This has been one of those vacation weeks when my mind is making fun continuous connections. I flew to Arizona to spend some time with my parents. My mom and I took a mini-trip to Tucson. I have been reading Dr. Andrew Root’s book Faith Formation in a Secular Age. I just finished the fist half of the book. The book has me thinking a lot about transcendence. Our first full day in Tucson was spent in the desert. We went to Sabino Canyon in the Coronado National Forest and then visited Saguaro National Park East.
It does not matter how much I understand biology or geology or any of the other sciences. I find life in the desert to be miraculous. And I could not get enough of the amazing Saguaro Cactus.
Our second full day in Tucson went in another direction–visual art. We went to the University of Arizona Art Museum and discovered that it is home to the 26-panel altarpiece of the Cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain, by Fernando Gallego and Maestro Bartolomé and their workshops (1480s). Then we zipped across the courtyard and discovered the Center for Creative Photography. The Center has a comprehensive permanent collection by Ansel Adam. This spring their special exhibit is “Richard Avedon: Relationships.”
We ended the day at DeGrazia’s (1909-1982) Gallery in the Sun. Two of DeGrazia’s prints hung in my bedroom as a child and it was wonderful to learn the story of this son of Italian immigrants and hear (through an audio recording playing in one gallery) him talk about painting the Stations of the Cross. The emotion in his voice was remarkable.
I do not have a brilliant take-away from these encounters but they were all reminders of how important both the natural world and the visual arts are for me when in comes to understanding this world we inhabit. Both the natural world and visual arts help me see our interdependence and the sacred. Finally, it was powerful, less than a month before Holy Week, to see the different portrayals of Jesus’ life and death, works separated by 400 years and and the Atlantic Ocean.
Open my ears to hear the languages spoken around me and to hear the melodies and beautiful diversity and to never be afraid of Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Swahili, or any other language.
Open my eyes to see my neighbor and to see my neighbor in the orphan, widow, foreigner and whoever is marginalized today.
Guide my feet and the feet of others as we go to the capital in Boise, asking legislators to add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act.
Guide my hands as I bravely type out sermon manuscripts, newsletter articles, blog posts, and devotions that cast a creative and compelling vision of our interdependence and beautiful differences.
Guide my voice as I offer invocations at city council meetings and other public forums. Let my preaching and speaking join the songs of Hannah, Miriam, Deborah, and the Mother of our Lord.
Open my heart again and again so that I never grow complacent and yet maintain the hope you continue to give over and over.
Thank you for parents who wanted me to have a larger understanding of the world, even as they implanted empathy for the Lakota neighbors in our town. Thank you for teachers who fostered my curiosity and the ability to think critically. Thank you for friends and colleagues and journalists who introduce me to new authors and stories. Thank you for a national church that expects me to keep growing and a congregation that includes so many wonderful learning companions.
I pray with a grateful heart. Amen.
Sermon preached for the Nampa Ministerial Association’s 2019 Lenten Series (March 14 at Nampa United Church of Christ)
Isaiah 11: 1-9
11A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. Continue reading
Dec. 12-31 is Avenues for Hope here in Idaho. Trinity New Hope and The House Next Door are doing several events together and we wrote stories about families we have accompanied. Trinity New Hope stories were authored by Property Manager Tami Romine and House Next Door stories were authored by Director Deacon Kat Tigerman.
FAMILY ONE – Trinity New Hope
The first family came to us in late 2015. They were a homeless family of seven made up of Mom, Dad, and five teenage girls. Everyone was living in two different vehicles. Four of the five children had disabilities and required a significant amount of assistance that was, and still is, quite costly. Mom literally had to stay home to take care of the family. Therefore, they were a one income home. The father had many challenges, because of the medical needs of his family, in trying to manage all of the expenses. Consequently, they lost their home two years prior. Yes, they had been homeless for two years prior to coming to Trinity New Hope!
As a result of losing their home, the stability of having a home did not help his ability to maintain a job. At the time we met them, the father was working every temp to hire job he could get. But it was never enough to get started on getting into a home. That is where CATCH came in. Finally, someone was willing to help them get into a home. They just needed a housing provider to be a bit more flexible with their criteria and give them a chance. So, CATCH called us.
Three years ago, we started out with this family who was very broken, lacked confidence, and always lived in constant fear of losing their home. The heart was there, but that fear made communication difficult for them. It also made it very difficult for housing providers to qualify them. However, as the property manager, I had a significant amount of experience working with individuals and families in a fragile state and I was willing to help them. What I saw from the father was a sincere heart and willingness to do what it took to make sure his family was in a safe place. I also saw someone who had heard “no” so many times, that he did not feel worthy of anything or anyone. My goal, was to change that.
Now, after three years, the father has finally been given a full-time job that he has held for quite a long time now. He is trusted with a company truck because he lives in Canyon County and works in Boise. The eldest daughter is going to CWI; the second eldest daughter got married and has a home with her new husband; the mom has confidence in spades now and she partners with the property manager in doing whatever is required to maintain their housing. The girls have all learned, with some extra coaching from the property manager, how to help their mom keep their rooms clean, keep the laundry up, cook, and clean. These were all skills that they lacked because they had not had anything to take care of before. Ultimately, every month, every year, the family shows great progress and pride in what they have achieved. They have been able to consistently pay their rent and other bills, follow through with all of the annual paperwork for housing, and even buy a new-to-them 2010 car for her. She’s never had a car of her own and she is so proud of it.
This family still has more goals they would like to accomplish and I am confident, that they will.
Reflections about the ELCA Youth Gathering shared in worship at Trinity Lutheran, Nampa July 8, 2018
I honestly didn’t know what to expect in Houston I was so exited. After we got to houston from our 34 hour drive we all wanted to take showers and relax for the rest of the day. But when we got there we had 30 minutes to get ourselves situated and moving.
I was really excited about the trip to Houston because I love exploring new places. Even the 34 hours on the bus was fun at times. We played games and got to know one another. Houston was so different from Boise. People walked everywhere. You don’t see that much here. There were some really tall buildings. I experienced the subway/train system for the first time. The residents of Houston were really understanding about all of the kids packing the trains. Passengers asked us questions about where we were from and why we came to Houston. We were able to tell them about the ELCA Youth Gathering. Continue reading