The Power of Women Unleashed

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Something powerful is happening.
Pundits talk about it, observing from a distance.
Talking heads dismiss it, claiming it will go the way of Occupy.

But they are missing something important. They are missing the convergence of awareness. The Women’s March, #metoo, #timesup…women are woke. And they are woke across class and racial lines, sexuality and gender lines, and making inroads into all the lines that  historically divide us.
They miss the point.
The point of #metoo is that almost every woman (and among my many acquaintances the number stands at 100%) have been sexually harassed, assaulted, abused, or raped.
That should take your breath away.
These same women have systematically made less money for doing the same jobs as men. Or have been passed over for deserved promotions. Hence, #timesup.

With the past election we got woke to the systemic hatred of women. Okay, people still find it difficult to say that women are hated but look at the treatment of Hillary Clinton by men in the media. Even progressive men. Look at the explicit sexism of the Bernie Bros (and we’re supposed to be on the same side). Look at Chris Matthews. Look at her treatment by Trump. For many of us, it confirms our own experiences. For many it is a getting woke moment. For some, it is still difficult to acknowledge a symptom one has studiously ignored.

We are erasing the imaginary lines between us. Not ignoring our differences, but recognizing how keeping us separate has kept us down. We refuse to acquiesce to the way it’s always been. We are held up by the women who have gone before us from Eve to Ester, Mary to Prisca, Sojourner Truth to Margaret Sanger, Shirley Chisholm to Gloria Steinem. Young women and old women, girls, maidens, matrons, and crones are stepping up and speaking out.

Yes we have growing pains and we don’t need to be perfect, but we must be authentic. What is important is that we refuse to  be numbed to the evils of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and ableism. We must stay woke to our interconnectedness.  It is time to  unleash our power and VOTE, and RUN for office, and REPRESENT.

Calling In A Paradigm Shift


I haven’t written since before Christmas what with preparing both our home and the church for the annual celebration. It was a good and full time tinged with the cyclical sadness of the anniversary of my mom’s death.
I preached Christmas and Epiphany services. Old stories. New words. And was struck again with how Christians (I can only speak to my tradition, though I believe it exists in every spiritual tradition) are charged with challenging the dominant social paradigm.
I am not interested in saving of my soul from a vengeful and angry God. I refuse to afraid of Godde. It goes against every light fiber of my being.
Nope. I am ready to call Christians to be Christians and stop being  moral puppets for right wing ideologues. Morality is not about ruling the minutia of the bedroom, the ‘place’ of women, or the arrogance of claiming that the wealthy are favored by Godde.

Here’s the new (for the last two thousand+ years) paradigm Christians are challenged to shift into:
– share so that there is enough for everyone: food, water, housing, healthcare
– act out of love, not warm-fuzzy feelings, but with the intent for the well-being of others
– claim the power to forgive so that you are freed from destructive impulses and a space is made for the possibility of peace.
– be a compassionate conduit of grace
– see the face of Godde in absolutely every creature you meet.
– work against oppression in all its forms
– don’t base your actions on results you can calculate but  trust the call to live in a different way
– don’t be afraid

To all you Christians and former Christians out there: it’s time to take back our faith. It has been coopted by the powerful and twisted in to shapes unrecognizable. Even as a pastor I am sometimes ashamed to say I am a Christian because of what it has (rightfully) come to mean to the majority of people. But now I want to invite all you closeted Christians, all you exes who have bitter bile in your throats, all you who have stretched beyond the confines of rigid morality, all you who have been oppressed and broken by the church to take back our faith and drink in the sweet nectar of grace.  It’s time to become the paradigm shift Christ calls us to by living it into existence. It’s time to do  the faithful work of changing the world.

 

The Radical Hope of Advent

Hope is a fierce thing
a tenacious longing
a crafting of reality

A bequest to people who
stand
and march
and fight
and sing lustily into the darkness,
for we are bearers of light.

We bear Godde’s promises
in our blood and cells
teeth and nails.

We bear that fearsome hope of a people
who have sacred promises
scorched into our souls.



 

Advent Revolution: Be Like Mary


Godde is shocking and if you aren’t shocked by  Godde then you haven’t been paying attention.
Since forever the clash of the religious has been between piety and justice. Righteousness and goodness.  Godde always strains towards the people we reject, devalue, or dehumanize. Or should I say ‘demonize’ ?  And then she goes and does something radical by inviting the people one least expects (or likes) to be Godde-with-us.
Like women. Like foreigners. Like children. Like the outsider and the oppressed.
Can you see Mary, mother of Godde-with-us, in the picture above? If not, then maybe you have been looking in the wrong places. Morality doesn’t lie in transcendence (the way Mary is usually depicted), it lies in the gritty choices of everyday life. Is what I’m doing benefitting only me or is it in service to the greater good? Do I choose to make money over clean water and air? Fair wages? Accessible healthcare? Does my vote reflect not only my interest but also those of  the  most vulnerable among us? Do I place more value in the humanity of a person than their adherence to my sexual, gender, or cultural norms?
These are the questions we need to be asking. These are the concerns to which Mary calls us to when she is overcome with thankfulness and sings an ancient song of liberation and freedom:
‘My soul magnifies our Godde,
47     and my spirit rejoices in Godde my Saviour,
48 for She has looked with favour on the lowliness of her servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is her name.
50 Her mercy is for those who hold her in awe
    from generation to generation.
51 She has shown strength with her arm;
    and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 and has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

This is what counts as shocking to those who believe that their religion saves them from eternal damnation or that the amount of money they have amassed shows that they are favored by Godde. Which, in a way, is seductive because it gives the impression that we are in control. If I remain a virgin till marriage, don’t come out, don’t transition, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t wear make-up… then I can control my fate. But piety never protects us. Instead, it  sets up the juicy conundrum that men can both objectify and abuse women with impunity. In the name of God.
 Godde calls us  to revolutionary actions not pious acts.  Mary is overcome by Godde and her response is to give voice to Godde’s call for liberation and freedom.
In these days when we look for Godde-with-us, check out the places you don’t usually look and the people with whom you don’t feel comfortable. Women who are pushy. Immigrants. #Me, too. #Black lives matter. They are doing the holy, revolutionary work of Godde.

 

Radically Unafraid: the call of Advent


An angel called Thelma, Jan L Richardson

The angel came to Mary and said what angels say: “Do not be afraid.”

Is it a command? A suggestion? An offer of comfort? All of the above?
All of the above, I think.
When we are too afraid to imagine not being afraid: it is a command.
When we aren’t sure if fear is a viable response: it is a suggestion that encourages other possibilities.
When we are too frozen by fear to move or act: it is a word of comfort that fear is not necessary.

Right now, We really need to hear what the angels have to say.
We need to not be afraid.
It is the radical call of the Holy to live differently.

Right now, I have a good and solid foundation of anger. It helps me not to be afraid. I am angry at the injustices that have multiplied and expanded under Trump. I am angry about the systemic depth of cultural sexism, racism, and homophobia.  I am angry that the ‘light (we) hold beside the golden door’ is dimmed.
But for all that anger, I am also afraid.
I am afraid that we may not be able to recover our democracy.
I’m afraid that people will be imprisoned, lynched, put to death.
I am afraid Donald Trump will start a nuclear war to deter the investigation into his treasonous administration.

We need this season of angels telling us not to be afraid. For one thing fear paralyzes. Like Mary, We need to be able to be a part of all of us who are trying to bring about extraordinary change. We need to not be afraid to travel to places we haven’t been and do things haven’t done with people we do not know while living under an oppressive regime.
We need to nurture justice, peace, and hope in our very beings and  birth the reality of those things into the world.
And we can only do it if we are foolishly unafraid.

Being unafraid. There’s the rub. It is not easy. It is clearly, only, and absolutely a choice. We must choose to NOT be afraid over and over again. Sometimes moment to moment.
Let this be our spiritual practice in this sacred season and beyond: to choose to be unafraid. 

When fear does not constrict us we are empowered to act. So choose power over fear. Love over fear. Justice over fear. Peace over fear. The world needs us to be not afraid.

 

Advent Call to Resistance

Comes now the time we wait in darkness and breathless anticipation for hope to be born. Hope against hope.

This is the darkest Advent season of my lifetime. We yearn for the words of Isaiah to come to pass:
The spirit of the Our Godde is upon me,
because Godde has anointed me;
and has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
 to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

The prophet’s words call for our compassion to deepen – especially those of us who have never been hungry, or frightened, or powerless, or foreigners. This year we hear them differently. Suddenly we face the reality of being on the down side of the widening schism between rich and poor. The middle class shrinks and we can no longer count on our water being clean, our air being breathable, our livelihood being enough to support us. Our children are vulnerable to sexual predators. Our black men, imprisoned and exploited in unconsionable numbers, need to be released.  Women and people of color, the poor, the LGBT+ community, and  immigrants  desperately need to hear good news for the oppressed as our rights are being marched back by jack-booted thugs.

The image of an anticipated babe in utero, of a fallow garden with seeds beneath the frozen earth,  conjure the thought that something powerful happens in the dark. Growth, possibility, time, and space to gestate miracles. This Advent demands of us that we birth Christ into the world so that when we claim that followers in the Way of Christ are, indeed, the body of Christ, then this dark season impels us to remember what that means and to grow our understanding.

         We are the ones who must risk feeling the Spirit of Godde upon us, calling us to do impossible things on behalf of all humanity.
          We are the ones who must bring good news to the oppressed, even those of us who are oppressed, by speaking against the power that suppresses and finding our power to act and speak as we are empowered to act as the Holy Spirit descends this Holy Season.
          We are the ones who must gather to ourselves those who mourn, whose families have been torn apart by a racist immigration policies, and Dreamer’s who are our children, being forced to leave the only homes they have ever known.
          We are the ones who must stand for those imprisoned and demand justice.
          We are the ones because we claim to be the Body of Christ,  the living aspect of the one who came to liberate, heal, and lift up the least of these.

This Advent, we retreat into the dark, not a darkness that blinds, not a darkness that constricts our souls, but into the rich dark that nurtures our spirits and grows our imaginations so that we might bring to life great hope and find our power to stand and speak and live the promises of Godde embodied in our world.

 

 

Believe Us: #metoo

Something has changed. Women are unleashing tsunamis of memories and experiences in unprecedented ways and it as wonderful as it is pain-filled.

Ask any woman. Any. Woman. You will hear the stories of physical or verbal sexual assault and abuse. You will hear stories of how we are silenced because we need the job or the apartment or the healthcare or the church. You will hear stories that have lain dormant or relegated to the sanctity of the therapist’s couch for too long. We have been silent and silenced too long. Now that we are speaking out, there is no turning back.

Many of us who are not black are aware that black parents must, at some point, have ‘the talk’ with their children about racism and the inherent personal danger, ugliness, and hatred associated with it.

There is a similar talk that women have with girls. If not mother or grandmother, then teacher or mentor, neighbor or aunt, co-worker or congregant. It goes something like this:

Here is a dime (or quarter, or always have your cell phone with you) keep it with you and call if he gives you any trouble. Be careful how you dress because men can’t help themselves. Don’t be alone with that guy. A man will always try to take what he wants. Don’t walk alone at night. Always check the back seat before you get in your car. Have a whistle on your keychain. Use your keys as a weapon. Carry mace in your purse. Don’t set your drink down if you are in a club. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go out alone.

And then there are the messages we get that are often unspoken but assumed:

Say something and you’ll lose your job.
No one is going to believe you.
You asked for it.

Well, guys, I think you’ve just lost control because women are speaking up and speaking out. You don’t believe us? Do you really not believe us? You’ve never heard how men talk about women when left to themselves? You’ve never said those things yourself? You’ve never used your physical, political, or social power to coerce a woman? Or never seen another man do it? Really?

You don’t believe us? Well, too bad because we believe one another. We have centuries of experience with systemic sexism. We had it happen to us, to our daughters, to our friends – whether in something as tragic as rape or sexual abuse, or as rampant and dehumanizing as cat calling or unwelcome touch.

We aren’t going to make excuses for your behavior anymore. We are not going to undermine women who have the courage to speak out. The curtain was pulled back when thousands, millions of us say #metoo. We are not going to accept that this is ‘just how men are’. We want to believe you are better than this. Stand with us and make it unacceptable to use, coerce, or abuse women sexually or any other way.

And here is how you can begin: BELIEVE US.

Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Somehow it is never enough.

Killed:
Columbine 15
Sandy Hook 20 children 8 adults
Charleston   9
The Harvest Music Festival 58
Pulse night club 49
Virginia Tech 32
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs: 26
San Bernardino: 14
Edmond, Oklahoma: 14

This is a short, non-comprehensive list. But somehow it is not enough.
Not enough to strengthen gun laws.
Not enough to wrestle political power from the NRA.
Not enough to stop making a false distinction between terrorists (brown) and mentally ill (white) shooters.

Can we not agree that mass murder is a terrorist act and that anyone capable of committing those atrocities has significant mental health challenges – no matter their brand of political or religious fanaticism,  no matter the color of their skin?
Can we agree that there is ABSOLUTELY no need for any civilian to own an automatic weapon?
Can we agree that a bunch of armed white supremacists are not ‘a well-regulated militia’?Can we agree that arguments made by the gun lobby are specious and self-serving?
Can we agree that gun culture also leads to increased violence against women and children?
Can we agree that we are afraid?
Can we agree that enough is enough?

Stopping gun violence is a feminist issue.
Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns — more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.   https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america

Can we agree that enough is enough?

In the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science is not “legitimate.” To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous year.

Can we agree that enough is enough?
And if you believe enough is enough then make your ‘thoughts and prayers’ have hands and feet. 
-Write, email, and call your senators and representatives. They hear from the gun lobby enough. They need to hear our voting voices loud and clear. http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page

-Give as you are able to anti- gun violence organizations. The NRA is a powerful lobbying group that represents gun manufactures more than its membership and can pay politicians for votes.  https://giffords.org/   

We must change the conversation so that it is completely and utterly ‘populist’ to support gun control.  Because enough is enough.

 

 

Camping as Spiritual Practice

I camped with my daughter and twenty of her friends this weekend.
It rained.
A lot.
It was wet.
It was cold.
It was glorious.

It was a smorgasbord of Holy Senses.
Stars crisp in the night air.
Clouds fanning like bird plumes.
Some trees bare, reaching heavenward,
some quietly disrobing, leaves spattering colors on the forest floor .
And the quiet of rain splashing on tent top
or the rough and tumble of an engorged stream.
The scent of coffee wafting from a camp stove,
Chicken soup simmering in an iron pot,
Blending with the stench of wet dog.
Warm smiles curled on cold lips
Frosty bottoms perched on wet logs
Godde shared our laughter as we laughed at ourselves.

It was wet.
It was cold.
It was glorious.
It was my prayer of thanksgiving

And I would do it again
in a heartbeat.

 

 

 

Ecstasy

Changing it up with poetry                                                         

                                                        Ecstasy

Part 1

 My first lessons were of joy –
soaring church music
voices blended
organs boasting and groaning
pianos splashing fountains of notes
onto my untutored ears.

And gladiolas
smelling of earth and sunshine,
rolled into wet newspapers
their green tang permeating the air
as we drove to church late Saturday afternoon.

And the sanctuary
empty and grand
echoed our footsteps and whispers
while light cascaded in dusty shafts
through stained glass
and statues in their niches
gazed benignly at my grandmother
as she placed the glads,
tall and vibrant
in crystal vases
upon the altar.

On Sunday
common flowers
transform into icons
burning with holy light.

My mother taught me about Jesus,
singing in her sweet, slightly off-key voice:
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world,”

I joined in
sometimes imitating her soft tones,
sometimes bellowing the words
“Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight,’

The story told
the truth distilled
the gospel internalized,
love without boundaries
grabbed me up
and never let go.
“Jesus loves the little children of the world!”

And my heart broke open.
“Please, please, God,
let me be here when Jesus comes back!”

And I was filled with wanting
like waiting for Christmas morning to come
the anticipation lovely and powerful.
When Jesus came back there would be joy
like singing ‘alleluias’ real loud
like smelling fresh pine needles
or swinging so high your toes could touch a cloud.

And love as good
as snuggling on my mother’s lap
breathing in and out just the same.
As good as when my heart
hugs the hums of bumblebees.

Part 2

Now joy flings me
into the mystery
of my pulsing body and blood,
breath and bones.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
The throb of the song and
the thump of my heart
beat together.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
I stomp in time,
hands stinging
as they clap, clap, clap,
releasing the rhythm
into my bloodstream.
I cannot stop this clapping,
this stomping,
this singing.
at the top of my lungs,
air purged,
reaching some notes,
missing others
carried away in the chorus swelling around me.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
I sing louder,
full-throated
not caring if I am off-key,
sharp or flat.
Lost in the tumultuous sound
I rise,
my feet no longer hit the floor to stomp.
I am Buddhist priest
floating inches above the ground.
I am flying witch.
I am whirling dervish.

Flinging my hands in the air,
bright red from clapping,
they burn,
eased only by the wind I create.

“I..I know I’ve been changed!”
Caught in the music,
woven into the chords,
tossed to the rafters
notes thrumming
in my breath and heartbeat.

The ‘I’ of me
Becomes the ‘we’
of a hundred lifted voices.
The song urges us to completion.
I heave a breath
And bellow the next line.
And another.
And another.

“The angels in heaven done signed my name.”
Slowing
almost imperceptibly
And I sway back into my body
arms heavy
hands tingling
sweat dripping between my breasts
feet wanting
to keep moving, moving, moving.
I fight against what I know is the last refrain:
“The angels in heaven done signed my name.”

I lift my face
and exhale.