Monday, December 31, 2012

A Heart Full of Gratitude

I write because I have breath.  I cannot not write...but being able to bring an idea into fruition has been a series of frustrations over the course of the last several years.  It started right about the time I went from full time ministry to *part time*, when I was attempting to shift time towards doing this thing that is like breath for me.  The pressure of making that desire known and official mixed with the news of a baby on the way created a creative block that would take years to loosen up.  In the next several years 2 more babies came and I was busy loving on my wee ones.  I dreamed that someday they would all wipe their own bums and noses.  I knew the early years were too precious to miss, so my writing needed a backseat in my life.  Fast forward to now and my kids are mostly self sufficient and their needs are more emotional than physical.  They are all in school full time and I have found myself with more time to devote to the things that bring me joy.  Creativity is my, paper crafting, and writing...yes my faithful partner in life, the written word.

2012 was a year of freedom for me in so many the beginning of this calendar year I had a vision of how I would want my year to go.  I had a dream of feeling content, joyful, and full.  Full of grace, full of love, full of peace.  I had a desire to learn to let go and move forward... to get unstuck in my growth.

Well I can say with confidence that I have birthed such a life in this year.  It did not go down easy, nor did it happen in a way I could have remotely predicted.  As with any birth there was immeasurable pain, but by year's end I am holding firmly in my arms the life I was meant to birth.  I find myself in awe of this birth, knowing that something much bigger than my creativity is at work here.  I am a part of a bigger picture that I still don't full understand but I can't wait to watch it unfold.  I have been touched by a living grace that has healed some very old and deep wounds in my soul.  For that I am filled with joy and gratitude.  I am hopeful of what 2013 will have in store for me and mine.  Happy New Year Everyone!  Be Safe!

Friday, October 12, 2012

This Started as a Facebook Share...

... but I just can't bring myself to post it there.  I don't like to do politics in a social setting in real life as I believe it is a recipe for hurt feelings and unnecessary awkwardness.  I see facebook as the virtual version of a social event only it happens 24/7 in loop, so I really feel like it is dangerous territory.  What is the old wisdom...

Don't talk about money, politics, or religion in a social encounter.

Just so you know though... full disclosure style... I am quite leery of talking politics or money on fb, but I speak liberally about my faith since so many of my contacts are in ministry.  So I am quite capable of breaking that rule on my own terms.  I do see my own depravity straight on... so maybe that will convince you to read on.

This Tragedy  sparked a stirring in me that spurred this rant like fb share that I decided to edit and move to my blog platform.  I moved it over her because this space is where I get speak about the world according to me and if you disagree you are free to share comment and I am free to ignore such comment. (Not that anyone ever comments on this virtual expression of my narcissism.).  So here is what I have to share:

I am rarely political on fb and so grant me a moment (though really what I'm about to say isn't about politics, but humanity and more specifically gender equality.)...

Why are we focusing on funding for public media, when this is one of many other issues that needs our attention?  Being the politically uncategorizable (yes this is a grammatically gray area word) American that I am, I see valid argument both for providing educational opportunity for all and for being mindful about how tax payers dollars get used.  Here's my issue though in this election year.  Our American reality seems so disconnected from the realities in other parts of the world.  We are spending energy splitting hairs, when we could be directing that energy towards grace for others whose struggle for human rights is so much more acute.

So let’s just discuss our issues like adults.  Freedom needs to be protected so public media is here to stay and so is commercial media.  Let’s just quit the histrionics and get back to a reality that is connected to the rest of the world.

So there you have it and I feel better because I just had to get this all off my chest.  Let me close with this though.  If I am calling out others for their histrionics and drama, then the conversation has risen to a totally toxic level.  I have a very high tolerance for drama seeing that I am a drama queen at times.  So really, let's bring it down a notch.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brian McLaren

Toward The Other from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

I have been moved by Brian's words time and again.  His writings starting popping up in my life towards the end of my time as a youth worker and I have a pile of his work still sitting for me to read.  I ran across this clip last week and my soul has been chewing on it ever since.

So of course, the issue of world religions came up in the mothership conversation this week.  My experience as a mother has taught me many things, but here is one of the most profound things I have discovered.  All of the really good theological conversations with my children happen in our minivan (a.k.a. "The Mothership") during kid commute time.  I guess it is because we are all a captive audience, and we don't have to be face to face.  Maybe it is less intimidating to ask the big questions when you don't have to make eye contact... at least that's my current working theory.

So my 7 year old daughter wants to sign for the school talent show in the spring.  She wants to sing a worship song and I mentioned to her that she might be asked to pick a different song.  I am not sure what they will allow for a talent show and I wanted to take an opportunity to talk with my older two about the public school setting.  Interestingly enough we had this conversation as we were commuting from the private christian school my 5 year son is attending this year, to the public school the older two attend.  (The reason we have enrolled our kids in two separate elementary schools is a blog post of it's own, that may or may not ever find it's way to this ole' blog space)

It was a great conversation.  I was able to explain to them that at the christian school, the belief system is inherent.  Not every student always has that belief system, but the school is founded on christian principles.  In a public school setting, there is very different distinction in regards to faith.  In the public system the goal is the separation of church and state, or more honestly the separation of religion and academics.  That conversations led to several more heavy questions and I am so grateful to have years of practice doing faith talk with children.  But as I dropped my older children off at their school I was struck by two things:

1.  I am grateful that my children have friends of many different faith backgrounds and several with no faith background.  For my family that is a huge blessing and not because I desire to "friendship evangelize" our other-believing or non-believing friends.  I see it as a blessing because it provides us with a well balanced and non polarizing experience in the life we are leading.  I was raised in the church, went to a christian university, and then I worked in a church for a decade.  When I left that little bubble, I realized just how disconnected I had become from anyone who didn't have the exact same experience.  I was completely entrenched in my religious camp and that caused problems for me.  It created problems because I only embraced the part of my christian identity and history that was pleasant.  I flat out ignored the dark history and the under belly of the faith system I claimed as my own.  These are the sort of problems I don't want my children to have to carry.  I want them to have open hearts, open minds, open eyes, and open arms.  I also want them to have a humility and understanding that we are not God and we do not have a corner on the truth market.  We are a Christian family and are guided by those principles.  That is a good thing.  We are not however, called to decide who is in God's graces and who is not.

2:  I need to learn more about the Islamic faith, as well as, Buddhism and Hinduism.  I have a pretty good working understanding of Judaism, Atheism, and Agnosticism.  My faith shares a lot of the tenants with the Jewish faith, so that's an easy one for me to get.  I have many family members that believe there is no God and avoid religious affiliation, or believe that there may or may not be a God but it does not make a huge difference for them.  I have a limited understanding of Buddhism and Hinduism, but have several friends throughout the years that practice both faith systems, so I feel like I have a fair amount of understanding about each lifestyle. I realized though, that I have a very limited academic understanding of the Islamic faith and almost no personal life experience with Muslim people.  So I need to learn more and maybe I need to move out of my comfort zone in this area.

I am grateful for Brian McLaren for his perspective and his writing.  I am also grateful for the precious teaching moments I get to have as a stay at home mom for my children.  Being present most of the time while I am raising my kids is shaping me more into the image of Christ.  And the more I evolve, the more I feel at home in my own skin because hatred, divisive thinking, and immaturity are slowly falling away.  In the space of that negative stuff has risen up a deeper desire to lean into grace, because I understand all the more, just how much I need grace to cover over me and my humanity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

As a child...

I hate it when I hear the familiar child groan in the middle of the night.  I’d love to tell you I hate it because I don’t like when my babies are sick, but I am not nearly evolved enough for that to be my first thought.  Usually my first thought includes dread because I know I have to get out of my warm and comfortable bed to deal with some form of bodily fluid I have no interest in dealing with.  And that is where my story of last week begins.

I took my kids for a Disney mini vacation last weekend as one last trip before school started back up.  We had a wonderful 3 days and I am grateful for the memories... at least for most of them.  Word for the wise though... don’t pump your kids full of sugar they don’t usually eat, add chlorine water and then top it with over-excitement, because that is a recipe for the middle of the night child groan.  I know I just stated the obvious, but maybe if I repeat it enough I won’t ever do it again.

So the groan came, then the unwanted fluids flowed, and then the giant mess began, all while my sweet boy was still mostly asleep.  Poor kid.  He only became conscious as he was sitting in the bathroom, in the middle of the mess, listening to my multiple step directions so the mess didn’t get any bigger than absolutely necessary.  He was such a trooper with it all though.  Once I was able to convince him my directions were actually helpful for him, he became more willing to trust me.  I could not allow him to make the choices in the situation... for that would have made everything worse, but I needed to give him some control, and the simple gift of choice is exactly what worked to calm him down.  

When he was all clean and dressed in new “vacation pj’s” (big brother’s shirt and the just in case sweat pants I packed) he crawled into his hotel bed to go back to sleep.  As I was tucking him in, he looked up at me with the most endearing look I have ever experienced, and he said, “Thank you mommy.”  What kid is able to be grateful right after such an ordeal and have it be unprompted?  My momma heart swelled and I told him I loved him and to sleep well.  As I crawled back into bed, I found myself being filled with gratitude for my third born.  He embodied wholeness for me that I often feel stays just out of reach as I try to grow.  My son intuitively understands what Jesus spent a lot of earthly time trying to teach rest, to follow, to be grateful.  Jesus implored us to come to him as little children and to take refuge in relationship with him.  I think one of many reasons he desires us to shed our grown up costume, is that a child has the ability to trust in the midst of life’s mess and once the mess is cleared a child’s heart can repair much faster than our hearts do as adults.

I think it is quite common for us adults to find ourselves waking up in the middle of a mess that we didn’t see coming.  Sometimes we have created the mess all on our own, and sometimes life hands us the mess.  I know for me, the biggest struggle is to trust that God’s directives are actually there to help me out of my mess.  I struggle to believe that if I just lean into the relationship and follow, I will be restored.  I fight the care I’m offered and in the process often find myself dejected and exhausted.  If only I could have the sort of humility and gratefulness my son showed on that night.  Watching him navigate that situation inspired me to be more like him when I find myself in yet another mess.  May I remember to trust that God’s suggestions are there as a guide for me to get through the mess, and that I have been given the gift of choice.  I choose to follow or not, and it's meant to calm me.  May I also understand that when I have gone my own way, there is always a steady voice inviting me to follow once more.  Might I have enough thankfulness in my heart to look up and give my gratitude... right there in the moment.

We adults make life too difficult.  We have lost faith, we have lost innocence.  Children get faith, they embody innocence, and they point us towards wholeness.  May you share some time with a child soon... childhood joy is contagious.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School...

...First time in 9 1/2 years I have not had to do work/ home chores/ errands/ doctor's appointments etc. with at least one kid on my hip or hanging off of my leg.  To say I am full of glee, well that's just an understatement.  I know I am supposed to feel nostalgic about my baby going off to school full time, and I did have a moment of that yesterday...but it passed very quickly.  My mothering goal from the very beginning was that I found a way to savor every stage with each child, so I would not pine for days passed after they are gone.  I have not always done that perfectly but on a day like today, I know in the depth of my momma heart that I have done that good enough.  All of my kids are confident and know they are well loved.  That is grace in abundance and I am grateful to the Lord for such an amazing gift!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Season of Blockage....

... I think my writer's block has officially ended for another season.  Just saying.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Balance of Liberty

I am unapologetic in my anti-abortion morality.  I am also unapologetic in my stance of pro-choice legislatively.  Rarely do I ever speak publicly about my personal and political positions on the issue of abortion, because on first look, my positions seem to be in conflict.  Then the issue of health care reform hits our cultural dialogue and I see another layer of why my beliefs fit for me.  The issue of the Health and Human Services Mandate brings home the reason I come down the way I do on the issue of abortion.  The bottom line is an issue of civil liberties.  I don’t want the government to be able to dictate to me about issues that involve my body, my reproductive options, my socio-economic opportunity, my ability to earn a wage, or how to practice whatever faith I choose to submit to.   

The mandate requires non-church, faith organizations to offer medical coverage for employees that goes in direct contradiction to said organizations moral convictions.  Churches get exemption but what about religious education organizations?  Well, these organizations are making their case against this mandate, and so I ran across this the other day on my Facebook feed:

Biola University is my Alma Mater.  I had an incredible college experience there and I feel like I was uniquely prepared for my adult life and career while I studied at that institution.  I was definitely in the minority when I chose to stand pro-choice during my college days. With regards to their current position however, this pro-choice alumni is in support of their declaration.  I believe we need to fight for a woman’s right to make the final decision on her life, her health, her body.  I also believe that we need to fight for religious freedom and the ability to live out our moral convictions the way we feel called.  I think that requiring an institution to fund an elective procedure that is in opposition with their organizational tenants is a huge overstep of the Federal Government.  

We live in a broken world and my heart cries out for the people who get caught in a situation where the idea of abortion needs to enter in.  Abortion is a complex and dark reality in our that needs compassion and pro activity, not rhetoric and judgement.  Abortion will always be present, whether it is legal or it is not, so there is no way to reduce it to a simplistic issue.  Freedom is also a complex issue, yet it is a reality that is a source of inoculation for the darkness in our world and in our own hearts.  It too will always be present, which gracefully there will never be a way to remove it’s presence in this world.

So in the end, I will celebrate freedom in both situations...even though each situation has a different conclusion to similar issues.  My bottom line is that we stay mindful of our liberty.  Abortion needs to be legal, but we need to find better solutions so that we drastically reduce the need for such trauma.  I have serious doubts that legislation will ever offer us enough to address the underlying dynamics that live just beneath the surface of the theoretical arguments.  If an abortion is decided upon, regardless of the dynamics surrounding such a decision, the government does not have the right to require a company/ institution to pick up the financial responsibility for someone who makes that decision.  The government does however, need to protect the woman's right to exercise her freedom by keeping the gender field as fair as possible when it comes to reproduction and the ramifications for both men and women.

We must stay alert to the whittling away of our liberties.  I don’t need to morally align with the liberty someone needs to cling to in order to use my voice to fight for their right to retain that freedom.  I feel called to be someone who comes alongside, not someone who hands morality down from on high.  I do not want a country dominated by religious tyranny, nor do I want a country where systematic repression goes unchecked.  Freedom is dependent on how well we balance personal vs. collective liberty.  Even though we live in an age that is losing touch with this reality, it does not erase the truth.  I hope we can all learn a better way to rest in the balance of liberty.  After laboring over this blog entry, it is my goal to explore my posture towards liberty more intimately...that is for sure.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Humor is a great elixir...

I was introduced to this several years ago in a late night hotel bonding session with several of my MOPS friends.  We were at MOPS Convention and enjoying some kid free time!  It was a night where I laughed so hard I cried.  Mothering can be so hard and friends don't let friends mother alone.  It's been a heavy week on this here blog, so today I want to share this awesome performance as a thank you for sticking with my internal discussions gone public.  If you are a mom you will relate.  If you aren't and you had good mothering, you'll want to call your mother and thank her for her blood, sweat, and tears.  Follow that instinct, because parenting is a thankless job.  If you aren't a mother or you did not have good mothering, have hope... it is not too late for those needs to get met by someone who is not biologically related to you.  It is never too late to heal those wounds. Good mothering changes the world and it is not dependent on genetics or timing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

THE PARENT RAP - Funny parenting song from Bluefish TV

Okay, so the last several posts have been really serious and honestly I'm feeling a need to take it down a notch.  I saw this on Facebook this morning and it totally cracked me up.  For all you parent types out there... you're welcome ;)

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Ripple Effect

When a young person experiences mistreatment, they are more likely to become victims of other abuses throughout their lives.  So if they find their way to the church, there is a real risk that they might fall victim there too.  It is a sad reality but real just the same, so we need to be mindful of this when we are in the mist of a faith community.  When abuse happens within a young person’s connection to family and/ or faith, it can really mess them up.  Abuse and mistreatment is experienced differently by different people yet the effects take on a similar feel no matter the personality of the individual.  It is for this reason that I am taking time to focus on this issue in my writing.  I was a young person that was injured by abuse.  Then I was an adult in the world trying to survive.  Then I found healing and it’s in the healing where the hope truly lies.  We do not have to be the product of the mistreatment we have endured.  It can be transformed and since no one can experience transformation without help, it is important to have a conversation about what is helpful to those who are hurting.

It would be an understatement for me to say I was a messed up young person.  I moved through life in survival mode, and though I escaped the hurtful situations, I was wounded and the effects did not end when my childhood and adolescence did.  I grew up and then became a messed up young adult, who found herself drawn to a helping profession working with children and teens...which was no accident.  That is where things took a sharp turn  for me interpersonally and professionally, and I am not alone in that experience.  I was now expected to be able to live life on my own.  It was my job now to make balanced decisions for career path, romantic relationships, finances, friendships, faith involvement, and many other adult endeavors.  And that is when things spun out of control for me.

Yes chronologically I had reached the age of maturation, but emotionally I was way behind.  I had learned about power in all of the wrong ways.  I had a very dangerous misconception of what boundaries were and why they mattered.  I blocked the good from deeply touching my soul, and I welcomed unhelpful, often dangerous relationships and experiences into my life.  I was miserable at communicating my needs, and I was hypersensitive and hyper vigilant.  So while I was trying to make my way in the adult world and sometimes faking it very well, I often could not care for my own needs, or represent myself very effectively.  Here’s the sticking point though...being victim of abuse did not relieve me of my adult responsibilities, so I needed to work hard to catch up.  My experience with the effects of abuse is not uncommon, and so I want to give a little glimpse of what moved me from victimhood into healing...not that healing is ever really complete in this life, but more so that I have experienced transformation and grace covers the rest.

My healing came from very specific interventions and though we are not all called to engage deeply with the healing process of those who have been victimized, we are all called to compassion.  I think we can glean a few insights and tools to make ourselves and the communities we find ourselves in safer and more welcoming to those who are hurting.  

Here’s what helped:

Good Therapy- Lots, and lots of good therapy.  I know that our culture in general and our christian subculture in specific, struggles with the idea of talk therapy.  Sure it’s good for helping people who are mentally unstable, or victim to tragic natural disasters, but as a way of life?!?  No way.  For a victim though, therapy is a path towards restoring most of what was taken during the abuse, and what can’t be restored gets grieved fully.  Grieving then gives way to moving forward into a new day.  We need to emotionally, politically, and sometimes even financially support those who need therapy.  So yeah.  Therapy...lots and lots of good therapy.  

Intentional and Consistent Presence- When people are intentional about getting to know someone, yet move at a very slow rate, it helps tremendously.  For me, I am extremely cautious in adulthood and I choose that now, which is a common response to trauma.  I have a handful of women who are older than I am that have done this very well for me.  Each of these women are diverse, but they understand two things.  1.  There is a very good reason I am extremely cautious, so they practice presence with me.  2.  When I am not engaging, it is not about them.  They don’t take my withdrawal personally.  They love consistently in the present tense, regardless of my response to that love.  

Eye Contact-  Actions and words can deceive, but the eyes are the window to our soul.  People who practice eye contact have helped me immeasurably.  Even if a hurting person cannot reciprocate, it does get noticed and that matters more than words ever do.  

These three examples are small shifts we can make to be a healing agent in this world.  We can change our knee jerk response to therapy.  Those who need it aren’t less spiritual, and probably aren’t less mentally capable than others.  It’s just that abuse is a wound of relationship, so it takes relationship to heal the wound.  Be mindful of language about mental illness and taking cheap shots at the discipline/ art of talk therapy.  Practice presence with everyone you can and practice that presence specifically with the art of eye contact.  Don’t stare down, but invite connection.  It works when we are newborns and it continues working throughout our lives.  Human connection begins with eye contact.  

So as in most things, it is quite simple, but we often miss it because we are too busy keeping pace with “the world”.  I promise you there is more than one victim of abuse in your life right now.  The statistics are mind boggling, and those statistics only give a glimpse of the real dilemma, because for every reported case of abuse there are more cases unreported. We require stillness to be able to access what we need in order to help those around us who are hurting. Which is yet another reason why we need stillness in this life; it opens us up to the possibilities of how we can be God’s hands and feet in this age and to follow the path Jesus laid out for us.  It is a path of reconciliation.  It is also a path of suffering but such suffering is never the end of the story it’s merely the lead up to a redemptive climax.  Grace covers it all, and for that I am eternally grateful.

P!nk is a musical artist that rarely shies away from the difficult issues facing young women in our culture.  I respect her and her art very much.  Her lyrics often touch on the darkness within us all, yet she does it in a way where I feel hopeful by the end of one of her songs or videos.  This video is a cleaned up version of an amazing song on her last album.  I think she visually and lyrically tells the story about the journey from circumstance to wholeness.  If you have experienced trauma, it will be triggering.  If you have not, this video will be hard to watch.  I think it is important to this conversation, even with the severe imagery; but I want this disclaimer upfront so that you can choose whether you watch this video or not.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From Need into Abundance

I am most definitely a product of the culture I was brought up in.  I was raised in a middle class beach-ish city.  I was given all of the opportunities my peers were, music lessons, sports in abundance, and academic support throughout my childhood and adolescence.  I grew up in a small main-line denominational church and so my perspective on the church is most definitely founded in my own experience.  This is the part where I stress these truths as disclaimer for the rest of the post, because I want to start a conversation with myself about the issue of abuse and healing for abuse victims within the context of the church community.  And yes I am having this conversation with myself, but I am putting it on my blog with a purpose...for others to be able to eavesdrop .  So since you don’t all know my background, I thought I would state it up front so that you can take in any truth or insight you find, and leave the rest out... you can chalk the unhelpful up to my own life experiences that have no greater relevance than to my own story.

The church has always been in a tricky spot when it comes to actually helping people be reconciled.  Reconciled to God, reconciled with ones self, and reconciled with community.  I believe one of the main reasons the church struggles is that it is filled with human beings...full of the image of divine, yet also full of depravity.  Unfortunately, we live in a time where our church seems to be functioning out of humanness much more than out of divine inspiration.  It is a truth that has broken my heart time and again over the course of the past 10-15 years.  And I have struggled daily to understand how God can turn the collective and the personal trauma into something of any sort of good.... especially when the traumas were committed in the name of God, if not overtly then indirectly as it was people in leadership subjecting the young and the vulnerable to that trauma.

A Collective Example:
I watched the systematic silence by the Catholic Church with regards to sexual abuse by priests and I sat there with my heart breaking and the tears streaming for the thousands of known and unknown children effected.   These young people weren’t just betrayed and victimized by the priests committing such crimes, but then were re-victimized by the response from church leadership and then later by the media coverage of the unfolding drama.  What I am afraid got lost in the media frenzy is that these horrible acts wounded young lives and that would change their course dramatically, for the rest of their time on this planet.  And I am certain that the Catholic Church is not the only church with these skeletons in their closet, they are just one of the largest examples and they got caught systematically covering the abuse up.  

A Personal Example:

I lived through a couple of experiences that while not quite as dramatic as the Catholic Church scandal, left similar trauma on my own young heart and unfortunately I too experienced spiritual and emotional trauma at the hands of a few exploitive people who also happened to be in some kind of leadership capacity at the church.  My story is one of subtly.  I was already wounded when I came into the church and by and large, the church was a safe place for my young heart to grow in faith.  For me there were dozens of wonderful people in my childhood that shared real and sacrificial love with me and did so in the name of Christ.  I am most certain that I have a faith today because of this cloud of witnesses that I was so blessed to be surrounded by.  I learned to walk and talk my faith because I was loved unconditionally and consistently over most of my childhood and all of my adolescence.  Unfortunately, I also endured exploitation by a couple of leaders, and it is unfortunate because my understanding of myself was shaped too much by the abuse, and not enough by the other more helpful and more plentiful experiences.  I am fully human and in my raw humanity, I clung to the bad while forgetting some of the good... and that is how it goes when abuse happens early in life.  I was already made victim before I got to the church, and so I was an easy victim for other people looking for something from me.  We all want to believe that everyone who enters a church and is able to be in leadership within the church will be safe...but that is just not reality.  

Evil is a force we deal with in the world because it is always lurking in the shadows.  Here’s the thing about evil though, it doesn’t have to be loud and pronounced in order to destroy innocence and leave a life long oppression on a person’s heart.  In fact most of the time evil shows up subtly first.... that is how good people can be lead astray.  If evil showed up with true colors, we would know it was enemy and we would fight it off.  Where there is darkness, evil will be close at hand...and since we all have both light and darkness within us, evil is never far away.  One of the most tragic things about evil is that evil produces tragedy, which then produces chaos, and that chaos cuts us off from community and relationship with Christ.  And the only thing that can heal such wounds guessed it...healing connections both with people and with Christ.  Good thing God is big enough to handle such a complicated paradox.  And I do not mean that as a trite band-aid, I mean that as truth.

So how does the collective trauma and the personal tragedy work towards something better for us all and for the church?  For me, it is absolutely no shock that the church is in decline right now.  I have heard it said that the health of a society rests on how the young, the elderly, and the vulnerable are cared for.  I know I just diced up the quote, but you get the idea.  If we judge the church by such measurement, then I believe the church is exhibiting mostly failure.  There are pockets of hope that I have stumbled upon, but I see this time as a time of pruning because the church is losing touch with both the divine and the human... walking straight onto the path of the type of religiosity that Jesus spoke harshly against during his time on this earth.  I think we are prone to cling towards religiosity when we are gripped by fear, and in this age we all have much to be fearful about.  Yet scripture proclaims time and again that Jesus conquered fear and death at the cross... so that we could live in abundance.  Not in abundance of things, or in abundance of titles or of wealth either.  God wants us to be at peace in relationship with him and to feel known and to know.  

Young people who have been hurt by the church are everywhere.  I happen to count myself as one of them, even though I have stayed close to church most of my life.  I have stayed connected because of the dozens of people who were safe for me and kind to me.  There are so many people out there that did not have that kind of balance for the abuse experienced in the name of God, and so I feel like it is a calling for me to voice my experience so a conversation can be continued outside of my own head.  It needs to be a conversation about the kind of changes the church needs to make so that faith communities can be helpful to those who need Christ’s love most... the victims, the young, the elderly, and the vulnerable.

We need to learn a better way to engage with the hurting among us in this age of disconnection.  We need to get better at how we walk alongside those who are in need, so we can better point them towards the horizon of abundance that Christ has already provided for us.  To do this we have to do more talking.  I need to share my past more courageously and those who have never experienced such tragedy, need to listen with open hearts.   It needs to be a discussion of kindness and I throw my name in the hat to be a part of the solution.  I have been given the gift to be able to journey from need into abundance, so I think I can help the conversation along.
What we do matters.  It can point someone towards deeper love, or it can derail a vulnerable soul.  What we do needs to align with what we say we believe and it should be based in love.  No.Matter.What.

Monday, August 13, 2012

List of things I am not so proud of....

... I struggle with pride...every single day...
... I have a quick temper...
... I judge others without even noticing I'm being unkind sometimes...
... I think I am the center of the universe too much of my day...
... I struggle with being honest with my weaknesses...
... I sometimes think I can do God better than God can...

... And yet this list of truths can either be shame or it can be opportunity.  If I hold on to my weaknesses too tight and do not allow myself to deeply connect with others then the list becomes my shame walk.  But if I choose to see it straight on and release myself to live within the truth that through my weakness a living God can rush in with grace and mercy, then the list becomes an account of transformation in present day time.

Today I choose the second choice.  I hope you can find a way to join me in choosing grace too.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Because I'm cool like that...

...I love to blast this year's Vacation Bible School music in my mini van.  For whatever reason, I am hooked on this year's Sky music by Group Publishing and I am have a bit of embarrassment about how much I am listening to it as we shuttle around town in the vechicle I affectionately call  the mothership.

My rational side understands full well that the music is exactly what it is supposed to be...God's truth in kids bop-ish style.  My rational side also tells me that such music is just the sort of thing that is supposed to make my teeth hurt, but I just can't help myself from singing along.  And so when I found myself actually choosing the soundtrack to listen to when I had no children in the car, I knew I needed to examine this bizarre phenomenon in my behavior.

Here is what I found when I took a breath to understand my heart a little further.  It is not the catchy tune or the sweet kid style of the music that tugs on my heart.  It is the way my children light up when they sing:

"You, you, you, you can trust God.  You can take him at his word and give him your heart..."

"I can trust God, right now, no matter how I feel right now..."  

"I need to think, think, think, think about the goodness of You right now..."

Yes, I want my kids to know the bible.  Yes, I want my kids to know prayer.  Yes, I want my kids to know and be known in the context of a faith community.  But here is the most core and deepest desire of my momma heart:  I want my children to know God and to feel known by God.  For me that is the beginning, middle, and end of my goal in passing down a legacy of faith.  So I will embrace my non-rational side and sing out loud for everyone to hear.  I will proudly wave my freak flag, if it will point those three young hearts towards a relationship with Christ.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Internal Rhythms

I often joke that there are really only three type of people in the world:  Leaders, Followers and “Get The Hell Out of My Way I’m listening to the beat of my own drum” people.  How’s that for a gross overgeneralization!  All of my life I have been told I am a leader.  I have excelled in leadership and I have loved being a part of leadership teams time and again.  Yet I have a huge oversensitivity to the opinions of others, which is also known as a character weakness called vanity.  I have ached to be a “Get the Hell Out Of My Way” (or GTHOMW) woman because I have gone against the grain for most of my life, and though I eventually listen for my internal rhythms, it comes at a great cost for me because I care way too much what other people will think.

I have three children and I have bred one of each personality types, how’s that for staying consistent with my gross overgeneralization.  My oldest son is a leader and I knew it before he was 2 years old.  He loves to be in charge, but not just to be the boss of someone.  He loves it because it means he gets to create new and amazing things... from lego creations to new video game ideas.  And yes, he does rather love people following him, because he is after all still a human child, and a first born.  

My daughter, my middle child came, out of the womb as a GTHOMW person.  Most of the stories that have landed on this blog throughout the years that involve her clearly demonstrate this truth.  I have always envied this about her and I do my best to protect it fiercely, because she is growing up girl in our culture.  She is not supposed to be so independent according to the cultural voices that are trying to strip back the gender equality liberties in our age.  She is very good at listening to her internal navigation system and it is no accident that I began to learn to listen to my own rhythms as I carried her inside of me.  She helps lead me into freedom in this area as she grows, because I know I need to stay just a half step ahead of her in order to help her journey through childhood.

Then there is my sweet third born child, my youngest son.  He came out a deep thinker and excellent observer from the beginning and so combine that with being the youngest, he was destined to be a follower.  Before I had him, I believe I unconsciously judged followers...even while leading them.  Not because I think I am necessarily better, but because I could not wrap my mind around something I have never been and because of fear of the unknown, I mentally discounted the vital role of followers.  Without followers after all, we would not have society, democracy, industrialization, places of worship, armed services, commerce, etc.  Once my youngest came into my family, I began to relax my understanding of the world and I am a better mother and woman as a result.

So what in the world does this all have to do with anything that would be remotely interesting to anyone but me?  Honestly, I do not know, but I do have a point in all of this.  I want to live my life with purpose and most people I journey through life with are concerned with the same core things that I am.  Who am I and does who I am matter?  If I was created to be a part of something bigger what is it and do I have to submit?  And if I am created with a certain purpose... how in the world to I find my way to it, let alone live within it?

The story of Moses keeps coming up for me and I believe that it is because my path follows a similar rhythm.  Now I will not be leading God’s people out of slavery, but I have been led out of a spiritual slavery and want to share my journey through, even as I am still in the middle of the desert.  As I have mentioned before, I worked at a church for seven years and that ministry just happened to be the church I was raised up in.  I loved being in ministry and sharing life with the young people of our community, yet I was once a young person in that same community and hadn’t fully processed my own experiences.  Therefore ministry in that environment was a challenge at times, but then again, when is ministering to young people not a challenge.  I was grateful to have a perspective that no one else could have as I led the ministry into a new time of welcoming young people.  I helped to build a vital ministry for young people and their families and it was many years between the vision of the mission and the reality of the mission.  

I was called out of that ministry somewhere in between the vision and the reality. I was growing my little girl inside of me, and thus learning to follow my own navigation which led me to retire, and yet I was so mixed in emotions of passing the baton.  I held onto every harsh criticism that was communicated verbally and much more powerfully non-verbally by those around me in that season.  The mission to welcome noisy children and then teenagers...that was my baby, could I pry my fingers away from a very firm grip on the inner workings of that ministry?  Could I step back and still be a part of the community?  The years that followed my retirement from vocational ministry became my desert years... and I had to shake out the criticisms in order to find my way back to a place of rest and peace.  

I have often spoken of the truth that I am in my desert years here in the blog space as I processed the good, the bad, and the ugly of “ministry”.  I really started blogging once I was not being in “ministry”  anymore but instead being in the mess of toddlers, diapers, messes and joys.  Eventually I made peace with the truth that my church ministry days were no less important than my home ministry days.  I also needed to step away from the community for almost six years.  I needed to grow.  I needed to experience other churches, and I also needed to experience not being a part of any faith community for a season.  All of these years have developed my character greatly; but I was still carrying around unresolved conflict from the harsh stuff I was clinging to... that is until last week.

Last week I had a wonderful moment of connection that has given me some new insight and clarity and I want to share.  I have returned to the community that has been my grounding throughout my life.  I came back with my three kids and was welcomed with open arms and my kids were too.  We have been inconsistently worshipping there for a year now and at Vacation Bible School this year, I got to assist several people I used to be charged with leading, and I am so much more joyful now and content with wiping down tables, gluing cardboard together and sneaking to the back of the sanctuary while others lead my children in grace-filled living.  I was so afraid that like Moses, I would be banned from entering the promised land someday, because I had somehow upset God by being human and being broken.  I had been given the vision, was a core part of the team that ushered in a new era at my church, and then I was not there to see very much of the fruit.  Yet now I have been led back and not only have I been shown what God was up to all of these years, I have been invited in and am now being ministered to in the midst of it all.  The moment of connection was this:  When I began my time in ministry, I was charged with overseeing things like VBS and felt a tremendous pressure to be able to pull off the type of program that is now done every year. The two women that I got to assist this year were with me then and looking for my direction.  They were both my wing women... and last week I got to be theirs.  I love that!  I also was able to resolve some unconscious unrest and harsh judgement against myself for not doing better all of those years ago.  If it had not been for my time of helping start something with mostly nothing except a dream, almost all of the people now executing this awesome program would not be in this community.  I played my part exactly how I was charged to do so, and because of that God filled in the gap and made it all come together in the right timing.  Of this I can be certain and I am humbled.

I said at the beginning of this ramble that I am a leader who has issues with vanity.  I listen to the harsh comments and the judging undertones way too much and have been suffering just below the surface as a result.  This year as I was wiping down tables after dinner, God was wiping clean my memory of the harsh internal monologue I have been clinging to.  I know as much as I know anything that healing came my way last week and I am free to move forward and love more fully.  So here is my take away from this experience:  God uses our blind spots and our brokenness to propel our individual and our collective narratives to the next chapter of evolution...always.  That is why we must know God, know ourselves, and know our story through time.  That is where the good stuff is.  It’s in the seasons of leading, following, and trusting an internal rhythm that is not publicly visible.  It’s in the silence and in the stillness.  May you find your quiet space today.

Monday, August 6, 2012


When everything comes into focus I finally understand that my story is my own and it is mine alone to share in kindness.  I have been so fearful of ruffling feathers or hurting those I love most deeply.  I have been searching for a way to focus in on what I have experienced, what I have learned and how I have been miraculously transformed by a living God.  I have wanted to do that without placing blame on anyone else.  I have wanted a macro focus on where my life has taken me and how I have been carried through to freedom, grace, justice and mercy.  I have no desire to share details as a way of exploitation, or condemnation for me or anyone else, but rather to point to the hills where my help most certainly came from...right on time.  I want to lean into the freedom that I have a story to tell and this is my little property of real estate in this great information web we are all now attached to daily.  So I am going to step out and begin to share deeper about my individual story, and in doing so I hope to give my voice to some really important issues.  I feel like I need to be a little more transparent before I write about the things that are always so heavily on my heart.  Gender equality, abuse, forgivness, reconciliation, family dynamics, parenthood, faith, social justice, and more than anything else grace and mercy.
Many years ago I latched onto a truth that one of the most important core dynamics of personal growth is the ability to understand.  To be able to understand my past, my emotions and behavior.  To understand my thoughts and my desires, and ultimately to understand my identity.  It is not a destination to understand myself, but really just a pathway to understand how the person I am created to be, fits into a larger story.
In this season of my life it has become clear to my soul that I am meant to harvest deep understanding from the years diligent work.  And snap...everything comes into focus not just for me but for those with whom I live life with.  With this focus I am filled with gratitude, grace, sorrow, and ultimately a deep core peace that light is finally shining on the very elusive darkness that I have circulated around for more than a decade.
I am a child of God who happened to survive emotional abuse and sexual seduction in childhood.  I am a child of God who is precocious and tenacious, strong willed and loyal.  I am a child of God with a gift to love with everything I am, feel fully, think deeply, laugh heartedly, and connect intimately.  I am a woman who is codependent and sometimes rely on my own addictive processes to manage my anxiety and pain.  I am also a woman who endured years of chaos and addiction because I confused it for love.  I threw in my own nasty meanness while choosing to stay stuck in denial of my reality...clinging to my own well honed skills of helplessness.  I am a mother who has been taught about the depth of the human experience while watching three little people grow inside of me and then around me.  I have come to understand the graciousness of unconditional love through my connection with these amazing children.  
And yet there is more for me to understand.  With the picture of my life coming into focus, I am now propelled into a new space of deciding where to go from here.  Not in the immediate, but in the long term.  Questions I have not asked for years.  Even when I was able to ask them during past seasons, I had not yet developed the discipline to wait for, welcome, or frankly to even be able to listen well for the answers, should they come.  For to have focus, I must know how to be still and wait for the moment of decision.
So it has been the long way around to the same space I cowered from years ago, but alas, it is said that as we arrive at the question the answer is already near.  What is my calling in this world at this time?  What do I want?  What are my dreams?   What is my bottom line?  Do I wish to lay it down or continue walking with this one more day?  Now that I am in the space of these questions, I am beginning to understand that it is a wisdom to carry such curiosity  with me always down my path.  These questions can act as guardrails, protecting me from straying from my center very far and in them there is a depth of grace larger than I can wrap my mind around.  I am not the first to travel this road, nor will I be the last.  My path has been laid down for me and I am cared for deeply.  And because I have been so loved, I can develop the dreams I’ve long since dreamed- I can share love unconditionally with the people in my life.  That is grace in action.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.  It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?"  Galations 5:1, 13-18 The Message 
Story connects us.  Our personal story connects us to a collective story and that is our most basic emotional need... to feel deeply connected.  Yet we live in a world of fragmented realities and fractured stories, broken families, and chaotic lives.  I live in a world of fragmented reality, fractured story, broken family, and chaotic living... except when I don’t.
When I am able to hold onto the truth that I have been given freedom to live as I choose; I live in a grounded reality, an unfolding rather than fractured story, a family messy and connected, and my busyness is hushed into stillness.  
In the space of freedom I connect to my wholeness.  Freedom to be as created, freedom to be close to some and distant from others, freedom to move freely in an organic relationship with creator or to run away when I need to.  Freedom to love extravagantly and protect myself wisely.  But when I use my freedom to only fulfill self desires, my life is flat.  I have had plenty of flatness in my life because after all I am quite ego-centric sometimes.  But when I allow my freedom to live in the open, I hope it can invite others to lean into their freedom a bit more.  Who knows what more love, more consciousness, more purposefulness, and more freedom could do to shift our collective story.
I have felt very little freedom to share my story in whole and I know it is the shame I get mired down in.  I watch myself share bits and pieces across time, but now I am working on the arc of my story, because I have been given an incredible story of hope, perseverance, and extravagant grace and mercy.  I want to grow into my freedom enough to communicate the part of my story that connects to the collective.  It is a part of why I am here... to point to the horizon of hope and freedom.  Hopefully I can start lifting my gaze in that direction more often, because when I lose sight of the source of freedom, I destroy my freedom and sometimes others too.  May I be guided out of the life of self focus and into a life of consistent freedom.
To lighten things up a bit today I wanted to shared some stories that have inspired me... and they are in no particular order or catagory.  Some are books, some are movies...maybe a few that are both.  I even manage to sneak a album, TV show and a broadway musical in there too.  Yes I am completely random! 
The Lord Of The Rings
Where the Heart Is
Pride and Prejudice
Les Miserables
The Night of the Hunters- Tori Amos
Lars and the Real Girl
Steel Magnolias
Schlinder’s List
The Wizard of Oz
To Kill a Mocking Bird
Hunger Games
Indian Jones and the Last Crusade
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Big Lebowski
Shawshank Redemption
12 Angry Men
Star Wars
American History X
Good Will Hunting
The Grapes of Wrath
The West Wing...I’m re-watching the series this summer and it is better the second time around.