Ready to fight back? Or Scared? Or don’t know what to do? (I’m all three)

I wrote a short homily the other day while I was stuck in bed with some kind of cold/flu thing. It was about introducing our Grand Baby into our house that has a pack of fairly attention whore dogs. You know you’re never sure how that’s going to go. It led to a meditation on “How I Came to Love Pit Bulls,” which I might publish soon, if I can get the thing to wind up with a pleasant end.

I’m not afraid of the dog breed (most any dog breed, come to think of it) and I know their reputation as a nursemaid, babysitter, protector. Sometimes there’s a difference between reputation and reality.

That same sort of unknown fear pops up when we get ready to fight back: it’s quite possible we could step forward and begin to speak and the whole thing explode in our face like a rotten tomato on a hot summer day. (Been there. You never forget that smell.) My fear was around my family. I have had this lucky, blessed life all the way up until this year in which universal acceptance is the norm. All those multiple coming-outs (there have been quite a few in the medical part of my life) have sped along as if … nothing.

Yet now, it’s different.

Within my immediate family there’s those of us who are pretty much mortified about current events and we wonder how we, as “the right kind of” Christians are supposed to respond to all that badness that fell into our lives, and which we cannot escape for a very long time.

And then there are those who ecstatic about these changes, who call the protesters “Losers”, and say terrible things like “They will thank us later.” No. I’m afraid I won’t. My choice.

Those people frighten me. After hearing/reading such comments I had a moment of panic because I did not know what to do with these people, now to respond to them, or how to even keep them in my life. I still don’t know the answer to that last one. I did send around news that we won’t be discussing politics (etc) at family gatherings. We see each other as a whole group so infrequently that let’s not waste precious time together focusing on what might bring hurt feelings to someone else at the table. We must love our family because they are our family, and they are – in Christian Speak – our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Good God, sometimes that’s tough to do. Especially if you fear their derision.

Find your ministry.

Mostly beyond that fear of emotional hurt, I’m not sure where to start or what to do. The answer to that is completely within you, and it’s not too difficult to dig in and get some ideas. Voting and politics is an example:

That whole milieu of volunteering and helping out and working the polls doesn’t interest me at all. Not that it isn’t a very important action that needs to be built up and maintained, it just isn’t my thing.

If I’m making a charitable contribution to a large/national organization, first I want to know how much of my donation goes to the mission of the organization, and how much goes to salary, fund raising, and fluff. I’m building a static page here that will list the best place to research the usefulness of your donation, along with some ideas on where to donate. Somewhere on that list there must be something that interests me, or that gives me an idea to then go looking for the charity that interests me.

Edit down if you have to.

You can’t do it all. And you can’t finance it all, even at $15-20 a pop. My first step in this process is to look at current charitable donations and see if I need to re-direct that money to something else. What on the list is must do, what is I’d like to do, and what is one of these days I’ll do it?

Learn to say NO.

The bane of my existence is “Oh. You’re retired. You have time to …” No I do not. Or the wasted subtlety of “What do you do with yourself all day?” You’re reading it. I had to learn to say no to what others thought for me that I could do, and focus on what I wanted. I’m a writer, a musician, a contemplative, and then I write some more. Maybe if I look around within my activities I can find something that I can do to help that I enjoy doing, that my body will endure doing (there’s some pretty heavy limitations there.)

Stop being so angry.

Oh, this is the most difficult one! My body and my spirit are filled with so much anger that by the end of my day I don’t want to hear about current events, I don’t want to discuss them. I want to sit in my proverbial prayer closet and have a rest. I want to recap the day. I want to quiet my mind and say, “Thank you for helping me make it through another day.”

Some days that is battle enough: to just make it through the day.

And the take-away from that is simple. I have made it through this day, and used my contemplative mind to consider the possibilities of standing up to fight (whatever “fight” means) and do it in a safe way that doesn’t feed my fears. Tomorrow, I learn a little more, and a little more the day after that.

As the old song says, “Every round goes higher, higher”

Keep the faith!
– Amen

 

 

 

The illustration above is from “The Siege of Antioch” during the first Crusade. Certainly not Christianity’s bright shining moment. We didn’t thank them later.

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First: Do What You Know, Even If You Don’t Believe in Angels

If someone were to ask you, “Quick! Recite something from a Psalm,” you’d likely go to “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23)
Or if they asked you to (quick as you can!) recite a prayer that’s not a table grace, you might start off, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallow/ed be thy name…” (Mtt. 6:9-13)
This week was another one of those “Quick!!…DO something!” kind of weeks, and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of what happened and why, election this-and-that. I choose not to write about that part, but rather… the fear, the mourning, the healing we pray for.  It is the time to be galvanized, connected, and ready to continue creating the change we need in the world.
I do not agree with the prognosticators saying, “Don’t curl up in a ball.” “Don’t run away.” If you need to do that for however long it takes, go ahead! I certainly did, and I loathed the idea that someone should tell me to “just cheer up” when my body and my spirit wasn’t ready to do that.
Take as long as you need.
Your friends, your supporters, your caregivers, your prayer chain and assembled group of “we are thinking of you and remembering your grief,” we are here, and we are ready to proceed when you are. What’s the rush in getting it all back in order?
I’ll get more into shock reactions and the darkness I felt later on, as the memory of all that becomes less raw. I will keep politics out of the mix, and I will not preach any particular sort of salvation.
Ours is – after all – just a pause.
My first go to, when I was able to have prayerful thoughts again, was to turn to the Order of Compline in the Episcopal prayer book. It’s my favorite of all the services in the book. Not because it’s so short (you can get through it reading aloud in under 20 minutes) but because it is concise with extremely lyrical prayers about how we ask for God’s protection during the over-night, until the next day arrives.
One of the prayers speaks of angels, and that one sounds out to me today, because my first prayer I could say out loud was
“Protect me.”
I didn’t feel my safety was at risk even though I fear that for others around me. I prayed that because of what another Compline prayer describes as the changes and chances of this life. That is kind-of what’s going on right now. The prayer goes on to remind us of the eternal changelessness of God. Whatever awful, stupid crap happens around us, this one part of our experience with the universe never changes.
The prayer that popped to my Quick! reaction is this one:
Visit this place, O LORD, and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessings be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 – Amen
Protect me. Protect us all. Guide us away from wrong choices if that’s possible and if not, help us to learn quickly from our missteps.  If angels aren’t your thing nor this whole Christian gig, think of that phrase as: show us all our better angels. Show us that there is life beyond today, and that it is our vocation to live it.
If I can go to sleep and rest in that great changelessness (faith), then tomorrow, just maybe, the day will be a tiny bit brighter than today (hope.) 
Be good to each other and be there for each other. Give folks time to step into sunlight at their own pace. What’s the hurry? Healing comes as it comes and will not be rushed.
Keep the faith!
 – Amen
A little song from my Sunday School days that I didn’t even realize had verses. I have certainly sang the refrain all my life.

Angels Watching Over Me.

All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching Over Me (My Lord)
All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching, Over Me
You Can Accuse Me,
You Can Even Abuse Me,
You Can Drive Me From The Cold
(The Angels, Keep Watching, Over Me)
You, You Can Crucify This Old Body,
Oh, But You Can Not, You Can’t Touch
My Soul…
(Yes, The Angels Keep Watching… Over Me.)
I Haven’t … Been To Heaven
But… I’m Surely, I’m Surely
On My Way… Oh, (Background)
I Am Walking… With My Jesus
Every Night… And Every Day..
(Yes, The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me.)
In The Midnight, When I Get In Trouble
When I Lay, Me Down To Sleep, Oh….
(The Angels, Keep Watching,… Over Me)
I Don’t Wonder, And I Don’t Have To Worry, For I Know The Lord, My Soul He’ll Keep.
(The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me)
,
,
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Candle Lighting Prayers against gun violence

These prayers are suggested for use during a candlelight (and prayer?) vigil. They are  prayers said while lighting the main candle. This selection is written for multiple readers, or you may choose as many/few selections as is appropriate for your use.

This set of prayers is adapted from a community non-denominational service against gun violence, see the credits at the end.

Note that the red asterisk [ ** ] is a “breath mark” or a pause mark where the reader make take a short pause while reading.


Candlelight Vigil Prayers

Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the victims of gun violence, both those who have been injured and those who have been killed, in our nation and especially [location.] **

We hold their memories dear. **

We treasure those lives permanently altered through injury or those taken in senseless acts of violence, **

and we pray that they might find rest and peace. **

May their lives continue to make a difference in our world. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Light, heal our broken hearts.

 

Reader 1

We light this candle in remembrance of the families and friends of the victims of gun violence in our nation and especially [location.] **

Comfort those who mourn. **

Dry the tears of those who weep. **

Sustain those who feel diminished. **

Impart courage to the hearts of those who feel helpless. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Peace, sustain our broken hearts.

 

Reader 3

We light this candle in remembrance of all communities torn apart by gun violence. **

We are too familiar with places like Columbine High School and Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Roseburg, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas, Orlando, Florida.  ** **

The memory of them is intolerable. Each of these incidents of violence affects all of us in our daily lives and work. **

Grant us strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Renew our resolve to respect the dignity of all human beings. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Comfort, encourage our broken hearts.

 

Reader 4

We light this candle in remembrance of first responders, including police, fire
and rescue personnel who witness the horror of gun violence while in service to
our communities, and for all those with responsibility for law enforcement. **

We give thanks for their call to protect and serve and to seek justice, which is inspirational
to others, **

and we pray that their emotional wounds will be healed. **
Together we pray.
All: God of Courage, inspire our broken hearts.

 

Reader 5

We light this candle for those lives taken by gun violence through suicide, **

and also for those lives taken through accidental shootings, **

especially when those shootings involve children. **  **

Console and strengthen those whose despair is great. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Mercy, comfort our broken hearts.

 

Reader 6

We light this candle in remembrance of all people impacted by gun violence, **

as gun violence knows no boundaries but can affect all nationalities, races, cultures, genders, and socioeconomic classes; **

it effects us regardless of who we choose to love, and those who choose to love us; **

it can affect us where we live, where we worship, where we work, where we study, and where we play. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Love, transform our broken hearts.

 

Reader 7

We light this candle for those who have committed acts of gun violence and for their families, in our nation and especially [location.]  **

We remember those suffering from mental illness who have gone untreated,  **

we remember those suffering from loneliness and isolation. **

We pray for those who would use guns, power and violence rather than respect and dignity to reconcile differences. **

Grant us the strength to pursue a voice of love. **

Together we pray.
All: God of Forgiveness, enlighten our broken hearts.

 

Reader 8

We light this candle to pray for ourselves and others in our lives who have been touched by gun violence. **

During the silent pause, we invite you to offer the names either silently or aloud of those for whom you pray. (the group / crowd / congregation is invited to add their personal names aloud or remember them in their hearts.) ** ** ** ** **

Together we pray.
All: God of Astonishing Mercy, Compassion and Immeasurable Love, restore our broken hearts and enliven our confidence to find new ways to revive our world to become a world of peace.

Amen.
So be it.
آمن‎‎

 

An appropriate song:

This Little Light of Mine
sung by Odetta

 

 

 

 

 


 

credit: bishopsagainstgunviolence.org prayer service bulletin: “A Moral Call: People of Faith Confronting the Tragedy of Gun Violence.” Sunday, December 13, 2015, 2015. First Unitarian Universalist Society, Burlington, VT.

 

 

 

 

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