Concert starts at 7. Wine will be sold prior to concert.
All proceeds benefit Beloved’s community ministries.
Concert starts at 7. Wine will be sold prior to concert.
All proceeds benefit Beloved’s community ministries.
Recently a friend of mine dismissed me from his/her life, saying that, although I was generous and compassionate with others, I was not so with said person. That my pain and honesty was cruel.
So, I have had much reflection on this. Who wants to be measured by someone who is keeping score on what a gift may be?
But what I have thus far sifted from this passage is this: that with any disputes, missed communication, slights, neglect, even anger with friends–that what has salvaged and brought us closer, is that underneath it all was a core of love. Simply love. Sustaining love. It bears all.
Perhaps, as in some teachings, we have the people that we need in our lives for a reason, a season, a lesson. Yep. Forgiveness is a huge journey. One that we travel forever. I get that. It is complex and hard. Thank you, Jesus.
But to realize that love makes all the difference was profound to me. Again, thank you Jesus. Taking that into the wider world, not “lip love” as my father would say, but the showing of love seems to be our challenge. And that is a big one.
Once I said that it is easy to love someone; but to like someone is a blessing. I do like my friend…. but do I love that friend? See, it gets all in my head and my heart suffers from that inter spinning conversation. It can be enlightening, but so weary making.
What do I expect? What have I learned? Yet, more so, how do I carry that forward with others? Hey, World, know what I’m babbling?
Love. With all the messy, hurtful parts that comes with that simple, unexplainable word. Because, perhaps, it is not a word. It Is. It just is.
So, I will try to let go of those kinds of expectations from myself and others – while still expecting myself and and others to be kind, be just, be open. It becomes complicated in my mere understanding. That is why I lean on a God who surpasses our understanding. Yet, loves us. All of us. (I hope that She “likes” us too!)
Thanks for reading – shall we love one another without expecting to be loved in return? We shall see, my Beloveds.
There is a great cartoon that shows Evangelists at the door of a woman’s sparse room asking her if she had found Jesus. Looking closely, you see “Jesus” hiding behind her curtains.
Hiding. From those whom are asking her “if she had found…”
But I am ratting him out. I’m snitching, turning him in, outing him. To his assassins? Blood on the door? Rock rolled away?
Who’s looking for him? His flock? His tormentors? Us?
Seek and you shall find. I’ve sought. I catch a glimmer. I run. But can never hide.
He is everywhere – within and without. In all. Many names has he.
So, I’m giving him up. Not giving up on him. He won’t let me do THAT.
I was stunned to read the results of an al.com poll about how people of faith should respond to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the failure to indict the police officer who shot him. Here are the results:
3.9% Hold a peaceful protest as a statement of solidarity
13.6% Work to prevent racial violence because it could happen in Alabama too
28.0% Pray for the Brown family and everyone who is hurting
54.4% This isn’t a faith issue. It’s a matter of law and order.
Over 54% chose “do nothing” (“This isn’t a faith issue”) over prayer (“Pray for the Brown family and those who are hurting”)!
Not a matter of faith? In one of the most highly churched, religious, charitable states in the country, what isn’t a matter of faith?
It reminds me of the old knock-knock joke. “Knock-knock. Who’s there? Nunya. Nunya who? Nunya – nun ya business!”
You know when someone tells you that something is nunya business, or bidness, as we say in the south, it means something to the effect of, “don’t you worry your pretty little head about things you don’t understand,” which usually means something to the effect of “these are things we don’t want you to understand!”
To say it’s nunya bidness to the church is like saying it’s nunya bidness to God. I’m trying to figure out what in the Ferguson situation could be nunya bidness to God? I’m trying to figure out what in this entire creation could be nunya bidness to God?
I’m trying to think of a time that Jesus restricted himself to only matters of faith, so narrowly defined. I’m trying to think of times when he chose to stay uninvolved in certain situations because they were “matters of law and order” rather than matters of faith? It seems to me that Jesus saw matters of law and order as urgent matters of faith.
He was deeply concerned about how his people were affected by the Roman occupation, about the oppressive and abusive enforcement of the law against his people – not unlike the experience many communities of color have with law enforcement in our country. He was deeply concerned with any barriers that caused a people to be treated as “the other,” as less than human – whether they were Samaritans, Canaanites, tax collectors, or people with afflictions physical or spiritual – not unlike the undocumented immigrants in our state.
Why would the most religious people, in the most highly churched state, the most charitable people in the country, say that this urgent matter is nun of our bidness?
Race matters, as Cornell West says, race in the United States is a faith matter. Life and death are faith matters. Hope and despair are faith matters. When something is killing a people spiritually, economically, psychically, physically, it’s a faith matter. For that matter, when one part of the body is injured, all are injured. When one rejoices, we all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Of course the poll forces only one choice, but as a friend of mine recently said, “we have become a tribal people.” We defend our tribes. It used to be that Auburn fans would root for Alabama to win every game but the Iron Bowl, and Alabama would do the same for Auburn. No longer – we want our tribe to win at all costs and we want the other to lose every time. Period.
Maybe that helps explain why, when forced to choose, people of faith in Alabama would choose Do Nothing over prayer. To choose to “Pray for the Brown family and others who are hurting” might suggest we are disloyal to the “tribe” of police officers and people who look like us. We are forced to choose sides.
There is a long sad history in our own families and in biblical families where conflict leads to bitter division and taking sides – Cain and Abel, Sarah and Hagar, their sons Isaac and Ishmael (which led to Israel and Palestine), Esau and Jacob, Leah and Rachel – when in truth, the only side should be God’s side.
As people of faith, we are called to choose sides. When we find ourselves in the midst of controversy and conflict, we are called to speak and to stand and to work and to sing and to cry out for justice, as Jesus people, not as Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians or Independents, not as conservatives or liberals, or tea partiers, not as advocates for big government or limited government – as Jesus People.
As people of faith, we are called to choose sides, to stake our ground with the least of these – knowing that there is a cost, that it may or may not be in our individual self-interest, it may or may not be in the best interest of our families or “our people” or “our tribe,” whatever that may mean to us.
Which is beside the point, anyway, because Jesus’ words about separating the sheep and the goats – “as you did unto the least of these, you did unto me” – are not about individual deeds of mercy leading to individual salvation. They are about the destiny of nations, the salvation of societies. Those nations that care for the least of these will thrive; those that trample the least of these will perish. Historically this has been proven – every nation in history that has had extreme disparities in income & wealth has perished.
That isn’t to say that the choices we make as individuals don’t matter: of course they do. Our choices make the church what it is, and make the nation what it is.
Part of the lesson is that when we fail to recognize the least of these as our own kin, we cut ourselves off from the Source of all Life. When we share our bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into our own house, see the naked and cover them, “we will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
I know it is not always easy to live as One. We may be kin, but kinfolk don’t always get along. After all, what if the least of these don’t want you to help them?
What if you don’t know their language? What if they don’t know yours?
What if they offend you? What if you offend them?
What if they reject you? What if they feel rejected by you?
What if they attack you? What if they feel attacked by you?
What if they are the enemy you are supposed to love? What if they see you as the enemy?
What if you are afraid of them? What if they are afraid of you?
This I know, from my own sojourns. Jesus is in there, in the midst of it all, in the muck and the mire of humanity. Jesus, Son of Man, the Human One, is there where it is as real as it can get.
It helps to remember when we get stuck in that way of thinking that results in “us” and “them.” We are all a mix of darkness and light, beauty and mess – we are all sheep and goat.
I take heart from the many images in the Bible that promise that the lion will lie down with the lamb. So it isn’t so hard to believe that the sheep will also lie down with the goat.
Like Jesus said, he was sent that we might all be One.
I spent part of my teenage years living in downtown Washington, DC. It was the height of both the crack epidemic and the Reagan administration’s gutting of social programs for homeless and low income people. My neighborhood, a diverse, high-traffic, mixed-use area, had some rough edges, but I loved exploring the streets and the subways. Along the way and with perpetual reminders from my understandably protective father, I learned habits of caution. I carry them with me to this day.
As a result, I am quite wary when anyone approaches me when I am in or around my car. So the other day when I pulled alongside a gas pump at a station on Crestwood Boulevard, I sent a glare in the direction of a young man who was ambling purposefully toward my van. He caught the look and turned to a car on the other side of the aisle of pumps. Sure enough he asked the driver for money. I busied myself with the pay-at-the-pump mechanism. When I looked up, however, this slender, shabby, polite, dreadlocked, young, black man was headed toward my grumpy, middle-aged, ‘busy,’ white self. He was hungry, he said. Would I give him some money so he could get something to eat?
For once I could honestly say I had no cash at all. An ATM stop was among the next items on my to-do list. After a moment, however, I gruffly offered to buy him chips and a drink (about all that was to be had at this particular station) on my debit card. Irritation at this interruption in my day vibrated off me. He picked out a vitamin water and a bag of Fritos, asked me if his choices were okay, and walked off quietly after I paid the man behind the bulletproof glass window.
I watched him go and felt the full flush of shame. True, I had not completely blown the guy off. He was walking away with a decent snack. Yeah, he probably wanted the money for alcohol or drugs. But at some level those things don’t matter. I had in no way treated him as my brother in Christ. This young man, so different from me in many ways, might still have been my son. I had not treated him as I would want my child to be treated. I spent $3.50 to get him chips and a drink, but I had done it grudgingly – out of some sense of pacifying my own conscience rather than out of concern for him.
I don’t like getting ripped off. I don’t like people approaching my car. These are sensible ways of protecting my mind and body. Those reflexive actions endanger my soul and spirit, however, when they close off my heart, when they allow me to be too self-absorbed to reach out in kindness. There are ways to be sensitive to all of these matters, but it’s not easy. For that, I need help from God.
I didn’t chase the young man down and try to fix things. I didn’t think that fast. But I did figure out a better response by reflex for when something like this happens again. While that may include an offer of lunch from a nearby fast-food place, there’s a more important piece. No matter how ‘busy’ I am or how much I hate being approached at my car, I have no excuse for not speaking from a place of kindness. In the past I’ve managed that some of the time, but I know I can do better with God’s help.
I can acknowledge the full humanity of each child of God with my actions, whether it’s this young man or some Mountain Brook Mercedes SUV driver who cut me off in traffic on 280. I might want to cuss (ahem, might have cussed) in both such situations. That’s my human response. God, however, gives me the tools to reach for something better than that.
We are wandering with Jesus in the wilderness in this season. From that place I can aim to better practice respect and love for all God’s children. I can’t fix the past, but I can acknowledge it and try to walk closer to Jesus in the future.
All those days you felt like dust, like dirt, as if all you had to do was turn your face toward the wind and be scattered to the four corners or swept away by the smallest breath as insubstantial— Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust? This is the day we freely say we are scorched. This is the hour we are marked by what has made it through the burning. This is the moment we ask for the blessing that lives within the ancient ashes, that makes its home inside the soil of this sacred earth. So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame. Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made, and the stars that blaze in our bones, and the galaxies that spiral inside the smudge we bear.–Jan Richardson from PaintedPrayerBook.com
For a child who didn’t spend much time in church, Lent was always about what my friends were giving up. Giving up chocolate. Giving up candy. Giving up cussing. Giving up rock ‘n roll. I didn’t get it, but I knew it had something to do with sacrifice.
Now I spend a lot of time in church, but I admit that I still don’t have a full grasp on Lent. Yet I am grateful for these 40 days that remind me to be attentive to the pushes and pulls in my life that diminish me and my relationships with God, the people around me, and yes, even the people I don’t want around me.
So I’ve decided to give up something for Lent. I’m giving up on giving up.
I’m giving up on giving up on the hope that people can change. On the hope that I can change. Because for all the evidence to the contrary, for all the times that I have failed to make the smallest change, for all the times that people I so need to be different have failed to change to my specifications or theirs, for all the stalled attempts at change, people do change. Sometimes slowly, sometimes spectacularly. Addicts quit using, alcoholics quit drinking, cheaters quit cheating, haters quit hating.
I used to lie a lot. As a child, telling a lie was the best way I knew to avoid a big blow-up, and we had enough of those. It was my way of emotionally ducking and running for cover. As I grew up, I realized that this coping mechanism had become a knee-jerk habit – I would say whatever I could to avoid conflict. The words just flowed from my mouth so naturally. It was so much easier than the truth! It didn’t serve me well. I honestly (!) didn’t know how to stop. So I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. And one day I woke up and realized, I had changed. Telling a lie was no longer my default setting. The truth had literally set me free.
Can people change? Ask Anne LaMott: Every last one of us is dogged by something we given up trying to fix. A bad habit, a bit of perfectionism or shame or laziness, while at the same time every one of us knows a story of personal change so mighty, so stunning, so impressive that it stands as undeniable proof that indeed p
I’m giving up on giving up on the hope that the world can change. When I see no sign of it, I’m going to remember Martin Luther King’s words, “The arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice.” I’m going to take hope from all the struggles that were waged for years and decades in what must have seemed like hopeless causes, yet when the time was right, overnight, the world was changed forever. Decades of struggle, and then suddenly one night, the Berlin Wall came down. Decades of struggle, and suddenly apartheid was dismantled. Decades, indeed centuries of struggle, state-sanctioned rac
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” says the apostle Paul in his letter to the Hebrews.
“Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change,” says Jim Wallis of Sojourners.
I’m giving up on giving up – on God. God has never given up on me, even when I’ve given up on myself. God has never given up on humanity, no matter how many times humanity turns its back on God. We can’t do it on our own, but change is possible because God is always in the mix.
Because God is always doing a new thing – can you not behold it?
-Rev. Angie Wright
You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.
“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, or sisters, you did it to me.'” Matthew 25:36-43
This is a text between Lynn Phillips and Grace Roberts. This was sent after my visit with her Mom on Sunday Feb.16, 2015. Mary Jane Falletta, Lynn’s mother, is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.
Grace: She is so special to me and I’m thankful you are sharing her with me. I’m so honored. It makes me swell with happiness watching you love and care for your mom. Every mother and daughter should have that relationship.
Lynn: Your words about mom and me bring tears to my eyes. I have not always appreciated her/us, as I should. Thank you for being such an important person in our lives as we make this walk.
Grace: This disease is so hard to watch, especially for you. How can science have not found a cure for it? Rest when you can. Much love to you and my friend, Mary Jane. That’s such a pretty name.
Lynn: It is a pretty name.
Grace: I would probably start crying–so good thing we are texting. When I think of that sweet prayer she said last night. It started off like the regular prayer she says over her food. She paused and I waited, thinking she had forgotten it. But what she said is so powerful. She asked God to watch over the people who were hungry and cold. She paused again and said: “God, I don’t like that…” I don’t think any priest or pastor could have said it better. I felt her prayer and am continuing to be amazed at the wonderful caring person she is. God is so good to allow me to witness Mary Jane praying for mercy for his hungry, cold children.
Lynn: God is good. Mamma is good. You are good. So I can be good. Peace (ok, now the tears)
Grace: Lynn is good too.
According to the National Alzheimer’s Association more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
“And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.” Gospel of Mark 9:2-10
I like to think of the forty day season of Lent as a season of “cloud and shadow.” Not in the negative sense of a dreary winter’s day. But rather in the positive sense of being covered and cloaked in the cloud and shadow of God’s word.
Before experiencing Jesus’ glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples first had to enter into the cloud of unknowing and experience the shadow of God’s mercy. Only then could they hear the voice that spoke: “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”
The cloud and shadow invite me to slow down, pause and reflect on what my relationship with Christ really means.
To listen. To listen to God’s word and also to God’s silence in periods of silent meditation.
Listen to nature. Listen to my neighbor. Listen to my enemy! Listen!
To simplify. Simplify my calendar. My activity. My recreation.
To clarify. Clarify my values. My vision. My goals. My vocation.
Perhaps, then, when the cloud is gone and the shadow passes, I will look around and see only Jesus. Jesus in every area and activity of my life–Jesus in each one I meet. Jesus in me.
“This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”
“There must be a time of day when the one who
makes plans forget his plans,
and acts as if he had no plans at all.
There must be a time of day when the one who has
to speak falls very silent.
and her mind forms no more propositions,
and she asks herself:
Did they have a meaning?”
There must be a time
when the person of prayer goes to pray
as if it were the first time in their life
they had ever prayed,
when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside
as if they had all been broken,
and he learns a different wisdom.”
-Thomas Merton, from NO MAN IS AN ISLAND