Why The Church Needs Youth Sunday http://ift.tt/1kzNhkv

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By Rev. Evan Dolive

The church I currently serve just had their Youth Sunday. Youth Sunday is a time when the youth of the church (usually the middle school and high schoolers) “take over” the church service and lead the community in worship.  Growing up this was always a great experience.  Whether it was reading the scripture, serving communion or reading a homily, it was a change of pace from the ordinary worship experience week in and week out.  As a youth group we would pick the scripture, the theme and made decision on how the message would be structured.  We had a say in how the worship would look, we chose the songs and liturgy that spoke to us; for one Sunday, our understanding of  who God was, how God had touched our lives and what it meant to be a follower of Christ was made evident in the community around us.

After some discussion the youth settled on the theme of “Molded,” (based on Isaiah 64) specifically speaking to how the church and God has shaped and molded them into the person they are today.  This was just what the community needed to hear.  In church as well as in life we can fall into routines and ruts which cause us to miss the movement of God around us.  We can be so focused on the next thing that we fail to see what the Divine is doing right under our noses.  It takes an outside perspective, a new hearing, a reorientation of our mind and spirits to realign ourselves to God.  This particular Youth Sunday did just that for the church.

I have never had a community react to a Youth Sunday the way the church I serve did a few Sundays ago.  There was an energy, the people were alive.  The church got to hear how their tithe, their donations, their commitments, their countless hours in vans transporting sugar happy, rambunctious children, their service to the gospel was being entrusted to the next generation.  They heard stories of how summer camps, mission trips, hugs and peppermint candies were more than nice trips and simple gestures, they were implements of the gospel.

Youth today need to be an active part of the community in which they reside.  While there have been dozens of articles and books written on this subject, I got to witness first hand the impact that a loving church community had on a group of youth.  There was something about that service that spoke to me.  I was proud of what the youth accomplished, I was humbled by their depth of spirituality and I was honored to their minister.  Hearing how they have felt the love of God in the church inspired many, it lifted their spirits, it reconnected them with God.  Their words and explanation of the gospel reaffirmed my call to serve the church and the gospel of Christ.

The church does not need Youth Sunday for the sake of Youth Sunday.  The church needs Youth Sunday to be reminded that the story of God is being passed to the next generation.  When a baby is dedicated to God, the congregation generally is asked if they will care for the child and watch over her/him.  The charge given to the community is one of great importance.  They are to ensure that the children now in trusted to their care will be taught the faith that they hold so dear.  This charge is not one that the congregation waits to enact when the child is in middle or high school. This task, this charge, this commitment starts immediately.  The story of God and God’s movement in the world is not confined to the four walls of a stained glass building.  It is much bigger than that and the church needs to be reminded of that.

A friend once told met that he disliked the phrase “the children are the future of the church.”  While that might be true on some levels, he wanted it to be rephrased as “youth are the right now.”  Middle and High School students are growing up in a world that is completely different than any other generation.  If you have a curiosity you turn to Google not a book in the library.  Wikipedia has opened the eyes of millions to unknown facts, places and people.  Humanity has access to more information than any other time in human history.  In the midst of all this, it comforting to know that the story of God, the story of the salvation of Christ and the movement of Spirit has not been lost.  This is something that can not be manufactured, summarized in article or found in a smartphone app.  This type of connection is found with faithful churches entrust the story of God to faithful youth.  Their view of the world and how God moves through it might be different than yours but it shows how God is moving, working and molding their lives.

Do not give up on the next generation, do not lose faith; they are just getting started.
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Clergy Seeking Community

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By Rev. Mindi

In 2010, my family uprooted from Massachusetts and moved halfway across country to Durant, Oklahoma, where we had no family and knew no one except the few people we had met from the search committee of my husband’s new call. I left a congregation that I had sincerely loved and had felt called to serve, and now was in the Great Middle of Nowhere. I wasn’t a pastor anymore, but I was still clergy. I wasn’t serving a church, but I was still called. There was only one other woman pastor in town, and she was retired. I volunteered at the hospital, along with her and the Episcopal priest in town as chaplains, but outside of those two colleagues, I had few collegial friends.

A year later, I noticed some of my friends posting on Facebook using hashtags, and I realized they were posting from Twitter, so I finally created a Twitter account (I was late to Facebook, too, joining only have my kiddo was born in 2008).

While I have made friends through Facebook with people I did not know in real life, and I have made friends over other chat forums in the past, it was on Twitter that I began to connect with other pastors, especially pastors with progressive theology, pastors concerned about issues of poverty and justice, from #Occupy to #BlackLivesMatter. From Twitter, I made friends with other progressive pastors in Oklahoma and Texas, and found out about the church The Euchatastrophe in Fort Worth where my family was welcomed into the community. We would drive down two hours to get there once a month, just so we, as clergy, could also worship.

Through social media I made connections to The Young Clergywomen Project and other collegial groups that span across denominational boundaries. And through Twitter, I began seeing clergy ask the same questions I had begun to ask: how do we begin the conversations around vision in our congregations, especially churches that are stuck in old ways of being church? How do we talk about bi-vocational ministry? How do we become a church beyond, and without, walls? What does it mean to be church now?

I found many of those questions about congregational life, our future, creativity in ministry, and more were being asked on the hashtag #unco11 and the next year #unco12. I found out about UNCO, the UnConference I have written about on here before, and found a connection with other clergy and church leaders. I no longer felt that my husband and I were alone—we had a fantastic network, that eventually led to a meetup in Durant with friends coming up from Dallas and Fort Worth and others down from Oklahoma City.

At #unco13 I met more of my friends and colleagues in person, leaders I am glad to call my friends and know that I can chat with them about anything (and now I am in video calls with several of them more than once a month!) And at UNCO, we tweet about what we are doing, what we are learning together, so that others can follow along—and you are encouraged not to put your phone away, but to have it out and ready to share!

Whether you attend #unco16, or The Young Clergywomen’s Conference in Boston, or any other gathering that began on social media, you already know you have friends there before you see them face to face. You already know that what you learn, you will take with you. You already know that the conversation is just beginning, and will not end at the closing worship.

Social media has fostered real-life relationships that I carry with me. There are people that I have never met in real life, but I consider close friends. People that I miss when they take a break from social media. People that I love catching up with and hearing what is going on in their lives. People that, when they move from one part of the country to another, our friendship doesn’t change because distance is no longer a factor. Having started these relationships on Twitter, when I thought we were all alone in southern Oklahoma, helped me to grow and to receive the support I needed.

Make a new friend! Tweet @RevMindi, I’d be glad to make your acquaintance.

*for more information on The Young Clergywomen’s Project, visit http://ift.tt/1jMLO8S

*for more information on UNCO, the UnConference, visit www.unco.us

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Living Your Best

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By Dr. Mark Poindexter

What matters to me anymore is living the best life possible with the days I am given.  At the age of 53, I don’t yet have one foot in the grave but I know it is likely that I have more days behind me than I have ahead of me.  That actually doesn’t frighten me in any way at all.  What it does is motivate me to live each day to its fullest.  I want to be the best parent I can be to my adult children.  I want to be the best friend possible to those with whom I have such a relationship.  I want to be the best pastor and preacher I can be to the congregation I serve.  I want to laugh hard.  I want to serve faithfully.  I want to listen intently to those who need an ear.  I want to speak passionately for those who have no voice.  I want to use wisely the gifts, talents and resources that I have been entrusted with to help make this world a better place.  A place where the way of God, the way of peace and justice, are made known.  I want to live my life the best that I possibly can.

It is easy in the Christian faith for us to become lazy with the theology of sin and redemption and beat people up with that way of thinking.  It is to think that the only goal of our faith is to get to heaven and we can only do that by admitting what terrible sinners we are and accepting Jesus’ cross as the price paid for our sins and the only path of reconciliation to God.  Though sin and redemption play an indispensable role in Christianity, they are not the only lens through which we should look upon Jesus. It is not only Jesus’ sacrificial death that should be the focus of Christian thought and understanding.  It should also be the life that he lived and which he calls us to.  A life which we live to our best ability by working toward a world where loving concern for others reigns supreme.

In the gospels, salvation is not primarily about a heaven beyond this world, it is about life being more complete and whole in the here and now – the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, the deaf hearing, the prisoner set free, about lives changing for the better in the present moment.  I believe the work of the church is to be found in working for the salvation of the world that is to be known in making broken and battered lives better in the here and now.  We move toward creating such a world when all of us work on being the best people we can be in Christ.  Allowing his teachings to define what we consider good and just and his example of care for others being the one that we follow with our lives.  In other words, allowing the humanity of Christ to be the humanity toward which we strive to live.

For some, believing that “Jesus died for your sins” practically sums up the entire Christian faith.  I have come to believe the life that Jesus lived needs to be rediscovered.  It is that life, lived in faithful beauty, which shows us how to live as his followers.

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What If Christians Stopped Over-promising and Under-delivering?

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By Derek Penwell

The class seemed pretty normal. World Religions for three hours a night in June, however, challenges the patience and endurance of even the best students.

So, when I started grading the final essays, my expectations were, understandably, I think, fairly modest. But every once in a while, a student steps up to the challenge, and smacks you hard on the jaw.

This time it was a Sikh woman, who was here with her family from Punjab. According to her essay, she had never lived among so many people who identified as Christian before, let alone study Christianity in a formal way.

This young woman made an observation that continues to kick about the corners of my mind as I reflect on what it means to follow Jesus. Simple really, but elegantly put.

My young Sikh student from Punjab wrote: “After learning about Christianity, it occurs to me that most of the Christians I know in America practice less than they say they believe.”

In the words of business, Christians too often over-promise and under-deliver.

I think about her statement a lot. Popular Christianity — based as it is on a sometimes shallow reading of the Reformation emphasis on Grace vs. Law — often stresses the importance of believing the right stuff over doing the right stuff (since doing is fraught with resonances of Pelagianism and “works righteousness”).

However, when it comes to following Jesus, possessing correct beliefs is never enough. Unless those beliefs underwrite a life devoted to loving your neighbor, they’re useless. And while that might strike you as harsh, it’s no less harsh than the Bible. As the author of 1 John so eloquently points out, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen” (4:20).

In other words, the very way you demonstrate love for God is by loving your brother or sister. You reveal your beliefs are genuine not just by proclaiming them publicly, or by believing them really, really deeply in your own heart, but by pursuing a world in which your brother and sister, those whom God loves, can flourish in justice and peace.

And to put an even finer point on it, loving your brother or sister means more than feeling properly disposed toward them. Loving your neighbor means having your hands dirtied, your knees callused, and your back bent in trying to see that your brother and sister have enough to eat, a place to sleep, adequate healthcare, a world in which to be safe as they pursue their projects and goals with the ones whom they love.

Not hating your brother or sister means more than not lynching them; it means more than refraining from being angry when they cut you off in traffic or make you stand too long in line at the DMV; it means more than avoiding personal conflict or violence.

Not hating your brother or sister means not sending drones to kill their children in the night, it means not rendering them rhetorically insignificant — as nothing more than “takers” or threats to your traditions, and it means not breaking up their families through deportation.

Not hating your brother or sister also means not working to cripple or otherwise defund programs meant to help feed, house, educate, and heal them — even if the programs don’t solve every problem (and sometimes create a few of their own).

And here’s the thing I think many Christians fail to take into consideration: people are watching to see if we believe what we say enough to put it in practice. They’re not stupid. They’ve read our sacred texts enough to know what Jesus expected when it comes to our treatment of those who seem to live their lives at the back of the line. They hear those who proclaim their orthodoxy loudest, who say they’re most concerned about “saving souls,” walk right past those souls starving in the streets … and they are completely underwhelmed.

According to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon, one of the first things people outside the church think when they hear the word “Christian” is rather unflattering — “hypocrite.” It’s noteworthy that when outsiders observe Christians in America they see two things: 1) we claim to believe a lot, but 2) we actually live those beliefs at a conspicuously lower rate.

But what if our beliefs, though imperfect, were enough to get us started living the way Jesus told us to live?

What if when we said things like “love your enemies and turn the other cheek,” or “sell all you own and give it to the poor,” or “just as you did it to the least of one of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” people had confidence that we actually meant it?

What if we surprised my Sikh student and began living at least as much as we say we believe.

What if Christians started under-promising and over-delivering?

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The Truth Is Truth Can Be Found In A Lot of Places

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By Dr. Mark Poindexter

My office is “my space.”  If someone takes the time to look around my office they can get a snap shot of my life and what is important to me.  There are the many shelves of books collected from my years in school and from inheriting the libraries of two other ministers.  My collection of Lions and Lambs are prominently displayed on my window sill.  All the finisher’s medals from my road races are hanging from the coat tree – which has no room for any coats.  There are many pictures of my family, especially my children and there are all sorts of small gifts and trinkets that I have gathered from thirty years in ministry.  One thing that hangs on the wall of my office, directly across my desk, is a small poster that contains Gandhi’s “Seven Deadly Social Sins.”  These seven sins are

Politics without Principle

Wealth without Work

Commerce without Morality

Pleasure without Conscience

Education without Character

Science without Humanity

Worship without Sacrifice

Though these words are not part of the canon of Christian scripture, I wouldn’t be opposed to having a Council that consented to adding them.  We could put them in between the Testaments as part of the Apocrypha.  I have them displayed in my office where I do, so that when I look up from desk, the face of Gandhi, which is part of the poster, is looking right at me.  I see his face.  I read his words.  I see the truth that is in both. Of course, Gandhi was a Hindu who said that he had a great deal of respect for Jesus but that some of his followers didn’t seem interested in following Jesus too closely. There is truth in those words as well.

As a Christian, I should be interested in truth wherever I find it.  Whether it be in another religion or in the discipline of science or in the cultural norms of a different society.  Truth is truth and all of it is God’s truth.  For too long, much of the Christian faith has seen other religions as “a tool of the devil” and the only proper Christian response to be conversion.  That should no longer be the case.  Though Christ should always be our plumb line for how we understand truth, we should never think that our understanding of faith is the sole harbinger of truth.  Wherever there is compassion, wherever there is care for those on the fringes of society, wherever there is concern for enhancing life then there is truth to be found.   For those expressions of truth, as we understand it through Christ, we should be grateful for whoever shows it and whenever it is shown.  The ways of God are not limited to those of us who call ourselves Christian.  The ways of God are present wherever love and sacrifice and kindness to others is displayed.

Sometimes, I wonder if we are moving toward a day when the church and the synagogue and the mosque and the temple will no longer be symbols of different religions but symbols of the one thing for which all religions are ultimately looking for – the kingdom of God.

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Pass the Ketchup Or How Emmaus Reminds us to Set an Open Table for All Ages and Abilities

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By: J.C. Mitchell

Walking to Emmaus, are you?  I hope so. I think Luke purposely does not name Cleopas’s friend, so that everyone can put themselves in this Resurrection account.  Luke adds this Resurrection scene seven miles outside of Jerusalem; that is, just outside the center of power.  The witness is not one of the eleven, but one obviously in the know.  Now this story, which happens on the day of the Resurrection, is only written about by Luke, and I believe it is a perfect reminder of inclusion of all in communion: An Open Table, which is always important and a great way to remember it is Autism Acceptance & Awareness month this April.

It seems that the two walking along had different interpretations of the recent murder of Jesus and the news from the women.  The Greek suggests that they are in a debate throwing ideas back and forth.  I imagine it is emotional; maybe not quite as heated as Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters, but something like that.  Jesus arrives, and is not recognized by our inconsequential people, and explains everything from Moses to the events of that morning, and they/we still don’t get it.  I have had people ask me, “Why Luke did not record Jesus’ words about the Hebrew Scriptures?” and I reply,” That is exactly the point.”

Jesus is not interested in leaving us with more Scripture; Jesus leaves us with the Table.  This is exactly where I and Cleopas know Jesus, and that is truly amazing, for we may still have different interpretations, but we are united after this Resurrection moment revealed in the Breaking of the Bread, to go back to inform the eleven with authority.

Currently my son who is non-conversational (talks only for basic needs) is offered Communion and only takes it when it is delicious bread.  Once I had to hide the Hawaiian Loaf that was brought in (by a congregant that refuses to use sourdough, because Jesus is Sweet not…).  The whole congregation said, “let him have some,” but I reminded them that I already said no (by the way, most of them are great-grandparents).  I will continue to bring him to Communion services in worship and at home, for this act of eating together is truly the act of community, thus I cannot limit it to simply the Table in the Church, or sanctified by such an institution, even when I am the clergy doing such a thing.  I find it seven miles outside with the sojourner or resident alien, not just my beloved liturgy.

For even if you were to hear the explanation of the Resurrection from Jesus Himself, you will still not get it; thus my son’s interpretation and experience at the Table is as valid as my own. For Jesus left a simple message, eat together and love one another, and both my son and I can do that well, and with anyone willing to pass the ketchup.

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Prayer for a Broken World

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Derek Penwell

O God of grace and peace,

You hear the cries of the distraught. You tend the hearts of the grieving. We offer up our prayers to you once again, after hearing of yet more violence and strife. Lahore, Baghdad, Aden, Maiduguri, Istanbul, Brussels, Baidoa, Paris, Ankara.

We do not possess words powerful enough to express the anguish we feel. The bodies of our sisters and brothers, cast upon the altar of death, form a mountain of sorrow that threatens to blot out the sun. The world feels unstable, its hospitality, which we are always tempted to take for granted, seems in times like these an illusion at best, and a cruel joke at worst.

The cries of widows and orphans stop up our ears, so that we cannot discern a word from you. We long to hear the calm assurance of your voice in times like these. But perhaps even more, we long to hear the thunder of your righteous anger, lifted as a battle cry against the night.

But we’ve just come through Holy Week, so we see how you do battle against the evil intentions of humanity. You confront the world’s violence not with armies, but with a broken man who wields nothing more deadly than his willingness to die rather than return that violence. You conquer death by transforming death into life.

But we confess that your commitment to reconciling enemies too often leaves us feeling unsatisfied. We yearn to see your justice meted out against those who would steal the lives of children. Our hearts burn within us as we desire to witness a holy vengeance that promises the same kind of pain to the wicked as they have visited upon the innocent. On Easter we speak of our commitment to love and forgiveness. But in the face of the most profound darkness, our hearts betray us, and we long for a justice that renders our pain intelligible as part of a greater narrative of retribution.

And yet, we also must acknowledge our own participation in a world that seems too eager to devour itself. We allow those who would lead us to befoul the public discourse with racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia, giving voice to our darkest impulses. Forgive us for the secret hatreds and fears they articulate. Grant us the courage to stand against the destructive nature of our lower selves, which we see embodied in the venality of our politicians.

Your way of embracing the world is seldom our own. You resist our pleas for a solution that rights all wrongs. You withstand our entreaties for a divine magic we can control.

Therefore, offer comfort to the afflicted. Bless the prayers of the stricken and despairing. Let those who weep feel the embracing arms of your consolation.

And give us strength to live with integrity in a broken world, to face the violent fears that are so easily stoked within us, to challenge the hatred and bigotry that beckons us to view our sisters and brothers as “other.” Give us grace to see our enemies through your eyes. Allow us to be agents of healing and peace, that a frightened world might see you in us, and that we might live faithfully, even in the absence of our own understanding.

This is our prayer, O lover of us all. Amen.

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Good Fridays, everyday

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By Rev. Mindi

Holy Week is a reminder that death disrupts our lives.

I did not attend my first funeral until I was seventeen, and then I attended two funerals in a matter of months. The first was for my maternal grandfather, only sixty-seven, who died of cancer. My grandfather who was a minister, the family member I felt closest to in many ways, though we only saw each other a few times my entire life, since I grew up in Alaska and he lived in Pennsylvania.

The second funeral was not someone I knew well, but it was someone my age. Seventeen, and he took his own life, the son of a family friend. Instead of heading off to college like many of us, his parents were placing flowers on his grave.

In this life, I will never have my grandfather again. In this life, these parents will never have their child again.

Holy Week is a reminder that death is an ugly, terrible thing.

A good friend of ours from seminary died suddenly at the age of twenty-nine. It was unexpected. In the service held in the chapel of my alma mater, my husband led the call to worship, and he began with “God, What the ___” as he stomped on the floor. We all laughed, and we all cried, because the sudden death of a young adult doesn’t make any sense, and is one of those moments when we question God, we ask why, knowing we will not receive an answer. Those WTF moments are moments in which platitudes of “God needing another angel” or “they are in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason” get shot down. I’d rather say, “God, What the _____?

Holy Week is a reminder that even Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

(And yes, we all know he was quoting Psalm 22, but just as if one of us says “WTF,” we’re not saying anything original ourselves, either).

Three years ago, two weeks before Easter, my eighty-nine-year-old paternal grandmother entered hospice. She moved out of her senior living center into my aunt’s house for those last weeks, the only house of any of my relatives that I still remember from my childhood. I was able to visit her right after, and we had one of those days where we talked about everything and anything. I showed her all the pictures of my son on my phone and we talked about old memories, and we laughed and we shared together. She was still able to stand up and move about, and she told me she was ready to go and be with Jesus.

A week and a half later, we sat by her bed as she was no longer responsive and barely breathing, on Holy Saturday. We held her thin, bony fingers, we talked with her, we sat with her, but she barely was able to look at us, if at all. She passed on Easter Monday, appropriate for a woman who drove a large camper up through the 90’s with a “God is my Co-Pilot” bumper sticker. She never doubted where she was going and who she was going with. Her dying was as peaceful as any I have experienced.

Holy Week is a reminder that death is part of life.

Holy Week is a reminder that for all the goodness of life, and all the platitudes we say about heaven, death still can be awful and horrible to go through, even when it happens as peacefully as it can. Death still separates us, for now.

Holy Week is a reminder that it’s okay to say, “My God, My God, What the _____?”

Holy Week is a reminder that we can’t go back. We can only go on.

Holy Week reminds us that we all go through Good Friday. We all do. Year after year, death after death, we relive Good Friday, and we remain in Good Friday, no matter what day it is.

But we live with the hope of Easter. We live with the hope of the empty tomb and the stone rolled away and all that. New life. Eternal life. No more dying, no more mourning, no more grief and sorrow and sadness. No more young people taking their own lives. No more sudden, unexplainable loss. No more illness and pain.

I cling to the hope of Easter, in order to get through Good Friday, year after year, death after death. I cling to the hope that once a year, we celebrate an empty tomb. Once a year, we proclaim that death is not as ugly and terrifying and awful as we have experienced it. Once a year, we have Good Friday transformed into Easter.

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Why Your Criticism of Politics on Facebook May Mean You’re Part of the Problem

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By Derek Penwell

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

How many times have you read on Facebook that politics should be something people keep to themselves? You know what I’m talking about, right?

Said in a smug voice:

“Erm, only idiots think that posting political nonsense on Facebook changes anybody’s mind.”

Distilled to its essence, the idea seems to be that politics are so volatile that people ought to just stick to cat videos and keep their opinions to themselves. In addition to its being unseemly as a tactic, partisan bickering in the virtual public square is pointless. Advocacy doesn’t change anything, and it’s really noisy.

“I get on Facebook to keep up with friends and family, and to share the occasional update about my totally jealousy-inducing vacation/job promotion/parenting triumph. Politics are messy and conflicted. I like my leisure time consumed with leisure, not your stupid convictions. So, do us all a favor and just shut up.”

But regardless of whether or not social media advocacy is effective in changing people’s minds, what I find interesting about the casual dismissal of online political activism is who’s most prone to doing the dismissing. Have you ever noticed what kinds of people are the most contemptuous of politics on Facebook?

Generally speaking, people who can sneer about political appeals on social media as never really changing anything are people who are comfortably certain that nothing will (or even needs to) change enough to affect them. That’s some privilege right there. Turns out, people annoyed by politics on Facebook are usually people who have a stake in things staying the way they are — without even being conscious that “the way things are” almost always leaves somebody on the outside looking in.

It’s easy to be disdainful of low-rent political musings on social media when you’re totally convinced that things are pretty great for you and for people like you. Unconsciously, you realize that if the rabble these political posters are rousing comes to pass, things could get uncomfortable faster than you can say, “new haircut selfie.” Consequently, if you can keep the hoi polloi quiet, things have a better chance of staying just the way they are.

But what if you happen to be among that group of folks for whom keeping things “just the way they are” is bad news?

  • What if it’s your son out playing with a toy gun when the police pull up?
  • What if it’s your dad on the losing end of a police choke hold?
  • What if it’s your daughter who wandered up to the wrong room during a frat party?
  • What if it’s your mom who works 60 hours a week and still can’t afford rent and electricity?
  • What if it’s your co-worker who has to sit quietly every day and hear how his religion is the biggest threat to our security, and how it ought to be grounds for another insanely intrusive and demeaning layer of scrutiny for him and his family?
  • What if it’s your daughter who — because she was born wrapped in a blue receiving blanket — gets beat up for going into the wrong bathroom?
  • What if it’s your grandmother who has to choose between her diabetes medication and groceries for the week?
  • What if it’s your neighborhood where mothers lay awake at night paralyzed by the fear of stray bullets and discarded crack vials?
  • What if it’s your babies who lie bullet-riddled in their first grade classroom because “the-Constitution-guarantees-the-right-for-any-psychopath-with-a-few-extra-bucks-in-his-pocket-to-own-an-assault-rifle?”
  • What if it’s your best friend who got fired for being legally married to another woman?
  • What if it’s your city dispensing poisoned water to its citizens?
  • What if it’s your grandfather, who fought in WWII and worked the same job for forty-five years, who can’t vote now because he doesn’t have a driver’s license anymore?

For people whose worlds aren’t safe or livable “just the way they are,” politics isn’t an annoying thing you get to scroll past when your uncle Ed’s posting too many “Take Back America” memes. For some people politics is the only hope that the world everybody else is so satisfied with has a possibility of getting better; and they feel like social media is only way they can get the word out.

I’m afraid most folks don’t realize the kind of privilege it takes to be able to say to someone for whom the status quo doesn’t work, “Don’t you understand how obnoxious it is when you shove your politics in my face all the time?”

Do you even know how that sounds? It’s like saying, “I know your kid’s drowning, but do you have to harp on it every. single. day? Some of us have vacation photos to share.”

If you’re a person of faith, how do you so casually dismiss people crying out for help?

If you believe in the divine, how do you look your virtual friends in their virtual faces and tell them that if they’d just hush for a bit they’d realize that the world is actually a great place — regardless of everyone else’s momentary trifles?

I mean, you can say it, but you should at least know how you sound when you do.

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A Prayer for All

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By Dr. Mark Poindexter

He comes into my office for a few minutes every morning.  His name is Mr. Joe.  He is our eighty-seven year old custodian at church.   He always asks me, “How’s it going today, Pastor?”  He also asks about my children and after I answer he says, “That’s a fine boy you got and a sweet girl, too.”  I’ve told Joe on several occasions that I hope I am in as good a shape as he is when I am sixty-seven, let alone eighty-seven.  This morning when I said that, he said, “Pastor, every night when I go to bed I pray that I might wake up with love in my heart.  Love for God.  Love for Jesus.  And love for everybody I meet that day.”  I thought that was a pretty good prayer to say every night, not just for Joe, but all of us.

Meeting Joe is another one of those wonderful gifts of grace that has come my way after my life took a turn that I did not expect almost two years ago.  When things happened the way they did with my marriage, it was nearly impossible for me to see any of the grace filled goodness of the life that was around me.  But that has changed for me. I am rediscovering in many ways the wonder and beauty of this life.

Yet, even as I rediscover this sense of joy I realize that there are many people, for numerous reasons, who are at the place I was at.  A dark place where joy seems to have vacated and even God seems absent.  A place that when you are surrounded by people, you can still feel very much alone.  Though I am at a different place now in my life, I still remember the dark, loneliness of that place.  Which helps me to feel a deep sense of compassion for others who are there.

There are a variety of situations that can lead someone into that dark place. The loss of a relationship, a dream or a hope.  The struggle many folks have as they live pay check to pay check.  I think many of the refugees who are forced to leave their country and look for a new life, only to find themselves living in the tent cities that offer little to change the reality of their situation.  Families whose lives are broken by the gun shots that claim too many lives in our own nation.

The church is to be a healing place for such folks.  A place where tears can be shed, pain can be shared and ultimately hope restored.  I don’t always know how to provide the care folks need.  But I know that part of that care begins with Mr.  Joe’s prayer – “Let me wake up with love in my heart tomorrow.  Love for God.  Love for Jesus.  And love for everyone I meet.”  Tonight that will be my prayer too.

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