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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Sincerely Held Religious Belief

I’ve been hearing a lot of news lately about efforts in many states across the country, including our own, to pass laws which purport to “protect religious freedom.” These legislative initiatives would allow businesses to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs” for refusing to provide goods or services. Some even would expand their reach into the public sector by trying to allow government employees to make the same choice; they would allow a civil clerk, for example, to choose whether or not to issue a marriage license to a couple legally permitted to obtain one, if the couple’s marriage would be objectionable by the clerk’s personal religious standards. None of these laws have passed (although one version is sitting on the Arizona governor’s desk for consideration as I write this); but the efforts continue.

As a minister of the Gospel, religious freedom is a particularly precious right to me, so these ongoing efforts have my concerned attention. Let me be as clear as I can be: these actions are NOT what protecting religious freedom looks like. In fact, it is precisely the opposite. Passing these sorts of laws would allow people to force their particular religious views on the rest of society. They would render U.S. citizens constantly unsure of whether they could trust equal access to government services or public businesses, solely because of someone’s idea of religious propriety. And it would establish an area where businesses could use the language of religion to exempt themselves from public laws everybody else has to follow.

It really does not matter that these laws have been aimed primarily at LGBT people and same-sex marriage. Over the years, people of strongly held opinions have had the same arguments over interracial or inter-religious marriage, or even remarriage after divorce. We’ve disputed in the same way over serving people of different races and ethnicities-- and indeed, religions. Over and over again, we’ve determined that the public marketplace is not the place to demand our individual views be upheld.

This movement is simply antithetical to the principles of religious freedom upon which our country is founded. Not incidentally, I believe it is also contrary to the gospel message of embracing love which Jesus Christ offered to all who came to him. But my local grocer doesn't need to agree with me on that in order to sell me apples and bananas.

I am grateful from the bottom of my heart to live in a country where I am free to proclaim the ridiculously all-encompassing nature of God’s love from our pulpit each and every Sunday. If another pastor wishes to proclaim a different message in another pulpit— well, the guarantees of our Constitution permit that, too. However, a public business owner or government employee who cannot serve everyone with equal respect, does not have the right to use “religion” as an excuse.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Extreme Random Friday Five

Random in the questions; but also in that I haven't done a Friday Five in halfway to forever, and have no reason for doing today's version, other than because I can.

So with thanks to Karla at RevGals, and without further ado...

1. How are you?  What’s up with you?

So far there is no migraine, so that is an excellent start to the day.  This is a busy weekend:  I hadn't been planning to preach on Sunday until yesterday (I was supposed to be away at a camp event that got cancelled), so I'm prepping a sermon.   We're also hosting a cookout on Sunday afternoon at the house.  Lots of getting ready in the next couple days, but all for good stuff.

2.  Last Saturday, I went to the outlet store and stocked up on underwear for the year.  I love a bunch of new fresh underdrawers!  I also love a cabinet full of paper towels.   What silly thing makes you happy? 

In the midst of said busy, I will be having a pedicure.  I have learned that pretty toes make me happy in a way that really has no logic. But happy does not need logic.  It just is.

3.  Give a shout out to someone you love, appreciate, or want to thank!
Our granddaughter, Lady Elaine, turns 4 this weekend.  What a joy she is!  Because of her I laugh, and get at least one full body hug, every single day.  Priceless.

4. Miss Kansas has the Serenity Prayer tatooed on the side of her body.  I sadly do not have a tatoo, and maybe you do, but if you were going to get a prayer tatooed on the side of your body, what would it be? 

Temp tattoos are all well and good, and sometimes highly entertaining; but I am unlikely ever to get a real one.  Anybody sticking a needle in my body had best have a good medical reason for doing so. In the unlikely event I ever change my mind on that score, I think it would say something about grace.

5.  Use some or all or a form of the following words in a sentence:   jello, kittens, mercy, dump-truck, tabuleh, terror, skipping, monkey, Rev. , health, and snoring.

It would take a dump-truck of jello to keep the kittens from sleeping in the tabbouleh; but mercy sakes, the snoring is wreaking terror upon Rev's mental health, so she is skipping straight to the Chunky Monkey ice cream.

Saturday, May 04, 2013


When I began blogging, "Social Media" was not the juggernaut we know today.  Oh, I am by no means a forerunner; my initial exposure to blogging was part of a class requirement at my seminary, hardly an institution known for living on the leading edge of new technology.  "Online Journaling" had been extant for a decade or more at that point.

That said, it was newish, from a more widely known perspective-- and the now more popular platforms of Facebook and Twitter did not yet exist. When our professors introduced us to class blogs, and the requirements of posting and commenting, it was certainly new to me and most of my classmates.  So in addition to the functional instructions on how to access the blog, post, edit, and comment, we had a discussion about the nature of public discourse.  We were reminded that the Internet was a widely public forum-- much more so than the papers and reports and other projects that were our usual assignments.  I can still hear AKMA's gentle voice reminding us that whatever we wrote would be "readily accessible to anyone-- including Bishops and Standing Committees and Commissions on Ministry."

In fact, this was part of the purpose:  we needed to learn to communicate while always keeping in mind that our public discourse was just that-- public. And we needed to understand that nothing posted online, however carefully "protected" by passwords or firewalls or pseudonyms, is ever private or free from the possibility of question or argument.  If you don't want to be associated with it, or if you're not prepared to defend it, then don't post it.

On Facebook I continue to operate with this reality in mind.  I am responsible for anything I post, both in content and in tone.  This is especially true when I link to someone else's work (video, article, blog, etc.).  That's why there are a lot of posts out there to which I do not link.  Some are simply distasteful on their face.  Others may indeed be views I share, but they are expressed in a way that is disagreeable, snarky or rude; that is not the way I want to be known, or behavior I wish to uphold, so I don't share them. 

And sometimes I simply do not have the energy or inclination to defend a post.  Will it surprise you to learn that not everyone I know and love agrees with me on every issue?  So sometimes we have discussions about things that I post, or that they do; and I value those conversations.  But Virtual Reality is not the only reality I own; Corporeal Life also matters, and often trumps.  I have other ways to spend my time and energy than online conversations.  So sometimes I don't post the link.

But if I do post something, then I expect to stand behind it.

A while back, a relative of mine-- someone with whom I grew up, and who I still care about-- "defriended" me on Facebook.  I didn't notice right away; this dear soul is not in the habit of posting daily, and sometimes several days would go by without seeing the familiar name in my news feed. 

But I did notice.  I missed the postings about family, and life activities.  I missed the comments on my own news feed as well, reminding me of connections we share.  I missed family.  So I asked-- what had happened?  Had this been intentional, or an interface glitch of some sort?

The response I eventually received was a comment about "being tired of defending myself."

I was stricken over this.  As it happens, we are often on the opposite sides of a variety of issues.  Through this person's links I would often read views and positions that were troublesome to me.  Occasionally I chose to respond-- to ask a question, or to comment from the other side of an issue.  Now I wondered:  when I did so, had I been overly harsh?  Had my critiques crossed the line at some point to personal attack?  Was I in some way rude, or disrespectful, or unkind?

I cannot go back and read them to check, of course, as I no longer have access to that page.  But so far as I'm aware, I always chose to question or comment on the opinion expressed, rather than the person posting it.  I try very hard as a matter of course to limit disagreement or dispute to the specific subject at hand, without insult, vulgarity or sarcasm.  I had no reason to do otherwise, and every reason to be careful.  After all, this was someone I've known my whole life, with whom I share some deep and beloved roots.  This was family. 

If I knew this would be the result, would I have done anything different?  To be honest, I don't know that I would.   Don't get me wrong-- I wholly regret that this connection has been severed.  I miss hearing about that branch of our common family tree-- pictures and updates, joys and concerns.  I miss sharing with someone who gets my background and foundation because we hold so much of it in common.  And it still hurts, that a desire to post political views without dispute was sufficient reason for abruptly severing our relationship.  And I pray for reconciliation.

But I still believe that a posted link is the responsibility of the poster, as well as the original writer.  And part of that responsibility includes being willing to engage in conversation about, and sometimes to defend, views which are made public, even if it is by the magic of social media. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Remembering Mama

Today is the anniversary of my mother's death.  I wrote the original version of the following 10 years ago, and updated it only a little.  That's all it needed; some things never change.


She was a Depression baby, born to a family hit hard, dressed in homemade clothes and love.

She was a tomboy, playing baseball and mumbledy peg and shooting marbles in the cinders in the alley. She drew constantly, sketches in notebooks and on scrap paper. And she read-- Lord, she read.  Zane Grey and Frank Yerby, adventures and history, fiction and biography. New books of any sort were relished, and old favorites were cherished as old friends.  "Don't ask which ones to bring home from the library; start in the 'A's' and work your way around."

She was smart. It took her five years to graduate college (the first in her family) but she had 4 degrees when she was done: Math. Physics. History. Government. "Everything’s worth knowing, and there's no such thing as wasted education. "

She married a boy she met in her high school geometry class-- the swimmer with the wavy hair and the ice blue eyes. Together they raised three children: demanding, challenging, and inordinately proud parents.    "Never settle for less than your best.""Why yes, they are marvelous, aren't they?"

She was a "doer." Episcopal Church Women and Sunday School teacher, golf lessons and painting lessons, garden club president and PTA room mother. "Everything's a challenge: find the most efficient way, get it done quicker, so there's time for more of what you want to do. "

She was a survivor. Diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disease, she was put to bed at 38 and told to stay there or she might not see 40. The kids were 13, 10 and 6.   No more doing, except in her head. And she smiled, and continued loving and learning. The master bedroom became the family room and stayed that way. She kept track of the world, figured out the stock market, and taught those kids to deal with life, all from the left side of a king-size mattress.  Like everything else, she learned to manage, to get the most out of what she had. "That's life, and at least I'm still here to live it. "

Fifteen years ago today she died, but she still touches me when I least expect it.  Her hands on my keyboard. Her voice when I answer the phone.  Her scent on the blouse in the back of my closet.

Love you, Mama.

Rector’s Corner

I wrote this for our upcoming parish newsletter.  Nothing profound; just thought I'd share.


On days like this, it’s hard to stay indoors.  The skies are clear and the temps are warm (but not too warm yet!).  The yard was beckoning as I ate breakfast, and I’m almost sure I heard a siren's song calling me from the corner by the door where my sneakers and garden gloves reside.  I want to be out walking, or digging in the dirt, or... well, something other than sitting at the computer, anyway. 

But here I am.  And one good thing about it is that I can look out my office window and I see that I’m not the only one itching to be outdoors.  Every day there are parents who bring young children to swing or slide or climb on our playground equipment.  Older children come on their own to play catch in the grass, or ride their bikes and skateboards up and down and around the parking lot.  As I go in or out the office door, I’ll notice the occasional neighbor (adult or child) walking the labyrinth.

Those of us who drive to church from elsewhere in the Tri-Cities sometimes forget how much a part of this community we really are.  Some churches with buildings in more commercial locations only have neighbors during business hours; but life on this residential street stirs around us and touches us 24/7. 

Jesus talks a lot about neighbors, and about the importance of loving them-- something so important that it becomes part of his Great Commandment. “Who is my neighbor?” someone asked him.  Although Jesus makes it clear that we are all neighbors to one another, sometimes the answer is even more obvious. 

One of the ways we show love and care for our neighbors around the church is by maintaining our grounds and encouraging their use. Are there other ways we can be the kind of loving neighbors Jesus commands us to be?

Perhaps we need to spend some time outside to find out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Say what?

As the initial shock of the latest multiple murder settles out, people are beginning to speak. Often this is a good thing:  prayers and laments of the faithful rising before God, words of love and comfort to grieving families... these are ways we begin to cope, and to heal.

But sometimes, my friends... sometimes people say things that are not helpful. And I've about lost patience.

Now, I am not referring to those who, with the best of intentions, inadvertently blurt out some trite phrase that is more appalling than appealing, more hindrance than help. They aren't the ones who get under my skin.  Mostly I'm able to remind myself that they mean well, overlook the action, and focus on the intent and the concern behind it.  After all, it happens to all of us at one time or another.  Goodness knows I've had my own share of foot-in-mouth moments.

 No, what I mean are the kinds of things people say with far less altruistic motives. Like...

"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools."

First, I find the suggestion that people in that school in Connecticut, or any school, do not or cannot have lives of faith and prayer simply because some official does not force the issue, to be simply ludicrous.  It certainly did not stop me, or many of my friends, or my children and their friends.  In fact, if I dug out my old (public) high school yearbook I could show you a picture of our church's youth group.  It's not in there because it was a school activity; they took our picture because we were a group of students taking part in our community in this way.  It was something we did on our own because it was important to us.  Which is the way faith, and prayer, works best.

But this statement is worse than ludicrous.  Quite bluntly, to say that God has been somehow "removed" from school is both arrogant and blasphemous on its face. Do we honestly believe that any human being, or any human action, can possibly be powerful enough to keep God out of anywhere??

I do not believe this has anything to do with comfort or good intentions.  I believe this is an effort to make political points using religious language as a political tool.  Offensive at anytime, and doubly so in the face of this horrible tragedy.

Children didn't get killed in Connecticut because Christian prayers are not required in public schools. Children got killed because a damaged soul didn't get the help he needed and had easy access to weapons specifically designed for wholesale slaughter.  If you want to get political, address those issues.  And by all means, pray while you're doing it-- for guidance, for peace, for grace and comfort, for justice... or whatever else it occurs to you to take before God in prayer.

But do not presume that you have any say over where God is, or is not.  I guarantee that's above your pay grade.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How long, O Lord?

As I write this, my heart aches. I can hardly stand to watch the news coverage-- the shooting at a school in Newport, Connecticut-- and yet I can't look away.

More than 2 dozen people shot and killed at close range. Most were children-- small people, 5 to 10 years old, murdered while they sat in their classrooms.  A community has been forever wounded, and the pain radiates around the world.

It's the worst time, but not the first time, of course. The first school shooting I remember was in Winnetka, IL in 1988. I was a new mother, and I remember clutching our infant daughter and rocking, in tears as I watched the coverage. 

But it goes back way further than that.  I had no idea, until I found this list of U.S. school shootings, that this phenomenon goes back throughout our history.

And it's not just schools.  Remember the mall in Oregon last week?  The movie theatre in Colorado a few months ago?

And although these horrible things mostly involve guns, and mostly happen here in the U.S., it's not only guns, and it's not only here.  The news reports for today-- the same day as the Connecticut shooting-- also include someone who stabbed 22 children at a school in China.

Lord, have mercy.  I pray, and I ask...

How long before we decide that weapons-- guns or any other-- do not provide a solution to our ills and fears? How long before we understand that striking out in response to rage is not the answer? How long before we realize that violence, by whatever means, is not redemptive?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Testing: 1, 2, 3...

So, I'm trying something new: texting to the blog. Let's see if it works.