Thirty Days of Thankfulness – 11/15/15

3-17 - Endure

Today I’m reminded that light ALWAYS follows dark. I’m reminded that blue skies ALWAYS follow rain. I’m reminded that spring ALWAYS follows winter. I’m reminded that I can personally do NOTHING about the state of the world except care for the needy, feed the hungry, tend the children and the old, love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with God. So today I’m thankful to remember it’s not about me, but I DO have something I can do – with God’s help.

Justice and Mercy?

I’m weeping again this morning for the people of Baltimore, the people of Ferguson, the people of the whole country who see violent reactions to police violence and feel like they have to take one SIDE or the other. Both are right and both are wrong. It’s only through dialogue and putting aside centuries of hate, despair, and helplessness that we can hope to have these situations improve. Here are a few things I’ve been reading this morning.

Cops on Inside Streets

Charm City Blues: Baltimore and trauma-informed community

10 images of the Baltimore riots you won’t be seeing on TV

The powers that be have done some incredibly stupid things:

  1. stopping the bus service so that the kids couldn’t go home, even if they wanted to.
  2. closing some of the streets so parents couldn’t get to their kids to take them home, even if they tried.
  3. suspending school for today, because if schools were in session, any kids on the street could be picked up as truants and held for a while.

Come on, authorities, THINK instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

And join me in prayer for our broken world.


Advent: Justice #EvergreenAdvent

Amos 5:23-24

Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!


I had a really hard time finding a photo for “Justice”. With the pressing and depressing scenes and events of the past couple of weeks, along with the guilt of white privilege weighing on my soul, I have been near to despair. And then I remembered that I’m not called to right all the wrongs. This is a small “something” that we at Bethany Presbyterian Church can do and have done. We created this garden for our neighborhood here in Tacoma, and we give the plots to anyone who asks for one. The only stipulation is that any excess food grown cannot be sold, but it must be given to Fish Food Bank. It’s a tiny thing we can do to begin to address the ills of poverty and hurt. It’s not everything, but it IS something.

Advent: Home #EvergreenAdvent

Micah 4:1-5

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and peoples will stream to it.

 Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken.
All the nations may walk
    in the name of their gods,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord
    our God for ever and ever.


With Mt Rainier looking over us almost every time we step out of the door, it’s easy to remember that Yahweh made his home on the mountains. May Micah’s prophesy of peace, justice, and enough for everyone come to pass this Advent.


Big Al and I got up early this morning and went to breakfast at Knapps down in the Proctor district. It’s a fine little family style, plain home-cooking restaurant. The excuse was to talk to Representative Derek Kilmer, who is our representative to the House of Representatives. (Do you think I could fit one more “representative” into that sentence?) He’s a first-term congressman and is really trying to do what his constituents want. It’s helpful that most of his constituents are also flaming liberals, like me.


Anyway, during this recess he is holding “Conversation with Derek” at various coffee houses and venues around the district, and there was one scheduled for this morning near us – so we went. It was very nice, because he came around to each table and sat with us and just visited – asked about what our hot-button items were and told us what he was doing. We said we were primarily concerned with the erosion of military retirement benefits, with SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), and with the attack in various parts of the country on voting rights. (We told him we were eternally grateful that we no longer had to apologize to the rest of the country for being from Texas.)

He serves on the Armed Forces Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, and all the Navy bases on the Kitsap Peninsula are in his district, so he seems intimately familiar with the status of military pay and benefits. He promised he would do what he can to assure the benefits that were promised to us for many years are not further eroded. Unfortunately, he is pretty junior, but he’s willing to go to bat for the service people in his district.

I told him I was on the Board of Pierce County Hunger Advocates, and he said he remembered meeting with Herman Diers (the chair of PCHA). He thanked me (blush) for my involvement, and I told him we were aware of his support for SNAP and for a fair and balanced budget. He said he was appalled at the rhetoric during the debate on SNAP, and he related how “mean” (his word) the Republicans seemed about the issue. He said he was embarrassed at them wanting to require employment for eligibility for SNAP, as if they didn’t know most people on SNAP either had a job already or couldn’t work because they were elderly, disabled, or children. He’s trying his best on this issue, and I asked if we could do anything to help him. He said the best thing to do is to spread the word to all our friends and family and set the record straight.

He has joined Rep. John Lewis in an effort to restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and will be co-sponsoring a bill to that effect. This to me is one of the most important issues currently in our country. We told him the story of the Texas precinct that had moved its polling place to the whites-only country club, and he just shook his head. He said he will try to do what he can to see that this is put right.

Of course, I ate too much breakfast while waiting for our turn with the Congressman, so I spent the rest of the morning in a semi-comatose state.

Then I had a lunch appointment with a lady from the Nominating Committee at Bethany Presbyterian Church. She asked me if I would be willing to serve on the Session for the next three years, and I agreed. I miss having my fingers in the church pie, and you all know, I’m the ultimate presbygeek, who reads Roberts Rules of Order for fun, and has the Book of Order on my bedside table for a little light bedtime reading. 😉 I was so full from breakfast that I wasn’t able to eat much lunch, but we had a good time talking about politics and church and generally getting to know each other better.



This photo is part of the Lenten Photo-A-Day Challenge.

Yes, that’s a picture of the Carnival Triumph (if you’ve had your head under the covers for the last week, here’s its story.)

The lectionary passage that spoke especially to me today was from Titus 3:6-7

6This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Even without the story of this ship losing power and people being trapped on it, I think I might have still chosen a cruise ship as a symbol of injustice. The contrast between the living/working conditions of the crew and the living/working conditions of passengers on a cruise ship is startling in its injustice. I have enjoyed cruising in the past and I hope to do so again, but I always have a mental picture of the working conditions of the crew in the back of my head. My son was a waiter and bartender on a river boat just after he graduated from college. He met his wife (who was a cocktail waitress) on the boat. I know the interminable hours they worked; I’ve seen their cabins where three or four kids shared a space just large enough for their bunks. If you wanted to change clothes, your cabinmates had to leave the room or stay in their bunks because there wasn’t room enough for two people to stand at the same time. And they weren’t allowed on deck except when they were working. It was also freezing cold at the beginning of the voyage and boiling hot at the end of the voyage because the crew cabins were surrounded by the diesel fuel which was cold, cold, cold when they loaded it, and as it was used up it was replaced by hot, Mississippi, summer-time air.

I also am very timid about praying for “justice” for myself, because I understand that if I were to receive “justice”, I would be damned for all eternity for my many sins. That’s why I love the lectionary passage’s reminder that justice comes to me by grace.


Advent Three – Thursday

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

This speaks particularly to me. One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of prophecy, and it is a VERY difficult gift to have. Sometimes it’s hard not to look at it like a curse rather than a gift. Unfortunately, prophets usually don’t have very comforting or uplifting things to say. They are usually critical of the powers that be, and often offend others, even other believers. That’s probably why Paul says not to despise the prophets, or the prophetic gift.

I have a hard time not resenting the gift when other people look at me like I have snakes crawling out of my ears. But I try to examine everything I say in the light of the scriptures, and in the light the Spirit shows me. I use the tests of mercy, justice and love, as shown by Jesus’s admonitions in the Beatitudes to inform my attitudes.

The Christmas promise is for justice, mercy, and love. Dear God, help me rejoice always in these things in all my life.

Advent Two – Sunday

2 Peter 3:11-18

We look for punishment and sins when disaster strikes, whether it is personal disaster or communal disaster. “What have we done wrong?” we ask. “Do I deserve this?” And then I stop and think, “Of course I deserve this! The only wonder, from a justice standpoint is, why isn’t the disaster even worse?” I consider all the hateful words I’ve said or thought; all the times I’ve passed by on the other side of the road rather than get my hands dirty helping someone else; all the mean, petty acts of spiteful ego. I’m thankful that any disaster that has fallen to me has been mitigated by others’ kindnesses.

Several years ago, my brother called to tell me he had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. And a couple of months after that, my brother-in-law called to say he had liver cancer. They were both relatively young men in their 40s, married with half-grown children, elders in their respective Presbyterian Churches, upstanding citizens, and all the other good adjectives we could apply to them. My brother was treated and is cured 14 years later; my brother-in-law was treated and died that year. Countless people prayed for both of them. To our human eyes there was NO REASON for one to live and one to die.

I still don’t know the answer to this dichotomy. Chances are the things that are important to me aren’t really important in the great scheme of things. “Now we see through a glass darkly…”

All I really know is that G-d has a plan, and it’s none of my business why things work out the way they do. Not having to be responsible for the ultimate outcome of anything is very peaceful for me.