Whole-Making

You guys, I’m serious. I could not get through what’s going on right now without Richard Rohr, the lectionary and a splash (just a splash) of red wine. I get Richard Rohr’s daily email meditations and they are giving me life. They are timely, beautiful and hopeful.

Today’s was about how God is in the business of making whole. I remember hearing a Marist brother speak one time and saying that often we confuse curing and healing. People may not be cured of terrible diseases, but they always have the opportunity to move toward healing. In today’s reading, Rohr quotes a Franciscan sister called Ilia Delio. She says:

“Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. In Jesus, God breaks through and points us in a new direction; not one of chance or blindness but one of ever-deepening wholeness in love. In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. Those who follow Jesus are to become wholemakers, uniting what is scattered, creating a deeper unity in love.”

The lectionary passages again deal with God creating something new.

Jeremiah 30:10

“‘So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel,’
declares the Lord.
‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
    your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
    and no one will make him afraid.

Revelation 21:5

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The making of new things, the moving toward wholeness, those are things our country needs.* But I have to start with me. I have to move toward wholeness. I have to listen to my own pain, brokenness, and biases and extend kindness and compassion to myself first. I will be no good to the community otherwise. However, I’ll be doing this personal work and my community outreach simultaneously as there is, for me, a sense of urgency.

This is a song I’ve got on a loop right now. Hope you enjoy it and that today you move a little bit toward wholeness.

First, by Lauren Daigle

*you have no idea how hard it was not to say “bigly” at the end of that sentence.

Walk in the Way of Love

Geez, lectionary! I get it! I’m not saying the lectionary is centered around US politics per se, but it really seems the Holy Spirit was colluding with someone when they mapped out Year C. Today’s epistle reading was from the ever-challenging Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:25-5:2New International Version (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands,that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example,therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

This is one of those passages that’s easy to use as a weapon but really tough to own. Yeah, the Dumpster Fire has run a campaign entirely based on lies. But my job is to shine a light on that in a way that builds people up. That’s harder than I can imagine and I am not sure how to do that. I can be angry, but not sin. I need to get rid of bitterness and rage. I need to be kind and compassionate. I need to forgive. I need to walk in the way of love.

See, the Day is Coming

Boy, the lectionary was on point today, no? I have felt so disheartened since the election. Kind of numb and raw at the same time. I feel like I am all the stages of grief all at once, except maybe acceptance. Already the rhetoric of the campaign and the “winner” have brought out the worst of our society and there have been hundreds of attacks on people based on race, religion and ethnicity. I am skimming headlines but avoiding getting into the weeds on this stuff because I am trying to process my own emotions and not get whipped up into a frenzy every time I talk about this.

Today’s lectionary readings brought me back to where I need to be, even while I’m still dealing with the implications of all this.

Isaiah 65:17-25
65:17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

65:18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.

65:19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.

65:20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

65:21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

65:22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

65:23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD– and their descendants as well.

65:24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.

65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

Let me get this out of the way: No, I don’t believe this was written to or about America. This passage was a perfect reminder to me that God is all about creating new things in the middle of crappy situations. There are a few things I get from this:

  1. We’re supposed to rejoice in God’s act of creating, even though we’re not at the end result.
  2. God is all about economic equality. The fact that in God’s ideal, people are living in houses they built and eating food that they’ve grown says to me that the current state of polarized economic realities is not God’s ideal.
  3. It is possible for people who seem to be enemies to come together. That’s what we’re going to have to do in this country. But, as this scripture says, the only way for that to happen is for God to change the nature of the predators.

Malachi 4:1-2a
4:1 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.

4:2a But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.

This one is self-explanatory, I think 😉

I have to cling hopefully to “see, the day is coming.” Because I can’t see right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know who God is. The world has changed. It’s less safe. But we were never promised a safe, comfortable world. Our character will be revealed in how we handle this and how we care for those who will now be oppressed under this administration. God’s doing a new thing and I want to be part of it. Let’s get to work.

 

May I Use the Restroom?

Apart from liking some things I’ve seen on the Facebook, I’ve not said much about the bathroom laws and yesterday’s Obama Administration edict that public schools must allow students to use the bathroom and locker room of the gender with which they identify (side note: love. that. man). But I’m kind of done being quiet now. I am so over the Chicken-Little-esque cries of “THEY’RE COMING FOR OUR CHILDREN!” Because “I don’t think transgender people are necessarily pedophiles” is the new “I’m not racist, but…”

Today someone I know, who is an honestly smart and good-hearted person, posted their concern for the safety of children if we allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice and I had to say something. Not because I think that he is wrong about wanting to protect children. I think all children should be protected without qualification. But I think that this question of bathroom use and gender is the greatest gift to child molesters that they will ever see. The folks who now are fastidiously eyeing who goes in and out of bathroom stalls have taken their eyes off the other adults in their children’s life who are much more likely to be committing these atrocities. When have you ever heard a survivor of sexual abuse say, “Yeah, it was a dude in a dress in the bathroom at Target.” Never. It is always a family member, a friend, a coach (Hello, Dennis Hastert), a teacher, or a pastor. I’m not advocating we take one form of paranoia and re-focus it on those closest to us. But the hyper-vigilance, in this case, is misplaced.

Here’s the full text of the comment I posted. I wanted to share it here, mainly because I know that like 2 people read it and it will be easier for me to find it:

The fact that this is just now coming to light as a concern means that the folks who are freaking out about this do, in fact, equate transgender people with pedophiles. Don’t you think that someone who was sick and twisted enough to mess with children would have already thought about dressing as the other gender and entering public bathrooms for prey? This is not AT ALL giving people the right to dress up and go into a different bathroom for any reason at all. It is incredibly difficult, and in some states illegal, to change the gender on a birth certificate. The trans people I know look like the gender they identify with, not the one on their birth certificate, so it would cause way more chaos if they went into the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.
 
Which brings me to my next point – how is this supposed to be enforced? I’ve heard stories of people going into restrooms at Target and then having other customers trying to look into the stalls WHILE THEY’RE IN USE to determine the gender of the person in there. Seriously. So which is creepier? To let someone just go in and use the restroom and be done with it? Or to look in ALL THE STALLS before you select yours to make sure you and your children are safe? Again, to spy specifically on people who appear to be transgender is to equate transgender people with pedophiles. Not. The. Same. 
 
Next – why are people sending unattended children into public bathrooms at all? For any reason?
 
Still more – there has historically NEVER been a recorded incident of someone trying to dress as the opposite gender and sneak into a restroom to abuse children. NEVER. So again, it comes up in conjunction with a conversation on transgender rights which means the subtext is that a transgender person must be a pedophile. Transgender people have been using the bathrooms of their gender identity since FOREVER and this is just now coming up?
 
And finally – before anyone cries “THEY’RE COMING FOR OUR CHILDREN” please tell me how many transgender people are friends of yours, people in your life whom you love, part of your family? How many have you spoken to? Did you know that when the NC law was passed , calls to suicide hotlines for LGBTQ people TRIPLED? Did you know that Transgender people are twice as likely to have a college degree than the cisgender population but also twice as likely to be unemployed?
 
The bathrooms of 2016 are the water fountains of 1956. This is fearmongering and nothing more. Last I checked, loving your neighbor didn’t mean spying on your neighbor when they try to use the restrom at a big box retailer. Children should be protected. Always. Unconditionally. But you’re barking up the wrong tree when you think that protecting them from transgender people in the bathroom is the way to do it. Unfortunately the culprits are people who are presenting as the gender on their birth certificate and show up in your lives as coaches, teachers, pastors, family and friends.
 
So while you’re watching the bathroom, who’s watching your kids?

The $10 In My Pocket

I have $10 in my pocket. It might as well be $1,000,000. I have that much of a clue as to what to do with it. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money but it is heavy with meaning and generosity

I’ve had a rough, well, let’s say year and a few months. I’ve been quiet over here because I am more of an internal processor when life goes south and in many ways it has. But in many ways, it’s pretty great. I am on the verge of a new chapter and over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time practicing the disciplines of trust, silence, meditation and prayer.

This morning I had the privilege (and I actually mean that) to lead worship at a service that is held weekly at Justa Center in downtown Phoenix. Justa is a day center for homeless senior citizens that is a ministry of the United Methodist Church. There were only a handful of people there but God was there, and the room was full.

The last couple of weeks has been pretty hectic for me, including an out-of-state job interview, final projects for a class, leading music at City Square and starting a business. I’m not going to say I phoned in planning the service at Justa Center, but it didn’t get my full attention until the night before. I had been reading the lectionary passages but nothing really struck me. As I went through past messages, I pulled out some thoughts on hope from John 20, which seemed appropriate as Thursday was Ascension Day and this was the last Sunday of Easter.

In John 20, the disciples have locked themselves in a small room, but even though the doors were locked, Jesus showed up. We talked about the importance of being hopeful and not allowing our perspectives to get small and trust that Jesus will show up. After the service, they asked me to do another song, so I pulled something out of my back pocket and sang for them for a bit.

It was so lovely and there was such a great spirit in the room. My heart was full and I was so happy to have been there. Then Nola came back into the room and pressed an envelope in my hand. She said had been blessed by the service and wanted me to have the donation she had put in the offering plate. She was thankful to have good news about possible permanent housing and felt God told her to give something to me. It was $10. A five and five ones. From an older woman who is in recovery, living in a shelter, one rung above homeless. I froze, thanked her, and then went to find the coordinator.

“What do I do with this?” I asked him. “I can’t take money from a homeless woman.” He said that she had felt very strongly that God wanted her to give that to me and that I should take it in the spirit it was intended, from a pure, generous heart.

So I have this $10 in my pocket. It’s the heaviest paper money I’ve ever had in my possession. I cry every time I think about it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I am going to spend a lot of time praying and meditating over it. She is the woman who gave all she had. To a woman who has stuff and who just this week was expressing anxiety about being unemployed. I am humbled and thankful. Nola is not a lazy taker. She is a woman with a generous spirit despite her circumstances who wants to contribute and has a heart to worship God. I have been taught a great lesson and will use my $10 wisely.

 

Even When The Doors Are Locked

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the Hope Sunday. Hope is something that’s been hard to come by for me lately, both on a personal level and as I look at the world. It’s hard to hope when girls are kidnapped and forced into marriage for going to school, cops shoot young black men and diseases seem to run roughshod over entire populations. Merry Christmas!

I just got back from a 2-week vacation to Australia, which was more necessary than you can imagine. I’d gotten to a place in my life where I felt stuck and I’d let my view of my life get very small. I felt like there wasn’t a light at the end of whatever tunnel I was stuck in and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m a person who needs to have a view of the bigger picture so I can function. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a clear path to what’s next, as long as I know it’s there.

While I was in Australia, I attended a service at the Contemporary Church Music Mother Ship. I was in the neighborhood and as someone who’s done church music for a while, I had to go. As expected, the music was awesome and the sermon was not. I knew going in that their theology was on the health/wealth side but I wasn’t prepared for 50 minutes of it. Egads. Who preaches that long? Anyway… The marathon sermon was loosely based on John 20, specifically, Jesus appearing to the disciples while they were locked in a room. As I was trying to ignore the sermon by reading the passage, a phrase in verse 26 jumped out at me: “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came…”

There’s nothing smaller than a locked room, and there’s nothing more restrictive than a perspective of the world that is locked down by fear and darkness. I’ve had to stop watching most cable news because it messes with my ability to see beyond the bad things that are in the world. This is not to say that I ignore the existence of evil, but rather, that I choose not to make it the center of my view of the world. It’s not easy to do that. It’s much easier to hunker down, become as small as possible and try to make myself believe that I’m safe from it all.

Another thing that’s interesting about the John 20 passage is that when this phrase appears, the disciples are in a locked room for the second time. Jesus has already appeared to them once, wished them peace, and ensured them of his presence. Yet, here they are, for the second time, on lock down. In this story, Thomas is the one who gets a bad rap for lack of faith. But what about the other ones? They’ve seen Jesus and yet they still insist on the perceived safety of a locked room.

Hope is about being willing to see the world as big even though it’s often terrifying. It’s also about knowing that even though we may sometimes freak out and retreat to the safety of our locked rooms, Jesus will come and stand with us, which is all that we need.

It’s Complicated…

Gender. Masculinity & Femininity. These are complicated topics. I know that a lot of folks would like to see gender as black and white. You’re a boy or a girl. Male or female. Straight. No other option there. But that’s not how it is. Between Kinsey and Masters & Johnson starting the conversation in the otherwise Puritanical 50s and 60s, and then the sexual revolution, gay rights and feminist movements, Gloria Steinam, Betty Friedan and others, we now have a lot more information about human sexuality and its complexities. We’re not there by any stretch, but I’m glad we’re collectively moving to a more open view of gender and sexuality.

This week I got the news that I need to have a hysterectomy. It’s probably going to happen around Christmas, so look for your invitation to my Holiday Hysterectomy event. The first thing I thought about when I was discussing this with the doctor was a story arc on the TV show thirtysomething, which was a cultural touchstone amongst my friends in high school. We lived and died by the Tuesday night lineup and were often chastised for talking during chapel on Wednesday mornings because we had to talk about Hope & Michael, et al. The story line that came into my head was when Patricia Wettig’s character, Nancy, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. It was very emotionally traumatic for her and she talked about feeling like she’d been “castrated.”

I just don’t feel that way. I am a slow emotional processor and so maybe I’ll have some negative reaction to this, but at this point, all I can think about is how much easier my life will be once I’ve gone through the recovery process. I’ve never associated the (theoretical) ability to reproduce with “femininity”. In fact, I’ve never seen motherhood as the ultimate expression of being a woman. It’s one of many. I have never wanted to have biological children, so not being able to has never been a big issue for me.

Gender fascinates me. What makes one “masculine” or “feminine”? Those are cultural constructs. They mean something different now than they did 50 years ago, and something different in India than Mexico. I took another one of those stupid internet quizzes and discovered that I’m “40% girly.” I have no idea what that means.

One of the more ridiculous arguments against marriage equality is that the purpose of marriage is procreation and since the gays can’t naturally reproduce then they shouldn’t get married. Ummm….I can’t naturally reproduce. Should I also not be allowed to to marry? Should anyone over the age of 50 not be allowed to marry? Gender, sex, and our bodies are complicated. It’s not just about whether or not one can reproduce, one “looks” like a certain gender or one “acts” in a way that conforms with the cultural gender norms at this point in history. People should be seen and received as individuals, with their own set of complicated identities and values.

In the next couple of months, I’m going to be slightly lighter on the lady parts but that’s got nothing to do with whether or not I’m a lady. Gender identity is complicated and fluid for many and it’s about time we recognize and respect our differences. I’m certain of my identity but I hope to offer compassionate support for those who aren’t.