Thanksgiving Litany

Below is a Thanksgiving litany that I came up with and intend to use tomorrow at the dinner table. Just thought I would share!

Thanksgiving Litany

Thanksgiving is a time to gather and give thanks for what we often take for granted: food, shelter, clothing, relationships, and community. Let us take a moment to be silent and lift these things before God. Feel free to call them out.

(Silence)

While it is important to give thanks for God’s provision, it is also important to remember and pray for those who struggle to meet their basic needs. Take a minute to be silent before Jesus. Feel free to pray out loud, if you feel led.

(Silence)

The traditional Thanksgiving story is rich with erroneous and mythical information that attempts to cover up the mass extinction and tragic oppression faced by native populations during the colonization of America. I believe that it is important to recognize that the ground we stand on once belonged to the Lenape Tribe, who planted corn, squash, and beans, and were sustained by the Delaware River. The Lenape tribe was forced out of Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York, and pushed Westward due to the Indian Removal Act, which was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. Today many live in severe poverty in Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Ontario. Take a moment to pray for the Lenape people whose estimated population in 2010 was 16,000.

(Silence)

Now I am going to recite a special prayer offered by former Principal Chief Chief Thomas Strong Swiftwater of the Lenape people of Kansas City at a recent First Nations conference.

Ke-shay-la-min. Oh, Gitshe Manatoo,
Creator. Oh, Great Spirit.
Gut-ta-mak-ton-hay. Kin-knee-ke-nan e-le-nan,
I speak humbly. Watch over us.
Un-gunda-wakan- will-le-knee-o-knee-can.
Give us your blessings.
Wa-knee-shee. Wa-ne-shee. Wa-knee-shee nuka,
Thank you. Thank you, Father,
Wa-knee-shee nu-ka-lay. Gut-mak-ton-nack.
Thank you, Dear Father. I have spoken.

Growing Old (Well…Not Really)

I have been reading through a few of the posts that were on our old blog site, Sword of Peace, and I must admit that I am quite embarrassed by some of the content. There was so much misplaced and immature passion which was oftentimes judgmental and condescending. I was entering the beginning stages of my faith journey.

Lately I have been asking myself if I am losing my radical edge. I no longer live in a dungeon style basement for $200 a month, I no longer feel the urge to stand in solidarity with people around the world who don’t have water by showering only once a week, I am in graduate school, my wife and I have a combined income that is high enough to almost push us into the middle class, I am no longer a vegetarian, I haven’t thought about dumpster diving in a long time, and I spend more than $30 a month on groceries.

Am I losing my radical edge?

After a lot of thought and reflection, I don’t believe I am. What is happening is that I am becoming grounded. I think I am beginning to understand my place in the world, beginning to understand my strengths, and beginning to understand what I can do with my passion. I am finding that I do not care for debating and arguing these days. I would rather just join up with people who have a desire to serve and get to it. When I was first discovering my faith, I had a consumer mindset. I wanted to consume as much as I could. It was all about me. I was certainly self-righteous and my energies were so misplaced in reading book after book, that I didn’t have any time to live out my faith. Living in a basement and not taking showers is not going to bring about the transformation that God calls us to.

I guess it wasn’t all about myself. I was seeking for an outlet of service, but had no idea where to devote my time. I tried playing music at a homeless shelter on a monthly basis. I did this for 2 years. The problem was that I lived in Philadelphia and the shelter was in Wilmington, DE. This was not my community. I would drive in once a month to play some music, have a quick chat and leave. I became involved in the prisons connections team at Circle of Hope, but I wouldn’t say I was really involved. I attended meetings. Visited someone a few times and wrote a few letters here and there.

Last year I had an extremely difficult time with my faith journey as I was moving away from my naivety. What had I built in the last four years? Anything? I was spiritually depressed for about 9 months straight. This time was extremely difficult for me. St John of the Cross calls this spiritual time the Dark Night of the Soul. He suggests that it is necessary for Christians to go through if they are to develop a mature faith. The romance of discovery spirituality has gone away, is it time to let go of faith, or move deeper into it?

I am glad that I did not abandon my faith during that period. Now, I feel that God has energized me to really be a part of his world redemption project. Lately, I have been doing a lot of listening and waiting, which has allowed me to uncover my strengths. I now know that I have a gift with working with children and adolescents. I am halfway through my school counseling program at Eastern University.

I got connected with Campaign For Nonviolent Schools, a student-run organization that is fighting violence in schools. We have marched down Broad Street and gone to Harrisburg to fight PA budget cuts. Last week we even took a trip to D.C. to rally for Youth Investment. I feel like I am a part of this movement. I have also decided that I want to become more involved with Shalom House. Shalom House is a proactive peacemaking community connected with Circle of Hope. This year, they initiated a listening tour to discover what people are saying about violence in our schools, neighborhoods, and our views on the war in Afghanistan. I am a part of the listening tour team, and hope to listen to what students have to say in the classrooms that I sub in.

My wife and I are trying to live out our faith practically by co-buying a house with another married couple. This is a large step, but we want to ground ourselves in a community and really get to know people around us. We are buying the house from a couple from Circle of Hope who have been a strong presence in the neighborhood for 12 years. We want to continue what they have started. With this there are many considerations and concerns of gentrification as 2 white couples moving into a historically black neighborhood. I will elaborate on this in the future.

I hope I do not appear to be boasting, as this is not my intention. I just want to say that it finally feels good to have a focus. To begin to listen to God and not to aimlessly and self-righeously pursue my own agenda. I used to be fearful of buying a house, going to graduate school, finding a nice job. To me this was selling out. I am beginning to understand that these things can separate us from God, but that we can use these tools to help build God’s kingdom. Co-buying a house opposes American individualism, becoming a school counselor will allow me to interact with hundreds of students and help get the supports they need, and going to school will give me the tools I need to be successful in my vocation. This isn’t the end of my “radical” years, it’s (hopefully) just the beginning.

Mogwai fear Satan, but I don’t.

The following post is from my friend Adam. It was taken with permission from his blogsite: http://forithaca.wordpress.com/

I haven’t been inspired to write much in the past few years, but I’m feeling so today.

Recently, I’ve been confronted with the word satan in adjective form and I’m wondering if this is a useful word.

When forced to describe it, without much thought, my mind turned to the word nuclear, which is reminiscent of satan in that people’s hyper-sensitivity to the terms are based on a pop-culture depiction of them and not a scientific or scriptural one — even for some that believe in science or scripture as truth providing. Satan is not depicted as evil, but more evil than evil. Not merely supernatural but super-super-natural. Caricatured by some as an idol of the most malicious and avarice beings imaginable. The under world of LOTR captures the grotesque-ness I’m trying to communicate. Anyone who believes in the supernatural ought to dismiss any effects culture has had on educating them on something our culture took and twisted from their own beliefs. Just as anyone who believes in science ought to dismiss the error that nuclear is tantamount to harmful radiation or weaponry.

This error has caused the misnomer (or mis-acronym?) MRI. It is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMRI) but the “n” was dropped; it was too disconcerting for many to think something nuclear was happening to them. In reality, we are nuclear; filled with billions of nuclei that we rely on for existence. And while we do not rely on satan for existence it is not unusual, at times, to share the mind of one who is going against the will of God. The bible narrative certainly includes some of God’s chosen that have. In my desire to continue developing an understanding, I think it’s helpful to look at these stories.

When Jesus predicts his own death, Peter boldly declares “This will never happen to you!” Jesus’ response is striking to say the least: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me…” At first the response does not seem to follow from what Peter has said. Certainly, if I were telling my closest friend that I were going to die by torturous methods, I would find comfort and care in a response like Peter’s. It seems honorable. But, Jesus is carrying out the most central part of history for those that believe in his death and resurrection. The next thing Jesus says is more revealing: “…you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Apparently it is satanic, according to Jesus, to be disoriented, to try to stifle God’s plan, to prevent the expression of the gospel which is of incomprehensible and irrational love. Notice too that what Peter desires does not appear base and evil. Satanic things often do not. Many translate the word Satan, used here, from the greek to mean “adversary” and that is an appropriate synonym. Few, I would assume, figure that Peter in this story is possessed and possibly not even under the direct influence of any supernatural agency. Satanic here means an attempt to prevent the things of God. Whether it derives from within or outside of us seems the trivial part of the story.

In writing this blog I’ve had a few hindering thoughts, that caused hesitation, such as how weird people will undoubtedly think I am. Those that do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus may wonder why I believe in cooky apparitions. And those that do might be offended, or well-read enough to say, “Now, now child. Let me instruct you on your foolish misunderstanding.” While writing about satan isn’t grand or a master plot of God’s, starting a conversation on a matter of spiritual awareness, when compelled, seems to be following the will of God, no matter how small a part. And it is quite small in every regard. But, to be stifled of doing something too small, because of that fact, is a satanic argument. If I don’t do good things because they are not big enough, I may never do good things. If I don’t feed or talk to the homeless man on my street because I cannot fix his homelessness, I may forever neglect to offer a drop of God’s love in a place where I can. This is the “belt of truth buckled around my waist” (Ephesians 6:14). Among others.

Generally, I avoid christian parlance. Its redundancy lulls me to sleep and floats by my mind without triggering a thought. But, that’s precisely why I find the word satanic helpful. It’s not apart of the current idiom. It causes a bit of a jolt. It’s awakening. And I like that.

Happy Resurrection Sunday

Easter is a pagan holiday.

Let the Women Speak

This site and its past incarnations (Resistance is Ruin, Sword of Peace) has had primarily male authorship. Currently we have 4 male writers and do not have any female representation. We’ve had a few guest articles written by women, but unfortunately, most of what has been posted on here has been written by men.

I find this to be somewhat troubling. I think one of our goals here on Not By Hands is to have a diverse representation of voices that come together with a common purpose of radical discipleship. I enjoy the dynamic that women bring to the table with their often less power hungry, often more loving, and more communitarian approach. Sometimes us dudes just get caught up in theology and self-righteousness.

Jesus intentionally chose to incorporate women into his mission during a time when women were seen as inferior and second to men. His message spoke of healing and salvation for men and women.  Jesus’s mother, Mary played an important role in the Biblical narrative as she was specifically chosen by God to give birth to the messiah. Many women were healed in the gospel accounts, and women were the first to visit his tomb after his death.

I didn’t want to make this post long, I just wanted to say:

Let the women speak.

Teaching: A New Perspective

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my occupational ventures. I must say looking back at some early writings of mine revealed a great deal of idealism and immaturity. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on my recent work as a substitute teacher in South Philadelphia.

When I finished up teaching in the summer of 09, I thought that I would never come back to it. I had discerned through a great deal of thought, prayer, and career counseling that I was to be a school counselor. Over the past year and a half, substitute teaching became an increasingly plausible option for me during this transition phrase from teacher to counselor. I began a counseling psychology program at Eastern University last fall and managed to land a position with the school district.

My experience started in December with a new positive outlook. While I was a teacher, I had more than a fair share of terrible days, which I have come to realize was mostly the result of my own negativity. I was determined this time around to leave school every day with an optimistic spirit, and I have! No longer plagued by my idealism, I am now focused on what is practical: being there for the students, even if I am only with them for one day at a time.

Now I am not saying that this has come easy. I have had my fair share of trials and tribulations over the past 2 months, but I have come to realize that my over-lenient approach in the past did not benefit my students or me. When you are a teacher, you have to be tough. It’s the same as good parenting. Adopting an authoritative style gives the students the structure and grounding that they need and are craving for. This is the best way to express God’s love in the classroom.

I look forward to continuing to be a positive presence in Philadelphia schools; and I gotta say, it’s also nice to be able to start new every day.

Thanks for listening.

A Place That Needs Jesus

This post was written by my good friend Carolyn.

It’s Monday morning at 8:00am, I have just unlocked my office door when I hear a girl cough behind me.  I turn around to see a distraught looking woman standing in my doorway, “Ms. Carolyn, can I talk to you?” There are tears in her eyes as I put my backpack down and invite her in to talk about her life.  She slumps down in one of the three office chairs that are cramped in my small closet-like office and just as she sits, she begins to sob.  I always have a box of tissues in arms reach and instinctively reach for them when I see her eyes begin to swell up. She begins, “They can’t find my mother-in-law. She has been missing since Friday night, and this isn’t like her at all, she has never done this before”. I walk her through as many counseling techniques that I can think of without sounding insensitive or dismissive.  She sits in my office for a half hour, going through the events of the weekend, talking about the last thing she said to her and I sit and listen, nodding in a way that communicates “I understand”.   She begins to calm down and collect herself, we have talked through everything we can, knowing the only next step is to go out and look for her ourselves.  I ask if she is going to be able to focus in class with everything going on, she says yes, takes a deep breath and walks out.

Immediately after she leaves, I turn to my computer when I hear a quiet knock on my door.  I look up and see a small girl with fear in her eyes, she quietly asks is she can talk to me, and I close my outlook email and ask her to have a seat. She begins, “Ms. Carolyn, my father beat me this weekend, he doesn’t normally do this, but he was so drunk and I stood in the way of him and my baby cousin. Can I show you the bruises and scratches on my back? There is a knot on my forehead too, but I can cover that with my hair.” I listen and wait for the details to stop.  She looks at me and looks up at the ceiling, exhaling for a brief second before the tears begin to quickly stream down her face, I already have the box of tissues in my hand, she takes two.  I sit and listen and ask if she is going to be able to return to class, if she feels like she can focus today.  She looks at me and says, “of course this is the only thing I have to look forward to.” I say nothing and the petite girl walks out.

The student leaves and I see another student sitting in the lobby, waiting. I ask if she needs to talk to me. She doesn’t say a word, but she comes in and closes the door, choosing the seat furthest away from my chair. Trying to sound upbeat and praying for a happy story, I give her a minute and begin with my routine line of “what’s going on?” the girl starts to cry without saying a word.  She looks at me and begins, “my father gambled away our rent money. I don’t know what we are going to do. My mom is an illegal immigrant and we haven’t had hot water in two years, we boil water and have space heaters. That’s okay, I’m used to that, but I can’t live on the street. I just can’t live on the street. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Not being known for one who experiences a loss-of-words, being speechless is a new feeling for me. However, it has become a more common feeling over the past few months.  Six months ago, I began my first real job, since getting my masters in school counseling.  I thought of myself as a big shot adding tons prior experience to any company who would hire me.  Previously, I had worked in a homeless shelter, worked resettling refugees, was a kindergarten teacher, and I had even spent time overseas in an orphanage; I thought I was ready for anything.  And then I met my inner city Philadelphian students.

My students are “college-aged” kids who are rough around the edges, vulnerable and honest. They are direct, defensive and at times can be explosive.  In contrast, I am a white girl, raised in suburban America with some short term experiences working with people who have hard lives. I am willing to help and excited about serving others but I normally have nothing to offer.  But by definition, I am who they should turn to for advice, I am their counselor.

When my students tell me stories about murder in their families or their sex lives, I have to work on my poker face.  When they use slang, I have to ask what it means (I’m still trying to figure out some of it, and normally they just laugh at me). But when they cry and stare into my eyes and say those words I hear almost every day, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do” my heart breaks. The school where I work is a secular school with a secular staff full of people who need Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who work there who love Jesus, I’m sure of it; but for the most part their faith takes the form of sending out Christian forwards through email and joking about having “come to Jesus meetings” or the ritual of saying “Jesus make me a fence” referring to protection from our not-so-stable students.

I hear stories of heartbreak and suffering and all I want to do is pray and tell them I have found comfort and solace in the fact that this life will pass away and a new Kingdom is waiting for them. But instead I look up resources and say, “Everything will be okay, things will work out. It may seem hard now but things will get better.” Or I can say nothing at all. I would risk my job if I began to tell them of the loving sacrifice Jesus has made for them. Even if I kept my job, more of the root of my selfishness and sin is that I am scared of what people will think and how the students will react.  I am scared that I will feel even more attacked by my co-workers for being close-minded (a common misconception of a Christian – thanks Joel Olsteen).  I can pray silently for my students when they leave, and I do.  But it seems unfinished. I take too many burdens on myself and I worry about what others think because I am a 20-something who loves Jesus Christ, I am an anomaly in today’s society.  I will never stop praying for my students and their stories, and the longer I have worked at my school, the more I have settled for, and now believe, that God has things under control and I trust He can change hearts and minds.

Being a Christian counselor in a non-Christian environment is hard because you know you have the answer, you are hiding a gem that could solve everyone’s needs, something meant for every single person.  It is like being part of the biggest scam, or the best-kept secret in the whole world, and just sitting on it.  But it’s not just with my students; it’s with my co-workers and my superiors.  I need to tell them too!  Sometimes I wonder if I should be more open about how I pray or tell my students to turn towards God when they come and they shut the door so that no one else will see their tears. I wonder if I should let them in on the fact the God has seen all of their tears, and He feels their pain.  I wonder if I should tell my co-workers that they don’t need to live for their jobs or getting ahead at this company, because in the end it all burns any way.  I pray for answers to these questions but I’ll never know if I’m doing the perfect thing, and I know I don’t always make the right decisions. But I will continue to pray, I will continue to answer questions of faith if and when they are asked. I will continue to cry and scream when I hear about what my students endure.  I will continue to be present in a place that needs Christ.

 

 

 

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