Trash by the Side of the Road. Waste and People, too.

As many of you know, Katelyn and I reside less than a quarter mile from the parish doors directly on Bethlehem Pike. This morning I awoke to find discarded trash littering the front of our home. As I picked it up, I could only imagine that someone took the curve of the road while throwing trash from their car last evening, as they made the curve and continued on southward with nary a notice of what they did, and certainly without a care of whose property they littered. Sadly, without a doubt, we live in an instant gratification, all-for-me, throwaway society. We could care less about God’s planet, climate change, litter, recycling, and yes, even people. All, in today’s modern me-centered-world, are expendable.

This is why our annual concert and silent auction this coming Friday, November 16th, is so important. It is not just our single largest fundraising event, but it sustains us, our mission, and exemplifies our radical welcome to everyone and simultaneously show the world that we are in it together! No matter what may come, no matter what the need, no matter who is unable or able, we sustain a parish like no other: Saint Miriam.

By our willingness to spend a few hours on a Friday evening, as we begin to turn toward Thanksgiving and all that we are grateful for,  once year together, we enjoy a wonderful musical concert and see donated items that rival many larger corporations! We bid on items, as we sip wine and enjoy cheese trays and desserts, all the while knowing that every penny earned goes to support a mission we can believe in. We know, beyond any doubt, that we believe all life is valuable. From the affluent to the struggling. From the model citizen to the ex-offender. From the addicted to the recovering. From the straight to the gay. From the wedded to the divorced. From the White to the Brown, and everyone in between.  This is who we welcome at our doors and to our altar. God asked us to welcome the foreigner among us. It is more than a request, it is a Gospel mandate.

And that is why we are who we are. This is why we believe what we believe. This is how we welcome the citizen, the patriot, the migrant and the immigrant. God said so, we believe it. It is that simple.

Join us this Friday and show the world that no human is trash. Together, by our attendance and participation, we will raise funds to continue the work of the holy church, where people and planet are cared for, prayed for, and cherished.

See you Friday!
 


We Are Better Than This…YOU are Better Than This!

 

Another Mass shooting, No, not that one where Jews were killed in Pittsburgh, but this time where college students, and a police officer about to retire, were slaughtered at a nightclub in California. Too, a caravan of dangerous and exotic aliens is about to invade the country, so the President sends armed troops to ‘do something’. Now, to be sure, exactly what they will do we are unsure of since the military cannot operate within the country’s borders, but none-the-less they are there; some almost 6,000 of them so far! The problem is this highly publicized scary caravan is mostly made of women and children trying to escape poverty and gang activity the likes you and I will never know. The rhetoric says they are thugs, gang members and even terrorists. Farthest from the truth, if the truth matter at all anymore, but the world is whipped into a frenzy and brother has turned against brother over it. We even had a parishioner leave the church over my stance to love and welcome first. I was there for her when she needed me, you were, too! We grieved with her and her family, loved them beyond measure, and opened our hearts to them and made them a home. The politicians were not, but none of that matters anymore because the aliens are coming! These humble, desperate, and poor people, traveling thousands of miles on foot while we won’t walk to the corner store are mere migrants, foreignersto be sure, but those we are mandated as Christians to love and welcome, not shoot if they pick up a stone!

And, how can we forget the latest political turmoil! An Attorney General fired, a campaign that caused people to hate one another and call one another names the likes we have never witnessed on the political landscape, or any other for that matter! A senior member of the White House press corps that upholds the best of the Constitution yanked of his press credentials because he dares stand up to the President, and the video to prove his culpability factory-made! Then at that very same a Press Conference, our President in no way represented the highest office, or the highest ideals of the land that he and others are elected by the people to do. Instead, we witnessed a gathering where African Americans and women were belittled and ridiculed by the one sworn to uphold and protect them. And let us not forget the letter bombs sent to those 14 ‘soft targets’ and a protest at a Fox News host’s home that went way too far. The reason: politics and hate and self-preservation.

No, this is not the greatest generation. This is not the greatest country on the face of the earth. This is not the mightiest or the best or anything wonderful when the least, and the loneliest, the most frightened, and the ones most in need of our love and protection are thrown into the sea of the political and hate-filled landscape like chum to sharks in a feeding frenzy. We are better than this,or at least we used to be.

And before you send me a nasty message about me weighing into politics, (Here is my email link if you wish to get ahead start!) I will once again remind you: my job as a Priest is to protect the issues that are affront to the Gospel that I follow, and the One who gave it to me. And my job as a Pastor is to admonish when I, or you, or the country, or anyone else, or the world is so wrong. I take my duties as sacrosanct. You better, too!

Yes, as a Catholic and a Christian, you should, too! You should be exhausted by the surge of division and the rhetoric that sows seeds of violence from those who know better. (No, not who should know better, but those who actually do!) You should be afraid of the tide of hatred, violence, suspicion and the lack of caring and outright hostility aimed at those of a different political party, or Jews, Muslims, Immigrants and Refugees, Blacks, Gays and Lesbians, and those seeking health care! And if you don’t see the error of where we are as a nation, then no matter what I post here will make any difference. But if you do, if you see the way we should be,and if you would stop being right long enough to be vulnerable and humble again, than you better get to work before it’s too late, and more lives are lost, and we, as a nation, are irretrievably lost.

 Look, we at saint Miriam, and I, as human being and even as a priest, don’t treat other people with dignity and respect and equality because of what we do. We don’t treat other people with dignity and respect and equality even because they deserve it or even because they have somehow earned it! We treat other people with dignity and respect and equality because we believe that allpeople deserve dignity and respect and equality. Period! No matter who they are, no matter what they believe, no matter the color of their skin, or the creed they observe, and most importantly, no matter how they even treat us. We treat them so because those are our Christian values. Those are the values of the One I – and you – should adore and worship and serve; me, as a priest, and you as someone who claims to be a Catholic.

We are better than this. I know, too, that YOU are better than this!  Well, at least we used to be, or maybe we just thought we were. Either way, today we must ask ourselves two vital and determinative questions: (1) Is this the nation we are, and (2) And is this – all the this that has come to be – compatible with the Christ we claim to follow. Think of that this Sunday as you nestle Him into the nave of your hand and pray for His peace. 

The Pentagon is calling the troops to the border, “Operation Faithful Patriot”.  We better begin to operate as faithful Christians, or what we lose will be far greater than any country and its people.
 


Unexpected Instruments of Hate: Guns, People, and Even the Bible.

This past Sunday was the anniversary of my becoming a Deacon. I was ordained on October 29that St. Mary Magdalene Parish and it was there my formation continued until I left to become a full-time Trauma Chaplain. It was also there that I continued my emphasis on ensuring that I always stayed a deacon. As I often say, a good priest is always a deacon first! We must be willing to serve and to serve well, even dying to self, daily, if we are ever to maintain our priestly vows; this all begins with the diaconate.

Every time I hit one of these jubilee dates, even though few if anyone remembers them but me, I am reminded to sit in silence and reflect. I ask God to help me self-evaluate my effectiveness as a pastor, as a priest, as a man. Am I worthy to remain at my current post? Am I to go elsewhere? Am I too tired and need God’s inspiration? Have I fallen and need a respite? I evaluate where I am on these special days in order to ensure I am not ‘outlasting’ my call in any one place, even here at Saint Miriam, a place – and a people – I love beyond measure.

In light of the past weeks’ tragedies and horrific crimes in our nation, especially against the Jews murdered by a mad man as they worshiped God in their place of worship, on their holy sabbath, inspired to hate even deeper by the rhetoric of our ‘anti-everything’ climate, I paused to remember the words of the Talmud (the book of Jewish law), and prayed over these words, a paraphrase of the Prophet Micah:

“Do not be daunted, by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

These words reminded me of my obligation to sometime be even hated by others, as I commit the hard tasks required of the Gospel. I thought of how I have only spoken out against the current political climate on three occasion in the past, as pastor: Once, over the attempt to repeal health care benefits to the nation’s most vulnerable. Next, when immigrants were turned away for no other reason than their nationality. And, Finally, over the ending of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the separating of alien and immigrant children from their parents and the use of what amounts to prison camps for their detention. For me, to walk humbly is to care for others, even those we may not agree with, and especially in the world’s most vulnerable.

This past week I clearly supported the poverty, and immense needs of the people walking in the caravan from Honduras – some of the world’s poorest of the poor – by my openly posting a message that anyone ‘who can walk 3 grueling months with a child to escape violence and poverty’ for a better life can live next to me anytime. What a negative reaction I received from some very unexpected people! Vitriol, hatred, and false facts all to serve as a means to justify what amounts to nothing but hatred of the alien; something so contrary to the Gospel that I cannot – must not – remain quiet. In fact, none of us who claim to be followers of Jesus can remain quiet in the face of such hate. If we do, Jews die, Black men and women die, police officers, die, the world’s poor die and we – you and I – we share the blood of them all for our lack of resolve.

The issues around politics, immigration reform, border security, child abuse, the rights of humans as human beings, freedom of the press, and the governance by compassion for all peopleare tough issues. None will be solved by social media fighting, but, too, none will be solved by us remaining silent as thousands suffer, and even die. Arming people with weapons, whether a gun or a bible used as an instrument of hate wills serve no good end.

Elie Wiesel once penned, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Words that every priest – and every follower of Christ Himself – should wear upon their breast as well. Why? Because ‘we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.’

 



The Ugly America(n)

 

I would imagine of all the misunderstood titles; a special place belongs to William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s novel “The Ugly American.” Today, the phrase is often used as shorthand for our compatriots who wear tube tops on their visit to The Vatican, or those who shout out for Big Macs in Beijing. Thismulti-million-copy bestselling novel coined the phrase for the tragic and devastating indictment of American policy abroad,which depicted the struggle against insurgent Communism in the fictional nation of Sarkhan.Perhaps the book’s most enduring legacy is its argument that ‘we spend billions on the wrong aid projects while overlooking the almost costless and far more helpful ones’. Today, it is not the tube top wearing, Big Mac shouting Americans we need to worry about; it is us.

Today, as I sat down to write an entirely different Blog, someone tried to assassinate with an explosive device and perhaps even a biological agent, two United States Presidents, a Secretary of State, CIA Director, an Attorney General, the Governor of the State of New York, a US Congressperson, and the former head of the Democratic National Committee, not to mention a private United States citizen and a news agency. And, to be clear, it wasn’t just these ‘targets’ that could have been harmed or even killed, it was every person that handled the packages and deliveries: from unsuspecting postal workers, to couriers and helpers, to an unlucky good Samaritan who decided to place the package on a doorstep of a neighbor.Yes, this was an attack on every one us.  As I wrote in a Facebook post, “Let that sink in for a minute before your next post. This has gone far beyond our political differences and now threatens to tear the very fabric of what makes us us..”

I ask myself today, what have we become? What has become of the ideal that politicians were elected to make us safer and our country more productive and caring? Where have all the cowboys in white hats gone, and why do we feel as if we are surrounded by so many black-hat-wearing ‘Black Barts’?

I once romanticized about my remembering when the 200th anniversary of our country occurred. It was a very big deal! And, growing up in Erie, PA, we only had one newspaper: the Erie Daily Times. Now, to be sure, they wanted you to believe they had competition! That is why on Sunday the newspaper that was delivered to your doorstep at the hands of a young newspaper carrier was called, “The Sunday Times News”, but you guessed it, same paper, same publisher, different name!

So, what was the significance of the paper and the year 1976? Color ink was introduced to mainstream news publishing and this edition – the one that celebrated our country and it is 200th bicentennial birthday was in glowing colors of Red, White, and Blue stripes all the way down Page One! And yes, above and below the fold! (Like I said, it was a very big deal!)

At any rate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! So, when it was delivered, I ogled at every tint of color and at every word and then I found a box, wrapped it lovingly and carefully in tin foil from my mother’s kitchen cabinet, and placed it gently under my bed for safe keeping! I was proud to be an American that day, even as youngster. Today, I am still proud, but I am sorely disappointed. This is not the country I remember.

It is time. It is time for us to be better again. While the facts remain unsure and still developing, and the investigation still ongoing from the terrorism that happened across our nation today, it is time to put away our divisive chants, rejection of all the ‘others’ we think not endowed with the same human rights as us, let go of our hate-filled rhetoric and mean-spirited natures and appeal to something that wants to be let out again: The spirit of a good American, a global citizen, no matter your political, fraternal, social, or religious affiliation.

It is time to love again and remove the ugliness from our culture and from the world we impact. If not, what we will lose will be far greater than an election.

 


Be Fearless!

 

Sometimes I wonder why everyone doesn’t have a bit of courage. I don’t mean courage to fight fires or crime, like our brave firefighters and police officers, but just enough daily courage to ensure that dreams come true for someone else.

Sometimes, as a priest, I have to tell stories of others to impart the ideal that all dreams can actually come true. I am living testimony to that fact, and while that doesn’t mean they will always come true, more often than not, dreams do come true, or a new and more wonderful and unexpected versions of that original dream arises into reality! But we must first step out in generosity and faith.

Our stories are so often intertwined. Your story becomes part of my story, which then becomes part of their story. It is a small miracle in and of itself if you think on it deeply enough. All of us have hopes, desires, dreams, but many think that dreams coming true is fictional, or that they only come true for others; the brave, the fearless, the worthy, the good, those deserving enough of it to actually happen; you know, all the others.

The thing is, we all can make our dreams come true, it just takes courage, conviction, a plan, and dedication. We must simply make our dreams part of the fabric of our reality by imagining our wildest dreams as true today. For most people, that scares them intensely and it may not happen overnight. But, if you do it over time, little bits and bites now and then, here and there, but with consistency, soon, the dream arises with a familiarity as your next breath!

Look around you for a moment and marvel. All that you see here at Saint Miriam was a dream of mine just a mere 10 short years ago. And while I am not particularly courageous, I am fearless! There is a difference! I am fearless because I just kept going when others – so many others – said it could never be done. Oh, I have stumbled and made many mistakes along the way, and I could have given up and taken many of yourdreams with me in the process, but instead, I stayed in the water, even when it was so frigid that it almost broke my very bones, and I held on to my dream, and soon I was slaying dragons across the great castle mote! But none of this was for me, it was for you, your family, your children, and their children yet to come. It was all for someone else.

Yes, all that we have built here: the parish, the walls, the liturgy, the library, the bell tower, the school, the cemetery, the inclusion, the music, the gardens, the Café, the people…all of it took a dream and a little bit of courage. It is what demands creativity, deliberateness, consciousness, and connectivity to others. Courage is staying put when others so quickly run away from the hardship that is ultimately part of the process of dreaming and building.

Courage is what built this dream  – our dream – thus far…what’s next? Not sure, but I remain fearless and I pray you will, too!

 

 



It’s Time to Be Attractive!

 

We have been blessed with a parish that grows every single year. We have also been blessed by a parish that has a demographic that most churches would love to have! With an average age that is below 50, and a population of children that grows every single year and a volunteer base that is also growing stronger with every month! We also do a large number of baptisms every month and our weddings increase every single year, too! Our incoming PREP/CCD Classes are the largest ever and our Preschool has surpassed yet another milestone this year with its fall incoming class! We are openly innovative, liturgically traditional, socially progressive, and radically welcoming! Wow, huh?!

That is way every single year we evaluate and reevaluate all the major activities of the parish. We actually (Yes, literally!) sit down with the ministry and lay leadership teams and decide what stays, what goes, what needs revamped, and what ‘new’ must come in! From Small Groups, to Fellowship and Outreach, to Mass Times, to Social and Fund-Raising Events, to Stewardship and budgets, to the needs to the ever-changing parish dynamic, every major aspect is revaluated annually to ensure we are never stale and always a needed part of your lives!

In the words of a good pastor, mentor, and friend of mine, many parishes find that they are only critically needed and embraced when someone is dying, someone has died, or someone thinks about dying! Not at Saint Miriam. While so many clergy open churches in garages or back rooms for the photo-ops, we continue to build a place that actually is a church, a relevant and needed place, that swings wide its doors to open the love of God to everyone who wishes to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, not a place where clergy get to play dress-up. We are relevant because you and your family are always first on our minds and the backdrop of every decision is the love of God and warmth of a welcome that can only be found in the One whom we follow, Jesus. But, we need your help, too!

So, besides your own attendance and giving, how can you help us? By inviting someone to church! It really is as simple as that! You see, there are four main ways to get people to start attending a church: (1) Advertising, which produces a result of less than 2%, (2) An invitation by me, as a pastor, which is a little more effective at 6%, (3) Any organized visitation, event, or outreach has a resultant expectation of about 8%, but a personal invitation from a friend like you? Ready for this?? A whopping 86% effective rate! That’s correct! One of the most effective ways to welcome new faces into your church is to have them brought by a face they already know! A friend, neighbor, or co-worker, a person they run into when in need like YOU! You can provide what I can never offer: a level of comfort and the easing of that awful sense of isolation that so often comes when entering an unfamiliar space for the first time, even a church as wonderful as ours!

Passionate people like you are what made Saint Miriam so special, and it is passionate people like you who are willing to invite someone they know to church that will help us grow into a place that welcomes them, too!

Folks, it’s Time to Be Attractive!
 
 


A Church of Belonging, Not Just One of Welcome.

 

This past week we had a family come by to visit us and I had the opportunity to visit with them for a few minutes. They told me how they have been going to another local Catholic Church but have been unsatisfied. They began by telling me how ‘strict’ they have become and how they claim they are the ‘one, true Church’ and that all other traditions are ‘flawed’. They also were emphatic that the recent issues are due to gay men in the church. Another flawed and sad conclusion of diversion. Further, to make matters worse, their children have been attending their CCD/PREP Program only to find that the teachers instructed them that if they should ever go to ‘any other catholic church, they would be damned to Hell’.

It is almost an irony that in light of all the recent troubles the church has had publicized that anyone would continue this line of attack. After all, should you not have your own house in order before demonizing someone else? And, it is a further irony that I just added a “Snapshot” of who we are at our parish website!

On paper Roman Catholics and Old Catholics have much in common — liturgically they are difficult to tell apart, except to the trained eye. Yet that emotional conflict overshadows the whole relationship, as a vocal minority of Old Catholics tends to be very much against any further rapprochement with Rome, while some Roman Catholics like to take potshots at the Old Catholics.

I could go on about the more Orthodox approach we have to the Eucharist, and our understanding of the sacraments as holy mysteries not needing any further explanation, or how the global church is set up, much like the Orthodox Church, as a communion of autonomous national churches, each headed by a metropolitan or bishop; these bishops then join together in the International Bishops’ Conference, with the Archbishop of Utrecht serving as primus inter pares, much like the Ecumenical Patriarch does in the Orthodox communion.  But, rather, I would like to emphasize how the defining characteristic of Old Catholicism is, as I believe, a stronger emphasis on the concept of the church as a community of all believers that practices as great a hospitality as possible. In other words, we are a church of belonging, not just one of welcome.

I think that is why I left the Roman Church. Where Rome tends to have a highly hierarchical and legalistic view of the Church, we, as Old Catholics, tend to view Mother Church as more a mystical community of love, avoiding things like excommunication or legal punishments, or any placing rules and regulations above people.

Now, don’t get me wrong! We are a people of tradition, too, it is true. And, dare I say that we follow a more orthodox model of the church so maybe we are the realchurch! (N.B. read as humor here, please!) I maintain there is a real beauty to be found in our traditions; one that may not propel us forward in the sense of quantifiable progress or change, but moves us forward as human beings in life, wisdom, understanding, and emotion. Indeed, aside from its function to pass on the values, morals, customs, and culture from one generation to the next, tradition also teaches us something about life, where we came from, but most importantly, who we are.

In the end, things change. Improvements are made. The world evolves. But, the essence of who we are as humans – our struggles, our fears, our needs and desires – remains the same. Tradition is our subtle reminder of this, heightening our awareness of self and others, cultivating a sense of belonging and stability, and acting as a guiding force in our lives and society. We believe all of this, just like our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. What we don’t believe is that we are better than any other tradition, or that we have a ‘lock’ on God, or God’s grace.

“Without [tradition],” says the character Tevye in that famous story of a Russian family forced to flee their homeland, “our lives would be as shaky as…a fiddler on the roof.”

Maybe that ‘other’ catholic church needs to shore up its own roof before poking holes on ours?

 



No, I am Not Normal; I Know That.

 

When I was a young boy, I never seemed to fit in. I was awkward around both boys and girls whom I did not know. I was overweight and always felt out of sync. I was never good at sports. I had acne. My mom did her best, but the store brands she chose made it harder. I was made fun of by my peers, and many of those wounds were so deep that they are still present today. I was always chosen last at gym class, and no one ever once wanted me on their team. I was – in a very real sense – a misfit. Perhaps that is why King Moonracer was one of my favorite cartoon characters. I knew, or at least I hoped, that if all else failed I would have a home on his island.

Later, as I grew up, I never dated much due to my being shy around girls. I wasn’t a ‘jock’ and my good schooling ability turned out to be a detriment in the end to any success I would have dreamed of in the dating arena. I was never asked to my Junior Prom, and my Senior Prom date, someone I ended up falling in love with and contemplated getting married, later left me when I admitted struggling with my sexual identity. I later found my calling to seminary, was abused by a priest, rejected again. I was left alone and fell into my first real bought of depression.

I excelled at academics, graduated early from school, became a businessman, made my parents proud and then made a stupid mistake and ended up in jail. Again, I was an outcast upon my return and taken advantage of and discarded a few times, too. My family, depression, and my dog were my only true companions.

I fought hard to make my way back to seminary, did well, was rejected for ordination twice, but finally made it. Became a Trauma Chaplain by happenstance (Or, perhaps by God’s design?) and landed a good career that held close to my vocation at three of the nation’s largest trauma centers. I was at the height of my career when God called, and I left chaplaincy for parish ministry. It was on my last day at Einstein, that I was I was diagnosed with a brain tumor; now without health insurance, I thought it would end my life. It didn’t, but my depression grew worse, yet I stayed put and did my best to build Saint Miriam even as so many others abandoned the water when it got too high.

After my recovery, I thought things would be better, then I lost my dad and my world changed again. My depression, my weight, all came rushing back. I was blessed to find CrossFit and my life became stronger with the support of those athletes who – this time – didn’t make fun of me, but rather embraced my determination. I will never forget one, Bobby, who chose me to be his partner in a “Partner WOD”. It was the first time in my life that someone chose me to be on their team for a sporting activity first. His friendship had remained a deciding factor in my trying not to end of my life that year, but to make it worth living once again.

Soon after, one relationship morphed into something different, grief matured me in ways never imagined, and a new one began. Life got better, things became more normal for the first time in my life. Then, this past week, I silently struggled emotionally as I received the call from my doctor that my latest blood work was cause for alarm again. My PSA was off the chart and I am now back on the emotional roller coaster that only a cancer survivor could ever appreciate.

This past week, a friend who had been a priest for some nine years left ministry. He sent me a note that read he ‘just couldn’t take it anymore’. He was always there for everyone, and no one ever came to care for him. I know of what he speaks, but I also remember my calling. Perhaps it is why I am still a priest and haven’t fallen into becoming so jaded as to walk away from where I am called like so many who reached a breaking point of no return.

A fellow parishioner tagged me in a post that summed up my life pretty well. It reads, “I have fed mouths that talked shit about me. I’ve wiped tears off the faces of the people that caused mine. I have picked up people that tried to knock me down. I’ve done favors for people that can do nothing for me. I have been there for people that have not been there for me. Crazy? Maybe…but I will not lose myself in hatred of others, I am who I am and it is my nature. Life isn’t easy, but even after all the bullshit…I will still be here, being me.” I sure hope so, because – despite those who continue to tell me how terrible a person I am, I believe I do some good by being just that – me.

So maybe my being a little abnormal, a misfit, is why I worked so hard to create a place where others will neverfeel like me. Sick or well, odd or loved, depressed or enthusiastic, alone or companioned, gay or straight, rich or struggling, ex-offender or pillar of the community. All are welcome here. All are treated the same and loved as well, too. No, here there are no misfits, well except just one…me.

So, that is my lot in life. Perhaps God wanted me right where I am, broken and unsure, not always well in mind or body, teetering at the edge, uncertain and fraught, so that I never stop trying to make this almost perfect place a bit better for others to find and worship a God of unconditional love. Maybe as we gather back for “Homecoming Sunday”, we should all take stock of who we are, what we created and why we do what we do. It is a good time to pause and give thanks for all we call Saint Miriam.

Author Michelle DeRusha once penned the words I used for my image today, “I am His BelovedMisfit.” I pray I so. One day, I hope to believe it, too. 

Maybe, just maybe, one day, I will be home here, too.

 



The Meanness of People.

 
I have blogged and preached lately about depth of people’s pain, the attention to those who may be depressed or thinking of ending their own life, the loss of a pastor’s life by his own hand, and the way the world has become so callous; so unfeeling, uncaring. I believe it is rapidly becoming the meanness of people.
 
Perhaps, it is the rhetoric of the current Administration, or the exhaustion of those who are in poverty and struggling, the marginalization of those who are different, or the increase of social media in what I call ‘keyboard courage’, but whatever it is at its root cause, it is harming the fabric of society, the church, and us, as living human beings. We are becoming a mean people.
 
This past week I was given the middle finger and shouted at by a guy who almost struck the side of my car while turning. I lightly tapped my horn to warn him and got vulgarity in return. Our home, too, was struck by a car who did severe property damage but decided to ‘hit and run’ without a note or leaving any information. I was also told once again how awful a person I am because of a single mistake that landed me on the wrong side of a set of jail bars some 30 years ago! I have atoned and made up for this one transgression many times over, but apparently all that I have done that is good, will forever be outweighed by that one lapse of judgement. I, too, cannot let myself off the proverbial hook and every time I think I am finally close to forgiving myself, another person is mean. This time, it was a fellow priest who knows not that I know, but I do, and I hurt and I am shaken. Finally, this week, as well, a friend posted on Facebook how the meanness of others and the horror of gossip was hurting her. She wrote, [my paraphrase] “Do not judge me…you don’t know me and do not talk about me unless you have actually talked to me. My back is not a voicemail.” How powerful. How sad. How true. Yes, we are a mean people.
 
There was a video I stumbled across that asked the important question, “What if people wore signs”? In other words, if everyone had a sign above them, or on them, that told us what they were going through, would we be kinder, gentler, compassionate, nicer?
 
My question is, why do we even need the sign?