Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Madness. Absurdity. Ridiculousness.

Call it what you will, but the last two weeks have been entirely too filled with it. To add to the ridiculousness of this list, I believe all items could be followed by #firstworldproblems.

#1 - One day I spent 10 hours on a full tour bus with 4th and 5th graders which included a dinner stop at Golden Corral.

#2 - I ripped the front bumper off the van by driving over a parking lot paver with re-bar sticking out the top, broke pieces off the bottom of the car, but was able to put everything back together.

#3 - I drove 45 minutes each way to have a child's braces bracket refastened because it had popped off when said child was chewing a paper towel... just 10 days before the braces were to be removed permanently.

#4 - I saw friends I hadn't seen in more than a decade because we gathered to bury a 41 year old classmate of ours.

#5 - A raccoon got into our chicken coop and killed 5 birds.

#6 - We still don't know how or why our friend died.

#7  - My brand new fancy-pants camera stopped working just two weeks after I bought it--right in the middle of our Spring Break trip.

#8 - Our Spring Break trip to New Orleans got rerouted to northern Ohio so my husband and I could participate in the memorial service for our friend. It snowed.

#9 - I will have spent 5 consecutive weekends away from home.

#10 - North Carolina passed HB 2.

#11 - Picture me, pulled off the side of the road in windy Indiana, kneeling with my head on the pavement, tying up the under side of our van with dental floss.

#12 - This list was originally going to be 5 items long.

#13 - I kept forgetting, and when I'd reach my hand into my purse for a pen or breath mint, my search would be confounded by the blue velvet box containing a small urn of my friends' ashes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fear Not [no.52]

In church today, we read the story of the talking donkey. Great story not told often enough. Almost heralds Peter's three denials.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fear Not [no.48]

There is nowhere you can go God does not follow.

Even on a Sunday when church has been cancelled due to snow and bad roads!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fear Not [no.46]

Bit of a hiatus because I was largely away from technology during the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta for four days. Then I came home to catching up and snow days... but the text is always there to return to, no matter how long one is away.
What I left out of the pretty meme is the remainder of the sentence: you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! It's insulting in many ways. Yet, even when we are worthless, perhaps deserving to be afraid, the guiding voice says Fear not, God will help you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fear Not [no.43]

What I struggle with is when to act and when to sit back, relax, and wait. Sometimes I feel like the council  "trust, don't fear" leads to a passive path of letting things fall apart. Conversely, acting, at times, feels like being motivated by fear and a lack of trust.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fear Not [no.41] one month reflections

Again, by my choice of image, I am pulling a quote out of context to give it additional meanings. I do, however, think it is worth considering.

Further reflections after one month of consistent attention to the Fear Not messages in the Bible:

#1 - I recognize that I skip over a lot of verses because they seem too particular to their context. So while I'm on number 41 (and a few of those are pulled from the New Testament) this Isaiah verse is actually the 68th Fear Not message chronologically in the Bible.

#2 - Not surprisingly, everywhere I turn I see fear not messages and conversely, be fearful messages. It goes to show, how, when you attune yourself to a thing you begin to see it more frequently. The lesson here, if nothing else, is pay attention to what you attune yourself to. (For example, as a former English teacher, I frequently attune myself to bad grammar, so I recognize that I ended the previous sentence with a preposition.) If you attune yourself to cases of animal cruelty, you will begin to see them everywhere. If you attune yourself to educational failings, you will see it. If you attune yourself to the beauty of the natural earth, you will enjoy it. If you attune yourself to the role of pasta in the average person's life... you will eat more pasta!

Even last night at a funeral I attended, two of the passages read were ones I had previously blogged about, though the verses were emphasized differently. The preacher emphasized Light in the Psalms 27 passage (as the power had cut out during the viewing and the whole service was lit by candles, emergency back up lights or "mercy lights" as they're called here in the mountains, and cell phones).

Hang on for a moment while we consider the phrase mercy lights... the lights that kick on when everything goes dark so you can make your way safely, so you can carry on. A light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out. (paraphrase of John 1:5)

In the second passage that grabbed my attention, the preacher emphasized the widow woman doing what Elijah had commanded because God had empowered him as his voice. But both times, I heard Do not be afraid, because of my contextual interactions with those passages. Further, the Isaiah passage reminded me that the widow woman's ability to fear not was the real point of emphasis of the story and that God empowered her equally.

#3 - I'm getting to the point of saying Now what?  What do I do with fearlessness?

I like the phrase  fearless engagement. But with what shall I engage?  For me, it is not enough to wallow in one's blessings and "saved" state. In that whole Faith vs. Works debate, I  come out on the Works side. In the Martha vs. Mary philosophy of life... I'm a Martha. (I still can't get over the fact that Jesus chided her.)

The other notion that has taken hold this past month is an extension of fear not phased like the Hippocratic Oath which doctors take to "do no harm" --- and that is Cause no fear. I really like this idea, though I'll admit, that as a school teacher and coach, I often fell back on a kind of threat or intimidation to motivate, and I may do that now in parenting and in life. So,  I'm trying to be more attentive to that in my current interactions.

Also, when I attended my home congregation Assembly Mennonite over Christmas, I learned that their advent services had been focused on one theme: Moving from fear to service. That certainly hit home! I wish I could have heard more of the sermons and reflections. Indeed, fear is based on the personal...where as Christ asks us to serve others--the coat from my back to the coatless one. The sermon I heard, while reading extensively from a Junie B. Jones book (awesome!), concluded by saying if we are living fearless lives, they are by extension not ego-driven or self-driven, and thereby, all we do is service. It was a different take for me: letting go of ego as a way of letting go of fear.  As I move from the Old Testament and into the New in this series, I will certainly be looking to Jesus and his example to answer the "now what" question.

It is as if, during advent, I was unwittingly doing the work to prepare for Christ's arrival. Even the advent theme in my current church (First Presbyterian) dovetails: the idea that Christ/Christianaty is, at its heart, counter-culture. That, too, rang true as I thought about fear. Now when I approach and move through the Gospels I am ready for a fresh take.

Just in time for Lent.

So, one month after engaging in this endeavor to fear not, I feel like I have made some good progress with myself. Yes, I have work to do, but I'm willing to keep at it.

For an explanation of this Fear Not series, read my first post on the nature of fear. By all means, feel free to scroll through the other posts, too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fear Not [no.40] Snow - Delays - Fears

...although they may be afraid of her!

Funny that this one comes the week that we had an early dismissal because of snow flurries and a 2-hour delay for icy roads! Note to self: just roll with the weather. Indeed, I'm not afraid when it snows: I have a roof over my head and even if the electricity goes out, we have a wood-burning stove to keep us warm. Plus, plenty of blankets, board games, candles, and books. It's a good reminder to be grateful and a further note to create no fear (especially in my children!).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fear Not [no.37] Fearless Engagement

Oh, now, this one... this one is interesting.
I seriously cracked myself up pairing it with the image of the US dollar's inscription IN GOD WE TRUST. #irony

Here is the complete chapter:

Psalm 49

Hear this, all you peoples;
    listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
    rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
    with the harp I will expound my riddle:
Why should I fear when evil days come,
    when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
    and boast of their great riches?
No one can redeem the life of another
    or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
    no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
    and not see decay.
10 For all can see that the wise die,
    that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
    leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
    their dwellings for endless generations,
    though they had named lands after themselves.
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
    they are like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
    and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
    death will be their shepherd
    (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
    far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
    he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
    when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
    their splendor will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
    and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
    who will never again see the light of life.
20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
    are like the beasts that perish.

This makes me think, quite a bit, about our current presidential candidates and economic situation in the US. Several candidates promote quite sincerely that their ability to acquire wealth in this life makes them qualified to lead our country. Indeed, it is their wealth that enables them to even run for office. Perhaps they will enable the country to be better off financially (I seriously doubt it)... but that has little to do with justice or lasting goodness. The verses remind me not to be afraid when people boast about their wealth. Wealth means nothing to God. Why should it matter to me? The wealthy and the poor will perish--the wise and stupid likewise.

Understanding, however, is held in higher regard. Understanding of what, however, isn't specified here... but I doubt it is the understanding of how to manipulate the economic system. It is more likely the understanding of people, of God's ways, of justice. (Justice in the sense of goodness, not retribution.)

Sanders, in particular, looks at the economic gap in this country and calls it out for the greedy system it is. Not sure how bad that gap is? Watch this (which is probably outdated by now anyway):

And while I see a true push for justice in his political stance, I have to note too, that he may be manipulating our fear of being left out, held down, and voiceless.

None of this, though, should cause me to fear.

Some people come at politics from a religious viewpoint like this and decide not to vote or to be involved in the political process whatsoever. However, I like a phrase I picked up in my reading somewhere called fearless engagement. I'll have to reflect more upon this later, and I'll try to find the link to the article I read about it. But for now, I'd like to foster in myself, and encourage in others, a fearless engagement that is based on understanding, not ignorance, and is rooted in a love of others.