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Lent Diary: The Mundane, A Holy Awareness, Our body, and Jesus

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My first Lenten post is here.

These are the indiscriminate observations from days one and two. 

Often, I allow dailiness of life to flood in, the tyranny of the urgent family agenda turning me half brain-dead.  Just do the next thing, if grumpily.

In The Sign of Jonas, Merton says:

 “I ought to know, by now, that God uses everything that happens as means to lead me into solitude. Every creature that enters my life, every instant of my days, will be designed to wound me with the realization of the world’s insufficiency, until I become so detached that I will be able to find God alone in everything. Only then will all things bring me joy.”

1. I SAW MY SHRINK.

The last time I saw her, a month ago, I was so down that she expressed concern. Meanwhile, until late last week I couldn’t even pick up the phone to set up an appointment. Yesterday I was floating; my brain was uncluttered and clear.  I was articulate and full of a strong sense of myself. I had a little extra energy and my spirits weren’t clouded by anxiety and depression. Is this a result of the medication change? I have no idea.

I often get an emotional bump from HOPE.  I have seen this time and again over the years.  There were so many incredible observations with my shrink.  I left knowing that I wanted to write them down the got stuck in the snow filled parking lot at Pier 1.  By the time I was out of that mess, I didn’t want to see if they had a round table-cloth and in a fit of anger huffily drove home.

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2. THE MUNDANE.

My days at home are full of the mundane.  Every keeper of a home knows that most things are never finished.  The laundry is never done.  Bathrooms always need cleaning.  The kitchen needs sweeping or wet mopping.  You wash the dishes so that you can have room to cook dinner and do it all over again. That’s why I love snow blowing or mowing depending on the season.  Jobs that make me feel good—it is finished.

When I got home, I plowed out two driveways (we borrow from a neighbor and it was my turn).  My car got stuck again, this time in an icy snow patch in the street in front of my house. I lost almost an hour trying to get myself out and then the generous city employer helped.

Sadly, I blew out my shoulders doing that, more stupid than sad. I’ve had weak shoulders for twenty years.  If they get inflamed, they burn and ache all day long, with one special place that I have come to fondly call The Rod. I had to lie immobile or sit for the rest of the afternoon.

3. TIME COUNTS.

Rather than take advantage of the downtime, to read or study or write, I nosed about on Twitter and Instagram, alternating. I do read linked articles but reading on my phone gives me squinting, tired eyes. And my (self-diagnosed) ADD makes it so that I have eighty things open at once. I follow too many writers.  I don’t finish things. I’m twittering away my life – pun intended.

4. AWARENESS

Regular readers know that I appreciate the writer, international teacher and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister. She has written more than 30 books including The Liturgical Year.  In chapter 17 titled Lent: A Symphony in Three Parts she says:

“Having conquered our impulses for the immediate, having tamed our desires for the physical, perhaps we will be able to bring ourselves to rise above the GREED that consumes us. Maybe we will be able to control the ANGER that is a veil between us and the face of God. Perhaps we will have a reason now to forswear the PRIDE that is a barrier to growth. Possibly we will learn to forswear the LUST that denies us the freeing grace of simplicity. Maybe we will even find the energy to fight the SLOTH that deters us from making spiritual progress, the GLUTTONY that ties us to our bellies, and the ENVY that makes it impossible for us to be joyful givers of the life we have been given.

Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world.” (pp. 113)

5. RISE ABOVE.

“There is no way under the sun to make a man worthy of love except by loving him. As soon as he realizes himself loved–if he is not so weak that he can no longer bear to be loved–he will feel himself instantly becoming worthy of love. He will respond by drawing a mysterious spiritual value out of his own depths, a new identity called into being by the love that is addressed to him.” — from “The Power and Meaning of Love” Merton

I’m conscious today of how easily I resent people, especially social circles where I may be forgotten; as much as I am embarrassed1-DSC_0036 by those “high school” type feelings, don’t we all simply want connection? Social media feeds that anger and pride and envy in me.

I’m not sure what kind of distinction I dream about for my writing, nothing specific.  As I said my goals are unclear.  There’s a chance that I’ll need to go to work outside the home. This came up late last week. And this shook me.  I became frustratingly aware of what I had to lose.  These twelve years of privilege, I do not have to work for money.  I saw my writing life suddenly threatened and had to ask myself how badly I want this.  Do I want it enough to get up early or stay up late for it; to sacrifice evenings or weekends to write if I had to work a 9-5 job? Right now my writing is very one offish. I respond to requests, take very little risks, never query, don’t have a writing group, don’t ask others to edit (except Tom.)  Haven’t taken further classes to improve. How serious am I?  I think I am but I haven’t been behaving that way. If I want to write for certain publications then I have to query and write and send.  As if I’m going to be “discovered” sitting here in my den, in Wisconsin.

I am my own worst enemy. Recently, a writer who blogs on Patheos.com asked me if I’d like her to check into their interest in my writing for them.  I’m the one that put the question out there but when she took the bait I got scared.  I haven’t written her to say one way or another.  I’m afraid.

“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of which we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.” ― Parker J. Palmer

6. MY BODY.

Another Lenten awareness is that I’m eating an Orthodox fast for Lent, this is my first time.  That means no meat (except fish), no dairy or things made of fat from animals.  (Additionally no white sugar because why not?  It’s a brain drain I learned yesterday.) I don’t eat gluten but I’ve cheated on that.  I’m eager to return to the discipline of no wheat, to be honest gluten makes me depressed, foggy headed, and lethargic. At first, I was sure I’d feel deprived.  So far I’m not that hungry.  I’m aware of a cleansing of body and spirit.  I look forward to other observations.

From Isaiah: “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

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7. MY SPIRIT.

I’m reading the four Gospels through over the forty days of lent. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus and that is what I want to know more about.  I think my (lack of) prayer life would be changed by truly knowing Jesus.  Prayer is communication in a relationship after all.

“Everyone was trying to touch him because the power came out of him that cured their ills.” Luke 6:19-26

I’ve got some ills that need curing.

8. SO FAR.

On this path of slowing down for Lent, so far I’ve seen I’m terrible at it. I’m self-consciously aware that I read my Twitter feed all day long. I dive quickly into FB and out again, because FB makes me feel bad. I post images on Instagram and wonder why I am not liked.  I want to sort out why does social media like Facebook make me feel bad about myself? I need to sit with my discomfort. Face it.  Own it.  Get over it. Do I think I’m a worthwhile person? Do I think I’m a worthwhile writer or photographer? Why seek other’s validation?

The word AWARENESS is sticking with me, nudging and prodding in all the right places.

I read these words somewhere today and jotted them in the front of my prayer-book.

Desire God, make space for God, and remember God does all the work.

Amen.

What about you? What practice are you taking on for Lent.  What are you observing as you slow down your days? (One day thus far.)  You don’t have to tell me here, just something to be thinking about.

{Do I see, hear, or know the least of these? Do I know Jesus? (and an apology to white men)}

For several days I’ve been trying to figure something out. Why did it hurt so much?

I like to ask questions and throw things out on Facebook, sometimes (many times) that I don’t even think through carefully. I’m something of a rabble-rouser. I sometimes even take pride in it, thinking it’s my “special gift” to provoke others.

Why did it hurt each time I read her words?  And I did read them, over and over, again and again.  I thought about it all weekend.  Even becoming grumpy, bothered, then deeply troubled as my stomach lurched and tears sprang to my eyes, after days there was still, so much pain. And I have come to know what this means — linger here.  Deeply, scrupulously sit with this, discover what it is.

I am mouthy, petulant and troublesome, even stupid at times, on Facebook. This is what I said:

“I’ve long wondered why it doesn’t occur to white men that they are so privileged, but as Julie Clawson says if you don’t get that you are a part of the problem. It’s not tokenism rather catching up to the world, where women and non-white are your equals and simply want the opportunities to represent themselves.  In a WHITE and in a MALE dominated culture.” 

Okay (in retrospect) that was arrogant and whiny. (Perhaps I really do need to give up Facebook.  It feeds all the wrong parts of me.)

Then my old  and dear friend, she challenged me. I quote the entire conversation because it matters to me.  Here is exactly what she said (Emphasis is mine):

I wonder Mel if in the logic of what you are saying in your statement whether it cannot be applied to anyone who has any privilege in any part of the world. And I do mean that literally within the logic of your statement. It is known as systemic sin and it can be applied in other ways…I wonder why people who earn over $20,000 a year, or I wonder why persons who were able to go to college, or I wonder why people who have running water in their homes and carry through the logic. I think you are able to speak in these ways because you are part of a white and economically dominant culture so then you are in a similar situation to the people you are accusing.

I am not saying therefore change cannot be brought about. I am saying we all live in power dominated systems. It is what Scripture means when it talks about principalities and powers, and we ALL have our blind spots where we don’t see our privilege and we don’t see our power orientation and we don’t see that we don’t see. I do see that the Gospel calls us to a different way – of being the servant in love. I find it fascinating that Jesus was among an oppressed people, the memory of about 2000 Jews having been hung on crosses at one time within the living memory of people alive at Jesus time,

the fact that the centurions came out at Passover in huge numbers because Rome knew what Passover celebrated,

the fact that Jesus told them don’t just walk one mile, walk two…what is that about…it is about

the fact that by law a centurion could require you to carry all his gear for a certain length of his journey,

the fact that Paul didn’t free the slaves but gave alternate teaching…

So even those who do get it who have a household of over $20,000 a year, or a University/college education, or have water running through pipes to their homes are still part of systemic inequality how often do YOU, do I not get it when we eat an ice cream when that money could have gone to digging wells etcetera….

I am not saying stop seeking to bring about change but let’s recognize we white women are parts of a fallen world too…

And then ask ourselves what concretely does it mean to be a servant in love to those whose lives we can impact concretely … Why does Jesus define His kingdom in the manner he separates the sheep from the goats…

Me: So, what then? Certainly yes, white women are born into a world of privilege and opportunity and we too should look for ways to give up our power. I suppose I just assumed this was understood.

She said: But why do you assume it was understood, when you constantly are commenting about white men…

Me: I never/rarely say “white” men, but it must be implied. Your “constantly” gives me pause perhaps I just talk too much.  I don’t mean “white” when I talk about men. We all have our lens through which we process obviously.

And that was the line that cut so deep …

when you constantly are commenting about white men…” 

You see I don’t want to be known for that, for constantly commenting and complaining about white men.  Even if I do feel a challenge to speak on issues of women in the church, as I do, I do not want to be known for that.  That feels wrong.

That is wrong. 

To my friends who I have offended or verbally accosted, white men mostly I ask you to forgive me if you can.  

[Friends, I hope you will bear with me, I think you will be glad that you read to the end.]

And not having read about the sheep and the goats and not remembering the story at all (apologies to all my Sunday School teachers) today, it’s still bothering, even nagging at me. So I read the account from Matthew 25:31-46 of the Sheep and the Goats (again emphasis mine):

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”

Whatever you did for the least of these …

I have so much it’s sick.  I am rich.  I am white.  I am educated and privileged.  I have every opportunity and I have every responsibility to see and to do something. 

And most days, other than that, if I am not going to do that I think I just need to shut up. Yes, I write.  And I may have “things to say.” But I was struck to my core, shattered, stunned with the conviction that this is the core message so many of us (me, I am missing) are missing.

Do I see, do I hear, do I know the least of these? Do I know Jesus?

Thanks to a dear friend, who loved me enough to challenge me, I may never (I hope) be the same.  This is one of those serendipitous and life altering moments.  I have a choice — to see Jesus, to invite Jesus in, to clothe Jesus, to care for and heal Jesus.  I have a choice to know him.

The question remains what that looks like with my hands and feet.  I remain open for that.

I am so grateful.

What’s changing, so that I can be writing!

This is such a busy time for folks with kids.  We are living the last month or so of school and for whatever reason my kids seem to teeter on the brink of things this year academically, spiritually, emotionally — this has been a challenging and demanding year.  With summer looming, there will be any opportunities to stick our feet in the river and less time to write.

I am thinking about that tension.

I’m starting to work more seriously on writing projects. As I listened hard at the Festival of Faith & Writing  and looked at my writing life and habits, I realize that I need to cut back on some things before I can ever dream of space to write every day.  (I know I have a lot to tell you about that experience, the festival.  We’ve been back a week and there’s been no time!)

Projects that I’m working on:

I am working on a book review of the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer for The Englewood Review of Books and hope to do more of those, both for Englewood and other publications.

I continue to write for Provoketive magazine:  This included a review of  the book Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson, a piece titled The Accidental Stay-At-Home Mom and others, but by far the most popular essay was The Voice of the Feminine.  That content is not repeated here on my blog  so you will have to pop over to there to read it.  I hope you will.

I am working on a short series of articles on “The F word and the Church.” (Yeah, that F word: feminist.)

I am really excited to hear that I will have some poem in a book about fear titled Not Afraid to be published around August, 2012 by Civitas Press.  (This is the same press that published my essay on Depression in their book Not Alone which is available now. If you know someone who suffers from depression this book may help.  I have been told by many people that it has been a good, honest resource.  I also have many pieces on my blog about my personal trials with the black dog of depression.  They are collected here. )

What I want to change:

One thing that I find to be soul crushing and destructive for me is Facebook.  Being at-home with such great flexibility to my schedule  I see that I allow many things to interfere with the “work” of writing and with spiritual growth.  Facebook is such a time waster for me.  I’m inherently curious, nosy kind of person and the fact that I can vicariously follow along other’s lives is bad for me.  That’s where the soul crushing part comes in.   It’s like high school insecurity all over again.  So I’ve been tempted to quit completely.

Image by JJ Pacres on Flickr

But at the Festival of Faith & Writing I heard over and over that writers must have online presence and following.  We have to nurture that and  be able to “prove” our popularity to a publisher.   But the flip side of that is that it is just not good for me!

If I don’t have time

to think,

to be,

to write and

to allow the Holy One to mold and move me (not really in that order.)

So I’m backing off of social media  for a season — except here.  I’m really going to try to do this moderately.  When I got hooked on Farmville (of all things — proves I can get addicted to anything!) I had to quit cold turkey and I did.  I don’t want to do that with Facebook because I don’t like being an all or nothing person.  But I’m going to try to limit my time there.  And set some writing goals for the next few months.  I look forward to sharing those with you.

Another thing that I learned at the festival was that I need to hone the purpose of my blog.  Mine has multiple messages and intents.  I have been known to write about:

  1. family (dysfunctional and otherwise.)
  2. God and devotion, faith and (dis)belief
  3. women in the church, feminism as a Christian’s option
  4. various justice issues
  5. my alcoholism and addictions
  6. my church – Blackhawk Evangelical Church
  7. poetry on all these topics
  8. prose on all these topics

Is there anything in particular that you come here to read?  Where do you see my passions and strengths converging in helpful ways?  Would you add more of anything?

Grace & Peace. Melody

To Lent or not to Lent, that is the Question

Twitter
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After spending the evening watching the Grammys and tweeting my snarky thoughts, last night my dreams were in Tweet format.  Needless to say it was a long night. And when I woke this morning I was more than a little disturbed by it.

I got to thinking about technology’s power in my life.

Earlier this week, I read an article by Albert Borgmann on the subject of Taming Technology. For Borgmann, philosophy is a way of taking up the questions that live at the center of everyday life — questions that are urgent but often inarticulate. The philosophy of technology, which has been the principal focus of his work since the mid-1970s, is about bringing to light and calling into question the technological shape and character of everyday life.  How do we gather technological devices together into the good life?  How does technology shape a way of life?  It is an interesting article.  You should read it.

Lent is coming.

For Christians, the 40 days (plus Sundays) of Lent — the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday — is a time for reflection, renewal, and rededication.

But Lent has been a part of the Church life from the 2d Century on, and it’s a discipline and a season worthy of the entire Church. What is Lent? Essentially it is a time of preparation. As during Advent we prepare to celebrate the Advent of our Lord, so during Lent we prepare to enter in and participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is a time for us to recollect our minds and hearts toward the saving events of our faith. The Church Calendar is designed to keep our lives connected week by week to the life of Jesus. — Scot McKnight

I’ve written about Lent before and have some links below. Many Christians don’t participate in Lent or take it lightly; perhaps giving up chocolate or caffeine as way of depriving ourselves.  But  Julie Clawson author of Everyday Justice and blogger at One Hand Clapping says about this most misunderstood event: “Lent isn’t about denial, it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves. ”  (Emphasis mine.)  I could not agree more.

In preparing for Lent, I sometimes ask myself:

  • Is there a habit (or even a sin) in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of my loving God or loving others?  Ask God to get a hold of that habit over the next 40 days and help you have the discipline to give it to him, forever. 
  • Is there any one in my life with whom I need to pursue forgiveness or reconciliation?  This may take longer than Lent.  Here is a poem that I wrote during a time of profound grieving, knowing that I had done and said something that I thought was unforgivable. It’s titled  Longing for Mercy.  Ask God to begin to work in you and in the other person to ready you both for reconciliation in God’s perfect timing. 
  • What am I willing to give up to carve out extra time for daily contemplation and listening for the season of Lent?  
  • Lent begins  next week, on Ash Wednesday, leaving time to ask God to show you what you need to stop doing to have more time with him.  

I’m seriously considering letting go of Facebook for Lent.  It often makes me anxious and confused and I wonder about its power over my mind and heart.  Could I just let it fly away into the abyss  of cyberspace for forty days and see what other more meaningful things I can fill it up with?  I don’t know yet.

A Pastoral Word from Dr. Mark D. Roberts:

Let me note, at this point, that if you think of Lent as a season to earn God’s favor by your good intentions or good works, then you’ve got a theological problem. God’s grace has been fully given to us in Christ. We can’t earn more of it by doing extra things or by giving up certain other things in fasting. If you see Lent as a time to make yourself more worthy for celebrating Good Friday and Easter, then perhaps you shouldn’t keep the season until you’ve grown in your understanding of grace. If, on the contrary, you see Lent as a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace, then you’re approaching Lent from a proper perspective.

 This is a good reminder.  What about you?  Do you take part in Lent and if so how has this been a powerful event in your life? Or not?

MH

A clear and powerful description of Lent  by Dr. Mark D. Roberts , Senior Adviser and Theologian in Residence of Foundations for Laity Renewal, in the Hill Country of Texas outside of San Antonio.

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Other things I’ve written on Lent:

Though Mayest in Me Behold

A prayer for Lent

Lenton Series: Winter Slowly Receeds

Lenton Series: If you Were Homeless


finding the dead on facebook

So I got to thinking the other day, how I wish I could find my dad on Facebook or some other social media outlet.   An odd, really weird thought I’ll admit, since he died years ago of brain cancer.   Before the cancer stole his mind, he was a complex and interesting person.  Sometimes he could be one of the kindest people you could know.  He knew how to encourage and loved to compliment a person, telling you what he liked about you.

But when the rage came over him, somehow he ‘forgot’ he loved you and that he wanted the best for you, and he’d yell, chide and berate.  Castigate.  Criticize.  Condemn.  It is difficult to explain how it happened — starting from nowhere and becoming a living hell — if you didn’t experience it.  He could and would utterly demoralize a person.

Still, he was my father.  And, I miss him.   I think?  As I think I possibly do actually miss him the old fear returns.  The dull panicky stomach ache.

My life is so much better without him.  And I wonder if all my siblings feel that way?

So, I am not so naïve as to believe that we shouldn’t have any difficult people in our lives.  I know that my response to my father makes me the person I am today. They shape and form us.  But pain is pain.  And I was particularly shattered by my father’s treatment.  Perhaps it was my temperament and sensitivities.  Again, a conversation I’d like to have some day with my siblings is who we are and who we might have been as it relates to him.

Do you have someone in your life that you love, but you know that you would be better off without them in your life?  (Not necessarily dead, of course.)


We are Half the Church

Weyden, Rogier van der - Descent from the Cros...
Image via Wikipedia

Cartoons are blaring.  My son is home sick with a high fever and sore throat. (Strep likely.  We’ll know later today.)

I sit perched on the edge of my chair here in front of the computer, because my cat Jaz is comfortably lounging on 2/3rd of the seat and today I don’t have the heart to push her off.  She was here first.

I keep trying to gather my thoughts.  I hear myself sigh deeply and knowing that I haven’t gotten up early all week for my usual alone time with the Word, and God, the lack is weighing heavily.

I know that what I really need in this moment is — time — alone —  to — think.  Time for contemplation.

Not time on Facebook or time while I do last night’s dishes, or throw another load in the dryer and washer, or pick up the endless toys, socks, books and dog toys for the millionth time.  Not time driving my son to the doctor.  Not time like that. 

Quiet — undivided — time.

How often do we really find this kind of time? I cannot underscore how important solitary, thinking time is for me.  It helps me be less impulsive.  It centers me.  It makes the anxiety, and anger, and disappointments of life fade away and my priorities sift and sort themselves.  And when I read on FB about all the things that are “on your mind” I am more circumspect, which is good.

Considering all this — I think I should not write this post. But I don’t always listen to myself.

This is something I have thought about all week.  When it all first occurred I definitely tried to ignore it.  I kept thinking how obsessive I was clearly being.  I kept telling myself I was ridiculous.  Absurd.  Unreasonable.  Perhaps even obsessive, fanatic or narrow-minded.  Plum crazy, as my southern grandpa used to say.  I tried to ignore it.

Finally it hit me that this not going away.  So even if I’m deemed crazy, this is what happened.

My observation: I did not see one woman involved in leading worship or on the platform in any capacity on Sunday. I’ve been thinking about the lack of presence of women in my church.  And in the Church.  On Sunday, we were simply spectators.  On lookers.  Witnesses.  Receivers.  Beneficiaries.

  • Furthermore, I cannot remember the last time one of the teaching pastors suggested a book they were reading written by a woman.
  • They never quote women or talk about female scholars, probably because they never read female scholars.
  • To be honest I can’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor has suggested or referred to even in passing, or quoted a female theologian, religious author, or historian.

On Sunday, because I my senses were heightened, I even noticed that all the artists highlighted were male, who painted illustration of Jesus on the Cross.  If it were only Michelangelo (he’s a genius) mentioned, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  But he (my pastor) put four or five paintings up on the screen all painted by men.  (I know, I know, that’s picky right!?)  Of course I don’t know enough about art history to know whether there were any female artists who have illustrated Christ on the Cross.  I suppose it would take an art historian to find them, because a quick google search by me of Michelangelo’s time was unproductive.  So I’m not suggesting that he (my pastor) should have been able to find them.  And even if women were painting, they would not be well-known or easy to find.    But search for more modern artists perhaps?  I’m just saying, we are half the church.  That one point is less important, but the entire thing just made me very SAD.  And tired.

' The Dead Christ Mourned - the Three Maries'
Artist: Annibale Carracci Date: 1603

I am tired of not seeing or hearing from women. Tired of the male dominated culture on the platforms and in the Church at large.

Considering women are half the church I can’t even buy into the argument that there aren’t any to select from, because I’ve been told that very thing.  “The women haven’t risen up who have “the gift” of teaching.”)  I say, risen up? Not surprising to me in a church with few examples and where there are (still only) male Elders.  And where it is clear that this isn’t changing any — time — soon.   Besides, it is the rare person who is naturally comfortable with upfront or worship leadership.  Many people, male or female but especially female, won’t put themselves forward out of self-doubt, or humility or a combination.   I think it is even more likely that there are gifted, wise articulate women who may not be comfortable yet, but have natural instincts and can to be taught, mentored.  Who knows?. Will we ever know, if they are not given the opportunity?

To rarely see or hear a woman’s voice in authority or otherwise hurts me and my faith and my journey with Christ.  Christ accepts women.  He took risks for women.  He listened to women.  He was the most radical figure of reconciliation and grace in the lives of women!  IF only the church modelled their behavior after Jesus.

My experience this Sunday diminished my ability to receive fully from the worship experience.   That said it was still was an incredible time.  And God continues to speak to me.  Perhaps God was saying to me exactly what I heard.  I have to confess that I do not want my (feminist*) radar to always go off at church.  It is distracting and painful.  And I have considered asking God to take it away, shut it up, or get me out of there …  But I don’t think he would and I do think that I am in the exact right place for now.  As long as I can openly “think” here and have a few people in my life that I can express the pain and rancor to, I’ll survive.

For now,

Mel

Feminism to me is the crazy belief that men and woman are both human

and deserve the same life, freedom and opportunities

inside and outside the Church.

On Complaining & Criticizing

[respect]

“Complaining is epidemic in our world”

Yep, that is pretty much the way to communicate these days. Some call it critique (I have) but it is pretty much bad news.  And a bad example.   And it’s gotten so out of hand with one of my kids that I just snapped recently.  “Not another word!” I found myself screaming.  I totally understand the old adage which I heard from my father “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”  And when he was mad, just “Shut up” in Tibetan so no one else would know what he was saying.

So I’m trying to lead by example and not complain about anything or criticize anyone, or gossip, for 21 days, which is how long it takes to form a habit apparently.

They offer purple bracelets (you can get free on their website) but I have stuck with a rubber band.  Wear it on a wrist and switch it to the other wrist when you catch yourself expressing a complaint, gossiping or criticizing.  And begin again.  I started on Sunday and I haven’t made it through a day, yet.  But I am über conscious of my thoughts and have struggled to not express a lot of complaints, criticism or gossip.  The idea is by changing your words you change your thoughts — a constant striving to reformat your mental hard drive.  By doing that you change your heart and your life.

And I think Jesus would agree.  He talks a lot about kindness, speaking kindly to one another, not slandering one another, not calling names.  In Matt 5.22:

Whoever says to his brother raca will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says “you fool” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. NIV

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,* you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult*[Greek say Raca to an obscure term of abuse] a brother or sister,* you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell* of fire. NRSV

Whoah!  Bottom line beyond our words:  “Be kind.”  Watch our tongues, stop putting others down, or gossiping.  Perhaps I’m just on about this because I have two middle-schoolers and they are often catty and snarky and I find myself also guilty.  It’s such a common part of our culture that we don’t even realize it, often.

So, build into your life a practice of treating others with respect, giving people the benefit of the doubt, stopping your tongue, and be kind!

This could easily become a fix-it gimmick, but if you look at this in spiritual terms I believe it could change you forever.  Irrevocably.

Speaking positively about others is a simple thing, but it is so hard to do.  Trust me, I shout out loud at the “idiots” on the road. I talk about people who I don’t understand (e.g. gossip).  I called the Governor of Wisconsin a bad name yesterday.  When you have kids all of a sudden you have a mirror in front of you or in the case of yelling obscenities at the dog-sh*t on the floor, you have a tape recorder in the memory of your children.  Yikes!

Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms:   Shut Your Mouth!   Don’t be a fool.   Be kind.

Listen to him and I believe it will change you.

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[“Ephphatha” Be opened] First in a series on responding to Jesus’ words

A Complaint Free World: How to Stop complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen.

On Facebook.

I quit Facebook. Let’s just say it’s complicated.

I recently quit Facebook.  And then came back.  There’s a lot behind the decision. Let’s just say it’s complicated.

As we create a persona on Facebook, picking and choosing what we want people know about us, there is an air of the dramatic to it — don’t you think? This may be only a partly accurate reflection of who we are.  I am definitely not nearly as witty or intelligent as my FB persona.   I just communicate differently in writing than in person.  There’s a confidence (for me) online that isn’t there in many daily relationships.

I can say truthfully that I have made friends online whom I have never met face-to-face.  And I have serious and valuable conversations with people who are not in my day-to-day life.  And so often, things are said that a person might never have said to their face.

Is any of it real?  The short answer is of course it is.  I genuinely believe that it is every bit as real but it cannot ever replace the deep friendships that develop in face-to-face relationships.  The human touch, perhaps a hand gripping yours as you cry or even a smile cannot be felt in online connections.

In the end, I suppose I was tipping too far in one direction. Not spending enough time with flesh and blood friends.

Another reason I quit Facebook

was that I found myself caught.  For me, the world is a cacophony of need, pain and sorrow in a way that clouds my ability to stay focused on the positive at times.  When I read the New York Times or blogs I am so often left bereft and I too easily forget the hope that I have been given.  And FB is a daily reminder of all the need in the world, at least for me — a reminder of how different we all are — A polarization between liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, hungry and fed, educated and uneducated, creative and not so creative, the homeless and those with homes, Christ-followers and atheists and Hindus and Buddhists.  Funny people and people with no funny bone, at all.

I could go on and on.

Any time one expresses themselves, it is an opportunity for people to “let it rip” in a most ungenerous way.  And even when the ‘conversations’ are civilized, I am left with a feeling that this dialogue doesn’t do anything except underline our differences.  I do not believe we will ever convince one another in a different direction over the internet or with the written word.  I just don’t believe it will happen.  Debate, discussion and healthy disagreements can only happen face-to-face.

And so, I decided I had to stop expressing my viewpoints on important matters on Facebook.  It’s unproductive and divisive.  But quitting wasn’t the answer either.

“A real spiritual life makes us so alert and aware of the world around us, that all that is and happens becomes a part of our contemplation and meditation and invites us to a free and fearless response.  It is this alertness in solitude that can change our life indeed.  It makes all the difference in the world how we look at and relate to our own history through which the world speaks to us.”    Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen.

And so, I think I will continue but I will try to not be such a serious person [on Facebook.]

I will only raise issue of importance to me on my blog where I can at least put some time and thought behind it.  And in an effort to be connected I will do more of that — connect.

I will be more intentional about knowing and loving others both online and off.  What about you?