Liturgy of the New Year 17

As I write, 2017 has taken off in good form here in Milwaukee with so much sunshine that the snow, which has become small mountains of frozen grey goop, is melting. My faith community began the New Year where we took Communion as the first meal of the year. We spoke together a Call to Worship, and held each other up during Prayers of the People, we sang hymns and folk music, and pronounced a Unison Benediction together.

In other words, we created liturgy on this first day of 2017.

Liturgy means “the work of the people” — as Baptists we are particularly inclined to lean into the work of liturgy– the work of public worship in rituals of faith. Liturgy is so full of grace because we take the work of our hands and see that it becomes infused with the mystery of the grace of God. We do this every week, over and over, because in doing it, we develop faithfulness like calluses on our hands. The hands become strong and they remember, especially in the most difficult of times, who God is and what God has done.

The work of liturgy does not belong solely to the pastor. It belongs to the Church.

And it is in this frame of mind, that I think of 2017.

The work of justice-making and peace-building does not belong to any institution as a whole. Like liturgy, it is the work of the people. When the power is grass-rooted in diverse ways, it cannot be controlled by an elected leader of any kind. The power is in the people.

And because it is the work of the people, it is beautifully complex, grass-rooted, and also fraught with pain, misunderstanding, blame throwing, shaming, and burn-out. Growing edges are so often jagged and grace so often needed.

But the work is ours to hold.

May 2017 bring new calluses for our hands so that they aren’t so blistered anymore. And maybe a little Bengay for the sore backs…

This makes me infinitely hopeful for this year. I cannot wait to do this work together.

Kate

On a personal note: The work of my own evolution and growth in faith and life does not belong to anyone else, but myself. The work of forgiveness is mine to do. The work of power-sharing and ally-building starts with how I engage in these practices in my daily navigation of the world. Though the work of the people is done in community, it has to start within me.

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Not unto the Critics…

Holiday break affords much needed introvert reflection time for me and as I dive into my thoughts/ feelings/ dreams, my gratitude increases by exponential leaps and bounds. I recall who I am at my most basic, yet ironically complex, self. The layers of deadlines and to-do lists make cloudy the image that I have of who I am. Then technological gadgets make it so that I can go throughout the day with literally not a second of alone time.

So space to come back to myself is needed like the sun is needed after weeks of clouds.

The space that this 2015 holiday has provided has been both difficult and productive. It’s necessary space, but it often requires one to pick up those things that one has pushed aside in one’s spirit because of how hard they might be to think and talk about.

It’s a kind of “re-collection space.” Space to recollect that which I know is true about myself and to center my mind, body, and spirit around that, as well as a time to re-collect my priorities, my work, relationships that I have neglected, etc.

One guide whose work I trust to accompany me through this recollection space is someone who is not new to the blog, but whom I’ve written about before, here and here. During this break, I have been reacquainted with Dr. Brené Brown’s sociological work on shame and vulnerability. She has centered her most recent work on a quote which she came across years ago by Theodore Roosevelt. Before sharing the quote and elucidating my thoughts on it, I want to first say that while I believe this quote to be extraordinarily significant to the truth of her work, I have major issues of much of what Teddy did as President and do not support his actions by posting this quote.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

This quote has been poignant to me in my reflection on what is to come in 2016 and the manner by which I plan to carry myself. The main point of this quote and of my writing today is the vulnerability that it takes to be in the arena: to put yourself “out there” and expose yourself to the weathered elements of criticism. Being vulnerable almost always involves creating something, be it poetry, a blog or book, or beginning a program of study, getting out of an unhealthy relationship or getting into a new one, using your privilege creatively to dis-mantle unjust systems, allying with folks who are doing the work from their communities, doing the work from your community, forming new skill sets, pushing your body into something healthier, and so many more ways of creating vulnerably.

Though this list of activities varies widely in scope, two common themes unite it: creating and vulnerability. Creating means bringing something new into the world instead of solely consuming. You know, like consuming social media, TV, Netflix, magazines, people, sports games, and the list goes on. Rather than consuming practices, these activities of creation require one to stand in the arena surrounded by many critics who are quite comfortable sitting on their butts critiquing you. And it can hurt incredibly because you are so exposed. This is where Brené’s work comes in (see video below) because it is at this point of vulnerability that she suggests acknowledging the critics (both human and your own self doubt) and even reserving their seats, and then she suggests: “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Some critics are trolls whose sole purpose is to inflict doubt and criticism because of their own lack, but some are family and friends who, for whatever reason, cannot get on board with this growth, change, and creativity in your life.

“Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Because it doesn’t really matter who you are, if you aren’t also in the arena getting your butt kicked as hard as I am, and creating something in this world instead of consuming all the things, then while I respect your opinion, it is irrelevant to me.

I’m going to do this anyway.

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You can see the full video of Brené Brown’s: Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count, here. I highly recommend it!

A Post of the New Year (2014)

Here we are in 2013, I mean, 2014.

I’ve seen several reflective posts. Was 2013 a good year? Did it bring achieved goals or greater evolution of self? Did it hurt? Is it a year that will always be remembered for one reason or another? I’m happy to read reflection. I’m not sure that I reflect enough. And reflecting, at its most basic level, provides an opportunity for me to stop and remember what it means for me to be human. But reflection takes solitude and focus, and frankly, who has time for that?

I’ve also seen several resolution posts. What was not accomplished in 2013 that absolutely must be in 2014? What lingering pieces of one’s self or lifestyle does one not want to carry into the next 365 days? Our scarcity and perfectionistic culture certainly lets us know loud and clear the things in which we are lacking.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of being told what I’m lacking. Are you? Little by little one’s self-esteem gets chipped away by the thoughts of what one should have, what one should be able to give, or how one presents oneself to the world.

Maybe a good healthy moment of reflection can deflect the messages that ask us to become something we are not. I’ll never be who you want me to be. I’ll be me. A woman who sincerely believes that love is it. Love is the jam. And I’m not scared to love past the fear around this place. I’m not scared to love through absolutism and disagreement, through ignorance and belittlement, through the Hollywood-ized version of self, through my own prejudice and fear. I’m not afraid to admit that I am not there yet, but I’m working towards what equality, grace, and interconnectedness mean and trying to base my ethics on such a place. I’m not really interested in the abstract. How am I living my ethics today?

So here’s my semi-obligatory New Years post, for whatever it’s worth. I’m here, ready to dust the cobwebs that need to be dusted, ready to smile at new opportunities, ready to hold a hand, ready to face my fears of false inadequacy, ready to nurture community with life-giving folks. My reflections elucidate my resolutions; they coalesce with a little sadness, a lot of gratitude, and a massive amount of excitement.

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If you have resolutions or reflections, I’m happy to read them here. Let me know what is informing your beginning of 2014.

Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

As the beginning of 2013 approached, I was feeling some internal pressure to write an obligatory New Years blog post… stating all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments of 2012 and then conversely all that I look forward to in 2013. And though I think reflection is incredibly important, I didn’t quite get that written in time. So in typical drive thru fashion, I’ll quickly state a few things that stuck out for me (and I’d love to hear some that stuck out for you too), and then move onto a topic that’s been heavy on my thoughts: scarcity. More to come on that in a second.

2012 Highlights (in no particular order):

1) A trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A city of activists… a place I’d love to end up.

2) Chopping off my hair: Having short hair is the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Saves time and hair product expense. And it helps me to not look so nerdy all the time. I can use all the help I can get.

3) Writing for BioLogos: A organization that explores the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

4) Shaking Anne Lamott’s hand

5) Hearing Ani Difranco sing “32 Flavors” live

6) The Our Emptying Church blog series, which has brought more joy to me than many other things in 2012.

7) Exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with two of my favorite chicas in the world (and getting to reunite with a long lost friend).

8) Meeting the very cool and talented Chris Adams at a conference and later joining in on a Lifeway Women’s Generational Discussion, which taught me how productive graceful dialogue can be.

9) First reading Rachel Held Evans blog and then getting to have a conversation with her. What a beautiful, beautiful woman. I’m so thankful for her voice, which has given dignity to folks… especially women, encouraging and empowering them to love God and love people. Eshet Chayil!


10) Sitting down to many coffee dates with ministers who are working towards justice, peace, and love. And then having the privilege of sitting under their instruction.

So there’s a couple highlights for me though the list could go on and on… I have met some absolutely beautiful people in 2012.

Now I should probably dive into the obligatory New Years Resolutions, but I’d rather talk about something a little less discussed, but that I’d like to focus on big time in 2013. Scarcity. The feeling of never having enough. Enough money. Enough love. Enough time. Enough security. Enough success. Enough power. Enough perfection. We live scarcity everyday.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book about her research on vulnerability and shame, called: Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brown quotes Lynn Twist, a global activist who writes about scarcity:

“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it…. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” (The Soul of Money, p. 43-45).

We are very aware of how much we lack. Our culture, via the media, perpetuates unattainable visions of perfection and those pervade our thoughts and dictate our worth. I love what Brene says… which is, that we are comparing ourselves to fiction!

I think worrying about scarcity can take many different forms. Most obviously, we worry that we don’t have enough money. Maybe just as frequently, we worry about our physiques. But I think the elephant in the room may be that we worry about power. Does our church have enough power and political influence? How can we control culture? Will my children listen to me? How can I control the people in my life? How can I control my significant other? We relish control because it gives a false sense of security. Control makes us worried and scared and frankly, at one another’s throats.

Dr. Brown’s research shows that the counter-attack on scarcity is not abundance, but rather, wholeheartedness. The idea of living with vulnerability and worthiness, facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks while knowing deep down, that I am enough.

I want to make a clear distinction between fighting scarcity and being content with the status quo. There are some things in this state, this country, and this world that I am not and will never be content with, most of which include inequality, patriarchy, discrimination, and injustice. Regarding these things, I have no excuse to remain silent or content. However, I completely identify with Brene’s research. In 2012, I tried to cut out a majority of time spent on TV, news, the radio, and even movies because I felt a little bit angry about the images I was being fed. I was angry about the way the media portrays women’s bodies as objects, about how the news channels frequently feed hysteria, hype, and fear about anything and everything you could possibly imagine, about how video games and movies are incredibly violent and portray war as something glorious. I was angry about receiving subtle messages about how I should think or vote. Isn’t this my obligation to research, reflect on, and decide for myself? I was angry about the amount of time I spent listening to someone else’s fictional life.

It turned out to be a good decision for me. I plan on cutting back even more media in 2013 because I want to live. I don’t want to salivate at fictional representations of perfection and then claw my way through life trying to match them.

To define my worthiness by how I love, how I treat folks, how I listen to people who I disagree with, how I give up power and invite in vulnerability… these are the things I am interested in. I want to be able to accept that I’ll never be extremely wealthy, the most trendy chica on the block, or the best statistician in the bunch. I want to be content with that.

And I think it’s possible, with great intentionality and discipline, to slap scarcity in the face.


What are some of your beautiful 2012 moments? What are you resolved to do in 2013?

**If you’d like to check out Brene’s new book, Daring Greatly, here’s the link. I’d highly recommend it!

A New Years Eve Thought

This is an email I wrote on New Years Eve… yes… a couple months old, but the spirit of it has not changed.

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(January 1st, 2009)
The family came over today, nanna, papaw, uncle john, and aunt fannie. lots of fun. we all sat around the table eating pinto beans, cornbread, and hoppin john… (which nobody knew about it but me, but its a black eyed pea dish) Found out the tradition behind black eyed peas… they were commonly eaten by slaves because they were extremely cheap… so it became a tradition on New Years to eat black eyed peas to represent humility.
anyway… while eating, we reminisced, and laughed about many things that happened this year. it was beautiful being with them. i am so blessed. the sun was setting… a beautiful pink, orange, into purple, and we were laughing.

earlier tonight i was laying in bed… and literally was overcome with emotion… this doesn’t happen to me often. but i started crying… how could our God give us so much grace? so much love? that God would allow us the privilege to come into fellowship with God. I realized that i am i LOVE with God. absolutely. everything in my spirit desires. You would think that I realized this often, but I don’t. Not often enough.
And it was so incredibly refreshing to cry before God. To actually feel something… passion.