It’s What We Need

I don’t know what to say and I am not alone. There are only so many ways to write “Love each other” before we all start sounding like a Beatles songs, after they started doing the hallucinogenics.

So instead, I want to show you something.

In the Catholic church, we use a lectionary for the readings at church. The lectionary is a book that has all the Bible scripture readings laid out for both the weekday masses and Sunday masses. The Sunday masses work on a 3 year cycle, called A, B and C. In year A, our gospel comes mostly from Matthew. Year B we read mostly from Mark and chapter 6 of John. In year C, we read mostly from Luke.

This was all set down long time ago. Like, long, long time ago. In some Christian churches ministers choose their readings based on current events. Not us. Catholics have this thing with tradition.

Maybe you’ve noticed.

Anyway, 2016 is a year C. We’re reading a lot of Luke in Ordinary time, which what we call all the time that is not Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.

Remember, these readings are pre-ordained. Back and back.

These have been the Gospel readings the last three weeks.

Luke 10:1-9Luke 10:25-37Luke 10:38-42.

The first one, two days before the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, is when Jesus sends His disciples out in twos and tells them to be bringers of peace wherever they enter.

The second one—last weekend, after the killing of the police officers in Dallas—was the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This week, after Nice and the killing of the police officers in Baton Rouge, was the story of Martha and Mary.

And next week, the reading is Luke 10:1-13, when Jesus gives his disciples the Lord’s Prayer in response to one of them asking “Lord, teach us how to pray”.

Bring peace. Help, regardless of race or creed. Listen. Pray.

Some will call this coincidence. It’s not, though.

It’s what we need, when we need it, if we have the courage to listen and believe.

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Hold the Bridge

The last 48 hours have torn our social fabric into pieces.

Again.

It is such a human, natural reaction to take sides and dig in.  To hold the line.

In my tiny little slice of the world, I have huddled like a turtle in my shell, watching my social media and the comments of news articles. My friends who are people of color are speaking a painful, challenging and sacred rage out into the holy space and demanding change. Our beloved Medford Police have gone almost silent in their presence, out of respect but also fear and care.

 In my circle, because I know all my people, there are no pitchforks.

No pie forks either.

Folks are wary. Waiting for someone else to make the first move and dictate the mood.

This is not the way.

Philando Castile was a good man serving children. I can carry his loss in my hands at the same time I carry the horror of those officers in Dallas who came to a protest without body armor to show that they were not the bad guys—and were shot down in the street.

I do not have to take sides to fight for justice. I can carry both.

We can carry both.

And when we carry both as a people, we do the most important work of all—patiently and steadily holding the bridge. We’re going to need the bridge later, to repair and heal.

Others may hold the lines drawn on the battlefield. There is a season for that. We have all found ourselves holding the lines.

But if that is not where your heart is called, and if your hands are large and loving enough today to carry both, come hold the bridge.

Pitchforks

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We used to play a game with our students before we read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible called Pitchforks or Pie Forks?

We gave the kids a list of the characters with brief descriptions and then asked them to judge if the character deserved a pitchfork (visit from an angry mob) or pie fork (accepted friend).

It was a predictable exercise at the beginning.

Abigail Williams, who had an affair with a married man: Pitchfork.

Elizabeth Proctor, the pregnant, long-suffering wife of the married man: Pie Fork.

Reverend John Hale, famous witch hunter: Pie Fork.

Tituba, voodoo practicing slave: Pitchfork.

But then we’d come back to the list after we’d read the play and re-evaluate. It was amazing what happened after we’d walked a mile in a character’s shoes.

Which was, of course, Miller’s point.

It was never lost on my students that the world was upside down in Salem and the good guys were really bad guys who hid behind their Bibles and their authority to cause the deaths of 19 people. Someone would always ask “Why were the people so stupid?”

Because they were scared.

Fear, when it has nowhere else to go, becomes anger. And anger, in the hands of master manipulators, becomes deadly.

The events of the last month have kept this lesson in the front of my heart.

The backlash against the Stanford rape victim.

The backlash against the parents of the boy who was killed at Disney World.

The backlash against those who died in the nightclub in Orlando.

The backlash against an entire religion based on the actions of an evil few.

The lack of backlash against the murder of a politician in England because of her political position.

The constant calls to raise our pitchforks, against our neighbors, our freedoms and maybe even our way of life. The angry mob, marching across social media sites, accusing and condemning those who disagree or are different.

It’s cliché, but George Santayana was right when he said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Beware the people who call for pitchforks. They tend to lead angry mobs into dark and evil places.

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Friendship, Faith

Kate is making her First Communion with four of her good friends. So the moms hired a photographer and on Sunday we dressed them up, took them to a pretty farm and took pictures.

Officially, to mark the importance of the occasion.

But in the far-reaching, planner’s part of my heart, it’s so we have these pictures to show at rehearsal dinners when they are all bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We do live in a small valley. You never know.

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These three met at our house to get their hair done. By the moms, none of whom qualify as “hair people”. It required wine…

We hired the magnificent and magical Tonya Poitevint, who did our family pictures last Fall. She was amazing, like a mother hen with five snow white chicks following her around. She has such a way of coaxing beautiful smiles.

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We shot at Orchard Home Bed and Breakfast , which has breath-taking grounds and the afternoon light was just…just.

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In the middle of the shoot, it came to me what we were really doing.

We were guiding our girls to the next place. We were doing it together and they were doing it together and Tonya became part of our together. It was this amazing, prayerful feminine energy and it was powerful.

These five beautiful girls, with their arms around each other, laughing in God’s sunshine.

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And the mothers, who have brought them this far in keeping with the promises we made when they were baptized, but really before that, when they were whispers of hope in our hearts.

As our mothers before us. And before them. And back and back and back.

All of this to say: You are a beloved child of God, and of mine. And it is your province as a woman to wear these things as symbols of who you are and celebrate what is holy and sacred.

This is what it means to be a woman and a mother in our church.

Love, friendship, faith.

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Tonya Poitevint Photography!

 

Holy Grace

 

IMG_20130325_161833Sometimes I get a little nudge that I haven’t talked about Grace in a while. This Sunday it was a BIG nudge.

On Holy Thursday night, the Apostle Peter, who my church recognizes as the first earthly leader of the Church, denied that he knew Jesus three times. As Jesus had foretold at the Last Supper.

I have never blamed Peter. Our first human instinct is to LIVE. Plus, at that point, he didn’t know what was at stake.

This was Peter’s all-In moment. Right? How many times has this happened to us, where we’re kind-of-committed to something in our lives, but at that last moment, we walk—from fear, from uncertainty, from misunderstanding.

Then we know almost immediately that we blew it. That we walked from something hard, but good. And usually, it’s only at this moment of loss that we see the true value of the thing we almost had, if only we had been all-in.

This happens so often in our lives that there are lots of sayings about it: Oh well. That’s the one that got away. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Can’t unring the bell.

In this moment right here—the Peter moment—we can make a lot of choices. We can regret, or hate ourselves for missing out, or become angry, or blame others.

Or.

Here is Sunday’s Gospel reading:

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”      (John 21: 15-17)

I swear, the hair stood up on my arms in church. Because that right there is LOVE. And FORGIVENESS. And REDEMPTION. Face to face, one by one, Jesus healed Peter’s denials.

Peter went on to become the first earthly leader of Jesus’ followers and he was so all-in that he died on a cross for his faith.

Holy Grace.

Life is full of it. There is no wound that cannot be healed, no sin that cannot be forgiven, no fear that cannot be overcome and no Peter Moment that cannot become all-in.

 

 

 

God, Love and Rock and Roll

If, when you think “Christian music concert”, you see lots of guitars and banjos—then we need to talk.

Four years ago, I was you.

Then a friend suggested I try the Air1 radio station, at the same time I was struggling to recover from my postpartum anxiety. I turned it on, figuring that melodic, folksy guitar music would be soothing, if nothing else.

Yeah it was soothing. But not folksy or melodic. Hip hop. Rock. Pop.

The same types of music on any top 40 station, except clean, faith-filled, uplifting. That was the end of secular radio in mama’s car.

Our kids really like music. Kate loves to sing along and Gabe is interested in drums. So last summer, when Toby Mac was coming to town, Shea got us tickets.

I didn’t know what to expect. My first concert was Bon Jovi in 1989. I’ve seen Pearl Jam and U2, Pink and Lenny Kravitz.

Can Christian concerts be that big, loud, fun?

Yes they can. Minus the pot, liquor and boobs.

And—they’re cheaper.

Last weekend we took our kids to Toby Mac’s Hits Deep Tour in Eugene. We saw 8 top artists in 4 hours. We got churched up. We danced and sang til we were dripping sweat. I may have cried once or twice.

The place was sold out. Easily 10,000 people. Lots of kids of all ages. Lots of smiles and hugs and manners.

Not one curse word. Not. One.

These artists—they are amazing live. Dancing, standing on tables, jumping into the pit. They could be making so much more money in the secular music world. And instead, they use their gifts for God.

That’s the kind of role model I’m talking about. Not to mention, these are grown men and women testifying. They are walking their talk.

You better believe I want my kids to see that.

The tour has partnered with Food For the Hungry, so at one point, an African pastor came out and talked to us about their mission. His story went like this: If all of the people in the world could be represented by 100 people standing in a line, then we are all at the front. And at the back are children who are starving to death. One child dies from hunger every three seconds. 1-2-3. Another one gone. We may wonder why we are lucky enough to be at the front of the line. It’s because we have the power to make a difference for those at the back of the line. We can’t fix it all, but we can fix one. And God will see us fix that one and He will know we did what we could.

At the end, he counted again: 1-2-3. Then he shouted “Who will help save the ones at the back of the line?!” and Kate shot out of her seat with her hands and voice raised: “ME!!!!!!!”

So we adopted another African child. His name is Kirodunge and he lives in Burundi. It costs $35/month, but there’s no way to put a price on my little girl using her tithing money to help another child.

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Annie getting her worship on for Capital Kings

For more information on the Hits Deep Tour, visit tobymac.com. For other tours and events, visit http://www.air1.com or http://www.klove.com.

 

 

Welcome the Stranger

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I stopped and started this 12 times, trying to find the right words, until I gave up. My words are not called.

We need the words of Jesus.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. ‘Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”  (Matthew 25)

Those poor people, the mothers and fathers and babies and grandparents fleeing from the very evil that struck Paris?

We have to shelter them. Here or there, no matter. Somewhere. Because those people are Christ walking in the world and if we turn our backs we fail our Christ.

This is our prayer: Open. Soften. Lighten.