When do we act?

headlines read

Boko Haram slaughters mass captives in new video

And friends cry out on social media “How long O Lord”

as if our part is done, and the evil that continues to infect Nigeria is due to God’s inactivity.

Prayer is something I believe in.

But when do we act?

This past summer, a provocative suggestion was made on the floor of my denomination’s annual conference. What if we negotiated with the Boko Haram to return the 200 school girls for the lives of a few good Brethren?

This was received with disbelief and attitude and dismissal.

But….when do we act? When do WE who pray how long O Lord, get up off our knees and DO.

We are the how long.

We are the power to make change

But we abdicate the power of our own living by praying and wiping our hands of the need to act.

What would happen, if instead of eating ourselves from the inside out, the United States and all the religious groups gathered forces to say no to the Boko Haram? What if we believed what we said when banners raise with #blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #copslivesmatter

what the hell…..Nigerian lives matter. Even the lives of the Boko Haram. Even as they perpetuate evil.

When do we act?

Do we send delegations over to stand arm in arm around villages? Do we send in troops who are currently protecting our oil rights? Do we offer our lives for the lives of others?

When do we act?

What does our faith mean, if we stridently power fist our belief that we should keep “Christ” in Christmas, but do nothing else to be Christ in the world?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what I will do. I will pray but not with the expectation that God will hand down a tidy miracle and bring our girls home, stop attacks, bring peace. I will pray that God does a smack down on our hearts, exploding vision and means to see the deeper tensions and reasons this is happening. Then we can act, for then we’ll know the heart of the matter.

How long O Lord? How long till we open our eyes and see the solutions you’ve been speaking to us all along?

 

weeping without answers,

Amy

bid you leave

 

 

 

The first thing Mary does after the Angel Gabriel reveals that she will bear a child called Emmanuel,  is to leave her home. She sets out for the home of her kinswoman, and when she arrives Elizabeth and the baby in her womb recognize the Sacred that Mary holds in her body.

Joseph and Mary leave home. They travel awhile to arrive in an inhospitable place. Jesus is born. Heaven and Earth meet.

The shepherds leave their comfortable hillside, arriving to a curiosity of finding.

The astrologers from the east leave the place where they have power and status, to arrive and find exactly what they were looking for, nearly wrecking everything*.

Joseph and Mary and Jesus leave their temporary home, fleeing in haste, to arrive unknown, for an unknown time.

Leaving

Arriving

the journey in between

The sacred is carried within our bodies

the sacred is held in our arms

the sacred is waiting.

Home and comfort bid you leave to progress your story and Arrivals curiously anticipate us forward.

God with us. God with you. Emmanuel.

 

 

 

All my love,

Amy

 

 

Written for a sharing moment at the joint Christmas Eve service of Richmond Church of the Brethren, Clear Creek Friends Meeting, First Friends Meeting, West Richmond Friends Meeting.

*nearly wrecking everything comes from Song of a Tiny Babe, by Bruce Cockburn

images from google.com, thanks to the photographers

 

Advent Labyrinth

In

out

step

step

movement that I avoid.

I am usually the one who creates the space, spreads the canvas, lights the candles. The one to hold prayerful presence.

I tell myself it is because I connect so deeply to the swish swish of the clothing passing by, the muffled steps of socked and naked feet, the pauses and pirouettes along the pathway. It is enough to sit on the sidelines and observe.

And while it is the truth, it is also a lie. I avoid the labyrinth because I fear being broken open.

Today, the canvas begs me to enter. It is 5 minutes before anyone else arrives. I tell myself that I’ll start now so that when others arrive they’ll be encouraged to step in. While this is true, it is a lie. But I enter anyway.

I am moving fast, faster than my normal step-pause-step-pause. Step Step I go, up and turn, long pace and turn, near the center and then out again to the outer ring. My mind flits and bounces from one thing to another. All truths. All lies. I reach the center. I stand.

The center of the labyrinth is always a holy place for me. It lays be bare. I cannot avoid God there. All truths and all lies. The Mysterium Tremendum comes thundering into that space, like thick warm air. Like the thick warm air of bread baking, of cider mulling, of soup. Soup with rivels. So, I stay.

My breath relaxes, my mind slows. I absorb the emmanuel, the God with us…. and I leave the center. Step step.

Step step, and I quit thinking with my brain, and enter my heart’s intelligence, knowing this was what I was avoiding in the first place. The thick holy air guides me with courage. My ears hear the dischords of today’s news of “Hands Up” “Don’t Shoot” “I Can’t Breath”. These phrases clock my pace, step step. My hands raise, “Hands Up”…..and I breath deeply “I Can’t Breath”….and I feel the break coming “Don’t Shoot”. And there I am. Not a gushing mess, not a molten lump, but a cracked open white woman, who has cop friends and black friends, and a love for all humanity, and a disdain for violence. Hands Up, step step. Hands open. Palms receiving. Life entering.

In this advent labyrinth, Christ is on the run, in a hold, an immigrant child fleeing for his life, his breath, just wanting a place to grow up. Where is Jesus’s emmanuel?

In

Out

Step

Step

as others move inward on the path that I am now moving outward, we anticipate one another’s presence, knowing that we will meet and step aside, making room, blessing the passing. The short turns, step step, the long passages, step step…..and the final path out. I turn to look and see who I’ve been walking with, and my heart fills my chest, I can’t breath. I am so full of love. Love that pains, that breaks, that is raw and real. This is the truth.

Life is full of pain, is real and raw, and it breaks us. Sometimes there is death, violent death. Sometimes we are the cause for the demise of another. Sometimes we are onlookers with unhelpful opinions. Sometimes it is enough to just keep moving. Step step.

Emmanuel.

 

 

 

As always, the photos are from google images. The experience I write of took place in Nicarry Chapel at Bethany Theological Seminary 12/5/14. Several times a semester we lay down a hand painted canvas labyrinth which has moved thousands of feet and hearts…cracking us open, filling us up, allowing the void. Each time, it is a different experience.