the Spirit

Last night, I made blueberry pancakes for supper. Our daughter, age 3, loves them, and we all sat down and ate together – well, the baby had his own food – but you get the idea. A family sitting together having dinner.

After we ate, we were cleaning up, and our daughter went to get her swimsuit on so she could play with “the spriink-u-lar” (translation: “sprinkler”).

I turned on the world news to see an update on the latest from the humanitarian crisis unfolding at our southern border. I wasn’t prepared. They played the recording of a girl crying for her aunt, other children heard weeping and calling for their parents in the background. I looked to see our daughter had come into the room.

“That little girl and that little boy, they are crying. Why are they crying?” she looked at me, head turned with a concerned look on her face.

I swallowed hard. “Because the government separated them from their moms and dads. They want their moms and dads, but they are being kept apart. It’s really sad honey, and it’s wrong.”

She went on to finish getting ready to go outside. I stayed and saw the news correspondent ask a white middle aged man if he was affected by the sights and sounds of children crying for their parents. He said he wasn’t, and proceeded to talk about money.

I had to walk away. As I walked back to the kitchen to do the dishes, something happened.

Like a wild animal that has been let out of a cage, with a quiet and powerful fury, words came flying out of my mouth under my breath. I got to the kitchen and looked at my wife and our 10 month old son. I told her what the man said and said the same words of fury again, this time at normal volume. Then,

I broke as I said, “why?”

Tears shot out of my eyes. My arms tensed up and I cried in a way I never have before. Not just any cry.

I rage cried.

It wasn’t sadness, frustration, or hopelessness, or fear.

It was rage. Strong, breathtaking, rage.

I wondered aloud, “What the hell is wrong with people?” and “what are we going to do?” I took deep breaths and tried to focus on washing dishes and just doing something with my hands.”

A few minutes later, D took our daughter out and got the sprinkler going. She had to come in for a minute, so I stepped outside to the back porch and watched our daughter. She put her hands in the sprinkler and squealed, then jumped through, squealing and running away, smiling. I laughed and felt my chest ease slightly. D was coming back, laughing with me, then I watched a moment more before going back inside to finish up and get our son.

We all went outside, and we sat and watched our rambunctious three year old play with delight and abandon. I held our son and watched the water, taking in the sight of the golden summer evening sky, the feel of the cool in the shade, and the sounds of tree frogs and the chorus of night-time insects beginning to announce that evening was near.

We went back inside, and we got the kids ready for bed. As I lay next to my daughter to read a bedtime story and then as she fell asleep, I felt the pain again, thinking of those separated families, praying silently for them.

Later, I sat with my wife, and we talked more about how we were feeling. I again told her how hard this was and how much rage I was feeling. We watched comedies and tried our best to relax before going to bed.

In the watches of the night, I woke up, my mind turning again to the sounds of those babies. And the sight and sound of that man, hateful/unmoved/empty of compassion and decency.

I looked into the darkness and thought, “What is wrong with people? How can you be like that? Why are so many people ok with this and trying to justify it?”

Then, I thought: “The Spirit is gone.” Which certainly seems true. The fruit of the Spirit is love – joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.

Then I wondered. “Where is God? What if God is dead?

Then, a song I learned when I was a small child came to mind and seemed to well up within me even though it had long been forgotten.

“God’s not dead. No, God’s alive. God’s not dead. No, God’s alive.”

Then, as I remembered more of the song, I realized some important truths.

“I can feel God in my hands”  – when I use them to serve the most vulnerable and the hurting.

“I can feel God in my feet” – when I pray with my feet by marching for justice and equity and let my feet carry me to the places I am needed.

“I can feel God in the Church”- when the Church boldly fights for love.

“I can feel God in the air” – when I make environmentally sound decisions and also when I stop and mindfully observe the gift that is nature,

“I can feel God everywhere. I can feel God all over me.” – when I practice love – joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, the Spirit is with me, all over me, and working through me.

I fell back asleep, thinking on these things. When I woke up this morning, I saw the news and watched video of a beautiful unarmed young 17 year old black boy be shot in the back, killed by a police officer who had been on the job for 3 hours.

The rage welled up in me again. My three year old daughter walked in, and seeing his mother crying asked me- “why is she crying?”

“Honey, she’s crying because ( I felt my throat swelling) because… Because her son was shot. He died. She’s sad. It’s very very sad, and it’s not right.” I knew that at three years old, she can’t understand too much – she doesn’t even fully “get” death yet. But I realized I will have to talk with her more and more as she ages, and talk with our son as he gets older, so they can know and understand.

I said aloud something I knew needed to be said. “We have to do more. If there is anything I am feeling right now, it’s that we have to do more.”

Later this morning, I was getting ready and alone to my thoughts again. I thought about all that is going on and all that has happened in the past few years that have moved me. And I came to some conclusions.

I repent.

I repent for my armchair activism, feeling that I’m doing more than I actually am. I recommit to working on the ground and actually doing more while still writing/calling/posting to help educate/inspire/motivate change.

I repent.

I repent for my own ignorance, sometimes willful, sometimes not – and I recommit to educating myself on the truth and how to help.

I repent.

I repent for recognizing my privilege as a white woman while holding so tightly to my disadvantage as an LGBTQ+ person, that I have failed to use my privilege as an ally for folks of color. I recommit to dismantling systems of oppression for all. 

I am a work in progress. And I am waking up.

I find that I am overcome with so many emotions these days, and I feel weary at times, like the fire of rage and compassion will burn me out – and I cannot let that happen. So here is what I am learning.

I let the rage wash over me, and it put me in touch with fighting for justice.

Also, I let the love I have for my partner and kids wash over me – and I took note of the little things, and I felt stronger for it.

I am reconnecting with my spirituality, I am writing, and I am painting again. All healing activities for me.

I’ve disconnected in some of the places and relationships where I need to disconnect.

And last, but not least, I am being mindful. I am noticing when I need to walk away for a moment, when I need to fight and when I don’t. I know when I can’t change a mind, and I need to be more aware of and accepting of hat and move on. I am mindful of the taste of coffee, the scent of rain, and the sounds of thunder rumbling in the distance. I am observant of the colors in the sunrise and the way the light plays across the landscape.

We have to keep fighting. We can’t burn out.

Good boundaries. Focusing on the people we love and what we love about them. Using mindfulness and gratitude. Empowering ourselves with love and light.

Will you join me?

Love wins.

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Bread

Last week, I felt like giving up. But, I didn’t. And now I am resolving not to.

We have been celebrating the joys of having full marriage equality in many areas of our lives. In some ways, it seems surreal. But, in the midst of all that joy, I have been incredibly disheartened.

I have seen friends, family, and strangers say some pretty rotten things about people like me & my wife. I have seen people say some very excluding things. I have seen people put objects and the chance to tell someone, “you are wrong, and I am right” above the feelings of others. I have seen people touting tough love as if Jesus Christ said “thou shalt be forceful in telling others how wrong they are” rather than “do not judge…”

I’ve felt like screaming when I’ve seen pictures of a duck hunting celebrity paired with a quote about “lifestyles” and loving people. So much so, I made my own response complete with a sunglasses wearing Jesus.

jesus meme

All tongue-in-cheek humor aside, I’ve felt pretty miserable.

I’ve really been affected by words that were said directly to me by a family member, as well as the words said on social media by other family members. I hate that I have been cut so deeply, but then I think again – why wouldn’t I?

Last week, near the end, I kept coming back to the same thought and the same image.

My family on my dad’s side does this really awesome bird call thing. I looked it up and found out it’s called an ocarina. A hand ocarina.

When they put their hands together and blow air, it makes a beautiful quail-like bird call. Then, they can manipulate the sound by moving their hands. My grandfather taught them how, because some could not whistle. It was a way for them to call out if they were lost in the woods.

No matter how much I tried, and still try today, I can’t do it.

As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be able to do it. No matter who tried to teach me, I couldn’t. As a musical person and a person who loves nature, it was incredibly hard for me to not be able to imitate this sound, so I would do my best with singing the tones.

It wasn’t the same.

The last time I remember being shown how was when my wife and I were at my grandfather’s before his health deteriorated quickly. He, my aunt, my dad, all able to do it in the room.

I couldn’t do it. Neither could my wife.

We are different from my other family.

Our wedding was bare bones. Hardly anyone related to me came or even sent a card. I remember going to elaborate weddings for my cousins.

Family doesn’t think anything of saying things which might cause us to feel excluded.

“Family” thought it was okay to tell me that I chose to be gay and split our family because I didn’t want to be lonely. That we are a house of sin and lies and that our daughter’s soul is in trouble because we are gay.

I’m in the woods of hate, spite, and prejudice, and I can’t make the sound to let everyone know that I need help. And I don’t know if they would care anyway.

Because of this and continual posts on social media, articles, etc, I want to distance myself so far from the church that there is no resemblance.

“Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” is not in the Bible.

Christ always had the harshest words for the religious people and he embraced the marginalized.

Christ.

I do still believe.

My dear dear friend, Mary Ellen, makes amazing sourdough bread. She gave me some starter last week.

Yesterday, I fed the starter, and I watched it activate and come to life in a jar on my counter.

In the afternoon as I made the dough, I thought of Mary Ellen, and I thought of her making the bread “with Christ’s love for ALL.”

As I punched down the dough, separated it, and formed it last night, I thought of “This is my body – broken for you.”

God, how the body is so broken.

My body. The church body.

Broken.

I saw Mary Ellen today, and she spoke words to me that I couldn’t believe – exactly what I needed someone to tell me – that my redemption and the redeeming love of Jesus does not hinge upon the views and actions of others. That the work Christ has done and is doing in me is real and valuable and will continue and will continue to affect others.

I sure hope so.

As I baked the bread this morning before work, I thought of more.

“The Kingdom of God is like yeast…”

The miracle of the feeding five thousand.

The parable about a child asking for bread, and why a good parent would never give a stone.

And finally:

“I am the bread of life.”

bread

And I choose today to believe that.

“Give us this day, our daily bread.”

Love,

C.

Waking Up

In the wee hours of the early morning, I found myself unable to sleep, and a memory came to me that I had not thought of in quite some time. There was a bluish tint to the light, and it reminded me of when I was in youth group, and the color blue had a special significance for me.

Growing up in a pentecostal or charismatic tradition can certainly have some weirdness, and I am not sure how I feel about some of the things I saw, heard, and was taught. I do remember, though, that I became incredibly focused on God, engulfed by my own passion for Christ, and I craved any sign of God’s presence.

In the circles of teachings brought to my church and my youth group, a mystic experience was sometimes talked about – actually seeing the presence of God. The presence of God was described as a blue mist or blue smoke hovering in a room. I desperately wanted that experience. I wanted so much to see the God I loved, and sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night wondering if I might catch a glimpse – much like children dream of catching a glimpse of Santa Clause in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.

I read books on “being saturated in God’s presence” (Tommy Tenney) and even over the first part of my twenties, I sought an encounter with God.

After being part of a church which was spiritually abusive, things started to change, and over the years since then, I have gone through a crisis and subsequently a growth of my faith.

Now, when I woke up this morning, I thought on that period in my life, when I was looking for blue smoke, and I realized something very important:

I have seen God.

I saw God when my grandmother died suddenly, and my friends held me while I cried, visited the funeral home, surrounded me with love, and supported me.

I saw God when I stood with my family in the freezing cold one night, watching meteors shoot across the sky at my uncle’s house on the mountain.

I saw God when I first came out to a few people, and I was loved – not loved anyway, but just loved.

I saw God when I married D, and when our friends and family surrounded us with prayers, flowers, and love.

I saw God when D and I had difficulty with conceiving, and friends, family, and strangers supported us.

I saw God when we saw our daughter on a screen, secure in my womb.

And this morning, as I am growing more and more awake, I realize another truth:

I still see God.

When my wife looks at me with love.

When I see my belly leap up with the baby’s kicks and rolls.

When I look out the window and see the frost on the ground.

In the changing leaves of Autumn.

In the stillness of the night and brightness of the moon.

We are surrounded and inundated by God. Emmanuel – God with us.

I only recently discovered Pema Chodron, and I have listened to a couple of interviews with her now. She talks about the Buddhist idea that we have the power to wake up.

I find that idea very encouraging and applicable, no matter what religion or way of life we are part of.

We do have the power to wake up.

I find myself waking up more and more, as I am learning what battles to fight and what battles not to. (A true challenge, though, with current pregnancy hormones!) I am finding myself growing in tune with love, and with life and goodness. More and more, I want to shut out the noise and just be.

Maybe if we all started to wake up, it would offer us some clarity in understanding and in relating to one another.

One of my favorite prayers is the “Breastplate” prayer of St. Patrick. There is a particular stanza that seems most appropriate while I am reflecting this morning:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

And as I arise, and as we all arise, let’s wake up.

Love,

C.