It’s time for some of us to stop talking and start listening and hearing. Whites have had the floor for a long time now. We have had the upper hand and have misused our privilege. Intentionally or unintentionally, people have been suppressed, held down, beaten, taken advantage of, and disregarded as members of our society.
Change starts with me, with my thinking and my actions. My childhood memories include people close to me using the “N-word’ and making disparaging comments about people of color while bragging that they have black friends so that shows they aren’t prejudice. I remember fear and concern from my parents when I dated black men or my sister and brother married people from other cultures. We were crossing a line they would never have dreamed of doing.
I grew up with the civil rights movement. It was difficult for our elders. They learned to adjust to a new way of living. It was, however, always veiled in a element of fear. A fear they passed on to the next generation as we pushed for equality. We opened our neighborhoods to people who didn’t look like us and we became friends with people our parents might never have had an opportunity to meet in an equal setting. It was a small beginning that seemed radical and unsettling for them.
I like to think that my generation raised a new generation with less prejudice and that we have done a better job at inclusion and equality. The truth that we haven’t done enough is evident in recent events that have led to wide-spread protests. As a child I watched the demonstrations for civil rights. I watched the demonstrations to end the war. They were violent at times. Those voices were heard. Steps were taken in the right direction because of those brave souls. Today’s generation has picked up the ball we dropped and are again pushing it up the hill of change. It is time we helped them with this fight.
This past year I was exposed to some studies and engaged in some conversations about inequality from those who live it. I have begun to understand the concept of white privilege as I realize the daily fears people of color live with that I will never experience. The inequality I have experienced in the work place as a white woman is nothing compared to the challenges of an African American women. My fears when I am pulled over for a traffic violation is nothing compared to a man of color who fears for his life in the same situation. I have experienced wolf calls or sick comments from sexist men and still it doesn’t compare to what non-white people in this country hear on a nearly daily basis.
…we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:22-24
The oppressed need to be heard. The advantages need to be leveled. The reaction needs to improve. The thinking needs to change. We need to stand and hold up those who have grown weary of holding themselves up. We need to change the character of ourselves and call out others to do the same. We need to stop turning a blind eye to inequality, step down from our pedestals, and ask “how do I help?”
I admit I have more questions than I have answers. That makes me sad. I pray from my home and write as God moves me to write. I am talking more with friends and family. I can’t be silent out of fear some will disregard me because the fear that nothing will change is greater. I will keep taking the steps I can until God moves me in a new direction.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31
I want to love more like Jesus.
How many times have you said that to yourself? How many times have you prayed to live more like Jesus, to have a heart like Jesus, and to treat others like Jesus did. Have you asked God to give you a heart that fights against injustice and a passion for change?
I fall short of that all the time and I am beginning to realize that while they are nice sentiments, I don’t know the first thing about changing in a way that is meaningful to others. I want to be that person that walks across the street to help the one others ignore rather than to cross the street to avoid people I have been trained to fear. I want to sit among the “sinners” and hear their stories and stand with the brokenhearted, the marginalized, and the mistreated.
I want to love like Jesus.
I was asked the other day to think about the things that matter to me the most, the things I am passionate about, and those things that bring me joy. I am at a crossroads and seeking how to hear God in new ways and to uncover where he is leading me next. My mind went from what I do and what brings me joy to what really gets under my skin that I have been ignoring out of a fear that I will once again be rejected for what God is putting on my heart. So here I go with phase one of my journey of discovering where God and I will be walking next.
What Gets My Goat
– or those issues I see around me in a church setting, in religious discussion, and inflicted upon people I love and care about. They break down into four key issues of imparity or inequality. Race/immigration, age, gender, and marital status. Places where I have seen, and in some cases experienced, discrimination against someone because they are from outside my culture, older or younger, male, female, part of the LGBTQ community, and unmarried persons–be that never married, widowed, or especially divorced. I have walked through all of these areas as a senior citizen, a mother and friend, and as someone married, divorced, and widowed. I have sat with people living through the pain inflicted upon them by people at work, so-called well-intentioned friends, and religious communities. Unfortunately, their stories are painful and seldom filled with the love and joy that Jesus wished for us and commanded us to offer. The “church” can do better – we can love better, we can stand stronger as allies, we can follow Jesus and enter into places that seem so unholy and care better.
I can do better.
I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
We are in a new era of forced isolation. There is no telling how long this will last. For those in their late-50s and older, “social-distancing” could become the new norm for us because doctors can’t say if the Coronavirus, or an offshoot of it, may come back next year. For an age group that is already trying to stay physically fit and actively engaged, this is like a slow death sentence. Melanie Joosten, a researcher at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) wrote that aging women especially experience a growing sense of becoming invisible. This feeling could become more of a reality as we carefully choose our external activities and social/work relationships to protect our health.
Women feel this sense of social isolation and lack of relevance much more than do men, according to coach Dr. Louise Mahler. In a 2016 NY TimesDr. Dhruv Khullar wrote: “About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. ” He continues to explain that social separation is bad for our physical, cognitive, and mental health and that those who are isolated from society tend to die within seven years.
The need to be seen as relevant and as a contributing member of society matters for those entering their ” twilight years.” Regular social contact and involvement is key. Dr Khullar quoted one senior as saying: “Your world dies before you do.” For our older population that is even more real today than ever before. As I have spoken with seniors in my community the past few days, I am finding that while their faith is keeping their spirits up, they desperately miss even the little bit of friendly contact that came from socializing in the grocery store. No longer is the store, the coffee shop, the neighborhood diner, or their place of worship a available to them to get out of the house and interact with friends and family.
For many seniors, participation in their ministries and charitable organizations has been a lifeline and provides a sustained a sense of purpose and contribution to society. Religious organizations bring a sense of spirituality and connection with community. For those who continue to work, they have the opportunity to share their experience while learning new skills and keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Take that away and loneliness, isolation, and depression are likely to set in. This is even more true for older adults living alone who today are unable to meet family, see grandchildren,or venture to their communities and jobs.
‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.
Technology has helped to bridge some of the gaps older adults are feeling during social distancing. Once they get the hang of all the processes available to them to video chat and participate in streaming religious services or exercise classes, they may feel a momentary sense of connection and belonging. However, the crucial piece is to help them find relevance and purpose. If all they do is take in information they still lack an ability to contribute to society. This could lead to a greater level of social anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, according to Good Therapy. These factors tend to be more prominent in women; however, because of their tendency toward transparency in expressing loneliness. This again goes back to a societal response that respects maturing men over aging women and the notion that men still have something to contribute despite their age.
So what can we do in this period of forced isolation? Reach out on a regular basis to your older friends and family. Find a video platform that they are comfortable using because it helps to actually see the faces of our friends and family. Find some way for them to help. Maybe they can write letters or make phone calls to people in their religious and charitable organizations. Visit them from a safe social distance. Give them tasks to complete for which they are responsible. Acknowledge their skills and contributions, no matter how minor. Help our senior citizens feel that they are respected, needed, and connected and they will come through this crisis stronger and more engaged then ever before.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10
It has been hard to get out of the house and I finally had to admit that I have been struggling with depression. I knew something was off when I no longer had interest in the things that delight me–mostly being around other people and taking those walks that I had committed to for this blog.
I know what depression feels like. I have experienced it before. I know many of you have too, or someone close to you has. For me,
- Depression isn’t just feeling a bit down. It is feeling like no matter what you do you can’t get up.
- Depression isn’t just feeling grief after the loss of a loved one. It is feeling as if life will never be whole again, and you don’t care. You just don’t care.
- Depression isn’t being tired and staying in bed. It is wanting desperately to get up and yet the best you can do is make it to the bathroom and back to your bed.
- Depression isn’t just skipping events to which you committed to attending. It is wanting so much to see people and yet being so sad that you can’t imagine getting dressed and putting on your happy face.
- Depression isn’t about feeing sad and overly emotional. It is sitting on the edge of the bed and crying and you don’t know why because all you did was wake up.
It can take some courage to recognize the symptoms and ask for help. Unlike other illnesses, there is a conflict between shame and pride associated with depression. Sometimes well meaning friends try to cheer you up and get you past a down period. Religious leaders are often ill-equipped to diagnose or treat depression. And the communities in which we live frequently don’t have the patience to support someone with a ‘hidden’ illness. And more often, our pride stops us from sharing with others that we are living with depression, even if we are undergoing counseling or taking medication.
My life is better this week. I have the support of my closest friends and family. I’m doing what I need to get better and each day I feel a little more like myself. And I finally got out the door and into nature. I have to take the steps back to normal living and make the most of my treatment plan to find my center again.
I was amazed by the simple beauty of the world just a mile away from my home. I found a touch of God out there as I walked with a friend and our dog. I found that my inner spirit was renewed in the midst of God’s creation.
I walked in gardens planted and felt a new being breaking through. The bright colors of flowers coming into bloom. The promise of second chances and renewed life.
Take the walk. Let the wonder of the world open your heart and lighten your journey into healing.
Sit. Rest. Be.
If you think something might not be quite right in our life, I encourage you to seek professional help–start with your family physician. Let people close to you know that you are grappling with depression so they can encourage you and walk in your recovery journey. Be brave enough to ask for prayer and to seek out spiritual healing and direction.
And remember to keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Out the door. Down the street. Around and over the rocky parts. Into the garden of new life.
Walking with the Light,
Mother’s Day is this weekend. I was reminded by one of my favorite authors, Rosemarie Fitzsimmons of The Portrait Writer, that it may not be easy for some of us to celebrate our mothers. Some of us may no longer have our moms with us while still others don’t have wonderful memories or relationships with their mothers.
As I reflect back on my own mother, I remember some sad times as she struggled in a marriage that was not kind to her and led her to find relief in a bottle of beer or cognac. Her alcoholism would tarnish her image for us children as we remember the angry outbursts and thefights with her husband. She could be rather brutal when under the influence and it would be easy to just remember that mother.
But my mother was also a generous loving woman. She loved her church and when not tending to the family, you could find her in service to the Lord or at school volunteering. People who met her there saw the heart of Jesus and a friend that would give everything for them. I think my sister and I learned those lessons–to give without ever expecting anything in return, simply because we are led by the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately because of her alcohol abuse my mother wasn’t always available to me as a mother. She did her best. She loved us. Her outbursts were usually the result of frustration and fear that we were moving away from God’s will for us–meaning the “rules” of Catholic life. We couldn’t always talk to her about things because they might come back to haunt us later. That led me to find other strong women as mentors and mother figures.
There were Mrs. R. and Mrs. C, who understood my mother’s struggles and knew that I needed that little bit of extra attention. There was Marie who showed up throughout my life to step in during weddings and from whom I would learn how to set a table and host guests with grace. My neighbor Pat who helped me lose weight in high school and gave me confidence to find friends in an awkward time. As I moved on with my life and following my mother’s death I have come to know some remarkable women, starting with my sister Marilyn who I watched navigate the ups and downs of marriage while my brother and I went through divorce after divorce.
There was my dear friend Gail who taught me how to live as an unmarried woman in love with the Lord. God sent me wonderful women friends with whom I could share my life challenges and would remind me that I am never alone and I am worthy of love and friendship. Still other mentors from my church world guide me to forgiveness for my own actions and into redemption through healing prayer. I have met wonderful women living in ministry and with sacrifice in the service of the Lord and to other women.
Today I want to remember all of these wonderful women that God put in my world to help me navigate life and draw nearer to him. I am extremely grateful to them for taking the time to listen, to share their story, and to pray with me. I appreciate the lessons I have learned and their willingness to walk with me into a new changed life.
Maybe Mother’s Day brings up some pain in your life. Maybe you don’t have the TV perfect mother and feel that you missed out. Maybe your mother was missing as you grew up and you feel abandoned.
If that is you, I encourage you to look beyond the label of the day and look at the women in your life. Is there someone who had a special impact on your life? Is there someone who you cherish because of the woman of God she is and the blessing you receive every time you get together? Maybe she is an older woman and maybe she is a younger lady. Think about her. Honor her. Pray for her. Give thanks for her.
Don’t let this Sunday be a gloomy day for you. Don’t feel compelled to celebrate in the traditional manner. Seek out a woman who has touched you and give her a call. Thank her at church on Sunday. Take her out for lunch next week. Be blessed and then honor her in the best way possible: pass it on. Be a blessing to some woman or young girl that she too may know the joy of a giving relationship with women.
And if you are fortunate enough that the woman who influenced you most is your mom–breathe in that love, let it warm your heart, and make sure she knows the love and respect you have. If your relationship is strained with your mother, lift her up to the Lord and ask that he redeem your relationship and bring healing and restoration. In all things, give thanks for the life she gave you and the woman you are today.
I’m a rules person. I try not to drive more then the ‘acceptable’ five miles an hour over the speed limit. I try be on time (meaning early) for my appointments. I don’t lie about my age to get a cheaper rate; nor did I ever do that for with my child. I want people to think well of me and see me a ‘virtuous’ or ‘law-abiding.’
I’m also a horrific sinner. Yup, me the ‘rules girl’ have broken all the rules, one way or another. And for many years I have carried the guilt and shame of my past with me. Yes, I have confessed most of those lapses in following the rules and as open as I have been about God’s forgiveness of my actions, I still let them define me. I still stopped short of embracing my ministry because someone might unearth and reveal my sins for the world.
Fear can be so crippling. If we let it, it will run our lives. It will cause us to do things out of emotional blackmail and often drive us to make poor decisions, or worse yet, no decision. It can stop us from stepping into the life God intends for us (a calling) because we think we aren’t good enough, not worthy to stand, or that our past has left us irreparably damaged.
The Single Walk is not always an easy one. It is frequently more difficult for people who have been in long-standing relationships who now find themselves walking alone. Singles struggle to find a new way to fit into community, especially religious community, following the end of a life with a partner.
Some of us are single because the person we planned to spend all our years with has died or left us. The singleness that comes from the death of our partner can leave us in un-imagined pain and grief. A divorce, or end of a committed partnership, can do the same for many; even when we might agree with the decision to terminate the relationship. We go from two to one. We are no longer part of the “couples community” and we aren’t quite ready to function as a single person. This is especially true for the widow/widower who may remain married in their heart.