Are You Too Busy To Listen?

Are You Too Busy To Listen?

“Storehouses” – Extended.
Hoarding your
boxes and packing your bags.
Preparing like
luggage affixed with nametags.
What will it get you, Your storehouse of gold?
No matter how mighty, You’ll too grow old.
And down to the dust From which you once came.

Consumed 
all your darkness.
Love will remain.

Still you keep on and keep on, playing your game.
The more you control, you’ll victory claim.
And, all will know, “You’re living the dream.”
But, when it comes crashing down, what will it mean?

calm sky
Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Image Description: Sunlight breaking through clouds. Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity lately. How we take and turn something intended to be positive and recast it in our own image. You can read a little about this in my previous blog post, “Where Will You Store Your Treasure?”

We are good at that, we humans. If we can control everything through our own efforts, we don’t have to rely on anyone or anything else. Sure, we might offer our words to G-d but to actually trust, especially in something we cannot see, that’s a different story.

That’s the myth of productivity. If I just work harder, I’ll get ahead. However, I’ve witnessed many people work hard only to end up on the short end of things. It’s easy to see if you’re looking. It happens all the time, actually.

Further, this notion of never ending work isn’t biblical either. I heard a message this week based on Luke 16:19-31. (Hat tip to Rev. Matt Kofahl of the St. James and Hope United Methodist Churches in Niagara Fall and Sanborn, NY respectively.)

The narrative tells the story of two recently deceased people; one rich, one poor. In a twist as shocking to the initial hearer of Jesus’ story as it is to us, it is the rich man who finds himself far away from G-d as the poor man is comforted.

Didn’t the rich man do everything right? By worldly standards, certainly, this is true. However, as the rich man cries out in agony he is told quite simply, “You received your good things already.”  (Verse 25)

On the other hand, look at the poor man, Lazarus. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t even get himself to the rich man’s gate. He was laid there! (Verse 20) It’s as if we have everything backwards in our human brokenness. Less is more.

I have to rely on G-d when I can’t rely on myself.

When you can do nothing, G-d still loves you because Love is not dependent on what you do. It’s dependent on G-d.

Back in the Luke 19 parable, the rich man begs for someone to warn his relatives only to be told as Jesus foreshadows his own resurrection, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Verse 31)

The same message holds true for us. The only question is, “Are You Too Busy To Listen?”

Wherever you find yourself this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions. 
Peace Love and Acceptance

The Chronic Pain of Chronic Pain

The Chronic Pain of Chronic Pain

“Push”
The push away
The tension
Cries
The in between
Disconnected lives

To carry on
Can be no more
The hurt
The pain
The days we mourn

What once lived here
We can no more pretend
Pushed too far
This is the end.

The most difficult thing to explain to non disabled people is chronic pain. It comes and goes without rhyme or reason. Sure, sometimes, experience dictates you might feel worse after engaging in activity but you never really know.

My life, never really one of feeling good in recent years, has been in a more extreme downswing over the last few months. Hence, my lack of blogs here.

…The one little thing I do as I can that makes me feel like I’m an active participant in the world… I can’t do. I just haven’t been physically or mentally able to keep going.

I hope that changes, it likely will improve a little eventually, and then revert back the other direction. That’s chronic pain. You just don’t know.

It’s exhausting on every level.

Sometimes, just to avoid giving up, you do things anyway although, again, it’s sort of a one shot deal knowing more pain is coming.

69367806_10214683585783976_7380800624142581760_o
Image description: Man with glasses, beard, blue hoodie, red shorts and gloves seated in a wheelchair. Woman with red hair, glasses, gray and white shirt, and jeans standing. Between them, team mascot standing; a brown dog with tongue sticking out and red shirt.

Last night, my wife and I went to a local minor league playoff baseball game – Awesome.

Today, I’m dealing with higher than normal (even by my standards) back and leg pain as a result – Not Awesome.

I’d love to get more sleep. About four hours a night is my average since my knee replacement in 2015. Last night was a little less and, frankly, I’m struggling.

At least we won the game

This is my life with chronic pain. I hope to write more soon.

Wherever you are this day, remember, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

I’ll try to remember those words apply to me too.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Tormented by Sleep

Tormented by Sleep

“Tormented by Sleep”
Tormented by sleep
As hours tick by
Tormented by sleep
Let out a sigh

Pain is too great
Long to be free
Tormented by sleep
Gaslighting me

Available remedies
None presenting peace
Long for my release
Nightly enemy

Tormented by sleep
Day after day
Tormented by sleep
Take me away.

alone bed bedroom blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com Image Description: Person flat on stomach in bed. Covered completely by a sheet except feet sticking out.

There’s a lot going on in our world. I hoped to talk about some of it today. However, my body is not cooperating.

Disability is like that. You never know how you will feel.

Today, like many days, I feel bad. This is just part of my story.

All I have today is a poem inspired by near nightly painsomnia but I’m sharing because, if you are struggling with pain of any sort, I want you to know you aren’t alone.

That’s part of my story too.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

I hear a lot today about agreeing to disagree.

You know, “I see it this way. You see it that way. We’ll just agree to disagree.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. 

As my friend and great social-minded theologian, Samuel Mudge said recently,

“Agreeing to disagree doesn’t work for a whole lot of people because sometimes, two people are discussing something that is an abstract idea to one, and life-and-death to the other.”

Think about that for a second. I’ll use my most personal examples for clarity.

Not having access to plastic straws might kill me.

Doing away with healthcare protections might kill me.

Using mental health or other disabilities as your excuse because you don’t want to talk about guns or other issues might kill me.

That’s how it works.

The same is true when you endorse leaders who overtly or covertly use their power and systems as a means of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

They aren’t all created equal. People are dying! 

I will say this. We do need to listen to each other more.

I do believe most of us are not as far apart as it seems. Outside the top few, the people from the middle down are all being squeezed economically and otherwise.

Let’s work together to answer these more difficult questions. Maybe life isn’t supposed to be completely found in easy answers.

agree agreement ankreuzen arrangement
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’ve lost our ability to sit across from each other; to hear each other, and to listen to our individual and collective pain. 

This isn’t a suggestion of mere tolerance. I’ll fight as long as I can against racism, ableism, and any other form of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

Inclusion is a table of equity and justice especially for people on the margins. 

That’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about. He restored people to equitable, just community.

This isn’t an over-simplified version of love the sinner, hate the sin. 

That’s just a slight modification of agreeing to disagree with a dash of power mixed in. That’s what got us here.

It’s just a reminder to listen because the cycle will never stop if we don’t do better. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

Give Me Liberty, Immigrants, Cripples, and Jesus!

Give Me Liberty, Immigrants, Cripples, and Jesus!

What you believe about the Statue of Liberty, immigration, disability, and our current US administration tells me everything I need to know about how you feel about Jesus and how you feel about me.

There has been a recent change to the immigration policy in the United States. It states that whether a person is admissible to the United States or not will be based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The expressed goal is “to ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States — either temporarily or permanently — are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.” 

Great, right?! Except how can you know? Beyond the obvious discrimination of people with disabilities like me, many of whom are fleeing violence, etc., it could be YOU at any time. Becoming disabled can and does happen at ANYONE. Further, if you live long enough you will almost certainly become disabled. Bodies don’t last forever without breaking down.

So, what does this mean? Unless you are super rich and elite, keep out? That’s sure what it seems like. What about Medicare? If you enter the country at a younger age and never need any public assistance, something you cannot know unless you are super rich, will you be eligible later in life? Does this exclude someone from coming to this country too? It’s a moving target.

Quite simply, we are moving toward eugenics. This should scare you into action! 

I know it won’t. I’ve been around nondisabled people long enough to know how little they think beyond their immediate concerns. You just don’t see yourself as me.

This is why we have a long history of locking away our disabled and elderly people. If you don’t see them, you don’t have to believe you will be them. You are wrong!

Speaking of long history, our current US administration recently stated that the words on the Statue of Liberty were for immigrants coming from Europe too.

I know, racism, shocking… Except, you should be shocked! You should be shocked into action against this administration and its policies. You have a voice. Use it!

worms eye view photography of statue of liberty
Photo by Jamie McInall on Pexels.com

Read more on both these things here or just look at the news or use a search engine. If you are uniformed or unshocked, you may be the problem.

Furthermore, any notion that you can support this administration while calling yourself Christian or pro-life is a farce.

(Admittedly, I’m afraid to make this connection not because it is untrue, but because some have used this as justification to say the Church should be charged with charity, healthcare, and supports instead of the government.)

Frankly, you are not just wrong, the Church is pretty bad at these things. Feel free to ask me about accessibility.

That’s just it. These people claim to be Christians yet the sit in direct opposition to Jesus.

In case you haven’t looked in a while, he takes the powerful in this world and turns them, and their systems, upside down. I mean, Jesus literally tells the rich guy to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. (Matthew 19:21-22)

Look at the Beattitudes (Matthew 5:1-11)

For Christ’s Sake (Literally) The first Christians lived as a commune. (Acts 2:44-47)

Maybe that’s why the Church is dying.

As for the rest of it, what you believe about the Statue of Liberty, immigration, disability, and our current US administration tells me everything I need to know.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

It also seeks justice and inclusion for the people on the margins; even those least like you. Jesus talks about that too.

I’ll let you look it up if you don’t believe me because, “Carry your own weight,” right?

Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes: 1. Uscis.gov, 2. USA Today – 8/13/2019, 3. Biblegateway.com

 

 

 

Are You Hiding Behind Your Smile?

Are You Hiding Behind Your Smile?

“My Sanguine Shell”
Sanguine
Shell
Fake

Pain
Anxiety
Depression
Regression

Rudderless Ship
Assailed by Stormy Seas
Wave Battered
Sinking
No Release

SOS
Drowned
As Smiles Abound.

 

photo of thunderstorm
Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”Matthew 16:18

Do you ever wonder if others can really see you; not just what’s on the surface but underneath? It probably doesn’t happen most of the time. We’ve become good hiders.

That’s what I love about the dynamics between Jesus and his disciple, Peter.

Peter gets it wrong as much as right. He sinks in water instead of focusing on Jesus. He goes around chopping off ears. Still, Jesus sees and loves him. He sees the possibilities behind the fearful surface Peter exudes.

That’s the heart of God. It does the same for us. It strips away all the coverings of brokenness and finds the good underneath. Yet, I still wrestle with this.

I know God can see me completely, but I still cover it up. Talk about hubris.

I hide my true self from others too. Vulnerability is scary. They won’t accept me if they know my weaknesses.

Except, we all have weaknesses. Some of us might be better at hiding them but we all have weaknesses, fears, insecurities, and shortcomings. So, what if we didn’t hide them?

Maybe we’d all be better off if we were a little more honest with ourselves and each other. Maybe, we could engage in meaningful conversation and begin to break through all our divisions.

I don’t think it’s easy. Being vulnerable might be more difficult for us than building equitable systems and relationships and, frankly, we are pretty bad at both these things.

However, since I have to start somewhere. Maybe this change starts with me.

I hope you’ll join me in building coalitions of love, justice, vulnerability, and equity. In doing so I believe we are truly being faithful disciples of Jesus.

What do you think?

God, you see my heart.
You know my
hurts and pains.
You sit with me in my brokenness and comfort me.
Use me as you will to be open to the hearts of others.
Help me be open too that I might sit with them and together we might know your peace even amidst sadness and uncertainty.
May this be my p
rayer.

Amen. Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

A Crip Summer Night’s Dream

A Crip Summer Night’s Dream

This weekend my wife and I performed in a rendition of William Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Inclusive Theater of WNY.

We had small roles as the fairies Peaseblossom and Moth and, though it will likely take weeks for my body to recover, I’m glad we did it.

There are many microaggressions that accompany disability from hostility to outright exclusion. However, one of the worst is invisibility.

People just don’t expect, see, or know disabled people in traditionally nondisabled places.

For the record, that’s pretty much everywhere.

We just passed the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet, most of life remains inaccessible. Think about how often you go into places with just one step.

I could list obstacles for days just as a wheelchair user.

Since I’m talking about our play, how many stages are accessible?
(Hint: Not many.)

67464321_414025362790888_5534259570727190528_n
Image: Woman with red hair and blue glasses next to man with dark hair, glasses, and full bead smiling dressed as fairies.

This keeps us isolated and invisible. 

When you don’t meet people different than you in your daily life, you don’t notice they are missing. Moreover, they are often viewed as an inconvenience when you do notice them at all.

Instead of considering the limits of their opportunities you think, “Why do I have to build a ramp?”

This is why relationships and representation matter. You care about people more when you meet and build relationships with them.

Many people I encounter have never truly known a wheelchair user before.

Likewise, if someone never sees another person with whom they identify, they don’t see possibilities.

That’s why I did it.

That’s why I persevered.

That’s what makes waking up in this body aching for recovery worth it.  

Most of all, that’s why I’m grateful for Inclusive Theater and the opportunity it provides.

Plus, I’ve met some really cool people.

Maybe someone saw the show or will read my words and begin imagining for themselves. 

I hope you’ll consider my words too.

I’d be happy if you did.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance