Posts Tagged ‘civility’

Practicing Presence

February 6, 2017

Mozart, our Shar-Pei, is a lover so to speak. He loves affection and attention. Ignoring him is usually not an option. He loves to be loved. Our car Frodo, on the other hand, is a one person cat for the most part. He sits on TruDee’s lap if he sits on lap at all. It only takes a look from me to cause him to flee across the room, he pretty much doesn’t want anything to do with anyone or anything except TruDee.moz-and-frodo

He will acknowledge our two dogs as long as it’s his idea and not theirs. Mozart really wants to interact with Frodo, but most of the time Frodo is not having it. I noticed the other evening Mozart scooting across the floor close to Frodo. Mozart finally stopped and simply lay his head close to Frodo and just waited.

Perhaps he learned this from our older dog Simeon, I have often referred to Simeon as my Zen master. Simeon for the most part is about presence. He doesn’t need a lot of attention or petting, he is generally content just laying or sitting near you in a, “I’m here,” presence.

I think about so many instances and situations in our culture and society, our state and nation, our government, politics, even in the church and I wonder what we might learn from such an example of Mozart and Simeon? It seems to me there is so much incivility, vitriol language, intolerance, lack of understanding, and too much talking at one another rather than listening.

I wonder, if we focused more on the practice of forgiveness and grace, a practice of a patient listening presence rather than how we are going to respond in accusation or proving another wrong and we right, if our world, our churches, and our lives might be a little more open to the common good for all? I wonder.

Take some time this week and beyond to consider how we could all spend a little more time on inward reflection on our own behavior and reactions. Take some time this week and beyond to reflect on how we all might practice patience and an intentional listening presence to understand rather than to be right.

Mozart’s attempt at practicing presence did not result in a new best of friends scenario, but perhaps it will lead to a more understanding and friendly relationship between two who must live in the world together peaceably and gracefully. Practice patience. Practice presence. Practice Love, Kindness, and Humility.

It is one of the many of the ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community.  Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light…and Presence for Your Journey!

Pastor Kent


Where Are You?

October 15, 2015

I walked away from the meeting feeling as good as I have in a long time. My friend asked me, “So, this journey you have been on, how are you, where are you?” I had to pause for a moment before I responded. Over the many months, and to a large degree over the past several weeks I have been on what I consider an inward journey; inward into my past, my future, and finally my present.

There is so much to consider about what I, what we, experience in the past that shapes and molds who we become in positive and negative ways. And to come to the realization that just a blip on the screen of one’s life can effect so much, can open one’s eyes to a clarity and vision that grounds one in who, whose, what, and why they are.

There is so much in our world that can seem so broken. So much to worry about, fight against, stand up to, and speak out against. It is often difficult, I think, in our current reality to get to the important, deeper, and more life giving issues than in this soundbite world we live in.

There is so much attention focused on “what is in it for me” rather than making this world a better place in which to live for “all” of us. Depending on what side of the political and or religious fence one is on determines where we stand on so many issues, but really not “issues,” we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

Prepare here for personal, religious, political perspective rant. Too many lives and livelihoods are threatened in our country, in our world today.

The lives and livelihoods of persons, female persons, who want to access quality healthcare, prescriptions, abortion care, care that should be provided and decided between them and their doctors, and in clinics that shouldn’t subjected to false accusations and edited videos, government should not be making these decisions for women and their doctors.

The lives and livelihoods of parents and children who want a more safe and sane world, more safe and sane educational experiences, without having to worry about whether some unlicensed, untrained, unregistered individual is going to walk into the room with a gun with intent to do harm.

The lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their children and whether they are going to have a chance at education, food, medical care, and the opportunity to become citizens without the fear of deportation and inhumane treatment.

The lives and livelihoods of young black men and women, parents and children alike, who have to worry about being targeted and profiled unjustly putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

The lives and livelihoods of the poor, middle class, working poor whose incomes and resources are continued to be mocked and swallowed up by the greedy and those who lack compassion.

The lives and livelihoods of those religious who simply want to practice their faith in peace but are besieged by protest, threat, suspicion, lies, and bigotry in a nation founded on freedom of religion.

The lives and livelihoods of those who simply want to embrace the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, marry the ones they love, buy their houses, file their taxes, care for one another and visit one another when they are sick, and share the same protections under the law that my wife and I have.

The lives and livelihoods of all of us, when science is ignored and denied while glaciers melt, anomaly weather patterns create floods, droughts, and super storms that threaten life as we know it.

There is so very much wrong in our world, in our country, in our government, in our churches today. And I believe we are charged with the continued work of trying to make it a better place, for all of us, all of us.

All of this being said, I had a bit of a revelation along this journey I have been on over the last many months and last few weeks. Life is too short. Life is too short to get bogged down in what is wrong with the world. Life is too short to get caught up in a soundbite world that is more interested in shallow fear of the other, fear of new things, than it is in the weightier matters of the common good for all. Life is too short to focus on sensationalized headlines rather than substantive information and education. Whether it be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the church, life is too short to bicker about who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not, what I want to your exclusion, or who deserves and who is undeserving. Life is too short not to embrace the world, the whole of it and tell it, “I love you, and deep down inside … you are good; Good I Tell You!

With all of this preceding pondering, I can say I walked away from my meeting as good as I have been in a long time. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m right here.” I replied. “Right here, in as good a place as I have been for a long time, here in this moment.” Life is too short to let the past continue to obscure and blur my vision. Life is too short to worry about the future. Life is too short to live anywhere but right here, in this moment.

My calling by the Spirit of the Divine as a politically active pastor, clergy, advocate, voice, thorn in the side, and nervous prophet is no less important to me, I would venture to say it is now even more so now. My encounters with the Divine contine to bring me peace, nurture, and connection. My calling is within and outside the halls of the church. Within to continue to challenge the status quo, to continue to look for where God is doing a new thing. My studies, I pray, will bring new revelations and understandings of what it means to follow The Way. Progressive and compassionate theologies grounded in love of God, neighbor, and self, not focused on fear and sacrifice. And that Spirit calls me to be a voice, presence, and advocate of social justice not only within the church but in the halls of government as well. Our Gospel is a Social Gospel and without the Social Gospel there is no Gospel at all.

I still intend on changing the world, even if it is just my little corner of it, moment by ticking moment. My renewed vision of the present moment has clarified for me my vision of the task that lies before me. Life is too short to sit idly by and watch as injustice after injustice diminishes and belittles the lives and livelihoods of too many women, men, and children.

I am no longer governed by fear, but am led and guided by, immersed in the love of the Divine, a love that I believe we are all immersed and connected within. This love of God is a love from which nothing, no thing, not one thing, can ever separate any of us … in each eternal moment, we are loved, period! I am here, right here, and present in as good a place as I have been for a long time. I am not going away or shrinking back, the moment before us is huge, but we will persevere, we will see the day, when Love will, Love does, when Love Wins!

Just a long process of pondering along the Journey of the Way… the Way of Light, Life, and Love.


Kneeling Shoeless at the Mosque

July 13, 2015

It was an early Saturday morning start for me in the first weekend of June as I drove across town for a prayer and conversation time with my friends. I arrived at the mosque just as the sun was rising in the east and welcomed at the door when I walked in. I had been there before on the first Saturday at the invitation of my good friend who is a member of the west mosque. But this was the first time I had made it early enough to join them in the prayer time.

I removed my shoes in the entryway and walked into the area where they share their morning prayers. Another of the members greeted me warmly and handed me a paper with the prayer they would be chanting and explained what each section was about and invited me to participate in whatever way I felt most comfortable. I stood with them as they began, knelt with them, bowed with them, and followed the printed prayer as the leader chanted the words of prayer and worship to God.

There was, there is, something profoundly humbling and moving about kneeling shoeless with, and in the presence of, others who seek to also live in peace and grace in a world so torn with hatred and anger. There was, and is, something particularly sacred about being in prayer together even if we have differing understandings and perspectives of the one we all call God. In that place, shoeless, on my knees, bowing in a common gesture, on common ground there was connection of relationship, common goals, and a connection of striving to understand while being together immersed in the same Spirit who nurtures and nourishes us all.

Once the prayer time was over we gathered around a table with a meager collection of snacks and listened as one read from the writings of Islam. We then visited and discussed various things of current events in the world, where our respective faith traditions found touch points and common ground. I shared with them a collection of cards our congregation at College Hill UMC had written in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters in response to recent acts of protest and bigotry directed at their faith and other Muslims in other states.

My hour there, as with other times, was nourishing of mind, body, and spirit as we shared in discussion, laughter, care, and food. It was an honor for me to be included as simply another child of God present to pray, fellowship, and share at table with these fellow pilgrims on a journey of life and faith.

I pray for continued grace in our community finding ways to exist in peace and understanding working toward the common good for all not only here in Wichita, but that we might be a light to our state and world where we are all in this together.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and our world here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent

Living Together

July 6, 2015

Simeon and Mozart, for the most part are good buddies. They wrestle and play together primarily in the backyard but now and then get started in the house and have to be invited outside. They can be found hanging out together side by side on the living room floor or sitting shoulder to should on the deck keeping watch. Every now and then though, and it tends to happen around the presence of some kind of edible thing, they get into it. They fight, and I mean really fight. They have been known more than once to even draw blood before I can get them separated. It is bound to happen I suppose, to some degree they are a bit like our human children, well hopefully with the exception of drawing blood, they can get along really well and then something sets one of them off and here we go!

I suppose on one level or another humankind tends to reflect that nature as well. Though it is always my hope and prayer we can find a way to rise above such things. What started this whole reflection was my presence at Phillips Theological Seminary the past two weeks. I have begun a journey into doctoral work and I found the first on campus session challenging, refreshing, and energizing. The program focus of my studies will be Collaborating for Change, a program designed to enhance leadership, study, preaching, and bringing a wide diversity of thought and position to the table, so to speak, to bring about just and compassionate social change.

We were there when the recent Supreme Court decisions were released and they caused much cheering, discussion, and reflection among us. It was heartening to be in a religious setting with various Christian denominations and find celebration and solidarity among other colleagues and new friends.

Of course it did not take long before the media began covering the decisions and hearing not only affirming commentary but dissenting views as well. I remember thinking, as it seems I too often do in recent years, how sad it is that we cannot disagree without being civil and respectful of one another. There is a broad range of disagreement on the decisions and so many other things. Everything from religious freedom being attacked, to the destruction of marriage, to the notion that God is going to rain wrath, vengeance, and destruction down on the U.S.A., as if slavery, racism, and the genocide of native peoples were not good enough cause for righteous destruction but somehow health care for all and civil rights for same-gender couples is.

A question was asked of us as we prepared to leave the last day of class in response to a video we had watched by Jim Wallis, “What questions are tearing your heart apart now?” The question is a challenging one. Challenging because though I have numerous things I could site in regards to an answer, how does one journey down to the core of what underlies all of those responses?

In thinking about answers, at least at this point of my journey, at the core of all that I see as broken in our world and especially in our country, is the need to find the other as less than. From the very beginnings of our country there have been those we have persecuted, denied rights, slaughtered, driven from their land, put on reservations or in internment camps, written out of equal protection under the law, and legislated discrimination against. And as time and history goes on it is apparent that many if not most of these efforts to identify the other is not just an individual injustice but built into the very systems of our government, society, and culture.

In Jim Wallis’ video he made a statement that resonated with this thought, “We can’t just keep pulling bodies out of the river without sending someone upstream to find out who is throwing them in.” Or perhaps to be specific about a current issue, We can’t just keep pulling down confederate flags, we have to find out why our system supports a racist symbol. Or perhaps, It’s not enough to just keep saying, ‘We don’t hate LGBTQ persons,’ we have to find out what it is about us as individuals, as a society, and culture that continues to belittle and see our brothers and sisters as less than.

I wish Simeon and Mozart would be as passionate and energized about resolving conflict as they are at proving which one is the boss. They will continue to do well together and they will continue to fight and do damage now and then. That’s their nature. But I do not believe we as human kind are bound by such instincts, we can rise above the vitriol language and hate, if we will work hard enough together to make it so.

Those are the things right now that tear at my heart. I am not oblivious of the fact that with 322,583,006 people in the U.S. we are not always going to agree, but somehow must learn to live as if all really are created equal. Somehow we must not only quote, but believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal words, “We must learn to live together and brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Somehow we must find a way to live out that call of the Spirit to practice what we preach and create a world of Justice, Kindness, and Humility, even when we disagree.

May that day hasten to be. May it be so. May it be soon!
Pastor Kent

Perishing, Perishing

November 25, 2014

The news and images from Ferguson over the past months have been heart wrenching and difficult to read and watch. With the announcement of the final decision by the Grand Jury there has obviously been outcry, violence, affirmation, and struggle. It is difficult to form a good unbiased opinion from more than four hundred miles away without all the evidence, facts, and the overwhelming emotion. But, I felt compelled to speak to the situation in what plans to just be a brief pondering on my blog that is subject to editing and evolution as I continue to ponder.

First let me say the media carries a huge amount of responsibility for fueling the fires of discontent. Some days it seems the media would prefer there be violence and uprising as opposed to peaceful protest. However, unfortunately that is what sells because that is what we the consumers buy. In one comment I read someone referred to it as “disaster porn.” But to paint all media with that broad brush would not be just or fair, there are good media outlets and reporters just as there are poor ones.

The findings of the Grand Jury were difficult to hear. There is so much competing information from both sides of the argument it is difficult at best to know what is fact and what is fiction and what is presumption. I would say for myself, based on all I have read and listened to I am still not clear on where I would weigh in on this particular situation involving Officer Wilson and Michael Brown. There seems to be compelling evidence that Officer Wilson may have overreacted and used excessive force. I have difficulty believing an unarmed young man would need to be shot so many times… a needless tragedy. And there seems to be compelling evidence that Michael Brown threatened and a physically altercation occurred. The young man seems to bear some responsibility for engaging the officer in what sounds like a threatening and physical way. However, ultimately, I don’t know, I just don’t know, which are the three most difficult words for some people to say.

Let me say this though. To use this tragedy to say all law enforcement officer are never guilty of racism, excessive force, and wrongful acts is simply wrong and disingenuous and to use this tragedy to say law enforcement officers are always guilty of racism, excessive force, and wrongful acts is simply wrong and disingenuous. To use this tragedy deny racism is still alive and well in our country is at best ignorant and at worst dishonest. Our system is broken and dysfunctional and skewed toward the privileged and it is up to us to fix it, nonviolently and civilly.

Racism is still rampant in our country. I have seen it happen. I have heard it spoken. I have witnessed it carried out. That being said, I am not one to say how far we have come or how little progress we have made in regards to race, as well as gender, and religious relations. I believe we have made progress but at the same time I have never been suspect, followed, refused service, spat on, avoided, or treated differently simply because I am white. I live in a country that privileges me simply because I am a white, male, Christian, and we have a long way to go and much work to be done.

I don’t have the answers other than we need to find a way to be in honest conversation; conversation that is civil, forward thinking, and seeking to better understand what it means to live in this country together! We do that best, I believe, by getting to know one another; by creating just and compassionate relationships, to walk our neighborhoods and find ways to be together in order to make this world and country a better place to live. It is an oft used quote, but some things bear repeating until we get them right, from Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Dr. King, I am sorry to say we are still perishing…we are still perishing. Lord have mercy.

A Clergy’s Pondering of Politics and Elections

November 8, 2012

I think over this last year or so I have been on information overload, and especially over the last couple of months. I am referring to the Presidential campaigns and other political offices that were vying for our votes through print, email, internet, television, and even door to door volunteers. One of the struggles of course is sorting out and discerning for oneself what is true what is not, what is partly true, and what is just silly, mean, and even evil.

I researched as best I could and voted like many or all of you based on my best opinion of who I thought represented the ideas and ideals I hold to be important for my city, state, and our nation. TruDee and I sat nervously watching Tuesday evening as the returns came in and some of those I voted for won election and some of those I voted for did not. I stayed up late that night intending to hear the two Presidential candidates speak and was only able to keep my eyes open through one. I watched the other the next day via video on one of the news channel’s websites. I thought both candidates were gracious to one another and did our nation proud in the way they conceded and/or accepted the election paying honor and tribute to one another and encouraging us all to work together in moving our nation in the right direction.

As a person of the Christian faith and as a member of the clergy I want to share a couple of observations about responses and follow up comments I have read and listened to since Tuesday evening. I have witnessed much humility on the part of both sides of the aisle which gives me hope for cooperation and willingness to work together. That being said, I have also seen much cynicism, anger, arrogance, and judgment leveled by both sides of the aisle in the aftermath.

I want to comment on some of what I have encountered and share my viewpoint. There has been comment about the idea that minorities in our society played a huge role in the outcome of the election. Some see this as good and encouraging some disparage it by belittling and judging those minorities. Reading the comment of a news person made me think about that idea, about the shift and change that he sees as a result of this election. He said, “’It’s not a traditional America anymore… the white establishment is now a minority.” Actually I see that as a good thing, truly reflective of who we are as a nation, a nation of immigrants. I believe it is our diversity that makes us strong; it is our willingness to exist differently yet work for the common good of all that should be the ground of our being.

I have also read comments that speak of God’s sure judgment of us as a nation because we have somehow turned away from God and the recent election is evidence of this turning because we are a Christian nation. There has been critique of our President when he has said we are not a Christian nation, and I agree with him, citing we are made up of a very diverse religious and non-religious landscape. There is and should be a clear and defined line of separation between church and state! I am a Christian. I serve in a Christian church. But that fact should not give me any more access to rights than my friends who are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and Baha’i, as well as others who I love, cherish, and respect; they have the right to be represented in our great nation just as much as I.

I have been dismayed by disparaging comments made toward democrats and republicans in the midst of this recent campaign. It is unfortunate at best and tragically unjust at worse to level words of hate, bigotry, and even violence toward those who disagree with us. Just because we disagree on what we believe is best for our nation and the candidates we support does not automatically make one lazy, bigoted, stupid, greedy, and hell bound, it does mean we disagree but sometimes it seems we have lost all ability to be civil, respectful, and engaging.

One last word regarding my opinion of the role of our representatives in local, state, and federal government; you are elected to represent all of us. I expect the people I vote for to have what is in the best interest of all of us as their clarion call. It doesn’t matter if ones country of origin is Libya, Iran, England, Mexico, India, Africa, China, or the United States. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, straight, rich, poor, male, female, young, old, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan …your voice deserves to be heard in these United States, and you deserve the same rights and access to freedom and liberty as anyone else. I believe that is why lady justice wears a blindfold.

Just some ponderings, observations, and opinions from one who prays our nation can once again find the courage and compassion to seek common ground for the good of all. It is my prayer we move ever forward toward a nation of freedom, liberty, and justice for all; a nation where compassion, kindness, love, humility, and respect are the rule rather than the exception.

Peace and Light, Love and Laughter…
Pastor Kent

Choice and Civil Discourse

April 9, 2011

There seems to be an increased chipping away at the current ability of health care providers and organizations to offer women choices regarding their reproductive health; politicians who seem to target Planned Parenthood to limiting qualified doctors to give medical treatment to their patients.
As I visit with others who have similar concerns it occurs to me that no one on either side of the issue is “for” abortion and civil discourse is needed. Those of us who support and trust women to make informed and intelligent decisions and choices hope to keep the current movement in check.
These decisions and choices are heart-wrenching enough without the added rhetoric of politicians and angry accusatory words entering the mix. I believe there are times, situations, and circumstances where abortion with medical, personal, emotional, and spiritual counsel needs to be a safe and legal choice for women and their families.
Here in Wichita we have seen the tragedy of continued vitriol language, it should cause us pause. As for me I will continue to support and trust women to make these choices and pray that this issue and discussion would be civil with a focus on understanding and compassion.

It Matters

March 25, 2010

     Threats of violence, name calling, racial slurs, people of good faith being spat upon, bricks tossed through windows, vandalism, all these things cause my heart to ache within me. I ask myself whether it is possible for our incivility to sink any lower and of course the answer to that question is yes, I suppose it could. With all my strength and faith I tell myself to “fear not” and yet it lurks in the recesses of my mind.
     According to my family from a very young age I have always been the “peacemaker.” I have long struggled with the idea that grown persons cannot sit down and talk out their differences without resorting to name calling and shouting.
     In my opinion it does not matter what side of the fence, aisle, road, and issue we find ourselves on, a lack of civility has only one purpose and that is to polarize rather than finding real solutions to real problems.
     Part of my own failing is my willingness to remain silent. Silence promotes and portrays assent. I am trying to repent of that. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I write this today to perhaps begin to come back to life.
     I write not about the Health Care issue of late or other political decisions in our Nation, not that they do not “matter,” because they do regardless of what side of the issue one is on. I write today about the issue of civility and respect, because I believe that should matter more to all of us.
     As a leader in the church I believe it should matter how we witness to our faith through word and deed. In this time and at all times we are reminded in our sacred scriptures that it is “what comes out of one’s mouth that defiles,” as well as cautions as to our need as humankind to “bridle the tongue.” We as the church and other faith communities should be on the forefront of exampling civil and mediating behavior.
     I pray we would well consider our words and actions as we navigate this tenuous time, that we would be exemplars of peace, respect, mutuality, civility, and conversation. I pray we would not be silent about grace and love, because they matter.

A Gentle Word

September 22, 2009

   I get a little ramped up when I watch a college football or basketball game on TV when I am home, especially when KU is playing. I do feel a little bad when that happens especially when Simeon is in the room. It has gotten so commonplace that now all it takes is for me to turn a game on, even before I say a word, all he has to hear is the game announcers and Simeon gets up and leaves the room. It is probably an appropriate commentary and critique of my behavior.
    I am thinking of that over the last several weeks while watching the news and reading stories of recent outbursts, interruptions, and rants by various public figures and I wonder with others if we have lost our footing in regards to civility and politeness in our country, in our world; a representative shouting out during our President’s speech, a rock star going on a rant because he disagreed with an award choice, a tennis player ranting and threatening a judge because she did not like a call.
   But it is not just in the public realm it happens in the church as well. A particular Kansas pastor who pickets the funerals of persons and families of the gay community and persons and families of our soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our country shouting horrible horrendous words at those who have lost loved ones, or the ultimate incivility of one who walked into a church foyer and killed a doctor.
   The thought really came to the forefront when I read a passage from James this past week in preparation for Sunday morning. The Letter of James admonishes his readers to share “wisdom borne of gentleness, pure, peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy and good works, and righteousness sown in peace for peace.”
   I look at our world and listen to the reports and I wonder where is this wisdom on the world today? Where is the voice of the gentle, the peaceable, I wonder sometimes if it is really the mean rather than the meek who will inherit the earth.
   I believe our response to incivility must be tempered with civility. In other words, particularly we who claim to follower Christ should not respond “in kind”, i.e. with incivility, but rather speaking the truth in love, our words should be tempered and couched in gentleness and humility, mindful of the child of God we are AND the child of God to whom we are speaking.
   It reminds me of that old cliché my mom used to share with me, that many a mom or dad used to share with many of us, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I tend to believe civility and politeness, love and grace, gentleness and compassion are still out there, I just wish it would get more airtime.
   I will try to do better at home so Simeon can enjoy a ballgame or two with me. I pray we all better consider the words we share and the light we shine as we journey on in our lives of faith and grace.