When Peace Is Not Quiet

Tags

, , , ,

peacemaker

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”
~Matthew 5:9, NRSV

Peace and quiet. Words that have gone together for so long that it’s hard to imagine that there might have ever been a time when they weren’t paired.

I get that.

There is peace when I’m the first person awake in the house, and I head out to the porch with my laptop and some coffee, the birds serenading me as my fingers tap on the keyboard.

There is peace when I’m picking blueberries at my favorite farm. I find a remote bush that looks like it hasn’t been picked over too much, and the soft plunks of berries in my bucket will bring me peace.

There is peace in a sleeping child, peace in a pot of soup bubbling on the stove, peace in a good book on a rainy afternoon.

If you’re picturing something peaceful, you’re probably picturing something quiet. It’s easy to see how quiet brings peace. 

On the flip side, it can be difficult to see how being loud can also bring peace. I don’t have a quiet and gentle spirit. I have a big voice and an opinionated demeanor. And when you desire to be a peacemaker, that can be disheartening.

So often when we talk about peacemakers, we mean the person who smooths things over. We mean someone who doesn’t make waves. We mean the person who will stay quiet.

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes being quiet can encourage the loud voices to take it down a notch. Sometimes being a peacemaker means accepting that right now is not the time to add to the noise.

Leaders tend like this kind of peacemaker. The person who doesn’t make waves is the person you can count on not to rock the boat, even if they disagree with you. They can keep you safe during seasons of uncertainty.

But when I looked to see what Jesus meant when he said “blessed are the peacemakers,” I found something different than what I had expected. What I found instead was this:

a peacemaker bravely declares God’s terms which makes someone whole.

There is no silence inherent in that kind of peacemaking. There is no timidity. There is no kowtowing, no subservience, no pandering. Because peace isn’t quiet here. Peace is “when all essential parts are joined together” and sometimes getting there requires loud, bold moves.

Peacemaking is when Muslim charities raise nearly $45,000 to rebuild black Christian churches that were burned when few care to mention it at all.

Peacemaking is when Bree Newsome scales a flagpole to remove a flag that has been the symbol of separation between races for centuries.

Peacemaking is a young man using his voice to say that he is more than the labels that people want to give him.

Peace can be found in the midst of silence. But peacemaking needs brave declarations, and that requires us to make some noise.

1 Question for People Who Won’t Wave the Rainbow Flag

Tags

, , ,

rainbow flag

A few days ago, Kevin DeYoung asked 40 Question For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. Because I’ve been waving my rainbow flag for the past 5 years, I thought about responding, but the truth is, others have done a fantastic job of that already.

Here’s the thing. I’m out of patience for this. DeYoung asks his 40 questions, but they all boil down to the same thing. Prove that you’re right. Prove that God is on your side. Prove that you deserve what I already have.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the assumption that my gay friends are the ones who need to be answering questions. I’m tired of the assumption that they need to justify their faith to those who fancy themselves the gatekeepers of Christianity. I’m tired of the woe are we attitude from those who have been a part of movements to bar LGBTQ people and their allies from leadership positions in the Church, from people whose words have led to legislation imposing jail time, even calling for the execution of gays.

It’s difficult to work up sympathy for hypothetical persecution when these same people have been instrumental in actual persecution of their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters.

I want to turn the questions around. But not really – it doesn’t matter. I know what the proof texts are. I know what studies get pulled out time and time again to “prove” that kids are hurt by gay and lesbian parents. I know the slippery slope arguments about pedophilia and polygamy and marrying your family members.

And they know the responses. Why the verses might not be saying what they believe they’re saying. What studies point to kids with gay or lesbian parents being well-adjusted people. The counters to the concerns of pedophilia and incest.

This dance has been going on for a long time, and I think it’s going to continue for a good while longer.

But here’s the question I’ve been afraid to ask of the people who claim to speak for God for a long time.

When are you going to listen to the answers to your questions?

It takes a lot of arrogance to ask people who have been marginalized for much of history to prove that they don’t deserve that marginalization.

It takes a lot of arrogance to require people in loving, consensual relationships to prove that they aren’t like people who prey on the weak and abused.

It takes a lot of arrogance to assume that people who have waited centuries to enjoy the same protections under the law need to “slow down and think about the flag (they’re) flying.”

It takes a lot of arrogance to ask people who live every day with fear of losing their jobs, losing their families, losing their churches to promise that they won’t be mad at people who support laws and practices that encourage those things.

It takes a lot of arrogance to set yourself up as a martyr when your words have caused parents to turn their children out on the street, when your words have driven people to suicide.

My friends don’t have to answer your questions. I don’t have to answer your questions. They’ve been answered, over and over and over again.

If you don’t want to listen to why we’re waving the flag, that’s your business. But until you’re willing to answer why you won’t listen, I’m done answering your questions.

Valuing Marriage Through Extravagant Grace

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

bBTgiNFQ

I woke up Friday morning excited because Rich and I were going to my very favorite restaurant to celebrate my birthday. I was looking forward to eating delicious food, spending time with my husband, and enjoying the quiet that comes with those things.

Then the internet exploded. The Supreme Court announced their ruling on marriage, and Justice Kennedy wrote an opinion that has been quoted over and over, and no doubt will be a defining line in his career.

Justice Kennedy Opinion

For the most part, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with support for these words. But in the midst of the joy that flooded my social media, there were those who were less enthusiastic about the decision. This post in particular caught my attention. In it, Mark Galli writes,

One issue that demands special attention is divorce and remarriage. The Bible has a fair amount to say about marriage (as much or more than it does on homosexuality), and yet the evangelical church has become lax about honoring the marriage vow. We use the word grace in a cheap way to avoid the awkward tough love of church discipline. Such inconsistency has been a major stumbling block for those outside the church.

That last line grabbed me. Because he’s right – consistency in how different people are treated IS something that is often brought up in the discussion of equal rights for the LGBTQ community, especially with regard to marriage. Over the past decades we have seen churches become more gracious toward people who have been through a divorce. Certainly there is still some stigma attached to it, but in general, there has been a softening toward families who are experiencing that breaking apart of family.

Why the last line struck me was not so much that it’s wrong, but rather that the conclusion that he reaches is wrong. That people see “cheap” grace and turn away from the Church, so there needs to be a doubling down on divorced couples.

Certainly some congregations have embraced this. Friends of ours went through a divorce where the men of a church gathered on their front lawn calling his new wife a whore. I expect they have a consistent set of values between how divorced couples and gay or lesbian couples are treated. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think that story would encourage a lot of non-Christians to join their congregation. It definitely doesn’t make this Christian more apt to seek out fellowship in their walls.

What if, instead of adding rules (because let’s be honest, in most evangelical churches covenants mean rules) to make church attendance more difficult for families who have undergone a divorce, we extend more grace toward the LGBTQ community? What if we stop the check-lists of who is qualified to serve and allow people to come to the table? What if we recognize that in our favorite church disciple chapter (Matthew 18) Jesus sandwiches that with stories of extravagant grace, telling of a shepherd leaving the flock of ninety-nine to search for one, of forgiving not seven times, but seventy times seven, of huge debts being forgiven by kings.

The SCOTUS decision will demand that churches rethink how they treat the LGBTQ community. And probably how they treat adulterers and divorcees like me.

My hope, my prayer, is that this provides an opportunity for churches to look at extending grace not as a sign of weakness or inconsistency, but rather as a symbol of strength and as a reminder of the extravagant grace that was given to each of us through gift of Jesus.

My hope is that we can all sing the words of the old hymn:

Just as I am, thy wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise, I receive,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

A promise of hope. A promise of love. A promise of extravagant grace.

How I Will Use My Voice In Troubled Times

Tags

, , , , , ,

daffodil

The last few weeks have left me feeling weighed down.

The obvious trigger is the anniversary of Elliott’s birth. I spent much of June 3rd and 4th remembering his story, from finding that there was no heartbeat until the time that he was delivered, still, into our arms.

But there has been so much other heaviness.

Reactions to Caitlyn Jenner. Reactions to Josh Duggar. Reactions to McKinney, Texas. Reactions to Charleston, South Carolina.

In the past weeks, I have seen people speaking without listening to the marginalized, the abused, the disenfranchised.

People are shouting, “Hear me! See me!” at every turn, but their shouts seem to be drowned out by voices that have been amplified through the years. Voices that say that the voices that aren’t heard are that way because they are too perverted, too untrustworthy, too unruly, too angry.

In January, I said that my year would be guided by the word “voice.” But with voices louder than my own speaking so much hatred, fear, anger, I’m not sure how to go forward. I was talking to Rich last night and said that I don’t know how to speak into these situations, if I even have anything to say any more.

And I don’t have anything to say to Caitlyn or to those abused by Josh Duggar or the young woman in the bikini in McKinney or the survivors of the shooting at Emmanuel. I don’t know them, I can’t speak to them. And I can’t counter the voices that speak diminishing, hurtful words to them – telling them that they deserve the pain that they receive.

But I can use my voice to say, “I’m here, tell me what you have to say,” to the people who are crying to be heard. I can use my voice to tell others that the lives of trans men and women matter. That the lives of abuse victims matter. That the lives of black men and women matter. I can use my voice to pray what sometimes feel like feeble prayers that we can love better, that we can listen better.

We need to raise our voices during troubling times. But often our voice needs only to be raised to ask how we can listen and then act.

The Boy Who Was Carried

Tags

, , ,

BirthdayTitle You are the boy who was carried.

For 35 weeks (give or take), you were nestled inside of me. At first, there was fear, but as you grew, my fears receded. Rather than seeing you as a source of shame, you became a symbol of love. I carried that love with me during the times when I felt alone and it sustained me, even as my body sustained you.

As you were carried by me, you were also carried by your father. You heard his voice, and calmed at the words he spoke to you. You were held when he put his hands on my swelling form, caressing the both of us.

You were carried by the imaginations your siblings as they laughed about various milestones that would be reached, things like driving a car when you were born, or graduating college when you were entering kindergarten. They nicknamed you “bruster” – the brother/sister that they were awaiting.

Then, you stilled.

We sat in a tiny room while the doctors searched methodically for your heartbeat, but that part of you was already gone. Family came to surround us as you were carried by medicine and cries and pain from my body, into our arms.

We carried you, all too briefly, in our arms. Cradling your delicate body, running fingers  over your face, hands, feet, torso, trying to memorize every detail, knowing that would be an impossibility, but trying nevertheless. You were bathed in tears and whispers of love.

You are carried still today.

We carry the weight of memories that will never be. We carry the loss of tickle fights and frosting smeared across your face and presents abandoned for the wrapping paper. We carry the loss of first days of school and countless graduation ceremonies. We carry the loss of first loves and first heartbreaks. We carry the loss of bad puns and serious discussions and all of the ways children talk to their parents.

We carry the grief that can overwhelm us with no warning. Every day we carry you with us. The joy and the sorrow. The love and the pain.

Every day we carry the life that was and the life that was not.

We miss you, sweet Elliott. Today we celebrate you, the boy who was, and always will be, carried.

The Good That Is

Tags

, , , , ,

scarf

The package arrived in July, maybe August. I don’t remember. The days after our son died were filled with sadness and I didn’t really pay attention to dates other than to mark off, one week, two weeks, a month since I delivered a stillborn child.

But at some point this summer, it arrived. A lovely teal scarf from a friend from Texas who I’ve only met online. It was beautiful, in a color that I loved, knit with care.

That wasn’t what it was supposed to be, however.

It was made from yarn that had been chosen to knit a blanket for our son.

Gini and I had messaged a bit during my pregnancy. She knew about some of the emotional struggles I encountered when I first realized that I was pregnant. She knew that abortion had done a bit more than flit across my mind in the early days. She knew that when I embraced the pregnancy, I did so fully and looked forward to this new life with eager expectation.

She also knew, though we never talked about it, that a 40 year old woman having a baby after an affair, divorce, and remarriage probably wasn’t having a baby shower. And from that knowledge, she offered to knit me a blanket for our child. She asked what colors I liked and I told her that purple and teal were my favorites.

When I received the scarf, I only held it for a few moments before tucking it away in a drawer. It was summer and though the yarn was a fine weave and a color very suitable to the warmer weather, I couldn’t wear it. I assumed that it would stay packed away with the few tokens I had kept from our preparations for a new child in our home. I didn’t forget about it, but I chose not to think about it. The pain of what could have been, of what should have been was too great. The scarf represented the good that was supposed to be.

++++

The summer months are behind us now. Holiday plans are being made, with some sadness. There will be no new Baby’s First Christmas ornament on our tree. No rattles or board books to be shaken or read by older siblings, wrapped in paper that would be crinkled and drooled on. No giggling baby videos or pictures of a tiny elf prince.

The winter threatens treacherous once again. I went into my closet to pull out warmer clothes, outfits that had been snug last winter as the life inside of me was growing along with my excitement to feel the kicks and wiggles that would soon be keeping me awake at night, filling me with a sense of wonder.

As I rummaged through my winter wear, I came across the scarf. Its bright color shown out among all of the blacks and greys that I usually favor when the air turns frigid.

I turned it over in my hands, giving it a more thorough inspection than I had in the darkest days of my grief. The edge of the pattern was decorated with leaves – signs of life, signs of refuge.

I thought about the months since our son’s death. Despite the loss, I have seen life. Despite the storms, I have experienced refuge.

As I wrapped the scarf around my neck, I realized that it didn’t simply represent the good that should have been, it represented the good that is.

Two Faces of the Church

Tags

Ying Yang Garden Stone

After being asked to leave two churches in as many years, I’ve been thinking about The Church a lot.

When you’ve been asked to leave a couple of times, you of course ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong? How am I hurting the church that she doesn’t want me to be a part of her?”

Believe me, I’ve looked. I know that I am an imperfect part of the Body of Christ, and I know that there are times that I have been the one to dole out the hurt. I know that there can be negative consequences to negative actions.

But I also have come to see that there is a dual nature to many churches. Perhaps not all, but enough that it makes me wary of the whole.

There’s the church where everyone is called family. It’s the home where grace and forgiveness are preached. The safe haven where people are encouraged to share their hurts, their sins, their struggles. The sanctuary where honesty and authenticity are used with sincerity.

I have seen this, and I love it.

But in those same walls, there is another church. It’s the brand that can’t be tainted by sin because it already preaches grace and if they “look the other way” at sin by allowing them to continue to worship in our midst, they will be accused of peddling cheap grace. It’s the business that SAYS the pastor doesn’t have to be perfect, but doesn’t really want an imperfect pastor. It’s the story that says come as you are, but don’t tell anyone who that honest you is.

I have seen this as well, and it makes me question if I’ve actually experienced the first good church. If the second lurks behind the first, does the first really exist? Can the first really exist?

I’m not sure how we change things. How can we change an institution that values rules over relationships? How do we change an institution that calls a molester’s actions a mistake and then turns and speaks venom about trans women, calling them the predators? How do we offer grace to those who have hurt, while still protecting those who have been hurt?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I thought I knew what that church looked like, but time and again, I’m finding that I don’t.

I want to believe that we can experience a Church that serves and loves the way that I believe we are called to serve and love by Jesus. But we will have to acknowledge that there are two faces before we can make that a reality.

It’s a Good Life

Tags

,


I went to grab a napkin from the kitchen and my pizza fell on the floor. Upside-down, of course, the sauce soaking into the carpet, the toppings picking up the hair that can never really be cleaned away when two people with long hair occupy a house.

The kids and Rich tried to lighten the mood that came over me, but I had no sense of humor about it. I snapped at them, and went about the business of scraping the toppings and sauce back onto the crust, feeling like everything bad always happened to me. I couldn’t even enjoy my damn pizza without it falling apart. It was a bit fatalistic and certainly not an appropriate response to over turned pizza.

It’s been almost a year since Elliott’s death, and the “I’m fine” is starting to give.

I feel myself slipping more often. I want to be better, in many regards I am better, but as June approaches, I don’t feel better at all. My ability to regulate my mood has been going steadily downhill since Mother’s Day.

I don’t spend all of every day in a malaise, but when it strikes, it is complete, like the summer thunderstorms that roll in quickly, crashing with lightning and pouring rain down with almost no warning. I don’t just tear up, I sob. I don’t just feel  small pangs of jealousy when I see a baby who would be about Elliott’s age, they are sharp barbs. I don’t just have a sense of injustice, I feel cheated and betrayed.

That afternoon, I looked into the mess on my plate, the stain on the floor, and I wanted to wail. I wanted the sackcloth and ashes. I wanted everyone to feel as bad as I felt so they could understand.

But the people that I love who are here do understand, and they need me. They don’t need me to deny my sorrow, but in the midst of it, to recognize their humanity. To remember that my pain, while completely valid, is still only a part of what is happening around me.

There is pain, yes. But there are water gun battles to be waged, and homemade ice cream to be savored. There is still binge-watching Cinemasins videos while cuddling on the couch. There are still mornings to be marveled at from my porch, mug of coffee in hand. There are still nights to be spent wrapped in my beloved’s arms before we drift off to sleep while he whispers a reminder, “It’s a good life.”

I’m not fine right now. I am keenly aware of the things that I have missed in the past year. I missed the luxury of planting kisses on a soft baby belly. I missed the smell of the top of a baby’s head right after a bath. I missed nursing my child at my breast and watching him drift off to sleep. I missed hearing babbling, watching first steps, learning his new personality.

But even in the midst of my sorrow, there is hope. Even in the midst of my sorrow, there is beauty. Even in the midst of my sorrow, there is joy.

Because even in the midst of my sorrow, I know that it’s a good life.

Mother God

Tags

, ,

file000117614456

Sometimes I have to remind myself God isn’t a man. When it is “he” this and “his” that, it can be hard to remember that God is much bigger than our gendered visions.

Today God is the nursing mother holding her child to her breast singing softly,
“I will never forget you.
I will never leave you.
I rejoice in you.”

Her lullaby is whispered in the ears of many today.

It is sung in the ears of the woman who is so overwhelmed with providing for her children that she barely had time to be with them and the woman who feels like her life is deemed less important because she has chosen not to be a mother.

It is sung in the ears of the woman who is happily snuggling her newborn baby and the woman who is crying over another negative pregnancy test.

It is sung in the ears of the woman who is planning a girl’s day out with her mom and the woman who is going to her mother’s grave to place a small bouquet of flowers.

It is sung in the ears of women who are cherished and treasured and women who are abused and discarded.

It is sung in the ears of  women who have a hard time hearing it over the laughter and joy of surrounding loved ones and those who have a hard time hearing it over the ache of loneliness.

No matter who you are, the song of Mother God is for you.

4 Reasons Why My Next Church Will Be Affirming

Tags

, , ,

rainbow

Yesterday I shared why I have stayed in non-affirming churches even though I have been affirming for quite a while. There is still a part of me that doesn’t want bullying behavior to “win,” and I want to continue to be a person who works from the inside of the organization to help bring change. But after being asked to leave our most recent church specifically over this issue, I want to attend an affirming church when the time comes to be a part of a church body again. Today I want to share some of those reasons with you.

  1. I want at least one part of my theology to line up with my church. There is something exhausting about constantly feeling on the outside of what my church teaches. It is wearing to hear archaic-sounding phrases like “homosexual lifestyle” still being said in a Sunday sermon. To hear people talked about as issues. To have people assume that I agree simply because I attend. I know that I will never agree 100% with any church, if only because as soon as I involve people who aren’t me, there will probably be some disagreement on some small thing, but as the mom of a transgender child, this doesn’t feel very small any more and I want to celebrate my faith with people who accept my child as he is, without conditions.
  2. I never want to have to choose between my family and my church family again. Being forced to make a decision between supporting my child and continuing to attend church was absolutely heart-wrenching. And as much as I’d like to think that it was an isolated incident, I know that it’s not. I have met others with stories just like mine and it saddens me to know that it could happen again. Attending church with a sense of fear and mistrust is not conducive to a healthy relationship, but I don’t know if I could regularly attend a non-affirming church again without those being present. Certainly there could be relationships within the congregation that are free of those negatives, but I think it would be almost impossible to feel like a full member of a congregation agin, knowing that at any moment I could be asked to leave because I fully support my flesh and blood family.
  3. I don’t want to support organizations that actively work against the LGBTQ community. I recognize that I may not know where every dollar that I spend goes. I am certain that I have unwittingly supporting things that I disagree with or that are harmful. I try to be an informed consumer, but I recognize that sometimes I make choices that can be harmful. However, if I actively participate in an organization that opposes the LGBTQ community, I am offering tacit support of that. I don’t want to do that any more.
  4. I want the LGBTQ community and my child specifically to feel like their safety matters to me. There is a great episode of The Ligturgists Podcast entitled Safe Church where Betsy Ouellette shares about what it means to be a part of a safe congregation. And while “safe” is a somewhat loaded word because it means different things to different people, a church that does not believe that a person can be gay or transgender and a Christian is not safe for that gay or transgender person. And if I continue to support churches that preach a message of non-acceptance to the LGBTQ community, I may convey the message that their spiritual, emotional, and physical health is not important to me. I never want my friends or my child to feel that, even in the most round-about way. By attending an open and affirming church, I hope to confirm for them that their safety matters.

I still love the Church and hope to again be a part of a community of believers. However this time, I want to be able to worship beside my LGBTQ friends and family. I want to be able to worship God without fear, without shame, without conditions.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,064 other followers