Tag Archives: living out your faith

Called to Forgive. Called to Love.

Called to Forgive. Called to Love.

I had done it again.

For the fourth time–not a second or third, but FOURTH time–I spilled tea in my car.  An entire thermos of tea.  I simply could not convince myself that wedging my leaky-lid thermos between my work bag and the seat of the car wasn’t the greatest idea ever.

And so, four times later, I felt like a total IDIOT.  Seriously, Rebecca?  You couldn’t learn after the first time? You are SO dumb!  You will obviously never, ever learn.  Just like with all the other stupid mistakes in your life you keep making. (My critic’s voice was impossible to silence.)

A co-worker asked later that day how I was doing. After confessing my pathetic, chronic idiocy, she, the passionate Pagan, questioned why I, the devout Christian, was unable to rise above self-deprecation and move into the belovedness of which my faith teaches I am worthy.  Why was I feeling so unworthy?

Whoa!  Mind blown.

I didn’t have an answer, but mulled over her words for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening my daughter and I went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church.  No sooner had we sat down did the pastor hand me and my daughter two copies of the Prayer of Confession requesting we read the highlighted section of each.  No hesitation on my part. I enjoy participating in worship. My daughter? Not so much.  So her copy went to a somewhat willing congregant behind us.

I then previewed my part: For the times we don’t love ourselves or others as you have taught us to love–  God, forgive us.

Mind blow, again.

Forgiveness.  I had forgotten to forgive myself AND to ask for forgiveness.  I had mostly forgotten to love myself, flaws and all.

ash wednesdayWhat a blessing to be surrounded by messengers of the Holy to call me back as a Christian to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and will all my mind; and, to love my neighbor as I love myself. (Luke 10:27)

This Lent may you, too, hear and perceive words of wisdom from God’s unexpected messengers! 

Smart Phones, iPhones, and the Kin-dom of Heaven

Smart Phones, iPhones, and the Kin-dom of Heaven

talk to each otherI see it more and more wherever I go.  People with each other—dining, sipping lattes, riding in cars, strolling down the street—yet solitary, as they remain glued to their personal gadgets.

I got my own smart phone this past May and within days understood the compulsion to look at that damn screen every few minutes for the newest email or text, to search random trivia, or to capture that moment in history by snapping, in many cases, pointless pictures.

These gadgets, coupled with the social media craze, have propelled so many of us into this strange world of See Me.  See my life–my humor, my friends and family, my success, my uniqueness, my abilities and interests, my joy, my sadness.  We spend life-consuming time on our gadgets, posting and tweeting to keep people in the loop of our lives and yet, we are reluctant or unable to be truly present with someone in person. We see each other, but we don’t really know one another.

My daughter’s liturature teacher spoke of the use of gadgets “atrophying our social muscles” whereby degrading our ability to interact with others. I couldn’t agree more.  We are  robbed of our real-world human connection in an effort to stay “connected” in our social media realms. (See the links below for two wonderful, poetic commentaries on the digital world we now live in. Watch them both!)

A striking example of this digital disconnect manifested in a recent report received by a renowned restaurant in New York City.  Concerned about their rise in bad reviews, they hired a firm to analyze why the restaurant’s number of dissatisfied customers was growing.

Thanks to a comparision of survellience footage from 2004 and 2014, it was learned that today’s patrons are obessed with their gadgets.  Sadly, diners are not making the connection that their dissatisfaction in the service or their meals is often because of their social media needs: wi-fi has to be figured out and group pictures must be taken—often with the help of the wait staff—prior to food being ordered; multiple photos are snapped of the dishes served, texts replied to and status updates are made long before the food is enjoyed.

A friend in the restaurant business confirmed this battle to adequately serve customers who are more engaged with their phones than with their surrounding environment.  He shared that a married couple came into the restaurant to celebrate their anniversary, then proceeded to spend their time absorbed with their individual gadgets.  What kept them from interacting with one another instead of their devices?

My Christian faith calls me into relationship.

Yes, this implies a deep connection with the Divine, but I do not exist solely in a religious bubble of my God and me.  I am called to See the Other, and more than that, to Love the Other.  When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was (there were, after all, over 600 Jewish laws!) Jesus responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).

Like I said, it’s about relationships.

I can’t really say when I first heard the word “kin-dom” used in place of kingdom—as in the kin-dom of God vs. the kingdom of God.  What I do know , however, is that I LOVE this image that in God’s realm we are are one family, a beloved community of God’s people.

In the words of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “The word kin-dom makes it clear that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers—kin to each other.”*

But how much more difficult will it be for God’s Kin-dom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, when we can’t manage or make time to truly be with one another?  What does God’s reign look like when we insist on making life about US?

To be a person of faith, I must look beyond myself—beyond my social media realm, beyond my gallery of selfies, beyond my recent status updates.

I am called by my God to notice the brokenness and injustice in my world and strive to be a vessel of healing.  And yet, if I’m obessessly snapping photos of that amazing banana flambe or if my attention is on my phone’s endless stream of data  instead of on the person next to me—I just may miss the opportunity to show God’s love by serving others.

People of faith, PUT DOWN your gadgets! Look up. Serve one another. And live into God’s kin-dom come!

*Page 304, “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel, San Francisco: Harper, 1990).

 

Homelessness and Humility

Homelessness and Humility

 

homeless Are you like me?

Too often I am uneasy waiting at a red light while a homeless individual begs for money.

My family and I moved to Oregon a year ago and there are still days when I am shocked to witness the size of the homeless population.

My first month here I drove passed a man on numerous occasions who held a cardboard sign in each hand. “Rock” was written on one sign;  “hard place” on the other.

Well put. So many men and women on the streets are stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place.

I’ve taken the time to speak to a few of the homeless I’ve encountered.  One man shared that he was injured at work and evicted before his first disability check could arrive.  Another shared that he hated begging, but his work as an indoor painter had slowed down. True stories?  Perhaps.

Honestly, I don’t trip on whether they are telling me the truth or not.homeless dog and owner

Rather than judge, my faith calls me to be compassionate and to SEE these people as fellow human beings.  Have poor choices been made?  Probably.  Is drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness a factor.  Certainly possible.

Could I just as easily be in his or her position?  Absolutely.

I am keenly aware of how close my own family could have been to being homeless.  On several occasions, had we not had credit cards or family and friends to help out, our fate may have been quite different.

Even our move to Oregon found us on the edge of disaster when the house I had rented turned out to be too moldy to live in.  With no where else to go,  we stayed in a hotel—all of our belonging still in the rental truck—wondering how soon it would be before we’d find another place.  What an incredibly stressful situation even with the funds and friends to keep a roof over our heads in the week it took to find a home!

Opportunity Village

In October our church held a four-week forum in which  individuals who know homelessness first hand and those who work on their behalf spoke with church members.

Mike, who recently moved into a 8×12 unheated, micro-home in Eugene’s Opportunity Village, shared a powerful testimony during a Bible study on humility ( Luke 18:9-14). With Mike’s permission, our pastor offered his words in a sermon:

 “‘I suppose those who live in big, warm houses might think, ‘I am glad for Opportunity Village, but I am also grateful that I am not living there.’ And since I live in Opportunity Village I have a tendency to think, ‘I am so glad I am not like others who must suffer through the cold on the streets.’ But then I think to myself, ‘it wasn’t long ago that I was on the streets just trying to live and get along.’ So the perspective offered to me from this passage is that I should always try to do something for my brothers and sisters on the street. So every day I try to gather up some food to give them something to eat.’ And that is what Mike does each day.” (Humility at All Times In Everything: Rev. Jonathan Morgan)

Humility.

That’s the key. From out of Mike’s humility, his compassion rises.

Let us do likewise.

Discomfort could very well be a natural reaction as we encounter those who are homeless in our communities, but may our hearts remain ever free of pride and arrogance as we extend a helping hand.

Let humility be the ground from which our compassion springs forth.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5b

 

Opportunity Missed

Opportunity Missed

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

maple cotton candy It was all MINE!

At the county fair in Vermont where we lived, I purchased my first and only batch of maple cotton candy.   Made only with cane and maple sugars, it tasted heavenly!

I ate it slowly and, not wanting to share my glorious, sugary delight with my husband or kids, I hid it in our pantry when we got home.

Ironically…I forgot about it.  It was discovered a long time later—a shrunken brick of simple carbohydrates.

Truly devastating!  My miserly action led to my own loss in the end.

With this tragic tale, I offer today’s Spiritual Prescription:

Be Generous!

Resist the urge to horde or be miserly.

Don’t pass up an opportunity to share or to give.

It may be painful at first or feel unnatural.

Perhaps it’ll even feel like you are being taken advantage of.

That’s how I felt that day at the fair.  I didn’t share my delectable cotton candy because each family member had already devoured his or her own treat.  Why should I share mine, right?

But now, looking back, how wonderful it would have been to pull out my sugary treat a few days later to celebrate the fair all over again with my family .  It was an opportunity missed.

Proverbs 11:24 advises, “Sometimes you can become rich by being generous or poor by being greedy” (Contemporary English Version).

So be generous today and see if you don’t feel a bit richer as a result!

 

Greed—Shame On You, Shame on Me

Greed—Shame On You, Shame on Me

Let’s talk GREED.

I am convinced that greed is the greatest sin in the United States of America.

After watching a special report by Bill Moyers on the “non-profit” American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), it seemed to me that money is the driving force behind every bill crafted by ALEC that legislators then bring back to Washington or their states to have passed into law.

Members of ALEC write laws that either help generate money (like the creation of a bill that encouraged home schooling—and ultimately the purchase of the products made by the ALEC affiliated companies) or save money (like bills that prevent consumers from suing the very companies that helped draft the law in the first place.)

Now, I’m probably not being entirely fair.

After all, corporations have the right to not just survive, but to thrive (They are “people” after all—or so I’ve  been told).  They have to generate a profit to pay workers, expand production or services, and reward leaders—handsomely.

But I doubt decisions are made on a spiritual level where board members deeply reflect on how their corporate decisions will impact the environment, the livelihood of employees or the economy or even how future generations may be affected.  From the outside looking in, the bottom line appears to be money.

But let’s be honest.

Greed doesn’t just exist in corporate America.

At General Synod this summer, the bi-annual gathering of representatives from the thousands of churches in the United Church of Christ, we were blessed to have Bernice Johnson Reagon and her daughter, Toshi Reagon perform.

Having been working on this post for months, I was especially engaged when they began singing Bernice’s song “Greed.”  She opens the song with these words:

“I been thinking about how to talk about greed

I been thinking about how to talk about greed

I been wondering if I could sing about greed

Trying to find a way to talk about greed”

Her lyrics throughout speak to how pervasive greed is in our country.  No. It is not just a phenomenon on Wall Street.  We can all fall prey to it.

“Greed is a strain in the American Dream

Having more than you need is the essential theme.

Everybody wanting more than they need to survive

Is a perfect indication, greed has settled inside.”

I started this post by judging corporations and finish with a personal confession. (The Spirit is sneaky like that!)

I too am a victim—no, a participant—in greed. While already owning one home, I went and bought another 2 years later.  An “investment” I considered it.  But as reality and hard luck would have it,  I have since lost one and have been on the verge of losing the other.

In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 we read:

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;  for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;  but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.  But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

One could argue that my desire for an investment property was simply smart.  It’s not like I knew that the housing market would crash and burn, right?

But I remember the urgency in purchasing the second home.  The market seemed as low as it could get.  Wanting in on the real estate game, I was experiencing that “eagerness to be rich” the scripture warns against. It couldn’t wait.  I had to buy a house then and there.

Temptation had lured me in.  I fell for the assurances the man gave me that he could “make the numbers work” in my loan application. You’ve only worked less than a month in your new job?  No problem. You already own a home but might have to carry two mortgages if renters can’t be kept in your first home?  No problem!

In the end, it was one problem after another.  I haven’t plunged “into ruin and destruction” because of my eagerness to be rich, but  I have had to painfully face my own distorted American understanding of having enough.

In this past month, as I agonized over the real possibility of losing yet another home, I have had to reflect.

Maybe this life and faith stuff isn’t about having more or being rich—rather it’s about learning to 1) be content and thankful for what I have, 2) live within my means, and 3) trust that my needs will be met.

Today I give thanks to God.  I have been humbled and gratitude has once again taken up residency in my heart leaving a little less room for greed.

May the corporate and individual greed of this nation

evolve into a much deeper kind of longing,

one in which contentment is not sought through the eagerness to be rich,

but is found instead in the gratitude of sufficiency–a much better kind of richness.