And now, THIS!

bread

My grandfather’s bread

As a pastor, I have the privilege of seeing the highs and lows of Life. Some of the hardest journeys I join are those families who have a relative with Alzheimer’s Disease or the related dementias.

The exhaustion is real. The emotional, physical and spiritual impacts are immense. There is progress towards finding a cure… but there’s quite a ways to go!

So, in October, I’m walking in the DC area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We’ll be there, rain or shine, on the National Mall. I’m joining my co-workers and friends as we raise money for research, support and education about this disease.

You can read about my reasons for walking here — and if you so desire, you can also donate. On behalf of my patients and their families… thank you!

In amongst the potatoes… the messy work of marching for justice

blmsigns

In amongst the potatoes this evening, I’m making signs.  I started to edit the photo, you know, make it Instagram-worthy. But I decided it was a good representation of how things really are.

You see, my life, like my kitchen counters, is cluttered with stuff and tasks and obligations. I could create an artsy sign-making photo  and pretend I live in House Beautiful. But that’s living a lie. (And besides, if you know me, you know… my counters are cluttered with dirty dishes, mail, and… potatoes!)

Here’s the issue, the ugly truth that we who have white privilege have to admit: when it comes to social justice and living out our faith, we either make time for it (in the middle of the mess of our lives), or we move on, busy and oblivious, and go on about our business.

So tonight, I’m making signs. Signs for my fellow marchers, friends or strangers. Signs for an obvious statement that has not been said loud enough and often enough.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Despite all the years of our black brothers and sisters  praying, preaching, protesting, speaking out and acting out, the signs are still necessary.

Like many of you, I have been silent too long. I have let the “stuff” of life fill my calendar and my commitments. I have said one thing… and done another. Let me be clear: We have not stood with our friends and co-workers, fellow clergy and lawmakers. We have just… done nothing. And said (probably, no — actually) way too much.

Tomorrow is the 54th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Dream is still there… quietly percolating to the top, alive with hope and promise.
The Dream is still there… motivating, cajoling, reminding, challenging, encouraging and emboldening us.
The Dream is still there… unrealized.

We are late to the protest, but join you in solidarity. As long as we need to carry signs and protest, we will…

Black Lives Matter.

I Can’t Breathe.

Hands up. Don’t Shoot.

Say Her Name.

Say His Name.

Silence is Violence.

Book Review: Healing Spiritual Wounds

Book Review

Carol Howard Merritt, Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church
(New York: Harper One, 2017), hardcover, 232 pages.

HealingSpiritualWounds

Carol Howard Merritt, known for her insightful writing in the Christian Century and her previous books* offers a gentle work for those who have endured mistreatment by the Church. This book is not intended has an apologetic for “why” one should be in a church, or even be a Christian. Rather, it is intended to help those who are struggling to redefine faith’s role and want help finding the path back to belief and wholeness.

I began this book in the throes of the flu, and thanks to “flu brain” was not able to finish it as quickly as I wanted. But a few weeks, ago, as I read and reflected over her words, I was encouraged that, once again, she has brought clarity and a much-needed re-teaching of one of Christianity’s main tenets: Love God, love yourself, love others.

The book is grounded in her own spiritual journey and invites the reader to begin their own path of healing and discovery. Can one find a place peace and wholeness away from an internal conflict about a “God of love” and the way religious people act? Carol suggests there is a way, and it is in a place of peace and being “in God.” She shares her own realization that her “inner skeptic” (p. 5) was searching for God, even in the midst of disappointment and pain. And she invites the reader along to ponder their own places of raw hurt, discouragement and doubt.

This is not a “how-to” book. Merritt doesn’t give you simple formulas and Bible memory verses to “fix” yourself. Instead, she models a way of meditating on the Sacred text, on seeking God in the unspoken words of the suffering, and then she provides creative exercises for reflection in the journey back to wholeness. The author is clear in her own realization that “religion heals… but also brings suffering” (p. 8) and names the knife-in-the-gut wounding from the Church’s teachings that are sexist, racist, homophobic and politicized.

Carol groups the “spiritual wounds” we may experience around seven distinct areas, each with their own path for healing: healing our image of God, recovering our emotions, redeeming our broken selves, reclaiming our bodies, regaining our hope, reassessing our finances, and being born again. Each area of spiritual wounding offers vignettes from her own life, stories from the struggles of others, and exercises for reflection. The process begins with understanding our own experiences of religious wounding, not just what we experience, but where we have wounded others. I have started a collage recommended in the chapter “Finding Shalom” and it has been very thought-provoking, one that I will be working on for a while!

As a trained chaplain, several of the chapters reminded me of my own work in my spiritual identity and pastoral identity. In particular, the chapter on “Healing Our Image of God” took me back through the process of experiencing the “life-giving God” through a process Merritt calls “communal and personal” (p. 55). I remembered how I learned to experience God outside of a list of do’s and don’t’s. How photography, poetry, writing and music changed the “replay” of God’s work in my life. It was soul-stirring.

Other chapters had equally thought-provoking moments and I know I will want to return to this book for a more lengthy reflection, perhaps with others in community and accountability. It is not a quick read! You might want to make it your summer reading project, or schedule it for Lent 2018 (as this year’s Lenten season is underway).

For those who have struggled against a “father” image of God that conjures up the worst memories of the Church’s patriarchal abuse and misuse of scripture, I encourage you to get this book and dig deep. Merritt writes: “We don’t always realize that we’re working under patriarchal conditions because we’re so used to them; it’s like not knowing when we’re breathing polluted air” (p. 202).

Rediscover that God is not a white male, nor an authoritarian killjoy, and is completely and utterly bent on the loving work of restoration and reconciliation – with you. And me.

*(Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital ministry in a New Generation)

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Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church. Carol Howard Merritt. New York: Harper One, 2017. Hardcover: 232 pages. ISBN-10: 0062392271

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 Another day, another stole

amani-stole

My stole from Amani Ya Juu (Peace from Above)

Today I took a quick trip into downtown DC, to the plaza in front of the US Supreme Court building. Before I started my rounds with my hospice patients, I put on my collar and this stole. The stole was made by refugee artists from Amani Ya Juu. It was the first stole given to me when I was ordained, and has a special place in my heart.

(Make sure you visit their website — see the beautiful things they have created, and read their stories!)

The artisans of Amani Ya Juu use their love of African textiles, their commitment to their community thriving, and their skills in creating beautiful items. My stole is just one of the items they make. But the beauty of their craft is just part of what I have learned from these women.It is their example of faithfulness in the face of horrible injustice. It is how they move past those experiences and find “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” They have learned to survive life’s twists and turns, and to make sure their community thrives with them.

It is this selflessness, this desire deep within them to serve others that inspires me in my ministry. I do it so imperfectly… but their example challenges me.

So I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court this morning, with flurries and a stiff, cold breeze. There, I gathered with many other faith leaders to speak out…

…for those who are unjustly detained

…for those who are denied due process in our courts

…for the attack on our civil liberties — ALL of our civil liberties — by those who refuse to obey court injunctions, who defy our Constitution, and who act for selfish gain. 

…for eviscerating the progress made under Loretta Lynch in defending the rights of all persons of color. #BlackLivesMatter

I am compelled to respond because I believe the God I serve demands it. I am compelled to respond because I believe in the worth and value of my fellow humans. And I am compelled to respond because we have done enough waiting. We have given enough “chances.” The actions over the last ten days are sufficient.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

I am angry. Angry that the powerful do not use their power for the common good. Angry that elected officials are not governing in a way that benefits ALL of us — our country, our world, our future.

I am motivated. I have called, written and tweeted my elected officials. I have encouraged them to stand firm and defend our Constitution. I have pleaded with them to uphold “liberty and justice FOR ALL.”

On Sunday, I led this prayer… and I stand by every word, knowing that God will be with us as we stand up to injustice and bigotry.

LET US PRAY.

Lord God, we gather in your Presence, aware of your care for us and for the world. We ask for your Spirit to guide our words and our worship this morning.

Gracious God, the hungry are all around us. May we faithfully share of our pantries and cupboards, our money and our time, that they will be bountifully fed.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Lord of all, we pray for our elected officials, that they will serve the people and defend and protect our Constitution. We hear the words of the spiritually empty, the proud, and those who abuse their power. We pray you will burden their hearts with your Truth and convict them by your Holy Spirit.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

God of all nations, we pray for those in legal limbo, whose immigration status is wrongfully blocked, who are doctors and teachers, researchers and laborers, parents and children. May your justice prevail and may your angels take charge of them and liberate them.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Healer of the broken-hearted, we your children humbly repent for the ways we have not cared for the aliens and the strangers in our midst. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Give us courage to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. May our actions make a difference as we join with others who follow Christ.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

We pray all this in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen.

I do not understand the whys and breakdown of common decency that led to our country’s situation today. I lean on hope in a God who is more powerful than the power-obsessed. I am resting in that Peace from Above.

Pray with me, friends…

We must stick together and believe in God’s love for us and for all humanity.

If you have regrets…

Cross-posted from Facebook…

marchstole

My Women’s March stole-of-many-names and a “comfort pack”(miscellaneous necessities to share with others.)

At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. yesterday, I carried many names on my stole. It was an honor and a privilege. When someone asked me, I could hardly talk about it without getting teary. There were many among my family and friends and coworkers and patients who could not go… and I was aware of your reasons.

So this is for you…

Perhaps you didn’t go to the Women’s March near you and are having some regrets. I’m thinking of all you who have a case of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. I’ve gotten a few PMs and wanted to say this…

  • Perhaps you could not go because you were doing something that needed YOU. No one else had your skills, your knowledge, the gift of YOU.
  • Perhaps you had to work (there were several of you who did that.) It wasn’t an option. Pay the rent, work your shift, be responsible.
  • Perhaps you had someone to take care of and couldn’t give that duty to someone else. (Thank you to all those parents, grandparents, caregivers, and overtired family members.)
  • Perhaps you were not physically able (my tired bones get that, too!)
  • Perhaps large crowds are not your thing.
  • Perhaps the cost was just too much — your job, your finances, your relationships, your time, your job security, your physical stamina, your emotional health, your workload for the rest of the week, your studies. You made a choice not to go — and I want to affirm… it was a good choice. It’s about your WHOLE life. It was a matter of balance and being real with yourself. Please don’t second-guess yourself about not going.

I want to thank you for reading our posts, listening to our stories and being in the moment, vicariously. While your voice may have been missed, you can start speaking up now.

HONESTLY? Now comes the hard part. Now is when we need each other. Now is when we need YOU. Your voice. Your gifts. Your focus. Your prayers. Your anger. Your integrity. Your wit.

This movement is JUST BEGINNING.

When the celebrities leave the stage, the busses go home, the pink hats come off, the signs start collecting dust, the pundits start mocking and dissecting us… NOW is when we are all needed.

To keep each other honest.

To ask the hard questions.

To be intentional in including ALL of us in the next days and weeks.

To read, write, think, discuss, pray and do things in ways we have never done them before.

To volunteer for causes and issues we are passionate about.

To support nonprofits who are the only backstop some folks have.

To watch our elected officials like a hawk and write them/call them/badger them.

To trust each other more and be less pissy. (Can a pastor say that? YES I CAN.)

I had a distinct honor to be able to march. I went as a white woman of privilege to bear witness. I left hoping to bring more into the story. So may we all.

 

This is what democracy looks like…

“After” the March… beginning to spill out on the National Mall!

“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.”President John F. Kennedy

Today I participated in the messy, noisy, and occasionally inconvenient work of democracy. With over 500,000 other people in Washington, DC, we brought the area around the National Mall to a complete standstill. Apparently, due to permitting issues with the National Park Service, the Trump inaguration committee, and other arcane rules (the source of which I do not know!) the Women’s March on Washington was not allowed to congregate on the Mall. Instead, the organizers were allotted a street corner. One stage. The limited PA speakers and Jumbotrons meant that unless you were were within a block of the main stage, you couldn’t hear or see a thing. 

Wait?!?!! Is that the Jumbotron?

And you know what? It was fine. It was more than fine. 

Because of the YUUUUGE turnout, the barriers were removed between the streets and the Mall in many places. The estimated number of marchers tripled (at least) what was expected. There was no real “march” for many of us, in part because it would have taken hours for us to clear the parade route. 


Yes, the lines for the porta-potties were long. Yes, there were no places to get food or drink (there may have been… but we didn’t see them.) Yes, the cell signal was poor to missing, which one would expect at such a huge gathering of people. And YES there were so many people that we could not march!! 

My friend Karen’s sign was a hit!

We stood, sang songs, shared food, laughed at witty signs, had thoughtful discussions with strangers, and generally found ourselves caught up in something MUCH bigger than we are. 

Tonight my aging bones feel every step and hour of standing in the damp cold air. It does not matter. I feel hope and a sense of purpose.

Trying on my rainbow stole on Friday night, pinned with the names of friends, family, co-workers and patients. I marched for them too.


 
There are hard conversations ahead. There are many who did not feel included in the March’s planning. There are deep social, political and systemic ills that one March will not change. There are significant roadblocks to progress in the new administration (ponder JFK’s quote…)  

BUT… 

Our voices were loud and clear. We will be watching. We will speak out. You have poked the sleeping giant, and She will not be stilled. 

I don’t speak for you

I don’t speak for you.

There. I said it.

I also don’t speak for people who look like me, dress like me, work with me, worship with me, or live near me. And, most importantly, I most definitely do not speak for someone who is nothing like me!

I am just… me. A wife and mom. A hospice chaplain. A progressive Baptist. A pastor. An LGBTQ+ally (and yes — I asked and was told that I am. If that matters.)

I look like women who voted for Trump in large numbers, and that pisses me off. (White, middle class, Christian.) I supported Hillary and contributed to her campaign. I tried to influence the hearts and minds of people around me to vote for her. And apparently, I was not very good at it.

Election night, I had tears in my eyes and felt frustrated. I had no words for those closest to me who were also devastated. I heard their fears. I was distressed with them. I am deeply worried about them because of the rhetoric and abuse we all heard from Trump during the campaign. They are vulnerable because of who they are.

Here’s what I have learned in the last few days…  (Sorry it’s in bullet points. I don’t have time to create fantastic, in-depth prose.)

  • By accident of birth, education and economic status, I could fade into the Great Beyond of white suburbia. But my Calling, my conscience and my faith do not allow that.
  • Those who know me already, know that when I wear a safety pin* or a rainbow bracelet, that I am visibly trying to signal what I believe and will do. And that I want them to be treated fairly, kindly, respectfully as I want to be treated.
  • Those who don’t know me personally might think I’m posturing.
  • The dying patients I serve, as well as their families, need my focus and care. Many of them are marginalized by their race, religion or gender identity.
  • My coworkers who care for the dying with me every day are sad, stressed and discouraged.
  • My family, friends, and parishioners have real fears, hurts and anxieties because of this election season.
  • I don’t have enough money, time or energy to respond to every need around me. That means I have to pick and choose, and I try to do that wisely.
  • I am praying — fiercely — for the projected new President.** (As of this date, the Electoral College has not met.)

 

I am trying to make a difference where I am. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. In my context. Wherever God takes me.

I will do this imperfectly. Incompletely. Ignorantly. But I will keep trying.

I will  continue speak up against hate speech whenever I witness it.

I will keep learning. Growing. Praying. Reading. Listening. Serving. I’ll wear a safety pin and a rainbow bracelet. And sometimes, a cross. And I’ll try to do a better job of being an example of Christ in the world.

soli deo gloria

 

*It used to be that when someone wore a cross, they were expected to act “Christianly”. But today, the cross has been co-opted by political entities within American politics. It seems that a safety pin might better express my effort to be a welcoming, affirming and listening presence, without the trappings of a particular religious group.

**[edited to add] This does not mean he has my approval or my trust. (Bless his heart.) It means I am fulfilling a Scriptural admonishment to pray for those in authority.