The Church needs to BE CHURCH

 

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A few weeks ago, Glennon of Momastery announced that she is in a relationship with international soccer super star Abby Wambach.

Since Glennon writes from a (fairly fluid) Christian perspective, this caused somewhat of a ruckus. Glennon’s announcement follows on the heels-ish of Jen Hatmaker’s statement in support of gay marriage last Spring. The Christian right is a wee bit peeved at the Christian everyone else. Articles about false prophets and cafeteria theology abound.

Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Melton are not preachers.

They have built faith support communities online and in packed hall after packed hall, but they have never claimed to be building church.

Do some people go to church on their social media? Yes, yes they do. I agree with folks that this is a problem.

But whose problem?

We just elected a man who flies publicly and proudly in the face of Gospel values. And 90% of our church leadership either stayed silent or supported him. By “our church leadership” I mean all the churches, not just mine.

It was incredibly short-sighted. I don’t go to church at Momastery, but I regularly read the comments and so I know, there is a bloc of Christian mamas out there and we are AWAKE.

We raised $1 million dollars in 31 hours, at $25 per person—that’s 40,000 individual donations, in 31 hours—to help Syrian refugees in Europe. We didn’t care what the candidates or our preachers were saying about Muslim refugees. We saw starving children and we moved.

These same sister mamas filled arena after arena last year for Women of Faith. We brought our children to Christian concert tours, like Toby Mac’s Hits Deep tour, and sponsored other mamas’ children through charities like World Vision and Food for the Hungry.

Accuse us of cafeteria theology all you want, but we’re not overly concerned with theology. We want Gospel. We want boots-on-the-ground faith that walks the talk. We hunger for Jesus, and we bring our time, talent and treasure to the table.

Theology is important. But we’re on the move and bursting with a desire to shine a light in the dark. So if you really want us to listen to your sermon on the Ten Commandments you have to show us you know that Jesus linked them inextricably to the Beatitudes at the Sermon on the Mount, and you better be able to walk and talk.

But if you want us to sit and git your latest rant on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, liberals, etc, we’re not coming. Our babies are going to be grown-ups any second now and the world is not ready for them yet. There’s work to do.

We’ll come to church, but you have to BE CHURCH. Otherwise, the world is bleeding and we’re in charge of bandages.

River Rule

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Last week, I went on a retreat.

I can’t tell you much about it because of the River Rule, which is the very coolest thing ever. So I’m going to tell you about the River Rule itself instead.

There’s a village on the banks of the Zambezi river where (the story goes) once a year all the women of the village get into boats and pole themselves gracefully across the currents to an island. The island is sacred and holy space, far from the banks of the village, protected by the waters of the mother river.

Once the women step foot from the boats to the land, the River Rule is invoked. Nothing that is said or done or felt on the island can be communicated to anyone ever. And no judgement is allowed. It is a place for truth, hard ones and easy ones and funny ones. And we know truth can mostly only live where there is safety.

It is a privilege among the women of the village to uphold the honor of the Rule. It is a gift they give themselves and each other, once a year, to honor the challenges, heartbreaks and joys of their lives as women.

Are you like me and you didn’t know how much you needed that until someone said it out loud?

I forge ahead in truth most of the time anyway and try not to count the cost. I told my mom just last night that so often when I speak about my postpartum breakdown, I see the fruit of it almost immediately in the women who reach out for help or fellowship. But there’s always a small part of me that worries about having that much truth, even truth that has proven so helpful to others, floating around out there.

To know that I am being heard and not judged and that everyone around me is striving to understand me with love and prayer in their hearts?

You guys, it’s a gift beyond explaining.

The River Rule is not unique to the retreat I attended. In fact, it appears in the Urban Dictionary, sans the village story, as a way of saying “This needs to stay right here between us”.

So I have two things:

If you’ve been feeling called to a women’s retreat, consider this your answer from God, that yes, you should go. Just go.

And think about instituting a River Rule with your friends. It’s a gift that can push friendship to sacred sisterhood.

 

God is a Sports Fan

On Sunday, Gabe’s football team—which hasn’t lost a game in five years—was down 18-14 at halftime of their playoff game.

We’ve only been on this team for a season so the mystique of the Undefeated is new to us.

I was proud of how they all handled it. Coach kept his cool. The parents kept cheering positively, with the exception of me and Shea and AJ’s mom–but to be fair, Gabe and AJ were being held for twenty plays before the refs actually threw a fricking flag.

Still, Gabe’s eyes were wide and his eyebrows were floating around his hairline, which is family code for “I’m freaking out.” He kept looking at me, but the league frowns on parents doing pep talks on the sideline so I just gave him a thumbs-up and a smile.

Thirty seconds before halftime ended, it hit me: between Mass and Sunday School and pre-game practice, we hadn’t prayed. So then I did get up and walk down to the sideline. He saw me coming and when I said “We didn’t pray” he stood on his tiptoes and reached his hand up to the railing. I grabbed it and we prayed this prayer:

Dear Lord,

In the battle that goes on in life,

We ask but a field that is fair

Give us the strength to meet the strife

The courage to do and dare.

If we should win let it be by the code with our faith and our honor high.

If we should lose let us stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.

His eyebrows went back to their normal place and in the second half the refs found their flags and the offense got their feet under them and we won the game 28-18.

Afterwards he came to me and said “It’s because we prayed.”

Oh buddy. He comes from a long line of athletes who pray. In high school, we hit the quiet cool of the church for a decade of the rosary before every game. When we made the play-offs, it was a full rosary. Then we prayed the Memorare on the court before lining up, along with a shout-out to St. Therese: Little Flower, show your power, help us in this needy hour. The end of every huddle went like this: Our Lady, Queen of Victory…pray for us…St. Anthony…pray for us.

When I coached, we did the same, except I replaced the Memorare with the prayer I say with my kids. You ain’t heard nothing in a huddle until you’ve heard high school boys pray to “cheer as the winners go by”, although one later admitted to me that he crossed his fingers every time he said that part.

But it was never superstition. It was what we did, but not what we needed to do to win, like wearing lucky socks or sitting in the same seats on the bus.  I think that’s a really important conversation Gabe and I will have. His team didn’t win because Gabe and I prayed. My teams didn’t win because we prayed. God doesn’t work on a pray to play basis.

But did we play better because we took those moments to be centered in the presence of God first, to lay down our cares and worries? To remember that win or lose, we were beloved children of God? I did. I looked forward to the empty, darkened church and the murmured prayers of my teammates. As a coach, I wanted my players to know that peace.

I loved our voices raised in prayer together. I loved Gabe’s dirty, reaching fingers in my hand as we prayed in the rain. And the sweet bowed heads of Kate and her teammate Jo as we prayed in the gym. I loved watching high school players pray over each other on the sideline of their public school game a few weeks ago. I love how Tim Tebow—that’s right, I said it—leaps into the stands to pray over fans in distress.

And that’s how I know God is a sports fan.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 18:20

Believe

This is Alejandro.alejandro

 

He’s ten.

We met him last year when he and Gabe played together during basketball season.

He’ll be mad at me for saying this, but he’s adorable. And a baller. Plays mean defense with his good buddy Alex.

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Oh boy. I’m going to be in trouble for this. She was tall. He took her on anyway.

But he was gone a lot from practice, and he missed some games. When I finally saw his mom Kyndra again I asked her “Is he ok?” And that was the first time she told me.

Alejandro was born with Stage 4 kidney disease. From Day 1, the doctors knew he would need a transplant.

Since then, they have lived their lives as normally as possible. Kyndra is a single mom and Alejandro has a little brother and sister.  He’s been sick a lot, but they make it work.

Last May, they found out his kidney function was nearing the 20% threshold for the kidney transplant list and doctors told Kyndra to prepare. Family members are being tested in the hope of finding a living donor. Insurance will pick up the estimated $500,000 cost of surgery, but there will be significant other costs.

They have to go to Portland for surgery and then stay there for 5 weeks. Then they’ll head up one weekend a month for treatments. Kyndra will need to stay home full time for four months to care for him. Estimated costs: $50,000.

You know why I’m telling you this. Alejandro needs us. He needs our prayers and our good thoughts and yes, even our money.

They are selling t-shirts for $15 and every one of those dollars goes into the fund. If you buy one, I’ll pay your shipping.

You can also visit his fund-raising page at the Children’s Organ Transplant Associatioor visit the Facebook page to offer support.

There’s no such thing as other people’s children  ~ Hillary Clinton

#teamalejandro

 

 

The Mother Becomes a Saint

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When I sit at Mass and listen to the scripture readings, I try to quiet my mind and be led.

But things pop up anyway. Like Sunday, I got stuck on Paul’s letter to Philemon. Onesimus?? Who’s that guy???

But then we got to the Gospel and I was swept into the concept of “pick up your cross and follow me”.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Sunday marked the canonization of St. Teresa. The woman knew a thing or two about leaving everything she had behind to follow God’s call on her life.

In her obedience, she faced down suffering so profound that it could not be conquered—not by her work, awards, recognition, celebration or even her sainthood. She served it anyway, in confusion, depression and spiritual darkness. I wonder if that was her cross, having to accept that God had not called her to save the starving baby, the mother with leprosy, the child bride laboring to bring forth a child, but only to witness and love.

Maybe it was to carry the criticism of those who wanted her to do more, to change the very fabric of human nature and condition.

Or maybe it was that she believed God called her to this service and then abandoned her there.

But here’s the thought that humbled my soul on Sunday. What if it was all three?

My God in Heaven…How did she do it?

Could I?

Teresa is named after Mother Teresa. She wrote a beautiful reflection for her company, MySaintMyHero. You can find it here

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.