Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Back Again and MLK

After a three year hiatus the time has come to renew my commitment to writing. Why now? Much has transpired in the three years and the time is right to make some sense of it.

We can never take our civil rights for granted. The cancer of bigotry and misogyny is alive and well in the land of the free, along with alternate facts and people of the lie. This past Martin Luther King Day provoked prayer study of his words, his life and his death. A few of these thoughts are found within this blog.

We are quite familiar with the Parable of the Sower and have studied the lessons learned from this parable a number of times. In the parable an anonymous sower broadly scatters the seed, which is the Word of God; some seed grows fruitfully while other seed does not. We have here, relevant truths for our day and age.

I am a gardener. This is the time of year when we gardeners receive seed catalogs in the mail every day. Thousands of seeds are featured for every type of  growing condition or need. The Word of God is like that as well, as it includes many different kinds of seeds, the seeds of love, seeds of faith, and seeds of justice, seeds for times of prosperity and seeds for the dry years. As people of God, we too, become sowers of the Word.

The seeds of faith and scripture sowed by Martin Luther King yielded fruit in abundance.  Rev. King sowed a great many seeds of the Word to promote justice and equality. Here are a few examples from his sermons. Here is what Rev. King said about the greatest seed of all, love. "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you." This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love. Recently, I encountered abuse of power. It's easy to hate. It is easy to go to the dark side. These are the weeds in the garden. To grow good fruit we need to meet the enemy straight on with love. That's not to say the enemy becomes a best friend. No, it means that we pray for the enemy, that if we encounter the enemy in trouble, we offer assistance.

"But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it. Montgomery Bus Boycott speech, at Holt Street Baptist Church" (5 December 1955).

Imagine the beauty own if Christians followed the Word and sowed the seed of love. We see people abandoning the Church and when I talk with some of these people I hear over and over that they do not see love in action within the church. We have our petty squabbles that consume time, energy and destroy the health of the Church. We have power figures who abuse that power to denigrate, demean and degrade the Body of Christ.

Sometimes, we gardeners plant different seeds together. For example, a variety of salad greens grow together or a variety of wild flower seeds to grow the create a more beautiful, more natural looking garden. Reverend King spoke about the seeds of love and justice being planted together. It is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith and face. Reverend King said, "Justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” Rev. King used the Word of God to plant the seeds of love and justice even in the face of our enemies. Let’s follow in his footsteps sowing the seeds of love and justice to correct that which revolts against love.

The Yoke of Light

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28–30

Tell me of the one who is not weary and heavy laden and I will tell you of the one who walks with God. There is no doubt that life is filled with burdens of all kinds, hunger, thirst, poverty, poor decisions, straying from the path that follows God and leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. Worry about sick friends and family burden me in especially difficult ways for I am often helpless to intervene in a meaningful way. I pray for the best even though my eyes remain blind to what that may realistically look like. Too often, I lean on God and the burden remains heavy.

What of that heaviness? What about the yoke? My temptation is to shed the yoke and be free of it once and for all, to be free as a bird without a care in the world. Without the yoke I will be free to explore new ways, look for a better path, to look for a new light in the darkness. Without the yoke, I may sever the ties that bind me to responsibility, relationships and respectability. Oh, wait a minute, is that what I really desire? Without responsibility, there is nothing to give my life purpose. Without relationships, I will be a very lonely person. Without respectability, I have no standards to maintain. If I stray from the narrow path I may never find my way back and those who love me may give up on searching.   This is not the life I want or desire.

There is a yoke to carry that keeps me following the path that Jesus prepared. The light burden of this yoke keeps me moving in the right direction, one foot in front of the over. When I begin to stray from the narrow path of Jesus guided by the Holy Spirit to the Lord the yoke becomes heavier and heavier.

When life becomes burdensome, when the yoke become heavy, it is time to review my relationship with the Almighty. It is time to call upon the grace of God, examine my conscience, ask for forgiveness, pray for mercy and call upon fellow disciples to help me on the journey. In this way, the yoke becomes light and I carry it with joy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Simple Spring Challenge

Well folks, spring has finally arrived following an especially cold, windy and brutal winter in the hinterlands of North Dakota. Believe of not, there was a positive side to this long season of being snowed in from one blizzard to the next. Short days sliding into long nights gifted me many hours of reading, Bible study and contemplation while snuggled in with two dogs, a cat and a cup of hot chocolate.

Suddenly, as though someone threw open the shutters, days are warm and sunny, 14 hours long and lengthening. For the first time in 6 months I can walk around the yard and fields gazing at debris blown in like tumbleweeds and of course the miscellaneous stuff buried in the first snow of last November. Sun pours into the windows through layers of "snert" left by the aforementioned blizzards. 

Home ownership complicates our lives. Many times I mumble to myself, "I'm ready for the condo."

So, just how does a contemplative religious deal with the complexity of caring for a home
and yard while maintaining a simple life? While this is still something I am figuring out, here are a few suggestions.

1. Set priorities
My priority is living a contemplative life in prayer and service to God. Snert can wait, praying the Daily Office will not. My home will never be featured in a magazine, but it is a place of peace and a comfortable retreat for those seeking solitude.

2. Live in the presence of God
Seasonal chores have the potential to be a prayer of praise to our Creator. Raking dead leaves, cleaning flower beds and planting seeds enable one to be intimately connected to the earth, creation and the millenia of human and nonhuman inhabitants who lived on the land.

3. If it doesn't get done, it doesn't get done
We have small field on the south side of the lilac bushes that really ought to be weeded and something useful planted in order to at least prevent the weeds from growing and spreading. It is the last project of every year and quite honestly, not much gets done. I cut the burdock and that is about it. Que sera, sera. I look up to caress the lake with my eyes, cherish the birds flying, singing and swimming and thank God for the beauty of my surroundings.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Simplicity of Buying Consumer Goods

Does it really matter where my clothes are made? Isn't it simpler to just purchase whatever is most convenient? If so, for whom is it simpler or more convenient? Surely it is not simple or convenient for the factory worker in Bangladesh who loses life or limb for working in unsafe factories. Surely it is not simpler or more convenient for the nonunion worker in the United States with no health insurance making minimum wage so we can wear cheap clothing at their expense.

Before I get on my high horse, let me say that I do not always look into the background of every item I purchase. What I do though, is make it known to retailers, when possible, that I am searching for ethically made goods. Until consumers begin to care about the people who make their clothing or household items, change will be very slow. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/05/05/shoppers-face-hurdles-finding-ethical-clothing/2124659/ 

When we neglect the workers who make consumer goods we are projecting the message, "I really do not care about your health or wellbeing; I care more about the few cents or dollars I save than I do about you."
We are all guilty. We will all need to answer to God when asked, "You were blessed with more than any people in history, so tell me why you did not care for your brother and sister in impoverished communities and countries?"

Father Richard Rohr OSF communicates the same message in his meditation blog.

If you truly love others as God loves, you will desire the same justice for factory workers as you would want for yourself. The next time you buy an inexpensive coat, suit or dress, ask the retailer where it was made and under what conditions. Let's send the message that we care, so retailers will care.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Giving Alms in Simplicity and Avoid Evil Speaking

There is nothing new about the struggles we have with gossip and discerning when to give. The Church Fathers of the second century A.D. shared lives surrounded by ubiquitous gossip and countless hours deciding who is most deserving when sharing their abundance. They offer us simple solutions, walk away from gossip and give to all of the needy.  

COMMANDMENT SECOND.
ON AVOIDING EVIL-SPEAKING, AND ON GIVING ALMS IN SIMPLICITY.

He said to me, “Be simple and guileless, and you will be as the children who know not the wickedness that ruins the life of men. First, then, speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to any one who speaks evil of another. But if you listen, you will partake of the sin of him who speaks evil, if you believe the slander which you hear; for believing it, you will also have something to say against your brother. Thus, then, will you be guilty of the sin of him who slanders. For slander is evil and an unsteady demon. It never abides in peace, but always remains in discord. Keep yourself from it, and you will always be at peace with all. Put on a holiness in which there is no wicked cause of offence, but all deeds that are equable and joyful. Practise goodness; and from the rewards of your labours, which God gives you, give to all the needy in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom you are to give or not to give. Give to all, for God wishes His gifts to be shared amongst all. They who receive, will render an account to God why and for what they have received. For the afflicted who receive will not be condemned, but they who receive on false pretences will suffer punishment. He, then, who gives is guiltless. For as he received from the Lord, so has he accomplished his service in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom he should give and to whom he should not give. This service, then, if accomplished in simplicity, is glorious with God. He, therefore, who thus ministers in simplicity, will live to God. Keep therefore these commandments, as I have given them to you, that your repentance and the repentance of your house may be found in simplicity, and your heart may be pure and stainless.” (Fathers of the Second Century, Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus and Clement of Alexandria, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.ii.iii.ii.html)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Prayer from the Tomb


Prayer Corner
A Prayer from the Tomb

The Old Testament story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and being expelled after three days presages Jesus’ burial in the tomb followed by resurrection from the dead. There are times in this imperfect earthly life when we are cast into the pit or figurative belly of the big fish. We might feel as though we are buried in sorrow, despair or sin. These are tough times indeed.

Here is the Good News. Christianity is a resurrection story. As a matter of fact, we must die to the old self and be born anew in Jesus the Christ. Christianity is also a religion of faith, hope and love. Jesus will not allow us to stay in the pit or make ourselves comfortable there. Like Jonah, call out to God in your distress so you may come out of the darkness into light.

Read Jonah’s prayer, meditate on it, pray it like your own. Resurrection and new birth await.


Jonah 2:1-9 (NRSV)

1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,

"I called to the LORD out of my distress,

and he answered me;

out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

and you heard my voice.

3 You cast me into the deep,

into the heart of the seas,

and the flood surrounded me;

all your waves and your billows

passed over me.

4 Then I said, 'I am driven away

from your sight;

how shall I look again

upon your holy temple?'

5 The waters closed in over me;

the deep surrounded me;

weeds were wrapped around my head

6 at the roots of the mountains.

I went down to the land

whose bars closed upon me forever;

yet you brought up my life from the Pit,

O LORD my God.

7 As my life was ebbing away,

I remembered the LORD;

and my prayer came to you,

into your holy temple.

8 Those who worship vain idols

forsake their true loyalty.

9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving

will sacrifice to you;

what I have vowed I will pay.

Deliverance belongs to the LORD!"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Simplicity Avowed: Accect the SNAP Challenge

Simplicity Avowed: Accect the SNAP Challenge: A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I accepted the SNAP Challenge for 7 days. Actually, SNAP is an acronym for, Supplemental Nutrition Ass...