Chosen…for what?

A friend of mine sent this yesterday:

Think of the many, many stories about God choosing people. There are Moses, Abraham, and Sarah; there are David, Jeremiah, Gideon, Samuel, Jonah, and Isaiah. There is Israel itself. Much later there are Peter and Paul, and, most especially, Mary.

God is always choosing people. First impressions aside, God is not primarily choosing them for a role or a task, although it might appear that way. God is really choosing them to be God’s self in this world, each in a unique situation. If they allow themselves to experience being chosen, being a beloved, being somehow God’s presence in the world, they invariably communicate that same chosenness to others. And thus the Mystery passes on from age to age. Yes, we do have roles and tasks in this world, but finally they are all the same—to uniquely be divine love in a way that no one else can or will.

Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spiritualityby Richard Rohr pp. 42-43

What an interesting way to look at God’s choosing!

I’ve sometimes tended to run when I sense God calling…sometimes because I don’t want to take on another task or role. I usually have plenty of things going on and I don’t need to add yet another “job.”

But this gives a totally different perspective. I’m not being asked to take on yet something else to try to find time for on my calendar…I’m being asked to simply be. Rohr’s statement is that we are being called “to be God’s self in this world, each in a unique situation.” To me that carries with it the implication that I am being called to be true to who God created me to be–since I believe that each of us has been created in God’s image…and each of us lives in unique life circumstances.

Right now I am feeling swamped with jobs that have to get done–preferably yesterday! I haven’t even written down my to-do list, because I don’t want to know just how much “stuff” is on my plate (although I probably will write it down shortly just to be sure that I don’t miss anything). I don’t want to add anything else…and so I’ve ignored (or tried to!) the sense of God calling.

But this short devotional from Rohr gives me hope. It’s like another friend said many years ago: God doesn’t want more of my time. God wants more of me.

That’s something I can do.

Let us remember…

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news about President Kennedy’s assassination – in my high school senior English class, discussing American humorists.

I also remember where I was twelve years ago. I was walking into work and saw a number of coworkers gathered around the TV in the lunchroom. I was going to simply walk on past, but then the picture caught my eye. It looked at first like a scene from a movie–but then I realized it wasn’t. I initially thought they were replaying what had just happened…but it was the second plane hitting the Twin Towers.

No one wanted to go to work. No one wanted to move. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing and hearing…

I work for my denomination, and a friend of mine–an organist–coped with it the best way she knew how, and she offered ministry for many of the rest of us…playing for a couple of hours as we had the opportunity to come and go (or stay), trying to process how our world had changed.

About a year or so later, my husband and I took a trip back East, and we went to Ground Zero. What struck me then were the pictures and the impromptu memorials that had sprung up.

Later we decided we wanted to see the movie “World Trade Center.” Again, what struck me was the way in which people helped each other–and the firefighters and other rescuers who moved forward into what they knew was an extremely dangerous situation with confidence and assurance that this was their job…and their ministry.

Our world changed twelve years ago. We cannot go back and undo what happened–but we can change some of the changes that occurred.

We have let it polarize us…separate us from each other. We have allowed ourselves to believe that violence is the answer to violence…and the spiral of hatred and violence has continued.

If we can each live so that we shine as a light of healing…hope…reconciliation…we can change the way in which we remember 9-11-11. It may sound impossible…but Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

So…would you join me in bringing the light of healing and hope into our world?


My brother’s keeper…

As the global community–and the United States in particular–struggle with how to respond to the situation in Syria, I find this statement from the Old Testament to keep resonating in my mind: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The simple answer to that question is yes. But then the challenge arises–just how does that play out?

If I am indeed my brother’s keeper, then I cannot ignore the abuse of the Syrian government in using nerve gas on its own citizens–men, women, and children. To do nothing is to leave the possibility open for another occurrence–if not by Assad, then by another dictator who feels the necessity to use it in order to prop up his government.

But what am I to do? Violence only seems to beget violence, and so I struggle with the idea that some kind of military reaction is the right solution. There is already so much violence in not only Syria but in that whole corner of the world. And neither side (if indeed there are only two sides) is completely innocent. Both the government and the rebels have made horrific choices in how they act.

My own government’s hands are not completely clean, either. We have had a history of supporting rulers who have perpetuated abuses against their own people because they supported us in some way…and then turning on them when either they stopped being malleable or when something better came along.

I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t think there is one. I only know that I–we…all of us–must struggle with the concept of what it means to be our brother’s keeper…and how to live it out in this world that has become so interconnected.

Labor Day thoughts

I’ve enjoyed the long weekend this year. It’s been a much-needed respite from a hectic summer.

But as the holiday ends, my mind keeps returning to the history of Labor Day. It’s been around for over 100 years–and its original focus was to “exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.” That focus has changed through the years…placing more emphasis on the “economic and civic significance of the holiday.”

It seems, though, that as the years have passed, we have given less and less respect to those who actually do the labor that allows us to eat, wear clothing, have comfortable homes. We have tended to say that those who are the “head honchos” are the ones we ought to look up to, ignoring the fact that many of them have risen to their positions because of the efforts of those who labor.

This year there have been calls and demonstrations in support of raising the minimum wage–which has been at $7.25 since 2009. That means that a full-time, year-round worker makes just over $15,000 a year…just barely above the poverty level for a single-person household ($11,490). And the value of that wage has been falling over the last forty years. In 1968 (when I was finishing college), the federal minimum wage was $1.60 an hour–but if it had kept up with inflation, workers making the minimum wage in 2013 would be earning approximately $10.70 an hour. That extra $3.50 makes a lot of difference!

Another issue that keeps coming to mind during this holiday is the CEO-to-worker pay ratio. I’m not at all opposed to CEOs receiving fair valuations–but somehow we’ve gotten things skewed. When so many workers make somewhere around $20 an hour and the CEO makes $15,000 an hour, something is terribly and obscenely wrong. In the United States, the CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies made around 354 times the average wages of workers. How do we compare with other countries?

  • United States – 354
  • Canada – 206
  • Germany – 147
  • Spain – 127
  • France – 104
  • Australia – 93
  • Sweden – 89
  • United Kingdom – 84
  • Norway – 58
  • Poland – 28

So I guess the question in many ways comes down to this: If a company CEO-to-worker ratio is lower than the US average and if they pay their workers what many would consider a living wage, will they flourish or fail?

For me, the answer is found in a comparison between Costco and Walmart. Disclaimer – I have a membership at Costco, and our daughter works there. However, having said that, there does appear to be evidence that when workers are paid a living wage and are treated with respect, the company will flourish. According to an article posted in June, here’s some interesting information:

  • Average cashier salary
    • Walmart – $8.53
    • Costco – $15.60
  • Average pay for low-level managerial position
    • Walmart – $44,774
    • Costco – $53,956
  • CEO compensation
    • Walmart – $19.3 million ($1.3 million salary, $4.4 million bonus, $13.6 million in stock grants)
    • Costco – $4.9 million ($650,000 salary, $200,000 bonus, about $4 million in stock options)
  • Recent quarterly year over year earnings
    • Walmart – up 1.1%
    • Costco – up 19%

So…as this Labor Day holiday draws to a close, I want to say “thank you” to all who work to provide my needs and wants…and also to say that I think it’s time for us to make some changes.