness, let us choose a higher road and a higher standard for our behavior.

 

 

 

 

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#MeToo

I hate this, I really do. I hate that the hash tag #MeToo has taken over Facebook and Twitter. I hate the conversation around this hashtag has included people who I love dearly, who do not wish to be reminded of what they have lived through and those who act as if it is no big deal or that somehow women (in particular because it happens to men as well) should just get over it.

Hate is a strong word, but the word “dislike” isn’t strong enough for how this hashtag grieves me in so many ways. I can intellectually “get” that there will always be people who derive their power from harassing and bullying others. What strikes me to the core of my being is that it is still in so many ways accepted as normal rather than an unacceptable trait that will not be tolerated ever.

It has taken me decades to basically not be triggered any more from at date rate that happened when I was very young and very naive. As an underclasswoman at a Christian college I had a love of Coca-Colas and limeades. I was not adverse to alcohol, just wasn’t much of a drinker. An older upperclassman (he was 28) invited a friend and me over to his house with another friend to play cards. He served limeades with Bacardi 151. I had no idea what Bacardi 151 was other than rum. I wasn’t concerned, because he was my friend. I didn’t understand why they all thought it was funny that I didn’t know what it was. Of course, I am sure I do not have to paint a picture of what came next.

When I tried to confront him later, he laughed at me and I will not print what he said. I sought out a couple of people, but it became clear to me that there would be no  sympathy or understanding because I should have been more careful, or smarter or had a clue. It would be several years before I would talk to any one about this. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty for not being in control of the situation.

Then when I attended License to Preach School in the summer of of 1982, I had an experience that was nasty to say the least. There are four parts (Christian Education, Administration, Pastoral Care and Worship) taught over a two week period. We were in Nebraska, where classes were held at the church and we slept at a motel at night. The Administration teacher demanded that our papers be type written (for you young ones that was before computers.) No one had brought typewriters because it was not on the list of things necessary. This man made each woman come to his hotel room by themselves to type the papers. He wore skin tight shorts and shirt and leered over me, breathing on neck, touching me. Even as I write this, I feel the hair raise on the back of my neck as I write these words.

There were not many women, but three of us on the drive back found out we all had the same experience. We decided to tell our respective District Superintendents so other women would not have the same thing happen to them. When I met with mine, the response was, “Well, he didn’t rape did he?” No, he didn’t rape me. It was shrugged off and the conversation was changed. After all, the administration teacher was an elder in full connection, I was just a 23 year old local pastor. I wanted more than anything to be a pastor and I wasn’t going to push that hard. It would be his word against mine.

Of course, I am old enough to have mores stories. There were times in my life I had far more triggers and was very uncomfortable in my own skin. It has long been a joke that I am not much of a “hugger.” I am quite comfortable shaking hands and hugging is fine, mostly. Years ago, when I was serving a three point charge, I was at the middle church on the circuit. I was shaking hands following worship and one of the men and his wife whom I adored came to shake my hand. I don’t know to this day what happened but I stiffened up, had trouble breathing and he slowly backed away. I apologized and then went to the next church.

The following morning Max called me and said could we have coffee? I drove over to the little cafe and sat down and he asked me, “What happened yesterday?” Max was old enough to be my grandfather and I honestly told him that I didn’t really know, but then I shared with him my history and that something had triggered me and I didn’t know what it was. I felt so embarrassed and I didn’t normally share my history with my parishioners. He looked at me and said, “I am so sorry. I am sorry that happened to you and I am sorry that some how I reminded you of it.” I was so blessed in that moment. The fact he took the time to find out what was happening with me spoke volumes of his willingness to listen and to hear and to be present. It gave me hope that I would not always have to hide my experiences.

When I chose yesterday to post the #MeToo I did so not for sympathy or to try and jump on some bandwagon. I shared it because I know there are many that still stay silent for fear of retribution or job loss or violence against themselves or someone they love. I know that not every woman experiences harassment or violence. I think I would be safe to say that most women have experienced fear. There are some who will never believe it is that bad, but it is.

I very rarely am troubled any more about those experiences. I am in most ways past it and it doesn’t effect me any more. I am who I am today, in part, because I have survived and more importantly chosen to thrive. Today, what pains me the most, is that there is even a hashtag that states MeToo. I don’t want anyone else to have to learn to thrive after harassment or rape or assault. I don’t want those experiences to be minimized or questioned. I don’t want other women (and men) to have to justify their feelings (oh it wasn’t that bad) or to defend their bodies from inappropriate touching or groping.

I believe that we can do better. I want any one who has been belittled, assaulted, touched, mocked or bullied to have safe places to be heard, to be believed, to heal. This is the time, this is the place to say #NoMore. I will be and provide a safe place for anyone who needs to share their story. I will believe you and support you. I will listen. I want to be a part of ending this ugly and perverse part of our culture. No More. No more harassment, rape, assault or bullying. No More. No more violence again women (men and children)  as workers, as wives, as lovers, as friends, as strangers. No More.

 

 

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Anxiety, Fear and the Rumors of War

Today is my day “off.” I attempt to not check my e-mails or respond to e-mails. The day is often filled with all kinds of other “to-do” lists and sometimes with hobbies or projects I really enjoy.

Today I am struggling to stay away from the news. The rhetoric racheting up  between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and our president Donald Trump is enough to cause anxiety in the calmest of people. I don’t spend time wondering about scenarios that are silly or practically non-existent. I am not losing sleep over the possibility of a meteor hitting the earth or some other great natural catastrophe.  I am not a conspiracy nut or an end times prepper.

And yet….and yet. I can not help but be concerned when grown men are hurling insults like they are on a play ground. The “mom” in me wants to grab each of them and put them in a corner until they cool off. Angry words and quickly spoken insults often results in fists being used and a fight ensuing on the playground. I watch in disbelief as one threatens the other, Kim by saying North Korea will launch missiles at Guam and President Trump using phrases such as “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded.”

Harry J. Kazianis wrote this opinion piece on the Fox News website. His insight on the hell that war with North Korea would bring is worth reading. The devastation on the ground even without nuclear or chemical warfare, the deaths, the destruction, the starvation is unconscionable in any stretch of the imagination.

As a child, I remember the body counts of the Vietnam war and how the war was brought into our living rooms every night. That doesn’t even begin to acknowledge every horrible skirmish and war since and currently on-going. There have been terror attacks, two Gulf Wars and other wars across the world that are often hidden in our news cycles. I am saddened and sickened by the possibility that missiles and bombs and tanks and troops could kill and destroy many people on the Korean peninsula, Guam and Japan.

Today the United Methodist General Board of the Church and Society posted this call to prayer:

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On my own facebook page I posted: I am praying for the cooling winds of discernment to dampen rhetoric of war and of hate and of violence. I am praying for the thousands if not millions of people that are being targeted. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

I have no power to influence the powers that be, I do have the power to pray and to pray for peace. As a follower of Jesus, I take seriously his challenge out of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, that “peacemakers” are blessed and called children of God, that we are turn the other cheek and not repay violence with violence. This challenge is one of the most difficult for Christians to follow, but that does not mean we should not attempt to live as a people of peace.

So, today, I have been doing mundane tasks. I have swept and mopped the kitchen floor, canned 7 pints of diced tomatoes, made gazpacho for dinner, done the dishes, a load a laundry and will soon do other household tasks. I am praying for peace, I am connecting with the Prince of Peace, that my heart and spirit might be free from fear and anxiety. I know there has always been war and violence and the rumors of war. I attempt to do my part, not to participate in the hateful rhetoric or be driven by fear. I will choose to be a peacemaker and a child of God and a follower Christ. May my words and my actions be a witness to a God who calls us to lives of peace.

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All Souls Day

Part of this post was written three years ago. Our culture doesn’t know much about Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Some of what is shared in the next three paragraphs are from that blog, but I end with some new thoughts about this early church tradition.

Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day.  It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.”  Who knew that Halloween was a holy day?  The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner.  They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them.  Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown.  The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.”  In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.  A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.

I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions.  What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks.  Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May.  I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.

Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work.  The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives.  After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me.  The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.

The holiness of these moments become more sacred in the midst of a time of great anxiety and fear. Next week, will be an election which has been filled with bigotry, hatred, lies and ugliness from both sides. The fear mongering has been almost overwhelming. Many, myself included, will be glad when the election is over.

Add to that another horrible shooting in Des Moines where two police officers were ambushed, another black church is vandalized,  and where the deaths in Syria mount, is it any wonder that many are just tired and afraid. It is important in times like these, to remember the saints and souls and spirits who went before us. We are NOT living in the first period of time fraught with fear and anxiety.

Those who went before us lived through wars and rumors of war, violence, hatred and natural disasters. The early Christians were persecuted and wondered if the end of the world was coming. In these days, we are hearing the same from both parties. Neither is speaking the whole truth. These elections and difficulties are part and parcel of being part of this world. The saints that have gone on before us, understood that whatever occurs day in and day out is not the kingdom of God. The reign God continues to challenge all of us “saints” to live lives of faith, of hope, of love and justice.

We keep eyes and hearts and spirits focused on the promise that the time is coming when we will experience something new and wonderous. In the meantime, we lean into each other for strength, and trust God’s Spirit to help us believe and God will make all things new in God’s own time.

And so, remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) , these saints and souls of God, I am graced to serve.

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