Category Archives: musings

Dear Friends… turn your socks inside out

Dear Friends,

I want to tell you a story about my Dad. He was career military and in active combat  both in  World War II and the Korean War. He was also a story teller. As a child, I sat on his knee and listened to him weave what I now recognize as self-deprecating stories of survival and courage. I loved his stories. They were stories of deep friendships told in an offhand way and moments of belly laugh humor.

In these times I recognize the need to tell our stories with the absurdity of dark humor.
We are living through our own horrors, fighting for our lives and for justice against an enemy within the fabric of our nation.
We are fighting for a vigorous, committed response to climate change.
We are fighting for justice for people of color and for a real, committed response to systemic racism.
We are fighting for science.
We are fighting for women’s reproductive rights.
We are fighting for truth over lies, love over hate, community over tribalism.
… and we are fighting desperation and fear.

In the Korean War men were told to change socks every day to prevent trench foot. It was a ludicrous command to men sleeping in tents, marching miles a day in rain and snow, with no possible way of doing laundry, much less of the laundry drying. To follow the order in letter, though clearly not spirit, the men had a ritual after they set up camp to ‘change socks’ by turning them inside out and putting them on again. Okay, I can’t tell it like my dad. He had a way of recounting  the story with a twinkle and a chuckle so you saw how ridiculous both the order and the action were .

The thing is, those guys would have loved to have clean, dry socks. They rebuked their misery by laughing at the circumstances and poking fun at the stupidity of the order. We can learn something from them. It’s awful right now. Tribalism is so  virulent that it’s hard to imagine how or if we can ever bridge our differences. The possibility of another term for 45 looms. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything I can do to make a difference. But I get up every day and do the tedious work of making change. It is easy to be overwhelmed. It is reasonable to get depressed.

But let us end our days by adopting the ritual of ‘changing our socks’.
Find the absurdity of the day, the news, the man and laugh.
Remember that we are in this together, clustered around the same campfire, impelled by the same passion for justice. Laugh at the absurdity of where we find ourselves and at what we must do to survive.
My dad’s stories taught me that connection and laughter are absolutely necessary for survival when in the thick of a battle.

So laugh with me over some smarmy lie, some absurd policy, some ridiculous assertion then sit down and turn your socks inside out, get some rest, we fight again tomorrow.

love and blessings,
Connie

I Am Curious

For some reason, I know not what, I spent some moments not reacting to the onslaught of daily and new atrocities to find a nook in my mind to entertain questions. I wish these were deep, theological pondering but they are not.

I am curious as to why a disease, experienced in nations around the world, is considered to be a hoax by some. If hoax means to trick people into believing something that is false, why on earth would someone (who?) want to trick us into believing Covid19 is real? If that is true then it must be some great international conspiracy. Have all these deaths been manufactured by the media? The refrigerator car morgues? The overcrowded hospitals and overworked medical personnel? I am deeply perplexed by the lack of anything that resembles reason. Even when I plumb the depths of my imagination I can’t answer those questions. I mean – do people really believe that this pandemic  could be manufactured and perpetrated by scientists, medical personal, and regular citizens? And  that it would be done to thwart one man? I am curious.

Which in turn makes me curious about the educated people who are perpetrating the idea that this is a hoax. Senators and governors and representatives who refuse to wear masks and insist on opening both the economy and schools in the face of dire consequences. Is power so intoxicating that they are willing and able to sacrifice the people on the altar of their hunger for it? so, why? I am curious.

I am curious about how once shared values have been scuttled. In our history, in times of crisis, we have worked together, sacrificed together, struggled against common enemies together. What happened?  I am curious.

I wonder how or if we can bridge the gap between those who are not extremists but still follow Trump and those of us who fear authoritarianism, seemingly unsolvable cultural divides.  How do we reach across to one another when the rise of racism, heterosexism, and misogyny is personally threatening?  These questions trouble me most of all and I am curious.

Is anyone truly sure that they are absolutely right? In my life I question everything, even my most deeply held beliefs. I know that it is taxing and uncomfortable so I also understand why one would be reluctant to question one’s beliefs.  I have experienced the anxiety and  urgency to hold onto a belief that is being challenged. Certainty can give us the illusion of safety. It can also stand in the way of growth and connection. Would our conversations be more productive if we respected one another’s fears?  I am curious.

But my final question and the one about which I am most curious
is not how did we get here
but rather
how do we get out of here?

 

Today

Today

We wake again
to plot another graph of time
linger over coffee
bemoan tragedy
fear
for our lives
our nation
…our sanity

Today we set again
a way forward
while standing still
a way out
while enshrined within
the walls of our imaginations
confined
by discontent

Today we bring again
to the table
new beginnings
old understandings
mental meanderings
distracted by the present

Today time again enfolds us
with the luminous space
between
past and future
encasing our loneliness
and demanding
our now

Today we choose again
to live with
the unknown
seeking hope in
our uncertainty
and peace
in our fleeting plans

Today we again touch
our tomorrows
hesitant to dream
but insisting on the ridiculous hope
that lodges between
breast bone
and back bone
that today is the only
and best
gift we are given.

Liberated by History

I have been taught history (a subject I love) in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, not as a series of dates to be memorized but as political movements and change influenced by  disease, technological, medical advances, religion, nationalism, power, and personality.

In seminary I had the great good fortune of reading Justo Gonzalez’ two volume history of the Christian Church. Imagine telling the story of the early Christian church through the challenges that ignited differing theologies and their struggle for primacy and the intersection of politics and nation building with growth of Christianity. HIs history telling is a well researched and clear-eyed exploration of how the political and theological world as we know it came into being.

I wish we taught history this way so that people could see the development and  movement of ideas. Could engage with ideas about how we are connected and  how today is built on what has gone before.I wish we were able to accept historical figures as bound by their time and examine how they were a part of moving us and our ideals, understandings, and values into our present.

As a working theologian, I am always aware that I am in dialogue with ideas that have come before and that my new perspective can offer correction or challenge. But the Ideas of those who lived and struggled before us are important because they open the dialogue.  Liberation, Black, Womanist, Feminist, Process,  or any other theology does not exist in a vacuum. We are all a part of global, historical conversations about faith and our understanding of the universe.  We are informed by science, history, and the constant influx of new information, new generations and populations. For me, Christianity is not about what people believed or how they lived over two thousand years ago. It is about what remains relevant at its core. How the truths of the faith engage with present reality.

Is it not important to know that the world view of first century Christians was very different from our world view today? How can it not be. The same with our politics. It is important to ask the questions of the framers of the Constitution. How were they bound by history and culture? How did they contribute to the conversation that has moved us into where we are today in the struggle for freedom? Do we need to reject what we now see as absolutely unacceptable? of course. But I truly believe we must also see ourselves in a historical relationship that, by its very nature, encourages the tough conversations we are having as a nation today around race, gender, personhood, and human rights.

As a nation, our history is built on what is often called ‘the Great Experiment.’  Rather than reject what and who have come before us, let us do what all experimenters do: build on what works and reject that which does not. This nation is built on glorious ideas tried for the first time in thousands of years (if you think of Athens as a democracy, and then it makes my point that American democracy took much of what worked in Athenian democracy, discarded the rest, and built on it for the then modern age.) We must move forward informed by new voices, differing experiences, new ways of perceiving both the mistakes and the triumphs of our historical past.

May our new understandings of history liberate us to the work of making real the promises of our shared dream.

 

Enough Time to Grieve

I am grateful to have lived long enough
to grieve organically.
To survive days with the gash in my heart
bleeding out,
agony insinuated into every conversation –
even when draped in a flat affect
and the pretense of normality.

I am grateful I have had time enough
to explore all the dark corners.
The patience to meander through loss,
to pick up shattered pieces,
and reorder the reality
I feared I would not survive.

Godde requires my honesty,
insists I disrobe my soul,
and open to something
beyond my ability to imagine.
Godde companions me in the shadowlands.
Takes my hand when I am blinded by pain
or self involvement.
Invites me to new ways of seeing,
even when I refuse to open my eyes.

It is good to have lived long enough
to reach the unknown other side.
To discover Godde’s grace
tangled in my memories,
and the promise of Godde’s hope
reflected in my tears.

 

Tales from an Elephant Orphanage

 

Well, folks, I’ve begun working on the sequel to my memoir (A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet).  The working title of the new project is Circling Grace: Tales from an Elephant Orphanage. It’s my telling of the story of Circle of Grace, a Christian, feminist, ecumenical, progressive church of which I am the founding pastor.

I am telling my part of the story though, as with all stories and especially a story about a group of people, mine is only a part. It is exciting to remember the early days, the challenges and discussions as we worked to birth this idea of a Christian feminist worshipping community. I hope, in the end, you will find the tale engaging, challenging, and, most of all, truthful.

The title comes form a conversation I once had with my spiritual director who said, “Connie, Circle of Grace is like an elephant orphanage. Wounded or sick or disabled baby elephants that have have been rejected or abandoned by their herd are taken in, healed, and taught how to be elephants.”

Check out this 60 Minutes story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hErfU4gb1GQ

In somewhat the same way, people come to Circle of Grace because their spiritual communities have rejected them. They come in need of respite and healing, starved for spiritual food and the unconditional love. She continued, “Some are able to return to their herd  (the churches they were raised in) and some, whose wounding has been too severe, remain and form a new tribe.” Her insight helps me ponder the implications and pray for and with the community I pastor.

Today I am doing what pastors do: reflecting on the story  theologically.  Immersed in telling the challenges and reliving the excitement of our early days, I was able to distill it down to a sentence:  “Creating safe spiritual space must take an uncomfortable front seat to theological differences.”

I am excited to be telling my part of the story, even while I agonize over my many and varied inadequacies. I am reminded again how important it Is that we tell our stories. Something important happens when we examine our pasts. We discover more deeply who we are. We see more clearly the challenges we face. And, Godde willing, we stumble toward redemption.

 

Will You Do One Right Thing Each Day?


If you are overwhelmed by the events of the day
or the tweet of the hour
or the horror of the tragedies crossing your TV screen
or the past three years…

Do not let it freeze your heart into inaction
because when despair wins
humanity loses,
when despair wins
the people suffer
when despair wins
our beautiful, necessary voices
are silenced.

The Talmud teaches us :
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it” (PIvot).

Today and each day remember
that you are not alone
you are not required do it all.
that others are doing the work
in times and places you may not see.
Remember that every one right thing you do each day
joins with the one right thing that thousands
and hundreds of thousands are doing each day
to create a tsunami of change.

So what one right thing will you do?
Will you register voters?
work for a campaign?
write letters?
march in the streets?
Will you pray and will you give your prayers feet?

Will you do one right thing each day
so that together
we turn the ship of history
and point its bow
away
from the evil that threatens to consume us
and toward
the promise of justice?

Will you do one right thing each day
so that I do not feel alone
and your neighbor does not feel alone
and YOU do not feel alone
so that none of us feel powerless
and all of us can lean into the hope
we are growing together
for our shared future ?

Will you do one right thing each day?

 

Changing the World with Words

Say a word. Any word. Something comes to mind.
An image, a feeling, a context…
We hear some words as neutral.
Some words are so loaded that our reactions are visceral.
We reject the concept or feel the sucker-punch in our gut.
And sometimes we feel the expansion of warmth and light in our chest.

Words are one of humanity’s most important tools of communication.
As a person who loves words I like to make them dance and sing, hunch and cry… I like to toss them into the air and watch to see where they land.
I also approach them tentatively, having some sense their power.
And then there are times I forget everything I know about words.

Like when I say the word Godde.
It’s such a loaded word, filled with judgment, fear, joy, love, distaste…
The word ‘Godde’ (and I use it a lot in my profession) is packed with more than issues of gender and hierarchy.
Somehow, my religious/spiritual education eluded the image of the old, white man with a beard sitting on a throne, flinging judgment at humanity.
Instead, to invoke ‘Godde’ with a word takes my breath away. My chest fills with warmth and my heart expands to embrace a Mystery my mind cannot fathom.

The seminal questions becomes: “How do I bridge the divide between the word I speak and the word that is received?”.
I don’t have any answers yet except that I will always need more words to talk about the big words, more words to draw pictures, shape images, invite responses. More words to talk about something that is beyond words. Though perhaps Jewish wisdom is the best response: the name of Godde is unspeakable.
Still, I will keep trying to talk about Godde because when hearts and minds open
to different rhythms and sounds, ideas and images, it can change the world.

Learning from Our Elders or My Momma Is Still Teaching Me

That’s my momma on the right (my daughter is on the left and that’s me in the middle, but this is a story about my mom). She passed away December 20, 2014, a little over four years ago.
The other day a neighbor stopped me and told me a story about her I hadn’t heard before.

A friend  borrowed my mom’s car and it had broken down in the parking lot of the VA. Mom needed to get there with her AAA card for it to be towed. She called our neighbor and asked  if she was doing anything that day and, if not, would she take her to the VA?
Our delightful neighbor said ‘yes’ but in less than a mile her car came to an unexpected stop. Eventually, the neighbor’s  husband arrived to wait for the tow truck and Mom and our friend took off in the husband’s truck.

They drove to the VA, my friend tells me, and drove around the parking lot for nearly a half an hour but couldn’t find mom’s friend or her car. So they call the friend who tells them, “Not that VA” and they take off for another VA and finally meet the tow truck and pass off the card. It’s mid to late afternoon by the time they get home. As my 91 year old mom is getting out of the car in front of our house, she turns and says, “Well, we’ve had an adventure. Just think, if we weren’t doing this you would have been at home not doing anything.” She smiled with a twinkle, or maybe it was a glint, in her eye and said, “Life is an adventure.”

I am so very glad I got to hear that story. It rang true and opened my heart to a flood of memories and to the loving grief and gentle tears that have replaced the anguish of loss.

So today I am packing to go to the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green and I confess to some trepidation. Hope my car will make the drive, hope my budget will survive the expense, hope I won’t be exhausted when I get there, hope I do well, hope I meet nice people, hope… actually, that’s a lot of trepidation.

However, I am girding my loins to lean into my mom’s wisdom. Whatever happens, life is an adventure. If I encounter life without expectation, if I am willing to do just the next thing that needs to be done –  perhaps even with enjoyment – well, then I will be participating in a well-lived life.

I’ve been  an observer of a woman who lived unafraid and with joy. It’s time for me to follow in her footsteps.

Saints and Sinners

I just got back from Saints and Sinners Book Festival (a LGBT subset of the Tennessee Williams Book Festival).

I want to list all the writers who read their works. All the books that piqued my interest. All the poems that pierced my heart. All the laughter that made room for the many and differing ones of us. Suffice it to say I had a wonderful time.

I was affirmed as a writer and accepted as a person of faith. Unlike some gatherings , my faith and call did not relegate me to the kiddie table.

And I met some amazing people. Part of me thinks that being in a place where I could read new work to an attentive audience was the best thing. Part of me thinks that being on panels with other writers (many of whom were best-sellers and have published multiple works) was the best thing. Part of me thinks that my musings about the writing process being received and appreciated as equal to my panel compatriots was the best part… but really, the best part was the people I met and connected with. The best part was taking master classes with Dorothy Allison and Judy Grahn. The best part was the deep conversations about life and writing.

The very best part was being a part of a tribe that welcomed me in, accepted my gifts, and encouraged my growth. And I don’t think my reflection would be complete if I didn’t lament that this is where the institutional church often falls short.

The Rev. Connie Tuttle, author
A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet