These Disappearing Feelings, The Lying Chair, and This Hurt I Feel

I am hurting.

This morning I came across an article purporting that the professional football team in DC was finally going to change its racist and demeaning name.  I read the article in disbelief. I whispered to myself, “I hope this is true.” My heart filled with joy. I was overcome with emotion. I imagined my grandfather celebrating this victory. I felt that the political will of Native people in this Nation has finally moved from the shadows and in to the light of day. We were being heard!

I remembered the broken treaties that have shaped the relationship between indigenous cultures and the manifest destiny of U.S. will for the past 250 plus years. I remember the high addiction rates, the high sexual violence, and the sparse opportunities that Native people endure in this modern industrial power. I remember the stories my grandfather told of when he was taken from his home, separated from his sister, and forced to attend boarding schools to rid him of the Indian within.

I remember growing up in Los Angeles and having to attend a special program in public school that taught us how to be “Indian.” This school homogenized Native cultures into something that resembled a solitary Hollywood commodity of red faced savages that spoke in grunts & hand signals, wore buckskin, and lived in teepees.  I looked nothing like what they approved as Indian.  I was not red enough for them.

When I read that article I let my guard down and got excited. I was relieved that finally the Native voice was heard. We have moved past the Facebook check-ins by the masses to assist the water protectors endeavor to seek political clout. We have moved beyond the annual flurry of post by folks around Thanksgiving that espouse the ills of that first holiday in which pilgrims and Indians made nice and founded our country.

I am hurting.

I hurt because I should have known better that to let my guard down and hold any hope in that the Native plight is worth anything more that the history books and a collective national guilt to be brought out when folks in power feel bad. I hurt.

I have no idea who is responsible for this hoax. If it is a Native group I would love to know what this was intended to serve. If this is any other group then I say, “fuck you!” I do not need any more assistance in feeling bad or depressed about myself. I got that down. I kind of don’t care who did this and why. I hurt. I hurt because once again Native voice and Native people are a commodity to be swung around in a political game of power and privilege just waiting to be considered real enough to be taken seriously and offered a full measure of humanity.

I am hurting. Today, I am going to feel this. Tomorrow I will remember this. I will not believe you again. I know you will not change. I know this because you are not hurt by what you did.

Heart of Glass

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Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to Abba.  Having loved those who were in the world, this love was present to the end.  The devil had already set upon the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray him.  And during supper Jesus, knowing that Abba had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:1-17, 31b-35

There was a time in my life in which I was a young and promising church leader. I was connected to many people and conversations about where, what, and how the church would prosper in the future. I was desperately intent on saving the church or at the very least I wanted to preserve a small space for me in it.

While in this role I read many pieces about worship, mission focus, and theological application. I advocated for what I believed to be helpful in nurturing church and holding church leadership and systems accountable. I was right in some but mostly I was passionately misguided. I was part of some really interesting projects that may or may not have led to goodness, healthy, and positive change in the church. I do know that I was really intent upon being a part of something that was righteous, caring, compassionate, and sought to be like Christ in the world. I imagine we could have numerous conversations regarding the effectiveness of these endeavors and we would discover a varying degree of success as often as we could find folks that affirmed or opposed what I did.

I have been out of church leadership for almost six years now. Not being in leadership has been a painful process. Becoming a church leader was a process that utterly transformed me. Not being a church leader was a process that utterly destroyed me. Pain and suffering are no longer strangers nor are they the defining factors of my life. I have found new life.

I still read those articles on worship, church growth, and mission. I have a different lens I read these with these days. I am a social worker. I am a co-occurring therapist that works in community mental health. When I first began this role I placed my ordination certificate and seminary degree on my wall alongside my Master of Social Work degree. I was not ready to let go of the painful past, nor move into that new life that awaited me.

A couple months ago I moved my office. In this move I did not put my ordination certificate or my seminary degree up on my wall. They reside in a file cabinet in my office. There is no malice or anger in this action. I just felt moved to embrace the new life as a Social Worker. It was liberating. It was scary. It was peaceful. It was.

When I was wrestling with new life and holding on to my church leadership identity I hated hearing, “But you will always be a part of the church.” or “You are still a minister, just in a different context.” It wasn’t the sentiment behind these statements that hurt but the actual severing of the identity to which I nestled my mind, body, and spirit to and her absence that hurt. I was not able to see the forest through the trees as I was healing.

I am new life I am blessed to work with folks that embody the “wounded healer” in ways I never experienced as a church leader. In living with the daily hurt and woe of others I am reminded of the healing path that my own life has taken. I am also reminded that positive self-care is important in treating others. I cannot treat others or be present for others if I am not healthy myself. There it is right there…in this text from John that will be read at my churches by many church leaders, “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The root to loving others is to first love yourself.

I am at peace with new life. I have made friends with my role outside of church leadership. I still minister. I have a congregation that consists of those suffering from mental illness, addiction, and that are bound in systemic generational poverty. I have no supporting church body. I do this in the margins of church. I am a secular missionary seeking to be light in a world so full of darkness that despair and woe are torches that illuminate our cave.

Now, I read articles on budget cuts and witness how this will impact my congregation. The limited resources that we have to work with will become even more limited. The hopelessness will become bolder. The despair becomes a brighter light. The cave deepens and the shadows cast upon the walls dim. Eventually, we will no longer be able to see the dirt under our nails having long forgotten the reflection of our own faces; we no longer see the reflection of humanity amongst those around us.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which Jesus dinned with the disciples and readied all for his impending death. A meal was shared. People were physically nourished. The mental dimension was readied for a shift as the body was equipped for the journey. Care was administered.

I used to approach today with a solemn demeanor and a steady face, a sort of Ash Wednesday Lite. I never really gave myself the opportunity to do something different. I did not give this day another thought. I packed it away with most other things that reminded me of my life as a church leader. There my posture stood. I supported my wife as she performed and led the faith through this period. Me abiding by the supportive spouse role and showing up for a meal, helping out, and preparing for Easter Day (one of the few times I go to church).

I am not sure what is entirely different this go-around. It might be the thought of becoming a father again and how I want to model faith in community for my children. It might be the exhaustion from witnessing the evisceration of public mental health and substance abuse services in Oklahoma. I felt moved to read this text from John.

I felt a connection to the darkness offered in this text. Amongst the meal, the cleanliness, and the love is hope. A hope that I missed before. Jesus is preparing for us to go it alone. He is saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Where is he going?

When I went to seminary, a loving older, more conservative member of my home church warned me against being ruined by all that academic stuff I would be exposed to and told me to measure my faith against the question of, “Where did Jesus go when he died?” I quickly lost focus of this question amongst the hardship of classes and the fellowship of community at seminary. I am reminded of that question now.

Jesus was preparing us to go it alone. Jesus was preparing himself to go to hell. Jesus literally was entering a space where despair and woe are rampant. Jesus was preparing to empty himself of all he had to check-in at the marginalized motel. Jesus was going to hangout with my congregation.

If you have not been in relationship with someone that suffers with mental illness, addiction, or poverty you are missing out on Jesus. It is a challenging world full of unhealthy actions and broken trust that desperately wants love. “Where I am going, you cannot come.” But y’all must love each other as I have loved you. Jesus is saying, in order to do this you must love yourself as I love you. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a far cry from the way we treat those with mental illness. We are failing in being disciples in the absence of real and equitable treatment for those wrestling with the disease of addiction. We do not practice self-care and love ourselves as parts of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation waste away in poverty. We are failing to understand the purpose of Jesus feeding our bodies and washing our feet. We get fixated on righteousness as cleanliness and divide up the remnants of Christ’s cloak before it is even of his back.

Today is a reminder that in the midst of the darkness, it the heat of the moment hope is not lost. There is a way out. We have a choice. We are empowered to move towards healthy. We cannot go where Jesus is going because Jesus lives there…Jesus doesn’t leave the despair, the hopelessness, the brokenness. Jesus lives there so that those that encounter the hurt, the pain, and the brokenness of mental illness, addiction, and poverty are not alone. We are called to not live there so that we might be those that Christ calls to enter that space and shepherd of siblings to the Promised Land of health. Our very health depends upon this.

Jesus prepares us for this journey and warns us of the dangers. Nothing is as it seems. Here, Christ puts light to the shadows of our cave and draws us out into community. Fear subsides. Anger relents. Wellness embraced. Wholeness found. Community realized. Today is a day of action. Today is the first day of your new life.

Draft Sermon 072014

So, don’t you see that we owe this old do-it-yourself life nothing? There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Revitalizing Spirit gestures us to come nearer. There are things to do, people to see, and places to go!

This resurrected life you receive from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously pregnant with courage, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We awaken to our true self. We awaken to who God is, and we discern who we are: Parent and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—a fantastic inheritance! We are called to live as Christ has lived. We are to go through the hard times with him, and then we’re indubitably going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can scarcely wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is dimmed. God maintains restraint until creation and all creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead as our joyful expectancy deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult suffering throughout the world are birth pangs. Pain that is not only within us, but also around us. The Spirit of God is stirring us from within. We experience the birthing pangs together and apart from each other. These fruitless and stark bodies of ours long for complete liberation. That is why waiting does not diminish us; any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, do not see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our hope is.

Romans 8:12-25

I am not sure if Tracy warned you about me. I feel like I ought to plaster a disclaimer across the pulpit saying, “He is just one expression of a Reformed Faith. It’ll be ok, it’s just 12 minutes.” I am only partial joking. I might offer relief to some in telling you that I have retired from professional ministry and am now a social worker in South Oklahoma City serving a community mental heath center and only moonlight as a pastor when friends and colleagues need someone to stride into the pulpit and offer proof that the radical nature of Christ leads to a life of pregnant adventure.

Ten years ago I was doing something very similar to what I am doing right now today. I was traveling from church to church in Los Angeles trying to garner financial and spiritual support for my upcoming YAV year in Kenya. I would show up to worship and share a bit about the program. YAV stands for Young Adult Volunteers and it is a PCUSA mission service component for youth 18-30 to serve in various national and international contexts in which they explore faith in service to others.

Full of fear and trepidation I approached pulpit after pulpit and delivered my best testimony about how I got to this place in my life. The Lord was calling me to service. The church that I had served as a youth worker and high school youth director had recognized gifts of service in me and challenged me to pray about it. I am not a man of in-betweens or moderation. I am the same man that has been baptized 3 times, been a sandwich board street preacher, witnessed to drunk folks in bars, and never meets strangers. So, I accept their challenge and I pray that God give me a life of adventure and make me dangerous to the ills of the world.

The next year in Kenya brought me to places and people that still shape me in profound ways. I arrived a staunch evangelical conservative Christian and left as a confused and wounded lover of Christ. I started seminary 2 weeks after I left Kenya. I soon found my way to a bottle to mask my suffering. I had no idea then that I was struggling with PTSD. I had no clue where I began or where I ended. My identity was in shambles.

I got a job bouncing and cooking at a bar 422 steps from Austin Seminary. I poured my heart and soul in to that pub. I would read about Tillich, Gutiérrez, Calvin, Barth, and DiForinza and I would share this in conversation with my co-workers and customers. It became know that I was a priest or something. People would seek me out. There I was, a fella with a broken heart, hiding in a bottle, and ministering to the margins. It was the best ministry I had been a part of.

I had to get out of there; my health would not take any more of it. I quit working at the pub and buckled down. I graduated, got married, and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. My wife worked at the Presbyterian Center and I was going to go to Social Work school. I had been dismissed from the ordination process and had become disenfranchised with the church. There was no place for a fella with a broken heart that had hid in a bottle and ministered to the margins.

I soon found myself serving a Disciples of Christ church that wanted me to minister to the LGBTQ community in Louisville. I love this idea, to minister to the community that had gotten me dismissed from the PCUSA ordination process. It was an amazing time of awakening to the beauty and power of God working in and through folks that I had always thought would burn in hell or that at the very least would be hard pressed to be used as instruments of God’s love.

Those three years delivered me to apostasy in the eyes of Pat Robertson and Al Mohler. I received more messages explaining that I was in error and was leading those I professed to love down the broad road to hell. It was an enlightening time of pregnant adventure. It was also a hard time for the church, longtime members became upset when the national news caught wind of things we were doing and when the nation got word that I and the other pastor on staff were not going to act as agents of the State any longer by signing marriage certificates, the camels back was broke. This lead to a slow decline in my support and the niche I had found was no longer supported.

This eventually brought me to Oklahoma. My wife was called to a lovely church in Oklahoma City where her gifts in ministry are utilized in a spectacular display of loving-kindness. I was branded as a liberal, rebel-rousing type and barred from seeking a call in Oklahoma. I mourn that loss still. I crawled through the open window God left ajar and finished my master of social work at OU.

I wrestled with the thought of failure. When we graduated in 2008 from Austin Seminary we were told that in five years 50% of us would not be in ministry any longer. I had made it three years of full time ordained ministry before I burned out of church. I was one of the statistics. I was bathed in shame. The pregnant adventure I had always prayed for had abandoned me. The thing is, the adventurously pregnant life doesn’t leave us. The suffering, the frustration, the difficulty are part of the birth pangs. “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult suffering throughout the world are birth pangs. Pain that is not only within us, but also around us. The Spirit of God is stirring us from within. We experience the birthing pangs together and apart from each other. These fruitless and stark bodies of ours long for complete liberation. That is why waiting does not diminish us; any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, do not see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our hope is.”

God is not calling any of us to an easy life of leisure. To be a fisher of [men but need a gender neutral way to express this] means we must toil and labor. There is joy in the work but there is never NOT risk. It is a risky and dangerous prospect to put ones life in the hands of Christ and be light in a world that is full of biased hatred of a redeeming and reconciling Emmanuel. The world hates the justice, the peace, and the love that flows forth from the Human-struck wounds of Jesus.

 

Glutinous for your love.

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I don’t always think things through. That’s to say I’m highly emotional and impulsive. That would make me one hell of a river boat gambler if I were in to that sort of thing.

I’m not the gambling type. I am a risk taker. I would like to think I am a measured risk taker that holds conservative values. Perhaps that makes me not much of a risk taker at all.

I do like a sure thing. I’m a child of a messy early 80’s divorce. It’s the stuff sitcoms are made of. Only in my case I lack the quirky sidekick & am heavy on the survivor story.

I’m in my 5th day of my self imposed sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter. I’ve noticed a few things about my life without these avenues of interaction. One, I’m less informed. I miss the information, news, and articles I had access to and awareness of via my network of friends. Two, I have found myself wanting to share voice and encounter with this same network and quietly owning these moments for myself. Three, watching football or anything for that matter has become boring.

I’m not sure what will come of this sabbatical. Thus one is rooted in a different emotional stasis than any before. I’ve dropped out previously for a while due to unflinching jealousy or unhealthy relations in social media. I may not be a gambler but I am most assuredly an addict.

It’s this addictive personality that has guided me from alcohol to drugs to food to religion and on in to the horrible self-hate I am most familiar with. This sabbatical is rooted in a desire for self-love and the need for roots. The need for roots is something I’ve needed for the last 10 years but have not had the words to explain or understand.

For the last 10 years I’ve been I. A journey to transform, to realize, or to awaken the fullness of my being. Metro would call this a journey towards the real self. The real self being the me fully realized and ready to be who and what the divine hath prepared me to be.

My addiction has wained to reveal enough of this real self that I am in need of a tether that I may explore this world and be light in darkness. I am in need or roots. Roots that bind me locally to community. A community to which I belong. I have been a part of such a community. This community is indeed real and has shaped me over the last 4 years

That community is hedged in and with my social media connections. This community comprised of friends of old that knew the high school me. Friends the strove alongside me as we explored ministry and what our roles might be. Friends that helped nurture and affirm the flickering light of ministry that I fought to receive. Friends from afar that hold kindred spirits of mischief and cheer that admire my art and acknowledge the whit, astute political acumen, and charm I dispense. Friends from across the globe, political sphere, and ethnicity that challenge and maintain who and what I am.

Real friends. Real relationships. Real community.

Only, I’m not happy, nor fulfilled. I’m laden with friends. I’m lacking roots. I am ready to grow, hungry for roots. Roots to grab depth and connection in ways that allow this potential growth to arrive.

It is in this need that I walk away from Twitter and Facebook. I’m unsure of who I am and where I begin in the face of social media. I have reconciled and healed along with the shifting and awakening of social media. I liken my relationship with social media to that of Todd and Cooper from The Fox and The Hound. We are two natural enemies that found love in each other that will one lead us to break nature or be bound by it.

I do miss those folks that fashion the community of friends. I hope that we will connect in person very soon.

How to participate in a SNAP Challenge

Commit to 30 straight days.  Involve your spouse.  If you Involve your children you may endanger them and expose them to risks that will stunt mental and physical development.  If you care about your children do not allow them to exercise this challenge.

Do not rearrange your schedule; try to maintain as normal a schedule as you can.

Spend no more than $4.50 per day total per person.

Donate the money you would normally spend on food to a local food bank.

Volunteer at your local food bank at least once a week.

Only buy and eat or drink items that SNAP allows for purchase.

Do not use food already on hand.  Donate all allowable food to a local food bank or host a party to serve all food left in your home prior to embarking on this journey.

Include fresh produce and a healthy protein each day.

Use coupons and store-discount programs.

Keep a journal of what you buy and eat for each meal, as well as receipts.  Also journal your experiences, focusing on feelings, changes in mood, cognitive ability, or relationships.

As many participants of SNAP are also subject to financial insecurity around paying rent, bills, and other expenses please do not purchase anything unnecessary for this month.  If you must purchase anything beyond food then you may but must also donate an equal amount to the local food bank that you are volunteering in.

Lastly, do not tell anyone outside of your home that you are doing this while you are doing it.  Keep the journaling private whilst experiencing this.  Do not publish anything until you have processed this experience for a few months, still maintaining the weekly volunteering at the local food bank you have been working at.

Advocate for change and educate others on what SNAP is and how it serves the most vulnerable of our population.  SNAP is not the lotto game many believe it to be.

Hang On To Yourself

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About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.”

Then he told them a story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find fruit, but there was none. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting figs and not one fig have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’

“The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9

When I was 5 years old my family lived in Washington State under the shadow of Mount St. Helens. Our house was framed by apple orchards, a lazy river, and neatly kept houses with porches and well-manicured lawns. I was in to Star Wars, Happy Days, Evil Knievel, baseball, and The Muppets.

We went to church on Sundays. Had weekend picnics with the family. Dad played softball. Mom stayed at home and made bread, cookies, and the best meatloaf. At night when we went to sleep we could hear the angry conversations…hushed and muffled anger, trying to not awaken the sleeping angels in the other room. Underneath the surface of our perfect family was another volcano waiting to erupt.

On Sunday May 18, 1980 that ancient stratovolcano blew its top and left a wake of destruction over 50 miles wide and spewing ash across 11 States. In less than a year my personal family volcano would erupt leaving a wake of destruction over 3 little boys and spewing ashes across several decades.

If you visit the National Moment that stands there now you will see a barren crater, part of the time blanketed with snow and signs of life emerging as you go down from the mountain top. As you make your way down the mountainside you see trees clustered together as the forest below regrows. Over time the chaos of the eruption actually provided nutrients to rebuild. The radically changed landscape still holds life.

Nature is resilient. Nature can stand category 5 winds. Nature can burn to the ground and regrow within months. Nature takes time. Nature looks at time in a different light than we do.

To a mountain a 10,000 years is but a moment in time. Seasons are the second hands on the clock of nature, measured in moments, events, and cycles. Predictable cycles if you wait around long enough.

Have we forgot that we too are part of nature? We are a part of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation. God made the heavens and the earth, separated the sky, land, and sea, filled the sea with creatures with fins, gills, and blowholes, placed upon the land creatures with hooves, horns, hearts, scales, and fur, and in the air God place creatures with wings, beaks, and talons. Then there is us. We might have been last but a part of nature none the least.

Resilience is part of our story. Reliance is at the core of the story of the people of God. God’s love does not fade and our resolve to abide in that love never fades.

I want you to listen to this as part of God’s divine creation. “Then he told them a story: “A man had a fig tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find fruit, but there was none. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting figs and not one fig have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’”

Waste, that’s a dirty word these days. With arguments of governmental waste in public entitlements, trimming the fay in hard economic times filling the politico news channels it is hard to escape the talk of waste. How many of you have ever planted a fig tree?

The funny thing about fig trees, besides making delicious cookies when combined with a little mega brand magic, fig trees don’t always bear fruit the first few years you plant them. It takes time for these resilient little trees to take root, flourish and find there way to sweet fruit.

None of us do. It takes time for any of us to flower and produce fruit even in the best of soil. Jesus is calling us to remember to be to be patient both with ourselves and with others in the process of bearing fruit. Not all that we do will bear fruit tomorrow or even in out lifetime. The fruit our lives bear might not be evident for 100’s of years. This is the time in which we must hold on to the reliance of faith, trusting that God holds us together as part of the bigger picture of creation. We are fashioned fearfully and wonderfully to be part of the long arc of history as we careen towards thy Coming Kingdom.

This is not a promise that no harm, horror, hurt, or pain shall be fall you. Resilience is earned. “The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then I’ll chop it down.’”

You hear, after you encounter fruitless years. After the toil had taken its toll and the soil is scorched earth. God asks for one more year. God will dig around us, fertilize us, and care for us in hopes that next year we shall produce fruit. A promise of presence, not a promise of absence. This is God pointing us towards resilience and hopeful fruit.

Sometimes you have to go through a whole lotta manure to get that fruit. Resilience is our companion towards wholeness. Wholeness in Christ. Wholeness in each other. For wholeness is our birthright, but it’s not granted magically. It takes time. It takes Practice. It takes Patience. It takes Experience. It takes the Deep roots of community. It takes us all.

I am a Racist.

This article was posted by a friend, who is black, with the question, “What do you think?” I need to bracket a few things. (1) I believe myself to be rather progressive and open to a diverse field of people, ideas, things, and stuff. I’m the very progressive, anti-racist, cherry-picking sort Mychal refers to. (2) I am biracial and have benefited greatly from being “white.” I struggle to claim an ethnic identity that evades me. I am white by culture, creed, and color. I am Native American by story, blood, and a recent awareness of my Indianness. I have had none of the negative affects of being a person of color and have benefited from being the token color in many power systems. (3) this article cut through my ethnic sensibilities like a warm knife through soft butter. I am most certainly part of the racist machine.

I don’t like that I am part of the systemic injustice perpetrated upon people of color in this nation. I am at least a minimal part of the marginalized part, right? I have fought to be included in the marginalized voice. I have sought to stand with and realize the experience of those crushed, mitigated, and a imitated in our racist systems.

I want to believe that I was not always like this. I grew up in a neighborhood where we were the only white faces in our neighborhood. In middle school and high school my friends were largely people of color. I prayed that God would make me black and crown my head with an Afro. I love Wu-Tang, The Roots, and serve a black church as pastor.

I am still racist.

I grew up as a minority in a neighborhood that was black and brown. I escaped. I graduated college, hold a Masters degree, and a working in another one. I am racist.

While I had friends of color in middle school and high school we existed on two different planes. I lived near the high school in an affluent neighborhood. They lived in the city centers, surrounded by violence, drugs, and held minimal public resources. I moved, they did not. I also have few friends that are people of color. I have filled out my roster with diversity as I am able and justify its dismal record with the very real demands of vocation, family, and the lack of time or energy. I am racist.

While I am a consumer of Black Culture I am also suspect of it. I am suspect cause I keep Black Culture at arms length and reserve intimacy and real acceptance to those parts of culture that I know well. I am nervous, afraid, and cautious of real Black Culture. Afraid that the unjust treatment perpetrated upon the Black Community shall be offered to me in non-digestible bits.
While I biracial I have it had negative physical struggle due to it. I have been able to accept the good, wrestle with the bad, and benefit from systemic racism as I use the Native guilt and romanticism that surrounds me. This doesn’t speak to my CIS maleness, which is another layer of privilege and source of inequality I benefit from.

This part of the article offers me hope, “…it’s not the job of people of color to win over racism, it’s the responsibility of white people to abandon it altogether. We’ve reached a point here in America, though, where we believe the worst of racism is over and the remaining animus is either not worth mentioning or dying off. Neither is true. Racism is the foundation, it literally built this country. It’s going to keep showing up. Denying that doesn’t solve the problem, it exacerbates it, making it so we can’t ever achieve real solutions.” This problem, this scourge of justice is a matter of me acting.

I can help end racism. I can stop being racism and listen, direct, and act. I can speak out and against racism. I can point to the privilege and benefit of this system that values me over people of color. I can acknowledge that I am a part of the reason people of color suffer more and benefit less in this supposed nation of liberty and freedom. I can be racist no longer. I apologize to my friends and colleagues that are people of color for failing them and benefiting from it. Please forgive me.

My name is Ryan and I am a racist.

I affirm and support this.

Unfinished Lives

Louisville, Kentucky – An ordained gay Baptist preacher and his life partner who were refused a marriage license in Jefferson County accepted arrest rather than betray their Christian conviction that anti-gay laws are unjust. By implication, the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and his husband, Dominique James, both members in good standing in a local Baptist congregation, stood in contradiction to the widely held cultural and spiritual assumption that gay people are “abominations” before God, and should have none of the common rights to marriage afforded to all other citizens by the civil state.  Despite the shockwaves their non-violent protest is sending throughout evangelical Protestantism and Baptist life in particular, their act of conscience may save the church yet.

The facts of the protest action carried out by the Rev. Bojangles and Dominique are these:  on Tuesday, January 22, the couple, wearing crosses on their ski caps, requested a license to…

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Verified Tweets from a Cardinal? What’s Wrong with This Picture?

According to this article and this one, it costs in the neighborhood of $15k to get a verified account on Twitter.  Some questions come to mind:

Why does Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan need a verified account? (Has the verified account become another way to divide socio-economic class and fashion division?)

Why does anyone in Roman Catholic church hierarchy need a verified Twitter account? Spend a small amount of time on Twitter and it’s rather clear which accounts are jokes/fake (@Nick_Nolte & @RealCarrotTop).

Where did the funds to buy Twitter verification come from? His discretionary fund? Was it made possible by a donor? If so, which individual or organization? We know it wasn’t the LCWR, Call to Action, or Sister Margaret Farley (Who all have my admiration and affection.)

Couldn’t that money have been better spent on communications to enhance Christian unity? (This question could be asked of many investments perpetrated by many church leaders.)