Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wisdom from Elders...Vincent Harding and Phyllis Tickle

I listen to a lot of podcasts and interviews on line, and one of my favorites is On Being with Krista Tippet.  Krista  interviews a wide variety of people about their beliefs and spirituality, as well as how they live their lives and find meaning.

Recently Krista did an interview with Phyllis Tickle and Vincent Harding about race and emerging church. Both of these persons are over eighty years of life with deep insight into how God moves throughout history, both in the world and in individuals.

Vincent was a contemporary and friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was active in the civil rights movement and active in the Mennonite Church, and continues to speak to the issues of race equality in our country as well as within the church.

Phyllis is an academic who studies the history of religious movements. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the many many forms of church and each version's strengths and weaknesses. She also immerses herself in prayer and has compiled my favorite trio of prayer books, The Divine Hours.

Part of the fun of this interview is the great depth that each person gave to the discussion. There was still the idealism that must have been present in their youth tempered with the realism and disappointment that comes with age and seasoned with hope that flows from deep faith. 

The entire interview sparkled with insight and wisdom but two nuggets especially caught my attention, and continue to inform my thoughts throughout my days.

The first was brief and was a part of the conversation where Phyllis and Krista were talking about how the younger generation is demanding a fuller and more life encompassing version of faith. They want a faith that is bigger than thought or belief, but also faith that they feel with their bodies and act out with their lives.
Phyllis was talking about what she had been hearing from young adults as they work toward authentic lives. She said,
"We are one thing. We are not body here, and spirit here, and mind there. We are one thing. This is us, the whole thing. And therefore my body has to believe to believe in Jesus Christ. It's not enough that my mind does."

and here is the response from Krista Tippet:

"We've narrowed, when we talk about Christianity in American culture, to what you believe. But it's not what you believe. It's who you are. And that includes how you move through the world."
and Phyllis Tickle again
"It's what you eat and how you breathe. It's one thing."
This is such powerful truth, and it is what every generation of young people desire as they begin to work out their own faith. I went through that longing too, the desire that the church be real and involved in every aspect of life, and not just a set of beliefs we feel great about but don't live out. As long as the church exists it will have hypocrisy, and it will have prophetic voices that call us away from that hypocrisy.

Which brings me to Vincent Harding. I was so moved by the faithfulness and mercy and grace of Vincent Harding. Being over 80, he has lived his entire life immersed in the struggle for equality. Being an African American, there was no stepping away from the struggle for a minute or a month. His life has been shadowed by inequality every minute of every day.

This reality is what makes his words so very powerful. It is what makes them important enough to sit at the computer and transcribe them, a few words at a time, listening again and again to get it right. It is what makes those words echo throughout my daily activities.  Here is what he had to say:

"We have been involved in this country now for almost 300 years of our history, a history of 300 years in which white domination, and the dispossession of the natives of the land, and the enslavement of the African peoples of the land, have been built into our life. And it is so important for us to recognize that it's  only been about 50 years that we have even begun to say in the church, outside of the church, anyplace, that we want something different, that we want a new society, a society that is built on really loving concern for each other, a multi-racial society, a compassionate, peaceloving, and peacemaking society. We've only said that to each other in a large way for about 50 years. So we've got 50 going up against 300. And I think it is terribly important to keep saying to ourselves, We have work to do. We have work that is not impossible, but only possible when people recognize the work and recognize the time span in which we are living, and recognize that we are basically still learning. We are, where multiracial democracy is concerned, we are a developing nation. We are not experts. We do not know what multiracial democracy really means, as we can see just by looking around us. Therefore we come together in a different kind of spirit---the spirit of seekers, the spirit of learners, the spirit of supporting each other, and I think that a church that emerges in that kind of spirit, with that kind of consciousness, with that kind of agenda will have different future than a church which does not."

Nothing I can add to that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It seems to be over for this round.

Last May I wrote this post about my depression. Those of you who commented were kind and supportive. So many others whom I meet regularly were helpful, understanding, sharing of their own stories and respectful of the ways our stories were the same and different.

And now it's over. I feel happy. I have energy. I have too many things I'd love to do instead of no motivation. I'm off the meds and finished for now with therapy.

I want to thank those of you who know me for your kindnesses. I've been humbled by all the grace I was offered when I was doing less than my share and letting go of things I usually take care of. I don't know why this depression has ended so quickly. I did some of the things I knew I could do to help, like asking for help, getting therapy, taking meds... I tried to learn to set boundaries to protect my emotional health. I worked at loving myself more and blaming myself less, and at trying to see how deeply God loves me, with my strengths as well as my failures.

But I didn't do other things that are usually important...exercise, meditation, writing in my journal...well, I wrote a little, but not much.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I'm glad it's over, and I love feeling happy and motivated again, but I don't want to imply that there are simple tricks that everyone can do to end their depression. Depression is more complicated than that. People are more complicated than that.

And now that I'm not depressed I'm enjoying more exercise and I'm taking on new challenges, a little at a time. But I'll write more about some of that in another post.

Laughing with Aaron