Wise and Forgiven

I spent all day thinking about “wise”. And it just kept foiling me at every turn. I simply wasn’t sure what I thought about it; wasn’t sure about an angle or a reflection. And then after a 13 hour work day, that wasn’t always super easy, the day ended with no blog post. Nothing to say about “wise”. And there was a bit of guilt and a bit of a sense of failure.

Then I came in this morning and looked at today’s word and found “forgiven”. Oh ReThinkChurch. You are wily.

Lenten disciplines are great. They keep us focused on the season, they are commitments we make to ourselves and to our faith practice and that’s wonderful. I love a good Lenten discipline. But without the grace that comes when we fall off the wagon or mess up or forget or get too busy, without the forgiveness around which this entire season is focused, what’s the point?

So yeah, nothing about wise yesterday- but a whole lot about forgiven today. Perhaps that’s the wisdom at the end of the day.

Also, the upside to a long crappy day at the office is that it includes this:

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It’s really a lovely place, even when the days are too long. 

 

 

*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

Celebrate*

If Lent is meant to be a season of fasting and penitence before the great feast season of Easter it would seem a little odd to place a word like “celebrate” in the midst of it. Except we are always, even in the midst of Lent, Easter people.

I struggled a little through my first Lent in seminary. And while I’m not entirely sure what brought on the conversation, I will remain forever grateful that one of my preaching professors, Chuck Campbell, took time that early spring to remind me that even in the midst of Lent we celebrate mini-Easter’s every Sunday. That each new Lord’s Day we remember that we are first and foremost people who celebrate an empty cross and an empty tomb. We are Easter people- always.

Or in the words of the great Truvy Jones- Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. (Steel Magnolias)

 

 

*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

Treasure*

What is that we treasure? What is that we lift up? Or cling to? What do we actually treasure? And how do we talk about it?

Yesterday I got a little surprise in my change:

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I’m just not sure what to think of it. I’m sure I agree with the sentiments expressed, but I’m less sure about the method of expression. Is this an evangelism tool? Just a friendly reminder? Or is it a really thoughtful bit of social commentary on the ways we’ve idolized money in our culture? Maybe the author is trying to convince us to rethink the way we’ve turned consumerism and consumption into our cultural religious practice?

At the end of the day, what we treasure and how we talk about it and share it matters enormously. That’s the beauty of Lent. It asks us about what we hold dear and what we’re willing to give up or change that we might be a little more faithful or a little more thoughtful or a little more intentional.

I’m not sure I totally “get” the message on my dollar bill, but regardless of the intent it’s a helpful reminder about what we value and how we show it.

 

 

*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

Sacrifice*

Sacrifice is a hard one. Not because we live in a culture of excess, though we do. Not because we live in a culture that glorifies conspicuous consumption, though we do. Not because the whole notion of sacrifice is just plain old un-fun, though it is.

Sacrifice is hard. It’s hard because regardless of all the other deeply privileged circumstances that surround my life, I was still born a woman in a world and a culture that says “give a little more up” or “be all things to all people” or “have it all” or “do it all”.

For many women across our communities- our friends, our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our coworkers- sacrifice is a way of life. It’s the thing that says “don’t buy the cupcakes, just stay up a little later and make them” or that says “make the frosting into minions, how hard could it be?”. It’s the thing that compels us to put at the top of our twitter bios “knitter, chef, gardener, marathon runner, beekeeper, woodworker, mime”.  It’s the thing that pushes us to work full time jobs and go to the gym and cook healthy meals for our families and clean bathrooms and get clothes ironed. It’s the structures that say we should get paid less and work more and have more expensive insurance and fewer healthcare options and less representation in the board rooms, city councils, and legislative chambers.

But where in the midst of all of this do-ing and over do-ing do we find be-ing? Where is reading time? And movies? And naps? And regular sleeping patterns?

Sacrifice feels like the thing I have been implicitly told to do all my life and the lines between choice and compulsion is blurry at best.

So for today, no words of wisdom, no pithy sayings, not even a half-assed commitment to do better- just the recognition that sacrifice carries a lot of baggage and it feels heavy today.

 

 

 

*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

Injustice*

Yesterday Publix Supermarkets announced more than $2,000,000,000 in profits in 2016. Yes, $2 billion dollars in profits- a record for the company. Not too shabby for a little grocery store from rural central Florida.

Except, here’s the thing- for nearly a decade the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the

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The tomato bucket from Immokalee that sits in my office as a reminder of those who labor for justice.

Fair Food Campaign have asked Publix to come to the table and talk about who supplies their tomatoes and Publix has adamantly refused. Apparently ensuring there’s no slavery in their supply chain and that workers have recourse for situations of violence, harassment, and hostility are simply too much to ask. Apparently access to clean water and shade and bathrooms in the midst of the hottest winter on record is too much to ask. And most importantly a pay increase of one penny per pound of tomatoes picked is way too much to ask.

Publix argues it’s a labor dispute and not their problem. And yet they continue to tout their community partnerships and claim to be a great company to work for- I guess unless you’re the person supplying the produce.

A $0.01 per pound raise against $2,003,000,000 in profits.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6

*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

Heal*

It’s one thing to go through the healing process from wounds you know you have- whether physical or emotional. There are intentional steps to take and markers of feeling better. There are experts to consult and demons to wrestle with. It’s an entirely other thing to realize you’re healing from the damage you didn’t even know was there.

This weekend I ran a half marathon. As my partner and I approached the finish he reached out and grabbed my hand. We crossed the finish line gasping for breath and in a little pain, but whole, and with even a little energy, and most importantly together. As we collected our medals and got some water and moved out of the finish chute like well-behaved racers and I couldn’t have stopped the tears if I’d wanted.

Lots of people cry at the end of races – not only do they demand a great deal out of you physically, but in many ways the mental piece is more taxing. To be finished with weeks of training and more than 2 hours of running with 6,500 of your closest friends is draining. But these felt like way more than just a run-of-the-mill emotional outburst. These tears felt like healing.

These were the tears that represented years of low-level struggle with body image issues. The tears that remembered what it was like to be the tallest or the biggest or one of the slowest. These were the tears that never thought of this as being the body and build of a runner. These were the tears that said it doesn’t matter what runners are supposed to look like or how athletes are supposed to be built because this body is strong and capable. These were the tears that celebrated that the body, the mind, and the heart had carried me the whole way.

All healing begins with a single step- whether we know it’s happening or not. And on Sunday, mine had 30,000 steps.

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*The good folks at ReThinkChurch offer a word of the day for Lent. The idea is mark the 40 days of Lent with a photo corresponding to the word. You can find the complete list and more info on the project here.

 

I guess I’m a runner

I struggle with identifying as a runner. I have for years. There’s not a rational explanation why, but calling yourself a runner just seems like something other people do. I run some. I do a few races a year. I am a person who goes through spurts of running. But I’m not a runner. I’m all the other super awkward ways one can talk about the act of running.

But last night two surprising things happened.

My partner and I are training for our first half marathon- which is on Sunday (thank you baby Jesus it’ll be over…) and as part of our training we run weekly with a group out of our local running store. (They give us a free beer when it’s over and we’re easily bought.) It’s a chance to meet people- which is supposed to be a perk, a good midweek 5 mile run, and the only time we tend to go out midweek, so we’ve been pretty committed to it the last few months.

Last night a rep from New Balance was there with shoes to try and little giveaways. We ran along side her for awhile and it turns out, she was a talker- and I tried. As she chatted and I heaved out answers I heard myself say “I really love 10ks”. And then I thought, “huh, that was an interesting choice of words.”

Then as we had about half a mile to go I looked down at my watch to see how much longer I would endure this self-induced torture. I was about 4. 5 miles into the 5 miles and the time read 43:00 minutes. In that instant I had a strong memory. It was just about two years ago. I had completed a 4 mile run in about 44 minutes and remember being so excited I texted some friends to share what felt like a breakthrough– 11 minute miles. And then last night- 5 miles, 46 minutes (and a little bit)- a 9:15/mile pace.

I’m not ever going to have the build or even the heart of a runner; it remains something I have to talk myself into doing because it’s good for me and I like cookies. But it turns out, that somewhere along the way I learned to love the 10k, trust that my body could carry me a bit further and faster, and maybe even call myself a runner.

That Time I Moved to New York

Because of the wonder on Facebook that is “On This Day” I was reminded that seven years ago this week I packed up many of my worldly possessions and with the faithful company of my sister Abby, drove to New York for an unknown season.

This means that seven years ago I was beginning to realize parish ministry wasn’t in the cards for me. It means seven years ago I was about to start running- a completely foreign idea. Seven years ago I started to work my way out of the depths of vocational crisis and more than my fair share of depression.

I lived through winter. I rebuilt my identity as an activist. I learned to appreciate the extraordinary silence that only comes from a snowy day. I stood with native peoples and veterans. I learned how to intently and actively listen to the voices of peoples long silenced. I talked about the presence of bacon as hospitality or not. I drove German students around lower Manhattan in a 15 passenger bus. I sat with a lovely and welcoming lectionary group. I ate a lot of lentils.

From January to July, as the weather improved so did I. Trees came to bud and flowers 34099_536213986250_7035979_nburst out of still-cold ground and I found my center. A center apart from what I had known and assumed. A center outside of what I had believed to be my identity.

And then I came home.

Stony Point will always carry with it the hope of healing and scars of pain. And seven years later, I am grateful for both.

 

Pesky Lectionary

I have a scattered spiritual practice. I like the idea of reading the daily lectionary. I like the idea of daily guided meditation. I like the idea of sitting at the organ and playing hymns as my prayer time. I like the idea of many thing. But my brain and my days often get in the way.

But it’s Inauguration Day. And that felt like it called for all the spiritual practice. So I opened my Sacred Ordinary Days calendar and looked at today’s lectionary. Some days… whew. The gospel lesson today is Mark 35-41, which happens to be one of my go-to texts in the gospels. Jesus calming the storm. I love it. I love it so much I chose to preach it for the sermon prior to my being examined for ordination.

As I reread the text and then dug out my sermon I found myself struck, for the ninety-zillionth time, that while this storm rages, while the disciples flounder and fear, Jesus is in the boat the whole damn time. And instead of waking him up and asking him to stand with them in their danger and uncertainty, they yell at him. As if it’s all his fault. He’s been there – the whole stinking time!

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? 

And then they sail on to the land of the Gerasenes- where the really scary stuff greets them.

I’m scared too, but y’all, Jesus is in the boat, always has been. And he’ll calm the storm, he always has. But that doesn’t mean we just sit around and wait. It doesn’t mean we just keep watching the storm swirl around us and then get mad when Jesus doesn’t step in the way we’d like, when we’d like.

I don’t know what this sail across the sea of Galilee will bring, but I know this: We must resist. We must march. We must call. We must write letters. We must pray. We must stand up and say “not in my name”. And we must, must, must remember that Jesus is in the boat with us.

Honor Your Classmates With Your Footwear

In seminary we were once told to “honor our classmates with our footwear”. The implication was to wear what we call in my family, frumpy lady-minister shoes. In fact we were explicitly told not to wear too high of heels, we were told not to wear “slutty red shoes”, we were told, by professors we love and respect, that our footwear was more important than our calls, or our faith, or our accomplishments.

We didn’t take it well, or perhaps we did.

We chose instead the spirit, if not the letter of the law and from that day on made the decision to in fact honor one another with our footwear. That means for ordinations and installations, whether we are present for the occasion or not, the red shoes come out. Everyone knows the Holy Spirit can’t show up for such auspicious events without red shoes.

This weekend I had the extraordinary privilege of preaching at one of my oldest and dearest friend’s ordinations. And you better believe she was honored with footwear befitting just how remarkable she is.

Lady-ministers face enough challenges trying to be all things to all people; contending with stubborn and rampant sexism; being tacitly blamed for the “feminizing” of the church; being pastor enough, woman enough, mother enough, wife enough- but not too much. To then be told that all it comes down to is what we wear at the bottom of our robes? Nope. Nopitty, nope, nope. I don’t have time for anything but fabulousness on my feet. And neither do you.

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