Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What Killing Honeysuckle has to do with Addiction

It's been a while.  Too long.  But I've been busy.

Busy killing invasive Asian Honeysuckle and pulling garlic mustard (also invasive) in the urban woods around my house.  Busy reconnecting with my roots as a farmer's daughter, figuring out how to make clay soil produce food - clay soil in the middle of the city, I might add.  Busy re-discovering wild plants I learned as a child:  Jack-in-the-pulpits, trillium, morel mushrooms, toothwort, pokeberry, wild grapevines and barren strawberries - just to name a few. Busy learning about the struggle of so many who deal with addiction to substances more potent than anything in nature, more dangerous to the brain, more problematic.  Busy reading Wendell Berry, trying to make home beautiful and comfortable, learning to parent teenagers and sending one off to be independent.
In other words, busy living, which is the best kind of busy, because it's not frantic or empty.  It's just a full life, for which I am eternally grateful.

What if, I find myself wondering, what if it's all connected?  What if it's the LOSS of connection that is what we call sin? Is it the loss of connection to God, to creation (our older sister, if St. Francis is to be believed), to each other in community, to ourselves, that leads to addiction?

Of course, once addicted, our beautifully-designed/evolved/created brains take right over. That felt GOOD.  Do it AGAIN.  And we can, because we live in an abundance we didn't work for and cannot earn if we try.  Perhaps, then, loss of connection also leads to forgetting that we are contingent, that we are not owed a living or life.  Perhaps that is why gratitude as a practice is so important to a real, authentic, with-God life.

Anyway, it's good to be back.  I'll try harder.  For a while.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In Memorian 30 Ethiopian Christians

Today the internet brought news that 30 Ethiopian Christians were murdered in Libya by people I refuse to name because I don't want to give them any power or credibility. Today, I refuse to call it terrorism or an execution. I cannot call it war, though those who perpetrated it do so. It is murder. Today, I'm putting ashes on my head and tearing my clothing for my brothers and sisters who have given their lives for Christ. Today, the Spirit calls me once again to follow the Crucified and Risen One, just as they have done, all the way to the end. Surely the enemy is not so much the murderers - they are no more nor less human than we are, despite their actions. The enemy is the spirit of evil that causes humans to take up the sword against each other, to see others as objects to be manipulated rather than as kindred to be respected. This unclean spirit is neither unique nor limited to those nameless murderers. We have known it, and by we I mean US Americans and Christians. We must not forget how easy it is to hate and to kill the objects of our hatred. Today, I'm wondering if it's possible that we could beat our swords into plowshares, if it's possible for us who have been commanded to love our enemy and pray for our persecutors to actually do what our Christ told us to do. It's hard for us to see them as human. We'd rather shoot them, most of us, if truth be told. I know I would. Put a stop to it. Just shoot them down, bomb them, destroy them. As if they are 'its' and not people. That's only fair, right? I want to riot in the streets, just as they are in Libya. It's a lot easier to pray "O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me*" than "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing.**" I know, that's Jesus, not us, but didn't he ask us to follow him? And what does that mean if not "go where I go, do what I do, love who I love?" Tomorrow, we baptize Brandon, a young man who comes of his own volition to join with us at Grace Church. We receive 6 other adults into membership. We must tell them that they are in danger. That following Jesus is the hardest thing they will ever do. They will have to die to their desires to get even, to hate, to refuse forgiveness, to every natural impulse that says the answer to violence is violence. They must learn to see 'family' in people of all nations, ages, races and classes. They will be challenged to love their neighbors and their enemies. They will be called to forgive when they'd rather retaliate. They will be asked to see others as human beings, even when they are not granted the same courtesy. They may even be killed for their refusal to give up this way of grace, mercy and peace in a world of hate, revenge and violence. It goes against so much of our natural inclination to follow Jesus. Frankly, I can't see how it's possible for anyone. Is it possible for God? I would list the names of our Ethiopian Christian brothers and sisters. I can't find them. But their witness is powerful today. May God use their deaths to bring what their lives could not - an end to fratricide, which is, after all, what murder really is. Let those of us who live half a world away offer some act of love, forgiveness, or charity in their memory. *Psalm 139:19 **Luke 23:34

Monday, April 20, 2015

Am I authentic enough?

Maybe it's the people pleaser in me, or maybe I'm just jaded. I've fought, lost and won the 'worship wars.' I've declared that I would fight no more, a promise which I have managed by the grace of God to mostly live up to. I love worship. I'm a church nerd, having spent my teen years creeping around a dark sanctuary feeling for the organ key so I could practice for Sunday in the dark. One person declares that traditional worship will survive. I'm not sure what is meant by traditional worship (whose tradition? how old a tradition?) but I am hopeful that we are ending the reign of experience as a criteria for good worship. However, my dear professor Karen Westerfield Tucker's words echo in my brain (like the sound of silence, only newer): Liturgy means 'the work of the people.' Which people? I'm so confused. My young colleague says, "Whatever else worship is, it has to be your authentic voice," and I don't know what that means, except that experience is still king. I mean really, does that mean that if I don't feel like worshiping on one day, I shouldn't do it because that would be faking it? I have a high respect for faking it, if by that you mean doing what you know is a good idea even if you don't feel like doing it. Oh well. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think my experience should be the final criteria for whether worship works or not. Sure, I'm one of 'the people' that the liturgy should be the work of. Because of that, I'm going to bring to the table my love of all kinds of music and appreciation for visual beauty. My 'work' will offer more change than some want, not enough 'new' for others. I'll want to hear the organ cranked up (without the tremolo) and also have a mandolin once in a while. I love beautiful stained glass, but I also like the sun streaming in clear windows, even though it's bad for the video quality. I don't mind the video either. A little Taize, a little Gregorian, a little Gershwin. I like it all, the variety and the blending and the old and the new. Why not have it all? I think that's pretty authentic. I like that sort of work! But I also think that the work of others matters too, so I'll sing the Gaither choruses even though I don't like them particularly. I'll sway to "In the Garden" and put up that that organ tremolo now and then. If the drums are too loud on a praise chorus with questionable theology, I'll just wear ear plugs and tap my feet. I will remind myself that lots of hymns have questionable theology but we still sing them. If someone rambles a little sharing about Aunt Tina's gallbladder during prayer time, I'll cringe and then schedule a time to talk about telling your own story, not someone else's. If the baby cries, I'll smile at his parents that it's ok if he stays, and if they want him to go to the nursery, I'll point out the way. If the children sit through the sermon, I'll be grateful but I don't think it hurts their souls in the least to have a little time away from the sitting still. If the sermon is long or short or not visual enough, I'll live. I'll put up with a lot that doesn't feel like my 'authentic' voice, because worship isn't just my work. It is OUR work. It's the work of the people, not the work of the person. Good worship is worship that creates a community that loves others like Jesus loves them. It can happen in a barn in Appalachia or under a tree in Uganda or in a 1960s modern middle class sanctuary in the Midwest. It can happen with music of any style, and with no music at all. It can happen looking at a piece of paper or a projection screen or an iPad or up at the good blue sky. Worship is what the people who are offering it bring to the table when they gather together in the name of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, when we hit the sweet spot of a majority of people, and there is a critical mass of people doing the work of liturgy, we say 'the Spirit really moved.' Do we say 'Worship today was so authentic?' We won't know for sure if the Spirit showed up until we see people loving like Jesus. Maybe when we see that, we should follow them back to their worship and see what they are doing, like you'd follow bees to their hive to find honey. Whether that is authentic or not, I don't know. Maybe it matters, maybe it doesn't. How could the work of the people be anything but authentic?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Always learning

Experiment to see if people notice this. Please tell us if you do! Fat Tuesday - February 17, 5:30-7:30 pm All Grace, all night Breakfast for dinner Critters from Columbian Park Zoo Painting project Balloon animals MORE All to feast in celebration of God's goodness and prepare us for Lent. Hope you will come join us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fat, Husky, Big-Boned Tuesday

Sometimes, the Spirit just hits one out of the park. For us at Grace, it was Fat Tuesday. A week out, I'm looking back and still basking in the glow. Little faces from Grace Day Care and Readiness Preschool lit with smiles and sparking with excitement. Families enjoying a free 'breakfast for dinner' meal. One little guy said, "Those chocolate chip pancakes were the best thing I ever put in my mouth!" Men of Grace (and a few wonderful women of Grace too) doing their servant thing in the kitchen. Grace Church folk wearing Mardi Gras beads. My dear friend John wowing people with Gospel magic. One of our youth in tears because she finally got to see a sloth live and in person thanks to the staff from Columbian Park Zoo. Children's Director Jonathan Thompson and Day Care Director Anne Hough working together to help families create memory stones. Candy English snapping pictures. For me, it was the perfect preparation to Ash Wednesday. We got to see 'how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity.' (Psalm 133:1). Then we turn around on Ash Wednesday and acknowledge all the ways we fail to develop that sweet life in ourselves and others. But Tuesday gave us the vision of how it can be. I'm going to hold onto that vision for a long, long time.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I'm sitting on the patio on a gorgeous late spring day. Trevor the Bearded Dragon basks in the real sun (his heat lamps suffice, but barely). The guinea pigs, Pigeon and Obi Wan, snuggle into the cool grass, eating at will. Kitty the dog roams, causing Trevor to puff out his beard and the pigs to freeze until she ambles over to lie sighing at my feet. I type. Nearby, on the playground, little voices shout "Come and get me," giggling. Trees dance in the breeze, whispering and shushing. Traffic hums along; people have places to go, especially home. Marvelous. Life. I don't deny that it has its cruel side. The insects' lives are short in Trevor's vicinity. Wars rage. Abuse continues. Children go to bed hungry. Unwanted babies come into being. Addicts numb themselves, dealers provide others with desolation. Is it wrong to praise God when so much is lamentable? Is it wrong to glory in beauty when my feet and words and presence might alleviate ugliness somewhere? It's time to cook supper, bring the creatures back inside where they are safe from predators. God, I sing your praise for all you have made. In my song, let me not forget those whose voices are silenced.

Friday, September 30, 2011

People do change. I know a lot of people who don't think so, but Trevor the lizard is proof.

Well, he's really a bearded dragon and he's hanging out on my chest while I type this blog. James has wanted a reptile for a long, long time. I always said no. Lots of reasons: 9-year-old boys' pets usually become Mom's pet, lizards are ugly and not cuddly, lizards eat live bugs, I am just not a lizard person, etc.

Well, the first one is probably going to be true, and he does eat live bugs. The other opinions I held turned out to be different. So I have revised my statement. Now, I might be a lizard person.

Trevor is fascinating to watch, and he is cute in his scaly, dragon-ish way. He loves to cuddle, if by cuddle you mean he hangs around on your warm skin. He chomps crickets and kale with great relish.

John Wesley talked in one of his sermons about 'invincable ignorance.' As he builds a logical argument to the 'if your heart is as my heart, give me your hand' quote, he says: “Perhaps some cannot know. For who can tell how far invincible ignorance may extend? Or (what comes to the same thing) invincible prejudice; which is often so fixed in tender minds that it is afterwards impossible to tear up what has taken so deep a root.”

There are undoubtedly some things that can't be changed about ourselves. I'll stop at saying people can't change, though. They can, and do, all the time.

Whenever I'm tempted to label people as this or that, I'm going to remember Trevor and maybe, just maybe, I'll be a little more open to who people are instead of who I always thought they were.