These days, Mother Earth tilts, once again, in near perfect balance during her graceful spin around the sun. Here are some thoughts on living with another kind of balance, hidden in competing realms of formal and informal power.
Let’s begin with what my good Episcopal friend Jim Kelsey, now traveled on, would, often in dismay, call the “zero sum game.” It’s the one most of us play when we’ve lost touch with our spiritual life. What’s left, then, is an unspoken, desperate, winner-take-all contest. Take your pick: politics, athletics, medicine, art, health, religion. In any of those worlds, social status, recognition, and financial rewards fall, unapologetically, to envied front-runners.
Prophets, outlaws, monks and mystics have always known that scenario to be a lie. They remind us there are actually different worlds always at play, competing deep within each of our lives. It takes courageous hearts to keep remembering that.
The beloved, but often hotheaded, foul-mouthed 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther was convinced of this truth as well. He left a legacy of what he called the “Two Kingdoms.” Both realms are blessed and necessary, he taught. But only one finally lasts. In the first realm, kings and queens will be forgotten, he thundered, nations will crumble, and those with great financial wealth, more frequently than not, tend to end up isolated and finally betrayed by those closest to them.
In contrast, the “informal” kingdom built on kindness, justice, courage, and generosity of spirit is the one, Luther believed, will be left intact at the end of history. The trouble is that kingdom is invisible. Too often, its proponents are seen as weak and ineffective. And, ironically, threatening to those ensconced in conventional power, or who rest in privilege of office.
The regional area of the denomination in which I am a member will soon be electing a new bishop. So, to clergy serving small, forgotten, rural congregations, those living with disabilities, suffering emotional and physical illnesses, refugees with no homes, and the rest of us sorting out where we fit in to the scheme of things . . .
In a city where I once worked, I had on my volunteer board a pastor who served an inconspicuous, relatively poor parish. He was, at times, mocked by colleagues for his style of dress and manner. But I soon discovered, to my surprise, that he read the human soul and understood group dynamics like no one I had ever met. He would pass on that wisdom to me in a whisper before a meeting, or over a cup of coffee in his cluttered office for which a tattered curtain served as a door. One morning I woke up. I was smiling. In a dream he appeared as my bishop.
I learned something about church politics that night. There are elected bishops. And real bishops, some elected, some not. Enough said.
- The Interfaith Northern Great Lakes Water Stewards 2016-2020
- Community Connections
- Mind/Body Medicine
THE INTERFAITH NORTHERN GREAT LAKES WATER STEWARDS 2016-2020
This spring two NMU student interns, Jordan Mattarella and Haley Bussell, completed writing ten public service announcements on behalf of the interfaith Water Stewards, ready soon for distribution on radio stations across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
On Friday evening at 7 P.M., April 28th, Scott Herron, PhD, a member of the Odawa Indian community and an ethnobotanist at Ferris State University, will present “The Gift of Water: Perspectives from the Native American World” to an open public gathering at Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette. This important work continues.
To learn more, visit our Water Stewards page.
Special thanks to Alison Crockett who in February and March helped facilitate a CTI six week support group (“Journey”) for seven individuals living with chronic pain.
On 1/23/17, CTI’s Director made a presentation on “Spirituality, Ethics, and the Environment” for the U.P. Land Conservancy. On 3/26/17, he served as liturgist and preacher for Grace Lutheran Church in Gwinn and on 4/5/17, served as one of six homilists for Good Friday Lenten Services at Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette.
In March, CTI’s Director served as a co-presenter with Paul Lehmberg, on “The Dynamics of Religious Experience” for Frannie Belton’s Sociology Class at Northern Michigan University. On 3/21/17, thanks to an invitations from Ruth Almen, he facilitated “The Great Work: Life’s Final Transition” for a Seniors’ Day event at Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp in Crystal Falls.
NOTE: Ruth Almen heads to Nevada in late April to work in a new position with a well-known Cleveland Clinic affiliated agency dealing with neurological disorders. She will be their Social Work Coordinator. During her years in the Upper Peninsula, she has been an extraordinary gift with her beaming smile as a friend to CTI, a community organizer, social activist, teacher, and remarkable leader in the interfaith community.
Prayers go with her!
Watercourse Way III (November)
Tai Chi Classes (June – August)
The Iron Butterfly (June) Mind/Body Practices for Health and Wellness
The Zaagkii Project (July) in Partnership with Chocolay Township
and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
The Janus Fall Seminar (September) for Hospice Workers and Volunteers
EVEN THE BUDDHA NEEDED BENEFACTORS
Our thanks! We’re here so far because of you, 122 benefactors from all walks of life.
Among them… retired social workers, a math professor in New York, two coffee farmers in Hawaii, a businesswoman in California, a bookkeeper for an addiction treatment center, a geography teacher and his wife in Tallahassee, a seminary student, a retired mechanic, a logger, a truck driver, and a retail clerk.
We plan to carry on in 2017 with the planting of 500 Northern white cedar trees, projects to support hospice staff, and an unwavering commitment to keep building interfaith initiatives that address environment issues in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pray for us.
CTI is a nonprofit organization initiating projects & providing services in the areas of mental health, religion & the environment.
One-third of our services are pro bono. Counseling services are available with Jon Magnuson (MDiv., MSW) and are covered by most insurances.
For information contact us at 403 East Michigan Street, Marquette, MI 49855 or contact us via email. Telephone & Fax: 906-228-5494
The Spring 2017 Equinox Newsletter is brought to you by Cedar Tree Institute.