Author Archives: lutheranjulia

Friday Prayer: Nonviolent Persistence

Holy Christ, Prince of Peace, Pioneer of our faith, img_1941

I find myself immersed in the words of Psalm 137.

Even though I do not wish actual harm on people or their children or their animals, I can feel the urge – lingering at the edges of the least-evolved, least-sanctified, least-formed parts of my reptilian brain.

I see those who are hurt, who are afraid, who grieve, who are rejected, who are caught in the trap of lives, who have been retaliated against… I cannot count them. Their emotions hit me like waves.

I hear the words of people who said “Chance… not her… won’t matter… economics… emails… alternative facts.” And I long to flip their tables, slap their hands, shriek until their ears bleed.

I am not overcome because I continue to put one foot in front of the other. I continue to resist, to persist, to intercede, to pray against, to lift a fist in solidarity and in peace…

And it is that last part that is exhausting.

How can a revolution be a revelation?

Help me to breathe. Help me to listen. Help me to lift up and build up. I don’t think I can yet let go of the urge to pray for pain and destruction, but I can ask for you to channel this for me. I have the burning. Open for me a way that needs this fire. Open a door that leads to this passion. Open a path that I can blaze, with others, behind you- toward truth, freedom, and life for all creation.

Amen.

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

 

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RevGalBookPals: Healing Spiritual Wounds

Lately, I have been paying attention to negative space. Not just space where the energy is 515o5ugeajl-_sx329_bo1204203200_less than positive, but negative space with regard to art-
making, language, and emotional processing. Negative space focuses on what isn’t. What wasn’t. What didn’t. Wha wouldn’t. Negative space can drive us to the other extreme in all kinds of ways, sprinting away from pain into a overzealous commitment to do the opposite of the thing that scarred us deeply.

The negative space created by a wounding church or hurtful church people leaves space that aches in its emptiness. The echoing lies in the negative space speak untruths about God and about our own goodness. That echo reverberates in our lives- affecting our health, our choices, our habits, our relationships, and our faith. In order to live with this hollowness, we set up a system that feeds on the negative space. But negative space has nothing to give.

3a Carol Howard Merritt writes that people who are inclined toward faith will find themselves at the edge of this negative space, again and again. They long to be filled and yet the echoes of the negative spce seem too broad, too deep, and too loud to be overcome. Overcoming this pain with healing, positive truth is a real and tangible possibility. This is the premise, the structure, and the achievement of Merritt’s book Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church.

Within the book, Merritt shares some of her own story as well as that of others she knows. The pain of church lies, leader deceptions,  and the religious idolatry of the appearance of perfection and prosperity are not the telos (end) of God’s desire for the church or for any part of creation. Resurrection and renewal as a spiritual person, in communion with God and others,  is entirely possible, achievable, and worth desiring. This book teaches those lessons gently, like learning how to swim.

You don’t need to conjure God; you simply need to find ways to awake to God’s presence and deepen your connection. (61)

Beyond her gentle prose, Merritt offers clearly structured exercises for contemplation and action. Her metaphors and examples help the reader sit with pain and roll it over like a stone in the mind. As the hurtful thoughts are rolled, their sharpness slowly smoothes. Their ability to inflict pain dulls.

Merritt’s own story- with the religion of her college years, with her father, with her spiritual journey- allow the reader to see that trauma can cause physical pain, grief, illness, and long-term internal and external work. The act of helping someone else in healing can bring healing to one’s own heart, as she often demonstrates.

Toward the end of the book, Merritt writes a litany of the power of biblical women. She reclaims their stories into her own and sees their strengths as a witness to God’s love and work through women. Merritt’s awakening in this section feels very open-ended, as though she wants the reader to know that she is still healing, still discovering, still being loved by the Divine into a new fullness. And because it is happening to and for and through her, the same is true for you.

I highly recommend this book. It would, in particular, make a good Lenten reading for individuals or small groups. Take a positive step to fill negative space in your life with healing and hope. Reading this book can be that step.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Monday Extra: Great Thanksgiving for Black History Month

God of hope and grief,
God of power and strength,
God of the widow and the orphan,
God of the imprisoned and impoverished,
God of the poor in spirit, the merciful, the mourning…

God who sees the proud and arrogant,
God who does not forget those who turn away from the one in need,
God who waits to be greeted in prison, in hunger, in hospital, on the corner,
God who grieves the word spoken in hate and the action that excludes…

You are the one true God and it is our gift and right and duty to call upon you here.
We praise you for your faithfulness in history.
We praise you for your prophets who have shouted the truth.
We praise you for your saving action in leaders, in the church, in the community
And for what You have done sometimes in spite of them.

With all faithful people of Christ, with all your children across the world, with all the saints we name now [insert names appropriate to your congregation regarding Black History Month and local observances], with the whole creation, we praise your name and join the unending hymn.

[Insert whatever form of Holy, Holy, Holy you may choose]

God, with our sighs to deep for words, we come to this table
And we remember when it was been closed.
We remember when the invitation was not open.
We remember when the feast was in part, but not the whole.

With gratitude and thanksgiving, we celebrate in our spirits and our bodies that the barriers people erect cannot withstand the Holy Spirit.
With gratitude and thanksgiving, we celebrate in our spirits and our bodies that the prejudices that people hold will not withstand the Holy Spirit.
With gratitude and thanksgiving, we celebrate in our spirits and our bodies that the ignorance people profess will not withstand the Holy Spirit.

We gather here today and we remember Jesus gathered with those whom he loved.
They celebrated the first Passover, that event that marked the move of the people from slavery into freedom.
As they ate and drank their celebration, their actions anticipated the second Passover- from death into life, from fear into joy, from resignation into resurrection.

Jesus took the bread, a food that they as Jews had in common with all people,
gave thanks to you, O God, broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said:
“Take, eat; this is my body – given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

After supper, he took the cup- filled with wine-
A drink they had in common with all people.
He gave thanks to you, O God, gave it to his disciples, and said:
“Drink from this, all of you; this is a new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
You have brought us thus far and we trust that you will not leave us.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts
That they may strengthen us in the faith, in the fight, and in our freedom in Christ.

Draw us together and bring us ever more fully into being the people you have created us to be.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
all honor and glory is yours, almighty God, now and for ever.

 

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Prayer:

During my husband’s first deployment to Iraq, I felt so swimg_2279amped by grief and fear that I would sometimes have to pull over to pray. I sought help for not making an idol of being terrified- giving it my attention, my energy, my time.

I frequently sang over and over, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

I didn’t need the rest of the words, but just the reminder that there is a place to stand, a place of support, refuge, and strength. Everything else is sinking sand- a force that opposes God, waiting to draw me under despair.

God- help me to stand in the strongholds and keep my faith in them. Strengthen me in faith and wisdom and courage to resist the pull of sinking sand. Amen.

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Prayer: Faith of our Mothers

Holy Tamar, fierce and proud, pray for us to be strengthened in the fight for reproductive img_1941rights, freedoms, and safety for all.

Holy Shulamite woman, dark and beautiful, pray for us to be strengthened in the fight to support all women, their stories, and their truth.

Holy Abigail, quick and clever, pray for us to be strengthened in speaking truth to power and resisting leaders who grasp at what is not theirs.

Holy Miriam, loud and proud, pray for us to hear the song in our hearts and to proclaim it together, in concert and chorus with all creation.

Holy Gomer, shameless and blameless, pray for us to as we work to believe in the truth of the goodness of our creation, the power and gifts of our bodies, and the truth that we are loved and lovely.

Holy Mary, uncertain, yet willing, pray for us as we work in concert with your God to be part of how the mighty are cast down and the humble are uplifted.

Holy Lydia, economical and evangelical, pray for us as we seek to live and walk in the Way of Jesus and his love.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Prayer: I Beg

Oh, God-15109537_1585130414834339_2923384535829260439_n

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

In the midst of grief and fear, frustration and pain, despondency and despair,

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

 

As I continue to press that Black Lives Matter, that vaginas are not second-class reproductive organs, that LGBTQ people must have access to all human rights, that all children should be able to be educated close to their own neighborhood with the resources of all spread to all schools,

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

 

As I listen to spin, to lies, to twisted realities, to perspectives that I do not comprehend and that I cannot support,

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

 

When I hear others dare to use your name, or the name of Jesus, or reference the power of the Spirit for work and words that you would not own,

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

 

The time to walk in the Way of Christ has always been now. It was and it is and it shall be.

I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

 

Amen.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Prayer: A Word to Ponder

… Because imagining other possibilities for our liveswisdom-key-pic would remind us of the painful gap between who we most truly are and the role we play in the so-called real world. As we become more obsessed with succeeding or, at least, surviving in that world- we lose touch with our souls and disappear into our roles.        – Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

Creator and lover of my soul,

Draw me out of myself, out of my fear, out of my pretending… and into you alone.

Amen.

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Prayer: The Mileage

Lord,

Who was it who said, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

This has been a trip around the sun, like any other. And, yet, the mileage accrued on this img_1105trip has taken a toll. Brakes pumped. Extensive acceleration in hopes of changing course or arriving just in time. Spark plugs misfiring. Starters giving out.

The overhaul was not in our emotional budget and yet some paid dearly for the work that was done.

My own seat sags and doesn’t have the support and cushion it once did, but I can’t complain because I see others hanging on or sitting on the exposed springs and framework of that which guards their life.

It wasn’t the year. It was the mileage.

I am not sure how to pray, so I offer to you each mile, each turn, each sprocket and pipe, the clicks and pings, the journey, the journey, the journey- it is all within you, belongs to you, comes from you.

Amen.

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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RevGalBookPals: The Cure for Sorrow

There are some books that you just need. Not because you are a pastor or a particularly dedicated lay person or because you preach or are waiting for a call or are even a Christian, but you need this book because you are human. You need this book because it will give you words for when you don’t have them and it will help you shape your own words of which you feel you have too many.

Jan Richardson‘s The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief is such a 512z96heoql-_sx312_bo1204203200_book. Written after her husband’s unexpected death in the days, weeks, and months that followed, this book is a rending and ashen path of what it is like to feel the gape, pull, and scar of deep grief. Each blessing is like a contract with the reader- words that Richardson has rolled around in her heart, head, hands and is giving to you, like a rough-edged rock, to handle and contemplate.

The titles like “Blessing in the Anger”, ” Blessing for Falling Into a New Layer of Grief”, “Blessing for Dining Alone”, or “Blessing of Courage” draw you to their pages only to find what you didn’t expect. These are not hearty, feasting blessings nor are they small amuse-bouche snippets. These are the bone broth of blessings- the words and phrases that come when everything else has been stripped away, most nourishing and the violence of the sourcing was inescapable.

It will take your breath away/ how the grieving waits for you/ in the most ordinary moments. (42) 

and

People will want to help/ when you cannot know/ what could help, what could ever make/ the world stop falling away/ from beneath your feet,/ from your heart that/ will never be here,/ will never beat here,/ in the same way. (27)

and

Because I do not know/ any cure for sorrow/ but to let ourselves/ sorrow. (122)

Do not buy this book anticipating funerals or how it be useful in Lent or on Longest Night or even for a friend. I recommend this book for you- a book to read when you feel your feelings, think your thinks, and are overwhelmed by the doings of the day. There is deep grief afoot in the world and in our lives. It is good to have a friend who speaks the language. A Cure for Sorrow is the friend that such a horrible, quotidian journey requires.

 


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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RevGals Anti-Racism Project: Waking Up White, Week 7

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. – Jesus, John 8:32

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. – James A. Garfield

Denial of white privilege (or any privilege) is putting your social comfort over your neighbor’s ability to live in truth. – Julia Seymour

In the section of Waking Up White called “Inner Work”, Debby Irving grapples with how she has internalized the realities, privileges, and teachings of whiteness for her whole life. Like most white people, she did not absorb these lessons as “the way white people do things”. Instead, they were imparted to her and learned as “the way things are done”. This  seemingly simple framework is actually one of the first and largest hurdles for white people (or dominant cultures) to recognize and comprehend. Whiteness isn’t the absence wuwcoverfinal-200x300of race- it is a racialized way of being in the world, one that has been privileged in appearance, cultural transmission, ways of speaking and acting, and whose racial story/history has been elevated as “the truth”.

On page 238, Irving creates a list of behaviors and beliefs that she had thought were cultural norms or at least American mores, only to come to understand that they were actually white [American] acceptable ways of being. While there is some classism evident in the list, the truth is that this list applies specifically and significantly to whites in the dominant culture. This list is not only descriptive, but it remains prescriptive as expectations for those who wish to “succeed” in American culture.

The list includes things like competitiveness, belief in one right way, defensiveness, and valuing formal education over life experience. The item that really flagged my attention was and is “right to comfort/entitlement”. Right to comfort. Right to comfort. Since reading it, I’ve rolled that phrase around in my head again and again.

It seems to me that we have seen an enormous drive toward that “right” in past few years. Black Lives Matter makes people uncomfortable. The apparent diminishment of American exceptionalism makes people uncomfortable. A black family in the White House makes people uncomfortable. Black men, women, and children moving freely in public or even being allowed to make bad choices without dying clearly makes people uncomfortable.

For most people who are on their way to being woke, there is a constant in the feeling of discomfort in realizing the extent of white privilege and how one has benefitted unknowingly and knowingly from that system. For other white folk, the denial of white privilege or the system of oppression requires vociferous support because it is easier than feeling uncomfortable. Across classes, there are white people who have been nursed at the cultural teat of white supremacy. To acknowledge and wean one’s self from that is to admit to having imbibed poison for years and, at some point, intentionally.

It becomes connected to feeling like one is or must reject one’s parents or grandparents or the “history” that formed one’s own story. Is it better to continue to build on a lie (or lies) for the sake of one’s own comfort? Does the story of our forebears as “heroes” matter more than the truth of sins committed against people of color and the way those sins still impact the lives of their children today? People at the top of the cultural mountain cannot call down to people at the bottom and say, “Put the past behind you”, all the while pushing boulders down.

This section of the book is a bit of a hamster wheel of Irving’s inner turmoil as she wrestles with the discomfort and pain of comprehending the height and depth and breadth of white cultural dominance and how it impacts and hurts people of color. With each lesson, she moves forward, but never quite as far as she hopes. The truth is that unlearning a lifetime of lessons taught through culture, family, and education takes the rest of one’s lifetime. And there is comfort in that truth, if we are willing to embrace it.

1. How would you describe your own reaction the first time you heard of white privilege or white cultural dominance? What was the example or situation that revealed that truth to you? If you still push back against the terms, please articulate how you’re wrestling with these things.

2. On page 241, Irving says, “I’m not an active snob, just a well-programmed passive one.” What kinds of snobbery exist in your life? Have you overcome any kinds of “boxes or ladders” in your thinking? Which ones still exist?

3. In chapter 38, the story of Rosie is Irving’s illustration for how she had been taught and expected all students to learn in the same way and to function in the classroom in the same manner. Do you have any experience like this in your life? Consider your church or community congregational context? What is the behavioral expectation for the majority of gatherings? Is it communal? Sage on the stage? Facilitated discussion? Freeform activity? What might be gained from considering different modes of activity on a regular basis?

4. Do you believe there is a cultural preference for comfort over truth? Please say more about your perspective.

5. In ch. 40, Irving realizes that many of her conversation starters are based around white values (work, social acceleration, dominant cultural markers). She had to learn new ways of communicating in order to break down her own ways of classifying (judging) people. What are some conversation starters that you use to bridge gaps and show interest to the person you are meeting?

 

Please join the conversation in the comments below, and/or in our Facebook group! If you are interested in a video chat discussion of the book, mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 18, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Details will be available in the New Year.


About the RevGals Anti-Racism Project: As a majority white organization incorporated in the United States, the leaders of RevGalBlogPals feel called to confront systemic racism in the U.S. As a global ministry, we feel called to oppose minority oppression and racial injustice in all nations. We hope this book discussion will be a step toward awareness and away from unconscious centering of whiteness.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

 

 

 

 

 

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