favorite things

kangaroo

Some of my favorite things in Australia?

Kangaroos under our deck.  Really.

Fox bats, clouds of them.

So many languages and bodies and children and parents enjoying each other and being on a catamaran trampoline and feeling the spray and the wind.  The sun so hot it is remarkable.  The sand on the beach so white it is near blinding.

At the pool today there was a young man gigging.   He played his guitar and sang to those of us bobbing around in the water and I thought to myself:  It wasn’t so long ago that was me.

It was me singing while others played.

I find myself dazed by the immensity of this gift.  The time, the exotic beauty, the never-did-I-believe-I-could-see-and-be-in-it of it all.

I know that the Holy isn’t a deal-maker.

And yet.

Some forty years ago while on the way home from our honeymoon, Jim and I hit a semi truck head on.  In a two door Opel.  I had no seat belt on.

We lived.

It changed everything.

Given a chance to inhabit the years that may never have been is no small gift.

Forty bonus years.

I continue to relishing the unpacking.

 

 

 

 

 

I got a call this morning from my daughter.

I am in Australia.  She is home in Minnesota.

She wanted me to know there was no emergency but there was this:

Poet Mary Oliver died.

Knowing my heart as she does, she wanted me to know.

The melody of my soul is woven with Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose.

I was able to be in her physical presence once.  She did a poetry reading in Minneapolis.  The church where the event was held was full of those who, like me, came to pay homage.

I wept through most of it.

Some things are just too holy to behold.

I am far from my community and far from my books.  I am far from the round table at our cabin that always held one of her books.  I am left with Facebook as facilitator of communal testimony and grief and it is enough, I suppose.

The power of a soul compelled to sing is miracle.

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.