Navigation

Archive | faith

Happy-clappy

lightstock_68414_medium_user_5073617
When I was a child, I sat in the front row of the church. I danced while the guitar played three-chord songs, kicking my feet in front of me, hopping from side to side, skinny arms outstretched. I learned to worship at the community centre, surrounded by misfit disciples who were on a first-name basis with resurrection. I sang the old songs about the blood of Jesus making me white as snow.

The church ladies would bring swaths of airy fabric, about two metres long apiece. I held onto one end and swung my flag. This was no banner for a war; this was a a homemade flag for a kid in a homemade church to wave. Sometimes, sure, I spun that flag around, hoping for people to notice me, to think that I was spiritual and holy, to think that I was beautiful and devoted. It was prideful at times, self-centred, but then there were those moments that broke through my own childish yearning to be noticed, to please the grown-ups, the moments when I felt the Spirit rush through my body and out through the fabric, like we were one, and I would spin like a star in the heavens, and I swear to you now that I felt the smile of God on me like wind, like water, like chains were falling off before they were even forged. I learned to pray with my body, relentless and free.

Then slowly, it seemed as if no one really danced in church anymore. Dancing with flags became something we made fun of, like duelling tambourines and long services and “falling out” in the Spirit and daring to pray for healing. We made fun of it to domesticate it, perhaps, or to heal ourselves from the abuse of it, but something in my thumbs still pricked, the Spirit isn’t afraid of being ridiculous, after all.

I wandered through other church traditions, traditional, contemporary, liturgical, meditative, mystic, seeker-sensitive, emerging, ancient-future, denominational, mega-church, old church, new church, basement church, no church for a while there: you name it, I found my way there and I found the people of God in each place, I did.

But my roots belong where I was first planted, I’ve reconciled myself to that now. I used to think I could travel far from where I began, but instead, I travelled only to find myself home again, like Richard Rohr says, as if I am only now seeing it for the first time.

We are so beautiful.

We sit in folding chairs in a school gym, one of the great cathedrals of my life. The pine benches line the walls, electrical tape holds the wires for the mics down, the stage can be broken down and set back up again every Sunday morning and Saturday night. This is my familiar place to encounter God.

On Sundays, decades later, I still stand with my hands raised up, my spine straight, my ribs wide open, letting the music run right through my veins, grounding me to the place where I am right now. I haven’t been able to dance since I was a child, not really, maybe I never will again, it doesn’t feel quite natural anymore. Instead I cry and I sing too loud and I let my hips sway. I tip my face to the ceiling because I want to be seen, I stomp my feet because I am here, and if I had a hankie, oh, I’d wave it and shout. I clap at the wrong place because I want to emphasize what I’m singing to myself: “you’ve never failed” clap clap clap “and you won’t start now” and I shout YASSSSSS! I’m that woman.

I love the sacraments, I love Scripture, and I know that my faith, my understanding of God, is cerebral and it’s strong; in my spirit and it’s awake; in my heart and it’s love, but here in my body it’s all earthy and sensual, it’s the catch in my throat when I sing the words I’ve sung a hundred times, in the creak of my knees when I hit the floor, unable to stand any longer, in the tremor of my hands when I tremble, in the strength of my voice singing out ahead of my own life. I could logic it all away, I know I could, but these moments are too much of a gift for me to look at straight on. It’s a party, it’s a dance, it’s a celebration, it’s communal, it’s holy and an undoing, and the breath of God is among us and we move as one, declaring.

I thought I grew out of the flags and the happy-clappy Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs, that I was too wise and smart for such sentimental things but in my maturity now I want to shout out hallelujah and fling myself to the ground prostrate, in gratitude for dirt and little boys, for babies and the lines around my eyes, for Johnny Cash and pine trees at dusk, for the taste of cold water and the vineyard, for the piano and the ones from among us who stand to lead us out into the day singing.

Somehow the flags have reappeared in my life along with the old songs, the same ones that I sing in the darkness over my children. A woman in our church brings flags on Sundays for the kids to use, may it be counted unto her as righteousness.

In the corner of the gym, there are a dozen little girls, a couple of boys, a couple of women, each holding a swath of fabric and they are twirling, spinning, snapping their flags in the face of fear and dignity. I belong here just as much as I belong in the north and in the west, in the place where I began and where I will end, in the books and logic, and in the tears and rejoicing.

Now I stand on Sundays and I watch my own tinies dance, twirling and swirling and singing. I don’t know how to raise them in the faith in any other way than this: God is good, God is Love, God is for you, never against you, and when you want to dance, darling, wave your flag and spin, let the wind of the Spirit move through you.

image source

Continue Reading · church, faith · 16

Why not have a woman preach

10178057_650808338306696_2628274181904509262_n

Why not to have a woman preach. It’s a statement, not a question. Here’s why not. Here’s all the reasons why not. Here’s why women should not preach. Or teach. Or lead. Or pastor. Or prophesy. Or exhort. Let’s parse it, narrow it, nitpick it, label the functions so that we can figure out the line and walk it well. Here’s one verse and another and another. You can’t argue with the Bible, after all.

***

But more and more I see people adding a question mark to that statement and that question mark gives me hope.

Why not?

Well, indeed. Why not have women preach? It’s a question that many devoted disciples have asked through out the ages – long before the 70s and 80s – and it’s a question that was resolved in the early church, in the practice of Paul’s leadership, in faithful followers of Jesus through the ages. There isn’t anything new under the sun, it’s true, and the use of Scripture to silence the witness of women, to sideline the gifts of half the church, isn’t new either.

Why not have a woman preach? Why not have a woman at a pulpit, teaching the Scriptures, proclaiming the Gospel, leading others in the way everlasting?

Sometimes the Spirit’s movement begins with the question mark instead of the period.

***

Why not? Well, because the Bible says so.

Oh, really?

There are many ways to read and understand Scripture. For instance, some read Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” and then they silence women in the church … in a well-meaning way. It’s couched with gentle language like “different roles don’t mean difference in value” and a paternalistic ideal. But in some extreme examples, these passages have been used to justify spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse towards women. (Don’t ignore that fact just because it isn’t pleasant.)

***

But we’re missing a few important things in that understanding of Scripture: translation, context, interpretation, let alone communal understanding and practice. Allow me to point you to some wise and mature teaching on this subject: Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb and “But What About 1 Timothy 2:12?” – Ten Talking Points, both by Gail Wallace for The Junia Project.

***

There’s a hopeful and inclusive answer to that question and many of us have already answered it. We’re living into the answer already.

There is Scriptural justification, historical justification, Spirit justification, traditional and communal justification for women preaching and pastoring and leading.

You can’t really argue with the anointing. God anointed some to preach, be careful not to stand in the way of that. I’d think long and hard before silencing someone speaking words of life and fire and Spirit.

 

***

I am always so appreciative of scholars and academics and theologians. I love to learn, theology is my geek-out place (well, that and Doctor Who). I love to read and to learn, I love to study, I’m profoundly curious about Scripture and God and how we live out the hope of glory in the world.

I’m also wildly in love with Jesus, convinced that he is he answer, and I want to be faithful to follow well, I want to glorify what I think I know about the Spirit of God, I want to see prisoners set free, deserts bloom, beauty for ashes, life for death. I have a high view of Scripture and the Spirit. I am faithful to the Church and to my little “c” church.

So these things matter to me. And they matter to the church. And they matter for a world caught in the crossfire. Are we benching the answers? Are we silencing the ones who would cry out for freedom and wholeness? Are we minimizing the wild inclusive counter-cultural dream of God?

I needed to see her preaching, the people of your church and community likely need to see it, too.

***

Women are preaching already.

I hate to break it to you. Women have always preached, just as women have always worked, always taught, always discipled, always followed Jesus. Right from the days of Jesus until now.

We’re getting on with it. We kept walking from the statement to the question to the answer and now we are living within the freedom of Christ.

***

Preach! Preach! Cry out in the city gates and in pulpits and online and in classrooms: we bring you tidings of great joy! However you preach, whatever your method or place, proclaim it: the year of the Lord’s favour has dawned! Beauty for ashes! Resurrection is real! Life and life more abundant!

***

Women are preaching and, did you know? Chains are being cast off. Fear is running away. Deserts are blooming. The Gospel is being proclaimed. The dead are coming to life. People are being born again and set free.

Jesus is working through and in and with women, just as he is working through and in and with men. And wouldn’t you know it? Women and men are working together, beautifully, in what Carolyn Custis James has christened the “blessed alliance.” It’s not either-or, it’s both-and.

We are made in the image of God, watch us walk on water together.

Men and women are receiving steady and sober, wild and holy teaching from women, too. People are being healed, the Spirit is baptizing many. Women are leading in the curve of the globe in business, medicine, technology, academics, sports, and yes, religion in ways unique to their temperament and anointings.

***

You’re missing it. Don’t miss it. Open your eyes and see what the Spirit is birthing in these days, watch women rising up to reclaim their communities for peace and wholeness, watch women laying on hands and proclaiming the Gospel with their lives and their voices and their writing and their songs and even, yes, in their quiet. Watch women raising their children, gathering the lonely, loving the unloveable, building up the church, watch the world change.

***

Why not have a woman preach?

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, women · 63

You’re already so loved

You don’t have to be productive and you don’t have to change the world. You’re already so loved.

You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be simple. You don’t have to read all the right books by the right people. You’re already so loved.

You don’t have to be beautiful and thin with an articulated and ironic fashion sense, not at all. But if you’re into that kind of thing, well, that’s okay, too, darling. You don’t have to be healthy in your mind or in your body. You don’t have to be in full-time vocational ministry. You can watch horrible television or you can be proud of your television-less home. You can be artistic or scientific. You can spend your life travelling to meet beautiful people or you can live and die in the town where you were born.

You don’t have to be straight or white or powerful. You can be from the wrong side of the tracks or the gated community, suburbs or urban or rural. You can work with your hands and your mind, your back and your brain. You don’t have to be educated, not at all. You don’t have to have a degree or letters after your name. You don’t have to know the right people and boast a carefully curated Instagram feed with the famous and the beautiful and the influential. You don’t have to be conservative and you don’t have to be liberal. You don’t have to identify with certain political persuasions or ideology on sexuality or science or socio-economics or foreign policy. You can be a social justice warrior or, you know, not.

None of that moves the metre of your belovedness. God won’t say, okay now I love her just a bit more because, look, she is finally out of debt or thin or powerful or influential or tireless.

Your family story can be beautiful or terrible or, like most of us, it’s likely a bit of both. Perhaps you’re famous or well-known or influential, that’s okay. Perhaps you are quiet and unknown, maybe you hate that, maybe you love it. You don’t have to be a mother or a father, you don’t have to be married, you don’t have to be single, you don’t have to want children or raise children. You don’t have to be sober or clean. You don’t have to give away everything you own and take a vow of poverty, you don’t have to be prosperous either. Church or no church or a certain kind of church only, whatever.

You have nothing to prove. You have nothing to earn.

Sure, any one of those things might change because you are loved. You may know already where God wants to breathe change and wholeness into you, bringing your life more into line with the person you were meant to be all along.

Love can and does and will transform us in every way – our ideology, our opinions, our habits, our values, our priorities, our very names. But it’s not a prerequisite or a requirement, it’s not behaviour modification, it never is, not for Love.

You're already so loved :: Sarah Bessey

Love has happened and it is happening and it will happen. It is kind and patient towards you.

You’re already so loved, you aren’t earning a breath of love or tenderness more than what you already have just by breathing – just by existing, just by being here in the wonder. Your name is already written in the lines of the hands of the universe, you’re star-breath-of-dust and you are beloved, intimately, faithfully, wholly. It’s your lifelong rock, you are known. You are loved with delight and abundance, with choice and desire, with covenantal love.

And watch now, the places of weakness will become places of strength. Your desert will bloom with flowers. The well will never run dry. Everything will be redeemed.

You are so loved. You are so loved. You are so loved.

 

Continue Reading · faith · 38

I’m here, you’re not alone.

im here

I’m here, you’re not alone. Shhhh, now, I’m here. And with those words, I lift a crying baby up and out of her darkness. She’s unaware of where she fits in her life, perhaps, but I know just where she is. I’m never far from her, even though to her new mind I’ve disappeared every time I’m not in her line of sight, but that’s not true.

And so when she wakes up or when she’s lonely or when she’s hungry or just wants someone to hold her, to calm her heart, she cries out and I come to her and I lift her up into my arms, shhhh, I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I say.

Oh, I’m teaching her something: I’m teaching her that I will always come for her. I’m teaching her that she is safe and secure. I’m teaching her that I am reliable, that she is believed, that I don’t believe she’s manipulating me or bossing me. I’m teaching my child that I am here and she is not alone. Dry your tears, small girl, I’m here, I’m always here. I will always come for you.

***

I’ve heard that most of our theology is autobiography. I think that’s true. I think we often project what we learned about authority or our parents, in particular, onto God. And then we often parent our children in the way that we believe God is parenting us. So if we believe God is a terrible judge with exacting standards and a trapdoor to hell, then that changes how we move through our lives, how we judge others, particularly our children. And yes, I think that damages people.

But what if we see God through the metaphor of a mother with a newborn babe? what do we see instead? After all, the metaphors for God’s love are diverse throughout Scripture but I’m often reminded in these tender days just after giving birth and caring for a newborn that I’m part of that metaphor, too, with my labour and my pain, with my ferocious protectiveness and my consuming love.

My entire body yearns for my child, watch us in these early days how we curl into each other, how I protect her, nourish her, comfort her, even how I delight in her – you’re seeing a glimpse of something divine here, I believe. Isn’t this one of the great gifts God has given us? A glimpse into how God loves us, a share of the joy, a sign and a foretaste of the Kingdom among us already. God in his goodness, sharing with us what it means to love so selflessly, so unconditionally, so completely.

***

In the Scriptures, there is one little thing often overlooked on Good Friday. In Matthew 27:51, we are told that at the moment when Jesus cried out and gave up his spirit, the moment he died, the veil in the temple that symbolically stood between God and man, the entrance to the Holy of Holies, was torn in two…from the top to the bottom.

There is no barrier between us anymore, the Holy of Holies is open to us all and it’s not because of anything we did or didn’t do. Because this was a rescue, this was redemption, this was the death that made death die, this was the moment when all of creation was redeemed as Jesus swept into the domain of death and hell, suffering and sickness, sin and horror, to cure us and then rise again victorious, Christus Victor.

And when I think of that veil being torn from the top to the bottom, now I imagine God sweeping into the world, like a mother to her crying child in the darkness with that physical yearning, gathering us up out of our loneliness and our hunger, our longing and our needs to whisper: I’m here, I’m here, you’re not alone, I’m here. I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, darling, I’m here.

photo by sharalee prang photography

Continue Reading · Easter, faith, Maggie Love, parenting · 24

We were loved right to the end

lovedthemrighttotheend

These are the days when I sit down for morning prayers at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

These are the days when ritual and liturgy shape my life but sometimes the rituals are breakfast preparation, bathing tinies, and getting dressed, and the liturgy is in the retelling of “The Three Little Pigs” or the 30th time to say “in-our-family-we-use-our-words-to-love-each-other” to the tinies and the woman in the mirror.

These are the days when I light a candle, even (or maybe especially) in the chaos and noise of family life because Brian is home from his travels and I have a buttoned-up Easter lily on my kitchen table.

These are the days when I am nursing Margaret through the night waking up with shadows under my eyes and Joe is building legos by the hour and Evelynn is filling up an old Dora suitcase with everything she finds interesting and Anne is playing soccer by the hour, and I want to sit here, in the slow morning light with my hands wrapped around a cuppa tea for just a while longer because the sun is coming through the windows and I took the time to make loose-leaf this morning.

These are the days for bath water on the floor, and laundry waiting to be folded, and a gone-cold cuppa tea and the sacraments of showing up and paying attention every-day life.

These are the days when I try to do a bit of good, and it feels like one small pitiful candle in an overwhelming darkness of never-ending Fridays.

These are the days when I close the night with confession and prayer, with a plea for Jesus to draw us all into His love and to deliver us from fear.

These are the days when the dormant is waking up, when the skeleton trees show faint signs of life for the one that is looking through the grey.

These are the days for those of us who know the desert’s cold and grey truth with hard ground, we incline our ears towards the hardly-believable birds now singing and we want to shriek out loud with joy when the first daffodil pokes through cold earth.

These are the days when the death of winter, the stripping away of it all, is humming towards the renewal of spring and we can feel it, feel it right from the dirt and the water, the trees and the very air – life is coming, blooming, and God, it’s beautiful.

This week is a thin place between, isn’t it? Every morning, I read the stories of Holy Week, all over again, and every year, on this day, I reach that line: “Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.

And I cry, all over again, right through the stars in my eyes.

These are the days when I think about making homemade bread. If we’re going to read the stories at the supper table, if we’re going to pour out red wine, and if we’re going to remember during the breaking and the tearing and the passing tonight, then I want to remember with bread I’ve made with my own hands, and I want my house to smell like yeast, and I want to hear the story all over again, in the mouths of the ones I love best.

We were loved. Right to the end.

I want to love, right to the end.

edited from the archives

Continue Reading · Easter, faith, lent · 16