Christmas is for us Fools

Every Christmas for me feels different. The way I relate to the birth of the Christ-child is wholly dependent on my personal circumstances, where I find myself at in my Bible, how prepared I am for the actual day of Christmas…

Last year my dog died early in December. I was still adjusting to the reality of being a foster mom to a teenage boy. It was a Christmas full of longing for the stability of the Second Coming of Christ. I was depressed and advent which is supposed to be equal parts joy and longing was swinging hard towards the longing end of the pendulum arc and void of a lot of joy.

This year it totally different. I’m not depressed. I am stable feeling and the longing is there, but I am swinging more towards the joy side of advent. More than anything I feel equipped by the birth of our Savior.

Let me explain.

Before Jesus came, It had been 400 years, four centuries, nearly half millennia, since God had spoken a single word to the Israelite people. Roughly 15 generations of people had been born and died without hearing a new utterance from God.

Our Bibles refers to this as the intertestimental period. Inter- means between and testimental would refer to the new and old testament, so it literally means the time between the two testaments.

Before this God spoke through a few select individuals known as prophets, and a few select miracles scattered throughout. Generally, the Israelite people related to God in a far off kind of way. Sacrificing lambs and doves to atone for their sins. Entering the Holy of Holies once a year. Waiting for God to make himself known in entirely inhuman ways.

Then…

The sky cracked, deliverance came, and the 400 years of silence was broken, and how do you think the God of the Universe chose to do so? A prophet? A miracle? A badass on a stallion overthrowing the Roman occupation?

No… A tiny, helpless babe named Jesus, who rode to Bethlehem in his teenage mama’s belly, on the back of a donkey, being born in a stable, making his very first bed in a manger.

Get out of here God of the Universe. You cray.

But really. After all those years of silence, after a whole entire written history of God doing insanely amazing things, after the hype of a new deliverance the likes of which the world had never seen, He chose to make his presence manifest on earth in quite possibly the most unassuming way known to man. Almost every woman in this day and age had babies. If you were a poor traveler like Mary and Joseph were, you might end up sleeping in a barn. This is just the way things were. Even when God drew attention to his presence on the actual earth in actual human form who did he tell? Not the press, not the rich rulers of the day. He told some stinking shepherds who were on the bottom of the social totem pole, the guys who had no other job prospects or hope for their future.

What does this mean for me? Endless things. But what is God showing me here and now at this advent?

First, that when we are confused about what love is, we look to the babe in the manger, who grew to be a man who gave his life for us all. Jesus is the deliverance God wrote about over and over again in the Bible, the pinnacle of His love for humanity. That means that perfect love is unassuming. It’s not flashy. It’s counterintuitive. When the Israelites were expecting a King, they were given a normal, ordinary guy who served as a sacrificial lamb, whose death freed us all. Where the world expects a safe, mild Savior who is fine with our incessant wealth accumulation, we are given a table-flipper who hangs out with prostitutes who is dirt poor and without a place to even lay his head at night.

This means that love is also confusing, and it’s never cut and dry. It means different things in different circumstances, but it’s always what God requires of us, because it’s always what He brings us. And it’s what He brought us to earth that Christmas day 2016 years ago, in the form of a human baby, perfect in love throughout the whole of his life.

It also means that if God’s delivery method for deliverance was so unassuming, then wouldn’t it still be?

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One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 1:27. In it, Paul is reminding the Corinthian church of this truth, where “the foolish things of earth confound the wise.” At such a verse who among us doesn’t feel a flutter of holy excitement. “Even me Lord?” we pray, knowing somewhere deep down that though we are weak and under qualified by human standards we are just the foolish person He’s been looking for to join in this deliverance-work He’s doing.

And to me He whispers, “Yes, Blaire. Though you don’t have a college degree, though I keep asking things that make no earthly sense, though you are self-taught, and a woman, and lacking material wealth, though you have piercings and purple hair, and though you are full of sin you can’t shake off. Even you, my love.”

This Christmas God won’t stop drawing these lines back to that day that split time in two, reminding me how unworthy the people of his day viewed Jesus Christ. He tells me over and over that Jesus, lowly and humble, was the very definition of Worthy. He says to me, as I wrap the presents and decorate the tree, that this year what I celebrate is this very humility and a grace so big that God desires people like me and people like you to take part in His story that spans time and space.

Yes… Even we have been made Worthy.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

Silas’ Birth Story: Light Overcame the Darkness

That day the earth stood still. Ceased to spin on it’s axis. There was no time. There was nothing, but great holy work.

When my work ended I had finally, after 15 hours, pushed a baby out of myself and into the world. One becoming two.

When my work ended his began. There was no crying that sprang forth and filled the room upon delivery, the way you see in the movies. The cry that signals all is well, I’m ready to join the world. It was confusingly silent. And my brain addled by pain and lack of sleep refused to understand why they rushed him away so quickly from me, his mother, the very person who labored to give him life, and would continue in that task for as long as I live. The very person who vowed to keep him safe, and sound, and secure, and happy. We had spent the last 9 months cohabitating, and now the sweet baby boy that I had carried for so long within me, was gone far away, down a hall to an elevator and two floors beneath me.

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Then there was time. How much remains a mystery, but I swam in and out of conscious thought, trying to recuperate my mind and my body, while my husband, so steadfast in his support of me for hours and hours, transferred all of that support to our son. The most natural transaction on the planet.

And my new support became my aunt and sister who stayed by my bed while I slept groggily. My mother-in-law who had every prayer warrior she knew on their knees begging God for intersession. These are who held me up in that time.

When the fog lifted, my body though broken through and through, became a a magnetic force desperate to unite with it’s pole. I rode a wheel chair down the hall, to an elevator and two floors down to see my baby. He was in the NICU, and his head was carefully placed beneath a tiny box that was pumping oxygen rich air into his face, so the tiny breaths he were able to draw were oxygenated enough to sustain his life.

Though hesitant to leave his side, I could sense that I was a disturbance in the limited space of the NICU. The nurses and doctors sidestepping my wheel chair, so I reluctantly left to my room to wait. And there waiting with me were the people who love me. My mom and dad. My mother and father-in-law. My sisters. My aunts. Everyone joining me in my anguish.

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Waiting is the worst. It’s quiet, this waiting. There is an expanse of space that takes over and give us time to think all the thoughts we try so hard not to. I don’t know how long I waited. Time was standing still, remember? Non-existent. Inconsequential.

Eventually they made the choice to transport my child a whole state away, out of the doors of the hospital where I was required to stay, over a river, and to another hospital that specializes in healing children from their illnesses. And of course… of course I wanted him to goto get well, but letting him go was an act of my will that contradicted my instinct to be a mother. This carnal evolutionary thing within me that had been there since the beginning of time, to fight and kill and violate and maim for the sake of the child I bore.

Then they wheeled my baby into my room in an incubator. I’ve seen wires and tubes and masks covering a person before but they were all adult sized to fit an adult human. The things he was covered in were grotesquely miniature able to fit only infants. They shouldn’t exist, but do in this broken world. And from under his mask he was squalling his displeasure about circumstances. I sat in my wheel chair at his perfect eye level, and snaked my hand through the hole in the side of the incubator. I rubbed his tiny perfect hand, and introduced my self to him.

“Silas, I’m your momma.”

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His crying ceased and he looked over and we met. For the first time realizing who I was. For the first time seeing who he was.

This moment among 29 years of moments stands out as completely unique. No words can explain….

Our souls danced.

The parts of ourselves that were the same recognized itself in the other.

The parts of God within us did the same.

The whole damned world stood at attention, paused their harried labor, and paid homage to us. A mother being born. A child starting life. An unquenchable love fully and finally realized.

And we stayed that was for what seemed both and eternity and an actual half a second. Not nearly long enough, but long enough to communicate a love that fills the expanse of time and space. I softly spoke the words he’d need to get well. I told him all about my love, and his father’s love, and his Father’s love. And promised I’d see him soon.

Then they rolled him away.

And after 15 hours of grueling painful natural labor, I finally discovered what real pain was. Being separated from the two people I love more than anything in the world, my husband and my newborn son, hurt worse than the scope of physical pain, something of which I was keenly aware.

But my dad was there, standing right beside me like a mountain, that had grown from the ground for this very occasion. I laid my head on his side, and he held me up. He patted my head with his massive hand, and loved a piece of the fear right out of me.

Then my vision broadened and my mom was there. Worrying so perfectly over every little part of all this. Taking special care to think about stuff that I couldn’t even grasp. And she held me up. And she loved some of the fear away too.

Then my mother-in-law led us in prayer. Ushering us to the throne room, begging God to do what he promised. Overcome the evil one, remain faithful, produce miracles, in this day and age. And she held me up. And the fear was losing it’s grip.

And then I approached the throne room on my own in my heart. Wondering to God what this was all about. Understanding new things about being alive and being in pain for the people you love. Remembering Jesus on His cross, and thanking Him with new fervor. And God in His abundant mercy took the little bit of fear that was left, defeated it, wrapped me in His arms, and gave me that peace you read about in the Bible. Perfect, inexplicable peace.

That night, my husband got to hold our baby for the first time. All of the problems that he originally had began correcting themselves almost immediately.

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Three days later, we went home.

*****

Today Silas turned 2.

I was praying this morning, thanking God for two years of healthy, joy filled life for my sweet child. And God reminded me of this battle we fought and won at the hospital two years ago.

He impressed upon my heart that that day in labor and delivery, Satan showed up to stop us both. And that my precious little baby, who had an Apgar score of 1, had just as much chance of dying as he did of living.

The darkness came to stop me from what it is I am doing here on this earth. To stop me from l from writing, and from making disciples, and from loving as fully as I do right now.

To stop Silas, who is equal parts fire and enthusiasm. Who’s will is so strong that my own will bows down in submission from time to time. Who will move and shake, for the love of his Savior one day. Who is already teaching spirit lessons of joy and peace and patience right from his little two year old body.

But that day, we won.

The gates of hell did not prevail against us.

God answered our prayers.

God beat back darkness.

And three days later, we emerged from the battleground, mother, father, child, covered with God’s Holy Spirit, Victorious.

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Writing Verses on the Ground

I walked into a bare bones building that is soon to be my new church. We had all come to write verses on it’s innards, so that maybe it’s outside would reflect what’s it’s insides were covered with.

I have long harbored a grudge towards the Church who has hurt me and the people I love, so I wasn’t sure how I would feel, but the air was sweetly heavy with purpose. So much so that I was tempted to slide off my sandals, for the ground, cold, concrete, littered with dust and wood shavings, was holy.

I walked from room to room, with my fat magic marker, my spirit willing this place to become everything I had always dreamed of in a church. In the sanctuary, I wrote “Make us of one mind, Father” and reminded God of I Peter 3:8, pressing my palms to the floor as an act of supplication. In the high school gathering place, I wrote 1 Timothy 4:12, only to look up and see 1 Timothy 4:12 right next to it, my heart comforted to know we were all praying and hoping the same things. In the children’s area, I wrote “Let the children come…” and tears fell down my cheeks as I prayed for my own child, that he would never be hindered, and that he would always know the Kingdom of God belongs to him. Lastly, I went to the First Step room where I scrawled one final prayer on the ground. “Be still my heart… Psalm 37:7” a prayer for nervous believers with trembling hands starting their journey at a new church, or maybe even with God for the very first time. What a scary, holy place that room will become, the doors a red sea.

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Then I looked around. Taking in the potential energy. Knowing in my heart that a great many woundings and a great many healing would take place within these walls. The bad will always flavor the good. The imperfect reality of God’s fallen creation will always be known with every perfect gift we are blessed to give.

And for the first time in a long time, it was okay. More than okay even… good.

Because within my very own body, the good and the bad, the perfect and the imperfect, they live together. The people I have hurt, and the people I have helped heal, haunt and delight me at the very same time. And though I am unworthy, the chief of sinners, God’s Grace crashes over me every single hour. Every single minute. Every single second of my existence, and such a Grace I will never again lay down.

If I, an imperfect creation made perfect through the blood of the lamb, live so profoundly in God’s grace, who am I to withhold the very same towards Christ’s broken, beautiful, Bride, whom I love and am a part of?

Bride of Christ, you will delight me and you will leave me hopeless in the very same breath. Grace to you. You will draw in new, then cast them out a second later. Grace to you. You will stumble over your words, that give life, and bring death. Grace to you. You will snap shut then fling open the gates of hell. Grace to you.

And one day our Bridegroom will return, we will wring our hands together, knowing that we are both completely unworthy, and fully righteous.

And He will lift our veil, and whisper “Grace to you…”

What the Love is This?

Funny thing love.

It just never looks the way we think it should. Just when you’re ready to spend your life comfortably loving people by smiling and hugging and speaking affirming words in their ears, God says, “Yeah that’s not enough love.”

And so sometimes you find yourself telling your most damning secret aloud in a room full of people, because God wants them all to see what vulnerability and honesty looks like.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

How easy it has been all these years to read that in the most literal way possible. Like maybe one day in a far away time and place I’ll jump in front of a car and push my best friend out of the way. And I will have achieved the greatest love. Maybe there will be a kidnapping situation, where I offer myself up in exchange for the freedom of my friends. Or I’ll rescue my pal from the ocean only to drown in the process. If any of these things were to happen I will have finally done it. Achieved not just love but greater love.

But then almost involuntarily you find yourself spewing out things you have kept secret for years and years to people who will not receive it well. Were it up to me I would have just carried on living my secret life because the only person damaged in the telling of this secret is me. No matter what I won’t come out unscathed. My soul will hurt, and my life will be different.

I come out the loser here.

But then I scan the room, and look at the faces of the people I love, and something clicks into place. I am honest for them. I am vulnerable for them. Because I love them so much. And I might have just torched things for myself, but I’ll be okay, because I did it for them. The pain is worth it. The heartache is worth it. I could do it again, and again, and again for the love of them.

The next day at church the Holy Spirit will mend you and bind your wounds and remind you of that verse and shine the light a different way. So that your eyes see for the first time that this painful honesty is exactly what He meant when He breathed that holy word, and this laying down your life so that others can grow at your expense, is the embodiment of body broken and blood spilled in your very own life. And He’ll whisper in your ear just how proud He is because you’ve made it. You are here… living in Greater Love.

Not all for naught: God chooses the shysters among us.

One time my husband told me about this guy…

For privacy sake we’ll call him Schmavid Poggs. What… that doesn’t work?

Okay how about Steve Johnson.

Steve hit it rich as a storm chaser. Meaning he went around the United States during tornado season and repaired the roofs of poor storm victims. That doesn’t seem lucrative to me, but la de da… it is. And he made like a lot of money. A lot a lot.

So much money that he bought himself some primo real estate in a super ritzy part of town, and promptly added a giant metal palm tree beside the pool. Because who doesn’t need a metal palm tree amiright? Then he bought cars and planes and giant diamond rings for his wife, and on and on he went.

Then he decided he’d take on a position at a trendy church in town as the unpaid pastor. It was the least he could do after raking in the millions from his storm chasing gig.

But the problem was that Steve was a real shyster. There have been lawsuit after lawsuit filed against his roofing company. He filed bankruptcy for 5.7 million dollars, and 1 million owed to the IRS. And on and on the allegations of shady shit went.

But somehow he still got hired (I say hired but he never took a salary so more like picked with the incentive of free labor) at this local church.

And the craziest thing happened. He rocked the church. He made it grow leaps and bounds. Everyone loved him. In my mind, this is not the way the world should operate. Is it too much to ask that shyster not be allowed to run a church, much less that they do exceedingly well while doing it? But for 6 entire years Steve the shyster ran the church and performed baptisms and led people to christ even though he was of questionable moral character.

It took 6 years for the elders to figure it out, and at that point, like a house of cards, it all came crashing down. He got kicked out of the church, got divorced by his wife, got sued by the courier journal and everyone else in town and out, had a lien put on his fancy house. I’m sure he lost his jets, and a car or two.

And the entire time as I watched it crumble for Steve, I couldn’t stop thinking about all those people he had pastored. To new faith or renewed faith. Through baptism. Through the death of a loved one, or through a marriage.

Was it all for naught?

And I prayed and wrestled and prayed some more, and I came to the hard truth that God can use anyone and anything in spite of what that thing may be, to bring about his glory. He can use shysters. I am sure the people he pastored will have some stuff to work out with their therapist about why their pastor turned out to be such a d, but maybe with Steve they never would have made it to Jesus, and realized the full spectrum of his love.

The reason I was thinking about all of this is because one of my favorite writers has done something so dramatic and heart rending that I have been working really hard to keep myself from not quitting at life. (To those of you who don’t understand why I take her life so seriously find a different blog. My writers are like my friends. It’s a one sided relationship, but… i love them anyway.)

This champion for marriage, and for sticking with it though hard things… she’s separating from her husband, who she describes as “emotionally healthy”. Her life is fine according to her, he’s done nothing wrong. They just grew healthier in a different way, and now to expect their life to go back to the way it was is just not possible. In her words, “it would be like a snake trying to fit back in it’s shed skin”. And her and her husband are both so sad for the kids. Like weeping uncontrollably sad.

To which I say GET YOUR ASS BACK IN YOUR TINY LITTLE SNAKE SKIN AND GRIN AND BEAR IT FOR A WHILE LONGER, AND BE SELFISH ONCE YOUR KIDS ARE GROWN AND GONE.

Seriously though… while the rest of us mere mortals are struggling with husbands who aren’t emotionally healthy (as though we ourselves know what emotional wellbeing even is) she is just throwing in the towel. She has a gold-mine in that her husband loves her, treats her well, and loves her children. And maybe they have grown in different ways, but when do you just give up on a commitment that you made before God, to the father of your children? After years of second chances and emotional hurt. After a refusal to reconcile for the 100th time. After the hope is completely gone.

When you reach that place please… divorce your husband.

But if you’re both emotionally healthy and moderately happy, then leaving is a betrayal to the commitment of marriage, and you tarnish the whole damn message.

So here I am trying to decide if I ever liked her to begin with and if all of her quotes, like “Love Wins” and “We can do hard things” are even true at all. Maybe love loses, and she was making it up the whole time. Maybe I can’t do hard things. The consistency is gone. The trust is broken.

I was telling my friend about it, and about how cynical I was feeling (not sure if you could sense any cynicism. It’s subtle I know). She said something that threw me a bit. And I quote “We unintentionally put famous people on a pedestal.”

And I was like, “Um excuse me, but she’s my friend. Who doesn’t know me. Who is really famous. Who will probably never even acknowledge a word I write say or think.”

And in my head I was like, “Well fuck. Time to kick that pedestal over.”

And I got to thinking. Love does win. We still can do hard things. Even if she’s not doing it. Even if in her own life her own words aren’t ringing as true as we’d like for them to.

God’s primary means of bringing himself glory are in the hands of stupid, inconsistent, idiotic shysters, who screw up so bad, over and over and over again.

You guys how insane is that? That He would choose fallible ridiculous human beings for this Holy sanctifying work of His. People that leave when they should stay. People that are sued by… everyone. Addicted people. Mean people. Cynical people. We are all Chosen.

And our work, be it like Steve’s, mostly crappy with some good thrown in, or like my writer friend, mostly good with some crappy thrown in, is all redeemed to it’s fullest possible extent, because God is a badass, and He knows just what He’s doing up there.

So…. what I am saying is, when a person messes up, it was only a matter of time because they are human. Humans suck. But that doesn’t mean they are a lost cause, or that their work was not important or good or true in spite of themselves. It just means they are human, and chosen like the rest of us to do a job we are grossly under qualified for.

Carry on Warriors. Your work is holy even though you’ve messed it up so perfectly.

Not So Much a Root, as a Small Tree: Weeding Out Roots of Bitterness

What a shit storm it is out there you guys.

Anyone else struggling with an inordinate amount of bitterness?

No? Oh um.. me neither.

Okay I’m lying. I am totally struggling with bitterness which is a problem because Hebrews 12:15 expressly says that we aren’t to allow a root of bitterness in our hearts. As it is, mine is slightly more than a root. I would say it’s the size of a small shrub or perhaps a young tree.

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Why am I bitter you ask? Well because there is a 50/50 chance that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States and the Conservative Christian Right is pedaling so hard to make this “okay”. He recently was led to Christ by a well-known televangelist, and is now being heralded as a baby Christian, who just doesn’t speak good Christian-ese.

Because my newsfeed has articles about how Philando Castile looks exactly like a suspect in an armed robbery, somehow justifying the fact that he was shot four times in his car with a 4 year old child in the back seat.

Because people are using the death of 4 innocent cops, as a means to discredit the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to justify the deaths of Philando and Alton, and those doing the discrediting and justifying are, you guessed it, white and Christian. When do the actions of 4 lone individuals ever accurately represent an entire movement? And rather than viewing it as gravely wrong, but indicative of the profound frustration the black community possesses, we white people dismiss any ownership we may hold, by calling it the start of the race wars, and by firing up our opposing hashtags.

Because #AllLivesMatter made it into the sermon I attended this past Sunday, but mention of the death of Philando Castile or Alton Sterling did not. The white male preacher explained that he’s not afraid of the law because he follows the law, and if you’re respectful and don’t place yourself above the law there is really no issue. As though a 70+ year old, upper middle class, white man living in the suburbs has the same risk of being victimized by police brutality as a black man living in the inner city does. Living anywhere for that matter.

Because so many people just don’t freaking get it.

I find myself doing a lot of tattling lately. “God, did you hear what they said?! Did you hear the sermon?! Did you see that post?! If I see one more white Christian say or post hashtag all lives matter, I’m going to do something really, really rash. Not totally sure why you aren’t doing anything rash. If you could go ahead and do something rash I’d appreciate it and so would the rest of the world, God.”

God just stands their and takes it while I fume and tell on a whole world of sinners. He never does anything rash, just waits for me to stop, and tries not to roll His eyes. No one likes a tattler. Not even God.

So since the tattling has never and will never work, what do I do to quit being so bitter?

I’m not totally sure, but I think that bitterness is indicative of a heart problem of my own which would be pride. In my subconscious, I’m right and they are wrong, and that means I am better than them.

Here’s the problem, my rightness and their wrongness holds no bearing on my innate value in the eyes of God. Though I cringe as I type this (hello heart problem) I am on the same level of value in God’s eyes as The Donald. We are all equally special, whether we are sinning or not sinning. Whether we are humble, proud, studied, insensitive, whatever. He loves us all exactly the same.

That is a beautiful thing when I think about it real hard and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Because if there were ever able to be favorites in the eyes of God, I am sure I wouldn’t be His favorite, because I just can’t hustle hard enough to get into someone’s good graces. You either like me or you don’t. And I just imagine God wouldn’t were He the type to have favorites. This put the hustle to death, and gives a wide open space for God’s grace to prevail. And that is a good, good thing.

When I’m really mad though, and when I am blowing the Holy Spirit off like I do it for a living, It just really annoys me. I’ve done so much work on my heart. I care about injustice. I love Jesus like for real, and I’m not using Him to get voters, or further my cause, or to make my hashtag catch on better. I’ve studied the life of Jesus, and I feel that more often than not, I would be trailing after him, were he alive and walking on the earth. And it’s taken me a lot of hard work, and a lot of painful realizations about what an asshole I was/am to get me here. And it just doesn’t seem real fair you know?

Christians who are willfully ignorant get to just chill in the comfort of their certainty, and the rest of us who care get to do all the work. Including the work that the willfully ignorant add to the steaming pile by being jerks to everyone not remotely like them.

So yeah. It’s hard not to be bitter in this sociopolitical climate in which I find myself in.

The other day I told my friend (as an act of my will, I wasn’t feeling this on the inside) that it takes a lot of work to change what we believe. It’s harder to grow than it is to just stay the same, and its definitely more uncomfortable. And people are busy. And life is hard. And if we are never confronted with a reason to change our convictions they why would we? If we were raised a certain way thinking certain things, think of all the people we will betray when we change. Sometimes it’s everyone we hold dear. Sometimes it means we light a match to everything. What courage that takes.

This doesn’t make it okay to be wrong. If we are wrong we have a responsibility to get right in the eyes of God. But it makes it easier to understand why people are the way they are, and why they do the things they do. And it reminds me that this is Holy Spirit work. Not Blaire work. I can only live as right a life as I know how, and pray that I will be a living witness. I cannot however make people change their hearts.

For me this is the foundation of grace that will help me uproot that wretched bitterness tree that I accidentally let grow in my heart. That, and the constant reminder that my value is not connected to my rightness.

Grace and Humility. Humility and Grace. In equal doses until I die. May I live in it and never forget it ever.

Standing with Orlando: Choosing Something New

50 people dead, and 53 more injured and I am sitting at these keys being awfully bossy with God about light, and hope, and peace, and evil, and about all of His attributes, begging… No telling Him. You must not let another victim die. The death toll stops here, at 50. No one else dies from their injuries. Reminding God just how strong and powerful He is. How able He is to do so much more than we can even imagine.

All the while fighting back the need to ask, “well why in the first place.”

It feels like holding my breath under water. But I’ll just keep holding it, and just keep reminding God Most High of who He is and what He stands for, and of the 53 injured victims that need Him so badly right now.

Later I might exhale that breath and let the flood come, and begin the cosmic wrestling match, but right now, they need me, and they need Him so I’ll just keep holding it.

God is just fine with all of this. The bossing, and the only dealing with what I can deal with at this moment. He honors it, and He is here with me in His Fullness, though I can only give Him half of me at best.

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To the victims and their families: I am so sorry. There is nothing anyone can say that can erase the trauma. Nothing anyone can say to bring your family member back. So the only thing I will say is I am so, so sorry, and follow it with my silent presence and prayer.

To my LGBTQ brothers and sisters: In the coming days, so much talking and conjecturing and deciding and opinionating will be done. Ignore it, and turn your gaze from the grimy sin-stained world to the beauty all around us. Toward the community you find yourself in. Toward the beauty in creation. Toward whatever makes your soul dance. There will be this powerful temptation to withdrawal your presence from society for the sake of safety. Resist it. Be boldly and beautifully you. Don’t let the hatred that was enacted upon our community quell your unique birthright to exist upon this earth as your whole self.  Be Brave, and Be Together. Fighting for one another, and completely united in common space, and difference.

To the Conservative religious Right: Please. Close your mouths. Don’t say anything. Don’t comment about gay people, and about muslim people. Don’t talk about terrorist attacks, and hate crimes. Don’t mention muslim immigration and the second amendment. Don’t you dare talk about potential presidents, and laws or regulations or people that would have prevented x,y,z.

Though this was not an act perpetrated by a radical Christian, don’t think your hate spewed from every news channel, and every social media outlet isn’t not a driving factor in the death and injury of over a hundred victims that just so happen to be the part of the group you malign the most: the LGBTQ community. You have created a society where minorities, and especially sexual minorities, are hated and feared, and you’re not off the hook.

And before you’re tempted to blow these words off, as inconsequential, because you know you’re on the side of righteousness, no matter who lives or dies, or who perpetrates what crimes against who, let me share the words of Jesus, your champion, so that you can make an informed decision.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 8:9-14

If I were you I would choose humble repentance, but the operative word is choice, and the truth is I can beg and plead for your humble silence on these matters, but you might just not be silent. Just remember, while Jesus was on earth he worked to his dying breath to redeem a lost world. How many of your breaths have been used lately for anything but fear-mongering, hatred, and oppression? Do you think there’s a possibility that you might be doing it wrong?

To the people of the World: We’ve tried hate. We’ve tried vengeance. We’ve tried teaching violent lessons to people unlike us. We’ve tried building walls. It’s not working. And it won’t ever work. 

It’s time to try something new. Like unity in the face of difference. Like courage in the face of fear. Like love. These are choices we must make over and over and over again, not just once. In every place and in every space we find ourselves, it is our humanly duty to choose to see and value the lives around us.

The operative word is choice. It’s time we chose something new.

Reconciliation: the responsibility of wives too

So a perfect church is not a thing.

You guys, I wish it was a thing. I sit in the rows of my imperfect church week after week after week, and will it toward perfection. But week after week after week, I am confronted with the reality that perfection within these walls just wont ever be. It is a goal that we will never reach. This isn’t to say I shouldn’t try to do my part to get us there. This is to say that perfection isn’t possible for anyone this side of heaven.

Not to mention that perfection is a super subjective term. My idea of a perfect church would likely make my grandparents pray for my salvation. So there’s that whole garbage heap to wade through when we are talking about this topic.

By perfect I don’t mean it has the very best music. The most comfortable seating. The most engaging preaching, or the best weekday activities. None of that.

I just mean that it is the most like church when God’s kingdom finally and fully does come to earth for good. Meaning that from the pulpit we never hear anything that damages. Meaning that it’s leaders don’t ever unintentionally push people away rather than welcome with an open embrace. Perfection in the sense that hope is always perfectly instilled and perfectly realized within it’s walls, where regardless of skin color, gender, socioeconomic background, qualifications… whatever… we know we are God’s children, and we are important and loved and valued just like everyone else. Just the way God love us all.

And its so frustrating, to be a woman in an imperfect church. I’m sure it’s frustrating to be lots of things in an imperfect church. But the only thing that is hard for me is to be a woman in an imperfect church. It’s my claim to pain. So that’s a lot of what I write about. A lot of what I talk about too for those who are unlucky enough to get trapped in deep conversation with the likes of me. I can be… how to say… INTENSE.

But whatever. i’m alright with it.

Anyway.

I was at church this morning and the preacher was talking about bitterness and about how to let it go. I love this topic. Because God has done so much work in me, through this process of releasing bitterness, so seriously. It’s my holy jam. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says forgiven, because I care so much about reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s a very big deal for me.

And the preacher was knocking it out of the park like he normally does. Just saying all the right things in all the right ways. But then he paused to get serious with us for a moment. And he turned the topic to marriage.

Right off the bat I bristled. Part of being a woman in an imperfect church I suppose, but marriage is so loaded for me. I bring a shit load of baggage with me every time I enter that church building. Lots of the suitcases are named marriage. So to brace for impact when marriage is preached from the pulpit is a knee-jerk, and one that I am pretty okay with to tell you the truth. Some great, giant, gaping wounds I’ve had to heal from have come at the hands of the church’s preaching on “godly marriage”.

You guys, guess what he said. That the job of reconciliation within marriage falls on the shoulders of the husband.

I  nearly yelled, “I object.” But he’s on a big screen, so it wouldn’t have done any good, and it would have been totally and completely weird anyway. I did message my friend that very moment, and she asked me what I was going to do about it. Piss and moan was my response. Aka blog about it.

Why do I object you ask? Lot and lots of reasons. For starters, in my own marriage this is not how it happens. Sometimes my husband reaches his hand across the bed, and sometimes I do. Neither of us are very good at it, but I’d say we split this duty, and it makes sense. Sometimes I feel a heavy weight of misery, and I want to throw things across the house. And he breaks the spell by bringing us back down to earth with a kind word or a gentle reminder. And sometime the opposite happens. We carry one another in this holy responsibility, and we stay humble in this way also.

But there was a time when our marriage was in such turmoil that neither of us was concerned at all for reconciliation at all. We walked around in a haze of anger and resentment, blaming one another for the pain and hurt we felt. And at that point in time when my marriage was going down the shitter, who do you think began the reconciliation process? It was me. (Don’t pat me on the back yet. I had less to do with it than you might think.)

I remember laying in bed, and begging God to change him. I don’t know how many nights in a row I prayed that. Let’s just say it was a good long while.

Then there was the night when God had had enough of my whiny ass, and he finally spoke to my request. He said in a slightly annoyed voice, “Maybe you should stop worrying about him changing and change yourself. You’ve got plenty of issues to work on.”

And I was all, “Oh.. um.. I guess you’re right.”

And that’s how our marriage was saved. I just quit blaming him for my issues, and didn’t even worry about his issues (and there were many). And on my good days I still don’t worry about his issues. We just carry on, and bear the load of our own responsibilities and find grace for when the two overlap and cause harm to the other.

So how damaging for the pastor to get up in front of thousand and thousand of married couple and say, “husbands, the job of reconciliation falls to you.”

What about wives who have husband who will not seek reconciliation no matter how awful things get? And what about wives who attend church on Sundays alone without a believing spouse? They’ve just been handed a reason to be hopeless. If it’s really their husbands job and their husband won’t, then what can they do? Just remain in bitterness unreconciled until their marriage dissolves or until they die? And why did the pastor hand wives a free pass? Because I promise you, God is not handing out that free pass.

If you are a wife, and you are not seeking reconciliation with your husband, even if your husband isn’t seeking it either, you are accountable for that. And the choice to remain in bitterness is a sin. And I know it can feel really good to misplace your sin upon another, but just don’t. Your husband has plenty of sin to sort through, as do you. As we ALL do.

And the only person God’s going to accept you misplacing your sin upon is his son. Jesus. Not your husband, even if your pastor says so.

I don’t want to make light of how difficult marriage can be. Until the advent of teenagers within my home I would vehemently say to any and all who would listen, “Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done.” Now raising teens and being married are neck and neck, but you guys, marriage is so freaking hard. And the act of reconciliation doesn’t just happen overnight for a marriage that’s been unhealthy for a long time, but someone has to start the process. It could be a husband. It could be a wife. But however it happens in your life, I promise, it will be some of the most profound and holy work you’ve ever done. So don’t wait. Start the process now, and God’s Holy Spirit that is living in your very body will aid the process. You won’t be sorry.

As for imperfect churches that preach imperfect messages, that sometimes impart hopelessness, and sometimes encourage a disownership of sin… I don’t even know. She means well, this broken body of Christ. And reconciliation will be complete one day.

Until then I’ll just keep showing up. And keep pissing and moaning. And keep loving wives, and husband, and singles with the love of Christ, until I just can’t anymore.

Maranatha.

That time I judged speeches for the FFA

 

Black Leg will kill your cows. If you don’t vaccinate your cow against black leg your cow could get it, and then… almost certain death follows, and pretty swiftly. Once your cow dies from Black Leg, you need to bury the corpse 6 feet under the ground, or burn said corpse so it doesn’t spread. Like a freaking zombie or something.

This makes me wonder how difficult it must be to either bury or burn a cow corpse. Think of the hole. The size of a small swimming pool I’d imagine. Think of the smell. Like… steak on the grill, with a little funk maybe?

Yesterday, I spent the day judging the impromptu speeches for the Kentucky Capitol City Future Farmers of America Regional Competition. When my friend’s son asked me last night to judge I was all, “That sounds cool, and interesting.” He took that as seriously as a signature on a binding contract. I was going to judge, and there would be no cold feet.

So I woke up yesterday morning, dropped my baby at my friend’s and headed to Henry County High School. Then I rode a bus to Midway University, for an afternoon of farm-talk surrounded by future farmers in navy corduroy jackets.

It’s been years since I’ve ridden a bus. It is literally the same as it has been since I began riding buses at the age of 6 or 7 or something like that. They look and feel exactly the same. A variation of blue or gray flooring, blue or brown pleather seats, windows that slide half way down when you pull those two little clips. Seems like buses would advance with the times, like cell phones or televisions. But no. They remain a relic of the days of their creation, changing, very little. This brings me a weird undefinable comfort. When the world rushes toward the next great thing, buses do not. They remain steady and unchanging as the east wind. What a relief that something in life is dependable.

Where was I?

Ah yes. Black leg. As I stated earlier, I was tasked with judging the beef speeches. (I thanked the Lord many times for predestining me for the beef speeches instead of the lawn and turf speeches. Small blessings and all.) The entire time I wanted to make bad beef jokes, but resisted the temptation with no small amount of effort.

And the speeches started, and it was just painful to watch. It brought back all those awful high school anxieties I had relegated to my distant past. Wasn’t being a teenager hard you guys? How did we even make it through?

I guess the same way everyone does. And the same way these poor impromptu speech deliverers did. On sheer force of will.

Speech after nervous speech delivered in front of me and my co-judge, who actually farms and is actually involved in FFA, and actually knew what the hell he was doing. And the speech topics were interesting enough (the first couple of times anyway) but even more interesting was watching teenagers figure out how to manage the fear responses they had.

The poor kids did not manage well. Lots of umm’s and and’s, and shaking hands. One poor dear actual got winded beginning of her speech. Another one went on so many random disorganized tangents that I bit my cheek not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of what was coming out of her mouth (“beagles need vaccines” and the like). One chick feeds her cows their own warts as way to build their immunity, which upon hearing, caused such a violent reaction within me that they had to revive me wth smelling salts (I kid, but it is vile no?)

On the whole it just made me want to hug them all. And tell them they did a fantastic job for even having the guts to step out of their comfort zone and deliver an impromptu speech to begin with. What gumption! I am so proud of them!

The most distinguished speech of the day was a boy with disabilities and a heavy speech impediment.

Before I go any further let me admit something right away: Though I have been around disabled people my whole life, I am sadly undereducated on the issue. I don’t know the proper way to feel about people with disabilities. My tongue does not know what sentence structure or words to use when talking about people with disabilities that bring them the most respect. Am I being patronizing or dismissive with the way I talk, think, or feel? Is it more polite to acknowledge or ignore an obvious disability? If I screw this next part up, please meet me with grace, and please, please, please leave me feedback. I don’t want to stay ignorant.

Also, I’m not trying to start any beef. (I CAN ONLY HOLD BACK FOR SO LONG OMG SORRY.)

But anyway, there we were expecting to hear the same nervous rambling about black leg, and scours, and pink eye, but he picked a different, more difficult topic altogether, which perked my ears right up. He then proceeded to deliver the most soundly prepared and well thought out impromptu speech of the day.

And the whole time I was just floored. Because his level of excellence was just so far above the rest of the competitors, and he was disabled.

This caused so much turmoil within me. Was I exaggerating how well he did because I felt sorry for him, and subconsciously wanted him to win? Did I expect him to do worse from the get-go because of his disability? Should I feel sorry for him to begin with? I don’t imagine he wants my pity, and I don’t even know if he deserves it. I imagined what an amazing speaker he could without a disability that effects his speech then immediately felt guilty. He was doing fine with his disability, and he really doesn’t need to be “fixed” does he?

In short, I was a hot mess inside my head.

Afterward, it was about all my co-judge and I could do not to give him a standing ovation on the way out, and once the door finally closed we turned to each other and nearly burst at the seems to collaborate on how much we loved the speech. We talked awkwardly in half words about his speech impediment being a non-factor (“You can’t hold it against him, you know. I understood all of what he said anyway.” I nodded wondering how to be appropriate in this strange place I found myself, and took a little solace in the fact that my co-judge didn’t know either.

He won first place. Honestly. We didn’t skew the judging in his favor because we felt sorry for him. He honestly and handily beat all the other students, by virtue of the fact that his was really the only well-organized, entirely engaging speech of the day. He made eye contact with us nearly the entire time. His notes, which he glanced at maybe once a minute, served as gentle guidelines helping him flow from one topic to the next with ease. He actually taught me a different way to think about beef cattle, which is the point right?

And on the bus ride home, I came to terms with the fact that I have a long way to go when it comes to relating to people with disabilities. Maybe we all do. Where do we go from here?

Part 2: Change is a grassroots type thing.

I think the beauty of this whole redemptive thing lies in Jesus’ model for disciple making. Which is actually the very thing I am learning about in that church leadership class.

Jesus didn’t spend all of his time with the masses. In fact, he spent the vast majority of his short time in ministry with a few guys who were a hot mess.

What are the implications?

That change within the church walls can happen subversively. I don’t need an ear of influence to begin turning the tides of hatred. I just need an ear. And said ear does not need to have it all together. In fact, my pulse quickens when I meet people who have cast off their Churchianity, and are living genuine real authentic lives that are full of sin, and screw-ups, but also full of pursuit, and repentance, and humility, and humanity, and love.

Because plastic people who have no time to learn an outside point of view are a waste of my time anyway. I’ll be banging my head for decades if they are my focus, and I’ll get elbowed out in the end anyway.

If the result will be the same, why not take the most effective route, with the real live people, with real flesh and blood, who hear stories, and take them seriously.

Duh, Blaire.

Maybe the pall of hopelessness is lifting, and maybe the perspective is shifting exactly the way it needs to.

My sister, who is a mom of 6 got to hear about the teenager in front of the mic who wanted to commit suicide, and tears welled in her eyes, and spilled over, and rolled down her cheeks. It broke her heart to think she might have at some point taken part in a dangerous theology that might have contributed to a child, feeling like suicide was the best option.

Did I mention she’s got 6 kids? Kids who will bring this issue home with them one day, and she may not have every theological thing worked out perfectly, but she will be able to tell them the story of the boy with a tie around his neck. And she’ll expect them to make certain mental leaps about the humanity of gay people. And she’ll pray that she raised them to be part of the solution, and not the problem.

My dear friend has 8 kids, and she got to hear the same story. And her heart broke too, because she has a teenage boy, and teenage girls, and no teenager should ever be so hopeless that they want to kill them self.

Did I mention she has 8 kids?

These are two people, who do not have all the theological answers. They are learning about Side A and Side B and they are learning the verses attached to the issues, but they are far from having it known.

But what they do have is a broken heart. And children to lead.

And just like that there are 16 individuals who have a shot at genuinely loving LGBT people. And all I did was tell a story and get out of God’s way.

Man, It feels good to be a gangster.

So rather than engaging the establishment (Jesus never did that. It’s a cultural construct to think that that would be my first step) I will engage the “unimportant” and let the work of Christ spread like grass roots. Because it will. It always does.