blessed be the both/and

water and fire
night and day
contemplation and praxis
wisdom and innocence
desire and discipline
justice and mercy
work and play
fast and feast
lead and listen
lament and celebrate
grace and accountability
anger and compassion
body and spirit
heart and mind
dismantle and build
solitude and community
freedom and responsibility
silence and speaking up
beauty and function
faith and deed
art and criticism
science and poetry
humility and confidence
difference and hospitality
prayer and protest
hear and do
end and begin
death and growth
resistance and rest
heartache and healing
local and transcendent
history and innovation
learning and liberation
truth and love
one and many
you and me


good news for weary bodies

Faith Feminisms is back this first week of Advent with timely meditations on how and why #bodiesmatter. Come by to read, and be sure to link up any old or new post fitting with the theme of embodied life and faith practice. We'd love to hear from a spectrum of voices.

Here's an excerpt from my piece:

Looking back, I felt most capable and myself not in my body at all but inside my head, which school and church both encouraged. My faith was something I believed fiercely and intellectualized, but it was not something I specifically learned to embody. Yes, Jesus wanted us to serve and follow with our whole selves, but there was a clearly implied dichotomy between flesh and spirit and a hierarchy of body to soul.
The stuff of spirit was holy and eternal and good.
The stuff of bodies, irrevocably tainted by sin, was lesser, fleeting, and ultimately passing away.
In the stories handed down around campfires, small groups, and lock-ins, Jesus’ perfect divinity trumped his dirt-under-the-fingernails humanity every time. If Christ’s own body didn’t matter much in the narrative of redemption, why in God’s name would mine?

Come by and read the rest, won't you? I'm also linking up two poems fitting with the theme: Incarnation and Test Everything. Blessings to you this Advent, loves. It's dark and getting darker, but there are so many reasons to hope.


shall we strike with a sword?

Shall we strike with a sword?
Shall we crucify, terrify, vilify, war?
Shall we wound with our words?
Shall we seethe?
Shall we shame?

Shall we strike with a sword
or a fist
or a chain?
Shall we make them submit to our rule?
Shall we reign?

Shall we strike with a sword?
Shall we live by it, die by it,
crown it our god?

Shall we bow? Shall we break
every bow that we've made?
Shall we love a more excellent way?

Compellingly uncoerced,
casting out fear. Lay down arms,
forge new tools in the fire that consumes
every dross and illumines strange paths.
Plowshares strike only soil: till our hearts,
may the verdant grow wild.


the eczema company {giveaway}

When Dylan was little, she had itchy eczema flare-ups. Her pediatrician recommended a popular petroleum-based ointment, which was pretty much the last thing I wanted on her sensitive skin. We experimented with a number of natural products, and ultimately, she grew out of it. But I know eczema remains an uncomfortable and frustrating condition for many, so when The Eczema Company reached out, I was glad to shine my little spotlight on their small business, owned by mom and green blogger, Jennifer Roberge. The Eczema Company carries a spectrum of soothing products, from oils and creams to laundry soaps, supplements, and protective clothes, and they've offered a reader giveaway of one of their family favorites, Manuka Honey Skin Cream.

Although we know longer deal with eczema, I was glad to give it a try, too, since it's healing for chapped winter skin and even wounds, and my own elbows had developed irritating, itchy patches. The cream's ingredients are straightforward and organically-sourced when possible: Organic Olive Oil, Organic Beeswax, Filtered Water, Grape Seed Oil, Organic New Zealand Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Extract. From their website:

Manuka honey is native to New Zealand and is created when bees pollinate the manuka bush, a relative of the tea tree. Manuka oil is extracted from the leaves of the manuka bush. Manuka oil is actually 10 times more potent than tea tree oil. Manuka and tea tree oil are praised world wide for their ability to naturally treat infections and reduce inflammation. Unlike the very medicinal odor of tea tree oil, manuka oil and honey have a lovely delicately sweet scent. 

I'd say the scent is barely noticeable at all, and unlike other oils, balms, ointments, and creams, it's not sticky or greasy and absorbs quickly. The patches on my elbows, which had bothered me for a couple of weeks, cleared completely, and the cream feels great on lips and hands, too. I look forward to keeping it close this winter and am glad to have it in my holistic arsenal.

Want to give Manuka Honey Skin Cream a try? Visit The Eczema Company's website, and come back here with a comment about something you learned or a product which interests you. If you like, follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Giveaway ends Saturday at 11:59 PM EST and is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada. Good luck!


God gives to his beloved sleep

If you're gonna go back to work full-time after seven years, it's probably best to go back after your youngest kid starts kindergarten rather than just before, especially if you're planning an October move from your home of more than a decade. We managed a few garage sales and cleared out a good bit of not nearly enough stuff ahead of time, but that and finding a new place and summer camp and commuting and starting a business sorta ate into what should have been packing time, which is why two weeks later we're still not entirely out of the farmhouse. (Hold me.)

Summer disappeared in a blink I barely remember. Team Paul could use a vacation, but I'm not sure where our suitcases are, and we're committed here till Christmas. Adulting is not for the faint of heart.

But the expectant canvas of vacant walls and as-yet-unmade memories are gifts, if lonesome ones, and our weary hearts receive them afresh, like amber leaves and dawn's new mercies.


walk of shame

I parked my car in the dimly lit garage downtown. Holding my keys tentatively, I started to pray.

Please, Lord, don’t let there be protesters. Please, Lord, not today.

If I could just make it down the block, through the unmarked door and into the elevator, everything would be okay. My weary eyes blinked against the bright sun. The street wasn’t busy. A few people waited for buses, and professionals darted past, briefcases in hand. The brunette in a tailored suit and heels was not headed to the clinic for her annual exam. Her skyscraper job surely came with benefits.

The walk sign lit, and I stepped off the curb, tucking my hair behind my ears. It still smelled of espresso from the chain coffeehouse where I moonlighted. I'd hoped graduation would confer an end to latte slinging, but their promise of health insurance was too alluring, and I tacked another twenty hours onto my work week. In just a few more months, I, too, could access birth control without the specter of public humiliation. I'd get my wisdom teeth out, order new contacts and glasses, and stop refusing emergency care, terrified of the cost. It would be a glorious day and tremendous relief.

But this was not that day. As I turned the corner, the clinic door came into view. Mercifully, the way was clear, and I exhaled, realizing I'd been holding my breath. At my next appointment I might still need to psych myself up for a confrontation with demonstrators, but today I was grateful for the quiet.

Plus, I needed to get back to the office soon. The Christian Ed committee couldn’t very well meet without their youth minister.

A version of Walk of Shame once appeared at a storytelling website. It also appears in the 2014 book, Speak.

photo credit


do you want to be made well?

While knowledge and truth can be found anywhere, the kind of wisdom that leads to shalom is indigenous to the margins, among "the least," forgotten, and last. Those who know the way to peace and healing are the ones whose bodies, like Christ's, bear scars of others' war-making. Any who sit at empires' thrones feasting on its spoils cannot lead us into justice. The powerful offer up all sorts of expertise, but paths to peace they do not know.

Peacemaking is not a top-down operation, nor does its wisdom flow from center to margin. Peace is forged through conflict (not around), and the way to communal well-being and wholeness is paved with all sorts of interpersonal discomfort, tension, and sweat. Justice cannot roll until subtle and glaring hierarchies and broken systems are identified and ripped out. 

And that much-lauded (and alarmingly misunderstood) rebuilding work of crafting something just and new? It, too, is rooted firmly in Wisdom from the margins! The top and center are architects and upholders of injustice, well practiced in the status quo affirming appearance of peace, but rarely the presence of Kingdom-of-God shalom. Despisers of the critical work of dismantling oppressive systems are incapable of building anything truly new; they lack the empathy, will, and imagination to envision and create alternate paths. Resurrection wisdom lives at the margins, where Jesus anchored his own life and ministry alongside fishermen, lepers, women, peasants, the colonized, unqualified, Samaritans, sinners, and sick.

Peacemaking is the sort of messy work from which many would rather run, particularly those of us benefiting from How Things Are [Unjust]. Privileged voices are quick to paint protesters, critics, and marginalized bodies as disturbers of a peace which does not yet exist. It's a tricky game, with clear winners and losers, actual shalom being the latter.

But we can't hope to take part in fixing what's broken if we refuse to recognize the depths of what's wrong, and that requires going to the margins and sitting at the feet of people the majority are most accustomed to demonizing and writing off.

Until Christians hear and heed Wisdom from the margins, we actively stand in the way of peace, no matter how "gracious" and gentle our words or noble our intentions. Civility is a tool of empire, defined by power and expertly wielded against those who step out of line or refuse the terms of their faux-peace. The Kingdom of God springs up out of far deeper, more fertile soil--and on the backs of none.

So many Christian voices claim--and honestly desire--to be on the side of Jesus, justice, and peace, but shalom wholeness requires a radical de-centering of power, the active subversion of hierarchical systems, and a good bit more staying in our own lanes.

White people can't know the first thing about dismantling racism unless we are sitting at the feet of Black people and other people of color. Men who refuse to learn from and defer to women are incapable of leading anywhere just, no matter how impressive their CVs. Straight and cisgender opinions on homosexuality, marriage equality, transgender identity, and intersex bodies aren't nearly as helpful (or faithful) as many imagine. Edgy tattoos and good book reviews are clanging cymbals accompanied by discrediting survivors and sheltering powerful friends. People who are depressed, in recovery, marginalized, and hurting have a great deal to teach the rest of us about a God who is near to the brokenhearted, but we can't receive their wisdom if we're so busy blaming them for harshing our happy vibe.

It's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.

Many Christians are so accustomed to seeing ourselves as the healthy bringers of a gospel of wellness to a sin-sick world, but we're just as sick as anyone. (And we're not the doctor in this metaphor, either, particularly when our actions and neglect contribute to making our neighbors sick!) We trust a pallid gospel of go-to-heaven-when-you-die, but the "personal" Savior Christians claim inaugurates systemic, all-things-made-new, salvific work among and within our communities here and now. We are saved together for greater works than these.

Do you want to be made well? 

Well, do we? We've got to acknowledge the depth of sickness in our systems as much as our hearts, and we can't expect the same voices who taught us hierarchy and complacence to lead us out into wholeness. De-throne the experts: shalom-deep wisdom resides at the margins, with the suffering and bruised.

There, among the despised and rejected, we'll finally and fully encounter the Man of Sorrows we've long claimed to follow. And only there, together, will we be healed.

the peace we make

For Christ himself is our peace: his flesh makes us one, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility.

Peace stands in the gap. With ears and hearts, peace listens, offering a hand (or keeping it to ourselves). Peace sets each wrong aright.

Speaking good words and hard truths, peace resists false choices, easy answers, cheap grace, and every entrenched pattern of empire. There is no peace in the presence of injustice (and it's rarely the center or top who knows how far we've come or where next to go).

Peace makes more room for the least, the last, and the lost. Peace de-centers power and conventional models of authority. It favors the margins, honoring their hard-won wisdom and recognizing paths to peace are unknown to masters of war and all who feast on their spoils.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

Peace sets to work, not despising the offerings of those who know conflict, too, is fruitful. Exposing violence cannot destroy a peace which has yet to be born among us. Clear out the old to make way for the new. Till each field, lot, and heart. Raze the systems. Raise the dead. Establish the work of our hands.

Many bodies, one Body. Many gifts, one Spirit. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One hope in Christ, whose body makes a way out of no way, birthing peace in place of great violence.

Heal. Feast. Invite. Wash. Serve. See. Teach. Feed. Bless. Rest. Honor. Listen. Forgive. Empower. Humble. Suffer. Challenge. Invert. Convert. Subvert. Sacrifice. Resurrect. Liberate. Re-create. Love.

The peace we wage is forged in fire. With skin in the game, we arm to the teeth: ploughshares, hammers, covered dishes. Pens and picket signs. Microphones, toilet brushes, canvases, keyboards. Sacraments and safe space. Boundaries. Imagination. Hospitality and hard work. Room to grieve and grace to grow. 

Peacemaking by incarnation and alchemy.

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