Green Friday instead of Black Friday

Green Friday instead of Black Friday

Since the 1980s, the Friday after the American holiday Thanksgiving has been promoted by retailers as a VERY profitable scheme to get shoppers to brick-and-mortar as well as online stores. Popularly known as “Black Friday” because the shopping day after Thanksgiving is the day many merchants books shift from the red of debt to the black of profit, the day has taken on sacred significance in a world that worships wealth.

Though founded in The States, Black Friday, is deepening capitalisms’s hold on the world by seeping into places like The Netherlands, a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving nor has the last Friday in November off for shopping shenanigans.

Packaged as “family fun”and “Christmas shopping,” just because it is familiar doesn’t mean we have to find fun or associate faith with the frenzy that ultimately lines the pockets of the few while driving millions into debt.

This year, I’m inviting y’all to observe a Green Friday instead of Black Friday with 12 ideas for flora and fauna fun.

1. Plant bulbs! Whether it’s tulips, jonquils or irises, fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs to ensure a colorful spring.

2. Host a nature scavenger hunt.

3. Invite friends and family to bring a those decorative gourds over and put on a neighborhood a gourd hunt (like an egg hunt, only with a bit more pumpkin spice).

4. Build a bug hotel or hedgehog house to help small critters find gezzelig homes over the long winter.

5. Go for a nice long walk, mobile device on silent, and get to know the nature beings in your neighborhood. What might you notice about their preparations for winter?

6. Make some cool land art! I am partial to mandala-inspired creations or leafy labyrinths, but you might be inspired to make something wilder.

7. Make a winter-greens wreath for your door or table (or for a gift). If you follow a Christian calendar, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent and Friday could be the perfect day to collect all you need for a natural Advent wreath.

8. Find a Forest Bathing guide in your area and sign up for a walk.

9. If snow already blankets the world outside your window, make some bird-food decorations and add them to a nearby tree.

10. Bring the forest inside by building a terrarium or other tiny micro-ecosystem.

11. Host a Bob Ross painting party!

12. Make a gratitude garden.

 

What activities would you add?

 

World Communion, St. Francis and Laudato Si’

World Communion, St. Francis and Laudato Si’

Sunday, Oct. 2nd this year was World Communion Sunday. Today, Oct. 4th is the day marked by Catholics, some Protestants and even a few post-religious folx as St. Francis day, or the feast of Saint Francis. St. Francis of Assisi is known for his love of nature, a life lived in service, preaching even to the flowers, and a celebrant of poverty. In 1979 St. Francis was recognized as the patron saint of ecology.

Francis considered all nature as the mirror of God and as so many steps to God. He called all creatures his kin and inspired millions of people to step away from the mainstream and into contemplative, service-centered life.

From St Francis’ CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

If you have not yet, I invite you to take the time today to read LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in which he calls all people, especially people of faith, to rewild their understanding of our place in nature and our responsibility to care for our common home, earth.

Though I am a far-left process, transcendentalist, universalist Christian-ish gal, I am energized, encouraged and wildly grateful for the Pope’s pointed and clear paper on our human responsibility to one another in and through our commitment to the environment.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children.”

To truly be in communion with the whole world, to share in the body of the Creation and incorporate the heartbeat of the Eternal into our own lives, we must include our kith and kin of the plant and animal kingdom in our yearning for liberation and justice.

What might communion that includes a call to environmental justice look like?

As as start, I’d like lift up a professor, preacher, theologian and new friend, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade who is doing wonderful work offering congregations the tools they need to discern faithful ways to be in full communion with the created world.  Dr. Schade’s book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit is a powerful resource for leaders at every level of congregational life.

And finally, you are invited to offer your own whole-world, fullness of creation, communion prayers and practices in the comments.

Nashville Comes to The Netherlands

Nashville Comes to The Netherlands

My mama, who could fry some of the best damn chicken you ever put in your mouth, never taught me to cook. She taught me a lot of things, but she just couldn’t tolerate a constantly questioning kiddo scrambling around her kitchen as she tended to her cast iron skillets and perfectly sweetened pitchers of iced tea.

She did teach me how to assemble pretty outfits, carefully mixing and matching shirts and skirts so that no one would know I was wearing the same things over and over again. She taught me how to apply makeup, with lashes long and dark so that my eyes didn’t look naked and my lips were lined and colored beyond their nearly invisible pink. She taught me how to curl my hair, choosing just the right strands to pull straight away and then slowly wind the curling iron as close to my scalp as I could stand. She tried her best to teach me “the right way” to be a girl, a woman. When I went to University she wanted me to only study secretarial work. When I chose world religions as my academic path, she said college ruined me. And later, way later, when I came out as a lesbian, all of her own self-rejection and fear based faith attempted to persuade me that I was unworthy of God’s love – an abomination better dead that gay.

This morning, standing in my Dutch bathroom, my eyes brimmed as I watched my hands carefully choose just the right strands of hair and gently line my lips with the perfect blend of rose, the old wounds and longing for my mother in ways that she would never love me, came flooding back.

As a queer Christian who happily left the U.S. with her wife for reasons such as the politically motivated anti-LGBT religious landscape (among other reasons), it is with a wounded but encouraged heart that I am watching as a handful of Dutch protestant clergy regurgitate the toxic language of the Nashville Statement here in Holland.

In a nutshell, the Statement, both here and in the States is a theologically negligent and dangerous statement ushered by a handful of religious leaders. The statement makes erroneous claims that reject the sacred worth and civil rights of LGBT children of God. I honestly, in my honeymoon phase with Holland, had thought we’d left behind this ignorance and hatefulness for good.

This flare up of homophobia masquerading as Christianity in this largely secular nation has been deeply disappointing. But the good news is how much more encouraging it is to see municipalities across the country, businesses in every town and individuals near and far call out the statement for what it is – backwards bigotry plain and simple. I am particularly and deeply grateful for language such as “radicalized” being applied to “Christian” groups. It is rarely if ever applied to Christianity in the States and is typically reserved for fear mongering against our Muslim brothers and sisters.

I love my life in Leiden and since moving here have felt more at home than I ever did in my nearly 50 years in America. Here I have felt consistently happier, safer and more secure than the false promises of the American Dream. So too have my wife and I been radically freer to be fully and openly ourselves, without fear or apology. We have made a true and lasting home here.

As it turns out, I have the honor of pastoring a small, English-speaking congregation that is diverse and beautiful and growing in our understanding of who we are as a community. Sojourners’ Fellowship is a small community of people from many spiritual paths who come together to pause and explore life’s great questions through diverse contemplative practices and thoughtful dialogue.

Here is a statement of our guiding framework as inspired by the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity.

As a community we:

1. Believe in the Sacred Oneness and Unity of all life;

2. Affirm that the teachings of many religious and secular traditions, including but not limited to the teachings of Jesus, provide ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;

3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:

Believers, agnostic and questioning skeptics,
Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
Those of all races, nationalities and religious backgrounds,
Those of all classes and abilities;

4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;

5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;

6. Hope for peace and justice among all people;

7. Hope to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;

8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

ALL who come in peace are welcome, including but not limited to: believers, agnostics and questioning skeptics; those of all sexual orientations and gender identities; those of all races, nationalities, classes and abilities.

 

In this light, and inspired by the Denver Statement by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, I’ve crafted my own article-by-article response to the Nashville Statement to share with my Dutch neighbors. If you have the time and inclination, read on and please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments below after you’ve had time to ruminate a bit.

It’s not a short read, so maybe go make yourself a glass of sweet tea, grab a buttery biscuit and settling in for the long haul.

 

A Sojourners’ Statement

Preface

Jesus-loving people, Christians and people from many of the worlds traditions who are inspired by the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth, understand that we live in a beautiful, challenging, paradigm-shifting era. Humanity is in the midst of an arduous and exciting journey to more fully understand what it means to be human. People around the world are doing the hard and faithful work of shedding misconceptions and limitations imposed by religiosity that is meant to control rather than love. More and more people, regardless of tradition, find delight in the wild diversity of God’s good creation.

Unfortunately, there are still many people who deny the divine spark in every corner of creation and use their religion to draw lines of demarcation around race, nationality, ability, gender identity or sexuality. It is now commonplace among theologically uninformed Christians to use the Bible as a weapon, especially when it comes to their unfortunate idolatry of one collection of texts written by humans thousands of yeas ago. In their limited understanding, they are wronging convinced that they alone, clearly and for all time, hold the single truth of God’s design and desire.

This spirit of misinterpreting and enforcing scripture has always brought with it great challenges for Christians. From historical sanctions of slavery, subjugation of women, segregation, nationalism and xenophobia, the church has frequently lost site of the radical message of love and grace made known in the Incarnation of Christ who was eventually executed by the state at the urgings of the religious elite.

If the church is to genuinely live into the message and example of Jesus’ life, it must make a bold and prophetic proclamation of the love of God from which nothing, nothing, nothing on earth can separate humans.

Article 1

We affirm that humanity is created out of and for the purpose of love.
We deny that the gift of love and marriage is limited only to people who identify as heterosexual, cis-gendered, and seeking to conceive.

Article 2

We affirm that humans are created as sexual beings in kaleidoscope variety.
We deny that the only sexual expression that is sacred is between legally, church-married, cis-gendered, heterosexual couples.

Article 3

We affirm that all humans are created Imago Dei – in the image of God – and that God is all genders and no gender.
We deny that human bodies, hearts and minds are limited by any one religion’s faltering attempt to understand the holy mystery of the Divine.

Article 4

We affirm the diversity of gender and sexual expression is a reflection of the divinely creative diversity of all of creation.
We deny that such diversity is in any way a result of one religion’s interpretation of a falling away from God.

Article 5

We affirm that humans continuing to evolve in their understanding of what it means to be embodied is good and holy.
We deny that gender is unalterably linked with biology.

Article 6

We affirm that all humans, regardless of their biological birth and development are image-bearers of the divine.
We deny that variations of embodiment limits anyone from thriving in faith, love and society.

Article 7

We affirm that compassion, love and liberation are at the heart of God’s holy purposes in creation as revealed in Christian scripture AND the shared texts of the world’s religious traditions.
We deny that any one tradition has figured out once and for all what it means for humans to live into loving relationships.

Article 8

We affirm that people who experience same-sex attraction may live an abundant life that honors God and is evidence of faith in Jesus.
We deny that same-sex attraction in any way alienates a person from the love of God or the hope of the Gospel.

Article 9

We affirm that sin is a trifold separation from self, others and God that distorts the beauty of creation.
We deny that sin is avoided by adhering to any specific doctrine or litany of purity laws.

Article 10

We affirm that the church lives in sin when LGBT people are told to deny how God created them, are cast out of families, excommunicated by congregations and denied basic civil and human rights.
We deny that it is sinful to be loving allies to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.

Article 11

We affirm that it is our human duty to stand on the side of justice in the name of love in all times and for all people.
We deny the false dichotomy of being either gay or Christian.

Article 12

We affirm that the unconditional love of the Divine has the power to transform self-loathing (as taught by many in the church and society) into true and lasting self-acceptance and wholeness.
We deny that same-sex attraction is a sin or illness for which to be forgiven or healed.

Article 13

We affirm that Grace invites uninformed, prejudiced or bigoted people to evolve and recognize that human understanding as limited and we will only ever see through the glass darkly.
We deny assertions of any one person, church, denomination or religion that they hold pure and absolute knowledge of the Divine.

Article 14

We affirm that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and that we are called to partner with the Divine in that bending.
We deny any anthropomorphization of God.

 

If you would like to add your name to this statement, please indicate so and enter your information in the comments below.  And if you are in the neighborhood and so inclined, please join us next Thursday, January 17th at Galerie Café Leidse Lente in Leiden from 5:30-7 p.m. for Pub Theology where we can talk about all these things and more.

Love is Greater than Fear

Love is Greater than Fear

All the energy and time spent by some “conservative Christians” focusing on “homosexual practice” is antithetical to the life, death and resurrection of the One we call Christ.

There are many things Jesus asks of us as Kingdom builders, but sexual policing is not one.  I sincerely hope everyone who is called to the life of Christian witness and service can direct their passion for God by talking and doing what Jesus explicitly asks of us such as clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned and welcoming the stranger.

It is a challenging message to hear, and an even harder message to live. In revealing the true nature of God – love – unearned, unqualified, unending love  – our Jesus brought down the deadly wrath of the sanctimonious, legalistic religious elite who plotted with powers of the state to execute what they feared the most, Love. What’s so scary about Love?  Those who lust after power use fear to control. And as we’ve heard, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” 1 John 4:18

Let us have compassion for those who are obsessed with the sexuality of other people, for in their obsession, there is deep fear masquerading as faith. Behind that fear is a complex and disturbed psychology about sex – often about one’s own sexuality – in the shadow of the church’s longstanding, perverse need to control people through fear. My heart aches for those bound by this fear and whatever in their personal journey has festered into egregiously negative obsession and about what other people do with their bodies. I pray that all who are enslaved by fear may truly hear the message of the One who came to show us God’s radical love and preferential option for Freedom.

So too, let those of us who can, work tirelessly to be a balm for those wounded by misrepresentations of the Good News of Jesus. Let us speak of God’s love in which there is there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Oh Lord
In a culture that is
In love with fear
And afraid of love

We pray,
Be not afraid

For those
With closed minds
and plugged ears
Shouting “Be afraid!”

We pray,
Be not afraid

For those
With hardened hearts
And clenched fists
Spitting “Be very afraid.”

We pray,
Be not afraid

For those
with open wounds
and tear-streaked souls
Crying “I am afraid.”

We pray,
Be not afraid

For God has
Freed us from fear
And opened us to a love
That leads to abundant life

Through the
birth, life, teaching,
death and redeeming love
of Jesus who said;

Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you
as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled;
do not be afraid.

Amen

 

13 Ideas For Practicing the Presence of God

13 Ideas For Practicing the Presence of God

All year round, many of us Jesusy types look for ways to be intentional about practicing the presence of God.  There are a myriad of books, booklets, websites, podcasts and small groups dedicated to spiritual practices meant to give our wandering minds a compass pointing us toward the Divine. Today I’d like to lift up a groovy little secular book that has frequently reminds me of my connection to the divine in, with and through all things.

How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith is an art journaling book that offers “a variety of prompts and assignments” to help the wonderer and wanderer on their journey. Smith begins by sharing how she herself began the process of putting together this little travel guide.

She says: “This book started with a list that I wrote one night when I couldn’t sleep…these ideas are an accumulation of things that I have learned from various teachers and artists over the years and have become the basis for all of my own exploration.”

I’ve read her list many times and it keeps speaking to me, prodding me, asking questions about who I am as a person of faith and offers me one way of thinking about who I WANT to be as a spiritual being. In this list I also see a pretty cool way of way of “doing church”.

I spoke with Keri years ago when I intended to blog my way through her book (I only got a few assignments in and …  squirrel!) and interestingly enough Keri told me that she never intended this work to be about a journey of faith – for her it seems to be wholly about art and about living fully in the world, knowing yourself and the creative potential of your life and connecting deeply with world around you. And folks, for these ears that sounds a lot like practicing the presence of God. Her little projects seem for all the world like great guideposts on this journey of stumbling along trying to hear and follow that holy radical from Galilee.

I do not see the list as a 1-13 Powerpoint to perfect enlightenment, but I do see in the list an invitation for a journey, a process for becoming. Each item has the potential to help me understand my walk of faith in new ways. Neither do I see this list as linear. It seems cyclical, where each item can lead back to another and then another. Interdependent and interwoven.

The list calls me forward but a is also a pretty good map of my past. As a child I was always looking, looking, looking. Wonder and delight were found in the simplest of things – like the seasonal textures of the red clay of Georgia or the endless ways to play in a pink pom-pom adorned mimosa tree. That sense of delight has not gone dark, but one’s vision has a way to narrow as our bones age. I still look – but more and more I am looking in a straight line to what ever the next thing is. The next project, the next grocery list, the next pile of laundry, the next dog walk, the next filling of the dishwasher…

I am aware that I need to slow down and REALLY look.

SO I am starting all over again – looking, looking and looking. And this time, in a brand new country with all new sights, sounds, smells and potential awakenings. I plan to work though this list in a prayerful manner because I am called back to the crazy notion that God is everywhere – in the pages of holy scripture and secular texts, in the overexposed corners of travel photographs and in the bobbing heads of a thousand of daffodils, in the slumping shoulders of a tired neighbor and in the raucous laughter of passing students, in the swarm of happy, hungry faces in the Leiden market and along our morning bike rides through farm land as mist rises from the lush earth.

Once we start looking closely, listening deeply, noticing patters and tracing things to their origins – truly using all of our senses – well, how can we not notice that everything is interesting and laced with a shimmering connective tissue beyond our comprehension.  When I am fully in touch with my own existence, in this world now, as a transplanted southern gal living a life previously unimagined in Holland, I have an opportunity to experience a real and true sense of the presence of God. And if I really look and listen to the intersecting lines of my life within me, and if I remember that God is present in every moment, I am invited into the faithful mystery indeterminacy and interdependence.

Ok, enough already, here’s the list. I encourage you to read it a few times, slowly. Think of how you might apply this to your daily life, your bible study, your church attendance and your personal spiritual practices.

 

 

 

I would really love to hear from you on this! Do any of the ideas really speak to you? Which ideas challenge you? Are any off the mark?  What would happen if you were to apply this list for one month of church attendance? What would happen if you skipped a month of church, dug into this book as a spiritual practice and looked for ways to practice the presence of God outside the ancient, prescribed forms of your tradition?

 

18 Hours of Worship with 8 Million People

18 Hours of Worship with 8 Million People

About five years ago, in the final moments of Ash Wednesday, I found myself propped up against a dingy Greenwich Village bar room wall when I realized I had just experienced a perfect 18-hour liturgy.

Preparation

It actually all began, as days like this often do, the night before at a bar on Fat Tuesday. I’d only just taken a few sips of my Cabernet while chatting with a jolly midtown bartender, when a gentleman sat down next to me and ordered a martini. I was enjoying a quiet drink and Thai appetizers waiting for the rest of the evening to unfold. The conversation with the generous bartender turned to what I would be doing in the city the next day. I told him I’d be hanging out in Union Square for a very different sort of Ash Wednesday service. This turned the head of my barstool neighbor we began chatting. As we exchanged the usual American “so what do you do?” I was astonished to find that out of the gabillion people in New York city I ended up sitting next to the dean of General Seminary, Rev. Patrick Malloy.  Really, really! So, we ate and drank and talked of many things – and laughed at the crazy way God moves and the utter joy of indulging in good food and making new friends on Mardi Gras in a town of 8 million people. With drinks done and nibbles gone, we parted ways on a brightly lit city corner, with hugs and still more laughter. I was simply buoyant with the mystery of how God creates community in this world.

Call to worship

When the alarm on my iPhone disturbed my dream-laced slumber, I slipped out of bed, threw on my clothes from the previous night  to fetch a decent cup of coffee. I returned before light and enjoyed a quiet moment of coffee and scones before light peeked between the high rises of the waking city.

Dressed and ready for the day, I headed south on 5th Ave. to Union Square. As much as I wanted to blend in, I surely looked the part of a gawking tourist as I looked all around and up at the soaring heights. I simply was not inclined to repress the silly-ass grin smeared from ear to ear. Not much more than a mile away, the walk took nearly an hour because I wandered into parks,  stopped to take pictures and lingered over a more substantial breakfast.

With a full belly and renewed energy, it took a few minutes and a couple of text messages to find the little community I had come to worship with that day.

See, a week or so before heading off to NYC I realized I would not be in Atlanta with my beloved Kirkwood UCC for Ash Wednesday.  Yeah, weird that this recovering Baptist, post-denominational gal would care about such, but as it turns out Ash Wednesday means a great deal to me. So, as I often do, I had turned to Facebook to find a solution. Folks quickly recommended plenty of lovely places where I could receive ashes but it was an invitation from my friend Kellie Anderson-Picallo that made my heart sing.  Join us, she said, to distribute ashes, prayers and love in Union Square! Well, duh – where else would I be?!?

Communal Prayer

I found them on the south steps of Union Square, about five or six in all, with signs offering free ashes, hugs and prayers. Among the leaders of this merry band of faithful were my friend Kellie (that’s Rev. Anderson-Picallo to y’all), Rev. Mieke Vandersall (Executive Director of Presbyterian Welcome) and John Russell Stanger. After receiving my own hugs and ashes, a bowl of ashes was placed in my hands. Now, as much as I’d like to say that we were overrun with New Yorkers lining up to receive ashes from this obviously awesome crew, alas, not even close. Folks popping out of the subway or briskly headed across the park would, more often than not, give us an odd sideways glance, if they looked at us at all. A couple of people stopped and snapped photos since John was proudly holding the sign above his head. But there were some who allowed us to enter their lives for a brief moment with ashes and those words “from dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

Don’t laugh, but tears rolled down my face each time it happened. Whether from my hands or one of my ministry partners that day – the spark of grace that passed between the two was visible to all who had eyes to see. I had the honor of sharing ashes with three women, Gloria, Maribell and Sybill. I was utterly undone by the trust and truth that could be shared in that place, in that act.

Response and Confession

And then came Joey Boots! John tells the story best and I hope you will pop over and read his HuffPost piece (and share a little love in the comments) but here is how I experienced that thin place. Joey approached us ready to be sent away, rejected and scorned, maybe to have a little fun mocking the Jesus freaks in the park, but little did he know he’d stumbled across the wrong Christians for that sort of behavior. Love was all he found, well that and grace. I’ll not spoil it for you,  head over and read what happened, I’ll be here when you get back.

Welcome back.

Passing the Peace

So, after a couple of hours hanging around in God’s Grace, we prayed (yeah, right out in the open like that) hugged, shared Twitter handles, connected on Facebook and said our “stay in touches.” Hands and feet freezing, but heart and soul warm, I headed a few more blocks south to the Village ready to find lunch. As I walked along I would occasionally see a head bobbing along among the masses smudged with ashes.  And once in a while there was a glimmer of recognition, a tiny flicker of a connection. Not that we were running through the streets hugging and high-fiving or anything (admit it, that’d be an awesome sight), but there were quiet smiles, occasional head nods and even a few pair of glistening eyes. Why? Maybe because amidst all the world swirling around us we felt a micro-second of connection to one another and a larger story. All those lovely faces – smooth and wrinkled, brown and beige – smeared with the burnt palms from last year, shared something ineffable and at the same time tangible. Something we ALL share but here we were wearing it right out in the open.  What is it we ALL share? The promise that we have come from God, in God we all dwell and to God we shall return.  Every last one of us. And in admitting our brokenness in this ancient act of penitence, so too we acknowledge our kinship with the masses around us, each one broken and beautiful in her own way. A smile – peace be with you.  A nod – and also with you.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around, eating good food, drinking warm beverages, observing lovers gliding on ice in Bryant Park and lighting a candle at St. Patrick’s with prayers for LGBT Catholics, that they might know the peace of God’s love and a community that embraces their whole selves.

At 5 p.m.  I reconnected with former seminary colleagues of mine, Bridgette and Amanda, at The Russian Vodka Room (which looked like it could be a perfect for the next “Russian Mafia bar” scene of Law & Order). With hugs and smiles and laughter over a cocktails and happy stories.

The Word Shared

I was unable to linger with Amanda and Bridgette as long as I’d have liked because I had to dash back to Skype in and participate as a panelist in the third session of the Sacred Pixels conversation presented by the Ignatian Center of Santa Clara University. Along with other folks who are exploring the intersection of faith and technologically formed community, and led by Elizabeth Drescher and Paul Soukup, we shared our stories of encountering the Word, God and the other in online spaces. Thanks be to God for online communities with depth and richness!

Music 

After a dinner at The Playwright, I hopped in a cab with friends and headed down to the Village, seeking a little bar I’d learned about early in the day. About 10 minutes later we pulled up to the curb and Marie’s Crisis Cafe sign glistened in the rain-diffused light shining from above a small red door. The cab door and the bar door opened at the same moment and the raucous sound of voices surrounding a well loved piano rushed up the slippery stairs, luring us down into the dimly lit bar. We grabbed a few drinks (cash only please) and settled in, just out of the circle of friends gathered around the piano. We were guests in this intimate space, but made to feel welcome none-the-less. The voices all raised in songs of lament or joy, people greeting one another with signs of love and peace, cups raised and shared – it slowly began to dawn on me as Maggie sang. So with tears streaming down my face, I suddenly knew without a doubt what I had experienced all day – it was worship.  Much later found a video of her singing the exact song that both warmed and shattered my hear that night.  I hope you’ll take a moment and listen…

 

 

Sending forth

My Lent began in New York City, a perfect liturgy shared with 8 million people.  More intimately I shared this holy day with: an Episcopal priest, some Presbyterian pastors and organizers, a self-proclaimed “recovering Catholic, some fully immersed Catholics, a couple of Methodists, a handful of atheists, a few agnostics and a whole mess of happy, singing souls. And here was me, a recovering Baptist, post-denominational UCC-loving, emergent-leaning queer blogger from the south, grateful beyond measure to see and be sent forth into the world knowing anew what God’s beloved community does, can and will look like.

Amen