Pretending Doesn’t Make It So

Waves - Pacific Ocean - Along the Oregon CoastA friend of mine used to say, “Pretending doesn’t make it so.” I’ve watched with dismay this week as one executive order after another has come from the oval office. Many are attacking the very things I believe most strongly in, including care for the environment. The biblical narrative includes the stewardship of the creation. God’s gift of the earth was left in our hands to care for -not to destroy.  Whenever we have forgotten  this we have suffered painful consequences.

The creations stories of Genesis tell us that creation is given to the human to care for. “‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. . . .  God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” ’ (Genesis 1:28,31)  There was a time when the term global warming was not a political football.  Nor was it a dividing line between conservative and liberal Christians. I look back on those years with fondness, while I continue to be puzzled by how it became a source of division. Why wouldn’t all Christians want to protect the environment and change the course of future devastation?  Even if it meant that we need to look for  new and healthier energy sources.

When Jesus said that we were to love God with all of our heart, our mind and our soul, he expected us to use the wisdom that we were being given. The problem with denying the grave issues in front of us, is that you simply don’t work on it. Just like the addict claims not to have a problem, or the couple whose marriage is in trouble pretend it isn’t . . .  Eventually the truth will be louder than all the pretending.  Today island nations bear the brunt of rising oceans. An ice shelf the size of the state of Delaware is about to break off. It is the third year in a row of increasing world wide temperatures. You cannot hide from truth forever.  Pretending doesn’t make it so. I pray that God is able to reach into the hearts and minds of those whose decisions will impact us for generations, so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live in a world where this issue no longer threatens the earth.

Inauguration – Changing Visions – Changing Dreams

The Domes, Milwaukee Mitchel Park“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”              I Samuel 16:7

Change is always difficult. When it comes unbidden by us, the changes created are more difficult to accept. Today, our country changed hands. President Obama stepped back and President Trump took the oath of office. We have a new president, which one segment of our nation is thrilled is here. Meanwhile, another segment feels a deep loss and fear. In our divided nation we’ve grown tense and uneasy. We do not trust each other or what motivates those whose values are different from our own. We no longer believe in the good intentions of people whose political views are not like ours. Distrust breeds alienation, false assumptions, division and fear.

On this inauguration weekend, it is good to remember that God sees us all so differently. God doesn’t see blue states and red states, Republicans or Democrats. The color of our skin, the place where we live and our wealth matters little to God. No, God looks inside us. God understands what we are made of. God looks into our hearts. God sees into the very center or our being. God knows our dreams, our hopes, our aspirations. God sees the goodness in us and in those we disagree with.

On our coins are printed the words, “In God We Trust.” Today, in the changing of presidents, is a good day to begin praying for our nation and all it’s leaders. For in some way that none of us really understand, God does work through our prayers. Our hearts are touched with the love of God. We find ourselves being changed in our praying. Divisions between people are bridged. Mountains move, in spite of logic, reason and common sense.

So let us pray for the unity of our nation and wisdom for its leaders. Let us pray for integrity, compassion and justice to rule the hearts of all our leaders. Let us pray for minds open to hear another viewpoint, patience to understand another heart and light to see God’s vision for our nation. Let us live the words on our coins and truly trust in God.

Standing at the Door

Samuel Shoemaker, in his poem, “I Stand By the Door,” writes:soft-church

“I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world—

It is the door through which people  walk when they find God.

People . . . Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only a wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like the blind,
With outstretched, groping hands.
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door
Yet they never find it . . .
People die outside that door as starving beggar’s die,
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter
Die for want of what is within their grasp.”

This haunting poem brings back vivid memories of leaving the Emergency Shelter at Simpson United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, one sub-zero winter day. My family had helped at the shelter that night. On the way to the car, one of my children drew my attention to a man finding refuge in the doorway of the church. He had a single blanket wrapped around himself as he lay huddled for warmth in the bitter cold. Throughout the night he had lain there, outside of the warmth of the shelter within.  He had been “outside the door” while fellowship, warm coffee and hot chocolate, a place to sleep and the security of being in a warm room, lay inside. He had missed out.

There are many people who “miss out,” who “miss the door” and the message of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace. When I ask people about their faith and what it means to them, I hear words about God being present. They talk about care and other expressions of loving compassion, found in their faith community.

Samuel Shoemaker used to invite people to experiment with Christianity. He invited them to surrender as much of themselves to as much of God as they could accept at that time in their life. He encouraged them to pray and open their hearts in honest dialog with God. I would invite you to do the same. Experiment with the Christian faith. Start a journal. Write your prayers in plain and honest words. Open your heart to God through your honesty. Be willing to go where God leads.   What I know to be true is this – God always hears our prayers and the groaning of our hearts – God wants no one left outside the door.

* Samuel Shoemaker a portion of his work ” I Stand by the Door” (Paraphrased)

By God’s Grace, Light Will Shine

IMG_8060The last weeks have been difficult ones for some in my family.  A long and unexpected hospital stay, including surgery, left part of my family struggling through the Christmas season.   I once  heard Henri Nouwen  say, “Jesus didn’t come to take our pain away, but to be with us in it.”   While I would like God to fix everything that is amiss in my life and the lives of those I love,  that was never God’s promise.   The promise wasn’t to fix,  but to be with us in  the difficulty and complexity of  life’s challenges.

Brennan Manning, in his book, “Reflections for Ragamuffins”  mentions a man who was reflecting on the gospel of John where it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . The Word was made flesh and dealt among us.” (John 1:1-5) As the man thought about the passage it seemed to him that God was saying, “Yes, the Word was made flesh. I chose to enter your broken world and limp through life with you.”

Brennan Manning goes on to say, “On that last day, when we arrive at the Great Mansion in the Sky, many of us will be bloodied, battered, bruised, and limping. But, by God and by Christ, there will be a light in the window and a “welcome home” sign on the door.”

We do not know what this new year  holds for us. For some of us there will be great trials.  We may  face enormous challenges or confront heartache and sorrow.  High mountains  may be conquered . . . where we will revel in the accomplishment of long sought dreams. Along the journey, it may be that we find ourselves in turn, battered, bruised, bloodied, weary and worn by the turnings of life.

In the birth of Jesus, we witnessed God’s fresh start in our world . . . God coming to live among us, to show us how to live life with integrity and with power. In Jesus, God entered a weary world and the earth has never quite been the same.  God’s gifts of comfort, strength, hope and joy came with Jesus. It is God’s gift, freely and abundantly available for all . . . God’s welcome sign, sent to all the worlds people. We call this gift grace.

May your life be touched by “grace filled moments” where you have cause to marvel at God’s good gifts of love for you.