Grateful Ungratefulness

The following segment, running about 5 minutes, is from an event I had the honor of participating in with an organization I’m a member of on behalf of the church I run. The Grand Valley Interfaith Network celebrates THANKSGVIN during the week of Thanksgiving and incorporates a variety of the sacred traditions within the Grand Valley area. Each year there’s a different theme, and all participants are asked to speak (briefly) on that theme from their tradition’s perspective. This year the theme was “Gratitude”, and was hosted by American Lutheran Church pastored by the Rev Valerie Carlson (she’s awesome!). My segment starts at about 55:00, and hopefully I’ve queued it up here (below) correctly. The text is below the video.

I’m ungrateful.

The sun rises and the sun sets; hate still tramples about stealing life from beloved bodies. Joy and rapture cut short while love and acceptance is silenced by violence. Their happiness, their liberty to be, their life unacceptable to those who believe such things are reserved only for the elite, the powerful, the white, the heteronormative, the conforming, those who worship at the altar of Moloch drinking lustfully from terror’s cup, bending the knee to weaponized malevolence, consumed by the venom of malice. This world is colder and dimmer because Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump, and Raymond Green Vance no longer participate in this material life, no longer darken doorways of their family and friends, no longer take up beautiful space.

I’m ungrateful.

We are sick; we have an illness. We pretend it’s not wreaking havoc on every cell of our body. We go from one horrific incident to another as if this is all normal. Humans killing humans isn’t normal. Stock piling militarized weapons isn’t normal. Our silence is acceptance of conditions not oriented toward life, isn’t that abnormal? Think about it. Where is our desire to live? Where is our verve for liberation? Where is our fight against death? Why are we rolling over, pulling the covers over our head, and waiting for the next incident to flicker onto and illuminate our screens? When do we stand up in this boat being rocked by the appetite of voracious and rancorous waves and winds and sound our maternal yawp protecting our own? How many more lives must be lost before we holler our divine spirit’s “No!”? How many children, brothers, sisters, moms and dads, lovers and friends, must be violently and suddenly yanked way before we tell those damned waves and winds to shut up and sit down? How long? How many more? Do we not care?

I’m ungrateful.

I’m a pastor; I’m called to serve life not death. I’m a child-bearer; I’m called to push forth life not death. I’m a teacher; I’m called to cause space and place for life to thrive and not death. I’m an ethicist; I’m called to advocate for life over death. I’m a human; I’m called to share and participate in life with others in retaliation against death. So, I’m ungrateful because this society repeatedly chooses death over life, and I’m not okay with it because it goes against who I am and my calling, it rails against a God of life and love, and puts those whom I love—those whom I’m charged to love by God—in grave threat and danger. But then, as I linger here in my ungratefulness, my anger, my frustration, my solidarity with those whom I love I realize: they are worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for, life and love are worth fighting for. And, for that I am very, very, very grateful.

Weekly Update (7/17-7/23)

So sometimes I follow through with plan. Here I am with an update that is actually weekly. Go me. Though type of post is morphing into what is a reflection on my thoughts for the past week than necessarily an update on my tasks (which are rather monotonous and boring).

The paradox of human life, the complexity of being human hits home when I think to myself: yes, a win for me. And then, turn around and contemplate all the death and failure littering my landscape. If anything is being driven home to me over the past couple of years (what day of March 2020 is it?) it’s the necessity of finding stability in the midst of uncertainty, and that finding said stability can happen. I’ve joked in the past that me running a church is like a local parish version of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Every step is uncertain and the only certain steps are the ones I’ve taken (both successfully and unsuccessfully). But this type of uncertain stepping is growing familiar, so is stumbling when that step gives way and the thrill of security of stone beneath my feet.

Everything begins to be redefined when you walk like this, nearly in place but making strides forward nonetheless (sometimes, it’s good to turn around and see just how much progress you’ve made, it’s more than you realize). For me, contemplating concepts like hope and faith, love and grace, fear and anger, take on different complexities today than they did three years ago. All that we have is now and it is what it is are my go to phrases and mantras. New foci come to the surface in these times, walking with such intention and being forced to be so present where you are. For me, someone so oriented on tasks and deeds (read: books and writing) I’ve become more and more aware–in a visceral way–how important people are. I don’t think it helps that I’m waist deep in Dorothee Sölle’s work, a true theologian of the people for the people. (More on her another time, if it’s so desired.) But seriously, people matter. YOU matter.

So, as begin to see how much people matter everything around me becomes about people: does this thing cause people to thrive or does it hinder them? If it hinders their thriving (and especially if it hinders their survival) do we need to eliminate it, redefine it, rebuild it? These questions are important, and we have to ask them because people are dying. And none of us should be okay with that. So, how do institutions like the church and the academy (two institutions I love and serve (in some form)) participate in the people’s thriving or death? If as a priest and academic my works do not bring life and liberation to people, then I must reevaluate and ask why? I must look at the rituals and rites, the demands and expectations, the traditions and tasks, the building and the presence, of both and at how I participate in each realm in perpetuating death and violence and life and liberation.

I must ask hard questions here:

What is the Academy? What is the Academy for? For whom does the Academy exist? What does it mean to be a scholar? What does it mean to be a professor? What is a scholar? What is a professor? What is my focus here? Is it me and my scholarship? Or is it those whom I’m charge to teach and educate? Where is the institution causing unnecessary burnout through too much bureaucracy and administration?

What is the Church? Who is the church? What does it mean to be a priest? A deacon? A Bishop? Are all these rites and rituals necessary? Where do they bring comfort? Where are they bringing death? What does power look like here? Should we even have “power” held by humans in the church? Where has our hierarchy gone haywire? Where are we serving our own spiritual wantonness as leaders of the church rather than the beloved of God? Why are roles being abused? Why has the church been so willing to lose it’s story? (Here I can only ask this of the Episcopal Church, of which I’m an ordained priest.) What do we even believe? Why exist as the c/Church?

What traditionalisms must be put to final rest? What deeds bring the most life? Where is fear running rampant? Why is fear even present here? Where did we lose our way? Where have we (as leaders) gone wrong and astray? Where is our humility? Where is our confession? Where is our self-awareness? Where are we placing unethical financial demands on people? Why are we doing this? Why are we demanding archaic adherence to activities and deeds that worked before Covid happened but no longer work? And, did they ever work before Covid? Where are we still serving patriarchy, abelism, capitalism, selfishism, autonomy, heteronormativity, sexism and racism? Why are we still serving these things? Why and where are we, the leadership of these institutions, further burdening really burdened people?

Where are we stuck? Where are we growing? Are we growing? How do we become unstuck? To what desires must I die? Where am I putting myself too much ahead of others for no good reason? Where do I need to relearn? What do I need to relearn? What do I need to unlearn? Where am I forcing people into my own ideologies and ideas rather than allowing them to self-express and self-determine and self-realize?

Anyway, there are so many more questions we can be asking right now as we walk through this moment in history. My heart breaks as I watch two institutions struggle to maintain what was rather than embracing the transition through death into new life. I know we need something new in both arenas; I don’t know what that looks like. I do think that if reformation doesn’t come to both, they will continue to hinder life and liberation more and more and the bodies will continue to stack up. We cannot continue for too much longer with the way things are. I’m finding it harder and harder to uphold and honor commitments to both when I see people being more and more wounded and sacrificed on the altar of Mammon.

For the love of God, in the name of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, people matter, God’s beloved matters, YOU matter. And for you, I’ll fight.

Weekly (not so weekly) Update

It’s been a bit.

I wish I could tell you I’ve been out traveling with my family or taking fun vacations; I wish I could tell you that I’ve been enthralled with scholarship, joyfully trapped by the plot of a book, or wrapped up in new ministries. None of these things kept me away. Truthfully…

It’s been a bit much.

Everything is heavy, right now. Without having to share details, people are dying, institutions are dying, relationships are dying, and most days I just need to focus on getting to the end of the day as present and accomplished as I can be. And by “accomplished” I don’t mean “successful” in the way it’s used in our rather competitive, dog-eat-dog world. I mean: I got done what needed to get done … and no one was mortally wounded in the process. I can’t even imagine trying to “win” right now…

It’s all too much.

I think what really weighs heavy on my mind and soul and body is that I know I’m not alone. I think we are all struggling. I think that’s why many forms of social media became too much for me. We’re digitally recreating mythical worlds that look sparkly and shiny and serendipitous, but yet we’re all struggling. We’re trying to cast illusions like magic tricks in the attempt to tell ourselves: everything is fine, this is fine. Many of us are (rightly) afraid, and being afraid breeds anger, and anger breeds exclusion, and exclusion breeds isolation, and well isolation breeds…

…too much.

It’s weird redefining what it means to be “successful.” Just arriving at the end of each day and watching those days accumulate in the succession of weeks tells me I’ve succeeded–everything is still running, even if just barely. Success means keeping my daily routine in check and seeing how it brings comfort to my kids. Success is waking up once again and saying, yes, I think I can do this again today…I think I can carry this heaviness, this sadness, this discouragement one more day. Sometimes I shudder thinking what will happen once I move through this difficult phase of existence into an easier one (no, I’m not talking about death into new life, but just literally a letting up of heavy). I fear it will be a lot…like, maybe I’ll break down, and people will say to me,

that’s a bit much, Lauren.

What’s most interesting to me is that while things feel heavy, I still feel my hope and the ever present sense that possibility is just right next to me. I know it mars my academic cred to confess this but… I’m a theologian of hope, through and through and through. I see no reason not to have it; I do see every reason to rescue the concept of home from it’s abusive partner: future expectation. My hope is embedded in that which I cannot see–the possible. And I hold this hope not according to time (or, our human conception of time in its linear mode) but space and that which is just beyond the material I can touch–the things of now but yet unseen, unfelt, unexperienced, untasted. I look around and I can see a lot, but that which I cannot see is

much, much more.

I planted my garden this year and had seeds designated in specific spots. I had no idea there was also growing at that moment mammoth sunflowerS and compost carrots:

I mean…that’s a lot of Mammoth Sunflowers and Carrots and the wall of Parsnip flowers hiding below the surface…

That’s almost too much!

So, I can’t just ever think that this is all there is because there’s always so much more than this going on at this moment. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t. That’s a lie of the worst kind and it takes massive amounts of hubris to believe that the universe is restricted to what *we* can see and touch and feel and think and comprehend and discern… I mean, really, think about it. Where do we get off thinking in such finite ways and then casting those assumptions vast and wide as a new form of inerrant scripture with our tiny human brain parading about as God. I’m not trying to make an apology for God, but I do think we might owe the universe a massive apology.

We’re too much.

Anyway. Hang in there. Take my hand. Let’s walk this heavy together. The more we share the burden the less that burden is…

too much.

Another Year

I chuckle when I get reminders like this.

But maybe this year I need the reminder. Not the one telling me it’s my birthday, but the imperative: enjoy this special day.

I’m a big fan of birthdays. I love them; more than I love Easter and Christmas. Birthdays mark special moments where someone became something out of nothing. What wasn’t now is, type stuff. Existence doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. Not existing makes sense, but being born and living as we do in ourselves as we are, in all of our uniqueness and oddness and packed full with idiosyncrasies? Think about it. It doesn’t make sense. Existence is really incredible; the impossible made possible.

But lately existence feels hard, heavy, like wading through molasses. Enjoying a day that marks the anniversary of your non-existence turned existence, feels existentially cacophonous right now.

But maybe that’s part of the point of existing out of non-existence: the perpetual threat of not existing highlights the marvel that is existence. And maybe there in I can locate my enjoyment of the day: dare to celebrate in the face of reasons to give in to the gentle downward pull of the existential molasses I find myself caught. To enjoy even now, to celebrate even now cuts through the fabric of suffering with the revolution of life and love.

In this I am reminded (and encouraged) by some words from The Rev. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz,

La lucha and not suffering is central to Hispanic women’s self-understanding. I have gotten the best clues for understating how Latina understand and deal with suffering by looking at Latinas’ capacity to celebrate, at our ability to organize a fiesta in the midst of the most difficult circumstances and in spite of deep pain. The fiestas are, of course, not celebrations of suffering but the struggle against suffering. The fiestas are, very often, a way of encouraging each other not to let the difficulties that are part of Hispanic women’s daily life overcome us. They are opportunities to distance ourselves from the rough and arduous reality of everyday life, at times mere escapism, but often a way of getting different perspective on how to carry on la lucha. Listening to the conversations that go on at the fiestas and participating in them makes this evident. What one hears is talk about the harshness of life. Of course at times it is a mattery of simply complaining. But often it is a matter of sharing with others in order to convince oneself of what one knows: that one is not alone; that what each Hispanic woman is going through is not necessarily, or at least mainly, her fault but is due to oppressive structure…Fiestas are a very important way for Latinas of not allowing only the suffering in our lives to determine how we perceive life, how we know, how we understand and deal with reality.

Mujerista Theology p. 130

So, let’s have cake and dare to celebrate.

Week in Review (6/5-6/11)

Another week, another moment to self-reflect internally and externally.

I made mention to my partner last Saturday that writing up the post covering the previous two weeks felt like “old-school” blogging. I didn’t care about the flow, really; I didn’t care what any one was going to say. I just wrote. As a writer–I’ve been one since I was 5–it was a liberating experience because I spend my writing time now writing for other people and attempting to preemptively figure out where the weaknesses are in my thoughts so to receive the least amount of criticism. All of my writing currently is literally up for review in some kind: sermons, poems, prose, dissertation, book reviews, etc. And while I know the value of that type of writing (and by the way, if you didn’t know, all of those genres I just listed all have different grammatical and syntactical and logical demands), I think (maybe?) I need more moments of just writing as if no one was looking, or…rather, more moments where I’m writing as if I don’t care about who sees what…I think that help builds confidence in the end…

Do you remember just getting on the blog and word dumping? Maybe some of you remember MySpace. I didn’t really use it. Do you remember the time before the time you felt compelled to build a brand or a platform? When you knew only your friends were reading and so why bother with everything being perfect as if you were submitting a journal article for peer review? Where you just wrote and let that stream of thought weave and wend, bend and twist, curl and furl where ever and whenever it wanted?

I miss that effervescence (a word I nearly spelled correctly on the first try!). Everything has become about production of a product that is unique, but what’s most fascinating about that pursuit is… It all becomes the same. I think being yoked into one brand or one platform (I’m this person, I’m this message) renders one into an intellectual division of labor that is destructive and violent to the inner world of the writer. I think it limits growth. While writers should always be about changing some part of the world in some way with our words, I don’t think we must then brand that, nail it down, and let that box suffocate us. If there’s any “platform” I want it’s one disoriented toward production and oriented toward people, a platform upon which I stand and holler…things practical, or things insightful, or things interesting, or things just flat out odd, or things that are still in process and as soon as they come out I think…oh, wait, I need to rethink that

Not all writing can be written and released into the world in such a fashion (I’m aware, see above), but maybe some of it should be so we writers don’t forget how much this art brings us life, so that when we return to our academic or creative projects, we have something more (better?) to give them rather than a hope and a prayer that we’ve upheld our platforms and brand. When it’s all said and done, and we go the way of dust and dirt, that which we’ve left behind does not and will not carry our platform and brand, it will have it’s own message which will change in each era it’s encountered, held by hands different and distant from ours, read by eyes and ears and fingers asking questions greatly altered from ours, internally digested and externally practiced in environments, societies, cultures, atmospheres, (worlds? galaxies?), moving in trajectories and operating in and out of boundaries we can’t even imagine.

Let us write with intention and substance, but may that intention and substance be not for our glory and fame, but for the good of the world.

With that said, here are some fun things from my week:

  1. I promised some images of the gardens (herb and regular). Here is the fulfillment of that promise:
Vegetable Garden with a few Mammoth Sunflowers planted I by either the wind or a bird!
Here’s the beginning of the herb garden, nothing really fancy, but protected from the afternoon sun!

Rose Garden! The first rose bush is a new one. Last year I moved all my rose bushes (about 6 total, I think) and only three survived…but they are happy and blooming!
And here’s our little daisy patch near our driveway. Last year, there were only TWO daisies…but this year! Such a bursting forth of flowers! Also, they need very little water, so they’re perfect for our mountain/desert atmosphere.

2. Project “Delete-The-Juniper-Tumors” is underway; here are some images from that endeavor:

Here they are BEFORE the they shook hands with a chainsaw…

Here’s after. This image is from today; we had to do a lot of clean up of branches and needles. This afternoon, I was able to jump in and get at some of those root-balls. My first victim was the one farthest in this row.

victory! It took about 2.5 hours to get it out. A lot less time invested than I originally hypothesized.

The root-ball in all of it’s exposed glory. Quite light in weight compared to other root-balls I’ve pulled out.
This is my new favorite tool. The roots of these juniper bushes seem to stay really close to the source, so using a bow saw isn’t always easy. But this little axe…it did the trick. And I felt kinda like a badass using it. 💪

3. This morning The younger of #TheBrothersLarkin, #TheFury, and I went to the “Enough is Enough” March for Our Lives protest and march to end gun violence. It was encouraging to see such a great turnout. It was discouraging that it wasn’t bigger.

I appreciated the speakers. It takes a certain amount of strength to get up and sound your voice out against such horrific violence, especially since this issue touches on amendment rights. (I won’t go into that here, that’s another post, of the academic kind, though, fwiw, how does one pursue the rights of life and liberty and happiness if it’s potentially threatened at every turn by an amendment right?) The thing I really want to mention is that many of the speakers made an appeal to “common sense”. Okay, great, thanks Thomas Paine. However, “common sense” is just sense that is commonly held. It’s not guaranteed to be “right” or “good”… It’s the sense of the dominant culture or group; in other words, it’s just common. It’s common sense for me to wear pants when I need to in 2022, but at one point that was the furthest thing from common sense. Common sense shifts and changes and doesn’t have a moral quality about it (thinking of moral virtues) apart from fitting in with the dominant culture or group. And, to be honest and quite blunt, I kind of think “common sense” is what has gotten us here in the first place because we have ceased to have enlightened sense motivated by narratives that exist outside of the ones peddled to us by the dominant culture and group. I think it’s time to be very honest about how infected our common sense is by narcissistic systems and the ideologies and mythologies of whiteness, heteronormativity, and androcentricity (note: I didn’t say anthropocentricity). This is why I appreciate regular encounters with my sacred scriptures and the principal character in my tradition: Jesus of Nazareth the Christ. Regularly telling and explaining his story that is (for Christianity) God’s story in the world for the oppressed and disenfranchised–the story of divine pathos for the entire cosmos–reminds me that there is a need for me to come to the end of my narratives, mythologies, and stories that I’ve spun from within the systems I’ve been raised and die to them. And then in receiving new life in divine love and being (re)located in God I take on new ones that then elevate my view of the world, of my neighbor and of myself. If I just rely on “common sense” I’m most to be pitied and will most likely lead a life that merely perpetuates the violence we are seeing now. I’d like some more appeals to “uncommon sense”.

I was nervous to participate not because I waver on this issue (I don’t) but because I don’t often feel safe in my community. As someone who does not ascribe to views of the majority, I’m aware that I (and my family and friends) could be targets of anger. This protest had emotion attached to it, but it directed toward change and action; not hatred and destruction. Nonetheless, there’s always that one … what if… It didn’t help when a man showed up who was displaying is gun on his hip and then proceeded to record everything from beginning to end. Even when he was asked to stop. The police were of no help because he wasn’t really doing anything illegal (let’s make a distinction between “wrong” and “illegal”). But still, why do that…why film children even when you’ve been asked to stop. My friend and I put our bodies in the way as much as possible to block the children. The entire thing felt like a weird af flex; this is why I don’t feel safe here :/

Okay that’s it…see you next week, beloveds. I’m super glad you’re here and thanks for stopping by.

Week in Review (5/23-6/4)

Closing up week two of my deactivated-life…well, to be honest, I only deactivated Twitter and Instagram because those two places cause me the most inner strife. I still have Snap. Snap seems significantly more innocuous to me and for my personality type. *shrugs*

It’s funny to think about how often I Tweeted something, multiple times a day; pictures on Insta? Just as often. Yet, once I deactivated both mediums, I had nothing to share. Literally. Two weeks ago I mentioned that maybe I’d do a weekly video, cataloging and sharing my thoughts, and…in 14 days, I’ve had maybe *squinches face trying to recall* like, four thoughts that I’d want to share… and maybe a few more images than four, but still. It begs the question…

As an overview of my inner health, it’s very stable. I feel less pulled in so many directions. What’s funny is that each direction I was being pulled in was pointless. Why stay on a medium for communication that causes one to remember what was and have pain over the losses? Why stay on a platform that presents picture-perfect ever time you scroll? Is that what is necessary right now? The endless pursuit of “look how much I’m killing it!”? Happy shiny marriages. Happy shiny kids. Happy shiny food. Happy shiny runs. Happy shiny outings in the woods and mountains. Happy shiny glowy people perpetually celebrating perfection. And even if I know these images and status updates are merely the tip of the ice-berg, even if I know others hurt and have struggles as I do, the brain doesn’t actually know it’s all fake and momentary; this is why you cultivate so much inner struggle and strife when presented with so much perfection. It’s also why you may struggle it caustic and toxic conflict on these same platforms, because even if you know you are typing and you are in your own home, your brain doesn’t care…it’s there, thus so are you.

I think these platforms are growing worse, tbh. That makes sense, though. Our world is on fire, so why not double down on hyper positivity, saccharine optimism, and sparkly auto-mythology. I blame no one and do not through accusations in any particular direction. Not only is it human to do such things because it’s part of surviving tumult and chaos and despair is a scary option sometimes, but also because I’ve done this thing. I’ve grabbed various brushes and paints and have artistically fashioned an perfect image worthy of awards. However, I’m not sure that’s really helping anymore.

I think we need way more honesty if we are going to make it through these traumatic-twenties in one piece. And I’m *not* saying create a fake twitter or insta; please, even those aren’t “authentic” as they intend to be. What I’m saying is sometimes honesty starts with being silent. Stop talking. Stop posting. Stop cultivating a brand, an image, a platform…just be silent. Be with yourself. As I confessed at the beginning, it’s amazing how little there is to show off when no one will see it.

I think some of our coping mechanisms may have moved from the helpful category to the hindering category. For me, those social medium mechs just kept dropping me into a gutter of inner-sludge I just didn’t like and it was preventing me from surviving and keeping me far from thriving. Do what you need to, just be honest with what is helping and what isn’t right now. I’d like to see all of you make it through this very very very very long March 2020.

With that said, here are few things from the past few weeks I’d like to share…I think there are like a handful of you whofollow this blog, so, this is for you…

  1. I had the privilege of speaking at a local vigil held by Black Citizens and Friends (Fb: @blackcitizensandfriends) last Wednesday (5/25). Here is a recording of that vigil, I appear at (around) minute 26: https://fb.watch/drfeg-nBYs/
  2. Also on Wednesday 5/25, our little church (Fb: @nativitygj) held a morning prayer service adapted from the evening prayer service we just created for mourning and loss to spend time gathered to hold space to honor the many lives lost to gun violence recently (Buffalo and Ulvade and so many many many others). The link for that video is here: https://fb.watch/drfqNP_1tF/
  3. We did get out for Memorial Day weekend (Sunday 5/29) and headed to Kannah Creek for a hike and a picnic. However, that picnic was VERY rained out…nonetheless we snuck in a 90 minute hike. Here are some images from that excursion:
Angie refused to let us leave without letting us know, she wished to come!
Kannah Creek Trail; the scenery is the stuff of mythological trees who move and talk…
My three beautiful humans…
Kannah Creek 🙂

4. The kids and I helped out a Mutual Aid with The Caravan on Tuesday:

5. My Garden is doing well and I was able save the sprouts I grew. My neighbors father was here and he gave me some great instructions for growing next year, AND he gave me amazing storage advice for my root veggies. And yes, the crawl space will work! I’m excited. Pictures of that later.

6. My herb garden is in (I moved it out of the garden into the back yard where bushes used to be). Pictures later.

7. I’m working diligently on chapter 3 of my dissertation. Fun stuff. Maybe I’ll give a teaser of that later…

I hope you are well. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are surviving and that is wonderful. Hang in there, you are not alone.

Entering Anew Into Divine Light

The following is the introductory comment prior to last week’s Ash Wednesday service. I’m sharing here because I want to and who knows…maybe someone would like to read them… *shrugs

***

The Ash Wednesday service bids us to come into the presence of God in a naked way. We enter this moment, this light to be exposed, to see ourselves clearly, to ask hard questions, and to reflect–seriously–on ourselves so that we may confess our captivity and complicity in oppressive systems–systems harming ourselves, each other, and other brothers and sisters throughout the world [and the world itself]. Everything about this service tonight is built with this desire for self-reflection in mind. So, tonight I pray you and I will listen and hear deep in our hearts the words and stories of this service, and come anew to the light of divine love for your health and sanctification.

Dog Sounds

I’m sharing this audio recording of my dog while I’m out of the house for a run:

Angie Sounds

This is the saddest sound I’ve ever heard. I’ve never heard it before because she doesn’t make this noise when anyone else leaves (though, she is anxious and notices their absence).

I had to share.

This is the sound of heartbreak.

At This Table

What I bring to the table is what I bring to any table: my flesh and bone, muscle and sinew, my stories and experience. Breaking bread at one table is no different than at another: my substance meets bread substance, and I serve what is broken to those who are gathered. I preside over both a table at church and at home, and I find neither more sacred than the other. Bread is served in both places, and the only thing I can remark as distinct are the words used to harken my people to the table. In one place it is, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And in the other it’s, “Dinner’s ready! Wash your hands and get your drinks!” Both cries accomplish their goal: bringing people into communion to partake of a common meal, and to give thanks for what has been done for us, to stop and take pause and sit and gather, to eat and be nourished while participating in story-sharing and story-making.

They are both sacred.

They are both sacred because both tables have the inherent quality of encounter with God in the event of faith. One table may be more specifically dedicated to such an encounter for the hearer through the words and linens unique to it, but both contain the verdant actual soil to bring forth that splendid fruit of possibility of encounter. Both tables, no matter the words and linens, participate in the space-making and the time-ceasing of divine presence relentlessly seeking the beloved (you and me). The false dichotomy of the sacred and secular collapses and, with Bonhoeffer, we can proclaim all this is good and of God because of the work of redemption and restoration of Christ.

At both tables I feel the same; I am there as I am here. I feel no surge of power at one more than the other, though there’s more potential for variance in emotional output at one than the other—especially with little people who won’t just come to this table with clean hands and drink. The apron here is white and the alb there a flaxen color, and neither fabric changes me; rather they render awareness to others that I am here mom serving dinner and there priest serving elements, but the person is the same in both. The fabric alerts both groups as to what is being served; I chuckle at the idea of swapping outfits…wouldn’t that make for a good and vigorous communion in both cases!

The words I use at both are filled with the same substance of my voice and presence; the voice, with its lilts and intonations, is the same that populates words at this table and at that table.  Even the event itself of this meal and of that meal is enveloped in robust and profound story, swirling and circling about the wood of the table and the flesh of person, bringing together and uniting in experience one to the other and lifting up all unto something way more profound than I can see and hear with ocular and audial material, feel and taste of senses and flesh.

In this radical similarity of these two tables lies the distinction.

To come to the table in my home, where I am clothed in apron, standing amid the elements of the fruit of the earth, is to come to engage in a multitude of stories in both sharing and hearing. It is here at this table where we are brought together and something new is created in our midst as we share and eat and listen. The actuality of our gathering creates the potential for divine encounter in the present. This event is profound and yet bound to this time and moment. It won’t be repeated and can’t be replicated in detail–any attempt to do so will end in a deadness. This table exists now, in this way, and next time it will be different. The divine ordering of humanity toward humanity thus to God will happen but in very distinct and unique ways each time it happens.

To come to the table at the church, where I’m clothed in flaxen alb and stole, standing amid elements of bread and wine is to come to hear and see a very particular story not restricted to this table but especially to be repeated and replicated at this table. It’s at this table with this fabric, with these elements, and using specific words where we are brought into another moment in time, grafted by word and hearing and seeing into the history of one not ours but is now ours, and united to those who have heard and seen this story before and those who will continue to do so long after we’ve transitioned. There’s a permanence and timelessness here at this table that defies and revolts against the static and temporariness of our present existence. This table persists forever—existing in myriad form and made of various material—promising that next time it will be the same–radical! The divine ordering of God toward humanity through Jesus the Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and thus humanity toward God in the same will happen once again and always as it has happened then, is happening now, and will happen tomorrow. A promise articulated in every language and at any time, no matter what words or people are asked to tell this story at this table.