Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scotland's No Vote; Now What?

 Scotland: you experienced Democracy, now work together.

Last week Scotland announced the results from their vote on whether or not they should break away from Britain has resulted in a no vote. 84% of registered voters participated in the outcome and 55.3% voted not to become independent from Britain.  

So what does the 44.7% do now? Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron promises change to make the United Kingdom work for everyone so the “yesers” can work for their change.

Religious people need to learn from Scotland's experience.

It is common in religious institutions, for a dispute over something to pop up. It could be something as significant as issues over doctrine or as simple as the style of bulletins.  And more often than not, that upset person just walks away.

And there are many who simply consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious. In a 2012 survey one-fifth of the US public are religiously unaffiliated and 37% say they are spiritual but not religious. 68% claim that they believe in God and 21% pray every day, but only 10% are looking for a religion that is right for them.

In 2012, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite wrote an article titled Spiritual But Not Religious? Okay, But You’ll Be Hungry in an Hour. She writes about the spiritual “food” we need on a regular basis. “Spirituality is the sweetness of religion, the effervescent taste of the divine. Religion, on the other hand, is the fiber. You've got to have some fiber, some strength of tradition, ritual and sacred texts, to get you through the day.” Thistlethwaite goes on to say how religion has disappointed “the spiritual.”

I agree that religion overall has been disappointing.  But, here is where I agree and disagree, she ends the article with this: “But until religious institutions begin to catch up and offer appealing and nutritious religious substance to these folks, this trend toward spiritual but not religious will continue. And I fear more people will go hungry.” Yes, “spirituals” are more than likely starving. However, there are religions and churches that are working very hard to be inclusive and loving to life experiences. 

Like the relationship between England and Scotland, the relationship between the "spirituals" and the churches is not prefect; in fact it is messy and difficult. But each needs the other. The churches need the “spirituals” to help them in the work of feeding souls. These churches, often small but mighty are already there, and can be a source of connection for "the spirituals."

I believe that we are on a verge of a religious shift. Eventually, those “spiritual” people will realize that what is missing in their soul is a deeper relationship with the divine, understanding that they cannot do it alone. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” And then they will be willing to do the work that it takes to be a part of a religion that is in tune with their life experiences.

Life is messy. People are difficult. And loving all people for who they are is not easy. But God calls us together to live, work and worship as one. John 17: 20-21 "'I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.'"  

It is easier to go it alone; to break away. But the work is worth it. Your experiences become a part of who you are. How can you experience the deeper meaning of life alone?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Mom to Her Sons: Be Better than the NFL

As a Mom and a mother of boys, I am very concerned that the NFL, with its failure to deal with violence against women by its players, could very well be sending the message to our youth that domestic violence is acceptable.

I want my young sons to learn they need to be better than the NFL.  But it is not easy to teach that when these sports figures and teams are so influential.  The NFL seems to forget that their fan base is not only men, but also young boys. My nine-year-old has taken it upon himself to watch documentaries on footballs past players and super bowls. He has found his own team that he follows, the Arizona Cardinals, mostly because he admires wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. My son can hold an adult conversation on football past and football present and he can tell you any known fact about Fitzgerald you would ever want to know. And I am sure that my son cannot be that unique. I am sure there are other mom’s out there whose home is filled with football talk.

This violence is everywhere in the sport it seems, and it is as severe as in the video of Ray Rice spitting on and then knocking out his then fiance, now wife. And after reading about pros Greg Hardy from the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers, who also have domestic violence charges against them, I am convinced that the NFL has a real epidemic on their hands. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games but then suspended him indefinitely after the video was released to the public. Now the NFL is being accused that they had the video for 5 months, an accusation that they are denying. 

It is one thing to educate our girls on how domestic violence is not okay, to not sit in silence and that there is help available, but it is more important to teach our boys that mistreatment of others is never okay; not just violence, but spitting, yelling and using degrading words. And it is not okay for the NFL to make it okay for their football players. Because these players, if they want to be or not, are role models for our youth.

As a Christian lay leader, I know our churches have to help with this education. Ever since the misinterpretation of the Old Testament scripture of Adam and Eve and the fall, women have been oppressed, despite the fact that this misinterpretation was cleared up in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11: 11-12 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as a woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.”

The NFL already exploits the sexuality of women with their barely dressed cheerleaders and their sexual image filled commercials because sex sells. And everything is all about money. Unfortunately for parents and church leaders, it gets harder and harder to raise children with the right message when they are bombarded with the wrong one. And if you read some of the comments from young men football fans who support Rice with comments like, “and that’s how you keep your woman in check” you’ll see exactly what message they have gotten.

As a woman of faith and as a mom of one of your admirers, I pray for you Larry Fitzgerald. I pray that whatever situations your lifestyle brings you, that you are able to make the right choices and exemplify Jesus like character, because young boys are watching you.

But to the young boys and men, my message is this: you need to be better than the NFL. 

Shocked by God

My name is Julie Eklund and I have been struck by God's lightning bolt. This blog is an expression of my journey as I discern my call to ministry. I am a life long member of the United Church of Christ. My attendance up until being a mom is sketchy. After making the transition to being a stay at home mom and no longer having to work on Sundays I became committed to being an active member of the church where I was baptized and confirmed, Spring Creek UCC.  

I began serving in many areas but the most significant to my call was as the church moderator. I really made the most of it and I put all I've learned and experienced into growing our church.  And that time of being committed to growing the church was a time of focus, determination & faith. As moderator and past moderator I was involved in many sensitive and challenging issues. As some in the church lost faith, mine grew into a different and more mature understanding of myself and my relationship with God. I began to understand the importance of ministry and how the power of trust in a pastoral relationship is priceless

My call came to me on January 22, 2012. I had served as lay worship leader that day. After service, our pastor at that time, Michael Simmons asked to see me and my husband in his office.  He said to me as I was reading the scripture that day he had an overwhelming feeling. He felt as if God was telling him that I had a gift for the ministry.  I was shocked and it became a very confusing time for me for many reasons.  I confided in my mentor from church, Terry White. About a month later, Terry suggested I give preaching a try since Spring Creek needed pulpit supply in March.  I agreed and I presented a sermon titled I’m Excited, I’m Excited, I’m Excited on March 18, 2012. The positive response was overwhelming. 

I then began the “logical approach” of the pro & con list and decided it really didn't make any logical sense for me to pursue going to seminary. After preaching a second time, I decided that since Spring Creek allows me to use my gifts as a lay leader, I didn't need to pursue seminary.  Yet others at church kept encouraging me to consider.   Before I preached the third time, I prayed to God and asked her to help me make a decision once and for all and quit struggling over this. I got the usual fellowship time encouragement and the Facebook messages. But that afternoon I got a phone call at home from a member that I wasn't personally close with. She told me that my message was meant for her that day and she really needed to hear it. She thanked me. After that phone call, I realized that her call was the lightning bolt from God that I was waiting for and that it was time to enter into the discernment process. I've included an audio link below if you'd like to listen to that sermon.

My struggle with accepting the call to ministry is that I know this isn't something to be taken lightly and it is a call beyond human capacity. I have always felt that God had a bigger plan for my life than I was living and so God must have put all these people in my life to encourage me and show me the things that I hadn't realized in myself. And now the beginning of my journey as a seminary student at Chicago Theological Seminary begins. This blog is a requirement for my Public Theology class. My personal goal is to use this blog as a medium to help minister to those who are not able or ready to step foot into a community of worship.