Lift Your Drooping Hands

I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization. Christian Cooper, birdwatcher. New Yorker. black man

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12

Lord of Love and Justice make us honest enough to tell the truth about racial terror and courageous enough to step into the waters of racial justice. Amen


Last week, a black male birdwatcher in Central Park asked a white female dog walker to observe the leash law in the brambles. Instead of honoring the law and her neighbor, she called 911 and told the dispatcher: A black man is threatening me in the brambles; send the police. Christian Cooper calmly lifted his phone and video recorded her little shit fit. His sister posted the video on the internet and it went viral.

When asked why he stood firm, Mr. Cooper said, I am pretty adamant about not being a participant in my own dehumanization.

Christian Cooper held on to his humanity as well his neighbor’s and lived to tell about it. The attempt on George Floyd’s humanity ended differently. His body was crushed under the knee of an armed bully. Mr. Floyd was unable to escape the terror of a public lynching.

Friends, like it or not, we are inextricably connected to one another. If we don’t stand up to racial terror, we are complicit– and we have become participants in our own dehumanization and the dehumanization of our siblings of color, worldwide.

We have a problem:

We live in a culture that favors its privileged children in every way imaginable. As a result, most white Americans lack some of the discipline needed to become fully responsible adults. Instead of responsibility, we blindly engage in self-protective and indulgent patterns, which act as an opiate—numbing our personal and collective conscience. We are literally swimming in an ocean of unconscious self-interest. Unconsciousness is why white Europeans and Americans enslaved Africans in the first place. Unconsciousness permits the terror of mass incarceration (modern day slavery) and police brutality (modern day lynching) to happen in 2020.

There is Hope

There is a passage in Hebrews Chapter 12 that applies to this situation. The word discipline is used at least nine times. The writer uses the image of a parent disciplining a child. In ancient families, the role of parent was to discipline a child so that the child could grow up to be a responsible member of the family. The Old Testament prophet Amos describes how unaware, religious adults come to “trample on the poor” with unjust economic policy and corrupt judicial process. (Sound familiar for our time? Have you seen the movie Just Mercy?) In Amos’s time, these practices catered to the privileged at the expense of the vulnerable.

In the face of such exploitation, prophets like Amos, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, MLK and Malcolm X name the evil and call the children of God back to responsibility. “Seek the Lord, seek good, hate evil, love good, establish justice.” These are the works of good neighbors everywhere.

The time is now. Americans of all faiths are in a season of discipline by which God is summoning us away from the self-service that furthers racial oppression, and in many situations, racial terror. This problem is more than 500 years old with new permutations and combinations emerging every generation. The call to grow up goes way beyond private character and all the way to public practice.

If we are lucky, we modern culprits will grow up to be like the tax collector in Jesus’s parable: aware of our own sin and hopeful that the LORD of mercy will forgive us and heal us.

Will we put our armor (privilege) down and stand up to racial oppression and terror with true power– our human vulnerability (most effectively exercised by acts of compassion and truth)? Or will we hide behind the lame armor of blaming and scapegoating various individuals, institutions, neighbors of color, non-church-goers, rioters and arsonists?

Spiritual practice:

Each person must ask: What does the LORD require of ME? How will I stand firm in my vulnerability?

Some things I’ve decided to do out of simple discipline: Go all in for #blacklivesmatter. As a Christian pastor, I sometimes stay quiet about subjects that might alienate a parishioner. No more. #blacklivesmatter. PERIOD.

I’m going to re-read and re-watch a whole library of works written and scripted by black leaders and theologians over time. I’ll share the bibliography and watch list with you here in the coming days.

I don’t really care what religion you are. Being a Christian does not make you a conscious person. Many people outside my faith are awake and active and working for justice. Our siblings of color need us all to work together.

Love you, K

Devoted

The happiest and most fulfilled people are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self-interest. John Glenn

God will not forget your work and the love you have shown as you have helped people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

Spirit of Christ who trains our hearts for service: Help us appreciate the servants among us and grow in our devotion to serve. Amen


They were a couple all their lives—met as toddlers! Annie was married to John Glenn, the hero astronaut and first American to orbit the earth. She struggled with severe stuttering that became a painful challenge when she was thrust into NASA’s spotlight as portrayed in the Hollywood film, The Right Stuff.

But Annie overcame her speech limitations while living in Washington and serving as the wife of a U.S. Senator. She became a public speaker and advocate for persons with speech disabilities. She and John served out four terms before leaving politics.

Annie testified that she had given John Glenn up to serve our country for 55 years and it was now time to take him back! But John Glenn embarked on one more mission in space at age 77—to test the effects of weightlessness on the elderly.

After 73 years of marriage Annie Glenn buried John at Arlington in 2017 on the day that would have been their wedding anniversary. She died yesterday of complications from Covid-19. Annie was 100 years old.

The people I live with keep asking the same question: Why don’t we have more wise, good-hearted and competent people in positions of power?

I don’t think anyone has a good answer to that question. The only theory I have is this: Many people who seek positions of power, or are able to ascend power structures, are disinclined to use their power to serve the public good. And people like Annie and John Glenn, who use their strength to serve, are less likely enter a toxic political arena.

Nevertheless, many gifted people have given their whole lives to public service. Annie Glenn was one of those people, and there are many others.

Spiritual Practice

Who are your mentors and guides in public leadership? It’s so important that we celebrate their work, send them notes of thanks and talk them up at our dinner tables. Let’s not allow the bad apples to spoil our appreciation for true public servants.

We’re heading into one of those political seasons, you know. How can we influence our community with wise prayers, good thoughts and a hopeful outlook? I believe that all those things have true power to transform situations and foster healing in our society.

Rest well,
Katie

Pilgrimage

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

God who leads us safely through the varied terrain of life. Help us travel with wonder and purpose. Amen


This week’s evening drop series has been dedicated to the biology and spirituality of movement. Why does walking make us feel so good? What does it mean to “walk by faith?” Where do runners get their strength? This Friday evening, I want to celebrate the power of pilgrimage.

I spent my 50th birthday on the tiny Island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland. The trip was a pilgrimage with a close group of scholars and spiritual directors. That morning I took a solo walk to the north coast on the Irish Sea. It was raining, and the wind was blowing hard. I remember talking to God and saying, “The first 50 years have been been quite a climb– growing up, raising children, learning a vocation– I’m ready now to walk downhill, with the wind on my back and sunshine on my shoulders.

Well, my life still feels like ‘climbing mountains in rain gear’, and I suspect I will feel that way for as long as I have air in my lungs.

Life is a climb—a journey of constant growth, sacrifice, and trusting God for what we cannot see. Eugene Peterson said, we are pilgrims, and we are also disciples—always moving and always learning. The Pilgrimage Psalms (Psalms 120-134) were sung by traveling families as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts.

It is my opinion that travel changes a person and strengthens a family. In all my travels I can feel my pilgrim’s heart. What does this journey mean? Who might I meet? What can I experience in this new place that will open the eyes of my heart? Perhaps I just love traveling-with-a-purpose so much that I make it one of the highest priorities of my life.

Don’t misunderstand. We’re not a fancy family with lots of funds. Neither Dave nor I had parents who took us places other than National Forest campgrounds and southern Minnesota! (Things we love and visit to this day.) Most of our travels have been with a pop-up trailer and four kids. We were pilgrims to the Grand Tetons, the Olympic Rainforest, the Canadian Rockies, the Outer Banks, Yosemite and Big Sur…

I think God saw how happy we were on these trips, and God helped us reach for more. Somehow we found a way to visit friends in England and family in Bavaria. In seminary I got to know South America. When Sarah was studying in Spain, the two of us made pilgrimage to Rome one Holy Week. And then I was hell bent on Iona. And last week I got hell bent on Jerusalem.

Spiritual Practice

And that brings me to the whole point. Let’s plan a pilgrimage NOW! I don’t know who you are and what is possible for you. But let’s all pick a place to go for our next trip, put it on the calendar and plan it out.

Safe, close spots include: Steamboat Lake, Chambers Lake, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Chasm Lake, Pawnee National Grassland, the top of Pike’s Peak… Can you travel further away? I love Moab, Santa Fe and the Anasazi Ruins. The moment it’s possible, I’ll be on a plane to NYC to pilgrim-around with Ryan and Sarah.

Life is a pilgrimage, and literal pilgrimage has a purpose in the spiritual life. What kind of travel has changed you? What have been your happiest moments on the road?

Sweet dreams,
Katie

Decisions

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3

Jesus, who taught us the Way of Wisdom, thank you for relieving us of the anguish of impossible decisions. Help us use your good judgment to help ourselves and our neighbors. Amen


Today Pastor Doru Cirdei who leads Filadelphia Church in Chisinau Moldova was Ryan Howell’s guest on the Morning Drop of Hope. Early in their conversation I was struck with a one-word theme: Decisions. They were talking about decisions that faith communities, parents, health organizations and governments are making in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The best decision-making guidance I know comes from the late, great Peter Drucker. His classic book The Effective Executive is like a devotional. Every year, I try to read it slowly and get better at the big themes of his teaching. One of those themes is decision-making.

According to Drucker, good decision-makers do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few, critical decisions they make at the highest level of understanding. Their decisions are based on pre-determined values, principles and rules that they apply over and over. Then when a new problem emerges, the decision is largely processed by applying earlier high-level decisions already in practice.

As my church and my household have responded to the vexing problem of our time—Covid-19—we fairly easily make decisions about how we will operate. We value life, therefore we will limit our freedom of movement, or gathering in person, in favor of protecting all life. We have already decided that Jesus gives special preference to the poor, the incarcerated, foreigners among us and the sick; therefore, our decisions will be made in favor these vulnerable neighbors.

It’s surprising how many dilemmas disappear when we base our current decisions on good decisions already made. And as patterns in our decision-making emerge, these can be named as values, which enlighten any analysis we need to do in a novel situation.

Spiritual Practice

As we all transition from the Stay at Home directive of April to the Safer at Home directive of May, we have decisions to make. How will we use our additional freedom?

What decisions have you previously made in your life which will guide your operations in the month of May?

It matters not if our enterprise is a corporation, a small business, a church, a home or our own spiritual transformation—our choices matter. And by God’s grace very few of these choices are novel and vexing. Most of the time our decisions are as complicated as we choose to make them.

I am heartened to be a spiritual leader in the company of wise persons like Ryan, Doru, Governor Polis and all of you!

Have a blessed evening,
Katie

Victory

Death has been swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15

God of new life, heal us from our fear of death, that we may no longer participate in the deathly swirl of greed and violence. Give us liberty to do your good work in the world. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)


Did you know Easter is just getting started? We are only now finishing the first of seven weeks! Just as there are 12 traditional days of Christmas for me to unwind in the midwinter quiet and light, so too I have seven weeks of Easter sunshine.

In this Covid-19 crisis, I’m thinking more about the serious side of Easter than the straight-up sunny side. Perhaps in Aprils-past, I’ve not fully appreciated Easter’s power over death, nor thought too much about my role in the ongoing mystery of overcoming death in every-day life. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I am a little more aware today.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Paul makes a powerful Easter statement followed by an imperative call to action: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Walter Brueggemann comments: Paul’s claim does not announce that we will not die. It announces, rather, that we do not need to live our lives in response to the power and sting of death that wants to negate our life, because death has been disarmed of its power to hurt us. This is defining news for us because we live in a society that is largely propelled by the fear of death. The outcome of that fear is anxiety, greed, and violence, all grounded in an elemental fear of scarcity; death specializes in scarcity and parsimony. (I looked up “parsimony”; it means tight-fistedness.)

Here is the JOY for those whose hearts are renovated in Christ’s Love: Though we are fighting a threatening disease, and though there is fear-driven anxiety, greed and violence in our society, those forces are obsolete and irrelevant to your life. Why? Because such a negative spirit has lost all its authority over your actual/real life in Christ.

Because of this Good News, Paul turns the corner with “therefore”: Be steady and constant without anxiety; Above all, excel in your performance of God’s work.

Spiritual Practice

I realize this Easter lesson adds responsibility to our lives. It’s not the typical way of thinking about Easter freedom. But where else will we go with our thoughts? This is the actual Message of Life. You carry in your very body, and within your household, and in your relationships, Christ’s Presence, which cannot be negated by anything going on in the world around you.

This Easter Friday reflect on your importance in the ongoing Easter story. How can you be hope and life to some part of the human family this weekend?

Come Monday, we get to keep learning Easter.

Blessings,
Katie

Like a Child Again

As you change and become like little children, you are able to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’s words from Matthew 18

Starter Prayer: God our Loving Parent, help me let go of my self-importance, and lead me into a full lifetime of happy childhood.

Joy is the most vulnerable emotion of all. Dr. Brené Brown


Blessings on this Holy Wednesday Evening. As I write this, there is a glimmer of good news about the COVID-19 curve possibly flattening out.

Also, last night during the supermoon, I had my first experience of hearing the neighborhood come outside and howl in support of frontline workers. Both these things give me JOY.

And there is one more. Last night at dusk, the neighborhood streets were full of families riding bikes with kids and dogs. (Well the dogs were trotting along.) It all reminded me of the the JOY Dave and I had taking our girls on bike rides when they were young. We had bikes, and baby bike seats, and at one point– two bike trailers. In the bike riding we felt like children again. The wind in our hair, the picnic dinner in the trailer, the happy children without a care in the world.

Our Crossroads Church family is reading through the Gospel of Matthew over the seven days of Holy Week. This morning my colleague Ryan Howell was live on Facebook talking about Jesus’s statement: Only as you change and become like little children are you are able to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

All the howling and biking and moon gazing and news of fewer COVID cases is an occasion for innocent JOY. If you participated in enjoying anything like this today, take courage– you are participating in the kingdom of God!

Spiritual Practice

If you haven’t seen Ryan’s mini-teaching on kids and the kingdom of heaven, do yourself a favor and watch it.

Remember that JOY is the most vulnerable emotion of all. Allow yourself to feel JOY without trying to guard your heart with realism or cynicism– what Brené Brown calls “foreboding joy”.

As you do these things, I’m confident God will lead you deeper into the lifetime of happy childhood you are created to enjoy.

May the Joy of the LORD be your strength this Holy Wednesday,
Katie

Voice

Blessed is the LORD! for he has heard the voice of my prayer. The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trust in him, and I have been helped; Therefore my heart dances for joy, and in my song will I praise him. The LORD is the strength of his people, a safe refuge for his anointed. Save your people and bless your inheritance, shepherd them and carry them forever. Psalm 28


There is a modern catch phrase meaning: ‘the person speaking has something to say, and the people listening affirm that the speaker is worthy of speaking.’ The catch phrase is: to “have a voice.” We might say, “she found her voice” or “I have a voice” or “they gave me a voice.”

Truth is: You have a voice. If you’ve ever felt silenced, you know it’s a terrible feeling. And to have a voice is a wonderful and healthy way of using your rightful power.

God is one who gives voice; and the most important place we use our voice is in prayer. Anyone can pray, anytime. No one can silence your prayers. And best of all, the LORD of creation listens to your voice and joins in your prayer– with compassion, vision and wisdom beyond words.

VESPERS Prayer

There are countless ways of using your voice in prayer. There are talking prayers and silent prayers, group prayers and solitary prayers. There is mental prayer and meditation, intercessory prayer and soaking prayer, breath prayers and desperate prayers. There are scripted prayers, prayer services and praying in the Spirit. Prayer breeds life, and there are so many new things to learn and try when it comes to your VOICE in prayer.

Vespers is a service of evening prayer, which comes out of the monastic community tradition. Vespers is a wonderful way to transition the day into a hopeful evening.

A Vespers prayer time is something you can do any evening, anywhere. If you like, you can light a candle, sit quietly and invite yourself into God’s presence, then read a Psalm and finally close with a prayer that is intended to be used for a full week. There are various prayer books and resources that provide us with scriptures, prayers and songs for Vespers.

Let’s Try It

Light a candle and sit quietly alone or with others. Rest in silence for a minute or two. Rest your heart and mind and silently confess your intention to enter into God’s presence.

Read this evening’s Psalm 28:6-9 aloud. Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? Form what you’re thinking about into a prayer. Write it down, talk to God about it or share it with someone else. Use your freedom in Christ to speak your peace!

Say the Our Father aloud: Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Conclude by saying The Prayer Appointed for the Week. (From The Book of Common Prayer in the Season of Lent): Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which give life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie