Monthly Archives: March 2019

Swamped

These past two weeks I’ve had an unusually high amount of conversations with CMC folks who are overwhelmed with their jobs.  Overly busy, swamped, worn down, exhausted, exasperated.  I started noticing a pattern last week, then it kept coming.  This is likely not an unusual condition.  It’s just unusual for it to dominate the content of so many of my own interactions with CMC folks. 

So I’m highlighting it here.  Since we are Practicing Awareness during Lent, I’m passing along what has come to my awareness.  In case you thought you were the only one.  Or in case you thought it was mostly your problem rather than a persistent and rampant systemic reality.  As you well know, it most definitely is your problem.  It is most definitely our problem, collectively, as a society.

Sometimes it’s just a busy season, with relief in sight.  Sometimes there are do-able steps one can take to delegate responsibilities, say No more often, shed tasks down to what is most important.  And sometimes it’s time to get the hell out while you’re still alive.

One of the things I most appreciate about Lent is the constant reminder of our mortality.  We begin with the words of Ash Wednesday: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” We end with the cross, witnessing the death of Jesus who said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” 

A contemplative awareness of death does wonders to bring life into focus.  What and who is most important?  How can I be of service to humanity and not a slave to the man?  How can I provide for myself and those I love with time for what brings me joy?   What am I to do with this miraculous dust of my body while I still have breath?   

I continue to believe that Sabbath is one of the most radical forms of resistance in our time.  A day when non-market values rule the day, and life is lived for its own sake. 

How are you doing with all that?!

Joel

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A big breakfast table

This morning I attended the Interfaith Justice Table.  It’s a monthly breakfast, convened by Rev. Dan Clark, Ohio Director of Faith in Public Life.    There were about 30 of us – mostly clergy and leaders of various faith driven not for profit advocacy groups.  There were some common commitments that initially drew this group together – especially regarding racial bias and police accountability.  The group has been very supportive of Edith and Sanctuary work.  It has also become a gathering point for various concerns and efforts.  Plus Dan makes a great breakfast casserole.

Today’s meeting had a wide variety of reflections, updates, and invitations.

Imam Horsed Noah of the Abubakar Assidiq Islamic Center reflected on the shooting at the Al-Noor mosque in New Zealand and the persistence of Islamophobia and white supremacy.

Our host, Rev. Eric Brown of Woodland Christian Church talked about his role in the search for an Assistant Safety Director, a new position that will enable Columbus police officers facing discrimination within the police force to have someone to report to other than their commanding officer. 

Marshall Troxell of Equality Ohio introduced their advocacy for SB 11, the Ohio Fairness Act, which would update state anti-discrimination laws to include LGBTQ persons.

Tara Polansky of Hand in Hand Domestic Employers Network shared the victory that, after intense public pressure, JP Morgan Chase has stopped giving loans to GEO Group and Core Civic who operate the majority of US for-profit prisons and migrant detention centers.

One of the reasons this group is so important to me is that it provides a space not only to share information and motivation, but relationship building, mutual learning, and blessing.  After Imam Horsed Noah spoke, one of the pastors requested we all share a moment of silence for our Muslim friends.  I was sitting beside Horsed and placed my hand on his back.  I was able to speak to him the same words we speak to one another on Sunday: “Peace be with you.”

As a final word for the morning, Rabbi Jessica Shimberg noted that she is fasting today as the feast of Purim approaches this evening, based on the story of Esther.  To paraphrase her words: “Esther survived initially by passing, blending in.  But she saved herself and her people when she revealed her identity and acted out of her deepest self.  In her case, her Jewishness.  This is the challenge and calling for us.”   

I’m grateful there is a community like this breakfast group.  Despite all the work to be done, just being in the same room together, sharing a meal, sharing a blessing, feels like its own kind of victory.

Joel

Practicing awareness on the move

This Lent season our worship focus is Practicing Awareness.  For our family, this coincides with settling in to a new house.  There’s nothing like moving to raise your awareness.  How many boxes does it take to clean out a closet?  A garage?

When you move, just about everything calls for your attention.  How many address change notifications can we do today?  In which box is the tape?  In which drawer did you put the spatula?  Where’s my coat?  Where’s the bathroom?       

In new surroundings I feel extra aware.  I’m interested in every new corner.  How many data points a second?  Eleven million (see the sermon link below).  Not much is familiar enough yet that I’ve stopped seeing it, letting it slip into the subconscious.

Early last week I had the welcome realization that the day before we had likely reached peak chaos, and that our universe was slowly starting to re-order itself around these new spaces and routines. 

My temptation is to focus lots of energy on the endless re-ordering and not enough attention to the goodness of these days.  Throwing a softball in the backyard most evenings, and starting to see signs of spring around the house have helped.  There will be plenty of time, years, for re-ordering.

The warmth of friends and new neighbors takes on a deeper quality when you need the help.  I’m grateful for that awareness. 

Joel