Posts Tagged With: hope

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. 


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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: I’m Out of Words

Look, Lord, steps

I’m out of words. Wiped clean of nice phrases.

Exhausted from shouting and pleading.

I put one foot in front of the other. Barely. Slowly.

Let it be enough.

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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RCL: Walking in Hope

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Advent has grown on me over the years. When I first started in ministry, it felt like an overwhelming few weeks filled with controversies – Advent Hymns or Christmas Hymns, purple or blue, children’s pageant or live nativity, and so on. I’m happy to say that Advent has changed from a time filled with extra events and programs to a liturgical season full of possibility and hope. Advent invites personal and communal seeking and celebrating. It’s an opportunity to remember that there is light that no despair can extinguish. The texts this week call our attention to the Christ who is and was and is to come.

The Isaiah text is an invitation to begin the journey to the house of God, to walk in the light of God. Here in the US, the reminder that earthly rulers are not where we find strength and hope is quite timely. God promises days to come that will be peace-filled. One day swords will become ploughshares and war among nations will be no more. Is there any more welcomed message? Yet, this message does not come without challenge. What are we doing as individuals and as congregations to ensure that we walk in the light of God and bring about this day when peace will reign?

Psalm 122 continues this theme of hope and gladness in the invitation to go to the house of God. It’s all about peace, here. Peace within the walls of the city. Peace to the people of God. The last line is the tough one, though. “For the sake of the house of the Sovereign our god, I will seek good.” It’s the personal pronoun here. I will seek your good. This is where the hope lies. What are we doing for the sake of God?

Romans continues this with a call to wake up. Of course Paul believed that Jesus would return before the end of his life and so the demand for vigilance was reasonable. How much more reasonable is it now? Now is truly the time for us to wake from sleep and see that it is well past time for us to “put on the armor of light.” In these days of increased hate crimes and public displays of racism folks need to side with hope and trust that in Christ there is a better way. Apathy and indifference will not bring about a day of peace. Waking up, acknowledging the need for Christ’s presence, and then responding to fear and hatred with hope and kindness will remind us that we are not alone. The people of God have been here before.

Of all the texts this week, Matthew is the one I find troublesome. If I can skip over the condemning passages, I would go right to the “keep awake” part. My denomination doesn’t really focus much on the Second Coming of Christ and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. But what I do know is that we need to be awake. We need to be agents of hope, peace, joy, and love in a world that is currently swaddled in deep darkness.

As we enter into this new liturgical year, where in these passages do you find hope? Where is the Spirit leading you? Perhaps your Advent themes are other than the traditional hope, peace, joy, and love so you might be looking at these texts with a different lens. Please join in the conversation as we begin to imagine, once again, a world filled with the light of God.


Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.


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.


Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

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Hope – Saturday Prayer

hope

A photograph from Portland Oregon’s Pride Festival, 2016 from a memorial to those lost in the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in June 2016.

“When all the flowers are gone,
We’ll paint them on the concrete.”

The Book says you built us in your Divine image.
Each one of us, an image of You.

And preinstalled in each beating heart
You placed this feature – hope.

It’s outrageous, this hope, ridiculous.
Foolishness in the glare of chaotic despair.

Still
Hope wells up, overflows, pours out.

And if we hope, ever, for anything,
We who are made in your image,

It follows that You hope too.
Outrageously, ridiculously, foolishly.

Your hope and our hope, our hope and Your hope.
Around and around and around.  Forever, amen.

 

Photo by Jeff Brownell.

Rev. Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor at First Congregational UCC in Vancouver Washington. She is the author of the not-really-about-a-triathlon memoir Swim Ride Run Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath and a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She sometimes writes for Stillspeaking Daily Devotionals.

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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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Revised Common Lectionary: Where’s the Hope?

1488075_10152036574039375_1798853213_nI begin with a confession:  I am not a one who waits patiently. Under the best of circumstances, my waiting hours are filled with excited anticipation and under the worst, anxious reflection. This Advent season feels more like the second kind of waiting. You know the kind – waiting for test results or that phone call. I know it isn’t supposed to, but that’s where I am this year. And the texts this week aren’t particularly helping bring in the hope and joy of the season.

You see, I serve a church in South Minneapolis, on the other side of the city where historic Black Lives Matter protests are happening. I hear Jeremiah’s words, “The days are surely coming…” and I want that justice and righteousness right now! Last night protesters were shot at the police station and the police told them to call 911 and later maced the distraught crowd. Where is the justice? Where is the righteousness?

More globally, of course, terrorism has once again polarized the world. People are indeed fainting in foreboding and fear of what has come upon the world. Where is the strength and courage to stand strong?

Traditionally, the first Sunday in Advent is the Sunday of Hope. It’s a tough sell with these texts. Ultimate hope is a bit easier to find than immediate hope. As discouraged, exhausted, and overwhelmed as I feel, I can’t shake the notion that hope is present underneath it all. In this season we anticipate the coming of the Light of Christ while standing in that same Light. In the northern hemisphere, we see and feel the darkness descending in a very literal way. It may be easy to forget the Light that cannot be extinguished by any darkness – real or spiritual.

It’s a hard sell, though. Folks want God to break into the world and put an end to our foolishness, our sin, our destruction and raise us up in a glorious, undeniable fashion. I’m not sure that anyone really wants to hear that hope is in our hands because that same God has already revealed to us the way of life and love. So all this nervous, anxious, anticipatory energy I have, I am going to put into action. I can pray along with Jeremiah that the days of righteousness and justice will arrive and I can heed Jesus’ call to be prepared for Christ to enter into the world again. I can also, to paraphrase Ghandi, be the hope I wish to see in the world. So I’m heading off to stand with Black Lives Matter. Today is really one of those days when I think God is the one waiting for us, waiting for us to respond to the Good News and truly embody the Love gifted to us in Christ.

So where are you this week? Have you chosen Hope as your theme or are you focusing on something else? What challenges does your community face that make it hard to hear promises of justice and righteousness that seem to have gone unfulfilled? Let us know where the Spirit is leading as you grapple with these texts that begin Advent with promises that have echoed down through the centuries.

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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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Photo by Erika Sanborne. Used by permission.

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Monday Prayer

‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:38-39)

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O God!
As if the unspeakable wasn’t bad enough!
Innocent lives compounded with more loss, more violence, more retribution.
O God!
Where do I turn?
What do I do?
How can I speak out for peace and justice
when the world is baying for blood, for revenge, for answers…
But not listening?

Holy God
Your world is hurting
From genuine, dreadful, terrible events
And from false indignation and outrage
“We feel your pain” they say,
“We will respond swiftly” they say,
And my heart sinks, my spirit fails, my words disappear….

No words
No answers
No response

Hope is faint and peace distant
Yet, we do have light…
Faint but strong
Light of the World
Come into our darkness
Hear the prayers of all your people
Come, Holy Light
Come

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:

God of life,

It seems we don’t actually care.

Or maybe we do, but about the wrong thing…

Our idols are false security, false freedom, defense against false enemies…

We do not actually value life- real, live human beings-

Like college students or moviegoers or first graders…

If we did, we would shout down the lies of the false prophets

Whose religion is composed of cold steel and hot fear.

And, now, we are full of sighs. Regret. Lament. Frustration. Resignation.

The worst words of human history…

spoken on a darkening road between Emmaus and Jerusalem:

“We had hoped…

We do not dare to hope because nothing has changed.

The idols will not die.

The rhetoric is enshrined, rather than entombed.

The fear is crowned with glory, not irony.

And resurrection- a society that values all- never seems to come.

I don’t know what I am praying for any more.

Something different, anything different.

The words are the same, the days are the same, the tears are the same, the funerals will be the same.

I had hoped…

We had hoped…

And ten more lay dead.

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Friday Prayer: Hope Haiku

Shots. Flames. Grief. Disunity.
Spirit soars, draws in, consoles.
Hope is not quenched yet.

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Narrative Lectionary: Nothing Can Separate Us (Romans 8:18-31)

The Narrative Lectionary readings for the week are Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:18-38.

The commentary at Working Preacher is here and you can find the podcast nearby.

 

I’m sitting here looking at the blank screen.

I’m tired. Seemingly impossibly tired.

 

I’ve been advocating for Medicaid Expansion in my state and the answers that come back are worse than disregard for those on the margins. It is spite toward those who are working so hard to make ends meet, but are deemed unworthy of a social safety net.

 

I think of you, beloveds, also tired- in your own ways, with your own dragons that lift their heads once again. The sword sags. Sweet Jesus, literally, sweet Savior of the world, there is so much good in creation and even in people and yet… and yet… and yet…

Baltimore. Nepal. Syria. South Sudan. North Korea.

Women. Black men. Latinas. Trangendered individuals. People with autism.

Measles. Cancer. Ebola. Small pox. Fistulas. Chronic dehydration.

 

What can separate us from the love of God? What causes us to doubt our election, justification, and sanctification (much less our future glorification)? Where is the good that is promised to those who love God?

 

What does Paul, that scribbling fool, dare to write to Roman Christians? Christians to whom he will appeal for money and mission support, Christians who will watch their Jewish friends exiled from the city to outposts of the Empire, Christians who may never have seen Jerusalem- who only dare to imagine life outside the heavily perfumed air of the cult of the emperor. The Apostle breathes deep and asserts that the life they know is not always what God intends for them.

The crises they witness are not events doled out by a capricious god.

The pangs they endure are not tests of their faith.

The struggles with which they wrestle are not proof that they are not yet children of the living God.

 

Creation rebels. It is full of forces- spiritual, worldly, individual- that want the control, the power, and the abilities that belong only to God. This rebellion causes the brokenness of the world. It brings pain and disruption. It causes deep rifts that take generations to mend. It steals the breath of the too young and it cripples the hearts of the faithful elderly.

 

However, the shape of this rebellion- when and wherever it appears- cannot wrest from God what belongs to God and to God alone. It cannot change the shape of God’s love, compassion, and grace as revealed through Jesus the Christ.

On this Sunday, people don’t need to hear about the birthday of the church or about the gifts of languages or even the multiplicity of the body of Christ.

They need to know the reality of theodicy. That sh*t happens. And when it does, God is there, weeping and repairing- sending out power, redemption, and resurrection.

The struggles of the world are part of the rebellious nature of a creation that has yet to realize the fullness of its Creation. The truth of Pentecost is that we who have only just begun to trust and perceive the redemption of our bodies must learn to release our fear of something that CANNOT HAPPEN.

NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

 

If we allow the Spirit to confirm that truth within our anxious hearts, if we dare to trust in that harbor, if we base all our actions and plans on the idea that God’s rooting for us- we may well fail, but even failure can’t take away what God had birthed out of the depths of love.

 

Now, please excuse me. There are some people who need insurance. And I have the freedom and the peace to stand with them once again.

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