Seasons

The seasons of

Ecclesiastes

sound so lovely but

feel so differently

in the now

of change.

.

 When I think of the

seasons

spring always

comes to

mind first.

New growth

new hope

a blank canvas.

 

But somehow this

new season

feels more like

falling into the

dormancy of fall

 wings folded in

warmth so welcome.

 

I hope winter stays at bay.

 

jackieshields

02.13.18

Title Not Necessary

It has been a sad two days. Even more so than usual when the rhetoric from our President is non inclusive, privileged, uninformed and selfish. That has become the norm; our society has been given permission for a lack of civility that has begged response.

My friend, Kaye Harvey, has posted an eloquent, heart felt response. Her words are needed and necessary. Many have agreed and commented. She has always been a leader.

These are not policy issues that bring disagreement or polarity. These are not political issues. These are not religious issues that divide.

These are human issues……words that defile our very natures, abuse our very souls, squander our intellect, diminish our potential for building community. They fragment hard won relationships, model an attitude not shared, indicate an ignorance borne of privilege. They steal the future for our world.

If we fail to speak out, we become complicit. Not a new concept…..supported by people who have given their very lives for humanitarian and justice issues. We can learn from them.

We are being given an opportunity to teach…..not only our children and grandchildren, but Senate and Congressional members, most of whom seem to value career and monetary gain over service to the people and country they serve. But, more importantly, they exhibit no personal integrity or character. They shouldn’t speak because it’s their job….they should speak because they are human beings.

As I mentioned on a shared post, I am grateful my parents, who served in Haiti, are not here to know how the people they loved are being characterized. Hearing their stories has contributed to our family, who we are, who we hope to be. I pray Douglas, a little boy we sponsor in the ministry with Raise the Roof Academy in Uganda never knows our leader places him in this description; I pray his teachers can forgive.

I have never written without being specific about the subject, without outlining the focus. I simply cannot write the words.

Sadly, I know it isn’t needed.

I write not because I can add anything new. I write to raise my voice.

Magi

Our Sunday School lesson this morning included the verses in Matthew that describe the visit of the Magi and their gifts to Jesus. A portion of the lesson referenced King Herod and his response to Jesus’ birth. Because the Magi returned home another route to protect the child, rather than reporting the exact place of the birth to King Herod as he had instructed, he ordered the murder of all boys ages 2 and under in Bethlehem and the vicinity. We all know the rest of the story…..an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take Jesus and his mother and escape to Egypt. They remained there until the death of Herod.

I have heard those same powerful words more times than I might count. They are difficult to read, difficult to hear. I can’t recall ever seeing them shared in the secular writings around the Christmas story, though we are very aware of the wider account within the church and as a part of study. Pretty understandable, I would admit!

But today, for some reason, what struck me was the power of King Herod and how that translated to the deaths of small, innocent children! I have always lamented the deaths themselves, of course……but I have been remiss in not giving serious thought as to what his power had to look like, how unequivocal it had to be, even in the face of the social and political times he lived and ruled! Many words and much study would be interesting and personally edifying, but the final result would not change.

I have given a lot of thought to leaders and unrestrained power today. I have considered the ways we sentence children to similar fates in today’s world……all the way from rising infant and maternal mortality secondary to poor or non existent health care resources, prenatal care and education; food instability worsened by changes in laws that were basic safety nets for the most vulnerable in our society; access to mental health care or medical care regardless of age; compassion and care for the elderly who suffer poverty even after long years in lower paying jobs; a minimum wage that cannot support even the basic needs; refugees who suffer persecution and torture refused the hope of freedom and hope in our homeland; immigrant families divided and deported, DACA recipients deprived of a promise that would not only empower their futures but also our collective……lack of effective and consistent assistance to Puerto Rico following a hurricane that continues to devastate their people….and on and on. We don’t want to entertain the idea that all of these issues, and many more, do contribute to deaths…of children, of young people, of adults, of the elderly, of the disabled, of the mentally unstable which often results in the deaths of innocent people. Physical death is quantifiable. The death of hope, the death of potential, the death of a future remain obscure and unqualified.

Those who carried out King Herod’s orders, we assume, had no choice.

We do.

We need to become the Magi and take a different route.

A New Year


You see it,
don’t you?
The way the
last
moon wraps
around

a clear sky?
You can feel
the space.

The past
now powerless
a distant memory.
The present
waiting
hoping
praying
for change.

Nameless images
framed
by compassion
become new friends
who mirror
our history
foretell our vision
dispel our fear
and define our human condition.

Courage beckons

an unsettled world

with a love

that empties hearts

of hate and division.

A promise

that begs our acceptance

to make us whole.

Grace
embraces
tomorrow
lights the way
to verses lived out
by

faith
and trust
and love.

A clear sky beckons.

jackieshields

12.31.15

revised

12.31.17

Dr. Shannon Garrett

So, I have wanted to write about Shannon Garrett for many months. I have applied the usual thought processes to do so. He is a person who matters. However, the right words have simply escaped me. Frustrating!

Shannon has worn many hats in our congregational lives at Brentwood United Methodist Church, all with seeming ease and all with clearly evident gifts and talents, backed by an accomplished education including a doctorate. On a personal note, I have always been in awe of his voice, the way he could, and would, sing……my awe not confined to his personal talent, but the way his music translated to praise and worship. God was fully present in those notes, those words.

He presently serves as Pastor of Congregational Care. An understatement! I write, though, as a friend, not as commentary on his staff role.

Rather than recite a litany of his bio here……or his accomplishments, which are many, I want to draw the picture I see…..the reason he inspires, not just me, but many. Yes, I know that to be true!

And I find that attempt not possible in the way I intend. I realize who he is won’t allow mere words, or facts, or evaluation. That has really bugged me…..for several weeks! Shannon is worth knowing (about)!

I am left with writing about what I see, what I have Iearned, and will continue to learn, from Shannon. What he inspires in his every day life, clearly not confined to the work setting! His calling knows no schedule!

First and foremost, Shannon believes the gospel story. He can sing that story to the heavens! He believes in the hope it brings, the light it brings, the love it brings, the Christ it brings, the grace it brings, the salvation it promises, victory over death. Amen!

I realize you may wonder at those words! He is, after all, a pastor! Like most pastors, he has a unique path….one determined by God and accepted by his call! He walks the story.

But, guess what? He believes that story includes everyone, all the time, regardless of where they may be on the journey! He knows, actually knows, people different than he is……that statement should not represent an uncommon view, but it is becoming more and more true and more and more acceptable, even encouraged! But, he does. I mean really knows……in committed time spent together, in prayers, in intentional, not always convenient, ways!

Shannon shares God’s light, his grace, his love, with those who are suffering addiction. Not an easy road for sure. One that, no doubt, requires ongoing prayers on bended knees……one that requires great flexibility, resilience, perseverance. One that requires faith…in every sense of the word. He doesn’t give up on his new friends. He values their very being, as God does. He knows the importance of supportive community, even on the days that community may be one person…him. I feel comfortable making these statements because I have heard him speak to these needs anecdotally as well as professionally. Though he makes it clear he is not serving as a professional counselor, he is serving another way. He is a pastor in the truest sense of the word. He is a friend in the truest sense of the word. He is a Christian in the truest sense of the word. He does not give up.

So, no wonder I have been at odds with words to mention him……he doesn’t fit in the box they bring! He is a reflection of God’s light, a servant who blurs the lines of loving people….to where they are until they can reach the potential God has gifted. But he stays with them for the journey, even a journey that is two steps back or one step forward. He stays the course.

I am grateful to know Shannon, that goes without saying. On the days the mission seems way out of reach or the road way too curvy, his example comes to mind. The days of joy….the days of sorrow or disappointment. He makes me realize goals, even the best goals, sometimes need to fade to the background to allow space for just loving people where they are. We need to trust God to lead.

Emmanuel.

jackieshields

12.22.17

Room in the Inn

 

Streets of Cold

 

Brisk days

early chill

     leaves still suspended

     over chimneys breathing

warmth and comfort

gatherings with cider

hands curved around

cups perfectly molded

by potters who knew.

 

A time for home and family

     the newness of spring spent

summer used

fall the short introduction.

 

A blessed space for quiet

     mind now paced to gratitude

tables set to share the plenty

privilege brings.

 

God’s power drifting quietly

across early morning fields

of frost

     leaves peeking through

     looking for the sun one more time.

Another chance to shine

before winter’s sleep.

 

Disruption stings the pastoral

interrupts the sweet soul

with the other cold.

     The real cold.

     The street cold.

The experienced cold

no less

because of assigned choices

or no choices 

or judged choices.

 

The cold that transcends

thermometer but adds

the singular life of hugs

     by strangers 

     new friends

gyms filled with respite

in shared communion of hearts

and food, cots lovingly made

by the Christ, local and willing

open to the gospel message.

 

New clothes added

to laundry, fresh and clean,

     safe sleep in places

     of worship redefined.

Shared words that tie

differences

a new book of prayers

written together.

 

Bandaids applied to

society’s wounds

     the journey to justice

     softened for 

this time

this moment

this night.

 

Breakfast begins the new day

lunches in hand

new memories for balance

the bus leaves.

 

The cold streets beckon.

 

Christ there, too.

 

 

jackie shields

to honor Room in the Inn

servants and friends,

the homeless with homes

or without.

11.15.14