She’s Not Country

So there I am last night, watching Friday Night Lights (our current Netflix binge) and keeping track of the Cubs via social media. I started to see a couple articles about Beyoncé’s surprise appearance at the Country Music Awards. “Country fans” were upset she was there. But why? The answer is obvious and complicated.


First, a little background. I grew up in a Nashville suburb. My father’s house was down the way from Twitty City (Conway Twitty‘s house and fun park) and on the weekends my father would take us out on the lake and we would pass by Johnny Cash‘s house.  Reba MacEntire lived on the same lake and I played with her son once while waiting for a table at a restaurant. I spent my summers at Opryland Amusement Park and my Christmas at the Opryland Hotel.

Just about everyone in Nashville is trying to make it in the music industry. They may be working as photographers or construction, but they are song writers and open mic night performers at heart. They write the songs that in their wildest dreams would make the whole world sing, if they could ever get anyone to hear them. There is just as much talent in one square mile in the city of Nashville as there is in London or New York. There’s a reason why non country musicians like Ben Folds live in Nashville.

There was a lot of talk in the 1980’s and 1990’s that country had lost it’s soul, that the days of Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard were gone. Or that Nashville had been stripped of it’s Music City title with everyone buying time shares in Branson, Missouri.

Now, I was never really a “country fan”except in the ways that most kids my age were when country started making “superstars” like Garth Brooks. There was a lot of upset in Nashville at the time. Country Western was re-branding into the pop sensation that is now known as “Country” and Nashville didn’t know what to do. Nashville had once been the epicenter of country music, but in the early to mid-80’s Madonna and Michael Jackson ruled the world and Nashville was slumming it.

SO… re-brand they did. The Grand Ole Opry got a face lift and Gaylord Entertainment took over that part of Nashville. The Ryman Auditorium also received a face lift, 2nd Ave became the Beale St. of Nashville and there were all kinds of music festivals everywhere. Country had moved to the arena and the theaters of old opened their doors to all types of music. Nashville became an epicenter for music as a teenager I benefited seeing artists like Widespread Panic and Bonnie Raitt at the same concert.

But not everyone is pleased about this. Why? For the same reason people are upset that Beyoncé sang at the Country Music Awards.

The first defense to why people where upset was to say, “She’s Not Country” which begs the question, What is Country these days?

When “country” music went to the arena it turned pop, everyone in Nashville thought so and said so, even if they liked it. “Crossover” became the buzz word of the 1990’s. But what is really behind the upset? Well, all things southern- Race (and gender), Money, and Politics

In a comment discussion on Facebook last night I was responding to a “She’s Not Country” argument by saying- no, Beyoncé isn’t “country” but neither was Justin Timberlake and he performed last year at the CMA’s and no one cared.

So we come to our first challenge- Race (and gender). Here’s a great article on the history of women in country music. Not only are there not that many women who sing, the view of women in the songs reaches as far as Daisy Duke shorts and Confederate flag bras. The reality is southern women as strong as brass. But like many things except homemaking, women haven’t always been welcome, and last night was a testament of feminism with their tribute to Dolly Parton.


But the bigger issue here is Race, it is not to be denied. Here’s a long, but great article on the subject. It cannot be denied that the outrage last night was over a black woman being on stage. And anyone who denies that, is not really looking at the truth. “Country” equates itself with the confederate flag and in 2016 that stands for white supremacy. Name one “popular” black country musician besides Darius Rudker? Thought so… (popular is in quotes because I could write a whole other blog on Darius here…)

So I continue in my Facebook discussion and then it comes: “The Dixie Chicks shouldn’t have been there either.” And here we have it. What is country? It’s “good old southern values. God and Country.”

One of my favorite (albeit crude) comedians Bo Burnham points out that Springstein can sing about a Turnpike and it’s art, but country gets a bad wrap for singing about a dirt road (watch this, it’s funny).

Which brings us to #2 Money. 

The joke goes like this:
Q: What do you get when you play country music backwards?
A: You get back your wife, your dog and your truck.

Country lost it’s mojo the moment it got money. Country lost it’s soul for the almighty dollar. It was about hardship, oppression, it came out of the roots of Appalacia and the blues.  Two groups who were highly oppressed and sang because the sorrow had no where else to go. Country adapted into the poor white version of the African-American spiritual. When the Beatles came along country firmly planted itself as the poor white man’s music. Country was always about being down on your luck and appreciating the small things of life.

Like most of us in the civilized world money became the god and God and Jesus were just ways to sell tickets.

Politics– The comment about the Dixie Chicks has nothing to do with the music, it has everything to do with their politics. They do not fit the “southern values” mold. Because they speak out against War, against misogyny, against racism. Well then sorry country, if breaking the political mold of conservative republicanism is not country then neither can  Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash be yours either…

“Country” isn’t a type of music anymore. Listen to The Eagles or Crosby, Stills, and Nash, they sound a lot like country or today just turn on Mumford and Sons. Hell people, Elvis was country!

The “Country Music” you love today has come a long way from the country of old. Like everything else in this world it has adapted and changed with the times and Beyoncé’s presence on stage is nothing short of what’s next for Country Music.

Now, listen to this, it’s not “country” but it’s country.

Pulling the Trigger

I’m not the first to say it, this election has been triggering. For immigrants, for People of Color, for women, for men of conscience. For, well, almost everyone.

Today was the latest scandal about Trump’s “locker room talk” in 2005. I won’t even bother linking to an article about it. It’s not worth it, if you haven’t read about it then don’t bother, it comes down to this, rape culture is real.

Several weeks ago something happened in my life that made all the triggers go off. Just about all of them. I was telling my therapist that I was already on high alert because every time I turn on the news I get triggered by something.

I was raw and exposed, again…

Being “triggered” basically means you have an emotional reaction to something that is from your past. It’s like PTSD only hopefully on a less severe level. It could be anything. Smelling old spice aftershave that my grandfather used to wear. Spelling the cologne your rapist was wearing.

The thing about being triggered is even the most self-aware people can be triggered and not know it for minutes, hours, days. Over time I have developed internal “check-ins”. “What’s bothering me?” Oh… that explains it.

Think… anything that comes out of Trumps mouth for the people he is talking about.

Anyway, I was talking to my therapist, “I’m tired of being raw, I’m tired of being exposed, I’m tired of being triggered by everything every time I turn around!”

In other words, I needed to have a little more control.

He asked me a very therapist-y question. “Is there any time in the past where you have had this happen and how did you handle it?”

Okay, fair enough, well played therapist man.

I told him a story of when I was in seminary and I had several issues of “serendipity” or “coincidence” and I decided to make a spiritual discipline out of it. It had happened so many times in a row that I felt like I was out of control.

I felt that these were messages from God that I was not paying attention to. So I chose a number, the trinity would guide me (remember, I was in seminary). If someone came to my mind 3 times in a short period of time I would call them. If I came across a book, movie, someone mentioned “you should do something… go somewhere… think about” if it came up 3 times, I would no longer put it off.

This is a spiritual practice I still do today and has become highly effective.

“So”, my therapist said, “Let’s try it.”

For the last few weeks every time I’ve been triggered by something I used it as an opportunity to release it and extend forgiveness for the thing triggered.

When I was 19 I read the book “Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He said something about forgiveness that I have never forgotten.


“When you can touch a wound and it doesn’t hurt,
then you know you have truly forgiven.”

It was damning to me. In fact, it was one of those things where I said, “That’s impossible.”

Years later, I know it’s not. It can happen. But like a wound a doctor heals, it has to be checked, and sometimes hurts more to look under the bandage. Sometimes the wound reopens.

When we are triggered we reopen a wound that has yet to be healed. And they’re everywhere. Elsewhere in the book he speaks of having a skin condition covered in wounds that have become “normal” and people without the skin condition are considered the freaks.

If I use his analogy to contemporary issues I could say that the people without the skin conditions are “woke”.

So for the last few weeks I have been trying to see triggering as a spiritual practice. It is time to change the dressing on that wound. Changing the dressing is the healthy way of addressing the wound.

I realized I had a choice, I could ignore it (and the past tells me it will reopen the wound and the pattern will continue) or I could address it. By addressing it, I could use the opportunity to heal to extend forgiveness.

This is what I know. (and yes, I am closely reaching my self-help cliche mark for one post). Withholding forgiveness hurts me more than it hurts you. Throughout the weeks as my therapist and I have talked about how my spiritual practice is going, I have noticed it wasn’t just about needing to be in control of my emotions, it was also about living into who I am.

I am not a person who withholds forgiveness easily, especially people I love and have ongoing relationships with. Triggers are an opportunity to live more fully into my scarred, but healed self.

Funny how God works sometimes…


Stand by Your Man: The Affair Issue

There were a lot of factors that went into my suspicions that my husband was having affair. He was a professional man, a corporate lawyer, worked at all hours, at work or at home. We had been married a long time and he would go to the movies or get drinks with work friends, just as sometimes I would.

Yet, none of this was suspicious to me.

I started to raise questions when his phone, which he was almost always attached to, became off limits to me. I became suspicious when he had “tv dates” with his friends from work. Constant texting. Complacent about our relationship and friends. The only time I saw him smile for a while is when he would get a text, and hide it from me. Then, the lies about what time he was getting home, where he was going, and with whom.

Before “I knew” I felt like I was having a pre-midlife crisis. (I was too young for midlife and too old for quarter life). I tried some self care. I worked a lot (and I mean, a lot), I started running, did a lot of yoga, and even more therapy.

“What was wrong with me?” was constant question in my head. I told my therapist, “I don’t understand: I have a great husband, a great marriage, a great job, wonderful kids. I mean it’s not ‘perfect’ but it’s all good, so it must be me, right?” I consumed myself with projects and, well, trying to become perfect.

I was trying to figure it all out. It was like a puzzle, but the pieces were too complex. When Christmas came around I threw a dinner party for some of my husband’s work people (that’s what wives do of successful husbands, right?). In the end he only wanted to invite his two closest friends, one of whom was going through a divorce. I thought she was the one he was aways texting.

I was wrong.

As soon as she walked it, I saw the way they looked at each other. She barely made eye contact with me. And I knew instantly.

At dinner, I sat across the table from her. She sat across the table from me. Sat across *my* table, eating the dinner *I* made. I was trying to make sense of it all, and couldn’t. I subtly snapped a picture of her and texted it to my best friend.

“Ummm…. I think my husband is having an affair with this woman.” Processing the situation was being blocked. “No!” my brain said, “this is NOT happening!”

We looked a bit alike and had very similar personalities. That night after they left I confronted him. I didn’t want to know and truly believed nothing physical had happened… yet.

But I saw it all. One wrong decision on his part and it could all fall apart. We talked through all the ramifications. Affair with a superior, a partner in the firm. An end of his job, this marriage and our family. No. It’s ridiculous, no affair was worth that.

I told him what I have advised others throughout the years. “She is not worth more than my marriage and my family.”

Yes, it really is that simple. And that hard. 

But a few weeks later there it was. Lies, staying out all night, more lies. I knew it.

The thing about it is, affairs are things that happen to other people. Not my family. Not my husband.

Before we even got married we would talk about how we could see a one night stand happen to people, but affairs? No. Sex wasn’t going to end my marriage. But being in love with someone else? A longterm intimate relationship and my husband lying and being completely complacent towards me? Yeah, that would never happen in my family.

Years later, here I am. It did happen to me.

I dealt with the “stand by your man” complex, a lot. It was 8 months after that dinner my husband said, “I’m done.” Yes, you read that right, HE said, “I’m done.”

If I learned anything it’s this: You have no idea how a couple works or the compromises they make.

I never used to understand Hillary Clinton, or women like her. I had little to no respect for women who stood beside their public husbands and held their hands when their husbands publicly admitted one of the most personal, and heart-wrenching things a husband can do with to a wife.

But it’s easy to judge other people’s marriages. When you’re standing from the outside.


What I now know about Secretary Clinton is this, what she did was one of the hardest things any wife could ever do because we all make compromises in marriage. This was not going to end hers. 

That is strength.

I had many friends (although VERY few people knew what was happening in my life) who didn’t get it. “Leave the bastard.” “Why are you letting him put you through this?” were all things I heard on a regular basis.

The answer was simple: He’s my husband.

Here we are, years and years later and not only did she stand by her husband, she kept her head high, and she kept to her dreams and she is now running for the highest office in the country. My marriage was not nearly (understatement of the year) as public as the Clinton’s was, but if my husband had had to do a press conference, I would have been there “betraying the sisterhood” just as she did.

This presidential election has seen more than enough ridiculous accusations, but right before the first presidential debate Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign said it was going to put Gennifer Flowers in the room during the debate. It obviously didn’t happen, but even the gall to bring it up. NO!

Now, I have no love for Trump. None. Zero. I will not even pretend, and if for one second you think my being a democrat has anything to do with the fact this was too low, then you are mistaken.

Her husband’s affairs were not an abuse of power on her part. She was also a victim and if you think for one moment it is a sign of weakness, you are mistaken sir.

I know, because I am strong, and I made it through those 8 months because of that strength. However, thinking that it wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done, and that it didn’t break me to the core of my being, than your wrong.

I have not had to sit across a table, room, or even see the woman that sat across the table from me at that Christmas dinner. I cannot imagine the plague that haunts Secretary Clinton to see her face and have her husband’s sins thrown in her face on a regular basis.

And my friend Carol, said it best.


Bringing this up will hurt Hillary Clinton, I have no doubt about it, but I pray that it will not hurt her in the polls. Not simply because I am a democrat, but because any human being that resorts to this low of a blow deserves to be handed their hat, and asked to leave this establishment, forever.

May it be every-loving so. Amen

The Five Things I need from White People Right Now

A time to speak and a time to amplify.


Another day, another unarmed black man dead. Terence Crutcher’s SUV stalled as he was coming back from community college classes. He was studying music appreciation and was very active in his church choir. Seeing his picture reminds me of any number of big dudes I know who can sing their lungs out. From his view in a helicopter, a Tulsa police officer thought he looked like a bad dude. Instead of trying to help the man with the stalled car, two officers made him put his hands up as he approached them for help. As he reached into his SUV, probably to grab some form of identification, which again, should not have been necessary because he was the one in distress, he was tased and then shot. He was unarmed. He was the father of four.

I feel like ranting and raving about how angry and scared this makes me…

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I received my first call to a church less than a month after my 25th birthday. The church wanted a young pastor, guess what? They go one! This meant, however, that the first decade of ministry was spent with the expression from others, “You’re so YOUNG!”

I didn’t have a response to this. It’s like when you’re 9 billion months pregnant and someone says, “You haven’t had that baby yet?” You want to retort “does it LOOK like I’ve had the baby yet?!?!?” (and expletives also filled my head). 

“You’re so young.” Yes. Yes, I am. I am an amazing accomplished young adult. I grew up and have gotten along better with adults than people my own age since I was 8. I was called an “old soul”. Life circumstances made me “wiser beyond my years”. At 25 I had been living as a self sufficient human being for more years than should be acceptable.

However, saying that because tiresome and downright rude, so I thought about it.

“You’re so young!” a person would say, “Oh, you’re just jealous!” I would say in a flirty but authoritative way that said, stop projecting your assumptions onto my age and judge me on my merits, also, I’m fun!

Yesterday my boyfriend and I went to see the movie, Don’t Think Twice. It’s about an Improv group who has been together and they’re all trying to advance their careers, it’s a movie about being not-so-young anymore and wondering what the meaning of “success” is.

After, as we drank Sangria and ate Tapas we discussed this ying and yang of jealousy and competitiveness. There are some people made for a certain thing. In this instance one of the characters “made it” on to the Saturday Night Live type show. He was a showman, he was good with the scripted but not as good as some of the others with improv. However, he had “made it” and the others hadn’t.

Earlier that day, I was going through my mail at work. There was a large catalog for church books, which of course I was pouring through. A couple pages in, side by side, were two books my best friend’s from Seminary had written.

In seminary the three of us were besties from the first year. Faith, like mindedness, snark, and a limited number of outlets in the classroom brought us together. (literally, we fought over the one accessible plug, three of us for two plugs and yes, we did get an extension chord).

As I look back on that time I think about Paul in his Letter to the Romans:

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. -Romans 12:6-8

I was not jealous of my friends, I loved them and love them still. I want good things for them. I was them to succeed and be happy each according to their own gifts.

I do not say this to be pretentious. I have certainly been jealous of things my friends have done, but that jealousy comes from seeing that they carved out the time, or they made certain things bigger priorities than I did.

For instance, I am jealous of people who play the guitar, but I am smart enough to know that if I put the time and effort into learning to do so, I would. (side note: this type of jealousy excludes things we have little to no control over such as pregnancy).

They have done great things, but so I have. Each in our own way, according to our gifts.

I don’t get jealous easily but when you turn to competitiveness, I become enslaved. Jealousy has to do with having something someone else wants. I guess life has taught me that nothing comes easy for anyone, and if it does come easy than there are issues with that (entitlement, for instance). There’s always a catch.

Competition is different. Maybe it’s because I don’t go after something unless I really want it. Competitiveness hits me at my core. It’s personal. Why would someone want them, when they could have me?

Yes, I am this egotistical.

When my “Kool Kids” (yes, this is what we called ourselves, and specifically made the ironic “k”) respective books came out I was proud of them, I also felt this pull of jealousy/competition, (what had I done with my time since Seminary? should I be writing a book? Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?) It was about me, not them.

There is a scene in the movie (which I am going to get wrong) where one of the characters tells the mopey “why wasn’t it me” guy that he should stop looking to the one who “made it” work on his own strengths instead of relying on his friend to get hima  ticket on the success train.

This was a blip of a scene in the movie, but very poignant.

If you’re jealous of the people you are in competition with, then spend that energy focusing on yourself. What’s the saying? If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then water your own grass.


No one’s marriage is perfect. No one’s got it all figured out. If you want something, go for it and if you don’t get it or it doesn’t work out, reflect, regroup, and redirect your attention. (yeah, I totally just came up with that! See I’m awesome!)

Focus on yourself in healthy doses. And then, with confidence, the next time someone gives you a backhanded compliment you can exclaim with joy, “You’re just jealous!”

(You can buy Kool Kids books here and here. and we were cool way before Echosmith was even born…)

You Will Know, When You Know


At my first church I moved only a few hours from my Aunt and Uncle whom I didn’t really know. My parents were the older siblings in their families and had children young, my sister and I are almost a decade older than our cousins. My aunt, then having small children watched as I officiate Easter Worship and interacted with my congregation. I was 25 years old. I had been married for 2 years and she could not fathom how “grown up” I was.

“You have a very adult job” she told me. I really wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or a criticism (in my head I heard “you’re playing with fire, you cannot handle this”). I did have a very grown up job, and I was (and still am) good at it. Sure, there are times when my “youth” equates to poor judgement, but as I get older, it’s simply moments of poor judgement, guess what? Who has two thumbs and is human? This chick.

But it is scary for all of us. How do we know we are saying or doing the “right” thing? Sometimes I have to impart wisdom in life or death situations and it’s scary. Yet, I can say this with confidence, I’m a smart girl, I actually do have a lot of wisdom to impart (through the grace of God), despite the fact that I am only 36 years old. So… here’s some tidbits.

When you’re mad at God, it means that you love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Scenario: I am a chaplain in a hospital. A family is trying to care for their mother who is dying, it will be hours, not days. She is cursing God, she is in pain, she is grieving for her life. The family (a more conservative type of Christian) is sincerely worried that she will die and “not be right with God” and therefore go to hell. They believe this despite a lifetime of Christian service and faith. I sat with them, I talked through it with them, and then I asked them a question. When is the last time you were angry at someone, I mean really angry? Was it with someone you knew casually? Or was it someone you loved?

The last time we were truly mad is not over the guy who cut us off on the interstate.  The truth is, we only are truly angry at the people we love most. Our partner, our children, our parents, our friends, ourselves. When your mother is cursing God, it’s because she loves God, if she didn’t she wouldn’t care.

I know it hurts, but that’s how you know it is love. Scenario: I had trouble getting pregnant and high risk pregnancies, so much so that I became friends with the ultrasound tech. For over a year I saw this woman bi-monthly, weekly, and then bi-weekly. Each time we would talk for about a half hour. When I went back for baby #2, she had just returned from maternity leave with her first. “I’m scared all the time, and I cry, constantly, at everything, does this ever end?” Yes, sometimes, no- no it does not. Yes, the hormones subside and you will cry less, but this feeling of dread, fear, and hurt? This feeling that you no longer have full control of your heart? No. She looked at me with massive amounts of dread.

It’s the consequence of experiencing real love. Any relationship involves risk, it’s the nature of relationship, but putting yourself out there in the most vulnerable ways possible and allowing yourself to experience real love, well, there is always a fear of losing. I have said this with new parents, with people grieving for someone who died, and to people at the end of marriages. When the pain is so devastating, so raw, so real – that’s when you know it is real love.

You will know when it’s time. Scenario: A woman sits before me in kidney failure, she is tired of dialysis, she is exhausting her children and she hates it, she has been talked to about hospice over a dozen times. “What do I do?” she asks me. Of course I can’t answer that, so I say to her what I have said a hundred times in the past.

When it comes to life and death, you’ll know. And when you know, you know, until then, you’re not ready. When it comes to life and death – of a person, of a marriage, of any relationship – if you don’t know (no matter how hard and painful it is) then you’re not ready. Because when it comes to a death, you and the ones you leave behind have to know, beyond a doubt, in the midst of their grief that they did everything possible and that you are sure or they simply will not be able to live with themselves. I have seen it time and time again, the moment where the wrestling ends and every fiber of their being knows what to do. 

All these scenarios happened within the first 5 years of my ministry. They are words of wisdom I have repeated time and time again. They are not “new” and I did not “think of them” they were gifts of the spirit. Moments in which I got to be the incarnation of Sophia (God’s wisdom). Yesterday I was reminded of them again and I wanted to share. Love to you all.

A Reoccurring Theme

I have told the story before, of how I became a follower of Christ. I was studying world religions in college, I connected with all of them. The respect for life in Jainism, the compassion of Buddhism, and the connection to the earth in Native American Spirituality. I really wasn’t sure about this Christian thing.

However, I was pulled and pulled back to Christianity, if felt inauthentic to be anything else. I was a  middle class, suburban white girl with an Irish/German heritage. Be Buddhist? yeah, I knew what I thought about those people. (judge me all you want for thinking this, but I did). Eastern Religious philosophy was at it’s height in making it’s way into American pop culture, and after spending some time with the sacred texts I got even more self-righteous about being authentic to my native religion. If only I could connect to it in some personal way. I found God in all the texts and none of the texts, so what made Christianity so special?

Then I found it.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” … “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” -Matthew 26:36-46 (excerpts)

If Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, whom we worship and adore could, in his most vulnerable moment, doubt. Ask God to stop this terrible, terrible thing from happening to him. Be strong enough in his faith and his trust in God to ask, beg, and plead to be saved from the terrible betrayal human do to one another, then that is a God I understand.

God says no, of course, and Jesus begins the journey we call “The Passion” narrative. First, he is betrayed by Judas with a kiss on the cheek, then by Peter where he denies knowing Jesus, three times.

We all know what happens next, Jesus is crucified although committed no crime. His last words are ones where he asks forgiveness for his betrayers and killers. Then God breaks the cycle of sin and shame and gives a big middle finger to the betrayers of the world through resurrection. I love every bit of the story and it’s symbolism. However, as I grow older the stories of Jesus, the stories of my spiritual journey change.

When I was a teenager I needed to be understood, more than anything in the world. I sought to understand, I learned everything I could, I became an active listener, I taught, but I desperately wanted someone to understand me. The story of Jesus in the Garden echoed that need.

Yet, here we are 20 years later and my needs have changed, and thus, the story that draws me in to my faith.

This summer I’ve been working through some of the hundreds of questions Jesus asked in his ministry, some are familiar and others more obscure. As I wrote the liturgy for the summer one stuck out to me, surprised me, and reminded me of the longing I had years ago for a God who “got me.”

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” -John 21:15-19

First, let me say, I feel like Jesus is Eliza Doolittle and Peter is Freddy Eynsford-Hill from My Fair Lady. Think about while you watch this…

Jesus teaches us forgiveness all throughout his ministry, but as much as the disciples are, at times, downright idiots and very frustrating companions, they don’t really do anything wrong. Person after person asks Jesus for “how to” and “WWJD” scenarios about forgiveness and he tells them to forgive an infinite number and tells the story of the Prodigal Son.

But again, I want to follow a God who isn’t just words, and I believe that God expects the same from me. This brings us to Peter. Jesus trusts Peter with everything, he is the rock on which the church will be built. Jesus hands Peter his baby and says, “raise it like your own”.

When he is resurrected he first seeks reconciliation with Peter. Peter, who made the ultimate betrayal. “Peter do you love me?” “Yes Lord, you know I do!!!” Peter is insistent and downright angry for being asked such a question. He knows he is in the wrong and is so frustrated with himself, how could he have messed up so badly? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

And, like Eliza, Jesus responds with, “then show me.”

Love as I have loved, nurture the poor in spirit, humble yourself. You have my grace, my mercy, and even forgiveness, now it’s your turn to show me I was not wrong about you. Have as much faith in yourself, as I have in you. Follow me.

Faith is a wonderful thing. I love God, I love Jesus, I love my neighbors, but if I neglect for one minute to feed and tend and nurture than I have betrayed Jesus all over again. I do not worry about his grace being extended, this is his promise, but faith demands action, Jesus demands action, not just words.


Call Me Cliché

So I was in therapy this week. (Like I do.) I was talking to my therapist about feeling safe. The “freedom of safety” as I call it.

For years I have talked about the same theme in therapy (different situations, same theme). I want freedom. I was to feel safe. I want to not wait for the other shoe to drop. I want to trust the people around me. That they won’t hurt me (emotionally, physically, sexually). That I won’t be manipulated (see previous sentence). That I will be safe.

Safe is a word I use a lot. It goes hand and hand with trust. I want to be myself, truly be myself. In order to do that I need to believe that the people around me will accept me, I need the confidence that if they don’t, that I will be able to shake the dust off my feet.

I need to express my needs without (undo) criticism, I need the safe space to have what I’m feeling and experiencing be heard, and, well, believed.

I have never found this space. Ever.

I have moments, glimpses. A brief second in the most intimate moments with the people I love and trust the most, I see my free, safe, authentic self come out to play. And then she goes back into hiding, scared by the world, not wanting to be hurt.

So today, as I describe wanting this feeling again (and here’s how it’s manifesting itself this time…) my therapist told me to be nice to myself. He called it a “just because” present. Or a “thanks for all you do” present. It didn’t have to be a “thing” but it ended up being one.

It’s not that my life is harder than anyone else’s or that my shadow is necessarily bigger, but as I left his office I realized that I no longer had the money to do the things I used to for self care.

Let’s be honest. Self care is essential (especially for care givers) to feel safe. A retreat or a massage was my lifeline when there were too many deaths or pastoral crisis in a short amount of time. I used to go out to dinner with friends and talk for hours when my life was falling apart or visit them “just because.” I used to have the money to do little things for myself to say “thank you” for mustering enough courage to let others in, to risk being hurt, to mourn, to grieve, to appreciate myself and how hard life has been.

But I no longer do. I started giving myself small presents years ago to say “thanks for all you do for me” because I couldn’t expect others to, and so instead of being consistently disappointed, I got them for myself.

So as I left my therapist’s office I asked myself: What would be something (an inexpensive something) that would allow me to be reminded that I am okay? I am safe. I am free.

So I bought myself my favorite thing in the world. Flowers.

Call me a cliche but I love flowers. I love wild flowers, really any flowers that are fresh cut from a garden. So I stopped and got flowers cut from a local farm, I came home and put them in a vase and added some hydrangeas from my own garden. I spent less that $20.

If I could I would have fresh flowers everywhere. I love them that much, they are, as silly as it may sound, the touchstone that reminds me of freedom and safety in the midst of my fragility.

As I drove to work this morning a mower was buzzing wildflowers from the sides of the highways. I wanted to stop and go pick them all before he did. Wildflowers, or fresh cut flowers in general, remind me of the beauty of impermanence, the essence of fragility.

And before you begin to suspect, yes, my boyfriend knows and no, this is not a plea for him to buy me flowers. He has, for your information, planted hundreds of flowers in our gardens. (even though he will only refer to them as “pollinators.”) For our first date he bought me white lilies with red gerber daisies.

I know after some time they will die, I know I can’t carry them around with me where ever I go (although I will carry them room to room for a while). I know that just like the trips and dinners with friends, the massages, and the retreats their effects will wear off and I will need another touchstone. So, for now, I will enjoy my stunning symbols of fragile openness, of safety from hostile environments, of freedom to bloom and be loved for it.

I pray I can see the same in myself.


I Love You, But No. An Open Letter to Well Meaning White People

I have resisted writing this letter to you, my brothers and sisters, as I am no better than you are. Others have written this letter, others who know more and do it more eloquently. Yet it’s important enough that it bears repeating, over and over again.

You’ve stopped staying #AllLivesMatter not because you necessarily know why, but because you know it offends. You’re not racist, or you are in the way all people are, but you’re not those people. You listen to other white people and agree secretly and silently that you’re not really sure what the fuss is about. One “bad seed” you say about a cop. Quietly you ask the question “why should all cops be punished for one man’s crimes?”

You’re struggling against your need to resist conflict and do that “listening” the black community, (the gay community, the oppressed communities) is imploring you to do.  You scroll through their Facebook feeds and secretly think, “do they hate white people”?  You have questions, and you want to ask them, but to be honest, now is not the time.

Here’s the advice that all have given and no one is hearing. Shut up. No really. Stop talking. Now.

We are not “all the same” we do not “all struggle” with this. I understand that someone down the line your family was oppressed by the Visigoths (probably) but now is not that time, and we do not live in that land, and let’s be honest, since then you have experienced nothing but privilege in America. I know my ancestors were indentured servants and built the railroad, but tell me, come March 17 how many people don’t now claim to be Irish?

I need you to hear something: It is NOT the same. It just isn’t. We aren’t all the same.

I will admit, I am not writing this for your own good. I am definitely not writing this to feel superior, I am writing this because my love and partner is dying inside.

He is a lover, a father, a community leader, and a pastor, he also is an African American man in predominately white spaces. He wants to care for others, it’s his nature. But right now, he cannot be your teacher. He (and so many other like him) are hated, judged, accused, and tried in this country for the color of his skin. And yes, that is a true fact. Seriously. Just accept it.

Actually start there. When he is before you and the issues of the news come up in conversation ask him how he is doing. Accept that he is hurting. Accept that the way you wanted to protect your child after Sandy Hook is the way he feels everyday about his own life and his children. Accept that every cop shooting, every protest arrest, every slander said against Malia Obama, he hears about himself, his son, and his daughter.

When these issues are mentioned, don’t tell him, “some people just don’t think” or that “some people are just stupid”. I know you care for the person before you, I do, but you dismiss his feelings this way.

Remember: The Black Community is in crisis. All of them. ALL of them. Even if you haven’t witnessed it with your own eyes, it’s still true.

So have some respect (and yes, I know you never meant disrespect) but learn to respect that this person in front of you needs to be angry, needs to have their feelings validated, and needs to mourn the centuries of wrong that has been done to him and his people. There are too many offenses to count. Keep your feelings inside and do not judge.

You’ve had your turn, it’s time to listen.



For the Fathers Without


Dear God, you fathered a world, humanity created in your image, then you fathered a nation, and a peoples. Eventually you fathered the Son who would show the world dutiful devotion, even when his brothers and sisters turned on him, you loved them all.

I celebrate the father’s without shame today. Those that have accepted, loved, sought understanding and pride despite the hardships of life. Who acknowledged children without a marriage certificate or the approval of their families, despite pressures of the outside world, who fought to show their children they loved them.

For the first without fear of diaper changing, spit up or “breaking the baby”. For dreams which are not reality in tiny human form. For the Fathers without their names on birth certificates who raised children to be outstanding human beings. Who spread love without fear.

If only it were all that easy, but it’s also all that hard. Today my heart breaks for the fathers without. They are men who have seen the spectrum of heartbreak and overwhelming joy.

For those who are fathers without children. Men who could struggle with infertility, for men who were born without male parts, for men who make the decision to not have children, yet live in sadness, I lift them to you. They mourn the expectation, the hope of the birth, the overwhelming love.

Like the Parodical father, you wait for us to return to you. But my heart aches today for the fathers whose sons and daughters will never return. Gunned down, threatened, beaten for the color of their skin, their bodies, or whom they love. For the sons and daughters to never return home because of drugs, a bomb or drunk driver. The children lost and taken, abused and broken.

For the children who will never see their fathers again. For those who grieve the loss of a harsh man, for those who mourn the kindest, gentlest soul they knew. For the last Father’s Day with, for the first without. For everyday in-between this Sunday in June where he heart aches.

I pray for those who yearn for connection but have been rejected due to their father’s shame. For those who put doctrine above relationship. For those who refuse to understand, for those who judge too harshly, for those who cannot take the log out of their own eye. For those fathers and children who just can’t right now.

For the fathers without today, his children in someone else’s care, his children taken from the world too soon, his children estranged, his children nonexistent. I mourn for you and with you. God hold them in your care, love them, protect them, watch over them.

This is my prayer, Amen.