Promise: Year End Review

2014 was “Bloom”, 2015 was “Shalom” and 2016 – “Promise”

The year of promise is over and as I reflect, I anticipated 2016 to be a year of “Promise as anticipated joy.” Well, not so much. However, all was not lost in the realm of promise, but, as it turns out, 2016 was a year of promise, as in, faithfulness in the midst of adversity. 2016 will also go down as the year of keeping the promise of who I am and faithfully living that out despite these obstacles.

But first, 2016, overall can suck it. It will go down as the year of celebrity deaths and the epic mistake that is the election of Donald Trump.

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But that will not have the last word, the year of Promise, has some great accomplishments, here are a few:

First, to my children. I promised my children a few years ago when their father and I divorced that I would keep the house. This has not been a difficult promise, more so than I realized when I made it. This is a promise I struggle to keep on a monthly basis when the mortgage payment is due. But it is not simply the one payment, there is also the expense of upkeep, you know, like a costly HVAC system I did not anticipate dishing out, or a new roof on part of the house.

The financial burden of this year has been enormous, I cannot lie about that. However, in the midst of this year and drain on my finances this house is very much a home and a blessing.

This is the home for 4 children and 2 adults. It holds family dinners, a family garden, a basement where we dance and watch tv. It’s where we gather with friends and neighbors for fire pit and grilling. It holds space for friends who need a retreat and a warm bed. It is our home, futures are discussed here, children are tucked in, and love is shared here. The promise I have kept about this home has brought much joy and love.

Second, to my partner. Derrick’s had a rough year, he’s lost his job and his confidence. This, after 2 of the worst years of his life. It’s not always easy loving someone who has chronic depression and live in competition of the voices of depression that live inside his head, but I could not be more proud to love him. There are many promises one makes when they decide to connect and partner with another, when they decide to share their lives so intimately.

This year I have kept my promises to love and support him. It has truly been my honor. I pray this will be the most stressful and difficult year together, I pray that we will leave this year in our dust. In the past I struggled to keep promises of forgiveness and releasing grudges, not just with him, but in general. I am proud of the way I have been able to do that in our relationship this year, loving him has kept a promise within myself – to love fearlessly.

Last, I have kept promises with myself. I have made decisions this year to be good to myself. This is not about perfection, but I have noticed this year that I like myself more and more. I have been able to see and made some clear decisions, draw some clear boundaries.

I have created boundaries and goals in my work which has lowered my anxiety and made me a better parent. I have been able to love myself better, despite some weight gain which at one time would have sent me into a deep depression. I have made some decisions about my future that could relieve some stress about my future.

2016 overall can suck it, but through the promises made and kept this year I am happier, more stable, and my life is full of love and joy.

Soon I will look to 2017 and announce a new word, but for the next few days, I will continue these promises and more.

Mary Did You Know? You’re Everything Wrong with American Christians

Okay, Mary’s not what’s wrong with American Christians, but “Mary Did You Know?” is. You know the song… That terrible, overplayed, evangelical Christmas song that is you have ever read Luke 1,  the Magnificat , you would know that clearly this woman who is chosen to carry the savior of the world in the most dramatic and possibly most ridiculous way of all time DID know, leaving the song as one long mansplaining episode by the writer Mark Lowry? Yeah… that one.

Listen, I know it’s got a pretty melody and Pentatonixs made a video of it in a cave and it made you cry, I get it. And I’m sorry, because the reality is, it’s the most ridiculous song I’ve every heard. AND EVEN MORE THAN THAT, it is everything that is wrong with American Christians.

FIRST- It’s Patriarchal- Mark Lowry is a white evangelical who is a graduate of Liberty University, one of the most conservative universities in the country. I mean, I guess he can’t help it, right? From day one he was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Not only that, but she will be culturally shunned and her engagement will most likely be called off. We forget that she must rely on Joseph’s mercy to forgive her (for something she didn’t do). We forget that she could have been stoned to death if he chose not to forgive her. But she is to be regarded and appreciated not for her amazing strength and will but for her purity.

Purity takes on many forms. The obvious one is virginity. Women should be sexless, except inside of the covenant of marriage and even then, for procreation. Mary is the perfect woman because she could have a child WITHOUT having to have sex with a man and therefore she is the perfect woman in purity, fulfilling her role as a woman without demolishing her virginity.

However, in the patriarchal church Mary couldn’t have possibly have known what was happening to her, that is until her husband accepted her pregnancy. Even though if you read the scriptures the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, tells her what is to happen. She then goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and through their conversations Mary processes what is happening to her and does a battle cry of justice and mercy of God that shall reign through her child.

However, because no man has been involved in this story so far (angels aren’t “men”) so regardless of the scriptures, she could’t possibly understand. Women are simply not capable.

SECOND- It’s Proof Texting- According to sources (wikipedia) the song was written as a script for a Christmas play. These were questions Mark would like to ask Mary, the questions were asked between scenes of the play. It seems to me that would be the shortest Christmas play ever:

Mark: “Mary, did you know?”
Mary: “yes. yes I did.”

AND Scene.

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Here’s the thing. Mark knows his bible, pick me a line, any line from the song and it is based in scripture. To save time here’s a random sampling- Walk on water? Matthew 14, Sight to a Blind Man? John 9, Calm a storm? Mark 4, Walked Where Angels Trod? John 1, Rule the Nations, Matthew 28, and my favorite, This child that you deliver, will soon deliver you, John 19.

Why is it my favorite, BECAUSE SHE’S LITERALLY STANDING RIGHT THERE! John 19:26 “When Jesus saw his mother…” Seriously?!? Is she invisible? Yes, see point 1.

Proof texting is when one pulls a quote and uses it out of context to prove their point. When you proof text, you miss the arc of the story, you often miss the intention of the meaning of the quote. Here’s a quote for you:

“Feminism encourages women!”

I love it, it’s beautiful, it’s also true. It’s also Pat Robertson and here’s the whole quote, “Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” But Pat Robertson endorsed feminism and said it encouraged women! See what proof texting does?

“God hates Fags”, it says it in the Bible. Well, okay, there are two mandates that Leviticus lays out (see what I did there 😉 and says men shall not lie with (have sex with) men. Leviticus also says that I can sell my daughter into slavery and I can’t eat pig or wear clothes of mixed fiber. Read more about all this here.

Mary Did You Know? massive flaw is that these scriptures are taken out of context. Read the Magnificat she knew, she was also there participating in Jesus’ ministry!

THIRD- It’s Emotionally Manipulative- Listen, I’ve been there. I’ve been the sweet young girl who soloed “Mary Did You Know?” in front of a congregation because they wanted to see innocents personified. The song appeals to the maternalization of Mary.

Find some young sweet, young fertile girl, to remind us just how innocent and unsuspecting she would have been. Put her in front of a congregation so we can swoon over days gone by. So we can be lulled into complacency that if I pray hard enough and do the “right things” there will be a brand new Lexus at my door come Christmas Morning.

We so easily make the story of Jesus conception and birth about starry nights and a beautiful quiet sleeping baby and a perfect family. We so easily forget the emphasis that Jesus had a human birth, which means, it was messy. Very, very messy.

Jesus was born of a woman, meaning there was a bodily fluid and blood. There was a placenta and sweat and maybe even a bowel movement. Birth at this time also didn’t take place in a nice sterile hospital either, and Mary didn’t get the advantage of being in the comfort of her home with her family midwife near. No, she’s miles away in a smelly barn with her deer in the headlights husband, who according to the scriptures has never even seen her vagina.

There was sweat, there was blood, there were tears and screams and cow dung. Silent Night my ass. But that doesn’t appeal to us this time of year. In order to truly appreciate the story she wouldn’t have broken a sweat, laid down, popped the perfectly clean baby out and immediately made tea for her guests. This is what brings us close to God, she pondered these things in her heart, and iced her whoha.

So let’s get it straight, American Christians. For the love of all that is Holy, literally. Can we stop pressuring each other into pretending that Mary wasn’t scared, can we stop pretending that she didn’t know for one second the risks her son would go through? She knew the world better than anyone, and despite all the bullshit she had been put through not only did she know, she said yes!

God love her.

The Magnificat is a war cry. Mary knows the history of the Israelites waiting for a messiah, she celebrates by singing, that singing is to drive us into action for Justice and prepare us to be true followers of Christ. We want silent night but Mary knows, better than we do, that the king that is coming, is going to turn out world upside down.

Not My Christianity

It was 2005 and I was at my first official church face to face interview. We were gathered around a future parishioner’s dining room table and they asked me the questions they had come up with. Among some of the standards, they asked me this:

What is the biggest theological issue facing the church today?

This was one I had been waiting for, it was the height of gay ordination issues, and I knew where I was and I was unapologetic about it. I also knew that this was *all* the church was talking about and they wanted to know if it’s *all* I was going to talk about.

I talked about Matthew 25- to clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned. I saw their heads nod and their tension release, and so I added, “and we HAVE to find a way to reclaim Christianity from the radical right and not be afraid to evangelize progressive Christianity.”

Some strongly agreed, others thought the first part of my answer was “nice” enough to forgive what I just said.

I grew up with spurts of Catholicism and Methodism but my formative years were spent in the Southern Baptist church and I knew exactly how dangerous white evangelicals could be.

Over a dozen years have passed since I made that comment and last week, I knew we had failed, so far. Since becoming a Presbyterian in 1998, I’ve been working to spread the good news of progressive Christianity but it has not been enough.

 

For years Progressive Christians fought for gay rights, women’s ordination, women’s health and anti-racism. But as a whole we have not done enough. It is time for us to get out of our bubbles and stand up.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. I wasn’t preaching due to Stewardship Celebration Sunday, my role was to give the Call to Stewardship. I had mixed feelings about not preaching, but I now realize I wasn’t in a state to. I was pissed, I’m still pissed.

When I awoke this morning, I had nothing but sorry and anger, then the spirit moved and got to church and wrote this call:

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” -Luke 21:1-4

If we take the story of the widow’s mite on face value we are supposed to empty our bank accounts into the church’s account. (I mean, if that’s what God is calling you to do, who am I to stop you!)

But our world does not work that way, and I’m not sure Jesus’ did either.

“All she had to live on” is a phrase that has haunted me since the beginning of my ministry. What does it mean and how does it work?

Stewardship is about more than money. We talk about time and talents, but we need a new kind of stewardship in our world today.

A kind of stewardship that actually follows the teachings of Christ and the will of God. Not the false gods of prosperity we have created, but the God of love and justice, mercy and compassion.

We are called to give this world, “all we have to live on” because Christ taught us that people are more important than property, the prophets called for justice comes rolling down like a stream and we have polluted that stream with false idols and prioritizing ourselves over others and creation.

Today, here, now, is a call to discipleship. Will we be willing to put “all we have to live on” into what we believe? We will be willing to reject false teaching? Will we begin to truly understand that Christ has no hands but ours?

Are we willing to devote our lives to God and reject sin? Are we willing to stand up and claim our Christianity in the marketplaces? Are we willing to stand up to others who claim the same God and say, “I am a Christian, and God is a God of love, not hate.”

Now is not the time for random acts of kindness, but a wearing of the banner for the world to see.

All I have to live on is this: I am a Christian who condemns violence, who condemns hatred, who believes in peaceable living for all, who sees that it is my responsibility to care for the widows, the orphans, and the refugee.

Even Christ made a mistake, seeing the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter and less human than he, with her different color skin and her weaker gender, they were compared to the likeness of dogs, by Christ. That’s how strong the influence of power can be, the world convincing us that I and mine are better than you.

Give it up, Christ says, give it all up, just as this woman did. Take her example and literally, publicly, put in your two sense and surrender the thing that makes you powerful in this world.

Will you? Can you? Devote your whole self to God and serve Christ and the world with all you have?

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I share this with you because progressive Christianity cannot be indifferent to our faith any longer. We are so afraid of offending others that we have forgotten who we are.

If you want to answer this call then here’s what needs to happen. You have to stand up to injustice wherever you see it. You have to get involved politically. You have to find ways to give your privilege and power away and make room for others, YES.

But wait, there’s more. 

You have to know and study your Bible. You can’t be afraid of words like “Jesus”, “sin” and “judgement”. You need to be able to speak passionately about God, Christ, and faith and how your faith aligns with your politics.

Jesus never shied away from politics. Evangelicals don’t see them as two different things and neither should you.

You need to quote scripture like the rest of them, and in context.  You need to know your opponent’s arguments and be able to come back with why Jesus would NEVER have responded that way, be specific with examples. Be smart.

And why do all this? Because this is NOT a Christian Nation, but Christian nationalist have taken it over, and it’s past time to take it back.

#notmychristian

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I dedicate this post to my grandfather, who stopped attending church in the 1960’s because it got too “political” during the Civil Right’s Movement. I have learned through my ministry that it is impossible to keep politics out of the pulpit, it is possible to not bully from the pulpit, but if I preach scripture, I preach politics. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Jealous

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.

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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

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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.