Sunday, February 22, 2015

Healing From My Divine Mother

So my church hosted a biennial event this weekend known as The Gathering. I attended this event 2 years ago when their keynote speaker was Glennon Melton of Momastery fame. I loved the event and the church, and in fact, my attendance there is what led us to visit and commit to St. Michael’s this year when we switched churches.
The Gathering is a women’s conference, Friday night and Saturday, and it is wonderful. Friday night there were some men present – as waiters during our reception! On Saturday, the only guy there was the organist/music director, who led us in an old fashioned hymn sing. It was thrilling to hear only women’s voices singing those beautiful hymns. At the end of the Gathering, there was a healing Eucharist service, and again it was beautiful to hear over a hundred women’s voices raised together in prayer.
I loved this service. It was a full liturgical service, with communion, and it was entirely done by women, ordained and lay  leaders. We were blessed to have the suffragan bishop for North Carolina there, also a woman, as well as several rectors from other parishes. The crucifers and acolytes were women, as were the readers. This service was not only beautiful, it was enormously healing for me.
As a woman who has been involved in the nondenominational and emergent church movement for the last 10 or so years, one thing I’ve learned is that sexism is alive and thriving in that culture. Women who are feminists are viewed with suspicion. Viewing women as equal to men is not guaranteed. In fact, the last time I preached in that environment, my sermon was criticized because I chose to share the stories of 2 women. They were women in my community, women who perfectly illustrated my point, but because I didn’t use any men as examples, I was criticized. That criticism deeply wounded me. Seeing a service run entirely by women, without even any comment on it, was balm to my soul.
In addition, the very first prayer was to our heavenly Mother. It was right there, in print in the bulletin! God as Mother! I’ve been told for the last 10 years, “well, yes, of course it’s acceptable to use feminine language to talk about God, but don’t do it because it will distract from your message or cause people to stumble.” And now here it is, in print, in the service of a mainstream denominational church. I felt vindicated. I felt validated and healed.
And that is the thing about feminism. It’s not about displacing men. It’s about validating women. For centuries, we have been blamed and held responsible for our genitalia. Our vaginas and breasts cause men to stumble. Our clothing can make a man sin. Our bodies force men to rape us. Our ability to create life in the womb has made us to blame for every female baby. The very word hysterical derives from the Greek word for uterus: to be female is to be irrational. Healthy feminism does not seek to demote or degrade men. Healthy feminism does not try to impose the second class status on men that has been imposed on women. It seeks to validate women.
This is why I am a self-proclaimed feminist. And this is why I’m raising my daughter to be a feminist as well.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

No Toilet Paper Roll? WHAT?

So Scott in introducing something new in the world of toilet paper. No more rolls. Yes, they are getting rid of the cardboard roll that keeps your toilet paper running smoothly. This is clearly an unmitigated tragedy, primarily for the Internet. How you ask? Thanks for asking!

First, it’s a tragedy for cats and dogs. Bored animals need access to smoothly rolling toilet paper. 

Second, it’s a tragedy for anyone who likes ease of use when using TP. I mean, don’t you hate it when you try to pull toilet paper and only get 1 or 2 squares before the roll stops or the paper tears? You need more than 2 squares between your hand and your nether regions. You just do.

Third, it’s a tragedy for Pinterest. My completely random estimate is that 63% of Pinterest craft pins are based on toilet paper rolls. What are all these crafters going to do? How can we make a beautiful wall art mural? How can we make adorable toys and favors for our kids? Scott paper, you are ruining the lives of countless crafty Pinners. Shame on you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Bodhisattva Christian

When Buddha achieved enlightenment, he could’ve stayed where he was. He was no longer chained to mortal existence. But instead of staying and enjoying enlightenment, he came back. He wanted to share his experience and joy with the rest of the struggling world. In the Buddhist tradition, those who experience enlightenment and stay here, like Buddha, are given the title bodhisattva.

As Christians, we are called to be bodhisattvas. We are called to experience the freedom and joy of the Gospel: God’s grace offering us unlimited and no-strings-attached love to us exactly as we are. And after we experience that enlightenment, we are called to go back into the dark world and share that experience with others. This is why the Gospel is called Good News. Because to understand that you are loved without reserve, exactly as you are, without changing a single thing, is to know good news.

Now some Christians argue and dispute about what exactly the Good News is. I hear that. Perhaps I am oversimplifying. But perhaps I’m just clarifying. Because although it is clear in the Bible that acceptance of God’s love changes a person, we don’t have to change to receive it. You don’t have to renounce your sexuality. You don’t have to get sober. You don’t have to lose weight. You don’t have to do anything.

As bodhisattvas, we have the enormous privilege of sharing that unconditional love with everyone we meet. This is why I don’t agree with Christians who believe that preaching the Gospel means telling people that they are sinners. Telling people they are screw-ups is not loving them. It just isn’t. When was the last time someone criticized you and you felt loved and cherished as a result?

Christ says that he must be raised up so that all who see him will be saved. He has ascended, and as Christians, as bodhisattvas, we point to him. Our actions and words must always lead people to look for the source of our love, which is Jesus. Are you a source of unconditional love for others?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Angry Enough to Just Die

Jonah has always been one of my favorite prophets. Not because he runs from God, or because of his sojourn in the fish. It’s because Jonah knew anger. He is one angry prophet, and there is no resolution. Unlike Job, who directs accusation towards God and, when hearing the reply, is humbled, Jonah continues to sulk. He claims and defends his anger, an anger that is inexplicably at God’s mercy, and the end of the book leaves the situation unresolved, God defending His right to be merciful towards people and animals and Jonah defending his right to be angry about it. 

Jonah says at least twice that he’s angry enough to die, and I know exactly what he means. I have that rage inside myself. I have always had enough energy and anger to avoid depression: that’s why my life turned towards anxiety. I have been angry enough to just die, even in the last month.
This isn’t a suicidal thing. It’s not about ending it all because my life is so bad. It’s spiteful. It’s suicide as an insult, a giant middle finger to God and life and love. It is transforming the self into a vortex of destruction: the ultimate destruction of self. To kill others is to maintain one’s self-worth, at least a little. Ultimately you still think that you have intrinsic value, enough that you deserve to survive. Self-destructive rage is to deny that value. 

Jonah was angry enough to die, and he told God it was appropriate that he should feel that way. Why was he so angry? According to the text, it’s because he knew God was a big ole softie. He knew that God would forgive the Ninevites. He knew that he would look like a fool, proclaiming judgment and destruction. Venturing into my opinion here, I believe he wanted Ninevah to be destroyed. He didn’t want them to get a second chance. They were a destructive, evil force. They killed and enslaved and tormented, and yet God sent them a second chance. And worse of all, God chose Jonah to deliver that second chance.

Imagine that for a minute. God asks you to give your biggest enemy a second chance. Not just with you, but with the whole world. And you know that they will take it. And you suspect that it won’t really change them at all – that in the end, they will go back to their murdering pillaging ways. So all you’ve done is spent time with someone you loathe so you can watch a shallow repentance be honored by the God of justice. Is it any wonder Jonah was angry? 

I like the lack of resolution in Jonah. We don’t know what happened. Jonah obeyed God in the end, but he wasn’t happy about it. Did Jonah then fail? Did God continue to work with Jonah, sending him over and over until Jonah finally began to see God’s grace as a good thing? Or did God shake His head sadly and move on? 

Theologically the question Jonah’s story raises to me is this one: Why do we get angry when God shows grace? Is it because we do not believe we need grace, so we resent others getting a free ride? We don’t truly understand our own capacity for evil, and thus our own need for grace. Do we resent it when people who haven’t filled their lives with good works get the same reward we do?

Emotionally, the story of Jonah gives me permission to be angry. I don’t have to censor or attempt to stifle my anger. I can simply accept my rage. Because God didn’t strike Jonah down. He worked with Jonah, over and over. He worked with Jonah in the belly of the fish. He worked with Jonah with the shade vine. And He worked with Jonah up to the very end. He is gentle with Jonah, not striking him down. Just reminding him that people and animals need God’s love too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Romance or Red Flag? Top 10 Differences.

Abuse comes in all forms, and can be very difficult to see at first. That’s because abusers universally groom their victims by slowly decreasing their self-esteem and worsening their living situation. By the time a victim realizes that abuse is happening, they are often so deeply involved that getting out of the relationship can seem like an insurmountable barrier. In addition, our culture celebrates such a skewed vision of healthy relationships that it can be easy to overlook initial red flags because they seem much more like romantic gestures. For more information, I highly recommend this page from the Interact of Wake County website. A great book is The Verbally AbusiveRelationship by Patricia Evans.

 So how can we see the potential for abuse when we’re in a dating relationship? Most abusers are excellent at portraying a good face to the world, and that includes girlfriends. I hope to help with some clarity with this post. I’ll be discussing actions which may seem romantic, but could be red flags for future abusive situations.

10. He pursues me.
Men are supposed to pursue women. That’s not giving up on the relationship. That’s sticking around until she “knows” that you’re really a great guy. And yeah, sure, it’s cool if a guy schedules your second date while you’re still on the first date. It’s romantic if a guy sends you flowers “just because.” But romance crosses the line into red flags when the pursuit is unwelcome. If you say “no” at any point, and the man ignores it, that’s a red flag. If you say, “Please don’t send me flowers at work,” and he does because “he just couldn’t help himself,” what he’s really saying is “I don’t respect your boundaries.” The minute a person disrespects my boundaries, I step away from him or her.
Pursuit: romantic when you’re both into each other, red flag when you have said no thanks at any point.

9. She makes jokes at my expense.
Self-deprecating humor is popular. And gently poking fun at your boyfriend or spouse’s quirks can be a healthy outlet for laughter and bonding. My boyfriend once broke a key in a lock and didn’t even realize it – so we laughed about it and called him “Hercules the key breaker.” It was all in good fun. But often, we put on a brave face, while we actually feel hurt. That’s the moment to speak up. Simply say, “Hey, I know it was funny, but can you not make that joke any more? I’m really embarrassed it happened.” At that point, if she continues to make that joke, you are in red flag territory. My personal rule is this: if my husband makes the joke first, then I’m allowed to make it again. The minute he asks me to stop making a joke, ANY joke, I shut my mouth.
Humor: Romantic when both parties are laughing, red flag when one party is hurt and the jokes continue.

8. He refuses to work with you on family finances.
This one is tricky, because money can play out so many ways and is such a volatile issue. It’s also an issue that often doesn’t surface until marriage. Basically, I would boil it down to two possibilities. 1. He manages the money exactly how he pleases, regardless of what you desire and ask for. 2. He refuses to take any responsibility for the finances, making you do all the work, but also refuses to limit his own spending. We often see a man who handles all the finances as being a “good provider.” Alternatively, a man who allows the woman to handle the finances can be seen as an “enlightened” guy who’s confident in his masculinity. The red flag here is the disrespect shown when he ignores your requests. If you ask him to reign in his spending and he refuses, or you ask him to handle bills a certain way and he refuses, that’s disrespect. Actions speak louder than words. If he agrees with you and then continues in his path, he disrespects you.
Money: Romantic when he treats you as a partner, red flag when he either keeps control or avoids any responsibility.

7. She sees your potential.
Look, part of love is seeing the best in your partner. All healthy relationships are built on people having faith in one another. It’s a cliché that women are attracted to “bad boys,” but it’s also true that some bad men can reform and become good men. Seeing the potential in someone and encouraging him to live up to that potential can be awesome and romantic. But it can also become extremely abusive and toxic. How? At some point, she needs to acknowledge not only your potential, but your current reality. She should love who you are in the moment, even the bad moments when you are grumpy and just lost your keys. Seeing a person’s potential can turn into constantly nagging him to change and grow and be different, which sends the message that he is unworthy. That’s an esteem killer and a big part of verbal/emotional abuse.
Seeing Potential: Romantic when you need encouragement, red flag when she never accepts you as you actually are.

6. He’s a manly man.
I totally get the attraction to alpha males. A man who stands up for what is right and can back it up with a strong punch is undeniably hot. Our culture has a real obsession with manly men. Cool, aloof men. Men who hit on a woman by insulting her. This is closely tied to the whole “bad boy” nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with finding a strong man attractive. A man who protects his girlfriend, who speaks up when something is wrong, that’s romantic. But far too often that machismo translates into dominance. Even if you subscribe to the belief that the man should be the leader in your home, leadership is not dominance. Submission, regardless of your faith, does not require you to do something illegal or immoral. Boom, red flag!
Alpha males: Romantic when strength is used constructively, red flag when strength is used to be dominant.

5. She’s super sensitive.
There’s a myth about sensitive feminine women. Women who blush if someone utters a swear word in their presence. Women who can’t stand talk about coarse or heartbreaking things. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Some women are delicate and sensitive and that’s perfectly wonderful. Some men want that in a woman, and again, I can see the romance. You get to be her strong knight in shining armor. Where this turns into a red flag is manipulation. She may use her “sensitivity” as an excuse to restrict your actions. She’s afraid to be alone at night, so you’re not allowed to go on a camping trip with your buddies, or even spend the night with a sick family member. This is back handed dominance. In its most extreme form, it can manifest as the woman threatening to harm herself in order to get her way.
Sensitive flower women: romantic when you like to “be the strong one,” red flag when your actions are restricted by her weakness.

4. He’s super rational.
I like what Mindy Kaling has to say about this, because it expresses my own long held feelings perfectly. “Girls like Spock cuz Spock's like ‘logically I should not feel love’ and we're all like ‘oh yes you will, you little hot Vulcan bastard.’” While this is fine in the fan world, it’s not so good in the real world.  Men who are super rational can be very attractive because they are calm and often conflict avoidant. I have been in love with Spock for as long as I can remember, and my husband is a very rational man. The problem comes when the guy has to deal with feelings. You know, big feelings: feelings about death, loss, illness, disasters. A super rational man MAY be suppressing feelings, or may only be capable of expressing those feelings in one limited way. Suppressed feelings only lead to bad results like explosive tempers, emotional withholding, or a simple inability to connect at any level.
Rationality: Romantic when he has emotional intelligence; red flag when he demonstrates no emotional awareness or ability to express emotions.

3. She’s a victim of circumstances
We all know people who are constant victims. Nothing is ever their fault. And sometimes, they truly are going through a bad time. It’s super romantic to come in and rescue someone. The red flag comes in when help becomes enabling. This is most obvious when dealing with addictions, but it can happen in other areas as well. Maybe she couldn’t pay her rent because her ex husband stole her car and she had to divert rent money to a car down payment. And so you help her get out of the financial hole. And then the next month she gets laid off, so you loan her a little more cash. But once she gets through the bad patch, there’s a pattern established of you helping her financially. At some point, she may become dependent on you, and there’s your red flag.
Innocent victim: Romantic (and noble) to help a person out once or twice, red flag when a pattern of enabling begins.

2. He’s devoutly religious.
I’m not going to apologize for this one. The sad truth is that many religions have been used to teach and implement systems that victimize and dehumanize women. In addition, men, especially in the US, tend to be less involved in religion than women are, so it can be exciting and romantic to find a man who is just as jazzed about faith as you are. The red flag comes into play if he happens to be part of one of the twisted sexist systems. How can you tell? Maybe he criticizes stay at home dads. Maybe he violently hates all feminists. Maybe he wants to “teach” you how to interpret your religious texts. He probably follows one or two teachers exclusively and won’t even consider listening to other viewpoints.
Religion: Romantic when you are well matched faith partners: red flag if he adheres to a twisted sexist form of faith.

1. She is SUPER into you.
Look, we all want to be adored. And in the first flush of any romance, there’s a crazy chemical reaction that makes us all a little crazy. It’s romantic: you think about the guy all the time, you read over his texts, your heart flips whenever you see an email, etc. Totally normal, fun, and romantic. At the beginning of a relationship, both people are probably really “into” each other. But maybe she’s SUPER into you. Like, she texts you at all hours of the night. And she asks questions about what you’re doing, joking about whether you’re with another woman, or asking why you want to eat alone when you could totally be eating take out at her empty apartment and then be there when she gets home from her workout. Everyone makes mistakes. And with texting and social media it’s easy to be in constant contact with your new crush. But there are still boundaries. If her behavior is just too clingy, it’s a red flag.
She’s just THAT into you: Romantic when the feeling is mutual, red flag when the recipient feels stalked, pressured, or suffocated.

A final note: I alternated pronoun use in this post deliberately. While women represent the majority of domestic violence survivors, men are also abused, physically, sexually, emotionally, and verbally. You can easily change the pronouns for my top 10 list and apply it to your situation. Let’s all walk away from the weird romance models the media offers us and create healthy love relationships!

Monday, February 2, 2015


I completed my Reiki 2 class last night. Reiki is energy healing, and when my friend offered the class at first, I didn’t give it any thought. But I have been doing a lot of meditating and fine tuning my ability to hear the Holy Spirit and my own desires. And the latest time she offered a class, I looked at the brochure and thought, “You will be in that class.” I just knew it. I signed up and really enjoyed it. That was in December. And at the end of the class, she offered Reiki 2 and when I checked in with my true self (Holy Spirit, etc.), I knew I would be in.

I’ve been practicing daily Reiki on myself now for two months. I know it’s making a difference in my life. I am sleeping more soundly. I successfully avoided catching at least 2 colds (although a cold did finally get me last week).

Now that I’ve learned Reiki 2, I can practice Reiki on people who aren’t physically present. I know, it sounds really weird. I think it’s kind of weird myself. On the other hand, in my mind this is another form of prayer. Reiki is not a religion. At this point, I can use Reiki as a nonverbal form of prayer for someone. This is enormously helpful, because I know very few Christians who don’t struggle sometimes with how to pray for others. I can open with a word of prayer, then do Reiki, trusting the Holy Spirit to translate my actions and thoughts into the holy language of God.

I’m continuing my Reiki journey, starting a Master Reiki class in a couple of months. I’m looking forward to how it will impact my professional development, my clients, and my own health.