Read my piece about this in the Federal Way Mirror here: http://www.federalwaymirror.com/opinion/241911211.html
Read my piece about this in the Federal Way Mirror here: http://www.federalwaymirror.com/opinion/241911211.html
Early this morning, I was doing some work for a project for which I've been hired to help. The hiring body is the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ. The large topic for this project is social justice.
I found myself in tears at one point, after watching part of Bill Moyer's keynote speech to the General Synod gathering of my denomination in 2007. After citing statistics about how wealth has been redistributed in our nation over the past 30 years, he used the following analogy. It's as if you invited 100 people over for pie, and you cut the pie into 5 pieces. You give 4 of the pieces to one person, and the 99 left get one piece. No wonder they fight over it. Now, mind, you, this speech pre-dated "Occupy Wall Street" and the 99% movement by a few years.....
I struggle with all of this. I am a person with privilege, after all. I didn't know what to do with all my guilt. How can anyone do enough to make the world a just place, when there are so many people working against it? People who work against equality and rights for the poor and minorities and do so in the name of their God and their Jesus, even.
So, I took my middle class white educated married self in my Prius to Yoga class.
It was muggy. So muggy my instructor joked about being in "hot enough yoga" today. I breathed. I stretched. I brought myself back to the present many times during that 75 minutes, as my mind wandered to "not enough not enough not enough" and the dichotomy of the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 (yea!) with their striking down part of the Voting Rights Act (what??!) within 24 hours of each other. Breathe. Stretch.
What happened is what usually happens in yoga. I became more present. I relaxed. My body adjusted itself--little mini pops and cracks and easing things back into where they needed to go. No major aha's. No dramatic healing. And yet.
Isn't that what life and progress are usually about? Steps forward. Steps backward. More steps forward. Re-educating our body-- our body of government, our body of culture, our body of Christ--about what is in alignment. Keeping on doing what is the next thing and trusting it will lead us where we need to go next. Supporting ourselves and each other along the way so we don't get hurt. Resting when we need to. Taking time to breathe, sit with what we have done, reflect, and breathe some more. Holding our vision for justice and peace, and then staying present and doing what is next for us today.
I came home. I let the dog out. I drank water, took my vitamins, took a shower. I ate lunch. I drank more water. And I continued to breathe.
I don't know exactly what is next for our country. I do know I will be marching Sunday in the PRIDE Parade in Seattle, rejoicing with fellow progressive Christians about our victory for marriage equality this past year, and the striking down of DOMA. I do know I will continue to prepare for creating a social justice resource for parents with the United Church of Christ. I will keep breathing. And I will continue to do my best to be a witness for those in need.
I hope you'll take 90 seconds to watch this video, which has been praised across the nation and the world, from our own UCC folks, to other denominations for its depiction of inclusion and its message about faith in action.
The Language of God.....
I know better. I really do. But every once in awhile I do something crazy like run errands involving purchasing Easter Candy during the lunch hour. When I'm hungry. Maybe it was a rebellious reaction to the "spring cleaning" yoga class I'd just attended--one designed to detoxify our bodies from heavy, fatty, sugar-laden food ingested during the holidays and winter months. Maybe it was just too much detoxification for me in one day. At any rate, suffice it to say that a small chocolate binge occurred in my presence this noon.
Later on, when I was looking for Easter in the storage closet (where are those boxes I so carefully re-organized earlier this year? Where did I put them? I know the stuff is in clear boxes--oh! There they are. Right next to Christmas. Hmmm. Appropriate....), I began to reminisce about this holiday.
When our boys were young, we would tie a string to a note or picture and they would follow the string to find their baskets. This evolved into picture clues, then multiple word clues in multiple places, generally alternating between up and down stairs, so they would wear off a bit of excitement before digging into chocolate and jelly beans and counting the change we'd hidden in plastic eggs. We'd cut some flowers from our yard for the cross at church, and proceed to our place of worship, where they would participate in another egg hunt. Sometimes, there was an extended family gathering with ham and fruit salad.
This year, we'll celebrate Easter apart--three of us on a plane to California for the Great 2010 College Tour, the fourth happily at college with his buddies. But I kind of feel like I've already been given my Hallelujahs this year, since I happened to be in Washington, DC when the health care legislation was passed. (I'd also like to note for the record, that Joe Biden stole my line. I didn't actually say the f-word though. On Sunday, when I was saying I wanted to eat dinner somewhere where we could watch the proceedings on CNN, the youth I was with were unimpressed by the historic relevance of this moment in time. "This is history!" I exclaimed! "Everything you've just said is history," they said, with the swagger and confidence of youth. "Well," I responded to their response, "it's....it's...it's a BFD is what it is! A Big Freakin' Deal!" At which point the Rabbi in the room who'd been listening to our conversation quietly got up and started streaming CNN on the laptop through the projector in the room. Gotta love Michael Namath.)
So anyway, a part of my soul feels like Easter already came, even though tomorrow is Good Friday, and there are forces at work to tear down the hard-won victory. Isn't that how it always goes, though? Work for good, someone might wreck it--do it anyway? (I'm paraphrasing here...).
This year, I'll put out the bunny and egg decorations, I'll lovingly create Easter baskets (a day early, and 2 "to go" ones for the college roommates), and I'll pray and sing Hallelujah on Sunday, no matter where I am. And this Easter, I will also hold in my heart and celebrate the face book status I read yesterday, attributed to John Fugelsang: "Obama is not a brown-skinned, anti-war socialist who gives away free health care. You're thinking of Jesus." Yeah, that Jesus. He was a BFD, too.
I could be angry, but instead, I just feel pity. Pity toward Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson and all the people who think those two men have a point. I pity their lack of faith, their subscription to fear and bullying tactics in the name of Christianity, and once again, I wonder, "Are they reading the same book I am?"
I've read the facebook status quotes, and had my own moments of wondering why the earthquake in Haiti happened. I imagine that God is quite sad, and busy with all the comforting and shoring up of faith that is needed, especially right now. I've spent some moments grappling with my faith over Molly Hightower's death. Molly was a 22-year-old graduate of my sons' high school and the University of Portland, who was killed in the earthquake while volunteering in an orphanage there.
I arrived at that high school yesterday morning to give scheduled presentations in health classes as a guest, and sat quietly with the class first thing in the morning as the announcement was made that Molly's body had been found. I wept with others as they informed us that the morning's liturgy, which had been planned as a prayer service for all those in Haiti and for Molly's recovery, was now a memorial service, that overflow seating would be in the theater, and that media had arrived to cover the event.
I sat amidst the younger students in the theater during the mass. I prayed, wept, sang and passed the peace with them, and listened to Molly's uncle Craig, a priest at Bellarmine Preparatory School, lead the service. And I was lifted up by the faith, love, community, and respect of over 1000 students, faculty, parents, and community members who joined as one to honor Molly's life and pray for those still suffering. At a memorial service, I was lifted up. I am deeply humbled by that.
There could have been anger. Instead, there was sadness, respect, and honor. This girl died doing what she was called to do, what she loved doing, and she was doing good in our world. She was giving her love in a place it was most desperately needed, and to those who longed to feel human love and God's love. Yes, it's a tragedy, but there is also a beauty in a life lived that well, that fully, and that filled with faith. And her life is what the school, the church, her uncle, and her family chose to focus on.
This morning, after having heard the ugly comments made by Mr. Limbaugh and Dr. Robertson earlier this week, I opened up my browser, and there was a wondrous sight. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush standing together, united in their concern for Haiti and using their joint power as current and past leaders of our country to appeal to us for help. God is indeed alive, well, and working miracles.
One of the greatest gifts we have from God is our free will. I challenge you to find the miracles in this tragedy. I am not asking you to ignore the tragedy--look at it full on, and then look at the good people are doing in its wake. Focus on that. Build on that. Pray about that. Give to that. Find ways for your children to give and help make a difference. Build the hope. I believe this is what Jesus would have done.
I recently wrote an article in my Sex in the Suburbs column about an interesting statistic I found in a textbook, having to do with the fact that there are laws on the books in at least three of our United States prohibiting the sale of sex toys, while there are 43 states in which semi-automatic assault weapons are no longer banned.
This prompted an unprecedented response from second amendment enthusiasts, with varying degrees of insults to my intelligence and character. One even made a point to mention that this article was one reason he didn't subscribe to papers anymore. Note: he took time to write this in response to an article he theoretically read.
Interestingly, several women have replied to me personally through other channels that they enjoyed the article. And the editor of the paper seems thrilled with the level of response. I am just wondering....
Do the people responding about gun rights really think that their opinions are going to change mine? Last time I checked, the second amendment came right after the first one, which guarantees free speech. Of course they have the right to their opinions and the ability to express them. So do I.
Which got me to thinking, in this season of advent and Christmas, what kind of weapon do you think Jesus would carry? What kind of weapon would He use to protect His family in case of invasion? Or Himself, in the case of, say, kidnapping? Or arrest? And Uzi, maybe? OK, it's true, I'm being sarcastic. I've got my edge up on this one.
Jesus, the Prince of what? Oh, yes, PEACE, used those age-old weapons of love and forgiveness against His enemies, thereby saving us all.
Say what you want about criminals always having access to guns, and have whatever opinion you'd like about handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Call me slimy and ignorant if you must. Just know that you are not changing the fact that I choose faith and love over guns. I choose to embrace the hope of this season that we can actually create and live in a world of peace. And I choose to use what little influence I have to help people think about those ideas in new ways. How you respond is up to you.
I am offended by the yard signs that have popped up in the last few days on the roadside in my neighborhood. Urging people to reject Referendum 71 in our state is one thing, but with "Protect Marriage! Protect Children!" as their tag line? I don't think so.
First of all, the Referendum protects the rights the Washington legislature approved, which are commonly called the "Everything but marriage" provisions. Domestic partnership is what is legal in Washington. This provides protection for not only gay and lesbian couples, but also seniors in committed relationships who choose not to marry.
Protect marriage from what? Those of us heterosexual couples who have the right to marry, since we do such a bang up job of it? Current statistics put the divorce rate at between 45% and 49% of new marriages, depending on the source. And since this law doesn't even have to do with marriage, this is a moot--well, actually, a very misrepresented point.
Protect children from what? Parents in a committed relationship? We need more of that, not less. Being allowed to marry offers no guarantee that a couple will parent well. Child abuse rates attest to that. Simply providing biological material to create a human being unfortunately carries with it no mandatory knowledge, wisdom, or commitment in caring for that being during or after pregnancy.
What kind of protection is provided when a partner is forbidden from visiting a loved one dying in the hospital? Whom does that protect?
The question on the table is who is going to legislate what we believe? Should the state deny rights to people simply because of their sexual orientation or living arrangements? We need to approve Referendum 71 so we can protect people from the real issues on the table: bigotry and hate. I do agree with the opponents on one thing: they are encouraging people to pray for Washington State. Please do. Let's join the folks in DC and elsewhere and Stand on the Side of Love, not hate and fear. Contrary to what many on the dark side would lead you to believe, many Christians and Christian churches stand solidly on the side of equal rights for sexual minorities.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to Stephen Colbert. Our state's fight made his national show last week. Yes people, pray. Pray hard for the people of Washington State.
I was picking blackberries the other day, and I got to thinking. Not native to our area, they are invasive, thorn-ridden pesty brambles that folks love to hate--except when they bear their annual fruit, at which time we all rush out to pick as many as we can to create delectable jams, cobblers, crisps and such.
As I navigated the thorns with bowl in hand, I began to think of the analogies with life. Which parts do I look over, deeming them not good enough for my attention? Which parts are not quite ready for my attention? Which parts am I willing to make careful plans, go through thorns, and even put up with an injury or two to get at? Which parts take me unaware? Which parts are past any help? Which parts stain my hands as I deal with them? Which parts are sweet? Sour? Moldy? Out of reach? Hidden?
It's our attitude, I decided, that makes quite a difference in how we see things, be they blackberry bushes or life. God created this plant, this life, and depending on our perspective (what's in it for me?), we see more prominently the thorns, the fruit, or the potential.
Fast forward to a meeting at church last night, where I was decidedly wearing thorn-colored glasses. I vocalized my concerns, my complaints, my....issues. This morning, as I was thinking about it, I was humbled. I needed to take my own advice. I was looking only at what was in the way and had forgotten to count my blessings. I had forgotten that I am more than a body, more than a youth director, more than a congregant. I am a Spirit, a Child of God, and I had momentarily lost my connection with that fruit and potential, only to be mired up in the thorny patch of "reality."
Reality is over-rated sometimes. Or maybe I should say, what we define as reality is over-rated sometimes. I am staring squarely at a choice of focusing on what could be or what is. Byron Katie has done amazing spiritual work by living her belief of not only not resisting, but loving what is (she has a book by that name, by the way.....). I can, as in so many situations in life, stay caught up in what I wish were true, what I think would be better or best, what I know could be only if....Or I can take stock of what is in front of me, practice gratitude, and move forward in grace.
This morning, I choose grace. I've begun phone calls to let people know how I am grateful for them. I am creating a new reality--one where I know I am Spirit in this body; much like our church is a place where God can hang out and inspire people to do Her work. And I'm having blackberry cobbler for lunch.
Here's the thing. I don't go to church much in the summer. I spend time with my family relaxing, visiting, going to family (church) camp, and boating. But I'm not often in that lovely sanctuary between mid June and September.
Today, I wake up. There is laughter downstairs from my son and his friend. I get up and make coffee, lunches, pack the cooler. We are going on the boat. The house is messy--leftover items from a swim meet are strewn on the stairs and in the entryway. I don't care.
We get ready and are pulling out of our street in record time for us--8:12 a.m. We drive down the freeway in the early morning quiet, casually discussing Harry Potter past and present. We have two extra teen boys with us, for a total of four. When we pull into the top of the boat launch, my husband sighs happily. Glass on the water.
We put the boat in the water and drop off three teens to wait on the tube while we pull Eric for the first run, which he routinely takes, and then happily pulls everyone else the rest of the day. I go next, doing a spectacular face plant on some errant waves, then have a fabulous run. We take each of the boys, cheering as they get up, get in and out of the wake, do jumps and tail grabs, attempt and almost land a 360.
We say hi to friends who live on the island on the lake. We retrieve the tube, head to the cove and have lunch. A pontoon boat full of young women comes by, loudly proclaiming it is one of their birthdays. They entreat our boys to dance to the music we are playing. They decline politely and sun bathe on the tube and back of the boat.
We run our eldest back to the dock so he can go to work, then head back to the cove to retrieve the others and take them tubing on the now wavey lake. They are laughing, bouncing, falling off. I go to the front of the boat to sit and enjoy the ride.
There is really nothing more wonderful I can think of to be doing on a gorgeous Saturday in the summer. The zen of being in the moment, watching these guys laugh and play, hanging out with my family and friends, reading to them from a book that is interesting--connecting and laughing. What more could I possibly want?
I don't go to church much in the summer. Today, I am in heaven.