“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, ESV)
I can still remember being a kid sitting in a wooden chair in Sunday school putting together a papercraft with the words, “God is Love” pasted across the bottom. In the midst of the broken crayons and chunks of dried glue, that simple phrase settled in my heart and mind.
When I got older, I would attend the church’s confirmation and youth group. It was through these experiences that I began to learn how much more complex the reality of one living and true God is.
“I believe,” the opening statement of the Apostles’ Creed says, “in God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
The Lost Art of Good Conversation: A Mindful Way to Connect with Others and Enrich Everyday Life, Sakyong Mipham, Penguin Random House, 2017.
Have you noticed in this highly politicized time that it’s hard to have a good conversation? Among family members, in the workplace, and in churches, having a good conversation has become challenging. When you consider the conversations that the United Methodist Church is (and has been) having, particularity about human sexuality, it becomes even more challenging to have a good conversation.
Sakyong Mipham, head of the worldwide Shambhala community, uses his book to remind readers that in this hyper-connected time in which we live, we do not always communicate well. It is easier to make our point and refuse to hear another’s on Facebook and Twitter than it is sitting at a table, face-to-face.
By doing so, we no longer rejoice with those who rejoice or cry with those who cry. We lose any intimacy that a conversation would normally have. As Mipham writes, “We are at a dangerous crossroads because when we lose feeling, our exchanges with others lose value.” (11)
“It is a warrior practice of kindness using words.” -Sakyong Mipham (16)
Not long after Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in southeast Texas and southwest Lousiana, my colleague Rev. Joanna Dietz, an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference, organized an Early Response Team to travel to Texas to engage in the clean-up efforts in Texas. After following her post on Facebook, I invited Joanna to write a guest post. She and her son, Andrew, blog together at Mother, Son, and … Where’s the Holy Spirit?!
It started out like any other day, watching the news and moving through my work routine. But as Harvey hit and people began calling from around the Winchester District to see what we were doing in response, I felt that tug. You know, the one that says, “You need to do something radically different here and step out in faith.” Things quickly took shape and I found myself with four other people in two cars headed down to Texas with our ERT (Early Response Team) badges, which allow us into locations that have experienced disasters.
Our first impressions were of piles of possessions on the road, hay bales that had floated across roads, and business signs ripped from their posts and scattered across parking lots and sidewalks. Some areas had remained virtually untouched beyond the occasional blue tarp on the roof, but down by the river in the poorer section of town, flooding had done severe damage to many of the homes. This is where we spent our time in Victoria, TX.
It has been hard sitting at home and watching the images of what Hurricane Harvey is doing come across social media as well as the news and not be able to do something. We have friends and family who live in Houston, thankfully who are all safe and well. In addition, we have a lot of family in Louisana, which also being impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Here are four ways you may be able to help.
As the pictures and stories keep unfolding from Texas, let us keep all of those in the storm’s continuous path in our prayers. Both in Texas and in Lousiana. Remember to hold in prayer the first responders, those connected to the church who are already responding, and those churches in Texas that have been serving as shelters.