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12 Nov

UN-Infographic

“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms, and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment, and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

Joy of the Gospel #204

In 2000 at the United Nations, 192 nations committed to 8 Millennium Development Goals to achieve by 2015. It took only 10 years to achieve the first goal — to cut in half the number of people living on $1.25 a day. Today 90% of the children in our world complete primary school, both girls and boys (goal 2). More than 2.3 billion people had safe drinking water by 2012.

In fact, the success of the MDGs shows more is possible. The United Nations is working on Sustainable Development Goals to focus and further the work of a sustainable future for all.

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, enabling them to be fully a part of society” (Joy of the Gospel #187).

What is a way you work to include people in poverty in our economy?

Recover Your Life

17 Oct
via Flckr user Ali Catterall

via Flickr user Ali Catterall

What do I need to do to make it to heaven?

How do I be first?

I want one of my sons to sit on your right and one on your left in the kingdom of heaven.

Who is the greatest among us?

I’ve done all that, what am I missing?

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, the people just don’t quite get it. Frantically, they try to identify the hoops they need to jump through to assure their salvation. They want assurance. They want homework to check off. Heaven will be their gold star. Jesus keeps presenting tricky, paradoxical parables where things aren’t fair. Workers get the same wages without working the same amount as the others. It’s maddening. Jesus doesn’t answer our questions with what we want to hear.

I can’t blame these people in Matthew in the slightest, for I have similar instincts daily. We are all striving for the good life, now and later, and we can forget that God uses power, rewards, forgiveness and love differently than humans. It’s not about working harder and getting more gold stars on our chart. It’s not about being first in this world and checking to make sure God is watching. It’s frustrating because a lot of us kid ourselves into thinking we are pretty good at that game. But then, if we can sit in God’s love for just a second, we hear the good news:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Matthew 11:28-30

These verses are my learning edge. No one has ever had to tell me to work harder. Ever. I’m a prime candidate to perpetually fall into the spin cycle of work and life. I get frantic. And when I catch myself in franticness, I also know I am in a space of proving myself, of not feeling enough. It’s exhausting, this striving. My work is to stop working so hard from that place and feel the tempo of grace. It’s not a tempo that comes from laziness. It’s a tempo that comes from a deep place of peace, worthiness, and love. It’s recognizing the ill-fitting and learning to walk freely and lightly with Christ. I don’t have to walk on my knees for miles to prove that I am good. I just have to believe that God loves me and work joyfully from that place of peace.

I’m tired and worn out, and I know it is time to recover my life, to find real rest, and to once again attempt to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

World Food Day

16 Oct

“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” - Matthew 25.35

Today is World Food Day. World farmers produce enough food for Earth’s more than six billion people, but nearly 870 million people struggle to survive on less than a $1.25 a day with little access to Earth’s abundance.

Contact Bread for the World or worldfoodday.org to involve your Christian community in the advocacy efforts on behalf of policies to end hunger.

Gospel Reflection for October 5, 2014, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Oct

“The kingdom of God…will be given to people that produce its fruits.”

Matthew 21.43

We humans are like all tenants of Earth and like those in Sunday’s parable.  Our basest instincts are to draw everything to ourselves, the “owner” be damned.  God has given us a precious vineyard/planet/home, teeming with life and extraordinary resources, but we have fouled our nest, mistaking God’s gifts for our possessions.  Our greed has put our precious planet in grave danger.

If there is hope for us, it is in Jesus’ message write large across his life and death: whatever happens, love will not leave.

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Learning Anew

5 Sep

Equally as a child and an adult, I have always loved back to school time. As a kid, I loved color coordinating my folder and notebooks, looking through my schedule and getting a fresh start in a new grade. Now, my friends put pictures of their kids in oversize backpack sitting on the front stoop before the first day of class. The mornings get cooler. Buses line up, teachers gear up, parents and kids shift gears. Back to school time is filled with so much hope and promise. We are rested, hopefully, and recommit to learning and growing. It is rewarding, like hitting the refresh button to give life a new try.

I remember, at age twenty-two, having a twelve month calendar for the first time in my life. It felt odd to keep going to work in June and then still in September. Where was the rest? Where was the reboot? You mean I just keep going? No new boss? No new tasks? And so on. So how do we, as adults, find that hope and promise in our calendar? How can we commit to learning without classroom time set aside?

Via Flickr User JustMakeIt

Via Flickr User JustMakeIt

The New York poet Marie Howe, on On Being with Krista Tippett, talked about starting to write poetry at age thirty. She had just been through a horrible trauma in her life and remembered and clung to the sentiment, “When you are really sad, all you can do is learn something new.”

I am married to a learner. I watch him pick up a new hobby, dive head first into it with curiosity and playfulness of a child. He will never be boring to me. He will never stop growing. New life will always be waiting for him around every bend.

I have a friend who started taking swing dance lessons last winter. He told me, “In Minnesota, we should all make a point of learning something new every year. It fights off the darkness.”

I’m well aware that my able mind and able body are gifts from God to be used and stretched and celebrated. This fall, even without new folders and notebooks to color coordinate, I’m committing to learning anew as an act of faith. The world is our classroom. Happy back to school to us all!

Fighting Disease

27 Aug

On August 18, in light of Ferguson, Kaya Oakes, a Catholic writing faculty member at UCBerkeley, tweeted:

The sickening thing about racism is how repetitive it is. From generation to generation. That’s also the definition of a disease.

It got me thinking hard about generational disease. My friend talked about being worried when his wife got pregnant. He didn’t want to pass on his Type 1 Diabetes to his child. My brother has talked about maybe never having children. He doesn’t want to be responsible for passing on his struggle with depression to his kids. I have a child growing in me right now. What I hope to not pass down is an eating disorders. Eating disorders and disordered eating runs in my family. I got it. I believe it is a disease. I also believe I am healthy today and have done the work to give my child a chance at a different kind of relationship with food and body. But, like Type 1 diabetes and depression, it is the kind of disease you are never totally free from. I fought to love food and my body through therapy and becoming an active advocate by creating workshops, writing about it and teaching young people. My spouse is a partner in my struggle. As a recovered person, it comes up less and less, and I have tools for when it does, but never goes away completely. Being pregnant has brought on an onslaught of attention to my growing body– eyes and comments– and I have had to recommit to the work. Food is good. My body is beautiful. I am supposed to be gaining weight. It’s good work, and I am happy to do it in hopes of breaking a generational cycle of disease. Kaya’s tweet, however, challenged me. Why is it that I am willing to work and fight so hard to break this cycle and not others? What diseases do we choose to work toward dismantling? What would happen if I were to work that hard in my daily life to break the cycle of racism for my child?

In “Heart of Whiteness,” Tobias Wolff writes:

But look: most of us still live in enclaves. As much as the country has changed since I was young, this has not. Though more and more we work together, learn together, bear arms together, we mostly go home to separate worlds and bring up our children in separate worlds, either by intention or cultural habit or simply as a consequence of economic and class divisions. And if we ourselves never say a slighting word about those others or smile in a certain way at the dramatic fulfillment of a stereotype, our children, living in our world, will still see and hear such things and be touched by them….Here are some race cards: our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world—and young black men have an incarceration rate six times that of young white men.

And so we pass on racism to the next generation like a disease. We live in separate worlds. Refusing to be actively racist is not enough. Like Wolff goes on to write, I have read books and taught units and shown up at rallies that do work toward breaking down race hatred. But do I fight daily? Do I fight as hard as I have over the years to break the eating disorder cycle? No. Omission will not fight off the generational residue. If I am not actively pursing anti-racism, the default will prevail. Separate worlds speaks volumes in the silence.

On his blog, Clint Schnekloth openly struggles with what he should do as a white man in like of Ferguson. He says, “Allies walk a fine line with paternalism.” True. But he ends by presenting a few action steps that he believes will work toward breaking the cycle of the disease:

1) Realize that anything you believe you know about race, immigrants, or mental health is colored by your subjective experience. You don’t know what you don’t know.

2) To gain understanding, engage in love of neighbor, the next step is to “subject” yourself to the truth of the other, especially the truth of oppressed or marginalized communities, to listen to them and trust that their experience is also true and valid even if it isn’t your experience. In fact you may need to accept the possibility that their truth is MORE true than your truth.

3) Do the hard work of discovering the intersubjective truth that lies between you and the other whose truth is different than yours.

The Catholic Catechism states that racism is a sin against justice and a violation of human dignity (1935). As people of faith, it is our collective work to tend to the injustice so what we pass on to the next generation brings hope for God’s renewal and grace and creates space for human dignity to rule. I do want my child to love its body and food more than I have over the years, to know physical happiness and health in a whole new, unrestricted way. I also want my child to love all people and know a world without enclaves and human made boundaries and race violence. And if this is truly my wish, then it must also become my work.

Faith Today

20 Aug

There are days when I feel more connected to the collective conscious of people. It’s like my heart is connected to other hearts, known and unknown by a string, and the string is getting tugged on and saturated with grieving and pain.On those days, my heart feels heavy, and I get overwhelmed.

Today is one of those days. A dear friend is grieving the end of a marriage. Another is grieving the loss of a life after a miscarriage. A mother gets diagnosed with breast cancer. A high schooler falls unconscious at football practice and is rushed to the ICU. And somehow, the pain of these people I know and love makes me vulnerable. The floodgates open and in rushes the pain of Furguson, of violence against women, of depression, of brokenness in our systems of education and incarceration, and on and on.

Days like today require faith.

I have to dig deeper to find the words, the prayer, the belief. It’s not on the surface waiting for me. The truth is so simple, yet it is hard to grasp. “God’s mercy and compassion is not like the compassion of humankind. Humankind favors men over women, white over black, well over sick, strong over weak. God is not like that. God’s unbound love extends to us all.” When I do find the words and utter them, not all of me believes it. It sounds shaky and shallow and unsure in my throat.

Yet this is faith– to utter hopeful truth about a God that is beyond human understanding on the dark days. It is more important to utter with a shaky voice on the dark days than to sing confidently on the days that are bright and hope comes easily. It is an act of faith to have hope on these dark days, to try our shaky voices, and to keep believing in spite of evidence otherwise, that a good God wants to work with us to create a world of justice and peace, full of healing and reconciliation, where all people are free. Dorthy Day reminds us we cannot have the audacity to hope if we are not willing to do the work of implementing God’s compassionate vision of “on earth as it is in heaven.” The uttering calls us forth to action, which reinforces hope.

On our dark days, it takes faith to choose not to wallow in only what is, but to look harder and see what ought to be. It takes faith to believe that God is not satisfied with how it is today. Broken and hopeful, it is an act of faith to claim and live into the love of God that surpasses human compassion.

Pope Francis’ Nudge Toward Happiness

13 Aug

At the end of July, Pope Francis did an interview with “Viva” in Argentina. From that interview, Catholic News Service then published a story about Pope Francis’ top ten tips toward happiness. In very Pope Francis style, there were profound in their simplicity. They were relational and down to earth and refreshing. They also clearly drew on the seven tenants of Catholic Social Teaching.

He encouraged things like fighting becoming egocentric through generosity. “Live and let live.” Letting go of negativity in the name of becoming healthy made the list. By ending being negative about other people, showing our own low self-esteem, we can find more happiness. Moving through life calmly, “with kindness and humility,” like a pool of water. Other tips included combating the stress of consumerism by celebrating leisure with art, playing with your family, turning off the TV and choosing literature. He highlighted the Sabbath by urging Sunday to be a day for family, a holiday. He held up the dignity of work by urging us to create good jobs for young people. Young people need opportunity and labor to give them hope. Love of nature, for the Pope, is tied to happiness. He said, “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'” In this time of war, we must work for peace. He does not mean being quiet, but being proactive and dynamic in our work for peace. “The call for peace must be shouted.” And finally, he stated strongly “But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes.” Instead, the Pope calls for respecting others’ beliefs, witnessing, communicating and making dialogue that attracts.

Since the interview, the Catholic News Service write up has gotten some serious traction. I overheard a conversation about the Pope where one young person said to the other, “Wow, that man is a serious force for PR in the Catholic Church right now.” A recent college graduate said to me, “How about that Franny huh? You know, if he asked me to come back to the Catholic Church, I think I would.” Pope Francis is speaking truth from his position of power in a way that people are ready for and open to receiving. Young people who were kids during 9/11 are now coming of age to see fighting all over the world in places like Gaza and Nigeria, often in the name of religion. So when the Pope calls for an end to proselytism and a recommitment to shouting for peace, young people, who are often skeptical of the hypocrisy and violence tied to organized religion, perk up a bit. These are the same young people struggling to find meaningful work after the recession as college tuition skyrockets. They are the same young people who started know about bullying over social media and have to navigate screen time and bombardment of marketing messages through media. What Pope Francis is saying is striking a cord and resonating and seeming to make a whole lot of sense to people young and old alike.

In his relevance, he is living exactly what he said about proselytism. He is creating curiosity and witnessing to others with his words and actions. He is encouraging dialogue and making himself approachable and attractive as the most powerful man in the Catholic Church. The way he is posturing himself with power is inviting others to relax, lean in and listen a little closer. I have seen less defensiveness about and combativeness toward the Catholic Church since he became Pope. In a time of serious religious strife around the world, we may do well to take his ten tips toward happiness quite seriously.

 

Encounter

1 Aug

The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out. Jesus tells us: “Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Bear witness to the Gospel!” (cf. Mk 16:15). . . In this “stepping out” it is important to be ready for encounter. For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others. . . with our faith we must create a “culture of encounter”, a culture of friendship, a culture in which we find brothers and sisters, in which we can also speak with those who think differently, as well as those who hold other beliefs, who do not have the same faith. They all have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God. Going out to meet everyone, without losing sight of our own position. (5/18/13) –Pope Francis

I just got back in from stepping out. To go where? The outskirts, the world. To do what? Encounter. I took a lovely group of high school students up to Ely, then out to the wilderness of the Boundary Waters for ten days. In Ely they were stripped of their cell phones, watched as they packed just two pairs of pants and two shirts and two pairs of shoes- one wet and one dry set. They did not know exactly where they were going, or what their next meal would be. They got vulnerable fast. Some young people were thrilled, others were skeptical, but it didn’t take long on the water for them to marvel at the scenery, admire the clear water and get hushed at the sight of loons.

via flickr user Steve took it

via flickr user Steve took it

In Ely our big group split up into smaller groups of eight– two adults and six youth. Day after day we ate together over a fire we built ourselves, we slept wedged together in our tents, we switched up partners to chat with on the canoe while finding our paddling rhythm. We huddled together in the rain, pushed each other through long and technical portages, shared books and hammocks. We fished and played cards, hiked and created inside jokes. Napped. We encountered the Creator in the sunsets. We encountered our Creator in each other.

I had been waiting all year for this trip because I knew the conditions were ripe for encounter. It’s not every day that you get access to a high school student for six days with no technology and nowhere in particular to be and with work to be done and adventures to be had together. I had been trying my best to encounter these young people in fits and starts. In the wilderness, our time together was easy and light. It bound effortlessly. By then end of the week, there was deep recognition and respect between us. We all showed up– really showed up– to play and pray and work and rest together. There was nothing, and then there was something, and that something was very good.

When we returned to Ely, we showered and ate a great meal. We reunited with the other groups of eight and shared stories. And after a weekend of more physical labor as a service project, we got back on the bus to head home. We again had our cell phones and extra changes of clothes, but the ride home felt significantly different than the ride north. There was a comfort, a quiet, calm confidence in the group that can only be earned by stepping out into the world to encounter God and each other.

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