Friday Five: Transitions – Accentuate the Positive

'Gerrebacken 37, Gothenburg' photo (c) 2011, Niklas Hellerstedt - license:

Deb writes:

Many of us are nearing (or in) a time of transition. Either in between Calls, waiting for the next Call, moving to the Academy or another kind of work entirely.

This time of transition can be scary, lonely, frustrating and busier than we ever thought possible! If the time is protracted, it can be a bit soul-sucking too (which is a very hard place to be).

So with that in mind, this week’s Friday Five is all about that time called “the in-betweens.” Thanks to the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer song, ACCENtuate the Positive, here’s our FIVE:


1. “ACCEN-tuate the positive…” begins the song. Tell us something that makes (or has made) your time of transition a good thing.

While I’m not currently in what could be considered transition, one could argue that we are always in transition, whether we know it or not. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we handle transition and I think the thing that makes transition positive for me is lack of resistance. I’ve found that when I resist, I am inflexible and can experience more trauma when I don’t move with what is going on. When I let go of resistance I’m open to receiving what the transition has to teach me.

2. “ELIM-inate the negative…” (yes, that’s the next phrase!) Share with us a pro-active step you are making (or have made) in times of transition to make things less stressful.

I have to really harness my thoughts. I can spiral into obsessive craziness pretty quickly, so I have to be mindful of that. Yoga helps, as does spending time with supportive people.

3. “LATCH ON to the affirmative…” What’s ahead? Even if the future is a bit hazy, what joy or learning has come your way from your previous position?

My previous position was really difficult and stressful, but I learned a great deal from it. I learned a lot about boundaries, communication, career development and even more about identifying toxic people.

4. “But don’t mess with Mr. In-Between…”  Many of us are in that space of “in-between”. Or we remember it all too well! How are you caring for yourself in the uncertain times (or have done so in the past?)

Uncertainty makes my ass twitch. I hate it as much as everyone else. My brain works in future possibilities, so I go all over the place with what could happen, mostly with good things. I’ll sometimes get attached to a vision of the future, just to give myself the illusion of certainty, but then I have to remember that is merely a conjuring and I have to once again be willing to be open to what is actually coming.

5. “Have faith, or pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene.” In the  “Faith – to – Pandemonium”spectrum, where are you? What peeks of joy do you see through the clouds of crazy, even the upheaval?

I have been through enough life with God that I know that God always has way better things in mind for me than anything I can ask or imagine. I have moments where I can veer toward pandemonium, but I usually swing back to faith. I have a lot of reason to trust.


From Deb: I am in transition myself right now, having just finished up at one Call and starting a new one…. I’ll check in with your responses later today. Be sure to leave your link to your post below so that we can visit. You never know how your struggles and learning will encourage and bless someone else. 

Friday the 13th Five!

revkarla writes:

Happy Friday the 13th, Gals and Pals!

SO, let’s get right on it~~

1.  Are you superstitious about anything?  Like, lucky socks for competition, special necklace for preaching, etc.?

I’m not sure it’s superstition, maybe just a quirk, but I can only eat things in even numbers, like cookies, crackers, M&Ms, etc. Not sure if there’s any success I attach to that, it could just be OCD. Don’t judge.

2.  I’m going on vacation on Tuesday.  I have never been so ready for vacation.  What are you looking forward to?

I also am quite ready for a vacation. I go on one in 2 weeks. A little road trip up the west coast with a dear friend from seminary. The big thing I’m looking forward to is a trip to Australia in November. That’s right, people. Freaking Australia. I’m so excited! I swear, planning this trip could be a full-time job. It’s massive. I’m going to spend some time in Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania and I’m going sailing/snorkling at the Great Barrier Reef. When I think about it, I get a little giddy. On the inside. I don’t do external giddy.

3.  There is a lot going on in sports right now–World Cup, Basketball finals, and much more.   If your life were a sport, what would it be, and why? 

Hmmm. This is a tough one. I do enjoy watching the sports, but mostly NFL football. But, if my life were a sport, probably would be gymnastics. I’m kind of an independent thing and I like the idea of it being about the lifetime of training, graceful, yet at times quite difficult, and having a soundtrack of my choosing.

4.  Hey!  Remember orange push-up ice cream treats?  What happened to them?  What is one of your favorite summer treats?  Ice cream sandwich, popsicles, frozen grapes, fruit pizza, DQ Dilly Bar, etc.?

The orange push-up exists. Go to Target. I do love an ice cream treat. I’ll write about them here, since I’m not allowed to eat them at present. Trying to shed some lbs for the aforementioned vacations. My faves are Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt Liz Lemon flavor and Trader Joe’s S’mores ice cream sandwiches.

5.  So there is this thing called “Listserve” that picks one random person per day to write an email to like a million people world-wide.  It’s pretty cool. Some people make music suggestions, offer sage advice, or plug their latest interest/project.  If you could write a note to a million people around the world, what would you say?

I wasn’t aware that I could send an email to a million people. This opens a whole new world to me. The mind boggles. If I were to send an email to a million people, I’d probably ask them to remember to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.

Have fun, let us know you played, and take care of yourselves!

Minimum Wage, Income Inequality and Modern Contempt for the Poor

Yesterday the Fortune 500 list for 2014 was released. Not surprisingly, Walmart topped the list as the company with the most revenue. Also not a shock, when the list is rearranged to reflect the best places to work, Walmart doesn’t even crack the top 100. They refuse to pay their employees a living wage or benefits. Local stores have held food drives for their own employees.

Most of the companies who refuse to pay a living wage claim that the reason they aren’t able to do so is that it would kill jobs and that it’s already too expensive to do business in the US because of all the taxes. However, most of these companies don’t pay any income tax and have billions (BILLIONS) of dollars in off-shore accounts because of tax loopholes. But they’re the job creators. At least, that’s what we’re supposed to call them. They get to hold our economy at ransom while their year-on-year profits increase exponentially. Many of their employees are on some sort of assistance because of their low wages, so these companies might actually see fewer taxes if they paid higher wages because their employees could afford basic needs.

The truth is that corporations don’t create jobs. Consumers create jobs. These companies are keeping their employees poor and preventing them from being consumers and therefore not jobs are created.

In addition to refusing to pay a living wage to their workers, these corporations add insult to injury by assisting in creating a negative image of the people who are working in these low-wage jobs. In addition, the right has created a handy little rhyme to describe the people who ask, “Do you want fries with that” and those who literally live under the Golden Arches: Takers and Makers. Cute, right? The people in low-wage jobs who are also in need of government assistance are the Takers, suckling the teat of big government, living the good life on our dime. We’re working hard at making a living while these parasites sit back, relax and chow down on government cheese. Meanwhile the poor Makers just want to create jobs. That’s all they want to do. But those darned Takers. They won’t stop taking!

This is just recycled Reaganomics. Trickle down does now work. You know why? Makers are greedy. They make 266 times their average worker. Sounds less like trickling and more like hoarding. Money is too strong a pull. Greed is at the heart of this economic inequality. In addition to overall inequality, we have the issue of women making less than men by about 20-30%, depending on where you are. This is a problem of inherent sexism in our systems and structures because the system assumes the presence of a male breadwinner, and for whatever reason, that’s only the case in a little less than half of households. Not only is this an economic issue in the present, it’s an economic issue in the future, as Social Security income is based on your pay during your working years. We’re dooming generations of women to poverty in their later years.

Conservative and Progressive politicians alike perpetuate this issue because wherever the money comes from, they’re all paid well to make sure that someone with a lot of money gets their way. Right now, John Roberts and the Supremes are in somebody’s pocket because they recently overturned the cap on campaign donations that only affected 68 donors. SIXTY-EIGHT. Money is speech and those 68 folks are drowning out the average citizens, making our elections essentially bough and paid for by the richest among us. And NONE of the politicians would ever DREAM of ending corporate welfare subsidies. That’s the biggest injustice here. See the picture below. It will piss you off.

My biggest concern is how this perspective has permeated the church. I see fellow Christians posting about the laziness of poor people on social media sites. They might donate to an international cause, or sponsor a child in Africa, but they blame the poor in our country for their station. Wealthy people want to help the poor in theory, but they don’t actually want to get any poor people on them. They’ll write a check, but they don’t actually want to know any of them. Disdain for the poor was one of the primary reasons God sent God’s own people into captivity. Look it up. We’re stepping into dangerous territory when we choose to look at the poor, for whom God had great compassion, with contempt.

Photo from Democratic Underground.

In March, Georgia voters passed a law that required people applying for food stamps to be tested for drugs. This week the USDA told them, ummm…that’s illegal, you can’t do that. Florida tried to do something similar in 2011 but their law required drug testing for people applying for welfare, not food stamps. The idea was that they’d weed out all those “takers” who might be on drugs away from the welfare system. Wanna know what happened? Apparently, the cost for this new drug testing requirement cost taxpayers more than it saved and did nothing to curb the number of people who applied for welfare. Only 108 of the 4,066 people who were tested came up positive. The state ended up with a net loss of $45,780.

PS – my favorite thing about Florida situation was that shortly after the law passed one of the state representatives who was its biggest champions was arrested for cocaine possession. Perhaps Florida should start drug testing their lawmakers?

Georgia’s law is trying to take food out of people’s mouths in case they’re on drugs. Who is on food stamps that this might affect? It seems that 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits. So Georgia is fine with taking food out of the mouths of children, the elderly and the disabled if the person applying for the benefit is on drugs. Which, most likely they are not because THEY CAN’T AFFORD THEM.

Both of these situations show a contempt for the poor that I find unbelievable. The pathological need for conservatives to criminalize poverty is horrifying. As Christians we should be appalled at this and be doing something about it.

Why Yoga is Better than Church

Recently I’ve gotten back to yoga after almost a year away and given my current ministry sabbatical, I couldn’t help but compare the yoga studio community to the state of the church. Not surprisingly, I found the church lacking. In this particular context, I’m talking about “church” as in my experience with more evangelical church and some mainline churches as well. I feel like this may be true of the majority of churches, but there are definitely some out there for whom this does not apply. Still looking for one of those.

1. The focus is on what you’re doing, not what everyone else is or is not doing. I was very fortunate to have Dr. Paul Hiebert as my uncle and got to spend time with him as a great guy who would play on the floor with me before I ever knew that he was kind of famous. In his book Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, he proposed the idea of the “bounded” set vs. the “centered” set. In their book, The Shaping of Things to Come, Alan Hirsch & Michael Frost use this analogy:

If you are a farmer with a 3-acre ranch so to speak, you can build a fence to keep your cattle in and other animals out. This would be a Bounded Set. But if you are a rancher say with a huge amount of land and acreage you wouldn’t be able to build fences around your whole property. Instead of building fences, you dig wells. It is assumed that animals won’t go too far away from the well because their life literally depends on them not wandering too far away from their water source. Visually, it looks like this:
Bounded vs CenteredSet
Most churches are a Bounded Set. They are very clear, both explicitly and implicitly, on who is in and who is out. Many churches are all about looking externally at other peoples’ behavior. And if they don’t fit the list, they’re out. I guess since they can’t see the Holy Spirit (and, let’s face it, probably haven’t heard from Her in a while) they’ve decided She needs some help. Not so in the yoga studio. Everyone focuses on their own progress and development. The instructor will go around and help and make adjustments

2. It’s an environment of unconditional acceptance. Students are appreciated for where they are and the phrase “if it’s available to you” is used often. Everyone engages in each pose where they can. Pushing yourself too hard results in injury.

3. It’s a safe place to try stuff and to screw up. Doing things outside your comfort zone is encouraged. Perfection is never expected because it’s actually not even a goal. Each pose has another level, and then another level, and so on. All you do is move through each level and it’s just expected that you won’t get things right the first time.

4. It gives energy rather than taking energy.  The point of yoga is to give energy to those practicing it so that they can go out into the world to contribute positively. I know that churches say they want to do that, and many do. But many of them don’t actually do it because they’ve made it so culturally necessary to pretend to be more together than you are in order to fit in, and that’s exhausting.

5. Instructors participate alongside the students. Other than moving through the space to make adjustments to students who are risking injury, the instructor is practicing with everyone else. The instructor is ahead of the students, of course, but doesn’t make that a focus in the classroom. We’re all students, we’re all practicing.

6. Instructors encourage rather than condemn. All progress is applauded because all progress is positive. No one is asked to leave because they get something wrong. No one is publicly shamed. As a result, we all want to work harder. Study after study on positive reinforcement shows that when you offer positive reinforcement to someone you are guaranteed to get back positive behavior 100% of the time. When you offer negative reinforcement, you can get anything from the same negative behavior all the way over to positive behavior. You have no way of predicting the outcome. Churches should really read these studies.

7. The focus is on the benefits of yoga in all areas of life, rather than the benefits to the physical studio by you being there. Yoga instructors clearly tell us that what we’re doing in the studio is all about positively impacting our lives outside the studio. Churches rarely give us the tools to make a difference in our lives outside because they are so busy using all their energy and resources to perpetuate their weekly event and keep their buildings running. Churches need to make a real connection between saying you follow Christ and what it means to live like a follower of Jesus.

8. The encouragement is to make your life bigger. I’ve mentioned before that my spiritual journey has led my view of God to continually expand. So many churches don’t want their people’s views of God to expand because if it did, they might realize that what their church is teaching is crap. The need to make God small and manageable and dignified is rampant in all denominations, from conservative to progressive, Pentecostal to Presbyterian. In my opinion, you should run from anyone who claims to know how God behaves in any situation. God is good, but God is not safe. It comes back to the bounded vs. centered set. We don’t get to say, “God only acts this way, therefore you can only believe this about God.” Let God get bigger and things will get bumpy, but they will also be awesome.