Walk in the Way of Love

Geez, lectionary! I get it! I’m not saying the lectionary is centered around US politics per se, but it really seems the Holy Spirit was colluding with someone when they mapped out Year C. Today’s epistle reading was from the ever-challenging Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:25-5:2New International Version (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands,that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example,therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This is one of those passages that’s easy to use as a weapon but really tough to own. Yeah, the Dumpster Fire has run a campaign entirely based on lies. But my job is to shine a light on that in a way that builds people up. That’s harder than I can imagine and I am not sure how to do that. I can be angry, but not sin. I need to get rid of bitterness and rage. I need to be kind and compassionate. I need to forgive. I need to walk in the way of love.

Mother’s Day Proclamation 

Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Arise, all women who have hearts,whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Random Friday Five!

marybethbutler writes:

Happy Friday!

In honor of Karla, the usual sponsor of this page on the second Friday, I announce it as a random Friday Five. But with a theme: NEW.

1. If you have one, what is your new resolution?

I don’t, but I have been mulling this quote as perhaps a new way to look at this year:

“Stop ‘searching for God.’ Rather, come out of hiding and let God find you.” – Leonard Sweet

2. Many folks choose a new word for a year’s beginning, as Marci’s congregation does with StarWords. Some let their word choose them, like Christine at Abbey of the Arts. Do you have a word for the year?

Balanced. My word for the year is balanced.

3. What is your new favorite exclamation/phrase at times of joy or frustration?

I usually say “Sweet Fancy Moses!”, “Son of a Nutcracker!” or “Jesus, take the wheel.”

4. Do you have a new favorite food, or an old one you are newly enjoying?

I actually made Thanksgiving food last weekend and just finished up those leftovers. This coming Sunday, my family is doing our belated New Year’s celebration with some of our favorite Mennonite dishes.

5. Finally, in general: what is your new favorite thing?

My new favorite thing(s) are the gifts I’m getting for my hysterectomy shower. It’s been a lot of fun.

We Need More Pillars

Note: I wrote this originally about our service this past Sunday, but today’s events in Paris have inspired some updates.

During the month of January, my church has various speakers come in and speak about other faiths. This week, we had Imam Khalil Sultan speak to us on Islam. He was a wonderful, humble and wise man and spoke to the universal nature of Islam and the study of all scriptures.

Islam, like all religions, has a series of spiritual practices in which followers engage in order to help them grow in their spiritual journeys. Christians have them, as well, but they’re not really emphasized as a thing as much outside of monasteries. For Muslims, there are 5 practices, or pillars, of Islam that are almost universally practiced among all sects. They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:

  1. Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger
  2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
  3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
  4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
  5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able

I was talking to a friend last night about a church in Kansas City that has very specific requirements for membership. They are:

  • To worship regularly.
  • To continue to grow in your faith by participating in a small group study.
  • To serve God with your hands, by volunteering in service to the congregation and the community and world.
  • To give in proportion to your income.

This is a church of over 10,000 people. Granted, I don’t know how many of those 10,000 are actual members, but the idea that a church who has actual behavioral requirements attracts that many people is worth a conversations. If you’re not there for a few weeks someone calls you to check in. They take attendance. I can’t really imagine the logistics of taking attendance for that many people. The mind boggles. I think churches might be afraid to put those kinds of requirements on people, because they think it might drive people away, but maybe the opposite is true. Maybe we actually want something required of us.

Islam has five practices, or pillars, that involve daily, annual and lifetime behaviors that can be adapted and used as inspiration for any spiritual practice.

1. Declaring that there is one God. When we remind ourselves that God is in control, we’re also reminding ourselves that we’re not. How would your life be different if you actually said that out loud, multiple times a day.

2. Prayer 5 times a day. I wrote about being in Egypt and hearing the call to prayer something like 8 times a day and seeing people drop what they’re doing and kneel and acknowledge God’s greatness. While I’m not really into the government telling me when and how to practice my faith, I do think that if this were a practice that everyone were to adopt, our world would be a lot different.

3. Giving to the poor. An interesting difference between Christian giving and Muslim giving is that Christians give out of their income, but more well-off Muslims give out of their savings. It’s an acknowledgement that God is in control of their money and that their responsibility is to give and God takes care of the rest.

4. Fasting and self-control during Ramadan. Christians have time periods during our calendar, like Lent, when we either give up an excess or take on a practice that helps us increase our discipline and devotion. Observing these seasons help us to gauge our hunger for God and to reveal the depth of our character.

5. Pilgrimage to Mecca. Christianity has sacred locations. Personally, we also can have sacred spaces or places that we can visit to give us perspective. I’m a huge fan of international travel because I think it gives one perspective that can’t be gained by reading about a place. Lots of Christians travel to Israel to see the places where Jesus walked. There are also other trips that follow in the footsteps of various saints. Visiting a spiritually significant place is a profound way to experience God.

We are called to practice and commitment. We are called to become more like God and be God’s presence in the world.

Today in Paris there was a horrible attack by Muslim extremists who believe that their faith and their Prophet was being attacked by a satirical newspaper. Once again, terrorism in the name of faith. Christians have been guilty of it as well as Jews. We have a history (and somewhat of a present) of killing people who disagree with us. This is counter to everything that is intended by faith. If you are engaged in the practice of the above pillars or in a consistent practice of Jewish or Christian spiritual disciplines, terrorism is not the result. These events are the direct result of following one person’s interpretation of sacred texts, and not the result of seeking out God for oneself.

Friday Five: 2015, Year of the….

3dogmom writes:

I’m not really a “resolution” kind of gal. You? There are things I appreciate, however, about the idea of taking a fresh look at life when a new year dawns. I hear that it’s the Year of the Sheep for those who follow the Chinese calendar, and since I love sheep, that makes me smile. That got me thinking about what other kind of year it might be.  For instance, I’ve got more than a handful of unfinished products lying about: knitting, cross-stitch, scrapbooking… With an eye toward freeing up some space where these projects are stashed I’ve decided that it would be a win-win to make this the year of the finished project. Get my drift?

What sort of year would you like this to be for you? New vacation destination? Recipes to try? Item to check off the bucket list? Let’s have ‘em. Five of them!

Personal Note: So not a resolution girl. I’m not so great with the finishing. Plus, it’s semi-arbitrary.

1. Church involvement – So, I’ve been seeing a new church. It’s early, but things are going well. We believe the same things, but we have enough differences to make it interesting. I don’t really believe in soul mates, but it may be that this church could be “the one.” After I’ve recovered from my surgery, we’re going to see a lot more of each other, and I’m hoping things keep going well.

2. US Exploration – I usually take one international trip a year, but I feel like this year might be the year that I stay in the country and visit some spots I’ve either never seen or haven’t seen in a while. I really want to go to New Orleans and I also want to do an east coast trip from DC to Boston. I’ve discovered that seeing water is kind of important for me to keep my sanity, so there will be a few trips to California and hopefully one to Hawaii.

3. Kitchen Re-org – For my hysterectomy shower, I’ve gotten a lot of great cookbooks. I need to find a place to put them and then I need to make space for some of the new kitchen tools I’ll need to make some of these magnificent creations. I’m going to spend next weekend getting the kitchen moved around and then I’m buying another bookshelf for my living room and some of them will go there as well.

4. Back to yoga – I’ve not been to yoga in a couple of months for some personal reasons but I really need to go back. I’m going to rejoin my studio in March and get my practice on.

5. Career progress – I’ve got some irons in the fire with work stuff and I’m hoping this will take me to SF a few times. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Advent. #itscomplicated

We’re coming to the end of the season of Advent, which marks the beginning of the church year. More so than other seasons like Lent, which has a more specific focus, Advent is a more complex microcosm of life. The Sundays celebrate Hope, Peace, Joy & Love. There is also the slaughter of innocents, injustice, barrenness, and powerful darkness. And yet in the midst of darkness, we have seen a great light.

This year during Advent, we’ve seen the #blacklivesmatter movement rise up in protest of the killing of young black men by police, the slaughter of school children in Pakistan, senseless violence in Australia, and the rampant terror perpetuated by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Closer to home, I have friends who are going through unspeakable difficulty in this season, as I’m sure everyone does.

I also have friends who are full of joy.

It’s much easier to be swept up in the shiny, twinkly holiday energy that pervades American culture beginning earlier and earlier every year. I swear, next year Macy’s will start putting up trees in July.

Today we focus on Love, but it is also the darkest day of the year. Less light and less warmth makes love hard to see.

The pastor of the church I’ve been attending badly wants me to quote him, so here goes. Today during communion, he said that the elements of the supper exist because their core ingredients had been crushed to produce something new. Those new things nourish the community.

2014 was a year that sucked for so many people. I’m kind of in the middle – some good, some bad. Some of my friends have been crushed this year, but they are hanging in there, looking forward to being made into something new. Some of my friends have experienced nothing but happiness, love and light. I’m really happy for them. I’ve got some good things on the horizon, I think and I’m looking forward what the year will bring. But, whatever comes, like Advent, 2015 will be complicated. There will be darkness and light, heartbreak and warmth, death and resurrection. Hoping that the coming year brings all of us the great light in the darkness.

Friday Five: Random Tinsel Toe Edition

revkarla writes:
Happy Friday Five, all you gals and pals winding your way through Advent!

Time to take a break, put your tinsel toes on, and play a round of Friday Five for a breath or two.

1. What song are you grooving to these days?

I’ve got my rockin’ awesome Xmas playlist going right now and I’m really enjoying the new Pentatonix album. As one who loves a good mashup, I’m particularly fond of the Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy selection.

2. If YOU were a room in your home, what would it be, and why?

I’d be the kitchen. Warm, inviting, relaxing, practical & full of good things!

3. What ever happened to LipSmackers? Does anyone remember that lip balm from the 70’s? Do you have a recommendation for a really awesome lip balm?

Oh I remember. Today I was cleaning out my old purse and I found a jillion lip balms, but these days, my go-to are handmade organic products made by my friend who runs the shop Quiet As Chamomile on Etsy.

4. Tell us about a tiny (or HUGE) grace moment from this week.

At this moment in my life all grace moments are big. I think the biggest one that’s from the last couple of weeks is that I may have landed in a church & they’re happy to have me.

5. If you could just have any treat/snack in the world right now, what it would be and with whom would you share it? (assuming you are in a sharing kind of mood.

That’s cute, but I don’t share. Right now I’m kind of hungry so I’d do almost anything. My go-to snack is usually chips & salsa & treat is ice cream. However, at this time of year I’m going straight for the Candy Cane Joe-Joes.