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Fight Hate Live Love

July ’18 Social Media Challenge!

Cancelled Angry Emoji

Our social media pages are overflowing with negativity and anger right now. Friendships have already been damaged by online disagreements that blossomed into knock-down-drag-out virtual fights. Already existing tensions in families have escalated, as sides are taken and heels dug in with postings of  memes, posts, videos, and articles. Churches are being damaged by the vilification of one “side” or the other as theologically-backward or misguided.

Frankly, all this both deeply saddens me and kinda pisses me off. Because I’m watching people God created and loves saying terrible, hurtful things to other people God created and loves.

And that’s just messed up.

And that is not the world I want to live in.

And that is not the world
I believe God created for us to live in.

Recently, a Facebook friend wrote a beautiful post about this. Her words were too perfect to paraphrase, so I’ll share a portion here. Clara wrote:

“If we don’t like someone’s political beliefs, we attack. If we don’t like their religious beliefs we attack or criticize, thinking and saying our religious beliefs are better than theirs. If they have no religious beliefs, we attack. If we don’t like the color of their skin or their heritage we attack. If someone celebrates their heritage and it’s something we disagree with we attack. If we don’t like someone’s life style, we attack. If we don’t like how someone drives we scream and tailgate and get angry and we attack, either verbally or by the way drive by them glaring or flip them off. If we don’t like how someone looks we attack. If we don’t like how they raise their children we attack. If we don’t like how someone serves us or chooses not to serve us, we attack. If we don’t like…….. it never seems to end.”

So… here’s a challenge for you, inspired by Clara…

Let’s make July 2018
the month to STOP
the downward, degrading cycle.

Through our social media,
let’s FIGHT HATE + LIVE LOVE instead!

For the month of July — for a mere 31 straight days — commit to putting up positive, loving posts on your social media. Share things that are inspiring, heartening, and Jesus’-gospel-true. Let your voices be heard in ways that are healing and hope-filled.

Caveat: This does not mean that you need to be silent about the issues that you are so passionate about … no no nonono … far from it! Just be thinking and praying about ways you can share your thoughts online in ways that don’t attack or denigrate or alienate.

Why do this? How can changing the tone and focus of our posts possibly make a difference in a world so obsessed by negativity and hate?

Admittedly, it really is a little thing. Just one small act of living love in the midst of all the hate. But, remember: when we buy into the negativity, the anger, the cyber-aggression, when we join the fray, we are helping to create a world that focuses on what is ultimately unhealthy for us all.

So every act, no matter how seemingly small, can make a difference! And not just for those who see our posts and comments… but for our own spirits, as well. In a letter to a church that he loved, the Apostle Paul wrote this:

Fix your thoughts on what is true,
and honorable, and right,
and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are
excellent and w
orthy of praise.
Keep putting into practice all you
learned and received from me —
everything you heard from me and saw me doing.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9, NLT

The Greek word for “peace” used in that last line is eirene. It has the same meaning as the Hebrew word shalom: peace, wholeness, completeness. It means all the disparate pieces being tied into a beautiful whole.

I don’t know about you, but I sure think our world needs a bit of that eirene right about now…

So… what do you think?
Are you in?

#fighthatelivelove #July2018

Uncategorized

Writing Writing Writing

Batch of Letters

Ever since the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Ash Wednesday/ Valentine’s Day this February, I have begun writing letters. Lots of letters. Letters upon letters upon letters upon letters.

Frankly, up until then, I had thought writing to our government’s leaders to be a fairly futile exercise. But, in the disheartened grief of that horrible day, I realized that I had to do SOMETHING.

If we do not make our voices heard,
there will be no change.

Now, instead of taking to Facebook or Twitter to rant impotently against the violence, the hatred, the cruelty and injustice and just plain old evil… I stop and write letters to people who, through the positions of power they currently inhabit, can make a difference.

So, as I seek to Fight Hate + Live Love, I’m sharing with you the text of the letters that are going out in today’s mail…

___________________________________________

June 20, 2018

President Trump:

As I read more and more stories about immigrant children being forcibly removed from their families and placed in bleak, frightening detainment facilities, my heart breaks. Regardless of where you stand on immigration issues, I pray that we all would agree that the lives of innocent, vulnerable children must be protected. The damage that is being done to their young minds and spirits through this policy will have long-lasting consequences — for them and for all of us.

As a nation we can do better. We must do better. It is deeply shameful that we have not done better.

Because God created us to be better than this! Jesus was clear about God’s concern for the smallest among us. He said, “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10).

As a clergyperson in The United Methodist Church, I look to our Book of Discipline, which clearly states our position on this matter: “We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children” (¶162(H)).

As a citizen and taxpayer, I urge you — the President of the United States of America — to take full and immediate responsibility for the well-being and safety of vulnerable children and infants. As President Eisenhower stated: “The President — whoever he is — has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

Our nation has a moral responsibility to protect children, all children, regardless of immigration status.

I know you know all this. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

We are praying for you as you lead. The people of this country are counting on you.

Sincerely,

Hedy Collver

___________________________________________

I encourage you to write your own letters! Let your government’s leaders know how you feel about the issues most pressing on your heart. If you’d like a place to start, click here for a list of addresses to get you started.

Because, together, we can Fight Hate + Live Love!

Fight Hate Live Love

No More

Stoneman Douglas - AP Photo
Parents wait for news after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. | Joel Auerbach

The church where I serve as Senior Pastor is just a few miles south of Stoneman Douglas High School, where yesterday seventeen people were murdered, many others injured, and countless more deeply traumatized.

I am heartbroken. Again. And I’m just so damn tired of being heartbroken. This is the eighth school shooting in the United States that resulted in death or injury in 2018 alone. We are only forty-eight days into the year, and already eighteen incidents have been reported of guns going off inside schools.

Yes, I am so very, very heartbroken.
We need to pray.
We need to seek God’s guidance and wisdom.

But it doesn’t — it can’t! — stop there.

We need to fight hate (taking actions that confront hate) and live love (taking actions that demonstrate God’s love). We must take what we say with our lips and believe in our hearts… and DO something with it!

So… what action am I taking this day after February 14 2018, after Ash Wednesday, after Valentine’s Day, after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas? I am letting my government’s leaders know where I stand. It’s one thing I can do, right now, as I also look for more ways to help.

You can, too.
Let your voice be heard.

Write to your government leaders

#fighthate #livelove

Fight Hate Live Love

Faith Like a Child

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Mark 10:13-16 (New International Version)
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Several years ago, I was stuck in the Orlando airport, waiting for a long-delayed flight back to Washington. I had been in Orlando for a meeting, but we all know that the Orlando airport is really the Disney airport. Waiting in the terminal with me there were a ton of families with small children. When we heard about the first flight delay at about noon, we all settled in, taking out our phones, tablets, books. The parents took out coloring books for the kids, or bags of Cheerios.

But after about an hour, the kids were restless. They had had constant Disney-fied entertainment for many days, and now this delay was wreaking havoc on their little overstimulated brains.

Then I saw it happen. One little boy crossed between the seats to make friends with another little boy seated with his family. They started playing together with their toy cars. Then a little girl joined them, and a boy loaned her one of his extra cars. Their giggles and squeals of delight attracted more children. And then more.

These kids didn’t all speak the same language. But giggles sound the same in every country. They didn’t all look alike. They were a beautiful array of different colors. They certainly didn’t all know each other before that day. They were strangers to one another.

But you know what? They couldn’t have cared less.

I remember thinking: Right there. Right there is what the Kingdom of God looks like. Children of God, from many different kinds of backgrounds, many different cultures, all coming together, to enjoy each other, to share with each other, to love and appreciate each other, and to help each other get through the difficult patches of life.

The Kingdom of God
… about which Jesus talked so often.

In the above scripture passage from the 10th chapter of Mark, we see families bringing their children to see Jesus. Many of these families may have traveled a long distance, and not in the comfort of an air-conditioned car or plane.

But this was an important journey for these parents. It was common to bring young children to the rabbi to receive a blessing. The parents have probably heard about Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and they want their beloved children to receive a blessing from this incredibly powerful man. How disappointed they must have been to hear Jesus’ disciples say that Jesus was too busy.

The disciples weren’t trying to be mean. They truly believed that Jesus was too occupied with “important” issues to bless these children. They don’t even bother to tell Jesus that the families are there. They started to shoo them away.

Before the disciples can send the families on their way, Jesus calls out and demands that the children be brought to him.

The Message translation of Mark 10:14-16 reads like this:
“Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Can you imagine a more beautiful picture? Jesus, picking up each child gently, resting his hand upon their heads, and giving them a blessing.

But Jesus’ followers must have been confused. Children in their society were not considered to be full human beings. They were of very low status, and usually were just kept out of the way. But Jesus pulls them center stage, and then — shockingly — uses them as an example of how we all should be.

Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.

But what does it mean for us to accept the kingdom of God like a little child?

It starts with trust. And that has never been more important.

Because, let’s be honest, our world right now has some serious, legitimate trust issues. Our news is tragically filled with stories of distrust. And that distrust is erupting in anger and violence. Flick on your TV, and you’ll see suspicion and pain and confusion. Open up the newspaper, and you’ll read stories about yet another tragic shooting, another life lost, another family in grief. Turn on your computer, and you’ll see headlines about unrest, chaos, injustice, suffering, abuse.

I have absolutely not one tiny bit of doubt that this deeply grieves our God. Watching children of God harm and kill other children of God. Witnessing human beings made in God’s image doing terrible harm to other human beings made in God’s image. This is not what our loving God has in mind for God’s children.

So how do we respond? How do we trust in the midst of such painful distrust? What would it mean for us fight hate, to live love, to be a witness of childlike trust in the midst of a culture of distrust? And where do we even begin?

Kel'sKidsI have an image of trust in my head that I’d like to share with you today. My sister-in-law Kelly has seven kids, but back in 2003 there were just four of them: Sydney, Jesse, Andrew, and Liam. I loved going over to Kel’s house to visit them. It was always joyfully chaotic in that house. One day I walked in (the front door was always unlocked) and headed up the stairs.

Kelly shouted out that she was in the kitchen. I stood at the base of the short stairway that led up to the kids’ bedrooms, and yelled out a hello. Andrew, the oldest, came out first. He ran down the steps, gave me a hug, then went into the kitchen. Next came little Liam, the youngest, tottering down the steps. I picked him up and held him in a hug on my right hip. Next was Sydney, at that time the only girl. She ran down, too, and I scooped her up on my other hip.

Then Jesse peeked his head around the bedroom door. He had a devilish look in his big brown eyes. He stood at the end of the hallway, crouched down in a starting position, and then took off. Holding Liam on one hip and Sydney on the other, I suddenly realized that Jesse was going to leap off the top of the stairs, and come flying through the air to me.

It was one of those moments when time slows down. I can still picture the look of wild joy on his face as he raced towards me. And the feeling of panic that I had. I quickly dropped Sydney to her feet, and leaned over to put Liam down, standing back up just as Jesse reached the top step, and caught air with his arms reached out to me.

I caught him. He gave me a hug and a kiss, then shrugged out of my arms and followed his big brother into the kitchen. It all happened in about 10 seconds.

But here’s the thing. Jesse trusted me. In his face there was no shadow of doubt. He knew — he trusted — that his aunt would safely catch him. Because he knew that what would make me happiest would be to pull him into my arms, kiss his little forehead, and give him a big, huge hug. Because he trusted in my love for him.

That is childlike trust. I found this definition of trust online: to have complete confidence in; to rely or depend on; to expect confidently.

Our world has lost — if it ever really had it at all — the ability to trust like that. To trust in God. To trust in each other. In some cases to even trust in ourselves.

It’s no wonder that people are reacting out of their pain, when there is no foundation of grace and forgiveness and love on which to fall safely back.

Ever since I read Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King, Jr. has been one of my spiritual heroes. Before I even became a Christian in the late 90s, I listened to a compilation of his beautiful, wise sermons.

Several times over these past few difficult years for our country and our world, this quote has popped up on my Facebook feed, posted by people all around the globe: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

mlk

That sounds great. I mean really, really great. And it is! But it is only when we trust in God’s care for us, that we can do exactly what Dr. King implores us to do.

It is when we trust God’s love that we can have the boldness to face hatred with love. Only when we trust God’s promises that we can return peace for violence. Only when we trust in God’s guidance that we can carry light into the darkness.

It’s only when we trust that deeply that, like my nephew Jesse, we can with complete confidence leap into whatever God has in mind for us.

Because we know that God will be there already,
waiting for us with open arms.

As I pray for our world, begging God to help us, Proverbs 3:5-6 has been guiding my prayers:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
lean not on your own understanding.
Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will direct your paths.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” That word for “heart” in Hebrew is leb. It means far more than just feelings. It means who you are in your innermost self. It is the very core of who you are.

Trust in the Lord with your entire being, with all of yourself. Without reserve, with full confidence, with eager expectation of God’s doing something amazing. That is childlike trust in God.

When we trust in God’s love for us, God can use us in powerful ways. We can boldly step in to offer our support to people in pain as a reflection of God love for us. We can offer peace and healing in answer to violence. We can fight against injustice with bold grace.

Having that kind of trust gives rise to a powerful witness to the world.

It can turn enemies into allies.
Darkness into light.
Strangers into friends.
A world in pain into the Kingdom of God on earth.

#fighthate #livelove