Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Prayer for Oklahoma

When the winds come ...

Gracious God,

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma
recovering from the damaging tornado that touched down in their midst.

We pray for the Mothers and Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, Families and Friends
dealing with the loss of life, loss of property, loss of livelihood and loss of peace of mind.

We pray for children and adults lost and persons injured from the debris
whirling all around them and causing even more pain than we can comprehend.

We pray for small miracles and teachers who shield the children in their care.
We pray for pets found and family treasures located in the rubble.

We pray for first responders and hospital staff treating the injured.
We pray for recovery teams on the way to help in the aftermath of such destruction.
We pray for pastors and churches as they minister to their congregations and communities in pain.

We pray for God's comfort and peace in the midst of choas.
We pray for God's guidance and grace in the midst of trials.
We pray for God's love to be felt by all in Oklahoma coming from around the globe.

We are there in spirit, holding you in prayer, and sending you our best wishes and resources for recovery.

Feel us with you. Feel God enfolding you in love. Feel the energy and support we are sending your way.

In Christ's name we pray.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Growing Older But Not Up

 In the song, "Growing Older, But Not Up," Jimmy Buffet sings about the idea of growing older but still having a sense of fun and play by not fully growing up. He is experiencing the realities of growing older - pain, creaking joints, brittle bones, etc. - but he is determined to live to the fullest.  He proudly proclaims, "I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead."

I am a 50 year old woman who likes to watch action movies, go to the park, golf or putt-putt, and spend time on the beach. I play video games with my son and go out for fun on date night. I laugh at life and at myself ... often.

But I also spend a lot of time paying bills, cleaning house, working for my professional advancement, grading papers, writing my next book, and taking care of "grown-up" things. They take up too much time, but I actually took some advice growing up to find something I love to do and figure out a way to get paid for it. I do love my job.

I have joints that creak and more than one story of a bone breaking without much drama involved. I feel my age some days more than others. There are times I crackle and pop more than a breakfast cereal. It is all part of growing older.

But being a "grown-up" can be rough at times. There are days I just want to sleep until noon and pull the covers up to make the world go away. There are days when I want to slap on the skis and go up the chairlift to take on a black diamond run again. There are days that I want someone else to be the grown up so that I can go play.

And there are days when I wish I could go back and be a 20 year old taking on the world all over again with new possibilities. (And there are definitely a few things my older self would tell my younger self NOT to do the second time around).

However, when I stop and look at my family I am amazed. I sit and watch my 14 year old son - who is annoying, amazing, compassionate, grumpy, messy, intelligent, creative, loving, and talented - and I cannot imagine my life without him. My immediate and extended family makes me a better person and adds joy to my life daily. I can't imagine not having them in my life.

I think back on the amazing years of classroom experience I had in Texas teaching History, Government, and Geography to sophomores and seniors and I would not pass that up. What fabulous memories I have of those days creating a game called Wheel of Feudalism for my students and playing Trivia with Historic facts and figures. How would I teach seminary students today the way I do without those early experiments with engaging learning?

I reminisce about helping my sister raise her two daughters while she was going back to school. I would not trade that time with Jordyn and Jonna for anything in the world. They are brave, bold and independent young women. And I can see glimpses of me in both of them and that makes me proud. How would I trade that in for being young again?

I remember the many lives I touched and was touched by in ministry as a United Methodist pastor in Kansas and New Jersey and I would not change a thing. I remember the 11pm Bible Studies at Kansas State and the Campus Ministry and Youth trips to Tennessee and Chicago.  I remember the hospital visits, a wedding when the drapes caught on fire, and the many baptisms I was privileged to be part of. I went to countless lock-ins and had more bad pizza than I care to remember. (A big reason I rarely eat it now.)

So I am growing older. And I am growing up. I don't want to miss out on the amazing things that have happened and that are yet to happen. I want to live fully into my old age. I want to remember all of these great experiences and have even more with my family, in the classroom, and with my writing/scholarship.

But I'm still gonna play. I'm going to take off on a Wednesday afternoon and go see an action movie. I'm going to go play putt-putt with the family, I am going to go to the beach and be lazy or maybe float for hours on the waves. I am going to go to Beer-B-Q events with my Lutheran friends even though I do not drink.

I am going to throw the frisbee and tickle my almost grown son. I am going to run off to see a musical in the city when I can. I am going to play video games with my kid and go on walks through the woods. And I am going to sleep-in on occasion and pull the covers up to make the world go away.

But only for a little while. Because my life is too amazing and too rich to miss anything - past, present or future.

I'm growing older, but not up to the point I forget to have fun.

So I share a favorite prayer -- "In Christ's name we play."

Go have fun. Enjoy the day.

Be a kid again - just don't wish your life away.

Go live it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wounded Faith

 This morning I was checking out my Facebook feed and saw the above photo that intrigued me greatly.  It was on the status of a clergy friend who often posts funny photos of himself photoshopped into some absurd situation or onto someone else’s body. So I was intrigued by the seriousness of the image – which I thought was a bit uncharacteristic.

When I really looked at it, I was reminded of the many times my Grandmother or Mom would tell me that I could survive anything through faith and that Jesus was bigger than any of my problems or issues. But there were definitely times in my life when my issues, problems, concerns, or drama seemed much bigger than my faith, bigger than Jesus, and definitely bigger than my understanding of God.

But I distinctly remember being told the opposite as I was growing up. “God doesn't give us more than we can handle,” I was told. Well, if that’s true, then evidently God has a higher opinion of what I can handle than I do.

Now I have to be honest about my life. I am a white, middle-class, highly educated, well employed, fairly healthy American woman. I am a Protestant in a vibrant community of faith and work in a vocation that I love and enjoy immensely. I have good health care and options for where I go to receive treatment when I am sick. I have a home that is warm and comfortable. My son is in a great school and had the ability to apply to multiple magnet schools for high school next year. I have an amazing family – my family of origin and my family of choice— and I know that I am richly blessed.

So how bad could my problems be? Right?

We all have secret pain. We all have brokenness. We all have wounds that do not fully heal despite all the salve we put on them. The truth is that no matter our circumstances in life – there is still heartache, pain and wounds.

Sometimes the pain comes from wounds that we are too frightened to talk about to others. Sometimes it comes from things we had no control over. Sometimes it comes from bad decisions we made in our past. Sometimes it comes from the evil some people do to others. Sometimes it comes from how society treats people that are deemed “others.” And sometimes it is what we do to ourselves.

No matter how we get these wounds - they are real. The pain is real. The feelings that the wounds and pain are bigger than Jesus – bigger than God—are real.  And no easy answers and pithy slogans on photos makes that pain go away. I know that.

But I believe that God helps to heal our wounds if we open our lives to that. I believe that our faith can and does help us survive difficult situations in our lives. I do believe that God is big enough to take our pain, to take our anger, to take our frustrations, and to take our brokenness and help us begin to heal.

For me that healing comes from my faith, from my church community, from my understanding of God’s desire for the best for me, and from the love with which I am surrounded every day.  For me healing comes in the Eucharistic meal I participate in every week with my seminary community and monthly with my community of faith. For me healing comes from a faith life that includes prayer, reading the scriptures, spending time in spiritual practices, and honoring my personal faith needs.

But even those powerful parts of my life do not automatically heal all of my wounds. Some wounds are even deeper than I want to admit. I am trying to be open to healing and wholeness. But I still have the wounds. They have shrunken over the years but I still have the scars. There has been healing and renewal, but that does not make me immune from new pain. There have been moments of complete clarity about my life and other times when everything was foggy. And I know that in all of those situations, God was with me. God was bigger than my pain, but I had to open myself to the possibility of healing. I had to stop focusing on the wounds so that I could feel the power of the healing.

The healing was sometimes as painful as the wounding—because it often involved forgiving the person(s) who injured me. And the healing was not always complete because I often held onto the pain since it was so personal to me.  And it had been such a part of my journey.

Healing comes if we open ourselves to the possibilities. It can be slow and difficult.

Wounds are not bigger than we are. Pain is not bigger than we are. Even though they feel like that sometimes – they are not bigger than God.

I have to remember that – I think that we all do.