a faithful path

because that's all i can hope to have

trying to find some words #NaPoWriMo 04/15/2014

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hate

hate be gone
hate be done
for we renounce you
we deny you

and the death
in which you revel
will never be
victory

hate
you have no hope
you birth
no future

we will
withstand you
we will
outlast you

when you are
a sick memory
a stain
upon our past

we will sing
a new song
beyond
your prison

because walls
of hate
will not stand
for long

and the peace
for which
we pray
will come

sung
upon the strands
of the love
we share

neighbor
friend
human
beloved

dark hatred
will be scattered
weak and undone
before love’s flame

 

I always begin things like #NaPoWriMo with high expectations and lots of energy – but it’s never long before I run out of words. So I start to strain to make some poems and my frustration mounts. Usually I end up a bit indignant that I would so arbitrarily be asked to make a poem a day. But that’s just silliness. I volunteered to be part of the exercise, I just didn’t think I’d have so many days of dryness when no words come to me when called.

And then the news comes on, and I see things like the hateful shootings, the murder of our Jewish neighbors in Kansas, a hateful crime I suppose was meant to stain their holiday. I want to scream. I want to deny that this still happens. I want to deny that anyone can be so broken as to choose such hate and it’s bile, it’s loss, it’s theft, it’s shame.

Words came back to me, today, after a week or so of not answering my call. Today, I protest the hate. I deny the killing stupidity and waste. I renounce any and all of the ignorant paranoia and fear. I call out to the humanity that is buried under the weight of such darkness.

I pray for the families affected by that hateful touch. I mourn with them, though not as them. They have been broken apart and touched so forcefully by the killing hatred. May their peace be restored and love wrap them in the divine embrace.

AMDG, Todd

 

 

Written by reserve7

April 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

Posted in Just Life, Poetry, Prayer, Writing

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a prayer for #NaPoWriMo 04/08/2014

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I’d like to share a prayer that I composed for the opening of today’s session of the Montgomery County Council, delivered in Rockville, MD. It was an honor to open the session and wish everyone an amazing day.

 

imagefor the energy
to face our tasks
for the wisdom and knowledge
to make decisions
for the creativity and imagination
to overcome obstacles
for civility
in our discourse
for peace
in our communities
for joy
in the service we will
provide to our neighbors
for all these things
and every needful blessing
to accomplish the work of our day,
we pray. amen.

04/08/2014

 

I’m kinda geekin’ out here… I composed this blog in Chrome on my iPad. I haven’t had a ton of luck with such an exercise in the past, but it was fairly seamless, today. Woot!

AMDG, Todd

Written by reserve7

April 8, 2014 at 10:33 am

two more poems for #NaPoWriMo 04/06/2014

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I did write a poem yesterday on April 5, but I never had time to sit and get it on the computer. So here’s that haiku and a short free verse for today…

 

green budscold winds
move limbs
bare but for the green buds

04/05/2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first cheery blossoms 2014

 

the first blossoms i have seen
grace our ride today
as my son
and i
enjoy the sunlight
and local path

04/06/2014

Written by reserve7

April 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm

“demons” a poem for #NaPoWriMo 04/04/2014

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reflecting on the latest shooting at Ft. Hood, for #NaPoWriMo…

 

what are these terrifying demonsScreen Shot 2014-04-03 at 2.20.21 PM.png
that live within us?
this
damnable suffering
this
pain
that spills over into our hands
and runs angrily
deadly
down the barrel of a gun

ripping bodies
rending souls
seething malice
heartfelt anguish

how many names do these demons have?
victims
also have names

one does not
domesticate these demons
one does not
harness a demon
for gain
without paying a price

lead us not into temptation
nor the arms of a demon
but
deliver us from the price

04/04/2014

 

I have my own demons, as we each carry them through our lives, leaving some behind and finding new ones all along the way. The latest shooting at Ft. Hood put a shadow over me, yesterday. It stirred my demons. We like the heroes in our comic books and stories to destroy whole armies, to fight and kill, to slaughter the bad guys and gals by the dozen, and to face down all the enemies they find… but in real life we are much more fragile than the characters of our fantasies. I pray that we take ever more seriously the price we pay for sending our women and men into conflict after conflict, and that we take seriously the price they pay. The men and women who serve us are too great a treasure to take for granted or to leave to the demons.

Yesterday, just to show my age, it was John Denver who helped sing my demons back into the shadows.

AMDG, Todd

Written by reserve7

April 4, 2014 at 8:45 am

two poems for #NaPoWriMo 04/03/2014

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I have my makeup work to share this morning, and today’s poem for #NaPoWriMo. The makeup is for April 1st, and it’s a haiku I wrote this morning when I stopped to spend a moment with some daffodils in the front yard. Today’s poem is a reflection on a sweet, old King James version Bible I found yesterday at a thrift store. It cost me a quarter.

 

new dandelions napowrimo.jpgfor April 1…

new daffodils 
in grasses green and brown -
looks like rain, today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ancient words napowrimo.jpgfor April 3…

these ancient words speak to me
they bind me fast, they set me free
they graft me to a living tree
these words that were, are and will be

Written by reserve7

April 3, 2014 at 7:39 am

a poem for #NaPoWriMo 04/02/2014

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napowrimo april 2 2014.pngSo many of my friends on Facebook are jumping into the National Poetry Writing Month that I’m feeling the peer pressure! I’ll do a make-up poem this afternoon, since I missed the monthly opener, yesterday!

Here’s my little poem for today:

i love you
this is my choice
seen in motion
heard in voice
but should it not
don’t think i lied
even if i fail
please know i tried

04/02/2014

 

Written by reserve7

April 2, 2014 at 8:35 am

Arizona SB1062 and Religious Liberty

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embrace the sufferingLet me give you the punchline right out the gate, and then I’ll explain myself: I find the idea of legislating public discrimination as the antithesis of religious liberty as we are taught by our Christian scriptures. It is an egregious error to use one’s faith as a reason to deny service to anyone in the public arena based on one’s personal held beliefs and/or the other’s sexuality or perceived sexuality and decisions of conscience. We must hold true to the values Jesus related to us to be of the greatest importance, loving God and loving our neighbors.  We also must hold to the example of Jesus, the suffering servant, the powerful-yet-disenfranchised Lord, the One who gives his all for others. (Matthew 22:34-40)

In Arizona they have done what was attempted just a few days before in Kansas, they passed State legislation removing legal penalties for denying business services and public access of services to someone based on their sexuality, if the reason for that denial of service was justified by the provider’s religious convictions. This has been called and defended as an expression of “religious liberty.”

The problem with this scenario for Christians is that our scriptures teach us the exact opposite about liberty. Jesus teaches us about the problematic exercise of judgment and the imperative expressions of love for all people, and he models a life and ministry which seems to have no filters for picking and choosing with whom he will minister and associate. He is seen in the homes of the wealthiest and most influential, and he’s on the street defending a guilty “sinner” against an angry mob. He heals all those who come to him and denies his followers request to punish those who do not accept him. (Matthew 7:1-6, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 14:1-14, John 8:1-11, Luke 9:51-56)

Jesus is the one who removes his clothes and wraps himself in a towel to do the most menial of service for his friends, washing their feet. When he finishes washing their feet he says to them, “My very position and authority, my power, as Lord and teacher, make me a servant. Now you should be servants as well.” (That is, of course, my paraphrase.) Jesus takes our understanding of power and authority and inverts it so that any power and authority we have becomes the basis of service to others and not service to ourselves. This is a crucial understanding of our Christ that should not be overlooked right now because we have a special opportunity in our democratic system of government to live this and experience this very truth in a real way. We have power and position based on our ability to vote and shape public discourse. Will we use that power and position to serve ourselves or others? (John 13:1-17)

The idea of using religious liberty or freedom as a rationale for discriminating against another person and refusing to serve them stands in complete contradiction to the New Testament witness of the freedom and liberty we have received from Christ. This is something that other New Testament writers understood and also addressed in their own ways and in their specific contexts. Paul tells us explicitly that our liberty and freedom are the foundation for service to one another. James will highlight the problem with showing partiality and living judgmentally without mercy.

Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians is dealing with a specific problem in Galatia; they (as Gentile Christians) have been taught by others that after becoming Christians that they must also submit to the Law of Moses, in effect becoming observantly Jewish in order to be truly Christian. Paul discusses the difference he sees in Law and grace, defending their freedom from legalistic requirements. This is an entire letter written about our religious freedom and liberty. (Galatians 1:6-10, 2:11-21, 3:1-14)

Paul strenuously makes his case to the Galatians that in Christ we experience a righteousness (essentially a state of restored relationship with God) while receiving freedom from legalistic performance instead of being righteous through that performance. He sums up his specific arguments about this contrast of religiuos legalism and freedom in the beginning of chapter five by asking the Galatians if they would willing choose a state of slavery over a state of freedom. He then goes on to relate a broader expression of religious liberty in the same chapter, making our freedom in Christ the foundation of service to other people. Freedom then is not just our freedom from legalism, but our freedom is being free from self-service. Paul will frame this broadening of the discussion of liberty by referencing familiar words from Jesus about “loving one’s neighbor.” (Galatians 5:1-12, 13-26)

Paul moves our liberty and freedom into a more global arena. We are free to be servants to our neighbors. And who is our neighbor? According to the way Jesus taught, a neighbor is what we become when we meet the needs of and serve another human being, and a neighbor is a person in need. A neighbor is both a needful person of whom we have an awareness, and who we are when we serve them. It’s troubling that years later followers of Christ would use religious liberty as a rationale to deny service to a neighbor. It’s just too ironic. To be honest I find it more than troubling. It hurts my soul that people might evaluate our God, our Christ, our scriptures or our religion based on such a selfish and hurtful idea. (Luke 10:25-37)

Again, the proponents in the bill in Arizona keep referencing the “attacks” on faith and Christians. In his first chapter James gives us a reminder of a familiar New Testament theme of “joy during adversity.” I don’t feel like anyone is truly facing persecution as a Christian by having to do business with or to relate in a public context with a person of differing sexual orientation, but even I did feel that way, my response should not be to raise my fists or my votes in conflict. I should appreciate the tension and conflict, even if it escalates to a true persecution, as a chance to grow and practice perseverance. God’s love for me transcends any discomfort or stress of life.

We tend to think there’s only joy in dominance, but James reminds us that there’s joy in hardship. He also repudiates responding in anger, but instead advocates shutting our mouths and listening better. It’s an amazing chapter! It probably finds it’s fullest meaning when applied to a time when we might be a minority voice or simply in a conflict of ideas. (James 1:2-12, 19-25)

In the second chapter James will talk about the problem of Christians who show partiality, using as an example a time when they might treat people of different economic levels with an inequity of grace and respect. It’s a problem because God doesn’t show partiality, especially not based on economics. James will also quote the “Second Greatest Command” as named by Jesus, the responsibility to love one’s neighbor. Isn’t that an interesting recurrent theme? When speaking of liberty and freedom, and upholding people’s inherent value and dignity, we keep hearing about our call to love our neighbor.

Again the context is broadened with the evocation of loving one’s neighbor and we can easily see that disparities and diversities exist among us on many levels like economics, race, nationality, education, etc. Our principle of not showing partiality becomes a secondary foundation after liberty for humbly serving all people. This broader application of impartiality is affirmed by the next discussion from James about judgment without mercy.  We do not sit in judgment over people, showing a favoritism that values some and devalues others, because we know all about our own dependence on mercy. (James 2:1-13, *8-13)

I think the thing about judging that really messes us up is that we’re often  justified in our judgment. By this I mean that others have sometimes actually misbehaved or given evidence of misbehaving. Though this is not always the case, it can be the case, and we can feel very correct and justified in passing judgement. We might sometimes be correct in judging, but being correct is not the point. James brings this home to us with his mercy discussion. Mercy trumps judgment. He says it quite clearly. Mercy wins. Mercy is more powerful than judgement. Mercy defeats judgement. Mercy is greater than judgement and so we are called to be merciful and not to be judgmental.

What does Arizona SB1062 represent? It represents judgment and not mercy. Arizona SB1062 is exactly how we give people a mistaken image and impression about Jesus, about scripture and about our religion.

Taken to their fullest extension, all these passages represent the kind of teaching that should be producing Christians who humbly serve others, even in the environments most hostile to their sensibilities, without the “culture wars” we‘ve been seeing in our contemporary public discourse. Also, this would produce Christians who are vehemently fighting for the rights of other people, especially those not like them.

This has been a long post already and I won’t drag it out it much more. At the end of the day, there are many diverse beliefs and convictions held by Christians (both Christians identifying as straight and gay) about human sexuality, and we are each free and responsible to make our own journey of discovering exactly what we believe and practice in our own lives with regard to the complexity of human sexuality. We are called to study, to pray and to trust God to lead us. What we do not have as Christians is a religious or spiritual license or rationale to deny our neighbor their personal dignity, respect or our humble service to them. Will we embrace the servant’s humility and suffering as we are called to do, or will we try to make the world in our own image, a world where we push suffering off to our neighbors to accommodate ourselves?

If I cannot live out the mandate of Christ to selflessly serve others in my public arena then I have to question if I have an understanding of Christ’s own humble, redemptive service to me. Perhaps I will have fallen into the very thing Paul warned the Galatians about, namely exchanging my restful and gracious dependence on God through Christ with a feeling of entitlement and a sense of deservedness achieved by my exceptional religious performance. That thought scares me because I’ll not stop needing grace any time soon.

Christ has used his power, position and authority to menially (and amazingly) serve me in my messiness and neediness as well as in my goodness and my best effort to live by my conscience. Christ has loved and served the whole of me, redemptively serving me in such a way that I learned of my own value and worth through him. My neighbor, my every neighbor, deserves no less from me, and Christ has asked no less from me. Now, I have to try to live up to that calling as best I can.

AMDG, Todd

*A Note on Scriptural References: After each paragraph I have listed the passages I am using in that moment. When I mention several, they are listed in the order to which they are alluded or referenced in that paragraph. Please don’t take my word for it when wondering what a passage means, but dig in and enjoy!

Written by reserve7

February 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

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