Seethe

A Just Anger

Anger shines through me.
Anger shines through me.
I am a burning bush.
My rage is a cloud of flame.
My rage is a cloud of flame
in which I walk
seeking justice
like a precipice.
How the streets
of the iron city
flicker, flicker,
and the dirty air
fumes.
Anger storms
between me and things,
transfiguring,
transfiguring.
A good anger acted upon
is beautiful as lightning
and swift with power.
A good anger swallowed,
a good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime.

Marge Piercy

 

There is a long-present seethe that is spilling into the consciousness of our nation.

The roil has to do with this:  For too long, women have lived in fear.

For too long, women have had to weigh everyday choices about how it is they can be fully alive and safe.

Choices like:

What can I wear?

Where can I walk during the day or night?

How can I express myself?

Where and how can I lead?

Who has power over the choices I make about my body and my sexuality?

How will I respond to the subtle and not-so-subtle messages about my being as a woman?

Can I go to a bar or a park or a church or a school or a party or a meeting without being constantly vigilant about my physical and soul safety?

Women across this nation and across the world are giving voice to the seethe of frustration and fury.

Women and advocates for women are no longer content to be under-represented in our civic, and religious lives.  Disproportionate numbers of women and children are poor.

A recent article named the prevalence of how is women physicians and academics are often introduced by their first name rather than by the title of the role they have earned through decades of work.  Women leaders endure comments on what they wear and how they look while the brilliance of their thoughts and minds and perspectives seem to be also-rans.

This objectifying and minimizing can go on no longer.  It cannot.

I am the mother of two daughters.

I know they ask the above questions every day of their lives.

I know they live the “Me Too” of this broken way of being woman in this world.

Me too.

I am seething.

Best of all, I am not alone nor am I powerless.  My anger does not have to be swallowed or “clot my blood to slime”.

A good anger has the power to change systems of oppression.

A good anger transfigures the world.

Our sisters, brothers, daughters and sons are needful of a time when the full potential, particularity and power of all of God’s createds is alive and transformative in this world.

We cannot afford this desecration of women.

We will not afford this desecration of women.

Seething is energizing action.

It is past time.

 

 

 

Manger

Today Christ United Methodist Church is celebrating.

We are cutting the ribbon on THRIVE! Child Care and Family Resource Center.  THRIVE! is located on the first floor of our building.  This church took stock of its abundance and determined that we would use what we have to build the future.

We raised money.  We gutted our first floor.  We built room for 82 children to learn that the world is a safe and fascinating place.  All of these things we did because we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to open our hands and hearts.

Whilst the world around us is tattering itself with partisan violence, we are using who we are and what we have to build an oasis of grace.

I’m pretty sure that’s the call placed upon our lives.

We are doing this work because we believe we are called to dismantle systems of oppression.  Those systems begin their insidious work before first breath is drawn. We want to break the cycle of poverty.

We believe that is our call.

We can’t eradicate poverty and want for all children.

But by God, for 82 children, we will do what we can.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow.

And oh, praise God for courageous faith-filled dreamers who believe in their call to ministry.

 

 

witness

The church, writ large, is the Body of Christ.

We do many things as that Body.  We visit the sick, hold spaces for life passages, feed the hungry, and provide community from which to draw meaning and heart.

Being church is a verb-y kind of thing.

We are both a building and a story, a place full of persons and a movement grounded on the teachings of Jesus.

During these days when children are being separated from their parents and housed in holding pens, the Body of Christ is pierced.

Jesus was a refugee.  Jesus fled with his family to safety.  He and his family found asylum in Egypt.  They stayed there until it was safe to return home.  The body of the Christ was saved because his parents summoned the courage and grit to get their beloved son to safety.  They were not turned away or separated at the border.

While children’s lives are being scarred on our Southern border, the Body of Christ called church cannot remain silent.

Remaining silent condones desecration of Holy teaching.

Remaining silent denies the story that Jesus taught, lived, and lives yet.

The Body of Christ cannot remain silent while the civic-authority-challenging apostle Paul’s words are used by government authorities to stifle outrage.

This issue cannot be muffled by the finger pointing theatre of  partisan politics.

The jousting and howling over who has done what in the political arena is meant to distract.  The prophet Isaiah speaks to the nation of Israel with clear reminder of the gratuitous distraction provided by mud-slinging and moral trumpeting:

“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom be like the noonday. ” (Isaiah 58: 9b – 10)

There are children and mothers and fathers and a nation calling for the people of Jesus the Christ to stop the pointing of fingers.

We have so much work to do.  There are systems of oppression to dismantle, light to shine into the caged places in our own nation and hearts, and voices to raise.

Let’s be about that.

 

 

energy

Pastors and church building managers have an important relationship.  I have been blessed to work with some of the finest.

One of the managers I worked with was from Laos.  He was new to the country and new to Christianity and Kevin made home in our church.  In the most important of ways, building managers understand that people come to church seeking a place to call home.

Kevin sought to create harmonious space.

After working at the church for a few months, Kevin asked to speak with me.  He had a worried look. on his face.  His concern?  The energy in my office was all wrong.  The color of paint – yellow – was too vibrant and the placement of my desk was all wrong.  My desk chair was in a straight line path from an outdoor scene featuring a cemetery and the main office door out to the commons area.

There was too much energy flowing in that pathway, and I was right in the middle of it.  He worried for my well-being.

We made changes.  We painted the walls a soothing sage green and moved my desk so that I wasn’t in the midst of energy onslaught.

I was so touched by his care and I felt the effects immediately.

It’s a new year.

Last year felt like an energy onslaught.  My soul often felt sliced by forces that felt run-amok.  National politics, the distress of the earth, the tiresome wrangling of the United Methodist church over issues of full inclusion and the desire to do something to witness for hope and in order to provide some home for those seeking it in Rochester made for sometimes bad Feng Shui.

Maybe you felt it too.

This year I want to rearrange the furniture.  I want to be wise about where I place myself and what it is that surrounds me.  There’s enough jangle in the world.  I don’t want to amplify it or be sliced by it.

There is powerful work to do.  We get to do it together.  The energy of the Holy is breathing us into being the kind of movement that creates welcome and grace.

We can do this in ways that bless.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

sad sad sad

A beloved children’s book taught our family the power of Koko the signing gorilla.

Koko signed a three word litany when her beloved kitten Ball was killed.

She knew the way of grief. She knew how to express it:

Sad sad sad.

I know the way of grief, but I struggle in these days with how to express it.

The money and power grab evidenced in the recently passed tax bill bespeak a nation made belligerent about being morally compromised. Folded into the removal of supports for college students and the poor is the agreement that our nation will now allow drilling in the Arctic Wildlife refuge.

Turns out there is no refuge from those who must drill drill drill.

The phallic imagery is intended.

There is a close race in Alabama between a man accused of drilling into the future of girls running against a man who sought to bring to justice Klan members responsible for the bombing of a church that killed four black girls. This is a contest?

Our nation’s president, forever caught on tape boasting of perpetrating violence on women because he is rich and powerful and can do as he likes is championing the man who has helped himself to young girls because a despoiler of girls is better in the halls of power than a Democrat.

And where are the people of Jesus the Christ as this is happening?

How are we speaking out against the violence against women and against the poor and against the earth and against communal compassion?

When do we become willing to explore the violence that has been folded into our faith narrative?

The raw power of “sad sad sad” is holy necessary work.

And, it is not sufficient.

Marge Piercy in her poem “The Art of Blessing the Day” puts it this way:

“…Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.”

Find a church or an organization or a people.

Cursing is necessary.

And, it is time to make this nation new.

me too

I’m doing one of my favorite things:  looking at scripture texts for a season to come and seeking a theme to draw them into the hearts of those who come to worship.

Our church Sunday School follows the inter-denominational selections of scripture called the lectionary.  By encountering the same stories on a given Sunday, we like to encourage families to discuss what they were intrigued by in classes and through worship.

But today?  Today these stories burnished by time make me so very tired.

The scripture texts in January and February are some of the foundational stories of our faith.  They are the stories of men made heroes by the telling of their exploits.

They are the stories of men.

Women are near invisible.  They are seeming bit players in God’s sweeping story.  When on the stage of story-telling consciousness, women are often possessions to be managed or acted upon – sometimes with unspeakable violence.

In headlines and in conversation circles this past month the stories of the near-invisible are being told. Stories of abuses of power perpetrated by the predatory privileged are being told. Women and men are speaking of the shame and soul-warp of sexual violence perpetrated upon them.  Those who say “Me too.  This happened to me, too” are breaking silence.

And you know the two are related.  The silencing of women in our core faith stories is no mere oversight.  We have lop sided faith story for centuries and we who tend religious institutions have all too often colluded with a culture that has storied abuse of power into assumed life.

Patriarchy kills.  It kills futures and it mangles girls and women and all who have the audacity to embody a gender identity that is not binary.  Patriarchy harms all who are objectified and it contorts the souls and hearts of men and I don’t want to collude any longer.

Not in my heart, not in my body, not in my soul, not in “my” church.

I choose to mindfully work for a day when the church stories faith in such a way that “Me too” has to do with how it is all are welcome, safe, and celebrated.

 

 

 

moorings

My mother lived for most of her life within eyesight of the greatest of lakes.

The comings and goings of ships into the Duluth/Superior harbor was information she filed in her heart.  She was Duluth.  From the crest of the big hill to the shoreline of Lake Superior, she lived and moved and had her being.

A number of years ago – in 1985 – a freighter by the name of Socrates grounded on Park Point.  The storm that tossed it onto the sand bar was the stuff of legends. My mother was one of the many who were drawn to the incongruous sight of that mighty grounded boat.  It was evidence of what wind and water can do to the best-laid of plans.

And so it was yesterday.

Yesterday a storm hit Duluth that rivaled the power that tossed the Socrates.  Winds in excess of 60 mph whipped the snow that fell.  The temperature was in the low 30s.

After 19 months of somehow not being able to release my mother’s earthly remains to the elements, my siblings and I had determined that yesterday was the day.  We discerned that mom would want to be released in (at least) three places:  her beloved church, her beloved lake, and in the cemetery where her parents and siblings are buried.

When we made these plans we joked about snow.  It’s Duluth, after all.  Anything is possible in late October.

It was an epic day.  The wind howled.  The waves were so high that the road to Brighton Beach was swallowed by the lake.  The snow pelted.  We shivered and hugged and wept and laughed and here is what we learned:

She who has always calmed our storms is with us yet.

As we committed her body to God’s earth, we laughed about the tough, scrappy children who learned by their mother’s example that whining about cold is no way to behave.  We were out in the elements that she taught us to love:  wind and water, tree song and wave crash.  We held each other and gave thanks for the tiny immense scrap of a woman who gave us more than we will ever know or name.

The lake roared.

Our family is no grounded boat.

We are afloat and alive and she is in it all.

Well done, mom.