Jesus Loves Them

Due to a mixture of disbelief and grief, I did not sleep the night of the 2016 presidential election.

At sunrise, my disbelief and grief soon turned to anger.

I have felt on edge and emotionally exhausted since that day as I have watched the full-frontal attack on our institutions and system of checks and balance, on any national sense of dignity or moral and ethical standing, and on the very wellness and rights of vulnerable people.

My anger and disgust have lots of targets – the president, congressional leaders, white supremacists, and those who would put gun “rights” above common sense measures to try and protect people from gun violence.

But deep down in my heart, I am most angry at and feel betrayed by white, “evangelical” “Christians” who seem to be just fine with all of this.

In fact, they are not just fine with it. They are some of the most ardent enthusiasts for this sordid attack on decency and justice.

They make me sick.

They make me sick and they break my heart because I know they are painting a very wrong picture of what it means to follow Christ.

This false witness will lead (has lead) (is leading) many people to reject Christ.

*

This past Sunday I sat in worship and listened while about a dozen beautiful children sang “Jesus Loves Me” and rang bells of joy. It was wonderful and touching.

I smiled.

Until I cried.

As these children grow and move out into the world, will they remember and believe the message that Jesus loves them? Will they recognize it is a message for everyone?

*

I look at these children and wonder what will happen to them once they move beyond this loving and supportive community that is teaching and showing them that Jesus loves them.

Maybe they will end up hearing and believing the strident voices of some among the white, “evangelical” “Christian” community in our nation – voices that tell them Jesus loves them…but only as long as they are white, “American”, and straight. Will they turn “Jesus Loves Me” into a song celebrating their chosen place in God’s family at the expense of the “others” who are not?

Will they listen to and believe the voices that demonstrate through actions that the “right to life” ends at birth – pushing for policies that take food, health care, education, housing, and living-wage jobs away from the most vulnerable; that tell immigrants they are not welcome; that applaud the death penalty; that treat people of color with less (or no) respect and love; and push for a bigger and more ferocious war machine?

Will some of these boys learn that they are not responsible for their actions? Will they believe that men are “in charge”?

Will some of these girls be victims of sexual harassment or assault and be afraid to speak out about it? Will they believe they are to be subservient to the men in their lives?

Will some of these children believe that Christ would sanction or approve of them hurting people in their rush to seize power, wealth, and a false sense of “security”?

Will they believe that God – the same God who demands that we not worship false idols (such as country, wealth, power, and weapons) – somehow supports the idea of “making America great again”?

*

Perhaps they will end up rejecting the message that Jesus loves them because they sense that some of the loudest voices claiming “Christianity” are also the loudest voices spewing hate and violence.

Will they stumble over the cognitive dissonance between what Jesus says and what his followers do? Will they turn away?

Will some of these children find themselves among those who white, “evangelical” “Christians” reject as part of the Body of Christ?

*

I sat in the sanctuary.

I listened to the children.

I listened to their beautiful voices; watched their shy smiles and subtle dance moves; and marveled at the sparkle in their eyes as they sang.

I smiled.

Until I cried.

*

Lord, in your mercy, watch over each of these little ones and protect them from evil…even the evil they may run into within your church and among those who claim to know and serve you. And, Lord, help me be a voice that proclaims that you love them…a voice that proclaims you love them regardless of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, economic status, or ability; you love them regardless of anything they bring to the table; you love them because you love them; you love them because of your grace.

Amen.

Photo of a page in a hymnal with "Jesus Loves Me" lyrics and music.

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Reasons

Door hanger with Elmer Fudd and the words "be very very quiet!"

I’m in my mid-50s and I can honestly say there are certain moments from my life that stand out vividly – some good, some bad.

I don’t remember every single moment of my life in detail.

That would certainly be overwhelming.

 

But some memories are very clear.

I don’t hesitate to share the good ones.

“Remember that time when…oh boy was that wonderful/funny/beautiful/joyous.”

 

But those not-good memories also surface from time to time…perhaps in response to something I hear or see – or maybe smell.

Some of those not-good memories are of times when somebody hurt me.

Some, unfortunately, are of times when I hurt somebody.

I generally don’t talk about those times.

There are reasons.

 

But I have a two-fold hope:

One – if it turned out that sharing my not-good memory of being hurt would help somebody else not be hurt – I hope I would.

Two – if it turned out that sharing my not-good memory of hurting somebody else would help them heal – or help somebody else avoid experiencing/causing such hurt – I hope I would. I certainly hope – if the person I hurt brought it up – I at least would acknowledge what I’d done and apologize.

 

We don’t always share our memories.

And sometimes we do.

And there are reasons.

A corner along a floorboard behind a door...full of dust and cobwebs.

Trespasses

A sign shows a human shape with a large hand extended to indicate "Stop" - and with a red circle and line through it - to indicate no trespassing.

What if it’s not the refugees and immigrants who are trespassing?

What if we are trespassing against them by not welcoming them?

When we pray that God will deliver us from evil, do we realize the evil is not “the other” but rather our own worst nature?

Forgive us our trespasses…lead us not into temptation…deliver us from evil.

Amen.

“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

A person's shadow over green grass.

Taking Steps

Today was day 240.

For 240 days in a row, I have walked at least a half hour each day.

Now that I’ve invested this many days in this effort, I’m more determined than ever not to miss a day.

I’ve even set an alarm on my phone for 9:00 p.m. that asks if I have walked yet.

Screen shot of an iPhone calendar reminder asks "Did I walk today?" - set to repeat daily at 9 PM.

During this past 240 days, the act of taking this step – taking these steps – has made me feel better mentally and physically.

There are many other things going on around me and in the world over which I have no or limited control.

But this is something I have determined to do and which is in my power to do.

I’m sure there will come a day when my streak snaps – either due to illness or obligations or distraction or something.

The day will come.

I hope I then start counting again.

From 1.

I hope I begin again.

Putting one foot in front of the other.

One day at a time.

Taking steps.

Three pair of tennis shoes next to a bag. Two pair of shoes have sports socks on top.

Justice

Courthouse clock tower with Lady Justice at the top.

The West Virginia Legislature is considering impeaching a Justice…and there are enough political shenanigans, malfeasance, and corruption going on in our state that it was confusing to some whether that meant a State Supreme Court Justice or Governor Justice.

And now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice is retiring, opening the way for a corrupt president to name his second Justice (the first was named to a seat stolen by Republicans when they refused to even hold hearings on the last president’s Justice nominee.)

This comes at an incredibly critical time.

It comes at a time when our nation is polarized and angry.

Two road directional arrows point directly back towards one another.

It’s nauseating – at such a time as this – for a president neck-deep in corruption and scandal (whose opponent received millions more votes than he did) to be permitted to name two people to lifetime appointments with the power to interpret and shape our constitutional reality.

The current climate is as far from such a “mandate” as could be possible.

Things are already bad.

We are ripping families apart and warehousing children (in for-profit facilities); we are thumbing our noses at the concept of “human rights” on the international stage; we are cozying up to dictators all around the world while undermining our allies; the middle class is being strangled while the wealthy get wealthier (thanks to large tax cuts); the most vulnerable among us are being shoved further aside (thanks to proposed budget cuts to pay for the afore-mentioned tax cuts); affordable access to basic healthcare is being stripped away; thousands are dying in an epidemic of gun violence; and environmental damage is intensifying.

Everything bad about America is being magnified – racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, crumbling infrastructure, bloated consumerism, shaky standard of living…

Everything good about America is being undermined – innovation, neighborliness, natural beauty, religious freedom, positive outreach to the world, education, the arts…

It’s been said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I want to believe that is true.

But, at the moment, justice seems pretty far around the bend.

Screen shot of a tweet from Ruth H. Hopkins @RuthHHopkins "The prayers that your grandmothers said for you long ago are still being answered." 4/16/18 11:22 PM

Ruth H. Hopkins is a Dakota/Lakota Sioux Writer, born on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. She is also a tribal attorney, judge, and biologist.

Treadmill Theology

Disclaimer: I am not a professional theologian. I have not even ever played one on TV. Furthermore, I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So, read on if interested in how my crazy mind works, but at your own risk.

_______________

Either from oxygen deprivation or some sort of Spirit-directed introspection, I have arrived at what I consider an important breakthrough in my understanding of the divine.

This came to me on the treadmill, so…walk with me a few minutes and I will fill you in.

I’ve been walking on the treadmill daily for several months and, while walking, I’ve been binge-watching one of my favorite shows on Netflix.

Screen shot says Binge-worthy TV Dramas.The show just wrapped up its 14th season, and I have stayed up-to-date with the latest happenings.

For my re-watch binge I started back at the first-ever episode and am now up to Season 7. It’s been fascinating to experience old episodes, knowing what happens to the characters down the line. I witness them make life choices, take actions, learn lessons, and start/stop relationships …and I already know how it turns out.

“Don’t get on the plane, you guys!”

“Yes, girl, you can DO this. Don’t give up! It’s gonna all be OK.”

I know these characters better than they know themselves…yet.

So, back to my important breakthrough in understanding the divine…

No matter what season of my life I’m in, God has already seen it. He already knows how this – and future seasons – turns out.

Screen shot shows a drop down menu for Seasons of a show.

I don’t mean this in any predestination-everything-happens-for-a-reason-because-it’s-God’s-plan way.

Not. At. All.

God is not some Emmy-winning-script-writer-in-the-sky.

I mean it in a God-exists-outside-our-linear-experience-of-time-and-already-knows-what-happens way.

God knows me.

Before I was born he knew me.

When I was a child he knew me.

When I became a wife and mother he knew me.

He knows me right now.

He knows what life choices I’ll make, what actions I’ll take, what lessons I’ll learn, and what relationships I will start/stop.

Not because he makes those choices for me, but because he has already watched me make them.

He knows how it all turns out.

He knows me better than I know myself…yet.

It’s comforting to think that God has always been with me. God is with me now. And God will continue to be with me through every season.

He’ll be with me as I make all those choices and experience those consequences.

Perhaps if I make an effort to spend time with God, listening for his voice, I may even hear some helpful comments coming my way.

“Have you thought of this other path? It may not be usual and ordinary…but I think you will like where it leads.”

“Give your friend the benefit of the doubt. He is trying his best.”

“Go ahead and have that ice cream, girl! It’s one of life’s awesome joys!”

He’s seen all my episodes from every season and even knows when my series gets cancelled.

Maybe my eternal life will turn out to be a sort of never-ending syndication*. I’m counting on a reunion movie thrown in.

*Update 5/29/18 7:45 a.m.: Still thinking…syndication – or spin-off? Still thinking…

Screen shot says Sarah's Story Season 55

Broken

Hospital Room Ceiling

Two weeks later, after multiple X-rays, scans, ultrasounds, and other tests, the extreme pain remained.

Unexplained.

Two weeks later, after two ambulance rides, two ER visits, being admitted for “observation” (Medicare-ese for “you are here but you aren’t”), a blood clot, and more tests, we found out why.

Broken.

The leg is broken.

Guess what?

So is our healthcare system.

I know I am not alone in my frustration at the American healthcare system – arguably the most expensive, the most confusing and, often, the most maddening and inefficient healthcare system in the world.

I recently read Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.

Book Cover for An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal

I can’t recommend it enough.

It breaks all the sectors down one by one and peels back the dysfunction.

In my opinion, healthcare is a basic human right.

But in America, a nation boasting of endless opportunity and wealth, our healthcare system gets lots wrong.

And it is a life and death tragedy.

In this most recent case, the pain has been intense and needlessly prolonged by a turf-segmented healthcare “system”.

(I want to be clear that the individuals providing (or trying to provide) healthcare are almost universally awesome and dedicated to their jobs…it is the system that often gets in their way of doing them.)

The leg is broken.

So is the American healthcare system.

And that is sick.

Blue thermometer