Posts Tagged ‘understanding’

We Can Be Better in 2019

December 31, 2018

I am here in the continued afterglow of the Season… of Christmas Eve Services, study, writing, sons and daughters-in-law, and three perfect granddaughters, life is good here in the Little home. It is New Year’s Eve day and I have been pondering this year past and what the new year might hold. I am hopeful about many things, and I am frustrated about many things as well.

My frustrations come from many venues. However, I think right now my main frustration is my continued attempts to understand our current administration and our President as well as those who so adamantly support him. I write this not to look for an argument or a debate, but mostly to vent a little and continue to try and understand. I watched as he mocked a disabled person, a war hero and former prisoner of war, a veteran’s family, women, promoted violence against those who would oppose him at rallies and found myself in disbelief that we would elect such a one.

Since his election I have watched and listened to him continue to diminish our allies, our courts, and our federal law enforcement agencies. Refusing to take advice from his advisors on things such as Syria or his own party on the proposed border wall. I have found myself rather aghast at his hesitation, or even seeming refusal to denounce white supremacy groups. His policies continue to threaten the safety of those who seek asylum in our country from other parts of the world that threaten life and livelihood. The list grows ever longer of things I see as injustice, xenophobic, a threat to the common good of all, and just honesty in general. Just recently he compared the wall he wishes to build on our border with Mexico with the ten-foot wall around President Obama’s current home…a wall that does not exist.

I know many who support President Trump, so much so to the point, it almost seems it doesn’t matter what he does or says. I want to understand, I really do, but now after listening to his speeches and reading news stories for nearly three years, I still cannot seem to wrap my head around what we were thinking or what he is thinking. I cannot decide if he is really just trying to distract the country, and if so, distract us from what or if he is just being intentionally obtuse. I see the struggle in our country and I think of a favorite movie of mine, Remember the Titans, and the struggle the team was having to come together at one point, Gerry tells Julius he needs to fix his attitude, Julius responds, “Attitude reflects leadership.” I don’t know, maybe that applies to us today, our leader is a mess…and thus…so are we.

All this being said, as 2019 rolls into the present, I will continue to keep President Trump in my prayers, our country in my prayers, and our world in my prayers. I will pray for understanding as I continue my unwillingness to settle and my commitment to actively resist any policy diminishing the poor, oppressed, discriminated against and the least of these in our midst.

With the continued struggle of the last few years I am still hopeful. I am hopeful because I find myself to be one who must be. I will continue to try and understand and listen more. However, I refuse to let fear, distrust, chaos, injustice, and violence of word and deed be a directing force in my life.

I believe, whether we are people part of a community of faith or not, we are all called as a community of humankind to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper…ALL of them, and especially those who are the poorest and most vulnerable among us. It takes all of us, yet the division that continues to be driven like a wedge among our fellow humankind in our country and our world will in the end destroy us unless we come together.

However, I believe more in the Kindom, the Beloved Community dreamed of by one of our finest…I believe in our country and our founding documents, I believe more in who we have been and who we can become more than I believe in who our current administration and government are. I refuse to believe we are stuck in this descending spiral of vitriol and disrespect. I am willing to extend a hand and have the difficult conversations to find a way out of this fog of disillusion.

We can be better in this 2019.

My hand is here. My heart is here. Let us begin again on this New Year.

Rev. Kent H. Little


Beautiful Hearts

April 2, 2017

We attended the Trans Day of Visibility: Rally for Equality. I confess, I know and understand very little about the journey of transgender persons and what they have been through, though I know many and am educating myself by studying, listening to their stories, respecting their presence and rights, deliberately seeing them, and loving them. While I can never fully understand, I can understand better. As it was said at the Rally Friday, it is up to me, up to us to do the work of study and educating of ourselves to try and better understand what our transgender friends and family are going through and have been through. I am working on that, I want to better understand so I can be a better pastor, ally, advocate, friend, … a better person in my loving of all of God’s children…all of us.


Speakers at the rally shared stories of loss and pain. Friday I heard not just stories of bullying and hatred, but witnessed it firsthand. I listened as speakers shared of youth and adults who have ended their lives because of religion, culture, and society who diminish and belittle who and whose they are, and I was moved to tears. I can only hope to somehow understand a small fraction of the pain and fear they have encountered on their journey, but I can be here for them as they make that journey, we can all be here for them as they make that journey. Transgender persons and their journeys, though filled with tragedy and pain, fear, risk, and struggle, are courageous and beautiful, all of them.

I think of that familiar passage about the anointing of David when God shares that God looks upon the heart. I can honestly say, the transgender persons I have encountered and come to know, have beautiful hearts of grace, compassion, courage, and love. I have much to learn from my transgender brothers and sisters that already has and will continue to deepen my understanding and walk with them as well as my walk with God in Christ. I am grateful and I look forward to a new journey each morning!

For our church, here at College Hill. The first of the year I had the congregation fill out note cards expressing what they loved about CHUM, why they came, what was our purpose. I shared those responses in our newsletter and we will be visiting them at our next Extended Council meeting. While we want to be aware and attentive to all the responses, the overwhelming nature of the responses had to do with our open, loving, welcoming, and inclusive posture and vision. We will be focusing on that and talking about how we can better share that message not only with our current membership but with our city and Annual Conference.

I want to emphasize my place here in this writing in that I stand with and will advocate for transgender persons, and gay, lesbian, bi-sexual persons, and those regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, and age who are marginalized and oppressed. It is my passion, my vocation, my calling, and I believe what and who God with Christ has called me to be in this world so filled with brokenness, bigotry, hate, and exclusion.

I implore our society, city, state, country, and religious communities, to stop the discrimination and hate. Sit down with someone, talk less and listen more to the stories of those who simply want to live authentically as they were created to be. Here at CHUM, we are, and can be even more of a beacon of justice, grace, wisdom, and love. It is a beautiful way to join the beauty of this diverse tapestry of us God has created. Join me won’t you?

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community, the whole community of God’s children!  Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.   Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Pastor Kent

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

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

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…Oh My!

November 25, 2015

The other evening The Wizard of Oz was on. It is a favorite of mine that I rarely pass up when it comes on television. Though, since the advent of Wicked, there is part of me that can never watch the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West in the same way again. As I watched it this past Sunday, marinating in all that is going on in our world, nation, state, churches, and our lives it seemed to me there was a great deal of which to be fearful in that movie.

I know, there was always plenty of which to be afraid while watching Dorothy navigate the plot of the story. Miss Gulch, tornadoes, witches, haunted forests, poison poppies, flying monkeys…these were what frightened me most when I was little, guards, dark castles, wizards, and the list can become even longer as you consider all the darkness and dread that filled the movie screen and the story line.

As I sat and watched the familiar scenes pass before me I could not help but think of our own world, my own corner of the world where there is so much fear and anger, it seems we are saturated in it not only real, but imagined, dreamed up, made up, promoted, and thrust upon us. There are times when I wonder if there are those who just make shit up in order to stoke the fires of fear.

So many times when I turn on the news or open a paper it seems that the powers that be want us to be fearful, I have noted before that notion that a fearful citizenry is easier to control, I am believing that is true.

Terrorist threat, racism, bigotry, religious bigotry, the demonizing of the poor and refugees, homophobia, Islamophobia, fear grounded in a woman’s right to choose her own medical care, fear of losing power, fear of losing jobs, economic fear, fear of those who are different than us, the list can become even longer as we consider all the darkness and dread that fills the images of our minds and lives. Sometimes I ponder; fear is easier than understanding, fear is easier than relationship, fear is easier than trust, fear is easier than cooperation, fear is easier than listening, fear is easier than embrace, fear is easier than compassion, grace, and love.

I am reminded of the psalmist cry, “How long O Lord?” How long will we continue to let fear drive our lives, make our policy decisions, keep the doors of our nation, our state, our churches, our lives, and our hearts closed and locked tight. But we need not let fear, bigotry, and phobia overwhelm and consume us. The place to start is within, that light that burns within us we can share until we light the world. There is enough to counter the fear of those who wish to be imprisoned in suspicion and hate. And who knows, the light we share may not only set us free, but others as well.

As I prepare to join our family for Thanksgiving Day and the Holiday Season and beyond I am pondering fear. While I believe there are a great number of things to be concerned about, to stand against, to speak out in opposition, and refuse to embrace, I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to let fear guide my decisions. I refuse to allow fear to temper my compassion, my embrace, my search for understanding, and my commitment to justice, kindness, humility, and love for all.

There is plenty of light in this world to embrace if we refuse to let those who live and promote fear continue to spread a blanket of darkness and dread over our lives and the lives of all of God’s children. Take some time this Holiday Season, but even more, in each and every moment of each and every day to see and embrace the light of the common good and grace and love for all. There is much for which to be grateful in our lives.

I am reminded of the quote from Glinda the Good Witch at the end of the story when Dorothy asks how she is going to get home and Glinda responds, “You’ve always had the power…” In a world where sometimes we just want to find that peace, that place, safe and sacred, that “home” where we will one day live together all of us, where love is the rule and not the exception, we may not be able to change the world by ourselves, but we each have the power change ourselves for the good and together, then, light the world for good.

In each and every moment, I pray compassion, embrace, and love will overwhelm the worries, suspicion, and fear that would attempt to swallow us up. May we see with the eye of the Divine, even within those who may claim to hate us, the kernel of light and good, no matter how small, that resides in all of humanity … the Light that will not let the darkness overcome it…until we all, all of us…Shine.

Peace and Light for Our Journey…

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.

Simeon’s Least Favorite Day of the Year!

July 8, 2013

It was that annual day filled with frightening sounds and sights; it began before noon and crept late into the darkness of the night. You know that day; no I am not talking about Halloween, rather, Independence Day, the 4th of July!

Well, okay, for most of us it isn’t necessarily a frightening day filled with fear and dread. But for Simeon I believe it is his the least favorite day of the year. All day long he tags along close behind us wherever we might wander in the house. When we sit he crowds in close to our chair and often refuses to go outside when he really needs to go outside. Thursday night I finally took him to the basement and slept downstairs with him as it was quieter and he didn’t feel the need to pace and fidget and whine at the loud fireworks outside our windows.

For Simeon the fear of the explosions, bright lights in the sky and whistles of screaming rockets fill his life and dominate him with fear. And although we understand it is part of a celebration of our nation’s birth, albeit a very loud one it seemed this year, Simeon does not understand it is about joy and celebration and fun, he just thinks it is loud and scary.

Humankind’s response to things we do not understand if often the same. We fear that which we do not understand and that fear can consume us. I think about all the reaction to social justice and civil rights issues of our day; same gender rights, women’s healthcare choices, immigration, other religions, no religion, views and theologies of God in our own Christian tradition, it can be a long list. I think about how these things are responded to in the world and so often they are approached with anger and hate, bigotry and vitriol language and I believe these kinds of responses are grounded in a lack of understanding, appreciation, education, and empathy.

I believe if those on both sides of an issue would earnestly sit down together and engage in open, respectful, and engaged conversation we would find ourselves in a much more welcoming, understanding, and inclusive world. I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

I am pretty confident if Simeon spoke English or if I spoke Labrador/Shar Pei we could better understand one another. I could better understand why he is afraid and he could better understand that the loud explosions outside are not going to harm him or his home. But until that time it will suffice to simply try and comfort him in his fear.

May we find ways to encounter one another and understand diversity and embrace the joy that comes with a broad array of what makes us human and that common piece of who we are as unique and unrepeatable children of the Divine. One day, justice for all will be, grounded in welcome, appreciation, inclusion, understanding, and love. May it be soon.

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.

We Do Not Have the Market Cornered on God

July 2, 2012

Recent renewed discussions in our area as well as our state and nation have brought to the surface once again the issue of separation of church and state, prayer at government meetings, prayer in school, a chapel at our State Capital. Along with that a law passed by other states and ours addressing and the forbidding of the use of “foreign laws” to be imposed in our state. The decision was in essence meant to address the much debated issue of Sharia Law. I found the decision curious at best as if those who espouse the idea that we are a “Christian” nation, based on the laws of the Bible, those same laws are certainly well considered as “foreign” laws, certainly not originating here in the U.S.A.

All of this came close to home for me a few weeks ago when I was contacted to do the invocation at our Wichita City Council Meeting. I wrestled with the idea, as a clergy person in the city I certainly did not want to turn down the opportunity to be present and offer words of hope and grace for our city, our leaders, and all of our citizens. At the same time as Senior Minister here at College Hill with our long tradition of progressive theology and practice I wanted to be sensitive to the openness of faith and true to the witness of who we are in the city. As a board member of the local chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State I also wanted to make sure I offered non-sectarian words of hope for all of our city. I did accept the invitation and shared in that time identification that we are a city fill with a diverse tapestry of religious practice and non-religious practice and asked for the grace and wisdom of the Divine Presence that connects us all.

Research shows over the last two years there have been very few invocations offered at our local city council meetings and our county commissioner meetings by clergy or others of faith traditions different than Christianity and the majority of the prayers have been very sectarian. I believe in a country founded on freedom of religion in government sponsored meetings and events if a prayer of any kind is offered it should be sensitive to the fact that all those who hear are not necessarily of the particular faith tradition of the speaker and the words should be respectful of that fact.

Unfortunately too many of our fellow followers of Jesus believe we somehow have the market cornered on God and all other expressions of faith and practice are inferior and wrong. I could not disagree more! The Spirit moves in and among all of humankind and creation and we participate with that Spirit in the tradition that most deeply feeds our body, heart, soul, and mind; as Matthew Fox relates the saying from Meister Eckhart, “God is a great underground river that no one can dam up an dno one can stop.” There is one great river of the Divine and there are many wells of faith, practice, and tradition which tap into that river.
Ultimately it is about community, respect, grace, and love an as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Such are words to live by and exist in the peace of the Spirit among us. Join us this Sunday as we continue to Celebration Series, “The Loyal Opposition; Ponderings of a Protest-ant Christian,” and “Cornering the Market on God.” It is going to be another Great Day at the Hill!

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. 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.

Intention into Being

September 6, 2011

As I prepare for the second week of our current Message Series dealing with the Eight Fold Path of Buddhism and the Parables and Teachings of Jesus there is a proverb-ish verse that keeps coming to mind. “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.” This aphorism keeps wandering into my consciousness and is really rather distracting and I am not finding it very helpful, obviously.

As to why, well, the second Fold in the Path is “Right Intention,” thus the annoying pesky verse lurks in the back of my mind poking its nose into my business while I ponder the coming week. It is helpful to go to the Path itself to hear what it has to say. This Right Intention in Buddhist thought has to do with mental energy, the resistance of desire, the focus on good will resisting anger and aversion, the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly or violently, and to develop compassion. The idea perhaps, one becomes what one thinks or one becomes what one says. I have heard it in Christian language around talking the talk and/or walking the walk. Do what you say you are are going to do, “let your yes be yes and your no be no,” Jesus said.

I have been pondering this in respect to the upcoming anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I remember that day as most all of us do. I remember being glued to the television reports and watching the images of the day unfold. I remember the images of care and compassion, the heroes of the day sung and unsung. I remember the embraces, the hands of help, the tears, and the triumphs.

As I ponder, I think the intent of the day was compassion; the intent of the day was care, nurture, survival, and outreach. But as I look back, there are days I wonder what happened to that intention, what happened to that awareness, and what happened to that mental energy of love regardless of who one is or what they believe. It seems it was just a glimpse of what could be and now it is a memory of what could have been. It seems we have, as a nation, successfully replaced compassion and care with fear and suspicion, especially as I consider my friends and neighbors who are Muslim and still ten years later witness and read about the continued distrust and hatred of the whole of a people of faith because of an extremist faction who claim the name of Islam. It occurs to me that a more accurate aphorism would be “The Road to Hell is Paved in Fear, Distrust, and Hate.” It breaks my heart.

But I am an eternal optimist, and I do not believe it is ever too late to start right where we are. I believe we can reclaim that mental energy of the present moment that fosters compassion, understanding, and love. And if we continue to seek out and be awake to opportunities to practice compassion and patience, what we think, what we seek, what we are mindful of, will be who we are and what we do. It is the only thing that can turn fear into compassion, suspicion into welcome, distrust into embrace, and hatred into love.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

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.