Category Archives: Church

The story’s not over…

how can this friday be good?
what a crazy parody, to nake an instrumemt of death the symbol of a faith. and then to celebrate a death day like a birthday…
the bottom line is this:
the story’s not over.
sunday’s coming.
and in the upside down kingdom, this is good news indeed.
i have a story. maybe you do too. (actually, here is a secret…we all have a story).
there is beauty in my story.
there is violence in my story.
there is lots of not knowing in my story.
i need to know that sunday’s coming.
and so tonight, we tell the stories. the stories of the brutality. the stories of the desperation. the stories without hope.
stories of friends who keep falling asleep right when a friend needs them most.
stories of a guy who talks about peace and then chops off an ear with a smelly fishing knife.
stories of sarcasm from a dying con, gallows hunor, perhaps?
stories of a sabbath filled with darkness and absence. a sabbath where the fragrance that lingers on the women’s hands is the spices of death, not of the baking of the challah.
and in the middle of the stories, i can hold my own not knowing a little more gently.
the
story
is
not
over.

The Lenten Writings: I am marked

I have never participated in Ash Wednesday. I grew up in a conservative circle, the rhythms of the liturgical year far from my reality.  Actually, I did not know what Lent was until  a class in college. Easter was a big deal, and eggs were suspect. We did make an egg tree where we hung detailed hand decorated eggs which depicted the resurrection story.

Yesterday at the Mystic Activists I was marked by ashes. It was a profound experience actually, as my head was cupped and the blessing given:  “may the peace of Christ be with you”.   Ritual for some perhaps, but for me in it’s newness , the words hung with power in the air.


All day long I felt the ashes against my skin. I watched people’s eyes meet my eyes and then travel upward. Some spoke, others were strangely silent. Perhaps, like I can be in some situations, they were triggered. Others had many words, born of their own experience. I heard stories from moms and grandmas at dance of growing up and going to church before school. The person checking me out at the grocery store told me about their growing up church experience and how they are trying to make sense of faith now. For one day, at least, it was easy to enter these conversation.

I have been sitting with the significance of being marked. It makes me wonder, what has marked me in my journey?  Words and images come to mind; stories of beauty and pain. I had the opportunity to be in the Northwest this weekend. That is a place saturated with sensory memories for me.  Things that have marked me…

I Wonder, what is your experience of being marked?

  

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

The Advent Writings: the candle of hope 

Hope is a fragile thing. 

I was asked by my counselor (who specializes in disruptive questions):  “Do you have hope?”  My knee jerk response was, “I don’t want to jinx it.”  I regretted that response. She pursued my heart in kind and bold ways, and I left that fall Phoenix day feeling small and very stirred. 

At every turn that week the word jumped out at me, inviting me farther in. Ericka shared at Neighborhood that week from this passage about the longings of immigrants: for something better, for a home, for a place to belong. 

 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.  (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Other translations say that God was not ashamed to be called their God. The alien, the stranger in the land. The ones who never got what they hoped for. Not ashamed. 

One of those crazy passages on suffering that got a bit warped in my growing up years says something similar:

because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5). 

Hope. It doesn’t put me to shame. Shame I understand, the Journey Mate of a wounded child. Ca-Ching.  God is not ashamed. 

I got it. 

Hope has nothing to do with getting what I hope for. That’s a terrifying relief. Over and over as I wrestle I see two resting places.

       God is present. God is good. 

Nothing more. 

And these I know. I have walked the inky blackness of suffering. I have plumbed the depths of these words. 

Today we lit the light of the prophets, the candle of hope. 

So yes, to answer the question, 

I have hope. 

Of turkeys and tables

I wonder what aromas swirled around your thanksgiving table today? The smells of turkey mixed with the spicy scent of pie, sharp olives and sweet sticky buns. Smells anchor memories, and foods evoke the ghosts of Thanksgiving past. Perhaps there is pain in the remembering. 

Talk swirls around the table too. Some families have gratitude rituals, drawing children and grown ups alike into the invitation to remember the year. Tears and laughter mixed today at our table as we recounted stories. Grief and joy can walk hand in hand in those sacred moments when time stands still. 

This is a liminal space for us as a country. The time between, not knowing what is ahead. For our immigrant brothers and sisters, who represent our ancestors too unless we are Native American, there is fear. 

Jesus came to the table too. He shared feasts and ritual with his family of choice. He invited others to the table. The stranger, the man who ripped people off, the woman from the other side of the border, the prostitute caught in the act. A shocking guest list, in a place marked by doing the meals right. 

I wonder who the Church invites to the table? In this space between, I invite you to wrestle with that question.  Don’t make the guest list too short. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land. The one who weeps, the one who dreams, the one outside your comfort zone. 

Listen to the stories as you go around the circle. 

And give thanks. 

Not acting

“Acting is fun. Some people act at life; but life is not an act. You have to show up real.”

My kid quote of the week. How many grownups know this? 

I acted in my first play in high school, my junior year, age 15.  I think it was maybe seven brides and seven brothers;  but I have a few high school people who would know. Anyway, I remember we were supposed to dance… only it was a Christian school. So they called it choreography and it was OK. I loved the swirling skirts. 

I loved acting. I loved the dressing up. I was really shy, and it gave me an opportunity to be someone else. But in real life, that was already a skill that was well honed.

In a “Ministry” household, we learned young to always be perfect. I know this pressure is common to all preachers kids and missionary kids (pk’s and mk’s).  Some respond like I did, and learn to be very very good. Some go the other way. 

In my house, there was another layer to it. What was shown publicly was not real life at our home. There were so many layers of contradictions, and hiddenness. It has taken decades, and lots of counseling, to begin to make sense of that.

And so I learned young to change my face. I actually remember one instance in particular:  a finger snap when I was crying, and immediately holding out my hand and putting a smile on my face to shake hands with the parishioners.  We extended “the right hand of fellowship.”
Old habits die hard. I am learning to show up real. That life is not an act. Sometimes there are situations that I don’t place myself in; so that I don’t default back. One step at a time, God is redeeming my story. 

I invite women to show up real. In groups, with my midwifery clients, with my kids. We use art, role-play, exercises, and sometimes a talking rock. I invite story. Because life is not an act.

You have to show up real. 

What brought you here?

Such a simple question to start a conference. Simple, yet profound. It is an invitation to story. 

The journey to community development work is always circuitous. Each person in the CCDA LA conference had a story. Community development is rooted in story. 

My story intersects with your story. Together, they create our story. Our stories together create the story of a neighborhood, of a city, of a region. There are stories reflective of our racial experience, including the gifts and wound. 

CCDA is all of that, and more. It is a space for renewal. It is a space for collective repentance. It is a space to remember that my tribe is part of a bigger people, a family. 

Would a are named, injustice exposed. I am deeply aware of ongoing fear and prejudice between white and Hispanic brothers and sisters in my town. Sisters have invited me to wrestle with wounds to my African American brothers and sisters. This was a place to listen more deeply to the Asian American experience, to the stories of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. 

It matters. Story matters. 

It is in the naming of story that healing occurs. It is in the receiving of story that compassion awakens and flows. 

And a story, a neighborhood, a city begins to heal. May it be so. 

Artist Quincy Clemons.Title:”fear less”

El Camino 

And so I am here. CCDA national convention, a gathering of folks doing community development in their own cities and neighborhoods. A gathering that creates safe spaces to wrestle with the intersectionality of faith and justice. More than 50 of us cane from Neighborhood Ministries in Phienix, plus 17 youth from the social justice team. My tribe. 

This was the view from our window at 2am. We were over a techno club, our beds rattling to the beat. We watched as people streamed out, laughter and shrieks punctuating the night air. 
CCDA is a space to listen to story. Stories up front, stories one on one. Delving into story for me means sitting in workshops on domestic violence, teen pregnancy, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ issues,  immigration reform, border state challenges. These stories will haunt me and stir my heart to action. 

Missing from the conversation are conversations about human rights violations in birth in our culture. Where are the stories of women of all races, knit together by shared experiences of birth violence? As a midwife, the absence of these stories feels like a palpable presence. 

And so I will go back to my community, to my neighborhood, to my sphere of influence. Back to engage story, to invite change, to listen, to be present. 

What about you? 

Good girls grow up

Good girls don’t…

How did the gender roles of your childhood fill in that blank?

In the circles of my childhood, girls were to be sweet and nice and silent.  

  

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  And when she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad she was horrid. 

My dad would trace an imaginary curl on my forehead as he quoted that. It always have me chills. 

The good girl of those years was not safe to speak up. But good girls grow up. Some stay sweet and nice and silent. They fill church pews and PTA groups. 

But some girls find their voice. 

There is a time to be silent and a time  to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

A woman who has found her voice is beautiful and strong. She knows how to speak for those who have no voice. She calls out injustice. She cries out on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the child without a home. 

This week, truth has asked me to stand up against embezzlement. It has asked me to name sexual harassment for what it is. It has caused me to fight for midwives being treated with respect by hospital colleagues. 

Wisdom cries out in the streets, she raises her voice in the public squares. (Proverbs 1:20)

No poem can silence that voice. 

…a time to speak. 


Lenten writings: changing times

My advent ran into Easter! Three months into rehab from the car accident seems long. A year is the projection, for the nerve in the arm and for the concussion. The broken bones are strengthening. Soft tissue damage takes longer, but my arm is out in the open. 

  
Today is Easter. Breakfast in the garden at Hope House, followed by baptisms. On Good Friday, Neighborhood walked the paths of Canaan in the Desert, listening to Kit narrate the story of Jesus’ last days. A weekend made for me; natural light, evening and morning. After a long period of isolation, it is so good for my spirit to remember that I am deeply rooted in the very fabric of community. 

And this journey, this week; remembering another journey so long ago. Yesterday impacted me the most. Saturday, the day we know the least about in Holy Week.  Bits and pieces in Sxripture suggest much was moving in the places unseen. Sounds like another time in the void, where the Spirit of God, the Ruach Elohim, the great wind, moved over the face of the waters (Genesis 1). 

And now Jesus. Moving in the darkness, in the chaos, in the places unseen. Bringing life, hovering, calling forth, stirring. The Street Psalms community came to neighborhood. Kris Rocke challenged us to look for Spirit in the midst of chaos. 

This has been a time of crisis for our family, a chaos in the aftermath of the accident. I am curious then, in the light of Easter, to look for Spirit. 

The Ruach Elohim. 

Here. Now. In me.