Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What do you know?

I participate in an online (and sometimes in person) community known as Emergent Village. EV has gone through several configurations over the year, but basically it is a community in which to have conversations about Christianity in a postmodern context – the practice, exploration and even rejection of the faith.

Anyone who has been a part of Emergent Village knows that it has its share of conflict and frustrations because of all the different personalities and intentions that gather at the table.

As an experimental practice to try to open up a space for conversation where people are coming at scripture from different backgrounds (and may be moving in different directions with their faith), we are trying to engage scripture passages from a lectionary with a few “simple” questions:

1) What encourages you about this passage? (gives you hope, inspires you to act, makes you feel peace or joy, etc.)

2) What disturbs you about this passage? (frustrates or confuses you, makes you angry or sad, etc.)

3) What questions does this passage raise? What would you like to explore more?

That’s it. We want to practice reading scripture as a community, in a way that is not mining for rules or feigning certainty, but rather as an honest reading where we feel safe to be vulnerable. We want to say what makes us angry, what doesn’t seem to add up. We want to say what brings us joy and fills us with hope. We want to express our questions and maybe even explore them more together.

This may be a practice you want to try in your own scripture reading or in your local community. I hope that it can encourage and enrich you, particularly if scripture has become something you avoid out of expectations that have been placed on you. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rainy Days & Mondays

This morning I made a bad decision. Rather than take my normal old-highway-back-route in to my downtown office, I chose the freeway. Bad choice. Very bad choice.

I never saw a wreck. Never saw a cop (other than the highway patrolman in the lane next to me. Remind me again why they get laptops in the car and we can’t so much as look at a cell phone?). Regardless, it was 8:22 am before I was anywhere near my downtown exit.

By that point, nerves shot and patience thin, I deserved a little luxury to sooth my anxiety. That meant being one of those annoying people who pulls into the most ridiculously located Starbucks ever. Normally, I’d be the person complaining about the line holding up traffic and preventing people from getting to work. Today, I was the enemy. But dammit, I deserved it!

Waiting in line and listening to my obligatory Dolly Parton (St. Dolly is known to soothe the soul), I noticed a man squeeze by my window in his SUV to get past the drive-thru lane. Assuming he was going to park and run in, I instead watched as he drove straight through to the exit. As I got closer to the bend in the drive-thru, I noticed that rather than leave, the man had parked his SUV on the other side of the dumpsters and was walking in his suit around muddy puddles and through wet grass. “Geesh!” I thought, “this guy really doesn’t want to get trapped in the parking lot while going to get his coffee.”

I mean, I pretty much never stop at Starbucks on a weekday morning. I only did it today because I needed it. I deserved it! But this guy – this guy probably doesn’t even know how to brew his own coffee. His time is too precious to get stuck in a Starbucks. He lives by different rules.

I glanced back through my rearview mirror to chart his beeline to his caffeinated beverage of choice, and that’s when I saw the big picture. A homeless man who I don’t know by name, by definitely recognized by presence, was sitting off in the grassy area, alone. Mr. Suit was continuing his trek through the grass and mud, headed straight toward his neighbor. His neighbor I hadn’t even noticed in my haste to get my reward for a shitty start to my week. (Late to a good job? That’s practically a tragedy! My life is so hard!) He stopped his morning, pulled off the road, found a quick spot to park, and took his nice suit for a trip through dirty, wet grass to take food to a neighbor and offer him a bit of conversation.

Now, that’s a reason to be late. That’s a way to start a week. Let’s go & do likewise.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Listen Up, Y'all!

If we are going to be in community with one another, whatever form that takes, we have to learn to listen to one another.


If we are going to grow, to take deeply honest looks at our faults, to repent and turn in a healthy direction, we have to be willing to hear one another.

If I ever hope to become a wise elder, I have to first be wise enough to slow down, to listen, to hear, to process… these things proceed all understanding.

Questions are healthy. Not having the answers is ok. Exploring the mystery together is growth. Listening together to how the spirit is moving, challenging, illuminating – this is an essential practice of the body of Christ.

When we fail to listen to those who feel their voices are being silenced, we dismiss their experience and receive their challenge as a something negative to be sneered at, rather than something valid and valuable from which we can grow.

This is a common response to those of us who speak from the margins of evangelical Christianity about issues around gender, race, and sexuality, and it’s an effective one because it appeals to something most of us value deeply: Christian unity… far too often, the “stop-being-so-divisive” line is used by those in power to diffuse, or even silence, difficult conversations about why things might need to change… I don’t like being divisive. Believe me. But I don’t like being silenced either.”
~ Rachel Held Evans, “On Being ‘Divisive’…”

When we fail to listen to those who feel their voices are being silenced, we miss out on the beauty, honesty and healing that can come when we release our tight grip of control, and step out into the risky unknown of growth and change.

"To me, the marginalized are those who, for all kinds of different reasons, are on the border or edge of whatever groups or systems they are part of. They are not in the center where the power and resources flow, but instead are in the white blank space that lingers on each side of the center… So much beauty emerges from the margins, and I get to see it almost every day. Truth so pure that it is like gold. Beauty so glorious that it can’t be matched. Honesty so raw that it pierces souls. Healing so deep that it transforms the most hardened heart.”
~ Kathy Escobar, “Truth from the Margins”

Adam McHugh, who has an upcoming book on listening, recently tweeted, “We are, in large part, a result of the voices we choose to listen to. Pick good and diverse voices.” And also, “If the people with power in your community do not practice listening, odds are no one else will either.”

Who am I choosing to listen to?

How am I practicing listening?

Am I willing to learn from the voices that are speaking into my life?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Live Everything

“But if the truth is to be told, let us not leave out any part…”
Life is Hard, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

"…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

“We don’t live or become real if nothing ever happens to us.”
– Madeleine L’Engle

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?”

“It doesn't happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Color, Snappy Weather & Flocks of Birds

We interrupt this blogging hiatus for a cross-post on every blogger’s favorite subject: autumn.

I realize that the autumnal equinox was technically on September 22nd this year, but it’s the transition to October that usually seals the deal for me.

While every seasonal change is well and good, and brings with it something new, what I love about autumn is the feeling of shedding – of shaking off the old, letting go of what is no longer nurturing.

(Never fear – I also still love lattes, cozy blankets, anything pumpkin, and all other requisite fall activities and accoutrements.)

I’ve posted it before, but I am drawn back every year to my favorite literary excerpt about autumn, from Kaye Gibbons’ The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster:

Watch me walk, I carry my hands to the sides. I don't lurch or slope. There's not a hunchback dome on my back. I can walk rested in the shoulders and loose armed, or I can walk with dignity, like a queen. After three years here, it's only loose ends left to manage, but when the list of things you have left to do on yourself includes items such as healing from terror that comes and goes and frequently gets in your way, it looks like the large job of work it still is. The good news was I was on the brink of October.

If you think about October's role in the calendar, you'll see it was custom-created to relieve the sensation of unsettledness and the mingling fears and needs that still edged in if I took a brief vacation, and let my mentalities go lax the way people my age who don't have to feel old as vampires have the privilege to do. October promises a difference and brings it, the changes it says are coming always come. When the air crispens, it splurges on symbols, dropping beautiful proof at your feet. It doesn't lie or leave out, saying death will be around eventually but only because life was already here, and here's some color and snappy weather and flocks of birds flying south to allow you to breathe deeply in trust that the universe knows what to do and when to do it. There won't be haywire shocks to wound the sky and shatter down another dose of jagged edges. October knows you've had enough.

Also (because: October.) I feel the need to pay homage to my home state, in which I always find beauty:

"You Run Deep In Me" - Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism from Jones Film Video on Vimeo.

Here’s hoping the blustery winds blow in some much needed blog inspiration – it’s way too quite around these corners, y’all!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

On icons & holding meaning...

What objects hold meaning for you? Y'all come on over to the Camp Lovely blog today, where we're talking about icons and the idea of things that hold meaning beyond themselves.

Each of these little saint medals holds a special meaning for me - stories of lives lived in faith, pieces of their stories that resonate with my own.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Attention Happy Campers!

We're launching a crafting community today, and we want to sign you up for camp! Camp Lovely, that is! So y'all come join us for campfire stories, craft swaps & tasty snacks! Be sure to like us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Pinterest.

photo credit: www.christenbyrd.com