Invitation to Easter of the Un-believer

My friend, Maggie, could put a dead stick in the ground and it would grow.

Her husband, Ernie, worked on the line at the local GM plant and Maggie made their home. Their son was born with cerebral palsy. Maggie and Ernie left the church the day women from the congregation visited after Butch’s birth and ask why God was punishing them and what was their sin. Maggie was having none of that. She channeled her energy into helping start the CP Center here in Atlanta where she volunteered with the children every day. Then  Butch died of pneumonia when he was 16.

Their world got smaller and revolved around their older child, a sassy, smart, independent daughter named Ginny. As their long-time next door neighbor, I became a part of their family.  Ginny died from breast cancer in her early 50’s. When Ginny died, I was fresh from seminary and had the difficult privilege of walking with  them through her illness and death. We met to talk about her funeral and  they decided  on  a brief service at the cemetery. Maggie wanted the 23rd Psalm read, other than that she wanted little mention of God. It would already be tense because I (a woman!) was leading the service and their gathered family (absent during Ginny’s illness and otherwise) were pretty rigid fundamentalists. Indeed, they managed to find inappropriate ways and times to comment on how wrong it was that I was presiding at the service. Would that they had kept their thoughts to themselves and comforted  Maggie  and Ernie in their gaping grief.

It was during that time that I got a lot of clarity about Easter. It has nothing to do with what you believe about the resurrection of the body, nothing to do with what you believe about anything. It is the powerful experience beyond words: that death is not final, that justice is not finished, and that love responds to  our struggles with hope beyond our wildest imagination.

Maggie taught me not to demean Easter with doctrine.

Today, I invite you to Easter beyond belief.
Easter is the uneasy time when our hearts are broken open and we stand in the naked beauty of unknowing, bathed in a grace that neither requires answers nor rejects our questions.

Today I invite you to the Easter of the Un-believer.

What If Project

I met Glenn Siepert when he messaged me to ask if I would be on his podcast for the What If Project.  I made a new friend.  We had a great conversation – so much so I forgot I was being interviewed!
I’d love for you to take a listen and let me know what you think – but also take time explore his site and see the good, thoughtful, loving work he is doing.  (see the link to his webpage below the podcast links)

The What If Project.  https://www.whatifproject.net

Why Is Not the Question

In times of crisis or grief or shattering defeat the first question people bring to me is, “Why?’ They are looking to find meaning in their experience. While I am willing to hold that question gently in our conversations, it is foreign  to me to ask, ‘Why?’ when we talk about meaning. And that’s what we are searching for with that question. What is the meaning here? Unfortunately, the ‘why’ question can be seductive and can lead us astray.
‘Why’ can  initiate  blame.
‘Why’ can confine Godde into an untenable box.
‘Why’ can expose our limitations and our prejudices.
‘Why’ can imply that, in the end, we control outcomes. (e.g. if we knew how to appease Godde these things wouldn’t happen).
‘Why’ can  open the door to hate. These days it’s the Chinese, the gays, the Dems.
‘Why” can point to all the places we feel powerless.

‘Why?’ is a great question for science, political critiques, and recipe failures. I just don’t think it can point us toward the deeper questions of our hearts and minds and souls. It isn’t a question that invites us to find deeper meaning in either the difficulties or the sheer joy of life. It’s not wrong or bad to ask why but perhaps  a different question can offer both meaning and hope.

A better question, I believe, is: “How?”
How do I want to respond from my deepest values?
How am I to live in these circumstances and with these challenges?
How can I be my best self when required to do difficult things?
How can I listen for and respond to my neighbors’ needs?
How do I live into my Christ-self while living with threat and fear?

These questions and more are the ones we need to ask as we walk together through this time.  Our answers will create the meaning we are searching for.

I Have Been Silent

I have been silent
but not absent.
Hesitant
wondering what wisdom
if any
I might share.

I have been silent
but not absent
from my fears
or my hopes
wanting to center
before sharing

I have been silent
wanting to share my anxiety
without increasing
the anxiety of others

I have been silent
even in my prayers
but not absent
from Godde

Today I offer
my care
my concern
my solidarity with those who suffer
whether from the universal crisis
of this hour
or the challenges that life brings
that would have happened
before.
Those who are ill
whose relationships are broken
who have lost work
whose work takes them into danger
who have found new love.

I have been silent
but present.
In the quiet
I am listening
to our lives as we
move into unknown territory.

I will not be absent
to your heart
your dreams
your struggles.

This is an invitation
to reach into my silence
not for answers
but for presence.

 

Can We Not Be Enemies?

This election is the most important election in the history of the United States.
I don’t think I’m saying anything people don’t already know but, good Godde, please remember it! Or to put it another way: policies, schmalicies. We need to get the authoritarian kleptocracy and their supporters out of power. Not just the top of the ticket, but down ballot. Our enemy is the evil perpetrated by the current administration not one another.

Yes. Absolutely yes, policies are important and Warren’s and some of Bernie’s policies make better sense and are a more compassionate and realistic way to be in political relationship with one another. However, Bernie’s critique focuses on class and does not have a significant critique of racism or sexism that must be addressed if true equity is possible. Women and people of color often feel left out of his critique. Warren’s policies all make sense and we are waiting to see if her candidacy is still viable.
Joe’s approach is more methodical but headed in the same direction.  I like to think of Joe as a transitional figure, someone who will get us out of this horrific time and reintroduce decency as assumed rather than the exception.
Change is absolutely necessary and important. I don’t care how we do it.  I will vote for whoever gets the nomination.
But.
In the mean time. can we please not be enemies. On my own facebook page I made  non-confrontive reply to an article about Bernie. Rather than spark a conversation I was told that I had a problem.
Come on, folks. Is this how we are going to get through, survive, unite, and eventually thrive?
There is no way a party as large and diverse as the Democratic Party will not be in disagreement. It’s one of the things I love about it. We have a big tent. We are a passionate bunch who are motivated to make the change we so desperately need but we have to remember we are on the same team. So please, please, can we not be enemies?

A Lenten Invitation

Dear Friends,
Okay, it’s after Ash Wednesday when these plans should have been made.
But it’s not too late to add a practice and it’s never too late to begin.
Many of us who give something up for Lent don’t experience spiritual grounding
or awakening
or inspiration.
I, myself, have given myself a congratulatory pat on the back for giving up coffee or caffeine or dessert… and even back in the day, cigarettes.
I once belonged to a community that fasted ‘religiously’ during Lent and had a blow-out party on Easter whose excesses had me questioning the practice, if not my sanity.

In the interim I’ve learned that my Lenten journey is best practiced as an act of mindfulness. This is an invitation to a certain kind of mindfulness.
Please join me in giving up plastic for Lent. At least as much. as you can as often as you can.
–  keep your grocery bags in the. care
– buy produce without putting it in a plastic bag
– refrain from drinking from plastic bottles: try reusable containers or cans
– most of all don’t forget to recycle what plastic (and cans) you are unable to refrain from using.

Let every act, even those that feel like deprivation, be an occasion for  mindfulness of how we are all walking together on this planet. How will you embody Sacred  will in this time? What is it worth to you to lose convenience and gain connection?

This is my invitation to you. May we all be blessed by our choices this Holy Season,

Connie

 

 

An Aussie’s Take on the Fires

 

I wrote a dear friend in Australia in January.
What can I do? I asked.
Who needs my help most?
Australia is in my prayers, I said.

I wondered to myself, how can I lift up the anger and the grief of a people and offer hope and comfort?
The California fires threatened friends  and the fear was palpable. How can I respond in a way that will make a difference.
And I sit in Georgia wondering, when will it be our turn? If more droughts, when will our. fires begin.  If not drought, then unbearable heat.

The. truth is that the fires in Australia and California are our fires.
If  we refuse to acknowledge  that we are all connected, if we don’t get that what happens to one nation, one community,  even. one individual affects us all , then we are truly lost.

Back to  the question: what can (I) we do?  She told me to spread the word on the climate change. Write, she said. And preach, she said. And pray. Make this tragedy matter. Let it be a catalyst for change, for a commitment to our planet and to one another. So that is what I am doing today. Every action matters. Here is my invitation and challenge:

  • vote and work for candidates with a commitment to fight climate change and to work cooperatively with the nations of the world.
  • make personal choices that are better for the environment: drive less, use public transportation, reduce your carbon footprint any way you can. Use energy wisely: unplug computers, use non-florescent lightbulbs, wash in cold water, insulate your home.
  • eat less meat or, better yet, go vegetarian. Buy local and organic food

There are many more things we can do as individuals but start somewhere. Start today. And if you’ve already begun, add another action. Our choices affect not only our lives put the lives of our neighbors around the world.

I write this in the midst of our struggle with a government that is run by a self-aggrandizing,  climate change denier. I go to bed every night and wake up every morning battling to maintain hope. And then I remember that the struggle is for a life and a planet I love. And I will love it and celebrate both life and the planet as a way of moving forward. We must live the life we are saving,

https://progressivechristianity.org/resources/celebrate-the-storm-luka-lesson-x-nahko-bear-music-video/

 

Me and Lt. Col. Vindman

Most folks who are familiar with me have heard me claim, “I am an army brat.”
Now I know what I mean by that but I think there are maybe lots of people who don’t.
There are many assumptions about what it means to be connected to the military.
Some are right and some are wrong.

My father and I argued and fought our way through the Viet Nam War. I am a pacifist.And though we debated every aspect of that war and war in general. My dad, an infantryman spent nearly half my life (at that time)  in combat, ardently defended my right to disagree. I struggled with our differences for many years until the day came when I realized that my dad put his life on the line for an idea that was larger than himself. It is the greatest lesson I learned from him. I honor him for it. He modeled  in real life what it means to live service to something greater than oneself. It includes hardship and sacrifice and one’s personal safety (physical or economic) is not assured.

When he retired from the Army and we moved off base for the first time in my life, I made  friends with people whose dads sold tires, worked in banks, and were car mechanics. It felt so strange to me, at the time, that people lived their lives like that. I don’t know what I expected, I only know how different it was to be around people whose work was not the focus of their meaning.

Dad was not in service to ‘the military industrial complex’. He was in service to the ideas and values of freedom and justice. His sacrifices were enshrined in duty and honor. It was not enough to put oneself on the line, it was imperative that he live with honor. Those are the lessons he taught me that grounded my ability to challenge the church as I pursued my call to ministry as an open lesbian.

Today I stand with Lt. Col. Vindman. He acted according to his teaching and discipline. He believed in our system of laws and the mandates of honor required by the military.  He expected our government to live up to its stated principles. He was betrayed by his commander-in-chief. He lives in service to an ideal greater than himself and has put himself on the line not only  combat, but in standing up to a  system that has been  corrupted almost beyond repair.

Thank you for your service, Col. Vindman. Please know how full of meaning those words are. You are my family in that I know your service from the inside and am connected to you by history and intent. I see you and admire you for how you carry yourself with  dignity and honor.  I expected no less and you have done your duty.

 

Connecting the Dots

I keep worrying the question: how did we get here?
Lots of folks have told me, in different ways, that we’e always been here.
I respectfully disagree. We are now galloping toward a future that is on a trajectory few of us have envisioned before now. Before now our trajectory has been very different. I. grew. up in a community that believed we were plodding toward ‘a more perfect union’, toward (with plenty of struggle, anguish, destructiveness, and pain) bending the arc of history toward justice.

Now we seem to be embracing and moving quickly toward self-first, everyone else be damned trajectory. Neither of these directions embraces the entirely of our society, but our past indicated that we could withstand challenges to power and open doors (however slowly and at great cost). The present feeds the fears of the soon-to-be minority and locates economic and political power in the hands of a few.

So how the hell did we get here? Let me say at the outset that I am not either a conspiracy theorist or an alarmist. I am an amateur historian, a working theologian, and an active citizen. I am open to being challenged and interested in being heard. That said, here are the dots I am connecting:

It all started with Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” that laid the foundation for a more radical social conservatism (racism, anti-immigration, anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBT) cloaked, once again, in financial conservatism and a distrust of government.
It expanded with the advent of the Tea Party and the influx of Republicans who publicly stated their refusal to compromise with the Democratic Party. Maybe it needs to be stated that compromise or finding ‘a third way’  has been the basis for our two party system since its inception.
We no longer have ‘the loyal opposition’.
From the introduction of the Contract with American in 1994, our political discourse has deteriorated to such an extent that our politicians no longer engage in productive dialogue. The power grab engaged in by the right has left our way of governing in tatters.
And, Godde help us, there is no shame. No shame is eschewing their oath of office. No shame in supporting lies. No shame in supporting a president with no morals, no ethics, no intellectual capacity, and no qualifications for the job.

So how did we get 30+% of the population supporting the president and the party that is against their best interests?  Here’s a dot: No Child Left Behind. When we teach children to regurgitate facts rather than to think critically and be able to sift fact from fraud, then we. open ourselves  to an entire population that can be easily manipulated. And when higher. education  is looked on with distrust, our problem is compounded.

Here’s another dot: the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Wealth is power.
That is a problem in a democracy when the few can purchase influence,  votes, representatives, senators, and even presidents. When money consolidates power in the hands of the few, we no longer live in a democracy.

Another dot: voter suppression and gerrymandering. It seems clear to me that Republicans don’t think they can win if they don’t cheat. Period. Which brings me to my final dot (for this conversation).

The rise of white nationalism and of white people who believe they are threatened by POC and women and the LGBT community. As a nation we have allowed with impunity the infiltration of the military, police departments, and politics (both local and national) if white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. Racism, sexism, and homophobia is being normalized overtly rather than covertly by people with physical power.

And now we have Donald Trump in power.

Here are my modest proposals:
– include critical thinking and empathy into school curriculum nationally
– take money out of politics: dark money, PAC money, lobbying money
– make national laws about gerrymandering
– make voter registration automatic at the age of 18
-make Election Day a national holiday
-root out white nationalists from the military and police forces

Let’s start here.

Sometimes I have to smile: a lesson in humility

I met an author I admire this summer. I have bought and read many of her books. I even took a class from her years ago. She’s smart and insightful. In the course of the conversation I shared with her that my book had been nominated for an award and she asked after my book. I shared the title, A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet.

“Who’s the prophet?” she asked.

“Me.” I answered sheepishly  and was promptly dismissed with a not-too-subtle eye roll.

Damm. Here’s the thing. I don’t call myself a prophet out of any sense of:
1- success;
2-  exceptional job done, or
3- any claim of spiritual insightfulness.

Maybe I shouldn’t have included that prophet thing in the subtitle.
But it really is a part of my story of speaking truth to power, as they say. I claim it from an educated view of prophetic speech that is not in any way about the one speaking.  Still, it was hard to be taken down a notch.

So let me share a few words from my book to clarify:

“A prophet? Are you kidding me? Thirty years ago I would have been right there with you. Believe me, I would never have called myself a prophet. Prophets are special. I am not. They have a direct line to God and the go- ahead and where-with-all to do all kinds of miraculous things. I do not. They rail at people for being idiots. Well, sometimes. They declare impend- ing doom. The most I can claim about impending doom is that I’m often scared. Prophets occasionally foretell the future. Not me. They are righteous in the extreme and above the fray and trials of this messy business we call life. Again, not me. Not in any lifetime. Not on any planet.
Boy, was I wrong. In seminary I learned just how wrong I was. I dis- covered that prophets are wonderfully flawed and chaotic people. Just like me. Folks often thought they were crazy. True here. Eventually I got to know the prophets as chums who spoke passionately and acted hyperbolically. I identified. I am not above the bedlam of life. I am neither a soothsayer who predicts the future nor a miracle worker. I am not particularly righteous, though I have been known to be self-righteous. To be honest I am a flock of flaws, surrounded by a majesty of misunderstandings, hobbled together with an impediment of imperfections. I am not special in any way to anyone except, maybe, to my mom and dad and daughter. I don’t have a direct line to God and when the party line is open, I often don’t hear—or more truth- fully, don’t listen—to what God is saying. I am strong willed and sometimes lazy. I get stuff wrong. A lot.”

So when I’m taken down a notch I need to remember to smile. Someone once told me my spiritual gift was humility. If that is true then it is only when I smile at myself.
Only when I smile.