Tag Archives: Advocacy

Being a Good Follower

Living in the Spirit
August 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. –Exodus 2:1-4

God provides leaders when people are ready to follow. I may be the only person in the world that loves the first chapter of the book of Acts. It tells the story of the Disciples recovering from the shock of Jesus’ death and resurrection, deciding it is time to do the work Jesus taught them, called them to do. Acts 1 is the report of a board meeting where a replacement member is selected and other mundane administrative tasks completed. Acts 2 reports the arrival of the Holy Spirit and Peter, yes the one who denied Christ, stepping up to the plate and saying let’s go. Exodus 2 is the story of a mother’s frantic attempt to save the life of her newborn son and what she saw happen over time with the realization of a leader for the ages, a man called Moses.

Every small, what might seem futile or insignificant advocacy work we do, primes the pump for greater things to come. Courageous leaders need steadfast, loyal followers. Politicians, particularly who go against the gerrymandered grain, need to know they have support. I, probably like you, grow weary of all the emails and texts that I receive every day that often are written in chicken-little language usually asking for money. We do need to pick our battles. If we can afford it, we need to provide financial support as we deem wise. We cannot just sit back, wring our hands and say, “What a shame.”

Living in such a time as these demands a closer more intimate relationship with Christ. We must not give in to bullies who challenge us to respond in the same way they act. We defeat our purpose when we do. When Jesus said to love one another, he meant it regarding all God’s children. We may make mistakes along the way, but with a commitment to following Jesus’ way and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can set an example of love that is stronger than any hate.

Prayer: God grant me the ability to love like Jesus in such a time as these. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Prophetic Voice

Epiphany
February 24, 2017

Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. –2 Peter 1:19-21

Th book of Amos written around 750 BCE could have been penned or keyboarded yesterday. It speaks of rampant greed and the use of religion for selfish gain. Humans have difficultly learning from history when it impedes our avarice. I was watching a rerun of Foyle’s War recently which dealt with the aftermath of World War II where the vulture capitalist ruthlessly attached to whichever side brought them the most reward in the recovery. The ones in the show were in league with Stalin. It was chilling to watch.  I have wondered how much of the continuation of our recent wars are as much about the growth of private contractors’ bottom lines as it is about terrorism. I have no question that the increase in the number of prisoners in the USA is related to growing the private prison industry. As with Israel in the 750’s BCE, our society will crumble around us if we do not repent and change our ways.

The faith community is being distracted from such issues as we are pitted one against the other. Very personal, emotion laden issues are tossed in our faces each time we start pilfering around the edges of other problems. It was going on as far back as the 1980’s when I spent a fair amount of time working with others to address the problems of teenage pregnancy and low-birth weight babies. None of our energies were targeted at abortion. It is my experience that most people in Oklahoma generally do not believe in abortion. We were trying to reduce unwanted pregnancies and assure that every newborn had a healthy start. Our efforts were routinely thwarted when funding bills were considered by cries of abortion being an ulterior motive in our efforts. Using government funds to pay for abortion has been against the law since the 1970’s and still is today.  If there were ulterior motives, they most likely were to use well intended people of faith to stop the use of tax dollars on addressing human need.

We have prophetic voices speaking today. As was true in Amos’ day, we must carefully discern the voice of God when hearing them speak. The litmus test I like to apply is determining if prophetic ideas pass the test of love. Where is the love in cutting funding for prenatal care? Where is the love in sending first-time, drug offenders to prison rather than restoring them to wholeness in a community based setting?

Prayer: God, open our ears to hear truth when truth is spoken and to identify manipulation when truth is not spoken. Amen.

Pictured above is The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina and architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement that gained national acclaim with its Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Jesus, the Refugee

welcoming-the-strangerChristmas
December 31, 2016

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:13-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ –Matthew 2:13-15

Because of the plight of the millions of refugees around the world today, many recalled this Christmas season the fact that Jesus was a refugee baby with his parents escaping the wrath of Herod as they fled to Egypt. We see pictures of rescuers pulling children from their bombed-out homes and thank God that at least that one survived. People respond to the plight of individuals they encounter more quickly than to statistics and long-range projections. Non-profit fundraisers recognize this reality as they make their year end pitches.

I am not suggesting it is a bad thing to focus on one example of a larger problem. Indeed, quite the opposite, I believe our advocacy can only stem from real life experiences and encourage everyone to volunteer some time with the homeless, the mentally ill, prisoners, children trying to learn while hungry and who lack proper clothing for the weather, homebound elderly and disabled persons, and yes refugees. When we see the magnitude of the problem, we see the importance of intervention at all levels.

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-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. ― Emma Lazarus

Prayer: Creator and Sustainer of all, open our eyes and ears to the reality of your children who do not have enough, who are not safe, who are not self-sufficient and open our hearts to foster solutions to actualize all your children’s fullest potential. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Advocating for the Mentally Ill

slave-girl-shoutsEastertide
May 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. –Acts 16:16-18

I keep hearing the phrase, “We don’t do enough for the mentally ill in this country and state.” and then we do nothing more. In Oklahoma we are actually cutting services for the mentally ill. It is as if when we say, “Ain’t it a shame” the shame goes away. It does not. The Affordable Care Act included a provision that insurance companies must include mental health services and that has helped those who can afford insurance. Oklahoma, however, chose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion part of the Affordable Care Act and thus the most vulnerable mentally ill are still left out in the cold, literally in many instances as the mentally ill make up a large, disproportionate share of those who are homeless.

The scripture does not say why Paul was very annoyed. At first thought one might think, he just was tired of the slave-girl’s constant disruption of his work with her shouting. What she is saying, however, gives testimony to Paul’s true purpose. I suppose he could have been disturbed because her methods and her status in life were not what he would have chosen to represent his ministry. She was not the best spokesperson for his cause. But it is also possible, probable, I believe, that he saw she was being exploited by her oppressor and he finally decided to put an end to the exploitation at least that is what landed him in jail.

The mentally ill often are unable to advocate for themselves. They are dependent on the love of others to assure that they receive the care and treatment targeted at returning them to wholeness. We are all called to be such advocates along with Paul in the name of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, protect those who cannot protect themselves and open the doors of understanding to all of us who are called to speak on their behalf. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Stones Crying Out

The-Rocks-Will-Cry-Out_864px-400x400Lent
March 20, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 19:28-40

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’ –Luke 39-40

I have for years coopted the phrase if these were silent, the stones would shout out. I confess to totally taking it out of context but surely not out of truth. These are words that advocates need to hear. We are called to partner with Jesus in bringing about justice in a world in which principalities and powers* run amok.

The challenge is to speak in such a way that there is actual communication not just voices raised so loud no one even wants to listen and certainly not to speak in language that degrades either we as advocates or the ones with whom we are trying to speak. It is hard to not return anger for anger. It is hard to love ones that defined themselves as our enemies but are children of God also. And to be real honest with you, for me it is not only hard but painful to discuss justice issues with fellow followers of Christ whose positions are markedly different from my own. There is no real communion when Bible verses are the bullets being shot. At these times, I think of Jesus looking down on Jerusalem saying:

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)

Love is stronger than hate, of this I have no doubt. Resting in that reality is the hope that the day will come when God’s kingdom will come. In the mean time we need to sharpen our ability to love until we are really good at it for it is the only thing that will hasten that day. Practice makes perfect.

Prayer: Lord, lead us forward in our love for each other. Help us cross barriers that hold us back from truly knowing the other. Make us whole, make us one. Amen.

*See Ephesians 6:12

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Prayers for Children

Created in the image of GodLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
September 10, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Psalm 114

 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,    at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water,    the flint into a spring of water.—Psalm 114:7-8

Today we begin a season of prayer for children as a part our preparation for the celebration of the Children’s Sabbath on October 19, 2014. Started by the Children’s Defense Fund more than 20 years ago, the Children’s Sabbath is a weekend set aside for peoples of all faiths to come together in solidarity for the future of our children. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) initiated the Light a Candle for Children to encourage all peoples of faith and particularly Christians to pray for children each day for 40 days leading up to the Children’s Sabbath. Beginning today and continuing through the Sunday of the Children’s Sabbath these devotions will be provided to assist in your meditation and prayer. If you wish to know more about the Children’s Sabbath visit http://www.childrensdefense.org/ . For more information about Light a Candle for Children and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) daily meditations on children go to https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/dhm/dhm-ministries/family-and-childrens-ministries/light-a-candle/

Since I live in Oklahoma, I will be providing each day some facts from the lives of Oklahoma children. These will be taken from KIDS COUNT a project of the Anne E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT tracks the status of children nationwide and you can trace it down to your county. That information can be accessed at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/.

Why do we prayer for children? I think our scripture today answers that question. We serve and awesome God whose very image is planted in the souls of each of us. God wants all of God’s children to thrive and be a blessing to one another. God is calling us to make that happen as God’s envoys in the world today. Let it be so.

 Oklahoma Fact: in 2014 Oklahoma ranked 39th among the states in Overall Child Well-Being

Prayer: Lord make us conduits of your love as we strive to open doors of hope for the children of our world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Called as Advocates

AdvoccyLiving in the Spirit
August 25, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. — Exodus 3:1-6

I worked for the State of Oklahoma for 35 years. When I began, I signed a form acknowledging that I understood, as a state employee, I had to be very careful about any participation in politics. After retirement, I became a full time commissioned clergy person and worked at a local church where ethical considerations and our tax exempt status once again placed me in the position of being very careful about politics. I was, throughout my career and still am now, a very strong supporter of the separation of church and state whether those exact words are in our official government documents or not. I consider myself to be a member of the nation of God while I am also by birth a citizen of the United States of America.

Because of these almost 40 years of negative reinforcement, I find it very difficult to take a public stand for a given candidate, although I have worked for some in the background. I am becoming more publicly vocal about specific issues. I get all these emails and other social media pieces asking for my support on some issue or another, to which I may respond in support, but almost all of them say send this to all your friends and I just somehow cannot do that, yet. At some point my guess is, a justice issues about which I have very strong feelings will garner enough of a gut level response in me that I will forward it. Part of my hesitancy may be because I do not want to cause the same negative reaction I have when I receive such mail pushing political philosophies that are totally alien to me.

Moses got his gut check at a burning bush. He had been reared by Pharaoh’s daughter and his first rather knee jerk reaction of killing an Egyptian for his abuse of a Hebrew netted Moses a trip into the wilderness. That history had probably squelched much of his advocacy fervor. Yet the great I AM said “Moses, you are to be my advocate” and Moses was. Even with his fear and lack of self-confidence, Moses led the Israelites out of bondage.

There is a great sense of ennui in our land today. People are hiding their heads in the sand even as they suffer or watch others suffer with poverty, stagnate incomes, no health care, poor education systems, overcrowded prisons, a volatile world, and enormous debt while our elected representatives do nothing but point fingers and make personal attacks. They are our employees. It is our job as citizens to hold them accountable, but that requires us to become savvy voters and not be jerked around by issues that have little if any impact on the common good our governments are commissioned to provide.

Prayer: Great I AM, fully enable my participation in your kingdom as it progresses toward your governance and help me see the avenues of advocacy you are setting before me in meeting the common good of both my country and the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.