Intentional Damage

Image result for Immigrant children in Clint, TXOver a year ago I wrote a post on my old blog about my concerns about the family separations that were going on at the border. After protests and lawsuits, it was agreed that children would no longer be separated from their parents.  There was also a promise of “safe and sanitary” facilities to hold these children and their families. Yesterday I heard attorneys talking about what they had seen in a particular border station in Clint, TX.  I have not been there, so I don’t know how accurate their account is.  I do know that there is some truth to it after hearing a government attorney try to defend what’s happening in court: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QGLh7JOQHc&t=326s

I am increasingly concerned about the intentional damage that is being inflicted on these children.  I don’t care what their parents may have done, no child deserves to be treated the way these children are being treated.  Many of these children will receive damage through these experiences that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  I know, because I am the parent of a young adult I adopted as a child.  Our lives are still heavily impacted by what she experienced those first 3 years of her life.  Here is my blog post from June of last year:

My daughter had a rough start in life.  She experienced what are now known as A.C.E.’s:  Adverse Childhood Experiences.  (Here is a page on the CDC website where you can find more information: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html)   As a result of these, she has numerous educational, emotional, and physical problems.  She has not been able to hold down a job, she cannot live independently, and the medication that she needs to deal with her medical and emotional issues runs thousands of dollars each month.

As I watch the news, I am horrified to see our government separating children from their parents.  I look at these children and wonder what the future will hold for them.  I begin to count the A.C.E.’s they have already experienced:

  • Whatever it was in their home countries that led their parent(s) to decide they had to flee for their safety. (One ten-year-old boy was told if he didn’t join the gang, they would kill his mother and sister).
  • The long journey to the U.S. border.
  • The separation from their parents, for many the only stability they have had in their young lives.
  • Once in custody, the workers are not allowed to touch the children. Toddlers cannot be held, rocked, or comforted.  My daughter experienced healing through the hours I spent rocking her in the evenings.  After experiencing nightmares, she would come climb in bed with me.  These children are left alone in their fear and terror.
  • Some parents have been deported without their children.

I understand the need to have secure borders.  I understand the need to assure people charged with a crime don’t disappear.  In the past, ankle bracelets were used to track individuals who had entered the country illegally.  This seems to me like a better (and probably cheaper) alternative to sending parents and children to separate detention facilities.

Some families are crossing illegally rather than wait for days to cross at a border station and request asylum.  Again, I suspect it would be more cost effective to add the additional staff needed at the border to deal with the demand in a more timely manner.

We need comprehensive immigration reform, and I hope both parties will work together to come up with a good plan.  However, we need to stop traumatizing these children now.  We need to keep families together now.  Please consider writing your members of Congress to express your concerns. Jesus said, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’  Matthew 25:40

Pride Reflections

On Saturday, my daughter, Lena, and I went to Michigan Pride in Lansing.  The church is considering participating next year, so we went to see it and decide how we could be a part of it in the future.  Lena expressed some concerns about going, “What if people come with guns?”

I offered her reassurance, “I don’t think they will, but if it looks like there is going to be violence, we will leave.”

Lena has some cousins who are out, and her main issue with them coming out has always been concern for their safety.

Saturday morning, we headed downtown.  We went to the end of the parade route, in front of the capitol building, where the speakers would be following the parade.  Lena took in the people who were gathering.  “Mom, look at the way she is dressed!”

I said, “This is somewhere it is safe for people to be themselves and so they dress in ways that they might not ordinarily.”

She continued to watch the people.  We saw some friends and went over to talk to them.  We cheered as the parade started.  There were politicians, various organizations, and an impressive number of churches, including one United Methodist Church, which was a pleasant surprise given the recent General Conference actions.

I could tell Lena was anxious, because she held onto my purse strap so we wouldn’t be separated.  We listened to some of the speakers and watched as the children were invited to join one of the speakers on the capitol steps as she talked about them as the future.

Finally, we headed back to our car.  Before we reached the corner, Lena was crying.  I was a little surprised and asked her what was wrong.  “It’s not right!  People need to look at their hearts, not what they are wearing.  They are people, and they are beautiful inside.  God made them!”

As we walked along, I rubbed her back and listened.  I told her she had a good heart, and I was proud of her.

As I reflected later that day, I thought about her anxiety about going.  Even once we were there, she wasn’t completely comfortable, as evidenced by the tight hold she kept on my purse strap.  Yet she was able to look beyond her fear and discomfort and see the image of God in the members of the LGBTQ community.

We could all learn something from her, not just in our approach to the LGBTQ community, but all those with whom we are uncomfortable, whether it be because of their race, religion, or politics.  We are all children of God created in the image of God.

Showing Christ in Society Today

Strengthening Christ in us,
Sharing Christ among us, and
Showing Christ around us.
Delta Presbyterian Church Vision Statement

Showing Christ around us is not an easy thing, especially in today’s society.  For most of us, the thought that one of our neighbors might not know anything about Jesus seems ridiculous. Recently, a colleague’s daughter was part of a high school production of Godspell, a musical that tells the story of Jesus relying mainly on the Gospel of Matthew.  My colleague’s daughter was amazed by how little her classmates knew of the Christian story, “Oh, he dies!  That’s so sad.” At one point, the director was giving directions with which she disagreed, she asked the director, “Have you read the story?”  The answer to that is increasingly, “no.”

The results of a survey were released recently.  In the 1970’s the largest religious group in the United States was mainline Protestant (including Presbyterians), at 30% of the population.  Now, mainline Protestants comprise just over 10% of the population. Those claiming no religion, Catholics, and evangelicals all hovered around 23%.

It is increasingly important for us to show Christ around us.  The session and deacons have been working through the 7 marks of a vital congregation.  The second mark of a vital congregation is “Intentional Authentic Evangelism vs. “Jesus freaks”; “Christian” hypocrisy; a committee responsibility.”  We have had conversations about how difficult it is for us to talk about our faith.

To begin to overcome our discomfort, in February we began taking time to talk to one another about specific questions that we might hear from someone who is curious.  We started with, “Why do you get out of bed and come to church on Sunday morning?” and then moved on to, “What does Easter mean to you?”  If someone asked you one of these questions, how would you respond?  If you met someone who was curious about the events of Holy Week, what would you tell them?  I encourage you to take time to talk about these questions with friends and families.  Begin sharing your faith in a safe setting, so that when someone sees Christ in you and asks you about your difference, you will be prepared to answer and share something of what Christ means to you.

 

Winter to Spring

As we were walking into the church this morning, Lena noticed that the birds were singing. “Listen, Mom, birds!  Spring is coming.”  I agreed.  We’ve had some warmer days recently, and the snow is melting, but there are still piles of snow around, especially at the edge of parking lots and driveways and under trees.

Later we were having a conversation in the office about winter, and we agreed that it is a good thing February is the shortest month of the year.  We are now well into March, and we have switched to daylight savings time, and we are still waiting for sunshine and warmer days.  We know it will come, yet it is taking longer than we’d like.

There are times in the life of faith when it feels like we are in a never-ending winter.  We wonder if we’ll ever get beyond the current suffering, whether we will ever feel God’s presence again.  Just like spring will come, so will relief from our suffering.  It may not come at the time or in the manner we would like, but it will come.

As Christians, we are a people of hope.  Even death could not stop Jesus.  Even betrayal and denial could not stop his love.  God always wins, and as members of the team, we share in the victory.

 

The Opioid Crisis

It’s one of those things we never think will impact us.  Drug addiction is something that happens to other people.  It doesn’t happen to people with education, people from good families, people who have faith, or people….  We want to think we are safe, immune from that sort of thing.  We want to think that because we surround ourselves with good people, that they share that safety and immunity.

Then it happens, and someone we know and love becomes addicted, or we find ourselves struggling with addiction.  Or maybe we know nothing about it until our loved one dies of an overdose.  We have a growing addiction problem in this country, a problem that is not simply an inner-city problem.  It’s happening in rural areas, small towns, and suburbia.  It is impacting people of all ages and races.

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What do we need to know about the opioid crisis?  What can we do to help address the challenges?  What is our responsibility as Christians?  These are some of the questions we will be considering in our next community forum, which will take place on Sunday, March 10, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Delta Presbyterian Church, 6100 W. Michigan Ave.

We will view a documentary, Stigmatic, that was filmed in Bay City, MI, and focuses on the opioid crisis.  We will have experts available to share their experiences and answer our questions.  Come and join us as we consider the opioid crisis together.

 

 

Living in Hope

20190214_121630The past three weeks have been challenging.  We’ve had snow, ice, a polar vortex, more snow, more ice, and far too many school closings.  Everyone is getting tired of it.  The mounds of snow may be growing, but our patience with winter certainly isn’t.

Today, we received the first phone call of the year asking about a plot in our community garden.  Right now, our garden boxes are lumps of snow in the parking lot.  The woman who called was wondering when planting would begin. She can see beyond the snow and ice to spring.  She is living in hope.  In the midst of winter, that can be hard to do.

What about us?  Are we living in hope?  Do we see beyond the current challenges to better days ahead?  We live in a society that tells us we need to be afraid—of climate change, of the deficit, of antibiotic resistant bacteria, of people from different cultures, of what is going on in the government, of financial security, of the possibility of needing nursing home care, of terrorist attacks, and the list goes on, and on, and….

In the midst of our fear, it can be hard to remember that the Bible repeatedly tells us not to be afraid.  It can be hard to remember that our security comes from God, not from the government, or our finances, or anything else society tells us is important.

Christian hope is a gift we have to offer in a hurting world. It is the confidence that God will win.  Julian of Norwich (born around 1343), describes a vision she had as she struggled with despair.  In Revelation of Love, she writes what she came to understand God was saying to her, “It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  Let us set out to show the world what it means to live in hope.

Changing the Question

Have you ever noticed that when something bad happens, we immediately look for someone to blame?  We look for someone to blame for traffic accidents, for confrontations, for wildfires, and for government shut-downs.  We look at societal issues and argue over whether they are real, and if they are real, over who is to blame.  We study poll numbers, looking for ones that support our perspective.  We like it when we see the majority of people agree with us.  We like it when we can blame those we see as different. We want to find easy answers, answers that don’t require us to make changes.

I suggest we ask ourselves a different question.  Rather than who is to blame, let’s ask ourselves, “What can I do to help in this situation?  How can I bring healing?  What can  I do to make it less likely this will happen again?  How can I be a partner for change?”

These are uncomfortable questions, because the focus is on changing ourselves, not someone else.  We are comfortable, and we don’t want to think of ourselves as sharing responsibility for the challenges we face as a society.

Here’s a hard truth:  the only person we can change is ourselves.  By blaming someone else as the cause of the problem, we are able to avoid doing anything to address the problem.  There are so many challenges we face today, and as long as we can blame someone else, we are absolved of  any responsibility for them.

Delta Presbyterian Church is beginning a series of community forums to address some of these issues from the perspective of the question, “What can I do?”  Rather than assessing blame, we want to look together for solutions.  Rather than focusing on our differences, we want to find common ground.  The first one, which takes place at 4:00 on Sunday, February 10, will focus on bullying.  We will watch a video, and then hear from a panel that will include school administrators and students.  I encourage you to join us as we seek solutions together.