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“Always remember”

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Meditation: The phenomena we see in the US today resemble the ones in Germany eighty years ago. What we can observe as parallels are the strategic abuse and perversion of a democratic system by influencing the uneducated masses, by either controlling or demonizing the media, and by undermining the legal system. The propaganda back then was put out every day and fed nationalistic material to the masses, which sounded patriotic, but it covered up the elimination of basic human rights and of groups of people who were considered “not Aryan enough”.

Today many “not American enough” immigrants are leaving the US, or they are being imprisoned. The Fox News channel has become a right wing propaganda machine of the current government. Immoral and unethical behavior is being normalized and legal loopholes are being constantly utilized with the help of highly paid lawyers. Violence is being glorified. Wake up USA !… Never forget Germany’s history!…Always remember how minorities were systematically oppressed and killed back then… The US president is encouraging and defending a world wide movement of white supremacy…

Prayer: God of history, wake us up. Where are the demonstrators? Where are all the women who were marching in January 2017? Help us to organize and help us to resist. Let us learn from the past. In your mercy, do not allow the same strategies to cause the same harm! All that happened was done in small increments. “Everything was legal” – and “all became lethal”. God, have mercy. Amen
So be careful how you live. Live as (wo)men who are wise and not foolish. Make the best use of your time. These are sinful days. Do not be foolish. Understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17

Letting Go…

Letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress. Melody Beattie

Meditation: I am challenged every day as the parent of teenagers. What am I responsible for and what not? What is mine and what is theirs? While my husband has the gift of easily letting go and letting them make mistakes, and in doing so learn to claim responsibility for themselves, I often feel uptight and overly responsible for my daughters’ actions. Where does this come from? Some of us have grown up within family systems where members were either depressed, stressed, anxious or have been addicted to a substance or to work. We learned to cope by feeling overly responsible. Responsible for parents, siblings, household and the family image to the outside world. We over-functioned without being aware.  We consequently learned to “be in the world” feeling responsible for everybody and for everything. For us who learned to cope this way, it is important to remember that all persons have the right to be responsible for themselves. We need to take our hands off from what is not ours. We need to give back what we falsely took on. We need to allow others to make mistakes, learn from them and become responsible for themselves. I am allowed to feel and enjoy the relief that comes from no longer over-functioning.

Prayer: God, even You share the responsibility for this world with us. You have given us free will. You allow us to mess up, while always calling us to greater and deeper responsibility for ourselves. We are allowed to draw boundaries and set limits. We are free to let go and give back what is not ours. We, too, need to call others to greater and deeper responsibility for themselves, instead of compensating for their irresponsibility. God, free us from co-dependence and from over-functioning. Help us to “let go and let, You, God” call all of us to greater responsibility for ourselves. Amen

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galatians 6:4-5

Belonging

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God. Henri Nouwen

Meditation: Sometimes life just gets too much. Sometimes the conflicts around us try to swallow us. We feel exhausted, torn, anxious and worried how we will conquer and navigate all the demands. When my job tries to define me, when my family’s needs seem to be endless, when nothing I do seems to be enough, it helps to be still and remember whose I am. I am created and formed by the One who loved me from the very beginning. I am called by name. I am set free from judgement, set free from concern about my value and worth. I am invited not to be afraid. As no matter what the outcome, I am not alone. I belong. I belong to the One who created me and who wants to set me free over and over again. Free from expectations. Free from judgments. Free from anxiety and fear.
Can I take a few moments today to be still? To remind myself that no matter what will happen, I belong to the One who created and loves me.

Prayer: God, when the going gets tough. When I feel I don’t have enough support and I am all alone tackling the demands of my day, remind me of your words that you gave to Israel and through Jesus also to us. Remind me that you know my name. Remind me that you see me and know me intimately. You say: “Do not be afraid for you are Mine.” Thank you that I belong. Thank you that I do not walk this walk alone. Amen

But now, thus says the Lord who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. Isaiah 43:1

Kill the Wicked?

January 22

“He who does nothing to stop evil condones it” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana

Meditation: What a humanly understandable wish and prayer. “God, destroy the wicked and save those who want to follow you.” If only it were that easy! Usually murderers and liars live long, even if they have miserable and toxic lives, and they make the lives of those around them miserable and toxic as well. The Psalmist wishes and prays for a reality where the unjust and wicked will be stopped or even killed, and the faithful and trusting will be saved.Isn’t that in sync with God’s will? Why does God not just stop evil? Why does God allow evil to go on? And who are the wicked?

Maybe I need to ask differently: Why do we humans allow evil to go on? Why has religion been (ab)used so many times to justify wickedness, condone oppression and perpetuate lies inside and outside of its religious communities? How can life giving spiritual values at times become so perverted that people use religious language to make lies and evil deeds “look good”?

Prayer: God, we are tempted to join the Psalmist asking for protection and wishing for you to intervene and stop the murderers, the wicked and the liars, as if this was alone your job and not also ours. Help us to see when we are the ones called to stop violence, when we are called to name injustice and to speak truth into falsehood. Save us, God, by giving us courage to openly name the destruction and the lies that exist inside and outside of our communities. Help us stop the violence and change the wicked ways in our own communities first, so that we are believable when we work to change the world. Amen

Psalm 55:23 But you, O God, will send the wicked down to the pit of destruction. Murderers and liars will die young, but I am trusting you to save me.

 

Teens feel vulnerable…

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive. Brene Brown

Meditation: Yesterday I spoke sternly, I even yelled a few words. I was upset. I was angry. As mother that is what you do when a teenager lies to you, don’t you? I lectured, I demanded changed behavior, I proclaimed “You did not pass the test”… And then I stepped away. I did not like that she lied. Yet I also did not like the way I came across. It did not feel constructive and only raised the resistance on her side. And when I calmed down and went deeper, I realized that underneath my anger was worry and fear. I had been afraid something could have happened to her. I felt vulnerable as a Mom who wants to protect her children. And so I went back to her. We were disconnected after what happened. She was shut down, just as her door was locked. I started with: “Can I, please, talk to you?” I shared that I had been worried and afraid as her Mom who wants to protect her. She shared why she had lied, as she felt I would not have given her the freedom and space she needed. We saw things from each other’s perspective. It felt vulnerable, yet connecting and constructive. We talked about how to handle a similar situation better in the future. And then we ate together, as the whole ordeal had made both of us hungry.

Prayer: God of vulnerability, help us as parents and help our teens to find back to connection in those places of vulnerability. Help us both admit openly our basic feelings of fear, anger and worry as we walk together through those difficult teenage years. Help us to admit that we love each other, even though our tone, behavior and words seem to contradict this truth all too often. Help us parents to make the first step in showing our vulnerability, as teenage life is nothing but… Amen

Then Peter (a Mom) came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother (my daughter) sin against me, and I forgive him (her)? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

 

Teenage Spark…

Teenagers are some of the most passionate, dynamic and creative people I know. Yet, too often, this creative spark is left to flicker precariously and sometimes fade entirely. Malorie Blackman

Meditation: I marvel when I watch my teenage twins. They can get passionate about a new idea or discovery in a blink of an eye. The have energy that is exuberant and contagious. They come up with putting thoughts, ideas and images together in ways we as adults would have never thought to do.

At the same time the cultural, family and school expectations that teenagers face can be overwhelming to them. They are dealing with overloaded schedules, outside pressures to succeed and peer pressures to become inauthentic, just to fit in. Additionally teenagers often struggle with internal challenges of emotional imbalance, self-esteem issues and feelings of loneliness or “not fitting in”. Many teenagers either shut down emotionally, isolate, overschedule their lives or use maladapted coping strategies that include numbing by substance to feel better. How do we parents and adults support teenagers so that their passion, creativity and positive energy does not fade away? I learned that being an “available parent” goes a long way so that the flickering spark receives some protection when needed, but also enough air and space, so that it is not being “smothered”.  (An important guide for me to consciously practice this balance has been John Duffy’s book “The available parent”).

Prayer: God, help us see the amazing sparks in our teenagers. Help us to be emotionally and physically present enough to augment, foster, encourage and admire their light. God, help us to become available parents and adults who do not cause additional stress by uploading our anxieties and expectations unto our teens. Help us to shelter their burning wicks while giving them enough oxygen and space to breathe on their own. Help us to find this balance of presence, structuring, support and space giving, so that throughout our teenagers’ years of challenges they will be able to keep their passion, energy and creativity alive.

A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench… (Matthew 12:20a)

 

 

 

 

 

Trauma – Stigma or Gift?…

Someone who has experienced trauma also has gifts to offer all of us – in their depth, their knowledge of our universal vulnerability, and their experience of the power of compassion. Sharon Salzberg

Meditation: Trauma is experienced in accidents, violence, abuse, neglect or sudden traumatic loss. Trauma happens to many individuals and by extension also to their families. Often the trauma is kept a secret. Many times others outside the family are unaware of the huge impact that trauma has on a person and on a family. Some never fully recover from those experiences. They continue to live a life paralyzed in fear, and their “body keeps the scores” (see the helpful book “The body keeps the score” from Bessel Van der Kolk). However, if traumatized persons and their families are able to seek and find compassionate and safe places, healing is possible. Yes, there will always be scars and healing will take a long time. And unfortunately the effects of trauma usually linger for a long time before healing is sought. Our culture still avoids mental health and resources to recover from trauma are still not readily available. But when persons seek help, they can find it. And as they walk on this journey of healing from trauma, they develop greater depth, increase their awareness of human vulnerability and develop greater compassion for self and for others. It is very sad that even in the 21st century, our Western society does not talk enough about the impact of trauma on individuals or families. PTSD still holds stigma. People and families still get isolated and lack the support they need and deserve. How can we educate ourselves and others about the incredibly impactful physical, emotional and relational consequences of trauma on individuals and families, and thus reduce and even do away with the stigma that trauma unfortunately still holds?

Prayer: Gracious God, we pray for all individuals and families who have been impacted by traumatic loss experiences, by traumatic violence and by chronic abuse or neglect. You see the depth of anxiety that trauma creates in people and how this anxiety can linger for decades in these individuals and their families. Let all who struggle with trauma find safe spaces where they are being cared for and can begin to heal. Heal the families of soldiers and the victims of abuse, neglect, accidents and sudden loss. You want us to bother you with our trauma. You want us to cast our anxiety onto you, as you know all about trauma through your son Jesus Christ who suffered a traumatic death. Thank you that you care for us and that you want to help us deal openly with our fears and heal us from trauma. Amen

“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1. Peter 5:7