About Sarah Lowther Hensley

Writer and Reader. Former public radio journalist and higher education administrator. Currently blogging at https://homeamongthehills.wordpress.com/ and at http://laylectionary.wordpress.com/ and at http://joybeautygrace.wordpress.com I have covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, anchored morning drive news, lobbied legislators, volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused children, and performed Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Heidelberger Studentenkantorei. I enjoy the Live HD performances of the Metropolitan Opera at our local theatre and watching German TV on my iPad. I have a B.A. in International Studies from West Virginia Wesleyan College, M.A. in German from Middlebury College and am a 1998 graduate of Leadership West Virginia. I live in Fairmont, West Virginia with my husband, our son, and Tess the rescue pup.

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.

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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

Easter’s Black Eye

I recently came across some Easter pictures from the year I was ten. They’re a bit faded now, but there I was, dressed up in my pink Easter dress and sporting a blue and green black eye.

Girl dressed in pink Easter dress with black eye, sad.

I was a certified tomboy (which makes the pink dress all the more of a miracle) and I got my black eye through honest horseplay.

That year I put on the expected Easter finery, hunted for eggs, ate chocolate, and went to church, all while sporting a beauty of a shiner.

This Easter, I don’t have a black eye; but organized religion in America sure does.

I am writing these words on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter – a Saturday that marks the paradoxical moment of suspended animation between the experience of death/defeat and the promise of life/victory.

In many ways, this day reflects my current location on my spiritual journey.

I’ve had a falling out with my “church” while also sensing an ever stronger pull to be part of the “Church”. There has been a “death” for me in the sense of belonging to a church, while also a promise of “life” within the greater purpose of the “Church”.

Just as religious leaders in Jerusalem called for Jesus to be executed, some leaders in today’s American church call for the de facto execution of the poor, displaced, and oppressed. They cheer as political leaders cut people off from healthcare, food, education, and safe harbor.

Screen shot of Tweet: John 10:15 in America 2018. "...@Franklin_Graham and @JerryFalwellJr answered, 'We have no king but Trump.'" #GoodFriday #Betrayal 3/30/18 7:34 AM

Other leaders remain wishy washy about whether all are welcome and accepted in the church; they debate and negotiate with those who think the church needs gatekeepers and bouncers to keep some people out. Jesus welcomed and accepted every person. He was pretty clear about it. He died for all.

Rainbow sticker over a door frame.

American church leaders have largely remained tone deaf to the heartfelt cries of #MeToo.

The American church has a black eye.

We can dress it up all we want, but it’s hard to ignore.

So, here I am on this Easter Saturday…disillusioned with a church that is seemingly drifting farther and farther away from the example of Christ.

I am probably not getting dressed up tomorrow to worship at a church.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But this coming week I am going to pack my bag, meet a bus on a lonely stretch of highway, and join with other disciples heading to D.C. to rally and call for an end to racism.

Logo for Unite to End Racism event April 2018

My trust in a church is dead, but my faith in Christ and his Church is alive and well.

This Easter I may not be in church, but I am looking forward to following Jesus.

And shiner or no, I am determined to smile.

Girl dressed in pink Easter dress with black eye, smiling.

Happy Easter.

Teaching a New Song

 

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.

The State of West Virginia is simultaneously heart-swellingly beautiful and heart-wrenchingly wretched – a condition she has experienced and suffered since even before her birth with civil war as a midwife.

Her mountains and streams sing a song, whispering to any listening soul that God is in heaven and all is right with the world. Her people are generous, loyal, and hard-working.

But her political and business leadership is quick to betray her natural beauty and her big-hearted citizens – selling her out to the lowest bidder, prostituting her for the crumbs and scars inflicted by those who covet but do not love her.

Her mountains are lopped off and shipped out. Her streams are filled with pollution. Her people are enlisted to play second fiddle and low-wage back-up singer to the forces that see her as an economic interest, but otherwise have no interest in her or her well-being and future.

Her current leaders rush headlong into actions that leave her less safe, less healthy, less empowered, and with less capacity to care for her people or her own natural beauty. Small-minded and visionless, they trip over each other in their fawning frenzy to please their out-of-state masters and political puppeteers.

Within the past week we have been reminded that we don’t have to accept the status quo. In a show of amazing solidarity, West Virginia’s teachers rose up together, hand-painted their signs, planted their feet firmly on the picket line and in the halls of power, and said, “Enough!”

All 55 county school systems were shut down, as teachers stood up and spoke out.

Map of West Virginia all in red, indicating all 55 county school systems were closed for the day.

This is about more than the teachers, more than the schools, more than wages and benefits.

Ultimately, this is about self-respect and the right to be respected by others.

West Virginia’s teachers are standing up for us all.

They are standing up for our children.

They are standing up, in their own way, for our mountains and streams and our individual and collective right to self-determination.

They are standing up for West Virginia’s song, buying it back one handmade sign, one chant, one set of linked arms at a time.

In fact, they are changing the tune and composing a new song for West Virginia.

I applaud them.

I support them.

I thank them.

#WVTeachers

#55Strong

#SingANewSong

Image states, "I support West Virginia teachers and public employees."

 

Perpetual Intention

Two square cubes and three rectangular blocks.

From these simple objects, I mark each new day.

The rectangles display the months of the year, one month per side.

The squares display numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6/9, 7, and 8, from which each day of the month can be shown in its turn.

Wooden calendar in front of books on a bookshelf with the month and date blocks spilling out.

Twelve months…a repeating pattern of days of the month…1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 (sometimes), 30 (sometimes), and 31 (sometimes).

My perpetual calendar – a gift from my sister many years ago – can show each day, but only if I intentionally move the blocks around to show the correct date.

Some years it gathered dust on a shelf.

Some years I changed it once in a while but mostly forgot.

Lately, I have become OCD about changing it daily.

It’s really just a few pieces of wood with some writing on them.

If I forget to change the blocks for a particular day’s date, the day still happens.

But the intentionality of changing it…of saying “here is a new day”…means something to me.

Each new day deserves its own intentionality.

I WILL acknowledge it’s a new day.

I WILL be intentional about making the most of this day.

I WILL pay attention to the small, everyday, simple things.

Intentionally WILL.

It’s not about a bigger, longer, better “to-do” list of intentionality.

It’s about taking stock of the basics…not letting life’s “to-do” list of busy-ness crowd them out.

The basic building blocks of a “day”…a “month”…a “life” are extremely simple.

We are the ones who make it complicated.

Perpetually.

Wooden calendar in front of books on a bookshelf.

Writers Read

In the foreground, an open book, cup of tea, lit advent candles, and a Christmas tree in the far background.

2017 has been a tough year for writing.

It has been a tough year.

I’ve done tons of worrying and stewing, but not much writing.

Just. Could. Not. Write.

Luckily…

Writers read.

This year, during my own dry spell as a writer, I ramped up the reading.

Here’s a list of the books I read this year.

My goal for 2018 is to maintain this pace of reading, but also revive my writing mojo.

Feel free to leave book recommendations in the comments.

In the meantime…thank you for including my blog in your reading list now and then.

I wish you a very Happy New Year.

-Sarah

*Note, I have added links to Amazon for reference, but the VAST majority of these books I read for free through our local library and the Overdrive app.*

The picture shows 60 book covers - one each for the books listed in the blog post.