Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Road Trip Reflections

This is an article I wrote for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette for the Faith Matters column in July. The pictures are mine. 

West Texas Windmills
My facebook feed is spiced up this time of year with vacation photos instead of just recipes and political posts.  Summer is the season of road trips and I’ve been on a few myself this year, seeing the Rocky Mountains and the desert for the first time. I began to notice something on the long drives through unfamiliar geography. People’s day-to-day existence in other terrain mean their days are spent much differently than mine. The definition of thriving, worries and friendliness vary from place to place.  
Santa Rosa Lake, New Mexico

In a country that feels like it is struggling to understand each other in every way, I wondered if we could find some peace by welcoming a conversation about these differences.  So each week this summer at our church, we have had a little interview with someone who lived someplace else: From small towns to the desert, mountains to prairies, beaches and woods, we explored new places with guides who lived there. They told us what was good about those places and what was difficult. They told us about the quirks: like my friend who didn’t know she had curly hair until she left the desert for Arkansas’s humidity.  In hearing their stories, it was easy to see how a place can affect your ability to connect with other people, with God and even with yourself. The heat, isolation, and mountain heights could all be reasons to live separately from other people, whereas the beach or jungle could have you so entwined with other people that you long for solitude. All of the places had real dangers that could inspire exaggerated fear, like bears, tarantulas, pirana or hurricanes. And yet, people learn to put the danger into accurate perspective and go about their lives.   We accentuated our explorations by eating foods and reading scripture tied to each landscape. Our communion table held bread and wine, and sometimes berries and mushrooms, pickled cactus, or gorp to nourish our souls and our bodies. 

San Ysidro, Colorado
It’s not a particularly profound experiment, but it does seek to address on a very small scale our human tendency to huddle up in homogenous groups and exclude outsiders.  It’s been a summer of road trips but it has also been a summer of immigrants detained at the border and members of congress being told to go back to where they came from. Our disconnection from each other is painful, even more painful for me, as a faith leader trying to shepherd minds and hearts to always consider the question of “who is my neighbor?”

I would love to finish up by reminding us of how we are all human, all worthy and desirous of love, all similar enough to get over our conflicts.  But we’re not the same. We are very different. What I valued and believed in a small east coast rural town is totally different from what I’ve come to value and believe living among a more diverse population.  I wouldn’t have changed my mind about things if I hadn’t had a change of scenery, physically and metaphorically. So go on a road trip. Go see other people and places. May your fears of other people diminish and your appreciation for their way of life grow. You don’t have to stop being you to start loving your neighbor. 



Wetherill Mesa, Colorado

Telluride, Colorado

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

"These are the Good Old Days"

I was super excited when I saw one of my favorite quotes on the wall of one of my favorite leaders: Brene Brown.  Locals may have also seen it at the lovely Freckled Hen Farmhouse:

"These are the good old days." 


Chalk it up to being an enneagram 4, but I am one of the most sentimental, nostalgia-loving people you will ever meet. My whole business is a nod to the past.  I have been deep-diving into the past to find meaning for my entire life.  I guess that makes me hyper-aware of the pitfalls of this orientation to life as well.  From the illusion of the simplicity of Amish living to the political mantra of MAGA devotees, an unobserved affinity to the past can be downright dangerous.

We were made to live in the present.  I can make such a sweeping statement based on the obvious. We have no control over the past. And only what we do in the present can create an affect on the future. We are stuck in the here and now.

Which leads me to another favorite quote, from Wolfhart Pannenberg:

"God is the power of the future." 

This statement fills me with hope. Because many people are afraid of the future.  Some are afraid of what the world looks like if climate change is not addressed. And some are afraid they won't be able to convince the ones they love to follow Jesus and get into heaven.  Still others fear what their lives will look like if other people that don't look like them get to move close to them and make choices that affect them.

Not much good has ever been accomplished by leveraging fear.  Golden calves have been erected. Millions of humans exterminated.  It gets incredibly difficult to differentiate between hate and fear; they are very different but they look incredibly similar.  Without practical plans to face the future with faith and love, humans can do some terrible things.

It is my goal to speak and lead from the confidence of God's perspective, not from my nostalgia or my fear. I don't know who you have selected to be your leaders in how you think and make decisions for yourself, but I would like to suggest that they should be people who are interested in taking you forward, not back.  Fear is not your holiest motivation.  Over and over again God communicated to humans to not be afraid.  Because God is not afraid.  God is the power of the future.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

An Ash Wednesday Reflection

As the cross is formed in ashes over your head, we say the words 
"From dust you came, to dust you will return."  
Ash Wednesday is an invitation to remember that life is unpredictable, 
but it has a definite start and a definite end -
which lends the middle meaning it would not have otherwise.   

It's easy to get caught up in the dust part of things, 
the everyday responsibilities and goals we create for ourselves, 
and to lose awareness of the Source of our being.  

We are made of dust, but we were made by God.  
In God, "we live and move and have our being." 
So as we observe Lent, let us also observe ourselves.  
Let us take notice of how we have forgotten our connection with God, 
how we have numbed ourselves from feeling God's love, 
and how we have covered ourselves in leaves of shame for not being enough.  

May this be a time to re-connect yourself to Gods love and care for you, 
to let go of habits and tendencies that deaden your spirit 
and be set free to live a life of connection and intimacy with 
the One who knows you best. 
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