If you pray don’t worry, if you worry don’t pray. Hmmmm. I’ve never been particularly good with either/or propositions, and I’m really terribly uncomfortable with that particular piece of bumper sticker theology. I realize it may be quite helpful for some of you and I certainly respect that. But I’m a bit of a worrier, and a lot-a bit of a pray-er. And I find that I do both and wear both most often at the same time. It may be both a gift and a challenge of a never-stopping brain. I can remember most all the phone numbers and addresses of the places I’ve lived, but sometimes can’t remember exactly what day it is or what or whether I had breakfast. So I keep a written calendar and the calendar on my phone and still double-book meetings intermittently.
I might want to say a top New Year’s Resolution is to worry less, but that probably would not be realistic. I can say I will work on it as a part of my life’s journey, and that is true. And I can say I believe growth in that area is possible, and that is true. But I flat-out cannot say that by Dec. 31 of 2020 I will have stopped worrying about the non-essentials and that prayer has taken the place of all my worries, anxieties and concerns. By God’s grace I simply do not believe that is realistic for me, and I’m thinking I want to make peace with that as part of my being.
My spirit is in a current place of high alert. I have two close friends who are fighting stupid (and other adjectives it’s best not to put into print) c-word. I will not give it the benefit of calling it by name. I know it’s real, I know it’s defeat-able, and not choosing to call it out by name is not a denial – it’s simply a refusal to give it power in the universe by using its name. Just a little quirky deal for me. And I have the utmost confidence in prayer for both of them and so many others that are fighting . . . and still I worry.
My spirit is in a current place of high alert for our denomination. The national news has already decided the United Methodist Church has divorced, Bishops are making statements about how clergy and local churches might want to interpret what this means, wonderful colleagues from every constituency are seeking to help us make sense of “The Protocol”. And the truth is, it is wildly hopeful in terms of moving forward without continuing to put all our energy into fighting, AND it is deeply saddening for our desire to find a way to stay United in our Methodism in the midst of disagreement. I am fully supportive of knowing when we’ve reached a time where the harm defines the absolute correct need to separate, and given the circumstances, even believe it is God’s calling and vision. But how we’ve reached a place . . . AGAIN . . . of dividing because we decide that certain human beings aren’t created correctly or equally in our definition of what God has done and the image of God in EVERY human being makes me profoundly sad. Previously it lasted from 1844-1939 over race and we are, of course, still dealing with deep racial prejudice, but no longer as a legislated reality. 95 years for Methodist communities of faith to come to agreement that differences in melatonin in the skin are not reasons to legislate hate. We didn’t ordain women in ministry until 1956 . . . 1956. Historically Methodism came to the United States in the 1700’s. It took until 1956 for United Methodist communities of faith to come together in agreement that women are called by God and could be ordained clergy. 250 years for us to decide to no longer legislate hate against God’s call on the life of women as well as men. I wonder, if United Methodism divides in 2020, how long it will take us as United Methodist communities of faith to come back together in agreement that the spectrum of genetic human sexuality differences are not reasons to legislate hate. 250 years? 95 years? Perhaps. And in that span I worry about the students whose rate of dying by suicide is triple and quadruple in the LGBTQ community . . . yes, I pray a lot, and still I worry.
My spirit is in a current place of high alert for our world. The violence between the U.S. and Iraq and Iran continues verbally and militarily, a Ukrainian plane has crashed as it was leaving Iran and killed over 170 people on board, and over 40 folks lost their lives and 200 more injured in a stampede in the national mourning of a man we know to be a leader of violence, and the violence continues. The tremors and earthquake and aftershocks in Puerto Rico again bring a precariously rebuilt infrastructure to its knees destroying homes and taking lives and the aftershocks continue. We yet have human beings struggling at borders across the globe and children in cages in the midst of the complexities and non-resolutions of our own border failures. I pray a lot, and still I worry.
I confess I don’t know the proper balance, you know, of prayer and worry and worry and prayer. Praying and not worrying, and worrying and not praying is finally not the answer for me. And besides, both of those seem to leave out any mention of action. Yes, prayer is spiritual action, and at least some if not most of the time, it’s also a call to concrete physical action in the world around us.
My commitment is to fight the c-word with and for my friends and all those on that particular journey. That means I need to listen, to know the unique preciousness of each life that I might be able to do the things that are encouraging and helpful for them – not just what might make me feel better. My commitment is to fight for the denomination I believe God has envisioned to bring good news to all God’s beloved children that all might know they live and are surrounded by unlimited and unconditional grace. That means I need to listen, to know the unique preciousness of each life that I might be able to do the things that are encouraging and helpful for them – not just what might make me feel better. My commitment is to fight for the world of peace that I believe the Prince of Peace came to love into reality. That means I need to listen, to know the unique preciousness of each life that I might be able to do the things that are encouraging and helpful for them – not just what might make me feel better.
An old English teacher might say that a major part of the above paragraph is rather redundant. And I would say, “AMEN!” Parts of my faith are called to be redundant – to live and work in a consistent spirit over and over and over and over again until my life resembles the heart of the sacred – to pray, to listen, and to act in the creating, redeeming, and teaching nature of the saving grace of Jesus Christ – to encourage and help others even as I’m humbly called to encourage and help myself.
So yes/and, still I worry . . . but maybe a little bit less. Committing myself to listen first, and then act in compassion and respect for another, somehow lessens the worry and increases the faith and confidence in my times of prayer. It’s strange the way that works – maybe as strange as a baby born in a stable in an essentially no name little town who will save the world from it’s hatred and destruction with love and a commitment to a peaceful response in confrontation with hatred and the world’s judgment of his “incompatibility with religious teaching” whaaaat?!!? that will lead to his own death which then does not have the last word.
Wow. Right? That’s a lot to take in with how much faith it requires to read it, hear it, see it, and believe it. Maybe it is less worrisome and a little safer to go back to that bumper sticker faith . . . and/but then again . . . maybe . . . it’s . . .just. . . not.
This Youtube video (thanks Caryn Brown!) has gone viral and simply makes me smile because somehow students in high school choral music give me great hope for our world! And their teachers are the creatively best! Right Pam, Teresa, and Sarah???