“I want to be an adult!”

The graduation season has just ended, and there’s a comment (sometimes implied, but sometimes stated) that I’ve heard from a lot of graduates and those who are close to graduation.

“I want to be an adult!”

Just what does that mean? Probably not what those who are saying that phrase think that it means!

Often it seems to mean that somebody just simply doesn’t want anyone else to be telling them what to do. Or they want to be able to do what they want without worrying about consequences….or they want to be out on their own…

But being an adult is much more than that.

One of the big things about being an adult is taking responsibility for yourself–and the consequences of your decisions. When you are child, your parents are able to protect you from those consequences sometimes, although good parents don’t shield you from all of them. But when you are an adult, you are responsible…for both good choices and less than good ones, along with the responsibilities coming from them.

It means figuring out how to pay for many of the things that were provided for you when you were at home…food, shelter, clothing, utilities, health care, car expenses…

That requires a job. And finding a good job–and by that, I mean a job with a future–means getting some training, whether that’s through college, an internship, an apprenticeship…

It also means making wise choices about how to deal with your sexuality. For some, that means coming to terms with sexual identity and/or gender identity. For most, it means figuring out wise decisions about when/whether to have sex–and the potential consequences of that! An unexpected child can throw a significant monkey wrench into your plans…as can sexually transmitted diseases.

It means listening to that little voice inside that suggests when something may not be wise…or when the “friend” may not be the best person to hang out with.

Not everything has to be learned the hard way. There are older adults who are willing to mentor you–if you will let them. Sometimes they want you to learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to go through what they did. Sometimes they are simply people who care for you.

Don’t be in a hurry…listen…try…fail–and learn from your failures…fall–and get up again…and trust. Trust that there are people who want only the best for (and from) you. Trust that there are people who love you. Trust that there are people who will walk with you.

  • Image result for Act Like an Adult Quotes

Welcome the stranger…

Last night I sat in on a wonderful evening of story-telling from members of (and about) my faith tradition. Some of the stories were funny…some were more somber.

My faith tradition was birthed in the United States, but it did not have an easy birth or childhood. We were “different”…we challenged the status quo…and we became refugees. We were driven from place to place, and our founder was ultimately murdered. In many ways, it’s a wonder that we survived.

But the story that caught my attention last night was of one of those times of wandering. We were forcibly driven out of our homes in winter. We lost most of our earthly possessions–and many families did not know where their fathers were…or even if they were still alive. The journey was a difficult one. Sometimes we were able to find shelter–even if it was dirty and smelly; sometimes we were denied even that. Ultimately we found people who cared…people who saw us not as “other” but as human beings in need. We found a city of 1500 who were willing to take in 5000 refugees who had nothing. We found a temporary home while we regrouped so that we could go on.

As I listened to that story, I thought about the parallels with today…with my parents’ generation and my own.

In the 1930s there were people fleeing and looking for a place of shelter. They were people who had lost everything and who were afraid for their lives–and the lives of their children. Some found shelter, but many did not and perished.

Credit Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Today there are many fleeing and looking for safe places for themselves and their children. Some have found shelter–but many are still looking.

Yes, they are “other”…they are different.

But I am part of a country that has grown from the contributions of immigrants and refugees. I am part of a faith tradition that was welcomed as refugees. I am also part of a bigger faith tradition whose story includes both being welcomed as a stranger–and then being challenged to do the same to others. My people were welcomed…and I grew up believing this poem by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Compassion…to suffer with…

Sometimes there are almost no words to say. But I have to try.

Yesterday I was shocked and appalled at the current administration’s budget. But I was even more appalled to hear the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, describe it as “compassionate.” Compassionate?!?

This proposed budget includes a huge increase in defense spending–with corresponding cuts to (1) climate change research, (2) foreign aid, (3) public broadcasting, (4) national institutes of health, (5) meals on wheels, and (6) after-school programs…among others. The reasons? They don’t believe in the science that has been widely accepted around the world–and, in the case of Meals on Wheels and after-school programs, they don’t see any demonstrable benefits from them.

Really?

First of all, for many of the kids (and families) who depend on the after-school programs, they provide a safe place, food, and a place where they can get help with schoolwork. Those aren’t demonstrable benefits?

And Meals on Wheels provides nutritional meals for folks who may be on the border of having to choose between food and other necessities…folks who may not be able to get out…as well as providing a way for someone to check up on them to ensure they haven’t fallen (or worse). Those aren’t demonstrable benefits?

I said yesterday that I believe that the GOP and I use different dictionaries to find the definition of compassion. The dictionaries I use indicate that the word comes from the mid-14th century, from Latin words that mean “to suffer with.” I do not see much suffering with those who are poor…hungry…in need.

And I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited….

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.

 

What is happening to my country?

Every morning for the past week I have awakened with this question…”What is happening to my country?!”

It has not been perfect, and yes, there have been issues that I believe need to be corrected. But suddenly I feel like I’ve been transported to another, extremely unfamiliar place–one that has the same language, places, forms of government that I have come to know, but that somehow is off kilter.

And I am just sick.

I spImage result for coventry cathedral crossent some of my younger years in a country that had been devastated by the second world war. One of the places we visited–and that had a powerful impact on me–was Coventry Cathedral, a beautiful building that had been bombed out. But at the front of the ruined building was an altar with a cross…and a prayer: “Father, forgive.”

Forgive our inhumanity to each other…our fear of “the other”…our desire for dominance…there were so many things to pray forgiveness for.

And as a world, we swore we would never let anything like that happen again.

But we did. In Bosnia-Herzegovina…Rwanda…Cambodia…

And again we said, we would never let it happen. We had learned our lessons.

But we haven’t…and I’m fearful that we’re taking the same road…again.

How did those countries get to that point? There are ten steps on the road to genocide. They’re not inevitable; the process can be stopped…but the further a society goes down the road, the more difficult it is. Here are the steps:

  1. Classification – separating people into “us and them” by various categories (ethnicity, race, religion)
  2. Symbolization – giving names or other symbols to the classifications
  3. Discrimination – using law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups
  4. Dehumanization – equating members of a specific group with animals, verman, insects, diseases…using hate language against the group
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization – driving the groups apart, again by using hate language
  7. Preparation – often done using euphemisms to talk about what is being done
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

As I watch the news, I’m afraid we’re heading down that road…and I’m scared. Not so much for myself, but for friends…and for my children and grandchildren. What kind of world are we creating for them?

Advent 4…

I did not get my article posted yesterday for Advent 4…but we are still in that week.

There were valid reasons for my delay. We had extremely cold and bitter temperatures…we had ice and snow…I had a graduation and a nursing recognition ceremony to play for…and our musician at church got sick and I needed to cover (and also take a couple of other responsibilities in the service as well)…

Valid reasons…but also in many ways a response to the theme and focus yesterday.

Our them for Sunday was “Emmanuel: God with us”…and we celebrated the emphasis of love.

“God with us”…God meeting us where we are. But it’s not just God doing that.

We meet each other for ministry where each person is.

Sometimes that means playing the organ for a celebration of a life activity, such as a graduation. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work someone has put into that accomplishment.

Sometimes that means allowing someone else to take the time they need to recuperate.

Sometimes it just means being aware of what’s going on in someone else’s life.

And sometimes it’s pretty easy…sometimes it’s not.

Love isn’t particularly difficult when someone is lovable. But when someone is angry…or upset…or smelly…or any of the other myriad of reasons we don’t really want to have anything to do with them, it can be difficult.

But there’s a lovely poem by Christina Rossetti that I think catches up the theme…and the challenge…of this week:

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Still stunned…what do I say?

I stayed up late to watch the election results come in–but gave up about midnight. It was looking pretty clear that the election was not going to go the way I had hoped it would, although I wondered if I would wake up to a Dewey-Truman upset situation. That wasn’t to be.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what we have done.

do understand that there are a large number of people who do not trust Hillary Clinton. While I don’t agree, I do respect their perspective.

What I can’t get my head around is that she was considered to be the most honest and the most qualified of the two major candidates–and yet, a majority of the people who said that still voted for Donald Trump…because they felt he was most likely to bring about change.

But what kind of change?

I hope he will be more like he sounded in his speech…but I struggle with his statement that it’s time for us as a country to pull together and that he wants to be the president for all Americans. That is what I want to…but his whole campaign seemed to be built on dividing us rather than pulling us together.

And I’m concerned that we still don’t understand each other.

While I know this is a blanket statement that doesn’t necessarily hold true for everyone, those who voted for Trump seem now to be saying “It’s time to get over it…time to move on.” But do they not understand the fears and concerns of many who voted for Hillary? those who were the targets of Trump’s divisive rhetoric? those who now fear that this campaign unleashed hateful rhetoric and actions that will be difficult to put back in the bottle because it was made acceptable?

Too many people who were marginalized in the past–and who had hopes that things were changing–are now finding themselves being pushed back into the margins–and fear for their lives…their jobs…their homes…their loved ones.

  • Nazi symbols are being painted on the churches and homes of African-Americans.
  • LBGT folks have been attacked simply walking on the street and been told they belong in concentration camps.
  • Married LGBT couples are fearful about the future of their marriages.
  • Latinos have been told they should go back to Mexico, even if they were born here.
  • African-American children have been told they should “get back in place.”
  • Women are fearful that crude sexual language has become acceptable–and that sexual assaults are “just boys being boys.”
  • Muslim women in many places are fearful of wearing the hijab in public.
  • Individuals with disabilities have been mocked.

This may not be happening where you live…and it may not be anything you agree with. But over the last several months, the language of bullying has become more acceptable…and those who are the recipients of it (and their friends and allies) have become more fearful of what the future holds.

Yes, I know that our future first lady has said that she will take on cyber-bullying. I really hope she does…but she’s going to have a challenge with that, since her husband’s campaign seemed to free people to be open about their bullying language and actions.

We will heal–I hope. But we also need to have time to grieve–and to listen to (and try to understand) the fears and concerns of those who find themselves wondering if there is truly a place for them in Trump’s America.

 

Memories…part 3

Once you open the door, it’s surprising what pops out!

I thought most of my childhood memories had come up with my last couple of posts. But…surprise! So…here goes.

I remember climbing on Stonehenge. (This was before it got so popular with visitors that for its protection it had to be fenced off.) As a child, the stones looked enormous…and magical and mystical.

I remember learning to knit in school…or at least, the teacher trying to teach us. I think it was Miss Bunny…and unfortunately the lessons didn’t really take. I finally learned to knit years later from my aunt.

I remember my mother hanging clothes to dry in our dining room (I think). That’s where the fire was, and since we didn’t have a dryer, in the cold weather that was the best place for heat.

And along with that, I remember freezing and roasting with the fireplace. In order to get warm all over, I had to keep turning. Otherwise the side facing the fire got super hot while the backside froze!

I remember the weekly doses of cod liver oil to make sure we were getting enough of whichever vitamin is found in it. I was so glad to discover I wasn’t going to have to continue that back in the States!

I remember having sinus issues–and my folks being told by the doctor that it would be better if I could spend the winter in France! That didn’t happen…we all just dealt with the colds and sinus “stuff.”

I remember one Christmas getting to hold a big turkey leg…unfortunately just for pictures to be sent back to grandparents! Once the picture was over, the turkey leg went back to the table to have the meat removed for everyone to share.

I remember when we got back to the States being on the train to come back to Independence. We had a sleeper, and we opened the curtains to watch the lights go by before we went to bed. When we arrived back, there was a large crowd to meet us–and I remember being surprised by all the noise and greetings.

I remember becoming aware that the way history is written (and taught) depends on who is doing it! When I left England, we had been studying the rebellion of the American colonies. When I started school in the States, we were studying the Revolutionary War…and the stories I heard about the events didn’t come close to what I had learned in England! I’ve always been grateful that my teacher was open to my sharing another perspective.

I remember struggling with some spelling…and there are still some words that I struggle with. I’m never sure whether it’s “judgment” or “judgement”…”grey” or “gray”…”acknowledgment” or “acknowledgement”… I’ve gotten over my struggle with “color” or “colour” but there are other cases in which both the English and American spelling look correct.

I realized that the countries really are two countries divided by the same language! Is it a “boot” of a car or a “trunk”? Is it a “cookie” or a “biscuit”? Is it the “hood” of a car or the “bonnet”? Are you going to the “chemist” or to the “pharmacy”? Are you going on “vacation” or “holiday” in a “caravan” or a “trailer”?

I remember being in high school before I knew that some close family friends were just that–friends, not relatives. We had always called them “Aunt” and “Uncle” as was the custom in England, and I just assumed that they really were.

And so it goes…