Open Letter on Politics and Faith

xDear Ones:

I am sorry if my writings and social media posts have been ” political” as of late.  Honestly, I don’t mean to be divisive, but in this past year I’ve seen people act in ways that are contrary to what the Gospel teaches, and I do blame this on our leaders; words and actions.

I do not have an allegiance to either major  American political party’s organization. I vote my conscience and always will.

My frustration and anger I express is not about any policy or law. Rather, I object to the blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism that has been rampant in the past 12 months.

As a person with some  {hidden} disabilities, I often sit silently while people make disparaging remarks about ” entitlements” and how mental illness is ” all in your head” . I had to fight, and have a ream of paper documenting my medical issues, in order to prove myself disabled. I did not ask for this , but it is what life dealt me and as my brother says ” it is what it is” and I’ve learned to accept my imperfect body and unusual mind as how God knit me together.

This is not political, it is personal.

I am tired of the racism that seems to be the norm now. My brother is married to a biracial woman , so race is more than a theoretical issue for me. I want my nephew and niece to grow up in a post-racism world. I do what I do to educate others on racial issues because education is the only way ignorance can be defeated.

I may be a ” white chick”, but my concerns bout racism in this country are also valid.  God led me to some wonderful people-of-color who are gently teaching me how to recognize and fight racism. They know so much more than I ever can know as a ” white chick”

Again, it is personal, not political.

{ Jesus was a brown-skinned Jewish guy, but that is beside the point}

I am tired of the transphobia and homophobia that is still an issue in this Bible Belt. While I am straight and cis-gendered, I know and love many GLBTQ persons, and I want them to be safe and secure with the same rights that I have as a straight person.

You guessed it: this is not political, this is personal.

I agree there is a danger in mixing politics with religion, but as a follower of Christ Jesus, I cannot ignore the hatred and bigotry that some Americans still experience based on who they are.

My goal is not to argue policies. Father, it is about asking myself, and others What Would Jesus Do.  Then I would Go And Do Likewise. 

Pax Christos,

 

Sarah Beth

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Sarah Beth: the Reluctant, Sullen Political Volunteer

Today, the priest at my parish preached on Jonah’s story.

According to her: Jonah was a sullen, reluctant prophet. He did not wish to be a prophet, because prophets are sent into uncomfortable, even hostile territory to carry a specific message.

I feel his pain, y’all.

I hate politics, and I especially hate the binary system in place in our nation. To me, the two-party system is outdated and is part of why we arrived at the place we are in right now. People voted for the President because they did not trust Hillary Clinton.

One year later, everything I as a Christian and as an American hold dear is under attack Something must be done. Yet I do not want to leave my comfort zone” to get lost” in the world of politics.

I must act, and work within the binary political system that we have in place. The only way to turn this disastrous ship around is to even the playing fields. In order to do so, there  needs to be more Democrats elected. Furthermore, there needs to be more diversity elected to Congress. { Let’s be real– Capitol Hill is very much a white man’s world}

Like Jonah, I spent some time in the ” slimy , smelly belly of a big fish”. That description pretty much sums up my experience of 2017’s national and world scene. Nightly news brought me sorrow as I watched the leader of the free world denigrate all I hold dear . Feeling helpless, I sank further into that ‘ fish belly’.

But then I remembered a quote by Lisa Bloom

“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized, I AM somebody.”

I felt called to work within the archaic binary political system we have in place to effect change. People are starting to run for offices at the local, stated and federal levels, and I’ve the time and skill set to help them get elected.

At the Women’s March and rally this past weekend, it was as if  I was propelled by God into donating time to political candidates.

Remember, I HATE POLITICS, and I think the two-party system has outlived its usefulness.

Well, it’s what we have to work with, and I simply cannot stay complacent and silent on matters that affect vulnerable people.

The  political system is broken, but it is all we have.

Hello, my name is Sarah Beth, and I am a reluctant political volunteer.  This is NOT in my comfort zone, but it is what I am called to do in 2018.

My nephew and niece deserve a better world.

Namaste.

She hates ” politics”, but nevertheless she ” Resists” and will ” Persist”

I am an introvert  {INFJ, the ” extroverted introvert”} but an introvert nonetheless.

But I HATE the direction that my country is going, and this latest” government shutdown” is just one more reason why I am throwing myself into the 2018 mid-term elections in Florida.

Apparently, I am not alone. This morning myself, along with many other women {and some men and some gender-non binary people} Women of all races, religions, and socioeconomic statuses came together to organize ACTION plans to defeat what has become America in the 1950’s.

We are tired. But we are NOT sitting back and let them keep control of our nation in 2018.

Check it out :

PNSRally3

 

 

Women of all races, and sexual preferences are running for public office   yes , even in Pensacola and Escambia County, Florida.  I am volunteering to organize the volunteers here in my county on one such campaign. Did I mention that I HATE politics. But the only way to effect change is through the system we have, and if Alabama can elect a Democrat to the Senate, so can Florida.

I am tired of this President.  In one full year, he has initiated legislation that harm the vulnerable, and people who are already oppressed.  His words and actions are not that of a person that cares about people, and many of us are called out of our comfort zone to action.

He has a vendetta against the GLBTQI population, as evident of his horrible attempt to ban transpeople from serving in the US Military.

Transpeople are people , too.

PNSRally5

I’ve been good about keeping ugly memes off of Facebook but this is “my” corner of the Internet. So I’ll go ahead and post a photo that says what I’e always known about this President.

Call a spade a spade.

 

PNSRally1

Lectionary : Mark 1:14-20

This Sunday’s Gospel is a familiar story.

It is an especially familiar story to we Gulf Coast Christians.

The story found in Mark, chapter 1 verses 1-20 has Jesus calling His first followers.

They were fishermen.

Gulf Coast Christians know something about fishing and fishermen. After all, Destin, Florida, a small town located approximately 50 miles immediately east of Pensacola, is knows as ” The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” 150 fishing boats are located in Destin’s harbor, and during the summer tourist season, boats bring in more fish than almost any other harbor on the Gulf of Mexico.

Pensacola Beach, the closest Gulf harbor to where I live, also has several charter fishing boats.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the many private fishing vessels that launch all around the marinas in the three-county area.

Fishing is important to the economy in the part of the world I call home.

Let’s look at the story.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother, Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fish for people. And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” 

These guys were not recreational fishermen. They, like the captains of the boats in both Destin and Pensacola Beach, depended on fishing for their livelihood. If they did not fish, they did not eat.

Yet Scripture says that both Simon and Andrew left their nets behind and immediately followed Jesus. 

There must have been something about this man Jesus that the brothers sensed, because for a fisherman to lay his nets down meant to give up his livelihood.

To most people ,that just seems crazy. Even now, if the charter boat captains in Destin were to suddenly and willingly tie up their boat and walk away from it because some dude beckoned them to follow him they would be insane.

But that is exactly what Andrew and Simon did. Jesus called them, and they followed Him, laying down their tools of their trade.

Jesus tells them that they will fish for people.

How, exactly, does someone fish for people?

Scripture doesn’t tell us that Jesus’ first disciples had questions, all we are told is that they laid down their nets and left the Sea Of Galilee.

These guys literally heard Jesus calling them, and as a result of hearing Him, risked everything to be one of His first disciples.  They heard the call, and they followed , not knowing where He would lead them. These  hardworking but average fishermen did not know that their decision to lay down their nets and follow a certain Jewish rabbi in His task of ‘ fishing for people’.

This is a call story, one that is applicable to every single Christian in the here and now. Perhaps Jesus’ call to us is not as life-changing as was His first disciples { but perhaps some of us DO hear a call and give up everything familiar to follow Jesus’ lead.} All of us are called to follow Jesus ‘ lead to spread His message of love and hope. All of us, like those first disciples, are called to carry Christ into the world by serving others.

Each week, at the end of our Eucharistic liturgy,  we are charges with going into the world, to BE Christ’s hands and feet.

When Jesus says ” Follow Me”   he is talking to each and every one of us. He wants us to follow Him , trusting that He will provide us what we need to do the work each of us is called to do. Like the fishermen, we are called to ” lay down our nets of security and selfishness, trusting that God will provide what we need  for our individual and collective ministries.

Pax Christos! Christ’s peace, as we ” lay down our nets” daily and follow Jesus.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

This is Haiti

Some parishioners, along with parishioners and clergy from three different Episcopal churches, are on a medical/dental mission trip to Haiti this week. I know and love some of these people, and I am proud of them for carrying Christ’s healing to a place that needs it desperately.

Pay attention: I said that a medical/dental team went to Haiti. The same Haiti that our President called a * sh__h___* not long ago.

He can deny saying this, but fact is, he DID utter those words.

This is not ” fake news” ; our President did call a sovereign nation a *Sh__h___*.

It is true that I have not yet been to Haiti.  Yet I’m told stories from people who go often and the stories I hear are NOT what the President wants Americans to believe.  I have photos from our missioners  {thanks to Facebook} of the Haiti they know.

Check it out:

haitian children

These same missionary sponsored the construction of a school building for a village in Haiti. The School opened in 2016 and was hit by a hurrican ein 2017.

Haitian school

I just love this photo of a little guy with his lollypop.  There isso much personality captures in his big eyes.

haitian boy

This is Haiti.

I am grateful to the missioner who captured the faces of the souls who live there.  My parish has a real relationship with the villagers of LaPretre, and because of this I feel close to Haiti and her people. As a matter of fact, I credit the people who have gone to Haiti with educating me  { and others} about the customs of these people.

Mission work, when done correctly, is about building relationships with people. It is about learning about their culture and investing some ” skin in the game” in order to help them.

Hatians do not deserve the reputation that our President is perpetuating with his words.

They deserve respect, and in my opinion, and apology from the US President for the word he used to describe their home.

More importantly, racism needs to end NOW in America. Currently I am doing my part to help fight racism in Pensacola  and yes, it involves much re-educating by my friends who are persons-of-color} Pensacola has her share of racist leaders, and I see the evidence of their racism in parts of my City.   the very parts of Pensacola that I am sure the President would call *Sh__h____* .

This. Is. Not. Okay.

Racism needs to end with my generation.

 

 

Speak, gently, seriously, briefly and reasonably.

The ancient ” rule”  really meaning ” guide” that St Benedict of Nursia wrote for the community of monks is a practical guide in how to live in community.

Especially now more than ever, when the higher-ups in our nation seek to divide us we must be diligent to remain united.

The chapter on humility  of Benedict’s Rule offers much guidance for anyone looking to conduct themselves with humility.

This morning, as I was praying, I felt led to look up to see what St Benedict has to say regarding the practice of humility. The following quote struck me:

“The eleventh step of humility is that we speak gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising our voices, as it is written ‘_The wise are known by few words_’ ‘

{ Rule, Chapter 7}

While we are called to hold public officers accountable for their actions and words,  it is counterproductive for us to use angry, abrasive words.  Too often it is tempting to get into shouting matches with people  {especially on social media }whose views are completely opposite of our own. Yet when we engage with others in this way: nothing changes. 

As Best Dude is fond of saying ” Talk is cheap”.  I might add that talk is further cheapened when people choose to yell at each other rather than sit together and have honest dialogue.

To be honest, I used to be one of those flamers. Every day I would repost every meme I saw that desecrated DJT. However, it was pointed out to me that if truth isn’t spoken in LOVE, than it is not the way of Christ.  While several spots in the Gospels show Jesus calling out the political powers that be of His time, He did so in a way that made His opponents stop and LISTEN.

In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about communication styles. There are people in my life who can communicate their ideas and emotions  gently, seriously, briefly and modestly. What I notice is: when these people communicate an idea , people stop and listen to what they say.

St Benedict also said: ‘”Listen with the ear of your heart”

Listen, and then speak.

Before speaking : THINK

Is what you are about to say True ?

Is it Helpful ?

Is it Important ?

Is it really Necessary ?

Is it Kind ?

Effective  communication, especially now, can be done painlessly and effectively if we all are mindful of our words.

I’m a work-in-progress, &  learning how to control my speech every day. Sometimes I’ll see a  meme that makes me laugh and I’ll think : “… just this ONCE I’ll post the angry meme— after all I am still no fan of DJT.” But then I am reminded of the power of words. Since I really am not an angry person, I do not wish to be perceived as one with anger issues.

Gently.

Seriously.

Briefly

Modestly.

Mindfulness works in all of life.

Namaste

MLK Jr Day Thoughts on Pink Hats

Today we honor the life and works of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

While it is known mostly as part of a four-day weekend, I want to take a moment to ponder the life and works of this American.

I am not sure if The Episcopal Church honors Dr King as a martyr. I am convinced he should be honored as such in all Christianity. 

Yet recent events, and comments made by someone who wields much political clout worldwide, lead me to think that Americans have not changed our ways when it comes to race.

Dr King said ‘” In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

The ‘ silence of our friends’ is a big reason why we find ourselves with leaders who espouse racist views high in state and national government. White people, such as myself, need to actively partner with people-of-color if racism is ever to be defeated.  In order to do so, we need to actively listen to persons-of-color  and respect their experiences when it comes to matters of race. White people have certain privileges  in society– simply by being born white that persons-of-color do not have and never will have.  In order to recognize this privilege, we white people need to allow ourselves to be ‘ called out’ by POC–and not take it as a personal attack .

For instance, in Pensacola there has been a big stink about pink ‘Cat Hats”. Women of color and transwomen have asked everyone to leave our Cat Hats at home during Saturday’s rally. They ask us to do so because the pink hats leave out women who were not assigned female at birth.

I will, in deference to them, leave my Cat Hat at home.

Other white women seem to be unwilling to do so, citing that the pink hats do represent all women . If I am to believe the heated discussions on some Facebook pages of civil-rights groups of which I am a member, these people’s ears are closed. Whether or not we white people understand the reasons for the Cat Hatless Women’s  March request is a moot point.

White people need to, as St Benedict of Nursia said”  Listen with the ear of your heart.” Listen , and then take action.

We , as the group of persons with privilege, should defer to the request of our sisters who are POC and those who were not assigned female at birth.. It is not up to we white, cisgendered women to try to understand why our sisters make this request; as we cannot ever ‘ walk in their shoes’.

However, if you attend the Pensacola Women’s March and choose to wear your Cat Hat, I won’t think ill of you. But please  at least listen to our sisters who are not white or/and cisgendered women. Now, more than ever, their voices need to be heard.

Namaste.

Gospel Lesson From This Week

The first part of this week’s Gospel lesson according to John is extremely poignant given recent events in the news cycle.

Philip, the good early evangelist that he is , tells  Nathaniel about Jesus .

He says:” We have found Him about Whom Moses wrote the law and  also the prophets wrote. 

Nathaniel  {rather rudely , as I read it} replies ” Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Let’s take a look at the town from which Jesus hailed.

Some scholarly sources say that the city that Jesus called home at that time in history, “…was held in great disrepute, either because, it is said, the people of Galilee were a rude and less cultivated class, and were largely influenced by the Gentiles who mingled with them, or because of their lower type of moral and religious character.  But there seems to be no sufficient reason for these suppositions. “{ source http://www.biblestudytools.com}

Regardless, we see Nathaniel making assumptions, about Jesus based upon where He called home. Nathaniel , without meeting Jesus, ascribed certain negative traits to Him based upon where He called home.  By doing so, he not only dismissed Jesus, he dismissed the population of that entire town.

Does this sound familiar? It should, because we all are guilty of this same sin. We make negative assumptions of people based on random qualities they possess. Think about how often you and I stereotype people based on geography, skin color, gender, sexual preference, and economic status.

Nathaniel , in this story, shows how relatable and relevant these Gospel stories are in the here and now.

My rector–  a much more eloquent woman than am I, posted a succinct comment that fits into today’s Gospel reading. She said:

ssquote

Christ includes ALL OF US , no matter where we live or where we were born, as part of His family. Our baptism marks us a Christ’s own kin forever; and by that water we are grafted onto God’s Family tree.

My literal neighbors in my part of Pensacola are Christ’s people. Those who live in the OJ Semmes School attendance area of Pensacola are also Christ’s people. Haitians are surely Christ’s people, as are those who come from other nations whose citizens are currently not allowed to immigrate to the United States.

In spite of the rhetoric that  politicians throw around regarding ‘ the other’, it behooves we Christ-followers to remember that baptism unites us all into one beautiful human family.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

Lectionary Text for Sunday, January 14, 2018

Included in the lectionary texts for this week is a passage about the call of Samuel.  Normally the ” history” portion of the Hebrew Bible freaks me out, and I avoid it. Yet the story of the call of Samuel, like other ” call stories” is one of interest to me.

By the way: I was on a working retreat here:

alwayswebeginagain

Last evening , while on an overnight retreat at our Camp And Conference Center, I found myself unable to sleep in my room and did what any normal church nerd does when they cannot sleep: I cracked open my Bible and read the Old Testament lesson.

Samuel mistook God’s calling to him; thinking that he heard his earthly father calling him out of sleep. Was Samuel really listening to hear God calling, or did he hear merely ‘ a voice in the night’?

God called Samuel three times. Each time Samuel heard, he went to Eli, is father, and said  “Here I am”

To which his father responds “I did not call, lie down again ”   Or in other words, ” Go back to bed, child.”

The third time Samuel wakes to God’s call, he wakes his father again and says: “Here I am”. 

But this time, Eli realizes that Samuel might not be paying attention enough to really listen to Who is calling his son. ” So Eli says to Samuel : ” Go lie down, and if He calls you, say’ Speak, LORD , for Your servant is listening.” 

When God called Samuel by name yet again, Samuel did as his father suggested.

“Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening. ” 

We are all called by God. God knows us, God loves us, and God has a purpose for us. But how do we know that a call is from God?  I , for one, have not heard God calling my name, waking me out of a deep sleep. But I do know that God has called me on several occasions in my 40-plus years of life on Earth.

For instance, I knew I was called to our current parish four years ago while Best Dude and I were seeking a new church home. We visited the parish where we now are full members, and loved the people. I know I felt God calling me to this particular parish immediately, yet did not heed the call. My reason was that it was ‘ too far away’ from our then home.  It would have been quite a drive every Sunday– and we both chose not to listen to God’s calling.  Fast forward four years, and God again called us to the same parish community. This time, we listened and heard clearly.

God’s ” voice” may come in the form of other people’s words; or it can come in a series of events in one’s life pointing to God calling us. Think of a situation when you heard God’s call and listened. How did the results of listening to God affect your life?

“Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening. ” 

In the Name of the Triune God.

Amen.

 

 

#AnEpiphanyInTheWorld Purposeful Living

Chapter 7 of _An Epiphany In The World_ spoke to me the first time , and once again, I felt as if the author was talking directly to me. 

Middle age brings with it a lot of self-reflecting.

byrnecross

The pier at Beckwith is one of my very favorite places to watch the sun rise and ponder  the meaning of and purpose for my life. St Benedict of Nursia  says : Always we begin again”, and to me the sunrise is a visual reminder of that basic truth.

I am still  discerning what God wants me to be when I ” grow up”. It is good to know that others are also on a constant search for purpose.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes :

Earlier in my life I thought that God had a purpose for me and my main job was to discover what it was.” 

I am always at that point in my life. At the age of 41 , I am no closer to discovering what my purpose in life is than when I was 18.

However,  Life has taught me a few lessons; especially during these past few years.

I DO know that my purpose in life is to serve others; to help when I am needed, and to make my community a better place for all people. As I age, it becomes more apparent that ‘boots on the ground” are the only way for myself and people like me to live out an authentic vocation of service. After a few years of needed some spiritual TLC, I am ready to live into my vocation of service to others: however that might manifest itself in my life.

Since we moved to Pensacola, I’ve been blessed with several opportunities to serve others. The most recent blessing I recieved was last night. A few of us, along with our Associate Rector, served a meal to the parents and staff of a school in the part of town where the church is located. This is a school whose student population is disadvantaged, and my parish was asked to serve food to a ” Family Night” where parents can come and learn how to be more active in their child’s education.  While I lost count of how many adults and children ate with us, I know that serving them ” fed” me much more than did the lasagna.

Here is a photo of our crew last night:

lasagna meisters

Christ emptied Himselve and became a servant. We are charged to do the same.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.