Posts Tagged ‘Respect’

A Time for Silence and a Time to Speak

October 8, 2016

This is one of those blogs, it has been a long time since and a long time coming, that I write for my own peace of mind and therapy. When I find myself wrestling and pondering life, faith, and journey, I write, it is how I process.

I have been relatively silent for some time now regarding many things in our world, nation, and church. Part of that silence has been intentional. A portion of that silence can be attributed to my focusing more on my leadership and work at the church. A portion of that silence is linked to my school work and the need to focus on my academics. And, if I am entirely honest, a good portion of the silence is mental and emotional exhaustion regarding my work, activity, thought, and considering social justice and the state of our world, nation, and church.

The level of discord, hatred, bigotry, injustice, disconnectedness, and division is just overwhelming if one spends time considering all that is going on around us. I am confident I am not alone in this overloaded boat that can seem, at times, to be drifting toward a treacherous waterfall.

I had the incredible gift and opportunity to escape from it all a week ago. TruDee and I drove to Colorado and stayed in the mountains for a week. We spent time driving through the beauty of the changing colors of the Aspen trees. We drove and witnessed the majestic elk in Estes Park and listened to them bugle in the midst of their mating season. We ate too much wonderful food, we napped, read, sat together, and reconnected with dear friends over breakfast and coffee. It was a much needed retreat to reassess, rethink, relax, and renew my sense of direction and purpose. My heart, soul, and mind are full, my cup is full and re-energized.

My time away reaffirmed my commitment to my continued passion for social justice in our political system both civic and religious. As I consider our current political atmosphere I have been pretty much silent in regards to the presidential race, in part for the reasons listed above, but also because of my commitment to separation of church and state. While I believe I am entitled to my opinion regarding politics and party, I do not want to breach that separation should anyone deem I would be supporting a candidate by virtue of my position in the pulpit and church.

All this being said, as a citizen, a pastor, a husband, father, and grandfather of two incredible granddaughters I cannot keep silent any longer. The following pondering, statements, and words are not as a representative of the church I serve, nor is it to be considered as any kind of directive for those I serve. This. Is. Just. Me.

As I have watched the political campaign unfold over the many months it speaks deep to my overwhelmed-ness of thought, spirit, and emotion. Whether it is the instant information age in which we live or whether this has gone on since the beginning of our nation, I know it is both and, it certainly feels more prevalent now to me than any time before. The level of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, ignorance, bullying, and hatred filling the airwaves, the news sites, and the internet feels like a tsunami of social injustice to one whose passion is working to end injustice in the world.

It was clarified for me today as I lay on a fishing dock listening to a meditation entitled Finding Clarity and Letting Go. This overwhelmed feeling I have been caught in stems from all of the isms, phobias, and vitriol language that has been permeating not only what I read and hear, but the very heart of who and what I am.

In the most recent release of comments made by Donald Trump I find myself angry and enraged at his continued misogynistic posture and these comments that demean women and are in and of themselves assaulting and descriptive of who he is and how he thinks. I would have to say, watching his campaign, unfortunately I was not surprised by what I heard, and it is a pattern we have seen since the beginning of his candidacy. As a husband, brother to a sister, father-in-law, and a grandfather of two granddaughters, the thought of having this person, with these views and practices, as president of our country is beyond me, I simply have no words other than horrified disbelief that it could even be considered.

It became clear to me today this candidate is, in some sense the encapsulation of so much of what is wrong with our country and world, a culmination of all the phobias, isms, bullying, incivility, anger, arrogance, and ignorance, and social injustice of which I long to eradicate in our world. It breaks my heart that there are so many in our country who believe he is the right person for the highest office in our land.

While I identify my disdain for this one, I also call myself into check in terms of my ability to remain engaged in the process and conversation with others. This candidacy also encapsulates what I see as a growing trend in our country both in politics of country and even the church. A trend that is a, my way or the highway mentality. It is a trend that is more concerned with being right than compassionate, it is a trend that has an insatiable need to be right and the other wrong, and to be right at another’s expense.

While I do believe this in the very core of who I am, there are times when I am moved to say simply, “No, you’re wrong,” in this case, “No, Mr. Trump, you’re wrong.” But being wrong or believing one is right does not dismiss one from the work of remaining connected and engaged in the process of bringing about justice and resolution.

Pondering my recent leadership courses in my doctoral work I would say this kind of speaking out and engaging is part of appropriate leadership whether one is working in the halls of government or in the halls of the church. Leadership is always risky, willingness to say the difficult thing, point out the injustice, make decisions and comments that may or may not be popular, but remaining engaged is part of the process. Some will be willing to remain engaged and lead alongside for the common good of all and some will not choosing to isolate and disengage themselves from the ongoing conversation and work.

I know there are those out there who will disagree with me. I know I have friends and family who will disagree with me as well. But I believe it is possible to disagree and still remain respectful and in loving relationship.

Surely our country, our churches, our communities and lives are better than a life and faith driven by hatred, distrust, and fear. Surely we can hear the clarion call of our for-bearers, complete with clay feet of their own and wrong in their own areas and thinking, who put forth the notion that all persons are created equal, regardless of gender, race, orientation or identity, national origin, religion or lack thereof, all persons. We are all in this together and we will either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters], or we will perish together as fools. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

I pray for together. I pray for Mr. Trump. I pray for our country. I pray for all of us. But prayer is not enough, prayer is nothing if it is not a precursor for action. Pray and pray we must, but stand and speak, stand and act, until all are welcome, appreciated, respected, transformed, educated, and loved.

May it be so. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little

Allah of Us All

August 25, 2010

   Every member of the Mosque we encountered as we arrived Monday evening greeted us with a warm smile, a welcome, and a gracious handshake. We visited and sat at table with both visitors and members with water and bowls of dates.
The fasting of Ramadan was explained to us and we were welcomed to the ending of the fast for that day. The dates were there to be shared and used as the Prophet Muhammad had used to break the fast at sundown.
   Following the sharing of dates and water we were invited to attend the prayer time as we continued our time together. I stood reverently at the back of the room watching and listening as the prayers were offered in the beautifully lyrical music sung by the leader. A friend of mine quoting a friend of hers told me one day that anytime music moves you it is sacred. The rhythm and voice soared as I closed my eyes and let the prayer fill me, it moved me, it was a sacred moment.
   We then returned to the hall and were served a most wonderful meal where we sat and broke bread and shared stories of our families, our faith, and our lives. It was in a very sacred sense communal and a time when lives were deepened in and through understanding and mutual respect and care.
   I have been touched deeply by the hospitality, the welcome, the acceptance, and the generosity of my new found friends. Our evening was a moving and sacred evening in the presence of others of God’s children. It breaks my heart to hear of those of any faith painting broad brushstrokes of hate and bigotry toward good people of good faith.
   I wondered how many of those who are so hateful toward our Muslim brothers and sisters have actually taken the time to know someone of the Muslim faith? I wondered of those so set against the new Muslim Center in New York City. I wondered if any of them have actually taken the time and energy to invest themselves in learning and studying the faith, or if they have rather simply believed the ignorance of news pundits and paranoid christian leaders to distort and misinform those who will listen. I wondered…
   I found myself in the presence of brothers and sisters, followers of the God of my ancestors and faith. There are those in my faith tradition and theirs who would do well to learn from the gracious open arms of this community of faith here in our city. Sharing in welcome, in the sacred song of prayer, and the breaking of bread around the table, I found myself in the presence of family. I found myself in the presence the God of us all, Allah, God, Spirit of grace, the God of love, in whom we live and move and have our being. Thanks be.

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.

Unto Others

March 22, 2010

   There hangs above my desk a new framed print I received as a gift. It is a Norman Rockwell print entitled “The Golden Rule.” It depicts persons of many faith traditions, nationalities, and races. Among them are the elderly, the middle aged, and children, some of them hungry, some of them praying, and they all seem to be looking the same direction, eyes lowered in a rather reverent, humble sort of way.
Across the lower center of the print are the simple familiar words, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”
   They all seem to be looking the same direction, that is, save two. At the rear of the group there are two persons one a man and the other a woman. The man appears to be looking right at me, it does not seem to matter where I stand, he is looking at me. The woman seems to be looking beyond me, it does not seem to matter where I stand, she is looking past me. As I ponder this print I wonder what the intent of the artist was, is there meaning behind the two person’s depictions, or is it just how he painted them?
   So, without Mr. Rockwell available in my office for comment, I am pondering the meaning myself. Perhaps the majority of the humble stance of the many is a witness to the humility of the statement, that we are called to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us;” we are to love others as we love ourselves.
    The man standing at the rear of the depiction is looking at me. He is looking at me … as if to say, “This means you.” None of us are exempt from such a call, none of us are exempt from that dignity, that respect, that humility, none of us are exempt from the call and command to humble ourselves and treat others with dignity and respect, even our enemies if we embrace what Jesus would command.
   The woman looking beyond me was the most intriguing figure for me. I looked back at her as I write this and notice something I had not seen before. Just below her face are her hands, joined together just below the palms, forming a cup of sorts. The “beyond” she is looking at is where I am to go, carrying in that “cup” the love, respect, compassion, dignity, kindness, and justice that I am called to proclaim in the world around me.
   The whole experience and writing this week recalls for me a passage I have cited before when Paul wrote, “Live in peace with all so far as it depends on you.” In other words, I do not respect, treat with dignity, love, “do unto others” because they do those things to me … because as Paul says, it does not depend on “them” it depends on me, it is up to me.
    As I look at our world today sometimes it seems we have lost our bearings when it comes to humility and respect, to kindness and mercy, to love and grace. I can get caught up in it just as easily as anyone else, but that does not make it right. I pray the gift that now graces my office wall will be a constant reminder that I am called to be humble and reverent, that it is up to me, and that I am called to carry that posture into the world in which I live, and that I may “Do Unto Others [all others] as I would have them Do Unto Me.” I pray it may be so for you and for me.

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.

Connected

July 2, 2009

I went out to the retaining wall along the highway in front of the church Monday afternoon to sit, to ponder, to look for God … if you will. I sat and listened to and watched the traffic go by. There is a lot of noise out there; the constant drone of the elevator, birds chirping, horns honking, and of course the traffic. It seems to come in waves a few moments of no cars then a glut of tractor-trailers, mini-vans, cars, and motorcycles.

They are all different in their own way. Some of them with business advertising on the sides, various state license plate, some with license plates designating colleges, radio stations, names, and other markers identifying the owner in a particular way.

It was interesting to note the people inside the vehicles themselves. Some were reading maps and magazines … even some of the drivers were doing that, some were singing, some focused on the road ahead and some gazing around even making eye contact with me as I sat there in the shade.

It was a good experience of connection and sometimes the lack thereof. I saw some people who knew me who waved enthusiastically, some who knew me who waved with a “I wonder why he is up to now,” look on their face, some who I knew were focused on the road ahead and had no clue they had just been pondered by the local United Methodist pastor. There were those who waved or honked and I did not have time to see if I knew them or not, and some who I know I did not know but still waved enthusiastically, but a good many of those who passed by looked straight ahead without a glance.

I think about the road of life if you will, all of us, traveling one way or another in one lane or another. I think one lane is not necessarily better than the other, though going the wrong way in the wrong lane is not particularly helpful. Of course one can carry any metaphor to one extreme or another to create a cause for conflict and disagreement. But as I sat there and pondered, wouldn’t it be nice, good, beneficial if we had some sense of connection, or at least felt some sense of respect, perhaps even responsibility for the others in the other lanes?

I must confess it was the ones who smiled and waved, whether I knew them or not, that created a stir in me and brought a smile to my face and a wave back. It is that connection that we all need to fill our souls and light our path. The author of Genesis tells us we were created to be in relationship, it is not good to be alone.

I pray this week you find that sense of connectedness in your life in whatever manner it comes along. Offer that connectedness to those you encounter be it with a simple wave and a smile or a phone call or to stop by and visit. It will lighten your step and lift your spirit.

Can You Love a Rattlesnake?

June 23, 2009

   Simeon and I encountered a rattlesnake the other day on our daily excursion. I did not hear it at first, I had my earphones in. Simeon drew my attention as he began to nudge me away from the edge of the road toward the center. I looked down and he was all bristled up, a ridge of hair on end ran from the top of his head to his tail. Then I saw it, curled there, head in the air alongside the road. I pulled my earphones out so I could hear as well … he was rattling!
   The only weapon I had was my cell phone and so I made the prudent decision not to try and beat the snake to death with my phone. But, maybe I was not meant to kill the snake, maybe it was to be a lesson in peace rather than violence. With that and with Simeon insisting on staying between me and the snake I tried a different tact.
   I decided to stand and watch the snake. I tried to move from fear to respect. After all, in some sense the snake meant me no harm, had he meant harm he would not have warned us that he was there, he would have just struck! His rattle was a warning which said, “I am here! Please do not step on me, but if you do you will probably be sorry!”
   I decided to try and get my head around the difference between fear and love. We are told that in love there is no fear and so I stood there in the road and tried to practice what I preach. I stood a safe distance away, all the while Simeon standing guard, staying between me and the snake regardless of where I positioned myself.
   Maybe I needed to take my cue from Simeon, he did not try to attack the snake, and he leaned hard into my leg keeping himself between me and the problem. If I were to try and read Simeon’s mind, I would say he had a healthy respect for the snake but appeared to have no intention of taking the snake on, he was intent on keeping us a safe distance from the rattle.
   As we watched the rattler decide we were no threat and slither his way back into the wheat field, there was a sense of awe and respect that washed over me, a sense of being in the presence of one of God’s creatures, and knowing respect and not fear. I suspect, as he went out of sight, all three of us were relieved.
   I wondered, how many of God’s creatures as well as all of God’s children I react to out of fear rather than love, and in my ponderings I think what a world this would be if love were the common practice and fear was indeed cast out.
   I pray this week you ponder that which you fear and wonder how love might help move us all to a different place in our faith and lives.