A plane is hijacked and is rammed into a building. Concertgoers are gunned down during a band’s performance. A bridge collapses at the height of rush. Two young teenaged girls go for a hike in the woods and are savagely murdered. An earthquake strikes a poor country, killing scores of people. A tsunami wipes out a small village on the seashore. Tragedies big and small, known and unknown come into people’s lives and can tear them apart. We are left with questions. Why did this happen? Why did God allow it to happen? Why did this person die and not that person? Why do tragedies strike there and not somewhere else? These are some of the questions people have as they hear about a tragedy that took place in Galilee. Pilate, the governor of the area, killed Galileans, Jews from Jesus’ home region. The Galileans were making sacrifices to God when Pilate had them executed. It’s Jesus who asks the questions on everyone’s minds: Is it because those Galileans were worse sinners than other Galileans or other Jews that this happened to them? Did they do something to deserve such a death? And it’s Jesus who gives the answer: No. Or when that tower in Siloam fell, were those 18 people killed standing in the wrong place because they were sinners? And again Jesus answers: no. If bad things happen to a person did the people deserve it? It’s a persistent question. And it goes with a persistent assumption: that people get in life what they deserve. It presumes there is a connection between the kind of people we...
On the road

On the road

Jesus: I am sending you on your way. Disciples: What will it be like on the way? Jesus: You will be like defenseless lambs among wolves. Disciples: What do we take with us? Jesus: Nothing. Disciples: Nothing?! Jesus: Don’t take anything with you that will make the trip easier, safer or more comfortable? Disciples: Who will take care of us? Jesus: Some people along the way will be hostile. Shake off their dust and move along. Others will welcome you. Stay with them and be at peace. Disciples: Jesus… Jesus: Just go. I will see you as you wander. The first time, I traveled to a country in which I didn’t know the language, I went to Mexico to visit a seminary friend who was serving as a temporary missionary, while he learned Spanish. One day, we went to visit a member of his congregation outside the little town where he served. We took a bus and then three buses and finally were deposited at the end of a dirt road. The bus driver could not or would not explain why we had to get off or where we were. It looked like the middle of nowhere. Scrub brushes and tumbleweeds. No people, no house or vehicle in sight. We were self-sufficient Americans, but let’s see what we didn’t have: we didn’t have a cell phone because there was a time people didn’t have cell phones, no car, no water or food. Our passports were back at the church. We didn’t have much money between the two of us. And did I mention that I didn’t speak Spanish and...
UNDIVIDED in a race conscious America #40acts blog

UNDIVIDED in a race conscious America #40acts blog

Act 7 of #40acts brought the challenge to learn more about those who are different from me, to interact with people who have a different race or culture than I, to be an ally to the other. My family is part of me.  My family members are also different than me.  I watch people, in public settings, struggle to put my mixed-race family together – literally.  My family members of color have a different experience of America than mine. My husband grew up in the segregated South. Our daughters are often seen first as Black, and then as young women. I am still learning how racism functions in America and how to participate in change. Pressed by the challenge UNDIVIDED, I changed my schedule on Thursday.  I needed to show up for the second meeting of a loose Roundtable on Race hosted by Whitewater Valley Presbytery.  We are a motley crew:  longtime activists, young and committed, just becoming aware.  Some host programs on anti-racism for whole school systems. Some are prepared to address the implicit bias of the Indianapolis Police Department.  I need resources for our youth group. One participant asked whether we grew up understanding racism as “personal interactions” or “history and systems.” Then, she offered the analysis: race prejudice (individual) + misuse of power by systems and institutions (systemic) = racism. I grew up understanding that racism developed out of a historical system of oppression, which was reinforced by ongoing systems of power.  As I have aged, people may have changed, but much of the system hasn’t. It takes time, courage and humility to come alongside and...
changing thoughts and actions #40acts blog

changing thoughts and actions #40acts blog

I have to admit that #40acts is a challenge.  Every day there is something new to think about, and many, if not all of the Acts require changes in thinking or acting, and that’s not always easy. Day 1 got me praying for guidance on how to live a “generous life”. On Day 2 I made plans to keep a blanket and some $ 1 dollar bills in my car. Day 3 was all about helping or doing something in our community.  Faith is doing that as well.  I am still thinking about who and where to give “extra” support. On Day 4 I enjoyed an electronic-free day, interacting with several old and new friends at Faith’s spring congregational retreat. On Day 5 I realized that I know someone in prison, and I have blocked calls from the jail where he is awaiting trial because he is asking for money.  I have added him to my daily prayer list, and I have contacted his sister see if I can do anything. Day 6 made me actively concentrate on what others were saying.  I found that it worked really well. Day 7 made me conscious of differences in the backgrounds and ages of people I encounter.  There are things I can do when I am with them.  Whether it be in exercise class passing a ball back and forth with an 86 year old or making goo-goo eyes with an eight-month-old as I talked to her mother in line at COSTCO, I can offer a smile, a compliment, or a kind word to anyone.  Actually getting involved with someone from a...
I was prepared: #40acts blog

I was prepared: #40acts blog

I didn’t feel as if I had any great ideas for the Day 2 challenge – to be prepared to offer help. I wished I had a creative idea of things to gather up and keep on hand. However, I remembered that, similar to the story told that day, I have often thought someone could use some emergency flairs to be safe in a traffic incident. I decided to order some. I, also, thought I should get a stack of single dollar bills to keep on hand because…people need cash now and then. I decided I would get some from the bank. I didn’t make the emergency kit order or go to the bank. Then, yesterday, I was approached in Broad Ripple by a man who was looking for money for a meal. Usually I would shake my head, avert my eyes and move on. This time, without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “Hold on”, crawled in the back of my car for my purse, rooted around in my wallet and produced a five dollar bill. It was what I was prepared to do. When I looked up, the man was already walking away. I walked after him. When I handed him the bill, he tried to say something, choked up and ended up grasping my hand and shaking it warmly. I’m going to order that emergency kit, right now. Check out #40 acts.  Who knows how you are prepared to be...