Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"He spent his last day singing."

The tragedy in Haiti grew more real every time I heard a personal story about a person who had died or lost friends and relatives. It's unfortunately true that sometimes the tragedy of others doesn't sink in until you hear the story of a person in whom you recognize yourself. It removes the distance.

Benjamin Larson's story brought it home for me this afternoon. He was a seminary student who died in Haiti while there with a group of future pastors teaching and helping support the Lutheran presence in Haiti. Read about his faith in life and death here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prayer for Haiti

I was so disgusted by the reaction of Pat Robertson and other self-proclaimed Christians to call the devastation in Haiti God's judgment on a sinful people that if that's what it means to be Christian, then I'm not one. I don't see Jesus inviting us to distance ourselves from those who suffer by blaming a tragedy that destroys lives indiscriminately on the victims.

To me it seems that true Christianity is to follow Jesus' example of suffering with the innocent so that we are moved by compassion to help as best we can. Of course none of us do this perfectly, but hopefully most of us are humble enough to recognize that judging an entire people as their worst hour unfolds is counter to the basic gospel.

Here's a prayer for Haiti published by the ELCA:

Praying for those suffering
Loving God,
in the communion of Christ, we are joined with the trials and sufferings of all.
Be with those who endure the effects of the earthquake in Haiti.
Protect those in the path of danger.
Open the pathway of evacuations.
Help loved ones find one another in the chaos.
Provide assistance to those who need help.
Ease the fears of all and make your presence known in the stillness of your peace;
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lutheran Disaster Relief - a way to help people in Haiti

This morning my facebook updates divided into two camps, normal reports on the everyday dramas, and reports on the disaster in Haiti.

- Give me caffeine!

- Don't want to go to work today.

- My heart goes out to Haiti

- Going to fail a test.

- Click here to give money to help Haiti

- Eating cheerios with my dog

- Pray for the people of Haiti.

I didn't know anything had happened in Haiti. This was an eerie way to get news of this disaster. My day is basically unaffected by this earthquake. My status this morning could have been:
"Does anyone know if ingesting beeswax is dangerous? The honey I put in my tea has flecks of wax in it." Or
"Wow, 6 am yoga with Gina's a great way to start the day." Or
"I love writing!"
But knowing that people's lives have just been turned upside down, somehow the little events of my day seem less newsworthy. It seems impossible to just enjoy this day without also remembering those whose lives have just changed forever.
Yet those original candidates for my facebook status are still true. Plus, Right now I'm a little hungry, overwhelmed with the pile of work ahead of me, looking forward to seeing Crazy Heart this weekend, excited about the Vikes game on Sunday. All this while also being sad for the people of Haiti, obsessed with the graphic pictures, sorrowing at the losses, and wanting to help.
It feels terribly selfish and trite that the most honest status for me right now is "Praying for the people of Haiti AND bummed that a glitch in our cable means no Jon Stewart tonight."
In times of such acute tragedy, I'm always grateful to be part of a global church that helps connect the layered realities of my life with the lives of others. It gives a much-needed sense of perspective.
If you find yourself wanting to do something to help, please donate to Lutheran Disaster Relief.

In peace -

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Out of the pressure cooker and feeling fine.

Last night some of our church's college students who are still home for Christmas break gathered. In addition to a rousing game of Apples to Apples, we talked about college life and faith.

As a few of them were talking about the workload and the pressure, I could feel my own pressure rise. I recalled the years in college and graduate school where I felt enormous pressure to do it all: get good grades, learn all I could, build a resume. I miss those days sometimes, with the friendships forged over late night projects, the passion borne of challenge, the thrill of learning in that concentrated way. But I would never return to the stress of feeling like everything I did was up for evaluation and would be distilled to a letter on a grade report or a line on a resume.

Take writing. In school nearly all my writing was, literally, an academic exercise. Now I write for real audiences. The words (hopefully) are read by more than just one professor. You'd think I'd stress waaay more now than then. But I don't. There's a bit of stress, yes, but nothing like before.

In grad school I once nearly made myself ill plotting out an environmental audit that would never be implemented for a class assignment. In comparison, I hardly stressed at all about my church's real environmental audit and how to implement the changes.

Hearing these students talk, I was reminded that in the world of academics and the grind of American ladder-climbing, there's little space for grace.

In the world as I live it now, grace is everywhere. As one parishioner kindly said to me after I preached a sub-par sermon recently: doesn't Sarah Scherschligt get an off day sometimes?

We do - we all get off-days! In real life, there are do-overs. There is no permanent record. The voices that tell us otherwise are very loud, but they don't belong to our forgiving, loving God.

I sense that for some of the youth of our congregation, that sense of grace is missing from their daily lives.

The pressure cooker takes them young. A pre-school teacher just told me he has parent teacher conferences coming up. He has to evaluate his students progress in 163 categories. These are 4-yr olds.

I see the benefit of all this for helping kids reach their full potential and serve in the best capacity. But what's the cost of constant scrutiny and evaluation?

I'm grateful to be out of that grind. And I wish I'd been a strong enough person to realize the role my ego and perfectionism had in putting me in the grind to begin with. I envied those who could enjoy life despire constant evaluation.

Now, probably because I've heard it so strongly in my life, I find myself just wanting to say to these students: God makes a future out of failure. You are loved no matter the grade. Grace is real.