Transitions Transform: Christa Sistas Retreat 2018

This past weekend was my first ” Christa Sistas” Women’s Retreat for my parish. Over 80 of the women in my parish, including our rector and our ELCA Priest Associate spent a weekend at Beckwith Camp And Conference Center in lovely Fairhope, Alabama.

Our theme this year was _Transitions Transform_ Since I served on the programming committee for the retreat , I had much insight into what we were doing. Yet God surprised me anyway.

The weather was perfect and the food was delicious. While any time at Beckwith is a wonderful time, this weekend shall hold a special place in my heart.

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For instance, I did not know how powerful the group affirmations were going to be for me. What we did was this:

Each small group  went around in a circle and said something affirming to the woman on her right. As we did so, we tied a bit of colored ribbon around her wrist.  After we completed that step, we all offered a short prayer— giving thanks for one part of the retreat that ” spoke” to us the most”. We each walked away with a piece of a ribbon tied to our wrist to remind us of the bonds we share with our small group.  After all groups finished with their affirmations we all gathered at the altar for With God’s Help Litany,  written by Ms Ellen Crawford  and sang Surely the Presence 

For me, that was my Moment Closest to Christ for my first St Christopher’s Women’s Retreat. Today’s culture encourages everyone but especially women to compete with each other.  I felt blessed to be among a big group of women who focused on building community by building each other up rather than tearing each other apart. This weekend, I got to know better those whom I already know at church as well as met strangers who became friends.

Life is full of transitions and transitions are hard. But Christians are blessed with knowing that God loves humanity so much that God sent Jesus– God Incarnate to show us how to be the best humans we can be. Additionally, Christ’s Church is a community with whom we muddle through life’s transitions.

In the Name of the Triune God,

Amen.

 

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Mourning on Mother’s Day

I have a passionate dislike of the month of May.   In spite of the fact that I was born in this month, May fills me with dread.

May is the month in which Mother’s Day occurs.

Every year on this particular May Sunday, I just want to stay in the house all day. Although I almost never skip Mass on Sunday— The second Sunday in May is one that I always wish I could skip. 

I hate Mother’s Day. As a matter of fact, Mother’s day is second on my list of unfavorable celebrations. Baby showers take the proverbial ” cake” for Worst Occasions Ever. Thankfully , one of the blessings of middle age is that most of my age group are finally done birthing babies.

I want to skip church on Mother’s Day— and I also am tempted to totally avoid Facebook and other social media on this particular Sunday. My own mother usually chooses to spend time with my brother, his wife and the grandchildren, so I usually don’t spend time with her on this day.

know, that through no fault of my own that I am not blessed with children from my womb. While I do my best to celebrate the births of babies among families I know– I’ll admit to feeling jealousy that brings me to tears. Every ultrasound reminds me of a dream that will forever remain unfulfilled and as I age and my classmates become grandparents I feel a whole new wave of envy and sadness over classmates’ grandbabies.

Perhaps this is ridiculous to some people, but it is my reality and I own it.

Mother’s Day is painful  for me, and always will be this way. Yet I am reminded that God calls us all in specific ways. Although I am not a mother, God provides different opportunities for me to nurture younger people. I’m blessed to know several other women who, although childless, nurture and teach other people. I am learning to embrace the role that I have in my family and community.

I am an Aunt.

I have one amazing God-daughter who is 21 years old and has grown into a young woman of whom I am proud.

I will once again teach Christian Education to children in my parish.

My former Episcopal Youth Community student invited me to her wedding this autumn.

There are more than one ways to embrace the Divine Mother that is inherent in us. We are one Body, with many members.

Childless women bring much to the table.  Yet a day set aside to honor those who are ” mothers” in the traditional sense can be and is a sad day for some of us.

Please remember and be mindful.

Thanks.

Earth Day, 2018

Today is Earth Day. Now I realize that today also was , according to our lectionary, Good Shepherd Sunday, but for now I want to focus on Earth Day.

Let me share with you a portion of Psalm 65 .

You visit the Earth ,

and water it abundantly,

enriching it greatly.

God’s stream is filled with water,

for you prepare the Earth in this way,

You soften it with showers

and bless its growth

soaking its furrows

and leveling its ridges. 

God created the Earth and on this Good Shepherd Sunday, I am reminded that we are stewards and shepherds of Creation. God entrusted this incredibly fragile big rock to we humans.

And we are failing Earth.

While Americans are guilty of plundering our planet, we are not the only society that is guilty of abusing our planet.

Although I consider Best Dude and myself as “ecologically aware” citizens, there is much that we could do that we do not do. For instance we have three cases of water { in PLASTIC BOTTLES} in our utility room. In spite of the fact that both of us have reusable, metal water canteens, we bought the plastic bottles of water.

Plastic is the WORST substance for the Earth. Even though Best Dude and I do take part in our city’s recycling program, it seems as though one cannot buys ANYTHING at the store without encountering an obscene amount of plastic packaging. { And don’t get me started on how many times my clumsy fingers have gotten cut while trying to free something from plastic encasements}  It is my duty to empty the recycling bag into the bin as it fills– up and I am amazed at the amount of plastic a family of two people generates.

Although we’ve pretty much removed all Styrofoam from our house we still are guilty of using PLASTIC cups when we entertain. Granted, we do rinse out the cups we have, but why not use the glassware  sitting in our kitchen cabinet?

We , as a family also need to remember to bring our reusable cloth shopping bags to the grocery stores.

All Americans, especially we middle-class privileged folks need to model Earth-Care methods. The next generation will inherit the Earth, and it is up to us to show today’s children how to begin the healing process for our planet.

Fourth Sunday of Easter 2018

Earth Day.

Sarah Beth

 

 

 

Hope in Grief

Today I learned that one of my activist sisters in a nearby county has died. The circumstances surrounding her death are somewhat suspicious, so I will not speculate about what happened to her.

All I can say is that her death was sudden and she was a young 40-year-old woman with a lot to live for right now. She leaves behind young children, her parents and many others who know and love her.

Best Dude says there is a song for everything, and the song that comes to mind today is Billy Joel’s _Only The Good Die Young_

Earlier in church  I went to my weekly Bible Study, but ended up spending most of the hour in quiet contemplation in our Chapel.  {My soul craved solitude, so that’s what I provided for it— quiet time in a peaceful, safe space to cry.

My rector reminded me that God created humans in God’s Image, and that feeling deep emotions is part of our humanity. I am grateful for a place and people who allow me to be human— to feel safe in expressing the full gamut of human emotions.  Humans are born with the ability to form attachments and when we lose that attachment via death , it is natural for us to feel badly.

I am also reminded of the hope that is the Easter Mystery.

Birth, life , death and Resurrection are all part of our experience as living on Earth now.  Somehow, some sort of life will arise, like Fawkes the Phoenix in the _Harry Potter_ series of movies and books. Although my heart and soul are too heavy to see it now, I know that my friend’s essence will somehow be reborn in a way that is mysterious to we humans.  In some way her loving essence will return to illuminate Earth again.

I do believe in resurrection, as I see it every spring . Birds and furry creatures have babies, and plants turn green with chlorophyll — getting ready to once again provide the Earth with oxygen that sustains us.

Today I was reminded in an all-too-real way that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow.  The woman who was found on the beach was close to my age— at a time in life when many of us are finally growing into the people God intended for us to become.

I know the hope is there; even among sadness.

My heart goes out to this woman’s family— especially her children. The Northwest Florida Progressive community has lost a  shining light in the darkness of life in Red World.

Yet for me, the way I can honor her memory is to continue to work towards the causes she and I hold dear to our hearts. In her memory , I will, along with other progressive friends, persist in making this society one where all feel safe, valued, and heard.

That is a promise.

Easter 3, A.D 2018

Doubt.

Last week, we read the story of Thomas the Twin, the guy in the Gospels who gets a bad rap for not believing that Jesus, his friend and rabbi was alive.

He is known as ” doubting Thomas.”

This week the writer of the Gospel of Luke brings us another story of Jesus making appearances and His friends yet again having doubt. Scripture even tells us that the disciples initially thought that Jesus was ” …a ghost.”

Jesus gets right to the point: asking them …” why do doubts arise in your hearts? …Touch Me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones…”

Jesus makes a good point– in every movie I’ve seen or book I’ve read ghosts do not have skin and bones that one can touch.

Yet these friends of Jesus still  doubt. After all, they’d watched Him carry His cross up that hill, and ran as he was nailed to it and left to die. They knew that no one could survive a crucifixion .

So again, they expressed a reasonable doubt. For all they knew, this was some crazy dude impersonating Jesus. If I were there among them , I’d probably nod in agreement.  So Jesus asked them for something to eat and they handed Him some fish. Jesus then proceeded to eat the fish right in front of His doubting friends’ eyes; because everyone knows that ghosts and angels do not need Earthly food.

To doubt is to be human.

This week, I am right there with the frightened and doubting apostles. I feel without guidance. I want to see Jesus alive and engaged in our world, but circumstances this week have my eyes metaphorically closed. My ” head knowledge knows that Jesus walks among us in all the good people I know and love , but my “heart” doubts the Christ-likeness of society.

This past week, Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed. The same angry mob that sentenced an innocent man to death by torture so long ago is the same mob who followed a madman’s whims to wipe out 6 million European Jewish people  as well as others whom he decided were” unfit”. Hitler, like Caesar, created his own military mob for the sole purpose of arresting and killing anyone that Hitler perceived as threatening to his mission to create a ‘ master race’.

Where was Jesus during the Holocaust?

Where is He now?

I have not felt His presence much this week. In my mind I am stuck in that upper room– too afraid to anger the crazed mob.  I’m the Jewish woman, who, due to my father’s gene pool, can pass for ‘Aryan’.

I’m frightened because the world as I know it is devolving and I cannot see that Easter Light. My head knows that Light is all around me, but my heart doubts.

I need to touch His wounds with my own hands and watch Him eat some fish.

Amen.

Sarah Beth

Third Sunday Of Easter 2018

 

Doubtful

Yesterday we celebrated St Thomas… that famous ” doubter”.

I know I am odd, but this is one of my favorite Gospel stories from John’s narrative.

Why?

The answer is simple: because Thomas is totally real and completely human.

Think about it.

Thomas just lost a friend and his Rabbi. He, along with the other disciples ran and hid . Scripture tells us that Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room the first time.

Although Thomas saw Jesus with his own eyes the second time He came through the locked doors to visit His disciples; Thomas still doubted.

I don’t blame him at all. Grief can and will make someone doubtful. Losing a friend is painful, and this story reminds me of the nature of human friendship. Grief alters the reality of those grieving— oftentimes having a lifelong effect on her or him.

I know firsthand how losing someone to tragedy can make a Christian doubt everything she or he believes.

When I was a sophomore in high school, a classmate of mine chose to end his life. None of us who knew David saw this coming, and it remains one of those events in my spiritual biography when I felt totally and completely doubtful.

Why would a loving God ” allow” for a promising young man to feel like suicide was his only option?

Why didn’t God –if God exists at all –warn anyone who knew David about how much emotional turmoil he must have felt? Surely someone  could have done something to intervene and save David from making that fatal choice on that October day in 1991.

Seriously at times like this, does God even matter if God even exists?

Yep— the story of Thomas resonates with me because I know what it is like to be in such a state of grief that I doubt everything I’ve learned and experiences about the loving Creator God.

If we are honest, most of us have such experiences that make us doubtful of our faith. But the good news is that God, because God did become human in the Person Of Jesus , understands grief and doubt as part of being human.

I experienced this firsthand when– during the time following David’s suicide and my entering college {for the first go-round} the community of Christians prayed for me since I was not speaking with God. . They knew that I wasn’t feeling the presence of God in my life and loved me through it by including me in their Christian community in spite of my doubts.

Like Thomas, it was being loved in spite of my doubts, that led me back to an active prayer life. My friends and church family showed me the love of God by loving me through my anger, fear and doubt for the two years following David’s suicide.

Oh LORD, help me to be as Christ was to Thomas, , help me to love the doubters  and show them the reality that is You. Help me to BE Christ to those who need You the most. Amen. 

 

 

The Dream: 2018 Edition

Today is the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

My rector preached about this modern-day Saint today, and I am struck about how much of Dr King’s work is unfinished.

Dr King was an amazing human, but as I think about the state of the nation and the world right now I cannot help but feel sad.

The dream of freedom for all persons is not realized.

People still judge other people by:

the color of their skin……

immigration status……..

religion { Islam and any other faith where men wear head-gear is ” bad”} ……

gender and gender-conformity……

whom consenting adults choose to love and marry…..

socioeconomic status….

To be honest, I never thought much about many of these issues until I became an Aunt. God did not bless me with children from my womb, but becoming an aunt has altered the way that I see the future.

I want to leave my nephew and niece  {ages 4 and 2} a safe, secure society that is free from judgement. I want these two , and all children, to be whom they are created to be without fear of oppression.

I want them, and everyone’s children, to feel safe in being their authentic selves.

My hope for my niece, and all little girls, is that they get the same  opportunities in life as their brothers; free from unwanted touching or inappropriate comments about their appearance.

I want my nephew to grow up knowing that girls and women deserve respect. He also deserves to grow up without fear of being racially profiled as a young man with Black heritage. He, and other boys who look like him, should never fear law-enforcement.

What I hope and pray for is a sharp contrast to what is happening right now. Frankly, I am not sure if anger or sadness is my dominant emotion when it comes to what is happening in society

How can I help Dr. King’s dream become a reality? Right now I feel trapped , but my faith in the resurrection is sustained— by news of teenagers demanding that they laws change . Young people all over the nation are rising their voices in solidarity.

Adults are paying attention, and soon the ” hardened hearts” of those in political power shall be voted out of office.

There is no doubt in my mind that American society is in a wilderness of sorts. We are in a very long 40 days of wandering aimlessly. Like the ancient Israelites,  we are enslaved. Our captor is not a literal Pharaoh : but a Pharaoh that goes by the names of Greed and Fear.

One of my favorite songs by the Irish band U2 is _Sunday, Bloody Sunday_  Here are the last few lines of the song:

“And it’s true we are immune
When fact is fiction and tv reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die

(Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

The real battle just begun
To claim the victory Jesus won
On…

Sunday Bloody Sunday”
Sunday Bloody Sunday…”

Oh LORD, help me to help others to see the evil of our ways and to stand together as one humanity in the way that Dr King dreamed. In the Name of the Triune God, Amen. 

Feast Of Dr Martin Luther King Jr 2018

Wednesday of Easter Week.

Sarah Beth

50 Days of Gratitude

Happy Easter!

Alleluia!

The LORD is risen indeed, Alleluia!

We had a WONDERFUL Easter here at St Christopher’s  in Pensacola.

The Easter Vigil is my favorite special celebration of the liturgical year. I love how we process into a dark nave, and the lessons are read by candlelight .

We got the Easter Fire lit outside and brought Christ’s Light into the darkness.

I love the stark contrast between the tomb-like dark nave and the bright light that appears once the Gospel is read .

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The children of the parish participated in a dramatic reading of the Old Testament lessons and unearthed the buried ” alleluia” from the front yard of the church property.

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There was standing room only in the nave on Easter Sunday.

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Now that all the hustle and bustle of Holy Week and Easter Sunday is over, I am quietly contemplating the price Christ paid for us.

I choose to acknowledge one think for which I am grateful each day and post my gratitude thoughts on social media. { using the hashtag #50daysofgratitude}.

After all Easter is 50 days { from Easter Sunday until the Day of Pentecost} , and I want to observe and celebrate this liturgical season in a concrete way.

What are YOU thankful for this Easter?

Eastertide blessings,

Sarah Beth

Tuesday After Easter Sunday 2018

 

 

Toxic People

Self-care is important.

Oftentimes activists neglect our own emotional needs. Often ” for the greater good” we stay engaged with toxic people . I am not sure why this is so, but I found out recently that continued engagement with toxic individuals does no good for anyone— including me.

Dealing with an egotistical drama-lover is exhausting and counter-productive.  Intellectually, I knew this . In the past, it has been hard for me to disengage with anyone.

However, I’ve matured both spiritually and emotionally in the past year and have lost friends who I thought would *always* be there for me.  It is only in retrospect that I realized that these so-called friendships only benefited the other person.

I’ve also realized that some people in my activists’ circles are only concerned with their own tunnel-vision. I’ve also learned that NO ONE calls me a ” racist” or a ” white feminist” for long .

It’s a long story’ y’all.

Bullying is not only the realm of schoolchildren. As a matter of fact, my experience tells me that adults who bully are much worse than those who bullied me when I was young. Adults are supposed to grow more self-aware as they mature ; but apparently some people never get out of that teenaged ” mean girls” mentality.

My ” give a damn { pardon the language} is busted” with some people.  Frankly, I do not feel badly about taking care of myself.  I cannot do good for humanity if my own mental state is compromised by toxic people.