Deportations

“When I see the migrant workers’ broken bodies and eyes without hope, I want to embrace and wipe away their fears. It makes me angry and helps me to keep fighting the oppressive system.” Irene Fernandez

Meditation: These days fathers and mothers are being deported. Pulled out of their cars. Arrested when they open the door. IS means Immigration services. Interestingly the same two initials as IS for Islamic State. How can violence against undocumented immigrants be justified? No rights, no protection, because they miss a certain document?

These days Germans remember the rates that were done to arrest Jewish individuals and families and then deport them. The incarcerations and deportations caused unimaginable suffering and millions of deaths. It suddenly became a crime to belong to a certain ethnic and religious minority. Jews were being scapegoated and blamed for any and all problems that the German society faced back then. How are undocumented immigrants being used as distraction and as scapegoats today? How can history repeat itself like this… America wake up!

Prayer of a German resistance fighter:“In me there is darkness, but with You there is light; I am lonely, but You do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help; I am restless, but with You there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience; I do not understand Your ways, but You know the way for me.”“Lord Jesus Christ, You were poor, and in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.You know all man’s troubles; You abide with me when all men fail me;You remember and seek me; It is Your will that I should know You and turn to You. Lord, I hear Your call and follow; Help me.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Daniel 3:17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narcissism

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They do harm, but the harm that they cause does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Meditation: How did we choose the President we did? Has our culture overall become so narcissistic that narcissism has become the “new normal”? The addiction to be loved and to be all important. The splitting off of one’s flaws and vulnerabilities and the obsession of having others’ hail one’s ego that is so inflated, but really “naked” and that cannot bear any criticism. The rage of not being loved, of starring in one’s own image and of believing that one’s own image will love one back. But then deep inside knowing, it is all an empty illusion. An empty existence…filled only with money, sex and power behavior. Why did America choose a person like this to make decisions and represent the US in the world? What is the collective injury that this country has received that we would fall for this man’s illusions? What is the spiritual task before us?

Prayer: Gracious God, you urge us to deal with our wounding as a country, our split off shadows, our narcissistic tendencies as a nation. Now we see a part of our collective unconscious embodied in this President. You let us see and experience the extreme so that we can’t close our eyes anymore but that we strive to be healed. God have mercy on us, as we meet and endure our shadow incarnate. Amen

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. … 2. Timothy 3:1-5

 

Intercessory Prayer

Quote: “The church speaks finally in that it prays for the world.” Karl Barth

Meditation: When I grew up my father who was a pastor would pray for his congregation and for his family. At times he would pray for one or two hours before he began his day. He would choose a different area of concern each day of the week. At the time I did not quite know what to make of that. I did not know anybody else who was dedicated to pray for others as he was. Leaving home at the age of 19, I knew that my Dad “had my back”. Not by rescuing me from every difficulty, not by sending me exactly what I thought I needed or wanted, but by keeping me in his morning prayer… every day of my life. When my Dad died, I felt his absence and also the absence of the knowledge that there was someone who was praying for me, every day. When my husband says that he prays for our daughters every day, it brings tears to my eyes. There is power in intercessory prayer. Power in intergenerational prayer. Power in knowing that somebody cares enough, loves enough to pray like this for me.

Prayer: Gracious God, you are holding us in daily prayer. Your Spirit is the one that prays for us, in us and through us. Help us to become the one praying for those who need prayer. And open us up to request prayers from others. There is much power in intercessory prayer… keep us connected to that field of love, the power of prayer and the ongoing circle of intercession, so that we will be strengthened and healed. Amen

Colossians 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

True Self…

“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.” Shannon Alder “Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self.” Queen Latifah

Meditation: Sitting in a dance competition of mostly female young dancers, I can see how the definition of beauty and the scores of female dancers are easily being determined by stereotypes. The white girls dance to music that describes them in certain ways and that they  move to in ways that can be described as “cute, sexy, or innocent”… White girls have certain norms to abide by and to appear a certain way. Usually all have to be like mirrors of each other, moving like a well-oiled machine, one copying the other. Black girls have their own norms to abide by such as being “Hip Hop queens, angry, or wild”… Black girls refuse to copy each other, but doing so, they don’t look as controlled and “in sync” and sometimes get lower scores because of that… These dance competitions are culturally and individually shaping events, judging young females partly based on their athletic abilities, but are also largely based on certain cultural norms of what a “white woman” and what a “black woman” is supposed to be and dance like. How do we empower our girls (and boys) to be bold, to be brave and to be their true selves, no matter what the crowd or what the judges think?

Prayer: Jesus, you were the most individuated person. You defied many expectations and cultural norms. You always grounded yourself in your relationship with God to be able to live out of your true self. Being in relationship with you allowed your disciples, men and women, and those who met you to become their true selves as well. You broke cultural norms and rules regarding class, gender, ethnicity and religion. You transcended stereotypes and met the others by engaging and seeking their “true self” and thus bringing healing and liberation to those who met you. Jesus, come and meet us and our daughters and sons, so we/they can be bold and brave to be our/their own true selves. Amen

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” John 4:28f

 

 

Exhaustion…

“The deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When we encounter persons who are suffering either physically, emotionally or mentally, we often use all that we have and pour our strength, health and wellbeing into that person or into the situation, to make things better. That is how helpers come about. The world often experiences relief and moments of betterment through those who want to help. And yet, when we become such helpers our resources become easily exhausted after a while. We start feeling in body, mind and spirit similar ailments that the suffering persons have we are trying to help. Many people like social workers, nurses or pastors start burning out. But also family members who care for the generation above or below know this phenomenon. The experience of having taken in too much suffering of others is called compassion fatigue. This exhaustion becomes very real and is often accompanied by symptoms like depression, complete physical exhaustion or even spiritual despair.

Prayer: God, in times of such exhaustion I am called to come to you and rest. I am invited to acknowledge and accept my human limitations and boundaries. I am not You. I am human. The other persons’ suffering needs to be held by Your hands that are bigger than mine. I am not able to bear all suffering, but Christ did. You don’t ask me to help, just to serve. And so I allow myself to come to You and rest from trying to help. I hide myself in Your arms, gracious God,  and I stop helping but begin to serve those who are suffering by praying for them. Sometimes we cannot help and we cannot even bear the suffering, but You can and will. Amen

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30

 

Detoxing…

February 10

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.  Willie Nelson

Meditation: The news each day are overwhelming. And often they are not good news these days.  I find myself cutting off the radio or TV with a foul taste in my mouth. Sometimes I even feel like throwing up. This is how toxic that which I took in feels to my body. How must my soul feel when even my body revolts?

As I then use body movement therapy by shaking imaginary toxins off my arms, off my legs and off my whole body, I make a first move towards healing and resistance. And when I then center myself, and allow my soul to focus and start counting my blessings, I shake off hatred, feelings of fear and disgust and apply the balm of gratitude. When I start counting my blessings, when I remember where my source of life and strength comes from, my whole life, my attitude, my emotions begin turning around.

Prayer: Healing and liberating God, as I shake off the mud and toxins of the day, as I spend moments of intimacy with you and remember myself in your care and in your blessings, I develop spiritual immunity. I develop gratitude that transcends the news of the day. God, as a nation, remind us how to shake off, to vomit out, to detox and then come and rest in you. Amen

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 

 

Dignity

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

― Michael J. Fox

Meditation: The dynamic of abuser and abused is a painful cycle of never ending insults. The abusers because they can’t stop their sadistic rage. The abused because they don’t know how to stop being in the position of allowing abuse to happen.The pain of that cycle screams loud. So loud that those who engage in it scream a lot.

This cycle of abuse has been broken on the cross. Jesus said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What an ending of the cycle of hatred. The one who was spit at, tortured, betrayed and despised finds words to pray for his persecutors.

Prayer: God, when I get hurt, disrespected or taken advantage of, I want to retaliate. That is deeply human. And often I get swiped away with the wave of rage that comes over me when that happens. But I know that my heart will get infected. My soul will become toxic and my actions become more and more reactive. I lose my perspective that comes from being yours. God, I am committed to discipleship. I want to learn from Jesus how to overcome the cycle of violence and say: “God, forgive her, for she does not know what she is doing – and God, help me so I can forgive her as well.” Amen

Luke 23:34: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

An eye for an eye?…

February 8, 2017

“I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption.” Mahathma Ghandi

Donald Trump’s favorite Bible verse involves an “eye for an eye.” Trump appears to be referring to a passage from Exodus 21-24, which lays out the Old Testament rules governing personal behavior. It is his favorite verse or story from the Bible that has impacted his thinking or character. He was asked about it, saying: “Well, I think many. I mean, you know, when we get into the Bible, I think many. So many,” he responded. “And some people—look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing. But you know, if you look at what’s happening to our country, I mean, when you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us, and how they scoff at us and laugh at us.” “And they laugh at our face, and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country,” he continued. “And we have to be firm and have to be very strong. And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.”

In Matthew (5:38-42) in the New Testament, Jesus repudiates that notion. ““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Prayer: God, the Old Testament teaching is based on the notion that you are a warrior God who wants an eye for an eye. But Jesus embodied a different truth. Ghandi, Martin Luther King and others lived the New Testament truth that war ends when “an eye for an eye” is overcome by love. God, help our nation. Have new spiritual leaders rise up to proclaim the truth that Jesus stood for. Amen

Blaming after losing…

February 7, 2017

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. John F. Kennedy

Meditation: One of my neighbors wrote on face book this morning: “Now we have not only lost the November election, we also lost the Superbowl!” Our Atlanta football team last won the Superbowl in 1999. That was in the last century! And yesterday it had the chance to win a century game. People travelled far to see the game. Others bought new TVs, cancelled everything during those hours, bought red T-shirts for the whole family and many took an extra day off. It was like preparing for a ceremony, for a religious event, for the celebration of the century. And it looked hopeful for most of the game. The windows in many houses were fogged up. Cars were piling up in driveways. People came together. Nobody wanted to celebrate alone. And then, in the end our team lost, or shall I say: “They came in second”. Oh no, in our culture, there is no such thing. There is only losing or winning. There is no such thing as playing well, coming in second and still being mentioned. You are only worth mentioning and making history if you are first. If you lose, you are history, which means you will be forgotten. You don’t count.

In our Western culture there is only “either-or”, no matter how well you played, no matter how long you were leading in the game. Only the end result counts. The word “loser” is one of the most painful words for some, as it eradicates their value, no matter how hard they worked, no matter how well they did. If there is one person better than them, if there are a few points more, the anticipated celebrated and worshipped potential winner becomes the “loser”.

Stepping out into the dark after the game was over, my neighborhood was quiet, all lights had been cut off immediately. Atlanta fell into grief, some even felt despair… It had been a religious event. Redemption had been hoped for and it did not happen.

When I walked my dog in the morning (thanks to the game I had a day off), I expressed my condolences to a male neighbor standing in his driveway. He said that it was clear, the coach was to blame. Continuing on my walk having my dog pull me along, I wondered how human this is. We need somebody to blame. The thought of “losing” is too painful. The beloved football team losers? No, we need to defend this thought somehow. We need to make ourselves feel better by blaming somebody. Anybody.

Really? Does blaming really comfort us in any way? I wonder how a culture that gets stuck in those two categories can become unstuck, other than despairing or blaming?

Our Christian faith offers us at times amazing counter-cultural ways. Jesus tells several stories about the theme of “being first”. He tries to offers his disciples an alternative way of looking at things and at responding. Instead of knowing for sure who is a winner and who is a loser, and instead of judging and blaming, Jesus questions our certainty of knowing what makes a loser and what makes a winner. He said that our categories, our judgment might be very different from God’s. And so we read in Matthew 20: 16“So those who are last now will be first, and those who are first will be last.” Jesus tries to liberate his disciples. He shakes them up, saying “there will be many surprises in God’s realm”. Heaven’s value system is far different from earth’s value system. Those who are esteemed and respected in this world may be frowned upon by God. The opposite is also true: those who are despised and rejected in this world may, in fact, be esteemed highly by God. Don’t get caught up in the world’s way of ranking things; it’s too prone to error.

So, what does this mean for us today? We can still grieve the loss of not being first. But let’s also remember our Christian counter-cultural values. Let’s celebrate our team and hold them in esteem. Let’s not fall in the trap of blaming. They gave their best. Let’s not forget that we value them and that we are proud of them, even though they came in second. And let’s keep the future open.

The power of forgiveness…

February 6, 2017

“Without forgiveness, there is no future”. Desmond Tutu

Prayer: Patient God, we bring to you our anxieties that are especially strong in these times of change.We confess to you that we are often fixed on what scares us, and that we forget that you will be with us, whatever the future holds.

We bring to you our feelings of weakness and our loss of strength. Be it at our workplace or in other difficulties, including our family. We confess to you that we often try to live out of our own strength and that we fight on our own to solve our problems. We forget that it is You who wants to gift us with your Spirit and with your strength.

We bring to you our fear of the future and our sorrows about the world.We confess that we often expect more from people than we expect from You. We forget that you can and want to work in everything and through everything.

Forgive us our forgetfulness, forgive us our shaking faith, forgive us that we often believe our feelings as if we were alone and that we forget that you have promised to be with us and remain with us, no matter what. Forgive us our sins and free us from whatever enslaves us. Amen

Proclamation of Forgiveness: God has compassion with us. God knows how human and how anxious we are. God forgives us all our sins. He wants to give us his Spirit. God calls us out of our fear and out of bondage. God will fill us with his Spirit of Love, Strength and a Sound Mind. (2. Timothy 1:7) Amen

 

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