Monday, November 29, 2010

A Thousand Little Things

Now, I am just as much a romantic as the next gal, but I've learned in my marriage that the little things do tend to add up more than the grand, romantic gesture. Don't get me wrong - Backbencher does the flower and candy thing as well as the next man, and he's been known to surprise me with Christmas and birthday gifts that I'd mentioned once or twice in passing months ago. (The "months ago" thing sometimes means I had forgotten I'd wanted that item, but it is so endearing!) But overall, I think I appreciate the everyday things Backbencher does to let me know I'm on his mind.

Here is just a selection:
- He always turns on my seat warmer when we ride in his car, usually long before I would have remembered it's an option.
- He has been known to walk the dogs when he senses I need a lazy morning.
- He got me a gift certificate to 1800FINDASPA for our first wedding anniversary, because traditionally, the first anniversary is "paper" and, well, gift certificates are made of paper. (And he knows I love massages.) Naturally, he also gave me a book.
- He will read a book faster than he normally would if he knows I want to read it, too.
- He suggests that I take the first shower when we have to leave early for childbirth class. (And he often showers the night before, too!)
- He folds towels, even if I'm the one who washed them.
- He remembers to buy my favorite kind of ice cream when we run out.
- When we got back from visiting his family at Thanksgiving, I had to run over to the church (20 yards away) to turn up the heat for Sunday's worship service. I took a shortcut past the side of the house, not bothering to go in, and when I returned to the house 5 minutes later, he had already turned on the back porch light. He also does this when I have evening meetings (we have a one-car garage that I use, and it's behind the house).

It's that last one that really gets to me. Even if our paths don't cross after the morning, and I get home late in the evening, there is always a well-lit back porch welcoming me home. He never fails to remember to light my way home. In the day-to-day living with another human being, it is the small, everyday things Backbencher does for me far more warming to my heart and soul than the rare grand gesture.

This Advent, a new year begins, and I'm so lucky to share it with Backbencher.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

White Crosses in Yards

In our little town, a number of white crosses have appeared in several front yards. At first I thought it was a rash of pet deaths, but I soon learned that it was the effort of our local Methodist Church. A sweet effort for some reason I wasn't really clear about. To proclaim the household's (presumably Protestant, since it's not a crucifix) Christian identity? To be a safe haven for wandering Christians? A testimony of faith?

Today I learned that it was in response to this story, about an incident in Frankenmuth, Michigan a couple of years ago. Of course, in the version told to the ministerial fellowship, the ACLU got dragged in. (Doesn't it always, in these cases?) Le sigh. I checked it out on Snopes, and was gratified that at least the minister didn't play up the complainer's supposed "atheism." But as a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I am always so annoyed when they become the bogeyman for all the "persecution" Christians face.

Later, it made me wonder: what happened to the man in the story? No doubt he was a pot-stirrer, and it sounds as though he might have been a newcomer to town. Perhaps he was not the most sympathetic character. But as much as the Christians in this town claimed "victory," I wonder how this man felt ministered to by his Christian friends and neighbors. Did he learn about the love of Jesus from all those crosses? Did he experience the grace of God from their overwhelming opposition to his (admittedly rather petty) complaints?

Or was he confirmed in a belief that Christians tend to lord it over non-Christians and Christians who don't share their views of church-state separation? Was he treated as an outcast, a collaborator with the enemy, and unclean?

Jesus sure ate a lot of meals with people whom the "majority" looked down upon or disdained. I may be preaching to the choir here, but I pray that when we are bold to proclaim the Gospel, we are focused on proclamation that opens hearts and minds to Jesus, not on pummeling others to get our own way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Funerals and Family Dynamics

Speaking generally, funeral preparation is a fascinating time to observe family dynamics at work, and to especially see the ways that dysfunction plays out through generations of a family system. You can see why the son of these parents married this person, and how their children ended up as they did. You can see why these two people were drawn to each other, even if the motivation appears to be to get as far away from family as possible.

This isn't really a surprise. Take a system, throw in a radical and permanent change to that system, and add a forced sense of proximity to other family members. Oh, and social pressures to behave in a certain fashion.

Unfortunately, it's also a terribly tragic time of loss for the family, and often for the whole community. To think only about the system is destructive and heartless; but to fail to think about the system is short-sighted and ultimately ineffective.

The bottom line is: families are complicated, and funerals bring this into high relief. HIGH relief.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sad News and Happy News

Backbencher and I have sad news and happy news to share. Finally!

First, the sad news. Many of you know that an opportunity for us to adopt a child literally fell into our laps this spring. Just before I left for Costa Rica, we learned that the birth mother - someone we knew from another circle in our lives (and I'm not trying to be deliberately vague, but SW Iowa is a small place and she deserves her own anonymity if she wants it) - has decided to parent her child after all. This was very sad news for us, even if it was not altogether unexpected. She'd decided so early in her pregnancy, and she has a lot of support for both decisions she has made.

Now, to the happy news: The very morning before we heard the sad news, we learned that I am pregnant! I am about 12 weeks along now and all appears to be progressing well. If one can gauge by nausea, we are breeding a champion in my uterus. That is a much politer way to say that I have been "blessed" with intermittent, all day dry heaves, along with the occasional unpredictable incident of pukeatuge. I am fervently praying this part of pregnancy ends in the next two weeks. (Do not scare me with your stories of pregnancy-long morning sickness - I have heard it before and do not wish to hear more. Also, my stomach is unaccountably weaker than it used to be, so even these stories set me off a bit.)

Longtime friends and family know of my iron constitution and bone-deep loathing of throwing up (though really, who enjoys that particular experience?), and are quite sympathetic. Unfortunately, nothing reliably works for me. So thank you for the advice to stuff myself silly with Saltines (done and done), eat or drink every form of ginger imaginable (ditto), or to eat every waking hour. Just pray away the puking, please - but keep the baby.

This news, while it doesn't cancel out the sad news, is overwhelming and wonderful for us. We have known we wanted to be parents for almost as long as we've been together (and I've always known I wanted to be a mom), and we are delighted that, Ohala, we will get to meet our first child in 2011. I am also incredibly grateful at the timing of these events, because I know the weakness of my faith, and I would have been DEVASTATED with only the sad news. We have worked through a fair bit of our grief at the loss of that child, but I for one feel buffeted by the knowledge that we will indeed be parents next year. That has muted the grief somewhat, though I think it goes without saying that babies are not interchangeable.

Oh, and I'm due on Palm Sunday. Hi-larious. One colleague pointed out that God clearly wants me to experience the twin blessings of motherhood and ministry right from the outset. Another colleague offered to preach on Easter for me.

We'd covet your prayers for us, as well as for the birth mother, of whom we are deeply fond and with whom we continue a friendship. All of this is hard, but that is the way of the world. She deserves love, support and prayers as much as any new parent does. And God knows we will need lots of support!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Which I Come Out as a Pacifist Hippie

....and perhaps a disappointment to my father, who spent 20 years in the Army and more than 2 additional decades as a military consultant.*

The failure to repeal DADT is, in the end, hardly surprising. Others can speak far more eloquently than I about the appalling cowardice of the Democratic Party when it matters to progressive issues. Others can speak far more passionately than I about the crippling terror of the military closet.

But those aren't the real reasons I'm unsurprised about the failure to repeal DADT. In the military, young men and women are trained to reject one of the most fundamental values that families, religious communities, and communities teach them. They are trained, in short, to kill - to violate one of the Big Ten. For Christians, at least, this is a grievous sin. And our goverment supports - no, expects, DEMANDS - this from our servicemembers! Our government celebrates those who kill "the enemy."

Our culture celebrates, even valorizes, those who are most effective at violating one of the Ten Commandments. (And then we wonder why so many returning from war have trouble readjusting to civilian life.) Why, then, should we be surprised that our military also trains young men and women to reject another fundamental value - that of telling the truth? For thousands of gay and lesbian service members, they are trained - again, expected, DEMANDED - to lie about who they are, and who they love, in order to serve their country.

I'm not under any illusions: allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to live openly will not force our culture to reexamine our lust for blood or our paradoxical insistence that we live in a "Christian nation" while training our young people to violate the commandment against killing. It will not turn us all into pacifists. But perhaps, if we are going to ask our young people to kill, the least we can do is let them be honest about who they are.

*I kid. He's proud of my ability to think independently and come to my own conclusions, even when we disagree. For my part, if anyone had to do what my dad did, I guess I'd rather it was him doing it than someone else.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sabbatical Goodness

Dear friends, I am off to Costa Rica for the next month, living with a host family and learning Spanish. I am only slightly terrified, as I know about 40 words in Spanish and won't know anyone in this program. And my darling Backbencher and I will be apart for the whole month. If you live in the area, please ply him with food and drinks in my absence.

You can expect that posting will be non-existent during that time, but I might surprise you....

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Congratulations California!

We here at Casa LiturgyGeek frequently miss The Pocket Mardis, a delightful blog run by a friend. Happily, Mardis still regularly posts pithy comments on Facebook, and today made me laugh out loud. In response to the ruling declaring California's Prop 8 unconstitutional, Mardis wrote: "Congratulations, California: You're finally almost as cool as Iowa."

As a native Californian now living in Iowa, I could not be prouder that where I currently reside, adults are free to marry, and today I am delighted that my home state is one step closer to the equality we've been living with for the past 16 months.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Better a Delay Than a Disaster?

Our college cross-country coach, Coach Page, was a fount of vaguely useful information that I've grown to appreciate more and more over the years, even if at the time we thought he was kind of a goof. Thanks to him, I know that the easternmost state is not Maine but Alaska, and I'm always filled with some trepidation now that I no longer routinely pack the "Big Five" when I travel (towel, soap, toilet paper, padlock, and sunscreen).

Coach Page was also fond of reminding us, whenever we were stuck in traffic in NYC or Newark, "Better a delay than a disaster." I had occasion to remember these words during my sabbatical travel a couple of weekends ago. Returning home from the Great East Coast Baby Tour via train, I was deeply engrossed in a novel given to me by one of my friends (Let the Right One In, if you're interested - a painfully poignant literary novel) and did not think much that we were stopped at a station for what seemed like a longer-than-usual stop. I assumed it was a smoke break until we learned that there was indeed a delay and we could get out and stretch our legs for a while.

We soon heard the rest of the story: a freight train a few miles up had struck and killed a person. The investigation and recovery would take some time. And, of course, life would never be the same for the family of the one who had been hit. Speculation was rampant regarding the nature of the death - no one assumed it was accidental, and there was even some annoyance at the "selfishness" of the individual. Incomprehensibly, one man began to describe for me the nature of the clean-up task when trains hit cows. (I stopped him quickly, and crassly, as I told him I did not need the details, having already walked this journey with a friend whose son was killed by a train.)

What happens when your delay is someone else's disaster? As impotent as it sounds, you pray and pray. Which I did, off and on, for the rest of that journey. And still do. I invite you to pray for the family of Nicholas Van Alstine. Trusting that God has received Nicholas into the arms of love, grace and wholeness, pray that his family will have the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and the abiding presence and gentle comfort of friends for a long time to come.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Special Friends of the Blog

Emily and Tim are very special friends; she's a UCC minister I've known for a decade, and he's a Lutheran seminary graduate and all-around genius. They are in Jerusalem for the next year and just finished a dig. They are thoughtful theologians, deeply faithful people, and deserve a wide audience. Please follow their blog here and tell your friends.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Miracles on Sabbatical

I am on sabbatical for the next three months. I'd love this to mean that I'd actually have time to blog, but that might be optimistic to the point of falsehood. I will be teaching a class at my old seminary on leadership in a smaller-membership congregation, learning Spanish in Costa Rica, practicing Spanish in Peru, and baptizing a few babies during this time. I will also be reading, praying, living.

A gem came my way today as I was talking with a friend about her dying relative. I said that I would pray for all of them, and that while I could pray for a miracle, I didn't sense that was what was wanted or needed. My friend said, "You can pray for the miracle of peace." Peace in this friend's relative's dying, peace in the hearts of the survivors, peace in the journey to death.

It was such a wonderful nugget that I had to share with you. May you experience the miracle of peace in your life today, if only for a moment.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Generous-Hearted Children

At our church, the person who brings the elements for Communion typically, but not always, helps serve at the table. When that person chooses not to, I ask another person to serve with me. Since part of the job of the minister is to nurture "call," I often ask one of the youth (or adults) who I think has the gifts for pastoral ministry.

This morning, I made an assumption that the person who brought Communion would not want to serve and so I asked one of our youth, G. She agreed, and we practiced what she would say while holding the chalice. Just before worship started, the woman who brought Communion came up to me to ask me what she was supposed to say. "Ooops!" This woman, Mrs. N, is a dear soul and in the early-to-middle stages of Alzheimers, so it actually would have been more confusing to explain the situation to her and ask if it was okay to let G serve.

I turned to G and said, "G, I'm terribly sorry. I made an assumption that turns out was wrong. Mrs. N would like to serve Communion after all, and since we usually let the person who brought Communion help, I really need to honor that. I hope you aren't too disappointed." She said, "Nope, that's fine" so cheerfully that I just wanted to hug her. Grace abounding from my mistake. I assured her that the next time I needed a Communion server, it would be her.

She smiled and said. "That's fine. I was actually wondering how I was going to get to take Communion since I was serving." And this is where it gets really good!

I asked, "Did you think you weren't going to get Communion because you were serving it?"

"Yes." (Everyone in our church gets to take Communion, no matter their age, membership or baptismal "status.")

"So, you were willing to sacrifice taking Communion in order to help serve the rest of the church?"


She did not understand why I started to cry at that moment.

Generous-hearted children like this are what keeps the faith Christ has entrusted to us alive and growing, even in the midst of declining membership and giving. Generous-hearted children like this know what it means to serve, to minister, to care, and they do it without weighing costs and benefits. Perhaps she does not love Communion the way I do, but considering the way our children race forward to receive the bread and juice, I think it more likely that she was willing to sacrifice participating in the feast of God's presence in order to facilitate that presence for others.

Fortunately, she also learned that those are not mutually exclusive. So the next time I need someone to serve with, I will ask G. And when we have finished serving the congregation, we will turn and serve each other the feast of God's presence. And today, I leave church overflowing with the fullness of that Presence, thanks to G.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Added to the Blogroll

Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership Blog. I could waste a few days here catching up, but I have too much to do today.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Another Great Blog

Is here, at Dirty Sexy Ministry. I think that my UCC twin would especially enjoy this blog, but I liked it for the running post I read a week or so ago. Kicked my prayer life into a much-needed gear.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Leave the Shellfish Out of It, Please

Dear secular progressives, even Christian progressives, and all the rest of you GLBT allies who use the Bible to support the cause of equality,

I thank you for your work trying to help people of faith see the logic in supporting civil equality for our GLBT brothers and sisters. We are in this work together, and I am grateful for the ways that you support families like mine.

One quibble, friends. When you are using the Bible to argue that lots of stuff in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) are no longer binding on Christians, please, please, please do not bring up the shellfish argument. You know, the one that begins, "Well, do you eat shellfish and wear clothing of mixed fibers? Then you, too, are violating the Levitical Codes and have no room to speak about homosexuality." By all means, use the clothing argument all you want - beat it into the ground for all I care. I will even give you what I believe is a compelling argument as to why the abomination of mixed fibers is a moral issue for us today.

But please, please, please, leave the shellfish out of it. Acts 10 specifically addresses how Peter is commanded by God to eat non-kosher foods, and the implication is clear that the church is released from this obligation of the Holiness Code. (Which is part of why most Christians don't keep kosher.)

When you continue to use the argument that because Christians eat shellfish, they are in violation of the Holiness code, you just sound ignorant of the Christian story. And while the odds are slim that you are ever going to win over evangelical/fundamentalist Christians anyway, using this argument closes the door for them to listen to anything you have to say, because they just assume you "don't get it."

If you want to use the clothing argument, be prepared to hear, as I have often heard, that some of the Holiness Code is still in effect (you know, especially the stuff about same-sex genital contact) because it is about MORALITY, while some of it isn't because it was about how people understood hygiene or some other "time-bound" or culture-bound rules. When that rebuttal comes your way, go ahead and ask whether or not God cares about the kinds of cloth that touches the skin of God's people. If people are created in God's image and we are vessels of the Holy Spirit, then it stands to reason that God really, really cares how our bodies are attired. Therefore, one would think that the mixed-fiber commandment is, indeed, a MORAL issue. (If nothing else, you may convince some folk to wear more all-natural hemp fabric.)

In the end, however, one of the best arguments I've heard about welcoming our GLBT friends and family members comes from Christian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp, who recently came out to the chagrin of many in the Christian community. She said in an interview with CNN, "I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being. If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be."

Bless you, Jennifer, on your life, your music and your witness. May God continue to be pleased at your honesty and the integrity with which you live your life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Raising Up Progressive Christian Youth

For the past couple of years, we've had a "youth group" for our 4-7th graders. It's expanded from 3 to about 12, with 9-10 coming regularly. We have snacks, a check-in, some Bible study, and then usually a game or topic to explore.

Last week, somehow we got on the conversation of homosexuality. (I may have mentioned something about my moms, as I sometimes do as a matter of course - they are my parents, after all.) Here's the funny thing: the kids didn't get squicked out by this information, even if they reacted as if it was the first time they were hearing this (it isn't, but I've learned that kids don't really have a memory for this sort of thing unless they were to actually MEET my moms). One of the kids wanted to know why some churches taught that homosexuality was wrong. "I mean, God made everyone, right?" she asked. "So saying that God doesn't love gay people or doesn't accept them means that God doesn't accept what God made."

She was very insistent on this point, repeated it several times, and continued to express her utter disbelief that a church could fail to teach anything other than this obvious (to her) truth.

I'd love to say, "Where did this all come from?" but I know where it comes from. It comes from a congregation that has welcomed 4 same-sex couples in the last year alone (please remember we are in a small town in rural Iowa, so even one couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, qualifies as a pretty big deal), a church and pastor that has married 8-9 same-sex couples since marriage equality came to our state, a minister that supports the full inclusion of GLBT persons into the full life of the church (and who has two moms), a church community that wrestles with this issue and consistently chooses hospitality and welcome over total unanimity, families who are drawn to this church precisely because of our pattern of extravagant welcome, and a denomination who supports the work of a) wrestling with difficult texts, b) coming to a variety of conclusions as a result of that wrestling, and c) not coming to easy answers but rather a continual stretching and general comfort with ambiguity.

It comes from other parents who are unwilling to judge GLBT persons and modeling that behavior in church. It comes from this child's own parents, who are extremely comfortable with all sorts of difference. And it comes from the Spirit of God in this youth, who is (like so many of her peers) deeply concerned with fairness, equality, and sharing God's love.

In short, I'm realizing that our youth are being formed and transformed in the very ways we have hoped, prayed, and worked toward for many years. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Checking In, Dear Ones

....if only to breeze past quickly from one thing to another.

I didn't mean to cease blogging throughout Lent, but that ended up being exactly what happened. I blame our local community theater. Backbencher and I were both cast in "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" in late December, with shows in February, and for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to try to direct a show during Lent. With middle school students. With no acting experience.

It's been trying, let me tell you. It's also taken most of my time and extra energy. The kids are great, and the adults in the show have been very patient - but we open on Saturday and I have some doubts. Mostly I'm freaked out that this will be the first community theater show (in a new, multi-million dollar facility) that is not absolutely brilliant. And I'll be to blame.

So if you are in the area, come see "The Hobbit." Tickets can be ordered by phone or in person - the information is here.

As for the ministry end of things, I am working on some delightful projects. I've also had a few weeks of utterly fascinating pastoral visits with folk. I continue to be amazed and humbled at the fact that people are willing to open up and share their hurts, griefs, and fears in this space, and how this congregation embraces all, and finds a way to express hope for God's future.

Our youth are pretty rock-and-roll, too.

More soon, darlings!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Those of you who love to think deeply and ...

....ecumenically about the church must go read Magdalene's Egg. Right now. I thank God that I've discovered Father. He makes me chuckle. He also takes my breath away, as with this line about how one must learn to minister: "you must learn to work with people who share your creed but not your reading of it."

I believe that, at its best, the UCC does try to embody this - though of course (as I noted on Father's blog) we are a non-creedal tradition. But, oh, how eloquently and irenically Father has put it! For we who love liturgy and are serious about making more visible the unity of all of Christ's followers on earth, this is just a kiss of life.

Thank you, Father, for finding your way here, and for helping me find my way to your blog. (I suspect Joelle had a hand in this via her blog, so she gets a hat tip.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Another Mad Season

Sorry, this isn't about Mad Men. It's about me realizing I'm entering another season in my life where I'm very angry at someone, and finally accepting that I'm okay with being mad at her. "Her" being my older sister.

Some background may help: my parents divorced while my mom was pregnant with me, and I never had a full-time dad in the house. My sister is a few years older than me, and she did have a full-time dad in the house for the first four years of her life. She went from having Mommy and Daddy all to herself to being schlepped across the country to live with Mom, our grandparents, and a whiny, crying baby. I get that that sucks.

And it was 30+ years ago, so it's not like therapy was a real option in this situation (at least not that I'm aware of). When I was a senior in college, my sister cut off all contact with the immediate family. Now, I know that siblings have different experiences of childhood, but to my knowledge there was not some ridiculous level of abuse that would justify this action. The main thing was, again, the radical change in her life situation when she was about 4, coupled with living at the poverty line throughout childhood and having lots of wealthy friends. I will note a couple of other, personal reasons she noted in a good-bye missive, but even with all this, her reaction to cut us out seems all out of proportion. I suspect there are other reasons, unknown to us, that impelled this decision. Because, frankly, the alternative is that she is a rigid control freak with no sense of grace towards others.

We have always said what happened in this way: that we were not the family she wanted, and she decided that not having us in her life was better for her. It at least helped us have peace. And while we respected her decision to be out of our lives, with the "advent" of the internet, we naturally kept mild tabs from afar. Unless one goes completely off the grid, you can find someone with sufficient motivation. (My dad, as a former intelligence officer, probably knows how to find someone even if they are off the grid.) I never paid money to find her, but she wasn't really hiding on the internet, so when, about 3 years ago, we thought our grandmother was dying, I knew how to get in touch with her.

There was a brief, awkward "reunion" with our grandma, who by that time was actually improving. At this point, we'd not seen each other or spoken in a decade. And that's exactly what it returned to after the extremely short visit with our grandmother. At this point, she is in touch with our extended family. And that's nice. For them and for her. And for mom, Moozie, Dad and me, too - because while they respect her confidences, they do let us know that she's okay.

I have tried to be okay with it, but lately I realized I'm not.

I'm mad at her. I'm sorry that we aren't the family she wanted, but you know what? She was never the sister I wanted, either. She was mean, spiteful, a typical bossy big sister (and yes, I was the typical spoiled baby), and she never outgrew it. She held people to impossible expectations and then cut them out of her life when they couldn't measure up. She doesn't have a lot of grace to offer others. That used to make me feel sad for her. Now I see it as a character failing. Maybe I have things to answer for, but so does she.

It would be lovely if she ever wanted to get back in touch with us directly. I know that my parents would welcome her back with no questions asked, and be happy about it. They are her parents, after all, and I don't begrudge them that. But I am figuring out that for me, forgiveness in this case is not so easy. And that that's okay. I used to pity her, and all she was missing out by her estrangement. (Like my moms' wedding - one of the best days of my life, and getting to know my beloved Backbencher, who is a delightful addition to anyone's life.) And I felt bad about the stuff we should be able to commiserate about together but couldn't because of this estrangement (the less said about that, the better).

I've gone through some other seasons in my life in which I've been angry at someone - an old boyfriend, other situations with my sister, etc. And it's helpful to reflect on that, and to wonder what I can really do about it, and to realize that this is about me, not about them, etc, etc, etc. This go-round, however, the lesson I am trying to learn is that it is perfectly okay to be angry. And to be angry at HER. Not because she's rejected me (though I will not deny that it hurts), but because she is kind of a pill and I don't know that I'd want her in my life even if she did have some sort of miraculous change of heart.

The older I get, the more I know that my stepsiblings and a couple of dear friends are my true sisters, and I've long been okay with that. Yes, I know how anger can eat us up inside. I know that I will have to deal with my feelings of rejection (over and over!). And I know if she ever did want "back in" to the family, I wouldn't stand in the way. (I wouldn't hurt my parents that way.) I would be extremely wary that she'd hurt my parents again, but that's the risk they would have to assess.

But for now, I am just reveling in my ability to just be angry, and for the moment, to have that anger undiluted by guilt at what I could have done differently, and to instead insist that she will eventually have to answer as to what she could have done differently in our relationship. I guess I'm ready to start holding her accountable for this estrangement - where, indeed, at least some of the responsibility belongs.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Christian Imperialism in a Time of Crisis

Updated: I found a link to this article, too.

We all know about the terrible devastation in Haiti, and we may be certain that many families have been torn apart by death and destruction. So why, in the midst of all this turmoil and chaos, would a group of Christians think it was a good idea to smuggle Haitian children across the border?

I get that they have good intentions in building an orphanage for children who've lost their families in this earthquake. However, how could these Americans possibly know that these children are, indeed, orphans? They did not bother to get proper papers, or investigate that these children had no family to care for them. They simply accepted the word of those who brought the children to them. Given the scope of international child smuggling rings, and the likelihood that many such children end up being sold as prostitutes or sex slaves, you would have thought that a group of committed Christians would have done at least a little due diligence.

They also did not think to keep these Haitian children in their native land - they planned to build a fancy orphanage at or near a resort in the Dominican Republic. One may say that Haiti is not at the rebuilding stage yet, but the entire nation has not been devastated. They could just as easily have worked to build an orphanage somewhere other than Port-au-Prince. Given the contentious relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, this just smacks of extreme cultural ignorance.

This entire situation is a perfect example of American Christian Imperialism. These people had it on their hearts to go do something about the devastation in Haiti, caring for the youngest and the poorest. That's all well and good, but what about what God has placed on the hearts of Haitians? Did these Christians even think to ask what God had said to the Haitians? Did they bother to LISTEN to what Haiti needs, or did they just assume that since they had heard God's word on their hearts, that the rest of the world would just line up behind it? Thinking you have a divine mission from God is not an excuse to be ignorant about the people you want to "save," and it certainly isn't a license to break international law to get what you want.

There is hearing God's word, but there is also discerning God's word. It is not enough to simply hear God's word - or to think you have - but you must also discern the meaning of this word. And when God's word involves other people, it's a good idea to discern God's word with those other people. It's not naivete to fail to take this step; it is willful ignorance. And it is, frankly, unconscionable. You can't just act like this - you have to think, to test your motives, to discern God's will. You can't just assume because your heart goes out to the orphans in Haiti, that this means God is telling you to go build them an orphanage for them (again, in another country, where you have to smuggle children to get there).

I am not surprised that this sort of imperialistic thinking goes on in American Christianity. We've gotten a bad name acting imperialistic for a long time, both as a nation and as Christians not working for the government. Deservedly so, given what we know of this situation. We strut around the world, thinking we know best. In the process, we destroy families, communities, and nations. Who is to say that a group of Christians from America know what's best for these Haitian orphans? Do these Christians even know anything about Haiti, its history, its culture, its people, its struggles, its dreams? Its relationship with the Dominican Republic, where the children were going to be smuggled to (hint: it's not a friendly one)?

I doubt these Christians considered the additional trauma these children they are trying to "save" are going to be put through - torn from families and communities, uncertain in many cases if their parents are even dead, probably encouraged to learn another language in order to communicate with their "rescuers" (because I'm willing to bet these Christians don't know French or any of the other languages [besides English] spoken in Haiti). Because fundamentally, it is not really about the children. It is about burnishing their credentials as "good Christians" who "sacrifice" for God's kingdom.

I am also not surprised that this group (and its pastor) is trying to put the best spin on it. "They were just trying to do good," seems to be the refrain. If all that do-gooding, however, breaks international laws, one has to wonder what the real motives of the people were. Sounds like they were more concerned with getting stars in their crown than they were truly helping these young, already-traumatized children. They had no prior relationship with Haiti or its people, and I am willing to bet they no absolutely NOTHING about transracial, transcultural adoption. (For information on both of those, go read this excellent article.)

Christ calls us to serve in his name, but he does not call us to do so in a vacuum. We are called to minister in communities, and to value the many voices at the table and the many ways God speaks to people. That means listening to the people we are trying to "save," and working as equal partners in that "saving."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gossip News

Okay, if the unconfirmed rumors are true that Brangelina have broken up, all I can say is that the relentless media attention about their relationships - and the nearly-weekly covers of People US Weekly, OK! and what-have-you - definitely contributed to the stress and strain of their relationship.

In fact, this relentlessness is part of the reason I stopped reading People magazine and its ilk. Fundamentally, I finally realized that celebrities deserve some privacy, and that by continuing to read such magazines, I was contributing to the paparazzification of their lives. That wasn't who I wanted to be, and it's not the life I want for celebrities to have to endure.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Week in Idiocy

I can't promise that this will become a thing, but this week seemed to be full of all kinds of crazy. The stupid - it burns!

1. Plane diverted because of prayer. Some idiots saw a young Jewish man praying with tefillin, freaked out and thought it was a bomb threat. Man was unresponsive (maybe because he was trying to pray without being interrupted?), plane got diverted, and a bunch of people ended up with egg on their face. But the piece de resistance: the FBI investigator is reported to have said of the tefillin, "This is something most Americans probably have never seen before."

Um, seriously, dude? Have you never ridden the subway in NYC (elsewhere, too, probably - NYC is just my personal experience)? Never watched a crime drama episode involving observant Jews (I'm sorry, crime dramas just do variations on certain themes, the "death in an observant Jewish community" is standard fare)? Never heard of tefillin? Or even heard their description? I must have read descriptions of tefillin in a half-dozen novels or more, to say nothing of the non-fiction I've read. And I don't even read a lot of Jewish-themed stories. (Or maybe I do, compared to the rest of the population.....)

Gosh, maybe I am more highbrow than I thought.

2. John Edwards is a big fat tool. Thanks for your utter lack of integrity. I knew you were a creep when I met you in Red Oak. Alas, this latest "revelation" (first scooped by The National Enquirer, for God's sake!) is without any sense of grace. And how nice of your mouthpieces to try to put Elizabeth on the moral high ground yet again by saying she really wanted you to acknowledge paternity. You weren't doing it for her sake, just as you weren't .... well, doing the baby's mother for Elizabeth's sake. You're just doing this for yourself. Think with the brain between your ears next time. (Oh, and I gave you the link to Jezebel not because it's the best link, but just because I like them.)

3. NBC. Really? You think Conan is worth just $45 million? Leno sucks at his prime-time experiment and you fire CONAN? Y'all are nuts. Y'all were asses to pull the rug out from under him with The Tonight Show, and y'all were asses to stick with Jay. I'm sorry, but Conan is funnier and will make some network very happy to have him bring in the younger generations. Aren't they the ones you want to market to, anyway? I'd consider ending my Fox moratorium* if he ended up there, just on principle. Gah.

I won't talk about the election in Massachusetts and the subsequent hand-wringing among the Dems, because I can't decide who's more of an idiot: the 53% of Massachusetts residents who elected Brown, or the Dems who think that 41>59. Get your act together, Dems.

I also won't talk about Pat Robertson's odious comments about Haiti, first of all because it was last week in idiocy and second of all because it just goes without saying that Robertson is a big fat idiotic tool. Bless his heart.

Of course, even when I think these people are acting like idiots, I try to remember that they are God's beloved children, and that behaving like an idiot doesn't mean you ARE an idiot. But what God must think of humanity with these examples, I shudder to imagine. And, I am loathe to ask it, but what am I missing from the news this week?

* Okay, I don't really avoid Fox altogether. How would I survive without the Simpsons? And I have enjoyed Dollhouse, primarily because Eliza Dushku could probably earn her toaster if she propositioned me. But mostly I try to avoid the channel for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows my political bias.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Here's a Fun Facebook TimeSuck

A few days ago I mentioned on Facebook how much I love when my worlds collide. It was in reference to the fact that a dear friend just had a baby, and that one of her closest friends posted photos that I'd wanted to comment on. Not being this friend's "Facebook friend," I couldn't. But we've kind of interacted on ye olde FB previously, so I just "friend-requested" her. And she accepted! And we learned we have a whole bunch of things in common. It's been delightful.

Also, recently, when I friended the director of the play I'm currently in, I discovered that he knows Intern (now Minister) Extraordinaire. It's not that strange, as she grew up in the town where he lives. But, knowing those two people in such different contexts made it very surprising to me that they knew each other. And to make that story even weirder, what is truly remarkable is that this director and I lived in Sonoma during the same time and have mutual friends from that time period. And now we both live in the same part of Iowa.

So in my Facebook ramblings, I've been checking out the "mutual friends" link on some of my friends' pages, trying to see if we have overlapping friends from non-overlapping parts of our lives. For example, my friend K is a minister in Virginia, but not in the same denomination as I am. She knows some people from her denomination that I know from seminary. But that's an easy example. I'm still looking for that wild, weird and wonderful friend link where I go, "How in the world do you two people know each other?" It's a pretty small world, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pleasantly surprised soon. As an example, if my friend R, who was my first colleague here, and, say, my middle-school drama teacher, turned out to be good friends from way back when, well, that would just about make my day.

Share your wild, wonderful Facebook stories in the comments section if you so choose.

(It occurs to me that anyone reading this post who does not know anything about Facebook would be utterly confused. We might call those people "Muggles," but the odds that they would understand that reference are probably also pretty slim.)