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Category: Getting Things Off My Chest

Seriously?

Seriously?

A lament…

No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue.

 

 

The whole This American Life episode that includes this song is worth your time.
Lyrics:
Let’s start with hope
I threw it in the middle like a skipping stone
The ripples won, son of a gun
Some would not have thought so
But I stand here Commander in Chief
And I take that seriously

But along the way
A rogue ripple turned tidal wave
In reaction to what I tried to do
A rebirth of a nation’s hatred
Red, white, and blue
Is black in there too?
Seriously?

One man
Rewriting the book on bad behavior
Maybe cheats the neighbors
Feels he gets what they pay for
We can’t
Pat him on the back and send him on through
No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue
Is this the best we can be?
Seriously?

Let’s talk of fear
And why I don’t bring it in here
It’s a dangerous word, it spooks the herd
And we all bleed in the stampede
Fear makes a false friend indeed
And I take it seriously

So hear me now
Before the truth gets drowned out
By a demagogue flexing
A demagogue flexing
He’s history repeating

Angry?
Am I angry?
You ask am I angry?
And I’m at a loss for words
After all we’ve done
Every battle hard won
Every hair gone gray
In the name of this place
In a history plagued
With incredible mistakes
Still I pledge my allegiance to these
United divided States
Seriously

Let’s end with “why”?
It’s a question I
Want to ask of us as a populace
Why not take our time or the weight of this story
Seriously

The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

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Sometime over Christmas break as I queued up the Hamilton music soundtrack for the 4,327th time, Daisy asks me how long ago the musical came out. Not thinking much of it, I casually suggest about a year as an answer. Daisy stares at me quite shocked and demands to know why in the world we are just listening to it now!

So yeah, I may be a bit behind in the Hamilton mania, but trust me, I have fully embraced it and am full-on fangirling 24/7 these days. While I’ve been aware of Hamilton’s existence for a while now (my sister played the soundtrack for us this summer on our camping/hiking trip this summer), it wasn’t until the Trump/Pence/Hamilton cast twitter controversy where I wanted to find out what this show was all about anyway. The first time I listened to the soundtrack of this show that details the life of founding father (and $10 bill guy) Alexander Hamilton, I fell hard. And I have drug my family into the mania too. Just last week on Christmas break, Daisy asked her Gran if she had heard of Hamilton and when was given a disappointing answer proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes (with a bit of help from me, I admit), telling Gran about the amazing music, storyline, actors, and history behind the phenomenon that is Hamilton.

It is at this point in my blogging today that I must urge you with all sincerity, to click away and listen to the wonder that is the Hamilton soundtrack. And I trust that at some point you’ll make your way back to finish this blog post, even if it is after listening 20 or so times, watching Hamilton YouTube videos 37 pages deep, pondering your own reading of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography that started it all, viewing the original White House presentation that led to the musical’s creation, reading the Wikipedia page of not only the musical but the historical characters presented within, gleaning whatever you can from the myriad of interviews with creator Lin Manuel-Miranda, swooning over the mixtape, and watching the incredible PBS documentary of the show at least three times. (Um…so yeah…this may have all been done by me. When I fan girl, I fan-girl hard.)

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These few months following the election of Trump have been tough ones for me and I have been thankful for this piece of artwork that feels relevant and challenging and beautiful at the same time. There is a line in a song near the end of act one, following the battle of Yorktown where the cast stands on boxes, arms stretched wide, and boldly declares that the “world turned upside down.” Is there a better way to describe how the end of 2016 felt? Everything is upside down. I thought I understood our country, our systems, our safety nets, our press. I was so naive.

Coming to grips with this new understanding, I have wanted to return to this space to tell stories and share thoughts and maybe even laugh a little bit together. But everything has felt so disingenuous. How can I share a silly anecdote or a theological pondering when everything around me appears to be falling apart? When dear friends and unknown strangers are living in fear and grief, myself included?

At my best I remind myself that it is the local politics that matter, that my family and friends are healthy, that there are blessings of new life all around, that people are still good, and that God is still faithful. At my worst I lament a system that I put too much trust in and that I know is about to change drastically in ways I’m not sure I’m prepared for. I am learning where my grief and worry should turn inward—towards prayer and study and reflection and conversation that leads my heart to trust more fully in God than in empire; and where my grief and worry should turn outward—towards rallies and letters and conversations and real work. I am not laying down. I am not waiting to see how it all turns out. I am not seeking unity at the expense of justice. Instead, I am daily recommitting to walking humbly, loving mercy, and seeking justice.

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So I’m not expecting to write some political post that goes viral anytime soon, but I know I’ve got a lot I need to say. So here I’ll be, striving to be honest about my real life in the midst of the everyday and the midst of the massive. I hope you’ll join me, the comments are always open.

After all, history has its eyes on us!

 

 

 

 

Finding GRACE in a Foreign Land

Finding GRACE in a Foreign Land

On Sunday morning I woke up for the first time in a while feeling thankful. I was thankful to be alive. I was thankful for the sun shining through my window. I was thankful for a good night’s sleep that had followed a special evening out with my oldest daughter.

But mostly I was thankful to be headed to church.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I have spent many years wrestling with the church. I was baptized United Methodist, and spent my college years in a Jesuit University, but my spiritual life has been primarily shaped by the theology and culture of evangelicalism. As a young adult I began to realize that my values, my understanding of who Jesus is and the life he calls his followers to, didn’t always match up with the messages and the culture of my church.  And as the years went by I drifted farther and farther and fought harder and harder to cling to anything that would let me stay.

It took an act of God to get me to leave.

I had to. I was dying. I was trying to be something I was not and it was killing me. The day I walked away I felt a lightness that only comes with Holy Spirit freedom and liberation.

 

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I know that many of you out there are watching the events unfold around you and wondering if you have a home among your evangelical culture anymore. You are struggling daily to find Jesus there. You are so exhausted by the work it takes to fit. You weep with sorrow over the view your beloved church is presenting to the world of your even-more-beloved Savior and Friend.

For me it took leaving, and then a season of wilderness wandering, of cynical thinking, of grief-filled praying, before the Lord led our family to an Episcopal Congregation. Our first Sunday there were so many things that felt foreign, and so many that felt familiar. It didn’t feel like coming home, but God was so clearly present and working that I was desperate to keep going back and finding Him there.

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This post-election week tore me up something fierce, but I woke Sunday morning grateful to be headed to a church where feelings would be acknowledged, grief would be honored, and unity around the one thing that matters—the body and blood of our Lord—would be celebrated.

We sang about peace. We prayed for peace.

We heard a gospel reading that had never felt so scary or so relevant.

We heard from two members of our community who shared that in the middle of the mess they still held out hope, because of the witness of the people of God found in that room.

We looked each other in our tear-filled eyes and without words reminded each other that while the bottom felt like it had dropped out, like we were falling and flailing, that we would be caught. That we would catch each other and that our God was holding us close.

We stepped forward to eat the loaf and drink the cup, not knowing how our neighbor had voted or why. Instead, knowing that in that moment it couldn’t matter less.

And when we passed the offering plate I raised my voice to join my new friends in the song who’s refrain I was thankful to have to sing five times. I needed to remind myself of this truth and to proclaim it again and again:

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Although we sang “Love is Lord of heaven and earth” which somehow seemed even more appropriate. source

 

Earlier this week I had lunch with a friend and mentor who asked me how things were going at our new church. As I tried to explain the place of being welcomed and loved by a community that in many ways still felt foreign and that while I was grateful to know that I was safe and free to be who God has called me to be…well…the evangelical world was still my home. Turns out even when I’m frustrated or embarrassed or even honestly disgusted, evangelicals are still my people.

“You’re a bit of a religious refugee, aren’t you?” he asked me.

Yes. Yes I am. That is a perfect way to describe me. I am a stranger in a strange land. I am grateful every day for the noble people who took me in and bandaged my wounds and gave me a new picture of God’s goodness and grace and provision. They have welcomed me as an equal and valued member of their community. They are my people now too.

And yet my heart still aches for my first home, and my people there. I wonder if some day I will return. I hope someday to return.

 

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If you are wrestling with your first home, wondering how far they can get from the Jesus you know and love, please know that my new friends will welcome you too. They will let you ride out the storm until it is somehow safe again. They will sing wholeness and healing, peace and love over you. They will show you grace. Buckets and buckets of grace.

 

 

PS: This post by Rachel Held Evans articulates things so much better than my stumbling attempts. Click through and find comfort that you are not alone.

 

 

What to do the morning after…

What to do the morning after…

I cried myself to sleep last night.

And then woke up this morning still carrying the crushing weight of grief and worry. It sits in my gut like an anvil. It makes my hands shake when I try to type and my eyes water over at a kind word or gesture.

As I pulled the covers up over my shoulder last night I remembered the last time I had cried myself to sleep: when our son Tony was taken from us. This crushing weight, this mind-numbing worry, this panic for the future, it all feels very familiar.

So what did I do then? How did I get up and go about life? How did I not lock my doors and shut my windows and keep my family safe inside this bubble that I think I control?

Here’s what I did then:

  • I was very tender towards myself. I didn’t rush to get dressed or put makeup on or get back to business as usual. I let myself grieve. I sat on the floor and sobbed. I laid on my bed and shouted at God. I let myself feel.
  • I dug into Scripture. Into the truths found there. I spoke them aloud even if I didn’t believe them. I let friends speak them to me, even if they made me mad. I knew that ultimately hope and healing would be found within, so I kept going back to those words.
  • I prayed. Sometimes with words, most often with tears. I prayed for my son and for the family he left behind–especially the sisters who didn’t understand his abrupt departure. I prayed for the family he joined. I prayed for the social workers and the people who worried for me. And I prayed for my enemies: for the ones who took my son and scrutinized my actions and told me I wasn’t a good mother.
  • I nourished my body when I could. I gave it long walks and good cheese and the best chocolate.
  • I looked for God’s faithfulness. And when I looked I found it in big and in small ways. I opened my eyes to the wonder that is God’s constant care of me and I was renewed by the gratitude it brought about in me.
  • I answered my children’s questions with the best honesty I could. I let them see me sad, grieving what in no way was right or fair. I showed them a mother daily fighting to choose faith over fear, confident that someday I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.
  • I scrubbed my kitchen floor on my hands and my knees. I gave myself work to do. I sweat it out. I was proud of my labor.
  • I let my people love me. And when I was ready, I got to the work of loving them back.

 

Here’s what I’m going to do now:

  • I’m going to be tender towards myself. I won’t be rushed to get dressed or put on makeup or get back to the business as usual. I will let myself grieve, to cry and wail and sob and feel what I need to feel.
  • I’ll return to the Book that gives life and hope and healing. I’ll speak its words aloud, even if I don’t believe them right now, because I know I will again.
  • I’ll pray. I’ll pray for my friends and my neighbors. I’ll pray for Holy Spirit power over my fears and panic. I’ll pray for those who lost and those who won. I’ll pray for my enemies, and ask God to grow in me a tender heart where I do not see anyone as such.
  • I will nourish my body with movement and with good food. I’ll let myself rest. I’ll drink a Starbucks without regret.
  • I will continue to look for God’s faithfulness and proclaim it when I find it. Because I know it is here.
  • I’ll sit with my children in their feelings too. I’ll show them a woman grieved and grieving, but a woman who will use this grief to fuel her actions. I will answer their questions and hold them tightly. I will remind them of what I know: they are loved fiercely by the God of the universe and the parents to whom God entrusted their care. We will work together to choose faith over fear.
  • I’ll find work to do. Laundry and sweeping. Cooking and crafting. Reading and writing. This is holy and I do it not to distract myself from my pain, but to work my way through it.
  • I will look for love. Always. It is there, it is here. It is all around.

 

When we lost Tony a friend shared these words with me. They comforted me and challenged me in the way Scripture seems to: inspite of everything, keep doing good.

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In her gracious and humble speech today, Secretary Clinton invoked these words from Scripture, and in a similar way my friend had, reminded us to keep doing good. “My friends” she said, “let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”

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So dear ones, if you are grieving with me today let us grieve and cry and work through our pain. Wallow. Sit in it. Wail if you need to. You have my permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling. But at the end of it, we must get back up. Let us not give up or run away. Let us continue to do the good work that God has called us to. Let us together promise to choose faith over fear, to love with abandon, and to look for God’s presence and care because I promise if you look you will find it. It may be in unexpected places and unexpected faces, but it is there. And together we will not only find it, we will become it.

on doubt

on doubt

Note: this post first appeared on my personal blog May 2015.

 

Dear Daisy,

Honestly, I don’t know how this conversation even started (maybe I have should written about it right away, huh?). But then you asked a question,

“Mom, what do I believe as a Christian?”

Oh girl…where to begin?!

I explained a few things, like how we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and came to earth to teach us about God and show us a way to Him; how we believe what the Bible teaches, especially the things Jesus tried to teach; how we believe God created us and knows us, and how we can live forever with him someday.

But then I paused, and I realized I need to answer another, unspoken question.

“But, Daisy, here’s the thing: this is what Papa and I believe. This is what we hope you believe and what we teach you to believe. But you have to decide for yourself what you believe. We can’t force you to believe what we do.”

“Yeah,” you told me. “I believe in God and all that…but sometimes it is hard.”

Can I just tell you how proud I am for you admitting that? That this thing called faith has an element of doubt woven in. That belief isn’t easy.

Here’s what I told you that day, and what I will continue to tell you every time I get the chance:

God doesn’t give us an easy proof for his existence. Faith isn’t easy. Mama and Papa doubt too, and I would venture to guess that most of us who call ourselves Christians do as well.

But here’s the secret: this faith thing is a journey. And the longer you walk along this journey, the more time you spend in reading God’s incredible story called The Bible, the more time you spend hearing the stories of His people, and in experiencing your own, the doubts begin to recede. They may always be there, but lean in to what you know, and trust the rest to God.

A lot of us adults have spent many years trying to “prove” things in the Bible using scientific methods, or sociology, or language study, or whatever tools we can muster to arrive at an undeniable “truth”. We approach the Bible as a book to be understood, if only we work hard enough. We want a list of rights and wrongs, dos and don’ts. We want to be sure we’re on the right side. We love our clichés and easy answers and want to be all about “the Bible clearly says” because gosh darn it, having the right answer always makes life easier.

Papa and I grew up at the edge of this generation, often called “modern” and your generation, clearly rooted in new thought and often labeled “post-modern.” There is so much about this way of thinking that appeals to me: the skepticism, the wonder, the pursuit of justice, the value of story, of community, of art and beauty. You’ll read the Bible for what it says, not what you want it to say. You’ll understand that there is context and culture and language that influence the text in ways you’ll never fully understand.

You’ll find a way to worship in community with others saying, “I’ve studied and I’ve prayed and this is the conclusion I’ve come to…but I could be wrong…” and then you’ll get to the work of Jesus: the loving the poor and the marginalized and the working to right wrongs and restore the broken.

In some ways you guys are going to get this Jesus-following thing so much better than we did.

And so, I trust you when you say “I want to believe, but it is hard.” I know that faith and doubt can co-exist. That you can be a Jesus-follower full of questions and OK with few answers. May this be the prayer of you and your generation:

“Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

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We love you kid and we are so very proud of you,

Mama

Semi-Truck Guilt Trips

Semi-Truck Guilt Trips

Coming home from Portland last week I found myself driving behind this semi for a few miles. And it had me thinking all sorts of deep thoughts about its message painted on the back.

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What? You can’t see it? Let’s zoom in shall we.

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Better?

Now if you’re anything like me your initial reaction might be to do your best to stay in your lane while you stare at the picture and try to make sense of it.

“Did you pray today?” is a fair question (even if asked without the question mark necessary to make it a question). It could be a helpful reminder to take a pause and recognize God’s presence in the moment. It could be a call to think about what you’re grateful for, and to whom you owe that gratitude. It could be just the grace you need to remember that you’re not alone in whatever you are struggling through at the moment.

But when you add the picture that accompanies it, however, all thoughts of the gift that is prayer fly out the window. The picture appears to be a scowling person pointing an accusatory finger my way. Instead of an invitation to participate in the incredible gift that is intimately conversing with the Creator of the universe, it is seen as a demand of my time and effort. And the guilt or shame that accompanies such a picture reminds me of the holiness lessons of my past and the years I spent striving to please God with my righteous behavior.

And don’t even get me started on the verse written here too. Out of context this verse surely implies that there are times and places where God isn’t available, so you best be getting on right now while God is. (Or isn’t? Hard to know if this is the time God is listening or isn’t listening.) Isaiah 55 is one of my favorite chapters in Scripture: full of glorious images of feasting on the goodness of God’s mercy, all for free! When put in the middle of such a picture of grace as this verse is, it is almost impossible not to accept: to seek God because if you do God promises “you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace” (Isaiah 55:12).

Friends, prayer is not an obligation. No, as Richard Foster writes, prayer is “the place of deepest intimacy where we know and are known to the fullest.” It is an invitation to the very heart of God. The place where we lay our burdens and our cares, where we are reminded of God’s goodness and love as God sings over us with joy. It is a place of hope and healing.

If you, like me, sometimes feel that prayer is just another box to check on your never-ending to-do list, may I ever so humbly offer my own experience of coming to realize the gift (not the burden) of prayer and what it really does look like to pray without ceasing…

Prayer is waking up with a song in my heart (often “Good morning God” that my children learned to sing years ago at Bible Study Fellowship) and taking a pause to acknowledge God’s presence.

 

Prayer is engaging with God about the people in my life as I fold each shirt and sock and pair of pants I remove from the dryer.

 

Prayer is my tears joining the water of the shower as I pour my heart out to God. (Yes, I often connect most with God in the shower.)

 

Prayer is driving alone for 10 minutes and choosing to turn off the radio.

 

Prayer is the sing-song grace my children love to offer before a meal.

 

Prayer is taking a deep breath.

 

Prayer is the square of the $9 bar of chocolate I couldn’t really afford but bought anyway on my tongue.

 

Prayer is the recognition of something beautiful.

 

Prayer is laughter.

 

Prayer is outloud in the car with my girls when we hear a siren or see a person asking for money.

 

Prayer is lying savasana on my yoga mat and imagining being wrapped up in the arms of God.

 

Prayer is sitting on a beach, heart unbelievably full of gratitude.

 

Prayer is a hug for a hurting friend.

 

Prayer is asking for forgiveness when my frustration has gotten the better of me. Prayer is hearing “I forgive you mommy,” and knowing it is true.

 

Prayer is stopping for the 15 seconds I need to in order to be faithful when I type “I’ll pray for you.”

 

Prayer is looking through old family pictures. Prayer is trying not to lose it at how big my kids have already grown.

 

Prayer is snuggling down in bed and listing off as many of the gifts of the day as I can before passing out.

And on and on and on. Every moment of every day. I treasure the times I am able to sit for a stretch in the presence of God, but I also treasure the reality that is prayer in every moment. It is holy work this life of prayer. And it couldn’t be richer.

I find myself wondering what should be on the back of the semi-truck instead of that angry pointing. Maybe an open hand? Maybe a smiling child? And would I even keep the words there? Maybe it would just be this:

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What would the back of your semi-truck say?

Daughters, Jesus, & the F-Word

Daughters, Jesus, & the F-Word

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For the past few years my daughters have been involved in a local Wednesday-night girl’s ministry. They have loved the program and it has been a great opportunity for them to learn Bible verses, make friends, be mentored, and grow in their understanding of Christian principles. They were excited to go each week.

But at the conclusion of the end-of-the-year awards night, my youngest leaned over and told me she wanted to join the boy’s club next year. And I didn’t blame her. We had just heard all about the fun things the boys were doing: survival skills, rowdy games, snow cave building, archery, and campouts.

My husband looked over at me and rolled his eyes, knowing that if our girls really wanted to join that boys club, I would fight for them to do so, no matter how many enemies it might make us. (Or maybe I would just have to fight for some big curriculum changes to the girls’ program?)

Honestly, I don’t want to take anything away from the boys and all the cool things they’re doing. I’m just wondering why the girls group isn’t engaging in those kinds of activities too? Sure, my daughters love pink and a good glittery craft. But they also love building forts and going camping. My oldest wants to be an inventor and is really into robotics. My youngest is super athletic and loves a good challenge. I want to do everything I can as their mama to cultivate their interests and encourage learning and play in all the ways God has designed them to learn and play. Seriously, girls AND boys can be both Christ-followers and outdoor adventurers!

You see, I’m a proud feminist. I’m the daughter of feminists. I’m married to a feminist (yep, men can be feminists too). I’m raising feminists.

Last semester at school we read some feminist theology and a lot of my male colleagues had no idea feminism meant “equality for women” and not “men are evil.” I hate that the word feminism has such negative connotations, but I love that my classmates were getting shaken up a little. Over the past few years I have come to embrace Sarah Bessey’s notion of Jesus feminism: “I define feminism as the simple belief that women are people, too. At the core, feminism simply means that we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. That’s it.” Sarah calls this Jesus feminism because it is most-heavenly influenced by the attitude she sees in Jesus.

Just this week a picture went viral that reminded us feminists just how much work we have to do. A mother snapped this picture of two magazine covers:

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Ugh. Just ugh. Girls are told about fashion, makeup, hair, and getting a first kiss. Sure, there is something there about friendship, and a note about getting good grades, but they are pretty buried, especially when shown next to the Boys’ Life cover. Look at all these cool jobs you could have! As the mother who snapped the original photo and wrote to the Girls’ Life editors said, the girl’s magazine is all about “be as pretty as this girl” while the boy’s says “be who you want to be.”

So a big hearty thank-you to Katherine Young for fixing it! Now this is a magazine my budding engineer, artist, athlete, entrepreneur, and feminist would definitely want to buy. And this mother would happily fork out the money to do so.

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Now a change in our family’s schedule meant that the Wednesday night programs were no longer a possibility, but you better believe I would have gone to the mat for those girls if they had asked me to.