By Eleanor Mendoza Whitney
June is the month that kicks off summer, commemorates fathers, honors graduates, and celebrates diversity through “Pride” events.
Pride events have been happening since before I was born, but I never attended or understood their significance in the LGBTQ+ (or queer) community. As a young person, I didn’t know any “out” or openly queer people.
However in my adulthood, I have become close with a number of people who identify as “queer” in orientation (e.g., gay) or in identity (e.g., transgender). As I got to know more people in the LGBTQ+ community and learned their personal histories, it seemed clear to me that they, like me, wanted to live a life that is full, healthy and loving.
In recent years I have been to several peaceful Pride celebrations. I have appreciated the generosity, and grace, I have received there. I learned that Pride events bring joy, support and healing to many who have been marginalized or discriminated against.
I am thankful for the ways that members of the LGBTQ+ community have welcomed me into their spaces, taught me acceptance and shown me love. I offer my support by attending Pride events and listening closely to the stories I hear.
This June, as you enter into all the celebrations it may bring (graduations, travel, weddings, etc.) I wonder...
What communities do you interact with?
What might Spirit be nudging you toward-- even if it may feel a bit uncomfortable?
If you are one of privilege in most spaces, what would it be like/how could you be the uncomfortable person in the room for a bit? What might you learn from that experience?
How can you offer a glimpse of grace, healing, listening, acceptance to the marginalized, discriminated against, vulnerable that come across your path?
Questions for The Journey
By Sharon Wada
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Mark 8:27-29, NIV
Isn’t it fascinating that as Jesus was going about everyday life with his disciples, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” I wonder what he was hoping to evoke in his disciples? They responded with the range of opinions they had heard from the people living around them. And then, Jesus probed, “Who do you say I am?” What do you actually think from your lived experience of me?
This conversation is not unlike what I hear when I sit with people in spiritual direction. They voice the narratives constructed from their church experiences about who God is. It’s as if they are responding to Jesus asking them this question, “Who does your church community say that I am?” Thus, they begin to put words to the beliefs they carry, or they think they are supposed to carry. Often, I hear hesitation in their voices, sometimes a more obvious unease, and always a longing for something more.
I believe the longing for something beyond church doctrine and communal practice, the hunger for more, is God given. Church practice certainly plays a part in shaping our spirituality, but it can’t the only thing we rely on.
So, as I sit with folks in spiritual direction, and I hear the longing for more, at some point I will ask the question, “What would you like your relationship with God to be like?” The answers I hear are beautiful and inspiring:
“I would like to experience God as saturating all of my life. Whether I’m getting kids ready for school or interacting with co-workers, I want some sense that God is present in it all.”
“I want to be so connected to God, that at any point, I can simply pause and feel the silent connection, like two long-time, loyal friends, who know each other so well and have weathered so much of life together, that simply making eye contact, a shared glance, is more than enough.”
What if Jesus’ questions are inviting us to re-examine the narratives we’ve been carrying about who he is, and how the Christian journey is lived out?
Consider for yourself:
What has held true for you over time?
What have you outgrown?
What do you yearn for, in your experience of God and in communal connections?
I love that God isn’t concerned about any confusion or contradictions, completely at ease with my questions. I especially feel His full attention in times of solitude, and in spiritual direction. These are the spaces where I can access my authentic, honest response to Jesus’ question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
As I put words to my inner truth, I exhale, and relax into the interior freedom of being real with God. I experience the love of God and the encouragement to live out another day with questions, curiosity, and holding the mystery of life.
Poppies and Fear
By Melinda Athey
Just like that our California season of “atmospheric-river weather events” ended. The sun came out, and all the flowers bloomed. The birds began singing and the California Poppies lifted their golden heads in all their glory. Just like that, the weather shifted. The howling wind, sheets of sideways rain, falling branches, falling trees, and power outages stopped. The world seems peaceful, and inviting again in this little garden space of sunshine.
As I walk past the sunny poppies I remember the relentless rain and the feeling of danger. I recall the broken roof tiles and smashed windows from blowing debris. I am grateful that while driving on the freeway, my car, caught by the wind and blown into the next lane, didn’t hit another vehicle or hydroplane in all the water.
In the midst of the strange wet windy winter was the news that death would come. Creeping around the foundations and window casings of our lives, knocking and wondering when it would be let in as we ushered my family member into hospice care.
This has led me to wonder about my own fear. There is the fear of physical danger such as a car crash, a terrible storm, or being a soldier at war. Then there is the fear that wells in my chest from thoughts in my mind. I call this mind chatter. The mind chatter of walking into a room full of perfect strangers wondering if I’ll fit in. It’s the mind chatter of helping my loved one in hospice. It’s the mind chatter of failure or embarrassment of a new thing/experience I’m trying.
A respected psychologist and minister said, “Curiosity is the antidote to fear.”
With change, in seasons or life, comes the unknown. With the unknown, comes the opportunity for mind chatter full of fear or for curiosity.
In this season of your life, what is your mind chatter? How could you hold it with curiosity and kindness? What questions does it have for you, or you might have for it?
What has been your response to mind chatter and fear? How do you stay grounded when it arises either physically or imagined? Like these California Poppies blooming after the storms, how do you be fully you and fully present to your life in each given moment?
By Kenton W. Smith, D.Min., DASD
Sitting still and doing nothing is a prayer practice of doing the same thing over and over as a path of prayer. Repetition prayer may evoke recollection of prior experience re-entering and savoring what is still alive or has been or might become. Many days nothing is noticed, other days there may be a subtle sense of arousal or gentle tease like a tug on the imagination or emotions that materialize in a few words.
In the context of sitting still and doing nothing day after day in silent and slow gazing at the natural world of my garden and wild landscape, the emotional energy of gratitude arrived as a stimulated moment of felt connection between the living world around me and life within in me. The material world and consciousness met in an inexplicable spiritual awakening that prompted an affection that felt like communion with an other. George MacLeod taught, “We should look for God not away from the material world in some spiritual realm but rather more deeply in the life of the world.”
Sit still and do nothing in the natural world.
Savor the silence and the scene before you with a long loving look at the real.
Allow the soft energy of the moment to arrive on its own to unveil your experience and what the divine might be showing you.
Wilderness and Temptations
By Rev. Erik Swanson
Jesus fresh out of his baptism, there is that beautiful moment we are told that the Spirit led him into the wilderness. The Spirit led him into the wilderness. If the Spirit is leading, then we could assume this is a place of meaning, learning and growing for him. Not a bad place. Not a place to torture or berate or to thrash himself, but a place of learning and finding. A valuable and important place.
Welcome to the season of Lent— that’s what these days are to be all about. We are invited to face some things that we just may not want to see. This is one of the gifts of entering the Lenten wilderness for these 40 days.
For me, it is in my difficult times, when I am hard pressed, when life is not easy, that I have to deal with temptations more than other times. Our temptations may be one of these things that we don’t want to look at, but when we are able to, this is another place that we can grow.
What are temptations? Aren’t temptations seductive things or ideas or thoughts that draw us away from the deeper truth or deeper goodness? They tempt us to short cuts. To to rely on more superficial and quick pleasures or fixes. Temptations have the power to get us out of our best selves, best intentions, and whole ways of being.
Many of us have been taught it is important to resist temptation and overcome temptations. However, I wonder about dealing with them in a different way. What would it would be like to take accountability for them with the intent to learn and grow from them?
Whether it is the the Lindor chocolate that tempts me on the office desk or for someone the cheating on taxes, what would it look like to take accountability for the temptations that plague us? I wonder if the first step is to stop and invite curiosity into that moment. To wonder, what is really going on with me right now? What am I hoping to avoid, receive or escape by this action?
What is it about this temptation that actually temps me? For me, the chocolate on the desk is a temptation. I can say no to the chocolate, but that doesn’t help me in finding out more about what makes me tick. About what is going on within me at a deeper level. About what I’m running from, looking for or trying to appease.
May this season and its wilderness time be another opportunity to deepen in your walk with the One who guides you.