Salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
So I’m having fun. I’m in a sea of United Methodists and we who are present in this place (Florida in January. No fools we!) are celebrated as maladjusted creative subversive spirit-filled hope. I like that. The conference is called “Living the United Methodist Way: Turning Worlds Upside Down” and it is so clear from speakers and preachers and the knowings of our own hearts that church as usual is killing us. By that I mean church more concerned about boundaries and protocols and safety than the unleashing of the Spirit in this day and this world and this people.
This stuff gets me buzzing. There are so many places and ways I could use the juice of my vocational life. I just can’t shake church as the place I am called to be: church as alive, church as movement and proclamation of hope, church as witness, church as binder of wounds and teller of stories and church as midwife of promise. So I am in a sea of people who are groaning to bring this promise to life and I want to roll up my sleeves and jump into action and I am on leave. All this energy has to be bottled and learned from and distilled into life practice.
So I have time to digest. And pray. And tend the fire in my belly that gives thanks for a God who would call me and millions to creative maladjustment. And together? Oh, together there is a world sore in need of spiritual kooks – the people who celebrate being upside down.
I have been in conversation with a soulful one.
Our conversation has been rich and roaming. Most recently, it has touched upon a topic that has felt somehow dangerous: how is it we are in relationship with all that is? How does our answer to that question impact our sense of being in community? And very much at the quick of this question, how does our answer to the question shape our communal policy making?
I think on this conversation as I read of layoffs and cutbacks and the crystalizing of economic values unfolding in these days. As a people long unwilling to consider limits, we are being asked to consider what it means to pare down and pay attention. The signs are ominous. So many of us have so much.
And so many of us have so little.
And we are all in it together.
How is it we can any longer afford a health care system that is not available to all? How is it we can afford to cut spending to programs that equip and empower our children through early childhood programs and public education? How is it we can imagine that the squandering of the potentiality of any does not impoverish us all?
In conversation with my mother-in-law yesterday she spoke of the ways she learned and lived through the Great Depression. The community paid attention. They sought to reach out to those struggling and there was no one in her town, she believed, who landed outside of the communal net of care woven by all.
Idyllic fantasies? No, faith bedrock. Throughout scripture, poverty and the challenges it spawns is mentioned thousands of times as the concern of the community of God. To be a person of faith is to know stewardship of the lives and hopes and potentials of creation. Stewardship is engagement; taking the considerable that we have and seeking the good.
As we live into the rebuilding of these days, I pray for an awareness of how it is we are woven one with the other.
There is a cardinal singing outside.
Improbable and amazing, the splash of color and the insistence upon song on a morning when it is -15 and yet there it is.
I’m on renewal leave. It is a time for letting the ground of my soul lie fallow. I am taking this leave while the earth lies seemingly frozen and dead.
And yet, cardinals sing. Coffee is brewed. Newspapers are leisured over. The eyes and touches and sounds of beloveds are savored. The silence experienced while not preaching or writing or teaching or leading or problem solving is dense with the song my soul has long ached to hear. The song of being.
In the throat of the cardinal. In the temple of my heart.
It’s hard to keep the tears in their place. Maybe that’s what this is all about.
I have been weeping for four days now. I wept as I joined in worship with the good folk of Minnehaha UMC as they marked MLK Jr Sunday and the power of scriptural justice brought to voice through him and through each of us. I awakened on Sunday without car access (having kids home from college is not without its challenges) and thought about sitting Sunday out in the company of newspapers and coffee. But I knew in my heart that I had to participate in the power of song and celebration. I also knew there would be a mighty preach in there (my husband is the pastor, my bias is real) and so I hailed a taxi and got myself to the power of community and faith on a day that my heart needed to mark.
The prayer over the gifts on Sunday was given by a woman who had known in her own being the power of racism. She had lived internment camp evil in Hawaii and as a woman of color she had known what it was to be denigrated and as she prayed gratitude for a world turned upside down through the inaguration of Barak Obama, her voice broke and my heart cracked open. The tears would not be barricaded.
I have heard the words of scripture quoted and the sensitibilities of our powerful and demanding God – the insistence upon justice and peace – voiced by person after person through this inaguration and I believe I believe I believe that we are living into a new day of promise and reconciliation even as we roll up the sleeves of our beings to do the work awaiting us.
I am proud of my children and the many who lent their hearts and bodies to the movement that eventuated in this season of hope. I am proud of the vision and promise of this country and of the millions who showed up to mark it on a Minnesota-esque day in Washington DC.
The tears belong outside. After long weeping over the despair that has gripped us collectively and the fear that has threatened our promise, I am leaking hope through the waters of my eyes. And the world sparkles, yes it does.
A good woman I know gave me a card that says “Change, of any sort, requires courage.” (Maryanne Radmacher)
I am embracing change for the three months to come. I will be on renewal leave. I will depart this church, the hub of much of my energy and focus these six years past, and I will embark upon a wild adventure: I will discover what pleases me. I will cease my busy dash through the days and I will discover the wide open spaces of time and options and the radical wonder of being idle for a time.
The stack of books I intend to read is towering. The writing I imagine doing beguiling. The people I am hungry to connect with numerous.
But what I need more than all of the above is the courage it will take for me to rest. To be. To allow silence and solace to hold me and gentle me.
That kind of courage I seek to make my own in the months to come. The courage to rest.