Hoping for Hope

Do you have hope? I asked one of the mental health patients on my ward, way back in Seminary as a I served my clinical unit.

No, she said, but I’m hoping for it.

God, you know how many times I have been in this position, hoping for hope.

I don’t have the hope yet. There are too many uncertainties, but I’m hoping for it.

Because God knows, God knows that we don’t have enough in place for us to be hopeful yet. God knows the illness, inequities and sheer number of existential crises that are going on right now.

But, you also know, God, that the Holy Spirit comes for us with radical changes in the crux of her very being.

So today, I will look for the Holy Spirit: for inspiration, encouragement, and yes even hope embodied.

Because even if I don’t have it, maybe I can at least recognize it along the way.

I’m just here, hoping for hope God.

So that is my prayer, that I can continue to hope for hope.

Amen

Image an original mixed art collage “Hope for Jan 20th” by Bea Stenta

Feel free to use or share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Without Ceasing, I Can’t Catch My Breath

God, I know that I am supposed to pray without ceasing.

Prayer is like oxygen. Prayer like breathing. Thrusting all that I am and have and do upon your mercy. Over and over again.

Sometimes it looks more like a raging Psalm, and sometimes it is the endless search for how to pray today.

But God, I have asthma, like most of my family, and breathing is severely underrated.

Too often, I can’t catch my breath. Too often I am trying to hiss a prayer out between my teeth. Feeling like no oxygen is going in…making it hard to breathe or speak or pray.

Stress, might I add, doesn’t help.

And sleep is shaky at best. We joke that everyone has insomnia, and try not to be awkward with one another over our devices, all alone, on little sleep and little breath.

I’ve been angry, I’ve been sad. I’ve dealt with loneliness, depression and hopelessness.

And I keep trying to catch my breath to pray. I know I do not need to speak to pray God, but you understand what I mean.

Here I am. Praying the “I don’t know” prayer, surviving.

I love to pray until the Holy Spirit prays you. Meditating deep enough that your soul find equanimity and respite in prayer.

That’s not the kind of prayers that are going on these days. Its more gasps and sighs, gutterals and selahs. With shoulders hunched over computers, or a quick plea as we rush through the day, or the pondering that keep you awake at night.

Lord, hear my prayers, all of them. Connect the dotted lines of prayers in my life–so like my asthma, even when I struggle there is enough there.

And if I need an inhaler for praying, please provide it to me as soon as possible.

For I am weak and you are mighty.

Amen. Amen.

Seeds of Prayer: Extended Advent Candle Liturgy (with two additional/optional candles

Please Share/Adapt with Credit to Katy Stenta and Please contribute to my Doctorate of Ministry with a Donation. I have PayPal https://paypal.me/KatyStenta?locale.x=en_US Venmo www.venmo.com/Katy-Stenta or Google Pay to Katyandtheword at gmail

About Me: My Story & My Writing

If you would like a word copy of this document (which is probably easier to format) just email katyandtheword at gmail with the subject line advent and I will be happy to send you a copy

Promise, Thanksgiving, Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Christ

Nov 22, 2020 Promise Candle: 

Lord God we give thanks for your covenant

We are thankful that you promise to come again

Just as God freed the Hebrews from Egypt

We remember how faithful God was to Abraham and Sarah, 

Moses and Miriam, and Hannah and Eli

Come let us know God, through God’s promises

We live into your promises, Loving God

Light the Promise Candle

God, we are thankful that every year

You fulfill your promise and become particularly present

every Sunday, every prayer, every gathering in your name,

You are there. You show your love in baptism and communion,

and you reveal your presence through advent and Christmas.

Help us to live into your promises,

every time we wait for Jesus,

we pray. Amen.

Optional Hymns: Great is Thy Faithfulness, Be Thou My Vision, God of the Sparrow, God of the Ages, Whose Almighty Hand, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Nov 29, 2020 Thanksgiving Candle:

Lord we give thanks for your protection and gifts

Glory to be to God, who has filled the world with enough for everyone

When we are in trouble, we have God to pray to

God help us to trust in God

Let us proclaim the good news, God is abundant and gracious

We live into thanksgiving, Loving God

Light the Promise Candle

God,

As we look at all the bounties of the earth,

teach us how to give the sacrifice of praise.

For you have created us this way

so that the more we give thanks

the better human beings we are.

Help us to live into Thanksgiving,

every time we wait for Jesus,

we pray. Amen. 

Optional Hymns: For the Fruit of All Creation, Let All Things Now Living, We Gather Together, Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow

Dec 6, 2020 Hope Candle: (based on Joel 2)

Lord, even now you are calling to us

You promise the trumpet will sound, all wrongs will be right!

We will call the assembly in hope, one way or another we will connect and gather together

We are the congregation: the aged, the children, the infants. We are the people of God

God says, fear not, for I will fill you with my spirit. Live into Hope.

We live into hope, loving God.

Light the Hope Candle

Prayer: Lord, 

in the midst of suffering

and death, remind us 

that love is worth

the cost of hope. 

Teach us to 

enact the world

we hope for we pray.

Help us to live into Hope

every time we wait for Jesus, 

we pray. Amen. 

Optional Hymns: Sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel v. 1, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence v. 1, Live Into Hope, 

Peace Candle: Peace: (based on Isaiah 61:1-4)

Lord, here is the hope!  You have sent us to proclaim the good news to the oppressed, 

We are all called to to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives 

Let us proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

You comfort all who mourn, and give us the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. 

You promise to repair the ruins! Live into peace.

We live into Peace, Loving God!

Light the Peace Candle

Prayer: Jesus

as we see fighting

and lies and hatred.

Show us peace, 

not as a passive thing

but as the power to 

acknowledge each and

every creature’s mutual worth

Help us to live into Peace 

every time we wait for Jesus,

we pray. Amen

Optional Hymns: Sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel v. 3, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence v. 3 Comfort, Comfort You My People or A Place at the Table, Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Dec 13, 2020 Joy Candle: (based on Luke 1:46-56 which is opt for next week)

Lord God this is the time to magnify the Lord

My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant

We are called to see how God has brought down the powerful from their thrones

We need to look and acknowledge and proclaim with joy that it is God who lifts up the lowly

God’s promises are forever! This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
We live into Joy, Loving God. 

Prayer: Holy Spirit,

as we feel the stirrings of Joy

that Jesus Christ is a part of our lives.

Remind us that Jesus

came to help all people

from generation to generation.

Help us to share the Joy it is

to fill every sing person who hungers

with good things. 

Help us to live into Joy 

every time we wait for Jesus,

we pray. Amen.

Optional Hymns: O Come, O Come Emmanuel v. 2, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence v. 2, Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain

Dec 20, 2020 Love Candle: 

God, we sing glory to God in the highest, for you embody love

You take on human flesh, out of love for us

Truly, who embodies love like Jesus?

He has come to teach and to pray, to heal and to disciple, to live and to breathe with us.

Born in a manger, full of hope, peace and joy, that is our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We Live into Love, Loving God

God of Bounty,

We know that you are synonymous with love

To speak of God is to speak of love, 

and to speak of love is to speak of God.

Teach us what love really is: 

Embodying hope and peace and joy all at once. 

Help us to live into Love 

every time we wait for Jesus, 

we pray Amen. 

Optional Hymns: O Come, O Come Emmanuel v. 1 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent v. 3 and/or 4, They will Know we are Christians by Our Love

Dec 24/25, 2020 Christ Candle: 

Let our Soul magnify the Lord

We rejoice in God our savior

God is with us, from generation to generation

Look at what the Mighty One has done for us

God fills the hungry with good things, brings up the lowly, and brings done the powerful

We live into the discipleship of Jesus Christ, Loving God

Light the Christ Candle

Prayer:

Lord God, we know that Jesus is born

Born of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love,

Christ is coming, 

Touch us with your presence we pray.

Help us to live into discipleship

and to see Jesus,

we pray Amen. 

Optional Hymns: What Child is This?, The First Nowell, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

About Me: My Story & My Writing

Please Share/Adapt with Credit to Katy Stenta and Please contribute to my Doctorate of Ministry with a Donation  I have PayPal https://paypal.me/KatyStenta?locale.x=en_US Venmo www.venmo.com/Katy-Stenta or Google Pay to Katyandtheword at gmail

Death by #Suicide, Waiting for Morning

I cry  to you O Lord hear my voice.-Psalm 130:1

In the midst of two very public death by suicide, one female Kate Spade, and one male Anthony Bourdain, both of whom leave beyond tween daughter. I think of all those people who cry out, unheard. I think of the fact that I didn’t know that Kate or Anthony struggled with depression. I think how suicide rates are up 30%, I think of how much we need hope these days.

Let your ears be attentive, to the voice of my pleas

I think about that I sometimes go by Kate and my husband’s name is Anthony. I think of the times both my husband and I struggled with depression, and had to struggle just to get through the day, and how, though not suicidal, and not at the same time, we have both experienced this reality. And even though we were doing everything, seeing therapists and the like, it was so hard to get the help we needed.

And I think of the hard times, I think of when my child with autism has to stay up all night, all night, dealing with days of constipation, and how when that constipation stops, we are up and down to deal with diarrhea. Up in the middle of the night, drinking water, going to the bathroom, changing clothing, cleaning the toilet, up and down, up and down and I can barely think I am so tired. And together my son and I wait for the morning

Starry Night.jpg


6 my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.–Psalm 130:6

I think of those long bleary hours, and I think of Anthony and Kate, who were waiting for the morning, who were stuck  in the night, and couldn’t see the morning.

And I believe, somehow, that God Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, were longing for God, I’m so sad that they died before morning came.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its injustices.–Psalm 130 7-8

If you struggle from depression, please stay with us til the morning. We will miss you if your gone. When the night feels too long or overwhelming, please reach out!

US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741

 

Psalm 130

#PCUSA Overture for #lbgqt

I am writing in support of the overture to apologize to the lbgqt community (this is what you would say if you were at a meeting about this overture). I am in full support because I believe it to be more about safety & the lives of my lbqt family on the line.

(Also I am not representing my church or my Presbytery of Albany since I have not been authorized to make a statement on either behalf. A widely publicized opposing view is here)

Particularly I am thinking about my sister–who is trans and feels unsafe every time she uses the bathroom…or goes to church…or does a million other things. I am thinking of the fact that she lost a trans underclassman to suicide in the last couple of weeks. I will be speaking form the perspective of those who are trans because they are the least of these, within the least of these…the vulnerable in the midst of an already vulnerable community (esp. transgendered people of color, who my sister is not, but I am thinking of theirintersectionality issues of bigotry).  23 transgendered people were murdered in 2015 according to http://www.thetaskforce.org/stop-trans-murders/.

People’s lives are in danger and the church helped to perpetuate that danger. We have a responsibility.

I’m thinking of all those who are still receiving hurt, especially by way of the damaging legislation which started in North Carolina, and is being varied upon throughout the country in MS, GA, MI and TN.

Why not apologize?

  1. I have heard arguments about it being a breach of trust with those who have an conscientious objection to homosexual relationships.
  2. I have also heard it will cause turmoil on the floor; raising the hopes and dreams of our lbqt family only to crush them.

 

First is this apology a breach of trust?

 

My Presbytery proposed the following rationale to be added should we have supported the overture, clearly stating the intention to bring forth transparency not to “point the finger”

“Albany Presbytery acknowledges that the language in this overture may be perceived to single out specific groups within the denomination for criticisms. However, we believe the entire denomination, across all theological perspectives, should be invited into making amends. We would expect the General Assembly to address these perceptions as they deliberate action upon this overture.

“Furthermore, we concur with this overture as a first step in our pledge to work for an even deeper, denomination-wide, opportunity for healing and reconciliation across all theological and political lines, beyond the scope of this overture (up to and including the possibility of requesting a diverse church-wide task force on healing and reconciliation) and invite the General Assembly to join us in that pledge.

More importantly to the first point: Are we saying we did not hurt lbqt people? or Are we saying that they are not worthy of apology? Are we valuing the feelings of those who might disagree with us more than the rampant homelessness, depression, suicides & murder within the queer community? What are we afraid of, truly….

If the issue is hurt feelings of some that we work with vs. lives on the line for a marginalized people, I know where I stand. Its with justice.

As to the 2nd part, we might as well give up and go home now. You are afraid of raising the queer community’s hopes to crash them? Too late, we’ve been doing this for the last 40-50 years. I’ve got news they can take it. I’d rather speak to real hope of someday healing and reconciling than not speaking of the Dream that I have that someday all people can be counted by the content of their character rather than the orientation of their sexual and gender identities (what if Rev. Dr. King refused to raise hopes needlessly?)

A third, more quiet argument I’ve heard is that we can’t force an apology out of some of us who don’t believe it.

I agree.

But we have to start the hard work somewhere, we have to believe in healing. We have to hope. If we can’t hope, then I don’t know what God it is we are following. I hope for reconciliation between all of God’s people, I hope for a love that passes all understanding, I hope for the day when the Kingdom of God allows us to feast together.

If we don’t chose reconciliation it will because we value “being nice” over truth. I cannot help that this move is one that is made from our own privilege…we can wait on the apology because it doesn’t suit us yet…

I can’t believe that any move towards healing is a breach of trust…

And I say this as a pastor of a church that is slowly making its way towards understanding what true welcome of all people mean. I’ve done the hard work, and I know it is worth it. However, healing has to start somewhere, and I would prefer for us to discuss it at the national level, now, when so many are being hurt by US legislation.

That is why I am in favor of the apology overture.

PS: Love is a revolution, take a listen here http://thirtysecondsorless.net/revolution/

 

Reclaiming #mysticism, #prophets & #christianity in Grounded

You probably haven’t noticed this, but prophets are often outside the fold of the norm in scripture.

Whether its Elisha, Elijah or Jesus himself it is difficult for those who stand outside of religion and claim a relationship with God to fit.

This is, no doubt, because humans long for “normatives” we long for a checklist by which to live our lives, some way to say this is the right (and only) way to be in relationship with God and each other.

Of course if we were created to be that way we wouldn’t be the multi-faceted, every learning, gender-fluid beings we are. Our spirituality and sexuality would not exist in complex relationship to each other, and our experience of the world would be all the same.

Its amazing that Christianity has plateaued into a “normative” state for so long.

In Diana Butler Bass’s book she reclaims the ordinary-earth, water, fire and air. She claims them as ways to experience God in mystical and tactile & experiential ways.

Because these days, when people of all ages have been burned by institutions (whether they be courts or government, schools or churches, scouts or libraries) and are highly suspicious of institutional wisdom.

Experience, instead, informs.

Diana Butler Bass talks about our experiences in the following ways…”Adam and Eve are made from hums, placed in Go’ds garden, and directed to care for the soil from which they came….” Land “is the source, the material basis, of the food supply (no dirt, no food, no us); or it may be viewed through the eyes of spiritual awareness, as part of a divine ecosystem….disregarding the ground is sinful and evil” p. 43

Humans are made of dirt ”

And Diana Butler Bass puts poetic narrative to her experience, allowing life to be mystical and mysterious in its particularity and beautiful & beloved in its multiplicity and shared interactions.

She dignifies the spiritual awareness that so many has, with a well reasoned personal narrative, grounded in scripture touching on the ideas of God as home, neighborhood as a state of being and the hospitality of creating a commons to dwell in.

“Spirituality is about personal experience–the deep erealization that dirt is good, water is holy, the sky holds wonder; that we are part of a great web of life, our home is in God, and our moral life is entwined with that of our neighbor.”

None of that tells us a checklist to be healthy, wealthy and wise, “it is about tracing the threads of the interconnected universe.” 238

Diana Butler Bass explores the spiritual revolution as it is unfolding today. I highly recommend reading with an open mind, to understand God, and just how accessible Xi is.

Personally as a pastor, I love to learn about how people understand God to be in their lives, and to me church is/should be the place where we share our differences to enrich our own faith. I hope that mystics are heard especially when they are not understood and help us to change into whatever church is being born today….

 

 

 

 

 

 

#hopewins #notafraid #diwali Practicing Humanity & Defeating #Terrorism

Today is diwali the celebration of light winning over darkness, how fitting a reminder, for me a Christian when mercy and justice are hard to find today.

Fear Not!

Every time an angle appeared, every time God speaks, fear is cast out. God doesn’t want us to live in fear, God wants us to live into hope.

But that’s hard, its hard when attacks occur all over the world on one day–Beruit, Paris, Baghdad. Its difficult when gun violence continues to cause school shooter drills and institutional racism is unveiled again and again and again.

So what I do is, I cry. I pray. I look at the stars. I light candles.

(until we find the right words, we’ll light candles–Martha Spong)

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I live in hope.

This expression is one I use when things are uncertain. I toss it off in casual conversation as though it is easy, but it is so, so difficult.

Worrying is a human past time. Its a way to cope with the reality that evil is in the world. It is a tool that can be overused to the point where we worry too much and forget to live.

Fear also, is interesting. As Christians a tenant of our faith is the fear God. We are not supposed to base our decisions on what could happen, we are not supposed to live our life based in fears, we aren’t supposed to live into the worry and the guilt, because the truth is, we humans do not function well in those state.

When we are anxious and afraid, when we are guilty or judgmental, we make bad decisions.

No doubt, this is why over and over again we are urged only to fear God. “Those who fear God” is an expression in the Old Testament to describe all those who are trying to follow God instead of giving in to other things. But then God tells us over and over again to fear not. And counsels us to hope and trust in what is going on….

Its hard not to fear, not to worry that I’m not secure enough in money or friendships. Its hard when my body does not function the way I want it to, or when my children get hurt from the bad things that go on in the world. Its hard when the news talks a lot about the problems of the world and little about the solutions. Its hard when refugees and children are dying from violence and rejection. Its hard when people proclaim “its not like it used to be” with authority as if evil is new and spreading instead of being old and already defeated by Jesus.

But I live into hope.

I practice not being afraid.

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Building trust, assuming people are trustworthy, treating everyone with respect and kindness.

Because those are hope building practices, and this is how to defeat evil. This is how #hopewins, this is how we defeat #terrorism, not with weapons or policies, but with the refusal to live a life of fear.

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Loneliness & Church

Churches feel like lonely places. It is clear to me that one of the reasons that big churches do so well is because they don’t feel lonely, at least not immediately

•I have no doubt there are many reasons to explore about why churches are having trouble…therefore I am only tackling this one

But walking into an empty-ish church of mostly older age feels…lonely….

The loneliness is everywhere; and worse its palpable.

Here is the thing, pastors talk about this a lot…pastors tend to be lonely but little is talked about the layperson’s loneliness. The feeling that “we aren’t in this religion thing together” any more–we are in it alone.

Perhaps that is why the Spiritual but not religious label hits so hard….What do you mean you can do your religious thing by yourself? Where does that leave us…and me?

Religion can be a lonely place to be right now

I just watched Breuggeman’s Prophetic Preaching on the Old Testament which is wonderful

And he talks about how Prophetic Preaching is the breaking of the totalism (or hegemony), which is a SILENCE that leads to VIOLENCE with an outside voice

Good News is so important

Hope is so important

God is not a God who wants us to have to live and die and do everything alone.

Don’t let the emptiness of the church trick you.

Aren’t we the people of the empty tomb?

Aren’t we the people of the empty cross?

Didn’t God make the world out of the emptiness?

Didn’t God create space within God’s very self to give birth to us?

Didn’t God empty out her very self in the personhood of Jesus Christ to give us new and better life?
Churches don’t have to be lonely…don’t buy into it. The lie of death, the lie of not changing, the lie of security and worries about looks and judgements…..don’t believe these lies

God creates…we are called to create and be CREATIVE with God

To me that work is fulfilling, not lonely at all…

Behold I make all things new!