Resurrection & New Life: God’s Word Is Yes!

Meet Rev. Cindy Watson

Rev. Cindy Watson is the senior pastor at West Heights United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas.  She has served in the Kansas West conference for almost 30 years and is a graduate of St. Paul School of Theology.  She is the vice chair of Inter-Faith Ministries in Wichita and I met her as we have served together on the General Commission of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church.  It is good to call her a friend and welcome her to be my guest blogger today!







God’s Word Is Yes!

A few years ago there was slogan, “love is not a feeling, love is a decision”.  The whole push behind the slogan was an understanding that love takes commitment and dedication.   Falling in and out of love was easy, staying in love was a way of life that lead one to stay the course and see what a long term commitment could mean in terms of the depth of one’s relationship and life.
For Christians, Easter is the same thing  Easter is not a feeling on one Sunday a year, it is a commitment to a moment, an experience, a season.  For the early Christians Easter became a moment and a promise the end was near and the reign of God was coming.  As the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years and the years into decades, believers had to re-imagine what Easter meant for them and for the life of the Church.
Each person who embraces the Christian faith has to come to terms with Easter.  Christmas is easy.  Who doesn’t understand the birth of a baby.  Easter, though, requires a walk through the deep ugliest humanity offers: betrayal, lies, false arrests and capital punishment.  While it is not hard to admire Jesus facing all that hatred, intolerance  and ugliness with grace, forgiveness and love, Good Friday places him in the tomb and the hope and promise of a new day seems to die with him.
Easter is a testament to God’s unwillingness to allow evil, hatred, death and intolerance to have the last word.  God’s word is Yes.  God’s word is Life!  God’s word is Love.  God’s word is Grace!   Easter can not be celebrated in a day or even a season.  Easter invites a commitment to Christ as a way of life, as a way of loving and a way of affirming that despite everything to the contrary, Good will destroy evil, Love wins over hatred and God in Christ will bring all creation into a time of peace, grace and justice.  Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen indeed!


** “Christ is Risen” top image from:  http://bromattisafoth.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/let-the-alleluias-ring-christ-has-risen/
**Picture of Cindy Watson taken by Scott Carnes, from his archives
Weighing In.

Some of you know that Carrie and I joined Weight Watchers last November.  A lot of people seemed confused about it.  They asked why I would need to diet…well, I was overweight!  Yup, my poor eating habits and lack of exercising were slowly but surely catching up to me in a big way and I wanted to make a change.  Okay, I should be honest: my wife wanted to make a change for herself and she insisted that I do the program with her.  Either way, it was the best decision of my life.  With diet and exercise I have hit the middle of my “healthy weight” range, my doctors are happy, and I feel great.  This isn’t just an issue of vanity.  My growing body and bad cholesterol numbers were a symptom of a mistreated body.

This didn’t happen suddenly.  I gained the weight slowly, over time, and when something (like weight change) happens slowly we don’t realize how bad it is getting.  The other thing with being overweight is that we live in America and it is mirrored by many people around us.  In fact, we were less-overweight than many of the people around us.  When we are surrounded by a problem, like obesity, it is easy to feel a false sense of security.  It is easy to feel as though this is “the norm” and so it is okay.

I say all of this, not as a guilt trip.  Lord knows I, of all people, can’t fault anyone for craving pie and over-eating.  I have done plenty of that!  No, I bring this up because my recent experience with weight loss helped me to realize that I had ignored a problem (my weight) because it was all around me (in Wisconsin, at seminary, and now in Pontiac) and it happened slowly over time (I used to be a skinny high school kid, you know).  Eating the way I ate and saying that I was ‘too busy’ to exercise was normative and, yet, I should have been appalled.  I bring this story to you, because it seems to be me that our weight and health are not the only problems that are like this for us.

I think about first about poverty.  It isn’t an easy issue to tackle and lack-of-money, like being overweight, is a symptom of so many underlying causes.  It is ever-present and seems to be an overwhelming issue to tackle.

I think about racism in early America.  People looked at slaves, and, later, freed black people, and because the oppression had grown steadily and because it was so prevalent, it seemed like it was and should be the normal order of things.

I think about civil rights that began to find footing during the middle part of this past century.  Of course, it broke forth suddenly in the sixties, but since then we have struggled as a nation with our racism.  What we fail to see, far too often, is that the racism exists still today, in fact, especially today: Because racism is passed from generation to generation, it is often less overt, and because it is deeply cultural, it is easy to pretend it doesn’t exist anymore when we really should be horrified by it.

I think about genocides that have occurred in places like Rwanda.  It seemed so distant and Americans tended, at the time, to ignore the horrendous crimes against humanity that were being perpetrated because it was so far away, it was happening to “other” people, and, when it was finally shown in the media, it was made “tv-friendly.”  We should have been appalled, but somehow we have an idea that for people in other countries “these things happen.”  It seems normative when we should be disgusted…and appalled!!!

How is it that we allow problems like this to be “normal?”   How is it that we allow ourselves to become used to obesity, racism, poverty, or murder?  How is it that we so often set aside what we know is the right thing to do, and instead, do the comfortable thing.  Why do we allow ourselves to become comfortable with destructive behaviors when we should. instead, be appalled?  Why is it that we would ignore a problem when we should begin re-educating ourselves and our community?

My weight crept up on me.  I ignored the signs of unhealthiness and, even after a stern talk from my doctor, I ignored the problem.  It wasn’t until I had a supportive wife who pushed me and who insisted that I learn and grow (shrink, actually 🙂 that I began to be appalled by the things I had been eating.  If I eat too much grease, now, I feel sick to my stomach- and when I see people standing in lines at walmart with carts filled to the brim with junk food I recoil, even though that was recently me.  Why?  Because I looked at the problem through a new lens, I allowed myself to “get outside” of where I had recently stood and I began to look at myself with a more objective eye.  I began to realize that whether I was “used to it” or not, it was wrong and bad and hurtful:  Hurtful to myself and hurtful to others.

We have become desensitized to any number of troubles in this world.  We have chosen to think of them as normal or usual when we should be appalled.  This is where church is ultimately important.  We are a community and, just as my wife pressed me until I joined Weight-Watchers, good church people must press one another to look at injustice and oppression in this world, learn to “feel” the problem, educate one another and the community, and find a way to act out and improve the situation.

Most importantly, we must not act in judgement or hate, but in love and grace because that is the kind of God we follow.  We have a God who is ready to accept us and work with us no matter how fat we get, how complacent we become, or even how uncaring.  Our God doesn’t, from what I read of the Bible, dwell upon our short-comings, but our God encourages us to grow in love, joy, forgiveness, mercy, and peace.  My wife exemplified that as she encouraged me towards loving and respecting my body.  She regularly helps me grow in acting for justice and showing mercy when she introduces me to any number of concerns in this world (even though I am sometimes reluctant to listen when it makes me uncomfortable or challenges my old ways of thinking), and she shows me love and forgiveness any number of times a day when I act like an idiot with her.

We don’t have to be spouses to play this role for one another.  I pray that all of us will take a moment to look at ourselves and the people around us with new eyes.  I pray that we will surround one another in community and find do-able steps so that we can act out in faith to re-order this world and grow the people and communities around us so that we will leave this world healthier, happier and more faithful!

blessings and peace,
Scott

The Power of Prayer

Tonight we were watching the movie Stranger Than Fiction.  There is a part of the movie where the narrator says, about Harold Crick, “Harold’s life was filled with moments both significant and mundane, but to Harold, those moments remained entirely indistinguishable, until this moment….”  Significant moments are like that, aren’t they.  Things like surgeries, weddings and births are moments we expect and plan for, yet the extraordinary can’t be planned for.

My wife and I planned our wedding down to the smallest details, yet when I looked into my new bride’s eyes the moment caught me off-guard and filled me with a joy I could not have expected.  I imagine that it is much the same with an expectant parent who has planned the route to the hospital and has a bag packed, but the first moment of holding your child is a moment that knocks you off your feet and makes grown men cry.

An extraordinary moment occurred for me yesterday.  It was in the midst of the mundane and unexpected.  I stopped by the church to finish up a few things.  I had walked in and out of the office at least twice never paying any attention to an innocuous piece of paper on the counter.  Finally my bag was packed, my work was done and I was on my way out the office.  I had walked well-past that piece of paper with names upon it and I would never have seen it, except by chance.

Cheryl, our administrative assistant, called out after me, “Oh, Scott, wait.  I still need [someone]’s phone number.”  I turned and pulled out my cell phone giving her the number and just happened to glance down.  There on the counter top was a piece of paper with names all over it.  At the top it had my name and said “Prayer Vigil.”  Had I been thinking of it or had I been watching the list grow I might not have given it a second thought, but in an unsuspecting moment I was thrown off my feet.  I stared at it and needed a moment before I spoke in disbelief, “This is for me.”  For a moment I thought I might cry as I found myself overwhelmed by this outpouring of love and support.

What prayer will do cannot be known.  It is mysterious that way.  Yet, I know that prayer has very real power.  Yesterday prayer filled me with peace, hope and joy.  Prayer brings communities together and, I believe, helps us to see where God is leading us- when we take time to listen and watch.  And, most importantly, prayer draws us closer to God and helps us make sense of what God is doing in this world.

My sincere hope is that we would not just pray when we see something big headed our way (something we can plan for), but that we would find time for God in the mundane moments of life.  That we wouldn’t just pray in advance of a surgery or impending trouble, but that we would pray in a way that makes us more familiar with God and opens us up to those extraordinary moments when God will knock us over with peace, love and joy.