Wednesday, March 06, 2019

An Ash Wednesday Reflection

As the cross is formed in ashes over your head, we say the words 
"From dust you came, to dust you will return."  
Ash Wednesday is an invitation to remember that life is unpredictable, 
but it has a definite start and a definite end -
which lends the middle meaning it would not have otherwise.   

It's easy to get caught up in the dust part of things, 
the everyday responsibilities and goals we create for ourselves, 
and to lose awareness of the Source of our being.  

We are made of dust, but we were made by God.  
In God, "we live and move and have our being." 
So as we observe Lent, let us also observe ourselves.  
Let us take notice of how we have forgotten our connection with God, 
how we have numbed ourselves from feeling God's love, 
and how we have covered ourselves in leaves of shame for not being enough.  

May this be a time to re-connect yourself to Gods love and care for you, 
to let go of habits and tendencies that deaden your spirit 
and be set free to live a life of connection and intimacy with 
the One who knows you best. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Good News for All People

I came across this image from Emily McDowell in my Instagram feed and as usual, was struck by her ability to communicate with honesty and depth (and frequently, humor) what we feel as humans.

"We partnered with @OptionB last year to create a series of shareable images to help support those of us who are experiencing some seriously un-merry things during the holidays. This one is my personal favorite, which was written by the talented and beautiful @karichapin."
I happened to be sitting next to my husband at the time and I found myself utilized the fancy new "share" options in instagram to send it to him via messenger.  

As is typical of him, he didn't really say anything about it, but I found myself turning to him, "You know, girls send these kinds of things to one another on a regular basis to encourage one another.  It occurred to me that guys don't probably do that as much."  He laughed. 

It was during this past year that I heard a line in a podcast that profoundly affected my inner world.  It's no secret that I am a fan of the Robcast with my friend Rob Bell, and being on the podcast with him a little more than a year ago opened up windows in my soul that I am still profoundly grateful for. It is a gift to be seen and witnessed by another human being and Rob is so very good at that.  But it was his wife Kristen that cracked me open in a profound way during their anniversary podcast "The 2 - 4"  She mentioned that growing up in fundamental/evangelical circles  made her believe that "men made better decisions."   A shattering glass sound went off in my mind when I heard that line as I realized that deep in my bones, I had internalized that message as well.  For my whole life, I had invested in the idea that whatever decision I wanted to make, a man would always make it better than I could.  I was invested in my own frailty, my unreliability, my less-ness in a way that had handicapped me.  It wasn't until I heard the words come out of her mouth that I knew that had been the guideline I had been unconsciously submitting to for my whole life.  And once I realized that fence was there, I began testing it and tearing it down.  

It was a treasured moment in my year when I spoke to my church as a panel member about how we as a church could and should respond to the "Me Too" movement and I told them about this fence in my mind.  Because we are a safe space, I could say colorfully, "I believed that having a penis somehow made you a better decision-maker."  And I mentally recorded the men in my congregation laughing with me.  In that moment, I saw them as my sheep and me as their shepherd, with compassion instead of insecurity and crippling self-doubt. 

It is wildly important to find your voice, to bravely become who you are.  And women are doing this work in such valuable ways right now.  I am always ready to rejoice with the accomplishments of my sisters.  But I am also waking up to the profound opportunity that lies before us that this good news of becoming who you are is for all people.  For too long, we have allowed men to take the lead in ways that they are not prepared for, not wired for, not equipped for.  We have pushed them to be "spiritual leaders" shushing our own voices and leaving them vulnerable to failure that comes from not seeing all sides. We haven't invited them to the world of nurturing themselves and their friendships.  We've left patriarchy in place and left half the population without the support they actually need to become better humans.   

Listen, I'm as feminist as can be.  Women still deserve so much more than they are getting.  But the best of us don't want to rise at the expense of anyone else.  We want everyone to get what they need.  And sometimes, we need to share an invitation to vulnerability and strength with the men in our lives.  We need to share good news with everyone. So send a meme.  Send a card.  Send a text.  Take the lead instead of quieting yourself and be an equal partner.  They don't know what they are doing any more than you do.  Do them the kindness of recognizing that.   

And while we are at it, maybe take everyone down from lonely pedestals.  Your political representatives don't know what they are doing and aren't magically equipped for their jobs.  Your pastor isn't bulletproof.  Your doctor has bad days and is being pushed to make quick decisions.  Whoever you are shoving forward, thinking they are just more super-human than you, stop it.  We need to create a world where people can say "I don't know" more often so we can all say, "Let's work together to make it better."    

Thursday, October 11, 2018


It's not the first time I've said it, but gardening does my heart, soul and body good.  All summer long, I ignored my garden and it was almost as if the tomatoes got offended and just stopped growing.   The Bermuda grass is an unruly spidery sprawler that overtakes whatever neat lines you draw with mulch.  By far, the worst offender in the garden rebellion was the wisteria.

I didn't know when I planted that vine that it was the wrong kind of wisteria;  I should have chosen American wisteria which grows in a slow and controlled manner. Instead, I planted not one but two asian versions that grow violently, climbing everything in its path, and overtaking my hefty pergola so completely that I routinely had to cut my way out from underneath it.   It never bloomed.  It just grew and grew and grew, greedily taking over every empty space it could.

I am a grateful gardener -too grateful.  I often let things grow where they don't belong because I'm so happy to have a plant.  Ten years have passed in our house now and what was once an empty patch of weedy grass inside an expanse of privacy fence is now quite a jungle of pampas grass, seedling trees that have surpassed the height of the house,  iris gone mad, and morning glory vines that will not be stopped. One day, looking again at that hairy mess of a wisteria, ducking underneath it and hoping not to scratch my cornea once again with a wispy vine, I realized something.

I realized I didn't want that wisteria growing in my yard any longer.

There are things that work for you for awhile.  They give shade. They block an uninspiring view. They give you a place to hide beneath. But then they grow too large, gobbling up resources from other plants that you would like to grow.  They require so much maintenance that you never get a chance to sit beneath the shade anymore because you have to fight the vines just to be able to make the simplest move.  And what once felt protective begins to feel smothering; you can barely see the light through the heavy over-growth.

In a recent podcast, I heard a business leader say that we must be brave enough to break our own rules.  It has been my rule for a long time to be a nurturer, a thoughtful pruner, a planter.  I don't kill.  I don't destroy.  I don't take down.  But my rules were making the yard a much less enjoyable place. The grabby vines brushing at everybody as they tried to pass through the walkways grew more rude by the day, its power un-checked.

And so, I put on my protective gear and took out a lopper, a hatchet, two pruners, a bow saw and giant tarp. I began to cut and cut and cut and cut some more.  Half way through, while yanking and pulling at the monstrous tentacles, I got a phone call and had to go pick up a kid at school.  I know I made an inspiring sight in my short flowered garden booties, bare legs shredded in scrapes, and my t-shirt salted over with sweat.  I returned to the task, rested and determined and began again, hacking at a clump of 5 tangled stumps thicker than my arms.  And I began to pull again and again, hand over hand, pulling the vine from over the pergola, out from the chimney and gutters, tangled into other bushes.

As I made progress, I thought about the news of the week.  I thought about the way I used to feel sheltered by my political party and its family-focussed ideals. I remembered how having a husband meant I could shut out the glare of politics and problems that seemed too large and far-removed for me to concern myself with.  The thick vines of patriarchy were familiar and comforting for many years and I let them grow around me, ignoring how intrusive this powerful plant was in the lives of my neighbors,  intruding unwanted into their yards, pulling down the privacy of their fences, popping up without consent in their personal spaces.

But in a moment, it became clear to me that our little sliver of the world would be better without this invasive plant.  It would be better to give other plants the space and resources to see the sun.  It would   be better to make the spaces safe to walk through.  It would be better to eradicate the roots that took what was not theirs to have.  And as soon as I knew, I had to act.  I would not let this go on one more day.  I broke my own rules and I cut that thing down.


Blogging tips