What It Means

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I continue to cry on and off throughout the day. Tears of sadness. Tears of betrayal. Tears of confusion at the kind of community it seems we live in now – or apparently, have always lived in since we stepped foot in this country as immigrants.

I keep staring out the window wondering, Now what? 

We lost something on November 9th. More than an election. Something – call it humanity, compassion, hope – faltered and perished, and something in me, too.

A friend came over last night. To be in a safe space, somewhere she didn’t need to worry about how people read her – Is she Latina? Is she Arab? Is she a citizen? Is she undocumented? Is she a student? Is she a worker? Somewhere she could lash out and vent, rage and despair over what this election means now. What this election means in terms of the people around her, yes, but also what it means in terms of how the country views her as a woman, a woman of color, a young woman of color. Perhaps, that she will never be good enough, smart enough, capable enough, or that she will be all those things, and that she certainly is all that, but that in the end it won’t matter because they will still choose a man, a white man, even if in comparison he’s completely incompetent, morally devoid, and psychologically unstable.

I despair with her, for myself.

I despair with her for all the ways I have felt this defeat, and probably will in the future. For all the ways I’ve been told I’m not good enough, I do not belong, I should go back to my own country. And then, for the possibility of our little Anna, only five years old, what does this mean for her? Not only the question of women’s reproductive rights, the right to choose, Roe vs. Wade, but for what we believe about women? What they can do? What they are called to do?

What this election means right now is that hate, misogyny, and bigotry have won out. What it means is that racism and xenophobia are given free reign to fully and totally express themselves. What it means is that the utterly superficial platitudes of unity and reconciliation are just tools of white supremacy to get everyone in line. What it means is that this country has said very clearly who belongs here, who is safe, who is one of “us.” What it means is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid for myself. Afraid for my family. Afraid for loved ones and neighbors who have been targeted by Trump’s campaign these last two years. I’m not afraid to say anymore that I am afraid of whiteness, and white supremacy and for all the blatant and explicit, all the insidious and hidden ways it exists and perpetuates itself.

But, what it doesn’t mean is that I will roll over or that we will go running for Canada (maybe, Pittsburgh, though). For now, I will keep on doing the everyday, and feign some semblance of normalcy for the children, and continue to be hopeful and optimistic about our lives. Driving them to school. Going to the store. Attending church every week. Sports practices, music lessons, hikes, and somehow, making what we do together as a family mean something, for it to matter. We’ll keep trying to teach and model love, acceptance, dignity, consent as much as possible. We’ll keep doing work that matters – loving and leading our communities, and showing them that it does mean something.

God help us, we’re up against a lot. 

But. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m not alone. That we’re not alone. And that I can help others feel that they’re not alone either. I can be supportive of local groups and actions, and be an active part of these collectives and coalitions, and reach out to those groups in our community that need to know that we’re here for them and with them. I can work, to make this election mean something else, mean something good and real. And the little ways I can with what little I have at my fingertips – telling stories, lifting up those stories of those in the struggle, those who are fighting for what is right, for humanity, for the dignity of those who are considered the least of these. I’ll set that table wide, and fill it overflowing with good things to eat and share, and cram as many people around it as possible. I’ll look people in the eye as I pass them on the street and expect to see the imago dei, the image of the Divine, and all the beauty and courage possible.

What it means, is that I’ll keep trying, keep believing, keep hoping. 

“Today I believe in the possibility of love;
that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.”
― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

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.

#BeyondSundayMorning: Be the Sign

#BeyondSundayMorning: Be the Sign

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These are the days.

Natalie Merchant came on over the radio as we sat and sipped wine in the brightly lit kitchen that first night. Ministers gone wild is what Jim, one of our hosts, would call the weekend as his wife, Heidi filled up our glasses. Conversations about raising kids and remembering the first week in the church and then lamenting at the exhaustion and hearing how that does change a little when the kids go to school.

When they go to college?!?!? I shrieked, thinking, there’s no way I’m going to make it.

No, no, no, when they go to kindergarten, Heidi laughed. Oh. Thank God.

They talked more about their days, how these days go by so unbelievably fast, and stories of struggle and uncertainty, so human and thankfully real, and that made me think, I’m living those days right now. Truly, these are the days. These are the moments.

***

O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving-maid.
Show me a sign of your favour,
so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
-Psalm 86

There are days though that I long for a sign of God’s favor, whatever that might mean right now. I’m not in need of anything dramatic like something thundering from the skies or flaming trees, maybe just a whisper, an inkling, even a peripheral ghosting of that divine and human. Something that makes me breathe and remember and see in new ways, and point me in the right direction.

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” -Aslan in The Silver Chair

Thankful for these words – and thankful for the reminder from the preacher that maybe I’m the sign. Maybe the people gathered together are the sign. Maybe the candles we light together and bread and cup we share together are the signs.

***

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. -Ezekiel 34

Promises. They’re signs, too. When I feel like perhaps we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere it’s the promises of God’s presence and provision that helps me to see the road marked out in front of me. Even if the road is through valleys, even if the path looks like it’s going straight into an ocean, even if the road is covered in brambles and thorns. The promises are glimpses of that future utopia – a word that I take from Jose Estaban Munoz – an approach to hope as a critical methodology that can best be described as a backward glance that enacts a future vision (from his introduction in Cruising Utopia). To embody hope as perspective, posture, and pursuit – to embody the reign of Christ – to perform it, to enact and live it out – and I’m brought again to the church. How we are called out to do hope – it’s who we are as we have scriptures and stories rooted in resistance. Hope is the stuff of resistance. And so, we gather together weekly, and in gathering together around Word and words, sacrament and song, prayers and peace-passing, we resist the darkness. We receive God’s salvation.

And I will light candles tonight. For Marissa Alexander. For Michael Brown. For John Crawford. For Tamir Rice. For Akai Gurley. For Trayvon Martin. For countless others. For Emmett Till.

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Psalm 64

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

windshieldMy eyes flutter open. Reluctantly. I squeeze them shut trying to shut out the sounds of the twins already going at it about some god-forsaken book or toy this morning in their room next door. It’s not even light out. I crack one eye open and look at the clock.

6:11 AM.

Noooooooooooo. I can feel every aching joint and muscle and cell – even my skin hurts somehow. The tops of my feet are sore. Didn’t they just go down? I groan inwardly. It pushes itself out through my lips a little – an exhalation of pain. Andy mumbles, “What’s wrong.” Not as a question but a statement of fact. I don’t respond as I hear the escalating conflict rumble towards our door with shrieks of “Minnnnnnnnne!” and “Noooooo!”

They burst through our door both pleading their cases at the same time as I put the pillow over my head.

Oz starts bellowing from next door banging on the crib with his empty sippy cup.

So it begins.

***

It’s always about work and time and kids and work and rest and work and kids. We go in circles trying to make the other one see

how it’s my turn or
    I’ve put in so many hours already or
I’m so beat down and tired from the yelling and screaming and
   can’t you just deal with them to
you’ve been gone so many nights and
   you’re out of town all the time.

What about me? What about my commitments? What about my needs?

At this point it is less sharing and more shouting. Then it’s no words and just slamming doors.
Stomping feet down the stairs.

Storming out.

And the howl of storms inside. Inside my mind and soul. Too much to sort through and too many feelings mixed up into obligations and commitments. I sit back trying to figure out when and how the last fight started – was it something that was left out on the counter or a door unlocked or a conversation or schedule forgotten? And I wonder how these fights started in the first place. I wonder how we will extricate ourselves from these moments where we are on edge and fists clenched and hearts cold – that are becoming too familiar. Because this angst has become the houseguest that has stayed so long we can’t remember what life was like before. Someone we can’t just kick out of the house because what would be left of ourselves if we tried to disentangle from this odd triangle, this trinity of life overflowing with stress maintaining the day to day? The daily toil of survival has become engrafted on to skin and psyche so any kind of rupture would tear more away than we would realize in front of us. Would we be in pieces that would be easily salvageable? Or is that light at the end of the tunnel only the flickering of stars and night?

Being a peacemaker means more than keeping the peace. It means redefining it in flesh-and-blood, and the possibility of wounds and scars.

***

I’m in my car and listening to the scripture passage on the beattitudes read aloud by someone with a slight Irish accent – warm and soothing, like the rain falling on the windshield. I only say it because I can actually hear the rain since the children are blessedly asleep.

Being a peacemaker means more than hasty promises and temporary truces. It means seeing conflict as opportunity for deeper connection.

I think about the bit on peacemakers being children of God. How we are all children of God and how there’s something interesting happening here. Like maybe since we are all children of God then we are necessarily called to be peacemakers. Not – “only certain people are peacemakers so therefore only certain people are Gods children.” And then I think about the kind of peace I have longed for a while now – the sleeping kind – the quiet kind – the one that I breathe in as I look in my rearview mirror at the children asleep clutching books and stuffed animals. Empty snack traps and half empty juice boxes. Maybe the peace that we make isn’t always between humans who are fighting and arguing or going at it over some stupid toy. Maybe the peace that we make isn’t necessarily treaties or compromises or resolutions. Maybe the peace is simpler than that. Maybe we make peace within ourselves when we see that we are children of God. That we are all children of God struggling and flailing trying to make sense of life and family and work. Maybe that peace is something to be practiced in our families first and with our children and spouses. Maybe that peace is tenuous and fragile like human life but it is still real, it is still promised because it is God-breathed into our bones and marrow.

Being a peacemaker means cultivating more than just an aura of sleepy calm. It means embodiment of Gods promise in the midst of chaos.

Brittany Maynard and the Livable Life

Brittany Maynard and the Livable Life

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By now most have heard about Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill 29-year-old who spent her final days advocating for death-with-dignity laws, took lethal drugs prescribed by her physician on Saturday and died, a spokesman said, “as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”

I don’t have cancer or any terminal illness.

***

 

I keep thinking about her. Her family. Her loved ones and friends. I keep thinking about livability and the livable life. “What maximizes the possibilities of a livable life,” asks Judith Butler in Undoing Gender, “and what minimizes the possibility of unbearable life or indeed, social or literal death?” I keep thinking about living and dying, and the thin line between the two – how it’s not just a glass-half-empty-half-full kind of perspective. To couch it in these kinds of cliches dilutes and belittles it. Rose-colored glasses or any shade won’t change the universe of pain and suffering only each individual can really attest to in their own lives.

We watched and wondered, we waited as Brittany entered into a sort of limbo – a borderland, which I’m taking from Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands, a book recommended by someone who said that this was his bible, in a way. When someone says that about a book I take that pretty seriously. And, there is definitely something holy about the way Anzaldua talks about living on the border and crossing over from one culture back to another, and that this characterizes her living and dying. Brittany occupied these borderlands in her own way, moving through life and death, straddling both at times, and showed a mysterious strength in that journey through those thin places.

***

I’m thinking about how so many of us go through life not having a clue what it’s like on the other side of the fence in those other pastures or in someone else’s shoes. What it’s like to suffer violence and oppression at the hands of human beings or human diseases and illnesses. What it means to look at death through the lens of the compulsory sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? What it’s like to struggle with the meaning of choice and how in the end there is never really any easy choice, and the difficult ones are hardly ever between good and bad. They’re usually between choices that are somewhat the same – good/good, bad/bad, and the struggle lies in choosing and not letting it define all of who you are but then at the same time, embracing it, owning it, finding dignity and worth in the making of a choice.

Whether it’s Ferguson or Portland what gives us the right to dictate the terms of life – or death – for anyone?

***

Why do we tell people to not play God but we ourselves play God with people’s lives on a regular, daily basis? We cast judgment by doing hermenuetical gymnastics with God’s words and God’s grace to coerce people who think and choose differently. We guilt with words like shared suffering and courage and not giving up. We impose our life experiences – yes, that may have some similarities so therefore whatever kind of legitimacy – but in the end, each individual is a whole universe unto themselves, and that the right to choose life or death in the end is the work of something internal and beyond our grasp, so why, why, why would we try to subjugate someone else’s soul for the sake of an ideal – eternity, suffering, beauty, glory, love – we hardly understand ourselves? Why do we think that we can or should define livability for another person?

We are all living and dying in a way, we’re all pilgrims passing through this world, we’re all on the verge and threshold of eternity.