Saturday, February 24, 2018

When Spring Arrives at an Inconvenient Time

It turns out there is never a convenient time to come back to a blog you've abandoned. So, on this random Saturday, I'd like to start again. It's the end of February, and Spring this year, has come too early. It's not time yet. It's too beautiful for this very moment. It's like the time I saw a cherry tree in full blossom on Halloween. The juxtaposition was comical and I was struck with such a sadness for this out-of-place beauty.

Beauty feels out of place here, a few days after yet another school massacre. It feels out of place not even one week into the season of Lent. Stepping outside after huddling up with the flu for a week, my senses felt assaulted by pink buds and yellow trumpets. It's like confronting the first holiday after the passing of a loved one. It feels jarring and sickeningly sweet.

Today I've wrestled with this beauty at a time that should be shrouded in black, like mirrors for shiva. I'm scared for students to go to school. I'm scared for immigrants threatened by deportation from the only home they've known. I'm scared for women and men to speak out against their abusers. I'm scared for my children to get sick. And I'm scared I'll lose so much sleep over it all that the deprivation will send me spiraling into a depression.

And yet there are pink buds and yellow trumpets seemingly taunting me with their cheerful presence. Spring is coming, hope is coming whether I think I'm ready or not. God does not wait to show us compassion or nudge us back towards joy. Suffering together has a certain wonder to it, in that Easter kind of way. Kindness bubbles up in community where we thought is was truly dead.

In Godly Play, we tell the children that it is very sad that Jesus died in such a violent way. But, we assure them that it is also kind of wonderful and that it is a great mystery to hold this horror and this joy together in this season. This Lent I hope to explore that mystery more fully here.

I don't feel ready to enjoy the blossoms, yet, but I do feel ready to jump back into talking about all the things that are hard and beautiful and be back in community with those who want to have those conversations, too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thanksgivingkkah (long overdue post)

This Thanksgiving, my mother set a table for 38 people including 4 generations and many religious identities: United Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Baptists, Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Humanist Jews, Hindus, a Buddhist from all over the country and world. Everyone had a seat at one table stretching the room from end to end. My parents built this room for the express purpose of extending hospitality and they call it the "great hall" because it is great to have this many people in one space. This is the room where the Christmas tree stands, where birthdays and milestones are celebrated, where a disco ball hangs each New Year's Eve and many an adult has abandoned all shame and donned a Halloween costume. It truly is a great space, made greater this year by a new festival celebrated in its walls: Hanukkah.

So much hope, yet such a long road to go

This morning, I hold in balance hope and suffering. I just read this article my husband left open on my web browser this morning that makes me beam with pride for my local Jewish community. Featured in the main image is a cousin of my husband who is showing her Muslim sister radical love and hospitality. Our neighboring community of Murfreesboro is struggling with showing mere tolerance for the Muslim community trying to worship there and even recognizing their very American right to do so freely. The Jewish community of Obahai Shalom, a reform congregation led by Rabbi Schiftan, recognized this injustice and acted with compassion and neighborly love. In an effort to show solidarity as minority communities, the two are talking to one another, listening to one another, visiting one another and loving one another. What I see when I read this article is loving kindness and it fills me with hope.

I also hold hope for a wonderful opportunity that is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26 at 6pm at Belmont UMC. Bishop Talbert is coming to speak about Biblical Obedience - as in love, really love everybody, really everybody. He will speak about radical love and hospitality, as he has done throughout his ministry, even if that means bucking the system and breaking the rules. I hold on to the hope his words and presence brings because I also hold suffering.

The United Methodist denomination is struggling with who is lovable and worthy of God's love, who is included and excluded, who has rights and who does not have rights. This debate brings up that hot passion of anger in me especially when I see this article posted on Facebook and "liked." The president of Uganda just signed a law that makes homosexuality a punishable crime and he based this decision on very bad science. He used strong words of judgement and condemnation that challenges my hopefulness. I fear for the people of Uganda and am saddened by this support of bigotry.

Recently, I've read that hope is not an emotion, it's a practice and a behavior. Brené Brown writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that hope is a behavior that comes out of the perseverance through adversity. The UMC has known adversity before. They've known division and in-fighting. The church once debated over the biblical validity of slavery and women's rights and segregation. We persevered and we have hope. In many parts of the world, Jews and Muslims are enemies. Here in Nashville, we have hope for peace and reconciliation. UM bishops and pastors are breaking the rules and loving radically.

In the words of Wendell Berry, "be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." Today, I will be joyful and hopeful.