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I was so happy to hear Parker Palmer's comments on Sunday morning here in Ohio. I especially loved his comment on Jesus' words: "Be not afraid." As a minister myself, I have struggled with these words on a personal basis because of my own life fears and on a public basis as I have attempted to preach about it. When he said that Jesus didn't say that we shouldn't have the normal fears that often accompany human life, he said not to become our fear, I felt my heart leap. Our economic situation is frightening as I witness my friends lose jobs and struggle to find new ones. Though I feel that my jobs as a social worker and part-time pastor are pretty secure, one never knows. Because of state and federal budget cuts to human services, I am not guaranteed a job if something happens to my current position. I witness my clients who face medical crises (I work at a hospital) and how they struggle to stay financially solvent when it is becomes more and more impossible. I listen to them struggle with how to make sense of severe medical issues in theological/spiritual/religious ways. And I feel the sense of unrest as people struggle to trust their elected leaders and whether or not they really have any clue at all what middle America thinks or needs.

The concepts of trust and of living in community sustain me more now than they ever have. I think that if people are going to survive beyond these times, we need to pull together and make sure that people are being fed, nurtured, comforted and enjoyed. I preach about the building of community frequently on Sundays because I am hoping that people will look at the church as a means of finding that community and remaining hopeful in God and in each other.

I want to affirm the qualities of compassion, acceptance, honesty, healthiness and love in myself and in the people in my life. In my family and in my church I focus on the wonders of diversity and that God is open to everyone, no matter what his or her journey has been. I encourage people to listen to the undertones of messages because sometimes very judgmental ideas can be conveyed in terms that seem, at least on the surface, to be inclusive and positive. (The term "family values" comes to mind since it is really about a heterosexual couple with 2.4 children, etc.) I also remind people that God gave them a brain and God expects them to use it and not allow themselves to have their faith spoon-fed to them.

I hope that we will learn from this economic crisis the difference between what we need and what we want. American culture seems to be so much about "I want what I want when I want it." We have stockpiled a lot of "stuff"--far more than we need. I hope that the shortage of money helps us to become more creative in how we spend time together and makes us see that it is our human connections that are really important. I hope that we become more grateful for what we have because even in this economic downturn, it is still more than most of the world's poor will ever know.