For the love of God, get it together, people

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Jesus must be so annoyed, y’all

Collectively, as of late, we Christians have sat silently, not wanting to offend or get too political. And here we are. We are beyond political. We are making moral kingdom decisions every moment we are not helping our neighbor. And who is your neighbor, you ask? If you spent five minutes looking at the gospel, you’d know. And once you know, you can’t un-know.

Jesus the Christ flouted the rules and the expectations of the most pious. He didn’t care about offending anyone. He spent time with the poorest of the poor. He fed the hungry. He provided free healthcare, he invited the little children to come to him. He took a nap on a rock…all while being a brown immigrant. He did not care about man-made borders, or whether or not you are comfortable in your complacency. He calls us away from that. We need to love radically and without regard to which side of an imaginary border you were born on, what color your skin is, who you love, or even what you believe.

Christians are not a law & order people. We never have been. Early Christians were ILLEGAL. They risked life and limb going against the state to follow Jesus the Christ – that’s where the fish symbol came from, a secret message scrawled in the dirt to identify each other. Jesus was in trouble for not washing his hands according to the law, and for working on the Sabbath…also against the law.

This is part of our story – and I for one am proud of it: Love has always trumped the law of the land. How have we forgotten this??

For too long, we happy-go-lucky church folk have allowed our beloved scriptures to be co-opted, hijacked and perverted by selfish leaders, false prophets, and crooked statesmen to further their own repugnant agendas. How do we know they are wrong? Because someone is always hurt by their policies. Period.

And here we sit, not wanting to offend or get political.

Our silence is deafening. If we don’t rise up and do something now, then we shouldn’t step back in the doors of a church, because we are there for the wrong reasons. Jesus called us to be in community – to care for one another and to care for the world.

A church is a body of people not a building. And these bodies were built for action, NOT complacency.

This is the time. We are being tested. What do you believe really, about the Jesus you proclaim?

When you think back to the scene at Calvary….what would you have done When Jesus was carrying his own timber cross? Would you be casting lots to take his possessions? Would you have been yelling “Crucify him!”?

Your actions today, tell you exactly where you would have been that day.

Hey humans, we’re overdue for a remodel. I’ll go first.

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I’ve been blathering on for months, complaining about people who hate. I love love, but I hate hate, and I hate haters, a category I have recently lumped a large number of people into, taking it upon myself to determine they are terrible for hating. When I realized just how much I hated all of these haters, I knew I had a problem. And I knew I wasn’t alone.

I’m not supposed to hate, right? I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, but alas, I’ve fallen down on the job.

I feel it both when the police kill innocent people and when people kill the police who put their lives on the line to protect us. I find myself hating action and inaction. I hate what we’ve become, but also what we used to be. Power and the absence of power. Obsessiveness, and ignorance. Braggadocio and spinelessness. I hate racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and fear-mongering and then I find myself hating the people I have determined haven’t hated that same stuff enough. I hate reading the news, but also not reading the news. Don’t even get me started on the comments section of any article about anything – whether it’s politics or the Golden State Warriors. The comments section is where my fury gets a real workout. I hate inequality and injustice which I think we’re supposed to, but I can feel almost the same level of anger towards everyone from Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans to total strangers who disagree with me on anything, which means, I’ve covered every single one of you. Family, friends, everybody.

And that’s just the darkness contained in my heart…the heart of just one white, (almost?) middle-aged, middle-class, usually chipper Christian mom who wants peace and love and unity, and for everybody to be nice to each other. I want equality and justice, and a better world for my children and your children. But, how can a desire for all that good, thrive and produce in a heart that is taken up with so much darkness?

Which makes me the problem.

I can’t see your heart. I don’t know what’s going on in there, or what’s going on in the heart of GoneFishinPhil63 whose comments on news articles have made me think he’s the devil incarnate. Knowing is not my job and it’s not my business. All I can know is what’s happening in my own heart, and it’s not pretty, and it’s not getting me anywhere, and it sure as heck isn’t helping anybody else, so I’m going to start there. Because what I’ve been doing lately, IS NOT WORKING.

Last night, to add insult to injury, I realized I’ve been reading Martin Luther King, Jr. all wrong, all this time.

My husband, who cares deeply about social justice, and works tirelessly for it as a pastor in San Francisco, posted an MLK, Jr. quote he’s had to go back to again and again, when societal tensions seem to be rising. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Beautiful, right? I love it. But I’ve been doing it wrong. I’ve been reading it allllllll this time, and thinking, “Yeah, take that, idiots on the other side. I love love and you morons are screwing it up and securing your place on the wrong side of history. Me and Martin Luther King, Jr. are right again!” Nope, the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems to have been talking to me.

I’m not going to stop hating, by hating some more. The darkness I feel inside isn’t going to leave so I can make room for more darkness. Nothing will change with the set-up I have right now.

So after taking a good long look at my own heart, I’ve decided to remodel. I can’t do ANYTHING, until I’ve done that. It’s not going to be easy; it’s close to a total tear-down job, and I know I’ll need the Man Upstairs who’s a specialist in this kind of work. There will be dust and noise and I won’t know where anything is for a while. However, the new place will be light and airy, and there will be tons of space for accepting and entertaining friends and strangers, but by design, no spot to sit and read the comments section.

one small candle

This is a gratitude emergency.

Last year, for weeks before Thanksgiving, my Facebook news stream was full of little things that people were thankful for. This year, not so much.

Ok, so things in the world aren’t exactly perfect right now. The air out there is charged with the uncertainty that accompanies transition and that moment just before hope is lost.  On the scary scale, uncertainty is right up there with mannequins and clowns.

Jobs are uncertain, relationships are uncertain, health is uncertain. The news is dismal, the weather is weird, and people are cranky.

However, there is something about today that has just got to be great. Start small if necessary. Was your pancake good? Are you wearing your favorite sweater? Is your chair comfortable?

At the beginning of this year, I wrote about my blanket. I was so stressed and tired that I thought I had lost my mind, with the telltale sign being my proclivity for wearing this blanket as a cape. Eleven months later, I am again wearing the blanket as a cape. It’s fine, I get it. I’m a lady who wears a blanket for a cape as I sit typing in the dark early morning hours. It’s soft and warm and I’m happy to have it, even if it makes me look crazy.

You may, as I do, hate the idea that Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving Thursday. Let’s be thankful we can protest by refusing to go out there and get in a shouting match over a panini press with a stressed out woman in a Santa sweatshirt. My plan instead, is to eat an extra piece of pie and lay around, hard, just to make a point. Join me, won’t you?

The Muppets are back, and early reviews are good. You can say “wocka wocka,” and do your best Janice impression (everybody needs to have a Janice/Swedish Chef/Beaker impression at the ready in their backpocket.) Your kids will get it finally and you can feel relevant again!

Don’t forget the people. Of course we are thankful for the people  who love us unconditionally, and support us no matter what. Let’s not forget the ones who show up out of nowhere, and bring a little sparkle to the day, even if they don’t mean to.

Our church campus doesn’t get quiet during Thanksgiving week – it comes even more alive. Part of my job is to organize a large Thanksgiving Eve dinner that leaves me depending on an army of volunteers to show up the night before Thanksgiving and help welcome and serve a couple hundred people. Without fail, I have my annual dream a few nights before the dinner, that this is the year the volunteers forget to show up. That dream, along with the one where I am treated to unlimited shoe shopping, has yet to come true. Instead, on Thanksgiving Eve, I am once again surrounded by people who are happily hauling vegetables, counting spoons and lighting candles, though there are plenty of other places they could be.

And then, sometimes, the most significant wallop of gratitude comes from the smallest moment.

Part of John’s job is to oversee our church’s hosting of a shelter for homeless families the two weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. The campus practically bursts at the seams with our lovely guests and the volunteers who arrive in droves to tutor, cook, clean, sit and visit. I walked in on the action a couple of nights ago….not to lend a kind and helping hand, but to track down someone who had something I needed. I came in with an agenda, stomping around in a hurry, when a shelter guest approached me – a boy about 11, the same age as my eldest son. He shook my hand and introduced himself with a strong voice full of cheer and respect. He chatted for a moment before he excused himself, book in hand, to find a quiet spot in the shelter to read. I wanted to yell after him, “When the day comes, you have my vote!” Instead I stood dumbly staring after him as he disappeared behind a curtain.

“That kid’s amazing; he’s going to do great things in life,” John gestured to the boy, after noticing I’d been struck speechless by confusing emotions –  awe, sadness, guilt, frustration that there are kids in crummy situations, and affirmation that kids  – any kids at all – are capable of such poise and manners. I had come in to the shelter with my thinking eyebrows and gameface on, and that boy was the one who had graciously welcomed me to his very temporary home, which on most days is just our church’s Fellowship Hall. I left, not brimming with gratitude for my house, hot meals or creature comforts, but thankful that I’d met someone who is out there doing what we are all tasked with….reflecting light, joy, hospitality, and kindness into a world that could really use it.

“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.” – Anonymous

I am thankful for you! Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

ode to a pastor on Easter

Being married to a pastor, and working at the church myself, has caused Easter to be thrust into the forefront of our consciousness. Big time. The church calendar is built around it, and thusly, so is ours.

If you’re in some form of Christian ministry role – whether you sing in the choir or set out the coffee or give the big sermon –you might be doing your stretches, and warming up the old pipes tonight. You’ve been thinking about Easter for weeks, nay, months. If you’re a Presbyterian, you get to wear the white stole, and pack away purple for a few months. You’ve spent the week guiding people through the darkness in anticipation of the light. Hopeully you’ve said, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s comin’” because that is fun to say.

Maybe you’re on for the sunrise service and heading off to bed. Maybe you’re trying to find someone to be a parking volunteer, or a last minute replacement for a sick usher. The bulletin’s done, and the sanctuary is clean. You know that you’ll see people tomorrow you’ve never seen before, and you’ll likely never see again. I don’t know how you guys on the chancel do it on the regular Sundays – you get up there and you’re funny and warm and engaging and eloquent (I’m looking at you Johnny!) You don’t break into a sweat with all of those people staring at you.

And then there’s Easter. The place is packed, and everybody is like, really staring at you. They’re uncomfortable in their itchy outfits and tight shoes. They’re ready to hear what might be a very familiar story in a new way, but it can’t be too out there, or you’ve ruined Easter. No pressure.

It doesn’t matter how many people are sitting in your seats. It’s not their butts you’re interested in, but their hearts, right? Tomorrow, you’re busy, yes, and you’re the one everyone is looking at. But don’t stress, because if all goes as it should, you’re not the one everyone is thinking about.

Happy Easter. Sunday’s comin’! Enjoy your nap.

while we wait

This Christmas tree is so distracting. It’s getting in the way of my desire to do laundry and catch up on chores. I’m having a harder time enforcing bedtime, and snapping orders like “wash your hands!” to whichever grubby little dude is running by me that moment. It’s so festive, and it makes me want to drink hot chocolate and wear a sweater and hug everybody.

Even this week, when things were hectic at work and I STILL did not get a chance to buy stamps, there it was twinkling from the window, like it had been looking down the street waiting for me to come home…tall and sparkly, pretty and happy. It’s close enough to the computer that when I sit down to return emails, or figure out what I want to write about, I usually end up turned in my seat gazing into my fun house mirror reflection on one of the shiny red ornaments. And then of course, I wince when I realize Jacob does this, and I tell him to turn around and focus.

Sure, I appreciate it’s beauty and cheeriness, but right now I can also point at it, and say “Look at that! It’s done. I got something done!” A major accomplishment during a time where I feel like I’m spinning in circles at work and at home, all while fussing and fretting, and talking about how busy I am. Of course, I’m busy, who isn’t? It’s near impossible to find someone who’s not overcommitted or stressed out or even a little grumpy. I’m never grumpier though, than when I run across that person who’s been “done” for a month thanks to the wonders of forethought and online shopping. They’re the worst.

John pointed out that even when you’re a kid, you cannot fully relax until you’ve checked something off your list: face time with Santa. Because up until you talk to him directly, you’re really not too sure if your request has been noted or lost out there in the ether. So yesterday, we sucked it up and went to see Santa to help Zach with his to-do list.

Jake did not want to see Santa. He’s 10 now and has that shag haircut. He reminded me that I promised him last year he wouldn’t have to go again, even if it was just to support his little brother. But there he stood, relatively without complaint, the tallest kid in line and with only the promise of Mongolian BBQ at the end.

The “elf” in the apron who made us very well aware that she hated working evenings and that it was almost time for her break, looked at us like we were nuts for turning down a photo package. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, you know, I wanted to tell her. We were there on a mission, get in, tell Santa about the “Star Wars book with Luke in it,” and get out – check it off the list. At our mall, right before you get to Santa, you enter a huge snowglobe that, yes, snows on you. The kids go bananas. Laying in it, running their fingers through it and rubbing as much as they can into their hair. One girl even stood under the blower with her mouth open. It took us a minute to remember that this is not in fact, snow. It’s billions of flakes of plastic, possibly asbestos, but certainly not snow. It does not adorably melt out of your hair. It does not taste like the purest glacier water on the planet.

I pull Zachary over to me, and we start working the flakes from his hair and his all-black outfit, including his favorite shirt of all time which is the reason we had to keep him calm – the official World Champion San Francisco Giants, Buster Posey, #28 shirt. Of course, now I see the that this stuff is falling on me too, and I try ducking my head out of the way like I’m being attacked by bees. It’s in all of our hair, but the kid in line behind us is still rolling around in it. I use myself as a human shield between him and Zach when the kid starts yelling “snowball fight snowball fight snowball fight snowball fight!” I dodge and block and duck and swipe, while John shakes his head at me…“You and nature,” he says with a sigh. Now I could have corrected him here, and reminded him that we were still at the mall and not on the frozen tundra, but that wouldn’t have done any good, because this is pretty much exactly what I am like in nature too.

We take our turn sitting on the royal snow palace throne, and when the family who is purchasing 3 separate photo packages is finally done, Santa calls us all over, much to Jake’s chagrin. He high-fives us and asks what we want. When it’s my turn, I lamely point at a sweater in Macy’s window across the way, and we say our goodbyes. Zach looks up at me panicked, and runs back to Santa. “Wait!!”

Santa peeks over the top of his spectacles, “Yeeeesss?”

“What my mom really wants is Twilight: Eclipse on blu-ray.”

“I heard it’s good,” Santa says looking at me, as I slink away, tugging Zach behind me.

Then I realize, as we often do and sometimes too late – this is it. Right here, right now. I will remember this hour of standing in line with the three boys, chatting and dodging that horrific flakey snow, and Zach advocating on my behalf to Santa, much longer than I will remember a fleeting moment of satisfaction from having accomplished something. Why on Earth, would I want this to be done?

We’re reminded from the pulpit on Sundays that Advent is a time of waiting, preparation, and anticipation. But I don’t think it’s the kind of preparation we’re used to – we share this space with other flustered people and their lists and stressers. What if we stopped focusing on the lists, and enjoyed the part where we’re sharing the space with people who love us, or people who need us. This is the part where we really get to help each other…during the waiting that can otherwise seem like such a chore. I don’t need another 17 days ‘til I can care about you, I’d like to enjoy you right now, while we wait.

hey man, thanks.

Once again, Thanksgiving week has turned out to be one of my busiest at work. And although, some might beg to differ, it’s not retail. Church has been completely abuzz this week with energy and all kinds of activity –  people carrying boxes, rolling carts, and yelling questions to each other across the parking lot. And though I might be running around yelling “Wow, it’s busy! And it’s cold! Can you believe how cold it is?!” I totally have the warm fuzzies. Because it seems entirely appropriate to me that church would be a hub of gratitude.

I’ve thought a lot about gratitude, watching all of these people and reading your wonderful, real, funny, tender Facebook updates about the things you are thankful for. And if you sit down and think really hard about what it means to be thankful, I mean really hard, like the kind of thinking you do when you randomly fixate on the chicken/egg dilemma, it will knock your flippin’ socks off.

And when you think that hard, it becomes pretty clear that even though they can sometimes give you a headache or make you want to hide under your desk, the greatest blessings God sends us, whether we like it or not, come in the form of beautifully flawed people and the little people things that they do, often when we least expect it. We are gifted every day without deserving it, and it is such a treat and a humble honor to think of the kind things that people have done for seemingly no reason at all. Invisible little blessings that when they are all put together, are sometimes the things that simply get us through the day, or even change the trajectory of our month. I’m not talking about generic people out there somewhere, but specific people with faces and everything. Know what? That’s you – I’m thankful for you. Yup, you. You might not even know you’re doing it, but you are and it rocks.

Thanks for the homemade soup last week. Thanks for inviting me to your wedding. Thanks for complimenting my hat. Thanks for the nice email out of the blue. Thanks for your understanding that I haven’t been able to return that email as fast as I should and that I didn’t call like I was supposed to. Thanks for the gift card. Thanks for lending me that book. Thanks for helping me out on this event, and that one last year too. Thanks for the advice on that thing. Thanks for lunch. Thanks for making me laugh. Thanks for driving. Thanks for calling. Thanks for grabbing me an iced tea. Thanks for the baby announcement. Thanks for leaving that cookie on my desk. Thanks for sending me that funny video, even thought it wouldn’t work on my computer. Thanks for offering to feed our new kitty when we’re away. Thanks for posting such funny Facebook comments. Thanks for giving me your last Kit Kat. Thanks for reading this blog. Thanks for the flowers. Thanks for agreeing with me. Thanks for confirming that I am not, in fact, crazy. Thanks for digging Twilight with me. Thanks for putting up with me, even though I’m totally annoying when it comes to Twilight. Thanks for being so nice to that lady, when I just didn’t have the energy. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for letting me love you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

And because I care for you – I beg of you. Please don’t go to Kohl’s at 3:00 am. Stay up late and play a game with your friends. Eat a second piece of pie. Watch a movie you’ve seen a thousand times, but do not go to Kohl’s at 3:00 am. It will not make you feel better. It is scary out there. Not because it’s completely dark, and you’re hanging out where nobody has any business being that early in the morning. It’s scary because there are people out there who will not think twice about taking you down if you stand in between them and that talking doll/flat screen/video game system/electronic picture frame. I went out early once– it was for an all-terrain remote control car. I mean, thank God I was there right? I got it. I was a winner. Jake played with it and played with it. And by that, I mean he played with it exactly twice. The closest it got to all terrain was driving over the other toys that lay forgotten in its path. Plus, getting up early is hard.

fine. be that way.

I’ve had better weeks. I’ve had worse… but I’ve definitely had better.

You know when your week is kinda going ok, and then it starts to take a turn for the worse? First it’s one sorta small mildly unpleasant thing, and then it’s like a medium not-so-good thing. Then boom, boom, it’s two blatantly sucky things back to back, and you start looking around for an explanation? As part of my investigative process, I usually pull up the full moon calendar. There is seriously something to it. For the first three years of his life, Zachary would be up all night fussing the two nights leading up to the full moon. EVERY month for three years. After a while, John could not argue with my hypothesis anymore, as much as he wanted to. The moon pulls on the ocean, I know it can screw around with our tiny little bodies & mess with our heads and make us cranky and irritable. C’mon, I know it’s not always the moon that gives us grief. It is fun, however to think of the moon as an adversary. Whaddaya gonna do – throw down with the moon?

When you’re mad, and feeling kinda beat up, I’m sure you notice that everybody else’s driving is really terrible. Then I look at myself, and I see that I’m hunched over, chin all the way over the steering wheel, knuckles white, in my best defensive driving position. I’m sure if you peeked in the window, I’d look Cruella De Vil driving that crazy car of hers, wild hair, gangly arms, lips thin and growly. I don’t have that cigarette holder or a puppy fur coat though, so I’ve got that going for me.

I just want to get home and hide. I want to pull the drapes and turn off the phones. I’ll drag the sleeping bags into the living room and let the boys watch a movie and eat dinner picnic style, just so I can feel cozy and protected from the maniacal villains who are running around loose out there, intent on making me miserable.

I know by now that you can’t control people – that never ends well – so I will try my darnedest to control things from within the house. The laundry. The dishes. That candy shelf. The photo cabinet that is currently sitting open because I was going to pour all of my frustrations, and swear words that I wanted to say, and dirty looks that I wanted to give into reorganizing that horrible horrible closet. And I wanted to sit down and write something funny about anything, but every opening line I typed sounded like the beginning of a manifesto.

Reading’s good and takes my mind off things, but the book on my nightstand is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve been trying for months to read it, refusing to pick up another book until I finish. Actually, I angry like Hulk every time I pick it up, because I can’t get past all the Swedish, and it makes me feel dumb. I really should just quit trying. I tossed aside Eat, Pray, Love after the Eat part and never looked back. Then there was the added bonus of one less Julia Roberts movie I felt obliged to see.

When you’re mad, like really good and mad, there are few practical ways to dissolve the anger. A choose-your-own- adventure of sorts. Part of being an adult, a responsible, thoughtful, and prayerful person, is to select the right adventure. Sometimes I goof and pick “rant”. I’m spoiled rotten that I have people who will listen and be patient with me. That my husband, who even out in the mountains of Idaho, will drive two miles just so he has better reception to hear me gripe. And that I have amazing friends, who on any given day, if I hint the slightest that I’m upset, will text and call to say that even though they don’t know the story, they’re mad too, on my behalf.

Or, sometimes the adventure starts with yelling, stomping, muttering, crying, or the unfortunate combination of all of the above.

Moses finally had it, let his fury get the best of him, struck that rock with his staff and was kept out of the from the Promised Land, even after all that work and all those years of being obedient. Fine. I guess I’m supposed to get my you-know-what together, let go of my worries and fretting and the anger that for some reason I seem to enjoy holding on to. Surrender. Bluch, really? Do I have to? It’s not like I’m trying to take it out on everybody else so they’ll feel terrible too, right? Right?

Surrender is not very glamorous. I’ll try, but I’m telling you right now, it’s not easy. I’m pretty sure it’s my least favorite option. Channeling anger into an activity that’s obviously counter-productive can be fun and bring relief, even if it’s temporary. I can rage-eat a bag of Wavy Lay’s like nobody’s business. It feels fan-flippin-tastic at the moment, but does it feel better later? Definitely not, especially since, in a blind fury, I probably also whipped up a batch of clam dip to go with it.  Like yelling, like crying, like complaining – the joy of clam dip furiouso is fleeting.