Reflection on Job for Manchester

My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of those who weep. Job 30:31

Our concert is turned to sadness
and the young woman,
whose voice ranged four octaves,
who worked against bullying,
who sang “dangerous women”
but spoke out for safety of young women
watching and listening to her,
is broken — tuned to the weeping
of so many families.

Our hearts are turned to mourning
for the grieving of Manchester,
for all the gifts and graces
never to be realized
of twenty-two who died,
for the nightmares of children,
parents, young people
who will always remember running
from the sounds of explosion.

Our prayers are a harmony of gratitude
for the speed of emergency workers,
the presence of counselors,
and the tenderness of families.

Sing to God this new music –
a lament in all the world
for the sorrows of this day
so strong that the voices of the future
will sing down violence
and lift up the hopes of us all.

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Beautiful Things – a poem for Memorial Day

I used to volunteer in a shelter
for women who needed a safe casa
from domestic violence.
A little girl stayed there
for several months
and I got to know her.

She used to wrap up
in this old maroon quilt.
It was frayed and torn – really a scrap
of what it once had been.

Each week I sorted donations.
there were many children’s clothes,
beautiful things,
name-brands and fine fabrics,
from families who felt
they had so much.

I asked this girl
if she wanted to trade
her old quilt for a pretty sweater
(this was before
I had children of my own
and knew better).

“No,” she said, and shook her head.,
“This is my abuela’s shawl.
And, as if I would know,
if I had half a brain, or maybe a heart,

“She’s dead but her love
still keeps me warm.”

I am a grandmother these days,
and I want nothing more
than to be remembered this way.

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Generosity — a guest post from Todd Jenkins

I was so taken with this story shared by my friend Todd Jenkins. I hope it touches your heart. You may find more of Todd’s writing here.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)

This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.

Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.

Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.

A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.

A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school. Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.

This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.

Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.

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A dream for my friends (and one particular friend)

I saw Jesus softly folding the most beautiful clothes.
Some were silk and velvet, all different sizes and shapes
some had great long sleeves and lace,
but some were jeans.

I could see shapes like capes
and shapes like bikinis,
I’m sure there were wedding dresses,
Halloween costumes, little league uniforms
favorite pajamas.

Jesus was putting them away so carefully –
each one — in a drawer with sachets and rose petals.

I never think of Jesus and laundry,
but it didn’t seem blasphemous –

so I asked what he was doing
and he said these were the memories
of all God’s children with dementia
and he was folding them up
to make sure not a one would be torn or lost.

He said — the very first thing those children do
when they come home
is find their drawer.
Oh, what a fun time that is!

Sometimes they dress up
in every memory at the same time —
they are so happy to find them again.
They dance around – swirling and swishing,
recognizing everyone
and burying their faces in
the fresh-washed scent of their old joys.

Then like some wonderful crazy Paris runway
they walk out to the throne
modeling the wardrobe of the heart.

And the angels hold mirrors.

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On Being Outside of the Norms: Accepting a Spectrum of Behaviors on the Journey and as a Journey

In the new book A Child laughs — Prayers of Hope and Justice the 77 writers take different perspectives on the concerns that they have chosen. Some speak directly to a very specific issue of justice in our world in the hopes that those who read will begin to plan to change the world.Some of the writers take a specifically child oriented focus, like Mary James who says this (among other things) of herself “I am the mom of three adult children of various delightful temperaments, ranging from that of kinetic dreamer to effervescent calm.”

I am sharing something each week from this new book available from Pilgrim Press, Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and your local bookstore, if you request it). Today I offer all of Mary’s small chapter (there are 51 chapters with a 52nd filled with miscellaneous prayers for those who wish to use the book for a year of reflections) Each chapter contains some background, personal prayer, a community prayer or liturgical piece, and some questions for personal reflection or action.

On Being Outside of the Norms: Accepting a Spectrum of Behaviors on the Journey and as a Journey

There is a child who can be counted on to be boisterous, especially during the quiet parts of a worship service. Sliding the length of the hardwood floors of the church sanctuary on his belly underneath the pews, or walking back and forth on a front pew as if he were a gymnast on a balance beam, he expresses himself with constant movement. Adults tend to define his behavior as a problem and as falling outside of acceptable norms, but if it is indeed a problem, why does he look so joyful as he slides, wiggles, whirls, runs and jumps?

This reflection is offered on behalf of all those children in our midst who seem, in increasing numbers, to be labeled “hyperactive” and to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a minister currently blessed with three such kinetically inclined young parishioners, and a mother who has struggled to honor, direct, and channel the formidable energies of two sons with ADD over the years, I am deeply familiar with the daily challenges and joys of raising such children.

Creativity and joie de vivre are two of their charms, yet all too often they are labeled, marginalized, medicated, blamed, and shamed in ways that threaten their personhood. Many an artist and gifted leader has emerged when such a child grows into an ability to harness the blessings of boundless energy, sensitivity to noticing many things at once, and the ability to focus intensely on their particular interests.

Personal Prayer

O God, My Child Can’t Sit Still
See, O God of the Whirlwind, my child’s exuberance! See how she moves, animated by an inner energy that delights like a fresh breeze, a breeze infused with laughter! Loving movement for its own sake, she bounces, runs, twirls, slides, and jumps. Her joy bubbles over – it is built right in. How fully she loves life! How well she knows that which satisfies her soul! And yet, O God, so often, she does not fit in. So often, she is seen as problematic.
Help me, O God who parents. Grant me the wisdom, energy and grace to keep a step ahead of my child, and to help order his world in a way that allows him to safely express his true self.
Show me, O God who reveals. Show me the way to teach my child to learn from consequences, to manage his impulsivity, and to take the measure of a situation before jumping; help me offer these crucial life lessons without an inference that my child is “bad.”
Calm me, O God who soothes. Help me keep my cool when my child can’t contain herself, especially in public. Aid me in balancing the roles of being my child’s ambassador, defender, and teacher. When I can’t tell if she truly is to blame for the latest classroom catastrophe, help me to ask the right questions. Help me hold her accountable at the right times, and to deconstruct the tendency to find her guilty at those times she is unfairly blamed.
Bless my child, my friend’s child, my church’s child, my community’s child, O God. May his bounce survive all the push-back, and may his energy be harnessed in a thousand good and wonderful ways. Thank you for his sparkle, his spirit, and his specialness.

Community Prayer

Responsive Prayer for Adults Seeking to Build Intergenerational Community
(This prayer is written for the church setting, but can be adapted for other settings, such as schools, family gatherings, etc.)

One: There is Tim again, sliding on his belly under the pews, from the front of the church to the back.

Many: Help us, O God, to guide Tim with care rather than to criticize his parents.

One: There is Libby again, running by the lit candles, nearly toppling one over.

Many: Help us, O God, to be part of the village that raises Libby, rather than rolling our eyes from a distance.

One: There is Thomas again, talking out loud through all the opening prayers.

Many: Help us, O God, to find a way to include in our prayers those words that come out of the mouths of babes.

One: There is Sherrie again, throwing a tantrum on the floor.

Many: Help us, O God, to offer Sherrie’s Mom a helping hand.

One: There is Luke again, running through the crowd, nearly knocking over some of the elders.

Many: Help us, O God, to show Luke why it’s important to walk sometimes rather than to run, and to give him a job that he can be proud to do at such times.

One: There is Ella again, drawing on the pews.

Many: Help us, O God, to give Ella a place to make her art.

Gracious God, build among us a community that makes, holds, and maintains functional, purposeful, and carefully thought-out space and spaces for our children. Give us the joy of living with loving intention as an intergenerational community. Amen

Questions for Reflection/Action

How can we best involve and engage very physically active children in our public spaces?

When is discipline important, and what does constructive discipline look like? Can the word return to “disciple” or has it been taken over by negativism and we need to find a new word?

How can community members constructively take part in being supportive to the parents of children who are impulsive and very active?

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Saying Good-bye to Blue

It’s what we called the unborn boy
all my daughter’s pregnancy –
Blue — short for “blueberry”
the size he was when they first knew
he was beginning to be.

And so we put into Blue
all the hopes and dreams
parents and grandparents have
for any child
and the world that will surround,
embrace, inspire, endanger,
their young lives.

We laughed at his kicking,
and counted carefully his weeks.
We wept at news of war
the unwelcome of strangers,
a destroying of earth
where he was meant to play.

We wondered whether he would be
an engineer or an artist,
a climber of trees
or a dreamer in the pages
of many books.

Or maybe all of those,
all together.

We guessed which great-great
grandfather’s chin would appear,
questioned whether he would
dance up and down eager
for the next moment
like his brother
or lie in the grass
and contemplate the stars.

And then he was born –
and we say good-bye to “Blue,”
bundle of hopes and imaginations,
and greet this particular child,
this Casey,
who will surprise us
almost every day we let him,
and, if we let him,
will change the world.

(for Casey Reed Mankin, born May 7, 2017)

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News from the Pan Africa Peace Network

Lance and Christina

PAN AFRICAN PEACE NETWORK (PAP-NET) is an inter faith, African networking organizational forum founded by both young and old Africans in Africa and in dispersion. Pan- African Peace Network (PAP NET) is a conflict transformation initiative of today’s leaders built on biblical teachings of peace. By using biblical doctrines we aim to promote the positive well being of all those in society irrespective of their religious beliefs, gender, age, and political stance. My contact person is Lance Muteyo, who is also one of the writers in my last three anthologies of faith writings from around the world. His work is included in A Child Laughs — Prayers of Hope and Justice just published by Pilgrim Press last week. I am glad to share the work Lance and his wife Christine as well as so many others in Africa in this new edition of the Amani Milele Newsletter. (You will need to click through twice)


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