hope

Almost There

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img_0608With a new year just around the corner many of us are thinking about the intentions we would carry forward, the regrets we’d leave behind and the treasures we would maintain. Of course the date doesn’t matter that much, but it’s always a welcome gift to be in a liminal moment, a place of change and even renewal, when our hearts and minds are bent naturally to reflect and to dream.

One year closes and another opens. What will my new year bring? What will I bring to the new year? As people of faith we believe that God goes with us, and that God knows what awaits us… but we also know all too well that our faith is not in what we see but in what we hope. As much as God might know, we do not. This is the essence of hope. This is why we take such tight hold on these times to reflect and to dream. Hope is this intersection of what is not known and what is known. We recognize that the coming year has so much we cannot yet see, but also that God walks beside us, going before us, and coming after. Days of lightness and days of darkness are the same, rain and shine both speak of God’s presence, for in Christ all matter has been sung the song of love.

Still, to stand and look across the divide from one year to the next is exciting. I look back and see that I have too often neglected prayer. I have too often neglected to study. I have too often neglected to love. I see also that God has both ministered to me through the many and various people in my life, and God has ministered to them through me. God’s will is done regardless of my prayer, but I would have eyes wide open and be awake to see as much as I can. So I look out at the coming year and I pray: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps the deepest blessing of a past year in which I did not see myself doing all that I should have done is seeing all that was done in spite of me, and in spite of any of my failing, and just beyond it to see God’s smile. To be reminded that almost there is sometimes exactly the place where I was going to be regardless of my effort or my intention. Almost there was the place I needed to be. Almost there was there all along. This is the root of hope for a new year, and all the intentions I may place within it. I do not hope for a better year, but for the year that is needed, for me, for those I love, for all in this hurting world of conflict and hatred.

I intend so much for this new year. No doubt in twelve months I will look back with some regrets. No worries. As long as God is there, the rain and shine, the darkness and light, the ups and downs of my year will be just fine. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.

AMDG, Todd

Life After the Vote

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typecastWe are finally here… it’s crunch time. Today we’ll be wrapping up our General Election for the President of the United States. Millions have voted early, and we’ll be joined by millions more. Please take a deep breath and stand back for a moment; no matter who wins we will all be here on Wednesday, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Scripture has so much less to say about who we cast a vote for (as in none, no scripture at all)  than about who we are going to be regardless of who is our President. Of course it matters who is the next President of our country, but I only control my one vote, not the election. There are many things in scripture to shape my personal values which should affect my vote, but we must admit that scripture primarily directly speaks to my submission to civil authority. Who I am, what I say and how I impact the world, is up to me. That’s the constant in my life, not the person holding our highest elected office. My own life, words and actions, are the responsibility I personally carry as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 
I can only guess how either candidate will make it easier or more difficult for me to actively express my faith in God and my discipleship to Jesus Christ. Wait. Let me rephrase that… neither candidate will have any impact on my ability or responsibility to actively express my faith in God and my discipleship to Jesus Christ. And certainly as a Christian, I will be working as hard and as loud as I can to be sure that no one else faces any threat to their religious freedoms be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or atheist, etc. For even though a person’s convictions and faith belong solely to the individual, we must safeguard everyone’s right and to openly and safely be themselves. No matter who is in that highest office we will be our brothers’ keepers, and our sisters’ keepers. We will continue to stand with sexual miniorities who may be denied their civil rights and we will work to help and welcome the globe’s most vulnerable populations in their own countries and when they are forced abroad seeking refuge. None of this changes, regardless of the election’s outcome. Stop thinking of the election as an end or a solution… it is simply one step, forward or backward, in the sojourn of a little slice of our species.

 

religion jesus taughtDo yourself a favor and after today’s election, take a deep breath and stop the uncivil and angry dialogue. Drop the anger and the fear. Stop believing every unfounded accusation and spin job. Neither candidate will enter office unscathed by this past year, and neither needs to enter office amid this continuing storm of uncivil mud slinging and promised reprisals. Hold them accountable fairly and unceasingly. We will each be part of the process of helping whomever is elected, and our whole country, move forward. And in four more years we’ll do it all again, a little worse or better for the journey. And in the meantime we’ll all keep working hard for the values and goals we most cherish.

We’ll pray and we will be our neighbor’s servant. This is our calling. Not power. Not domination. Not nation building. Serving, and not being served. And peace will be our legacy and our inheritance.

“O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land,
that we may be a people at peace among ourselves
and a blessing to other nations of the earth.”
Book of Common Prayer, Page 821

And amen.
AMDG, Todd

October 7, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 7 ~ Civility allows for the “benefit of the doubt,” a response of hope. #civility

*I know it’s getting hard to be hopeful, but we can do it!


Civility has everything to do with  hope, and giving the benefit of the doubt is often the first seed of hope that is sown in disagreement. When you give the benefit of the doubt you assume that the other person is not evil or irredeemable, even as they speak a position or opinion that is antithetical to your own.

When you do this you allow for many things to happen… you allow for them to nuance the things they have said. You allow them to keep speaking so that you might better understand them. You allow them to be a “work in progress.” And if we are serious about communication, then we recognize the progress needed by all of us.

Giving the benefit of the doubt also keeps the judgmental expressions off our faces. It keeps us from simply walking away. It keeps us from shutting down and giving up hope, and hope can be contagious. If we keep our hope alive, it just might spread and grow.

Yesterday I Prayed

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i prayedMost of us rolled out of bed yesterday morning and reached for the nearest device that would link us to Tuesday’s election results. We saw the list of winners and losers. We felt like winners and losers.

And I prayed. I was both a winner and loser yesterday, my vote at times landed on a candidate who prevailed and at other times upon a candidate who will not lead us in the coming years. I would imagine that we all faced some wins and some losses as the ballots were tallied. We each will have issues and interests at stake in who leads us forward. We’ll all have hopes and we’ll all have fears.

Today, I’m still praying. Tomorrow, I’ll pray some more. Prayer is not a consolation prize or an escape from the realities of life. Prayer is the ever-present expression of what is timeless, what is transcendent, what is hopeful. Beyond the arguments, the political parties and caucuses, and all the maneuvering of the powers that be, there must exist a truth and a reality undiminished by our collective failure to express God’s love, justice, grace and charity to one another. It must.

When I pray I beg for wisdom and for graciousness to inhabit the winners and losers of Tuesday’s contests. I beg for wisdom to overwhelm them all. I pray for the Spirit of the Divine to overlay them, even if they do not recognize the source of their growing empathy, mercy, grace and courage.

We keep moving, praying and hoping. I know what issues and values I have at stake in these many new leaders, and in the old leaders who will continue in their positions of power and influence. I know what many of you, a diverse group of people I dearly love, have at stake in these leaders. But we cannot let our fear ever extinguish our hope. We cannot allow our disappointments or even our victories to erode our commitment to justice, mercy and equity for all people.

I hope we’re surprised and not surprised. I hope that in the coming months and years we realize more justice, more equality, more joy, more freedom, and more of the rich life that we have to share. I hope that we see less poverty, less disease, less violence and less hatred, beginning in the halls, offices and rooms of our own Capitol. I pray that the good stuff God brings us is surprisingly beyond what we can today articulate or hope. And I hope we’re faithful enough in our anticipation to not be too surprised.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. To the greater glory of God. This is my daily prayer, inscribed upon my flesh with ink, that God’s glory grows and abounds in this world. This is my prayer because I am convinced that God’s glory is found in our love, grace, mercy and service to one another. Now and always, world without end. Amen.

AMDG, Todd

Facebook Etiquette: An Exercise for Us All

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facebook shotEveryone should write a blog on Facebook etiquette. It just makes sense that if we are going to use a social media tool as much as we do we should be thinking about how we use it. So right away, I want to say: I’m not writing this piece as only a corrective to some naughtiness I’ve noticed in others, but also as an exercise for myself.

I’m not writing out of any pet peeves about vague posts, TMI posting or vague posting, but just a simple frustration that so many people ignore basic concepts of civility and courtesy on Facebook. The nature of social media gives us a creative and powerful platform for misbehaving.

I’ll try to distill my thoughts into a few simple ideas, “best practices” as it were. These are ideas to which I personally aspire, even if I don’t always manage to hit the target. And though they would save me loads of frustration if more people followed them (and i did a better job myself), they would also help make some generally smart people look a lot wiser than they seem when posting. So here we go…

1. You’re Never Too Old to Do Some Homework

Since the dawn of the internet it has been a home to sometimes entertaining and often frustrating urban myths, fictional anecdotes and intentional misinformation. We are human, and so we are frail and prone to screwups. We all have our blind spots and we all have our prejudices, even if we are working hard to overcome those prejudices. Too often the false stories and alarmist anecdotes that circulate Facebook and other forms of social media strike at the heart of our seen and unseen prejudices, and finding fertile soil they take root and grow into annoying shares and posts.

So when something comes along that looks like a perfect stone on which to grind your political, religious or social axe, do some homework first. Check a story out before you post it or share it. Check the sources. Check the source on Facebook, and see if you can check other sources online or offline… did someone really say what is being said they said? When someone shares a quote from our President (Republican or Democrat) in which they admit to practicing Satanism to win elections and brainwash school children into becoming Duran Duran fans, ask yourself how silly you’ll look for posting it if they didn’t actually say it. If the photo or story was originally shared on Facebook by “I’m a Communist Donut on Steroids” or “Screw All People Who Don’t Think Like Me” you might want to rethink sharing the gem. I made those names up just now, but they probably exist and will troll me next week. Oh well.

Even if it’s a heart-warming story or feel-good anecdote about human goodness, check it out before posting. I have a theory that all the fake feel-good stories that circulate and make the rounds, just to be later debunked, are just adding more cynicism to the world. Then there’s the “God did this…” stories about atheist professors and beakers or chalk and the triumphant young Christian student… all not true. Falsehood and misinformation, even if intended to inspire, will only inoculate us to sincere and meaningful engagement with the true stories of human goodness and inspiration that come our way. A great resource for this homework is Snopes.com! We also have be to careful of parody news sites. Most of know by now that The Onion is all in jest, but I’ve recently seen people expressing genuine angst over stuff from Larknews.

2. Be Happy in 3rd Place

This really goes along with the first thought… we need to slow down and stop trying to be the first to post everything. This speed and haste is just making us sloppy and discouraging us from taking the time to do the meaningful homework. Besides, some jerky friend with more followers than you will just share your story or post it without giving you credit anyway, and they’ll look like the trendsetter. =) But the peer pressure to be first and fast is real as more and more internet sites prod us to be the “first of your friends” to like, share or recommend something. And who doesn’t like to be the first among their friends to get some laughs with the latest angry cat pic?

But really, let’s slow down. One of my favorite sayings from East Africa is “Haraka haraka, haina baraka.” It translates as “Hurry hurry, no blessing” and means, “Slow down, dude… hurrying only makes trouble for you.” We need to stop and think about what we’re posting and why. Is it a post I want to live with a year from now? Is it a true post, accurate and authentic as it’s represented? This is an important question when it comes to “re-sharing” many things that roll across our Facebook feeds. It might take time to find the answers.

If you take some time, reflect on something and refine the ideas you really want to communicate, you just might find that “third place” is actually a big win. When big news hits or controversial ideas start rolling around, and people immediately begin glutting our social avenues with partial, misinformed or inflammatory responses, you might find that a day later you have an eager audience for well-thought and well-worded reflections of your own.

3. It’s Called a “Meme”, Not a “Mean”

Yeah, I was trying to make a pun with that one, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway. And I’m pretty serious… the mean memes that just want hurt people, ridicule others and divide us into us/them pockets of angst-ridden combativeness really suck eggs IMHO. Many of the mean memes I see are pics that started funny, but someone altered or redirected them to grind a political, social or religious axe. Yuck.

Does anyone honestly believe that a mean-spirited political meme is going to score some actual influence or alter another person’s view? It’s a meme, dude. My advice is that we keep the memes light and humorous. Let’s not try to get real deep, hoping to explain global economic perspectives with a one-frame visual and less letters than a 140 character Tweet. I’m raising my hand as one guilty of tying. A good rule of thumb might be that if my meme is going to attack or mock someone, it should attack and mock me. I mean, there’s just not enough self-deprecating humor in the world, but it’s usually the funnest if not funniest because of it’s obvious rooting in the truth.

This is a matter of civility. A mean meme attacks, but doesn’t offer any chance for a rebuttal, defense or dialogue. Because of this one-sided nature a meme is typically going to be grossly unfair in it’s attack. I’ve been told that I’m maybe just a bit too “thin skinned” when I talk about this stuff and I need to “man up” and “thicken my skin.” Thanks, but I really don’t want to. Why would I thicken my skin and pitch in with one-sided attitudes of attack and point-scoring when dialogue and civil exchanges accomplish so much more? Let’s just chose our memes wisely and with a bit more whimsy. I promise that this will be my goal.

And this is no just about moving away from meanness in memes, but I would say all meanness in our postings. A noticed a friend of mine recently on Facebook had to say something like, “If you keep using comments to my posts to attack [a particular religion] with nasty statements and meanness, I’m going to delete your statements and unfriend you.” It is so heart warming that we have to police our religious conversations with such justified threats, isn’t it? No, it’s pretty sad. Meanness sucks. Meanness doesn’t score points or win big in any arena of competing ideas and ideologies… maybe one day we’ll have a “Facebook Penalty Box” where we can send our naughty friends for a few days of timeout, so we don’t have to unfriend them.

4. Use Your Powers for Good

Social media has given us all a voice. Like never before each person can broadcast their best or worst, even if our respective audiences differ. We can blog, vlog, update our status in a hundred forums, tweet, post, like and share! Indeed, my friends… we have super powers. We have new strengths of reaching out with our thoughts, opinions, beliefs and reflections. So let us remember the great medical axiom, primum non nocere“First do no harm.”

We should use our powers for good. We must seek the good, own the good and advance the good. This is the higher calling of social media, beyond the drive to be first, be humorous and even be heard. Trolls know the lessons well. I can be crass, mean and vulgar, and draw a great crowd for my antics. I can be funny, at the expense of others, and be heralded and be made a superstar. Or I can add to the world what is needed most, a voice of peace, hope and good, even when trying to be funny, honesty and true.

Beyond what might be considered “basic etiquette” lies the green fields and golden hall of Social Media Valhalla, the expanse of glory that is being a voice which builds up, carries forward and makes goodness in a world in which no end of ill words and images can be found. Even super powers require effort. It’s no wonder that meanness and crassness come easier to social media than goodness and constructive effort. Choosing the brighter road requires strength and determination. 

Trolls don’t change the world. Heroes daily raise the world from the morass of darkness. Embrace the calling in your social posting and feel the difference. Be honest, be questioning, be true to yourself and be open to others. Be a woman or a man of convictions and hopes. Let your posts show this difference. Those posts may not garner as many shares or as many likes, as when posts play to the base prejudices and fears of others, but they are more powerful for it, and the brighter posts mean more to the few than do the darker to the many.

sacred unease (a poem for nov. 1 2012)

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still grey skies
mock the storm in my soul
as a sacred unease
rises, shifts and rolls
i cannot name the thing
which inside me grows

This often happens when I sit to intentionally write some poetry. A still, quiet moment allows me to hear some of my more painful inner movements that are drowned out in the usual activity of the day. It’s not that I’m totally filled with melancholy, but it’s there.

In recent months I’ve been in several different situations discussing the impact of depression on our lives and those conversations have had me thinking. I have lived with the ebb and flow of depression as long as I can remember. I don’t think it’s ever outright owned me, but it’s been there. I’ve learned to watch the seasons and to be aware of their impact on my moods. I’ve learned to listen to the people who love me and live with me; Teresa will let me know when I seem to be letting it get an upper hand.

I’ve been thinking about some of the ways that being a person of faith has impacted the way I deal with my depression and darker moods. I think that growing up with a “seen and unseen” worldview has been helpful for me. I was raised to put my faith in something beyond my senses, beyond my ability to perceive, as I could perceive other things. So when the dark thoughts come and I perceive no hope, I have this reflex to look past it and try to see what may not be seen.

I have a cognitive trigger built into me that causes me to seek. When I seek I am in movement. When I am in movement I cannot be held in the grip of anxiety, fear or hopelessness for too long. So when I am in the grip of depression, it never holds all of me, there is a bit of me still free to roam.

I’m not saying that this idea is a panacea or a magic cure all of some kind. And there will always be times when our imbalanced physiology demands the help of trained professionals, both for counseling and for medication. When I stop seeking, then I think it will be time for me to see a professional.

But having that safety valve built into me allows me to be very open about the presence of darkness in my soul. I can deal with the fact that even as a creature of the light, I retain these shadows; I own the shadows. But the shadows don’t own me. I’m grateful to God for this. And so even as I write something that questions what “inside me grows” I am also very assured that it will not one day rule me and destroy me, or supplant in me what God would do. My unease is sacred.