Category Archives: resistance

Messy Spirituality

Loving Godde is messy.
I often find that people tend to think that being ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ means being at peace, centered, above hardships when they occur, and being without internal conflicts. My experience is very, very different. I invite you to join me in exploring a kind of relationship with Godde that is large enough to hold your grief, your despair, your doubts, your anger, you hatred, and every feeling that places you off the chart of what is considered spiritual.

Last week I wrote about my hate. Well, that’s certainly not seen as spiritual. But hate is also a spiritual event. How it moves me and focuses me makes it a spiritual event. It places me squarely in the middle of a personal struggle that I want to work out with Godde.
My experience is that being authentic is more important than being what is expected.  If I want a vibrant, engaged relationship with Godde I start where I am. Struggle where I am. Tell the truth to myself and to Godde. Then I’m being spiritual.

I am not being spiritual when I say what people think I should say or believe what people think I should believe. I am not being spiritual when I put a bandaid over a gaping hole in my soul. I am being spiritual when I lay myself down before Godde with all of who I am and with the arrogance of one who knows herself to be well-loved.

I am willing to say things that make people uncomfortable because I am only  ‘spiritual’ when I am my most authentic self.  I am a cussing, passionate, tender, justice-seeker engaged with Godde’s world. Godde meets me there. It’s where we hammer things out. It’s where I am challenged and transformed – even when I dig in my heels and raise my fist. Godde is never absent. When I am as authentic as I can be, when I am present with myself, I am present with Godde.
Join me here. Step off the high dive of your fears. The water is fine. For my Christian friends I would add, splash around in the grace of your baptism. Those waters are a buoy, not an undertow.

Here’s my altar call:
When Godde says ‘do not be afraid’, believe it.
Don’t be afraid to let your spiritual life be rough and tumble at times.
Quiet and centered at times. But mostly and always, authentic.

If you believe that you are a beloved child of Godde,  act like it.

Hope is Not Pretty

Hope is not pretty.
It is not the shine on patent leather shoes
or the flowers on Easter bonnets.
It is not an airy sense of pleasure
in your chest that says
everything will be okay.

Hope is the guttural cry of a people
struggling to rise from despair.
It is the fierce refusal to accept
hatred as the grounding of life.
It is looking into the eyes of  that hatred
with the grace of transparency.
It is the deep, deep longing
to bring about justice.
It  is trembling with fear and
not giving into terror.

Hope makes beautiful
our broken and ugly places,
confers power
challenges despair.
So let us hope
Let us hope passionately.
Let us speak and act
and stand and march
and live into the hope
that calls us to create a just future
out of the rubble of despair.

Do Not Touch My Beloved Child

Things are different now. We live in the age of information technology. We have the visuals, as traumatic as they can be, that connect people who look like me to the immediacy of Black reality.  It is up close and personal and when George Floyd calls out for his mother my mother’s heart
fills with rage
beats with anguish
is crushed by compassion
greater than at any other time.
And that, my friends, doesn’t mean that I felt no rage or anguish or compassion before.
I marched with 20,000 in Forsyth County or with thousands on King day. Nor that I felt no anguish about health systems, economic systems, and justice systems that do not value Black lives.

It has always been an evil to be resisted. Always a place where my heart ached. Always required my actions and words in response.

But when I heard George Floyd call out for his mother I was filled with a power that screamed, “Do not hurt my child!”
That horrific video called for a fight in ways never before plumbed.
It became mine in ways I never before understood.

Before that moment I was committed to struggles for justice. I was willing to put my self on the line from protest marches to confronting racism in conversations and institutions. My values, based on my understanding and experience of Godde, are justice based. I cannot love my neighbor as myself if I do not love you, love your life.

But something changed. A child called out for his mother and I heard it.
And he was my child. Every mother’s child.
And my mother’s heart rages
nestled within the raging mother heart of Godde.

And I am screaming to the world
to the entrenchment of systemic racism
to my neighbors
to my enemies
that every Trayvon Marin
every Anthony Hill
every George Floyd
every Breonna Taylor
who dies at the hands of racists-
is my child, too.
I scream from deep within the raging Mother heart of Godde:
“Do not touch my beloved child!”

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.

Hope Creeps In

When I was a child
hope exploded each Christmas
like a  natal star,
twinkled in the colored lights,
enchanted in carols of joy
Expected
Anticipated
Delivered each Christmas morning
without exception.

But now I am a woman
and have put away childish things.
Now I search for hope
through a glass darkly
and hope sidles into
my faithless heart
refusing to be denied.

I have put away my love of tinsel
of sweets
and excess
and in the darkness of this hour
hope creeps under my door
and offers itself
to my fear
my grief
and my  disillusionment
with the unexpected power
of love.

People who live
in the darkness of our times
can see a great light.
A promise
A new way of being
a challenge to our despair
that evil cannot overcome.

May we accept
Godde’s invitation to hope
in this holy season.
though we only see
its dim reflection
in our busy celebrations.
Hope is seeking us
in the  dark corners
of our deepest need.
.

 

 

*a reflection on Christmas and 1 Cor. 13:11-13 and Isaiah 9:2

 

 

Where is Christmas?

My halls are not decked.
No tree.
No wreath.
A few colorful cookies baked.
Their scent long dispersed.

My heart is heavy with grief
over children in cages.
the destruction of democracy
the rise of white nationalism
knowing that we are not reaching toward
points of connection
but nurturing
chasms of departure.

Families flounder
beneath the burden of gifts
and Amazon sells sneakers
to the haunting tune of Ave Maria.
And I am lost.

But maybe in the asking is the answer.
I will find Christ in a cage
on the streets
in the one who despises
my race or gender
or age or sexuality.
And if I am very fortunate
or very faithful
or both
I will find Christ in those I despise
because this year I cannot find Christmas
in the shops
or the sweets
or the carols
or a rosy faced baby.

So please, Godde, let me find Christ
somewhere with in me
Let me find Christ
somewhere in every person I encounter.
Let me look for Christ in unexpected places
even in my unadorned home
and in the dark corners of my hopelessness
and in the promise I cannot grasp.

Let me find Christ
so that I might rest a moment from my despair
and live into the hope
I am so desperately seeking.