Jubilee … and Native American Heritage Month

tree
Cottonwood tree at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Repost from Alive Now’s blog.

I don’t know where to start in sharing the thoughts and feelings that swirl around in me. November is Native American Heritage Month. And November is Thanksgiving — a day when many of us celebrate “The story of Pilgrims and Indians coming together to share in the harvest.” And this November is the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre in Southeast Colorado.

I am so limited by my European-American heritage and blinders. I am a descendent of a conquering force that decimated the people who lived in this country when my ancestors arrived. But I’m wondering, what if our Native brothers and sisters could have had a Jubilee year — when all they had lost could be returned to them from centuries of cruelty, oppression, marginalization, and genocide? Reparation for lost lives, lost lands, lost languages, lost heritage?

I (We) can never, ever, ever make up for the wrongs that have been done to the indigenous people who lived in harmony with this land. The Oklahoma land where my grandmother grew up — “free” land that her father won in a land lottery — taken from the Kiowa and Apache people after the territory of Oklahoma had been promised to be a place for native peoples. The land where my family’s cabin sits in Colorado — “free” land taken from the Arapaho and Comanche people after gold was discovered in the mountains. The land where my house sits — “free” land taken from the Yuchi and Cherokee after the native people of Tennessee were forced to walk the Trail of Tears following the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830.

Last June I participated in a pilgrimage to the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. One hundred and fifty years ago on November 29, nearly 200 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed on the banks of the Big Sandy River in southeast Colorado in an massacre by U.S. Cavalry troops. The leader of the Cavalry was a Methodist minister. During the days of the pilgrimage, we learned what had happened, listened to the stories of those who were descended from the survivors, prepared our hearts and spirits, and rode together to the site of the massacre.

We walked a hill overlooking the valley where so many had died. A hot wind seemed to carry the cries of the women, children, and old people who had died at the hands of the troops. We listened and learned and prayed and cried. One young adult descendent told us that his people, still today, associate United Methodists with the killers on that day.

There is so much I cannot do to make things right. But here are some things I can do:

  • Learn the stories about the places I live and move. Every place in this land has stories to tell about those who lived here before the Europeans arrived.
  • Listen and bear witness to the truth. It is so easy to ignore what happened, to make excuses. But harm was done and generational trauma continues in the Native American community.
  • Participate in The United Methodist Act of Repentance and Healing with Indigenous Persons.
  • Develop relationships with indigenous people.
  • Sponsor a runner for the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run. On the anniversary of the massacre, runners start from the site of the massacre and run the 180 miles to Denver. The run is a prayer, a remembrance for those who were killed. Sponsorship for one runner costs $500 for travel from Montana, Wyoming or Oklahoma, food and lodging. Gifts of all sizes are welcome.
  • Recognize and accept that repentance is life work.

Creator of all people,
Heal the wounds.
Open our eyes and ears and hearts.
Transform us into people of compassion and justice.
Lead us to true repentance.
We are yours.
Amen.


Photo: Cottonwood tree at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre. Photo by Beth A. Richardson.

The Anniversary

Brainard LakeThis is a repost from my article on Alive Now’s blog.

When the 9/11 attacks happened, I was in Colorado on vacation and away from television. We had scheduled a hike on that day and decided that since there wasn’t anything helpful we could do, a hike would be a perfect response — a sort of physical prayer. The images I remember from that day are mountains and water, fragile flowers and blue sky. It wasn’t until over a week later when we were finally able to fly home that I saw all the images of devastation. I’m grateful that pictures such as the one above are what I associate with that terrible day.

I know that anniversaries of tragedy are especially difficult. It’s been over 25 years since my mom died and I still feel the loss deep in my spirit when that date comes around every year. I cannot imagine the pain I would feel if her death was a part of such a gigantic national tragedy. I pray for those for whom this news event brings such deep pain.

This week’s gospel reading from the lectionary is Matthew 18:15-20. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has wronged him. “Seven times?” And Jesus’ answer, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” And then Jesus goes on to tell a parable about settling accounts.

I’ve been thinking about this scripture falling on the anniversary of 9/11 and wondering what will be preached in churches this Sunday. (I’m grateful that I’m not having to prepare a sermon for such a difficult day!) I’m wondering what God is saying to me, to us, through this scripture and through this season of remembering. I’d like to invite you to take some time to pray the scripture using Alive Now’s Audio Lectio recording.

Here are a few random thoughts from me:

  • We are a broken and fragmented people. Our culture is divided to the point that we often jump — too quickly — to judgment, labeling, and condemning others rather than seeing them as human, vulnerable, children of God.
  • Forgiveness is our calling as Christians. It’s perfectly appropriate that we study and pray this scripture at this time.
  • Yes, we are called to forgive — over and over and over. But forgiveness is a very individual step, part of a process of healing and reconciliation. I cannot say to you, “It’s time for you to forgive.” Forgiveness is a gift given by God at the just the right point in a person’s healing process.
  • I wonder what Jesus would say to us today? to our national leaders? our faith leaders? to our children?

Share your thoughts. What does it mean to be people of faith in a post-9/11 world? What message is God giving you through this week’s Audio Lectio?

Related Resources


Photo Credit: © Beth A. Richardson. Brainard Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado.

Centering Prayer Journal

daisiesThis is a repost from my article on Alive Now’s blog

I starting practicing centering prayer in February as I was working on the July/August 2011 issue on Finding Time. Centering prayer seemed to be a good spiritual practice to include with this issue. And I realized that if I was going to invite readers to try out centering prayer, I should be willing to practice it myself. Before February, my only experiences with centering prayer had been in a Sunday school class at my church. I went to three or four sessions, but ended up falling asleep each time. So I joined a more active class instead.

My time for centering prayer is in the early morning after breakfast and walking the dogs. I kept a journal for a while and share some of my experience with you here. As you can see, I’m still “practicing.” I hope you’ll share your own thoughts and experiences, challenges and successes, questions and comments. Blessings!

2/19/11 – God, I feel like a failure this morning in my prayers. My brain cannot concentrate on you. Every little space I create gets filled up in seconds with a thought or distraction. I could never achieve that peaceful connection that I am longing for. Help me, God, to let go of my expectations and accept what happens. I am longing for you, God. Please fill me. Amen.

2/21/11 – God, I thank you for this time. It seems I fight through chaos and distractions, only to find you in the final minutes of my mediation. I forget that you are present even if I cannot seem to reach you. I stood in your presence, I felt, for a few seconds at a time. Fog swirled around me, but I was fully present to you. Thank you for the luxury of 20 minutes of quiet. I pray for mothers and fathers for whom such a time seems impossible. I am yours. Amen.

2/22/11 – Somewhere between dozing and distractions of dogs walking, licking, and barking, I may have felt you. Saw glimpses of you. Walk with me into this day, O God. I need your presence. Amen.

3/13/11 – There is within me a sort of hall of presence where I meet you, God. It expands so large within me. When I can find the way, I open it to you and you come inside. Quiet, expansive, spacious oneness with your presence. I thank you, God.

3/14/11 – I cannot find the space except for short glimmers of you. I open up the left side of my awareness and try to hold off distractions with my right arm. That doesn’t work. Help me to relax into your love. I cannot control or fight my way there. I’m powerless over these distractions. Help me, loving God.

3/16/11 – Even without distractions I am flighty in my thoughts. My expectations are high and I struggle to force things out if my mind. Perhaps surrender would be a better way – force does not work. And still I meet you for moments and glimpses. I am grateful.

3/19/11 – It’s a curious thing, this spaciousness that I slip into. I don’t know how to make it happen or how to stay there once I find myself there. But it is a relaxed place. Like I have relaxed into God’s arms or lap or presence. I’m grateful, God, for this gift from you. Amen.

3/22/11 – Presence. Your presence, O God, through the distractions. I am yours. Amen

3/25/11 – It’s a morning when I feel like I failed my prayer time. I tried to control all the noise, but once it got quiet, I still couldn’t quiet my own mind. God, you are my God. I search for you. Thank you for your presence. Amen.

3/30/11 – I start out in a darkened place. I am broken before you. I don’t want you to see me this way. I start writing in my head even while I try to let go of the thoughts. I am broken, God, and standing before you. Have mercy on me. Then there is a spacious place that is around me and holding me in. Thank you, God, for letting me enter your presence.

3/31/11 – Some days I finally reach you just before the end of the allotted time. Thank you. It is enough. Amen.

4/1/11 – Even in the quiet of the morning I have trouble making a way clear to you. My brain keeps working on problems and I am unable to give myself over to you. A glimpse will have to suffice. Thank you, God. I am hungry for that spacious connection with you.

4/3/11 – I’m not ready for centering prayer in the midst of distractions – such as the dog chewing on his new bone. I need quiet, and still I lose my way. But I do better with silence and peace. It’s baby steps and gratitude and lack of judgment. That is what I need. Thank you God, for the glimpses of your presence.

4/4/11 – My brain hops around like a bunny. I hold tension in my arms trying to find the right position to meet God. I’m powerless over my attention. It seems impossible to be still for 20 minutes. It’s glimpses. Just glimpses. Thank you God for the glimpses of peace.

4/6/11 – Another day of some longer glimpses and I am grateful. Peace is wonderful. Thank you for the presence.

4/8/11 – I’m scattered and unable to concentrate. Gather me up, God, in a single-minded focus on you. Amen.

4/12/11 – Missed a few days and I’m totally out of practice. Didn’t even get to the narthex of your presence, God. Thank you for being there, even though I couldn’t find you. I need your help.

4/13/11 – I’m still fighting to be here. And fighting does not work. I am yours. I am here. Help me, God.

4/16/11 – Seems as though I mostly squander the time I have with you, God. My mind drifts off into all kinds of thoughts and I forget what I’m doing. I can’t remember to concentrate on you and waste most of the time far away from your presence. I’m sorry, loving God. I know you have forgiven me. Thank you.

4/21/11 – My brain is a clutch of bunnies hopping around, unable to focus. Bit there are glimpses of you. And that is enough. Thank you. Amen.

4/22/11 – Why is it that I don’t get to peace and presence until 20 seconds before my alarm goes off? Thank you, loving God, for those 20 seconds.

4/25/11 – I didn’t know it would be so difficult to learn to sit for 20 minutes in quiet. Thank you for this time of learning. I am yours. Amen.

5/3/11 – On this morning after I haven’t slept well, I am fairly peaceful and connected. Thank you, God, for your quiet presence inside of me. Amen.

5/4/11 – Maybe practice does help. It wasn’t a long stretch, but I was able to reach a deep place for a while near the end of my 20 minutes. I don’t know how it happened. It just did. Thank you, Spirit. Amen.

5/12/11 – Such a hard time getting anywhere today, thoughts float through my mind and I chase them on. Planning, solving problems, investigating noises. My brain is in a fog. But for short moments, I slip though the fog into the space that is you, and my mind quiets for that moment. Thank you, God, for moments with you. Amen.

5/18/11 – God, every time I think I’ve mastered the quiet, I find that the chatter is back. I cannot control my brain. I forget to surrender to you. I love you, God. I am yours.

5/20/11 – Thanks, God. Even with dogs barking from time to time, I found the quiet place. I’m grateful.

6/30/11 – I am trying to let go of the tension in my body. Seems like I am trying too hard to concentrate on the word rather than letting go, relaxing into God’s love. I’m trying to force my mind to be open. It doesn’t work so well.

 

More on Centering Prayer


Photo Credit: Beth A. Richardson. “Colorado Daisies.”

Love Your Enemies

Mosaic

This is a repost from the Alive Now blog.

Jesus set such a seemingly impossible standard when he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5). I’ve been all jumbled up inside since I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I felt relieved, but also sad. When I saw and heard the crowds of people cheering, I was uncomfortable. I was nervous this American response would stir up even more hatred and violence toward our country. During the night I had strange, disturbing dreams, and I woke up feeling tired and anxious.

I was worried about the current issue of Alive Now on “The Household of God,” in which we hear the voices of people from all over the world, from several different religions all talking about how we are invited to a banquet where God is the host. What if, I worried, there’s a backlash against the magazine because of these current events? (We were aware that the content of this issue would be challenging for some.) Then I remembered how we turn this magazine over to God as we begin to work on each issue, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom as we gather and shape the content. Perhaps, I thought, this issue on “The Household of God” in some way represents what God wants to say to us today.

It makes sense that Osama Bin Laden’s death would bring up emotions. 9/11 was an event of terror that brought trauma to an entire nation. And events such as Bin Laden’s death bring the trauma back as if happened only yesterday. For me, it’s brought back feelings of fear and sadness. I imagine that this event has stirred up a variety of responses in us all, especially for those who were directly affected by the attacks ten years ago and the wars since then.

Those of us who are Christ-followers have the example of Jesus, who set that seemingly impossible standard when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). May the God of love guide us. And may we keep learning how to be Christ-followers, even as we seek our place in the world community.

Blessings,
Beth A. Richardson

 

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Birth of a Magazine

We’re happy to announce the birth of the January/February 2011 issue of Alive Now magazine on October 21, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. – 10:0 p.m. We took a party out to Courier Printing in Smyrna, TN and watched as the presses were prepared and the magazine began to be printed. We took cookies to the Courier employees, received a tour of the plant from Sam Suppa, our contact at Courier. We got to see the first half of the magazine run on a gigantic web press — it prints, heat-sets, cools off, and folds the pages of the magazine faster than you can say “hermeneutic of suspicion.” The cover was run on a sheet-fed press. It looks really great!

The J/F 2011 issue of Alive Now is scheduled to be mailed in early-mid November. If you are not already a subscriber either at home or at your church, I hope you’ll consider ordering now. You’ll receive the January/February issue if you sign up by November 1.

Here’s a slide show of our adventure —

The Keeper

Beth in the 1980s
Beth in the 1980s

This was my first-ever published writing — in the “Patterns” issue of alive now! J/F 1985. I wrote this following my mom’s last trip to Colorado before her death in 1983 from a brain tumor. This piece speaks to me today as I prepare the “Living in the Present” issue, J/F 2011.

Yesterday at the top of the Trail Ridge, I was getting really frustrated because Mom was so slow. I had to walk her to the bathroom and wait while she went and washed and dried her hands. I walked out. Dad wanted to go to the gift shop, but Mom wanted to look at the display in the visitors’ center. So I stayed with Mom.

I was so angry because I did not want to see the display — we’ve seen it so many times before — every year the very same display of stuffed tundra birds and pictures and charts. As I watched her walk around and read each display like it was the first time she had read it, it all of a sudden hit me that she might never see it again. Each trip for her could be her last.

The reading of the display, the rituals that we participate in as a family — certain things to be done (mail a postcard to Aunt Eileen from the top of Trail Ridge, read “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”), certain things to be said (“When are we gonna get there?” “Smell that cool mountain air.” “We’ll have these moments to remember.”) — all these things take on new importance as we/she lives every day as a holy one. Mom is the keeper of the ritual right now. In the participation in these family rituals, there is a combination of such pain and joy, such comfort and such vulnerability.

From Alive Now, J/F 1985. Copyright © 1984 The Upper Room.