1st Neighbor Day

IMG_8197Neighbor Day, this rather cheesy monthly event on our summer calendar is based on Matthew 22:36-40 when Jesus stated that the first commandment was the Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then stated that the second commandment was to Love your neighbor as yourself. If you’re a Christ-follower- then chances are you know these commandments by heart. If not, they’re worth memorizing. These two tiny little phrases are worth wrestling with our entire lives because learning to love is a lifelong habit.

Worship and bible study, if done right, do so much to teach and form us on how to love God well but often in our circles forget the second commandment. Today is focused on how to love others well because human history past and present have proved were not that good at it.  Given that every human is made in the image of God, we learn a little more about the one we follow and declare as Lord every time we learn to love our neighbor.

Our monthly neighbor day has been on the calendar for a month, but today with more news of racism and white supremacy I am reminded strongly of how much we have failed in loving our neighbor.

So what? How then should we live?

Through small steps of learning how to better love our neighbor.

One good question on days like today when the whole world seems to be falling apart as deep-seated racism rear’s its horrible head, how are we better learning our neighbor?

For me, (Caitlin), as a white privileged woman that means I’m trying to listen to voices of color and wrestle with my own participation in this flawed society. Another next month we will talk more about other things we can do, ways to pray, and how it forms us, but if you’re like me, today we must listen.

One good way to hold up the mirror to our own sins is by exposing our implicit biases. Our biases are formed by the time we are three years old, and yet we are often not aware of them. Here is a link to Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test. This is good and hard work to being able to love our neighbor well.

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

Who are you listening to today? Or, who needs to hear from you today?

A prayer of lament

98EDDBDD-2AD5-42C3-BC1A-A0EB34FF5D91The past few days I (Caitlin) began to realize that I was grieving over all that was lost for this semester. In this pandemic with so much fear and suffering my loss of getting to spend half a semester felt a little trivial. It’s easy to see people who are being affected in bigger or more painful ways.

My attempt to process this mourning has been to write a prayer of lament. Psalms are full of laments, both communal and personal.  Psalms of lament bring concerns before God in times of uncertainty or trials. With Covid-19, we too are in a time of pain, uncertainty, and confusion. What a better place to take our mourning than to our Gracious God in prayer?

If you are a college student, young adult, or love someone who fits that category pray along with us in this prayer of lament.

 

A Prayer of lament for a college student

Hear Me O God,
Great is your name among the heavens.
You are our strength and our song.
Our lives are upended.
We have retreated indoors,
away from our communities and neighbors and friends.

O Lord,
We left our community mid-break only to not return.
March brought visions of Spring Break and warmer weather.
We looked joyfully to the second half of the spring semester.
Visions of sunshine and celebrations as the semester would come to a close.

O God,
Why did all this have to disappear?
We had no chance to say goodbye and little chance to gather our stuff.

O Lord,
We have canceled retreats, closed buildings, paused our chosen community.
This year we can no longer gather for meals or laughter or late-night chats.

O God,
Why must this be?
You have proven faithful to us time and time again.
We now live in fear for the health of ourselves and our loved ones.
This virus is spreading through our community like wildfire.

O Lord,
Be present in our social distancing.
Be present in our grief, in our loss of semester.
Be our comfort in this time of isolation.

We have experienced that your love never fails.
We have known you to meet us in our times of prayer.

O Gracious God,
You have given us life and laughter and hope.
Do not abandon us in our time of need.

May we be a people who return to you in this time of staying home.
May we be a people reinvigorated by your love.

 

What Remains?

IMG_7608Our whole lives have been upended in the matter of a few days. With ODU closing its doors, extending spring break, and going virtual for the rest of the semester, our sense of normalcy has been completely changed. We’re all feeling the strain of stress, confusion, and concern as we’re preparing for social distancing. We’re changing where or how we live. No one really truly knows when this will all calm down.

For me (Caitlin), this week has felt like water falling from a sieve as my very people-oriented role as campus minister has transformed without any people around. In times like this, it can be quite easy to focus on the water that has fallen from the sieve, to focus on what was lost. No more dinners full of belly-laughing, no more peaceful group mid-day prayer, no more joyful retreats. But as I am still trying to orient myself to this new world, I am reminded to investigate the sieve, to see what is left after the water of people and meetings and events rushed out. In this stressful time, I am reminded of a verse I memorized so so long ago:

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 NRSV

I don’t know what the next few weeks or even next few months will look like.  I don’t know what this means for our community, our economy, or our loved ones. What I do know is that even in this time of stress, this time of concern, and this time of anxiety, that God’s love remains.

So what does this mean for our lives? For our time now stuck in our homes, our apartments? This means that the love of God in Christ Jesus is with us. God’s love is with us while we’re bored, or making grandiose plans, or trying not to kill those we are confined with. This means that God’s love is ever-present at this time. With God’s love being so accessible, so present, we can still pray; we can still learn; we can still grow, and most importantly we can still hope.

During coronavirus, we have a choice, as always, to ignore the love of God or to embrace that love. My encouragement to you all is to use this time well. To be proactive in seeking God’s love even if your normal life patterns have changed. Take on a new prayer practice or join your local church online in worship. Find time to sit in silence with God or to wrestle with difficult scriptures.

We now have an abundance of time.  Why not use it to return to the wellspring of life? Why not choose to view this time at home as a gift, as an opportunity to reset? Our normal lives are at breakneck speeds of more, more, more. Now we have this opportunity to rest, and to rest in God’s love. Join me in this choice of God’s love over fear.