Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I have been called to be prayerfully affirming

(Note- all links will be marked with an asterisk and will be footnoted)

     As we have (mostly) all shared and grappled with our own and others' responses to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, I've done my best to  sharing my own views in a positive manner, and quietly passing by differing views. I've found much more effective to stand by my own views, respectfully, and wait until others respectfully ask for engagement before doing so. That's where real change occurs.

     Not everyone takes that route, and the rainbowing of my facebook profile picture drew ire from one of my co-religionists, who felt I should not have overlaid our church with this symbol of inclusion.
Our 2015 Mexico Mission Team, before leaving to serve an orphanage in Tijauana

     The more I meditated upon it, the *more* I felt it was right and proper to do so. Of the people picture whose opinion I know (I don't know all their opinions), they overwhelmingly some down on the side of equality. And even if I didn't know some personal stories, anyone looking at a group of people that says should know that there must, statistically speaking, be gay, lesbian, or bisexual people present.
I feel this rainbow is right and perfect.

     But such opposition is about so much more than a photo. It's about people. Real people, who leave the church because of hatred and consider suicide in numbers much greater than the general population. Can we afford to respond with anything BUT love? And for people of faith, any faith, it's about faith. The two can't be neatly separated. I was made keenly aware this past weekend with my own and others' experiences at Seattle's Pride Parade.

     This is my second year walking with Open Door Ministries, a local ELCA ministry dedicated to full LGBTQ inclusion. Before the Pride Parade, I visited worship at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle, where our Northwest WA Synod bishop, Bishop Unti, shared the message. In his message, he stated that "as we walk today, we will be proclaiming the Gospel." Powerful words! We then all walked to the staging area together, and as we waited for over an hour, photos were taken and I had the joy of saying hello to a pastor who was a former youth worker in our congregation.

Local ELCA pastors who came to proclaim God's radical love with their feet.

     As we walked along the parade route, I stay along the outer edges as I like to connect with people. There's a lot of high-fiving and hugging. I was carrying a simple sign: just some old mountboard with "GOD LOVES EVERYONE" written in rainbow crayon. As I high-fived spectators, one woman held onto to my hand and said "God loves everyone! I really needed to hear that now!". She kept holding onto my hand, near tears. Somewhat unusual for me, I felt it was right to ask, "Can I pray for you?" She said "YES!" and threw her arms around me. Another woman who was with her placed a hand upon each of our heads. I prayed that she would know she is a precious child of God, that she would know nothing but love and acceptance, and that she would never forget that God made her and loved her as she is.

     And then I went on my way.

     I don't know anything about her story, but I feel certain something meaningful to her happened in that moment.

     Of course, Lutherans were not the only religious people who joined Pride. On the bus to Seattle, I got to converse with an elderly, gay, Vietnam vet who was joining his Episcopal congregation. He spoke of the double hell of coming out, switching congregations, AND being a vet of a war so many disagreed with. He spoke of how the congregation he originally left after coming out now has their Believe Out Loud status. It was such a privilege to hear this saint's stories.

     But the story that brings me the most joy? My dear LDS friend who walked with Mormons Building Bridges. My friend and her husband did not always advocate for LGBTQ equality. But then, about the time our state was voting on marriage equality, she began asking sincere questions. She had conversations with people of all opinions. Before too long, we knew her oldest child had come out. I watched her position evolve. She made plans to join this year's Pride. Her facebook friends learned that her next oldest child was also gay. My favourite, very favourite photo from all of Seattle Pride is that of my dear friend with her arms around her gay son, who was wearing his LDS going-to-Temple clothes with a rainbow bow tie and a sign proclaiming "I know my Savior loves me". Yes, yes, yes! May the love and acceptance they felt follow them as they face Testimony in church this week.

     So to my fellow Jesus people I say- May the radical and inclusive Love of God be with you all. Everyone of you. And may you extend it to all.

Related Links:

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Letter on SCOTUS ruling

Open Door Ministries on facebook

Mormons Building Bridges on facebook

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Maundy Thursday Reflection On "Deeply Held Beliefs"

I've been thinking a lot about Indiana's religious "freedom" bill, and why I oppose it. I'm a Christian, and all my part time jobs take place in the context of church childcare and teaching. I'm a private preschool teacher, work in my church nursery and two others, and provide MOPS care for two churches.

I meet a lot of parents in this context and to be frank, there are times their practices and beliefs are in opposition to my own deeply held beliefs. In contrast to Indiana's situation, discriminating against or treating LGBTQ people as second class citizens is against my beliefs about how Christ would treat these people, yet I serve people who WOULD discriminate. I serve parents who are against public assistance and socialized medicine, and we KNOW how Christ treated the hungry, poor and sick. Don't get me started on parenting. I have my own deeply held beliefs there, too, but I know to just keep them so myself. To use an example that's probably less personal to most others, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about disposable anything. Yet I don't turn parents away and tell them to come back with cloth diapers.

Because that's the thing about service-about being a SERVANT- which those of us in the Christian tradition celebrate on Maundy Thursday. Being a servant means being a servant to all- in love, without condition. Have Indiana's fundamentalist Christians forgotten that?

I'll leave you with a quote from Steve Inskeep on today's "Morning Edition" :
 I wonder if there are people who are uncomfortable as a matter of conscience with gay marriage who might, with reason, take that position - that their job is simply to sell flowers, that their job is to take photographs, that their job is not to judge either way, that none of us are put on Earth to judge, actually, that their job is not to judge the people in front of them necessarily.

(Full article here. )


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Superheroes, national treasures...children's librarians!

When I was the mother of a preschooler and toddler I was planning to home school, I discovered the Friday morning story time at one of our local libraries. It wasn't the closest library, but it was the most easily accessible by bus, which was important as we were a one car family.

Years passed. We added a baby and a minivan, and the preschooler and toddler became school age children. Story time remained one of the most important parts of our week: not only did it serve as the first practice sitting still in a group that my kids experienced, but we formed friendships with other homeschooling families that formed the basis for co-ops and playdates that provided the important social experiences my kids might otherwise have missed out on. As time wore on, the older kids would wander out and pick their own stacks of books, eventually novels, while the youngest still enjoyed story time.
Once, Friday fell after an ice storm and we tried to start out over an inch of ice for story time. We got stuck and a stranger had to turn our minivan around and point us back toward home. The kids all cried to miss storytime.

But all good things come to an end. Sooner or later, you give in and move on from preschool story time. The friends moved away, and I added first one, and then two mornings of work a week. With two high schoolers, I knew I wanted to ease my way back into the work force.

This year, I made a major life leap and took a job three days week teaching preschool (while maintaining my two MOPS jobs). When we started planning our community helpers units, I asked Ms Gerry, our children's librarian to grace our class with her presence. She ended up giving a 40 minute story time for our whole school, and it was a thing to behold. Energy crackling from her like a superhero of literacy, she kept nearly fifty kids from ages 3-5 engaged for that entire time. As I sat on the floor of my class room with about 5 little kids squished onto me, I felt transported back in time. And another thing- watching her, I knew most of my own circle time came from those story times of over a decade ago. I have stolen from the best.

If you know, our your children know,a children's librarian, know that aside from you, they may be your child's first best teacher. If you're an adult or close to it,stop into your library and thank your children's librarian. They are truly one of our national treasures, and our first line of defence against illiteracy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What I Mean When I Say I'm Not A Sports Fan

I live in the Seattle area, so I'm surrounded by rabid Seahawks fans, literally everywhere I go. I LITERALLY cannot escape it.
 As I was relating to a couple of friends my struggle to find a place to eat that would NOT be showing today's game, I was asked why. Was I just not a Seahawks fan? Did I not like the noise? When I said I am not a sports fan, I was asked to elaborate further, and the analogy I used was, "When I say I'm not a sports fan, it's like Richard Dawkins saying he's "not really a religious man", and for many of the same reasons".

Now, I do try to keep my mouth shut about how I feel about Sportsianity. I like to treat other people's religions with the same respect I'd like my own to be treated with. But for these past couple of years, living where I do during football season makes it hard not to let it out.

So why am I not a sports fan?

Opiate of the Masses: Karl Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the people (  "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" ). There can be little doubt that pro sports serves the same purpose in American society. Racial injustice? Environmental degradation? Rape culture? Who cares, there's a playoff!

Domestic Abuse: The past year has seen serious questions about how the NFL deals with domestic and child abuse among it's players. The questions remain. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising from a game where men violently slam into each other.  Like other high profile, lower level sports cases sch as Penn State and Steubanville, one can easily feel that a player or coach can have a blind eye turned on them or get a mere slap on the wrist if the teams' performance is at stake.

 Brain Damage :  Again with the slamming together. Football players of all levels have a high level of concussion risk: the NFL last year paid out $765 million to settle cases against former players who suffered lasting effects from these concussions. This is such an issue, that the question has been repeatedly raised about the ethics of watching a sport so detrimental to the health of it's players. (Christians, read this also.)

Disrespect of Indigenous Culture: That team from the other Washington. Enough said.

Disproportionate Pay: IN 4/5 of our states, the highest paid employee is a coach. This makes coaches the mega church, gleaming mega pastors of our country. 

This doesn't seem quite right to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In support of giving a

It's a current trend to not give a Care is not the word people use, but I work in children and youth ministry, so I watch my language. Not giving a is seen as a good thing, a thing we should admire. I know my visceral, negative reaction has something to do with my image of the person who doesn't give a care as a rude, sweatpants wearing slacker. I've tried reading essays on the subject-I really have- but they lose me with their language usage.

I did get through enough of one essay to hear that , at least in the words of one writer, it's not about indifference, but about not letting the little things get to you.
It still seems a bit dispassionate and unenthusiastic to me.

For me, I'll risk caring too much.

I'm sure in the eyes of some, I care too much, about too many things, and about things not worth caring about. But that's OK. I wouldn't trade it, because I have an an energy and enthusiasm that comes from giving cares. (Or I may just be implacable). I'll keep caring. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Noise is wonderful- a reflection

I know some people hate noise- such people count among my family and coworkers. I love noise, and I'm reflecting on why I love the noise today.
Right now, in my house, the dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, and heater are running. So is the fan in the bathroom where I just took a hot shower. There's noise from the game system we can provide our children, and just minutes ago noise from the vacuum cleaner I used to make our room clean. We live in an area that has at least one power outage a winter, and I am grateful when I can be surrounded by this noise again. May I never take it for granted.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Maybe Christmas sucks less when you're not quite as poor

     Ah, Christmas. That magical time of year when people with more money quote" How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at people with less money. It's important to make sure, when you festoon your entire house with lights that you'll leave burning for a month, that you make sure people who's children are shivering in the cold remember that you can't buy Christmas joy.

     Until this fall, our family has spent most of the last 15 years dancing around the working poor line. Some years were better than others, and we always had food and housing and it was usually kind of warm enough, but it was HARD. We had many beans and rice years, put on lots of extra sweaters, and thought twice when we were sick (My kids went 4 years without a well child visit, until insurance companies were required to cover them at 100%). And Christmas lists? Pretty long, and often filled with things people with more money would just pick up when they needed them.

     And we were lucky. We were never homeless and never skipped a meal, never had our power turned off.

     This year, we have had much more money than we have since I was pregnant with my 15 year old. What has that meant for our Christmas season?

When two of my kids had bad coughs, I took them to the doctor without thinking about it.

When hip and knee pain from a running injury made walking painful and slow, I went to a chiropractor.

Guess what? It's easier to enjoy a holiday when you're not sick and in pain.

     I just turned my heater up to warm, we are having a vehicle repaired, and tonight when I make dinner, I will have an extra half hour because I'll just throw some pre chopped organic vegetables in a pan. This will give me more time to enjoy with mt family, maybe watching a Doctor Who Christmas Special while knitting a present.

     And our Christmas lists? Much shorter this year- just a few items each (if you count all individual Magic cards as one item). While talking about it with one of my kids, we came to the conclusion that we didn't feel that old feeling that we had to ask for necessities as gifts anymore, ,and we could focus on time together.

     So yes, if you have a warm house, food, medical care, and clothing, and bunch of plastic crap won't make your holiday better. But hunger, cold and illness make it hard to enjoy anything, and you CAN buy happiness when you can afford to be comfortable.