Come! Live in the Light!

 

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“Come! Live in the light!”

So begins a beautiful hymn Entitled “We Are Called,” I discovered only yesterday. A dear friend sent it, describing it as the new theme song for her life.

When I looked up the hymn and listened to it, I was mesmerized by its melody and its message. The people of God, today facing so many challenges of injustice and divisiveness, would do well to adopt this hymn as their theme song. I hope it speaks to you as deeply as it spoke to me.
“We Are Called”
David Haas

Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!

We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign and we’ll walk with each other as sisters
and brothers united in love!

Protesters cry out on the streets of our cities, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are detained in our airports, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are refused refuge in our country, but we are called to live in the light. Our leaders make decisions based on divisive ideologies, but we are called to live in the light.

So while protesters call for compassion, immigrants find no refuge among us, and politicians argue about what’s right and wrong, let us make sure we live as God’s people in a broken world.

Come! Live in the light!
Please listen to this beautiful hymn on YouTube at this link:

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Doing Something Surprising

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Blue Mountain Lake, Havana, Arkansas
Photo by Debbie Cannon Fritsche

Let’s do something surprising. In the midst of anxiety, let us be unafraid. In the time of anger, let us be peaceful. In the heart of turmoil, let us be a steady center. How easy it is to run with the crowd, driven by sound-bytes and rumors, racing to catch the news, chasing hope as if it were running to hide. Let us do something different. Let us be the rallying point for faith, the constant and consistent presence of a love that embodies justice, the quiet truth that knits lives together. Let us surprise ourselves with the strength we have when we stand to face the wind.

– Steven Charleston

The writing of Bishop Steven Charleston always prompts me to examine my faith. His words often dare me to grow, to find my voice, to live into my strength. This call to do something surprising is no different. It demands my attention and moves me beyond my faith’s comfort. I am grateful that Bishop Charleston challenges me to contemplate my faith and action.

I am always surprised when I discover that I really do have the strength to face the wind. It is, of course, a strength that comes from God. But it is also a strength that comes when I face anxiety, when I navigate my anger, when I am steady in times of turmoil. It a strength that grows every time God leads me through days of trouble and I discover anew that a God truly is a constant and consistent presence in my life.

May God move me on this day to do something surprising, Amen.

The Strong, Bold Power of Hope

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Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

– II Corinthians 3:12

Boldness is a part of our Christian witness. Holy boldness makes it possible for us to proclaim, without apology, Christian values, justice for every person, and the radical reconciliation that has the power to unite us. There has never been a time in history when it was more important to hold tightly to a strong, resilient hope that gives its life to restore beloved communities where justice reigns. When I was just beginning my ministry, a Seminary professor, Paul Simmons, asked a compelling and provocative question: “Is what you’re doing worth giving your life for?”

Curtiss Paul DeYoung and Allan Aubrey Boesak wrote a haunting book entitled Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism. In the book, they present a political theology that proposes the kind of boldness that can result in true reconciliation. They assert that so much of what is being called reconciliation and social justice stops short of completing the complex work required.

Too often β€œreconciliation” is used merely to reach some political accommodation that does not address the critical questions of justice, equality, and dignity that are so prominent in the biblical understanding of reconciliation . . . When Christians discover that what is happening is in fact not reconciliation, and yet seek to accommodate this situation and refuse to run the risk and challenge of prophetic truth-telling, we become complicit; we deny the demands of the gospel and refuse solidarity with the powerless and oppressed.

The authors continue by denouncing ineffective attempts at reconciliation and calling for bold reconciliation that brings genuine hope. What does it mean, the authors ask, to live out radical reconciliation in our lives? They call the reader to immerse their lives in the work of restoring beloved communities. DeYoung poses this question:

Do racially diverse congregations automatically experience reconciliation or could they simply become demographically diverse but not racially reconciled?

The authors call attention to the “need for a reconciliation that is more than conflict resolution and political accommodation; a reconciliation that resists the temptation to domesticate the radical Jesus, pandering to our need for comfortable reconciliation under the guise of a kind of political pietism and Christian quietism that deny the victims of affliction the comfort of justice.”

Paul Simmons’ question continues to cast its shadow over my life. “Is what you’re doing worth giving your life for?” The question permeated my life from the moment he asked it, prompting me to question myself over and over again. What is it that was guiding my life? Was it worth giving my life for? Did it hold the power that could shift the world on its axis? Did I have the boldness to hope for genuine justice? And did I possess the strong, resilient power of hope necessary to fully engage?

It is a privilege to hold something robust and resilient called hope, which has the power to shift the world on its axis.

― Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

The Bright Light of Hope

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Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.

– Mary Tyler Moore

I have never been very brave or adventurous. As a child, I was hesitant to take physical risks. I didn’t play sports. I didn’t ride a bicycle much. I was terrified of theme park rides. When I was a teenager, though, I took a turn, living on the edge, speaking my mind, taking chances.

In my adult years, it was a part of my calling to stand up with persons who were abused. I developed enough courage and tenacity to do that. It was a meaningful career, one that rewarded me by seeing women and children move away from abusive relationships and begin to thrive.

They were brave, not only facing their abuser, but also facing a system that was often stacked against them. I had the privilege of walking with a mother of three who fought for custody of her children for many years. She left no stone unturned. When the family court system ruled against her, she patiently and wisely stood her ground.

Most often, she had to face the darkness of injustice. But her courage sustained her until she prevailed for the good of her children. She, and so many others, have inspired my life, showing me how to take chances, how to get past mistakes, how to walk forward in courage.

I am grateful for the lives I was privileged to touch through the years, and for all that they taught me. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to watch them stand bravely before the darkness and to remain there, for as long as it took, until they would again face the bright light of hope.

God’s Gonna Trouble the Water

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We are forever standing at the edge of our tomorrows. The view can be disconcerting at times, with troubled waters ahead, waters that we fear. Reverend Karla Miller prays an eloquent prayer for such times.

 

Dang it God.
That’s all.
Amen.
No, wait, there is more.
Peel me open,
Make me listen,
Lead me into troubled waters,
Show me how to trouble some waters.
I’m not the most articulate or savvy or smart,
I care. I am afraid. I am not afraid. I am both/and.
I will not rest when others can’t.

Teach me.
Lead me.
I am ready.
My hands and feet and mind and heart are yours.
Amen.

– Rev. Karla Miller, Published at https://revgalblogpals.org/2017/01/25/wednesday-prayer-73/

Sometimes, though, God is the one who troubles the waters, and we make our choice about going forward or remaining safely on the edge. I have always been moved by the spiritual songs of the slaves. Harriet Tubman used the song β€œWade in the Water” to tell escaping slaves to get off the trail and into the water, ensuring that the dogs slavecatchers used to track them couldn’t sniff out their trail. “Wade in the Water” is one of their most inspiring freedom songs.

Wade in the water;
Wade in the water, Children.
Wade in the water;
God’s gonna trouble the water.

It can be a freedom song for us, too, every time we dare to step into waters that God has troubled. It is our faith, of course, that assures us that God troubles the waters before us, and that when we step into them, we take that step trusting in a God who wants only our good. May our prayer be “Lead me into troubled waters, God, and show me how to trouble some waters” so that the world might change, so that my life might change. Amen.

 

Here’s to Extraordinary Days!

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Life can seem so ordinary at times. Since being retired, the days seem to run together, one being just like the next. There is no workplace to be every day that can punctuate each day with events. I have discovered, though, that the secret to being happily retired is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I like was Steven Charleston says about that.

I look for God when I do the dishes, I search for the Spirit as I take out the trash. The sacred is revealed in brilliant light only rarely, in the flash of some great insight unexpected, but much more than this the holy is to be discovered in our daily lives, in the moments when we are simply being ourselves. Putting the kids to bed, working in the garden, sitting on the porch in the evening: the beauty of eternity is that it hides in plain sight all around us. We are all prophets of the predictable pattern, witnesses to the wonder of the average day.

– Steven Charleston

Finding wonder in the average day is not as easy as it sounds. It requires mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, yet not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.Β Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here are some practical ways to be more mindful:

1) Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skillsβ€”but you do need to set aside some time and space.

2) Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.

3) Let your judgements roll by. When we notice judgements arise, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.

4) Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.

5) Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

– From http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/?gclid=CjwKEAiA2abEBRCdx7PqqunM1CYSJABf3qvaauVuejiHYoLcIYxifEBqDiya__MAbIcn9gNVf5SnFxoClYrw_wcB

Winnie the Pooh gives us one of the best pieces of advice about making an ordinary day extraordinary.

What day is it?” asked Pooh. β€œIt’s today,” squeaked Piglet. β€œMy favourite day,” said Pooh.

So here’s to extraordinary days!

My Healing Days

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If I say, β€œSurely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

– Psalm 139:11-12 NIV

I am drawn to light, to brightness and color. Dark shadows and muted hues can cause melancholy in me. And in those times, I try everything I can do to fill my day with brightness. It is a healing balm in troubling times.

In 2014, I spent most of the year very ill and in the hospital. As I recuperated at home, I found that I had no energy to surround myself with brightness and color. I did not notice it really, until my sister-in-law came to Little Rock for a visit. A seasoned decorator, she began to transform my surroundings in little ways. She and my brother also insisted that we relocate to Macon, Georgia so that we could be near enough for them to help Fred with my care.

They prevailed. We moved. Our belongings arrived at our new place (a place we had never laid eyes on) before we arrived. My family unpacked all our things, set up the house, and my sister-in-law filled the place with flowers, candles, and all kinds of beautiful things. We arrived late at night. When we walked into the house, it was filled with good smells, brightness and color. It looked like a Southern Living decorator house.

In that brightness and color, lovingly created by my family, I began to heal and get stronger. My days became day’s of calm. I was able to take my intense focus off of my illness and instead aim my gaze toward God. There was healing power in that, a transformative power that strengthened my spirit. The words of John Muir provide a lovely description of my healing days.

Oh, these vast, calm, measureless . . . days, days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.

– John Muir

How grateful I am for the thousand windows open to God. How grateful I am for the love and care of my family, for the light, color and brightness that fills my life. How grateful I am for these healing days.

Running Toward the Light

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Running toward the light is no easy thing. It’s an imperative for our better angels. It’s what we do when we are inching closer to the person we aspire to be. I have to admit that it’s far easier for me to dwell in a darker place, Β place that is darker because of the despondency that sometimes assails me, a place that is darker because of my tendency to criticize others, to avoid those who do not hold my views, to exclude and disregard.

But the outrageous act would be to rush to embrace others, to welcome relationships and to say, “Here I am. I care for you. I invite you into my life.” I am so inspired by the words Steven Charleston.

Go ahead and be outrageous, as wild as you want to be, in your generosity, in your compassion, freewheeling in your mercy, without limits in your kindness, totally out of control in loving those around you, breaking all constraints of who is in and who is out, ignoring prohibitions about not associating with “those” people, running amok in joy for every living creature, helping all that you can, flat out happy, flat out forgiving, no turning back, no excuses, running toward the light, inviting others to do the same!

~ Steven Charleston, Choctaw elder, author, retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska, and adjunct Professor of Native American Ministries, Saint Paul School of Theology.

I plan to be more outrageous in the days ahead. It would be a God thing, I think, to be “flat out happy, flat out forgiving.” It would be living wilder than I’ve ever been, freewheeling and unfettered by my own intolerance. It would, indeed, be running toward the light, God’s light.

Still Time to Dream

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It’s still early in this new year, still time to embrace fresh, new things. Sarah Ban Breathnach describes a transformative year of dreaming. I love her insight.

A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change.

There is still time to dream. There is always time for self-discovery and transformation. Indeed, for me, it is necessary to keep dreaming and to follow God’s prompting that helps me discover all the ways I might be transformed. Life change is never over, never halted by aging or illness. For that, I am grateful.

I have faced off with both, aging and illness. I have navigated both, and have emerged stronger and wiser for it. So I am moving forward into 2017, carving out quiet interludes along the way, interludes for new dreams and continuing personal transformation. The words of the Psalmist give me courage and comfort.

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

– Psalm 16:11 New International Version (NIV)

Thanks be to God for a constant, faithful presence, for opportunities for transformation, for the courage to dream new dreams.