The Exhaustion or Good Freaking God! or How I’m responding to the inter webs this week.

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There is an exhaustion creeping over us who care.  Do you feel it?  I read the news, and then I read the comments and then I see the drivers and then I see hear the casual but in the end dehumanizing dismissals of those who think politically different than us.

 

There is an exhaustion creeping over us who think that it should be expected that not once in a life should a woman have to defend her body and her heart from others who would just take it for themselves.  Make no mistake- our bodies which include our sexuality, do have everything to do with our souls – we do not divorce one from the other.  When one is taken from us, manipulated from us, violently stolen or just assumed it’s not important to us, or important to the world – this is an attack on our souls and its wrong.

 

I’m tired of having to say it and having to speak up though.

 

I am not a Christian because I think people like me are right.  I am a Christian because I read these old words about Jesus and somehow they make my heart leap—they, in a miracle of mystery and call, affirm my whole self.  And these old words were the actions and words and orientation of Jesus to this world –to this good world that he is dedicated to the point of death to restoring, redeeming, reconciling.  Even me – a sensitive girl who grew up loved, and also sometimes confused, who is kind to others but also sometimes am not and who cannot, for the life of me, live in every way I think I should.  And to this “even me” and to this “even you” has a home been given in His words.  For there we are held, known and thought of so highly that even the life and love and every creative force of this universe is committed to making us whole.

 

““Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.”

Dorothy Sayers…..Thank you Jesus for her.  You better believe she fought it all and she kept stubbornly believing that Jesus even thought she too was a full human.

 

The multitudes of women who are typing “Me Too” onto their facebook feeds this morning….they are doing this out of a deeply horrifying experience of power asserting over their bodies, lying to them about their worth.  They are writing to somehow combat the truth that a raped body will require less jail time than stolen goods. Good Freaking GOD!  What have we misread about the gospel of Jesus that this has been status quo in our “Christian” society and is still ok in our time?  Let us re-read it now – let your sisters re-read it to you now!

If there is one thing we know about following Jesus – its that it’s a following into powerlessness.  Where power is extolled and lived out to the point of taking what you think you deserve – that is nowhere CLOSE to what it means to follow Jesus.   Make no mistake – what you see at “voter values” summits has almost nothing to do with the covenantal redemption story of this whole cosmos we follow Jesus down to in these Scriptures.   Some words might be the same, but if it’s not a shedding and yielding of power, it misses the point.

 

When you decide to be on the side of the women whose bodies have been assumed to be less than their own and less than God’s good creation, you will decide on a shedding of your power to have and to control.  This is the Jesus way and is truly the only way to follow him to the kingdom he is building.

 

I am tired of pulling against the current of our culture that’s mistaken “Christian” for clout, power, right and that’s mistaken success for God’s blessing.   The life of Jesus is one of letting go of our power which is no power really – it all is God’s and it is all for The Other.   This is connected to our race relations, it is connected to sexual assault and violence.  Because you better believe that those whose power and humanity has been dismissed for centuries know what it is to follow Jesus to restoration.  Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek and powerless—they will get it, this kingdom business.   What we read every day over the interwebs is connected to whether we diminish this world God created or whether we participate in the work to reconcile it, bring it into unity and follow to the dark streets this Light that doesn’t blink twice at emptying its self for the sake of the other.

 

The funny thing is, even when we are exhausted, when we follow that power-emptied Jesus down into his full humanity, we will be given back ourselves—we will be given back a creative, spirit-filled life that knows no bounds but continually rejoices when truth is manifested.  It’s a miracle but I’d stake my life on this truth.  The truth that Jesus, the downward path of this Son of Man who doesn’t blink at my femaleness or any other form of otherness, is for us, with us and is busy doing His work of restoration.  Look for that, in your exhaustion.  Look for that reconciliation and rejoice in that.  That is the value we can vote for.  That is His business, His economy, His world He’s not given up on yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrinkles in Time, 8 year olds, and Truth…all while trying to do the dishes.

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My husband and I were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner this week when my 8 year old walked in and asked, “But how can we know what’s true?”  That’s a “pay attention” question if ever there was one.  She went on: “Like with ITIT told Meg and Calvin that it knew what was best and that if they gave in to it, it would bring them peace.  They wouldn’t need to worry or think or stress.  How did they know not to trust it when those words sound like good things?”

 

If you aren’t familiar with the references, they are from Madeleine L’Engle’s 1960’s fantasy A Wrinkle in Time which we had just finished reading together last week.  The 8 year old had been thinking about it apparently.  The main characters, Meg and Charles Wallace along with their friend Calvin were tasked with saving Meg’s father from the powers of darkness, from a blackness that blots out the skies, that’s hard to detect from earth, that’s seductive in its grasp but is very, very real.  Meg’s father was trapped on a planet that had succumbed to the darkness and on that planet it manifested as IT, a huge central brain that did all the thinking for everyone on the planet.  When Meg and the others confronted IT, trying to save her father, IT offered them peace.  IT would say things like: “Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you trust me enough to come and find out what I am? I am peace and utter rest.  I am freedom from all responsibility.  To come to me is the last difficult decision you will ever make…..in Camazotz all are equal; everybody is the same as everyone else.”

The 8 year old heard the words which were meant to confuse. She heard the big nasty IT say words that could be good but didn’t feel right.   And so she asked critical questions about truth.  She wanted to know why Meg knew not to believe IT.

And like everyone else, I am watching the news and seeing different takes on reality.  I am watching, in real time, some people say one thing and some people say another, all claiming to be the truth.  Truth is apparently in the eye of whoever can shout the loudest.  Truth is determined by airtime and tweets.  Everyone sees reality according to their own pain and their own benefit.  Truth becomes synonymous with a worldview, not a real world where everybody lives.

Pilate asked the same question of Jesus, the question precipitated by the same circumstances – two takes on a reality that were vastly different.  Some people said He was a healer, a prophet, someone who changed them and knew them and offered life.  Some said He was a dissenter, a dangerous villain who was out to take away a way of life, to strip morals away from people, to ruin the work of God in their land and take power for himself.  Everyone was angry, everyone was shouting, some were crying, some hiding.   But the words of accusation made sense.  Pilate didn’t want an insurgency on his hands, an uprising—he didn’t want a rabble-rouser disquieting the natives, claiming power.  And yet, when he looked at the man before him, he knew to ask the question.  He knew not everything was as it seemed, not everything was as it was being interpreted to him.   So Pilate looked at the small, naked man in front of him and asked, “What is truth?”

 

There is no record of what Jesus answered.  There is only a small, naked man standing there.  Reduced, stripped, completely bare and unarmed. That is the answer to “What is truth?”

 

When my daughter asked the question about truth, she was asking about discernment.  How do we discern what is good; how do we know we can trust it?  How do we discern when the words all sound like good things?

 

This is a question I have been asking myself too.  What happens to truth when reality can be interpreted as far away from facts and physical reality as need be?  When anything makes sense if you talk around it long enough.

 

As my husband and I stood there in the kitchen,  we tried to answer the 8 year old.  Two things came out of that conversation that have struck me as genuine litmus tests for truth.

The first is fruit.  As in, what is the fruit of the claim, the action, that is being discerned.  What is the result.  The 8 year old understood this idea of fruit—there’s a song (or 100) about it.  This is what kids do in Sunday school – sing songs about fruit.   The fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.   You can tell a tree by its fruit.  It makes a nice song but take it towards discernment and its powerful in its clarity.

 

Does the outcome of the claim being made on truth result in love?  Love, not admiration, not adoration, not praise, but love.  I love bell hooks’ definition of love.  “LOVE is as love does” she writes; love is when we “openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment and trust.” (All About Love, bell hooks, 2000).  Does what is being offered express care, affection, responsibility towards, respect of, commitment and covenant over and trust of the people involved.  This kind of love takes seriously the human worth of people– all the people.  We talked about this and it was clear to the 8 year old, IT did not love the people it claimed to be helping.  IT offered them ease but not love for their very own selves, especially not when they advocated for themselves.

 

Does the outcome of the claim being made on truth result in joy?   IT did not offer joy either.  IT offered a version of satiety, but not joy.  Not the swelling of the heart, not the gratitude that verbalized joy, not the color, the taste, the movement and new life that joy creates and recreates continuously.

 

Does the outcome of the claim being made result in peace?  Well, yes, in a way, the 8 year old noticed.  IT offered utter rest, no one had to think, no one had to fight, no one had any say in anything so no one thought they were better than the others.  This is why the 8 year old asked the question!  This is where the kernel of truth lay in IT’s claim.  IT claimed peace but brought it through force.  Was that real peace?

 

We moved on.  But the questions are SO worth asking.

Does the outcome of the claim of truth result in patience?  Does it make people able to stop and step back and listen before speaking? Does is create the capacity for second, third, fourth chances?  How about 70X7 chances?

Does it result in kindness? Does what you are hearing as the reality you should live by result in kindness?  Does it engender kindness?  Kindness to who? You?  People just like you?  Or everyone—even those soooo different from you.

Does it result in goodness?  In flourishing, in harvest, in abundance?  For all of us?

Does is result in gentleness?  Does it result in the ability to step back from rage and see the fragile human in front of you?  Does it give you the capacity to then reach out with intention but care to who is in front of you?  To yourself?  We never talk about gentleness.  But the Spirit does.

Does this truth result in faithfulness?  In covenant?  Does it result in long-term commitments to the good of the other?  Does it help you trust more?  Trust God, trust yourself, trust others?

Does it result in self-control?  Does your truth result in the ability to hold yourself accountable to others, the awareness to hold yourself as living within a whole, not just for yourself and for the immediate?

 

The other thing that came out of our kitchen conversation about A Wrinkle in Time was this question:  Who benefits from this version of truth?  Who loses?  Who gains more and who suffers?  It didn’t take too many years of human stories for my younger daughter to conclude last year, “Bad guys always want money and power, money and power.”  Thank you Disney movies.  Seems simple, but it could be worth asking, “Where is the power (and money and fame) going?”  Meg Murray, her brother and her friend saw that IT was after the power to control, to determine the fates of all the people on that planet.  And IT carved that power by diminishing the humanity of all the people – it no longer saw individuals, but a cause, a system, a truth based on not seeing individual worth.  Want to know why governments, churches and any institution can quickly move from truth to lie?  From good to harm?  Because of this…By no longer seeing individuals but only seeing the cause, when ends justify means, when the power to act tramples the real-live individual its supposed to help.

When we are called upon to make a judgment about truth, where is the power, and the money and fame that give it, going?  Who is benefiting and who is suffering?

 

As Pilate stood there, looking at the naked small man before him, powerless indeed, he asked, “What is truth?”  And the truth stood there naked and small—the truth stood there as basic as each of us on the day of our birth and the day of our death.

What was the fruit of this man, upholding and drawing in the humanity of all of us by just standing there.  He did not have power or money to convince or sway.  But he left in his wake people made more whole.  People seeing themselves for real for the first time.  Was there love?  Joy?  Kindness?  Gentleness?

Who benefited from this man?  The lost, the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the orphan, the widow, the thief, the cheat, the lonely, the sick, the desperate, the questioning, the rich, the confused, the blind, the lame, the selfish, the adamant, the ones who cried out loudly, the ones who couldn’t anymore.  Every individual got to have their own selves given back to them, their dignity, their worth–Everyone who came into his frame, not just those who were just like him.

 

The God who gave.  Who poured out.  Who decided and intentionally emptied out for the benefit of the losers of the world, emptied out until his own death. Because he saw each of them?  And served them?  Touched their dirtiness?  And loved them?   Is that truth?  Is this how we discern truth these days?

The answer of truth, again and again with this Jesus, is no answer we can defend with swords and power or even with well-crafted words, initiatives, or programs, but truth?  Here, before Pilate and the powers of this world, truth is a person, fully alive.

 

Meg Murray…I keep coming back to her.  As she faced IT in the end, she was powerless to stand firm from its pulsing control.  She could not defeat IT through her will power, through her ability to think through the issues.  She could not defeat IT through any of her gifts, her strengths.  They were no match for its all encompassing lies that made complete sense.  But she held out for one thing – love.  Love for her brother, her baby brother who knew her, who saw her, who was cut from the same cloth she was, the one thing she could remember even in the face of the most peaceful lie of utter security, the lie of hardship ceasing.  Love for one person, for one individual in that moment, was the only thing that inoculated her from the lie that would not serve them, but take from them their power to be truly alive.

 

Love did it.  Somehow.  Over and over again, we read this in books–the really old ones and the really weird ones.  And 8 year olds the world over start to ask themselves the question, What is truth?

Is it any wonder the book was banned?

 

“A book, too, can be a star, “explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,” a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”  Madeleine L’Engle quoting astronomer Fred Hoyle in her Newbury Medal acceptance speech, 1963.

 

The Book of Love – Part 3

–I just can’t stop thinking of the question, “What story do I live out of?”  In all the areas of my life.  In my exhausted parts, in my broken-hearted parts, in my confused parts, in my angry parts, in my terrified parts.   All those parts are a bit closer to the surface lately than I usually want to admit.  So here, on Maundy Thursday, the day when we celebrate how Jesus washes clean our dirty, tired parts, when we remember this shared meal that gives such deep welcome but we don’t really have a clue how it is all going to play out–today I want to think about this.  

If I dedicated blog posts, which I always want to do, I would dedicate this to my dear friends whose questions have not been answered how they expected.  Please lets keep telling the story to each other.  I know I need it.  Maybe it will help.

This is the 3rd part of my Book of Love rambling.    The story we live out of–

 

And then this story, of us and God, of God and this world, comes to a crux. We get to a still point.    One day, unbeknownst to all those hearts, a girl woke up in the middle of the night. Terrified, but also able to see something that had that sheen of hope. That young, uneducated girl was able to conceive of something completely unexpected. She woke up and said yes to that call. She was afraid but still showed her face.   And she was filled with all that part of Love and all that part of God that the world was made with.   She was going to bear a baby. And it was at once miraculous and prosaic.   God – so big, so everywhere, so much more than us became so small, so located only in one particular spot, with those particular parents, siblings, cousins. And the So Much More of the UNIVERSE became at ordinary, common baby strapped to his mothers back as she gets her water for the day. This is the power of the universe – the power we crave so intensely – the power of all the creative love furled within one small dark boy.

 

This storyteller – I tell you. Not only does he consistently choose to work in ways that surprise and confound our proper and dignified sensibilities, but this storyteller once again, and always, does things in order to bring himself and his creation back together. Reprised, remembered, recapitualated, reconnected in ways that cannot be undone. Not by anger or hatred or shame or fear. That baby was in our world, deeply intertwined with the whole of creation – just as we all are.

 

That same part of God that folded himself into the creation of the universe, our world, our star and all the stars and all the worlds, en-folded once again, that part of himself that grows and learns and draws life from the ground into a small jewish displaced boy to parents who had nothing to go on but snippets of dreams and intimations they got in the night and what felt like swords piercing their deepest hearts.

 

And this is the still point in our story. This enfleshing of God himself. This incarnating of love into specific ways of language, culture, religiosity, spirituality. Love, now in flesh appearing.

 

From here the story moves fast. Time is different for the duration of this story. It is full and it is urgent and it is growing.   One story among millions, this story, His own story, has bloomed out into a thousand different takes, like the sides of a crystal.

 

Remember the words Jesus said, the spit he rubbed, the water he changed, the fish he provided, the storms that calmed, the skies that grew dark, the mountaintops that changed in his presence. The tears he wept, the laughter he let loose, the sticks he picked up, the tables he overturned.   Conversation after conversation showed bit by bit a fuller picture of the LOVE THAT MADE THE UNIVERSE. He told stories. He challenged. He forgave. He welcomed the unwelcome. He made new bodies that had been torn apart. He brought into the fold those who had been cast out. He knew that the peoples bodies were important – he fixed them, he fed them. He knew that peoples minds were important – he asked questions, he told stories, he listened, he made connections to the stories they’d heard their whole lives. He knew that people’s spirits were important – he forgave them, he let them go, he released them, he gave them new life, he unbound their hearts. And they imagined that their own lives could be a part of something, an unfragmented story that at its root was not fear and was not death and was not anger and hatred. But was love.

 

He both pointed to, and created a time, a kingdom, a reign, where the last were first.   Where those, that in no way would ever win in this world, were the Kings. Where peacemakers were the children of God. Where those with no one and nothing were brought in and given people and given everything they needed to live.   Where those running from violence and oppression and everything that diminished the image of God in them, could come and be at peace. In ways that were very immediate, he showed that love, that same love that desired this world to grow and flourish, the same love that we read about at the beginning of this story. That same love that devoted itself to the long, long story of God-With-Us that has become our faith. That same love that at every point and every turn in the story aimed to bring back together that which was torn apart.

 

And then he died. He was killed. He was punished and hurt and so many people were confused. And we think about it all the time. Why did he die? What did it do? How did this show love? How did this bring the world, bring us, back together, back to God, back to the whole that we long to be?

 

Centuries of this question go before us here now. And just like those people, who, when they were physically touched by Jesus from Nazareth, knew that something MORE had occurred in them, just as something deep in their core leapt when he talked about God and them, just as they re-member-ed something of the deep reality of their lives when this man was around and was talking, so too, when he died, they knew.   They knew something had occurred that went beyond what they saw.

 

The Love of the Universe, distilled into three days of real life. A Friday of tortuous injustice and of unimaginable loss. A Saturday of numbness and grey confusion.

 

And then a Sunday, a daybreak, like the millions of days broken before it, rising anew on an old, blood soaked and weary piece of land.

 

The Love of the Universe, distilled into the calling of one woman in the garden that surrounded the houses of the dead – Mary, Mary, don’t you know that its me. Mary, Mary, don’t you see that its me. The one you have been looking for.

 

The Love of the Universe, bringing back together that which was torn apart. Bringing together that which was kept apart. Opening doors to an inner temple, opening mouths to speak of grace and of reconciliation, opening hearts to live for it and to die for such a grace. GRACE! LOVE! Not power but the exact opposite – the giving of oneself for the glory and beauty of another. And the Resurrection –giving people, all those loved people, a way into the re-member-ing of the universe. Redeemed, Remembered, Recapitulated, Reconnected, Reconciled.

 

And just as the pattern of Creation was that of the long story of love, the pattern of Incarnation was the long story of love. Because the part of God that made the world with love was the part of God that fleshed out what that love looked like, in a real human home, in a real human voice, in a real human life of hope and need and body and death. With real stories and real tears. And he made love all anew.

 

And then, in classic God style, Love told us to keep at it. Keep telling the story, keep making the love, keep creating it. Keep being that embodied bit of love in whatever home we found ourselves in, on whatever piece of land we found ourselves planted in.   He gave us His body and then made us His Body, his very self of Love. Growing, learning, all parts working together, as all bodies learn to. He is continuing His work of bringing the world back together, in every generation, welcoming every heart as if it was the only heart he ever cared about, welcoming all of us into his heart. He has brought us into his creating work, just as at the beginning. Without fear but with communion. With that sense that each of us can know, know as we know the back of our own hands, the way of the universe, the way of love.

 

The book of love, its been said, is long and boring. It’s a tale of a thousand ordinary invitations, a thousand ordinary open doors and a thousand ordinary choices.  

 

Here, in my brown house with big draughty windows and decrepit doors, with toys and crumbs strewn about in literal drifts, here, the book of love is writing its next chapter. With my family and my friends and my church budgets and meeting minutes and bank appointments. With every one that comes across my path – alike and very unlike.  It is in the welcome of these into the space of my heart that this story of love keeps being told.  And in your house, with your people, and your mess and your joy and your deep fear. And in every house on every street. This book is being fleshed out, it is being written and filled out.  

 

 

What story do you live out of?   What story do I live out of? One where love is grown into the very DNA of the world, where there is enough, where we have hope, where Grace stops retribution in its tracks?

Or do we live in one where we have to fight and scrabble and defend.

Do we live out of a story of bringing together, of bringing us together? Or do we live in a story of tearing apart?

Of love or of fear—in our own hearts?

 

We choose our stories, we can choose the next words; what story do you live out of? What would be different if the story was indeed one of such a love? A love that re-member-ed its very nature back to itself.

 

 

Write your story and know it is the story of His body. It is a chapter in the big story.  Tonight, keep choosing to write it, knowing that it is written in the big book of Love, it is woven into the story of this world. Your story and the bits of love within it, no matter how twisty the plot, has a place in God’s Big Story. Keep reading The Story, keep writing The Story, keep being written.   Just keep being written into that Book of Love.