A New Day

It has been way too long since I’ve done anything with this blog. I’ve had lots to say, but life was just moving so fast I didn’t see a good time to pause and write. However, I think this is about to change. I am sitting in the airport in Washington, D.C. right now, returning home from Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2011. It was a great event that really changed my motivation for ministry, but energized me to move forward.

The conference was opened and closed by amazing plenary sessions. I’ll go into more detail about each of them in later posts, but this quote was shared during the first session. It is from Sally McFague’s book, A New Climate Theology. In it, McFague says:

“If God is always incarnate– if God is always in us and we are in God– then Christians should attend to the model of the word as God’s body. The model of the world as God’s body helps us understand the doctrine of creation is not about God’s power, but about God’s love.”

A new understanding of creation leads us to a new understanding of our life and our purpose within creation. Everything around us is part of God’s body, created by God’s love. It was from this perspective I began my time at Ecumenical Advocacy Days. We were there to seek peace and justice through God’s love, for God’s creation.

In the closing session, Jack Jezreel of JustFaith Ministries shared great insight into why we do the work of justice and peace. Jezreel left little room for us to stay silent in our collective witness for God. His goal for the night was to make us uncomfortable with our current place in our mission. He was very successful, but it made me uncomfortable in a way to motivates. I feel bad that I’ve been complacent in what I’ve done and haven’t done. Jezreel shared this insight with us later in the evening:

“Churches are not losing members because they are wrong…it’s because they aren’t courageous.”

We in the church like to blame each other for the failings of the church. In the United Methodist Church, in which I serve, it usually comes down to a conservative/liberal type argument. After thinking about it, both sides are correct. We are all to blame. I don’t think we do enough when it comes to justice. We don’t work for the rights of each and every person in the global community. This causes people to avoid the church, to find alternative ways of expressing their spirituality, and to work for justice wherever the opportunity arrises. It’s time for the church to be courageous, to take major risks, to be heroic in the struggle for God’s love to be realized by all.

I’ll share more in the coming days, as well as some pictures. I just wanted to get the first post up so that I started the process again. Who knows, if my plane gets delayed any more, maybe the next post will come sooner than I think!

Grace and Peace,

Check This Out!

Throughout the summer, 5 young adults from the different parts of Nebraska came together to look into what doing justice within our church was all about. The interns were part of a program called Micah Corps, and have done amazing work. Many of the things they’ve done can be seen on their blog by clicking here.

You’ll see interviews with different agencies they worked with, as well as some interviews with pastors from the Nebraska Conference. (You may even find me on there! 😉 )

Hope that you can venture over to their blog.

Grace & Peace,
Z

Random Acts of Kindness

I saw this article in the Lincoln paper last week, and then we discussed it at our weekly Lenten study. It sparked a lot of good discussion about helping others and what we should do as Christians. There were many diverse opinions on whether social justice is merely enabling people to live off of others or if it was needed. It was test of my skills as a pastor and teacher to stay calm with my own opinions and allow the discussion. All in all, it was a really good discussion and I wish more people could have been involved. Check out the article below!

Grace and Peace,
Z

Anonymous Club Donates to Others

“I chose the little gal who got raped at the tanning salon.”

A woman with pretty fingernails turns the pages of a scrapbook. She stops on a pink page devoted to the 19-year-old tanning salon clerk.

She read about it in the paper. She doesn’t know the 19-year-old’s name and the young woman won’t know hers. That’s one rule: You stay anonymous.

She glued a copy of her letter into the scrapbook.

Hello,

I belong to a group of anonymous local women called RAK. It stands for Random Acts of Kindness. We meet monthly and put a little money together for people who could use a ray of sunshine sent their way.

She sits with her group at Buzzard Billy’s. They drink margaritas and beer. They play old-school trivia. They laugh and chat.

They quiet down when it’s time for the woman with pretty fingernails to announce this month’s recipient.

She tells them how, the other day, she walked into the tanning place with the letter and the $240.

Whoever hosts the monthly meeting chooses to whom that month’s money goes.

You panic at first, when it’s your month. But something always comes up.

“Unfortunately.”

You read something in the paper, she says, or you hear a friend tell a sad story.

Her fingernails glide across other pages of the scrapbook, stopping on photos of people the group has helped.

There’s a picture of a Lincoln High kid from Sudan. A woman in the group had heard how he worked and cared for his younger siblings and how someone stole his van.

There’s a 2-year-old Minnesota boy killed in a tornado. The photo shows him smiling under the brim of a cowboy hat that’s too big. He holds a toy horse, as if he’s ready to ride.

There’s Dick and Jane Kreifels, who’ve taken in three men with disabilities, Bob, Scott and Mark. Mark’s arm is around Jane’s neck in the photo.

I want you to take this money and do something fun with it.

Some of this group’s women are teachers. One works in real estate. One is a counselor. One does fingernails.

Several pages of the scrapbook are devoted to group fun nights. Like the pajama party at Mahoney State Park. White wine. Smiling women.

That’s another rule: Find fun people for your group.

Fun, responsible people.

Use it to pay a bill you’ve needed to take care of, get a new outfit, go get your hair done. WHATEVER!!

Last April, someone in the group chose a 17-year-old who was riding in a car that crashed into a tree. His page includes a newspaper photo of the crumpled car.

The woman with pretty fingernails started this group after her own teenage daughter got in a wreck, one so bad the driver died. Her daughter spent a long time in the hospital.

One day in those dark months, a woman she knew handed her an envelope. It contained money. And a letter.

“Oh, my God.”

Her eyes fill with tears, remembering the moment.

“I still have her letter. She said just to pay it forward.”

So she started this group.

She took her daughter with her to drop off the money and letter at the tanning salon.

We want you to know how exceptionally sorry we are for your recent troubles, and let you know there are people everywhere thinking and praying for you – some you’ve never met.

Take care and God Bless you!!!

Random Acts of Kindness.