Roots and Sky: Book Giveaway and Reflecting on Home

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There are a handful of books I’m reading simultaneously – I do that because I’m impatient and want to digest everything at once. Drew Hart’s Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and Diana Butler Bass’s Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution. It’s very random but they all hit various points of need for me right now and in usual fashion, I’m devouring them, which means I am in essence skimming and writing/underlining the parts that slap me in the face.

But, Christie Purifoy‘s book – I’m reading this book by ever so slowly. Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons is a journal of sorts, in which “Christie slowly unveils the trials and triumphs of that first year at Maplehurst [her new home in Pennsylvania] – from summer’s intense heat and autumn’s glorious canopy to winter’s quiet grief and spring’s unexpected mercies. Through stories of planting and preserving, of opening the gates wide to neighbors, and of learning to speak the language of a place, Christie invites you into the heartache and joy of small beginnings and the wonder of a God who would make his home with us.” (From the back cover of the book)

Besides being wowed by her pedigree (degrees in English from University of Chicago – I’m still shallow this way, it’s the Korean in me that’s overly-impressed by people who get their doctorates), I was moved by the depth of theological articulation interwoven in these pages – heartfelt and beautiful, and definitely anything but shallow. It’s providing so much for me right now – perspective, possibility, and joy. Because it’s a sanctuary. It’s a space that is allowing me to come back to myself and one that encourages me to simply pay attention to what is happening around me. There’s something about the genuine and honest way she engages the tension between the ordinary and holy because occupying that space in-between is not easy. But the way Christie writes about this sense of wandering and home, I see that this beautiful struggle is necessary. It’s food for our souls. We need this way of being and seeing not only to survive the everyday but periodically revel in the glory of God’s grace.

'We must learn to walk with God on the ground of our own lives.'Click To Tweet

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Somehow I got two copies of this incredible book in the mail. A few of us did and that’s such a sweet surprise because since I love it so much I’m going to have to give it away. I love sending mail and will include a couple of extra little treats with it.

If you’d like to enter to win Christie’s new book each thing you do below will give you a single entry:
1. Drop me a line in the comments section here,
2. Tweet at me on Twitter
3. Like/Follow my Facebook page because though I do post my content there I also post a shitton of other people I read and follow and likely good stuff for you to read, too.

I’ll do the drawing on Tuesday 2/2 (release day!) Consider, seriously, buying it anyway as a gift for anyone who loves beautiful and encouraging stories.

Deeper Story: Orcas, Theology, Gynecology, and a Baptism

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An old post:

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent.

My mind is spinning. Is Christmas really this week? As in, 4 days from now. As in, somehow a whole month has flown by. As in, this year is almost over.

Howhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhowhow is this possible…?

Ok. Breathe. I need to come to terms with this reality. And, it’s fine. It’s really fine. Seriously.

We paused for a moment that night, Andy and I. We watched Blackfish – story of killer whales and how they are exploited. Maybe an odd choice for this season. First movie in a while so we’re a little rusty at choosing movies. Kids were all down. I was folding laundry – willingly – because there was an unusual but welcome peace in the house.  The movie was really compelling and informative, but still…Good God. I mean, please, Jesus help us. I posted on Facebook:

Just finished watching Blackfish. I’m so incredibly depressed. I hate everyone and everything. #humanssuck #allgodscreatures

What felt really the most horrible was watching orca calves be stripped from their mothers. These are creatures that are highly social and have complex family systems – their “languages” are even different for each clan. When the main killer whale in the documentary, Tilikum, was taken from his mother in the Northwestern wild oceans the female orcas stayed nearby wailing their protestation and helplessness. Likewise when calves (remember Shamu?) were taken from their mothers in captivity (like for Seaworld) they recorded the sounds of the mother orca in the pool for 24 hours. The caretakers had never heard that particular sound before and brought in analysts who explained they were doing long range vocals that were truly unique. One of the trainers explained pretty pointedly: “It makes sense. They were grieving.” These orcas were trying to make their voices heard so that the calves would know how to get back to the mothers. But, even in their persistent song, I wonder if they despaired knowing it was futile.

A song of mourning.

...O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear...Click To Tweet

I can’t get those orca sounds out of my head.

II

Today’s text in church was from Isaiah again but this time with the explicit words about a young woman bearing a child called Immanuel. God-With-Us. Even if it might be exegetically off to totally tie these words to Jesus (a hard lesson in OT101) one can’t help but think of Mary the virgin, and God’s radical proximity to us in that little bundle – the precious bun in the oven. Andy’s sermon was really lovely, and all about what I needed to hear in terms of paying attention – how children and babies demand our attention constantly, whether there’s a pressing need (food, water/milk, dirty diaper, sleep) or simply for cuddles and skin-to-skin contact. 

The attention God gives us is likewise relentless, and undeniably much like a mother that positions herself - literally orients herself - towards her newborn.Click To Tweet

Of course, there’s mention of the virgin birth, and I can’t help but stumble over it again. But, Andy read this great Frederick Buechner quote:

The earliest of the four Gospels makes no reference to it, and neither does Paul, who wrote earlier still. On later evidence, however, many Christians have made it an article of faith that it was the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph who got Mary pregnant. If you believe God was somehow in Christ, it shouldn’t make much difference to you how he got there. If you don’t believe, it should make less difference still. In either case, life is complicated enough without confusing theology and gynecology.

In one sense anyway the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is demonstrably true. Whereas the villains of history can always be seen as the products of heredity and environment, the saints always seem to arrive under their own steam. Evil evolves. Holiness happens.

Man. Buechner both kills me (in terms of humor…for some reason I laughed out loud – it felt loud since I was the only one in the pews around me – after hearing the words “theology and gynecology”) and wrecks me (in terms of feeling something that’s buried so deep come rushing to the surface like a whale that breaches the ocean waves and with a splash disappears beneath leaving a little frothiness behind).

Holiness happens. Whether we like it or agree with it or are confused by it.Click To Tweet

And I thought I’d want to write something about how much we’ve confused theology and gynecology in terms of limiting women, silencing women, oppressing women throughout the ages, and how this meant the emphasis on the virginity of Mary was more important than her courage or obedience, and how if we really think about it and parse it out it would mean the Holy Spirit – who is God – had sex with Mary – and she somehow gave birth to Jesus, who is also God and one with the Holy Spirit, so God gave birth to God…? It doesn’t make much sense to go there, and it really doesn’t help either way. Whatever.  The emphasis on something that is pretty moot in my book takes away from the point of it all – that God came into this world and joined us. And for what reason…? It blows my mind. Because seriously, the human race pretty much sucks, and documentaries like Blackfish remind me just how much.

III

And then, my son, Desmond. He strikes again! is what I’m thinking as I watch him trip slow motion backwards into the stand holding the blue pitcher of water for the baptismal font. I gasp and mouth the word Nooooooooooooooooo dramatically as it topples off into the lap of an unsuspecting girl. I flinch like I got hit with a water balloon even though it doesn’t come near me. Somehow this girl manages to keep it from hitting the chancel stairs too hard, so it doesn’t break – Thank. God. – but the water spills everywhere.

Lord Jesus, why??? Pastor Rachel says something to lighten the tension but I just want to crawl under the pews until the service is over and everyone has gone home. What am I doing wrong??? As I hold him squirming in my lap and then pass him off to his dad so that I can grab Ozzie who is power crawling towards that same font I watch Maddie, another little girl older than the twins but whose mother and I share knowing glances all throughout the service. We often commiserate after service about whose children were worse. Maddie goes up to the baptismal font and…sticks her whole hand in there. And drinks the water in her hand. While Pastor Rachel is still doing her children’s sermon. She’s unfazed by it. Maddie even licks her fingers. I’m thinking, “Oh God!” kind of gross – surely that ain’t no holy water – but kind of wondrous and I’m laughing to myself.

I forget sometimes that the baptismal font is not just symbolic of cleansing but also for quenching that eternal thirst. I loved seeing Maddie do it so blatantly and … joyously. 

Right on, Maddie! You drink from the font, girl. Drink it to the dregs. Drink it up, drink up the love of God, the promise of God’s seal upon our lives, the water that never ceases to flow, drink it all up. 

It all seems so bleak and futile – our small lives – and all the destruction and ugliness feels like it is constantly winning. But it’s not.

People gather to protest and resist the darkness and to call for freedom, and huddle together around the small spring of water that gives life to the multitudes,Click To Tweet

It is a baby once again that reminds me of God, baby Eli being baptized today, reminded me of God on high drawing near to us, and always in the most unexpected places, holiness happens.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Making Peace not War

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There’s a war on women’s bodies.

Earlier this year, a 33 year-old Indiana resident named Purvi Patel was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. She had sought medical attention in a Mishawaka, Indiana emergency room for excessive vaginal bleeding and eventually revealed to the medical team that she had miscarried, and disposed of the fetus in a dumpster, which was later discovered there by authorities. At the crux of the legal case was the issue of whether Patel had miscarried or self-aborted, whether she had delivered a live baby or a nonliving fetus, and whether her pregnancy was even far enough along to deliver a viable live child.

Yet, Patel is not the first woman to be convicted of feticide here in Indiana as she follows Bei Bei Shuai, who in March 2011 was charged with the murder and attempted feticide of her child and jailed for 435 days.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

About a month ago Bloomingdale’s ran a shiny Christmas holiday ad: A woman is dressed in a black skirt and white cardigan clutching a white purse looking to her right laughing at a conversation or joke. To her left is a man in a tuxedo looking at her with a secret in his eyes. In the space between the two people is the following copy: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” Bloomingdale’s later apologized for it.

Earlier this year Budweiser had a similar ad with the tagline: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.”

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

There was a massacre in my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado. A white American terrorist armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire went on a rampage at the Planned Parenthood. According to the New York Times he “began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.” He spouted sentiments like “no more baby parts,” and was described by later as a “recluse who longed for women and mixed religion with rage.”

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In October, an Indiana University student was arrested over the weekend after police say he attacked a Muslim woman, yelling racially charged comments at her and trying to remove her headscarf. Police on Monday did not identify the woman, but said that she had been dining in a Bloomington, Indiana, restaurant’s outdoor seating area Saturday night with her 9-year-old daughter when she was approached by the 19 year old male who was yelling things like “white power,” “kill the police” and derogatory statements about black people.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In July five women died in police custody: Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones and Raynette Turner were all found dead in their cells after being arrested by local authorities.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

Here’s the thing about the Planned Parenthood tragedy. “The shooting last Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was horrifying, but according to a former Planned Parenthood worker, it wasn’t shocking,” (emphasis mine). The former employee goes on to note, “the attack that left three people dead was a continuation of decades of extremist tactics directed at the health care organization’s facilities, staff, volunteers and patients,” as found in this recent Mic article. This former employee went on to explain in detail the various tactics people would employ to harass and terrorize the clinic, and make it a place that employees feared going to for work.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In a day and age where what matters is fiercely contested on every turf and street what does it mean to say that our bodies matter?

That what is fundamental to our humanity is anchored in our flesh, our faces, our skin, our cells, our blood in every possible way? Click To Tweet

There are so many ways we can expand the reality that bodies matter, and yes, all bodies matter. As Advent allows us space to consider the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, what would it mean to enter into the story of God? To enter into the Son of God coming into the world through the body of a woman, theotokos? How can we let that shape our language, our policies, our systems around the undeniable reality that bodies must matter after all?

To label the realities of violence upon the bodies of those marginalized, often women, often women, women of color, transgender women, and transgender women of color is a way of agency and enacting of power. Though employing a rhetoric of war and violence is often viewed as problematic it is actually one way towards peace – speaking truth, telling the real stories, and naming clearly the realities that are there. It is preparing a way, it is making smooth the rough and leveling the ground.

For those of us who have experienced that violence and long for and hunger after that peace in our flesh and blood we feel those powers against us, and to name it is a way to hold onto and embody that sliver of peace.Click To Tweet

As we journey towards the second Sunday of Advent having feasted on hope, may we name, make, embody peace.

#bodiesmatter

Picking Flowers

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To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.

– Karl Barth

It’s gray and wet today. Like a spring day closing the books on a long winter. It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and then Advent, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s too balmy to be on the verge of winter.

Except it doesn’t feel like the cathartic relief that comes from seeing those first blooms on the trees or crocuses pushing up through remnants of snow. Post after post on any social media is something about the Paris attacks, something about Syrian refugee children, something about Africa and bombings, something about women being incarcerated or killed, something about guns and violence and hunger and terror. It feels weighty and somber, lonely and dark. I want to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers until Christmas.

But then, there’s the video of the father who tries to reassure his son after the Paris attacks last week. The father tells his son, “They have guns. But we have flowers.”

We have flowers.

I keep thinking about this past summer and how relentless Anna was when it came to picking flowers. We couldn’t go out anywhere anytime when she wouldn’t stop to pick flowers along the road. Maybe at the park. Maybe riding bikes on the B-Line. Maybe walking through the Target parking lot. Maybe our front yard after I just planted some. Flowers, all the time, and she would give them to me, a handful of weeds with the roots hanging off, saying each time, “I know you love flowers.”

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Every morning on the drive to the children’s preschool we sing songs. Days of the Week where we sing “There’s Sunday and there’s Monday…” through to Saturday to the tune of the Adams Family. Instead of snapping our fingers we click our tongues. Sometimes “Rise and Shine,” and old familiar tunes, as I am reminded by Stina Busman Jost at her blog, like “Deep and Wide” and “I’ve Got a River of Life.” But they sing their songs, too, the ones that they are learning at Gan Shalom about Baby Beluga and the Shabbat songs and blessings. They’ve been interested in learning the ones that punctuate our Sunday worship services, too. The Kyrie. The Gloria Patri. The Doxology. The Sanctus when we have communion. We sing each one. Over and over.

Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

I sing allowing the desperation tinge my voice while clutching the wheel for dear life like hands clasped in prayer. And then we go into the songs that praise and sing hosanna and acknowledge that heaven and earth are full of God’s glory. But, the Kyrie stays with me throughout the day. Like every flower – no matter how small or minute – Anna insists on putting in a glass full of water next to my laptop. Always there. This song feels like a protest chant – its persistent roots hanging off reminding me of the life that anchored it to the soil, words that live always on the edge of winter and spring. Because even as we sing these words, calling for mercy, we do so with the hope and belief that God’s mercy is already there.

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I roll out of bed and land on my knees. Push myself up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the sanctified work that’s there in front of me like Sarah Bessey reminds me. Keep looking. Keep seeing. Keep feeling. Keep trying to love like there’s no tomorrow. Love hard. Love recklessly. Hug a little longer. Play those irrational and illogical games with the twins. Read that board book with Ozzie for the 917th time. Try to answer Andy’s question about the schedule for the 15th time without exasperation. Let bathtime be like a baptism each night, and let the sweat that rolls off my face after a long run be an anointing. Laugh, cook, drink, clean, make a huge mess, sit and stare out the window. Let all of it mean something, mean gratitude, mean earnestness and hope, mean life abundant. And tell the children stories about this abundant life – how it’s meant to be shared, how it’s meant to be experienced by every single human being – even if it means we might have to tell the stories that are sad and hard. Because that’s okay. Those are the ones that will hopefully shape their empathy and compassion. All of it. All of it is necessary for life right now. All this work is worship.

Because all work can be worship, songs are prayers, prayers are protests, and picking flowers is resistance. Click To Tweet

Anna Flower

When Spiking Your Best Friend’s Drink Is Okay

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Image above came from this tweet.

This was a week, no, actually a month, of one major uproar over another.

Football players. Halloween costumes. Frat parties. Ivy League professors and free speech. And then the above image tweeted out and the question why people were not in more of an uproar about it compared to the unbelievably lopsided insanity around the Starbucks’ coffee cups during the holiday season.

Because this Bloomingdale’s ad is blatantly and unabashedly violent towards women. I don’t care that they apologized for it already. It’s another example of the persistent war on women’s lives and bodies, and another reminder that women matter less. How anyone in Bloomingdale’s marketing department decided this would be at all appealing or appropriate is beyond me, I mean, didn’t we go through this recently with Budweiser? Remember:

The tag line: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.”

It literally was this past year. A beer company that thought it would be okay to perpetuate the insidious rape culture all around us. Now, it’s a high-end retailer, a department store, one of the ultimate symbols of privilege and wealth, an emblem of impossible standards of beauty, and a bastion of utter capitalism and wastefulness, it’s Bloomingdale’s that thinks it can get away with rape culture because its ad is couched in this cliche chatter of oh-so-cute-best-friend romance and holiday-oops-lets-get-drunkenness.

Let’s get this straight. It’s never okay to spike your best friend’s drink. It’s never okay to spike your friend’s drink. It’s never okay to spike your date’s drink. It’s never okay to spike anyone’s drink. Period.

This isn't just about the culture of consent, but a culture of respect for every fellow human being.Click To Tweet

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Even now. Even at this very moment, when I think back to the summer of 2000, and that night, though I don’t have evidence of it, I know 100% in my flesh and blood that I did not drink enough to black out, and that one of the young men in the house hosting the party slipped something into my drink, but I still feel responsible, I still feel like it was my fault, I still feel like I deserved to wake up the next morning completely naked next to someone who was basically a stranger, confused and disoriented, ashamed and lost. Maybe I encouraged him. NO. I clearly remember at least that part, saying, NO, and trying to leave his room, and he shut the door and stood in front of it, and I said, No, No, No, and then the world went dark. 

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I’m reminded, and frantic, almost, by the reality that I am raising a daughter in a world where the culture keeps imposing this horrific notion that women’s bodies are to be drugged and taken advantage, or that they are deserving of state-sanctioned violence, or that they are to be incarcerated or prostituted or abused or trafficked by the dominant culture. I KEEP HEARING THE ANGUISH IN THAT YOUNG BLACK FEMALE STUDENT’S VOICE AS SHE RIGHTFULLY DEMANDED HOW COULD THE RESIDENT ADVISOR AND PROFESSOR NOT SEE THAT THE ISSUE WAS ABOUT SAFETY? DIGNITY??? I don’t care that she shrieked or screamed or cursed because I was there with her – it was ultimately about her effort to protect her body, and realizing that terrible reality that women’s bodies are ever in danger. And, I struggle, STRUGGLE with how we need to teach our sons that women’s bodies are to be respected not because they are someone’s sister, daughter, or mother, but simply because they have the imago dei, the imprint of humanity and divinity on their skin and in their cells, and they are of value.

These ads remind me that women’s bodies are constantly being trafficked – their physical bodies, the images of their bodies, and the worth of their bodies. And I am aware of the various ways that women of color and transgendered women and then transgendered women of color – their bodies are appropriated and commodified, too, and always in danger, just look at the statistics – nearly 1 in 5 American women are raped in their lifetime (19%), and half of those rapes are “drug/alcohol-facilitated rapes.” Look at the number of black women jailed and killed, AAPI women like Purvi Patel convicted and jailed, and trans women of color murdered on the streets. I think of the words of my sister, Austin, who wrote a piece recently reminding me of the ways that the reality of sexual violence towards black women gets lost in these movements. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman says that “Black women are the Black church,” but these issues of gender inequity and disparity ultimately begin within the church just as much as in the department stores or beer companies. And so, we need to be diligent, we need to name the ways both rape and purity culture go hand-in-hand to bind up our girls, with words, images, and stories, with physical violence, pitting the value of women against one another, and it will have to be the Church that needs to be a part of this movement to decenter and dismantle purity discourses because they are rooted in religious institutions and language. 

No more lip service, we have too much to do to uphold the dignity of every single woman, and anyone who is marginalized within our walls, and in our communities.  Click To Tweet

Because it’s 2015, and it’s almost the holiday season. I don’t care or worry what’s on the outside of my cups, but I also shouldn’t worry about what’s being put in them either. And no one, no woman, should ever have to think about it.