The Kin-dom of God is like…

The Kin-dom of God is like a beloved waking up at 3am to call to make sure you’ve awakened for your alarm…

The Kin-dom of God is like a dear friend loving on your dogs…

The Kin-dom of God is like another dear friend bringing you a delicious dinner, unsolicited.

The Kin-dom of God is like a sunset so beautiful that the sky lingers with it, dancing between darkness and the bright orange colors as long as it can…

The Kin-dom of God is like a hug from your kid…

The Kin-dom of God is like a stranger on the way home from rugby practice, helping you for an hour to try to get into your locked car that’s still running…

The Kin-dom of God is like parents going out of their way to spend time with you…

The Kin-dom of God is like friends gardening together…

The Kin-dom of God is like people–busy, busy people– going out of their way to live into the commitments of love to you.

The Kin-dom of God is like these things, and so much more.

Thanks be to God.

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I have seen the Lord!

I can’t believe I am back on my neglected blog, writing anything other than sermons and services on Holy Week! Holy Week for pastors spells s-w-a-m-p-e-d and it has certainly lived up to that this 2019 year. But as I set an intention on gratitude today in a last-ditch effort to deflect some of the anxiety about Easter’s logistics (and also as I sermon write for Easter Sunday), I found myself stepping back 10 years into time.

As I read John’s Gospel story, I am captivated by Mary. How she came to weep over Jesus’ death at his tomb and how she was the first one to see the Resurrected Jesus. She needed Jesus to say her name so that she would know who he was; that means she knew him, she knew his voice, she knew how he said her name. She was commissioned by Jesus to go and tell. And gee, did she ever! We have the Gospel story because of her. She went and said, “I have seen the Lord!”

“I have seen the Lord.”

“I have seen the Lord.”

What an honor to be the first human commissioned with the Gospel.

As I am reflecting on this for Holy Week, the gratitude that captured me was gratitude for all of the women in my life who have shouted “I have seen the Lord!” over and over and over until I believed that this Good News was for me too. They have been witnesses of this Love that was made flesh in the form of Jesus.

From my mom, to my grandmothers and aunts, in my raising who introduced me to God’s love. To writers like Anne Lamott and most especially Rachel Held Evans who kept saying, I think the Gospel is more expansive and inclusive than we think it is. To my pastors who said this is what “I have seen the Lord!” looks like for a woman in ministry. To my Divinity School professors who taught me that being commissioned with the good news means that “you cannot be a poster child of the status quo.”1 To so many women who have changed me because they have taught me the unforced rhythms of grace when I was so burnt out with the Church. To the women who have loved me deeply and said, “remember who you are; you are named beloved and you are a woman made in the image of God.”

For me, it will always be a woman who says on Easter’s Sunday:

“I have seen the Lord.”

Notes:

  1. Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes

Dance with me…

Dance with me,
Under the stars,
Across the plains,
Through the sequoias,
Hold me tightly,
when I just can’t.

Come with me,
to the edges,
edges of who we are,
who we want to be,
our best selves.

Take a chance with me,
for the rest of our lives,
smile with me in joy,
pray with me in uncertainty,
and miss me in separation.

Work with me,
to illicit change,
to grieve injustice,
to sit at the table
of the full menu,
of human rights.

Do life with me,
let’s find out,
about the mystery
of grace, and mercy,
and love.

Walk with me,
through my fears,
and hesitancy,
show me what
vulnerability means.

Dance with me,
Through the shadows of
what we might be,
if we, as humans,
would realize our
interconnectedness.

Old Tyme Year – January

“Give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me”

As I began this 2018, I realized it was hard to believe that we are 18 years into the new millennium. They call me a millennial, but my soul can’t quite rest in that category box. For it is older and seeks to know a prior way of living… where the land mattered and the weather mattered because the land mattered. A time when the senses were sharper and there was less of a cloud around everything. Not to idealize this, I think it must have been a hard way of survival, but what I relish is the deeper intentionality of living.

So, this year, as a way of letting my spirit speak, I am learning something of the old way each month. Thus, with the advent of each new month, I will seek to spend time expanding my knowledge of old tyme life. I come from the land near Appalachia, formerly the land of the Cherokees and Shawnee, so my filter runs through this.

January is the month for old-tyme music. Late last year, I began learning the fiddle! It’s the same instrument as the violin, but is played differently to create a fiddle sound. So far, I’m not great at it, but I sure am having fun learning! My extensive repertoire includes, Wildwood Flower, You Are My Sunshine, and Old Joe Clark. Oh and I learned O Come O Come Emmanuel for my mom for Christmas. That’s about it for now, but I’m learning the slants of the songs so that they sound like mountain music.IMG_5150 I think it’s pretty cool how oral the mountain culture used to be, and to some degree, still is. Stories were passed down through folk songs. Many songs are not uncomplicated or innocent (have you ever listened to Down on The Banks of the Ohio?), but rather, they tell generations of stories that would have been lost had they not been preserved through the lyrics and notes of mountain ballads.

So here’s to learning an old-tyme way of passing down stories!

Comparison Fatigue

Comparison is the death of joy.

Mark Twain

As the days of 2017 are coming to a close, the wisdom of Twain accompanies me. Like an I-phone reminder which continues to ring an alert if not tended to, so too is this quote moving in and out of my consciousness. Now I must tend to it.

It is unwise to negate the tenacity that comparison possesses in our lives, especially given social media platforms that one can consume from one’s armchair in practically an instant. It’s downright easy to view the successes of friends in life and love from the screen, but cognitive dissonance comes into play because “through the screen” is not tangible. While it’s super real for the folks who are experiencing the life moments that they post, it isn’t necessarily real for the viewers insofar as it being visceral, or even reality. There is a disconnect from the pains and joys, the boredom and adventure, the trust and mistrust, the hesitation and elation, the static and change, the passion and numbness of all that is behind that life moment posted. The depth through a screen can never be a deep as the living of the moment.

And so, we know this, yes. And yet… we allow comparison to creep in, even though we can feel it coming, like a dreaded attack of gout. We compare ourselves, our lives/successes/pains/shortcomings/anxieties to the thing on the screen or the thing our pal is going through or the points that others we know are at in life. And because of the disconnect, the comparison always, always leaves us feeling less than good enough. Surely no one else experiences this or that, we convince ourselves. Instead, life is super fly for them.

And slowly comparison fatigue sets in and our joy fades into something akin to jealously laced with greed or listless regret. Which is to say, we watch life happen rather than live it. And that is like the shell of the turtle without the turtle living in it.

I wished to live deep and suck the marrow out of life. The mass of [humans] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with a song still in them.

Henry David Thoreau

Put the Good in the Good Life

The more I live, the more I realize that if we wait for the good life to happen, it’ll pass us right by. And “the good life” is, I guess, contingent upon what is defined by “good.” After the basic needs are met, what constitutes good for me is paying attention. It is a paying attention to the nuances of life and people in my life that make it so rich.

This does not necessarily come easily for me as I am not a person who is inclined to pay attention to details. In this way, I’ve missed prime opportunities to complement people’s newly-acquired hair-cuts or perhaps notice that the bag of chocolate chips I just bought are of the mini-chocolate chip variety, rather than the full size… thus leaving me with regular size cookies with miniature size chocolate chips. I also recall purchasing garbanzo bean flour in a haste, rather than oat flour, then neglecting to read the label when baking; thus, the final product culminating with cookies that tasted like hummus rather than — you know– cookies.

Details are not my specialty.

Rather, I am inspired by the big picture stuff — you know– the new year’s resolutions type things. Dreaming big and so on.

But, as Ani Difranco sings in her song “As Is”,

When I look around
I think this, this is good enough
And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
’cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
And when I look up
I just trip over things

Tripping — ass-over-teakettle — is a tendency of mine.

For me, the big pictures keep me inspired and help me get out of bed each day, but it is the details that make life rich. It’s noticing the folklore behind a place that I have always lived near and only know for the gas station that is close to it. It is paying attention to the people around me, and taking time to sit on the front porch and hear stories that make up their lives that we had not shared before. It is actually taking space to be okay with not achieving for a while- and instead, resting into the rhythm of the day. It is watching for the nuances of a movie that often contain more meaning than the plot itself. It is stopping to watch a sunset for its uniqueness because I know that particular sunset will never happen again. It is learning the fiddle because I love how Appalachian folklore is carried through its notes. It is writing a blog post instead of a sermon because writing keeps me alive.

Life is rich when I pay attention. This, I am learning.