Monday, June 27, 2016

Praying on the way

Over the course of the summer months, we are gathering after Sunday morning worship for a series called "Eat, Pray, Love".  Each week, after sharing a meal together, we are learning about and using a variety of prayer practices.  I will be sharing some of these resources on this blog as well for you to use in your own life of prayer.

Pocket Prayers
Activity: take 3 items out of your pocket/bag/wallet
1)      Personal
2)      Everyday item
3)      Something that you keep meaning to take out or get rid of, belongs elsewhere

Describe each item 
-          Where did you get it
-          What is its use
-          How long have you had it with you

How might that item become a prayer?
     For example: a grocery reciept could become a prayer of thanks for a meal or it could be a petition of hope and help for all those who don't have enough to eat.

Use that prayer as a part of your prayer time or even as a short prayer as you look for your keys that you can never seem to find.

Finding/Setting apart Sacred Space:
“Be Still and Know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
      Most of our lives is filled with activity and noise, to-do lists and calendars.  “Jesus went off by himself to pray” is a verse that is often repeated in the Gospels which echoes the Creation story when “on the seventh day God rested”.   We all need “down time” and even just brief moments of silence and rest.
        Find a spot in your home (or outside in nicer weather) where there doesn’t seem to be as much regular activity.   Place or arrange in this spot – a comfortable place to sit and a small table.  You may want to put a candle or a cross or other small item on which to focus on the table, but keep it simple.
         This is your sacred space (it can be shared with other people in your home).  It can be a place you go to for your regular time of prayer, to keep and read your Bible, to use other prayer practices or to “just be” silent with no agenda, no specific prayers, etc. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Who to blame?

My heart aches even as my mind is numb as I try to understand yet another mass shooting in our country.  We only begin to feel "normal" again when something horrific like the killing of innocent lives in Orlando shakes us out of our blind comfort.

And then in less than 24 hours, the posts and comments turn to who or what is to blame - guns, mental health, Muslims or even "the gays" themselves?  We all want to be able to definitely point our fingers at one root cause as if it is just a splinter that can be plucked out and all our pain removed.

Life is not that simple or clear cut.  We remain blinded by the lure of blaming if we believe that there is a quick or easy answer.   And ultimately, blame will not bring the victims back to those who mourn; it will not return life back to "normal" and it will never adequately answer the questions of "why?".

In trying to "un-numb" my own brain, here are a few of my own thoughts on that which has become the focus of our blame:

Muslims - While there are are extemists who claim that their violent actions are in the name of Allah, they are millions more who decry this violence and this abuse of a faith that centers around prayer and helping others, particularly during Ramadan.  Every religion as well as other ideologies have their own extremists who will distort the central teachings for their own purposes.  We cannot blame a whole group for the violence of the few.

Guns - First of all, to be honest in these reflections, I am not an advocate of guns and would support greater background checks and limited access to assault weapons.  I am  not advocating a change to our Constituation and the right to bear arms.   While there are many responsible gun owners (including my own family), there are aslo too many loopholes that need to be changed.  No, this won't necessarily keep the all "bad guys" from killing others, but it will thrawt those who act in moments of passion and rage.

Mental health - like other stereotyped groups, those with mental health issues are often only seen as "crazy".  We want to carticuture them and put them all in the same category at the same time that we don't want to talk about its impact in our own midst.   There is not enough care and support for those who suffer with mental illness.  This needs to change.  At the same time, just because someone does have this illness does not mean that they are going to go on a killing spree.

LGBTQ folks: another stereotyped group that has endured much throughout the years - not least of which has been directed from the Church.  Like everyone else, they want to be with others who they love and want to be loved in return.  Many cannot look past the "sex act" (which we don't tend to focus on with hetereosexuality) and see this central aspect that makes up all of our lives.  Jesus hung out with those who were marginalized and shunned - he would've more likely been in Pulse than Disney world.

There is so much more than I could say about any of these foci of our blame.  These brief reflections are just for the sake of getting us to move beyond blame and towards love, acceptance and ways that we can work together to prevent  future shootings.  Blame gets us nowhere except to greater fear and division.

If we are motivated by love and concern for one another, we then seek out ways to build up our community rather than tear one another down.  Getting to know and respect those who are different from our own experiences can only enrich our lives and strengthen our country.

What will you do today that builds others up, that shows the unconditional love of God in whose image we are all created?  How  will you move beyond blame to building a stronger community and world?