Posts Tagged ‘peace’

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

Of Empaths and Collateral Beauty

December 31, 2016

I want to talk about the movie Collateral Beauty, but I want to start with another piece of recent pondering in order to lead into the movie.

If I recall it was just about a year ago now a friend asked me the question while we were on retreat, “Are you an empath?” I do not remember the exact context of the conversation at the time, but I remember having to ask what that referred to as I had never heard the term before, other than assuming it had something to do with empathy. She explained that empaths have a sense about them and can take on others pain, joy, struggle, and emotions and/or are especially sensitive to positive or negative energy in a room.

I came home after the retreat and looked up empath and read numerous articles, blogs, and journals about those who identify themselves as such. The articles spanned a wide array of theories and abilities, some for my more practical and skeptical self, seemed a little bizarre, but many of the articles I resonated with deeply in my being and experience. Here is one of the articles I found helpful in my readings, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people found in Psychology Today.

Some days I can feel like the whole weight of the world is on my shoulders and I have a difficult time shaking the funk so to speak. When I walk in a hospital room when a family is struggling with difficult news and making difficult decisions I can often feel an almost physical heaviness, a tangible distress in my body. Even in other places, the office, a social gathering, dinner with friends, or when it is just TrweepingbuddhauDee and I, there is an energy, presence, whatever one may call it, that is often palpable. I believe this is one reason I found such connection with the image of the Weeping Buddha from the first time I saw it and read the legend behind the figure. Here is a link to the legend of the Weeping Buddha, if you are interested, https://www.buddhagroove.com/what-does-the-weeping-buddha-signify/.

Now to the movie, if you are reading this and wondering, “What the heck?” hang with me I’ll make the connection shortly. TruDee and I went to see the movie Collateral Beauty last night. The movie, in every review I have read has been panned, by some critics as the worst movie of 2016. Now, I know I am not a professional critic and evidently do not look for the same things as those who make a living watching movies, but I found the movie moving, meaningful, and deep.

One critic said the movie failed at answering the question of “What is collateral beauty.” I would agree, the movie is not clear on exactly what it is or what it means. Being the pondering kind of person I am, such a critique does not disturb me. I have no problem with stories, movies, and books that leave me hanging trying to wrestle out the meaning for myself. Heck, I have at the foundation of my vocation a book I have spent fifty seven years wrestling out the meaning in the bible!

I am not going to give any spoilers in this writing but I want to make a brief connection between my pondering of one who has identified with the empaths of the world and what came to me in the movie Collateral Beauty. I have been on a soul and self-searching journey this past year. With the help of a counselor, and a long distance friend, I have resolved some pieces of my journey I did not realize needed resolved. One major difference for me is the Christmas season, every Christmas Season I always have a day, I even named it, my Melancholy Day. I never know when it is going to hit me, but in the midst of the celebrations I have a day when grief overwhelms me and I find it difficult to function. This year, it never came, or at least not at this writing now six days post-Christmas. I believe that while I still have those moments of deep connection of struggle and joy, the day never came because of an intentional attempt to move my focus.

What I found in the movie, was depth and peace. No it did not answer the question of collateral beauty other than to suggest it had to do with connection. I found the movie beautiful, difficult, emotional, and fodder for much contemplation. What I came away with was this, and I think it is very timely at least for me, in this world, in our country, in our state, in our churches, there is so much pain, fear, hate, discrimination, uncertainty, and incivility we have a choice. While these things cause me, and so many others, concern, anger, and fear, in the midst of so much Collateral Damage, I have to choose not to miss the Collateral Beauty. The movie did not answer the question because this beauty will be different for all of us, we will find it in different ways, in different places, in different people, but I must be intentional about seeking it out and allow it to feed and nurture my passion and work in the world, otherwise, like Howard in the movie, the damage of negativity, suffering, grief, hate, and xenophobia will consume me and drive me deep into that ever darkening spiral of hopeless despair, especially for one who connects as an empath in the world. I highly recommend this movie, take some tissues with you.

So, as I close this writing, let me say on this last day of 2016, look for, seek out, be unrelenting in your search for beauty on your path, in your world, in each and every one you encounter, it may be what ultimately saves our world, saves ourselves.

If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution, though it is not what I am calling this, it would  be to continue my journey, as best I can, from moment to moment, seeking out undauntedly the beauty of everything, everything. I know 2016 has been a difficult year, but in the coming year, embrace beauty my friends, you are enough, you are beautiful, you are not alone, I love you… and together … may we make 2017 beautiful and filled with grace, justice, compassion, and love.

Here is to Beauty and Hope –

Kent

Side by Side

January 4, 2016

TruDee and I attended Arri Simon’s concert Sunday evening at the Unitarian Universalist Church. He is so very talented, gracious, and just a joy to hear and be in his presence. One of the songs he has written was entitled, if I recall correctly, Side by Side. I was moved to tears, a song calling us forward to our common journey, our common presence on this good green earth, the common air we breathe, our common humanity; a reminder we are all in this together and with all that is going on in our country and world today, it can seem all too often we have forgotten we are all on this train together. It was a beautiful call to peace and harmony.

It reminded me of my time at the Mosque this last Saturday I referenced in my sermon this Sunday, the song reminded me of my being invited to stand, kneel, bow, and sit side by side with my Muslim brothers in prayer, reflection, meditation, and fellowship. It reminded me of that longing deep in my heart and soul for that day when we will all stand side by side in our diversity and yet stand as one, with one voice, and one purpose of the common good for all.

 
At the request of a couple of folks at church Sunday I am going to share that telling of my time at the Mosque and the hope for a world and a humankind, side by side, in search of peace, understanding, and love. It is as follows.

I was back at the West Mosque early yesterday at the morning prayer gathering. I arrived a bit early and sat at table visiting with the others who were early birds like me. I have been there many times before to share in conversation, prayer time, some food, and building friendship. Each time I go I learn just a little more not only about Islam, my friends, but about myself as well.

Yesterday would prove no different. A number of things struck me yesterday morning as we gathered. One was the leader of the newest Mosque on McCormick who is almost always there as well, when he arrived I stood from my chair to greet him and he smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Good morning brother Kent.” It was not a huge thing, other than it was the first time I remember him, or any of them using the language of brother. I have always felt nothing but welcome and inclusion when I gather with my friends in the early morning light, but there was just something about the term of endearment yesterday morning that nourished a bit of my heart and soul.

When it comes time, they always gather together in a straight line facing the east for morning prayers. I have always joined them, only not in their line, I have always stayed just a respectful few feet behind them with my cheat sheet, an English translation of the Arabic language in which they chant their prayers to God/Allah. As they created the line, one turned to me and motioned me to stand next to him, “Come, join us here,” he said. The one leading the prayer motioned as well and said, laughing, “It’s my responsibility to make sure the line is straight though…” Another gesture of inclusion and welcome that nourished my heart and soul.

 

I had forgotten my cheat sheet yesterday so I simply joined the group, side by side, and listened, standing when they stood, kneeling when they knelt, bowing when they bowed, and finally sitting quietly when they sat. Some of the Arabic I recognized from watching my sheet before, “Allah is great. Praise be to Allah.”

 
There is a melody to the prayer each time, a cadence, a reverence that sounds almost identical regardless of which one leads the prayer. Something about the time in prayer resonated with me, though I did not understand the language, yet still felt in prayer with my brothers yesterday morning. We then spent time around the table snacking on cheese, crackers, and drinking coffee, laughing, sharing stories from our faith, talking politics, theologies, traditions, and practices.

 
We, CHUM, will be invited to their celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday when they get a date set. One said, “Not all Muslims celebrate the birthday, but we are ones who celebrate everything!” I said, “Well, not all Christians celebrate Christmas either, but we at CHUM tend to celebrate everything as well!” To which he said, “Oh, maybe you Christians are not so different than we after all.” Lots of laughter followed.

 
Maybe we are not so different after all…echoed in my mind. We all share the same sun, breathe the same air, we’re all on this train together, were some of the words to Arri’s song. I was moved to tears thinking about all the anxiety, fear, hate, anger, and violence that faces my Muslim brothers and sisters, all those who have somehow by some been deemed as different, unworthy, lost, or outside of God’s grace because of their sexual orientation, religious belief, non-religious belief, gender, race, age, healthcare choices, immigration status, and the list goes on and on of those who are considered other.

 
Thank you Arri for your light and calling us all forward through your gift of music. I hope and pray this New Year carries us closer to that reality of grace and justice for all, a compassionate and just world where difference is honored and celebrated and the common good of all is sought by those who are willing to make a difference. I pray you will join me on this journey toward love and let your light shine in all the dark places of the world. It is time to get on this train of peace, understanding, hope, and love.

 
Such is a way 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. An Extraordinary Church with a Place for You. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

 
Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent

The Corrupting Gospel of Peace

November 16, 2015

Paris2

I have had some requests for the text of my message this past Sunday addressing the tragedy in Paris and the violence in our world.

I have been working on a rocking horse in preparation for Christmas for our granddaughter Kadee, well my intent is to modify the rocking horse patter very slightly and create a rocking unicorn. It is in process.

Friday afternoon I was in the garage working on this creation. I am at that stage where most of the large cutouts have been made and the body actually looks like a horse, it has no horn in its head as of yet. What is required now in the process is a lot of sanding. Sanding not only so the surface will be smooth, but sanding all of the joints and places where the layered wood pieces do not quite match because I don’t have ability to cut them our simultaneously, but rather individually and then glue. As a result there is at times significant wood to sand away depending on how accurate I have been able to be with my jigsaw or band saw.

Sanding, even with a two or three different types of power sanders, is tedious work, it is not my favorite part. It moves too slowly, I have to stand in one place longer than I wish on a concrete floor that gives me a backache, and it creates that very fine dust that is not as easy to cleanup as the larger saw dust from the original cuts. However it is some of the most important work on the project, not only for beauty sake but for safety. Without the sanding the stain and/or paint lacks the luster and the grain is dull and not accentuated. Without the sanding, there is danger of splinter, rough edges, and mismatched edges that can cause discomfort at best and injury at worse. Sanding is my least favorite, because it takes time and attention to detail, in an instant gratification kind of world, it is the most difficult part of the project to remain focused upon.

I was stopping for the day as I had an invitation to speak at a WSU event on campus early Friday evening and wanted some time to think about and process what I was planning to say. I dusted myself off and picked up my phone from my work bench that had been playing my favorite tunes as I worked. I noticed I had several news alerts from one of my news apps and went in and sat down with a cold drink on the couch. I began reading the breaking news about Paris, as I read there was a deep, deep sigh that escaped from my being, I can’t even say I shook my head or said anything out loud, it was just a deep sigh and sadness that came over me. Not again, I thought, not again.

I had a direction for my sermon this morning but Friday and Yesterday, the nagging sense that one cannot choose to ignore this all too common event in our world. I opened my social media on my phone and began reading the comments from friends, family, news organizations, and political organizations. And like my friend Rev. Karyn Wiseman in her blog shared, there were basically two threads of conversation. One were those people lifting earnest prayer for those suffering violence in the wake of the horrendous event. Comments from Christians, Jews, Muslims, and persons of no faith tradition condemning the act of terrorism and lifting prayers of support and compassion. And some not only for Paris but for other violence laden areas of our world including the U.S.

The other group of comments I read were those who were quick to judgement; blaming an entire religious and faith tradition for the heinous acts of a few, blaming politicians, blaming the refugees who were trying to escape this very kind of violence, posturing and calculating comments to further their own political agenda and career but instilling fear and blame in those who would choose to listen to and believe them. At times like this I think it can become too easy to resort to blame, hate, suspicion, revenge, and scapegoating. Some of the comments were so vitriol they were difficult and painful to read.

As one comment shared, “All we have to do is open a paper, turn on the news on any given day” and not only Paris, but our world our country is saturated in violence and terrorism. Paris, a College in Kenya with over 100 dead, Lebanon, Iraq, these where Muslims and non-Muslims have died at the hands of a group that while they claim religious affiliation, only exist to instill fear and terror, Muslims from around the world condemn them and their actions. But not only ISIS, but our own country where a Syrian hospital is bombed by U.S. forces, racism and bigotry are alive and well where a young white male sits in a church for bible study and then proceeds to kill his black hosts in their church. Over 150 school shootings since December 2012, all acts of terror and violence.

We live in a world of extremes, we live in a country of extremes with little or no room for a middle of the road, moderate, thoughtful position. Rather it seems we as a culture, as a society, would rather stand at a distance from one another and point our fingers at them, and deny our own participation in the fear and dread mongering. We see it in our world, we see it in our country, our State, our community, even in our churches. A willingness to shift to blame passing, fear, and anger when we find ourselves in crisis and afraid. We are all too often are willing citizens of an us vs them world. And I believe, in an us vs them world, our fear and distrust, our anger and hate, our suspicion and blaming will only serve to transform us into the enemy that we think we oppose, fear and hate and distrust will only serve to consume us in the end.

I had originally planned on an extended exegesis and explanation of this parable of Jesus and the yeast. And though I am sure he tried to explain it to his disciples and the crowd who was listening, while they thought it odd he would use a symbol of something they had long considered as a bad thing, yeast, for talking about the Kindom of God, he pretty much left it be, to rattle around in the heads of those who first heard the story. I had a seminary professor once say, on some level, as soon as you try to explain a parable, you have already screwed it up, leave it be. (That might have been a paraphrase).

Let me just say this; yeast is a fungus, it eats at the sugars and nutrients present. In some sense its purpose is the rot the dough, or whatever else it is placed in. (that is if you do not tend to it) it is a corrupting agent. So for Jesus to have told his audience that the Kindom of God was like a woman, first odd and ludicrous piece of this parable for his audience, like a woman who put yeast in 3 measures (50 pounds) of flour… those listening would have found it laughable at best and offensive at worse. Maybe this… the Kindom of God is like a woman who kneads yeast into 3 measures of flour… and then has a choice to leave it to fester on its own until it rots the entire 50 pounds… or kneads it… lets it rise… and then finishes the project by baking the bread that feeds to Kindom and all those within. We, the church, the world, those who follow the one of Grace, Justice, Compassion, and Love have a choice, do we allow the yeast of faith, the yeast of religion, corrupt the world into a never ending spiral of fear, hate, and unchanging violence? Or do we do something with it, for good…for the good of the whole, not just ourselves, but for the good of the whole of the Kindom?

Where will we expend our energy as individuals, as the church, as a country, as a world? How will we spend our time and effort, will we immerse ourselves in fear, conspiracy, hate, and vengeance… or will we find a better way, a way to move together to build up the whole of our churches, our country, and our world? When we look within, when we look across the landscape of all that should be good and well and it is not, when we open the maps of our land and places of faith and a world torn in fear and violence… when we as was shared in a Social Media quote from Warsan Shire last evening…

“later that night I held an atlas in my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, “where does it hurt?” it answered, “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.”

On what will we choose to focus? I want to focus, I want us to focus on the good and authentic faith of the one we follow, one of grace, one of reconciliation, one of justice, one of compassion, trust, humility, and love. Like my friend Karyn writes, I want to focus on the Sikh temples in Paris who opened their doors for those seeking shelter, taxi drivers turning off their meters to drive people home from the areas of attack, thousands who are donating blood today in Paris, the young man playing an impromptu “Imagine” in the streets of Paris, people who opened their homes to those seeking safety, … I want us to focus on ways to reach out to one another in compassion and grace not fear and dread. I want us to find ways to educate ourselves about that which we fear and do not understand rather than making assumptions that labels an entire group with stigmatization that is misinformed at best.

I want us, the church, the country, the world to finish the work that was started. To do the difficult work of coming together and staying together. I think about the rocking horse/unicorn being prepared for my little Kadee and I want us all to focus on the tedious work of sanding the church, the country, and the world into the beautiful and safe place and space we know it can be. Not just for our own good, the immediate good, the common good here and now, but for our children, our children’s children, and beyond. I want us to focus on the Divine within and the Divine without, the one who through whom the community said, “I am bringing peace, not like the world gives, but as I give.” I want us to focus on the Divine who brings “genuine love, rejoicing, weeping, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness” to the table, an open table for all.

We can do this, but it is not enough to simply pray…we cannot be content with the corrupting of the world around us that finds itself rough, jagged, and rotting in fear and unfounded blaming and hate… we have to do the tedious work of smoothing that which is rough and jagged, need and finish the work to prevent further rotting of our souls and act as well, we have to LIVE a life of reconciliation, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love, in the world around us… right here…right now. Active agents of change to save our churches and other communities of faith committed to that same difficult time-laden work of grace, compassion, understanding, and peace…

The world came together after 9/11
The world came together after Paris
The hope is in the fact that we can come together. We know how to do this, but the commitment is often found untried, difficult, and too brief. Our judgement is that we too easily and quickly slip back into the numbness of the droning fear of us vs them, of our individualistic culture, of what is in it for just me and those like me rather than embracing the opportunity that tragedy, change, and struggle offers us, to cling to together, to cling to the fullness of US, … ALL of us rather than fear and hate, blame and violence of word and deed. That the words, “Not again, not again,” need never be spoken by we who have the power or by our children who have the power to change the world for good. When will we learn, Lord have mercy, when will we learn? May it be so. May it be soon. May it be now. Amen.

Clickbait

October 8, 2015

My son reminded me it is called click-bait, those headlines you see on articles on social media as well as news sites that may or may not have anything to do with actual news, the actual story, even reality for that matter. They are designed to incite or at least elicit an emotion from you. Often times I even find myself tempted to be pissed off just at the headline, form an opinion, and make a judgement without even reading the actual article or other news sources. I have learned the hard way too many times regarding these often incendiary tags, and, well, the key word is bait.

It feeds that notion of us against them, I’m right you’re wrong, and what I have said for a long time now our society and culture’s incessant need to be right, and to be right at someone else expense. It is like a drug, we are addicted to it and there are times I am as guilty as the next one, but not unlike any addict often it takes admitting we have a problem before we can begin working on a solution and unfortunately I think this is going to be a long cure if we can cure it at all. Our politics and religion especially have created a black and white world, an either or world, a world that we believe can only be seen as a dichotomy rather than a place where many solutions, opinions, and ideas can be entertained simultaneously for the good of all of us.

Just look at the headlines in our so-called news, I would say rather in our sound bite world where we really prefer to let some commentator, talking head do our research and study for us rather than doing the work and finding out the facts for ourselves. All we have to do is look at the state of this so-called news. Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice, Gun Control vs Second Amendment Supporters, Freedom of Religion vs Really Freedom of Religion, Religiously Based Laws vs Separation of Church and State, Christians vs Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender Queer persons, Religion vs Religion, Religion vs Non-Religious, Negotiation and Diplomacy vs Military Action and War, Livable Wage vs Mega-Wealth, Assistance for the Poor vs Cutting Funding, Poverty, Healthcare, Understanding vs Bigotry, Violence vs Peace, the list goes on and on.

Of course in my belief and philosophical framework there are a good many of these that for me are black and white. I mean after all, how could someone disagree with me, right? (I hope you hear the sarcasm in that) Ultimately though, if we are ever going to make progress and find any sense of peace, nonviolence, lower anxiety, and a way forward we have to begin changing this dichotomous thinking of ours and come to the table to begin talking, really talking AND listening, really listening!

But it seems we are locked in our opinions and unwilling to budge. Edwin Friedman speaks of this kind of gridlock in his writings A Failure of Nerve when he says,

A characteristic of gridlocked relationship systems as either/or, black-or-white, all-or-nothing ways of thinking that eventually restrict the options of the mind. Such intense polarization also is always symptomatic of underlying emotional processes rather than of the subject matter of the polarizing issue. Anyone who has been part of an imaginatively gridlocked relationship system knows that more learning will not, on its own, automatically change the way people see things or think. There must first be a shift in the emotional processes of that institution. In order to imagine the unimaginable, people must be able to separate themselves from the surrounding emotional processes before they can even begin to see (or hear) things differently. One must have a continual search for new answer to old questions rather than an effort to re-frame the questions themselves. Innovations are new answers to old questions; paradigm shifts re-frame the question, change the information that is important, and generally eliminate previous dichotomies.

Perhaps we are in the midst of a paradigm shift of thought and existence and are still clinging to old ways of thinking and believing. As Friedman says, Paradigm shifts re-frame the question, change the information that is important, and generally eliminate previous dichotomies. One must have a continual search for new answer to old questions. Continuing to use the same old arguments, again and again from both sides of an issue will never find consensus and collaboration. My way or the highway has rarely if ever, especially on emotional issues such as many of the ones we are wrestling with now, come to a point where the solution is good for all. There are more than two ways to look at most anything.

We must as a society and culture, we must as a church find a way forward that addresses the needs and rights of all our citizens and members in a just, compassionate, humble, and nonviolent way. A Way that does not do soundbite band aides that just kick the issue down the road for our kids and grand kids to try and find a way. This is difficult work, it will take all of us individually and collectively to come to the table in a civil, respectful, and compassionate frame of mind or we will be doomed to continue repeating the same old, tired, worn out vitriol language that only causes us to dig our heels in deeper.

I encountered a book in my doctoral work this past June that I appreciated deeply and hopefully will one day be able to use much of its wisdom and knowledge. Juana Bordas’, Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, Leadership for a Multicultural Age, in the section entitled, I is Contained in We writes,

I and we are not a dichotomy. I is intrinsic to the We orientation – individuals must be strong for the collective to thrive. We do not have to choose one or the other. This concept of both/and rather than either/or is a thread that runs through collectivist cultures. Because they are more tightly woven, there is a wholeness in which many things, including differences, can exist at once. The challenge is to balance communal good with individual gain – to reach the higher ground of interdependence, here personal gain is not achieved at the expense of the common good.

We must find a way to move ahead with grace and compassion not only in our world and country, but in the church and in our inter-religious relationships. It grieves me to see so much anger and violence in our world. It breaks my heart to think this is the world I am apt to leave behind for my grandchildren, all our children and grandchildren. I am committed to find a way, I pray you will join me.

Perhaps just the ramblings of a weary soul ready once again to take a stand for all that is just and compassionate. My writing and my speaking are my tools, I pray for the strength of the Divine to raise me, raise us all up into a better place, a better world, that is nurtured, shaped, and guided not by the superficial bait of me vs you, us vs them, but the depths of we together, coming to an open table of community working for the common good of all, of all.

Light and Love – Kent H. Little

Peace

May 11, 2015

Peace

I have had the opportunity to be even more ponderous over the last week than usual. TruDee and I had the opportunity to take a little time away in the mountains of Colorado and enjoy a wonderful setting in the cottage of friends Bruce and Vickie. Our first morning I rose and wandered downstairs to find coffee and a little quiet after my morning walk. I started a pot of coffee and opened the cupboard to find coffee cups with peace signs. “Cool,” I thought.

I poured a cup and went to the front porch and sat in the cool Colorado air to ponder. Peace I thought, there are a multitude of thoughts on peace, as I sat and considered the sign on my cup. There is a lot going on in the world today that might disturb one’s peace, at least it seems to keep mine stirred up. There was something deep inside that morning that called to me as I considered the sign on my cup.

Two quotes came to mind, one from Leo Tolstoy, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinkhs of changing themselves.” It’s true, there are days I so want to change what I and so many others see as wrong with the world around us, but perhaps the first step is to consider oneself, if my own peace is not intact, how am I going to be able to affect meaningful change and peace in the world around me? “Good question,” I said to myself.

The other thought that came to mind is from the Dalai Lama, “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” There will always be conflict, disagreement, and difference. How we engage such conflict and disagreement is fundamental to how we remain at peace within and how we further peace in the world around us.

Being mindful of my own inner peace in each moment remains a challenge, though a constant goal in my life. How do I keep that ever before me and not get distracted by my own willingness to allow others and circumstances to distract and disturb? It’s a good question I suppose and one that remains along the journey of life and community.

Each morning I filled my “Peace Cup,” and pondered, meditated, reflected, and read on what it means to maintain my own sense of peace. In some sense it seemed easy to do when I did not have the television on, read the paper, or listen to the news. It was just me, TruDee, the mountains, a cup of coffee, and a couple of friendly squirrels that wondered why I was on their porch.

All this to say, I will be back in the office tomorrow, refreshed and renewed in the cause of promoting justice, kindness, love, and peace in the world around me. Restored, if you will, with a new sense of the peace of being present in the world in which I live. And with a token that has traveled with me from the mountains of Colorado by the generosity of our friends, the cup that journeyed with me last week rests here at my computer’s side as a visual reminder to be at peace, here and now. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of peace.

It is one of the many 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 on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter on the Occasion of Her Birth

September 15, 2014

Dear Kadee,
It is now near a day and a half since you were born and I am struggling to find the words to write and say. I am a bit speechless and yet one day you will know as with any preacher that does not last long. I am sitting alone in the dining room of our home with a cup of coffee with only my thoughts and a picture of you before me on the table, as your Grammy is already with you. I have yet to hold you but I can already sense your warm smooth skin, your sweet fragrance, and the softness of the new born hair on your head. I already know you are the most beautiful and loved baby there is, that is Poppie talk and you’ll need to get used to it as will anyone else who happens to overhear.

This morning as I ponder the world into which you have been born I want to share some thoughts, wisdom, and other comments with you within this first letter. Our world is filled with a lot of scary things. There are wars being fought over religion and territory. There are people who claim to speak for God who commit atrocities against their fellow humankind without thought or remorse. There are people in our own country who want to retaliate in a kind of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality that only perpetuates more war and violence.

There are people in our own country, in our own government, even in our churches who would do violence to another, discriminate against them, call others names, and deny them legal, civil, and human rights for no other reason than for who they love, the color of their skin, the state of their finances, the religion they practice or lack thereof, and Kadee, in the world we live in today there are those who would deny you rights and privileges and freedoms simply because you were born a little girl.

Dearest Kadee, I know you cannot read this yet, I hope someday you do and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I hope you read this when you are a young woman and say, “Poppie, really? People used to do those things to others? That is so sad and I’m glad it is not that way any longer.” I do not write these words to scare you; I would never do such a thing. I write these words to apologize. I am sorry. I am sorry we are not able to welcome you into a world in which equality and justice for all are the rule of the day. I am sorry we who have come before you continue to screw things up so badly for those who would come after us. It is not fair, but please do not be afraid.

I write this note to you on a cool September morning as the sun begins to break over the eastern horizon. This letter to you is a hope-filled promise and reassurance. As the days carry on I want you to know for all the scary stuff that is out there it is still a good world. This is a beautiful world filled with the very Presence of God, with grace and love and music and harmony, it is just that sometimes it takes a little extra effort to find it and embrace it.

There are still those who believe and fight for equality and justice and right. There are still those out there who know what it is to love unconditionally and strive to make this world a better place. I want you to know Kadee I try to be one of those persons and as of September 13th I have one more very special reason to continue the fight and promise to you to do my best to leave this world a little better than I found it, not only for you and for all those who are like you and just beginning.

Kadee, you have been born to incredible, grace-filled, loving parents, your mom and dad will immerse you in the very unconditional love of the Spirit. You will be surrounded by so many family and friends who will love you unconditionally, of that I have no doubt! That love, I pray, will nurture you into whatever kind of dreams you are able to dream, into whatever kind of magnificent woman you choose to be. But I get ahead of myself and now I am dreaming of what might be rather than what is and who you are in this moment.

I’m going to close now, precious little one, and get on with my day looking forward to that moment this afternoon when I can wrap you in my own arms, kiss your face, and hear you breathe and coo. Your Poppie will always love you, always, no matter what and there is nothing you can do about it.

One additional note Kadee, I am publishing this note to you in our church newsletter and on my blog because not only do I hope all these things for you, but I pray every day all of us, the church, our society and culture, universally will one day embrace such a world where justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, a world where love and justice for all is the rule rather than the exception, a world where all means all. May it be so. May it be soon.

May you always have Peace and Light for your Journey,

Poppie

Of Jesus and Guns

February 4, 2013

I have not specifically spoken to the issue because I know what a sensitive topic it is. I have written and spoken to the issue of violence and what I see as an addiction to some degree of our culture and society and what that says about particular aspects of our faith. I have not spoken of guns in particular not only because it is a sensitive topic but because it is so very political, not that I have been shy about wandering into the political realm, but as a clergy feel it is important to speak of politics in the context of the faith and how I see the two at play.

I woke up with this on my mind and want to take a few moments to ponder the issue. Let me say first I am not against guns. Though I have never understood the appeal of owning a semi-automatic or fully automatic high ammunition capacity military type weapon, I grew up around guns and had many joy filled hours shooting and hunting. My dad and I spent many hours of father and son bonding time hunting and shooting together. I hunted with friends and family and enjoyed the sport of it; mostly with my shotgun hunting pheasants and quail or an occasional rabbit. I enjoyed shooting skeet with my dad and my brother-in-law and the boys. Every now and then dad would get out his little 22 pistol and we would do some target practice or my brother’s 22 single shot rifle.

Somewhere along the way I lost my love of hunting, while it doesn’t have anything to do with guns themselves, it was primarily due to two things. One I have never really enjoyed wild game as a meal, mostly I ate it because I was the one who hunted it and brought it home. That and my ever growing love of nature I have learned I find much more pleasure in seeing the beauty of a pheasant, or listening to a covey of quail take off in flight, or seeing a whitetail deer leap over a fence and simply taking it in as opposed to shooting it.

What does trouble me about the current conversation is the increasing connection I see folks make between guns and the Christian faith. The other day I saw a bumper sticker here in the city, “What Every Home in America Should Have” with the picture of a gun laying on a Bible. I remember saying out loud as I drove behind the person, “Really?” I don’t have a problem with folks having a fire arm in their home if it is properly and safely secured. I certainly do not have an issue with people having Bibles in their homes, more should, I would guess. But to somehow link the two that they would be harmonious and supportive of one another seems rather odd to me at best. Another incident was while searching for images of Jesus on Google for a sermon I was doing I ran across an image of Jesus sitting on a rock holding a military style weapon, I have no words.

We as a people of faith proclaim Jesus as “Prince of Peace,” citing his message of Love God, love neighbor, and love yourselves. We remember his charge to love our enemies and his rebuke of one who was with him that night to, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” and then we promote an image with a gun in his hands. What’s wrong with this picture?

Do I believe we need better control of the high capacity round automatic weapons? Yes. Do I believe we need better background checks and mental health accessibility for those who wish to purchase guns? Yes. Do I believe more access to guns and more guns on the street and in our homes and schools and government buildings will make us safer? No. I believe we need to find ways to make this a more safe and sane country and world. I know there are those who disagree with me and I pray we as a country can have a civil, fruitful and productive conversation about how to achieve better and safer methods of gun ownership. Such is my civil opinion and my politic if you will, it is where I am as a citizen of our great country.

But please, don’t put a gun in the hands of Jesus and the disciples in order to try and make the case for gun laws and the second amendment. I do not believe violence is ever the answer especially when talking about our faith and following the teachings and Way of Jesus. The threat of more violence in response to violence only begets more violence and fear. It is not the Way of truth, life, or love. I continue to pray for the day when swords are beaten into plowshares and spears and made into pruning hooks. I continue to pray for the day when peace will be the rule of the day and we will learn violence and war no more. I continue to pray for a world that is safe and compassionate for us all and especially for our children.

It is one of the many ways I 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.

Rev. Kent H. Little, Senior Pastor

 

A Reconciling Congregation

Peace

August 23, 2010

   I do not know if they were left there on purpose. I suspect that they were laid aside while cleaning out around the altar area, but they were there nonetheless. There are three of them; doves on the rail next to where I sit at the front of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit. They are made of plastic, perhaps glass, and covered in glitter. I suppose they served some decorative purpose on a flower arrangement or a candle on the altar.
   I pondered them from my seat at the 8:30am Sunday morning service. I am sure they had not been there before, though I could not swear to it. Maybe they have been there all along and I had simply not been aware of them, but I suspect not. As I reflected on them, their white plastic and glitter sparkling with the overhead light, they caused me to pause.
   There was a part of me that wanted them to have been left for me, or rather for us, not just us as a church but us as a community, city, and world; doves as a symbol of Peace in a world where there seems to be less and less of it.
   I walked back out in the sanctuary today and stood at the rail where they are still perched. I breathed a deep breath, closed my eyes, and listened for a Word. You know, it does not matter whether they were left there for me or not, they are there, peace; a Word of grace within me to be spoken through me, through us, for a world that longs for peace.
   If I want peace in the world the best place to begin that process is within me, and if I can find peace then those I encounter along this journey of life might also find peace within themselves, and so the move continues from one child of God to the next.
   Thank you to whomever left these messengers of peace at the front of the church, whether they were intentional or not, they brought a moment of peace in my heart and soul, and I pray that in and through our journey together, one day…one day there might be Peace on Earth Good Will to ALL.

“International Reach Out to Someone of Another Faith Day”

August 8, 2010

I read on Saturday an interview on CNN with a pastor who is calling for a “International Burn a Koran Day.” I long for the day when humanity realizes we are all in this together. I long for the day when peace, respect, grace, understanding, and love are our guiding values rather than hate and intolerance. I am appalled to read of Christians gunned down by radical extremists. I am appalled to read of Christians who would burn the sacred texts of our Muslim brothers and sisters. So, in memory of all that have suffered as a result of all who have suffered from words of hate and bigotry, all who have lost loved ones as the result of extremists such as Al Qaeda, the KKK, Christian Identity Movements, or any other group that believes they have to right to hate and promote violence. On September 11, 2010, I am calling for a “International Reach Out to Someone of Another Faith Day,” encouraging us all to actually get to know those who believe different than we do rather than believing the rhetoric and misinformation of those who would lead us astray and away from love and brotherhood.