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Herstory

Dear God,

I wish I could be with my mother right now.

I am grateful that she is just hours away, and not gone from this life like other friends’ mothers, but today I wish I could hold her hand and cry together. I wish I could squeeze her tight and tell her to her face, looking into her steady brown eyes, how wildly and deeply grateful I am for all the ways she has worked to fight for people to have better lives, to know they are loved by you, to live as though they know that love and believe others should know that love, too. I want to thank her face-to-face for all the ways she has sought justice, freedom from oppression, and a life full of joy for all and not just for herself. I want to thank her for all she has endured her whole life long as she spoke out for civil rights, carried a reusable bag for her groceries before it was cool (or the law) because she cares about your creation, and kept her given name because it is who she is – married or not – and she has always lived into that identity that you first gave her.

I want to hold her and tell her that her assault experience at the hands of someone in authority who told her no one would believe her anyway if she said anything was not her fault. I want to cry with her because she was brave enough to speak out eventually and to encourage other women to speak out. I want to cry with her because my own assault experiences are largely quieted away because I fear what people will think of me and because somehow, with all my liberal arts education and belief in the value of women and upbringing with such encouragement and empowerment, I still feel ashamed of myself that they happened at all, I feel ashamed for feeling ashamed because I should know that I did nothing to deserve what happened except be a woman, and I feel ashamed for feeling ashamed because I should be angry and outspoken instead. I want to cry with her because women are still not believed, just like that man said to her forty years ago. Just watch the news, God. You know.

I want to pop a champagne cork with my mother, who doesn’t like champagne near as much as I do but who has always been an enthusiastic laugher and encourager and has celebrated me in my accomplishments, because today there is a woman running for the highest office in our country. And it doesn’t matter what she’s done or how people feel about her, how I feel about her. Less than 100 years ago, women couldn’t even vote, were not even treated as valuable enough for a voice in the political process, how we live out living together in this land. Women, half of the population, so many of them devout women of faith who know that how we live out our lives together needs to be something that starts with what we believe about you and how YOU want us to live out our lives together, had no way to exercise that in the way we live together as Americans in these United States. I want to pop a champagne cork, not because a candidate makes everything okay (no candidate can make everything okay), but because I still get called a “lady pastor” and see the surprise on people’s faces when I introduce myself, and have to repeat to them that I am THE pastor of the church I serve. But a woman has run for president. 

Do you remember when I was a little girl, God? Do you remember how fearless and confident I was? Before I learned how to internalize the shame others would want me to feel for my body being big or my voice being big and my thoughts being many and smart? Back when I saw how strong and determined my mother was to be who you created her to be and believed that’s how life simply is for us all? I’m sorry I let her go away in the face of words, experiences, and learning that life simply isn’t that way for so many because freedom isn’t equitably lived in this place. I’m grateful that my eyes were opened to realize that great as this nation I did nothing to be born a citizen of has been in some ways, there are so many ways that “greatness” has been built through the oppression of so many freedoms and the preservation of inequities and iniquities for the benefit of a few or a simple majority. I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger and more sure of who I have always been in you. Today I am remembering it all, and I am remembering who I am in you a bit better. And I am forgetting the horrible words that have been hurled at me because of daring to be different from a standard of subservience and daring to serve in roles men have long dominated. I am setting the weight of experiences and learned shame down, and standing on top of them for a better view of the world around me and the many other people who still bear the weight of injustice, oppression, and despair. I will stand up for a better position from which to use my voice to feel empowered and even better to empower others. I want to be like my mother.

Thank you for her. Thank you for her story. Thank you for letting me be a part of her story. Thank you that I still have her hands to hold and eyes to look into, even if I can’t do that today. Thank you for calling me your precious child, too. Thank you for giving me a voice. Thank you for bringing me through so much and for all the things I haven’t had to face by your mercy and by circumstance. Thank you for letting me be a part of herstory today, too. Help me to keep making herstory for the sake of the story you would have the world share for your glory, your joy, your will.

Amen.

Dry Days

Dear God,

It’s raining just a bit – thank you – in that good way that isn’t too much at once but gives the land some time to take it all in. There’s the hint of a rainbow in the corner of my piece of sky, and I am grateful for the reminder of your promise never to completely flood the earth again. It makes me hope that things just won’t ever be bad enough for you to want to do it, though that probably has already been true again and again, and so thank you for being so amazing. 

This feels weird to say, but in one way, I feel like there is so much dry, cracked, parched, desolate, droughted emptiness within me lately that I could use a flood to soak it, fill it, even drown it. I feel so dry. I feel so different from who I want to be. 

It’s like I want to cry – about how I feel, about how I see myself these days, about the state of the world that you won’t flood even if you want to, and I can’t even do that. 

When will it rain again? When will life feel less dry?
…Amen. 

Palabras para the Word

O Dios,

I’ve been working on my Spanish.  Which, of course, you know in part because I’m spending a lot less time on my walks and drives talking [directly] to you and more and more time listening to Pimsleur lessons.  It’s been so exciting and amazing lately to listen to people come into the office asking questions and be able to answer… in ways people seem to understand pretty clearly!  I wish it was as simple as Pentecost, that I could just speak clearly in the language of another without having to think about it.  Wouldn’t that be amazing in the most basic sense: to speak just the right words someone needs to hear or needs to understand something as amazing as grace?

…   …   …   …   …  …   …   …  …   …   …   …   …   …

Do you get frustrated with us when you speak again and again and we somehow do not hear?  I mean, I know you hear and understand and speak all words of all languages and you speak planets into motion… but humor me with this metaphor, please, Lord.  When I’m frustrated that someone can’t understand what I mean, that the way I’ve chosen to express myself isn’t clear enough for their ears, is that sort of like how you feel when you express yourself in the fullness of time and space throughout all of creation and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and somehow we just aren’t hearing it clearly with our hearts?  God, that’s so frustrating.  How can you stand it?  I just want to say what they need to hear to understand and be helped.  And it’s just so awful when it doesn’t happen.  I’m so sorry, God.  On the other hand, it’s so exciting when someone understands me, and they smile, and they say “Thank you” or “Gracias” or “Dios le bendiga” and I think “¡Sí!” and “alabar a Dios” and “yaaaaaaaayyyyy!!!”  Is that how you feel when we all finally get it?  When grace kicks in and we’re graceful to someone else and sometimes ourselves?

…   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …

God, what is it like to speak all the languages there are?  What kind of beautiful cacophony are you listening to at all hours of the day?  I bet somehow it’s better than Miles Davis.  Do you like Davis?  Do you love listening to all of us?  I’m sure you wish we would all listen more.  And not just to you, but for the you that is in familiar and foreign words alike.

Amen.

My Cup

Dear God,

Sometimes I am full; sometimes I am empty.

One is not necessarily better than another.  Full can be overwhelmed and uncomfortably stuffed, and it can be satisfied or full of potential or opportunity.  Empty can be dry and gone, and empty can be clear and finished.  But right now, it all feels like I’m full and empty in both the negative ways.  And it feels endless, and like I can’t do anything about it.

I’m trying to think of how you poured yourself out. I’m trying to think of a cup mysteriously filled with blood and forgiveness.  I’m trying to think of the cup that runneth over.  I’m trying to think of the Spirit poured out at your baptism and mine, the Spirit poured out so many days and in so many ways for me to be shaped and made more like you in its power.

But I feel powerless.  Empty.  And yet I feel so full of so many thoughts and frustrations and fears and shame that I’m not sure there’s room for a drop of the Spirit to squeeze in and sanctify me.

O God, help me.

“Let me be full, let me be empty,” but let it be for your sake, not whatever this is that is trying to overshadow me.

Please.

 

Amen.

Butterfly Mass

Dear God,

Lately there’s been a mass of butterflies migrating south. First there was the mass of yellow butterflies with wings that are mostly rounded. They practically blend in with the esperanza bushes they love so much down here except that they are a softer yellow. I swear I could look out the office window and see at least 15 at a time flying through the parking lot, as though still on their morning commute. Then came the mass of brown and red butterflies–the ones speckled with white spots. They’re not the color of monarchs but a similar shape. They seem more determined and less happy-go-lucky than the yellow butterflies. And then came the mass of monarchs, though they came in fewest numbers. Did you feel each flutter? What about our heartbeats?

It’s incredible to witness each mass of butterflies and incredibly sad. I drive to work, I drive to hospitals, I drive to lunch, I drive to the beach, I drive home, and everywhere I go butterflies are flitting across the road. And getting hit by cars, getting hit by my car. It’s beautiful and horrifying when I stop to watch the butterflies. Which, of course, is dangerous because I’m usually driving as I watch. I find myself not quite slamming on my brakes but slowing down significantly, only to slam into a butterfly or three anyway. It’s unavoidable.

And yet, it makes me wonder. What pain or destruction do I cause to your Creation that is avoidable? What am I not paying attention to because it isn’t pretty enough or gentle enough to draw my eye and pull my heartstrings? Who or what do I careen toward, petal to the metal, because I’ve decided they deserve to be destroyed in some way or some part?

Do the butterflies en masse mean to you the same as a Sunday Mass? Do they weigh on your heart more? Do you feel their wings, thinner than tissue paper, crushed under tires? Do you blow the wind up under their wings to lift them up above the windshields like children play with bubbles? What delicate, gentle, beautiful, harmless, and helpless creations are you grieving the destruction of today?

I know that before resurrection comes death. Help me, God, not to get in the way of or speed past or destroy the work of resurrection you are bringing into the world.

Amen.

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old hurts in a young person

Dear God,

There’s a young person in my life who is really hurting right now.  In the past, he’s gone through more than I could imagine and way more than I’ve ever had to handle.  Right now he’s going through some stuff that’s familiar to me – hurt related to a broken relationship, caring for someone who doesn’t care the same way, worrying and feeling hurt about people having a false conception of who I am and wanting them to just like me for the truth of who I am not some lie, feeling like dirt and like no one cares.

You know what I dealt with.  You know what he’s dealing with.  You know the truth of who we both are more than anyone in the world.  Reveal to him what you see so he can know how much you truly love him, how no matter what anyone thinks of him – true or false – he is truly a child of God, precious to you with a future full of goodness that you will provide.

And as for all that he has gone through in the past, you will be the one to judge those who have hurt him in so many ways.  Strengthen him for the journey, strengthen him against the memories of those things which drag him into darkness.  Shine your light into his life so that he can see how you are with him now and you were hurt with him then and most importantly that you will be with him through all that is to come, shining your light.

It’s breaking my heart, dear God, to see this young person so hurt.

But also, thank you for the ways in which you have helped me heal from those old hurts of my own, small as they were in comparison to his old hurts.  I wish I could say that I’m never down, that I never feel twinges or pangs of that same sadness and lowness, but I know (and you know) that I have come a long way.  A long, long way.  And I am so grateful that I have grown not just in my body but in my understanding.  Knowing you better has helped me to know myself better and vice versa.  Help me never to forget these lessons, these truths of who I am, who you are, and who I am in you.

Amen.