Call to Confession, June 5th

Today’s call to confession at my church really struck me as a perfect paradox:

We allow ourselves to get caught up in the here and now, and forget to look forward to God’s future with great joy. We allow ourselves to get caught up in the promises of a glorious future full of love, and forget to live in love now.

In my yoga practice, I meditate on equanimity, and I try to carry that forward into my day-to-day life. It is the paradox of the balance expressed in the words above, being present in the here and now, yet not being so stuck there as to move into the future with joy and gratitude.

Namaste.

My Stewardship Testimony

Recently, I shared the following story with my church, which illustrates all of the reasons why I make financial contributions.

When I was a child, my family attended a Lutheran church, one of the largest and wealthiest in the Twin Cities. It was a big, beautiful building downtown, with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, absolutely breathtaking. A beautiful building located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area, where there sizable Native American population.

My grandfather had been a founding member of the church, and my parents were upstanding members of the community. They were involved in the Christian education program for adults and kids, and we had many friends in the congregation. I learned the meaning of spiritual community there. I was getting ready to begin Confirmation classes, and the church began to go down a road that forced my family to make a difficult choice. It is illustrated by this story:

One beautiful spring day, we were having a pot luck in the parking lot. There were lots of people and lots of food. Some folks from the neighborhood lined up with the rest of us, grabbed some plates, and got ready to get some food. They were hungry.

I remember being surprised and ashamed to see someone with authority tell them that the food wasn’t for them, that they were not members of the community and therefore were not welcome. The message that sent to me as a child and member of the community was that those people were not like us. They didn’t look like us, they were in need, of a different economic status, and we didn’t want them there to make us feel uncomfortable.

My mom took me aside later that day and was very clear with me: What that church member did was wrong, and that was not what Jesus would have done. Those people are members of the surrounding community, and should have been welcomed by us and offered food.

Shortly after that time, my parents made the difficult decision to leave the church. They made sure to let me know that the church was no longer representing their theological views, and they wanted to raise me with different values. They could no longer support or be a part of a community that was teaching exclusivity, not welcoming.

Growing into adulthood, I have struggled with claiming my place in the Christian church. I have hung out with Quakers, Buddhists, and all kinds of Christians, and I still hang out with Yogis and Yoginis. Finding a church home that feels like a good fit has been difficult. The important thing to me is that my parents instilled in me the values that Jesus taught, those of generosity, sharing, community, love, forgiveness, justice, and healing.

When I found Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, I knew I had found my church home here. At BUMC, all are welcome. This is a community that walks the walk of social justice, generosity, and love.

So a few Sundays ago, I offered up this story as testimony, telling the story of why I financially support Broadway. I give because the transgender and gay homeless youth in the Lakeview need our Youth Lounge program. I give because the Lakeview Pantry needs our donations of food. I give because the community needs the Wednesday Night Live adult education classes. I give because Broadway offers much needed support to members of our community who suffer from depression and mental illness. I give because Broadway is unwavering it its support of LGBT civil rights.

I give because I need Broadway, too. This church walks the walk of my theology.

I encourage other members of Broadway to share their stories about why they give, in whatever ways they give: Time, Talent, or Treasure.

Prayer of Confession

Today at church the Prayer of Confession really spoke to me. I have been meditating on it all day, and I thought I would just share it here:

We confess that we have doubted ourselves and you, Lord. We believe what other say about us before acknowledging what your Word says. We tend to the pain, rather than seeking your healing. We have let the stock market, bank accounts, and the economy take hold of us, always looking to appear the best. We have neglected and have rejected relationship with friends, family, coworkers, church, and community. We preoccupy ourselves with devices to distract us. WE have distanced ourselves from the needs of the world. We have worried ourselves with earthly matters, with what cars we drive, what schools we attend, what clothes we wear, and how we appear to others. Forgive us, God, for our focus on the things of this world. Show us your ways and lead us in the path of life that we might see you and proclaim, “my Lord and my God!”

Amen.

Martin Luther King, Jr. On Complacency #MLK

On this anniversary of the March On Washington for civil rights, I have been looking for some choice quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. One pattern that I have found is his clarity in speaking out on complacency and inaction. Those who do nothing while witnessing injustice and wrong-doing do worse than those who commit acts of injustice. The privileged have a responsibility to do what they know is right.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.

We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

2009 Passages

I keep a page on this blog for Inspiring Lives where I post links to obituaries for people whom I admire. In a past professional life, one of my assignments was to read obituaries, and it was a task I began to enjoy. I find them to be beautiful tributes written with care and love. Over the years I have read many that truly are inspiring, so much so that from time to time I would cut one out of the paper and tack it too the cork board above my desk. Friends have observed that they feel sad when the read the obits, but I also find joy and celebration in the words.

I am no longer required to read the obits, but I have kept the habit. I subscribe to a few obituary blogs, and I will share my favorites on Facebook and Twitter, and of course track them here.

2009 has marked many passings, and honestly I haven’t been able to keep up. Today, as I begin a New Years resolution to write and blog more, I am updating my page and remembering all of the wonderful people who we lost in 2009 who made life on this earth a little sweeter. Even in their passing we can be happy that they lived, and honor them with acknowledgement and celebration.

This year, these death hit close to home. I shed tears as I watched the telecasts of the memorials for Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson, sharing in the popular grief of the rest of the Nation as we witnessed the end of an era. My family lost our beloved uncle, Ted Larson, in February, and on Little Christmas Eve Lula Maria Walker Smith, my wife’s mother, passed away after a long illness.

The nine-year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up on January 10th. The profundity of her passing, continues to teach me that death is a gift, if you are open to to receiving it as such.

For every life that I cite here, I am grateful. Namaste.

Here are some of the collected tributes for 2009: