Friday, June 29, 2012

A Testimonial

I was on the phone this morning talking to April Johnson who is the head of the Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) told her about our participation in the BREAD organization. Last year we received a grant for BREAD and we will be asking for more money this year.

We have been part of BREAD - a social justice network in Columbus for about 4 years and it truly has made a difference in our church and in my own life. One of the blessings of this past year was that I got to go to Florida for a pastor's conference and I still refer to the notes I took at that time.

Anyway, I ended up writing a testimonial about Bread and sending it to her this morning so that she could use it in her writing about the work of Reconciliation. I thought I would share it here. Our "year of appreciation" I appreciate BREAD!

ear April

I thought I would just write a quick testimonial as a pastor to express on paper what a blessing it has been for me to work with the BREAD organization in Columbus Ohio.
Karl Road Christian Church is one 54 faith communities that work together to “do justice” in the city of Columbus.

We all know that we are called to to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God but I know is that as a church we are better at “mercy ministries” more than “doing justice.” At our church, for example, we have after school programs, a ministry to AA, we give food to the hungry, we give away school supplies and coats in the fall. And this is all important, but in so many ways, it is just a bandaid. We may be touching or even changing someone’s life, but we are not tackling the systemic work of justice ministry.

Through working with others in the BREAD organization we are able to be part of a movement that may actually change the system - whether it is predatory lending to poor people, institutional racism, or unfair housing practices.

But it is actually more than that. BREAD has transformed me and members of our congregation. Our “year” with bread starts in the fall with small group meetings in which we talk candidly about the social justice issues that affect us personally in our daily lives. It is an opportunity for fellowship and deep sharing about the condition of people’s lives. We have truly become closer in community just from going to these meetings. Through this process we discern the three most important issues in our congregation.

Later our representatives will join the rest of the faith communities to discern what is the most important issue for BREAD to explore for the year. In January the research team studies and eventually identifies a workable solution. The culmination is our gathering in May with thousands of other BREAD members to show our power and get the attention of the public officials to work on the solution.
That “Nehemiah Action” meeting is always informative and inspiring.
One of my members has said that she reads the newspaper differently now that we are part of the BREAD organization.
Bread has changed us and it certainly has changed me. What I have learned is that the work of “doing justice” is slow and it cannot be done by one church or one denomination. It is really important for us to be able to work together with other like minded people of faith as we seek to make stand against the “market forces” that puts a price tag on human beings and says that some are worth more than others.

In February I went to the clergy conference that was sponsored by DART and was greatly inspired and encouraged. This is what I learned:
We are called as pastors to educate our congregations to become justice factories with Jesus kind of anger. It requires a toughness, perseverance and the willingness to work with others.

And so, BREAD has been a blessing and a transforming agent to me and to my church. And I recommend this kind of social justice organization to other churches.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remembering Nora

Yesterday I saw that Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71. This morning as I watched "Morning Joe" people talked about how much she had meant to them as a person and as a writer, director, etc. As they talked I realized how important she had been to me.

She was 8 years older than me and I first discovered her writing when she wrote a column in Esquire Magazine in the 70's. I loved her right from the start. She wrote with wit and you felt like she was your best friend and older sister. The first column I read was about "Upstairs, Downstairs" - a PBS series very popular at that time. And she noticed things and it just felt like a conversation between us girls. So - in my 20's - I read her every month and felt like she understood and spoke to me. Later she put all those columns into a book called Crazy Salad which I read too.

She lived a life that perhaps I dreameed of - writing and being friends with newspaper people, politicians and writers. She married Carl Bernstein and he cheated on her and they had a messy divorce. She wrote about it in the book Heartburn which also contained recipes. I read it as I was going through and coming out of divorce. In retrospect she really was a model of how pain can be redeemed in the telling and the humor and the raw honesty of it all. I remember seeing the movie on a date - about a year after my divorce - and it was almost too raw for me at the time. But she was authentic and so talented.

Of course, I liked her movies - when Harry met sally, sleepless in seattle, you've got mail..etc, etc. But what i like the most was her writing and getting to see her on tv sometimes. The last book I read was "I Feel Bad about my Neck" which was about aging. It was, of course, witty, honest and real. My sister in law - who I love and looks beautiful with her white hair - often asks me why I don't let my hair go gray. But I paid attention to what Nora said - that is the way that most women age themselves. So in honor of Nora I will continue to keep whatever this color is that my hair is and trust that it makes me look younger :)

I have been mentored more by writers than anyone else - and often I reference the religious/psycho/ spiritual writers like Joan Chittister, Eugene Peterson, Scott Peck etc. But Nora Ephron has been a model to me for over 40 years of what it is to be a woman who is truly engaged in life.

RIP Nora.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Inspiration in the 90's

No, I am not talking about the temperature - it has been in the 90's today. I am talking about the inspiration I have received from being with some very special women who are in their 90's.

There is a conversation that many of us have when we become people of a "certain age." And it is conversation about aging and what is changing with us - our sagging skin, our fading memories, our hearing. Just getting up off the ground is now more problematic than it was 10 years ago.

And then there is the conversations about the future - when we see people who have lived "too long" - because of dementia and just a general sense of unhappiness.

Well, for the last two days I have been wtih two different women in my church who are 95 years old - which makes them 30 plus years older than me. And they are living a life of joy and gratitude. And it gives me hope and maybe will shut me up when I start complaining.

One woman, Dorothy, lives with her daughter. Last month they took a trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and she was delighted to share her pictures with me. Her conversation is all about her family and how happy she is with everyone. Now, this is not a woman who has not had suffering and sorrow - one daughter died of cancer and her son is mentally handicapped. But she has continued to live and grow and embrace the life that is hers. She is still "working" - doing typing on the computer and very diligent about keeping up with that family via email. She also loves to make greeting cards and calendars on the computer. What a blessing she is.

And the other woman, Anna Margaret, lives in a nursing home. I sat with her as she was finishing having her hair done there as she does every week. She greeted by name and with great affection every person - resident and staff who came by. She spoke to me about her "mission" which is to love people. She is a former teacher whose whole life has been about people and now in this time and place she continues.
She is so grateful that she is no longer on oxygen and today she was even able to go to Utica on bus trip and to get ice cream. Like Dorothy, she too has had struggles in her life - but continues to focus on the present and the blessings of her life now.

Dorothy told me that she is the oldest member of her family but she still has a brother who is living in Florida - but he continues to live in the past - reliving the war and other events. She and Anna Margaret live in the present- active, engaged, appreciative.


Friday, June 15, 2012

An Hour with God

I think that is what I titled it.
I decided that twice a month this summer I wanted to offer people time spent with God - time just to rest in God's presence and open ourselves to God's spirit.

And so last night was our first night. Two people came and it was exactly what I needed.

We spent time with Psalm 63 and especially these verses:

O God, you are my God, I seek you
My soul thirsts for you
My flesh faints for you,
As in a dry and weary land where there is no water

After listening to some music we heard these words spoken several times over the course of our "hour"
And asked questions and wrote and pondered about
- our yearning for God
- our times of experiencing having our dried up spirit watered
- and who in our life needed that blessing right now

As always I plan these kinds of experiences never knowing how God is going to speak to me in the midst of it. I found myself focusing on the words - "I seek you" and felt like God was saying to me: "I ahve been waiting for you."

Here is the prayer that came to me at the end of the time:

Dear Lord, as I read these words over and over again I remember more and more those dry and weary times that you have helped me through.

And I am grateful to you for your steadfast love, your protection and your light in the darkness.

Today I sit in awe and remember that your spirit is here - within me and among us. You constantly bless and cleanse and heal me. You gently are moving me. You faithfully water my soul.
O God, you are my God
I seek you today.
And I find you.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Quiet Please

For the past few months I have noticed that my voice has been getting hoarse or husky. And frequently on Sundays by the end of the day my throat actually hurts. So, I finally went to the doctor.

And my doctor thought the problem was acid reflux, so I have been taking medication that has not solved the problem. So, after a visit to the ENT Doctor I know I have strained my vocal chords and need to refrain from screaming, whispering and singing.

I am not a screamer - but the third time I say something to Chuck is always a little loud - so I am giving that up. And I am not much of a whisperer. But singing - I really like to sing.

Yesterday was the first Sunday with the no singing and I found it to be difficult. And constantly had to literally stop myself - because it is what I do and love to do. Last night we had an amazing service in celebration of Deric's 30 years of doing music and I could not sing then which was even more frustrating.

I also am trying not to talk so much. I told Chuck that I really don't talk that much and he almost laughed at me. He pointed out the long weekly phone calls I have with my friend Susan and Geoff and the random calls from the girls and my Wellstream friends.

So, what i am learning is this - what a gift it is to be able to sing and to talk freely without thinking about your voice. What a tremendous gift it is.

But for now, my discipline is to be mindful of my speech and try communicating in other ways - like this, I guess.

Silence is golden - says some. Is difficult - says me.