i’ve been complicit & it’s past time to turn the table the patriarchy built

I write this post not to absolve myself of the sins I have made against God’s beloved children by not being in radical solidary to everyone pushed to the margins by the patriarchy. I write this post to confess my sins and to encourage others like myself (white, straight, middle class cisgender) to start this painful, humbling process of self-examination. I am still learning and hope that people continue to lovingly educate and provide feedback as I move forward to the person that God has called me to be.

When I was in elementary school one of the ways we learned the multiplication tables was by speed tests. We did these individually and by the game inaptly called “around the world.” This game consisted of everyone sitting in a small circle while one person would stand, the teacher would say 3×4, the person who answered correctly (12) would win and move to the next person. If you got around the “world” you would win a Jolly Rancher.

As a white cisgender girl, I excelled at this game. I bounded around the circle leaving all in my wake. No thought to why we were learning by competition, but did noticed the boys in the circle annoyed with how well I was doing as a girl.

In college, I took a course on ethnomathematics and how math is taught and learned that this method was built around the success of white cisgender men and how they learned. I studied how gender impacted math education, then I further studied how race did. Competition being the root of learning the multiplication tables to how we learn higher level mathematics without knowing the big picture first, giving a group of white boys the means to succeed more than the rest of us. I noticed who was in my high-level mathematics courses in college, we were mostly white and the woman who were my peers had fathers who were engineers and had taken the time with their daughter’s education.

What would it have looked like if my teachers had taught the multiplication tables differently, not an on the spot competition, but embracing that not everyone can spit out 12 as quickly and that it created an unhealthy space? I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had just been a little slower so a shy or quiet peer could have had a better chance for that Jolly Rancher. We were fighting over one spot for a prize, the being set apart, when we could have been collectively learning together.

Mathematics was the entry point to opening my eyes to privilege and understanding how I could move within those systems both knowingly and unknowingly. I have been complicit.

Studying something, learning something, is no use unless you apply and live it. I confess that I have not understood the weight of my college learnings until recently. I believe that sin is not living up to one’s full potential, and I have not been living that way.

In understanding how to game the system, I have forgotten the spaces I try to be is not the table of Jesus, it’s the table that the patriarchy built with limited seating and only a few spots for people who do not fit the mold. The table that the patriarchy built is not the full breath of humanity and was intentionally composed to limit all God’s beloved from breaking bread together (as we fight for that one Jolly Rancher instead). It has pitted those who do not fit the patriarchal model against each other. It comes up in siloed systems where justice seekers are not intersectional and working together for our collective liberation.

I have been sinfully slow in realizing that I have wasted too many decades attempting to get a seat at the wrong table when the table that Jesus set for us is open to all. I have not been expansive enough regarding gender, I have not educated myself enough on racism and poverty, and I have siloed myself. As hard as I thought I was fighting the patriarchy, I was doing so from the lens of a straight, white cisgender woman embedded in a system rooted in scarcity when God has taught us there is more than enough. The patriarchy preaches the falsehood of not enough space at the table when Jesus lived abundance and multiplied the loaves and fishes.

Recently, I have been examining myself and what is next for myself in ministry and have been heartbroken with how my United Methodist Church has been. It has been glaring to me that as I have started to re-engage with church activism that I have been fighting to get to the wrong table. Last week I attended a webinar on radical solidarity and found myself in tears realizing that I have caused harm. Saying I’m sorry will never be enough, I needed to recalibrate my course, my actions, my words, and where I invest my energy. As my wise friend, Will (Ed) Green said a few days ago, “Christ has set the table already for us.” That’s the table I yearn to be at.

Our Movement Forward Summit in Minneapolis was a venue to create and encourage dialogue centered on PoC+Q+T voices this past weekend. It allowed space for a white straight cisgender woman to sit and learn, to be in awe of all the collective wisdom from our speakers and those who shared, and to see the table that Jesus has already set for us. We were reminded of the Audre Lorde quote of “[the] master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” It’s time to do what Jesus called us to do, to break every yoke and to turn the table the patriarchy built. UM-Forward is doing just this, turning towards Jesus’ table that has room for us all to not just be together, but to be in radical solidarity together.

Most of all, Our Movement Forward Summit and UM-Forward has woken me up to my complicity and reminded me of my calling to be rooted in social justice that is fueled by grace to be an ally, advocate, and agitator who walks with others as they recognize and grasp their God-given agency. (Even as I type this, I realize it’s time to reflect and rework my framing. Discernment is for life.)

I do know this in the core of my being, I am done with tables composed of the same players by the master’s tools where space is only created by open letters or Twitter outrage. I am done with spaces where PoC+Q+T voices are not centered because when they are we enter the holy ground where the Spirit dances in delight. I am done with the excuse that clergy can only be the primary leaders ignoring the knowledge and wisdom of laity who live their faith outside church walls. I am done with theological institutions preaching scarcity and not living abundant life.

Justice is not quick, hearts and minds changing is painful and necessary, yet I remain committed to this process and the work needed. The table the patriarchy build is heavy to turn and we have many strong, capable hands ready to turn it. It’s time. Come join us, there is room for you, and we will delight that you are with us in embracing abundance.

first #deaconessing confession: i almost didn’t get commissioned

On May 18th I was consecrated into the Order of Deaconess & Home Missioner of The United Methodist Church at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly in Columbus, OH. It was a joyous service that took place during opening worship where there were women on stilts with streamers, a sea of 6,000 United Methodist Women worshiping God, and in the crowd where my parents who had flown in from Seattle and two of my very best friends. My friends streamed the service from D.C. to Arizona to Seattle and even up in Alaska. It was a big deal. After 9 years of discernment in the church that I love, I found a home as Bishop Gregory V. Palmer laid his hands upon my head praying, “Irene DeMaris, I consecrate you to a lifetime of Jesus-like service under the authority of the church.”

I walked off that stage as a proud United Methodist Deaconess committed to a lifetime of love, justice, and service. It further strengthened my calling to bring forth the Kin-dom of God in the here and now in the world and within my chosen denomination.

The next step for a newly minted Deaconess or Home Missioner is to be commissioned by the bishop in the conference we live in. Most people are not aware of my Order, so just getting commissioned can be difficult, but my good friend and fellow Foundry United Methodist member, T.C. Morrow was on it with a call and a few emails to conference staff. I knew my commissioning was going to be hard as soon as they told me it was going to be during the Service of Ordination & Commissioning, since I was aware of the grumblings surrounding two of the clergy candidates up for a vote for commissioning and full-connection due to the fact they are in loving, stable marriages (as LGBTQIA+ folks). Even harder still is in my limited time in D.C., T.C. and her wife have become a good friends who have supported my calling, shown me grace, and made sure in all this mess my becoming a deaconess did not get lost in the shuffle.

How does one hold the tension of embracing her own calling while holding sorrow that those equally called are being denied? That’s how I entered annual conference as a friend and as a white cisgender straight woman who will never be discriminated over who I love.

The Board of Ordained Ministry had deemed T.C. and another friend fit for ministry, embracing their time, talent, skills, graces, and gifts for the work they are called to do. Then the bishop chose to uphold the Book of Discipline laws that deny full inclusion for those who are called to ordained ministry. Not following an unjust law is not unprecedented. I was livid and the atmosphere of the annual conference shifted to one of deep lament. One doesn’t need to spend more than a few minutes with either individual to know they are called by the grace of God for ordained ministry.

On Thursday at 11am I found myself in the hallway sobbing and unknowing if I could be commissioned at the 7pm service that day. I knew I would be face-to-face with the person whose actions the day before did further harm to my fellow siblings in Christ. I do not think that my bishop is a bad person, or isn’t in her heart of hearts progressive. She may have been backed into a corner, but I’m not here today making excuses for a bishop. I will say this. We talked about being one under the cross all week and not enough about why. Jesus spoke truth to power and laid it all on the line; we are not called to easy lives as followers of Jesus and sometimes we have to make risks. A prophetic voice was yearned for and it was denied. We were not one at the cross.

I made a few phone calls to see if I actually had to be commissioned. I technically did not. I knew bulletins weren’t being widely distributed, people didn’t really know me since I am new to the conference, and I was terrified something would come out of my mouth to the bishop and I would lose my job.

Between my good friend who sat with me, a phone call with the Executives at my Order, and messaging with another deaconess, I realized, this was something I needed to do. The liturgy mentioned Foundry and my faith community deserved some joy this year after two years of sorrow at annual conference. I needed my annual conference to know who I was and who I belonged to so that I could be more effective in ministry. I needed my bishop to know that in spite of the Spirit being denied, I would not let an unjust rule of law impact my calling.

Before the service I took a short nap and spent time in prayer lamenting the church I choose to stay in. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide me through it all.

She works in magnificent ways. As I hugged T.C. before the service I knew deep in my soul that this was the right thing. Then as I processed with my two friends who were representing Foundry United Methodist Church and my place of ministry, Wesley Theology Seminary, among a very different sea of people than in Columbus, the Spirit took over.

Joy was found in finding pink heeled footing in the questions Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling asked me. When she asked the first question, “Do you sincerely believe that you have been led by the Spirit of God to engage in this work and to assume its responsibilities?” I was able to find my voice and say “I do” from deep in my soul.

The moment was mine and the Holy Spirit worked through Bishop Easterling as I faced my new annual conference, I finally felt at home. I would see the group from Foundry to my left and that’s what mattered to me. Did I preemptively leave the stage and then bounce back in my heels? Yes. Did I ham it up? Yes. The Spirit needed joy and I was happy to oblige.

For a moment such as this, I found strength and hope in the Spirit and as God is my witness, the Spirit was working in my bishop. Can we be angry? Yes. Can we be hurt? Yes. But the Spirit abounds in grace. Grace that lives through us all. I hear that people are attacking our bishop and saying cruel things, that’s not what God wants. That is not the work of Jesus, that is what divides us at the cross.

The work is long and difficult, but the Kin-dom of God is worth it. Mourn, cry, lament, throw a cheap pair of heels. When you are ready, the movement for justice will be ready for you and it will be open wide for Bishop Easterling because I saw God in her and I know that she wants the Kin-dom as badly as I do.

confession: spin class feeds me more spiritually than church

My dream Sunday morning consists of sleeping a few hours past my weekday alarm of 6am, rolling out of bed to put the kettle on the stove for my coffee, opening my front door to retrieve my Washington Post, making my coffee while looking up pancake recipes, and then making whatever recipe looks best with what ingredients I have at home. It’s slow, unrushed, and centering.

It doesn’t include church. I love mornings in general, and when I lived in Seattle, I attended church at 4:00pm. It was glorious. 11:15am in DC comes a lot sooner than I usually expect it (my snooze alarm and I are getting so serious I should just put a ring on it). Needless to say, my motivation for church has been lacking so much that for Lent I opted to give up pancakes and add church back into my life.

Corporate or Sunday worship has never fulfilled me spiritually. In my adult life I can fit the times I felt it on one hand. I know, this isn’t something I should be saying. I’ve worked in most levels of my denomination, and I have a Master of Divinity degree, on route to become a deaconess… but it’s my truth (or reality to placate my Ph.D. friends). I go to church to see my friends; church has always been communal for me with some light formation.

I like a more grassroots, unpolished church where I’m asked to read scripture out loud with no practice of the Hebrew names of towns and/or people or pulled to help with offering. Yet, I want an elder presiding over communion and someone who is theologically articulate giving the sermon. It’s a weird blend for sure.

This disconnect grew more after I got my master’s and even more so when I moved from Seattle to DC, but I found a community at a church and joined it. I was really good about Sunday attendance for months, then this summer I took a break and it lasted until Lent. I probably went to my congregation’s worship twice in this time, but I picked up attending chapel a few times a month or more at work.

I’m not the model church-goer, yet today I admitted in a public space that I go to church and work for it. Perhaps before I get to my radical (for me) moment of evangelism, I should give a back story.

Last year, I decided the time was now for getting back in shape and discovered a studio that offered spin and yoga classes. I was sold. Since May I have been going for 5-7 classes a week. I do spin 4 times a week, yoga 2-3 times. I have a very embodied theology that is rooted in my personal piety. I believe in nourishment and healthy mind and body, so that, in turn, our bodies and spirits can sustain us for the long work of creating a just world. The fact of the matter is that I leave spin class feeling emboldened, empowered, one with my body, and ready to take on the world. I do not leave church feeling that way.

Back to today, I had just left my spin class and was starting to layer back up for the commute home when someone was talking about the class.

“It’s like church, but way less boring and fun.” (Okay, so I have texted the same words to the chagrin of my clergy friends.) This time it stung; it hit an unknowingly tender spot hard.

That’s when things got weird on my end. I turned around and said, “You haven’t found the right church then.” I felt so awkward that I felt the need to go on and say in the most uncool way possible, “I worked for a church.” I quickly turned around.

Do I think spin class is like church? Yes. My favorite instructor, Shafer, builds us up so that we leave the space ready to change the world. He has all these great quotes and sayings that I weave my own theological lens or biblical references into (I am that nerdy).  I am pushed to a breaking point; all the energy I have bottled up comes out in the form of sweat, tears, and sometimes both.

There is also a communal element to my spin classes. We are encouraged to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. We are asked to turn to each other in class to say, “You’ve got this”, “Your presence is powerful”, or just give a simple high five. We ride to the beat of the song, on the same lead foot. We are together and synchronized. My favorite instructor has taken the time to know me and calls me out by name. In a room full of strangers, I feel more seen in that space than I do in most places.  

Because I religiously attend spin classes, I am better equipped to live into my embodied spirit and live into my vocation. I truly wish I was able to say that about the average worship service.

I am left with the question, if I, a life long church-goer who is deeply committed to my faith journey, have issues with church on Sunday not being fulfilling, what are we to do with those who left the church when their parents stopped forcing them to go or who never went? These are the type of people who don’t add church back as part of a Lenten practice.

Do I have the answers? Not really. (I also tuned out during my worship class in seminary.) I have a fairly comprehensive list of things I don’t like in worship, but I’m not the target audience. I’m just left with the uncomfortable feeling that church worship services are boring and not worth the time to go to (a sentiment I sometimes share), while I am not practicing what I preach, aka, being fully integrated into a faith community.

embracing my embodiment part 2: when food is suspect

In part 1, I spoke about my temple being broken, or seemingly broken (as I believe we are all made in God’s Divine Image). When I start reflecting on my years of struggling with food, I come back to Communion and the words our pastors say to us holding a usually glorious piece of glutenous bread before the congregation.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us,
he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread,
gave it to his disciples, and said:
“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
-The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday by Nathan Decker

What does it mean to be broken and unable to consume what many Christians believe to be the sustenance of life? When your body cannot process or handle foods deemed vital by our society? Foods that break you and affect one’s quality of life? (Now this is a long post because identifying my food allergies has been a process that has spanned 3 decades, so be patient with me!)

I don’t remember a time before this past year when my body was truly happy with what IMG_4968I put in it. When I was a baby, my mom realized that something wasn’t quite right in terms of the foods I was eating so around the age of 2, I did something that is in vogue now: an elimination diet.

What my parents discovered is that wheat was my enemy, they put me on a gluten-free diet in the 1980s in the era before Whole Foods and the gluten-free slash allergen section. Despite their best efforts, a neighbor gave me a cookie once and I didn’t have the same reaction. My mom took me to the doctor and the doctor said I no longer had a food allergy. (Best science of the time, still the 1980s.)

Sometime around my teenage years, I start having issues again and this time, with a doctor’s blessing, I became lactose intolerant, but the lactaid pills never worked. (Don’t get me started on how that lactose-free milk tastes.)

As a baby I had colic and walking pneumonia. Growing up I got my yearly, bronchitis and sinus infections. Then in college I discovered a deep love for beer, pizza delivery, and continued my love affair with Tootsie Rolls. In fact, when I was sick with my quarterly sinus infection, I would buy Tootsie Rolls with my antibiotics and order a pizza in. It was also in college when amoxicillin stopped working and I became immune to it due to overprescription.

Photo on 12-16-16 at 11.47 AMIn high school I started taking medication to treat my growing anxiety. I was an emotional teenage girl, but I had bigger feelings than felt right. It helped immensely, but when went to college, I was bad about taking my medications and stopped. At one point, my health physically and mentally led to taking the spring semester off and going home my sophomore year to get healthy.

My temple aka body was broken on a few levels. We didn’t know what to do, year after year I saw my doctors and a few allergists, yet I was seemingly healthy when one looked at me. My temple was broken, broken for the world, and it would all come to a head the summer of 2007.

I had recently re-thrown out my back (more in the next post about this) and allergy season was in full swing. I woke up and it was hard to breath. I got one of my best friends to come get me and take me to the Emergency Room where I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia for the second time in my life. My anxiety was at an all time high, I had panic attacks while studying for, during, and after exams. It was at that moment, I felt irreparably broken. My mother flew to Pullman, Washington and drove me home.

Our pastor’s wife was a woman with food allergies and recommended a naturopath. As IIMG_4966 sat in the office with my mom, we explained my history with food and the woman looked at us and said, food allergies never go away and you aren’t lactose intolerant, you are probably allergic to casein, the protein in milk (lactose is the sugar in milk). My mom despite her best efforts cried, yet it was the best thing that happened to me.

Even though I went back to an allergist in Eastern Washington, nothing showed up food wise, I still omitted gluten and dairy from my diet and something happened. My body lost inches, I was no longer always needing a nap, and I had only a few panic attacks my last year of college. For the first time in my life, food started making sense.

For over a decade I have lived with being a gluten and dairy-free person while it got hip. In many ways it has made my life easier. I usually can take gluten-free Communion, but it’s still a struggle (older thoughts on why all Communion should be GF). My last few years of seminary I started to see making foods that were good for me as a spiritual discipline linked to my justice work (a Lenten reflection I wrote at that time).

IMG_5103In May, I got glutened. You may be aware that it is really hard to reach perfection (especially if you rarely eat out), but this was a whole lot worse: I ate an entire cookie full of gluten goodness by mistake. My body revolted. I was so sick that I had to take sick days. I had flu like symptoms; my body was so inflamed I gained 10-15 pounds and looked pregnant. The anxiety came back with a vengeance, returning me to the state I was in before we discovered how I needed to eat. I knew something had to give, and I knew it even as I lay in bed fighting the anxiety and despair along with the bloating.

For almost five years I had been getting to know my body in new years through revamping the foods I consumed. I had been various levels of vegetarian for years before and discovered my body preferred the paleo diet. My body isn’t a big fan of a few other foods like corn and sugar, and my gluten allergy has been getting worse, but I pushed all of that away as it felt like too much to eliminate those foods. The moment of being glutened and feeling helpless was my wake up call.

A few months before my mom had sent me Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet and I had started adding some hydrolyzed collagen into my diet, but hadn’t followed her diet. I rolled out of bed, grabbed the book and a highlighter, and read it in bed. She promised to make my broken temple whole again and I decided to give it a shot. I finally had the information I’ve needed my whole life about how I could eat, feel good, and be healthy. I could finally be in control of what I needed. For the first time in my life, I started to feel whole. I have been following this diet since last May.

The past few weeks I continue to reflection about how my struggle with food allergies IMG_4696.JPGhas impacted my sense of embodiment from the broken temple analogy to Holy Communion. For years I simply could not trust or count on my body. “One body, broken for you” wasn’t available to me for many years and was yet another example of my body letting me down during a Holy Moment for many. (Most churches now offer a gluten-free option, although usually stale broken pieces, but something.)

In part 3, I will dive into the ways my temple has been broken through Bell’s Palsy and throwing out my back before I even left for college. Again, it will all be linked together in the final post. My story to embracing my embodiment is complex and has much context needed before.

embracing my embodiment part 1: the intro

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NRSV)

A few days ago, I had a moment. I had just come off a weekend of cooking and baking multiple new recipes. My freezer was packed, my fridge full of things I could eat and wanted to eat. I had just bought a bread pan because I was stoked to try this almond flour recipe.

In that moment I cried, noted it, texted my mom and one of my best friends. For the first time in my life, I felt emboldened by food and secure in my body.

The fact is, I have struggled my whole life with my body like many. The verse from 1 Corinthians has always been a sore spot in my life. As a Christian, I believe that we are all intrinsically intertwined embodied spirits. Yet, my body has often been a spot of anxiety, fear, and chronic disconnect.

What does one do when your body is a temple constantly under scrutiny due to societal norms of what is healthy? When your physical body aka temple shuns certain foods? When your physical body aka temple is broken? When your physical body aka temple needs to be repaired for building regulations?

In the August of 2012, a few months after starting summer school for seminary, I started B6B2089F-6497-43C3-A987-BD53E68F5E1Ba journey of wholeness. I was 211 pounds; unhappy with my body and it was not well with my soul. I couldn’t physically do the things that I wanted to and was eating extremely poorly. My life needed to change.

It was finally time to embrace my embodiment and I had no idea that it would take five years. These blogs aren’t written to glorify weight loss, it’s about my personal journey to embrace my embodiment that is linked to my spiritual well being. I believe we all have a journey to our temple’s wholeness and that looks different from person to person.

My aim is to be honest with who I am, where I come from, and where I am now. Part 2 will speak to my struggles with foods in the form of my food allergies. In Part 3 I will talk about having Bell’s Palsy when I was in elementary school and then slipping a disk in my back at the age of 16. I will end in Part 4 on my journey to an embodied wholeness where I finally start to love and feel emboldened in my body.

finding the joy in seeking

In a world where many of us woke up today to the Washington Post alert saying, Trump says U.S. military is ‘locked and loaded’ in latest warning to North Korea we are confronted with a cold dose of reality and seriousness. I know I am not alone surfing Twitter on my phone in my bed or before my first cup of coffee, trying to get a handle on what is going on.

As I sip my coffee in the safety of my studio, three separate experiences are melding together in something larger.

A few days ago, I had lunch with a new colleague who wanted to get to know me, and I her. After hearing about my job and faith journey she asked, “but where do you have fun?” I know I cannot be the only person who is struggling with that question as I balance my work, my responsibilities at home to my dog, attempt healthy habits, and seek social justice. As someone who has only lived in DC for a year, I have been missing the roots I had in Seattle and have realized, I need to focus on relationships this next year. I need to have more fun (and so far, I’m making it happen.) In the seriousness of my life, it’s important to remember the fun the joy of life despite the current state of the world. As I seek to make meaning, I need to stop and take in the moments of pure joy and delight that come my way.

Then, yesterday, I woke up a little early so I could make the 7:30am yoga class at the studio I attend. As someone who is a) trying to get into the best shape of her life before her Jesus year, b) practices her personal piety through fitness, and c) prioritizes self-care, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my yoga day due to a work lunch so morning yoga is not usual.

Anyway, I have been practicing yoga on and off for years now, and have really gotten more serious about it in the past few months. I have slowly started attempting more difficult poses. When I lived in Seattle I had a yoga instructor that took her practice seriously, yet held joy and embracing falling close. Trying new poses involved smiles and sometimes laughter. I still hold that close, but awkwardly feel like I’m the odd person out in the room. My lunges often wobble and my warrior three is less than graceful, but I love it.

The other day, my noon class which attracts many advanced yogis (I call it the trick class) did wall stands. I had recently done my first full bridge pose since high school, so I decided to try it. In my corner of the studio, I concentrated and took it seriously. Miraculously, I made it and my feet stayed over my head. I was conscious that I was smiling and deeply happy. But as I glanced around, everyone was serious. I felt like I violated some unwritten rule like wearing a sleeveless blouse or dress around Paul Ryan.

Back to yesterday. I have been attempting crow and gotten close, but this day, freshly fueled by my pour over coffee blended with coconut oil/cocoa powder , I felt solid in my body to really go for it and I did. I reached the pose, my knees on elbows supported by my budding Michelle Obama arms. I opted to go for round two and firmly fell forward. I smiled and laughed. But something was different, my instructor smiled back and said she loved how I just went for it. I felt joy in a sea of the spiritual seriousness of yoga.

The last experience is from a few weeks ago when I attended my Theology of Mission course as a candidate for the Deaconess/Home Missioner Order in The United Methodist Church (I’ll write more about this later). After a week of missiology, it was time to write a paper and as I sat down refining, or perfecting if you will, my definition, I went back to Anselm’s classical definition. Here’s that section of my paper:

The theologian Anselm defined theology in this simple phrase “I pray, O God, to know thee, to love thee, that I may rejoice in thee,”. Here theology is faith seeking understanding and rejoicing in one’s relationship with the Divine. I often forget about the joy aspect of ‘doing’ theology. Theology is not intended to be followed as a rule book, but is instead something we study, ask questions of, and develop a sense of curiosity for. We do not do it only for academic purposes, but to live into the mutuality of our relationship with God because of the joy that shared grace gives us.

Back to my yoga class. My mind went to the paper I had turned it and how I have been focusing on remember the joy of theology because my seeking of God should and can be delightful. My yoga class should be that way to. After class I spoke with the instructor and talked about how I do theology for a living. I told her about the definition of theology, yet we forget the finding joy in God and how I feel that sometimes yoga is the same way. We are too serious, we need the joy in the practice, in the relationship to our bodies and those around us.

We live in a moment of time, where many of us are seeking understanding. So many areas of my life are muddled and messy, I am continually curious and trying to get a handle on the nation and my church. But where am I finding joy? Where are you finding joy? Are we finding some portions of our busy lives fun?

I delight in a God who wants to be in relationship with me and some of my best relationships are filled with joy. Joy needs to be more integral to our day to day lives, in the seriousness, in our moments of scarcity and abundance, seeking justice in a world stacked against us, and especially in our spiritual practices however we find them.

So here’s to seeking joy and finding understanding… and to finding fun in that.

entitlement + gratitude to the marine corps

When I was young my mother had the Safety Kids cassette tapes. I learned about not talking to strangers and having my own safety bubble (personal space). Something I also learned what to trust my gut and to take note (and act) when I felt unsafe. Nothing prepared me for two nights ago.

It was just supposed to be a night out to see a show. My friends and I had tickets to the Turnpike Troubadours. One of them knew the opener, but that act cancelled last minute and we opted to see venture out to Silver Springs, MD and see live music. The band falls into the country music realm, which isn’t my typical scene. I rarely go to concerts these days and when I do, it’s alternative rock.

We had just gotten through security (we got patted down) and I was getting a 21+ wristband just in case when I stood waiting for my friends. A drunk male stranger walked up and said, “I think I’m in love with you.” I laughed because of the absurdity of it and asked why. Not that this happens often, but when you are 32 and have had a life of barhopping from college, I just tend to go with the flow. He was nice looking, light brown hair, a few inches taller than I am, probably around my age, and a little geeky looking. If he had a good profile on an online dating site, perhaps I would have even swiped right. Now, this is where I made my mistake. I should have said, “Thank you, but I’m not interested.”

Instead I made small talk, nothing in my actions were flirty and my friends and I quickly attempted to head into the show without the guy. He didn’t take the hint, most do.

Knowing I wanted to lose this dude, I led my friends to the side and got into the crowd. The opener was playing so people were chatting and they sounded pretty good. The guy found us and started chatting. I felt uncomfortable and disengaged. As we tried to not talk to him, I spoke loud enough that the group of men in front of us heard part of it. I made eye contact with one of them and he picked up that I was uncomfortable.

This man came over and started to chat, I told him what had happened and how he couldn’t take the hint. Soon his other friends came over and chatted. They were a group of newly minted Marine Corp officers and they made me feel safe. The drunk guy still didn’t get we didn’t want to talk to him and at this point I would even look at him. My friends were champs and tried to deflect. Finally I told one of my new Marine friends that the drunk guy needed to leave. He very nicely pulled the guy away and said, they aren’t interested and to please go away. Drunk guy still didn’t get it and finally left. At this point there were six Marines around and they were fun to chat with.

The show started and the Marines danced and it was incredible to see the bond they shared after 6 months of training. My friends and I were enjoying the music, when drunk guy literally started circling us. It felt like being prey.

I felt (and still feel) so incredibly violated. We had asked him not to talk with us, one of my friends flatly told him to go away. A Marine had nicely said, you need to leave them alone, yet this guy wouldn’t let up. If we hadn’t befriend the Marines we would have had to leave. At one point I was close to calling security. Maybe that was my mistake. Just because someone hasn’t said anything inappropriate or touched you in any way, doesn’t mean they haven’t violated you.

My friends and the Marines would pull me to the other side or dance with me. I really enjoyed the band, shocking given my intense hatred of country music, but by the end I felt like crying because the drunk guy wouldn’t leave us alone.

By the time the show ended, I hugged the Marines and thanked them for making me feel safe. (I also told them I would be praying for their safety as they got their assignments.) As my friends and I left we were hyper vigilant walking to the car. It was outside where I lost it and cried. I just wanted to go home and be safe at home with my dog, Leo.

In the car we talked about what gave someone the nerve to feel so entitled. It hit the note of how I have started dating and have had a few not so great encounters with “nice” men. Being nice doesn’t entitle you to anything and real nice men should know that.

Forty-eight hours later, I still feel uncomfortable. As I write this out, I wish I had just said, hell no from the get-go, but no, my society conditioning of being nice and polite won. It will not win again because I never want to feel that way again. That drunk guy wasn’t going to learn a lesson.

Male entitlement is real and it can be really scary.

pinch me… i must be dreaming

In March 2016, I visited Washington, DC for a rally and a board meeting. I graduated in June and then in August I moved from Seattle to DC. In December I signed a lease to stay in DC another 6 months. Now it’s April 1st and my life is no joke. (Sorry not sorry for the dad joke.)

I often have to take a moment and pinch myself. My life is so much better than I thought it could and should be at this point. I’m in a city that I love. I have found deep friendships with new friends. I joined a church that has a Sacred Resistance team that I am actively involved in. Leo, my dog, loves it here, or that I’m here. I have found an active lifestyle that includes lots of spin and yoga. I found more discernment that I will blog about later. Most of all, I have found a job that is in my vocation at Wesley Theological Seminary’s Center for Public Theology.

A year ago, I knew there was hope, possibility, and wonder out there waiting for me to actualize it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be working in public theology, at the table with people I have read about, surrounded by some amazing coworkers, found new friendships, and am making it in DC.

I am deeply grateful for my life and the fact I can live into my vocation.

i heart america

I fell back in love with my country yesterday.

A country that I fell out of love with in high school. I think it was the moment I was informed that the United States was bombing Iraq. No, I don’t think, I know it. I was at youth group playing sardines and I ran to the women’s restroom and sobbed. Images of trucks with American flags after 9/11 and the far too easy chorus of America the Great, instead of questioning filled my head. It was a year in the making and as human lives were lost in Iraq I mourned.

I have not loved my country for half of my life, and certainly none of my adult life. I saw glimpses of hope in the Obama administration and I came close, but still love eluded me.

Growing up, my mom would wistfully say that I should have been born in the 1970s, that’s where my spirit was. I am at my root a person of questioning, a theologian (theology is faith seeking understanding) who doesn’t assume that authority has the truth automatically. But, my mother is unfortunately wrong and the past few years have proven it. The rights that my foremothers fought for in the 1970s have been whittled down, dismantled, and the dream of equality is still not a reality.

But, the 2010s are here and I have finally found my entry into effective activism. It took me until my 30s, but I am here. My time studying theology has engrained the radical justice of the Bible, my time in the marketing department of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington gave new meaning of what it can be to be an American, my time at the Methodist Federation of Social Action taught me how to be both Christian and American, and my time at Faith in Public Life got me to DC in a time such at these.

I should have been born when I was born.

The past few months have been hard on my soul, but through refusing to sit down, rooting my justice work in the gospel, marching for justice I am finding my way.

Seeing the 1/2 million women who rallied and marched in Washington, DC cleared my mind and filled my heart. Hearing from friends across the nation who marched and rallied in major cities, and small ones. Even friends who live outside of the United States joined. Millions took a stand and practiced our American values chanting: Tell me me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like.

I fell back in love with my country yesterday. The hope and possibility of a justice nation seeking out to embrace of of humanity was evident. As a person of faith, I saw a glimpse of the Kin-dom of God, the Beloved Community, and I will continue to dedicate my life to actualizing that hope and possibility.

“standing down is not an option”

I haven’t written for a long time. Truth be told, I just didn’t have it in me. Post-election was, has been, rough. The spew of hatred and bigotry that has come to light in this election made it clear, that it wasn’t going to be a good four years moving forward. Some people could bounce back and fight, but that’s not me. The election hit my gut and heart hard because I truly believed that if Hillary Clinton could have won, our country could move forward in many streams of social justice (perhaps pulling my lagging church with the culture). In the time of advent, of waiting, of hoping, I stayed in the darkness not wanting to come out. I needed to rest, listen, reflect, and strengthen my foundation for justice because it’s going to be a long four years.

I’m not alone. Many of my friends are overwhelmed at what is yet to come, the unknowing more fearful than if we actually had a grasp on what our President-elect is thinking. I had to sit a bit; licking my wounds because without healing I would burn out.

But I knew I couldn’t remain sitting, 2017 meant it was time to get up and fight. I have been daunted with the fact that I am a cis-gendered white straight woman because I want to be the best ally, co-conspirator I can be. Where do I turn my attention? How can I show love and compassion, yet challenge those privileged as I? Yet, to even ponder is privilege and that is no excuse to do nothing.

Last night, for New Year’s Eve, instead of going out, drinking bubbly, and dancing; I went to Repairers of the Breach’s Watch Night Service. I heard person after person share their story on why we need a moral revival in this country, that justice was needed, that it was Biblically based, and that we needed to wake up as a nation. I needed this. Hope was restored and it refueled my soul.

At the end, the Rev. Dr. William Barber preached and at the end he said, “Standing down is not an option.” It isn’t. We all stood and yelled it back because sitting is no longer an option. It is morally imperative that we stand for justice, that we stand for the oppressed.

So I began 2017 standing and will continue the fight for justice for all people because that is what humanity is called to do. “Standing down is not an option” in this new year.