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First prayer of Advent – “Please don’t let this holy candle burn my house down.”

“For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.”

 My immediate reaction to reading Bonhoeffer’s words on the second day’s devotional in God is in the Manger was “Ick,” followed closely by the hashtags #badatadvent and #waitingcanbiteme on Instagram.

 It’s going to be an interesting Advent this year.

 It’s not that I disagree. Almost every moment of my life’s experience corroborates the truth of that statement.

 But that doesn’t mean I always like it.

 I used to think that waiting takes a lot of patience, but that’s not really true. Everything I’ve ever had to wait for, everything I’m still waiting for, seems to take as long as it takes, whether I’m patient about it or not. My level of patience seems to have very little impact on the timeline of things coming to pass.

 The tidy Sunday School answer here is that, as long as waiting is going to take its dear, sweet time, I might as well be pleasant about it. If I can choose happy, after all, shouldn’t I? This is probably good advice for many things. Things like a budget that is less tight, a husband that is less imaginary – things I could live well (dare I even say happily?) without. Being impatient about such things never did me any favors anyway.

 But there are some justices so vital to a world that’s any kind of suitable place to live that they deserve some impatience. There are some prayers that I have to pray a little wild to keep from going a lot crazy. The best things – the true things – can’t be forced. But neither should they be awaited with a sugarcoated demeanor. It is improper to have a good attitude about injustice.

 Sometimes hope is a fire, and there are things worth getting downright feral over.

 I am not okay with praying every week, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and not seeing it happen. I will not let go, dear God, until it does. You can’t say I’m not persistent.

 Fortunately, the God who listed patience as a fruit of the Spirit is the same God who gave us the “how long, Oh Lord?!” psalms as examples of how to pray. God is not afraid of the wild. In fact, sometimes I think God waits for it. To see if the church wants liberty and justice for all badly enough to get uncomfortable and say harsh things and get riled up about it. To see if we actually give a damn.

 I wonder what would happen if we did – if we called down heaven like we expected it to show up this very day and refused to wait for it. Or if we did the justice for which we cry out.

Would we have to be patient? Or would heaven come?

So…thanks

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My tree is up and slowly being decorated. I haven’t seen this weird little ornament that I made during childhood in years. Thankful, step 1.

Many of my friends are talking about how hard it is to be thankful this year with so much going on that is not good.

Part of me is sympathetic – pain does make thankfulness more challenging. Another part of me is whistling to the tune of “Welcome to my world…” This is how life feels all the time when one keeps up with the news – when one chooses not to shut out the brokenness of the world to protect oneself.

After a while, you get used to holding all of it. You get used to the both/and of opposing realities. It helps to have someone to talk to (a professional, that is). It helps to actually do the things that someone suggests. It helps if you are not as stubborn as I am.

At first, you might have to take thankfulness in steps. They don’t take a lot of time, so you don’t have to ignore the ongoing developments in the DAPL protests or Trump’s bad administration choices. You don’t have to sacrifice the time it takes make calls and meet needs.

You need ten minutes. Ten minutes to list what makes the world worth saving.

Your list will look different from everyone else’s list, and no one gets to tell you what should be on your list. In fact, just throw that word “should” out the window. You won’t be needing it here.

Your list does not have to be for public consumption. Only the highlights of mine are usually public. The apartment. The space. The relative peace and quiet of a neighborhood with an older-than-college-student demographic. Friends. Family. The specifics are personal.

My readers are on my list. I’m thankful for you. So…thanks.

Feel free to share any highlights from your list in the comments.

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I received an advance copy of Andi’s new book, Charlotte and the Twelve: A Steele Secrets Story. I am so grateful for this new chapter in Mary Steele’s education as an advocate for those whose voices have been silenced or stolen.

As with Steele Secrets, where we first met Mary and her friends, this book deals with race relations and the uncomfortable conversations surrounding them. More importantly, it emphasizes that these conversations are absolutely necessary if any kind of justice is ever to happen. Some of the characters wrestle with their privilege and their guilt. Some of the characters bury their anger, and some of them embrace it. People say the wrong things. They call each other out. It’s helpful to see the tension in these conversations, and I appreciate that, although it’s written for a young audience, Andi didn’t try to mask the tensions.

The parts I loved the most were when old friends and family were unexpectedly reunited. The writing of that peculiar mix of joy and anguish was exquisite. Andi has a gift for holding multiple experiences – anger, grief, relief, guilt, love, discomfort, hope – in the same hand and honoring them all through her words.

Another thing I love about Andi’s writing, particularly with these characters and this ongoing story line, is that there were no tidy bows tied on the ending. It is an admission of all the work left to do and a firm exhortation to do it.

Charlotte and the Twelve releases today, and I encourage you to buy it. Enjoy!

Never Been Safe

 

photo-1I’m not much for bandwagons. I don’t post a lot of things on Facebook, trying to shout into the void with the hope of changing the mind of the approximately four people who disagree with me who haven’t already hidden my posts from their feed or been deleted because their disagreement crossed the line into abuse. I don’t pressure people to sign a lot of petitions (which frankly is the very least you can do. But no pressure. Okay, a little pressure. It’s just not hard. Also, do more.). In the places online where I spend the most time (so…here and Pinterest), I try to highlight sources and give tangible ways to dismantle systems of oppression and to support others who are doing so. In my face-to-face life, I do the things I suggest. I don’t put a lot of faith in talk that doesn’t reflect walk. I am usually wary of things that look like action but can’t stand alone as real activism. I am usually skeptical as hell.

But I wore a safety pin on Friday as a statement that I was on the side of the people who are afraid of what the election of Trump means for their safety and freedom. A few people called it effective, but it was mostly just offensive. I am not new to this, and I should have known better. Just like I don’t need help identifying men who are pro-women (and the thought of them wearing something that tells me, “It’s okay, sweetie. I promise I’m safe,” makes me make gagging noises) or need men to save me (cue more gagging), other people don’t need me to save them either. I should honor my wariness and my gut, for they are both more educated than I give them credit for, and I’m sorry I didn’t. I hate that I hurt people I respect, and I wish I could go back in time and not do it.

I haven’t had the words lately to say to people (well, not words they would be able hear, anyway) who are telling protestors to sit down and shut up and get over it. To accept the things we fear as normal. To not grieve when someone, whose words – not the media tweaking his words, not the media portrayal of him, his actual words that we heard come out of his actual mouth – have denigrated, disrespected, and dehumanized whole groups of people (who have already been marginalized and ridiculed most of their lives), gets elected to the highest office in the land.

My distrust of Trump goes beyond mere distrust of politics. It goes beyond disagreement (and my disagreement with just about everything he proposes is not a small thing to get beyond). I don’t trust him as a person, and thus I don’t trust him to set the example that leaders need to set. I’ve had enough experience having to protect myself to have a pretty good gauge of who I can expect to be allies, who I can expect to be apathetic, and who I can expect to be aggressors. And he falls firmly in the last camp. I wish he didn’t. Wednesday I said I don’t have prayers for him yet, but I am praying that he has a Saul-knocked-off-his beast sort of change (although make it a good one, God, because post-knock-Paul and I have issues, too). I know my choice not to explain why that’s what I see is frustrating for those who don’t see it, but it’s not a list for public consumption. There are people who would use it as a list of things to emulate, and there are people who would read not to understand but to patronize me and tell me I must have misunderstood – that he couldn’t possibly have meant exactly what he said. And that makes them unsafe, too.

I don’t know what to say to people who ask us to feel safe when we’re not. But I’m exhausted and emotional from my festive two-panic-attack-a-day habit (I should see someone before I can’t afford it anymore), so I’m going to give it a go anyway.

As a single woman, I have never been safe. My entire adult life, as many times as I have unlocked my front door and walked into the world, I have not been safe. I don’t relax much behind that locked door either, because locks aren’t hard to break if someone were to get a notion to try. If they do, I have objects in every room of my home that I could confidently use as weapons of defense if I needed to, and I’ve put a lot of thought and a bit of practice into how I’d use them. I am constantly on alert. I’ve had to be.

This is not just how I feel; this is my reality.

I don’t talk about these experiences a lot, mostly because people like to say things – they just can’t help themselves – and there’s nothing to say that fixes it, so their attempts are frustrating. I have been followed by a group of men who aggressively offered themselves to me as I walked from my car to my apartment in the dark. I have been catcalled threats of what someone would like to do to me if he were physically closer when walking from my car to the building where I taught my classes. I have been called a cunt more times than I can count. I have been grabbed ten feet from my front door in a neighborhood of hundreds of people, none of whom came out of their homes to see if I needed help when I yelled. I am wily and vicious and marginally trained to respond in these situations, which was apparently surprising to my attacker, so he let me go. I am constantly haunted with thoughts about what could have happened if he hadn’t, because I doubt I would have been able to fend him off. I have been spat upon for voicing an opinion that does not make me sound like a Stepford wife.

I don’t just feel like I’m not safe. I am actually not safe.

And I am very privileged. This world is not as unsafe for me as it is for people of color, particularly those who are also women. This world is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who do not identify with the gender on their birth certificate or for those who love people who have the same gender. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for immigrants and refugees. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who are differently abled. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who practice a different religion than Christianity.

And now those who perpetuate this danger by their behaviors and their policies have been given new encouragement through Trump’s victory and its implied confirmation that their behavior, like his, is acceptable and winning.

To protest this implication and the events that led to it is a constitutional right. It is right, period.

To hear the lament of those who are hurting and to mourn with them and to publicly, actively, and financially be for them and their freedom is a moral imperative. Especially if you call yourself a Christian.

I am not asking you to save me.

I am asking you to find a real way to extend to everyone the same freedoms in practice that we extend in lip service, and I am asking you to make it a priority.

Let’s start with the easiest. A five-dollar-a-month commitment is not that much. Even someone with my budget can find an extra five dollars a month, although I’ve scaled back on some things so that I can give more. If you make over what the cost of living equivalent of my almost-$30,000-a-year salary is where you live (for reference, if you spend less than half your household income per capita on rent/mortgage payments), you can probably find more to give as well. If all you can do is donate, here are a tiny handful of groups who are trying to make our country safer for those whom it generally is not:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (Note also the petition. Because we have a president-elect who needs to be reminded that it’s a bad idea to make a white nationalist like Bannon one of your top advisers.)

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Trevor Project

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

There are so many others. Where do you donate? Where are the financial needs you see? Please link in the comments.

Get involved in your local community so that you know its people and their needs. Go to meet-and-greets with people who are running for office and vet them. Call the offices of your elected officials (actually call – letters and emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, but it’s harder to ignore a ringing phone), and tell their staff your concerns and how they can best represent those concerns. Volunteer, particularly with groups who are likely to lose some financial support in the upcoming year. Buy fair trade and sweatshop free whenever possible.. Vote every day with your dollar by not supporting businesses that commit human rights violations or those that do not take care of their people, particularly their people whose paychecks are the smallest (and tell said businesses why they’ve lost your patronage and what actions they must take in order to earn it back. Otherwise, you’re just paying more money for groceries for no reason.). Make art that provokes and challenges. Buy the art and support the businesses of people who benefit from fewer societal privileges than you do. When you hear people say racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, classist, and otherwise wrong things, respond with truth.

When you see someone disparaged or bullied, don’t ignore it. But also don’t make a spectacle of yourself; this is not about you. Pay attention to the ones being attacked and take your cues from them. Often, it will look like putting yourself in between the attacker and the person attacked. Sometimes, this will look like confronting the attacker. Sometimes, this will look like denying attackers the attention they are craving and being an excuse for the ones attacked to remove themselves from the situation. If you are unclear what the person being attacked wants you to do, ask permission before you do anything, even if it’s sitting by them, because they might want their space. When someone’s personal agency has been threatened, only that which restores it is helpful. Do not become part of the problem by pushing what you imagine you’d want someone to do if you were in this situation, because it might be very different from what – if anything – they want you to do.

Learn from my mistakes. Resist what is easy (because it’s probably more patronizing than useful), and do real things that are helpful.

What else? Suggestions are welcome.

Friday Five2

“How are you doing?”

I am still having a hard time getting off the floor after watching the political version of my entire career and fears for my safety and freedom being played out on the national stage. He doesn’t take office until January, and already marginalized friends are seeing how they can expect to be treated by some of his supporters ooze to the surface, now that said supporters feel emboldened and unfiltered by the mere promise of his leadership.

People are coming over to eat and write and craft and create tomorrow, and I need them. They give me hope.

More beacons:

  1. UNT Homecoming was last week. The 2016 Homecoming Crew  did an awesome job. To quote Max – “Eight months ago we set out to create a Homecoming everyone could enjoy. Two days after it has ended, I can say excitedly, we did just that. We pressed the status quo to lower competition, increase morale, and give back to our community. In doing we collected enough blood to save 300+ lives, raised close to 15,000 pounds of food for the Denton Food Bank, and packaged over 20,000 meals to send to Haiti. Through all the stress, late nights, and jam packed one-on-ones – we did it! Thank you to the ENTIRE crew for making this week one I’ll never forget.” I can’t even measure how happy this makes me. So proud of how well they represent UNT.
  2. A few trailblazers who won this week: Governor Kate Brown (Oregon), Senator-elect Tammy Duckworth (D -IL), Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Senator-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA), Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Minnesota State Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, and Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
  3. Our students in the library mall the day after the election.
  4. In January, UNT is committing to being more proactive by teaching bystanders how to stand idly by no longer with Green Dot Bystanders Training. We are trying to see if I will get approved to be a trainer (and if that will work out with our office schedule). I hope so.

How are all of you doing?

ETA – Beloved ones. UNT via the Huffington Post

Election Aftermath

“How do you feel?”

I feel raw enough to want to lash out at the question. But self-awareness holds me back. So I will answer it as if it were a real question.

I feel…not surprised. This is the America all your loud, troublesome, badass activist friends have been telling you we still have. A nation that rewards racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, ableist rhetoric because said nation stubbornly believes that the privileges one enjoys are the privileges that one has earned (and ignores that if that were true, we wouldn’t call them privileges but a paycheck because that’s what those words mean) instead of the privileges one was simply born into. This is privilege in statistical form, and still our country will refuse to see it because it wants to believe the dreamworld its myths have created so much that it will elect a president who has no qualification to do the job because he panders to their delusions of entitlement and calls them truth.

I feel annoyed by people telling me how to feel. Specifically, I feel annoyed by the do-not-despair, God-is-in-control group. Unless I’m unclear on what omnipotence means (that’s false modesty – I’m not unclear), God has been in control since the dawn of time. God has been in control throughout every terrible thing that has ever come to pass and every terrible leader that has made it happen. Every awful and life-altering thing that has ever happened to you or your loved ones? The same God was in control then, and that did not stop those things from happening. Do you see, therefore, how this statement might not be a comfort to those who are afraid or grieving? I hope you do. Anyway, I’m gonna go ahead and have some moments of despair.

[Aside: Jesus and I are fine. He, too, would like you to cut it out with the impotent platitudes. He thinks perhaps this is more of a show up and bring on the wine sort of situation. Maybe we’ll even toss some tables around for good measure.]

I feel like a sore loser, which might be an unfair assessment because this is not a game of spades. This is our lives. We have just told women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA people, people of any religion outside mainstream Christianity, people outside any mainstream constructed by the privileged elite – “Those cards that we stacked against you? We’re just going to keep them stacked. In fact, we’re going to build a wall of cards.” So yeah. I feel sore about that, and I lost a little more hope, so I guess technically the term applies. I don’t want to hear any backlash from Trump supporters on this point, because when Trump bragged he would be a sore loser if he didn’t win, you voted for him anyway, so this is behavior you have already supported, and I am not in the mood to entertain your inconsistency. To the rest of you – I know. This is not my finest hour. I’ll do better. In fact, I’ll work to do a hundred times better, because the ten-times-better-than that I’ve averaged throughout my life so far isn’t enough when you have a vagina. Apparently.

I feel sad that a HRC victory would have only left me feeling relief instead of the joy I would have wanted to feel with the election of our first female president. It would have been a lukewarm victory for me. But I am not lukewarm in my mourning of her loss this morning. My prayers are with the person with her resume who just lost to the person with his resume.

[My prayers will be with him later, but I’m not ready yet. I imagine they will be different, at least at first. God still accepts lamentations, right?]

I feel like less has changed than it feels like has changed. We woke up with the same work left to do this morning that we would have had otherwise; we woke up with the same nation. Progress meets backlash, and that’s how my anxiety is having to frame this right now.

You can pledge to continue the work. Start with this open letter to our nation by 100 women of color leaders. Read and listen voraciously, particularly to people whose background, upbringing, and lives do not look like your own. Particularly to people who have had to work harder than you do to get to the same place.

And more importantly, let’s do better.

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This may be my most favorite book advertisement ever.

Today, Kelly Chripczuk’s book Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk, and Poultry launches into the world. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy, and you should go buy it immediately.

Kelly uses humor and her gift as a storyteller to impart wisdom through her experiences of raising and loving chickens. The subsequent softening of the lines between secular and sacred is reminiscent of Kathleen Norris’s The Quotidian Mysteries.

I love this collection of stories. It reminds me of growing up on our farm, even though we didn’t have chickens. It makes me want to encourage my parents to get chickens. The lessons of life and death, our longing to be gathered and brooded over, and finding the extraordinary nestled in the ordinary make frequent appearances in this treasure of a book.

And while reading, I, too, became very attached to the Polish chickens. Like Kelly’s son, I also love them with my whole heart. I wonder what the pet deposit on a pair of Polish hens would be at my apartment…

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Get your own copy of Chicken Scratch today. You can also visit Kelly’s blog for a sneak peak, a link-up and the chance to win a signed copy (and also lip balm).

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