A Lament in Times of Covid Anger

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God who abides with us in times of lament…

Oh how could we be here! How can our neighbors care so little about us, focusing on freedom instead of compassion?

Despair and resentment grow within my heart. At some point I’ll reflect on forgiveness, but right now I rage.

It was more important for some to hold big parties which created more cases instead of imagining how their actions would ripple into the world.

It was more important for some people to make a point of not wearing masks for the sake of their “freedom” instead of embracing the beauty of connection and sacrifice for the greater good.

It was more important for people to defy recommendations based on ideology instead of seeking science and reason.

And so our medical professionals worry each day if they are next. Because some wanted to out to dinner, our schools must close. Because of ego, gatherings commence when they should be placed on hold.

Dear God, I’m angry. I’m furious because our loved ones can’t gather with us for holidays. Some are sick. Others are dying. I’m angry at our fierce independence because it creates barriers to achieve a healthy society.

I’m angry because they don’t care about my health.

So with my neighbors, we scream in anger at where we are today, knowing that some turn their backs on justice and mercy, on interconnectedness and love.

I’m not ready to forgive. I’m not ready to forget.

Amen.

A Prayer for Veterans Day

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Sustaining God-

As we stop to ponder the past, we recall the ones who placed their lives on pause to risk, to strengthen and nurture the spirit of our country.

With gratitude today, we remember our veterans. For many, the wars aren’t over. For many, trauma is relived day after day. For many the pain in their bodies and their missing limbs remind them of the horrors of war.

Can we thank them enough? Can we create a world in which war is rare? Can we ensure their post-war care is strong and fruitful?

For their risks, for their sacrifices, we honor them. For the veterans who are now our saints, we celebrate their memories with love.

May peace abide in their hearts. May comfort claim their souls. May we see that our lives are connected to their efforts, and their care is essential to the Body of Christ being whole.

Amen.

Liturgy for the Great Commandment

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Invocation
Divine Ocean of Love,
As we peer into the horizon of the unknown
And dreams dwindle,
May your source of peace connect us with you.
Allow us to soak in rays of hope as we seek your presence in tumultuous times.
Focus our hearts on our neighbors-
The ones like us and the ones very different,
The ones who love us and those who despise us.
For when we remember the great connection between you and our neighbors, loving God,
We will thrive. All of us together will endure trials triumphantly.
And we will feel less alone as we walk through patches of shadows.
Amen.

Blessing on Gifts
Through the Great Commandment, we seek ways to share love more boldly.
Through the Great Commandment, we listen more intently to our Divine Source of Love.
We ask our God of Love to bless our giving-
From the money we share to the time we spend caring.
Through our gifts, may our neighbors experience your presence surrounding them.
Amen.

Benediction
Boldly we face the world.
Yet we know that we are not alone.
The God of Love walks before us,
The Spirit of Hope walks behind us,
The Christ our Neighbor walks next to us,
Encouraging us to share Divine love with one another.
Amen.

(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian – permission to use with attribution

Anniversaries and Grief

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Today’s the third anniversary of my dad’s death. While I’m doing ok living in a world absent of his voice, I obviously miss him greatly.

The thing I noticed about my grief is that it takes on different forms. Maybe I feel a bit of malaise. Maybe my mind is more distracted. Maybe my blood pressure becomes elevated. (The last one has been an issue whenever someone close to me dies.)

What I must remember is that I am required to be kind to myself this week each year. The day I got the call about dad’s cardiac arrest was extremely traumatic. The week sitting by his bedside and sleeping in hospital and hospice rooms was exhausting. The memories of this week cause a number of feelings to bubble up and many that are just below the surface.

I’m off today. I can tell. My grief is not the outpouring of tears all of the time. But it’s present. I will keep going, and I’m grateful for God’s grace to cover my mistakes and distracted mind and God’s peace to accompany the traumatic memories.

Just like the last three years, I’ll get through this.

A Prayer for Grandparents on Grandparents’ Day

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God of our Living Saints,

May we celebrate the grandparents among us and the ones who have passed on.
With gratitude, we acknowledge the love they shared with us-
From the dinners cooked to the trips taken.

We bless the grandparents who are taking on extra duties-
Sitting with children learning lessons and sharing their homes with children whose parents aren’t around.

We pray for their energy as they work hard imparting wisdom, and we ask for your healing love to sustain them as they continue to grow older.

We thank you also for the bonus grandparents among us: the step-grandparents, the great-aunts and uncles, and the ones who have filled the roles of grandparents for us. May they know what impact they have made on our lives.

God of the autumn harvest, bless the fruits of these relationships, that they may multiply and we keep these memories with us forever.

Amen.

A Prayer for Students Starting School, COVID-19 Style

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Creator God, source of all knowledge and wisdom-
In this unique era of our lives,
When laptops on kitchen tables
And masks in public spaces
Have become our norm,
We ask for blessing of our students.

Some of these young scholars will be learning in classrooms.
We pray for health in body, mind, and soul.
Bless their masks as they wear them from first bell to last.
Bless the air in the classrooms.  Bless their unusual recesses and lunchtimes.
May wellness be their companion.

Some of our learners are absorbing knowledge from new spaces-
Laptops instead of smartboards
Dining room tables instead of desks.
May their focus be great.
May connections grow between students and teachers
And students with one another.
We pray for health in mind, soul, and body.
Bless the energy in their homes, and the loved ones assisting them.

Bless the students navigating education
As they split their time between home and school-
Parents, grandparents and friends.
We pray for health in soul, mind, and body
We pray for the health of all their connections.
May their unique schooling inspire all of us to think outside of boxes.

Bless the parents wondering how to balance all of this.
The family members who are classmates and teachers in our current world.

Bless the teachers, staff, and administrators leading in this new realm of education.

Bless our communities as we work to stay well and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

May 2020 be the year in which we grow with you, God of wisdom.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Sad Days of the Pandemic

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God of laughs and tears-
In this dreadful episode of our lives,
When the days are long and nearly the same
And our adventures are limited,
The grief is pouring from our heavy hearts.

For some, the work is getting harder.
Our taxed minds are exhausted from making decisions.
We feel isolated, neglected, dismissed-
Sad.
Where is the energy we had at the beginning?
We were going to save the world with our work!
But two weeks became a month which became a season.
And nearly six months later,
What now?

On top of all of this,
Children are learning remotely,
Parents must learn to be two places at once.
We are dreading the spread of COVID,
And our loved ones are very sick and dying.

When will life return to normal?
Will life return to normal?
Will we sleep normally again?

O God, show your presence in these cloudy days
When the waters of visioning are murky
And we don’t know how to style tomorrow.

O God, show us your presence as our hearts sink
And as the winds of the unknown swirl around us.

Fill our souls with hope,
And may we see the land of possibilities again.

Amen.

International Cat Day Blessings of the Cats

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Creator of the furry friends,
on this International Day of Cats
bless our feline friends.

Whether they are hiding under beds
or rubbing their faces to ours,
bless their sweet paws as they run from the kitchen to the bedroom.

Bless their mouths in their cleaning and eating.

Bless their happy purrs and meows of despair.

Holy one, in our joy and sadness
our cats sit by us,
as we know our forever connection was designed by you, God.

Amen

A Prayer for Purple Heart Day

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God of strength and resilience,
on this Purple Heart Day,
we celebrate the valor of our service member siblings.

We remember the ones who risked their lives-
those who returned to us- some healed, others healing,
and those who sacrificed their lives- now abiding with God on that side of heaven.

God of broken bodies and shattered souls,
we pray for our siblings injured in a time of war or during a time of service.
May their stories be lifted and spirits elevated.
May the light of the Divine be a balm to the injuries marked on their souls and hearts.
May the winds of the Spirit build their resilience.
May we, as your children, Holy One, advocate for their healing.

Allow us to see our place in the well-being of all our neighbors and, especially today, the ones who are the wounded brave.

Amen.

***
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A Post As I Continue to Wake From My Privileged Slumber

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Before I say anything, this is just a reminder that this site is my own site. All I say here is from my perspective and not the perspective of any individual or organization with which I am associated. Never feel like you must agree with me.

Now that I’ve clarified this, I feel like I live out my faith by my writing and talking about justice issues. In different places I talk about things in different ways. But at the heart of what I speak of are a couple of scriptures. First of all, we are to love God with all we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. Secondly, like it says in Micah 6:8, we are to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. With all I have and all I speak, post, or write, this is the foundation of my theology.

As the granddaughter of an Armenian Genocide Survivor, I see things a bit differently too. Government systems in Turkey were giving directives to kill all Armenians- and that included the members of my family. So when I see the powers that be not working justly, I am called as a child of God, as a member of the clergy, and as a person who tries to love their neighbor to shine a light on injustice.

Secondly, before we get started, I want to clarify that I want our first responders – including police- to be well in body, mind, and spirit. It breaks my heart when one is killed. I’ve seen the effects of death on the loved ones of police. I pray that they stay safe because they are children of God and they are the parents, spouses, children, and siblings of many.

Third, the most important thing for us to do is to build relationships and listen to stories from people who are not like us.

So. Deep breath. Let’s go!

***
First of all: Black Lives Matter! (Ooh, Michelle is starting out with a very scary one.) I’m not even sure why this is as scary and loaded as it is. In 1944, we might have said Jewish Lives Matter because, as a whole, their lives were at risk and they were being massacred. With internment camps around the same time, we may have said Japanese Lives Matter too. Remember – I’m the granddaughter of an Armenian Genocide survivor. In 1915, I would hope Turkish folks would have said “Armenian Lives Matter” instead of watching them go to their death march.

It’s also like this – and I’ve seen this online quite a bit: the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus leaves the other 99 to find the one. At that moment, that one sheep’s life matters the most. Overall in the history of time or in the eyes of God one group does not matter the most, but right at this period of time, it’s crucial we take care of our neighbors most at risk. You may have seen the illustration of one house of many on fire. At that moment, taking care of that house matters the most. Whose lives are hurting the most and most affected by an unjust system? That’s who we need to focus on. All lives truly do not matter without black lives mattering to our society.

So the next scary term: white privilege. Something been going on in this country for centuries (and still going in), and it’s that white people still get the benefit of the doubt more often. Some of us were born on first base, some on third, and some have to start at home plate. It’s easier for some to score a run. Being a white person means that I’ve probably been born on at least first base. A person of color has to start from home plate, and other people of color – especially in poverty – may not even have a bat in order to play the game.

Example: I am fortunate because people are not suspicious of me walking around my neighborhood or shopping at a department store. I can’t say this about my black neighbors.  They are scared driving around predominantly white areas because they get pulled over so much more in many of them – even going the speed limit. I’ve heard the stories of my friends, and I have it easy because I’m white. A black neighbor should not be worried running in his predominantly white neighborhood. This is what it means to have white privilege. If you start to get scared because you see a person of color going into the house next to you, they may actually be going into the house because it’s a member of the family, or a friend, or a contractor. They are allowed to be there. (PS – do not call the police. Things can escalate too quickly.)

If you had feelings bubble up when you saw a strange black person entering the house next to you, it’s something to address.  Those are called implicit biases; we all have them. I’m trying to work on mine, and I mess up all of the time! They are the biases that mean we don’t consciously think bad or want anything bad to happen to our black neighbors. It means we usually hate explicit racism – the “n-word,” Confederate flags, KKK, etc. We don’t believe hate crimes should happen like what happened Ahmaud Arbery.

But, down deep in each of us, we have little cells of bias. It could be so little we don’t realize it’s in us. Unfortunately, we make decisions based on these little cells of bias. We don’t include pictures of all races when we are promoting a program to people. We may think of predominantly black regions in our area in certain ways. We want to call the police when we don’t have evidence the person is causing a problem. We may place blame on people of color instead of unjust systems. In any case, these little cells of bias need to be brought to the surface, and we need to see how they can impact not just people unlike us, but our whole communities.

So if we all act out of and make decisions from these little cells of bias living inside of us, it’s going to impact our overall system.

There are healthy people and unhealthy people in every industry. And the ones who act out of their unhealthy nature need to be held accountable. And this includes people who cover things up.

I believe police who act out of biases (implicit or explicit), who join along with mob mentality in a group, or cover things up should be held accountable. It’s like the sexual assault scandal in the Catholic Church and other denominations. It couldn’t go unchecked – including people who cover things up. We as pastors are held to a very high standard. We have our committee on ministry who is part of our check-and-balance system, and it’s because some people misuse their power. All industries should have a check-and-balance system. As the Bible says in Luke 12 “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Those of us in any type of power must evaluate our places and our biases to keep systems healthy.

There needs to be a change to the overall system. As I said – more accountability. Let’s do more psychological testing – I had to go through quite a bit before becoming a pastor! Also, if a law enforcement individual is seen inside or outside of their job saying something explicitly racist, then they need to be suspended or fired. If we all act out of implicit biases to some extent, then explicitly racist people will act out of their undeniable, explicit racism. And it gets ugly! This is where some of the issues of our country have stemmed.

(Reiterating again: Of course, not all police officers are bad. Absolutely not! I know many wonderful law enforcement officials. But because we all have a sense of brokenness in our lives, all of us sometimes act out of the brokenness. Our brokenness may be severe like explicit racists. Or it may be deep down within us, hiding the small cells of bias, and we don’t know it as well and we support unhealthy systems. That’s why we all need to evaluate what we’ve been taught along the way and what biases we’ve held onto. Even healthier people can act out of their deep, unchecked biases. It doesn’t mean they are bad, but that we all have work to do on what we think and what we’ve been taught.)

Unjust systems are bigger than all of us. It’s bigger than just police, and we cannot put all of our focus there. I think many are forgetting to talk about how big all of these problems are. Lots of things are connected – like poverty, racism, mass incarceration, employment discrimination, and more. Biases exist all along the way. So that’s why reforms have to happen. Unfortunately,  like we read in The New Jim Crow or you may see in the documentary 13th (I highly recommend both!), some of these laws are biased towards people of color. It may be time to create healthy system of rehabilitation instead of keeping people in prison – especially if they can start a new life in healthy ways. And it may be time for us to understand why some laws were created along the way.

I say all of these things because my black friends’ lives matter. So do black strangers’ lives. From the time I was in seminary, I’ve heard their pain up close and personal, and it’s breaking my heart. I cannot stay silent on all of this because their lives and their well being and their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health matter to me. So that’s why I stand where I do because like in Jeremiah 29:7 in creating the well-being of others we all will find our well-being.

*****

Thanks for hanging in there this long! Ok, so some of you aren’t going to like what I said it parts of what I said. My liberal friends will think I didn’t speak far enough on these issues. My conservative friends will think I spoke too much. I tried to verbalize where I was the best I can to speak to a general audience. I couldn’t stay silent anymore because I had to write something that could help all of us see things from different angles. I kept my faith and advocated that we must do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God and love our neighbors as ourselves.