23 Mar 2019

Giving Up For Lent: SILENCE

"Purple Background Spin"
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Araceli Arroyo. Source: Flickr

            As an extrovert, I know that I enjoy connecting and communicating with people. I like engaging in discussions, and healthy dialogue. I like to learn things, to share things, to convey my experiences with words. I am talkative; at times verbose.
            I have a voice.
            So to suggest giving up silence may seem somewhat odd to those who know me well. However, I am not suggesting that the world will benefit from e talking more; what I am proposing is that I use my voice to give up silence.
            I have a voice. I know I bear some privilege (I'm white, educated, cis-gendered heterosexual Anglophone - I could go on). And so with that privilege, I have opportunity and responsibility to use my voice to ensure that others are not silenced.
            We may not realise how often the folks we interact with feel silenced; for whatever reason. But everyone has a voice; everyone has a story; everyone has something to contribute to the narrative of our lives; everyone has a part to play in sharing the Gospel. Everyone has a voice.
            A few years ago, I witnessed an amazing women use her voice to challenge an injustice. My friend lives in a conflict zone where Christians are a minority; she does not often have a voice and more often is encouraged to keep silent. However, when the opportunity arose for her to challenge an injustice, she took it. Her voice shook, her body trembled; but she overcame her own discomfort to raise a voice for those even more silenced than herself.
            I was so proud to be beside my friend as she used her voice for the common good. I was so grateful that the others of us in the room, who bear privilege, had chosen silence in that moment to allow her voice to be shared, and to encourage other minority voices to do likewise.
            I was also aware that for the voices that we did hear, there were others that remained silenced - for a multitude of reasons.
            So I propose we give up silence for Lent: that we use our voices to speak our truth; that we use our privilege to create safe space for others to speak their truth; that we use our voices to acknowledge the voices that are as yet silenced.
            There is good news to share. And if we stay silent, even the stones will cry out. So may we use our voices to bring the light of God into the darkness of the world.

16 Mar 2019

Giving Up For Lent: INACTION

            This week, I've been reflecting on inaction as something we can all give up for Lent.
            Admittedly, this came about as I have been progressing with my own journey of not procrastinating. Procrastination is the 'I'll get around to it" delay; with best of intentions it's a decision to put off something in lieu of something more fun or fulfilling. I could clean the bathroom, which needs doing, but instead I'll finish reading this novel, which is much more exciting.
            Inaction, however, has a different nuance. It is intentionally avoiding something without regard for the impact. It is making a choice to accept what is, rather than take action to make a change. That can be a powerful statement, especially when other people are involved.
            For example, not correcting someone who gets a name wrong is letting them know that the incorrect name is acceptable; not only is this perpetuating an inaccuracy, it can be hurtful to those associated with the name. To go to an extreme, a person in leadership who acknowledges an injustice and declares a need to take action, yet who does nothing, has communicated to the injured party that maintaining the injustice is more comfortable than righting a wrong; it also communicates to the offending party that the unjust action is now being tolerated (and presumably will continue to be). It's a slippery slope that can cause harm to individuals, communities, and institutions.
            I believe as Christians we are all called to action: we are called to love, which can be a difficult task at times. Choosing to love can be risky: it means standing up for the vulnerable among us, it means speaking the truth even when we are afraid. It means identifying our own fears and comfort levels with situations we might prefer to ignore.
            Ignoring, however, is intentional inaction. It is siding with the status quo, even when we disagree. The choice to do nothing is a choice: and not always the most Christian choice. May we choose to love as Christ loved us; may we be bold enough to love with action as we are called; may we support one another in this boldness.
"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." ~Laurie Buchanan

9 Mar 2019

Giving Up For Lent: SHOULD

"inscence purple" CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Leanne1985. Source: Flickr

            I once heard a colleague joke: "Don't SHOULD on me!" Aside from the play on words, she had a good point: she did not want to be told what she SHOULD do.
            I think that's a common sentiment. *Should* as a modal verb can be a hard statement. In my experience, when someone starts a sentence with "You know what you should do?" I am tempted to reply with "Yes. Thank you" - just to see the reaction. Because despite good intentions, *should* is often being used a directive. This may come without previous discourse to a situation, with ingrained entitlement and superiority. The should-er likely means well, and believes their suggestion to be the best way to move forward.
            However, the listener may feel dismissed, ignored, and dictated to.  If the advice being given is unsolicited, the sense of obligation or expectation can be offensive. It may be coming without a full understanding or appreciation of the circumstance and emotion behind the situation. "You should pray more" may be overly intimidating for someone new to the practice.  At it's best, it reminds us of a negative, of what is not presently being done: "You should go to the gym" to a person feeling a bit down can have the opposite effect of an imminent workout.
            If a *should* conversation is overheard  by others, then the power of the *should* can even be amplified: "You should have listened to so-and-so" only serves to rub salt in a wound were advice to be ignored to negative impact. And, we need to be mindful that sometimes a *should* conversation is entirely with ourselves; we can be experts at beating ourselves up with our own expectations - for whatever reasons and rationales.
            So this Lent, I'm giving up (among other things) the SHOULD. I hope to find other ways to communicate: to listen as a primary, and ask the other person if they are wanting advice before offering it; to offer suggestions, not directives ("have you considered doing X instead of Y") to convey my suggestion without the emotional baggage of a *should*; to be more aware of what emotions and values the issue touches on ("You should have a salad instead of nachos" can cut deeply if someone is feeling insecure about their weight).
            It goes on: but I shall not. Instead, I will do what I can to not SHOULD on anyone this Lent - and ideally beyond! And I hope that no one will SHOULD on me - or if they do, that I will have the grace to hear the intention with kindness.

2 Mar 2019

At home, at church

            Nearly 2 weeks ago, a devastating fire in Halifax took the lives of 7 children. A neighbour invited friends on social media to show compassion and support for their parents and extended family by putting a stuffed teddy bear on their home porches. #Bears4BarhoChildren  began trending on social media around the globe.
            Last Sunday morning, some of our younger parishioners brought teddy bears to worship with them. The bears were lovingly placed outside the church doors, where they have borne witness to our solidarity in sorrow.
            One of the ways this touched my heart was to recognise that the gentle souls who brought the bears in consider church to be a part of their 'home'. They are comfortable there, it is a safe place where they can express their emotions. It is a place where family and friends gather, where we learn about Jesus together, where we collectively pray and laugh and grieve. It is a place for these beautiful young heart to be vulnerable and humble, to be protected and cherished.
            Church is home.
            This is a gift; a gift of the community to be this place of home to all who enter the doors; and a gift to the community as we are open to being challenged by our members to love as much as possible.
            Church is home; and church is family: with all that entails - sometimes it's messy, sometimes we disagree, sometimes we overlook someone's gifts.
            But always - ALWAYS - we love.
            And sometimes, a bear at the door encourages us to love even better than we have before.
            Because love is what will show the world that they are home when they are with the church.