Thursday, February 16, 2017

Good-bye Grandpa Bud

This is my Grandpa Bud, he also goes by Popo but that's what my nieces and nephews call him. To me, he's Grandpa Bud. He became my grandpa when I was about 5. I thought he was one  of the most handsome men I'd ever met. He looked like a movie star to me, I thought he was the spitting image of Clark Gable (I'm not sure how or why I knew who Clark Gable was but I did). He was also one of the kindest men I had ever met. I loved him immediately and took great pride when he named me Pistol.

I loved going out to the farm and spending the night because it meant that if I woke up early enough, it would be just me and Grandpa Bud sitting at the table together while he drank his coffee. I don't remember what we talked about but I do remember the ways his eyes sparkled and that I felt completely safe in his presence.

Grandpa Bud introduced me to the simple pleasures of buttered crackers dipped in milk, bread dipped in milk, and my favorite as a child, sugar sandwiches--bread spread with butter and cinnamon sugar (or just plain sugar) sprinkled on top.

I learned about cows, separating cream from the milk, and playing UNO from Grandpa Bud. I also learned a lot about love and generosity.

Several years ago we had a falling out. One of Grandpa Bud's grandsons had molested one of my nephews. Grandpa Bud was angry that my sister had called the police and reported it. It was a tremendous divide. Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie said some awful things to my sister and so I simply stopped talking with them and pretty much everyone on that side of the family. I was crazy angry and rightfully so. I supported my sister and nephew 100%, I still do. What happened to him was wrong and my cousin needed to get help and accountability, he wasn't getting it from the family, she had to call the police.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about Grandpa Bud as he died on Valentine's Day. Before I couldn't understand how he came down on the side of my cousin instead of my nephew. I'm not sure that I completely do now but I think I'm a little closer to it. Grandpa Bud was kind and loving, he saw the best in people. He saw the best in my cousin. My cousin had had it rough as a child, without a doubt. Grandpa Bud wanted to protect him and keep him safe. I think he was also in denial and minimized what had happened because it didn't fit in his picture of who my cousin was. The thing that is sad to me, is that my sister called the police not out of anger but out of concern for our cousin getting the help he needed because we saw that if we didn't nothing else was going to happen and he'd probably end up repeating it and hurting other children and possibly going to jail for a very long time. I wish Grandpa Bud could have seen and known that rather than only protecting our cousin. I wish he would have been able to support and show love to my sister and nephew they way he did for our cousin.

As the years passed, there has been more interaction with Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie. We never spoke of it but Grandpa Bud's eyes still sparkled with love and kindness. His laughter continued to bring joy to those who were blessed to hear it. I think each of us experienced a bit of forgiveness. I hope so anyway.

My heart broke when I heard the news. I hadn't cried so hard in a long time. I'm thankful that in the past few years I got to see and talk and laugh with him again. I am blessed that I saw my sister laugh and talk with him again so that I could too. I'm thankful that while I'll never forget I have forgiven. I think I may even understand a little bit, I still wish it would have been different but I understand better.

I'm thankful that Grandpa Bud can breathe deeply again, that he is without pain. I can see him fishing in his overalls, having a smoke with that big beautiful smile on his face and winking good-bye.

I love you Grandpa Bud. Thank you for making me feel safe and special.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Falling in love

I've fallen head over heels for the United Church of Christ.


Throughout seminary my friend Rick and I joked about carpooling from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis so we could attend Eden Seminary in St. Louis, MO. We knew the UCC had/has an intense commitment to social justice that surpassed that of the United Methodist Church.  Yet we stayed put in Kansas City and graduated from Saint Paul School of Theology. I loved my time at SPST. I made life long friendships with both students and professors. I learned a lot there. At SPST I fell in love with Feminist, Womanist, Mujerista, and Process theologies. My mind and heart expanded in love and yearning to co-create a better world.

In my pursuit of ordination in the United Methodist Church it was suggested that I hide my love for these theologies. I refused. I fought against the male conservative system in the Missouri Conference.

When we moved back to Colorado and attended my husband's family church, Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs, I heard the words "No matter who you are or where you are on  life's journey, you are welcome here." Rainbow letters decorated their phamplets and they spoke about helping immigrants at the borders.

Then I attended Vista Grande Community Congregational Church. My first Sunday there, a beautiful woman was having a renaming ceremony. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing as her mother, children, family, friends, and church surrounded her with love reminding her that no matter what she is a beloved child of God, whether man or woman.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Congregations Alive, a UCC conference to build up UCC congregations, coming together for learning and fellowship. I must have walked around with my jaw dragging on the floor. The gathering was small compared to the UMC gatherings I'm used to and people were openly talking politics!  They were openly discussing how Jesus' mandates and messages stood counter to things going on in our government!

I love the UCC's embrace of people living on the margins of life, people who are on the margins of the church. I love how they are not afraid to hide the light of Christ's words when they are in opposition to the ways of the world. I love how you can be you in the UCC. I love that they absolutely mean it when they say "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

I'm excited about what is next on my journey in the UCC!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Triggered

I've been a hot mess all weekend.

Realistically, I've been a hot mess since Drumpf won the Republican nomination. I've had highs and lows. This past week has been terrible though. I feel like I'm cycling between depression, anger, anxiety, and fear with a little bit of hope and activism thrown in for good measure.

As I was trying to calm down this morning and prepare for my day I realized that I am triggered. I feel out of control because my PTSD has been triggered and has likely been triggered for months now but has hit a very high level.

In therapy I've learned to look for common threads in my trauma (for me they are like Lays chips--can't have just one). Most of my trauma is related to different but similar white men. White men who have power over me; they are men who believe they are always right and have the power to do or take whatever they want no matter what. Sound familiar? They are white men who claim the title of Christian but act in ways counter to Jesus's life. They are white men whose egos are larger than life and believe that no one else really matters, only them and how the world bows and bends to them. When the world is not bowing and bending they will manipulate and/or take by force, when you resist they lash out with great vengeance. This is who I see as the POTUS.

No wonder I've been a hot mess!  My old wounds have been split open and are bleeding all over me. So here I am, hoping that by sharing this I can begin to stop the bleeding. I've called my therapist and will see her soon. I've talked with my wonderful and supportive husband. Now, I've shared it with you. I'll get myself together after I publish this post and head to work. Instead of a lunch break I'll go to the gym and physically work out my grief and pain. I'm not sure what's next, I'm sure my therapist will have some good ideas.

Thanks for listening/reading. If you too are triggered talk to someone, get some help. It's going to be a long four years and we need to be strong for the resistance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

As I was driving home from preaching last Sunday, I was greeted by these adorable alpacas. I had seen then on my drive to the church but they were far off in the distance and looked like specs in the photo.  I was thrilled when driving home, there they were up close. Of course I pulled over to snap some pictures. I didn't get out since I don't know much about alpacas and their demeanor, plus I didn't have permission to pet them from their owners. I just sat in my car and spoke to them at the fence. Their adorable fuzzy faces have brought me joy throughout the week. I'd like to link some deep theology to this post but I'm not going to, it's just a happy post. May these adorable alpacas make you smile like they did me.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Beloved

Matthew 3.13-17
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Today we find ourselves with John who is just a wee bit strange, prophets in the bible nearly always are. Between John’s hair shirt, diet of bugs, and rudely calling people names, I find it amazing that there were folks waiting to be baptized by him, lots of them.

John stormed against the hypocrisy and injustices of his world and called from the wilderness for people to come and repent, to turn away from injustice and embrace God’s justice. John’s baptism invited people to come and confess their wrongs and to dedicate their lives to living according to God’s ways. John’s baptism was about transformation, going into the waters as one type of person and emerging as someone new and different, someone transformed.

And this is where Jesus speaks his first words in the gospel of Matthew. We meet adult Jesus with John at the Jordan River. John seems to be in shock, protesting that he should be baptized by Jesus. Yet, Jesus’ first words are “Let it be so now.” Let it be so, let it happen, baptize me, this is what needs to be done and this is how it is to be done. Jesus says this is what needs to happen “to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus does not separate himself from us; he did not separate himself from John and all of the people waiting to be baptized at the Jordan. Jesus does not hold himself apart.

We just celebrated Christmas in which God chose to reveal God’s self to us through the incarnation—through flesh and blood, through the mess of a manger and birth. Why on earth, would God stop there?
Jesus’ toes squished in the mud of the Jordan River, just as John’s did. Just as every other person’s feet and toes squished in the mud and muck. This is the God who knows and loves us, to get in the mud and the muck with us. There is no distance; there is no separation between us. This is another unifying moment in which God promises that we are not alone, that God is with us.

And then, according to Matthew the sky opens and a voice says “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” The words we all long to hear.

I was 12 the summer I came home from church camp and asked to be re-baptized. I had been to a non-denominational church camp in which they rebaptized just about everyone.  I loved my pastor back home and wanted him to be the one to rebaptize me. When I got home I went to Reverend Earl and told him about my amazing experience at church camp. I told him that  how I wanted to follow Jesus. I wanted to follow him with my whole heart and with everything I did and  I wanted to begin by being baptized like Jesus. The sprinkling I had had as an infant just wasn’t enough, I needed more. I wanted to be dunked in a river, or stream, or even a pond. I wanted to come up from the water and see the heavens open. I needed to hear the booming voice of James Earl Jones “With you I am well pleased!” As a United Methodist we were only baptized once.  

I don’t remember if Reverend Earl tried to persuade me that my sprinkling was good enough or if he saw a light in my eyes that simply would not be extinguished. What I do remember is that one of the farmers had a pond that we could use. The elderly church ladies were happy to pack up a picnic lunch complete with a red checkered table cloth and we drove out to the farm. I was nervous and excited, I could hardly wait. Reverend Earl and I walked into the water, it was nearly waist deep. He prayed over me and dunked my head into the water. I expected a miraculous transformation. I expected everything to feel different. But as the elderly ladies clapped and shouted “Amen” and Reverend Earl brought me in for a big hug, and I saw my mother holding a beach towel open for me, I was disappointed. I hadn’t heard God call me “Beloved.”  

Can you imagine a 12 year old girl, waiting for weeks to be baptized? Waiting to come up from the water and know that I was beloved.  But when I came up the heavens had not opened. James Earl Jones did not speak. I would have even settled for Morgan Freeman or Charlton Heston, but I got nothing. 
At that moment I realized that it didn’t work. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t beloved. God was not well pleased with me.

I hadn’t heard God call me beloved. I had not heard it, but each person there did. Each person who drove out to that farmers pond heard God.  Not only was I  beloved to each person there, witnessing my faith and desire to serve God.  But they also heard God speak (probably in a small voice) and they heard that I was beloved to God.

It took me a long time to realize what they all knew.  I didn’t realize it until I grew up. As an adult I realized what they all knew. We are ALL beloved by God! Each child on this earth, no matter their age, no matter their religion, political beliefs, no matter what, is a Beloved Child of God. Each person in this room, whether you were sprinkled in a church, dunked in a tub, swam in the River Jordan, splashed in a farmer’s pond or not baptized at all, You are Beloved by God. Hear me again – You are Beloved by God.

Somehow from that first moment of Creation in which God said “It is good.” We have forgotten, we have gotten things twisted. We were created for Good. We were created for love. And yet, we live in a world that can be scary. A world filled with injustice and acts of evil. This past week, we were saddened, if not shocked, by yet another mass shooting. Nearly 21,000 people a day die from hunger related diseases. 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys are sexually abused. Hunger, poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence all terrorize and wreck havoc in our world. They wrecked havoc in John’s world as well.

John put on his hair shirt, ate bugs, and stormed against the injustices he saw. He screamed for people to confess their part in it all and then go a new way, go a new way doing better, working for justice and healing, helping others. Jesus left the Jordan and entered into the wilderness—he was baptized with us. He was with us, with his toes in the mud and muck of the Jordan River. There, he began his ministry.  Jesus loved and healed those he met in ministry; he preached and taught that all people are God’s beloved Children.

Our gathering together today to worship God, to join together as a community of faith, is a rebellion against the world gone wrong. Today we stand in solidarity with one another, just as Jesus did when he put on flesh and blood, squished his feet in the River Jordan and was baptized so that we can be in ministry together, loving, healing, and reminding the people we meet that they too are beloved by God.

Each time we reject the ways of this world that tell us to treat others in ways that are cruel, mean, or simply indifferent. Each time we embrace one another, embrace strangers, embrace those who are different from us or very much like us. Each time we treat other people as a Beloved Child of God, we are doing ministry. We are walking with Jesus.

For too long we have engaged in the idea that we are only sinners. Yes, we fall short. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we do wrong, but we are also created in and with great love. A love so great that we can choose to act in love and faith rather than in fear and despair. We can lift one another up rather than trying to put each other down. We can choose to treat each person as they are a Beloved child of God.


Let us leave this place today never forgetting that we are a beloved child of God.  So is each person we meet. Every person we encounter is a beloved child of God. Let us go and be like the old church ladies on a red checkered blanket next to a farmer’s pond. Let us hear God and know that each person we meet is a beloved child of God. Let us be like those who encountered John in the Jordan River who chose to be transformed, who chose to go a new way. Let us go and follow Jesus into the wilderness of this world and start our ministry armed with love. Armed with the knowledge that we are all Beloved by God. Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I'm excited to preach on Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus. My mentor told me not to get overly creative since her church wouldn't expect something too crazy. So I won't be throwing water on them or anything overly fun or strange.

Yet, as I was playing in the shower water this morning I was thinking about creation and how after each piece of creation was added: the light and the dark, land, creatures of the air and of the land, and even people after each creation God said "And it was good." It was good. I believe in Original Goodness. We were made for goodness and love, I believe this with my whole heart and spirit. Yet, instead of a doctrine of Original Goodness, humans created a doctrine of Original Sin.

Isn't it strange? Most folks will say that God is good. God is love. God created out of love. And yet, our focus is on sin and failing and missing the mark. I live a life of grand mistakes and bold sins and embarrassing sins as well. I know that all of us do. But how much braver and bolder for justice and love would we be if we spoke of Original Goodness instead of Original Sin?

While I played in the water this morning, I remembered getting "in trouble" for one of baptismal sermons. I had pretty much stated that we were born perfect and then as we play and learn and grow in this world we learn of and experience sin. I wasn't supposed to say such things in the UMC; it didn't fit our doctrine.

As I remembered my "trouble," it wasn't much really, just a "talking to," I'm so happy to be free to say what I mean and mean what I say. In the UMC, I was always trying to fit in. I would stretch concepts so that I could say them honestly. That's not really honest though is it?

I'm thrilled to be participating in a church in which I can ask questions, challenge concepts and theologies, and grow. I've never been happier in church than I am now. I finally found my home.

I learned a lot from the UMC and there are things like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and Prevenient Grace that have shaped my faith formation but I'm glad to be in a new home where I am encouraged to continue to grow and continue the journey because I believe that God is still speaking.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thinking with my fingers

It's funny, I thought 2015 was the worst year on the books. It very well may have been but 2016 feels like a close 2nd. I am optimistic about 2017 until I remember who our president-elect is. 

As much as I want to bitch and complain I realize that I am incredibly blessed. After the past two years I am aware that having all three of my girls breathing and relatively healthy is a blessing and nothing I should ever take for granted.

Last Friday, Ainsley had a grand mal seizure. It was her first and fingers crossed, it will be her last. There is a strong possibility that it was due to a new psych med they were trying for her. Thankfully, prior to the grand mal seizure she had started experiencing petit mal seizures so I had already been in contact with her neurologist and she already has an EEG scheduled. The grand mal seizure happened at a friend's home which is unfortunate because Ainsley may never leave our house again. It was seriously the first time her depression had lifted long enough for her to want to spend time with a friend and outside of our home. Of course, the depression has returned with its friend anger for a lovely combination inside of the mind of a 15 year old girl.

Saturday evening Merkin, her friend Mallorie, and dog Olive were stranded west of nowhere in a snow storm. I called the insurance company to get them towed out. An hour later I called back to ask when they'll arrive because the battery had died, there were no lights, and it was now pitch black outside. The insurance agent said "Oh, there's a an 8 hour wait. You should call the local 911 to get them out." Thankfully, Joel left to meet them while I was on the phone with insurance the first time. I called our local 911, they gave me the number for the Walsenberg PD. Walsenberg PD gave me the number for the Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol said they were covering accidents and didn't have time to rescue stranded motorists. As Merkin and Mallorie's phones were dying and their butts were freezing a kind Samaritan rescued them and gave them a lift to Walsenberg. Joel found them warming up at Loaf and Jug. Thankfully, they arrived home by midnight and were safe and sound.

The dogs tearing up the kitchen, eating a bag of chocolate chips and a plate of chocolate chip cookies was simply delightful. Discovering our plumbing was backed up added to the pleasure of the weekend. But our weekend was celebrated with everyone, including 3 dogs, being mostly healthy, sharing in some laughter and tears.

Yesterday Merkin and Joel went to retrieve her car which she had just sunk $1000 a week before so it would be ready for the 6 hour drive home. Did I mention she also experienced her first major heartbreak during finals? The shop said the car was fine and it would only cost $160 for them to pick it up. Alas, as they got near Pueblo the car died again. Turns out the guys in the first shop weren't the brightest bulbs. She had blown a gasket going over La Veta pass but they didn't notice that. For another $60 they discovered that her car is kaput. Today, Joel and Merkin will make a shorter drive to retrieve the car again. 

Tonight we will celebrate with friends, including 3 of the cutest children on the face of the planet (not mine, little ones). There will be laughter, there will be joy, and life will go on.

My girls are home and relatively healthy. For that I am thankful. Joel and I will have been married 20 years in 2017. We have survived post-partum depression, adult depression, seminary, crazy family issues, major job losses, 4 years of rural ministry in the most conservative land I've ever lived, our eldest being bullied by a teacher/coach and football team, packing up our lives and moving to Colorado without jobs and moving in with our parents, getting back on our feet, leaving the UMC, joining the UCC, starting the ordination process all over again, having two out of three girls become cutters and have suicide attempts and multiple hospitalizations, and we have survived this past weekend. Things that could have easily torn us apart drew us closer together. We are stronger and closer than I ever knew a married couple could be. When I got married to Joel I didn't believe that married couples were ever really faithful. I didn't know what a healthy relationship could be. I do now. I know that couples can not only be faithful but they can still be twitterpatedly in-love. 

Yes, the past few years have been difficult beyond anything I ever want to go through again. I'm still scared for the mental health of my girls, I'm still scared that Ainsley will give up the fight against depression and anxiety. I'm still concerned that Valerie may be living at home without a job or in school due to her depression and anxiety. I still find it hard to say and acknowledge that my spectacularly successful Merkin has bipolar because it scares me that all three of my girls have significant mental health issues. And yet, here we are, alive and experiencing joy in the midst of life that can be hard.

Drumpf may be our president elect but I know of at least 3 powerful young women who despite their challenges with mental health unabashedly stand for the rights of others, work towards equality and justice. I have 3 warrior women and know there are many others who will not go silently. I know a strong man who works with children doing all he can to teach them more than writing and arithmetic so they too will have courage to face whatever comes their way. I too am a warrior woman prepared to fight for justice and equality. 

2016 may have some more challenges for our family but we despite everything, are strong enough to face them. We are certainly strong enough to see what 2017 will bring.