Archive | January, 2014

Where Is Grace?

31 Jan

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Where is grace when you let the door slam on the person behind you rather than hold the door open?

Where is grace when you park in the handicap parking spot for “just a few minutes” when you don’t have a placard?

Where is grace when you cut your server’s tip because the food took too much time coming from the kitchen?

Where is grace when you beat yourself up over something you did or didn’t do years ago when you didn’t have the wisdom you have now?

Where is grace when you punish the child for the sins of the mother or father?

Where is grace when we are more concerned with how many words a football player says at a press conference than how many words we say to our own children?

Where is grace when you’re in too much of a hurry to return the smile of the stranger on the street?

Where is grace?

Dear God,

You shower us with kindness and mercy because you love us, not because of anything we have done.  Help us show more kindness and mercy to one another and to ourselves. Help us find grace. Help us be grace. Help us give grace. Help us act gracefully.

Amen.

 

Imago Dei

24 Jan

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 (NRSV)

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Ironically, it had already been put on my heart to blog about Imago Dei before I heard about the formation of a new coalition announced today by the same name. The coalition, formed by Evangelicals including Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver and Life Today’s James Robison, was formed, according to a story in the Washington Post, “to encourage people to treat each other with respect.”

We really need a religious coalition to tell us this? To tell us we should treat one another with respect? Call me skeptical, but I am afraid it is just a ploy to put a nicer, friendly face on the same negative message about “the other” in order to keep bringing in funds.

It is at the beginning of the Bible, first book, first chapter, that God created humans in God’s own image – Imago Dei. This is easy to remember when we look at most babies, those we love, those we admire, and whatever is passing as society’s current standard for beauty. This becomes more difficult when considering those we dislike, despise, do not meet society’s standard for beauty, and those who commit heinous crimes.

Yet, much as Matthew 22:39 does not say, “Love your neighbor as yourself, except the ones who are too loud, don’t worship me, or are gay,” there are no qualifiers on Imago Dei. We are all made in the image of the holy. Continue reading

Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire

15 Jan

Would I lie to you?
Would I lie to you honey?
Now would I say something that wasn’t true?
I’m asking you sugar
Would I lie to you?
Writers: Lennox, A., & Stewart, D. A. / ©Universal Music Publishing Group

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One of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. Not only do I enjoy discovering the “who was” and “where was” information of my own family, I get tremendous satisfaction from helping others discover their roots. I belong to several groups on Facebook where I get to do this, and it can be a lot of fun.

It can also be painful at times.

What I have learned about families is, unless you were there and saw the child delivered out of the mother with your own eyes, you cannot believe much of what you have been told, and often cannot believe the “documentation” either. Genealogists love to harp about “the documentation.” Family trees on sites like ancestry.com that do not have the “proper” documentation drive many genealogists nuts because without documentation, it is all conjecture.

Like with any hobby, there are those who dabble in genealogy, those who are professionals, and those who are in-between.  People who belong to groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower Society take this pastime very seriously. You should not even feign a joke about these groups else you be flamed, and flamed until you are well done. Their documentation is beyond reproach. Continue reading

When It’s Over, It’s Just Beginning

10 Jan

Some say it’s just the nature of the beast
When you love somebody so passionately
Time has a way of stealing
That raging fire feeling
Leaving the ashes laying at your feet

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Emi Music Publishing, Zells Music Company (Kennedy, M. A./Rose, P./Parton, C.)

I hate to be a spoilsport if you haven’t already figured this out, but every beginning has an ending. It is one of life’s greatest paradoxes that part of living is losing.

Whether it’s a delicious meal, a delightful conversation, or a delirious love affair, sooner or later, it’s going to be over.

Like many other things life throws our way, however, the key is how we handle it when it happens.

The end of a relationship may come suddenly like a push off a cliff or slowly like death by a thousand paper cuts. The way it ends affects how our mind, our heart, and our soul remains, but we are always left in some state of messiness. All of us are left this way. It does not matter if the parting was expected, unexpected, desired, undesired; it is messy. We can never be prepared. Our humanity has a way of smacking us in the face. And, if it was undesired (or we didn’t get to “break up first”), our ego. Oh, our ego!

You can study loss, grieving, break ups, death and dying, bereavement, and heartbreak all you want, and it won’t matter when it’s your time. You may have consoled dozens of friends and family in the same situation and can replay all the right words to yourself over and over, and it sounds just like Charlie Brown’s parents: “Whaa, whaa, whaa.”

The loss of a relationship makes us question everything. It doesn’t help when those around us, however well meaning, make comments like, “What were you thinking?” or “What did you ever see in him?” Please, friends and family, do not make these comments; we are already asking ourselves the same thing!

As a former queen of serial monogamy, I feel qualified to offer some breakup advice.

  1. Be kind to yourself. You are not fat, ugly, unlovable, stupid, or any combination thereof. This is not the time for self-criticism. It is a good time for self-examination. There is a difference.
  2. Surround yourself with those who care about you. Particularly if you and the recently departed spent a lot of time together and your friendship time waned, you may be hesitant to contact friends to chat and hang out. Don’t be hesitant. We’ve all been there. You need to be around those who know you well and love you. You especially need to be around those not afraid to tell you the truth.
  3. Eat. Pray. Love. Don’t forget to eat. Don’t stop exercising. Don’t stop doing things you love.  (If you can’t remember what they are, see #2.) Meditation and prayer are wonderful ways to take your mind off the radio station U247 and get some peace.
  4. Don’t put a timeframe on your healing. It is going to take as long as it takes. It took me longer to heal from a relationship that never really was than it did to heal from a relationship of almost 10 years. You cannot predict in advance how long it will take. Yeah, that sucks. Get over it.
  5. It will bite you in the butt when you least expect it. Somewhere down the road, long after you think you are over it, “it” will come back and bite you in the butt. Guess what? That’s okay. We want endings to be all neat and tidy, but they are not.

If you are struggling with a relationship loss, no matter the circumstances, I wish you peace and light. If there are approaches that have worked for you in dealing with losses, please share them in the comments section so we may all learn.

To our Creator,

Please comfort those who are struggling with any sort of loss. Fill that empty place with light, love, and peace. We know you are near the brokenhearted and save those crushed in spirit. Rescue us from our loneliness; let us find one another in sisterhood and brotherhood, for we are all more alike than we are different.

Amen. (Psalm 34)

Please visit the other synchroblog authors who wrote about New Beginnings for this month:

Jen Bradbury – Enough

Abbie Watters – New Beginnings

Cara Strickland – Bursting

Carol Kuniholm – Acorns, King, Beloved Community

Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning

Kelly Stanley – A Blank Canvas

Glenn Hager – Overcoming The Biggest Obstacle To Reaching Your Goals

Dave Criddle – Get Some New Thinking

David Derbyshire – Changed Priorities Ahead

J A Carter – The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time

Damon – New Beginnings: Consider These 5 Questions Before Tying The Knot

Jeffrey Kranz – Where To Start Reading The Bible

Joanna990 – On survival – my one word for 2014

K W Leslie – Atonement

Happy – my One Word 365 surprise

Michelle Moseley – Ends and Beginnings

Matthew Bryant – A New Creation

Liz Dyer – It’s a new year and time to make some new mistakes

Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream

Jennifer Clark Tinker – Starting a New Year Presently

Loveday Anyim – New Year New Resolutions

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Dreamers

Loveday Anyim – New Year Resolution Specialists

Loveday Anyin – New Year Resolution Planners and Achievers

Jeremy Myers – Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press

Amy Hetland – New Beginnings

Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings

Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New

Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief

Kathy Escobar – One Image

A Spot of Tea and a Chat

9 Jan

(Dedicated to my cousin Janie Corcoran of Ireland, 1924-2007.)

Has anyone ever given anything to you
In your darkest hours
Did you ever give it back
Well, I have
©Stevie Nicks

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I shared a bedroom with my sister Michele many different times when we were growing up . The time that was the most fun was when I was about 10 and she was about 6. After we’d finally decide it was time to go to sleep and stop goofing off, we’d pick themes for the walls, the ceiling, and the floor – one might be “cartoons,” one “animals,” one “fairy tales,” and so on. Then we’d dream about whichever theme we faced when we went to sleep.

Lately I seem to dream about whatever I am doing or watching on television just before I go to bed. I was working on genealogy last night and had a vivid dream this morning. It took place in Ireland quite some time ago. A family member was mourning the loss of her young son, who had been shot. (It was a stone bullet, so that tells you how long ago this must have been.)

The most vivid part had to do with how the families around the grieving family responded with what funds they could scrape together to help bury the young boy. The funds and notes were kept in these special notebooks that I could read so clearly in my dream. I was particularly moved by a note from a neighbor widow who wrote, “Alas, I have no money to give, but please stop by for a spot of tea and a chat.” Continue reading

I Have a Vision of Love

5 Jan

Prayed through the nights, felt so alone.
Suffered from alienation, carried the weight on my own.
Had to be strong, so I believed.
And now I know I’ve succeeded, in finding the place I conceived.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given to me.
I had a vision of love, and it was all that you’ve given me.
c. Carey, M. & Margulies, B.

At some point, vision boards, then action boards, replaced resolutions. I sort of noticed, but when you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be (if and when you ever grow up) in the broadest sense, breaking it down into smaller pieces just does not seem worthwhile.

I graduated from seminary in 2011, and if you had asked me 4 years ago where I’d be today, I would have answered that I’d be pastoring a small congregation. I’d be doing a lot of pastoral care, and I’d be active in social justice. I would have a blog.

It’s 2014; I have a blog. I find myself doing a lot of pastoral care, much of it online. Social justice is still important to me, and my activism has taken a different form than I imagined, but I like it. That pastoring a church thing still gnaws at me, however.

I was alienated from church, no, it was worse than that; I was alienated from Christ, for many years because of my sexual orientation. I entered seminary with the spirit part and the higher power part, but not the Christ part. I left with the Holy Spirit, the God, and the Jesus. Not as much Jesus as most of those in seminary with me, but with Jesus nonetheless. Continue reading

Angels Among Us

1 Jan

Hebrews 13:2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

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Rolled in a ball, more insect like than human, pressed into the corner of the darkness outside the Jersey turnpike rest stop entrance. Male? Female? Young? Old? Awake? Asleep?

Something just didn’t look right.

Scores of people, in and out, in and out; no one looked. I stopped. I saw a couple of men hovering nearby. Runaway? Prostitute? Addict?

A face looked out from the hooded jacket. Sullen. Crying. Fearful. “Are you in trouble?” I inquired? “Do you need to borrow my cell phone? Do you need gas money?”

“No, I’m not in trouble.” The men got closer. “Are these men bothering you?” “No, that’s my brother and his friend. We’re on our way back to Florida from New England. They brought me up there to see a psychic about my father.” Continue reading

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