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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Reconciliation

(Originally journaled October 8, 2015)

"Forgive us, Lord, for stealing the land: Have mercy and set us free."

I don't get this--set us free? We are the ones imprisoning those we stole the land from--shouldn't we be setting them free? Inviting them back onto their land? Giving them rich, useful parts? Maybe giving up our own homes? Are we asking, in this prayer, for God to set us free from our guilt? If so, doesn't that mean we need to do more than just say, "Sorry." How can we adequately show we accept our guilt, and want to truly reconcile? Doesn't that involve restitution? And deep relationship sharing all we have, including our personal time, energy, active love ...

And how do we do that?

Maybe start on a personal level, with small steps. Ask what we can give, do, whatever.

Maybe that would be a really important Lenten practice (repentance ... leading to restoration, even to "resurrection and life"...)

Lord? How can I start? Today?

(We've taken so much more than the land--and yet that taking of the land does represent and underlie all who indigenous people are--their life, their soul.)

Chief Seattle of the Suquamish: "We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on."

Conquering the land is conquering life--it is darkness and death.

"Lord, show us that reconciling [is] to train us more deeply in the faith that honors everything created by your hand. Help us see that reconciliation leads to deeper knowledge of you. Amen."

Wow. I guess I never saw biblical "reconciliation" quite that way before. So reconciliation with indigenous people is in a sense a picture, an example, of us being reconciled to God. What we have done to our Creator is really in significant ways similar to what we have done to indigenous peoples.

We like, I think, to focus on God's merciful grace in giving his Son. We like that He chose to take the initiative, to suffer the pain. But should that "free" us from the "pain" of truly repenting (and doesn't that mean giving up all we hold dear, putting our very life, our heart, and soul, in his hands, to do with as he wishes? That's hard--but is it not necessary? Is it not part of truly loving? He loves us--are we not to love him (and deny ourselves) in return, as he as done for us? Are we willing to do that for others we have wronged, as well? Oh my goodness.

How much are we really willing to give up to achieve reconciliation? How far are we willing to go in repentance ... and restoration? What does that really mean? Can little lessons in schools, however well-meaning, accomplish that? It's one thing to intellectually (and even emotionally) understand. But is it not another thing altogether to reconcile, whatever it might take, however long it might take, no matter how much pain and loss we might incur in our own lives (because, after all, aren't we the ones responsible for their loss and pain?).

What, I wonder, does it really mean to "walk in another person's moccasins?" How far does that go to achieve true reconciliation--with God, as well as with "them"? If we don't go there, have we really reconciled? With them? With God? Can we really expect forgiveness (I know, I know--"freely given with no expectation of anything in return except the freedom of letting it go?"--would we be willing to do that if we were in their place? I bet not ...).

"Teach us to number our days aright." We have a very limited time, so we need to do what is righteous.

Our view of land is an "ownership" view. The First Nations view is that people are part of the land--so taking the land and pushing people off and refusing to truly share is to cut a piece out of a people. (And residential schools, cutting families and communities apart, is, of course, more of the same).

So much of what any people do is about segregation--me vs you, us vs them...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Je ne suis pas...

(Originally journaled January 14, 2015)

I want to write poetry again.

Maybe it's the appropriate way to express how I'm feeling about this whole "Charlie Hebdo" thing. The thing is: "Je ne suis pas Charlie!" The reactions--millions marching for the cause (while no one even pays any attention to other simultaneous massacres--way worse ones--like that in Nigeria by Boko Haram... because they're "just black people" maybe?) is really so "secular" at heart. So much of it is all about "my human right" of "free speech."

But just look at where our "human rights" and our "me-centeredness" has got us in this world. It all runs so smack-dab in the face of the Jesus, God, Spirit rule of "Love the Lord Your God, and love your neighbor as yourself." (And when people dare to point out the hypocrisies of the whole situation--and there are many--they are slammed for being non-PC or too religious or whatever...)

Of course, part of the "me-ness" of secularism is the inbuilt intolerance for any way of thinking that is not the way "I" think--despite secularism's proclamations about creating a tolerant society. Tolerant, that is, for anything that doesn't personally annoy me, or challenge or threaten my individual way of thinking. Good grief. And of course, Jesus' way "threatens the empire," as yesterday's Common Prayer quote points out.

I am certainly not in favor of radical, fundamentalist approaches of any stripes--religious, scientific, educational, political, or any other "institutional" radicalism, be it left or right or any other extreme that is willing to cause pain and oppression and even death to further its agenda.

However, there is a fine line in issues like "free speech" or any other "freedom." At what point does "my freedom" begin to impinge on others, to the point at which I am demanding they lose their freedom, to the point at which, in my zealousness, I am oppressing others myself through my "free" demands and reactions, denying them the same kinds of rights and freedoms I demand for myself, in order to gain and maintain those I wish for myself.

Jesus told us we must "deny" ourselves in order to live his way--the way that seeks to love and honor and respect and help others--and no wonder this is a "way" that so many hate...because it does demand self-denial of the "extremisms"--the "radical religious fundamentalist approach" of personal goals and demands, no matter how rational and "humanly right and free" they may appear on the surface.

Enough for now.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Words of Assurance

(Originally journaled November 3, 2014)

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit ... what do You have to say to me today?

My child--Our child!
We love you.
We truly do.
Sing. Praise. Lift your heart, lift your eyes, lift your hands upward to us. Reach out, take hold of our hands which are reaching down to you. Let us lift you up. Cling to us.

Take your eyes off the ground, off the world, and see us.  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the 'things of earth' will grow more and more and more dim--gone!--in the light of his glory and grace."

Remember, child--the darkness you feel and fear is simply the absence of my light. Draw close to my light, closer and closer. Let my amazing glory drive away all the shadows and darkness and tiredness and fears. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

Love Your Father. Love Jesus. Love His Spirit. Love God.

Lay down your little burdens. Lay down your little fears.
I will be with you. I will never leave you alone, not even for a moment--even if it be my will that you follow me into the path of dementia your mama trod. I was with her every moment. I really was. And you, too, I will never let go, not for an instant. Whatever path I call you to tread.

I Love you! You are mine!

[And my husband, children, spouses, grandchildren? Are they Yours too? Can I trust You for them, too?
What about all the people who are seeking You, even if they don't know about You? Father?
Father? How can You let Your creatures, who You died for, perish? What about the ones who haven't had a chance to hear of You? Father? Jesus? Holy Spirit?
You do reach out to everyone, right?
Please help us all to choose You! Help my family, please! Help all people, dear God. Please? ]

[You do care...
And each rejection by one of your created children does break Your heart ... doesn't it?
You love us ... and long for--but do not force--every one of us to come to You.
Okay. Guess I'll just have to place that one on Your shoulders, in Your hands.
Thank You. Amen. In Jesus' name. Thank You. I love You.]

Friday, 13 May 2016

What am I bringing into the world?

(Originally posted Jan 7, 2015)

I hope, as it says in today's Common Prayer, that I've brought a "little more love and kindness, a little more light and truth in the world," and some peace, too.

I know I'm not being patient with Your ways and timing. There's so much time for You--but so little for us. You know that, Jesus, for You had a very short time here on earth--and an infinitely more important mission. You really saw the "big picture," far more than any of us are capable.

But I'd still like to help open people's eyes ... and hearts.

I like the vision of that guy who is working on a way to inspire peace and caring and stuff among the youth in our town.

Me? I'm just writing "learning themes." And helping out my family a bit (but maybe that's just because they are "my" family). I want to help others, and encourage them, and in some way make people's lives more "community" and peaceable and sustainable and caring.

A friend who has a street ministry in our town says he thinks I'm like him--and in some ways I am, but not altogether.  I'm really beginning to see that each of us is different--which is why, without a doubt, You need, call, use all of us. And each of us has something good and worthwhile and useful to bring to Your purposes and plans for Your creation, Your world, Your beloved children.

I'm just not sure what mine is, to bring. I'm such a "Jill of all trades, master of none,"--but maybe that's needed, too.

And you've taught me to care and to maybe even to listen a bit and to long for people to find peace--your peace, real peace, please? Maybe that's enough?

I've written and written and written my thoughts and questions and wonderings (and even some challengings) in the past. But who has really listened, except for a few "members of the choir," so to speak? Maybe people whose hearts and minds You've been preparing ... and yet it seems to me that a lot of people you lead me to be friends with, and share my writing with, don't even know about You. Some aren't even interested or seem to actually be antagonistic against You (or, at least, antagonistic against their "idea of You").

That's what I was thinking when R. was saying he doesn't even know if You're real. (And yes, I felt his pain. And I've felt the same, sometimes ... "Doubting Norma" ...). But I was thinking--or maybe You were whispering in my ear because I really did feel like You were just telling me to keep peace and not argue or try to explain in "doctrinal ways" ... that maybe he's not ready? or he just needs to rant before he can listen? or doctrinal explanations just seem too pat ... or? And maybe You were telling me to realize that he has to work through this with You there at his side even though he doesn't realize it's You just now, because he's looking for, or expecting, a "You" that isn't really You.

"Keep us from trying to rush peace."

Help me see the big picture, Lord. Help me see the world with Your eyes. Help me to speak only the words You give me to speak. And meanwhile, help me to do a lot of listening and gentle caring. (Jeremiah 13:14: pity, mercy, compassion).

And Lord, what about "God's Kitchen" outreach? Has it really gotten too "institutional," or is it just me not willing to change? Or what? It's supposed to be Your kitchen, Lord. Your table.

"He brings me to his banqueting table, His banner over me is love."

You came and invited the poor and the wretched and blind (and the rich and successful and leaders rejected You).

What do You want us to spread at Your table? Just lots of warm, healthy, physical food? And a quiet, peaceful spot for a few minutes? And a few prayers and counseling? And? Or? Lord? Your will be done.


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Slipped moorings and feeling adrift

(Originally journaled October 27, 2014)

I've been wasting so much time in my life. Way too much TV, radio, newspaper, and certainly way too much email (subscribed to too much!) and facebook. And way, way, way too little time with You. I did start listening to Christian music for a bit, and I've been Bible reading very sporadically. But very little prayer--just little "arrow prayers" I guess, when people ask for prayer. Or maybe when I'm feeling desperate, occasionally.

It's been so long since I "longed" for You. I have wanted to, but I've just been so adrift. Yes, I did seem to slip my moorings when I was depressed. And then I was so "negative" about "church" and stuff. And I was "embarrassed" about "Christianity" and let that slide into being embarrassed about admitting to belief in You--and that led me to slide into really not following You actively.

I've gone through times when I really wasn't sure--intellectually--what I believed any more. Yet I never stopped knowing You are real, knowing I want to know You. (Even when the enemy--and maybe even my "brain"--questioned Your reality. The thing about that is that when it happened, I found myself defending Your reality because I know, in the deepest part of me, that You are REAL, and that I want, most of all, to be in relationship and to remain in, abide in You).

Yesterday we were reading John 15 at our church gathering.  Reading about You, Jesus, being the vine--and how apart from You we can't "bear fruit." Indeed, apart from You we can do nothing! And we certainly can't be "in the Father" unless we "remain in You." (I was concerned about the "bearing fruit" part because all my life I have felt a failure and guilty for not "bearing fruit" because I don't seem to be able to "count" anyone who I've "led to the Lord" to "say the sinner's prayer" or whatever (unless I "count" some of my kids when they were little--and yet, have my doubts during their teen years driven them away?).

John 15:9ff "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.... My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.... You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

Do I believe this? So many seemingly unanswered prayers back when I was so energetically "following" ... and oddly enough, so much protection and care in the past few years when I have not been trying to, working at, following hard ...

There's one thing of which I'm now convinced: Your love doesn't fail. But I'm still a bit puzzled about the "whatever you ask" part. And I'm scared to ask anything except "Your will be done"--but maybe that's the point! After all, Jesus, You Yourself said you did nothing, said nothing, except what Father said. Maybe prayer is listening--and asking only, "Your will be done." Could it be?

Yes, it is time to get back into some discipline in my life, to make sure I have time set aside especially for You. For Bible reading and study, writing (journaling with You most of all), praying (and in that, really listening) ... and making the best of the rest of my time. Not frittering it away.

But most of all--I want to HEAR YOUR VOICE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ... and trust You to take care of the things I really can't (which is a lot).

Archbishop Oscar Romero:  "We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.... We cannot do everything.... It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the results... We are prophets of a future not our own."

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Hanging onto reason and fearing dementia

(Originally journaled March 4 and April 9, 2014)

On CBC last night, I heard someone talking about dementia, and they said the reason we have such a hard time dealing with it, and why we dread it so much is that we've really bought into what Descartes said: "I think, therefore I am."

But what if that isn't true? What if our ability to reason is only a small part of who we are? And if it is only a small part, can dementia then actually be such a terrible thing after all?

I was recently visiting with an American friend and was so amazed at her "American sensibilities," the way she sees life and society and all. And then I began to doubt whether my own ideals, beliefs, thoughts are really "right" after all. I keep catching myself doing and saying and thinking things that I am sure other people think are pretty weird,  inconsistent, hypocritical--or just plain wrong or evil. Things based on what I've been "taught" rather than in what "is." Based on my white-middle-class-Judeo-Christian-Canadian upbringing and "values."

And so much of the time ... NOT coming "from the inside of God" but rather "from within my own sensibilities and capacities." (Jack Bernard)

These "capacities" include my "ability" to think things through, to reason. It's an ability I have often prided myself on. I see more and more clearly now how limited my thinking capacities are. I see so many other viewpoints. I state my case, and then others point out theirs--and I can see their side, too, and I try to integrate that as well. Sometimes it works; their thoughts add to mine and seem to make mine more complete or accurate.

But sometimes it seems to me that I must be wrong after all and I may well have to toss out my dearly held thoughts (and actions). And sometimes I just find myself confused. I am more and more convinced of my weaknesses and limitations--which is not always a pleasant realization.

Sometimes (often!) I worry that I am "losing it" too. I hate when I can't think of the "right word." It terrifies me! And when I hear or read things, and I can't immediately remember all the details, or worse, I'm not even "sure" of the "gist," so I read and re-read, and come out still wondering. I used to just think, "Oh that's right!" or "Oh, that's wrong!" But now it's never so simple. Sometimes I think that's because I'm getting "older and wiser" and seeing that life is not nearly so simple, but then I fearfully think that maybe I'm just "losing it."

And You know I don't want to lose it.

Of course, if I were a "good Christian" I'd find it easy to lay that down at the cross, too. (Another fallacy, I think! It is never easy, in my experience, to lay down anything that we value. To let go, realizing that in many situations, there really is "no hope in me" solving a situation.)

And I already know that there's "no hope in me" as far as there being any final "choice" in "losing it or not." But what I'm really terrified of is being CUT OFF from You. It's cruel enough to be cut off from other humans--but how can You let us be cut off from You? Maybe we aren't, but how do I know that? HOW DO I KNOW THAT?

"Just trust." That's so difficult because I want evidence, not just promises. Do You even promise that? "I will be with you, even unto the end of the world." Okay. Even if I can't respond? (Isn't "responding" essential? Or maybe not? Maybe resting is more needful?)

Fear: Will You still love me? I guess Your view of my identity and value is different than mine.

(Even from birth, some people never have--apparently--the ability to think or respond, and we assume You love them. So I guess You'd still love me anyway ... maybe even more. (Okay, I know that's not possible, Your loving "more" or "less" ... but I'm thinking in a "mother hen" protective way, I guess.)

A friend told me that her mom, who has dementia, was yelling at You. I really don't blame her one bit. I wonder if  my Mom felt like yelling out at You, too, when she had dementia--or if she just trusted You? Or?  I guess there are some things we'll never know ... and maybe that we don't need to know ... IF we can trustingly live in and for You who art LOVE. (It would be nice to be able to trust You like that. Can You help me do that? Please?)

"Lord, reveal to us all that makes itself an enemy to the life You want for us. Amen."

I've thought of dementia as such an enemy. But maybe it isn't. Maybe dementia just "is what it is" ... but my reaction is the enemy.  Open my eyes, Please!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Little White Lies

(originally journaled April 3 2014)

Father, I feel sick. Feeling bad because the next door neighbour told me it wasn't neighborly (and he's right) to trim his tree on my side of the fence without asking him first (though it is legal).  I told him we mentioned it long ago, but he says he doesn't remember. The thing is, I don't remember either... though L says I did ... the thing is, I should have told/asked the guy... and I should not say things that are untrue or even that I'm not sure of. This is a big problem that I have--telling untruths--even if they have some truth to them (which I can't even be sure of in this case!)--to cover my butt!

O dear God, please help me have the courage to tell the truth. All my life, pretty much, I've been concocting little half-truths and little lies to cover myself when people accuse me or when I think I'm in trouble. And I tell myself they're just "little white lies." But there is no such thing. Lies are lies. Maybe it was because there were so many "rules" growing up--and so much fear of getting caught: spankings, other punishments, shame, "sin."  Getting "caught"--even for things I did not do--was not acceptable to me. Better to stretch the truth--even lie. Ha! Wrong. But it sure seemed safer at the time. And still does. Yes, it's a long-time bad habit. But it also still comes from fear. And instills guilt and feeling sick.

Okay, so in this instance, guilt is good because it's pointing me to sort this out with You. Please forgive me. And please help me work this out with the neighbor. Your way (and Your courage). (Doing right is not always easy! Often it isn't...) (You know!)

How is it that I fear the anger, disgust, disapproval of the world so much? Why can't I seem to get it into my mind and heart and being that You are infinitely more precious and worthy and awesome--and that You love me! Help me, please!