Stand in the Breach…

…So I have just spent the last thirty days writing political posts on a blog that was never supposed to be political.

But these last three years have left me with something that needs to be more than a month-long rant. What unsettles me the most are the reasoned, thoughtful,  pieces that discuss the loss of democracy through authoritarianism. Do you know how it happens? Good people like you and me simply tune out what is happening because: A) We can’t believe it has come to this; B) We simply zone out because of A;  C) We don’t know what we can possibly do against something so BIG; or D) We don’t talk about it because our friends voted for the other party, and we know what discussing politics has done  does to friends and families.

But this is important, friends: It is no longer Politics As Usual. We bury our heads in the sand at our country’s peril. (And believe me, I am a long-time ostrich…) And so I pulled my head out of the sand, blinked in the sunlight, and wrote some things here that might offend, but I have tried to write them in the most reasoned way I could. We do not need to add another screaming voice to this already polarized country.

I was reading my morning scriptures today — I’m in Ezekiel (!) — and I was struggling hard to understand what Chapter 22 was telling me, when I came to verse 30: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

No, it isn’t about building a wall. (Please read this post, if you need to hear my views on walls….) It is about being righteous, standing up for righteousness, for justice, for mercy, for love. Righteousness must be tempered by love, or else we have someone who is a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal; love must be tempered by righteousness or we have wantonness. Justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy on its own without justice makes us doormats. Love & Righteousness, Justice & Mercy–they belong on opposite sides of the same coin; one without the other is an imbalance, a lack of harmony, a breach…

These days the country is certainly imbalanced, harmony is hard to find, and perhaps the breach is miles wide, but what is democracy worth? For my entire lifetime, democracy has not needed to be fought for, and perhaps we have grown soft and complacent, thinking the United States of America was the founding of democracy, and we needn’t worry about it.

  • After all, don’t we have the Constitution?
  • Don’t we have three branches of government that balance each other?
  • Aren’t we all certain of our freedom and our voting rights?
  • Dictators and tyrants and authoritarian rulers are not our allies, are they?

If the events of the last few months have you wondering or worrying about these questions, I suggest that we remember that it  wasn’t so long ago, we needed to fight for democracy. The odd thing about now is that it seems our democracy is deteriorating from within. And we can’t agree about who is doing the crumbling as the walls fall to pieces with people on either side shouting and throwing rocks.

What we need is courageous people to stand in the breach. Courageous people to say  “Stop shouting.” “Stop Tweeting.”  Put down the ugly sign in your hand, turn to the person next to you, and offer it to them.

If the last three years have taught us anything, it is that Donald Trump cannot do that. He is a divider, not a unifier. He thrives on deceit, aspersions, boasting, and bullying… If we have four more years of this division and anger, I fear the democracy we used to pride ourselves on, will be gone.

Will we stand in the breach, or have we gone too soft after years of easy living? Will we offer our hands to those who are different from us? Are we willing to do the hard work of reconciliation or is it just easier to keep shouting and interrupting? Jesus stands in the gap for us, and calls us to do the same. How will you stand?

 

 

 

Meanderings on Comfort…

We used to jokingly call him King Henry The First. He died on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a cat’s life, well lived.

I never felt right feeding birds while he was around; scattered bird seed was limited to very heavy snows when Henry was kept inside.

So in December I bought a small feeder, some suet and black sunflower seeds. I hung everything outside the mud room window where Henry had once liked to lurk in the bushes. It took the chickadees a few days; the juncos were next; and then a band of blue jays appeared and I knew we were in.

 

I stood at the window often in the early winter trying to get some good bird photos with my iPhone, but it made them nervous each time I moved, so eventually I gave up and just enjoyed watching them and keeping track of who visited. There was no Henry to hog the chair by the window, only the two humans who politely take turns…

 

Lately I’ve had time to stand quietly at the window again. Spring is here and the birds still seem delighted to be fed. Earlier this week I transplanted a dozen sunflower sprouts to a spot in the sun. Spring has come. Flowers are blooming. Fruit trees are starting to blossom. I have started seeds in eggshells and planted some peas and lettuces. The rhythms of nature have not changed, though the human world is now a discordant bang.  Or perhaps a better analogy is the door to the world we knew slammed shut.

Where is your comfort when so much has been taken away?

Cat lounging on porch swing

My big physical comfort was Henry. There’s nothing like a warm cat cuddling on your lap, purring at you, touching your cheek with his gentle paw… We decided to not get another cat until we came back from our ten day Scotland vacation in June… Yeah, that’s gone too… And now I have no cat to physically comfort me, and no Scotland to look forward to. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much; I know that. 

We all have lost our comfort-able-ness, haven’t we? Some of us have lost more than others, but we all can lament on what’s been taken from us. We can mourn (it’s okay to mourn our losses, no matter how small) and then we must find new ways to regain our comfort. (Just as an aside, I looked up ways, and the online definition is methods of reducing damage...) 

The word comfort made me pause the other day, as I considered where my comfort comes from…

And what came into my head were the words to one of the best loved praise songs ever written:

My comfort, my shelter,

tower of refuge and strength,

Let every breath, all that I am,

Never cease to worship you…

Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zesch.

If our comfort is in work, family, health, money, entertainment, friends, houses, skills? It’s all up in the air, isn’t it? On hold. That’s not to say, those aren’t good things, but they aren’t the best thing. Earthly treasures disappear. Quickly, as we have learned.

I don’t write about faith often. It’s a tricky thing, and one that I denied for much of my adult life. It’s an unseen, not-easy-to-prove way in our modern, rational world that needs proven science to be considered authentic.

Cat in window

But sometimes the mystery is what we need to cling to when other idols have turned to clay. (That’s a biblical metaphor, by the way…)

I know believers aren’t supposed to quote scripture to prove their beliefs, because what non-believer cares about the Bible? But this quote on faith is one that I’ve grown to love: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.–Hebrews 11:1. Faith is so personal, yet those of us who have it long to share it with those who need it. Because we know how it has changed our lives. For good. For better. For best. It doesn’t eliminate struggles or pain; it simply reminds us of God’s promises, reminds us to be grateful, reminds us to love, and reminds us that dying as a believer is not the worst thing — it is simply the beginning of a new journey.

Kitty looking over back porch

These days, if your comfort is cold, and you are thinking hard on what is important in your life, give faith a chance. Not all Christians are looney-toon right wing nut cases. :-) Some of us are probably your friends. We are struggling to make sense of all this too, but the three things we do have are comfort and hope and faith–the assurance that things unseen are truths we know in our hearts, our minds, our souls. And it gives us a glimpse, a gift of peace that’s not present in this earth-bound world.

 

Here are some places to meander:

Read this: The Gospel of Luke in the New Testament; Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; Letters from a Skeptic by Gregory Boyd, Corona Virus and Christ by John Piper; Be Still and Know that I Am God

Watch this: Hope in Times of Fear by Tim Keller;  A moment of Comfort by Kathy Troccoli;  Choose Faith, not Fear, a sermon by Nicky Gumbel

Listen to this: Shout to the Lord, sung by Darlene Zesch; In Christ Alone by Celtic Worship; No Longer Slaves sung by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser;  Finding God, sermon by Timothy Keller

 

 

 

 

Hope for 2019: Is it an Oxymoron?

We are 15 days in to 2019, and I’m just now getting around to a New Year’s post.

Hey, I’m retired. I’m allowed to be on my own schedule.

Yesterday, was my first day of my second retirement. I did Meals on Wheels in the morning, made white chicken chili for dinner, read 5 chapters in My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante while drinking cinnamon tea in front of the wood stove. And looked out at the snow. And contemplated not having to go to work tomorrow.

Today, my second day of retirement, I studied Psalm 44, cleaned the kitchen, made a loaf of sourdough bread, and contemplated whether I should continue this blog, or just let it die.

I still haven’t decided. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on a regular basis. But now, the complicated life of the past six months is behind me, and I’m contemplating what my new life will look like. Did you notice I’ve used the word contemplate three times in the last three paragraphs?

I’ve never been one for New Years’ Resolutions. Why set yourself up for failure? For awhile the one-word for the year thing was popular, but one-word for the year is not enough for me. Perhaps I’m easily bored. But as I was cleaning my office of personal effects, I found this tacked on the wall:

Immediately, I knew that those would be my ten phrases for the year. One for each month + the two that are hardest for me, I would do for two months…

I clipped it on the side of the fridge by the coffeemaker — no missing it there — so I can see it every morning. Mr. H.C. commented on it right away. We both need reminders — especially the Answer Without Arguing one…

We need this in 2019 more than any other year I can remember. We need love, compassion, and listening; we need to remember how to speak without accusing; we need a “good news” channel; (I have once again sworn off watching the evening news –I figure if something bad happens, someone will tell me!); we need to remember how to enjoy without complaint…

Well, really, we need all of them. All the time. But I’m doing the best I can, with one a month.

And I’m going to be a good news channel.

January is listen without interrupting. That’s going to be a tough one for me. It might even be a two-monther. But it’s okay, because I have time to listen.

After all, I’m retired…