Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

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In the Firefly universe, the crew of the Serenity was always trying to avoid Reavers, the ones that had an adverse reaction to their environment and lost their damn minds, giving in to hate and every vile impulse that comes with it.

It’s hard to avoid them in this world, though. They have jobs and pay taxes. They’re raising children. They hold rallies at our universities and on our town squares.

Oh…is that harsh? My bad. Full disclosure – if you need me to be gentle about this, you are not going to like what I have to say here.

I have tried. I have been reading the news and scrolling through social media and racking my brain to find a gentle way to say this, but I have come up empty.

Gentleness is just not an appropriate response.

I would find it curious if an outspoken white supremacist enjoyed reading my blog. Maybe we have the same taste in food? But if you are reading this and are a person who attends white supremacist rallies or sympathizes with those who do, then this post is for you. You wanted attention, and for the next few paragraphs, you have mine. Congratulations, I guess.

I know in my head that you are as fully human as I am, but I have a difficulty seeing any trace of humanity in how you think and act. You may have an endearing characteristic, but I cannot see it through the stinking fog of your white supremacist beliefs. This is not a difference of opinion. I will not agree to disagree. White supremacy is evil and detrimental to the world.

I believe in a God who can redeem anyone, but I also believe that God waits for people to turn their hearts in repentance before doing so. I harbor immense cynicism that you have the willingness or maybe even the capacity to repent.

I agree with Nelson Mandela that no one is born hating whole chunks of humanity. I also know from personal experience that viewpoints that are revealed to be false and bad behavioral habits can be unlearned. In order to have those experiences, however, I have to be open to them, and I don’t see that openness in you.

But just in case I am wrong (and I hope that I am), I have a little advice on how to begin.

[One of my limitations in this conversation is that I don’t know how to fix this without Jesus. So if atheist friends or friends of other faiths want to give advice on where to start, please feel welcome to do so in the comments.]

Since it seems that most outspoken white supremacists, particularly in the southern regions of my country, profess the Christian faith, let’s start there.

That you are wrong about this is not up for discussion. You are wrong. Period. Get on your face before the God you serve and repent. Ask God to help you change. Beg God to help you change. Do not let go until God answers you. Do this every day until you no longer hate the people you hate today.

Next, I know you are really good at being angry. Anger is not wrong, but it needs to be pointed in the right direction. Get angry at white supremacy. Get angry at how it invaded your mind and heart and warped your soul. At some point, were you forced to choose between outwardly embracing white supremacy and being disowned by your family? Doesn’t that make you furious? Lean into that fury. Turn your hate toward this mindset that poisoned your life and every relationship you have. When change seems hopeless – and there will come a time when it does – that anger may be the only fuel that keeps any hope of redemption alive.

I and many others have a lot of ideas on where to go from there, but frankly, I would be surprised if you ever bother to get to this point.

So that’s what I have to say to you. Change. Start to do so immediately. You want to be a person who deserves to be heard? Become a person who says and does worthwhile things.

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I’m eager for Easter this year.

Usually, I’m better at Lent – better at reflection, better at the grieving that ends Holy Week – than I am at celebration. But I’ve had enough of heaviness this year.

Every week, we recite the Apostle’s Creed, and sometimes the words are hard to say. Not so much the part you’re probably thinking about – the creation, the virgin birth, the resurrection. As a born mystic raised Southern Baptist, I clung to these stories. Sometimes the irrational literality of their interpretation of these mysteries was the only thing that kept me tethered to my otherwise small and rigid faith.


I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

 I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I have no problem saying these words. I believe in the triune God who seems to delight in making rules about how the world works just to have the fun of breaking them. That’s a God who understands us.

It’s the second part that often gives me fits. It starts off fine…

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

But then…

the holy catholic church*,

This one is hard. I hardly believe in the church at all. That is difficult for me to write. I desperately want to believe that the church could be the church. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t see the church feeding the poor or caring for the other in big enough, consistent enough ways to make an impact. I include myself in this. We tend to give out of our excess rather than out of our sacrifice. I wonder how the world would change if we switched that up.

the communion of saints,

 I often feel like an outsider in my faith. I have adapted to Lutheranism, but I still feel new after being in the church for years. But hearing the talk of some friends I used to go to church with feels absolutely foreign to me. I find it harder and harder to remember what it was like to be in that headspace.

But there is grace here, too. The Lutherans handle me. I’m usually offended by things like that. I’m not fragile (she exclaims in a feral manner)! I won’t break (she whimpers)! But honestly? I’m glad for their gentleness. I’m relieved. I’m still skittish – way more than I would have been able to admit eight years ago when everything fell apart. They meet me there.

And there is grace in the moments when I voice my feelings of otherness, and a friend, visibly relieved, exhales, “Oh…me, too. I thought it was just me.”

the forgiveness of sins,

We are much more apt to look for fault and boast of our deal-breakers. I’m certainly guilty of unforgiveness, and there are cases where I haven’t forgiven myself and don’t necessarily think I deserve it. There are instances where I long to be forgiven, but if I were in their shoes, would I want to forgive me? I’m not sure I would. And yet forgiveness is central – essential – to this faith.

This is not to say that one shouldn’t have deal-breakers. It is important to know what you will not abide in relationships with others.

Nor am I saying we should rush into forgiveness under the guise of holiness. It is unhealthy to project a false peace just so I don’t have to deal with my anger and hurt. It is also useless, because Jesus can see my soul and is not fooled by my cowardly emotional shenanigans.  I suspect that a lot of what I interpret as God’s silence is Jesus sitting beside me – calm, patient, somewhat amused – as I plug my ears and hum, trying to pretend I’m not exactly where I am.

the resurrection of the body,

 The week before Palm Sunday is usually my favorite in Lent. We get the stories of Lazarus and Ezekiel and the dry bones, and hearing them is like being thrown into the rapids of a river. Those are the stories that force me to choose between sink or swim. It’s invigorating. And terrifying. And incredibly wild.

and the life everlasting. Amen.

 This part gives me pause. Everyone told me that my 40s would be better than my 30s. In a few ways, they were right. But mostly, I just feel like I’m running out of time. Like…is this it? Is this abundant life? I mean, mine is a nice, little life. I have only a few major complaints. But is nice enough to make the thought of everlasting appealing at all? If not…then what? What exactly are we asking for here?


In true Holy Week fashion, I have more questions than answers. What keeps me saying these words week after week is that I’m becoming more okay with that.


Marvia Davidson is hosting a series on Holy Week reflections, and I’m linking up. Join us?


*little “c” catholic, meaning the universal church

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Friday Five2

Title reference – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Well, I did it. I turned 42, which really does feel like an answer to something. Getting through this year has felt like an accomplishment. I wonder if this is how every year from now on will be – more aches, less patience with the world and its ridiculous ways, more unlearning and relearning. It’s not so bad, I guess.

Last year at this time, I was freaking out over my blood pressure being high for the first time ever. This year, I am happy to report that it is back to normal (but my heart rate still runs high…because anxiety…working on it) and that my food and activity choices have had a lot to do with that. I have a number of pounds lost, which will make my doctor happy, but I’m happier about other things.

Today’s list is made of stories with which my 42-year-old self identifies.

  1. Addie Zierman’s Of Lent and Emptiness – On fasting/not fasting and Whole30, which I still refuse to try but if I were to try it, posts like this would be what would change my mind. Also, I weirdly miss fasting for Lent.
  2. Shawn Smucker’s On Seeing a Neighbor Hit Their Child, What Maile Did Right, and What I Would Do Differently – I’m mentioned Green Dot training fleetingly, but it is not fleeting in my mind. Scenarios like this go through my head all the time with questions of what would I do, whom would I call, how would I respond.
  3. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Our church is starting the second annual collection of books for our Book Bag Project. We give three or four books to graduates of a local preschool to encourage their love of reading. More and more, I am convinced that writers (and artists and musicians and etc.) have incredible power to unlock story and innovation and progress, and I want to be a part of that.
  4. Cat principles. This is basically a to-do list. Also…I remain resolute in my coffee consumption (just…shhh…).
  5. Sometimes, Ray Palmer is my spirit animal. Also, I love Legends of Tomorrow. And Flash. And even Arrow. And especially Supergirl (i.e., Cat Grant)And will always rewatch Smallville and will always, ALWAYS be angry at Season 4. Fandom squee for life.

Hello, 42. Happy to meet you.

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On Patience and Waiting


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?

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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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“You can’t be The Lone Ranger. Christianity can only be done in community.”

Then why is faith such a lonely place sometimes? How do I explain the seasons when the more I engage, the more people I seek out, the more people I pray with, the more isolated I feel?

I used to think that getting married would obliterate my loneliness. I don’t think that anymore. Getting to know people and being around them hasn’t gotten rid of it, so maybe that’s too much of an expectation to heap upon my future spouse.

[Having said that, I’m still more than willing to give marriage the old college try, Jesus. I’m just sayin’.]

Did I choose my dark places, or have they chosen me?

Probably a bit of both.

If you look only at the facts of my early life, I probably shouldn’t (ick…speaking of unreasonable expectations. Can we just ban this word from the English language already?) be so worried about being abandoned. I had an enviable childhood. My parents are good role models. They’re responsible, faithful people who are still together, just like they’ve been since they were practically teenagers. They have always had high expectations, but they’re fair expectations. And they love their children – oh, how they love us.

Yet I distinctly remember in the church I grew up in, when we watched that terrible 70s film about the last days, as the song’s line repeated, “You’ve been left behind,” my fear of being left didn’t have anything to do with the apocalypse. It was very much a then-and-there fear.

It’s a fear that’s stuck around.

I didn’t sleep a lot that week. I don’t sleep a lot many weeks of the year.

Adult life has had more examples of people going away, and oddly, that’s a comfort. A see-how-I’m-not-totally-crazy consolation. I’ve been through church splits and dissolutions, and that’s been hurtful, especially when it means we don’t see each other anymore, indicating that our bond was not as strong as it appeared. Friends come and go, show up and then get married or have children or move or all of the above, and my heart’s not built to be a pit stop. Maybe most people’s hearts are. Maybe that’s my problem. I can’t make my heart do what it’s supposed to do. I can’t make my heart let go; a part of it always goes with them.

I don’t bond easily, but when I do, it’s forever. Even when the other person goes away. And I’m afraid that they all will go away eventually.

In my darkest times, I get angry about it. In my darkest times, I imagine pouring my heart out and being told, “Excellent sharing. Really top notch. Thanks for telling us. Okay, goodbye now. Have a nice life. Good luck!” And that makes me so mad. I argue with these imaginary people in my head who say things like that, who would be cavalier enough about my heart to walk away from it.

This is not a plea to tell me how you’ll stay. Please don’t promise that. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. I want you to do what you need to do, and I don’t want you to feel bad about it. Guilt is not welcome here. For any of us.

And I’m thankful that I’ve seen fewer of these darkest days recently. I think spending more time with my sister has helped. And I think my church – specifically, joining the choir – has helped.

They feed me. They listen to me. They surround me with song.

These are the things I cling to when it’s dark. It doesn’t always drive the darkness away, but it’s a bit of light to see by.

I have learned not to be so scared of the dark places.  I have learned precious things that my stubbornness would not have allowed me to learn any other way. I have grown more confident in my navigation skills. It has made me more self-sufficient but also more willing to be interdependent. It has made me stronger…and also weaker. It teaches me how to hold opposing forces in the same hand.

Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, releases on Tuesday, March 15, and she’s invited her readers to link up to her synchroblog. Come back after the release date to read more stories of faith in the dark.

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On Fasting


Tomorrow we enter into Lent, which in many traditions is a season of fasting. I’m not sure Lutheran is one of those traditions, but I tend to fast during Lent anyway. I started doing so to support an early college roommate who was Episcopalian, and I’ve done it ever since. I’ve become less communicative about it over the years, not only because it’s become more of a private reflection, but also because I’ve found that fasting is one of those things people are either willing to understand or wanting to argue about.

This post is for the willing crowd. Arguing crowd – save your breath. I’m still going to do it, because I find it beneficial. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You do you.

First, these are not reasons that I fast:

  1. To test my willpower or prove that I can accomplish it. Fasting is an intensely personal experience for me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s just about me and what I can do. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that if this is the only reason one fasts, then what one is doing is not so much fasting as it is dieting.
  1. To rid myself of vices. If I notice something I’m doing is harmful to myself or others, I don’t need to wait until Lent to get rid of it. Nor do I need to use the calendar’s announcement that it’s Easter as an excuse to pick it back up. It just needs to go. What needs to happen there is a full turning away, not a temporary doing without.

Reasons I fast:

  1. To induce gratitude. Doing without something for a season that is a regular, enjoyable part of my life, makes me ten times more grateful for life and more aware of a purpose outside myself in general, and that gratitude feeds right into the joy of Easter.
  1. To make room. Abstaining from a regular activity frees up that time (and head space) for more contemplation, meditation, and prayer.
  1. To lay down privilege. This is humbling and paves the way for that experience to change me into someone who acts more fairly.

The year I went vegan for Lent, I learned a lot. What I expected to get out of it was an immense joy when I could have cheese (if Jesus were a food…) again and a little time for reflection that I saved by preparing and eating simpler meals.

Then, like a fool, I told people what I was doing.

This announcement inspired a lot of opposition. It wasn’t like I was asking anyone to join me, but they were still upset about it. This confused me until I realized that when people rise up against something that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with them, it’s usually a justice issue. They or someone they love or support would lose power – usually over other people – or money, which is just tangible power, if everyone started behaving or believing that way. So they don’t like it.

When I see something as a justice issue, however, whether or not they like it becomes kind of irrelevant. If it is strictly a difference of opinion, I’m pretty live-and-let-live about it. Sure, I will tease you. You think Uggs are pretty? Fine. I might, tongue fully in cheek, tell you that your taste is wrong, but really? Live your life; wear your hideous boots. What do I care?


I will remove that tongue from my cheek and seriously urge you to investigate where and how they’re manufactured. Because it matters. Morally and ethically – it matters. Issues of justice cannot be brushed off with a flippant agreement to disagree.

So the year I went vegan, and people started hurling their statistics and medical studies at me, I didn’t tell them they had a right to their opinion and let it go. I, ever the argumentative academic, read their statistics and studies. Then I read most of the works cited at the bottom of those sources to get a larger picture of their viewpoint. I analyzed the credibility of their sources, and I studied equally credible sources (and in quite a few cases, more credible sources because wow, people will believe really shoddy work from really shady places if it allows them to resist changing their mind) that came to a different conclusion.

[As an aside, if you are looking for a socio-political rabbit hole to fall into, I recommend a compound search of food systems and justice. It’s fascinating.]

Through reading all this research, I came to some conclusions of my own. For the record, I didn’t stay vegan, although if you are, I highly support your decision. There are a lot of good reasons to do so.  There are also good reasons not to, and those reasons are more in line with my values. I did, however, radically change the way I view and buy food. After my experience and the domino effect of education on the subject, I could not in good conscience know what I had learned and remain unchanged.

Fasting is not always such a life-changing experience for me, but it does always manage to find a new way to shift my focus away from myself and onto the needs of others. That’s a lesson that extends far beyond the fasting season.

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