Living Love’s Time

Today, I find myself thinking about time and love.

I think about the sadness of our times to which there seems no shortage. Walls, discrimination, killings, compassion buried in the name of tradition, and just plain hate. These things are so prevalent in our world today and yet I hold to the truth that love is bigger.

Love always wins given enough time. That’s the thing about time and love, neither can be stopped.

As Mahatma Gandhi said,

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.”

Love always wins. Think of it—always.

This does not mean we just sit idly by waiting for love to happen, however.

Love is not passive. Love is participatory.

This is great news! We get to join forces with love.

Will we mess it up? – Sure. Will there be days when it seems like love will never win? – Absolutely. Gandhi knew this and so do we.

But, as I ponder this messy in between of time and love, I find myself thinking about someone else too. – Moses.

Psalm 90 - 12

Moses knew about time.

He knew the beginning of his life as a prince, he knew the end of his life wandering in the wilderness toward the Promised Land, and then he had forty years in the middle spent as a shepherd. Essentially, the life of Moses can be divided into forty year increments. 40-40-40.

That’s a lot of time!

Moses knew time much like our time today. The in between time. The time where the hope in love is not quite realized.

I bet the time in the middle of his life seemed especially draining. I’m sure forty years listening to people complain in the dessert is no picnic either but I imagine shepherding is slow time.

Take the sheep out. Watch the sheep graze. Fend off an occasional predator. Watch the sheep graze. Walk the sheep back to the pen. Lay down to protect the gate. Fend off an occasional predator. Try to get some sleep. Repeat.

I don’t know if this is the perfect picture of shepherding, not having firsthand experience, but still I bet those were LONG days and years.

Moses really knew the frustrations of in between time.

And, yet, these words to one of my favorite psalms are attributed to him. “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

Seriously, go back and read the psalm in its entirety. It’s quite moving in the power of its hope tinged with lament.

For Moses the true hope of love came out of those difficult in between times. This same hope is offered to us.

Likewise, this great hope rests in the opportunity to participate with love’s plan (Psalm 90:17) even while knowing it might not be fulfilled in our time.

Don’t forget, Moses didn’t get to go into the Promised Land and yet he persevered living his hope of love in the time he was given.

That’s just it. I believe the true power of love is that it might be fulfilled in us even as we work to improve the not yet world around us.

The only question is, “Am I willing to join forces with participatory, healing, restoring, redeeming love?”

Because I have the opportunity to bring love to whatever and whomever is before me today and so do you. What a glorious prospect!

This may not stop all the unloving in the world around me but what if, as I work to change it, I’m the one who’s changed?

That would be pretty cool. I’ll become in the becoming. You can too.

I know it’s not easy. I know what it’s like to be knocked to the floor. I’ve often commented on this very thing. It’s awfully difficult to see God when you can’t get up.

For those who are victims of the hate in the world around us, including our LQBTQIA sisters and brothers in The United Methodist Church and many people around the world, victims of various acts of hate, these are falling to the floor times. I urge you, take hope.

Love is still there. Love mourns, sustains, and sees us through even while constantly working toward repair, renewal, and restoration, amidst the brokenness of our humanity. Love is that big.

Maybe that’s the gift of time. This is the prayerful plea of Moses.

If I knew the number of my days, I’d focus on what really matters today and the actions I need to take to be the most loving.

When we seek love’s wisdom, we can become in our becoming.

Knowing today is the best day to move forward, why wait?

Ask yourself, “What would I do if today is all I have?” Would that change how you’d spend your time?

Remember though, even as your time here will run out, Love will not.

Love is never in short supply.

Love will keep moving as love does either through me or in spite of me although I hope it’s through me, don’t you?

This is our time! 

Let’s Live Love’s Way Today.

 

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Matters of Life and Death: Productivity Thinking, Bad Theology, and Exclusion

Important Content Warning: Talk of life, death, exclusion, Nazi propaganda (along with picture) and other acts of hate.

I have a confession to make. I’m feeling a bit lost.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately that my blog and other recent writing is too all over the place. I mean just consider these few examples below:

Yesterday, I had an article published in my local newspaper, The Buffalo News, about the importance of safe staffing levels in healthcare. You can read it here. [1]

I’ve written a lot about the results and fallout of the increased discriminatory proclamations from the United Methodist Church’s General Conference Special Session including in my last blog post where I ask the question, “Who do you believe is indispensable?” You can read that here.

In the past, I’ve also written a lot about the dangers of placing value on a person based solely on perceived productivity, (Because what is productivity really?) the exclusion of disabled people from society, and the importance of healthcare in living our fullest possible lives.

And, you can agree with me on these topics or not. That’s ok. I know straws, for one, is a touchy subject. I hope you’ll see my bigger point of listening, justice, and inclusion.

However, back to my identity crisis. I even asked the question, “Who am I?”

But, earlier today, as I sat in reflection brought on by a conversation with one of my pastors and friend, Tim Vermande, it hit me. These things are not in conflict at all.

Each one of these things is about justice, inclusion, full participation, and life informed by love. These things matter and not just on their own. Together they tell the importance of our shared human story because we are doomed if we forget them.

We need to honor each person’s identity to protect against erasure or risk forgetting their value. If we forget each person’s inherent value instead placing one over another we divide. If we divide, we exclude. If we exclude we lose life. It’s a dangerous, slippery slope. Look at the propaganda piece from Nazi Germany below. I realize it’s shocking. It’s also important. This is life or death.

Healthcare Poster 1930s

This poster is from the 1930’s, and promotes the Nazi monthly Neues Volk (New People}, published by the party’s racial office. The text reads: [2]

“This genetically ill person will cost our people’s community 60,000 marks over his lifetime. Citizens, that is your money. Read Neues Volk, the monthly of the racial policy office of the NSDAP.”

This is the problem with valuing one person over another. It’s not an opinion. This is a fact. This happened as did slavery, lynching, bombings, and many other terrible, horrible things. From my disabled perspective look up Willowbrook State School or simply look above at this picture.

It’s not just a distant memory of yesterday either. It’s happening today. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and more are happening in our society and in our churches right now.

You can use all kinds of excuses; money, the bible. (Those two things are used to justify a lot of things including the topics I write about most often.) None of these excuses make these things less true or less harmful. I can’t be part of it with either my silence or my complacency. Love doesn’t do that. Love calls me to inclusion through justice.

So, I guess my identity is consistent after all. I’m being consistent with justice, inclusion, full societal participation, and love. These are the offerings of the true life we all deserve. These are the things we must protect especially for the most marginalized.

So, I continue to fight as love for the least of these among us continues to shape, form, and inform me along the way.

I hope you’ll join me.

In Peace, Love, and Power,

Chris

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Buffalo News, Letter to the Editor, 3/13/2019

[2] Calvin College, German Propaganda Archive, https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/?fbclid=IwAR0vDGQQAT47BDd10rgtw5MDHncdKI_Erbl_GYw-sJCB8pUzVgQuBWAjtLs

 

Who Do You Believe is Indispensable? On Exclusion, Love, Life, and Death in The United Methodist Church

1 Corinthians 12 talks about community as a body. In 1 Corinthians 12:22 in particular we are told, “Those who seem less important are actually indispensable.” This is an important statement because it leaves us with a question to ask ourselves.

“Who do we tell by action, attitude, or outright exclusion they are least important?”

I know, as a disabled, wheelchair using person, I feel this sting when I am excluded from full faith life simply because of inaccessibility.  Whether you like it or not, this is my reality. I am, and continue to be, excluded from full participation in the community life of the Church. After all, I cannot go to any church for worship. I wouldn’t get in. As disability advocate, Stella Young said so well, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.” 

Now, put yourself in my chair for a moment. Consider if every time you want to attend a function or event you have to call to see if you can get in and, even if you can get in, is the space inclusive enough for you to fully participate without being limited, restricted or left to figure out what you will be allowed to do.

In short this provides insight into whether or not the organizers, leaders, and people of this community consider my participation at all and answers the question, “Am I welcome?” Some might offer smile faced excuses and apologies but again, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.” 

This sting of exclusion informs how I view the exclusion of others, including my family in the LGBTQIA community left out from full faith community participation as a result of the decisions made by The United Methodist Church Special Session of General Conference 2019 and its prevailing attitudes, and my response to their exclusion. Again, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

As one who knows the pain of exclusion I must speak out with my words and actions, shouting if need be, “Either everybody is included or nobody is included.” Otherwise, I am saying, “As long as space is made for me, those who are more vulnerable are, in fact, dispensable.”

In the end, it is all about love. Sure, exclusion exists beyond the Church walls too but isn’t the Church called to be different from the world? Aren’t we called to be the most loving? (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31) 

Furthermore, we are told, “We love because God first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21) 

Love does not exclude even with a smile on its face. “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. 

I hope you ponder these points on inclusive love with me because while some debate how and who should be included, someone is dying without knowing they are completely loved. How will your actions today change this reality?

Who do you believe is indispensable? 

Restoration by Repentance: A Reflection for Lent

Lord, what should I do,
In this broken down body,
In this broken down church,
That can’t find the space?

Lord, what should I do,
In this broken down church,
In this broken down body,
That can’t run the race?

Lord, show me the beauty,
Of this time called Lent,
In placing ashes on my head,
In Restoration by Repentance.

Cross - Ashes

Lord, help me move away from temptation,
Help me put down power, and control, and bitterness,
To be part of your bigger story,
Avail me to your greater glory,
Lord, set me free.

And, even in the waiting, Lord,
In this yearning to be free,
Create something new in me,
In Restoration by Repentance.

Let me live in you,
And, receive new life,
That, even as I lay my life down,
Not just heaven bound,
Nor only here on earth,
That this may be true.

Though, Lord,
If I hear on earth,
This your message of life,
Bring me to rebirth,
Not just far off,
But, in the here and now,
Lord, don’t make me wait.

However, if I must wait,
Bring me to Restoration by Repentance,
In the time between,
Help me become even in my becoming,
As only you can,
Secure in the way from death,
That leads to life.

Even in life through death,
Even in the most unusual,
And, in the more than a little strange,
Make big love like that,
Love that brings renewal,
Even by decay.

So, maybe there’s space for this broken down body,
Even this broken down church,
As I journey this day.
With Restoration by Repentance.

Race Against the Clock

Monday poetry reflection. 

Race against the clock.
Not to win but to live.
Not to live but to survive.
To hold fast to what remains.
And, yet to let it go.

Race against the clock.
Against the machine,
That tells me to do more.
Without productivity; no value.
Race against the clock.

Race against the clock.
But, race for what I’m not sure.
The one who dies with the most toys, still dies.
And, yet, I cling to them, hoping to live.
Race against the clock.

Race against the clock.
More than the toys,
It’s what we’re told.
Get it now before you’re old.
Love the right people,
The right way,
Play the right game.
And, race against the clock.

Race against the clock.
But, my body broke before my time.
Left only with these thoughts of mine.
And, all those words of overcome.
Not thy will but mine be done.
Race against the clock.

Race against the clock.
The true story of worldly success.
By your bootstraps pick up,
And, you’ll be blessed.
Don’t stop.
Race against the clock.

Race against the clock.
Somehow, I’ll rule the day.
Climb the mountain
Reach the top.
The fight is won within the mind.
These legs be damned.
Race against the clock.

Race Against the Clock

Race against the clock.
Except that’s not reality.
The dream not mine to believe.
Stairs and stares,
Walls are walls.
Getting up still comes with falls.
RAGE AGAINST THE CLOCK!

STOP!

Maybe when all is said and done,
Perhaps our measure, not the right one.
Together let’s rewrite the story.
Live together,
A better glory.

Growing in union, support, sustain.
Moving in a more mutual way.
The choice is ours to rise or fall.
Growing together, room for all.
Or to parish as we race against the clock.

 

(Please check out my other posts on happenings in the United Methodist Church, our world, life, poetry, and also please vote on my blog name here. Thank you! Next blog post, Thursday.)

 

I Refuse to Obey Unjust Laws

I am breaking my own rule with so many blogs in the last few days of intending only to post on Mondays and Thursdays for consistency but rules are made to be broken, right? With that in mind, I promise I’ll be brief.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said the following:

“One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Well, I have come to the conclusion, like many of my sisters and brothers of United Methodist Church affiliation, that the decisions set forth by the Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Missouri which I have written about here are unjust.

More than a disagreement over “biblical interpretation,” they are hurtful, cruel, and quite frankly, unchristian. (Note: I am using a small “c” for your limited vision of God.)

From here forward, I refuse to officiate in marrying anyone until I can marry everyone.

Moreover, if you want to remove all of us, maybe my progressive sisters, brothers, and I should consider marrying everyone. You can figure out what to do with your whitewashed tomb versions of church.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. – Matthew 23:27-28

Not that UMC

As for me, I’ll side with love. Maybe it’s big enough to start a revolution.

 

 

A Poem for Our Times: On News, Exclusion, Death, and Life.

(News Stories in Links)

A boy arrested for a mix out of season.
Just let me ask, “Is that really your reason?”
Or maybe his color couldn’t share your space.
Being not like you, no room for grace.
Of course you’ll bond to keep out others.
In this way, be known as sisters and brothers.
Not really equals, they know their place.
And, not really sisters, just something to say.
And, not the cripples, easily done.
Just put in some stairs and watch for fun.
You’ll tell us to go to the next given space.
Even offer to guide and show us the way.
Except you won’t really, that’s not why we’re born.
Inspire and die, a way to perform.
Sure, Carrie Ann died for really no reason.
Only that healthcare is so very last season.
But, you have all the power, so enjoy your trip.
Only, power’s elusive, you’ll lose your grip.
I know. I know, this is really your fear.
That’s why 500 religious said, “No room for you here.”
But, love won’t give in, we won’t go away.
We’re in it to win it. Love rules the day.
And, even in death we won’t be undone.
Up from the ashes, Truly United as One.

Heart with People