Easter

When I was about 9–10 years old, I decided to show off my tractor driving skills with my uncle’s tractor. My cousins and siblings didn’t believe I could drive it, but I had driven a tractor many times, accompanied by my dad, so was sure I could drive it myself. My uncle let me give it a try.

It quickly turned into a near catastrophe. I headed right toward a machine shed and knocked a corner off of it. My observers were delighted at my failed attempt, but my uncle came running to me. He helped this scared, embarrassed, crying girl down from the tractor and said loudly enough for all to hear,

“Darn brakes! I thought they had been fixed!  So glad you are not hurt.”

My uncle was Easter to me that day. His love great enough to cover and love every bit of foolish me.

Leonard Cohen said it well:

“I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.” 

Happy Resurrection Day!

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

A Lament

Oh God,

From generation to generation you have shown steadfast love.
From the genesis of time, you have cared for your family.
Why, now, have you turned from your children?
You allow abuse and neglect.
Must your wrath be inflamed against children?
You allow death to come to babies.
You allow children to be struck with violence.
It is your honor that burns in ashes.
Where are you, Yahweh?
Must children scream in silence?
Their wounds drip with bitterness, their bruises pulsate with anger.
Their eyes are dimmed from despair.
Their bellies howl with pain.
Some try to care for them, to heal their hunger and pain.
Some try to help them in your name.
Why are you silent, Yahweh?
Oh God, you brought deliverance from Egypt; deliver the children.
You destroyed the enemies; crush the evil in their lives.
You played with Leviathan; restore their play.
Oh God, you fashioned the limits of the earth;
       weave limits of love for the children.
Remember Yahweh, you molded your children from the dirt,
       and said, “Behold, they are good.”
Come, O God, hear the voices of the children, do not be silent.
Do not let evil mock your name.

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Grief, Part 2

In an interview with a father of one of the children killed in Parkland, Florida, I heard him say the following:

“When people say to me, I can’t imagine what it is like losing your daughter. I say back, please try hard to imagine it then maybe you can feel what my days are like.”

This grieving father’s words hit like a hammer. He is begging us to waken with him every day as he sees his daughter’s still neatly made bed, no clothes on the floor, no complaining when the 6:00 a.m. alarm rings, no loud music, no laughter, no fights with a sibling. Just silence and an empty room. Imagine. Imagine.

He is asking us to live with him in his grief and pain. To be connected to him.

His request to try to imagine what it feels like to lose a daughter is a universal cry for companionship.

We have all lost loved ones. That is the only education and experience we need to walk with each other in the grief that forms our days and our world.

Yes, we all grieve differently. It is our own path to travel, but we all grieve.

When we go to funerals and we weep again for our own loss as well as the lost one, that’s beautiful. It can connect us to a universal grief.

Could the power, love and empathy of grieving be a hope for a broken world?

May we grieve as if every hungry child is ours.

May we grieve as if every abused animal is ours.

May we grieve as if people living in fear is also what we fear.

May we grieve with all the wounds of the world this week.

Shalom, 

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Grief

 

Personal grief is real and can be raw. We have all known loss. Lent invites us to visit our personal grief and all the ways it wants to teach us. As hard as it is, acknowledging our grief can bring healing and growth. This week we are invited to welcome our personal grief and listen to what it wants to bring to us.

Let us listen to our grief through Father Thomas Keating’s, “The Welcoming Prayer”. The words of the prayer are more inclusive of all that we can welcome, if more than grief surfaces, simply embrace what comes. 

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome
I welcome everything that comes to me today
Because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
Situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection,
Esteem, approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
Condition, person or myself. 
I open to the love and presence of God and 
God’s action within. Amen
 

As we welcome our personal grief so may we, too, welcome universal grief. We have much to learn from grieving together for our world. We will visit that next week.

Shalom, 

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Longing

The energy coming through the screen is palpable. The voices will not be silenced. The teenagers’ message is clear, “We will not stop until we have action.”

I think of Jesus who said, Let the children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Luke 18:16a

Are we listening to the longings of these children? They aren’t asking for fancy computers and phones, they are longing to be safe. They are longing for common sense action from the adults around them.

I think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he said, …If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.  Luke 19: 42:a

They are trying to remind us what makes for peace and what can silence their longing for safely.

Of course, they simply want their lives back, too.

They are longing to have their teachers back.

They are longing to have their friends back.

They are longing to prepare for tests and think about graduation and prom and baseball games.

But right now, they are desperately longing to be heard. For until they are, the laughter and joy of their teenage lives cannot return. Even when it returns, it will be forever changed.  

Do we long with them? Be still and listen to the longings of these students.
It really doesn’t matter where we stand politically, what is at stake is far beyond any political party or issue.

Can we see the tears of Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem and still weeps for the children and for all of us, longing and begging for us to recognize what makes for peace?

These children are trying to save us. Can we hear them?

Shalom, 

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Sacrifice

As a child the Lenten theology that received the most emphasis was that we must be aware and thankful that Jesus sacrificed his life for us and died for all our sins.

This is the message of the cross for certain, but as a small child that message put a cold chill throughout my whole body as well as my emotional being. That little girl screamed: “No, I’m not good enough. I’m bad. Don’t die for me, I’m not worth it!”

Though most of the time I know differently about my self-worth and the unconditional love of Jesus, every time I peek into darkness those messages pound at me to come back and claim as home that space that frightened a fragile little girl.

I could go directly from here into the importance of what and how we teach our children, but I won’t. That is beyond my focus, and I trust that our children no longer receive the loving sacrificial message of Jesus laden with false guilt and self-disgust.

But I do wonder how we receive the message that a sacrifice was made for us in the name of an unconditional love that remains an unanswered mystery about how it works?

Perhaps we have a glimpse of it as we watch a teacher laying over the bodies of their students trying to shield them from bullets. Or a dad desperately preforming CPR on a young son who was found at the bottom of a pool.

Can we begin to grasp it when we realize that we are like the little girl and don’t deserve a love that we can’t earn, or a love that has no strings attached, a love that is complete?

Can we live with a sacrifice so complete that the words of the theologian Virginia Ramey Mollenkott have meaning?

There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. God simply Loves You.

Next week we will look at longing.

Shalom,

Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

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