Talk Is Cheap

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 
― Frederick BuechnerWishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

There are a lot of opinions out there. There are a lot of different ways to use our reason and our intellect to convince ourselves that we are OK, or that we are doing the right thing. There are myriad ways to read Scripture and interpret faith so that our own prejudices, biases, inclinations, and desires can be found comfortable, faithful and otherwise pleasing to our own sensibilities; to the sensibilities of our family, friends and neighbors, and can still conform to the tenets of our “doctrine” and  our “discipline.”

I can’t help but wonder, though, how our world might look if we each spent as much energy actually doing something about those things we argue about as we spend consulting our favorite gurus and posting our favorite memes to facebook.

For instance, in Iowa, there is a shortage of residential treatment facilities. There is evidence of human trafficking in both labor and sexual slavery. School food programs are all struggling, while students whose families are under physical, economic, and psychological distress continue to fall behind in the skills necessary to navigate an increasingly complicated world of credit lending and temporary employment. Youth mentorship programs do not have enough mentors to supply their need. People suffering from ongoing mental illness cannot receive the treatment they require. Air, land and water quality are degraded and deteriorating. Women in Iowa earn only 77% of what men make. Our churches, schools and neighborhoods are built more along the lines of separate and unequal, than along lines of an intentionally cross-cultural integration. Laborers work 16 and 20 hour days, while part-time employees without benefits are fired for refusing to work overtime.

And yet . . . there is a United Methodist Church in practically every community in Iowa. I find it impossible to believe that we, as a church, do not have the resources at our fingertips to actually provide a powerful and faithful response to the evil, injustice and oppression whose forms we meet on a daily basis. What if we decided to measure our faithfulness in lives transformed?  What if we looked to measure our righteousness such that every community in which we live is notably more compassionate than communities in which we do not live? What if we loved our neighbors so deeply and so radically we had no room left in our hearts for judgment?

There is a song by Casting Crowns with these lyrics,

But if we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way?”

Maybe we would get some things wrong. Maybe we would break some church rules and raise some eyebrows. Maybe our neighbors would look at us strangely and whisper about us behind our backs. But maybe, just maybe, our world would start to look a little bit more like the place God promises us it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement from the Iowa Nigeria Partnership

The Boko Haram and the Nigerian United Methodist Church

NigeriaPartnership_LOGO_SCXZXHQ3The country of Nigeria has been in the press with stories of bombings, kidnapping of 250+ girls, burning churches and causing turmoil in villages located in northern Nigeria.  Nigeria is the size of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa with a majority of Muslims living in the northern states which border Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Mali.  It is in this area that the militant group known as Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin,” is trying to impose their Sharia law. The Boko Haram targets Christians with hundreds being killed in the last several years.

The Nigerian Government has not addressed this terrorist problem thus allowing attacks to continue in northeast Nigeria.  With the recent kidnapping of 276 school girls taking exams in Chibok, a world wide protest has occurred with the cry being “bring back our girls.”  The school girls kidnapping – which the group has taken responsibility for – is just the latest attack in a brutal campaign of violence it has been waging for years against what it sees as the corrupt, Westernized and oil-obsessed government in the majority Christian south.

Nigeria officials have invited assistance from world powers as the U.S., United Kingdom, and China to help find the girls and train security and military forces.

The United Methodist Church of Nigeria is located in north central Nigeria, south of the states being affected by the Boko Haram.  In Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State and headquarters of the UMCN, there is a ban on the use of motorcycles in the city.  In Adamawa and Borno States cell phones and the internet had been banned.

Our group flies into Yola, located in the southern part of Adamawa State, and then drives to Jalingo where we stay at the church guest house. During our stay in Nigeria, we travel to very rural, remote villages, off the beaten path, where religious groups peacefully coexist.  In the past several years our stay in Nigeria has been without incident.

While we Iowans can return home, our Nigerian church friends live with insecurity and a sense of fear not knowing where, when or why an incident might take place.  Let us raise our prayers to God for their safety and ability to continue the Lord’s work in their land.  Pray that the kidnapped girls be found and returned to their homes.  Our Iowa work team of fifteen members will appreciate prayers as we depart for Nigeria on June 9.

For More Information about the special relationship between the United Methodist Church in Iowa and the United Methodist Church in Nigeria: Iowa Nigeria Partnership  or like on Facebook

Taking Time for Sorrow

16thstreetbaptistchurchThis week I need to stop for Sorrow. These last few days, post-resurrection days, have been heavy days for many in my circles, and I do not think they are taking the time to fully grieve. I do not think they have decided it is OK to stop for Sorrow. They are going to “soldier on.” They are engaged in the important work of the church. There are challenges which need adaptation, and there are people (other people) who need them more than they need time for themselves. There are deadlines, due dates, and time cards which need fulfilling.

They are strong people, people who are tough enough to bear their own burdens in silence, with a grin, and an uptilted chin. Maybe for them keeping busy and being needed is more comforting than sitting by the doorposts in dust and ashes.

But the wise know we all have to make time for Sorrow. Otherwise it will  bleed grey into the colors of our lives. It will hang on our backpacks and slow our steps. It will steal heat and warmth from us, causing us to live nurturing the slow burn of disappointment and rage.

So, this week, the problems of the world can roll along their way without my regard. Instead, I am sitting still with Sorrow, with my friend whose husband went to the hospital this week. I am singing songs with Sorrow, for my friend whose dream died rather than being born. I am learning lament from Sorrow, for my colleague who had a death in her family. I am tossing pebbles into the pool with Sorrow, for the ones whose hard work has only led to discouragement and frustrating dead ends. Sorrow and I are painting with sand for those who have spent the last two weeks recovering from crippling and life-threatening ills.

I offer this post to them, my friends, and to you if you need it, along with this small gift:

A Parable On Modern Life from Anthony De Mello’s The Song of the Bird

The animals met in assembly and began
to complain that humans were always
taking things away from them.

“They take my milk,” said the cow.
“They take my eggs,” said the hen.
“They take my flesh for bacon,” said the hog.
“They hunt me for my oil,” said the whale.

Finally the snail spoke. “I have something
they would certainly take away from me
if they could. Something they want
more than anything else.
I have TIME.”

You have all the time in the world, if you would give it to yourself. What’s stopping you?

From the Voice of a Devastated Earth

A friend challenged me to write this week about Mother’s Day. In my search for a liturgy on which to hang some mission and social justice ministries or movements, I came across this Mother’s Day Proclamation from 1870. In this time of escalating violence, of sabre-rattling nations, of famine, kidnapping, war, and slavery-catastrophes borne on the bodies of women and the children of women-I think its call still rings true:

Mother’s Day Proclamation-1870 by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then … women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God —
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

If you would answer this call-here are some “congress[es] of women without limit of nationality” which are promoting peace:

Healthy Families Healthy Planet

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

BringBackOurGirls

Half the Sky

Polaris Project

UN Women for Peace

Farming First

Women and Peace Organizations wiki

Saving the World’s Women-an interview with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf