kindom musings

Thoughts and musings from a pastor in the peace tradition. Perspectives come from a progressive, justice-minded, feminist position. Responses are welcome.

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States

I am a Church of the Brethren pastor in my thirties. While I love what I do, I started out with plans to be a veterinarian. God has a great sense of humor, and I wound up in ministry instead. However, my sojourn into veterinary science did make me a vegetarian with a love of animals. (We have two cats and a dog at home -- only a small petting zoo!) My husband is also ordained, and we have a son (LB) and a daughter (KB). My husband keeps me up to date on baseball trivia, and my children keep me giggling. All in all, it makes for a well-rounded life. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved several times for school and work, and have recently returned to my home state. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFP.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Moment of Silence

It seems impossible to be in America or to American today without giving at least a passing thought to 9/11. Whether or not it has forever changed perspectives on life and living remains to be seen, but for those who remember where they were at the time (98% of Americans, according to one poll), it definitely marked the end of a kind of innocence.

My husband shared a comment he had heard recently that Americans seem to put more emphasis on anniversaries than (most?) other countries. I don't know how accurate that is, but we certainly do a lot to memorialize them here.

In even short stints of television watching, I was immersed in a sea of testimonials, reflections, and commentary. And now, here I am, adding yet another drop into the ocean of sentiments. Actually, what struck me most were the moments of silence, the spaces where no choruses sang, no politicians spoke, no names were read, no bells were tolled. In those moments, people just remembered... and breathed. Five years ago, breath caught in our throats as our eyes took in what seemed impossible. Plane crashes, collapsing buildings, wondering what was going to come next seemed to interfere with even basic requirements of living. And when we finally realized that we were holding our breath, we exhaled heavily and and raggedly, aware of those who would breathe no more. We were left gasping for comfort, to hold loved ones, to make sense out of the senseless, or to find justice, whatever that meant.

Five years later... what has truly changed? We have hunted terrorists and have destroyed other building and lives in the process. Our questions, confusion, and anger remain just below the surface. Unable to "track down the enemy," we have instead hunted others on a target list. I can't help but think that we have created more sorrow around the world than comfort. Some of those whom we named heroes now struggle with lung conditions from taking in harmful chemicals while they tried to rescue victims in the towers.

But today, today those moments of silence reminded me, and perhaps others, to breathe. To intentionally breathe is to consciously participate in life, to replace what is poisonous with what refills our cells with pure air. In simple breathing, I am reminded that God, spirit, and air are closely related. To be inspired is literally to be "God-breathed." Genesis speaks of God giving life to the first human by breathing into Adam, the creation made from dirt. Our intentionality to breathe without trying too desperately to fill emptiness may be our strongest defiance against death. It is easy to scream and yell for someone to blame. It is harder to listen to what others are saying and even harder to use our breath to utter words in prayer for our enemies. Hardest yet may be to whisper in faith that we will attempt to love in the midst of hatred, to forgive as Jesus forgave, to refuse to follow the example of those whose actions we deplore. Justice should be denied, and yet as a Christian I cannot condone violence as retribution. There must be another answer.

I begin with taking a deep breath...


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