Wednesday Festival: Changlings

The one thing we can be sure of is change.  It comes whether we like it or not.  Change comes regardless of how we feel, what we believe about it or anything else.  We can choose to hide from it, deny it, embrace, or even delight in it.

miltybc reminds us that in Greek faith is a verb unlike the noun of faith in English.  Something essential was lost in the translation but many live out that essential nature of faith despite its English “nounhood.”  Go check out miltybc’s post and see how the Spirit moves and dances in his life.  It’s quite lovely.

One thing that doesn’t seem to change is a church for starving artists consistently has thought provoking posts.  Today’s topic is “Spiritual Climate Change.”  a church for starving artists embraces miltybc’s faith as verb in the midst of this “spiritual climate change;”

I could go on and on, but you get my drift.  Bring on the storms.  Let the winds of the Spirit blow down the doors.  Welcome turbulence.  Embrace the fog.

This is a good thing.  Scary, perhaps, but very good.  I love serving the church in this mess.

a country girl shares a history lesson on the Scottish tradition of Mothering Sunday.  I think it does us well in the midst of all the change to remember our origins, looking back is different from denying or protesting the change, our looking back can get us changing in the right direction.

Eyes on Christ shares her thoughts on living into the changes of life and how it can look and mean.

liberalrev offers some humor and deep thoughts about our bodies.  It is sure to make you smile as well as change your perception of some elder women.

Questing Parson demonstrates how to incorporate the unexpected into our life and it’s quite beautiful.

Appalachian Preacher reminds us how different families can look and how many of our churches need to change to embrace these differences to make everyone welcome.

Lastly, Lauren offers a beautiful post on the death of Fred Phelps.

Changes are coming whether we like them or not.  Sometimes looking back helps us to reorient how we view the change and gives us the courage we need to embrace it.  Thank goodness, we do not face it alone.

If you have written or read something that is wonderful, beautiful, or simply needs to be shared, please leave a link in the comments.

May you have a blessed Wednesday whatever your day brings you!

Domestic Violence: My Story

Domestic Violence doesn’t always look like black eyes and casts.  I wish I would have known that before.  

I left after friends convinced me that being chased around my apartment by the man who had vowed to love and cherish me for the rest of our lives shooting fireballs at me using my can of aerosol hairspray and a lighter was not okay.  I knew it wasn’t okay.  It scared the shit out of me but I wouldn’t have called it domestic violence either.  

Before the fireballs there were ugly arguments; screaming and yelling, throwing and breaking my cherished pottery I had bought when I worked at a Native American Indian art gallery.

The first time anything really nasty happened was month into our marriage.  We were arguing and escalated quickly.  I don’t even remember what we were arguing about.  He was screaming in my face and backed me against the wall.  I was crying and he backed away from me.  As I brought my hand to wipe my eyes I noticed that I was bleeding.  At some point in the argument the glass he he was holding had broke and cut my hand. In the midst of all the screaming and yelling, neither of us had noticed.  It freaked me out.  I stammered, “You cut me.”  He apologized, very remorseful.  I went into the bedroom and called my friend Ann.  Ann helped to calm me down.  When I said, “I have to leave.” She said I was over reacting, it was just an accident.  I’m not sure if she said it but I heard, “It’s not like he hit you.”

I had seen plenty of that too.  As a child, I witnessed my father brutally attack both my mother, then his girlfriend, then my first stepmother.  After that I only heard about his violent attacks on his subsequent wives.  He’d go through spurts of non-violence but it never fully took.  He’s tried to change over the years.  Sometimes I think he has changed but sometimes I think that is pure hope, after all he is my dad and I do love him.

I listened to Ann and stayed with Rob.  The fights got worse and our good times decreased.  We were both young.  We spent quite a bit of time at dance clubs with our friends.  I wasn’t a great wife.  I drank quite a bit and flirted like mad.  He got out of the Army and began working the night shift at Village Inn.  I was in college and working part-time with teens in foster care and at the University.  I partied as much as I worked and studied–it was a lot.  We were a recipe for disaster.

When we fought, stuff got broken.  My pottery was the first to go.  One night he picked up a vase and threatened to break it.  Instead of throwing it at the floor he threw it at me.  I caught it.  I then threw it on the floor shattering it.  I did it.  He didn’t break it, it was me.  It was my fault my first pot shattered on our living room floor.  

As the yelling and screaming escalated I said horrible things to him.  Hateful awful things.  I pushed back.  When I’d get in his face he’d yell that I was just trying to get him to hit me but he wouldn’t do it.  

He was right.  Despite the yelling and screaming, the pushing, the hate-filled words, the broken pottery, the broken things in our marriage, I couldn’t leave.  I had taken a vow.  One that couldn’t be broken without a good reason–like adultery or physical abuse.  If he hit me I could leave.  I would leave, or so I thought.

It finally happened.  One afternoon, I had one of the teens, J, with me as we dropped by my apartment to get something.  To be honest, I don’t really remember what happened.  I remember walking in, talking with her, and I think we woke him up.  He came out of the bedroom cursing.  I think he slapped me and then through the trash at me as I left.  J was completely freaked out.  I tried to calm her down.  I was scared to death of what this was doing to her.  I was also scared to death she’d tell someone and I’d lose my job.  I was utterly and completely humiliated.  Here I was, helping her to make better life choices, to learn to deal with the crap life had dealt her and my life was a total mess.  As I dropped her off I promised that I’d be fine.  I lied.

Not only had he hit me but he had hit me in front of “one of my kids.”  That should have been it.  In a sense it was what I had been waiting for; a good reason to leave.  But I didn’t.  I went home sobbing and begging for his forgiveness.  He said he was sorry.  He didn’t mean to.  It wouldn’t happen again.

When J discovered that I hadn’t left him.  That I wasn’t going to leave him, she was furious with me.  She refused to talk with me for a long time.  I did the “you don’t understand,”  “it will never happen again” routine.  She knew better than I did.

He didn’t hit me again.  But the humiliation got worse.  He’d come to the University and say horrible things to me in front of the people I worked with.  Instead of leaving, I would hit the bars.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I even went out on a few dates.  Nothing ever happened beyond a good-night kiss but it was cheating and I knew it.  Rob probably did too.

My friend, Ursula, found out about the dates and was furious with me.  The one thing she did not tolerate was cheating.  With her urging, I told Rob I wanted to separate.  He moved into the second bedroom and we slept alone (mostly).  We used the d-word and agreed that divorce would be best.  

Then there was the plane tickets.  We had bought tickets the month before so that we could fly back East and I could meet his family.  He said he wasn’t going alone.  I didn’t want to waste the money.  I agreed to go home with him.  He couldn’t bear the humiliation of telling his family they were right–this quickie wedding was a disaster.  We put on the happy couple facade and went to New Jersey.

It was wonderful.  I loved his family.  Everything was fresh, we didn’t fight once.  I loved being with him again.  The arctic air between use melted away. We decided to make a go of this marriage.  We returned to Colorado and considered moving to New Jersey.  A month later, I discovered I was pregnant.  This was going to be great.

Wrong.  Absolutely wrong.  Within six weeks, at Christmas, our marriage crashed down again.  This time hard.  I had stopped drinking and it seemed like he was drinking more.  My friends still went to the bars for drinking and dancing.  I continued to tag along, sans the drinking.  One night when I thought Rob was at work, I ran into him at the bar.  It wasn’t pretty.  I left my friends and went home with him.  He was furious with me.  He called me all sorts of names and made all sorts of allegations.  I understood them.  I deserved it.  I hadn’t been faithful before.  He had reason to distrust me.

I stayed home more often.  He didn’t.  The fighting and yelling continued.

I think my mind began to see things a bit more clearly without the haze of booze.  I didn’t want the yelling and screaming to be my daughter’s norm.  This time I turned to Valerie, not Ann.  She assured me that I was right.  I needed to get out and now.  “But I love him.”  

A few months went by.  We were back to sleeping in separate beds.  It wasn’t quite an arctic chill anymore, more like roommates.  We talked and went out to dinner.  Occasionally we shared a bed.  It didn’t feel so urgent to leave.

Until the night of the fire balls.  I was scared to death.  I was scared for myself,  I was scared for my daughter still growing in my womb. Thankfully, I had good friends like Valerie who urged me to get out.  They were scared of what would happen next.  Luckily, some friends needed a new roommate.  I moved in with them.  

I wish I could say that was the end.  But it wasn’t.  I was pregnant with his child.  I had witnessed my father’s brutality but I had also witnessed his love.  I loved my dad and couldn’t imagine my daughter not having hers.  So while we lived separately, we still went on the occasional date.  We still talked.  I still hoped that something would change.  But it didn’t.  When Merkin turned a year old and Rob failed to show up for her baptism and birthday.  That’s when I gave up.  That’s when I was done.

How sad is that?  The end wasn’t really my decision.  I wasn’t strong enough to say no and really mean it.  I owe it him that he said no. I’m very grateful that he did.  I have a wonderful life now.  My daughter has never witnessed domestic violence (outside of the womb).  I wish I could say it was thanks to me, but it was thanks to Rob walking away.

 

 

Opening Doors

A door I thought had been closed appears to be opening again.  Sometimes the door shuts because it’s not the right one for you.  Sometimes the door shuts because it’s not the right time.  How does one know which it is?

A few months back, a position opened up and I was thrilled.  I wanted it.  I applied and then blew the interview.  I checked in afterwards and was given some good feedback and encouraged to apply for other positions as they opened up.

Unfortunately for the person they hired and the organization, the job turned out to be more than the person could handle.  It will be vacant again.

Do I still want it?  Do I apply?

I want it because much of my life has been about helping the population this organization serves.  I’m unsure because I worry if it would be too much for me.  The woman who had the position before me was and is completely capable but it was emotionally too much.  Would it be too much for me?  I worry that the work climate might be a mess. 

I worry that it will take me farther down a road that leads away from the church. When I was graduating from seminary, I chose the church over this field.  It feels like another fork in the road or perhaps it’s circling back.

 

Ode to “Michelle”

I have a friend, we’ll call her Michelle.  Michelle is like gum on a shoe that you can’t get off no matter what you do or how hard you try.  We became friends nearly 20 years ago while dating the same guy.  He told me she was his stalker.  He told her the same thing.  Then he moved in with me and one day I came home and she was loading our fridge with food.  I was totally confused.  He introduced us like it was nothing.  Later he told me that he was just taking advantage of her kindness–that should have been my first clue that he was a douchebag. About a month later the two of us were kicking him out of our lives and we kept each other as friends.  We even shared a few apartments.

Michelle gets a bad wrap, she’s been called a slut and many other names that shame women.  She gives herself freely and without reserve. She loves with her whole heart and loves you even when you’re being a bitch or if you’re a douchebag.  There’s almost always some drama going on in her life.  It can be exhausting being her friend. There were several times in which I’ve attempted to “break up” with her.  It just never worked.  She always comes back as if nothing had ever happened.  

My daughter has a friend that resembles Michelle in personality and looks.  Sometimes we joke about what would happen if they ever met–would they recognize one another?  Would the world collapse in on itself? The other day I was sharing a story about Michelle with my eldest.  It wasn’t a kind story.  I was being a bitch and making her look like a slut.  Later that night I was feeling remorseful for being so ugly to a woman who while makes some stupid mistakes sometimes (don’t we all?) but loves me like few people have ever loved me and I realized that Michelle has helped to show me who God is.  

Michelle loves people wholly and unconditionally.  When you think you’ve finally done it, you’ve finally shaken her off, she shows up.  She makes you laugh and you remember why you became friends in the first place.  I’ve witnessed her give guys too much of her love only to be rejected, humiliated and overall treated like crap.  Yet, she will still remember these douchebags with love and kindness.  She hasn’t forgotten all the crap they did to her but she still remembers them fondly.  She appreciates them for who they were and are.

Frankly, I’ve been a raging bitch to her myself.  I don’t deserve her love and friendship; yet it remains.  Yeah, she can be freaking annoying (who isn’t?) but I hope that I can learn to love like Michelle loves, like God loves, wholly and unconditionally, no matter what.

A cure…

There are days in which I want something more substantial to do than pray.  Yes, I believe in the power of prayer but when the hearts around me are breaking I want to fix it.  I want to do more than pray.  I want to ease the pain.  I want to make it better.  It doesn’t have to be me to make the fix.  I just want it fixed.

A dear one is hundreds of miles away on the way to the hospital.  She has been battling cancer for a while now.  Her physical pain is immense.  Her husband’s heart hurts at least as much as her body does.  I want them to have a cure, for this pain to be gone.  Perhaps I don’t believe in prayer much more than I beleive in modern medicine.  I don’t believe that either will provide a fix.  Neither have a magic wand with a cure.

I believe that prayers helps us to be strong, to take courage.  I don’t believe it makes a cure. 

I want a cure.  I want a cure for the heartaches of this world.  I want mothers who are ill and in the hospital to get up and leap for joy.  I want girls who see pictures of themselves to see how beautiful they are and not a fat face that makes them cry.  I want the wars fought with guns, bombs, rape, and terror to cease.  I want those who live on the streets to be safe and warm and have a home they love.  I want those who struggle for their daily bread to have what they need, to have food that is healthy, yummy, and filling.  I want the outcasts to be insiders.  I want the kin-dom of God to be present not just for a few but for all.  I want there to be peace, real soul filling peace with joy and freedom for everyone.  I want it now.  I want a cure.  I want the pain to cease.

Advent 1

ImageIt has begun.  There were only 5 of us present tonight but it was a start.  I shared my thoughts about church–wanting to live into my Wesleyan heritage by church being a place we gather, share, and then go out to do ministry with those in need.  Not for but with.  I could easily plan everything out but I want this to be a communal church in which we make decisions together. I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I love ritual.But I want words that make sense, that are full of beauty, that are relevant.  I love liturgy.  I love all of us speaking truths together.  I hope those words sit within us and stir us at unexpected times during the coming week.  I am thankful for Thom M. Shuman at  Lectionary Liturgies. I used his poetic words and prayers for our first gathering.  His writing speaks to my spirit and I love sharing his work with others.

Instead of a sermon we practiced Lectio Divina with the lectionary readings from Isaiah and Romans.  Hope, peace, and love.  Salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The Kingdom of God is with us in the hear and now.  I experienced it tonight.

Then we celebrated communion.  We participated and celebrated with all those who came before us and all those who will come after.  It was the first time I’ve presided over communion since leaving Missouri.  It felt like home.

At first I was disappointed that only 2 people that weren’t family came.  But they want to return.  They want to bring their family when they come.  It’s a start.  Our journey has begun.

 

Ordination as Distraction

Ordination has been a distraction for me. Many years have been filled to the brim of how and when and who will ordain me.  This past year instead of doing what I dreamed of doing–starting a home church–I was consumed with where and how will I get ordained.

Yet, those who seek a church that walks the talk, does ministry with those on the margins, discuss openly fears, doubt, and faith, they don’t care.  The people I know who are frustrated with church as is, don’t care whether their pastor is ordained or not.  They care about relationship, having open and honest conversations, living a life that matters…not ordination.

In a few weeks, we’ll have our first evening of “church” at our house.  The only approval I’m seeking is that of the One who has called me to ministry in the first place.

 

Jumping in…

I’ve jumped in.  I did a bit of thinking and then did some inviting and now I need to do some solid plannning…or not, things seem to work better for me when not set in stone.

Why does it feel so scary?  All I did was invite some people to my house to celebrate Advent, to talk, to make some meaning, to do a little church at home. 

Worst case scenario?  No one shows–but that wouldn’t be so bad, as I’d at least have a clean house for a day or so.  Worst case scenario #2:  Too many poeple show up and we don’t have enough room or food.  Again, not so bad.  I’d know people are interested in creating meaning and starting a new community.  Worst case scenario #3:  People show up and my house is a disaster.  Ok, totally embarrassing but not a big deal, most of my friends and family know it’s a distinct possiblity.

Best case scenario people show up and we do church our own way.  We talk, we eat, we celebrate the mystery of God and it is good.  We want to do it again and again and again.

Missing Ministry…Rambling towards the Dream

Since returning to Colorado our lives have been up in the air.  Things are settling in place but I feel more lost than ever.  As we planned this enormous leap of faith–moving without jobs, moving into the in-laws home (thanks be to God for them!), I dreamed of starting a home church.  I had this wonderful vision of sitting on the porch with a group of non-churchy adults discussing scripture and how we can realize the Kindom of God in the here and now.  It’s nearly a year and a half later and I have not realized that dream.

I was the good little Methodist (as much as I am apt to be) and connected with the local District Superintendent.  We began attending a Methodist church near by and got involved there.  I met with the district ordination committee (fantastic group of leaders!) but I still wasn’t sure it’s where I belonged.

I met the local UCC ministers and they readily invited me into church and ministry.  It felt so good.  They welcomed me with open arms, there wasn’t this feeling of let us check you out first.  It was “we’re glad to have you!”  I’ve flirted with the UCC for many years.  I love their openness. When they say all are welcome here, they mean it.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts.  So I switched.  I thanked the UMC DS and committee but said I was leaving the UMC.

As with all churches and denominations I’ve learned some flaws of the UCC, at least our local UCC.  Church is church.  It’s a human institution filled with flaws and humans being ugly as well as filled with wonder and moments in which we see and feel God moving among us.

But due to some issues not ready for public discussion, I’m having a hard time moving forward with them as well.  I feel like my best option is to “go rogue.”  Do that little home church.  But what is holding me back?  What fear am I not acknowledging, accepting, or facing?

I’ve been trying to remember what it is I really want.  What is it that God is calling me to do?  Currently, my paid vocation revolves around helping abused and neglected children.  It is good work.  I definitely claim it as meaningful ministry.  I volunteer with the local domestic violence and sexual assault agency.  What I do there is most definitely meaningful ministry.

What I miss is the teaching and preaching.  Which sometimes makes me think I must be an egomaniac.  That this ministry piece is completely ego-centric.  I don’t want to believe that’s true.  I don’t think it is.  I love (and miss) helping people to see and understand scripture from a new perspective.  I love helping to encourage and develop new spiritual connections and disciplines.  And oddly enough, this fly by the seat of her pants girl, greatly misses organizing and planning liturgy, activities, and worship.  I miss praying with people and listening.  With both my paid and volunteer work, I sit with people in great need, I listen to them, I speak when necessary, and I pray for them, but I never pray with them.  I miss that.  I miss it all.  Okay, I don’t miss the yearly reports and charge conferences.  I miss studying and steeping myself in scripture.  Yes, I realize that I can and should be doing that anyway but I dont’.  Not often.  Perhaps it’s too hard because it reminds me of the other stuff that I miss as well.

But my hope is that if I can do just one thing a week, a day even, that somehow moves me forward.  Moves me to practice and discover a way to realize this dream.  God will lead me.  I will.  Hence, it is my goal to get on here at least once a week and ramble about God, where I’m at, what’s next, face my fears, whatever it takes to move ahead just one small step at a time until somehow I am engaged in those aspects of ministry that I am desperately missing right now.

Untitled

Her anger choked the room like the bad cologne of an awkward teen boy.  It was suffocating.  It was hard to resist.

I wanted to like her.  I wanted to help her.

At one point she looked at me with eyes that screamed, “This is bullshit and you know it!”  I looked away.

What is bullshit is  your refusal to use the power that you have.  Which sounds a lot like victim blaming to me. I know a lot about victim blaming.  I hear it all the time.  She provoked him.  Why doesn’t she leave?  Why is she so pissed off?  Why isn’t she pissed off?

It’s rare that a victim of domestic or sexual violence can ever do anything right.

At least according to the larger society of the United States.

It sucks.

Yes, she is pissed.  She is so pissed that she is now making decisions that  are actually hurting her and hurting her children. She has a wall that I’m not sure that I can break through.

I understand why she’s pissed.  I understand why she drinks.  I understand why she uses drugs.  What I want to know is, how do I help her to discover her own power?  How do I help her to see that she has power in the choices she makes from here on out?  That her choices can turn everything around?