Tag Archives: violence

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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Monday of Holy Week

For Christians, the most sacred week of the religious year has begun. This week is filled with “drama” but I think more interesting than the drama, is the human experience that is remembered in the midst of the drama. Yesterday on Palm Sunday, the day that begins the final week of Jesus’ life, two Coptic churches in Egypt were hit by terrorist attacks. That was just one more horrific act that hit news cycle from the week before, including children who had died in a chemical attack in Syria, a shooting in a mall in Florida or a truck running over people in Stockholm.

In some ways we as a people have become almost blase to the violence around the world or we tend to minimize the story of Holy Week as somehow not as bad or awful. Holy week was also filled with horrible violence, fear, protests and uncertainty. What started out as a parade and a protest (against Rome) became a heavy handed response where people hid in fear and were arrested and in Jesus case, executed. This week is one of ups and downs, joys and sorrows and is filled with hope, despair and fear. Yesterday, in worship, First UMC attempted to give voice to the whole of that experience. You can watch the worship service 

May this week truly be a holy and sacred week.

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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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Weeping Day and Night

My newsfeed has been filled with sadness, anger and grief this morning. Many have been more articulate than I can be over what has happened in the last few days, and when you add the last few weeks it is overwhelming. Yesterday, I was trying to make sense of two more police related shootings of African American men: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and then Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Since I know many police officers and retired officers, I also know they put their lives on the line every day and never know what each day will bring. I also know that African Americans live in deep fear everyday and in the last couple of years those fears have been made public. Reality isn’t just what the dominant culture says it is, because the dominant culture is protected. As a woman, I have different experiences and fears, but it isn’t that I will be shot because my skin is the wrong color. Or pulled over because I might look like I don’t belong.

As I went to bed last night, there was a news flash that there was a shooting at a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. I made a comment among some friends, but I didn’t stay up to find out what was going on. This morning the number of police officers that were killed staggered me. Five police officers were killed and seven were injured as well as two civilians. What little is known  at this time is that the shooter that is dead wanted to kill police officers, particularly white officers.

I am soul-sick. There have been so many posts, by so many people I know that give voice to this grief, and pain, and yes, anger. Fingers will be pointed, blame assigned and hours of talking heads will dissect what has happened and is happening. Those voices will feed our own sense of rightness and judgement as to why these things occur, but it won’t change anything.

No healing,
    only grief;
        my heart is broken.[e]
Listen to the weeping of my people
        all across the land:
    “Isn’t the Lord in Zion?
        Is her king no longer there?”

Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then have my people
    not been restored to health?

If only my head were a spring of water,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
I would weep day and night
    for the wounds of my people.

These verses, from Jeremiah 8: 18-19 21-22; 9:1 come at a time of great unrest and grief and violence. Jeremiah had a way of speaking truth that made him terribly unpopular. He was clear what God required which was justice, love and righteousness. These words are so often used because they articulate a deep longing for that time when we are not bombarded and consumed by a world so filled with hatred, war, anger, injustice and violence. Where is the balm that will comfort us and the physician who will heal us?

Right now in our country, the hatred and the violence is welling up and destroying any sense of what is good and right and just. Our fears are causing us to be hateful and mean-spirited and cruel. We judge persons by the color the skin, their sexual orientation, their religious and ethnic affiliations, their age, their culture, their social class. Then we post ugly memes on social media, send out false and horrible e-mails with little truth attached and surround ourselves with people who agree with us so we do not have to confront our own demons and dare I say it, sins.

I am grieving. I am praying for our eyes to be opened to our own sin and brokenness and how complacent we are to those injustices given to those who are different from us. I am praying that our ears will be opened to the cry of those powerless and afraid that we might respond with love and compassion. I am praying that our hearts will be opened to the Love and Light of God, that it might root out the darkness and ugliness and hatefulness that resides there. I am praying that God’s grace will haunt me until I am unwilling to be silent when I need to speak words of hope and justice and that I am willing to love all people as I have been loved.

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Prayers for Paris

The news coming out of Paris this evening is horrible, sickening and frightening. The numbers of dead are still coming in, but the last figure I saw was 140 dead and many, many wounded. There are unanswered questions.

Already hateful comments are being made through twitter and other social sites. These same sites are also posting information for people to get help in Paris and to offer solidarity to those who grieve and are frightened. After almost every disaster natural and unnatural the United Methodist Church posts a meme to remind United Methodists that we are a people of hope and faith and prayer.

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I have no special words to give meaning to this senseless tragedy and horrific act/s violence. I am not about to spout off some optimistic or pessimistic rants. I offer only stumbling, uncertain words of prayer  of comfort for those who have lost loved ones. A prayer of hope for those who would sink deep into despair. Most importantly a prayer of peace for those who are deeply affected by the violence and hatred of the last few hours.

@therealbanksy posted this picture on twitter:

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Here is my prayer:

O God of all the nations,

   In this world stunned by violence and hatred,

     overwhelmed by grief and fear and uncertainty

       Make your presence real.

Be with those who offer relief

   That their gifts of healing and hope

     might be made real through their words and actions.

Be with those who work to secure the areas

   That their efforts might bring safety and security

     to those who have been frightened and hurt.

Be with those who must now respond

   That their words be measured and careful

       That they not rush to judgment

             But instead, offer hope and promise

         As more information is uncovered.

May your people pray,

   May your people pray for peace,

           For hope, for love and for grace

And for your kingdom of peace and justice come. Amen.

As I continue to pray, this picture comes from Paris even as I write:

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May God hear all the prayers lifted up in this moment and the moments to come.

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Monday of Holy Week

I, like many, were truly saddened and horrified by the shooting yesterday at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.  http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/13/4957486/one-reported-dead-in-shooting.html  How in the name of anything holy someone could do this continues to haunt me.  It is not just this act of violence, it is the school stabbings in Pennsylvania last week, school shootings, bombs exploding in market places, and relentless acts of hatred that scroll across my newsfeed everyday.

The shooting yesterday is much closer to home physically and emotionally.  Knowing two children who were at the Jewish Community Center during the shooting, knowing the church and several of the pastors of the United Methodist grandfather and grandson who were killed certainly strikes a chord of how small this world really is.  The very fact it happened at the beginning of Holy Week for Christians and the day before Passover begins for Jews makes the act all the more senseless and hateful.  I suppose that hateful could be the very definition of “senseless.”  

So, here I sit on Monday of Holy Week knowing I can not make sense of this and yet feeling the need to find the presence of God in the midst of it.  Today’s readings from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures are Isaiah 42: 1-7 and Psalm 27: 1,2,3, 13-14.  The first passage talks about God’s servant establishing justice “without shouting or crying” but would do God’s work and to remind the servant and perhaps God’s people that they are to be a light to the nations.”  The second is one of my favorites: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom shall I fear?….wait for the Lord and be strong and let your heart take courage.”  In the midst of the Psalm the author does refer to the evildoers, but reminds us that we are to have faith and that we will see the goodness of God.

This evening, Passover begins for my Jewish brothers and sisters.  It is a remembrance and celebration of liberation from oppression and slavery.  How uncomfortably real that this year, my friends must still look for freedom from oppression and hatred and prejudice.  It saddens my heart and spirit that many of the Passover observances will be surrounded by a police presence to make sure no one is harmed.

For Christians Holy Week is the journey of Jesus to the cross.  There is betrayal on many levels, fear, unfair arrest, a quick trial and an execution of an innocent man.  Jesus on the cross offers forgiveness and grace when he could have screamed curses on those who deserted him and crucified him.  Jesus embodies love in the midst of hate, peace in the midst of violence and hope in the midst of despair.  

Faith is all that keeps us from hiding in times like these.  Faith is what gives us “courage” and keeps us steadfast.  Last evening, Sunday April 13, the daughter of the man and mother of the son who were shot and killed went to a prayer vigil and shared these words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N1_qcUwTeQ

Her words are a witness to her faith and the strength that God gives to see us through the most horrible of tragedies.  May this week bring us that kind of faith, hope, comfort and peace.

I am graced to serve.

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