Tuesday, September 30, 2008

praying for healing

Today I feel weighed down. Broken relationships...especially ones you feel absolutely powerless to do anything about...these are hard.

I move on and forgive. I don't ask for forgiveness enough. I am weary of abuse and confusion of truth. I long for reconciliation but I also know that 'boundaries' are actually helpful in the healing process...for a time...or maybe forever? I don't know. All I know is that this is hard...and even after 'moving on' the process continues...over and over again.
Lord Jesus, have mercy.

I am taking a class on the Psalms, and the prayers and songs I've read are both disconcerting and encouraging at the same time. The prayers of the people of God are not clean and full of pious musings. They are full of a lot of things...praising, pleading, hoping, (dare i say) whining, desire for vengeance, desire for justice. They are messy and cover the full range of human emotion and experience. They can pray for us when we feel we have nothing to say. I'm grateful for this class, and, even more, the prayers of the people of God translated into English and meeting me where I am at, and teaching me about prayer.
(photo credit: "Glory" - http://etiennecreations.com/3.html)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What matters?

As I remember the 2000 election...the closest call, I believe, in US Presidential election history, I try and prepare my heart and mind for what may happen this November. Even if Obama wins the popular vote, there are huge electoral counts in several key battleground states which could give McCain victory. I have another phone banking session scheduled tonight at the Obama HQs in NE Portland. I am not convinced that what I am doing matters (it matters in the sense that it is contributing to more people getting involved in the political process, which is important, but not necessarily in helping Obama win this election). I believe that Oregon will vote for Obama. Obama will probably get the whopping 7 electoral college votes from this state to contribute to the necessary majority of 270 nationwide.

I'm a visual person, and these maps help illustrate what's happening. The picture on the left shows where our country is leaning right now. The one on the right shows how many electoral college votes each state will get.
As of right now, it seems the following are considered 'Battleground States' (Electoral College votes in parentheses). (I got this info from Wikipedia). This info more or less matches the results from the polls compiled on RealClearPolitics here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/battleground.html.
  • Colorado: (9) Recent polls show Colorado as a toss-up.
  • Florida: (27) Polls show McCain with a sizeable lead in Florida.
  • Indiana: (11) McCain with a moderate lead in Indiana.
  • Michigan: (17) Current polls show Michigan with a slight Obama lead.
  • Minnesota: (10) Recent polls show Minnesota as a pure toss up.
  • Missouri: (11) Polls show McCain with a sizeable lead in Missouri.
  • Nevada: (5) A current poll shows McCain with a slight lead in Nevada.
  • New Hampshire: (4) Current polls show New Hampshire with a moderate Obama lead.
  • New Jersey: (15) Current polls show Obama with a lead in the state.
  • New Mexico: (5) Recent polls have been somewhat contradictory and have shown both McCain and Obama leading by slight margins.
  • Ohio: (20) Current polls show McCain with a moderate lead in Ohio.
  • Pennsylvania: (21) Current polls show Obama with a lead in Pennsylvania.
  • Virginia: (13) Current polls show John McCain with a moderate lead in Virginia.
  • Wisconsin: (10) Current polls show Obama with a sizeable lead in Wisconsin.
Friends, if you feel passionately about this election, I encourage you to get involved in whatever way you feel comfortable, especially if you are in a battleground state. Maybe this means researching the candidates more and knowing where they both stand on the issues...and trying to get your information from independent media sources (if that's possible). (This is something I myself feel particularly challenged to do.) Or maybe this means talking to friends and family. Or perhaps this means visiting your local campaign office and doing some phone calling, canvassing, or registering new voters. I've been tossing around the idea of doing phone calls to some of these states instead of mobilizing voters in Oregon - as I believe that's where we need the help the most. But, like my friend David commented on my last post, I, too, lose all eloquent or persuasive speaking ability when confronted with people who do not share my views. I've recently put out an invite on my facebook page to my more conservative-leaning friends, because I truly want to know why they are supporting McCain/Palin this election. From my standpoint, it is a no-brainer and obviously I'm very passionately pro-Obama. But I want to hear the other side. I want to know why half of this country is so fervently supporting a ticket I could not bring myself to support in virtually any circumstance I could possibly think of. To this point, I've come to believe that McCain and Palin's intentions are good, and that they truly and deeply want what is best for this country. I have to believe that they are inherently good people and are also human and therefore prone to serious error. I am not necessarily questioning their character (many of my liberal friends would strongly object to this!), but I am adamantly in opposition to their underlying philosophies which dictate the policies they support (for example, the philosophy of trickle-down economics).

It's getting close. We're six and a half weeks away from the election. I know from being in a long-distance relationship how fast this goes by (I mean that in all love, Ben :)

God is sovereign, yes. God is holy, too. And we are his creatures, who've been entrusted to take care of this flailing planet to the best of our ability and with our God-given wisdom, if we so desire it. May we all seek God's wisdom and Spirit through this process, and engage thoughtfully in the ways we feel led.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

phone calling for Obama

This past Wednesday I had my very FIRST phone banking experience at the Obama headquarters in NE Portland. Yes, I was a political studies major. And although I've lobbied in Olympia one time before (again, in college), I have no experience working directly in a political campaign, go figure. I'd much rather think about doing things, rather than actually doing them :) I walked in a little timid, but ready for some phone-bank kicking ass. I was given a list of names to call, with a script. "Hello, is ____ there? Hi, my name is Richelle, and I'm a local volunteer for Senator Obama's Campaign for Change. How are you?" Then I proceeded to ask them if they were still planning on supporting Barack in the election. (Everyone who answered said yes - I was calling the choir, apparently.) Then, I asked them a series of "will you volunteer for such and such" questions. At the end of two hours, I managed to secure 8 volunteers for more phone calling, canvassing, or registering new voters. Approximately 70% of the people I called did not pick up their phone or were not home. About 50-70% of the people I actually did get to talk to were willing to volunteer. I'd say those odds are a pretty damn good reflection of what's going on in people's hearts and minds right now. We want to do something...anything. We are so fed up with the McCain/Palin campaign and the way the media has dealt with covering it. I don't mean to spread hate language, I am simply saying I think that they're misleading the American people. And I think there will be extraordinarily dire consequences if we let them lead us...if we go another four years under a leadership that doesn't understand the severity of what climate change is doing around the globe, that has virtually no sensitivity to global public opinion, that thinks (really, truly believes) that drilling will actually help solve America's energy crisis, that believes they are sent from God, that doesn't believe Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle or the editors of Webster's dictionary should have a voice in our public sphere, and that capitalizes on people's fears in order to justify more violence, both at home and particularly in the Middle East. This is not leadership. I shudder to think of what may happen in this world if McCain is elected President, has a heart attack, and we are taking orders from Sarah Palin, commander-in-chief. I shudder.

I signed up for another phone banking session, next Wednesday. And while part of me feels like I am not doing anything (because it feels like everyone in Portland is already supporting Obama) - I have to believe that every little bit counts. Each new registered voter counts. And you never know how their opinion will possibly influence their families, friends, etc.

I would love to have the gusto to do the 'persuasive' calls. Maybe in the next few weeks, if I believe I can handle fielding questions about where Obama stands on all the issues, I will consider it. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Profound Button

Love, Suffering, Christ

Frederic Buechner said that to suffer in love for another's suffering is to live life not only at its fullest, but at its holiest. It is in these places and times in my life that I have felt the most alive...where I've been in the midst of something truly sacred.

I realize that to question whether or not Christianity would exist without suffering is like questioning what life would be like without molecules...it seems to be an unproductive proposition...because we have suffering in this world, and life would not be life without molecules. We have incredible unrest, pain, and discontent. There is no point in imagining what life would be like without pain and suffering - because we have those things, and we always have had those things.
It seems that these things either draw us nearer to God or lead us to withdraw in confusion, despair, anger, or isolation. Yet, in Christ, we do imagine a world without pain - where all of our tears will be wiped away from our eyes. Where all will be made new and whole. Where the city will rejoice. The very thing that draws us nearer to God seems to be the very thing that all of Christianity hinges upon. Without suffering and unrest, would we even care to look to God? Would we ever experience a holy moment? In a world without pain and suffering, who needs God?

The Kingdom I hope for is not a world in which there never was pain. It is not a utopia. It is a completely different paradigm of reality. It is Redemption. And redemption only comes about through something being turned over, redirected, and made right and whole - which means that in some weird way, suffering is actually a necessary predecessor for Redemption to ever happen. And like all forms of art, it is the contrast of light and dark which portrays the most intense kind of beauty. Christianity makes sense in a world of suffering. The Kingdom of God...the one Jesus talks about...involves an including of the outcasts, a healing of the sick, a turning over of the unjust systems that govern our lives - of corruption and greed, an empowerment of the powerless, a holy love for those who've been forgotten, mistreated, or ignored. The upside-down Kingdom needs all of these broken, ugly, painful things in order to work.

I would like to believe that if the world actually did run off of the principles that Jesus taught - if people actually did love each other, and we had peace between nations and families and within our very selves - that this way of doing things would still draw us nearer to God. I would like to believe that without suffering, we would actually be able to see God more clearly. I would like to believe that the very thing that draws us to God now...suffering...will one day not be the very thing any more. Maybe the thing that draws us nearer to God, in a peaceful world, will not be our suffering, but God's. Maybe that's the thing that, for ages since the death and Resurrection of Christ, has drawn all of humanity to the heart of God...into a deep and intimate embrace. Not our suffering, but God's.

Again I reflect on Frederic Buechner's words: To suffer in love for another's suffering is to live life not only at its fullest, but at its holiest.

My thoughts today are expressions of a faith I am trying to make sense of in light of this crazy world we live in. Sometimes I don't understand my faith. Sometimes I wonder if I have any faith at all. In my relationship with Ben, in my thoughts on the future, in my hopes for our world and particularly my hopes for this country and this upcoming election - I wrestle with God and with what my relationship to God even means. From who I know God to be, I think God likes us to wrestle with Him/Her. It is this very act of wrestling which shows our faith. So if you are reading this I encourage you to wrestle with God - and to remember that in every bit of pain and frustration and suffering we are in, God has been there. Thanks be to God.