Why I Will March

I am not much of a fan for large gatherings. I do not trust the mob mentality. I hate porta-potties. I don’t like shouting or long periods of standing. I don’t own a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt or a pussy hat. I don’t like abortion. I have voted conservatively far more often than not. I consider myself a serious Christian in that I take my faith seriously, apply it to my life vigorously, and have devoted my life’s work to advancing faith holistically. I am a heterosexual, middle class, white woman. And on Saturday, I will go to Washington DC along with many others to march in the Women’s March on Washington while men and women all over the world will march too, in solidarity of one another, for one another.

I march because I believe in the dignity of all people. I march because I stand for the voices that are ignored, silenced, and trampled upon. I march because kindness matters. I march because my Christian faith compels me to. I march because I do not believe we should legislate a morality that conveniently fits us and ignores the reality others face. I march for my daughter, my son’s girlfriend, my niece, and all the other young women I know. I march for my friends who are gay, people of color, Muslim, transgender, refugees, immigrants.

I want them to know that I stand with them. I want them to know that it is not okay to be objectified. I want them to know that they are not disposable. I want them to know that our country is better with their being part of it and that their voices should be heard. I want them to know that while wealth might hold significant power, it is important to stand up and insist upon the dignity and respect for all because it is an essential part of our being human.

How easily we pick causes to be passionate about yet cost us very little. We hold our convictions with righteous indignation yet we live our lives relatively unchanged. As we point fingers we miss opportunities to listen, to be kind, to love, and to help. But convictions are meant to be transformative of the one who holds them, not accusatory of others. Some of the most passionate people I know are some of the most unloving people I know.

I am not a fan of pulling scripture out of its context and applying it to a current situation. That is lazy work, biblically speaking. But in my studies, there are a few passages that have a transcending quality. One of those is Galatians 5:22-24:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

The description Paul, the author of this passage, gives is not about what a person does, but rather the way in which a person does it. I often use these words as a litmus test as I attempt to live out my convictions of faith. This process is what has helped convict me and transform me, when I have been willing. It is far easier to see another as the problem though, isn’t it?

I will march because I want us to do better in being respectful, kind, loving, accepting, and attentive. This is my way of contributing to that work. I expect God to be there and at work as well, in me and through that experience.

Dear 2017

First you should know that I am feeling a bit vulnerable from 2016. While some claim that a year can have no power in and of itself, it still felt like a proverbial punch in the face. Critical thinking and common sense were in short supply, two traits I rely heavily upon and probably more so than I should. Progress turned out to not be quite so progressive. And self-preservation seemed to be the order of the day. Shame on me for not seeing the divides in full. Perhaps I did not want to see them until I was forced to. Maybe I am still not seeing them in full now. I am trying though in spite of my limitations, and I hope that I am learning from my mistakes.

So, 2017, please be gentle.

Second, I am tired. Figuring out what is real and what is contrived has required substantial effort. In 2016 I found myself regularly pinching my arm to see if, in fact, I was awake or rather stuck in a Christopher Nolan script. Facing the question of “What the hell is actually going on?” can be quite entertaining while watching a film but I DO NOT enjoy the experience in real life. Recalibration has been required regularly, and I am resisting the urge to disappear for awhile. Some days can feel like a lot of work – too much work. And some days I question whether the work is worth the effort. I wonder if I am doing the right kind of work, if I am even helping.

So, 2017, please be kind.

Third, I am busy. In light of all of the above, along with some assumptions exposed, hope has dimmed into the distance and I am working hard to reconfigure what hope looks like for 2017. Thankfully it has not dissipated, though there were days I was hard pressed to find it. As a “new normal” sets in, so does the work of discovering how hope works now, today, in light of what is. This is good work to do, keeping hope current, relevant, and active. But it is hard work. I cannot just proclaim hope as a theological concept. Jesus did not heal people theologically. He healed them physically which pointed to the theological. Proclaiming hope isn’t the same as living out hope. To live it out means to integrate it into what I know, understand, and experience in the darkest corners of life.

So, 2017, please be patient.

Finally, I am broken. I have navigated some personal difficulties this past year : shit that was just plain shitty. Life is always challenging, so I cannot really blame 2016. But nonetheless some things came to a head that required a lot of time, energy and difficult decision-making this past year. The decisions were often a matter of choosing the least shittiest possibility. Hurt could not be avoided for any who were involved. I try to live and love well, the best that I am able. But this can be excruciatingly difficult, namely because we, all humans, are imperfect and not always good at living and loving well.

So, 2017, please be loving.

All of this is to say, I know you, 2017, cannot be gentle, kind, patient or loving. I know that I, however, need to keep trying. And I need to be aware of the times when I am not strong enough, taking precautions to not do the opposite. I want to believe in the goodness of people. I want to see the goodness in people. And I want to be that bearer of goodness to others. But somedays it feels like impossible work.

So, 2017, whatever you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

me

Suffering

There is so much suffering.

We don’t have to look far to find it, and we will find it all over the world.

One paradox of the Christian faith is that one finds his/her salvation in suffering. “Take up your cross” Jesus said. I never quite understood or liked this sentiment. I have witnessed too many people playing the martyr in efforts to live out this paradox – be a doormat; stay in a destructive relationship; alienate oneself from others; turn faith into war… I could go on and on. It is exhausting to watch people remain in a suffering state that is entirely of their own doing. And this dysfunction is what I used to equate with the Christian principle of picking up one’s cross.

I don’t think Jesus meant for his followers to choose suffering over healing. If we have a choice, is it even something we can call suffering?

Then today happened…

Today, I might be wrapping my head around what it means to take up my cross.

Today, I saw this:

A friend added these words:

Psalm 44: All day long my disgrace is before me. For our soul has been humiliated in the dust; our belly is pressed to the earth.

Pray and act for Syria.

My disgrace is before me…

My inaction is before me…

My looking away is before me, and it is my disgrace…

The picture is hard to look at, just like so many that have come before it. Syria has stayed on my radar, but more often on the periphery. Mostly because I do not know what to do. I hate how this situation is being handled (or not handled) by governments all over the world. I hate to consider the large scale of suffering. I hate to think about what life must be like for those trapped in this hell on earth.

Enough!

Today, I am picking up my cross.

Today, I am moving towards this monstrosity.

Today, I gave away a percentage of what we normally spend on Christmas gifts to organizations that are providing life-saving relief efforts.

But wait. A few less gifts under our tree? Is that really picking up my cross? It sounds fucking ridiculous as I write it. And yet, I don’t really know. It just might be the one step I need to take today. One step towards the suffering. I am going to keep asking. I am going to keep wrestling with what I can do. And not just for Aleppo.

I think we end up acting less because we fear we cannot do enough. We put down our crosses and ignore suffering because it becomes seemingly impossible to fix. But there is a cost when we do, and it just might be our salvation.

Maybe Jesus meant that picking up my cross is moving towards suffering. One step at a time, slowly – painfully slowly- moving towards the suffering. In this sense, the analogy resonates. It is a long and arduous journey that defies explanation. It is choosing to be burdened. This is what my journey will appear to be, to me at times and to most others indefinitely. People will not understand. It will feel and be difficult. And yet, God will become more real in the process. This is how I will know. My salvation will become more and more real, tangible, and practical as I carry my cross. God will become more real.

Let’s pause though, to address the need and value for self-care. If I am to walk towards suffering, I want to be able to walk that walk for as long as I am able. I must take care of myself. Self-care might seem trite in the wake of the suffering of others. But is it? Do we help others by denying our own needs? The passage that immediately follows the teaching of picking up ones cross is Jesus’ transfiguration. “If you are to follow me, take up your cross.” Then the text says in the next chapter that “Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Suffering and beauty. This is what the text offers, back to back. The text itself seems to affirm a certain tension.

The tension is pursing both life’s difficulties and life’s joys. Taking up my cross isn’t about denying joy. I don’t have to choose one or the other. I move towards suffering. I move towards joy. The more I make peace with the presence of both, the deeper I am able to move towards both. So maybe, just maybe, my salvation is found in suffering. And maybe my salvation is also found in joy.

Today, I donated to four quality organizations that provide practical help to those suffering in Aleppo. I also purchased two tickets for an upcoming concert that my husband and I will attend in celebration of 27 years of marriage. While these two acts done hours apart feels strange, it also feels right. I sensed God’s presence in both acts. I pray that God will lead me towards more paradoxical situations like these.

There is so much suffering in the world. We don’t have to look hard to find it. Will you look away next time you see it? Or will you walk towards it?

May your path bring you both towards suffering and joy so that in that space, you will meet God.

 

Dis/Connect

I have done many things over the course of my 47+ years of life. I have played many roles. I have held a variety of jobs, some paid and some not. I have lived in many places – 11 states to be exact. In many ways, I think I have spent most of my adult life responding to my surroundings, as opposed to initiating what I want and pursuing that. Up until 2000, I lived a gypsy’s life and enjoyed the experiences. With as much as I appreciate my life, I have at times missed having a specific calling. I wondered, if at 20 I was encouraged to explore my heart’s desire professionally, what would I have chosen and how would I have worked towards that?

I suppose this is why with my two kids, I have been intentional about daring them to dream. Dream specifically, I said. Dream big. I have countered the world’s wisdom by encouraging them not to think in terms of paychecks and financial security, but rather to explore their passions, talents, and how they might help make this world better. I have wanted them to live lives that they are proud of, lives that inspire others. I have heard parents say, “I told my kid that (s)he has to think more practically, to have a backup plan.” I cringed every time I heard this. Why the fuck are we telling our kids to dream a little smaller? <sigh> But I digress.

While I may not have spent much of my adult life dreaming in specifics, I realize that there has been something underlying the bulk of my pursuits. I have been passionately driven about connecting. There is potentially nothing worse than being disconnected. Feeling alone leads to a significant and overwhelming sadness at times. Disconnectedness can cause some to self-medicate. It can drive others into deep mental illness. And it takes some to the point of no return through suicide.

I see evidence of disconnection everywhere I go. I see it in our eyes. I hear it in our conversations. I sense it in our non-stop-busy lives. And I want to tell you that there is great power in connecting. I connect with God through nature, with creation through gardening, with myself through meditation, with others through meaningful and fun conversation. These experiences and many others contribute to my wellbeing. They make me more certain of who I am in the world. Connection brings contentment. And when I struggle with someone or something, connecting helps. Connecting might not be the solution, but it helps me work towards the solution.

Connecting has been instrumental in maintaining my sanity. Sanity can be hard sometimes. Very hard. Disconnection is like a cancer that invades our bodies, often silently at first. And if untreated, can become deadly to our minds, bodies, and/or souls. But connecting can be difficult. We can be surrounded by people we love yet feel utterly alone. And often what initially might feel like connection turns out to be a superficial substitute. Connection requires work. And some of us are clueless about how to do that work.

Maybe that is why what I do has rarely been my priority. Whatever my role – mom, neighbor, friend, chaplain, pastor, administrator – my goal is connection. Connection occurs on a variety of levels. It might be person to person or it might be person with resources. It could even be as simple as connecting a person to his/her own thoughts and feelings. We experience disconnect in so many different ways. And the opportunities to connect are equally diverse.

Perhaps this all started coming together a few years ago when I first encountered the idea of shalom – a hebrew word that is translated “peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.” The concept in a religious context suggests a fullness of peace that God restores through connection of self to all else. When I first learned about shalom, I discovered a “salvation” that inspires me. Up to that point, salvation had often been reduced to my own sin. But that is one small part of the larger problem of disconnect. I know plenty of “righteous” folks who are significantly disconnected. Shalom is far more expansive and what my heart has longed for. Connecting is my path for its pursuit.

May we all feel a sense of connection today. And may we all be a connecting point for another.

I Choose

I choose love over hate.

I choose faith over fear.

I choose hope over despair.

I choose good over evil.

I choose joy over cynicism.

I choose to laugh and cry.

I choose to believe.

I choose to be inspired.

I choose to seek ways can make a difference.

I choose to stand up for those who cannot do so for themselves.

I choose prayer over gossip.

I choose reconciliation over division.

I choose gratitude over self-centeredness.

I choose peace.

I choose kindness.

I choose life.

May God help me to live my choices which often contradict my very nature.

Amen.

Finding Time

Time is a mysterious thing. Sometimes it feels like a friend, sometimes like an enemy. In other words, there is always more time… until there isn’t. How much of our time is spent on things we want to do? Of course we all have the things we’d rather not have to do. For me, that’s cleaning, folding laundry, traffic, waiting in lines, working on a budget, cleaning. (I really hate to clean.) Some are unavoidable, and some are good for me in spite of my displeasure. Real life is always going to be about balancing the things we want to do with the things we have to do. There is no such thing as a perfect job or a perfect life or a perfect relationship that is void of what we don’t like.

With that said, do we pay attention to how we spend our time overall? Is it time to reevaluate? I currently have a lot on my plate. I have a part-time job that provides me some income. I have a more-than-part-time job that I love but doesn’t pay. And that continually raises questions about whether or not I am doing what I should be doing. I have family and friends that I want to spend time with and I have obligations that I have already committed to. What is getting neglected in all of my busyness is my writing. And yet writing is one of the most rewarding things I do. I don’t make any money from doing it. I’m not a blogging sensation. But writing is my time to sit and dig deep. I write for the sake of sorting and then articulating my thoughts, whatever thoughts I choose. So why do I let it go?

This is where time becomes my enemy. I have either consciously or subconsciously determined that writing is optional as evidenced by the lack of writing I have been doing. And yet when I consider what I want from my life, it shouldn’t be negotiable. How much time will I let pass, assuming that there is always tomorrow, only to realize that I have moved in and out of countless experiences, thoughts, or ideas of which I could have written about? How many words will never find the page because I assumed I would get to it tomorrow?

I wonder how much of our lives are spent in obligation, powerless because we have unknowingly relinquished our power. While there are many things I cannot control, and while there are many things that must be done that I would rather not do, I have the ability to make sure I do include substance, joy, purpose, and pleasure as part of my life. And those things are accomplished through my writing, even in just a few hours here and there for a little blog that might not break any records but is building a legacy of my thoughts, my ideas, my hopes, dreams, heartaches and experiences. I love that about my writing.