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Inner City Memories

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied; blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy; blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God and blessed are they who persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I spent the first twelve years of my life growing up in a predominantly white community. I had one neighbor, a little girl a few years’ younger than me, who was biracial…and, in the first grade, one Asian classmate. That was it. Then, in December of 1978, my family moved to downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

To say I had a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement. However, the culture “shock” quickly proved to be a positive one.

I remember walking into that 7th grade classroom at Clay Elementary School shaking in my shoes. More because I was an inherently shy kid and being assertive, or outgoing, while being singled out as the “new kid” yet again, was not something I was looking forward to. But, yes, there was likely a dialogue of racist rhetoric running in the background, too. Though I loved all of my grandparents very, very much, one of my grandfathers loved to say that “we don’t mix colors.” He would’ve had a coronary to find out he had Hispanic and Portuguese blood in his veins (an aunt of mine only recently found this out).

But, you know what?

The moment I walked into that classroom, my classmates put me at ease.

Okay…maybe not the first moment. I will confess, for a split second, the culture-shocked introvert started hyperventilating just a little as several black students popped up out of their seats and came over to me: Who are you? Are you a new student? Where are you from? Welcome! Though this was not my first time being a “new” kid, this was the first time anyone had ever made any immediate overtures to talk with me and get to know me. Most of the time I just got stared at like maybe I was a python thrown into a cage of rabbits…or, being as I was the shy one, maybe I was the rabbit thrown into a den of pythons. However, it was Chandra and Rita and Janice who found me an empty desk (our teacher was out on sick leave and they were waiting for the substitute for that day), and then plied me with all of the necessary textbooks and school supplies I would need for this next phase of my academic life. Though my initial reaction was to draw inward (again, introvert!), there was so much warmth and kindness coming from each of my new classmates, both black and white, that I quickly relaxed. That same day I also started rejecting the notion of “not mixing colors” or seeing people whose skin tone may be different than mine as being different as people. I’ve realized that the only difference is our experiences.

Over the next 6 years, I shared classrooms with both black and white students, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (both from India and Native American), as well as being taught by men and women of each of these. My life has been the richer for it. And, when my immediate family moved back East a year after high school graduation, I came back with a very different attitude about life, about people. I’ve become something of an anomaly to my extended family. It makes for some heated discussions sometimes but, while I’ve shied away from too much political or social discussions here on this blog, I don’t usually shy away from it in a setting where I know everyone and feel relatively safe. The only thing I may be guilty of is silently telling myself to back off at times when the conversation becomes too heated and continuing to argue will only make matters worse. I have to remind myself that not everyone has had the experiences that I have had. Not everyone has had the chance to get to know people from all walks of life, from diverse neighborhoods and school districts, from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds.

In light of everything that has happened in the last month or so, I can’t help thinking that we need to cross those cultural barriers. We need to pop up out of our collective seats, no matter where those seats are, and extend the hand of friendship to everyone we meet. We need to have those difficult conversations and expect that from time to time they may become heated. The only way that we will ever end the systemic racism that plagues this country is to listen to the voices of those protesting it. What are they saying? What is it really like to be black or brown in America? And, on the flip side, are there any negative experiences that white friends and relatives may have had that have brought them to a place of fear and distrust? That last may be hard to swallow but we all have something to bring to this discussion. The only way to put an end to this plague once and for all is to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, and to openly share what’s in our hearts and minds. We can do this without name-calling, or judgement, and respect each other’s truths.

I have been blessed. From the moment I walked into Mrs. Borden’s 7th grade classroom, to each and every time that I have met someone who is “different” and found, as I got to know them, that we weren’t so very different after all. We all want love and acceptance and the right to live as free and equal citizens of this nation. We all want to walk down the street, or browse in a store, without being molested…or worse. We all want to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, and in our homes. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.

It didn’t offend my God to paint such a vivid palette of people…and how boring would it be if we were all exactly alike, carbon copies of each other? Instead, each of us brings something beautiful and special to this tapestry of life. Just as we all hurt when even one of us hurts, we also all have something to rejoice about when we allow love and compassion and respect for each other win out.

May God bless you & keep you!

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White History

“One of the teachers of religion who was standing there listening to the discussion realized that Jesus had answered well. So he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ Jesus replied, ‘The one that says, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. The second is: You must love others as much as yourself.’ No other commandments are greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

I have hemmed and hawed enough. And, by doing so, I am part of the problem here in America.

I’ve often answered the discrimination against the impoverished, how our society automatically assumes that someone who is poor brought it on themselves, that they are lazy and do not want to work. However, I seldom answer our society’s systemic racism…even though I have been aware of it since I was a very young girl.

An aunt of mine recently did the swab test with Ancestry and, through some further research, discovered that the ancestor we were always taught had sailed into Canada out of France, actually was Spanish and sailed out of the Azores. We have some Spanish and Portuguese blood running through our veins, along with the French, but the French came later as those Spanish and/or Portuguese ancestors married French-Canadians. They also married into the Mohawk tribe along the way. Once they get to New England, we find some Narragansett as well. However, that French blood, along with some Polish, Russian, Scots-Irish, English, and German won out in the gene pool: I am as close to fish-belly white as it is possible to be.

I tell this because, as someone of fair skin and eyes and hair, I am not subject to the level of discrimination that my black and brown brothers and sisters deal with on a regular basis. I don’t have anyone redlining me when I apply for a loan/mortgage. I don’t have store clerks watching me too closely when I shop. I don’t have outraged people assuming when I apply for and/or receive government assistance that I’m here illegally. I typically don’t have a lot of generalizations lobbed at me either. Sure, I am a woman. Traditionally, I do not earn the same wage as my male counterparts, even when doing the same job with the same qualifications. I may hear the occasional old-timer saying how I should find a “nice” man to take care of me. However, despite some parallels that tend to smart at times, I don’t presume to know what life is like here in America for my black and brown brothers and sisters. To say that I do would be the biggest slap in the face that anyone could offer.

But I can witness to something that has been bandied about a lot here in the media since the murder of George Floyd last week: the history of America as told in our schools through the eyes of white historians.

I have an old history book on the shelf. It’s not a Board of Education approved copy. I doubt it was ever used in a classroom here in the U.S., but it is a good reference source. I wanted something that I could refer to about various points in our written history that typically don’t get taught in our schools…or even as a point of common knowledge.

Why is this important?

Because our history books typically prop up “heroes” such as Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, for example, without telling the full story. How did they get to be “heroes”? What did they do? And, as with any story, debate, etc. there is always another side. Still using Custer as an example, what was it like for the Native Americans who were, at best, displaced by him? Do our Native American brothers and sisters view him as a “hero”? And have we ever asked our Native American brothers and sisters why?

The history book I have is The Oxford History of the American People. It was written by an Englishman named Samuel Eliot Morison in 1965. It is older than I am. However, as we have a long history of purely “white” history, I’m thinking it still has some relevancy in showing how our history lessons are often slanted in one perpetual direction.

According to Mr. Morison, Custer “liked and respected” the Native American people (Morison 751-752) yet his book says nothing about the Washita Massacre, for example. It says nothing about how Custer’s 7th U.S. Calvary attacked Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne camp on the morning of November 27, 1868 in what is now Oklahoma. And it wasn’t all “braves” that were massacred. It was women and children and the elderly. Does that sound like someone who “liked” and “respected” our Native American brothers and sisters? I didn’t learn about this through any history class. Ironically, it was through an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which got me curious enough to do some independent research into this little-known episode in our history.

It was a Danielle Steel novel, Silent Honor, that brought attention to the Japanese Internment camps here in America during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that led to the FBI first rounding up 1291 Japanese community and religious leaders, “arresting them without evidence” and freezing their assets (Wikipedia). Later, some 117,000 people were relocated to facilities in Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota. Japanese Americans–and most of them were American citizens–were detained in overcrowded barracks without proper plumbing or cooking facilities, and there were armed guards making sure they did not leave without permission. And, yes, I know Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable source of information but it is a good jumping off point for learning more.

Ironically, the American frontier image of ranchers, cowboys, etc. lassoing cattle comes directly from Spanish landowners in Mexico who taught local Indians how to herd cattle and ride horses (Livingston 1). They called them vaqueros, after the Spanish word for “cow”. A good portion of our Southwestern states were part of the spoils of armed conflict with Mexico. While I found a mention of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which promised Spanish and/or Californio landowners in this newly acquired territory (present-day Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and some parts of Colorado and Wyoming) the same “full enjoyment and protection of their property as if they were citizens of the U.S.” (Wikipedia), it does not teach about how most of these former citizens of Mexico lost their land claims in lawsuits before U.S. state and federal courts. In short, we swindled most of the ranchers of their lands.

While I do remember reading about such legendary black leaders as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks in my high school history classes, this particular book does not mention them at all. And most history books tend to gloss over the very real struggles that black leaders have had to make for each new freedom gained. For how many decades did black Americans have to use a separate bathroom, water fountain and/or library, etc. than white Americans? Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus in Alabama, how many black Americans, no matter how tired, sick or aged, gave up their seats rather than face certain consequences? And how often do we hear how “they” are different than us somehow, as if we don’t all bleed the same, throughout our conscious dialogue each day?

Again, it would be a slap in the face for me to say that I understand or can comprehend. I cannot. However, I cannot be silent anymore either to the disparities that I have seen between one group of Americans versus another group of Americans. There is only one race. And that is the human race.

If we’re going to teach our students about American history, shouldn’t it reflect the wide tapestry of humanity that is America in the first place? Shouldn’t that history impartially teach us how it was for each and every culture that has, and does, grace these shores?

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Livingston, Phil. “The History of the Vaquero.” American Cowboy.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press, 1965.

Steel, Danielle. Silent Honor. Dell Publishing, Inc., 2007.

“Washita: Part I.” Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The Sullivan Company, CBS Entertainment Production, 29 April 1995.

Wikipedia. Internment of Japanese Americans, n/d.

Wikipedia. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, n.d.

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These Dreams…

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail.” (Isaiah 29:8)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Growing Hope

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant; a time to harvest.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

A reprieve from academia last week led to a whirlwind of activity here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. We have been inundated with rain and eggs. The former has led to overgrown grass, lots of mud and weeds. The latter, a never-ending query of where are we going to put them? Grocery shopping suddenly brought on a flurry of angst as cartons of eggs lined first one shelf, then another, and moved into the top shelf. Worse, the frugal fanatic here started cringing about the potential waste.

Not wanting to profit during a pandemic when millions of people are out of work and struggling, I hesitated about advertising them. However, the desire not to waste food won out. I posted a message on Facebook that I had them, free of charge, as some of them had been sitting in the fridge a few weeks. 13 dozen went in a few hours’ time. I spent the early part of last week driving around northeastern Connecticut, meeting friends and strangers alike, in parking lots, masked and gloved, or setting a carton or two on the lawn, or a doorstep, to maintain that 6 feet apart. A trip to the grocery store revealed that eggs are actually scarce right now. Who knew? I have back-orders for more. If you can find them, eggs are being sold at what I can only describe as price-gauging rates. Here I was worried about taking advantage of people by profiting from them.

Amazingly, though they were free, most offered some compensation at least for my gas. I appreciate it greatly! I also appreciate that my girls are still laying quite prolifically and I will be making another delivery run tomorrow to fill some of those back-orders.

Today my back is reminding me that I’m not 25 anymore. Or even 35.

I spent most of the last two days in the garden, turning compost; clipping back the blackberries that were moving out of their own bed and invading the patch of Columbines surrounding the birdbath; clipping back the semi-invasive Japanese Knotweed, and the highly-invasive Bittersweet. I weeded several beds, did a happy dance to see the blueberry bush I planted a couple of years’ ago finally growing, and checked on the rhubarb, which is almost ready for harvest. I doubt we’ll get a large enough crop of strawberries to make a strawberry rhubarb pie straight out of the garden this first time harvesting the rhubarb, but we’re on our way. The strawberry plants are at least growing…as are the raspberries.

My herb beds are in need of some serious work. I’m going to have to advertise for more cardboard to cover the grass that keeps spreading everywhere (YouTube: Charles Dowding, No Dig Gardening). However, my chives are looking good and I’ll be drying some before the week is over. I may also plant more chives as we go through them a lot. Whatever chives I can harvest never seem to last more than a month’s time.

All of this rumination is simply my way of growing hope. Because that’s what a garden is: it’s a sign of hope. It’s a way of sowing continuity, of a belief in tomorrow. I have lettuces and cucumbers ready for planting; seeds to sow for more lettuces and dark, leafy greens. The tomato plants will go in next week, after the danger of any frost is over for this gardening zone. And I’m looking at the overgrown herb beds and contemplating what to add, what to transplant, what to divide. I’m looking at all of the plans I have for this little patch of land here in CT and a smile is spreading across my face. It feels good to get my hands dirty…and I’m looking forward to the fall, when the fruits of this labor fill the freezer and line the cupboard shelves. More, there’s an even deeper hope that this garden, along with these grass-stained hands, aching back and equally aching knees, will provide a surplus that I can share with others.

If you garden, I would be delighted if you would share what you have planted/planned for your future harvest.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

“There are ‘friends’ who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

I had one of the most heartening experiences yesterday morning.

Mom and I rarely get visitors here even when there isn’t a pandemic. Though we live in Connecticut, we are transplanted Rhode Islanders. And Rhode Islanders are a rare breed. Because you can literally drive from one end of the state to the other in, roughly, an hour’s time, anything more is the equivalent to living on the moon. Mom and I being, roughly, that hour away from most family members, live all the way “out there”. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door around 8 a.m. during a pandemic.

Sadly, I didn’t answer. I was still in my pj’s, on my way to take a bath, and Mom was still in bed. I also didn’t immediately recognize the truck parked behind my car (single female).

So I waited.

And then felt a moment’s perplexity (as well as a twinge of guilt) when I finally did recognize the woman walking back from my mailbox in the pouring rain: the owner of my local feed store. By the time I could throw my Wellingtons on and a jacket, she was gone. She left a note in my mailbox. As I hadn’t been into the store in a while, she was concerned and checking to make sure Mom and I were okay. I called her back to reassure her.

I know it sounds like a little thing but, especially in this pandemic when everyone is afraid of reaching out, that someone would make such an effort warmed my heart. She didn’t have to stop; in fact, she could have put herself at serious risk if either Mom and/or I hadn’t been feeling okay. However, her concern was stronger than caution. She told me when I called that she had actually had someone post on their website that we might be in need of help. However, I hadn’t been in because I did a little panic shopping for hay and feed a few weeks’ back. Not hoarding, just giving myself a little bit of a buffer until this thing passes. Apparently, people have noticed the fewer visits than normal and some, like my neighbor from the store, cared enough to check.

We may be quarantined, distancing ourselves, but we humans were not meant to be islands unto ourselves. We are a community. And never does that community rise with warmth and intention more than when we face a crisis such as this one.

Take that, Covid-19.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Prepping

“Finally the day came when the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be righteous. Bring in the animals, too–a pair of each, except those kinds I have chosen for eating and for sacrifice: take seven pairs of each of them, and seven pairs of every kind of bird. Thus there will be every kind of life reproducing again after the flood has ended. One week from today I will begin forty days and nights of rain; and all the animals and birds and reptiles I have made will die’. So Noah did everything the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:1-5)

The lights keep flickering. The forecast is for heavy rains (check) and high winds (also, check) with potential power outages. This last may be a “check” before the day is out. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that could take the lives of hundreds of thousands in the U.S. before it is done. Our economy has been nearly frozen. Millions of jobs have been lost; mostly part-time jobs were to be had before the pandemic shutdown. Groceries are flying off the shelves. Ditto for toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Economists are predicting a depression that will rival the 1930’s. On a personal note, foreclosure has been eminent here at The Herbal Hare Homestead since last year’s battle with the icy driveway.

I’ve been “playing” at homesteading over the last 5-6 years. Financial struggles have left me on the fence about truly investing the time and energy into developing this place into the self-sufficient enterprise that I have envisioned. Confidence issues have gotten in the way, too. As has a personal struggle to get Mom on board with some of the more extreme projects.

Thanks to Covid-19, Mom is actually the one suggesting prepping. Working together, I know we can make this work.

As for the back mortgage payments, I’m considering swallowing my pride and filing bankruptcy so I can start clean again. At present, I am still employed. Albeit, it’s part-time employment but, if I do the work while I’m at home with this enforced quarantine, by the time work starts back up again, I may have a few supplemental incomes ready to roll.

My biggest obstacle though is myself. Yes, I procrastinate. But, more, I have a tendency to lose focus. I’ve never been tested, but I would be willing to bet, that I have some form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I do have anxiety issues; that can rob you of focus all by itself…and may be all there is to it. So, for the last week that I’ve been MIA on this blog, I’ve been creating detailed outlines about my homestead and where I want to go; about my writing; even about this blog and the direction I am hoping to take it, the content I am hoping to share as the days, weeks, months go forward. I’m even writing multiple blog posts on the weekend to copy and paste in WordPress each day so that I have time for all of the many endeavors I’ve set for myself. It will give me more time with my book instead of an either/or writing habit. You see, I want this blogging thing to remain sustainable. I also want to finish my book. And, once I’m back to the “day” job, it won’t be sustainable to do both…unless, of course, I write everything on the weekend. So, that’s the start of it.

And what about my faith? You ask.

Somehow, I don’t feel that prepping, as much as one is able, for disaster(s) is a sign that I’m losing faith. Just look at Noah. I feel that this prepping is an outward expression of obeying the warnings He is putting on my heart.

Our healthcare system is broken.

Our economic system is broken.

Our housing system is broken.

Our educational system is broken.

Our election process is broken.

Even, and especially, our government is broken…no matter what side of the political aisle you stand upon.

Almost all of this brokenness stems from a.) A love of money and materialism, and b.) An inability to truly live the teachings of our faith, which is to love our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Perhaps it’s because so many of us don’t have any self-love. I’m not talking about cultivating a selfish heart, nor am I talking about narcissism, but a healing, appreciating kind of love that values “self” as a child of the Creator. Today, any outward expression of belief is frowned upon in our modern society. It might offend some people. So we leave it at the door.

Yet the non-believers can belittle and post their hateful rhetoric on social media…or spout it on the boob-tube on a regular basis.

I’m done with it.

I’m not ashamed of my God.

Nor of a renewed determination to live more intentionally, more sustainably…and, of course, more faithfully.

And, while it may seem crazy to invest myself in an—for all practical purposes—uncertain future here in Connecticut, I’m trusting Him. He has a plan. For my life. For your life. For even a frightening pandemic and its subsequent shutdown of all things “normal” in our society.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Sunday Cyber-Service

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves–whether men or women–or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

So this feels just a little awkward…so I guess I’m on the right track. God loves to take us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to trust Him…even in the midst of coronavirus. Actually, I should amend that: especially in the midst of coronavirus. And, while this isn’t exactly a traditional service, I’m going to start by sharing a song by Christian artist, Zach Williams, called “Old Church Choir”. Though I can carry a tune myself, just for today, I’m leaving it to the pros. Let’s lift the somber mood of these past few weeks just a little bit:

For everyone reading this today, I hope that the prayers and Scripture I offer, even the music I share, will enrich your day, your week, and bring you solace and hope in a seemingly chaotic situation. Truly, faith in Something–Someone–greater than one’s self is the only thing that does bring hope in the face of chaos and adversity.

And the adversities we face today are unlike any that we have seen in 80, 90 years.

I don’t share that to overwhelm, or to spread further terror. It’s to bring this situation into perspective. There’s been so much anger masking fear and uncertainty, so much finger pointing–something of which yours truly has been guilty–and it only excerbates the situation…both in our hearts, and in our communities. Yes, we are seeing who the *true* leaders are, and those whose hearts the Adversary’s lies have settled into as well. And, no, they’re not the ones closing down even the churches. The officials that have closed nearly every door are doing so to save lives, to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Adversary is watching this, wringing his hands together at the opportunities he sees before him now that so many of us are not coming together in prayer, to receive Communion and fellowship, to confess our sins of the previous week(s), and to seek forgiveness. I say we pray without ceasing, giving praise to the One who is truly in control and has our backs in all of this, effectively binding those wringing hands from doing their dirty work. We have enough to contend with in Covid-19. That’s enough chaos for one community, one country, one world. And, without God, without a belief in Someone greater than ourselves, where will we find the strength to get through the weeks ahead and their endless challenges? Or to resist those adversarial lies?

Yes, you read that correctly: give God praise during this epidemic. He knows what He’s doing, and why. It is our job to trust Him, to believe Him, when He tells us He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart. Though it may not seem apparent at the moment, He does. He truly does. If we give in to the doubts, and I know it’s difficult not to at a time like this when so many are sick, scared, dying, but this is where He needs us to follow Him ever more closely. He needs us to be steadfast and stand together in solidarity with Him, to root out the lies and bring them into the Light, to bring comfort to those who are afraid, or have suffered loss.

You know, we talk about pulling together during this crisis. And yet, we are being asked, for safety’s sake, to stay apart. It seems a bit of an oxymoron but, while we may not be together physically, we CAN be together in our hearts, in our minds, in spirit…in Spirit. It is, in my opinion, the only way we will get through this crisis.

And that brings me to another point of this post. I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about being an introvert. Truly, it’s not all that difficult being an introvert in America. Our society encourages distance even when things are “normal”. Look at how we are structured. Most people travel to work solo. In fact, I know of plenty of people who look down their noses at people who carpool, or utilize public transit. The auto industry touts independence, freedom of spirit, etc. to sell their products. If you don’t have an automobile of your own, people are scandalized (I have first-hand knowledge). In short, we’re encouraged to be alone in our commutes. Though “tiny houses” are all the rage today as sort of a grassroots’ movement that is gaining some traction in the mainstream, our housing/construction industries push the mantra of bigger being better. Our streets are lined with countless McMansions, surrounded by acres of well-manicured status symbols of lawns that rob us of clean air, clean soil, clean water…even home-grown food so, if for no other reason, we do not starve during an epidemic. We’re disconnected from the earth, from our food, from the animals that sacrifice theirs that we might have life (oftentimes under horrible conditions). More importantly, we’re disconnected from each other. Again, in short, I see millions of “islands”. I get needing elbow room…and we don’t always find “good” neighbors, but in these Islands of Suburbia, we might never know. How many of us, when there isn’t a pandemic, have walked across those acres of useless grass to extend the hand of friendship to those whose multi-acres of McMansion border ours? And, sadly, even within the walls of those McMansions, we remain islands of humanity. Every child must have its own bedroom. We must have a man-cave, or a she-shed. Every human in the house must have their own bathroom, too. I suppose during a pandemic such as this one, we might conclude that the distance between us, even within our own communities, is a good thing to help slow the spread of infection. But do we know how to sit down as a family and share a common meal? Do we even know how to cook a meal without zapping it in a microwave? We’re not running off to countless after-school sporting events, clubs, extra-curricular activities right now. How has that changed the dynamics? Do we know how to entertain ourselves as a family? When was the last time we pulled out a board game? Or a deck of cards? When was the last time we prayed together as a family…outside of our church, temple, synagogue, or mosque? For those of you who have been sitting down together as a family to share a meal, a game, or a prayer, you are truly the wealthy during this crisis. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whether introverted, or extroverted.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise you in this “storm”. We truly are at “war” with an enemy we cannot see. But I know that Your Eyes do see this “enemy” and You’ve got this! I praise You for that knowledge. I praise You for the knowledge that You are giving to doctors, nurses, first-responders, scientists, etc. to help heal those who are ill. I praise You, too, for protecting these healthcare workers from contracting the Covid-19 virus themselves; we need all of their expertise. I praise You for lifting every healthcare worker up, relieving their fatigue, and for giving them clarity when it is most needed.

I praise you for every grocery, pet and/or feed store worker, for every pharmacist, for every essential worker who is also on the front lines during this epidemic. I praise you for protecting them also, and the families that they go home to each night.

I praise You for our government officials. I pray that sound minds and compassionate hearts will prevail in this crisis. I praise You for guiding the hands of those who would lead…and showing us just who those people are. I praise You for touching the hearts of those who would profit from the sufferings of others that they might repent and seek You in all future endeavors, bringing Light, instead of the darkness that our world has become.

I praise You for lifting up the hearts of all people everywhere during this epidemic. Where hearts are hungry, provide them Your sustenance. Where hearts are frightened, give them courage. Where hearts are angry, bring them peace. Where hearts are in doubt, fill them with Your grace. And, for those who have lost a loved one to this illness, I praise You for comforting them in their hour of sorrow and loss. Help them to remember that when we are a part of the body and blood of Christ, we are never truly alone. I praise You for the hope that is forever Your name, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory, forever and ever…Amen

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2008). “Praise You In This Storm (live).” Lifesong (2005), producer by Mark A. Miller, Beach Street/Reunion Records. Neyolov. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ype1xE0wzsg

For King and Country (2015). “Shoulders (Official Music Video).” Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, producers Ben Glover, Matt Hales, Seth Mosley and Tedd Tjornhom, Fervent Records alongside Word Records. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfiYWaeAcRw

Williams, Zach (2017). “Old Church Choir (Official Music Video).” Chain Breaker, producer Jonathan Smith, Essential Records. Vevo. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOEviTLJOqo&list=RDyOEviTLJOqo&start_radio=1

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Moments of Reflection

“But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.” (Psalms 1:2)

There have been way too many outraged, ranting and raving against a broken government, system, and society type posts that I cannot change/fix, etc. with my outrage, rants and raves. I cannot fix a pandemic, or a collapsing economy, with it either. So, though I’ve sneered a little bit in the past over those rubber bracelets that people wear that say, “What would Jesus do?”, I did exactly that. What would Jesus do? Or, more importantly, what would He have me do right now? Can He use me in this pandemic? And how? How may I best serve Him? And/or my fellow Man?

Yesterday was a day of reflection, of finishing some organizational projects, of completing homework assignments, and connecting with friends.

Certainly more productive than ranting and raving.

I’m not 100% sure yet what He has in mind, but I’m contemplating doing something special with this blog on Sundays. Connecticut has shutdown even places of worship. I don’t know about everyone else reading this, but I miss my worship community. I miss singing with the choir. I miss giving the readings, serving Communion. I miss Father Ben’s gentle homilies. And the fellowship of friends, of course.

That’s the hardest part of this enforced quarantine: the loss of social interaction. Though I consider myself an extreme introvert, even an introvert needs someone to chat with from time to time. Thankfully, I have Mom here with me…and a large network of friends and relatives just a mouse click, or speed dial, away from a long distance connection. How much harder must it be on the more gregarious of our brethren? Those among us who are always in the thick of things are suddenly caged. And, to be honest, though I’m an avowed introvert, I’m also a free spirit who hates even a necessary oppression of that free spirit…such as a shutdown. I guess this is proof that we always want most what we cannot have.

The flip side of this is the elderly, the shut-ins, people that are often alone and forgotten in the best of times. We had a Texas “leader” recently suggesting the elderly sacrifice themselves for the younger generation. Sure, if I contracted the virus, and it came down to one ventilator between myself and one of my nieces, you bet your a** I’m going to give it to them. And I know this is what this politician was saying, but it came out bass-ackwards. At any rate, before I go down another rant, oftentimes, the elderly, the shut-ins, etc. only ever see folks when they come to church/synagogue/mosque or temple each day/week. Though it is impossible to get together physically, I’m thinking it might not be amiss to come together for a Sunday Cyber-Service. I am an ordained minister, after all…non-denominational. And, if nothing else, what I manage to put together might bring solace and comfort to those who read it. If I knew how to do conference calls, I’d host a prayer meeting via phone…or Skype.

(I thinking it also might not be amiss to use this enforced shutdown to teach myself some of these technologies…)

In closing, I can’t promise that there won’t be some future posts that continue to rant and rave and rage against what is happening in the world today. Like everyone else, I am frightened for our future. I have an elderly Mom, a brother who had his spleen removed last year and cannot fight infections/viruses as easily as most, and a niece who is Type I diabetic. I have a couple of beloved aunts who are Type II diabetic, several aunts and uncles who, like Mom, would be considered elderly, and a cousin who just had a kidney transplant and is also vulnerable right now. So, yes, I do worry about them…despite my faith…because, though I know losing loved ones is inevitable under any circumstances, I’d prefer to keep them all here for as long as God wills it (and I’m not above praying to Him and begging for their continuity in my life either).

So, while it may be scary and feel unproductive to be home, instead of at work/school, please stay home anyway (if you can, of course; front line workers and necessary trips to the grocery store/doctor’s office being the exceptions). Wash your hands frequently. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops…and steering wheels. Avoid gatherings with large numbers of people. No, we probably won’t be back to “normal” by Easter, but we can find peace in our hearts, knowing we’re doing everything we can to protect those we love and cherish. Here’s praying all of your loved ones are safe and healthy, too.

May God bless you & keep you!

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What Happened to “For the People”?

“Giving preferred treatment to rich people is a clear case of selling one’s soul for a piece of bread.” (Proverbs 28:21)

I am struggling to find a positive spin on the recently agreed upon stimulus. The best I can come up with is “it’s better than nothing”. And I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

I feel like it’s 2008 all over again. We’re using the hard-earned tax money paid by We the People to bail out Corporate America again…and, likely, the money will only go to those corporations in the states that our current administration needs to win again in November. Said corporations will stay afloat, continue to monopolize the marketplace, force the smaller businesses completely out of business…or buy them out of hock and incorporate them. They will continue to pay their workers minimum wage, those workers that they decide to keep, as they will use this extra capital to automate away as many positions as they possibly can. It’s all about the Almighty dollar. In the meantime, we, the American people, must appear stupid in their eyes. Here’s a few measly crumbs–a whopping one-time payment of $1200–to tide you and yours over for however many months we’re forced to stay in quarantine. Yes, I know we’re also extending unemployment benefits. But, despite the loans and grants to small businesses, will it be enough for Main Street to stay open and solvent? Because staying open and solvent means they will also have to remain competitive against those corporate giants who have considerably greater resources than Main Street, USA…including lobbyists in Washington, D.C. who have far too many of our politicians in their hip pockets.

And, yes, I am angry and cynical…and trying desperately not to be. Despite the above rant, I am incredibly grateful that there is a stimulus at all…it really is “better than nothing”. But will it be enough to stave off what, for many, may mean total ruin? I want so badly to hold onto my faith that every American will get through this crisis, safe, happy, healthy. I want to believe that the majority of our politicians are inherently good and have the best interest of We the People at heart. And there have been some rather unsung heroes in the midst of it all.

And maybe that’s where my thoughts should go right now. Because, just as there have been politicians on both sides of the aisle who appear to be looking out for their own interests instead of We the People’s, there are some–also on both sides of the aisle–who have stepped up to the plate with boldness and compassion: Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, Andrew Cuomo and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to name a few.

Actually, I’m amazed that the House and Senate were able to work together at all to accomplish as much as they did…even as I acknowledge that it won’t be enough in the long run. It is all too easy to imagine tent cities cropping up across America again…2008 regurgitated.

I hope I am wrong.

And, yes, I am breaking my own challenge of yesterday to spread hope. But I have trouble wondering why our government has no qualms about spending trillions of dollars to bail out corporations, but that same money is too much to bail out individual citizens as we do exactly what we’re being asked to do: stay home, stay out of public spaces, do our part to stop the spread of this Covid-19, etc. In the richest country in the world, we have an embarrassingly large number of our citizens living on the streets. Why are we unwilling to spend the money to ensure that the number of homeless doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds at the back-end of this pandemic?

Yes, I know…follow my own advice. Breathe, just breathe. We will get through this…the same way we got through 2008. And, no, that statement really doesn’t inspire a feeling of hope either. Instead, I’m going to take it to the One who always inspires hope:

Dear heavenly Father,

I come to you broken, scared, listening to the lies of the Adversary robbing me of my faith when I need it the most…when I need You the most. I ask Your forgiveness for my dismay, my anger, and my impatience, and ask that You strengthen my faith in the midst of chaos. Help me to step up to that plate, to step up to the challenge of spreading hope during this time of darkness and despair for so many of Your people. For those who feel that despair, please give them the strength and courage they need to weather this “storm”.

For all of the families and individuals who are suddenly feel like they are without recourse, let the miracle of Your Son feeding thousands with just two fish be extended to them in their time of need. May they have enough healthy, nutritious food to feed their children and keep their bodies strong. May they find Your grace in the compassion of those debt collectors who willingly suspend payment until this crisis is over. May You provide them with work for their hands to do once the danger of this pandemic is over.

For our leaders, both in our government, and in the unsung heroes in our local communities, bless them with hearts full of love for their fellow man, and clear heads for finding real solutions in these troubled times. For the many, many individuals working in retail, who brave the risk of infection themselves, to make sure groceries and medicines are obtainable for all who need them, and for the factory workers, truck drivers, etc. who are keeping those supplies available, please watch over them, protect them, and their families, as they continue to serve their communities.

Father, lastly, I ask that You spread Your mercy over those who have been stricken with Covid-19. I ask that You stretch Your mighty Hand of healing over them, and bless the doctors, nurses, technicians, first responders and emergency workers, etc. who are working selflessly to care for those stricken with this virus. I pray that You find the medicine(s) and equipment needed to ease their suffering. And, for those whom You have called home, I ask that you comfort those they have left behind whose hearts are breaking for their loss. I ask this all in Jesus’ precious, pure and holy Name. Amen.

May God bless you & keep you!