Asgard

Summer at the Movies

Screenshot 2018-08-20 14.07.34My kids start school this week.  It’s been a great summer.  They’re finally old enough to enjoy a good book for a few hours or to get themselves a bowl of cereal (Ask any mom…this is LIFE CHANGING!).  Like so many others, summer movies were also on our activity list during the long break.  My kids are into the Marvel movies, so we had to see ALL of them… Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp.  Thor: Ragnarok actually came out last year, but they’ve watched it OnDemand at home over and over again….enough times, that even I have started learning some of the lines.  There’s a scene in Thor:Ragnarok where Odin says to Thor:

Asgard is not a place.  It’s a people. 

The Wilderness

When I wasn’t shuttling my kids to a camp or movie, one of my favorite pastimes this summer was listening to podcasts and reading.  Books always have been and are my safe space – even when they are pushing me into new ways of thinking or understanding.  One of the first books I cracked open this summer was Brene Brown’s latest, Braving the Wilderness.  And, ‘wilderness’ is certainly an apt term to describe the state of my spiritual life.

Willow Creek.

The Catholic Church.

The unholy matrimony of Trump + Evangelicals

Scandals coupled with the ongoing evangelical allegiance to The President plus the Screenshot 2018-08-20 14.37.52deafening silence of so many (notice, I said many – not all!) faith communities has rocked my confidence in the church….an institution that has been a lifelong pillar in my life.  This summer, I couldn’t go to church on Sundays (partly because of lingering PTSD after my church did a summer at the movies series last year, which included a whole sermon on Beauty and the Beast the same weekend as Charlottesville).   But, more than a particular series – it was a particular feeling that the excercise, even if it just going through the motions, had become too painful.

 

 

Filling that void and bringing much peace and insight have been a new genre of Christian authors that I’d never known till now, namely Barbara Brown Taylor and Richard Rohr – two figures from more liturgical traditions.  I won’t even try to summarize the countless ways in which they’ve expanded my understanding faith.  In her book, An Altar in the World, there’s a line in the chapter about the Practice of Encountering Others  where she says:

The church was not a place but a people.

Sound familiar?

For generations, God balked at the idea of a temple or a king.  And, yet today it seems we’ve forgotten why.  Instead, we build-up modern cathedrals and celebrity pastors.  All the while, we do give lip service to loving the poor and helping the oppressed, but we dare not utter a word against the systems and structures that perpetuate injustice.

Thankfully, while my faith in organized religion has been at rock-bottom, my confidence in the good work of community organizations partnering with school districts or local leaders is actually growing everyday.  That’s not to say I’m not daily dismayed by national or even state politicians or corporate leaders, but I am really happy to report that impactful work is happening at the local, grassroots level.  For me, in this season of spiritual wandering and wilderness, my work with Community Equity Collaborative has taken on new significance, as we are in both word and deed, helping the oppressed and feeding the poor.  It is faith in action.  It is Micah 6:8 lived.

Goodbye

Brene says this in Braving the Wilderness:

Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness – an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching.  It is a place as dangerous it is breathtaking, a place a sought as it is feared.  The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not.  But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred space you will ever stand.

I haven’t written many blog posts lately.   There are no words yet for my wandering.  Between the magnitude of what I am sorting in my soul and the pure insanity of what’s happening in the world – I just cannot distill it all into a post.  But, there are others who can and do.  There are my new BFF’s – the great thinkers of the liturgical world, like Barbara Brown Taylor and Richard Rohr, that I’d highly recommend to anyone.  There are my longtime favorites, like Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans.  And, there’s a fantastic and spirit-filled community of writers and leaders of color who are speaking so powerfully into this moment in history.  Check out Austin Channing Brown or Soong-Chan Rah or Michael Eric Dyson or Bryan Stevenson or Eugene Cho or Lisa Sharon Harper.

Go read these people.  Wrestle with your faith.  And then….

Meet me in the margins.  We are a people, much more than we are a place.  And, if there is any prevailing theme to the Bible, it is that God’s heart is with the hurting and oppressed.  The evidence of our faith, of who we are as God’s people is in the fruits, pure and simple.  It is bringing love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to the world, especially those who need it most.  This is not only the message of the gospel but the place where God is showing up most visibly in my life.  And, so, I’m going to officially push the pause button on my blogging.

This might be the last post.  Ever.  Or not.

Who knows where the wilderness will lead you or the spirit will act?

I started this blog because I wanted to chronicle my journey to live out the Micah 6:8 command to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  I opted for a blog instead of a diary because I wanted the kind of accountability that comes from making a public promise or statement of intention.  No slight intended towards those who write or blog, speak or publish via podcast – but the world has enough people talking about these issues and not enough actually DOING something about it.  For the foreseeable future, I know God wants me to focus on:

a) being still, listening for His voice as I walk through the wilderness

b) walking through the doors God has opened for Community Equity Collaborative, where we work to dismantle unjust systems and promote greater opportunity and equity through community partnerships.

A Toast + A Prayer

Screenshot 2018-08-20 14.20.35
Wildfire Photos by Wired Magazine

Wine Country has been ravaged by a brutal fire season.  My family decided to drive a couple of hours north for a week in Napa this summer.  We love that region and wanted to support the areas that have been devastated – both by the physical destruction as well as the financial losses.  I brought along a big stack of books on racism, social justice, faith….the usual!  Sitting by the pool, it hit me: I have a social justice blog called, Over Coffee and Wine.  I mean, seriously!!!!  The irony of my *privilege pastimes* as an umbrella for *social justice conversations* hit me like a ton of bricks.  God opened my eyes to the gulf between IMG_3045where I am and where His heart is when I lay claim to His gospel or the Micah 6:8 words.  Not that God isn’t in wineries and cafes!  But, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and actually step into the margins….that’s where His people are and His heart’s always been.  Time to light these words on fire and live them out.

 

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let HIM shine…let HIM shine, let HIM shine.

P.S.

Here are my favorite books & Podcasts of the summer

Books

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans, Everybody Always by Bob Goff, Grateful by Diana Butler Bass, Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown, Leaving Church and An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Finding God in the Margins by Carolyn Curtis James, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown and The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright.

Podcasts

Truths Table, For the Love, Freedom Road and Deconstructionists.

 

 

Elves and Advent

Christmas Confession: I completely dropped the ball on our Advent Calendar/House and IMG_0112Elf On the Shelf.  Yesterday, it dawned on me that there were only two weeks (eek!) until Christmas.  In that moment, I knew there was no clever way out of this tardiness.  Of course, my children would eagerly accept candy anytime – Advent House or not.  But, some of the magic had been lost by not starting on December 1st.  And so, the Advent House sits empty and our elves remain in the cabinet where I hide them each year (the drawer with tax filings and mortgage docs).

Death and Taxes

There’s a saying, that the two things you can be sure of in life are DEATH and TAXES.  As, I stood, looking at those two elves shoved between our tax folders, God nudged my heart.  Now, you need to know that I’m not one of those people IMG_0108 2who thinks Santa is bad, elves are evil and my children need to grow-up in an evangelical bubble (quite the contrary, actually).  I love all of the stories and traditions of this season.  But, this year….as much as I wanted to play the perfect mom with Pinterest inspired Advent treats and Instagram worthy pics of our elves….my heart just wasn’t in it.  It’s as if God was telling me to let this tradition die in the tax files, believing He had something better.

So, I closed the drawer and walked out to the kitchen.  Rather than surrender any more time to shame or worry, I went over to the table where my kids were eating their breakfast cereal and spit it all out.  I told them that if they hadn’t noticed, the elves hadn’t yet come this year and that was probably because:

a) the elves didn’t get any help this year from mommy or daddy and

b) the reason they need help is because they’re not real.

I waited for the sky to fall or tears to well….  Instead, they calmly said, “Yeah, we know…the elves aren’t real.”  Another added, “I’ve seen them on Amazon!  You just order them!”  As I breathed a sigh of relief, I remembered an idea that a friend had shared.  I pushed aside the twinge of guilt that I was again two weeks late and made my pitch for a new Christmas tradition:

Hey, so my friend does this thing where every time someone in the family receives or witnesses an act of kindness, they write it down on a little piece of paper and put it into a box under the tree marked for Jesus.  Then, on Christmas morning, before we open any of our presents, we open the box for Jesus and read all of the notes, remembering that the greatest gift is that of love….remembering what Jesus gave us and our call to love one another.

IMG_0115I waited.  They weren’t gonna like it.  I just knew it.  But, I was wrong.  All three kids nodded and said, “that sounds like a good idea.”  My daughter even volunteered to make the box after she got home from school.  And, she did.  We are only one day in, but already the kids are filling the box with notes.  This feels like Advent.

Merry Christmas

For the second year in a row, my heart is all out of whack this holiday season.  The evidence goes beyond discarded elves and empty houses.  Yet another example is this year’s family Christmas card.  As I scrolled through Shutterfly designs, everything felt wrong.

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Joy.  

Merry Everything.  

Jingle All the Way.  

Oh What Fun.

I couldn’t do it.

 

It’s not that my life was void of joy, but everything was NOT merry.  I could not plaster over the pain and frustration of the last twelve months (Exhibit A: Roy Moore could well be elected to the US Senate today…don’t get me started!).   I couldn’t even bring myself to pick a simple, ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting, as that simple phrase has been hijacked for political gains.

In the end, I went with LOVE.  

It is the reason He came.  It is the reason we celebrate.  It is the real reason for the season.  I truly believe that God sent His son, born in a manger and crucified on a cross – not so that we could see ‘Merry Christmas’ on our Starbucks cups or a cheap nativity set outside city hall but so that we could offer a cup of hot coffee to the homeless or shelter to the refugee or educational equity to low-income and at risk kids.

A Weary World

IMG_0119Today, I had the privilege of speaking to the Mothers Together group at Menlo Church.  I shared the journey of the last year plus to make my faith real…. to not just say the right words but to do the work of loving one another, especially ‘the least’, which Matthew 25 defines as those that are hungry, naked, imprisoned or vulnerable.  At the end of my talk, I read them this recent Jen Hatmaker post on Facebook.

Advent also reminds us that most people missed Jesus because they were looking for him in the bright, shiny lights of power, politics, and revolution. But Jesus came as the Light of the World, and light was made for darkness, but nobody was looking there – no one was looking for a manger; they were looking for a throne.

Don’t miss this: it’s not that most of Israel wasn’t looking for him…they ALL were…it is that they didn’t recognize the way he came. It is in your dark night of the soul the Light of the World can be seen most clearly. Seek him. Look for him. Ask for eyes to see. Let your soul direct its attention to the manger of your story…not the palace.

He might not be found in the bright shiny light of expectations but in the humble, gritty places we didn’t bargain for.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Jesus is literally everything.

Indeed, He is.  I am still processing what that means and how it fits into my Micah 6:8 journey….to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  It feels particularly relevant this Christmas, as I let old traditions die so that new ones can emerge.  And, that’s usually how these things work….you have to make room.  And, similarly, we will find Him this Advent season, if we look for him in the mangers and  margins.

It’s where He ALWAYS is.  

 

Surrender

So, Lent happened.

It wasn’t perfect.  But, it was good.  By perfect, I mean, I didn’t succeed in sticking with the 40 Acts.  However, those 40 Acts….the daily emails and Instgram reminders of folks around the globe making Lent personal and real in their lives, inspired a journey in my own.

I Fired Donald Trump

FullSizeRender 2In my last blog post, I shared my commitment to ‘give up Donald Trump’ for Lent.  I was inspired by Diana Butler Bass, who wrote in the Washington Post on Ash Wednesday, about how her mind had been ‘politically colonized’ by Trump.  She vowed to reclaim her mental geography during the 40 days leading up to Easter.  I took the pledge with her…..and, it worked.

Trump had become my gateway drug to a daily overdose of worry and stress.  During Lent, I permitted myself to still read the news.  But, guided by my new abstention, I steered clear of anything that was solely about Trump.  It wasn’t easy!  Yet, as the days passed, I could feel my anxiety level going down.  Mind you, I was absolutely not falling into a mindset of ‘God’s in control, therefore, I don’t need to do anything’.  Rather, to go back to the mental geography analogy – I had to create ‘real estate’ for God to come in and show me where and how He wanted me to respond to the world around.  It was a little hard to do that, when my mind perpetually horrified over Trump’s latest executive order or offensive tweet.  It didn’t take me long to find answers to the HOW and WHERE.  God definitely had a few nobler alternatives to Trump.

Cars

More often than a booming voice from heaven, the voice of God typically comes as a gentle prompting or ‘still small voice’, as 1 Kings describes it (when God spoke to Elijah).  I could fire Trump but I couldn’t fire myself from the job of being a mom.  Even as I created space for God, during the 40 days of Lent, I was still doing mundane mommy stuff, like shuttling my kids to their countless activists, playdates, doctor appointments, birthday parties, etc.  In the midst of shuttling little people, I began to get frustrated with my car – more than I ever had in times prior.  Something had to change.

We purchased our Volvo XC90 in 2007, WHEN THERE WAS ONLY ONE CHILD.  Now, there are THREE cherubs riding along.  And, not just three tinies….there are kids who steal and actually fit into MY clothes (not saying which one, but there’s only one girl…..).  When we bought the Volvo, I was convinced those three rows would suffice for as long as the car ran.  But, talk to my poor mother, who endured a few road trips with us, and she will tell you that rows two and three are as bad or worse as an economy seat on United.  Even quick trips around town seem long enough for WWIII to break out in the rows behind me.  Still, while I have long suspected that we’d one day need to trade our medium-sized SUV for a mini-van, 2017 was NOT the year our spreadsheet said we should make a change.

Why is any of this rambling relevant?  I had a perfectly good, low-mileage vehicle – it worked, even if we were all about to kill each other.  Why, if I truly wanted love, mercy and humility to be real in my life, would I go indulge in a new car?  The short answer is: it wasn’t just about what I needed…..it’s about what someone else needed.

Here’s the long answer…..

Willow

God bless Bill Hybels.  Truly.  I remember vividly, being an adolescent Chicago-girl going into Willow Creek for the first time.  I’d grown up in the Pentecostal church, where faith manifested itself as a list of rules and standards blended with charismatic worship.  This place was almost other-wordly to me; it was a complete 180 degree shift in what I’d known.

Exhibit A: we left the Pentecostal church because we were no longer welcome.  My mom was getting a divorce, and that was a sin.  I always tell the story, with the emphasis on my mom.  But, a friend recently pointed out to me that the injury was also to my brother and me…we were part of the collateral damage, stemming from this kind of dogma.  On the flip side, here was Willow Creek.  Not only was there a support community for folks going through divorce, but instead of showing you the door, they’d give you a car.  Literally.  They had a cars ministry, where donated cars would get fixed up and distributed to single moms from the community in need.  WOW!

My mom didn’t need a car.  But, we DID need compassion and a safe space to sort out our ‘next-steps’, after losing our church, house and father/husband.  Willow Creek gave us that.  And, many years later, my mom was able to donate her car.

Since then, I’ve dreamed of donating a car.  Maybe it is because of this personal history.  Maybe it is because of the shrieks of joy when an Oprah audience hears those fabled words, “YOU get a car and YOU get a car….”.  Maybe it is because of my growing heartache for those who’d been dealt a really rough hand.  To give someone a car….it seems so tangible.  It’s a vehicle.  IT TAKES YOU PLACES.  Literally, and figuratively.

Able Works

The last few months, I’ve been connecting with an organization in East Palo Alto, called Able Works.  They equip individuals with financial education, life skills and assets that enable one to live free from oppression and poverty.  On a whim, I asked they whether they ever took vehicle donations.  It’s not on their website, so I suspected they probably did not.  But, that ‘still, small voice’ was unrelenting.  ASK.  So, I did.  And, they DO.  And, better yet – they don’t just sell them at auction via a 3rd party – they actually allocate them to people from our community in need.  In fact, they had a woman in their LiveAble program, who desperately needed and had been praying for a car.  It’s hard to win an argument with the Holy Spirit.  This pretty much sealed the deal, in my heart, at least.

I still had to persuade my husband.  But, here’s the crazy part.  Even though we’re both Type-A Control Freaks…..even though ‘The Plan’ had not included a new car anytime soon (let alone the donation of our old car), my husband and I both felt an odd (for us!) peace, as we quickly switched course.  In the span of just a few days (which is faster than we ever make major decisions!)  we signed on the dotted line for a new minivan and committed to the gifting of our old car.  Looking back, it makes complete sense (especially, with the multiple road trips we plan to take this summer with our 3 kids + 1 dog!).  But, before Lent, we had no such plans.  And, I’m not sure my constant fretting over Trump would have ever facilitated such a decision process…..actually, scratch that – I am sure, it wouldn’t.

Messes

Lent was messy.  On Day 1, I confidently created a spreadsheet for tracking my #40Acts…..I only got to day 5 or 6.  Pathetic.  Right?  By my old standards, yes.  Lent is about confession.  So, here is my mine: the ‘Over Achiever’ me was already planning on day 2, the Easter blog post where I’d share my beautiful #40Acts spreadsheet.  No wonder, God derailed my grand plans after just a couple days!  They were my plans – not His.  But, in those early days, God  planted seeds for my ‘No Trump’ rule, which opened the door for our car donation.

Still, it didn’t happen overnight.  As the days and weeks passed, the blogger in me struggled….  I had nothing to say, nothing to write.  Everything was a jumble in my head.  There were so many moving parts and lingering question marks.  It didn’t fit into a neat, pretty package that I could easily translate into a coherent blog post.  That’s my ugly truth.  Even as I wholeheartedly build my life around justice, mercy and humility – I perpetually trip over myself.  No wonder, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, we must die DAILY to our sins.  God wasn’t looking for 40 entries on my little spreadsheet.

In the midst of my mess, Jen Hatmaker posted a quote from her upcoming book, Of Mess and Moxie,

You are not required to save the world, or anyone for that matter, with your art.  It isn’t valuable only if it rescues or raises money or makes an enormous impact.  It can be simply for the love of it.  That is not frivolous or selfish in the slightest.  If the only person it saves is you, that’s enough. 

Whoa.  That quote was like a life-preserver, thrown into a sea of doubt and confusion.  I remembered that I started blogging, as a way to have public accountability for my personal spiritual journey.  Period.  It wasn’t about how often I posted or how many hits I got or even whether my writing opened doors down the road.  It was about making faith real, for my family and for me.  God put me in this world for a reason, to go OUT to the least, and live a Micah 6:8 life.  But….I must look UP….often.  Soon after this quote, Jen published a brutally honest blog post – her first in many months.  She wrote,

This year I became painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine. I saw with clear eyes the systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection that poison the simple, beautiful body of Christ.

The Old Me put the cart before the horse.  I wanted the blog post script that I could reverse engineer from a list or some sort superficial spiritual practice.  But, here’s the thing: I don’t think my blog is very high up on God’s priority list – especially, if it becomes a vehicle of the Christian Machine.  My soul, however, is.  God had called me to lean into Lent, which meant embracing some soul-level messiness.   CS Lewis taught that, if you want to live  in God’s image, then you have to live a truthful existence.  It turns out, the only way to truly experience God’s love is to bring my own story and brokenness into the light.  

FullSizeRenderSo, here’s where things stand now.  We are STILL WAITING for the new minivan.  I haven’t yet donated my car – it still sits in my garage.  (Hopefully, that will change in the next couple weeks!). But….  The Me that felt I should say nothing till the whole thing was a done deal, and I could present my complete journey as a pretty package….that ME lost.  The Me that felt anxious over the weeks going by with nothing to write about, opted to ‘be still’ in the silence.  God had graciously entered my mess, and answered my HOW (create space for God) & WHERE (give a car to Able Works) Lent Prayer.  God reminded me that the death and brokenness of Good Friday always precedes beauty and provision of Resurrection Sunday.

Redemption

FullSizeRender 4Easter.

Remember that?  Easter Bunny.  Cross.  Lilies.  Peeps.  Ring any bells?

Funny, how fast we move on.  I’m sure a professional ‘blog consultant’ would say that there’s no sense writing about Easter, a whopping week after the holiday has come and gone.  But, see, that’s the problem.  Easter isn’t a holiday.  It’s everything.

Easter is not only the cornerstone of Christian faith, it’s also the day, over 60 years ago, that my grandmother was murdered.  Every year, when I celebrate a Risen Savior, I remember a lost mother and grandmother, a women I never knew, yet desperately miss.  If ever there were a motivation to find beauty in the broken, this has been it.  I’ve wanted my life to somehow bring meaning, inspiration and purpose out of her death.  Parts of my life look neat and tidy.  But, many parts are a big mess.  Sometimes, you lose someone you love, waaaaay too soon.  Sometimes, marriages end and dads disappear.  Sometimes, the doctor confirms your worst fear, and you join the cancer club.  Sometimes, ‘religion and politics’ clash in ways that are messy and painful to untangle or understand.  Sometimes, life reminds us, ‘why Easter’.

This post wasn’t intended to be an ‘Ode to Jen Hatmaker’.  But, the words from her last blog cut to my core, on so many levels.

I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone.

Every. Single. Time.

FullSizeRender 5Every time I read that paragraph, I cry.  That’s why I had to share the whole freakin’ thing.  God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death.  He did it once, so that we can claim it over and over and over again…..like, when your Grandma is taken on Easter Sunday.  God still wins.

Redemption is defined as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.  Only God can do that.  But, now He has extra help.  I believe that my Grandma watches over me….that her spirit is no longer where her tombstone sits, but that she is in heaven, with Jesus.  Now, she is one of the angels.  And, over sixty years later, her story propels me to nobler heights.

Surrender

FullSizeRender 6Daily, we die.  That’s surrender.  Some days, it’s Donald Trump.  Other days (if you’re crazy planners with detailed financial spreadsheets, like my husband and me), it’s a car.   Sometimes, the Trumps and the cars remind you of that verse in Romans:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Indeed, when we pause long enough to stop tripping over ourselves, God shows up in the most unexpected ways.  That’s the most concrete thing I can say.  This story isn’t finished, but I’m trying to let it be God’s story – not mine.  I’m trying to let the lessons of Lent and significance of Easter seep into the deepest parts of me.  It’s the only way to write the next chapter in my Micah 6:8 life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell, Mr. President

 

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Medal Ceremony

We’re going through a lot of Kleenex these days.  First, there was President Obama’s Farewell Address in Chicago.  Then, there was the surprise conferment of the Medal of Freedom by Obama to his beloved Vice President, Joe Biden.  This morning, I saw a video of Obama visiting a homeless shelter where children were the recipients of Sasha and Malia’s playground set.  And, just now, Obama held his final press conference.  Cue the tears!  THIS WHITE, EVANGELICAL WOMAN IS HEARTBROKEN TO SEE OBAMA GO.

 

Coffee, wine and then tea…..

fullsizerender-3I love coffee.

I love wine.

Sadly, you can only drink so much of both.  It seems as though even Mother Nature mourns, as it has been an unusually cold and rainy winter in California.  And, so, I drink a lot of tea.  Last night, I stared at the tag: Comforting Camomile….if only.  If only it were so simple.  If only the clouds would part, and we’d realize it was all just a bad dream.  But, it’s not.  And, I’m left to sit with my emotions….to think, and pray and contemplate how I will respond.  And, honestly, I still don’t know.  That’s partly why I’ve not blogged.  What do you say?  Some of what we’re going through is unchartered territory; the other part is rooted in conflicts that have festered for decades, even centuries.

The other reason I haven’t blogged is because life happened.  My daughter broke her ankle in three places.  We got a puppy.  My mom was healed.

That last one isn’t a typo or even an exaggeration.  Today, my mom celebrates yet another birthday, laughing in the face of a cancer that has threatened her place in this world for over a year.  After a lifetime of loving others, the affection has come full circle, as friends and family have become the hands and feet of Jesus, taking her to appointments, bringing meals, saying prayers…..those prayers….they worked.  We never thought that ‘remission’ was a word we’d hear, yet it’s the word that the Mayo Clinic doctors gave – it’s a word we now cling to.

Remission isn’t just for cancer.  Remission is for sins.  I look at the church today, and our divisions are like a cancer.  It is a no-brainer that when a loved one is sick, you pray.  You gather, you organize, you rally, you contribute – one way or another.  But, these days, when our nation is sick and hurting, we seem to be tripping over one-another…sometimes, even making enemies when what we need are allegiances.  If only Obama could pardon our pains in his final days; but, the absolution we seek, is one only God can give.  And, while I believe strongly that there’s much government could and should do, my deep heartache comes in watching mainstream Christians wish to sweep discords under the rug and just move on.

Don’t Be A Dog

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Happy Go Lucky Kid

To be fair, I’m tempted to look for my broom too.  I’m tempted to sweep this moment and this heartache from my life.

 

We just got a puppy, Calli.  My husband used to say that in his next life, he wanted to come back as our happy go lucky six-year-old.  We envy his charmed life.

Then, Calli came….bliss found even higher heights!  The whole family is entertained by this pup who wishes for nothing more than to just be with her people.  She eats.  She plays.  She cuddles.  She pees and poops.  And, that’s about it.  Life is good.  Now, we joke that we want to come back as Calli.  What could be better?

fullsizerender-8Genesis.  Genesis tells us what’s better.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God had created many marvelous things to fill the heavens and earth; only one was created in His image.  Us.  Only one creation was made to be like God.  As John Ortberg detailed in a sermon at Menlo Church last Sunday, humanity’s very first commandments were essentially to go have sex, to enjoy the delicious fruits and foods and to go innovate, create and rule.  We are made in His image.  And, from Genesis to Revelation, the most constant themes are of love, grace and mercy…..not legalism or jugmentalism.  So, why do we lead with this when we go into the world?

We have a unique opportunity, to be like God.  This is a gift given to no other img_1371creation….even dogs (man’s best friend).  Being ‘like’ God and ‘being God’ are two entirely different things, to be sure.  Assuming that our collective calling is to be like Christ, then the proof of this pursuit is the fruits of the spirit, which are:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  As much as a big part of me wants to shrink back into my safe and comfortable life, to make cups of tea, pull my babies and puppy close and just shut out the world – I know that this is to miss out on not just God’s strongest commandments but also His greatest invitation….to be part of something that is worthy, holy and eternal.

Facebook Follies

I live in Menlo Park….home to Facebook.  I love it for the ways I can connect with friends across the globe.  I love it for the way I can efficiently share life events with those closest to me.  I love that I’ve found women like Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans….all through Facebook.  Facebook has its strengths.  It also has its weaknesses.  We’ve seen this in the last election.  We found our silos.  And, to our detriment, we’ve dug even deeper trenches.

On Monday, many of us availed ourselves of the feel-good exercise of posting favorite MLK quotes.  But, thankfully, women like Rachel Held Evans reminded us of our tainted Christian history:

“Reducing the struggles of the past to conflict between “the Christians” and “the culture” disregards the fact that slavery, Jim Crow, Native American removal, and all sorts of racial and gender inequalities have all flourished in a supposedly Christian culture…It’s easy to comfort ourselves with the thought that Christians of the past were only using religion and Scripture to support their oppression, but in truth those Christians rarely saw it that way. Often the difference between using Scripture to justify injustice and appealing to Scripture to support the truth proves clearest in hindsight. Pride, privilege, and confirmation bias are formidable adversaries on the path to justice, which is why we must familiarize ourselves with past justifications for oppression or inaction lest we make the same mistakes again.”

She spoke to an inconvenient truth that while hard to swallow, resonates because I know it is not a white-washing of history.  And, as they say, if we do not study and learn history in its truest form – we are bound to repeat it.  This is my great fear, as we head into the next four years.  I replied to Rachel’s post and she responded.  Here’s our exchange:

fullsizerender-7

 

So, there you have it.

It might not be an exhaustive list of solutions, but it is definitely a good place to start.  And, discussing solutions and paths forward is indeed where the church can and should set an example.

Sadly, without going into details, there were multiple white men who quickly replied to my question, feeling the need to say that Trump isn’t a racist, misogynist, Islamophobe, etc.  I was shocked.  This is MLK Day.  We are exchanging ideas on racial healing.  My question never labeled Trump as any of those things.  But, it clearly touched a nerve.

The day after MLK Day, a friend sent me these wonderful words written by Richard Rohr:

We see in the Gospels that it’s those on the bottom who tend to follow Jesus: the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, the foreigners.  It’s demonstrably those on the inside and the top who crucify him: elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers.  

Rohr goes on to emphasize the importance of perspective, saying that Western Christians “fail to appreciate liberation theology” thanks to so many years of seeing the Scriptures through the lens of empowered clergy class rather than the marginalized.  He reminds us that for the first 300 years after Jesus, Christianity was a religion of the oppressed.  And, this isn’t just a historical observation; it’s a reflection of the heart of God.  Over and over and over again, Jesus points us to the least.  As Dorothy Day puts it, we must live at the bottom.  

White Privilege

For several months now, I’ve been meeting with a group of white women, as we study racism and our own white privilege; I recognize my life doesn’t lend itself to truly living with or loving the least.  For those who aren’t ready yet for a year-long study, there was a really good article from 2015, circulating yet again on MLK Day.  One line in it, where a white woman like myself discusses her own white privilege, says: Acknowledging privilege is not admitting to be a racist.

So, church…..can we grow-up enough to create safe spaces where conversations like the one Rachel recommended can happen?  If it can’t happen with us or in our sacred spaces, where do we think it can or will happen?  Can we shut-up and listen to learn, not to defend?  For, if other spaces do manage to facilitate those dialogues, what does that say of us?  Jesus will never be irrelevant but Christians….we can be.  Let’s not.  For God’s sake!

Meet Katharine, Dorothy and Mary

On Monday, I took my kids to see Hidden Figures.  This film introduces us to Katharine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women who were not just involved with but essential to the early milestones in our nation’s space program.  And, till now, their stories were unknown.  But, thanks to Hollywood, we finally get to learn about the obstacles they overcame to work at NASA.  Given my lifelong love of history and recent interest in learning about racism and African American heroes, this was a no-brainer.

But, I have a confession: my kids didn’t want to go.  I am so embarrassed to admit thisfullsizerender-11, but it’s the truth.  In the end, my eldest liked it.  My middle child said his favorite part was the end, when the rocket carrying John Glenn is launched.  And, my youngest (the happy-go-lucky one), spent most of the movie with his popcorn bucket over his head.  I kid you not.  (God knows how to keep me humble.)  But, I am trusting that after a lifetime of leaning into opportunities to learn, whether that’s walking around Angel Island and learning about the Chinese immigrants who first arrived in America or the ‘hidden figures’ essential to our early days of space exploration, there will be a net gain in deep understanding and true compassion.  Reality is that empathy isn’t automatic, which is why it can’t be option in my family.  This is a non-negotiable.  As Martin Luther King wrote:

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. . . . We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. 

Writer Judy Wu Dominick recently confessed on Facebook, how she’d come full circle from being an Obama detractor and critic to sincere supporter.  The turning point: when she switched to a more diverse church, one that was over 50% black.  Over time, her perspective and eventually her heart changed.  Our bubbles shape us more than we realize.

I have a dream…

Yesterday, I spoke to the Mothers Together group at Menlo Church.  It wasn’t my first time holding a microphone.  But, it was my first time teaching a large group in a religious setting.  All prior coaching and speaking was at universities or in corporate conference rooms and learning centers.  This year, I joined the teaching and missions teams, believing these were areas where I needed to stretch (you learn by doing)!  One of the passages I studied in preparing for this talk, came from the Book of Esther (credit to John Ortberg for his analysis and teaching on this book).  What’s amazing about this story, and what I shared with the ladies, is that the name of God is never uttered in Esther’s story.  As John puts it:

The writer (of Esther) wants you to know that even in exile…no Jerusalem, no temple, no Sanhedrin, far from home, surrounded by problems…God is right there. Even though in Esther’s story God’s name is never spoken, God’s heart is never absent. God’s arm is never missing. So don’t you give up. In your position, however important it may or may not look, however likely your success does or does not appear, whether you feel like your mission is going well or terrible, don’t you give up, because it’s God at work, not you.

So this is what I’m clinging to.  I’m not giving up.  I’m leaning into even those places and spaces that are awkward, even painful.  I’m believing miracles still happen but I’m not relying just on religious institutions or Christian forums.  Because, honestly, I think vast swaths are becoming holy huddles of privilege, be it economic, racial, educational, etc.  And, please know that I lump myself into that group!   But, as one mom shared during our Mothers Together gathering, be willing to do the little things….like, go to a playground across the railroad tracks or facilitate play dates with friends who may live on the other side of town.  Even though big strides are needed, little steps are far better than backward slides.  As the Franciscan prayer Sarah Bessey asks, may we be blessed with the anger, tears and foolishness.

So, my question isn’t whether you posted your favorite MLK quote on Monday….it’s fullsizerender-10whether you’re still talking about him and honoring his work today….just a few days later.  And, will you keep thinking and praying about how we the church can make his dream a reality?  Cause, here’s the thing…Dr King’s I Have A Dream speech is laden with inspiration borrowed rhetoric from the New and Old Testament.  The dream didn’t originate with Dr King….it originated with God.  It’s God’s dream. We know that this is the picture of heaven.  Frankly speaking, there will always be brokenness in this world.  But, God didn’t stop in Genesis.  He had a dream.  Why not be part of it now? 

Loving

batman-2Batman Flew

Today, we made it.  On time.  Ready for the Kindergarten Halloween Poetry performance.  After getting my dates mixed up a couple weeks ago, we finally got to see the bats and witches, owls and ghosts recite their lines – full of excitement and glee.  They were adorable.  Today, we managed to get to school sans the tears and drama of our 1st attempt at the poetry morning…the morning when I got it all wrong.  As we walked to school, Nathaniel said, ‘Are you sure it is today?’.  I replied, ‘Yes, I’m sure.  Your teacher sent out a note just last night to remind us of the poetry morning today.’  He continued, ‘but, I feel a little silly in my bat costume.’  I could see him scouting the kids around us, looking for someone else in a costume or any kind reassurance that today would not be a repeat of our prior snafu.  I told him again, how sorry I was, for the morning when I got my dates confused.  I told him mommy had made a mistake, but this time we’d get it right.  He replied: ‘I trust you’.  My heart melted.

giant-meteorThe Day After

In less than two weeks, we will know our President for the next four years.  There will be a November 9th….a day when we begin to pick up the pieces of this political season.  The yard signs will come up, and we will decide how we want to move forward.  I haven’t blogged in a few days….partly because my kids have an early-release schedule this week (translation: I am getting NOTHING done) ….and, partly because like so many others, I’m just weary of the whole thing.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day that I think captures the sentiments of many.  We just want it over.

The day after the election, we will know our next President, but we wont know entirely how this will all play out; we will still have a lot of choices about how we as a nation want to move forward.  I hope we collectively decide that working together is better than fighting it out.  As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  I pray that grownups could show some grace and uphold the worth of others by saying, “I trust you – let’s work this out together”.

Understanding Race in MY LIFE

I’m part of a group of women studying racism and white privilege.  We went into it landscape-1437572064-gettyimages-481592935thinking that we had this issue mostly figured out.  But, I confess that we’ve all been challenged to shift our understanding of both ourselves and this issue.  At our last gathering, something clicked.  I’d never been able to figure out why I, a Caucasian girl from a conservative, Midwestern family, would be so drawn to Asian people and cultures.  Not that it’s wierd, but why?  As a child, many of my best friends were 2nd generation immigrants; their parents migrated from Asia as young Spicesadults, eventually starting families in the Chicago suburbs.  Listening to another woman talk about her faith background, the dots connected in my brain…something clicked.

Holy Rollers

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, we weren’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry, we couldn’t watch TV, listen to secular music or dance. With my school friends, I pretended to know about shows or musicians, when in truth I was clueless.  Eventually, we did get a TV, but when church friends came over, we told them it was only for watching movies.  Women had to wear skirts and couldn’t cut their hair.  I learned how to style my hair in ways that hid the fact that we’d trimmed my super long, thick locks.  We epitomized a ‘holy huddle’.  The outside world was one you could not trust.  Our church was 45 minutes away, so I only saw church friends on the leaf_on_the_windweekend.  In the days between services, I felt like a leaf blowing in the wind.  I was disconnected, uninformed and fearful.  Nothing felt right.  Nowhere was home.  Even if I epitomized the holy huddle, I wasn’t really in it.

Finding Friends

But, belonging was born out of my friendships with the Asian kids at school.  From their acceptance, grew curiosity.  And, over the decades, I came to love the colors, flavors and history of Asian history and culture.  I was learning to not be afraid.  The kids with roots in a world far away, were helping me find my footing in own backyard.

These days, I believe that the world is wonderfully diverse and inherently fascinating.  Its merits alone, were sufficient to draw me in long ago.  But, till that night, talking about racism and who I am as a white woman, I hadn’t really understood how the broken pieces of my heart had created a space.  The void was filled with kids who looked so different on the outside, but shared a common feeling on the inside.  It now made sense.  These kids, like me, were outsiders.  To be clear, this was not the club of loners and misfits!  None of us were bullied or overtly excluded.  Rather, it was this super-subtle sense of belonging.  We were all disconnected one degree from the world around us, but therein lied the key for connecting with one another.

13939504_1012819652150363_6244638166953430036_nBlack Lives Matter

Jen Hatmaker has written at length about how adopting two children from Ethiopia opened her eyes to the world of racism in our country.  In an RNS article published yesterday, she says, “My son is good to the core. When I think about him being viewed as criminal, dangerous, threatening, in any scenario — driving, walking, changing lanes, hanging around with his friends — I could just come unraveled. It terrifies me. I could cry my eyes out right now.”  I can’t claim to understand the pain and fear that our African American brothers and sisters face.  But, the small taste that I have known, being in a mixed marriage with biracial kids, is enough to make me cry my eyes out with Jen.  

Richard and Mildred

Today, I saw a trailer for a new film called, Loving.  #MoreCrying  It is based upon the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.   Over and over, I watch the trailer – it haunts me. 1468522346_loving_social_2-398x398 Folks, interracial marriage was illegal until just 10 years before I was born.  Only one generation separated Richard and Mildred from Dayna and Jay.  So, yes, it’s personal.  And, it’s scary to see the vitriol and hate that has been out on full display of late.  These are not the battles of some bygone era.

#NotSoProgressive

Since coming to California, I’ve enjoyed the relative progressiveness and diversity of cal-stanfordlogoSilicon Valley.  Racism was something other geographies grappled with – but not us.  We, especially here in the shadows of Stanford and Berkeley, knew better; we were smart enough to drive global technology, believe in global warming, love people of all colors or beliefs and, for sure, support investments in things like, education.

Sorry to sound like Trump, but WRONG.  Just like when I thought I knew the date and time of my son’s poetry reading, I was wrong in my assumptions of my own community.  In May, Menlo Park residents rejected proposals to continue vital public school funding (parcel tax).  Now that beloved programs like music, art, languages and more are on the au_mp_marketchopping block, many (especially, parents) are freaking out.  And, rightly so, but it’s been sobering to read comments by those who STILL question whether our schools need to be ‘that great’.  So much for living with the enlightened in the shadows of the Ivy Leagues.

Just a few days ago, our town made it into the New York Times, in an article recounting how a Latino woman (who is a citizen) was told in an upscale market that she should visit the Safeway across town, as this place was for ‘white people’.  Around town, the response afterwards ranged from calls to reject racism to skepticism that such events actually happen in our area.  Even as many have offered their own encounters with racism, there are still a few who worry more for the reputation of our local high-end grocery than for those on the receiving end of such discrimination and injustice.

Reading the online discussions that play-out on Facebook and Nextdoor.com in the days download-2following these incidents, you realize that fear, distrust and a fair bit of incivility lives on…..even in my beloved Bay Area.  Places built on change and innovation, can still struggle to accept ideas and people different from themselves.  My point here isn’t to beat-up on the Bay (because I LOVE California!!!) but rather to just make the point that we ALL have stuff to work on.

Tipping Scales

Part of the reason folks are so riled up this election season, is because those who thought they knew what our country was all about, feel like it is changing.  And, that’s scary.  And, 27161156those who have been pushed to the sidelines for a long time, finally see a fighting chance for greater acceptance or equality.  Whether the battle lines are drawn based upon race, gender, economics, religion, education or some other qualifier – the nation is waiting to see how the scales will tip.  And, trust me – they ARE tipping.  We can’t change that.  But, what we can change is our response.  J.D. Vance, in his new bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy, says “whenever people

mildred_jeter_and_richard_loving
Mildred and Richard Loving

ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.”  This November, we remember that democracy is not a spectator sport; we must be the people.  Whatever our color or creed, our choices DO matter.  Our vote matters.  And, on November 9th, we get another important choice about how we respond.  Regardless who is elected President, there will still be conversations at the grocery store and parcel tax votes.  From our attitude in the car line at school to our mindset at work…it all matters.  What happens at the national level, is often a byproduct of what’s happening at a more micro level in our own communities.

 

read-the-booksGet Over it – Nobody’s Perfect

Brene Brown says in Daring Greatly, that true belonging can only happen we offer “our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.”  Deep within all of us, is a desire to belong.  And, newsflash: the road to belonging is littered with messy, broken people – starting with me.  In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes, “To accept people is to be for them. It is to recognize that it is a very good thing that these people are alive, and to long for the best for them. It does not, of course, mean to approve of everything they do. It means to continue to want what is best for their souls no matter what they do.”  Guess which people God accepts?  Last time I checked John 3:16, it said, ‘For God so loved the world…’.  That kinda sounds like everyone….on planet earth.

Seriously, Let’s Play Nice

So, here’s the deal: we might not love every person or policy after November 9th.  But, we do have a choice of whether we make space for and accept those who don’t look or pray or love or vote like us.  We may even have to revisit issues we thought we had all figured out; maybe we were wrong.  There’s another great line in Ortberg’s book where he says, 150304-loving-grey-villet-03“Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”  Isn’t that the truth!  Too bad most of us stick these sayings on the walls of our home or Facebook profile, but rarely our heart.  The reality is that staying angry won’t help anyone.  Finding belonging by excluding others, won’t do any good.  In the Loving trailer, Mildred says, “I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.”  Maybe it’s time that others know they have a friend in us, even if we don’t always agree.  Maybe it’s time to let go of some things and just try to be nice.

#LoveWins

The Bible talks of childlike faith.  This morning, my son and I were running late.  Again.  As we hurried down the street, I slowed my mind enough to bookmark the moment when my son, with every reason to doubt me, said, “I trust you”.  The path to belonging is paved with brokenness, and sealed with forgiveness.  We don’t fall into trust through our perfect performance or constant alignment.  We get there when we let mercy, justice and humility reign.  We get there, when love wins.

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The Love of My Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Women Belong

fullsizerender531I went!  I drank the Kool Aid!  It was a super fun weekend, attending the Belong Tour with friends.  Once the conference was over, I dashed to Santa Cruz to spend 24 hours with my family.  Last night, we drove back, returning just in time to watch the 2nd Presidential debate (talk about a brutal return to reality after 48 hours of bliss).  I promised a handful of friends that I’d pass my notes from the conference to them.  So, I’m going to start there.  As I sit here now, on the heels of last night’s political spectacle, I can’t help but end with a few political observations – in addition to my Christian conference notes.

Quick intro, for those not familiar: the Belong Tour is a conference for Christian women to spend time reflecting and connecting, to ultimately move closer to discovering who we are and whatfullsizerender537 we’re called to in this world.  It kinda takes the place of the Women of Faith conference, which ran for many years.  The main speakers are Patsy Clairmont, Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist.  Nichole Nordeman, Sharon Irving and JohnnySwim were the musical guests.

SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS – MY NOTES 

Jen Hatmaker

  • Our struggles flourish in the dark.
    • Things don’t just disappear because they can’t be seen – they merely hide them from someone else’s eyes.
    • The light is the only thing that reveals truth.  And, the truth is the only thing fullsizerender533that will set us free.
    • When we pull something into the light, we take away its power.  
    • Whatever it is, whatever we keep in the dark, God is big enough to overcome.
  • Personal adoption story + lessons
    • Most of the world’s orphans are POVERTY orphans.
    • It’s that nobody wants them or loves them – it’s that their families can’t afford them.
    • We should want EVERY mom to raise her kid in safety and security.
    • POVERTY = PAIN
  • He built us with things in mind.
    • Not one of us wasn’t built deliberately.  God has a plan for all of us.
  • Clues for finding your purpose
    • What are you good at?
      • Your playing small does not save the world.
      • Claim the gift you have – not the gift you want.
    • Pay your dues.
      • Do your thing.  Run your race.  Do not get derailed if it is small.
      • He did not ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
      • You are in charge of obedience – not outcomes. (God’s got outcomes)
  • Put your 1st yes on the table – DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.
    • If He has set it in front of you – nothing is impossible.
    • Throw Aspirin at people running their race.
    • Failure won’t kill any of us – it will teach us.
    • “I used everything you gave me.” – Erma Bombeck

Shauna Niequist 

  • 2016-08-15-1471272657-4725875-shauna_niequist_present_over_perfectOften pain and clarity go together.
    • Lost track of what was important, prioritized projects over people.
    • Sacrificed the best part of herself on the alter of productivity.
  • God doesn’t forget us.  Sometimes, there’s wreckage along the way.
  • Pain is isolating – Joy is connective.
  • The story of God is ALWAYS a love story.
    • Sometimes you have to ‘fire’ your version of God…the version that has started to sounds like the meanest voices in your head.
  • Two new spiritual practices (and tattoos!)
    • Heart
      • There is nothing we can do to earn more love.  Nothing.
      • There is nothing we can do to ruin His love.
    • Yes
      • The things you say yes/no to define your life.
      • Now, she says no to proving, pushing, competing, hustling.
      • God’s unconditional love was there all along.

Nichole Nordeman 

  • She describes herself as, a “wrestling poet,” this singer/songwriter doesn’t shy away from life’s messier realities.  Her Opening the Garage story will stick with all of us.
  • Friend’s story
    • She started with the story of a friend who had avoided clearing out his mother’s open-garage-door-in-suburban-1garage (she’d recently moved into a home).  The friend had a very strained relationship with his mom, and was avoiding going thru the boxes, unpacking the memories and possibly confronting some painful reminders from the past.
    • His wife finally got him to go, saying that they’d just drive there, open the door, close it, and go.  And, they’d keep doing that, till he felt ready to actually go in.
    • Once he was there, he went ahead and began the task.  And, it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought.
    • Since then, for this couple and for Nichole and her family – this has become a mantra: Just Open the Garage.
  • Nichole’s Story 
    • She had her own pain and brokenness, namely in the form of a marriage that fell apart.
    • She hid this news from her grandma, who was the person who loved her most in the world.  For a long time, she kept the garage door shut. She was too embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Grandma’s Story 
    • Grandma loved her family – she was a fierce defender of her grandkids!
    • Late in Grandma’s life, when her father was checking into a hotel, the front desk clerk remarked how strange it was that there was a guest staying at the hotel with the same last name.  Long story short, it was a son that grandma had had years before this other family.  Turns out, Grandma had her own secrets, her own pain.
  • Missed Opportunity 
    • You could have heard a pin drop, as Nichole shared the sadness of realizing they’d each carried their own painful stories, yet neither had been brave enough to just open the door.
    • On the flip side, she shared how in recent weeks, as grandma passed over to the other side, her daughter was baptized on the same day.
  • Favorite song 

Sharon Irving (yes, from America’s Got Talent)

  • Do it afraid.maxresdefault
  • Love people with the same love we have been loved with.
  • Trust God to meet us in the rubble.  There is beauty in the breaking.

 

 

 

Patsy Clairmont 

  • Born with the ‘gift of correction’ (later realized that’s not listed with the other gifts in the Bible).
  • Learned the hard way that we have to ‘lean toward mercy’.
    • What you give comes back to visit with you.
  • Growth takes risk.
  • Former agoraphobic (fear of open spaces) – long journey of recovery.
    • Prayed: “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.”  She wanted to change the world,
      patsy-clairmont-0140-1
      Enter a caption

      but kinda hard to do that from bed.  So, God said to get out of bed.

    • When you are faithful in little things, God will give you more.
    • A course on listening to the voice of God thru creation was life-changing.
    • Open your heart.  Be kind to other people.
      • Husband: “You’re not angry.  You’re jealous.”

BEST ONE-LINERS 

  • Shut-up in Jesus Name
  • Do it afraid
  • Beauty in the breaking
  • Lean toward mercy
  • Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
  • Your playing small does not serve the world.
  • He didn’t ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
  • The story of God is always a love story.

Ra Ra Versus Crosses 

I’m still processing what this conference meant to me, and how I can use it as a catalyst for diving even deeper into the places God is calling me.  It was such a treat to see these teachers and musicians in person.  And, I had a great time hanging out with my BFF’s.  If I were going to make any tweaks (and, Lord knows, I’m a rare bird, so that might not be a great idea), I’d love to see the following:

  • No jazzercise.  Sorry!  I know many, including some in my own group, loved Angela Davis.  It was just hard for me to go from jumping up and down to techno music while she shouted *encouraging words*…..to a quiet reflection, as I consider my purpose in life, a little while later.  A little too ‘Ra Ra’ for me….
  • Tell me more.  I loved the moments when they briefly touched on poverty or racism or the issues that symbolize a world that’s broken and hurting.  But, I think that while the church has a few brave leaders speaking out against these things, you could have attended this conference and not felt convicted that we should do more.  As I told one friend, ‘We can not *World Vision* our way out of poverty’.  We should do World Vision – but, we need to do much, much more.  Like, oh, let’s say pay for better schools, invest in early childhood education (esp for lower income families), support fair wages, fight injustice in the criminal justice system, and the list goes on and on.  To be fair, I know these ladies have advocated for these things on social media – but I think that we need to step even further out of our comfort zones when we have these big platforms, and encourage the evangelical community to fill the holes in our gospel.  
  • Show me more.  Again, I am 110% behind these ladies.  I love their vulnerability and desire to make faith relevant for Christian women seeking their purpose.  But, here’s the rub.  Historically, the church has put the stay-at-home mom with her home-cooked meals and well-decorated, clean house on a pedestal.  This 33856bfhas made it hard for women, who have to work in order to put food on the table, or who want to work because they feel called into certain careers/callings.  One reason I personally hesitated to enter the blogging world, is that it seemed there were already SO MANY moms who had found their *calling* in writing.  And, let’s be honest – this is a bit of a fad.  But, here’s the thing: we need Christian women in medicine, technology, law, the classroom, the boardroom, non-profits, police/fire departments and more.  And, those of us raising daughters and even trying to find our own path, need the stories of women taking Jesus into the laboratory, courtroom, classroom, jail, food bank, start-up, etc.  WOMEN BELONG EVERYWHERE.  I would love to hear from women who have followed God into spaces, other than just being a Christian author/speaker.  We need to broaden the spectrum of examples out there for women of faith, young and old.  There are a lot of brave women, already coming alongside those carrying very heavy crosses – I’d love to hear their stories and maybe inspire others to do the same.

Dear Donald.

OMG.  Where do I even start?  I’ve made it pretty clear that I’ve never

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Nate Silver: What the electoral college would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.

considered voting for this man, even for a single second.  In every way, from his policies to his character, I’ve found him not only wanting, but repulsive.  But, last night….I was physically ill, watching him threaten to throw Hillary Clinton in prison.   Going nuclear against his opponent felt like a punch in the gut for so many women – LIKE ME.  Afterward, Republicans and Democrats quickly came out, saying that it was ‘dangerously authoritarian‘ to even make such an assertion.  Still, he reeks of complete disregard for women – including the one who could be our first female President.  One reason his threats and vulgarity hurt so deeply, is because much of the pain felt across the globe is sexist...whether we’re talking poverty, access to education, sex-trafficking/abuse, time, equal pay, etc.  Our world needs leaders who will actively take up the cross and work on behalf of women (and other groups!) who suffer from bigotry or bias.  Nate Silver posted this map of what the electoral map would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.  Translation: evangelical women could have a major impact in this election.  

I WANT TO BE BRAVE 

I don’t know if others connect these dots, but I do.  When I hear someone tell me that the story of the Bible is a love story….when I am told that God created me with a purpose and His love is unconditional, I am driven to hope, to love, to mercy and redemption – away from fear, anger, aggression, revenge and greed.  The contrast could not be any clearer.

bravenicholeI am a feminist, in large part because of my faith.  As Laura Ortberg Turner explains, feminism is simply the belief that women are equally as human as men—equal in the eyes of God, equal in image-bearing, equal in ability.  From the very beginning, God called us out as warriors.  Sarah Bessey writes in her book, Jesus Feminist, “Neither one of us – woman or man – is secondary or backup; we are all key parts of Kingdom building, intrinsic to the story of God, right now.”

Right now, we need to be brave.  Right now, we need to stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.  Right now, we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room – and, it’s not Donald Trump.  It’s all of us.  It took decades to sow the seeds that he is now harvesting, seeds that have been watered intentionally or not by evangelicals.   Here’s the thing…  You can’t talk justice and advocate for stop and frisk.  You can’t act like you care for the poor and yet reject policies that lift them up, like fair wages.  You can’t say you’re not a racist and yet fail to acknowledge systemic injustice, implicit bias or white privilege.  You can’t declare yourselves the defenders of the family and yet offer late-in-coming tepid support (and sometimes opposition) to pro-family policies, like Paid Family Leave.  You can’t say women are to be loved and cherished and then turn a blind eye to mindsets and policies that subjugate and hurt them.  (Btw, kudos to Beth Moore for her brave and public words to both Trump and evangelical leaders.)  You can’t scream ‘the unborn!’ as your rationale for irrational candidates, especially when their policies actually do less to prevent pregnancy.  (Check out this article in the Christian Post outlining why Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for voters against abortion or this thoughtful post by Rachel Held Evans.)  You can’t say ‘character counts’ and then vote for someone like Trump.  You can’t just quote scriptures about suffering the little children and then ignore actual statistics on spending for children vs the elderly (FYI, it’s about 1:6.5) or turn a blind eye to child molestation by clergy.  You can’t say that the main message of the Bible is a love story, and then remain silent in the face of violence, hate and greed.  Right now, we need turn slogans of love, justice and mercy into both personal mantras and public policies.

I’ve already got a ticket to attend the Belong Tour next year.  When I go, I’m praying there’s not only a woman in the White House, but a broad-based willingness to keep constructive conversations going.  We will not stay silent so that others can be comfortable, for the battle does not end on election day.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’  So, we will meet God in brokenness and rubble, and we must sow new seeds.  I am reminded of a conversation Nichole Nordeman talked about, which happens to be the longest conversation Christ had with anyone – it’s the discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well.  This was a radical conversation for many reasons.

  • Jews weren’t supposed to speak to Samaritans.
  • Men couldn’t talk to women without their husbands present.
  • Religious leaders/rabbis were forbidden from talking to a woman, such as this.

Jesus didn’t just offer her the Kool Aid.  He wasn’t looking for a convert; instead, He offered living water, inviting her to open the garage, and find freedom in truth spoken with sincere love.  John Ortberg expands on this encounter in a sermon at Menlo Church:

“In John 4, the first sermon in the movement of Jesus, was given by a woman. A five times married/divorced/Samaritan woman. Jesus thought it was a good idea for the first sermon to be given by a woman. As it turned out, the entire town came out to listen and believed!”

He goes on to say, “maybe it’s women that ought to argue about whether men should be ordained to preach!”  We belong in a conversation with other women, and with our world, that that leads with love.   Till then, I am taking to heart the words of the Belong Tour speakers: I am raising the garage door for evangelical women.  Let us all bring truth into the light, and believe that it will set us free.

 

 

 

Hello From The Other Side.

There is another side.

To the disenfranchised and disillusioned: not all Christians are finger-wagging, science-denying, ultra-conservative holier-than-thou hypocrites.

To the Christians who read the sentence above and are ready to stop reading, at best..or already have their nasty rebuttal ready, at worst – I’m here to tell you Christians are not a homogeneous, one-size-fits all block.  If you’ve assumed all these years that because you didn’t know anyone who was both passionate about Jesus and yet also a lifelong Democrat (gasp!), well, let me introduce myself….and, an entire community of progressive believers.

WHAT IF YOU DIED TONIGHT?

7-year-old-me
Me, age 7, with my signature Shirley Temple curls.

My journey to the other side began about as far right as you can get.  I grew up attending a Pentecostal church with my family.  I remember lots of loooooong services.  I remember thinking that emotional displays were good, so I’d conjure up the saddest possible thought in my little girl head, so that I could appear as spiritual as the others.  I remember asking my non-Christian friends, ‘if you died tonight, where do you think you’d go?’.  (That’s a nice happy topic for 2nd and 3rd graders to discuss in the middle of a play date).  I don’t remember any teaching or efforts to reach beyond our holy huddle, to help the poor or hurting.  We’d sooner hand you a tract than helping hand.  Not surprisingly, nobody was converted by my best efforts.  The rules forbidding TV, dancing, drinking, secular music, pants for women, makeup for women, jewelry….those didn’t make for a very persuasive sales pitch.

My parents divorced during my teenage years.  My mom was dropped like a hot potato.  Thus began our search for a new church.  We decided that it wouldn’t hurt to try the new mega-church in our backyard, Willow Creek.

THANK YOU WILLOW

I am not sure I would be a Christian today, if it weren’t for Willow Creek.  Instead of condemning those whose marriages are falling apart, they offered support and community.  Instead of preaching fire and brimstone, they talked about love and grace.  Instead of building walls to keep the outside world out, they invited the best thinkers and leaders to come in and share their ideas.  Honestly, I had no framework for faith that included these concepts, until I heard Bill Hybels give his very simple explanation for salvation.  All these years, I thought I was better than other Christians.  Now, I realized I didn’t even understand the fundamentals.  But, watching a church that refurbished donated cars to then give to single-moms or kept food pantries stocked across the Chicagoland…I started to see the scriptures come alive.  In the midst of turmoil and confusion, I met Jesus at Willow Creek.

THANK YOU KANT & RAWLS 

rawls
My own well-loved copy (now sans a cover), given to me by Dr Waite at Butler – I still have it!

About the same time that I was learning a new perspective on faith, I was also getting introduced to the world of history, government/politics and philosophy.  If Willow Creek saved my heart, Debate Team, Model United Nations and Junior State of America saved my mind.  Teens are like sponges and I soaked up as much as I could!  To this day, I still remember two theories that were my ‘go to’ arguments in values (Lincoln Douglas) debate matches.

  • Kant’s Categorical Imperative: act according to the maxim that you would wish all other rational people to follow, as if it were universal law. It’s ‘sorta’ like the Golden Rule, but with a concept of universality thrown in. 
  • Rawl’s Theory of Justice: In what he labeled, Justice as Fairness, Rawl’s advocated a principled reconciliation of liberty and equality, to be applied to the basic structure of a well-ordered society.  These notions of justice equalling fairness and liberty requiring equality have stuck with me.  Within the theory of justice, Rawl’s outlines the Original position in which everyone decides principles of justice from behind a veil of ignorance. This “veil” is one that essentially blinds people to all facts about themselves so they cannot tailor principles to their own advantage.

I’m not sure all teens readily dove into the study of deontological moral philosophy.  But, I found them incredibly illuminating; the principles of universality…of justice….of looking at life and others with a posture that questions, ‘what if I could not determine my wealth, intelligence, health, race….?’ – ‘how then might I want others to respond to me?’, were compelling.  These questions led me to a conclusion, that I would always error on the side of fairness and generosity.  These were not just values for Lincoln Douglas debates.  As I studied history, government, politics and international relations – they were principles for understanding the world.  We used to say in the Junior Statesmen Foundation, ‘democracy is not a spectator sport’.  That meant, my opinions could be more than just hot air – they could be the very oxygen upon which our democracy functioned.  And, the more informed and involved, the better we’d all be.

FALSE DICHOTOMY 

Justice and fairness were not just for the secular world.  They were theories that actually dove-tailed with my new understanding of faith.  Centuries before Kant, Rawls and many other philosophers, the pillars of these same tenants had been crafted in the words of the Bible:

  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah)
  • Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart. (Zechariah)
  • Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.  (Proverbs)
  • Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.  (Jeremiah)
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  (Romans)
  • He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah)
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John)
  • “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew)

Matthew’s words sound a little like the Categorical Imperative and View of Ignorance.  The plea for justice and mercy that flow from the Old Testament into the New are very much in line with a theory of justice and fairness.  You get the picture.

I do not mean to suggest that all secular ideas support Biblical principles or vice versa.  But, I do think that a posture that sees the outside world as wrong, dangerous and irrelevant is wrong.  To put it more bluntly, the holy huddle mentality is not just a false dichotomy – it is complete bull shit.  The great commission is about going OUT – not turning IN.  And, by the way, that commission was not about creating converts but about cultivating disciples.

HELLO DEMOCRATS

When I was college, I got the chance to go to Clinton’s inauguration.  I remember walking donkey-and-elephant-1around the mall and seeing information on Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes A Village, where she advocates for the well-being of children by encouraging groups to support families and kids.  I watched and listened as Republicans pounced.  During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Republican Party nominee Bob Dole had said: “… with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.”[6] Well, yes, OF COURSE!  But, not everyone has the privilege of growing up in a upper-middle class home with two parents that are healthy, hold good jobs, etc.  Some of us were growing up in broken homes.  Some of us were growing up the ‘wrong’ skin color and/or with parents in prison.  Some of us were growing up food insecure.  Not everyone got the Norman Rockwell life.  Go back and read those verses.  Go read where Jesus says,”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Or, in the chapter prior, “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”  I watched Republicans take low-blow political shots at ideas that were not only good, they were Biblical.  We are called to love and help one another.  It made no sense to me.  How was this the party of Evangelicals?

At this point, I’m sure there are many screaming at their computer (or iPhone), BUT WHAT ABOUT ABORTION!!!!!  This post would turn into a book if I tried to answer fully here.  But, here’s the short answer.  First, pro-life should mean that….a policy of valuing life from the womb to the grave, not JUST the womb.  Yet, too many want to scream about abortion, and then fall silent when it comes to assisting the children or single mothers who need help.  Too many scream about an unwanted pregnancy but do nothing about sex-trafficking or sexual abuse.  Too many scream about teenage mothers but want to cut funding to education programs that help keep kids in school.  Too many will condemn abortion one second and yet defend guns and wars the next second – even though those kill many more.  And, I’m not saying all abortions are good or all wars are bad or that I want to take your guns away.  I’m just saying that there should be some intellectual consistency.  Rob Shenck, a leading Evangelical leader writes in a Washington Post article, I’m an evangelical preacher. You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun:

I won’t be silent on this issue. The Christian gospel should quell our fears and remind us of our Christ-like obligation to love all people, even those who intend us harm. This generous view of the world calls us to demonstrate God’s love toward others, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what religion they practice. Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith.And, more broadly, Republicans want to get rid of regulations and policies that protect life with safe working environments or fair labor laws, etc, but in the most personal of decisions – they want to stake a claim?  

We can argue till the cows come home and Jesus returns on what the ‘right’ policy is.  My goal here is not to say what I think the political views of others should be; rather, my goal is to share my journey of faith through the landscape of our American experience.  I don’t agree with Democrats on everything.  I don’t agree with Republicans on everything.  But, in picking 1-2 issues upon which our vote hinges, we’ve given politicians free license to legislate on an endless number of issues, and sometimes recklessly opening the doors to war, injustice and greed.  (For those interested in more indepth political analysis, read Where the Right Went Wrong.)  We cannot throw-up our hands, absconding all responsibility.  For me, I vote for justice, equality and compassion.  I vote for helping those in need.  I vote for education.  I vote for taking care of the world God gave us.  I vote for a love that casts the widest net.

THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S 

There is a God, and I am not it.  In my journey to live out Micah 6:8 (act justly, love mercy and walk humbly), I am reminded that my job is very different from God’s.  There are battles to be fought.  There are judgments to be made.  The Bible has many great exchanges between heaven and earth, but one of my favorites is found in the book of Job.  It is in the midst of this discussion in Job, when God reminds him who laid the earth’s foundations and the seas.  This passage is not only about God reminding Job of His awesome power and sovereignty, it was God reminding Job of His amazing, even un-strategic, irrational love.

As John Ortberg put it in a sermon called, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, he sites this exchange in Job, explaining God is a god of gratuitous goodness.  Why would God water a wasteland where no one lives?  Why would he make an ostrich with wings that don’t fly or delight in the behemoth? Answer: He is good for no reason at all, because He loves to give.  

With that in mind, why should we shower love on the undeserving?  Because, as the Psalmist says, teach me YOUR WAY…the way of gratuitous goodness.  Or, as Jesus commands in Matthew, the greatest commandment is to love God and love others.  God’s way, is that of love that is beyond comprehension.  The Bible is full of many teachings and principles, but it is imperative to not invert the order and priority of God’s commands to us.  There’s this great song by The Afters, called Battles.  A line in it says, Your love is my armor, I fear no evil.

I love that…your LOVE is my ARMOR.

THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS AND JEN HATMAKER

brand_bio_bio-shorts_pope-francis-mini-biography_0_172238_sf_hd_768x432-16x9Thankfully, I’m not alone.  In my journey, I’ve discovered a community of believers who believe in a gospel that leads with grace and mercy includes everyone from Pope Francis and Jen Hatmaker to Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans and Jim Wallis.  And, then some.  Much to my delight, I read that in the Pope’s 2015 Encyclical, he applied the first formulation of the universalizability principle to the issue of consumption:

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. … To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.[21]

Turns out, the Pope reads Kant too.  Beyond observations on consumption, Saray Bessey writes in Jesus Feminist: “I want to be outside with the misfits, with the rebels, the dreamers, second-chance givers, the radical grace lavishers, the ones with arms wide open, the courageously vulnerable, and among even—or maybe especially—the ones rejected by the Table as not worthy enough or right enough.”  I love the phrase Brandon Hatmaker uses in his new book, A Mile Wide; he beckons us to what he calls a bigger gospel. There are plenty of seats at God’s table, and I suspect that it is not been Jesus’s gospel that’s too small to date – it’s been my own interpretation, born of fear and shame that kept it small and safe.

I AM NOT A HOT POTATO 

Thank God I found a church that didn’t drop the hurting and broken like a hot potato. In Matthew, Jesus says that if he sees the flowers in the field and notices even the sparrow, how much more does he care for us?  He promises a love that never fails, that won’t let go, no matter what.  Everything changes when we open our eyes to the outrageous love of Jesus.  It is a love that is bigger than kings and kingdoms, of politicians and political parties.  It is a love that sees us in our struggles and bridges the gap with grace.  I know a God who makes beauty from ashes, and who delights in my broken hallelujah.

To those who have bristled at most of my words, I’d urge you to re-read the Bible with the lenses of compassion, mercy and justice, to consider whether our present path is actually making a positive impact in the world – in either practical or faith terms.  I’d ask you to truly ponder what love looks like.  To those who have felt alone in a progressive faith, I declare you are not alone.  And, to those who have been skeptical of the church and possibly deeply wounded by it, I would say this:

Some of us believe taking care of our planet means just that.  Some of us believe taking care of the widow and orphan means just that.  Some of us believe that opening our doors to the migrant means that.  Some of us believe in science.  Some of us believe it is okay to not be okay.  Some of us believe that helping the poor or doing justice means just that.  Some of us love mercy.  Some of us believe that loving your enemy or extending goodness for no strategic reason means JUST THAT.

So, what if I died tonight?  I’d say, that I’d choose to bank my eternity on loving Jesus and loving others.  I’ll let God take care of the rest.