Here is a copy of the August-September newsletter of Living Faith United Methodist Church in Waukegan, IL, where I work as secretary.
Visit our website for more information about our church — Living Faith
I’ve written about this before — I have changed a LOT since the days of my youth, even from a few years ago. Something that had been stirring in me for a long time was released after Amber died. I stopped caring what other people thought of the choices I made. I needed to find choices I could live with. I will always have faith in God. That will never, ever change. But, I had to make peace with the fact that I need God to be someone I can like and love. I realized that nobody knows everything about God. We all interpret God the way we want to. We all accept or reject ideas that we choose to. I feel God every day in my heart. I feel strength, power, love, and encouragement, among other things. But, using my mind is not something that threatens God or my faith. It enhances it. When I am free to love people without worrying that God doesn’t approve of who I care about, then I rejoice. Then, I realize God loves those same people. So, I’ve turned to a way of life that seeks to break down walls, to embrace love, to turn from fear, to turn from pride, and to humbly walk with God and others.
This has caused me to embrace and support the following: Equal rights for LGBTQ people, Black Lives Matter, examination of our justice system in regards to race and profiling, examination of our prison system and unfair sentencing that has created basically a new form of slavery for black people, more racial and gender diversity in media, breaking down stereotypes of blacks and women, feminism, the tearing down of our rape culture, anti-bullying measures, compassion for the poor, compassion for all immigrants, the rejection of hatred toward Muslims, blacks, gay, transgender or any other marginalized group and a rejection of the notion that Christians are in any way persecuted in our country, especially over something as trivial as holiday greetings.
I also reject the notion that it is an infringement of the rights of Christians that our society also allows freedoms for people who do not agree with Christianity, or some peoples’ brand of Christianity. I also reject the blind acceptance of gun culture, the NRA and the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that encourages people to fearfully collect as many, and as powerful of weaponry as possible. I reject the idea that I am supposed to trust these “good” people with guns just because they say they are good. I reject the notion that white people can open carry and black people cannot without risking their lives. I do not think anyone should be able to open carry – or concealed carry – weapons in public, unless they are on designated hunting lands, are law enforcement or military, work in security, and/or have some other legitimate professional need to have these weapons. I support gun laws identical to those in Australia. I reject all arguments that say we cannot implement these measures.
I also believe that there has been too much violence and bloodshed in the world. I believe that police, in far too many instances, have become judge, jury and executioner and get away with it simply because they “feared” for their lives, when in fact, they are paid to protect and put their lives at risk. They are supposed to be the heroes, not the villains. I have heard the stories of too many wonderful black friends to hide my eyes to the truth of racial profiling and rampant racism that exists in this country. Some would say I’ve become a flaming liberal. But, I have to follow my conscience, and listen to people – people who know. Black people know what they are going through and no white person should try to tell them differently. Women know what they go through and no man should try to tell them differently. I have lost a child. Nobody except someone else who has lost a child can really understand that, nor should they try to tell me how I should feel or what is true about a situation that they have not been in.
I believe that the answer to seeking justice is not to become violent, so I reject any retaliation against police that isn’t done in the courts. But, by that same token, there is something very wrong with our judicial system that allows police such leniency in situations where they have wrongfully killed, detained, injured, or humiliated citizens. There needs to be better accountability.
I called this post My Prayer, and I have rambled on about so many things. But, I wanted to build a foundation for what I’m about to pray in writing. And here it is:
Lord, My Father and Mother, My Friend and Savior, Spirit Divine,
I pray that you would tear down anything in my heart that causes division between me and another person. I pray that you take away any pride or feelings of superiority that might dwell in my heart unwittingly. I pray that you cleanse me of the culturally, socially, historically built-in privilege that might cause me to treat another person unfairly, and to turn my back on the sufferings and injustices that others face.
My dear, loving God, I pray that you would help me love as you do. I pray that you will take away all fear and anything that would have me turn to a weapon, a political party, a cultural icon, a friend, a way of life, a flag, for refuge, before I turn to you. I pray that you will guide my steps as I interact with people who do not agree with me, and who may find my ideas challenging or even offensive. Help us to find ways to communicate and understand that will honor you and build bridges between us.
Help me to honor the least of these as if they were you, Jesus, my friend and savior. Help me to be willing to lay down my life, not just for a friend, but for a neighbor, even if that neighbor happens to be gay, or a Samaritan, or black, or Muslim, or Republican. Help me find joy in serving others.
Lord, save me from any smug self assurance in my own goodness. But, at the same time, help me to appreciate who you made me to be. Help me to value my own uniqueness. Help me to not feel shame. Help me to not be bullied into silence. Help me to stand up for myself, and for those I feel who are wrongfully misused. Help me not to be my own worst enemy. Help me to stop talking to myself with insults that I would never say to someone else. Help me to embrace the fact that I am not perfect, and that is okay. Help me not to see failure or mistakes as mortal, unforgivable sins, but as stepping stones to growth.
Lord, help me learn more, and overcome the nagging anxiety and fear that is my constant companion. Help me to wrap myself in the refuge that is you, and to tell myself the good things about myself, and about you, that will build me up and heal me.
Lord, heal the pain of the past, past trauma, past abuse, past shame. Heal me and help me to be an agent of healing in the world. Help me to love others without feeling the driving need to please everyone. Help me to not apologize for having thoughts of my own, or for disagreeing with someone.
Lord – thank you. Thank you for giving me all of the wonderful experiences I have had in life. Thank you for the good and bad – that have taught me, and molded me into me. Thank you for all of the wonderfully unique individuals you have put in my life and I pray that they will see themselves honestly, as unique, wonderful masterpieces, who are also works in progress just like me. I thank you for the beauty of diversity. I thank you for the spectacular wonder of our various shades of skin, textures of hair, facial features, and cultures. I thank you that you have given us the chance to get to know one another and to love each other. I pray we will take every opportunity to lay aside prejudices, learned bigotry and fear, and just look into the eyes of one another with appreciation and honesty.
Lord, I pray we can one day have a world where we can all celebrate the differences, and build a society that is built on love, mutual cooperation, and a knowledge of truth that is not threatened by questions, disagreements or varied life experiences.
Thank you for giving me the chance to serve my country in the Army, for letting me be an Army journalist and letting me see the world. I thank you for giving me a creative, sweet husband, who is humble enough to also believe in equal rights for all people, and thank you for my daughter Amber. Thank you for giving me 23 years with her, for teaching me so much through her spirit that shone brighter than her disability (or maybe because of it) and that still is teaching me and others even after she has gone on to be with you.
Thank you for creativity, for letting us be a part of the joy of creation. What joy you must have felt, and still feel, as you create, and to think that you allow us to know what that feels like. Help me to use whatever talent, energy, skill and knowledge to glorify you and to help make the world better in whatever small way I can. Thank you for the creative people you have put in my life, because I never feel more alive than when I am with people who are creating.
Now, I pray that anyone reading this will be blessed and not turned away by the fact that I am different than they are. Some who read may not believe in you, and that is all right. I respect that choice and I know you do too. Some may believe in you in a different way. Some may think my stance on social issues is wrong and misguided. Lord, that is okay. I love them. And, I know you do too. Only let us respect one another.
In the name of Jesus I pray – Amen.
I found this little thing gathering dust in a corner of my computer today. When I looked it over, it seemed like something that could use some airing out. So, here it is, out for a stroll.
So That’s the Trouble
Buttoning my jacket crooked,
sleeping on my arm all wrong,
misplacing my reading glasses,
stepping on the dog’s squeaky toy…
It’s been one of those kind of mornings,
the ones they say the reason for is clear.
Apparently, I have rolled left,
when I should have rolled right.
My feet hit the wrong part of my floor first,
as I rose and stumbled out the door.
Yes, I got up on the wrong side of my bed it seems.
Yet it’s the same one I always get up on.
Ah! So that’s what’s wrong with my life?