Have I been Brave?


A bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils

“Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” / Photo by Elizabeth Miles

Fall has arrived, at long last. It was officially official last week when I was overcome with the urge to build the first fire of the season and rewatch You’ve Got Mail while making a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils to send to my friend Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and I used to share a cubicle at work–a cubicle and a love for Nora Ephron wisdom. As I’m sure you know, You’ve Got Mail is rife with quotes relevant for every occasion. Many times we pondered along with Kathleen Kelly, “Sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?”

Once again, I find myself in a moment of reflection with Kathleen. I’ve entered into the last phase of seminary and as I’m working on my thesis on making meaning in the midst of darkness, I’m wondering, what will it even look like to be brave in this process?

As if in answer to my question, writer, mother, teacher–and close personal cousin of mine–Catherine Alene wrote the following on her blog:

Do not rule anything out. 
Recovery has been nothing like I thought it would be. It has been more challenging and more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. I hope to celebrate many more recovery birthdays and will embrace the truths that each one brings . . . I am now a writer, a mother and a teacher, three things I would never have become had I remained sick.

Read Catherine’s full post on celebrating her recovery birthday (And you can buy her novel, The Sky Between You and Me, here).

Catherine is one of the bravest people I know. She routinely boldly and courageously shares herself for her own sake and for the sake of others–her daughter, her friends, complete strangers, and me.

“I can attempt to insulate myself from triggers,” she writes, “but they are everywhere. They come in the form of comments, photos, films and even songs. Rather than avoiding them, I now gather whatever support I can find and confront that trigger head on. If I don’t, it will surface again and again.”

I need to get back to work now, but I’ll keep Catherine’s book (and a few pencils) close by to remind me that I’m trying this because I like it–and I can do it because I’m brave.

 

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Me, McCain, and our Shared Values


It feels pretty bonkers to wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down to an opinion piece by Senator John McCain, and feel better after reading it. But such are the times we live in.

McCain wrote yesterday in response to comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who essentially said that values are great if/when you can afford them.

Sweet Jesus.

Here’s McCain (you know, McCain, the famous former prisoner of war):

I consider myself a realist. I have certainly seen my share of the world as it really is and not how I wish it would be. What I’ve learned is that it is foolish to view realism and idealism as incompatible or to consider our power and wealth as encumbered by the demands of justice, morality and conscience.

The senator and I certainly have our differences, but as bananas as he can be (and probably would think I am), he’s not wrong. And he’s an important Republican who is talking sense. We’ve had too much division–and I may live to regret this, but–these are the conversation starters we need to lean into if we’re ever going to collaborate to effectively dig ourselves out of this hell hole.

I will say this to both the secretary and the senator: it is impossible to create value-neutral or value-less policy. Whatever we create is a reflection of what we believe and represents what we stand for. Secretary Tillerson cannot escape his own values even if he tries. All he can do is reveal to us where his heart truly lies. And for as long as we let him create and implement policy that has the very real potential to impact very real people in every corner of the world, it will reveal our hearts as well.

The God Who Comes Over for Dinner


Last Supper, Abepura, Papua

Abepura, Papua

Here’s a post I wrote for The Krista Foundation’s Serve Well blog as part of their Advent reflection series. Enjoy!

As I read scripture, I’m struck by the persistent theme of God’s people continually asking God to be near them and awed by the ways God chooses to respond. Finally, God—ever mysterious—shows up in a backwater town, occupied by a violent empire, as a baby.

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Having Power…is a Good Thing


Henri Nouwen, In the Name of JesusIn his book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen applies the three temptations of Jesus to challenges in pastoral leadership. In Matthew chapter 4, following his baptism, Jesus fasts 40 days in the desert and then is tested by the devil. He’s told to turn stones to bread, to throw himself off the temple, and to fall down and worship Satan in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.

In part three of his book, Nouwen addresses the third scenario as the temptation of power. As a priest who had recently moved from teaching at Harvard to serving as a chaplain in a community of people with mental disabilities and their caretakers, Nouwen writes, “It took me a long time to feel safe in this unpredictable climate, and I still have moments in which I clamp down and tell everyone to shut up, get in line, listen to me, and believe in what I say. But I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led.”

From here, Nouwen proceeds to romanticise powerlessness in a way that only a person securely in power can do. He advocates downward mobility and powerlessness—and to this, I say, “Yikes” and “No, thank you.”

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To Hillary, with Love.


Hillary, Hillskies, Hillsom, Hillsbo.

You are my dream.

I lit a candle for you last night when I didn’t have words to express my gratitude. Our feminist book club will hold an emergency meeting of pie and wine tonight to be together in your honor and in our grief. Even my dad’s book club held an emergency meeting on Wednesday. We are still with you. We will keep moving forward.

I can’t tell if I hurt more because you lost the election or because Trump won, but neither is what I hoped for and both reveal a something of our country that feels insurmountable and totally paralyzing.

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The Pack Rat: a Study in the Behavioral Sciences


HABITAT

Found in a variety habitats in a broad range of climates, the pack rat is a highly adaptable species. Urban life in particular offers a plethora of collectibles for one to snap up and squirrel away. Waste is a natural byproduct of a crowded city and the pack rat is able to fully embrace the mentality that “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” Empty boxes. Shipping pallets. Crushed cans. A bit of ribbon. A shoe without a mate. These things that others throw away will only add to and distinguish the pack rat’s abode.

The pack rat’s motto of “you never know when you’re going to need it” reminds neighbors to be mindful of the saying, “use it or lose it.” Items discarded in the hallway or carelessly stowed in the basement go missing. Built for speed, with shifty eyes, the pack rat snitches and snatches at anything that is not nailed down. Things that are nailed down will be sought after as well, they just take a little longer—a little more finesse—to be commandeered. Entering the pack rat’s apartment, visitors are struck with a sense of wonder. Trash, cleverly disguised as a collection of trinkets, lines the shelves. Opening drawers reveals a wasteland of odds and ends, meticulously stowed by the pack rat.

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A faithful response to pulse and its aftermath (When there’s nothing to believe in)


There’s not much to say after something so sad and horrific, except that it is sad and horrific. So I haven’t. But then I was assigned to write a sermon (or my version of a sermon: an essay) on Galatians. And well, it would have been disingenuous to write about anything else. And then the sit-in happened! And there was hope. And then the sit-in ended. And there was frustration.

So for the ups and downs in the wake of Pulse and our ongoing grief, even as we continue on the long road to full inclusion of LGBTQ people and the end of crimes of hate and banning assault weapons, here’s a biblical response to Pulse and this incredible political shit show. 

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An Exercise in Not Giving a ****


There are many lessons that may be gleaned from the Disney canon. One may even suggest that there’s little need to look any further. This notion was confirmed yesterday in my theology class when we watched Elsa’s iconic “Let it Go” scene from Disney’s 2013 instant classic, Frozen.

It was in this context that professor Doug Shirley introduced the framework of an importance continuum. And yes, it is a continuum of how important you are. You personally. Or as a courtesy, let’s say me personally. Whatever. Anyway, according to Mr. Shirley, our lives are lived on a continuum between “I’m utterly unique and amazing and my existence is miraculous” and “in the grand scheme of things, my life is really inconsequential.” Ultimately and paradoxically, my life is so important that it’s no longer about me.

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For God, for Each Other


Since I haven’t posted in some time, here’s a little something for you–a doctrinal position paper on the Eucharist. Keep in mind that this was written as an assignment and with a page limit, hence it’s brusqueness and lack of depth. More soon!

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus offered the bread and the cup to his companions and said, “Eat and drink in remembrance of me.” In the ensuing 2,000 years, Christ’s followers have done just that, and with a wide range of understandings of Jesus’ instruction. What is the significance of his words claiming the bread as his body and the cup as his blood? This paper will briefly present three perspectives from within the Reformed tradition, each with its variation on the significance of the Eucharist for the people of God. Ultimately, all three writers considered will agree that the bringing together of God’s people in true fellowship with one another is the holy gift of Eucharist practice.

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I’m really not here for you. 


Lately I’ve found myself torn in classes where men make sexist comments and then, when called out on it, want to be taught how to be a respectful, inclusive human being. 

On the one hand, I can’t just have these people walking around outside. I have a responsibility to do my part in preventing further harm via ignorance. 

On the other hand, as a book club friend so perfectly phrased it, I’m not running a finishing school for wayward men. I’m in school to get an education, not meet the every need, nor soothe the discomfortabilities, of my classmates. 

Yes, I have a moral obligation to all humankind and yes, it’s good practice for me to hone my skills. And yes, I hope we’re all learning from one another as we learn alongside each other. 

However, I’m also keenly aware that even as my colleagues say, “tell me what I said,” this is patriarchy itself in action. I’m sorry that you’re uncomfortable or don’t understand, but–and this may surprise you–my purpose in life is not to make you feel better. 

So it’s a toss up between my desire to stop what we’re doing and say, “EXCUSE YOU,” and my need to just move on and learn about oh, I don’t know, whatever the actual topic of the class is. Because this is not about you. 

(Though if you’re being a dick, please do stop immediately.)

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