Thursday

pale the winter days after dark


I thought we were turning a corner out of The Sick that's plagued us off and on since Thanksgiving, and then Dylan woke up hoarking again this morning, so I guess not yet, huh?

Sweet mercy.

She actually appears to be quite all right now, which is awesome, but not awesome enough to earn us a trip out of the house. So we're camped out in our pjs, reading stacks of library books, and breaking our No-Morning-TV-Rule. And I'm linking up with Leigh to share a few things that caught my eye this month.

Books: I already told you how much I love Introverts in the Church, but this month I finished another stunner, Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World. Rich and lovely, I know I'm going to want to re-read it and am grieving its inevitable return to the library.

Movies: We rarely see anything in the theater, but there have been a few goodies on the small screen of late. Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was perfectly delightful. Words can't do justice to the magical Beasts of the Southern Wild. Quvenzhan√© Wallis is the youngest actress to be nominated for an Oscar, and her performance is truly mesmerizing. Pitch Perfect was fun, and I may or may not have watched the final musical number six times. Anna Kendrick and whoever played Jesse are so dang adorable, and I've always loved Brittany Snow. (Anyone else remember her on American Dreams, where she danced on Bandstand? That was such a good show!)

TV: I watch entirely too much tv in the winter, but when it's this cold, dark, and sick, I'm not even gonna apologize for it. Parenthood had a great, if not sob-tastic, season. Jim and I both love us some Downton Abbey, although I'm still borderline despondent about how things ended Sunday. I also really enjoy Happy Endings, but I won't even pretend that Pretty Little Liars isn't my favorite thing on tv.

Aside: in the episode of Happy Endings where Brad works at a kids' gyms, Jim and I about died: "Dylan, Sophia, girl-Dylan, Madison, Madison, Madison." Is Dylan really that popular a name for little girls right now? How did I not know this?

This month, the on-button on our tv broke off inside itself. The remote busted a while back, but I Macguyvered a way to turn it on with a flashlight and a chopstick and was pretty satisfied. Now the kids couldn't turn on the tv when I wasn't looking, finding some daytime train wreck in place of Arthur. (Mute! Look away!) They would actually have to wait for my Go. This was great!

But Jim saw it differently. This was the break he was waiting for! The very next night, with Christmas money burning a hole in his pocket, Jim borrowed a van and took both children with him after work to purchase Our First Flat Screen while I was out at a meeting. (He also got us a Roku, which we are still getting the hang of, so if any of you has any tips on that, I'm all ears.) Look out! We fancy.

I don't think we're really eating, listening to, or doing much of anything new lately.The truth is, we've barely left the house all month, and I'm finding it difficult to conjure any kind of creativity out of pale January. Jim will be traveling for work most of February, and I'm feeling wary. I'd love to know,

what are you finding to be life-giving? How do you cultivate energy in the midst of winter doldrums? How do you fight the stir-crazies, and what's catching your breath and capturing your heart? Exactly how many girl-Dylans do you know?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

{top image of a page from the delightfully illustrated Extra Yarn, Barnett/Klaussen}

green ways to soften sad winter skin


a throwback from the archives. i thought the week could use some lighter fare!

although t.s. eliot said, "april is the cruelest month," my vote is with january. dark afternoons, tundric temperatures, and lack of fresh fare (and air) cast shadows on the post-holidaze, but the accompanying itchy skin doesn't exactly endear the season to me, either.  thankfully, relief can be found well before the ground thaws.

1. Humidifiers Are Your Friend. we run one in both bedrooms, and they make a huge difference. indoor heating strips moisture from the air, and a humidifier puts it back in nicely, making skin healthier and breathing easier. just remember to keep it clean so that you aren't circulating bacteria or mold. we use these filter-free models that are quiet and effective work horses. 

2. Re-Think Your Body Lotions and Moisturizers. ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, and synthetic glycerin can actually dry your skin. mineral oil, petroleum, and petrolatum are also poor ingredients in a moisturizer. chemically identical to crude oil, they cannot be absorbed and form an impenetrable barrier, blocking skin from receiving moisture or oxygen (and preventing the body's release of toxins). sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate can irritate sensitive skin as well.

i love non-greasy jojoba oil, even on my face. it's truly healing, prevents itchy winter skin, and absorbs especially well after a shower. almond and coconut oils are nourishing, too.  

3. The Best Thing for Chapped Lips: lanolinagain, petroleum-based products won't truly moisturize.  it's decidedly non-vegan but natural and long lasting, and i like to put it on the kids' chapped noses, too. you can spring for organic to avoid traces of pesticide or other toxins. cocoa butter and coconut oil are worthy vegan alternatives.

3. Turn Down the Water Temperature. excessive heat is drying on delicate skin (and uses more energy). although i still can't bear to give up super-hot showers, i try to keep them short and turn down the heat while washing dishes and hands. 

4. Use a Saline Nasal Spray. the ones i'm talking about cost under $2 and contain no medicinal ingredients. nasal passages can become dry and uncomfortable in the winter, and a saline spray can be soothing. when i get a bottle, i pop off the lid and put in 2-3 drops of tea tree oil. its antiseptic properties help to prevent illness, making a good thing even better.

now i wonder if anything barring a tropical vacation could make this six degree weather feel like a balmy 60 degrees...

[affiliate links included. shared with Your Green Resource hosted by Live Renewed, Sorta Crunchy, A Delightful Home, Simply Rebekah, Creating Naturally, and Red and Honey.]

Tuesday

empire and shalom (afterword to our privilege conversation)

arundhati roy

I published my post on privilege around dinnertime on Thurday and went straight to bed with the flu. When I woke up it had already become one of my most-read posts in nearly five years of blogging. To characterize the response as overwhelming doesn't come close to describing the way I'm still reeling.

Something in our discussion here touched a nerve, reverberating well beyond this little community. God knows that social media can bring out the worst, but the internet can be remarkably democratizing, too. Thousands inclined their ear our way, toward the frustrations and hopes for the Church held by mostly unpastor-y sorts following Jesus down unspectacular (and sometimes Lego-littered) paths.

We are, of course, the Church, too, and the conversation happening over at Homebrewed Christianity makes me wonder if I hear the rumblings of change afoot. I hope we do.

Although I like to fancy myself as something of a peacemaker (no, seriously), apparently I can be a bit of a shit-stirrer, too. My post was not met without controversy, and I want to clarify one thing. The crux of my thesis was that we cannot build the Kingdom of God with the tools of Empire and privilege. Yes, I offered a feminist critique of online emerging church culture, but I wrote it not to start a witch hunt (!) but to question the ways we enthrone worldly power and hierarchy within church and Christian culture.

I don't question anyone's motives and used the language of privilege specifically to argue that the harmful messages we send are largely unconscious. But inadvertent patriarchy is still patriarchy, and meaning well alone won't engage more voices, dismantle inequalities, or bring about the shalom we seek.

I wrote about gender privilege because that is the particular hierarchy to which I am especially sensitive (because of my own privilege), but it is only one aspect of the larger problem of inequality in the Church. We are all complicit in structures that foster injustice. I am complicit, too. My goal was never to drag anyone through the mud but to expose privilege as a component of social sin and systemic violence.

Do your hearts burn with this, too? I wanted to highlight a few (more) voices who are encouraging me along this way (and would love to hear yours, too).

Do you read Kathy Escobar, a pastor with the prophetic imagination for such a time as this?

to me, power is a combination of leadership, value, voice, and resource.
when it comes to “the church” i think we have a really jacked up system related to power. we have adopted the ways of the world and the methods of businesses as our central practices instead of the beatitudes. and even though a lot of people with power are taking more and more about “kingdom living”, often, they are perpetuating the same old power structures

Have you read Adam McHugh's Introverts in the Church? This book provides incredible affirmation to many who have felt less-than as Christians for not being the "best" kind of leader or having the "right" personality or gifts.

I can't stop talking about it. Adam provides an invigorating challenge that I believe pertains to this conversation, especially with regard to the narrow way we often conceive of leadership as a Church, some of what we're missing, and how we might grow as a Body. He interviewed dozens of introverts and pastors, and although he never makes a big deal of it, his story and research are woven with the perspectives and struggles of many women in ministry. It was profoundly encouraging to me as an introvert (and eye-opening to me as a verbal processor married to an internal processor). It should probably be required reading for everyone in church leadership and anyone who loves an introvert or cares about community.

I mentioned these at my post for Ed Cyzewski's non-fiction series, but another book that rocked me this year was Beauty Will Save the World by Brian Zahnd. It will mess you up, and you'll never imagine Jesus, the gospel, empire, or violence the same way again. It's an important read.

Now I want to put it to you. Where do you think we go from here?

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can here her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

Monday

MLK & the Prophetic Church



The following is an excerpt from a substantial 1965 interview Dr. King gave to Alex Haley (for Playboy!). It is a fascinating portrait as well as the lengthiest interview the civil rights hero ever granted. I recommend reading it in its entirety, but this portion about the church particularly caught my eye:

"The church once changed society. It was then a thermostat of society. But today I feel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures rather than molds popular opinion.


[...] 


I will remain true to the church as long as I live. But the laxity of the white church collectively has caused me to weep tears of love. There cannot be deep disappointment without deep love. 

Time and again in my travels, as I have seen the outward beauty of white churches, I have had to ask myself, “What kind of people worship there? Who is their God? Is their God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and is their Savior the Savior who hung on the cross at Golgotha? Where were their voices when a black race took upon itself the cross of protest against man’s injustice to man? Where were their voices when defiance and hatred were called for by white men who sat in these very churches?”

[...] 


My personal disillusionment with the church began when I was thrust into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery. I was confident that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would prove strong allies in our just cause. But some became open adversaries, some cautiously shrank from the issue, and others hid behind silence. My optimism about help from the white church was shattered; and on too many occasions since, my hopes for the white church have been dashed. 

There are many signs that the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today’s Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The real tragedy, though, is not Martin Luther King’s disillusionment with the church—for I am sustained by its spiritual blessings as a minister of the gospel with a lifelong commitment: The tragedy is that in my travels, I meet young people of all races whose disenchantment with the church has soured into outright disgust."

MLK and Divine Dissatisfaction



{image source}


Thursday

tragically hip: privilege & the emerging church


I.

Conversation heated this week surrounding a recent Emergence Christianity gathering and the seemingly anti-feminist sentiments offered by Phyllis Tickle in her closing keynote. Julie Clawson (and other women) unpacked some of the tensions those words presented in a faith movement that prides itself on being forward-thinking, inclusive, and postmodern only to be chided by male leaders for launching "attacks".

Here we go again.

Can we talk about privilege for a moment? I've noticed that people's interest in discussing or accounting for privilege may be inversely proportional to the amount they possess. Which can be sort of a problem.

No one likes to admit to possessing any advantage over anyone else. You know, Bootstraps! and all that. Remember the Romney campaign and the Republican National Convention this past summer? We built it!

(I don't think this is a peculiarly American tendency.)

Upon hearing the word "privilege," many conjure images of prep schools, country clubs, and Old Money and launch into defensive mode: You have no IDEA what my life is like! / how hard I work! / what my family of origin was like!

You'd be right. I probably don't. You don't know my whole story, either, but these conversations can be windows into one another's experiences and a chance for us to learn.

Having privilege doesn't mean that one's life is easy or that you've never experienced disadvantage or pain. It is not a personal indictment but an acknowledgement that social and institutional benefits enjoyed by some are denied to others.

These conversations are complicated by the fact that many people will experience privilege in one realm and oppression and disadvantage in another. (Shay unpacks this well here.) I experience privileges as an able-bodied and neurotypical person, including easy access to buildings and restrooms, being able to hear fire alarms and announcements, and trusting that people aren't much concerned about my potential for "violent" break-downs.

Education and socio-economic status grant me other advantages, as does my Christian faith (despite what the distressed might have us believe). White skin confers an invisible knapsack full of privileges about which I rarely am made to give a passing thought. (Dianna Anderson explores this more.) Being heterosexual and cisgender allow me social and legal benefits that many cannot claim--or take for granted.

Beauty and intelligence confer advantages, along with speaking English (extra points for doing it without a perceivable accent), affluence, class, and age (or youth, depending), and there are certainly other areas I'm leaving out.

Privilege is largely invisible unless you don't possess it. Although it's easy for me, especially as a straight, white person, to remain oblivious to many of the advantages that I enjoy, in the areas where I lack access or power, that void is glaringly apparent and not so easily forgotten.

Which brings me to male privilege. Lord, have mercy.

II.


In the early '00s I was a church youth minister, and during that time, my supervisor begin planting a missional, emerging church that Jim and I were part of as well. I read the books, relishing the wrestling that stretched my faith and energized the ministry.

But in 2005 we relocated to a small town, trading city life and our emerging church for camp ministry and a decidedly unsexy church full of modernist sort of folks who are double and triple our age. There was nary a goatee or guitar in sight, but we found a home there anyway, embracing liturgical tradition and the grace and generosity of community unlike ourselves in age, income, and often worldview.

It's only in recent months and years, though blogging and twitter, that I've waded back into the "emergent conversation." (Or whatever it's called now. I'm rusty.) My theology still overlaps, but I don't feel the same vigor. I feel like an outsider and not only because of the time that's passed.

As a woman, I am outsider looking in on a movement that appears to have lost much of its initial Kingdom-oriented vitality and practical, boundary-busting appeal.

Emergence Christianity (online at least) is a boys' club dominated by academics, and the climate can be dismissive of or even hostile toward the voices of women and people of color. They talk about being welcoming, affirming, open, and inclusive, but not everyone experiences that in actuality.

It's disheartening to hear white guys dismiss concerns about diversity and justice work as "identity politics," favoring theory and theology over people, stories, and meaningful change. What does it matter if you've got a rigourous Marxist argument and a brilliant vision for achieving actual systemic equality if you are actually talking over or silencing the very people excluded by current systems that favor you? There is nothing particularly progressive about mansplaining.

the best Tumblr ever
Accusing people of "playing identity politics" is a fun trick played by voices on the Right, too, on gay people who speak up about bullying or discrimination, women who expose rape culture, and people of color who highlight racism in America. One privileged man's "politics" is another's identity, culture, and daily experience of injustice in the world. This dismissive categorization comes across like an intellectualized version of pipe down / play nice.

Is it possible to unite across demographics and to experience identity in being the body of Christ and liberation through growing the upside-down Kingdom of God together? Absolutely. That is part of the hope of the gospel, and I've certainly seen healing, beauty, and reconciliation come through Christ's love and common work. But privileged folks (who also find identity in their/our own race, gender, etc) need to stop expecting others to check their identities or experiences of oppression at the door.

We can't build the Kingdom of God with the tools of Empire and privilege.

III.

Lack of female participation on a popular emerging theology blog led to an invitation not long ago for women to speak up, and they did in spades. I was particularly interested in how emerging pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber responded:

In general women are socialized to be fair-minded and aware of not stating our opinions too boldly (lest we offend or alienate) and to make sure everyone stays friends. This isn’t a completely bad thing, but as a result most of us have never learned to hold a position or stand firm in an argument because we are too busy trying to make sure people like us. So of course less women comment on the blog of a guy who’s not terribly concerned with any of that.

I don't disagree with her assessment of a particularly feminine tendency not to rock the boat. We are socialized that way, but it's patriarchy that enforces it, frequently painting (and punishing) assertive women as divisive, shrill, vitriolic, crazy, combative, contentious, and worse. Tony, who has made a brand out of being an ass (his words), is rewarded as a man for engaging aggressively, but when women accepted his invitation to comment and reacted strongly to his abrasive brand, he wrote a follow-up parable "releasing" angry critics from hanging around.

To me, this begs questions about what are the more "feminine" ways of relating, and why do progressive Christians preference [in men] more argumentative and "masculine" styles? Is this a value to uphold or subvert? Is there room practically in a movement framed as a conversation for a variety of personalities, backgrounds, gifts, and leadership styles and for people who don't conform to the prescriptive gender assumptions many still cling to, even unconsciously? Can we differentiate critique from attack, and is there room to disagree?

We aren't anywhere close to being post-racial, post-feminist, or post-equality, and I wonder into what are we "emerging" if the old ways of patriarchy and protected, hierarchical leadership still hang on so doggedly?

IV.

Despite all of this, I'm choosing to be encouraged. My hope is not in Emergence, politics, celebrity pastors, or denominations, but I do hold out hope for the one holy catholic and apostolic Church wherever She loves well. I hope in my sisters and brothers, in the Spirit moving, and the Kingdom of God taking root in even the darkest, most barren reaches of Empire. I'm choosing to sing freedom songs with Sarah Bessey who is done fighting for a seat at the table:

I have a tremendous well of hope for the voice of women in the church. The men at the table may be loud but the pockets of hope and love and freedom are spreading like yeast. I see it. I feel it in the ground under my feet. More and more of us are sick of wa
iting for a seat and so we are simply going outside, to freedom, together. And here, outside, we’re finding each other and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy. 
We are simply getting on with it, with the work and the community and the dreaming and the loving and the living out of the hope of glory.
We are getting on with it indeed, and no label, conference, leader, or small-c-church will legitimize or erase the work that God in doing in our midst.

So let's raise a glass to the lovers and truth-tellers. To servant leaders, encouragers, dreamers, readers, fighters, thinkers, pilgrimsstorytellers, and friends. To womanists, activistssages, survivors, and scholars. To artists, listeners, prophets, pastors, mamas, writers, mysticscontemplatives, and women of valor. To question-askers, shit-stirrers, breach-menders, Kingdom-builders, boundary pushers, and trail blazers. To the bold, brave, honest, real, kind, and wise. To bakers, peacemakers, and rule breakers; to all the unsung faithful; and the daily practice of sacrificial, resurrecting love.

To lighting bonfires and raising something beautiful out of ash.

about the hell and paradise right here


Some days your bad news rolls like water off my back. The wake leaves ripples, but I don’t still my steps long enough to notice or feel its chill. Chasing carrots and distractions, I’ll leave you to grieve alone and not look back.

I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.


But if I dim the inner monologue and lean in close, my own stomach drops. The rawness of your pain pricks my own eyes with tears. It’s not the same–yours is a load I’m free to pick up and set aside at will–but still my heart aches with yours.

I can only imagine what hell this must be for you. May I sit with you awhile?




I'm at A Deeper Story today with a lament for women from India to Missouri, and a new song to sing together. Will you sit with me awhile?


{shared with Imperfect Prose, "Create"}

Saturday

new year, new books

I may go down in flames but I shall not burn

I'm rocking my librarian specs and messy bun today for Ed Cyzewski's We're Booked series of non-fiction Christian book recommendations. I have three great picks I'd love to share with you on the Kingdom of God, monastic spirituality, and introverts in the church. Come on over, come on over, baby.


---
Also: Kelley Nikondeha is starting a virtual book club that you will definitely want to get in on if you like a good brain challenge.


Do you have any reading goals for the year? Book recommendations? Tell us something good.

Tuesday

GO: five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?


How about love?
Measure in love

Seasons of love


Even though we were still too sick to go out or pour champagne, we had a wholly satisfactory new year's eve at home. Jim and I managed a tiny dance party with the wee set in the seven o' clock hour, tucked them into bed, and nerded out musical theater style watching RENT, something that may just become a new tradition.

We picked a word together to orient the new year:



GO. Less couching. More feet-moving. More intention.

Go. Do. Move. Not toward busyness but action. Conscious choice to order our days, to be fully present to moments of quiet reflection, hard work, and creative play.

I'm naturally more inclined to be indoorsy, choosing sedentary pursuits over active ones. I'm a thinker and a dreamer, and those are both good things. There is a time to be still and to write, certainly, and I need both, but if I'm honest, it's easy for me to default to a mode of passivity that looks a lot more like apathy or procrastination than fruitful contemplation.

So this year we Go, spinning dreams into plans and schemes into concrete steps.

Do you pick One Word to focus your new year? I'd love to hear. There's still time today to enter to win a copy of Common Prayer, tooHappy and blessed be your new year, friends.

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