Will We Give Presence This Christmas?

Posted by on Friday, Dec 22, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament receives the Lord Jesus in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother [or sister].” Life Together, p.9. I experience this truth last week while I preached in Yei South Sudan. The rumor was a white American woman was going to preach, so they came. It mattered that I was a woman, it mattered that I was white, it mattered that I was an American. Everything about my bodily presence mattered. In fact, it was a sign of hope, of healing, of something new beginning. The body matters; being present matters. (Even if your feet can’t touch the ground while sitting in a seat.)  A quick history lesson for those of you who don’t know much about South Sudan: South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. This was the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war (over 50 years). Unfortunately, in 2013 the world’s newest nation broke out in civil war displacing 2.2 million people. Massive Internationally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps have sprouted in Uganda and Congo as a result of people having to flee their homes. My husband Steve has had his boots on the ground for decades. He’s walked hand-in-hand with his fellow brothers and sisters in South Sudan. It’s because of his bodily presence, over the long haul, staying in the game, that he was included in the Yei River State grassroots peace process. He was there when the generals and government officials met to figure out how they could bring peace to their state. He was there when the rebels came out of the bush and laid down their guns. He helped figure out aid to get them reestablished into society. That was three months ago, and now we were back on the ground.   What now Lord, what now? That’s why I found myself standing and preaching to war-torn men, women, and children in South Sudan. I taught on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Scripture declares her a blessed woman, favored by God. She even proclaimed “God did great things for her.” I’ve noodled on that concept for a while. I’ve struggled with how I view being blessed in light of Mary’s life. Mary suffered. Her...

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What’s Your Next Move?

Posted by on Sunday, Aug 6, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

On an impulse, I decided I’d jump in for a swim in the Chesapeake. What I hadn’t considered was how I’d get back into my kayak. Since I wasn’t able to pull myself up into the boat I decided to simply grab on and …well, I wasn’t sure. I guess I’d just keep hanging on. My son pulled up along side and humorously asked, “Mom, what’s your next move?”  I burst out laughing; I didn’t have one. Thank goodness he had more of a plan than me. I’d pull up on his board and from there get into my kayak. Over the past several days I’ve found myself chuckling at this silly episode. Tonight I woke in the middle of the night chuckling except for this time, my thoughts led to Jesus. How many times in life have I impetuously jumped out of the boat giving no thought as to how I’d get back in? Oh my, the conversation the trinity must have while I cling to that boat. I suspect Jesus finds it as humorous as my son did. And here he comes, Jesus, he pulls up alongside calmly without condemnation but a snicker in his tone and asks, “What’s your next move?”  Then he gently suggests I pull myself up onto his paddle board so I can then get myself back into my kayak. What’s your next move? It’s funny and it’s...

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Living the Blessed Life

Posted by on Monday, Apr 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I never heard it growing up. It just wasn’t a saying. I heard it when I moved to Dallas. You’ve heard it, too – Blessed. We Christians use it often. “They have a blessed life.” “I’ve lived a blessed life.” I googled images of “blessed life.” Here’s a sample of what pops up. I’ve been noodling on the birth of Jesus in Luke. There I tripped over Mary’s words in the Magnificat, specifically the ones where she proclaims that she’s blessed and that God has done great things for her. And I’m wondering, as I noodle over the meaning of her life if I’ve minimized the meaning of blessed. What exactly are we referring to when we say “our life is blessed?” That we are financially ok…that our relationships are in a good place…that our health is holding up? The more and more I read Scripture the more I realize how unsanitized it is, how what we say or think isn’t what’s being said through the lives of those of whom the Scriptures speak. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49) I’ve spent the week noodling on Mary’s life. The events that Scripture reveals about her. As I’ve pondered I’ve increasingly wondered how she could say, “God did great things for her?” Mary got pregnant by the Holy Spirit. (That’s freaky!) She could have faced death by stoning for the pregnancy. (That’s scary!) There was a time of tension over it with Joseph. (How awkward was that conversation?) She lived in a shame/honor culture. Where her parents ashamed? What about the community? Did they mock her? Leave her out? Say mean things to her? Her reputation, the most valuable possession a woman had, was on the line. While very pregnant she traveled on a donkey. (Ouch.) She gave birth in a cave with animals. (Smells. Need I say more?) She had no other woman present for the delivery. No mother, sister, or aunt to look her in the eye and help her navigate this painful experience. Herod’s threat forced her to go on the run. She left her home and friends. Some of those friends she left behind lost their sons on account of hers. Don’t blow past that. When I had my 2-year-old son Hunter, we had playdates with other 2-year-olds. And us moms would make them PB&Js and chat while the kids played. What was it like to leave...

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The Best Conversations Are At A Bar

Posted by on Wednesday, Jan 11, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

 I came across this while cleaning my desktop. It’s one of my favorite pictures because it speaks volumes about Jesus. As most of you know, I didn’t grow up a Christian, going to church or around other Christians. I was a pagan, in the Biblical sense. Several months back I met up with an old high school friend. She described my younger years as “powerful and wild, wild in the good sense, edgy.” She was being polite. I was wild – sex, drugs and rock and roll – really a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen. I’ve often thought if I had continued down that road I’d be dead. Back when I was in high school the drinking age was 18, but at 14 we looked 18 and we all had fake I.D.s. My hometown had more bars per capita than any other city in NY.  Going to the bars was a social event for most of my school friends. “We all did it.” We drank like crazy, played foosball, danced, and at times “hooked” up… When I see this picture I’m reminded of the work of Jesus in my life. There’s so much I could say but a picture speaks a thousand words. Shalom Twenty years later, after a masters and doctorate degree and over a decade of church work, I find myself back at the bars. The cheap beer has been replaced by a lovely glass of white wine, and the only cute guy we’re “checking out” is Jesus. But what’s been most surprising is it’s there, more so than in the church and seminary, where I’ve encountered some of the most authentic, salty, questioning, thinking conversations about Jesus. For some reason, and there are several, the venue is safe. Safe for women to be real about their life and faith. It’s evident that the Holy Spirit swirls among and within these conversations. Recently a female educator shared with my husband that she couldn’t have me come speak to her classroom because “I was too edgy” (there’s that descriptor again) for her theological world. After all, “I taught the Bible in a bar.” Yes, after all, I teach in a bar. After all those years of drinking, dancing, and carousing – I teach the Word of God in a bar. I haven’t missed Jesus’ humor in all of this. Jesus is funny. No, seriously, you’ve got to lighten up; sometimes he’s really funny! That young girl who lived an “edgy life” at the bars now lives an “edgy life” at the bars. What was – wasn’t annihilated – but repurposed. That’s what we see of the items in the Temple and it’s what Jesus does with us – he repurposes...

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Greyhound Vulnerability

Posted by on Monday, Oct 24, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Every Tuesday I take the Greyhound to Austin to teach a bible study. Taking the Greyhound enables my hands to be free to write and keeps our costs down. But there are also some intangible benefits to my bus ride. The city of Dallas gives a free bus fare to those being released from jail. And since the bus is one of the cheapest means of travel, many of the riders are immigrants, lower income families, men and women. I am an educated, middle-class, white, suburban woman who rides with some of the more vulnerable in our society. This week an older man, using his hands to feel his way, wobbled passed my seat. It was obvious from his dark glasses and two earpieces that he was blind and almost deaf. Just before the bus pulled out of the Dallas station he got flustered, tried to walk to the front to say something to the bus driver. She kept telling him, “Sit down we are about to leave. Sit down.” I could see he was getting fretful so I told the driver, “He needs his meds. They’re in the bag underneath the bus carrier.” They had me take his heavy bag to him. The ride from Dallas to Austin is direct but sometimes the driver pulls over about 40 minutes outside of Austin to take a smoke break. As the bus pulled over to the side of the road the man asked, “Are we in Austin?” I got close to his ear, “No, we have pulled over for the bus driver to have a smoke. We will be in Austin in 40 minutes.” Upon arrival I carried both his bags off the bus and then I headed off to the bathroom. When I came out of the bathroom I noticed he was trying to drag his two large duffle bags towards the taxicabs. One bag had come open, his clothes were falling out, and so I ran up and grabbed the bags and got him in a cab. Brené Brown posted a quote on her Facebook page from Richard Rohr’s book, Divine Dance: “Did you ever imagine that what we call ‘vulnerability’ might just be the key to ongoing growth? In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it means others could sometimes actually wound us. Indeed, vulnera comes from the Latin for ‘to wound.'” When I ride on the bus I always know where I am, when I will arrive, and who will pick me up. I’m one of the few on the bus who have...

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