Women in Combat? The outcry should be about war, not gender.

“In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.”

If it’s so “intolerable” for women to die in war, why does that make it “tolerable” for men to die in war? We have standards for how women should live, and now we have standards as to what are acceptable and unacceptable ways for women to die?

Up until today, I didn’t know the Women in Combat law existed. Maybe I live in a rabbit hole, but I actually thought that women and men could equally serve in the military. Apparently that just wasn’t true. One more way in which the sexes are valued differently in American culture, and one more battle won, I suppose.

But what if the issue at stake is not whether females are suitable for actively annihilating other human beings, but what if the real issue is war? How can we minimize it? How can we become blessed peacemakers? Perhaps we can view this as nothing more than a rally cry to “beat our [Ak 47s] into ploughshares?” (Isaiah 2:3-4) Maybe this is our time to “learn war no more.” If we can’t accept women dying in combat, perhaps we shouldn’t accept combat either.

Too simplistic, eh?

Just ask Ghandi. And Rosa Parks. And Martin Luther King.

And they will tell you that equality, nonviolence, and peace can not only coexist, but are entirely indispensable.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/women-in-combat_n_2535954.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

The Fiscal Cliff: Like the Wall Street Crash, “We Need a Little Christmas”

There are two hackneyed words that have droned on the web, radio, television, social media, and even in some conversations I’ve had this week: fiscal cliff. Not being an economist, I confess I dismissed most of it, just interpreting it as another way of phrasing the “not enough money” message we’ve been hearing about for the past five years, that further reiterate the messages of budget concerns I hear on weekly conference calls at work. Deciding, however, to become a little more informed, I found this Washington Post article to express “the fiscal cliff for dummies” (my words, not theirs). For those who can resonate with not quite understanding this issue, here’s a few main points:

The 2001 Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire on December 31, causing, among other factors, congress to discuss taxes increases/decreases and budget cuts. Congress has set a limit on how much money the U.S. can borrow, therefore, a deal must be reached.

Half of the scheduled annual cuts will come directly from the national defense budget, half from non-defense.

Social Security, Medicaid, supplemental security income, refundable tax credits, the children’s health insurance program, the food stamp program and veterans’ benefits will not be cut.

Discretionary programs (those that do not have earmarked funds) could face cuts. This includes educational and public health programs, to name a couple.

The Tax Policy Center has calculated that the fiscal cliff will raise taxes on 90 percent of Americans.

The tax hike would be largely progressive, with the tax rate increasing more on high-income Americans than lower-income taxpayers.

Those are a few highlights. There’s still a lot over my head. But that’s enough for me right now. I took a break from public radio this week— even though I enjoy listening to all the unique highlights and interviews I wouldn’t hear elsewhere— because somehow, whenever I’d leave for work in the morning, and whenever I’d leave in the evening, I always seemed to catch the headline news update. And most headline news reports this week have felt dismal. Parking my car after work this week and hearing words like “fiscal cliff” and “economy” swirling around my brain began to dull my ability to enjoy the blissful Christmas lights adorning the homes and entryways of my neighbors. So I decided to take a “media fast.”

A day into this “fast,” I went to Baltimore’s annual Monument tree lighting celebration, in which the city comes together for the lighting of Baltimore’s Washington Monument. Strolling the streets after the lighting and celebratory fireworks, I came across a quartet of women singing, “We Need a Little Christmas,” right there, on the sidewalk, taking a moment out of their evening to stop what they would have otherwise been doing, slow down, and simple sing a song of joy. A multi-racial crowd gathered around, cheering on the carolers, lauding them with applause. I listened to an older man with a broad smile tell me his about his favorite Christmas song -Oh Holy Night- and the joy that singing brings him. As we waved goodbye, tears warmed in my eyes, a little lump forming in my throat. I’m not normally this sensitive, but it’s just that this peaceful act of beauty has been missing from the news, often times, and, while I’m at it, missing in my life. Like when I complain about how long the grocery store line is instead of striking up a conversation with the man or woman in front of me, grateful to have an abundance of food to choose from and the ability to pay for it. It’s been missing from the world, as we shift our attention towards banter and money and taxes, when really, can’t this whole thing work itself out if we’d all just be a little more peaceful, a little more civil, be a little bit more willing to listen, and be a little bit more willing to cooperate cohesively as citizens of the United States of America? What would happen if, say, we shifted towards the spirit of unity that can so embody this time of year, a time in which every major world religion has a holy day to celebrate, or just finished celebrating a month earlier, as in the cases of the Hindu holiday Diwali and the Islamic New Year.

I think that’s what was captured in the gathering of people surrounding this beautiful quartet. Coming together, instead of dividing; finding hope, instead of despair; giving out of a loving heart instead of hoarding our riches to bless ourselves… isn’t that in the teachings of most major religions, anyway?

Interestingly enough, “We Need a Little Christmas” was sung in the Broadway musical Mame. The song is performed after Mame has lost her fortune in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and decides that she, her young nephew Patrick, and her two household servants “need a little Christmas now” to cheer them up. Patrick protests, “but Auntie, it’s one week from Thanksgiving now!” Intransigent, Mame insists, “It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough. For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older, and I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder. I need a little Christmas now.” I think Mame knew something powerful: the joy of this season can bring hope even in the midst of despair, like in the Great Depression Mame faced.

Though a fictitious story, the lesson that Mame teaches us in the mantra of “We Need a Little Christmas” parallels to times today. No matter how pollyanna or naive it seems, we too can experience peace and joy in the midst of daunting or disheartening headlines that reflect anything but the Christmas spirit. And maybe, if we could focus on things to be joyful about, like stories of kindness and cheer in the media this month, a little bit more than we’ve done during the other months of this year, perhaps that spirit of kindness will help us become united as one this holiday season. As the saying goes, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” For me, as someone who is guilty of taking life too seriously as I all too frequently rush around with my own agenda, only half-heartedly listening to the world and those around me, learning how to express gratitude and gratefulness in the midst of my selfishness and apprehensions. What about you? What about us? What if this holiday season, we learn that we are truly brothers and sisters, neighbors to love? Let’s reflect this spirit  in anyway we can; you use your gift, I’ll use mine. Perhaps your gift is being able to spread a smile across someone’s face as they gather around neighbors-becoming-friends as they hear you sing mellifluously of hope and joy. Perhaps it’s inviting some friends over for no reason at all other than to be together, celebrating the life we’ve each been given. Perhaps it’s gathering your family together and choosing an animal for a family halfway across the world to use as a source of income. Whatever it looks like, it looks like love, it looks like togetherness, and to me, it epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas. Yes,—-

For we need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a little Christmas now.

6 for Six

We are just under a month away from election day and, despite all the progress in achieving marriage equality in Maryland, it could just as easily be taken away depending on how Marylanders respond to question 6. Here are six reasons why I will emphatically vote YES for question 6 to support marriage equality:

 6) Because I don’t believe that I have the right to deny the marriage of two consenting adults who love each other.

5) Because the quicker marriage equality is achieved, the quicker we can get back to using our time, capital, and media attention to address poverty, peace-building, human trafficking, and other social justice issues.

4) Because I want to add our country to one of the eleven that recognizes marriage equality. At the very at least, I want to remain one of the six states that currently recognizes same sex marriage.

3) Because the law gives freedom— freedom for people to marry those they love and for faith based institutions to choose which marriages they wish to recognize. (It saddens me to have to phrase this in such a way as to insinuate that some faith based institutions will disregard a couple’s marriage simply because they are of the same gender —-while eagerly welcoming in a divorced couple, another supposed “no-no” in the Church—-, but for those who are not ready to observe marriage equality, you will not be forced to change your faith based institutions’ stances or beliefs).

2) When I found out that interracial marriage used to be illegal, I was appalled and astonished. I also wonder where the Church was at this time. Was it supporting equality, love, and freedom? Or was it fostering hatred, judgment, separation, and inequality? I want my children and grandchildren to be so shocked that marriage equality used to not exist (i.e. they’re so accustomed to it that they don’t understand what the big deal was). I want to know that I, along with other people of faith, were on the sidelines voicing for equality, equity, and justice.

2012

1967

                                                                                                                                          Is it any different today?

1) Because my life has been personally touched by men and women who are gay or lesbian. Marriage equality has a face and a story. If you haven’t already, get to know someone whose sexual orientation is different from your own. Your life just might be changed. For more voices and stories, check out Believers for Marriage Equality: http://www.believersforme.com/

Are you registered to vote in Maryland?
Check here: http://elections.state.md.us/voter_registration/index.html

*Photo credits for this page: http://interacc.typepad.com/synthesis/2012/05/divided.html

Enough.

After a week of reading and hearing headlines, emails, posts, and radio negative campaign ads, I have one word to say, capitalized and underlined.

ENOUGH.

Rush, please learn to think before you speak and learn the power of forgiveness when you say mean things.

Romney, please get to your know your gay, straight, bi, lesbian, neighbors and realize that they don’t need one more person pointing fingers at them; really we all just need one more person to encourage and love us. And as an aside, if you’re going to make a “Christian” graduation speech, may I suggest adapting from the Sermon on the Mount, not the Mountain of Rejection you’ve voiced of others.

Obama, please stop emailing me daily asking for $3 because I’m sick of scheming up millions for campaign finance when I truly believe character wins over capital ANY day of the week.

And lest I put the blame on others, I will galvanize myself: Otterbein, enough with your cynicism.

ENOUGH.

One soldier committing suicide every day.

ENOUGH.

Another needless gun violence tragedy today.

ENOUGH.

Enough of the name-calling, the negativity, the judgment, the labeling, and complacency too while we’re at it.

Enough of assumption making, enough of pointing fingers (and guns), enough of war, enough of divisiveness.

You know what I’m talking about.

There is a world bursting forth with LOVE just longing to be opened and discovered.

There is a Kingdom big enough for all of us.

It’s time we hold hands. It’s time we link up, arm in arm, go on! I know it might feel silly at first but give it a few seconds and you might feel a tingling in your toes or fingers and it will be holy and beatific and divine.

Yes, yes, go hold hands, go high five, go hug, go laugh, skip and jump with your black, Asian, caucasian, Hispanic, mixed, straight, gay, immigrant, hippie, blue collar, white collar, those who cut off their collars a long time ago, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, haven’t-prayed-in-twenty-years-because you have questions and don’t need trite answers, young, elderly, thirsty, empty, stumbling, bumbling (not sure what that even means), homeless, trafficked, just discovering beauty and grace despite chaos, sisters and brothers.

Yes, On Earth as it is in Heaven.

We can have it a bit of it.

Yes, yes, we can learn that fostering hope instead of further creating division, especially during tender times is an excellent idea.

Yes, yes,we can douse hatred and ignite love with our mouths, our hands, our feet, our very soul.

We can pledge our fealty to loving our neighbor, not our red white and blue embroideries.

We can wave the white flag.

We can throw up peace signs.

We can mourn when our heart is heavy from pain and brokenness and depravity. Better yet, we can mourn together.

And then we can roll down hills together.

And stomp in puddles.

Because we have said ENOUGH to the former and we can now dance in the latter, barefoot and unafraid…

Martin Luther King Memorial
Washington D.C.
April 2012

For Where Your [Treasury] is, There Your Heart Will be Also

April 30, 2012

With the same dollar that says, “In God we Trust,” America funds exploited foreign labor of men and women from developing countries in American combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. While attending an International Justice Mission advocacy workshop a couple of weeks ago, righteous anger filled my heart as I learned about this and the many horrors of labor trafficking stemming from U.S. government contracting. Volunteers imbued to do something about human trafficking took to Washington D.C. on April 16 to lobby for three specific bills that will address trafficking.

The one that grabbed my attention most was the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act introduced in March 2012 by 11 senators and congress members from both political parties to address the deceptive and dehumanizing practice of foreign worker exploitation. Currently, the United States uses three main defense contractors (KGB, Fluor, and DynCorp International), who then subcontract to other subcontractors, subcontracting even further to reach global subcontractors, many of which are on the human-trafficking noncompliance list.1 These recruiter agents then go to countries such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other developing countries to recruit locals, eager for employment. Individuals are promised a job in a big city like Dubai upon paying an exorbitant recruiting fee (an average of $3,000) to pay for a visa and travel. Since many individuals cannot afford this fee, they will go to a loan shark, where they are charged 35-45% interest or use their house as collateral.1 The individual is then given a tourist visa (not a permanent visa), and instead of arriving at a five star hotel in Dubai, they find themselves in the middle of a U.S. Combat Zone on a U.S. military base. Known as “third country nationals (TCNs),” these workers serve in occupations such as janitors, cooks, and hairdressers serving American Army men, women, and families, making half of the money they were promised, living in a dangerous environment.

Despite having a zero tolerance on human trafficking, more than 250,000 people have been victims of labor trafficking on U.S. government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years2; combat zones that we (the U.S.) created. Instead of starting our own war and dealing with the implications of that (that’s a whole other story), we are now suddenly bringing other countries’ citizens into our war, without their prior knowledge, through deceitful forced labor. Hidden in some contracts to TCNs are consent to work “seven days a week, twelve hours per day.”1 Additionally, there have been cases of harassment and repeated sexual abuse. 1 Some workers were housed on soiled mattresses with twenty five other migrants from countries around the world. Not only faced with harsh living conditions and paltry pay, workers face the risks of mortar fire, rocket attacks, and explosive devices. One woman interviewed in the New Yorker recalled that “a Kevlar helmet and bulletproof best sat at the foot of her bed.” Hardly the beauty salon in Dubai that she had been promised.1 Worse off, in an attempt to disrupt U.S. supply chains in 2004, Sunni militants kidnapped, blew up truckers, shot and even beheaded TCNs to send the message that they should be punished for working with the U.S.2 Many of these workers find themselves unable to escape their situations because their passports and other forms of documentation have been sequestered from them. For the few who do make it home, many encounter difficulties paying off their loans to the loan shark.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act addresses these problems by promoting prevention, accountability, and enforcement. Contractors with contracts of over $1 million must implement compliance plans to prevent trafficking abuses such as confiscating passports, misrepresenting work location, and activities supporting the procurement of viable sex acts. This bill will improve accountability by requiring a contractor to notify the Inspector General if they receive “credible evidence” that a subcontractor has engaged in prohibited conduct. Investigations of such cases will be required and findings must be reported to the public. Finally, the bill will strengthen enforcement of polices by taking action against violations, including the removal of employee(s) or the debarment of the contractor.

While I think this bill is progress, I think there is a bigger issue at hand: Why are we creating policies to manage injustice rather than dismantling such systems? Why are we putting global citizens’ lives at risk in the first place? Why are we (the U.S.) paying men and women of developing countries unlivable wages, subjecting them to harassment, long work hours in dangerous conditions to begin with? Just to save money? Just so the casualties these workers are subjected to won’t be the death or injury of an American life? If Americans were hired for government work, labor polices would be in effect, including at least minimum wage, benefits, and liabilities. But we must not see third country nationals as deserving of such liberties, or else we would have already done so. We would have already made outcry and spoken instead of passively ignoring the issue with silence. It is our silence on such issues that sustain systems of corruption and injustice.

Whenever we value money over people, we will fail as humanity time and time again. When your priorities are power, defense, and capital, there is little room for respect and dignity. When we print, “In God We Trust” on our currency, are we trusting that God will bless our effort of military might and power, while ignoring our lack of dignity towards those of other countries? Do we trust that God supports our policies, however biased they are towards preserving American quality of life at all costs, simply because we sing “God Bless America” and have American flags in many of our churches? What does it say about the heart of America when our treasury funds a hierarchy of whose safety, well-being and labor “does” and “does not” really matter?

“For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Imagine a world where our time, money, energy, and priorities, are spent on love. Imagine a world where we don’t trust in the little gods of flags and patriotism, but we trust in the God of the Nations. Imagine a world where a Nepali life is valued as much as an American life. Imagine a world where we might be able to consider asking for God’s blessing because we not only love our neighbors, but we love and do good to our enemies. Imagine a world less focused on its borders and boundaries and a world that realizes that no matter which part of the Earth we reside, we are all ONE- humanity and life itself unite us, not our flags and fences. It seems to me that if we’re a nation that “trusts God,” then we should start trusting in the Kingdom values— That when Jesus talks about storing up treasures in Heaven, he meant that we are to invest in the attitudes and practices of the Kingdom of God: LOVE. What we spend our time, money, energy, voice, and very life on reveals what’s important in our lives, reveals what we stand for. Better than bills, greater than policy change, is loving and serving others (no matter the race or nationality), treating each person as you would like to be treated. THAT is worth placing our treasure in, and our hearts will be always and forevermore be changed.

So, what do you think?—

Are the lives of people in other countries valued as much as the lives of American people?

How can we support fair labor practices, not just in government contracting, but in our everyday purchases/expenditures?

Edmund Burke once said, “All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women!] do nothing.” How do you feel about this?

________

To learn more:
1. (2011, November 2). Are government contractors exploiting workers overseas? Examining enforcement of the trafficking victims protection act. http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/11-2-11-Subcommittee-on-Technology-Information-Policy-Intergovernmental-Relations-and-Procurement-Reform-Hearing-Transcript.pdf

2. Stillman, Sarah. (2011, June 6). The invisible army: For foreign works on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell. Retreived from www. Newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/06/110506fc_fact_stillman

3. http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/

To act:
-Support the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012 here: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr4259

Email, call, fax, or meet with your representatives and ask them to support anti-trafficking initiatives. Thank your legislators that do. Many organizations already have pre-filled email submission forms requesting support for legislature that individuals can sign for the organization to deliver. Check out the email campaigns of IJM.org and one.org.

-Write an op-ed to your local newspaper explaining key trafficking issues, pieces of legislature that address them, and encourage community participation in any local anti-trafficking events. Create your own event if none exist. Changing the world is easier than you think 🙂

Living in the Tension of the “Now” and the “Not Yet”

3.14.12.    Living in the Tension of the “Now” and “Not Yet”

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be… 

It was the next time in as many times that I was going on and on to someone passionately about another example of social injustice, pulse increasing, inflection rising, my hands probably moving about frantically in some direction (that I was of course unaware of).

It didn’t go so well.

I think I might have just been making noise because I talk about these things so frequently. The person I was talking to called me out on it, pointing out to me that essentially, my life had become unbalanced and I wasn’t embracing the abundant life Christ talks about. He didn’t have to convince me. I knew it.

The past five years have challenged, refined, and shaped me, for better and for worse, as I learned about, cared about, and took action about global suffering, human trafficking, social inequalities, racial polarization, poverty, the realities of war and America’s contributions of bombings in more countries than I’ve ever realized, people being mistreated for their sexuality, etc.

I met people living with HIV who shared painful stories, like how their one and only life partner never told them of their status, or stories of not being able to leave the house because their current medication regimen causes awful side effects. I listened to the stories of people who are gay. I moved to the inner city, where I can no longer deny white privilege and racial polarization. I worked with patients who told me the realities about SSI, Section 8, and food stamps from personal experiences. I went to developing countries and saw inhumane poverty. I read books about refugees, microfinance, and women’s health. I watched documentaries that horrified me. I raised my voice. I sent emails to my senators supporting everything from anti-trafficking legislation to commitments for global HIV funding. I tried my best to live out Jesus’ prayer for God will to be done on Earth as in Heaven.

My life felt full, active, alive, and like I was living out the priorities of the Kingdom.

…And then things got ugly.

In the past year and a half or so, I became angry. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that if each person truly knew the realities of what was going on in this world, like many are choosing to do as they’ve watched Kony 2012, they too would experience what Lynne Hybels refers to as “righteous anger.” But unbalanced, this turned into cynicism. I became critical of people who don’t volunteer. Who claim to know Jesus, but don’t know the poor. Who prioritize “saving souls” to “get” people into Heaven after death, but who cared little about the hells on Earth- where poverty, disease, violence, and trafficking are rampant.

I grew resentful of Christian circles that told females that being a good Christian woman meant respecting your husband, having lots of babies, being nice, and constantly telling girls that they are beautiful, as if every Christian girl struggles with that the most. Believe it or not, some actually don’t. 

I traded in “Captivating” (woof) for “Half the Sky” and “The Irresistible Revolution.”

I traded in Bethany Dillon’s, “Beautiful” for U2’s, “Get on Your Boots.”

I spent less time pursuing deep relationships and more time trying to serve and learn and do, do, do.

I had less and less patience for those who claimed to be Christians but didn’t care to learn about, talk about, or do something about the suffering going on around us.

I muttered things privately and publically about the Michelle Bachmans and Rick Santorums who claimed to know so much about homosexuality and how deplorable it was, but never bothered to listen to the story or struggles of someone who is gay. There are people, with faces, feelings, and dreams, behind nouns such as “homosexuality.” We do great harm when we forget that.

I laughed less.

In summary, my life had become quite uncomfortable and being totally honest, I wanted other peoples’ lives too as well.

It hasn’t felt good. Learning about the harsh realities of life on this planet in which excess wealth and destitute poverty clash; where one kid gets raised with two loving parents, while the other grows up precariously in the projects, wondering who or where his dad is and when mom will stop getting high. One kid drops out of school, while a girl in rural Africa is denied education. None of this is supposed to feel good.

But it’s not supposed to lead to burnout, cynicism, bitterness, divisiveness, nor criticism.

But slowly, ever so slowly, that’s all changing. Luckily I’m learning from a few great friends and family members (who may not even know that they are teaching me this lesson) to stop taking life so seriously. Sure there’s a time to be serious. There’s a time for action. But there’s also a time for rest (Matthew 11:28), Sabbath (Psalm 23:2), and yes, even laughter (Eccl. 3:4).

When you mix enjoyment of God and standing up to action, I believe you rise up in the dare to move.

I’m trying to get there. But if I’m honest, sometimes, often times, I feel stuck in the tension. The tension of how the world is and how it should be. The tension of where I am and where I want to be. The tension of the now, and the not yet. And accepting that that’s how it’s going to be, because I’m only on this side of Heaven. But one day, I won’t be. And I’ll want to look back seeing where I merged my life to create Heaven on Earth as much as possible, filling my days with grace, love, action, serving, hope, and endless, unstoppable, contagious joy.

I find myself waking up to where I’m getting it wrong. Desperately wrong. In clamant need of forgiveness. And asking for it, pleading for it.

All of these human experiences, when put in balance, aren’t meant to lead to exhaustion. They’re supposed to lead to grace and mercy.

So I’m making this my desperate prayer, to be “reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy in the next,” as Reinhold Niebuhr put it so eloquently in the serenity prayer. Today, I’ll say thank you to those who have been patient with me and return the favor to the next soul who needs me to be patient with them. I’ll learn to appreciate the passions, giftings, and talents of others. Not only will I be thankful, I will learn to celebrate such diversity alongside that person.

Today, I will pray for grace. That I would humbly receive it, and, even ask for it at times that I’ve been over-zealous and flat out wrong. I will say thank you to those who’ve so readily supplied it and ask God for more so that I can readily distribute it.

To the cynic.
To offer it lavishly and freely for the doubter.
To offer grace to the do-er, do-more-er, and for the courage to stop “doing” and start “being.”
Grace for the inquisitive, who have more questions than answers.
Grace for the on-the-fence.
Grace for the scared-to-start.
Grace for the I-don’t-want-to-start.
Grace for the rich. Grace for the poor.
Grace for the fearful. And the fearless.

And grace for all of humanity just trying to live life as best we can in the tension of life on this side of Heaven, on this stumbling, spinning, persistent halfway home called Earth.

Transplant.

2/15/12

I couldn’t find the word for it, until I came across it in something I was reading. The author1 was talking about faith stages of being rooted, in transplant, or sprouting. Transplant was exactly where I landed, both spiritually and developmentally- I’m quickly finding the post college world is, well, real…

I’m in a season of life where the old answers and ways of doing things don’t make sense anymore. A season of faith where I have more questions than answers. And. I. love. that. It’s a season of shedding old beliefs and being convicted by new ones. A time of kicking voices out of my head that have done nothing but exhaust me. A time where easy answers and shallow,deduced solutions frustrate me. A time where I feel like a bent puzzle piece, a complete enigma to the Evangelical world. I don’t fit there anymore, at least not in the typical sense of the word. A time in my faith where I can shake my head, and feel frustration, pain, and confusion with verses in the bible (Have you ever read Deuteronomy 22:13-21? I pose a challenge for those who say, “I just do what the Word says”). I can wrestle with each word and its Greek and Hebrew translation, syntax, hermeneutics, and etymology; and then, in the same breath, celebrate with the Psalmist some of my deepest praises and mourn my biggest, “my God, my God, where are you?” moments. It’s a time where I can get so stuck in my own head, my own life, my own self-centeredness, that God will find a way to humbly take the attention away from myself and my life by leading me into wonder and awe— “Do you know who created the Earth? Do you know who chose its size? Can you make the sun rise or the night fall? Have you ever knitted together a snowflake? Can you make the rain fall or the wind blow?” (Job 38) I read that chapter and feel an appropriate sense of smallness, a tiny speck in the midst of grandeur, like looking at the night sky on the clearest of nights, involuntarily dropping my jaw, and whisper a barely audible, but completely appreciative, “WOOOOOWWWWW!”

This is a time where I wrestle with the balance of speaking out about convictions or trying to make peace. I am determined to figure out how to do both, accepting the fact that you can’t please everyone. Stances aren’t everything; relationships are better, and I believe that Jesus’ intentions were for us to be “one” (John 17).

But.

Simply put, I am tired and tired and tired of seeing headlines about the next Christian politician who is outspoken against abortion and homosexuality, as if those are the cruxes of the Christian voter, but silent on the waging of war and global suffering. It’s a time of my life where the only thing I want to pledge my allegiance to is the God of faith, hope, and love. I’ll pray my biggest hopes for this America whose freedoms I’ve come to appreciate and whose priorities I’ve come to question.

It’s a time in my life where I cannot read one more article, or catch one more clip of a radio preacher about women needing to be submissive to their husbands, that men are the only leaders, that women shouldn’t preach/read scripture/have any position of leadership in the church (http://www.christianpost.com/news/john-piper-god-gave-christianity-a-masculine-feel-68385/). Imago dei. In God’s image. We are all created in God’s image, not just half of us. We were all created to be a part of the Kingdom of God and to bring God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven. Not just those with an x and y chromosome. I want my faith journey to be filled with teachings shaped by many colors and dual genders. I want my faith to be shaped by people who don’t even have seminary degrees— the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed. Sometimes I learn more about who God is when someone shares their testimony of finding God in this midst of an HIV diagnosis, or in the gut-wrenching journey of a young woman’s long-awaited freedom from sex trafficking, than when I’m in a Bible study or church service. So while the white man is shouting, I will join other women and I will write. I will pray. I will speak. I will listen (there’s certainly some white man pastors I really dig.) I will ask questions. I will need others to be patient with me. I will need to be patient with others. I will learn. I will be wrong sometimes. I will confess cynicism. I will ask for forgiveness. I will be inspired into action.2

It’s a time in my life where I would sit behind this woman reading the Torah on the subway and think about how I could have just as easily been born to Jewish parents instead of Lutheran. I always smiled at this woman when I used to see her on the way to work. She might have thought I was weird because if there was a seat near her, I’d try to sit there. But anyway, I felt like I had this connection with her— that her God was my God, and my God was her God. That our prayers are heard by the same deity. There is something holy and mysterious and connected about this and I love it. There is so much that we share, I think, ignoring the voices in my head trying to convince me to be a good Evangelical and hand her a tract and explain in four easy steps why, blatantly, her religion is wrong, mine is obviously right, and Jesus proves that.

It’s a time in my life where I cannot read about one more suicide of a young boy or a young girl being bullied because of their sexual identity. I cannot then read about a Christian politician who openly denounced homosexuality in that same town, just a few days prior to a string of suicides. (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202). It’s a time in my life where I see “Is homosexuality a sin?” pamphlets inside subway cars and realized that Christian tracts are now not only trying to tell people how to avoid hell, but how to love the correct gender. “Build love, not walls!!” I want to shout. I look at the cover one more time. “Can it be cured?” I read. I wonder where along the way certain Christians have developed a mentality that’s decided it’s acceptable to treat people like they have some despicable disease, and ponder if we’ve forgotten the dignity Jesus gave to the Lepers with His divine touch. But it’s doesn’t matter since you’re right, I’m wrong, God said it, and that settles it.

It’s a time in my life where I need to stop proclaiming that Evangelicals have logs in their own eyes and accept that I have some two by fours in my own. I hope that together we can take these logs to the lumberjack yard and feed some beavers the grandest feast they’ve ever eaten.

It’s a time in my life where I muse about the mystery of love and marriage. This divine human connection between two people. That we have to learn how to love the other man/woman. It doesn’t come completely natural to pour out true, deep, unwavering love. Love itself to me becomes this holy mystery/experience. Being raw and open and letting someone into your life, forever, deciding the paltry, “so, how many pillows do you sleep with, honey?” to suddenly having this little tiny creature to care after forever. If I’m honest, marriage scares me a little. I’m in no rush to get there. But I do want to get there eventually. It almost seems odd to me. Call me selfish, but from age seven onward I shared my room with a just few stuffed animals and the occasional slumber party friend. In college, my horizons broadened a bit as I had girl roommates who shared everything from make up to Gatorade and swim caps (thank you, Lady Tigers). We would dance to “Single Ladies” while getting ready to go out, and now my current roommate and I have these sporadic nighttime chats and prayer about life in inner city Baltimore. I treasure such moments. But one day, you get married, and it’s like all of that disappears. “Hey honey, it looks like you’re coming home with me tonight….” …And tomorrow night. And the night after tomorrow’s tomorrow. I hope to still go out at least one night when I’m married and still have a sleepover with my best girlfriend; I don’t want to completely lose that sense of laughter and togetherness that comes with pillow talk and a best friend. I hope that when I get married there will be singing in the shower, guests around the dinner table, and a goodnight kiss every night (but please don’t snore!). I hope to learn how to love unselfishly, to build something together, to give everything I have because I want this person to experience all the love, joy, and happiness an imperfect human being can offer. All of these profundities and longings make me smile, as I think about God watching from above and seeing into each house, all of his little creatures, just living life the best way they know how.

It’s a time in my life where I realize that trying to figure out the future will only drive me crazy, and, not to mention, whatever I decide is going to happen in the future, will, in turn, take a twist and throw me something entirely unexpected. I’ve spent months wrestling in my head with career choices, graduate schools, and living abroad. Taking it one step further, the wrestling match explodes into some kind of WWE Smackdown, as I grapple, mull over, and daydream about which country my adopted kids will come from, and how they will be parented, and which country I can move to when I retire, suddenly realizing that I had taken my brain to the year 2036 or some strange number that looks weird on paper, making me scratch my head and think, that cannot possibly be a year. But alas one day that calendar will turn, and New Year’s will ring in 2037, and I’ll be shaking my head wondering where all this time has gone. Bringing myself back to today, the present moment, I unleash myself to God. I stop demanding a cradle-to-the-grave itinerary and when my brain starts to run into years unseen, I remind myself of what I have been promised: a future and a hope.

And so this is transplant. I’m not sure when I’ll be “rooted.” But never the matter. I’m here. And, though I get confused and cry and apologize later for things I shouldn’t have said, I also laugh and smile and make ruckus. I am content. I am happy. I don’t belong with the crowds telling me who I can’t become as a woman; I don’t belong with the crowds who try to convince me what my family, marriage, and faith should all look like (as if God hasnooriginality and forgot to make us all unique). So I’m ok here. I’m ok with where I am. There is freedom here. The door is opening; it’s barely ajar. But I can see it. I can taste it. I can hear it, smell it, breathe it, and it is beautiful. You see, I grew up swimming long, laborious laps in the swimming pool, and there’s this daring in my heart to dive into the deep end and feel cool water and sunlight swirl on my face. So today I think I’ll head out to the ocean instead of the natatorium, and make some waves, because the “no-wake zone” is far behind me; in fact, I can’t even see it anymore. All that’s ahead of me are new sights to see and more shores to swim to. There is plenty of wide open space here, and you can paint with any color brush you choose. Yes, come on in, there’s room for you. And as we run through open fields, I know one day our feet might take to a certain patch of grass in which we will blossom and sprout and plant our flowers. But for right now, I’m in transplant. And I am more alive than ever before.

1 Check out Ed Cyzewski’s Divided We Unite: Practical Christian Unity, available free to subscribers of In.A.Mirror.Dimly.Lit’s Women in Ministry blog: http://inamirrordimly.com/the-women-in-ministry-series-home-page/

2 I’ve been inspired into such action by Sarah Bessey’s post, “In Which I am Done Fighting for a Seat at the Table.”Check it out here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2011/12/fighting-for-a-seat/

I want to see what love can do ((a non-partisan reflection on healthcare reform)

3/24/10
A prayer to God after watching the evening news.

Take me away from name calling politicians, Lord. Take me away from death threats of different viewpoints, God, Lord take us away from ourselves and the kingdom of me to the kingdom of YOU and YOUR CHILDREN.

Arguing and anger are easy. Love, patience, and listening are hard. Love is so much more respectful, so much more courageous.
I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO.

I want to see what love can do to democratic and republican parties. I want to see what love can do between Jews and Christians, between America and Iraq, between blacks and whites, between the poor and the rich, between the city and the suburbs.

I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO

between atheists and believers.

I WANT TO SEE WHAT LOVE CAN DO

amongst heterosexuals and homosexuals.

I WANT TO SEE A MIGHTY RIVER OF LOVE FLOW THROUGH ALL NATIONS.

I want MORE LOVE.
And all each of us can do is try. Try to love when it’s hard- especially when it’s hard.
Imagine God hugging the person who disagrees with you. Imagine God listening uninterruptedly to someone’s story so that we too may seek first to understand rather than to be understood. May we remember that God loves the person you dislike with as much love as God loves you.

May we lighten dark places with love because love is the brightest flame out there. LOVE.

Occupy Baltimore
Nov. 2011
Copyright MO