11.23.2016

Overwhelm and Offices

A decade ago, I took a year-long discernment class.  A few things from that class have stayed with me: the excellent reading list, the respect with which the clergy leader spoke of lay ministry, and this advice: Be in the habit of praying the daily offices, because when you suddenly need them, they will carry you.

The truth is, I dip in and out of the practice, but in the last week, I've been so grateful to know where to find a life raft.  The weeks following this election have been more frightening than 9/11 ever seemed to me.  In the last month I've had mouth ulcers, my first major migraine in a decade, and my normal cycle is now over a month late (yes I saw a doctor, no I'm not expecting).  Messages about unity and how the side that loses is always disappointed haven't come close to speaking to me (have in fact offended me).

On Sunday, I picked up my trusty Daily Offices.  This Sunday, I'll switch to Year 1 as we begin Advent, the new church year, the season when we are alert with expectation for Godliness and Goodness that is not here yet.  I don't have my own words to pray this month, but I am being fortified by the psalms and canticles of generations who also knew that the world they walked in was both holy and insufficient.





11.21.2016

Heroes Next Door

Our first Soup Night was last week.  It wasn't crowded, but it was amazing.  Sweet neighbors that we've only known on a waving basis came, as did a family from the little Biscuit's preschool.  Our neighbor cares for elderly people, and loves her job.  She danced with my son, and his grin nearly touched his ears.  The infant sister of our preschool friend found my husband's naan irresistible-- she leaned forward on her mama's lap until she managed to gum her very first solid food.

Look around.  The people we know are doing good.  I'm reading Joan Chittister's Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, because I need big heroes, book-sized heroes, and women religious so often are that for me-- but it's good to pay attention to what's happening next door.  People are working hard, loving faithfully, and laughing at the joy and ridiculousness that's right here.

What good are you doing this week, and what good are you watching?



11.14.2016

Those Who Conceal Their Good Works

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Gregory the Great, throwing my... well, if not my knickers, then at least my high regard onto the rock-star stage of his work, "The Book of Pastoral Rule." (But everyone feels that way about 6th century popes, no?) A central premise of Gregory's Book is that different people require different sorts of pastoral care.  Sounds basic, but I don't hear it discussed much, and I love it.  (It is, in fact, part of why I find the Enneagram useful-- how I screw up, and where I can grow are different than they are for you.) Gregory sets up a number of binaries, and explores how to minister to each-- rich and poor, loud-mouthed and timid, givers and thieves, etc.

After this dark week, after this election, I'm thinking of this guidance Gregory gives to people whose only good work is done in private:
"For anyone who is able to suppress the lust for praise is, in effect, guilty of a bad example if he hides the good that he does."

I need to see the good that you're doing right now.  I need your good example.  In the language of Fred Rogers, I need to be able to see the helpers.  I need to know that we're together in the tasks ahead of us.  

Of course there's danger of bragging, and of words instead of action (Gregory addresses them in the same chapter), but I want you to know: I need heroes.  I need historical ones, I need literary ones, but I also need the ones who have their sleeves rolled up right now all around me.  

So please come to my door, tell me about your work and the work you see being done by others.  I have great hope for what we can do together.


11.11.2016

Soup Night

Well, the real kitchen door is finally open, too.  After decades of believing in hospitality, and practicing in dribs and drabs, my better chef and I are starting a habit of casual dinners at our house.

Because I badly want people to come together and care for one another right now.

Because being in one another's homes is radically different than going out together.

Because my shabby little beige home is still capable of holding and feeding and warming others.

Because we need each other.  Because I need you.

If you're in town on Sunday nights, come on over.


11.10.2016

The Kitchen Door is back open.

The door is open.  The kettle is hot.  Now is the time for radical hospitality.  Let's do this together.

There are a lot of ways to do the work of Christ in the world.  These are some of the places I'll be tithing in the months ahead:

The Southern Poverty Law Center

The National Organization for Women

The American Civil Liberties Union.

"So keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, 

but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Be outrageous... rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through celebrating the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was!"  -Ms. Molly Ivins


6.12.2016

Bathsheba and Stanford

After a week of reading about the Stanford rape case, I was stunned to see that David and Bathsheba as the subjects of this morning's Old Testament lectionary reading.

I listened to the lector read about Bathsheba mourning her husband (Uriah), David called to account (for theft of Uriah's property and for murder-- not for rape), and I listened to the words of the prophet Nathan: "Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die."


And then we all very peacefully said, "Thanks be to God," and moved on. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  

Before I go any further, I want to say: sexual violence is a raw and personal subject for an enormous number of people, and springing it on a congregation from the pulpit is probably not a wise idea.


We have to talk about it somewhere, though, because when we gloss over violence, when we hear it a thousand times in the same scripture stories, it becomes normalized.  We the Church develop an attitude that minimizes assault, minimizes abuse of power, and entirely shuts out the story and perspective of the survivor.  We the Church are participants in rape culture when we read the stories of violence and abuse in scripture without questioning where God really is in the story.  

If we were willing to be uncomfortable, willing to tolerate the cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing David our Beloved Patriarch at the same time as we truly see the horror of David's sexual assault, we would have a powerful foundation for dealing with violence and abuse in our midst. We could recognize the truth that abusers look just like the people we respect-- because they *are* the people we respect.  We could see our part in protecting abusers and rejecting survivors.  We might reach forgiveness by going through the overwhelming fury and pain, instead of leaping to a false forgiveness where nothing changes. If we spoke openly about how the violence of our forefathers afflicted their families and communities, then we could look at what we've inherited from our spiritual family, and begin to heal.


And perhaps Bathsheba, like the glorious Stanford survivor, could become a full character in the story, and not a prop. 















1.04.2016

Mondays: Simul Justus et Peccator

I'm energized and excited by learning about people who wring out every drop of their gifts to do good. Whether it's my seminary friend or a long-ago President, the courage and action of others sends motivation surging through me. I've been asking people lately who they're inspired by, and almost every time I do, I hear a robust chorus of, "Don't compare yourself to others!"

Friends, my ego can handle it. 

In the midst of a biography binge, I've been thinking about Martin Luther's perspective that we are, at the same time, both Saint and Sinner. What could free us more than the certainty that all who have concentrated their gifts on their endeavors were also bunglers, in one way or another?

In that spirit, I'll be sharing my favorite sinners and my most exasperating saints with you this year. May you be as delighted by their messy humanity as I am.