Friday, February 22, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Joy Comes With the Morning

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks. This section feels particularly appropriate to me as we enter the Lenten season.

I hope you like it. There is a special offer at the end of this post for those interested in reading the whole book. 

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

There are times in everyone’s life when our sorrow is so deep that it seems like we will never be happy again. A loved one has died, a child or a lover is seriously ill, a dear friend moves away, a child leaves home, someone tells us that they no longer want to be in a relationship with us. We may actually feel sensations of grief, deep in our chest, that our heart is breaking. At the beginning we may be wracked, sobbing great tears, crying from a place so deep inside us that just moments prior we didn’t even know existed. A little later, little reminders of that person cause us to break into tears at unexpected moments.

You may be feeling that way now. Surely most of us have had this experience by our mid- to late twenties, some of us much earlier. When we love, truly love, other people — children, friends, family members, partners — when they leave us, whether through moving or death or just moving on, our hearts break.

Yet, Psalm 30 teaches that God can turn “mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:11) and that “joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5). This is no hollow platitude, a “you’ll get over it” as too many parents counsel their teens getting over first love. It is instead God’s promise. Joy will return.

Why? The passage reminds us that our sorrow is so deep precisely because we have allowed ourselves the vulnerability, the intimacy of truly loving another. We would not hurt so much if we hadn’t loved so much. And the experience of that lost love affirms that we have the capacity to love again.

If you are feeling deep sorrow now, be with it. Don’t wish it away, don’t hurry your grief. Cry, talk about it, allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Look at photos, collect your memories. Sit with your loss.

If you are a friend of someone who is mourning, just be with him or her. You don’t have to “do” anything. Sit together. Listen. Be present. You only need to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it.

Remind yourself that happiness can and will return. Some of us may need medical or psychological help to get through these periods; all of us will need time.

Even in your grief, try to do one little thing that pleases you today. Breathe in a flower. Drink a good cup of coffee. Stretch your body. Go for a walk. Allow yourself a few moments to remember that life is good. Joy will come again.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Valentine's Day Edition

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks, starting today with one that is particularly apt for Valentine’s Day. I hope you like it!

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:24–25

Thus ends the second chapter of Genesis, the second chapter in the Bible, and an alternative to the creation story in Genesis 1.

In Genesis 1, God creates humankind on the sixth day, creating a male and a female in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). The very first thing God says to these new human beings? “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) or in other words, “Go have sex and make babies.”

Genesis 2 is believed by most Biblical historians to have been written at an earlier time than Genesis 1 and is an alternative story of the creation. After creating Adam, God recognizes that Adam needs a companion and a helper: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gen. 2:18). This version goes on to say that God then formed every animal and every bird, and brought them to the man, but Adam did not find among them a suitable “helper as a partner.” It is only after rejecting the animals as partners that God put the man into a deep sleep, and created Woman.

And then the words of Genesis 2:24–25 follow. They tell us the man and the woman were naked, they engaged
in sexual intercourse, and they were not ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. Procreation is never mentioned in this version of the creation story. 
What a joyful reminder of the gift of our sexuality. At the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, humans enjoy their bodies without shame or guilt. We are made for each other, as helpers, partners and lovers. 

Side by side, the very two first chapters of the Bible emphasize the equality of men and women, recognize that we need a mate who is a helper, partner and lover, and affirm sexual acts as potentially procreative, but also joyous and re-creative without procreation. At the end of the sixth day, God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (italics mine; Gen. 1:31). Everything — including our sexuality. 

These passages remind me of a moment in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Shug says in response to Celie’s protest to an allusion about sexual response: 
“Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like . . . . Listen, God love everything you love — and a mess of stuff you don’t.” 
Rather than viewing sexuality as sinful, these opening chapters of the Bible teach that sexuality is God’s life-giving and life-fulfilling gift to us. Many people mistakenly believe that the Bible only contains two messages about sexuality: “Don’t” and “Sex Is Only for Procreation in Marriage.” The Bible’s view on sexuality is much richer and more complex than most people know. Indeed, the Bible teaches that our bodies are wonderful and to be enjoyed, that there are many forms of blessed relationships and that we must not abuse or exploit this sacred gift. 
For a few moments, take the time to think about what this means to you. Growing up, did you learn that your sexuality was a blessing from God to be celebrated? Or did you learn that sexual feelings were wrong, needed to be confessed and subverted? Can you open yourself to feel deep inside your bones that your sexuality is a precious gift? What would it mean for you to “be naked and not ashamed” with yourself or with your partner? What might it mean for you today? 

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Religious Leaders Support Family Planning!

I'm delighted to tell you that this morning, the Religious Institute released its new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning, endorsed by more than 1000 religious leaders from across the theological spectrum.  

The new Open Letter  recognizes that all women must have equal access to contraception, and states that “the denial of [coverage for] family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing and is an insult to human dignity.” The release of this statement coincides with the recent Obama Administration release of proposed regulations, which affirmed its commitment to assure all women have birth control access without cost or administrative hurdles.

Too many of the press reports on the regulations equated the opposition of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to the inclusion of family planning services in the American Care Act with all religious institutions.  It is a critical misunderstanding to equate the minority of those religious leaders who have fought the coverage of birth control during the past year with threats and lawsuits, with the majority of people of faith in the United States who support access to contraception. Let us be clear that support for religious freedom means that women must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without restrictions, regardless of their place of employment or geographical location. It is unethical for any single religious voice to claim to speak for all religious people in this debate.

More than a dozen major religious denominations have policies that support contraception. In addition, more than 8 in ten women at risk of unintended pregnancy use modern contraceptive methods, regardless of religious affiliation.

The 1000 endorsers of the new Open Letter come from 45 states and more than 35 religious traditions, including each of the major mainline Protestant denominations, Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Muslim traditions. Participating faith leaders include 8 current and former presidents of national denominations including the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black (United Church of Christ), the Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Reformed Church in America), the Rev. Peter Morales (Unitarian Universalist Association), the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)), and the Reverend Nancy Wilson, (Metropolitan Community Churches); seminary presidents including Dr. Philip A. Amerson (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary), the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones (Union Theological Seminary), and The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale (Episcopal Divinity School) and faculty from sixteen seminaries;  heads of more than twenty national religious organizations, including the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (Dr. Richard Cizik), Women of Reform Judaism (Rabbi Marla Feldman), the Beatitudes Society (Rev. Anne Howard), Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Rev. Harry Knox), Catholics for Choice (Jon O’Brien), the Methodist Federation for Social Action (Jill A. Warren) and Muslims for Progressive Values (Ms. Ani Zonneveld); and prominent theologians from diverse perspectives including the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, the Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Dr. Mary Hunt, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, and Dr. Elizabeth Schussler. The Reverends Jones, Watkins, and Wilson all recently were worship leaders at the National Prayer Service. 

The Open Letter was developed in 2012 as a direct response to increasing attempts to deny or restrict family planning access. The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning was developed at a colloquium of a dozen renowned faith leaders and theologians sponsored by the Religious Institute. Participants included nationally prominent theologians and ordained clergy from Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant (evangelical and mainline denominations), Muslim and Unitarian Universalist traditions.

To read the entire letter, view the endorsers, or see the press release, go to