Friday, April 14, 2017

It's Friday...

Good Friday. Perhaps the least appropriately named day of the Christian calendar.
Nothing good about the day on which The One who Came To Live Among Us died.
Was unjustly accused. Tortured. Executed by the empire in which he lived.
Three of the Gospels say that upon his death, darkness fell for three hours.
From noon until three pm. Darkness. Sorrow.

Those who knew him best and followed him most closely were gobsmacked, shocked, horrified, and terrified. If the one who walked on water, fed five thousand, healed the sick, and raised the dead himself had died, then what hope was there for them?
What hope indeed?
So that Friday night, they scattered. They hid. They locked themselves away in a secret place.

Which is exactly what I do when I get scared or worried.
I hide. I lock myself away in the secret place of fear. Of doubt.
But in reality, it's not so secret. And I am not alone.
In fact, at those moments when I feel most afraid and most alone,
I am learning to open my eyes, lift my eyes, and
take in all the ways that goodness is showing up in the world and in my life.

Here are a couple of beautiful examples of hope and love and resurrection
right here in my home town.

The Grove is a church I have admired a great deal. The pastor there, Kate Murphy, is one of my pastoral mentors. Look at how they are showing love to their Muslim neighbors, to our Muslim neighbors. In response, the folks from the Muslim community center made dinner for the folks at The Grove last night. Because it was Maundy Thursday, the day on which we remember the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples, because that is also the night on which many churches practice the ritual of foot washing, the folks from the Grove washed the feet of the Muslim people who had brought them dinner. So much beauty and grace, humility and courage, recognition and tenderness. We need more of this kind of welcome in this world at this time. My Colorado based friend, Kathy Escobar, wrote an encouraging and hope-filled blog post suggesting that we all do exactly what happened at the Grove last night: While the bombs drop, keep washing feet.

Here's a story of two young couples, connected by a donated kidney. Facing death, one young man was given the gift of life by another young man. Truly new life. Resurrection. The wife of the young man who received the kidney is a new friend of mine. Funny, courageous, exhausted, hopeful, and eternally grateful for her husband's new kidney.

Tonight, my spiritual heroes, Anthony and Toni Smith, will continue with their reconciliation work in Salisbury, North Carolina. One of their many activities is called "Night Crawlers." Every Friday night, they head out into the streets, together, walking, talking, praying, working and calling for peace in their city. Standing in the way of violence. Offering other options. Most importantly, walking together, both bringing and being peace in their city.

And tomorrow, the We Walk Together Charlotte group that I have been a part of for almost two years is heading out for another walk. If you're in Charlotte, please come join us. Let's walk and talk and get to know our city. Let's share stories of hope and grace, mercy and love. I don't know about you, but on this dark Friday night, on this dark day, I need some good stories and some good company on the road. I suspect you do too.

While I'm walking tomorrow morning, one of my beautiful nieces will be talking - on NPR - about her first album - Hard Won. She has worked so hard and is getting the acknowledgement and support she has always hoped for. Truly hard won. NPR, people!!! How cool is that!!!!

Deep gratitude. Deep breath. Deep sigh.

It's Friday. The end of a week in which our nation expressed our anger about the gas attacks in Syria by dropping bombs on two countries. At least, two. Because there are some people who still seem to believe that violence resolves violence.

The end of a week in which I spent time both alone and with the church family, remembering Peter's denial that he knew Jesus. Remembering Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Remembering the many times I have denied and betrayed Jesus and myself and life itself.

It's Friday. The day we remember what happened to the One many call Lord.
Body broken. Blood shed.
That was then.

This is now.
Bodies still being broken.
Blood still being shed.
Empire. Violence. Executions.
Greed. Thievery. Loss.
Injustice. Despair.
Life taken. Life given.
Hopes dashed. Hearts crushed.
Then and now.

It's Friday. But Sunday is coming.
Resurrection is coming.
New life is coming.
Hope is coming back.
But for now, tonight, darkness has fallen.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Wasted Beauty, Wasted Hope

Several weeks ago, back in February, we had a couple of weeks that were unseasonably warm. Flowers began to bloom. Trees too. Gorgeous flowers too early in the year.
Welcome to life on a warming planet!

I mean they were beautiful, but the timing was all wrong. At least that's how it seemed to me.

Not long after these blooms appeared, we had a "snow storm." Two of them, actually. 

On the day that we had the snowpocalypse captured in the photo above, we lost power in our house for nine hours. NINE HOURS! It was half an inch of snow!!!

On the night before the snowmaggedon event captured below, I stayed in a hotel one block from my church because that's how worried we were that I wouldn't be able to get to church for me to complete my morning responsibilities that day. The most dangerous part about that solo slumber party was having to dodge the drunken millennials who were celebrating St Patrick's day a weekend earlier in the hotel bar. Well, that and the middle of the night fire alarm that forced all the hotel guests to walk down the stairs to the frigid outdoors. I had to walk down eleven flights - but because it was on the night we turned our clocks ahead, I didn't even get the credit on my iPhone pedometer because the walk registered in the hour that was lost! Oh well... The good news is that I survived the snownado.

Anywho... I spent a lot of time staring at the trees and flowers that I was convinced had blossomed and bloomed before their time and I was saddened by their beauty because I was convinced that they would die in an ensuing cold snaps. I was convinced that theirs was "wasted beauty." 
Wasted flowers that would die before spring even arrived. 
Wasted color because it wouldn't last. 
Wasted miracle because they would disappear before we would have the chance to marvel at them. 
What a waste! 
I found myself feeling anger because global warming was messing up my preconceived notions of when and how spring and color and beauty could and should arrive. I'm not exactly sure who I was angry at, but I was mad. And sad. And frustrated. And more than a little bit hope-deprived.

On one morning unnecessarily warm February morning, my husband and I went for a walk.
It was another "too warm day for February." 
Too many trees and too many daffodils were in bloom too early.
I murmured something snappy about "wasted beauty," and my preposterously patient husband said, "What's wasteful about it?" 

Great question. 

How can beauty be wasted when we all get to see it and bask in it?
How can the miracle of flowers blooming, over and over, year after year, be a waste?
There is so much beauty all around us. Between us. Among us.
There is color and brightness, joy and so much to celebrate.

Certainly there is deep suffering.
A dear friend, a young, vibrant mother of four children under the age of ten, has been diagnosed with kanswer - again! 
Another friend is awaiting DACA documentation that will allow her to get back to work.
Someone I was recently introduced to is recovering from a kidney transplant - at the age of 27.
War continues in too many places to name.
Gun violence kills too many people every single day.
Political unrest. Injustice. 
School segregation.
Fear of overt racism on the rise.
Hunger. Abuse. 
You can name more than I can.
Yes, there's a lot of pain happening in the world.

But in the midst of all of the heartache and heart break
in the midst of the fear, the loathing, and the sorrow,
there is so much beauty.

There are snowmen to build in the few hours before it all melts.

There are tasty meals to consume while reading about how to do biblical exegesis. Fun fun!

There are heart-breaking and hope-restoring exhibits to see at local museums.

There are lectures and question & answer sessions by inspiring people like Krista Tippett and Clint Smith to attend and take copious notes about.

There is new music to listen and dance to. (You rock, Lizzie! That's my niece, folks.)
There are letters to write. 
There are sermons to preach.

There is moan-worthy poetry to soothe your soul. 
There is Easter poetry to prepare you for celebration resurrection. 

There is love to make. Or at least mow into the front lawn.


There is grace to receive.
There is forgiveness to grant and to be granted.
There is hope to nurture.
There are friendships to deepen.
There are connections to make.
There are hands to hold.

There are puppies to wean and give to new families and train and love.
There are children and grandchildren to tend.
There are babies to give birth to and welcome into the family.

There are some podcasts that make you laugh and live better 
and some podcasts that make you laugh and live deeper.
There are flowers to gaze at and birds to listen to.

There are double yolked eggs to eat.
There is morning coffee to sip slowly.
There is warm lemon water to enjoy.

Thanks, Steve, once again, for snapping me out of my hope-challenged mood.
There is no such thing as wasted beauty.
No such thing as wasted hope.

Nothing is wasted.
None of it is wasted. 
Not one bit of it. 

Thanks be to God!