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Dreams of Screams

I dreamed of screams last night.

It’s just a dream I told myself.

But it wasn’t.

Last night the screams of justice were heard all across our country. These screams were followed closely by the screams of fear from people who were victims of tear gas and rubber bullets. Screams of citizens trying to make their voice heard and realizing that the system and government in America are going to fight back. Fight to continue to oppress. Fight to continue to hold power and control.

My screams turned to tears and sobs.

I dreamed of screams last night on Pentecost Monday when we remember the mighty rushing wind of the Spirit coming so that all may be free.

Come Mighty Spirit, carrying these screams to the heart of God and let justice roll down.

Dreams of Fire

I dreamed of fire last night.

It’s just a dream I told myself.

But it wasn’t.

Last night fires raged with voices demanding justice all across our country. Fires that have been smoldering in the hearts and souls of those who have suffered every day in an unjust system. A system designed to benefit some and oppress most.

And some are surprised.

Surprised that there was this amount of suffering in our country, in our city. Surprised to come face to face with their privilege, their participation in a system that harms so many.

I dreamed of fire last night.

The night of Pentecost Sunday.

Come Spirit of Truth, burn within us the compassion to listen and courage to act to let justice roll down.

Entering Eastertide: Hope

We are just days away from Pentecost, which marks the end of the fifty days of Eastertide. In the season of Eastertide, the church calendar follows the stories and journeys of the apostles who have received the Spirit of Truth and have preached this good news all over. This is where the story of the life, death, and resurrection spread so that we are still talking about it today.

If you follow the book of Acts, you’ll find that there is a pattern where Paul goes into the synagogue to teach and is the message of hope is received by the Jewish people. Then after a day or two, the Jewish leadership gets involved and they either run Paul out of town of beat and imprison him. This is when Paul is often taken in by a Gentile and the message of hope transforms whole households.

Our congregation was already studying Acts before the pandemic and before the Eastertide season began and now as we study together, I am amazed at how much we need these words. We need the hope of those first apostles. We need the courage of those first apostles. We need the imagination of those first apostles.

Because we are creating church together in the most unusual ways. We are spreading the message of hope to new communities in new ways. Thanks be to God for the Spirit of Truth that leads and guides us on our way.

Entering Eastertide: Loss

We lose a lot of stuff around the house. There is a basket full of cars, but we can’t find the one car we really really need before we can do anything else. Our sixteen-month-old has figured out how to open the toy drawer and the trash can, so we lose pacis left and right. Although there seems to be an abundance of them, there is only one that will offer comfort she needs to drift off to sleep.

As we move throughout the day, I find myself saying when we confront one of these missing items: “It will show up. Things always show up.” This has provided time and space to let us look for things now or later without frustration and tears.

Losing items around the house or forgetting where you put something down is not uncommon, especially in the midst of consistent change.  My congregation jokes with me because during high, holy seasons at church I always lose my keys.  They have learned to laugh and help me look. My mind and my heart are in a different place during these seasons and so the every day remembering gets put on the back burner.

When things that we have been looking for do show up, we all get excited. We share the funny place we found the item and we share in the show of recovering the sought after item.

Collectively, we haven’t lost something that will show up eventually. We have lost over 100,000 people. Human souls connected and invested in families and communities. We can’t forget. We remember every day when we wake up and as we try to get a little bit of sleep at night. As we reached this devastating milestone, we hold onto being the country that has the most deaths and most cases of COVID-19. In seventeen states around the country, those numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing.

Loss surrounds us. Grief engulfs us.

And as we grieve for many of us, we are still alone at home trying to do our part to help those numbers stop increasing so drastically. Loss has always been a part of inhabiting this dusty bodies, but that doesn’t mean that loss doesn’t bring us back to remembering we have but one life to live. One chance to care for others. One chance to offer hope. One chance to offer love.

I know that there are many states that are opening up. I know that there are many states without mask laws. I know that there are other people and other families traveling and getting together. I know that it can all be confusing and overwhelming because there is so much information out there. I know that you are tired and weary and just want a change of pace. I also know that bearing this amount of loss is sometimes just too much to carry.

The loss and grief won’t go away. These will be the things that change us. My hope is that it changes us not to be people who hold onto to our lives and our desires so desperately that more loss comes. My hope is that by remembering this loss, again and again, every day, 100,000 minutes every day, we will transform into more caring and compassionate people.

Entering Eastertide: What’s that smell?

Spring has always been full of new smells. Flowers blooming. Trees budding. And those wonderful evenings after the rain comes through.

On our daily walks, one of the questions our four-year-old almost always asks is “What’s that smell?” Sometimes I know the answer, especially if it’s a Bradford Pear tree, but many times I don’t. So I ask him back, what do you think? If it’s an unpleasant smell he is always convinced it’s a skunk and hopes he will see. If it’s a pleasant smell his answers range from honeysuckle to rose bush to tulips.

Smells trigger our memories of summer camp and long afternoons in the pool or at the lake. Smells remind us that we are connected to a deeper earthiness. Smells warn us of danger as well. Without smell, we can’t taste our food.

Stop and smell the flowers is a phrase used to remind us to slow down enough to notice your surroundings. But really stop and smell the flowers and when you do you will find your body and soul reunited in memories and hope for this the new life we are creating.

Entering Eastertide: Do you hear what I hear?

NPR recently reported on the way lockdown and limited mobility impacted the natural world. One of the most poignant observations was:

We can hear subtlety of life around us that we haven’t heard in a long, long time.

Maybe it’s because we have the time to notice sounds that have been all around us but have been overshadowed by the constant to-do list running through our minds. Maybe it’s because there isn’t as much sound from cars and buses that are drowning out the natural sounds.

Whatever it is, we are hearing the world around us a little more clearly. We are hearing the sound of birds and bugs and frogs. For me, those sounds remind me of the spring and summer at my parents’ house out in the boondocks where we would spend hours spitting watermelon seeds over the porch railing and catching lightning bugs in the front year.

As I listen, it reminds me of the joys of having nowhere to go. I breathe a deep breath of gratitude that maybe this is what our four-year-old will remember too. As we listen to the calls of the birds in the morning and as we read stories at night, maybe we are growing something in him during these strange times that he will remember later on when the world gets noisy and busy again.

Entering Eastertide: Going Back

On Saturday, we walked to the park and playground where we have gone innumerable times with all of our kids. The playground still isn’t opened, but the park is opened for walking and moving activities. I thought it would be a way to “return to normal.” It wasn’t. It was strange.

The playground equipment still had yellow caution around it. There was a school group gathering in the parking lot for some sort of end of the year drive-by parade. The kind that have become the way we celebrate birthdays and big occasions.

After we had done one loop around the park, we kept moving and headed home, not lingering or playing there. It was nice to have an option for our walk that wasn’t just a neighborhood loop, but it didn’t remind me of the way things used to be. It reminded me of how different things are.

I can understand the desire to do the things we used to do. I can understand wanting to do things that we normally do in the summer and on holidays. Some of these things can be done, but they can’t be done without a certain amount of risk involved. This is a great article for deciding which risks to take and what level of risk the activity you are considering is.

We can’t pretend that we aren’t living with a deadly virus. We can choose activities that meditate the risk of spreading and contracting that virus for ourselves and for others.

There’s no going back. There’s only learning to live with the virus and the risk it brings with it.

Entering Eastertide: Don’t Lose Heart

Just this week, I talked to many parents about how this new life has impacted our kids. Some days the changes are positive and promising. Siblings are developing deeper relationships. Learning and imagination have time to flourish and expand. And we are all noticing the way nature is growing and changing all around us.

Other days the changes are challenging and disheartening. Tempers flare. The question, “but why can’t we?” and “when will be able to go?” seem to start every sentence. We as parents don’t have the answers for ourselves much less our children.

The up and down and back and forth carries us along the same path of gratefulness and hopelessness. The emotional roller coaster we are all riding leaving us whiplashed and exhausted.

The epistle lectionary passages for this Eastertide have come from the 1 Peter. At the heart of 1 Peter is the idea of suffering. The audience: a group of strangers in a strange land who are trying to keep their faith and hold onto hope. I can’t think of a better text for this Eastertide.

Here are the words of encouragement from 1 Peter 4:8-10:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

In the midst of this season of uncertainty, maybe what will be left is the reminder to love each other through all of the ups and downs and to be hospitable to one another understanding that we are all in this together and acknowledging that our actions do indeed impact other people.

May God grant you the grace and love for today in all of moments of gratitude and all of the moments of challenge.

Entering Eastertide: Forgetfulness

I am seeing less and less masks.

I am seeing less and less patience in staying six feet apart.

I am seeing more and more demands to make things “normal” again.

It’s as if collectively we have forgotten why we were staying home and staying apart from each other. It’s as if collectively we have forgotten the stories of doctors and nurses from New York and Italy and around the world about people lined up in the hallways waiting for a bed that isn’t available.

Forgetfulness is a means of survival, but ultimately it’s pretending.

Pretending that we aren’t still living in a global pandemic. Pretending that we can go back to a life that used to exist. Pretending that there aren’t millions of people without jobs and livelihoods. Pretending that the time at home hasn’t changed us to our very core.

Our minds will forget parts of this life even if we have taken time to journal and remember. Our minds will forget because they are trying to find equilibrium.

But our hearts won’t forget. Our hearts will remember the suffering and the grief and the loneliness. Our hearts will remember the way the numbers continued to rise every day, every hour.

And maybe just maybe our hearts will remember the hurt and remind us to love and care for each other.

Entering Eastertide: Rest

On our morning walk yesterday, our four-year-old looked at me and said: “Mama, my feet just can’t go anymore.”

I knew exactly the feeling he was describing. The weight of loss and grief combined with the severance from community is exhausting right now. Not to mention the additional responsibilities of trying to work and homeschool and care for children. The allowances that were given to people working from home in regards to presence and performance have disappeared as businesses start opening only perpetuating the exhaustion we feel.

“We can’t continue like this.” Behind those words, I hear fatigue and loss and loneliness.

This is soul talk.

When words like these come from our mouths, our souls are trying to get our attention. Our brains have not been able to solve or change or control our circumstances. We have been continuing to live like this much longer than we expected. We hear the news that we may have to continue to live like this for longer.

And so our souls cry out for rest. Some way to rest and replenish so that we may receive the strength to do the very thing we don’t think we can do any longer.

But how do we find soul rest?

It may be reading a good book, taking a nap, listening to hymns, talking to a good friend, or worshipping virtually with a community of faith. During this unusual season, I am finding my soul is reminding me of things she has always loved. I didn’t remember how much I loved watching birds until we saw two pileated woodpeckers on our walk. I didn’t remember how much I loved baking until I had time to be home and smell pumpkin bread and chocolate chips cookies being created in the oven.

Souls are tricky to find. They hide beneath other voices that have raised us and tried to train us into compliance. Souls also ask for the strangest things like guitar lessons or a new set of pants or a certain type of pen.

Practicing deep breathing with your hand on your heart and the other hand on your core is a great place to start to give your soul room to breathe and rest.  When we do give this time and space, our souls become less camouflaged and more insistent with their needs.

Your soul is trying to speak to you. Your soul needs rest.

Grant us the time and space to replenish our souls we pray O God, Amen.