FROM SEA TO SHINING PARKING LOT

Citizenship drivethroughMay the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. Psalm 67:4

 

The Corona virus pandemic has changed just about everything in the United States, including how people are sworn in as citizens of our nation. Steve Hartman reported on CBS this weekend that “Immigrants who’ve completed all the requirements of citizenship are pulling into parking lots from San Diego, to Des Moines, to Detroit for socially distant naturalization ceremonies.” Drive-thru citizenship ceremonies? Well, in this time of social distancing and health experts’ recommendations not to hold large gatherings to keep from spreading the virus, being sworn in as a new citizen while sitting in your car has been the next best option. One such immigrant, Kwame Asante is from Ghana and came to the U.S. forty years ago. “Just to be an American is like close to paradise,” he told Hartman. “It’s given me so many opportunities.” Asante is a respiratory therapist, one of the “essential workers” smack in the middle of the pandemic. “He says he’s not scared,” Hartman reported, “now that he’s a proud American. ‘Even if I die today,’ Asante says, ‘I’m OK.’”

 

As a counselor in Minnesota’s state college system for three decades, I was honored to assist students from several dozen nations. They came on student visas, as war refugees, or directly through the immigration process, but most had one common goal: to start a new life in a nation filled with opportunity. I have heard their stories of coming from countries rife with hardship, loss, tragedy, and complete disregard for their human rights. Many endured years in refugee camps with deplorable conditions. What must it have been like to step off an airplane or a ship and take their first look at this proud land which has practiced “the great experiment” called Democracy for nearly two and a half centuries? I was humbled to be at their service during their time at the colleges where I worked.

 

This Fourth of July, I am reminded that, unless we are one hundred percent Native American, we are all immigrants. Remember Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), calling this “the second greatest commandment” after loving our Lord.

 

Healing Lord, let us continue to be a nation welcoming immigrants and making them part of “us”. Amen

 

Meg Blaine Corrigan finds ideas for her devotional blogs in everyday places and events, from comic strips to magazines and books, comments on the fly from people she meets, ancient memories of her childhood, and nigglings from God. Meg has written a Christian devotional blog for several years that has been read in over 40 countries by 9000 people. A compilation of blogs, Saints With Slingshots: Daily Devotions for the Slightly Tarnished But Perpetually Forgiven Christian, was published in 2015. Meg is working on a second book (Saints TWO) which she has hopes of completing by Christmas, 2020. Her first book, Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child, is a memoir about her childhood with an alcoholic mother and a co-dependent father. The book also chronicles Meg’s astounding rescue from the hands of a gun-wielding rapist, a tragedy turned holy, a powerful message of hope in her darkest hour. Meg is a retired college counselor and former social worker. Meg enjoys spending time with her husband, their four daughters and spouses, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, as well as their rescue dog, Bassett/Beagle mix Ginger. Meg and her husband Patrick play and sing in the contemporary worship band at their church, Christ Lutheran in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. She also volunteers with sexual violence/sex trafficking prevention and education. She speaks to groups whenever she if offered the opportunity. She is a voracious reader of other people’s writing, which gives her lots of ideas for more devotional blogs. Read more about her at www.MegCorrigan.com or contact her at MegCorrigan@comcast.net .

SADNESS

SadnessBe gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. Psalm 31:9

 

I am incredibly sad. As I write this, the Covid-19 cases and deaths are on the rise again, after many states in the US opened up many public venues against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control. As I embraced my sadness, I began to think how much worse the situation is for others in our nation—and in the world—than it is for my husband and me. We are retired, and although we are at higher risk to contract the Coronavirus because of our age and some underlying health conditions, we do not have to leave our home to do much of anything. We can order groceries from home and stay away from public gatherings, plus we have sufficient retirement income so we do not need to work at this point in our lives. We are truly blessed. Others are not so fortunate: they may be forced to work as an “essential employee” and they have many more worries and responsibilities than we do. So…if I’m sad, I cannot imagine the anguish some others are experiencing now. Add to that the current racial unrest following the murders of a number of innocent Black citizens at the hands of police, and we have a powder keg of sorrow, fear and anxiety on top of the pandemic.

 

As I thought about all these people and what they are going through, I was reminded of a favorite Christian song of mine, “Held” written by Christa Wells and first recorded by Natalie Grant. The lyrics relate unspeakable tragedy in the lives of those who have suffered greatly. The chorus reminds us that God is always there and that His promise is to hold us in our darkest hour. The moving words of the song continue: “This is what it means to be held/How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life/And you survive.” For those of us enduring the triple catastrophe of the pandemic, the economic downturn, and the deep-seated racist issues facing our nation, we can know that our God cares and is holding us up when we don’t believe we have the energy to stand.

 

Great God of Compassion, hold us when we are too weak to go on. Amen

 

To listen to the song, “Held” performed by Natalie Grant, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJhsexd8Qqg

EZEKIEL AND THE DRY BONES

Valley of the Dry BonesHe brought me out by the spirit of the Lord…in the middle of a valley…full of bones. There were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Ezekiel 37:1-3

 

“Not quite two weeks after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a now-former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, it (was) already clear that what happened to him—and the protests that followed—will be in history books someday,” reported Time Magazine. “The moment is not only a striking turning point in an ongoing Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality, but also set apart by a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting African Americans.” The questions remained: how long would the protests continue, and would there be real, sustainable, systemic change in the way police interact with the black and brown populations in the United States? I am standing on God’s promise that love will overcome hate and peace will replace outrage.

 

The story of Ezekiel and his vision of the dry bones has some parallels with the George Floyd killing and the world’s reaction. The ruthless Babylonians destroyed the temple in Ezekiel’s hometown of Jerusalem in about 587BC. The Israelites were discouraged and thought God was not powerful enough to protect his chosen people. But God gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley of skeletons and instructed Ezekiel to prophesy hope to the bones. Flesh and sinews appeared on the bones and God breathed physical and spiritual life into them. The vision meant that the Israelites would survive the oppression they were experiencing. More importantly, the people would survive because of God’s power and love for them throughout their dismal circumstances.

 

Ezekiel’s story became popular among black preachers after the Civil War. James Weldon Johnson even wrote a song, “Dem Bones,” which became an anthem for early black social movements. And today, we see the Black Lives Matter movement engaging the entire world in support of humane treatment for people of color. God can put new life in those who have been oppressed far too long. Let us all work towards a world of zero oppression.

 

Lord, speak to the weary bones and hearts and souls of the oppressed. Let them feel Your resurrecting power. Amen

TONGUES OF FIRE

George Floyd ProtestsThey saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of (the disciples). All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them….”How is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” Acts 2:3-4, 8

 

It was a perfectly awful storm: a deadly pandemic, an economy in freefall, and suddenly a racial crises…again. The year 2020 had devastated the very soul of America with fear, pain and anguish culminating in the death of yet another black man at the hands of police in my neighbor town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. George Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill at a small inner-city grocery store, and the police were called. Three officers pinned Floyd to the ground, one—Derek Chauvin—pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck. A fourth officer looked on. As passers-by begged the police to let him loose, Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe!” until he lost consciousness and died. He had not been charged with a crime and most likely would not have seen a jail cell for his alleged infraction. His death sparked peaceful protests throughout our nation, once again, about racial injustice and police brutality. Other protesters with a very different agenda launched attempts to disrupt, divide, and burn Minneapolis and other cities to the ground. Hatred grew where grief and sadness had been. Hatred tasted good to some, as they rolled it around on their tongues, spewing lies and inciting violence.

 

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, when Christian churches celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the fledgling church that Christ began. Acts 2 recounts how “tongues of fire…separated and came to rest on each one of” the disciples (v. 2). These new leaders were all Galileans, but diverse visitors in Jerusalem heard the message of Christ’s love and grace in their native language, drawing them to a new level of faith.

 

Could this be the turning point in our nation, when blacks and browns will be heard as if we are all speaking the same language? Can we finally say to people of color, “We hear you, we understand what you have been through, and we want change as much as you do?”

 

Let it be, Lord. Let it be. Make a covenant today between all races to end prejudice and hatred. Amen

 

To help out in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, see the following organizations:

  • Black Visions Collective — “A political home for black people across Minnesota.” This nonprofit is dedicated to creating safe, autonomous black communities. Donate here.
  • Reclaim the Block — A coalition that demands that Minneapolis divest from policing and invest in long-term alternatives that promote healthier, safer, and more diverse communities. Donate Here
  • Minnesota Freedom Fund — This nonprofit “pays criminal bail and immigration bond for those who cannot afford to” as they “seek to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing.” Donate here.