Category Archives: Faith

Finding Calm in the Coronavirus Storm

Each night as I try to fall asleep, I can’t help but imagine dying of coronavirus pneumonia in a hospital without my family. I turn my mind to God and fall asleep.

Each day, I think about the reality that people I love will certainly die in the next three months. Who will care for their families? Will I be one of the grieving or the dead, or both? The grief around us will become overwhelming as it is now in other parts of the world. As someone said recently, the freight train coming towards us in the U.S. has become a bullet train. I push the thoughts out of my mind and go about my day.

Several times each day, I imagine the people who are sit at their kitchen table wonder how to pay their bills and rent, buy groceries, and care for their loved ones after suddenly losing their jobs. At other times, I think about the thousands of homeless people and refugees with no way to wash their hands and clean their belongings frequently, and no way to self-quarantine to stay safe. How terrifying that must be. I say a quick prayer for them.

At other times I think about those who risk their lives and their families to work on our behalf, among them medical personnel from doctors, nurses, Certified Nurse Attendants to custodians; grocery and delivery workers, utility workers, first responders; government and community leaders; military personnel; transit drivers; Meals on Wheels providers; nursing home staff; reporters; and factory, farm, and warehouse workers. I am awed by their courage and commitment to the common good. With an aching heart, I lift a prayer on the wind.

I think of those who must still go to work because their bosses require them to do so, those who cannot afford to stay home, and the 70% of workers whose jobs cannot be done from home. These are brave people, whether they consider themselves brave or not, for whom I am unspeakably grateful and afraid. Be with them, God, and with their loved ones.

I don’t have children at home who need my attention, steadiness, love, and assurance, and for whom I need to be an referee or instant teacher as we remain in quarantine. It’s only my husband and I who will get cabin fever, feel bored, anxious, or irritable. Fortunately, we have a steady source of income and haven’t lost jobs. As an epidemiologist said recently, streaming Netflix while sitting on our sofa doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything to save the world, but we are. Not spreading the virus saves loved ones, caregivers, the world.

I know I am not alone in these feelings. I invite you to pause and pray for all of the people above, some names known to you but most unknown. Pray each day in your own words or with no words. If you are not a praying person, use the guided meditation below.

Breathe slowly several times. Settle your heart. Hold person or group in your mind. Imagine a gentle breeze of peace moving over and around them. Imagine them growing calm, then filling with wisdom and insight. Imagine a path opening before them through a forest and that the Holy One who created the universe will hold them and care for them as they walk that path, no matter what comes. Let that same peace and confidence and courage enter your being, as well. Breathe. Open your eyes and continue your day.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be at peace. The Holy One who created the universe will hold you and care for you in the days ahead, no matter what comes.

Is God a Narcissist?

It was gorgeous. The highway through northeastern Oregon crossed rolling hills of range land covered in still-green grass and scrubby sagebrush. Bluffs of creased rock rose beside the road. Tall trees surrounded solitary ranch houses in scattered valleys. It was the type of landscape that makes a person seem small in the universe. Psalm 8 came to mind.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established,
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God…
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands…

Psalm 8, New Revised Standard Version

My in-laws have lived for almost 90 years on farmland in south-central Idaho and are grudgingly considering a move to a retirement community in the other end of the state. We had just visited them to hear about their decision and help them prepare for the move. Their minds tell them to move but their hearts want to stay. Their lives had meaning in Twin Falls where they were rooted and their friends lived. Could they find new meaning and purpose in Spokane?

Divine Narcissism

As I drove home to Seattle, I thought about the fragility of life, the passage of years and the meaning of life. In eighth grade I had to learn the first question of the Westminster Catechism in order to join the church and the words of the Catechism returned to mind now: “What is the chief and highest end of man [sic]? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Hearing that voice of the Catechism in my head put me over the edge. Such beauty and such sorrow just to glorify God? Really? What kind of divine being would create a world like that? It sounds like the ultimate in narcissism and selfishness.

If some human dude told me my main purpose in life is to glorify him; the healthiest, wisest thing I could do would be to laugh in his face and run the other direction. If self-denigration is a prescription for a stifling, abusive human-human relationship, why would it be different for a human-divine relationship and worldview? If it’s unhealthy between human beings, it seems an equally unhealthy way to think about God.

Another View

However, because human beings are meaning-makers, myth-makers, I needed an alternative way to think about the meaning of human life and my place in the world that would give my in-laws and me something purposeful and worth living for.  I threw my anger, questions, despair and hope at the universe as I drove on in silence and beauty, wrestling with the Divine while my husband and dogs slept. 

Just the day before, I had held a blue and white plate painted in 1765 and wondered whose table it had originally graced, for what was it used, and what stories were told at that table. I considered that in fifty years, someone may hold items I now treasure and wonder about the people owned them, as well.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8 , New Revised Standard Version

I had done my best all that weekend to be patient and kind as my beloved mother-in-law sorted through one-half of one closest. I do my best to be a good daughter as my mother progresses into severe dementia. I try to find meaning and purpose in my own life while dealing with one health issue after another. I have tried to find God and purpose for life in all of these situations. Here’s where I’ve ended up:

Plants and animals evolve. Rocks wear away in the elements. Rivers carve new paths. So, too, our understanding of that which is beyond our comprehension needs to be open to new path, new crevices, evolving into new ways of thinking and believing about eternal matters. Here’s what I believe, what I reaffirmed as I drove through the beauty of western Oregon with a heart full of love and grief:

Partnership with God

I believe that each of us in this world is a partner with that which created the universe. We are therefore to cherish the world and all its life forms. I believe that each of us and all of us together exist as partners with the Creator of the universe to bring health, wholeness, and fullness of life to everyone. To do so, we must live justly, practice kindness, and walk humbly, as the prophet Micah says. In the words of Jesus, we are called to be servants of all and to give our life for others.

I don’t know where life leads, but as surely as birds sing and flowers bloom and the sun rises each morning, humans are created to bring goodness into the world; and beauty, and joy, and love. I believe the world is still being created and that we are part of the process of creation unfolding. I believe not in obliteration of self to God, but partnership with God.

Some would say God is near. I’d like to believe that. I don’t know. In the meantime, I feel as one who has stepped off a cliff and holds on by her fingernails. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” If there is a God, he/she/it is different from anything we can conceive, so our descriptions need always to be conditional.

I continue to act my way into being. Do good. Affirm beauty. Live. Love.

So, what do you think? What would you say is the purpose of human life? Are you searching? Let me know. Let’s talk.

I

Pedophelia Is Not Christian

It’s past time to speak on behalf of the Christian Church and its witness.  Pedophilia is not Christian; no matter how much Roy Moore, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and some Evangelical Christians try to claim otherwise. The God of love and mercy for whom Jesus lived and died weeps and rages each time someone is raped, molested or sexually assaulted in any way.  God knows that even one such experience has a lifelong impact.  No matter how much someone claims these acts are done under the guise God’s will, destroying the lives of others in such a heinous way is never God’s will.

Brave women are sharing publicly for the first time their stories of being sexually assaulted as teenagers (as young as 8th grade) by the current Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore.  These women shared their stories privately years ago with family and friends; they did not wait until Moore was running for national office before telling what happened.  In addition, multiple people have reported that Moore was banned from a shopping mall and YMCA in his hometown in the 1980’s because of his known predilection for young girls.

Disgustingly, but sadly and not surprisingly, most of the political world, conservative media, and many Evangelical Christians are now contorting themselves to support this pedophile’s election to Congress.  Few call for him to pull out of the race or for voters to elect someone else (even a Democrat, if necessary).  I wish I could pray, “God, have mercy on their souls,” but I can’t yet.  Maybe I’ll have to leave the decision about mercy and forgiveness up to God.

Making their position even worse, most of the people who continue to support Roy Moore see no contradiction between his alleged behavior and his claim of Christian righteousness.   They continue to wrap him in a protective cloak of conservative Christianity because they think he is an exemplar of Christian morality.  And…wait for it…They argue that Jesus considers Moore’s behavior and multiple sexual assaults of girls inconsequential compared to the importance of having a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.  How dare they!

An Alabama state official, Jim Zeigler, has been quoted nationally claiming that God has no problem with an adult male having sex with a 14-year-old girl.  As evidence of God’s benevolent stance toward such behavior, Zeigler claims that Jesus Christ is the off-spring of a sexual union between Mary (at age 14) and Joseph (an adult man to whom she was engaged), and that this was obviously sanctioned by God.  Most Christians I know would be horrified if they took time to realize what his argument really says.  The Bible says Jesus was conceived by Mary and the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.  This is known as the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth.  Those who acquiesce to these convenient convolutions of Christianity to elect a Republican pedophile to the U.S. Senate cover Christianity in slime.

Pedophilia is neither moral, nor legal, nor beneficial to a healthy society.  It has no place in our homes, schools, houses of worship, communities, or Congress.

Sexual molestation and assault always violate the victim/survivor’s humanity and being, but particularly so when she or he is a child or teen.  It ruptures the very foundation of Jesus’ message of love.  It is pure evil.

Therefore, I end where I began:  Pedophilia is not Christian.

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us” (I John 4:7-8, 12).