Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

“i have some bad news. that person is also your neighbor.” Jesus, maybe

25 Apr

I was incredibly privileged growing up to get to experience truly ecumenical Christian worship with people from all over the world. We shared our Easter sunrise potluck feast with Pakistani Lutherans, Polish Catholics, Peruvian Methodists and Texan Southern Baptists, among others. This kind of diverse community necessitated compromise on things like musical worship, liturgy or lack thereof, baptism and confirmation practices– in truly diverse churches, Christians must compromise on everything non-essential, and they must agree that what is essential is truly essential.

 

It’s a difficult thing to practice and it’s also a truly beautiful thing to behold. For every painful goodbye I said in my childhood, for every time I was the awkward new kid who never seemed to get better at making friends– this is one of the immeasurably precious gifts my upbringing gave to me. A picture of the Church that resembled what I imagine heaven may look like. Unfortunately, it’s a picture that few American Christians get to experience.

 
Before I knew I was learning it, I was learning what it meant to serve a God of All Nations. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my faith as an adult has been trying to reconcile these truths with the nationalistic perversion of mainstream American Christianity– perhaps especially in the Conservative, Evangelical churches my family chose to attend when we lived in the States.

 

Like many of my friends (they’re calling us Old Millennials now?), I came of age politically at a time when patriotism and religion were becoming deliberately and powerfully linked. More intelligent folks than I have written commentary about where this has led us in the Age of Trump. To summarize broadly, there are many, many Christians who identify as Americans first and Christians second… people who are full-heartedly for a literal “America First” doctrine, for example.

 
I have come to crave the company and fellowship of Christians whose first allegiance is not to their home country, but to Christ. This doesn’t make for great preservationist foreign policy choices. But it does make for communities of believers ready to be used by God to change the world.

 
Here’s the quote that inspired me to write this post, distilling some thoughts that have tumbled around my brain for years now.

 

“If our citizenship is in heaven, this truth should change the way we talk. The word ‘we,’ if a person is truly born again, will refer to the new people into whom a Christian has been born – the church. Christians can no longer refer to ‘our troops’ or ‘our history’ as other people do because of our new identity. Fabricated boundaries and walls are removed for the Christian. Our neighbor is not only from Chicago but also from Baghdad. Our brother or sister in the church could be from Iran or California – no difference! Our family is transnational and borderless; we are in Iraq, and we are in Palestine. And if we are indeed to become born again, we will have to begin talking like it, changing the meaning of ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘my,’ and ‘our.’

 
“We must connect our prayers to the rest of God’s children throughout the world and through all time and space, people who are reading the same Scriptures, singing the same songs, praying the same prayers, and grafting their lines into the same old story of a God who is forming a people who are set apart from the world to be God’s light and to show the world what a society of love looks like. Today, more than ever before in history, we have a keen sense of what it means to be part of a global neighborhood. We are aware of how beautifully diverse and terribly dysfunctional the human family is… We are reminded that we have friends in Sudan and China, Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestine and Israel, whether they are our Facebook friends or not. They are praying with us. And the bond we have in Christ is more real than any virtual social network. This is what it means to be born again. We are part of a global neighborhood and a beautifully diverse family of God’s children.”

 
From the introductory pages of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.

Advertisements

praying for peace in the midst of fear, despair, and disappointment

18 Feb

If you listen to our 45th President, you know we are living in fearful times. Times of carnage. Violence. Hatred. Press that tries to mislead the public without shame. Paid protestors rioting in the streets for causes they don’t even care about. The integrity of our voting systems in utter shambles. Immigrants swarming our borders to rape and pillage our communities and resources. Our global neighbors and one-time allies in opposition to us. Our safety and security at imminent risk. 

If you listen to DJT’s opponents, you also know we are living in fearful times. Persecution of vulnerable people. Desecration of vulnerable land. Corruption of the highest offices, including possible treason. A leader who seems to see himself as infallible and unimpeachable (both of character and under the law). Our leaders lying to our faces, refusing to combat said lies, or powerless in the face of them. The values our country is built upon, threatened. 

This is some legitimately scary stuff, either way you slice it. 
Peace, Be Still

As a Christian I am called to pray for “peace that passes understanding.” Such baffling peace is not something I can muster up. It is a gift from One who sees what is done in secret, who is the Enemy of fear and death, who exposes Truth and loathes lies, who loves all people with a particular concern for poor, marginalized, exploited, and displaced people. Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings I aim to follow, taught his followers to return evil with good deeds and kindness. He taught reconciliation and radical forgiveness instead of eye-for-an-eye “justice.” He spoke of a mysterious, upside down kingdom where the rich and powerful could not peddle their influence but would need to submit themselves, humbly, in their service of others. 

I feel heartbroken as I see that so few Christians seem to embrace what Jesus called us to. I say that as someone who fails daily as deep down I am selfish, fearful, prideful, and sometimes mean. But I am trying to love the things that God loves and to serve my role in the upside down kingdom. I am trying to make different, better choices every day and to let God make me more like Him. 

To know that a supposed 81% of my fellow (Evangelical) Christians voted for DJT, and that tens of millions of Christians continue to support him despite his behavior over his first weeks in office– it is devastating to me. Not because I am an oversensitive millennial. Not because I am a sore loser. But because despite my prayers, conversations with others, and best efforts, I just can’t wrap my mind around the motivation of DJT’s supporters and defenders. 

As an American only, I see his condemnation of a free press, his distain for the separation of powers at the core of our Republic, his contempt for the Constitution, and I feel shocked and appalled. But as a Christian, I am so grieved. This man deliberately opposes the values of Jesus. He cares nothing for truth, only believing and spouting his self-serving version of it (THIS IS NOT TRUTH). He boasts of his own grandeur, power, wealth, and brags about not asking forgiveness. He returns even the smallest perceived slights with shouted insults and taunts his opponents. His words and actions point to no concern for poor and marginalized people, but instead to his desire to elevate his cronies and monied interests. I do not believe that someone dedicated to “draining the swamp” would appoint a team of billionaires and lobbyists; these people seem more intent on burning the swamp down around us all. 

DJT has not sprung any of his character upon the American people in a bait-and-switch. He has been who he is for years and years. He is doing what he did on the campaign trail and what he promised to do. Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals? He did that the literal day he declared his candidacy. Boasting about sexually assaulting women and cheating on his spouse? He did that a decade ago, that we know of, and last year dismissed it as “locker room talk.” Insulting anyone he dislikes, and accusing his critics of lies? Years and years of precedent. Espousing policies that are illegal under the Constitution? He campaigned upon them. Thanking minority voters for not voting in the 2016 election? He did that after his win. Painting refugees as threats to our safety? Complaining about a rigged system– against him in his wins and losses, somehow– riddled with fraud? None of this is brand new. And there are tens of millions of my fellow Americans, including Christians, who are clapping along and crowing with delight. 

I’m sad. Or as DJT might say, “Sad!” I am struggling not to be fearful as I see American families threatened, American legal residents persecuted, American journalists maligned and attacked for trying to do their jobs… And an American President who, at best, is vindictive, deliberately uninformed, self-obsessed, and drunk on his power. This is not politics as usual. Our country is in crisis, and I find it chilling that so many of my fellow citizens are witnessing the same behavior I am witnessing, but considering it refreshing or even worth celebrating. I am afraid of where this man’s leadership will take us, and I am discouraged by the fact that I cannot see eye to eye with his many supporters. I feel powerless as I contact my representatives as so many of them seem willing to choose their Party agendas over the good of our country. I believe they will come to see the error of ignoring the concerns of their constituents. Support for a President who loathes the laws at the foundation of our country will not be remembered fondly. I hope. 

In the midst of my fear, despair, anger and hopelessness, I remember the God who called me into His upside down kingdom. I remember that I have been called to faith, to hope, to righteous action, and to champion the cause of oppressed people. I remember that I need to forgive those who feel like my enemies and even more, to love them more than I love myself. 

And I remember the promise that the Truth will set us free, so it’s worth speaking. The Light will shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. My help doesn’t come from earthly leaders, but from the Most High God. 

I will keep praying for the nation whose citizenship I am lucky to bear. I will keep praying for our leaders including those I feel to be my enemies. I will keep praying for my fellow Americans to see the truth and to hold it in high esteem. I will keep praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ, to be united in following after what Jesus commanded. And I will remember that ultimately, my citizenship is not from any earthly nation tainted by evil in history and in present day. I will keep praying for peace that the world can’t understand, especially when I struggle to understand it myself. 

Michael Brown was made in God’s very image. (and so was his killer.)

25 Nov

Years ago I heard Lisa Sharon Harper preach that all humans, of every ethnicity, gender, nationality, age, ability– are made in God’s image and therefore IMAGE BEARERS OF GOD.

When we trample on another person, when we oppress them, when we seek to denigrate or humiliate or condemn them, to silence them, to hurt them, to kill them, to insult their memory– we are doing those things to someone who bears God’s fingerprints and reflects his very face. We are trampling on the image of God Himself. FATHER, forgive us. We don’t know what we are doing.

I try to remember this in daily life but like everyone else, I fall short. So often I am the oppressor, directly or by my complacency.

Tonight as so many mourn and rage and so many others condemn and refuse to listen to those in mourning– I pray we can all remember it in some way. That person over there? They reflect the God of the universe. They were created in His image. It’s true of Michael Brown; Ezell Ford; Eric Garner; John Crawford III; Dante Parker; Tamir Rice. It’s true of Yvette Smith; Eleanor Bumpurs; Aiyana Stanley-Jones; Tarika Wilson and the many other black women victims of police violence we don’t typically hear about. And the crazy, horrible, wonderful, painful truth of the gospel is that it is also true of Darren Wilson. It’s true of the white supremacists who spewed hate speech on Wilson’s fundraiser page. It’s true of each member of the Grand Jury. It’s true of those who set fires tonight, those who wept in silence, those who fired tear gas, those who screamed insults.

It’s true of you.
It’s true of me.
IMAGE BEARERS OF GOD.

How different would the world look if each of us truly sought to see the image of God in all people? How would it change the way we think, speak, act, vote? How different would our churches look? Our neighborhoods? Our workplaces? Our friend groups? Our families?

Tonight I mourn for Michael Brown and for his family. I mourn alongside those who mourn. And I mourn for the hardness of my own heart and for all those who trample the image of God without even realizing what they are doing.
#BLACKLIVESMATTER. #alllivesmatter. Because THEY MATTER TO GOD.

Oh Lord, I pray that they matter to each of us as well. Open our eyes; break and remake our hearts. May we bear your image more and more each day and may we love your image in others– even at great cost.

Jesus was a revolutionary. Dear Christian– are you?

9 Nov

I’m resurrecting my super old WP blog to say some things too long for a Facebook status. I abandoned this long ago and have been only sporadically writing in my paper journal… While sometimes thinking guiltily of this dusty, lonely blog. I’m fairly certain fewer people will read this posted here than on FB, but perhaps it’s for the best as some of my friends might consider this passive aggressive anyway. I just can’t get into any more comment wars with people I care about and profoundly disagree with.

Here’s the gist of what I want to say. It makes me so angry and sad when I see Christians purposely and publicly stand against people who are being oppressed. Speaking ill of the character of strangers, thinking the worst of their motives, denying the pain of people who have experienced racism/sexism/ageism/ableism and calling them “whiners,” who simply need to “get over it.” Saying deliberately offensive things under the guise of being too honest for “political correctness,” or as some would call it– RESPECT. I see and hear Christians using public spaces to say these kinds of things, or to applaud others who say them. Not just occasionally but regularly. Not just in the general media but on the social media of people I know.

I can’t reconcile this with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Jesus was brown; while scholars still argue about exactly what he may have looked like, he was a Palestinian Jew according to scripture. Depictions of a white Jesus erase his Middle Eastern identity and are inherently racist. He was an undocumented immigrant child. He advocated for the rights of women in a time when women were considered chattel. During the time of his ministry, he had no safe place to lay his head. He depended on others for food and shelter. His disciples were unemployed men; they walked away from their jobs to follow him. He gave away free health care to all in need. He spent time with prostitutes and treated them with compassion. He broke bread with thieves. He told the wealthy to give generously to the poor with no conditions attached. He was CONSTANTLY calling out people who were pious and upright in public but had arrogant and judgmental hearts. Condensing some of these facts about Jesus, we could simply say that he was a revolutionary. He challenged and violated the norms of his culture. He treated the lowest people with respect and dignity. He spent time with them. He listened to them. He cared for them.

Followers of Jesus should be standing in solidarity with the same people that he did– the poorest, the most disgraced, those whose voices are silenced by people in power, those looked down upon due to their gender or ethnicity, and yes, even criminals. What does our Christian witness look like if we don’t follow Jesus’ example? It looks like people thinking that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, sexist, racist, xenophobic, and hard hearted. And unfortunately, for many nonChristians I meet in America– that IS what they think about Christians and the Church.

I realize even this post is a sign of my own arrogance in judging other Christians and I will own that. But I want to challenge more people who say they follow Jesus to think about how they would treat him if they met him today.

Remember, he didn’t speak English either.

I’m honestly not trying to be obnoxious to politically conservative Christians by posting this. I believe what I have written here; I think the few links I have added to scripture make a case for why. I have often found myself frustrated trying to have this conversation in person and so writing it out has been a helpful exercise to process some of my anger and grief. I am tired of the culture wars. Jesus loved everyone. It’s time for his followers, myself included, to take up the yoke of that incredible challenge.

Love. ESPECIALLY love those who society doesn’t love. ESPECIALLY love oppressed people. ESPECIALLY love your enemy. Jesus taught it, Jesus did it. If you love Jesus then Go and do likewise.

inspirational animals and grim-faced people

19 Feb

I am trying to be more disciplined about writing something every day, even if it’s just a few sentences in my paper journal. It’s far too easy for me to do nothing rather than something– or more accurately, to spend a few hours watching television or reading rather than attempt something creative– and I want to get out of that rut.

To that end, I thought I’d share a few things that made me smile recently. This isn’t a hefty, thoughtfully-crafted post, but it is something. And something is often better than nothing.

I share the following random collection of things I’ve stumbled upon lately in the hope that others will enjoy them too:

This bittersweet and beautiful story about an elephant in Tennessee who was best friends with a dog. Despite the fact that death parted them in October 2011, watching video footage of an unlikely friendship helped fill up my hope-tank. Chalk this one up to “there’s someone out there for everyone,” and “sometimes the best friends aren’t the ones you’d expect.”

This story about a Great Horned Owl getting hit by a truck and then stuck in the truck grille. The owl is going to be okay or I wouldn’t be so amused. Some days I am glad that non-news is news in this Internet age, because, for real:

Image

This inadvertently hilarious illustration featured in an early January Wall Street Journal article about changes to the tax code. The WSJ clearly has a lot of empathy for the common man (and woman)! Just look how sad all these impoverished people look! Just look at them!

Image

This GIF of infinite Ron Swansons.

Image

Lastly, this alpaca farm is only about forty minutes away, has a great name and a fun, educational website. I really, really want to visit it sometime this spring. Alpacas! They’re awesome! People I know IRL, who wants to go with me?

Don’t Listen to Hasselhoff! And Other Thoughts on the Single Life

22 Jan

I never imagined that I’d spend as much time thinking about singleness as I have. When I was younger I had this vague idea that one day I’d meet someone, maybe while grocery shopping or wandering the library stacks or some other meet-cute scenario. I’d just meet someone and then I wouldn’t be single anymore. I never had much idea of how that initial spark in the produce section would develop into a lifelong partnership, though. Too many movies and not enough practice, I guess.

 

I’m only 26, and objectively I know that isn’t very old. But as I age, I have fewer single friends, and it continues to be hard to avoid the slippery slope that is comparing my own life to others. My mother had two children by the time she was my age (I was one of them). Some of my friends from high school and college are now celebrating 5th and 6th and even 7th anniversaries of their marriages. For whatever reason, things haven’t unfolded that way for me. I’m single, and I’ve been single for the entirety of my adult life. I don’t usually volunteer that information to strangers, but I don’t hide it either. For a long time I was preoccupied with the questions about what was wrong with me? Why didn’t guys want to date me? But I’ve experienced a lot of healing in the past few years, and while there is always more work to be done, I don’t think I’m single because of something inherently defective about my person. In many, many ways, I am thankful for the time I’ve spent as a single woman and the good gifts God has given me along the way—gifts I wouldn’t have experienced the same way as someone’s girlfriend or wife.

 

Not everyone really lives the single life. I have friends who seemed to be dating someone from fifth grade onward. Of course dating in fifth grade looks very different from dating in your twenties and thirties and forties and so on, but still. It’s a different life experience to walk through life romantically alone than it is to walk with a partner of some kind.

 

I’ve had the following conversation more and more as I’ve gotten older:

Well-Intentioned Family Member/Coworker/Dentist: So, are you seeing anyone? Do you have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband?

Me: No. It’s just me. (Usually some awkward silence as I try to think of something else to say. What else is there to say?)

 

In fact, there is a lot more that could be said about singleness, and I’ve had a few blog posts on the back burner as I tried to put the words together to share them. I also have a couple books in my TBR pile that I am hoping will provide me with some better perspective on this issue and maybe I’ll post reviews of them here, in that case.

 

In the meantime I want to talk about a scene from the neo-noir teen drama Veronica Mars. Most fans of the show, myself included, love the pairing of spunky detective Veronica and Logan, who is both troubled and sweet– a bad boy with a heart of gold, oh, what a trope! In dorky fandom news, their relationship portmanteau name is LoVe (appropriate). But for a while in the show’s final season Veronica dated a very nice boy, a music afficionado named Stosh Piznarski. Don’t hold the name against him. People can’t help what their parents name them; that’s why there are kids named Mykinzi and Jaxxson running around (apologies to any loved ones out there who like those names…). Anyway, Veronica and Piz. There was this great scene before they got together where they talked about the hookup culture that abounds in college, and let’s face it, post-collegiate life as well.

 

veronica and piz

 

Veronica: The whole chasing-hooking-up-people-go-round… Parker has been going nuts, like I’m some kind of freak because I’m not grabbing anything within ten feet. It’s exhausting.

Piz: Totally. It’s like music, you know– I love music, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to it at all times and anything will do. I mean I’m not going to throw in a Hasselhoff CD just because I left my Neko Case in the car.

Veronica: Like why bother with something that’s not… good. ‘Cause if it’s not good…

Piz: It’s bad! Exactly. But these guys were all like, “As long as she’s got a pair of–” (gesturing to his chest) You know, it was indelicate.

Veronica: (innocently) What’s indelicate about shoes?

Piz: But I figure, you know, I mean, I know what I like. Why waste my time?

Veronica: Like why bother with something not good just because it’s something.

Piz: Especially when you know the difference, which not many people do. I mean, do you?

Veronica:  I think I do.

Piz: I think that’s like 90% of life, just knowing the difference.

 

When I take a step back and really think about it, so many of my friends have married people who have become dear friends of mine. They got it right. They knew the difference between just “something” and someone really good. And they trusted their romantic future to God and his timing.

 

So that’s what I try to do too. Not to worry too much about that perfect moment in the soup aisle, or finding just the right profile, or having the most winsome opening line. But to keep in mind the difference between “something not good” and Something Really Good. And to keep remembering that my value isn’t determined by my relationship status. I am loved by a creator who knows my hopes and dreams and has a purpose for my life.

 

I hope that all my friends, single and married, know that last sentence to be true too!

My Celebrity Doppelganger: A Tale of Woe.

18 Jan

The following story is a bit silly and nonsensical, not to mention embarrassing. But it made me laugh a lot when it happened so I thought I’d share it in the hope of brightening someone’s day.

A few years ago there was a Facebook meme where people changed their profile pictures to their supposed celebrity look alike. I don’t think anyone took it too seriously, but it was a fun thing to realize that I had friends who were dead ringers for actors like Danielle Fishel from Boy Meets World and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog). What can I say, I have some attractive friends.

No one has ever told me that I look like a celebrity. For that matter, no one has ever told me I look like anyone except my father, who, incidentally, is a 6’3” man in his mid-fifties. He’s a handsome man, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the most flattering of comparisons in my mind.

I will say that several people have told me over the years that I sound like certain celebrities: the mom on That 70’s Show, Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory, various Muppets. These comparisons are also not my favorite thing, and I’d just like to say for the record that people can’t help what their voices sound like, okay!?

Anyway, I really wanted to find out if I resembled a celebrity, maybe a celebrity none of my friends knew about. So back when this meme was going around I used one of those websites that promised to show me my celebrity double. My only match was… Keanu Reeves. That is not even a joke.

 

For a while I gave up the idea of finding a celebrity doppelganger. Maybe there are just no famous faces that look remotely like me. That’s okay. People are different; God made us that way, and it’s good.

Well, about a month ago I was seized by this curiosity again and thought I’d give it another shot. I found another website that used facial recognition software and pledged to compare my face to thousands of famous people to find a good “face twin”. I uploaded the following photo, even though it was kind of old and not the best picture of me. It’s still basically what I look like so I figured that even if I look kind of deranged, it would do the trick.

my face

 

I waited eagerly to find out who my celebrity look alike was…

 

Imagine my surprise when the facial recognition software “recognized” two faces in the above photograph. Hmm…

face #1 (3)

Again, this is not a joke, this is really a thing that happened to me. It doesn’t say much about my neck area, but it REALLY doesn’t say much about this website’s ability to assign people “face twins”.

 

Unfortunately, “Face #2” is not necessarily that much more encouraging, because I don’t think I really resemble matches 1-4. And I DON’T EVEN WANT TO TALK about match #5. At least Keanu Reeves has a certain attractively androgynous quality…face #2 (2)

 

 

Who’s your celebrity doppelganger? Do you look like Julianne Moore or Jake Gyllenhaal (bo-ring!)? Or does your cleavage look like the lead singer from Limp Biskit?