Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rise and take a seat at the table

The evolution of my faith has brought me to a new understanding of worshipFowler's Stages of Faith suggests that this is a universal experience. We all move from literal to mythical to conventional to logical and if we are lucky it all comes together at some point where we understand the limits to logic and the value of our ancient stories and that compels us to be active instead of passive in our worship.

This year I participated in Maundy Thursday (celebrating the last supper and the events that lead Jesus to the Cross), Good Friday (remembering the actual suffering and death of Jesus), and sunrise Easter service where we celebrate the victory over death and the Resurrection. 

Each of those observances were deeply moving and powerful for me. 

And they made me wonder as well. How does this actually apply to me? To my neighbor? To my fellow humans who don't share my faith? 

And a secondary question that hung in the air for me while contemplating this day-- If Jesus died for all of us… why do we have a tendency to try to separate ourselves out from each other?

I had the good fortune last May to travel to Israel and see the actual places on earth Jesus' story unfolded. There in Jericho where Jesus went to pray and fast is a lift that carries tourists to the top of a cliff where there is a small church cut out of stone that is supposedly on the very place Jesus sat. On the ride up Bill and I sat with a mother and daughter and our guide. The mother and daughter were visiting from Gaza. They were both beautiful and gracious. And it turned out they were in the midst of grieving a great loss. The mother was a widow. Her husband and the father of her child was killed in violence in Gaza.

There was a recognition for me, for Bill, for our new friends that we belonged there together, that we were part of this same human family. We prayed together in that place where Jesus went to be alone and commune. Palestinians are a people I feel I was taught to despise. They are "othered" by many in this country and the truth is they are just mothers and daughters and fathers and brothers all trying to live and thrive and give their gifts of hope to the next generation.

The truth is the whole of the human family in in that same work. Not because they confess Christ as their savior. Not because they belong to our same university or church or race or gender. Not because we approve of their choices or morals or political opinions. Just because we're humans. Just because we are alive together and reside on this planet. 

The more active our faith becomes, the more we have to recognize the fact that humanity itself will rise and fall together. The more active your faith, I think, the more universalist you become. 

For me, this is how the cross relates to everyone, whether you're Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Pagan--wherever you fall in belief or non belief we are descended from the same civilizations that created these sacred archetypes. This story is OUR story. 

We participate every day in the work of crucifying our own hope, our own Messiah. It happened just today in Pakistan. Women and children mostly, in a beautiful innocuous public park were playing, loving each other and bomb went off killing over 50 innocent people. Fifty six people and parts of hundred's of souls ripped into grief and unimaginable pain. It happened last week in Belgium. In our zeal to force an individual agenda, humanity keeps killing our best hopes. 

However, for me the message of the resurrection and the power in the empty tomb resides in our species in those dark moments. Before the dust even settles we RISE. We rise and go back to lift each other. In those purposeful moments we rise against the tide, against reason, against our safety and against sometimes our lives we rise up to keep the light of hope alive in the world. Our lives becomes so simple in a tragedy, we are face to face with our humanity. 

We rise when we recognize our ability to do something about pain or suffering. We rise when we step up to pay for the groceries someone can't afford. We rise when we intervene to help someone who feels invisible. We rise when we love each other well. We rise when we see each other in all our flaws and shortcomings and choose to love deeply and honestly anyway.

The message of Jesus the teacher, the brother, the Savior belongs to everyone. It is a human story. It has been told for generations. It resonates in all of us because we are meant to recognize what is the same in us. As we move forward as a society we rise against the zeal of bigotry, of racism, of single-mindedness and passive faith. We rise to be saved into the transformative body and wholeness of creation. 

The Grace of God means there are no people beneath us, there is no one we need to build a wall to keep out. It means we are all worthy of a seat at the table.

Happy Easter

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Easter Prayer for the restless

Dear God,

It isn't that I don't recognize how good I have it. Its just that I get so stuck sometimes.
I get so off track chasing down meaning I can't make in life.

I am not hungry or sick or lost or homeless.
I am not huddled in some God-forsaken hell that swallows all my gifts.
I am not in the black of darkness.

I'm here, God.

I'm here and I have been hurt but I don't need to hurt anyone.
I'm here and I've been lied to but I don't need to lie.
I'm here and I've been beaten down but I don't need to beat anyone.

I stand here in all my bare truth and I know that I'm enough the way I am.

I am here failing and falling short and I am not ashamed of that.

I'm here in all my broken, aging, wrinkled beauty and I am yours, God.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love is: a living entity

Sometimes life slows down enough, time slows down enough for a moment for us to really see something important. I have this memory of dancing. It was dark, I was drunk off of adolescent angst and silliness and a sugar high and I was asked to dance. He was a tall, funny charming older boy dressed as a plumber, holding a plunger and everything. (Because it was Halloween) There was something so vulnerable in that energy. There was something inexplicable how powerful and emotional it was to dance without words. To be lead or to lead and allow that exchange. To hear in the motion of it something about my own heart. Something so time-slowing-downish that in a very small moment where I felt the world moving in a surreal way.

A few days later I found out that sweet and silly boy hung himself. And then I recognized the importance of that dance. The finality of that moment happening and then closing down permanently.

Life is so precious. So very finite. So full of surprising ends and beginnings. There is an order in the chaos of it all. There are echoes in all this nuance and mess.

It will never make sense to me what happened. That a person can be so broken and hurting and desperate on the inside when all we see is courageous strength and light in a brave smile. People are complex. People are walking around wounded. People are doing everything they can to hide the fact that they live with the chronic aches of healing and re-wounding. And somehow we are taught to feel shame in that.

I think of love a real, living entity. And that is why it is important to love people where they are. In the very moment where you are.

Sometimes we can't know what brought us here together. We can't know what will happen five days or five years from this moment. But we can actually imprint love in our interactions. Our brains are actually wired to change with every new interaction.

Our brains are wired to keep learning with every interaction. 

I can't say that without a sense of awe and wonder every single time.

So I love this man. And absolutely nothing about loving him is easy. Absolutely nothing about accepting and growing together is textbook. It is alive. Love is like our bodies-- intricate and complex and amazing and incomprehensible. One hormonal imbalance can throw everything out of whack sometimes. But with care and diligence, we can always be healed if we are able to seek help and intervention.

Somewhere along my way in life I stopped dancing. I literally stopped wanting to dance. I don't know what brain rewriting lead to my fear and anxiety over dancing--or if I just accepted the things I told myself--that I am not good at dancing, I have no sense of timing or rhythm. Saturday night I danced with my husband for the first time. It was this beautifully intimate surrender of all of my self-consciousness that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was for me, a transformative moment. A healing moment. A time-slowing down moment where I could close my eyes and feel perfectly safe. I could breath deep into the smell and confidence of my partner. I could feel where he wanted me to move. So many rewritings and relearning done in that blind moment.

And so as not to represent only the bravest of smiling faces I will be honest: It hurts sometimes. It isn't a beautiful surrender sometimes. Sometimes love feels like you are in the last mile of a race you just want to quit. Sometimes in love we can only see in our partners the result of lots of pain and deep, deep wounding that comes out in unexpectedly hurtful ways. We are very rarely honest about the hard stuff. And for good reason. But I just want to share this epiphany I had about loving wholly, loving and healing through the hard stuff. Because it always is transformative and empowering and so so worth it to work through the healing process. I believe there is a sanctifying grace in our suffering. There is an ability to dig in deep and find our strength. And sometimes what that feels like is not knowing what to do, where to go or how to move on. Sometimes that is where real loving and living begins. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we are lead. It is a beautiful surrender when we accept love as a living and breathing entity.

I'm not sure if that makes sense. I'm not sure you can really give anyone your epiphanies or life lessons like handing over a coin. But I do know about the currency of love--that the more you pour out of yourself, the more your internal reserves grow.

 So love. And love big.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The last night

When I was a child, Christmas Eve was five hundred years of sleepless seconds. Anticipating Christmas was bigger and more incredible than Christmas day ever could be. Because the day inevitably comes to a close and then its over. Just like that.

I could never have been able to survive the evening before BJay died if I knew what was going to happen. And I think about this so often. Death happens all the time. All around us people fight for their lives in a hundred different ways. Sometimes we know it is coming. Sometimes we know it is near. Sometimes it is quick and completely unexpected. No one is ever really prepared. But I don't know that I could have survived anticipating the tremendous crushing ocean of sorrow that is losing someone you love. It feels merciful to me, that if it had to come at all, death came so completely unexpectedly.

I plead with you tonight as I remember so vividly the last night I spent with BJay in this world: Please don't take your love for granted. Please don't treat your relationships lightly. Loving is the greatest thing we get to do. Love is what binds us forever. Love is what makes all this pain and sorrow worth bearing. Love breaks us open to everything that hurts. And love is what heals us and binds us up again.

I am reminded once again as I've come to this night. Five years ago we left the children with my family and went out. We didn't go dancing. We didn't have a fancy meal. We didn't do anything bold or impetuous. But we did take the time to recognize each other. The world was shifting under our feet. I have no idea what I would have said or done if I had known it was the last time we would ever go out together. But I do know for certain that nothing was left unsaid. I went to sleep peaceful and filled up with happiness, contentment, and deep abiding love.

We woke up and cooked breakfast together. And within two hours he died. On a Monday morning, mid September.

On this eve before the day that marks the worst day I ever lived I am glad to be where I am now. I am glad to know what I know. Along the way I have seen this same nightmare unfold around people I know and those don't know and it inspires me to no end that people keep on living and creating beauty and being wonderful and cheerful and funny. Under the weight of so much pain and struggle we can all keep going. And we do. And we will.

Today, remember to love the ones you love well… if you would. For BJay.


Friday, April 10, 2015


Taking a much needed break from my amazing wonderful children and annoying little puppy to spend a few days in Savannah resting, running, thinking and studying. I have been thinking about faith and what it means for me and I was reminded of this little gem:
"Have faith."
When he said it, the words pressed into my palms, like coins.  Since then I've measured all virtuous currency.  I've checked it against a balance sheet.  I know how much it costs to cross the line.  I know how much I earn for grieving.  Annuities paid out for never questioning.  Nose to the grindstone, I'll have enough by the end of next year.

When I have enough, I will cross the Rubicon.  All my rabid sins will find me.

I wrote this little fiction sometime in 2009. I don't think it means anything to anyone else. For me it defines a shift in my understanding of what faith actually is.

What I was trying to get across was that there is this false idea that faith is like religious currency. And so doubt is like some kind of spiritual debt. In this paradigm, faith is something you accumulate and amass. If your faith account is big enough, you can buy favor from God. If you have enough of it, you can use the earned-interest to make a transaction with God where you make known your will and in exchange for faith, God will remove obstacles in your path, heal, bless or give you what you need or want. However, if you give away too much of it, if you go bankrupt in faith by accumulating too much doubt, you can lose your account with God and without the currency of faith, give way to the barren emptiness of Godlessness and Faithlessness. In this way, faith is evidence of personal righteousness. And doubt is evidence of unrighteousness.

I don't think this thought was fully developed in my mind when I wrote that fiction in 2009. It is very hard to even find the words to describe what it meant for me today. I think I thought the flash was about gambling your faith on an absolute idea. Or accumulating enough currency to be a good enough person and then finding out when you are at the point of no return that it wasn't enough. 

For me right now, faith is something broader and more transformative than a positive spiritual currency. I don't believe it can not be had without doubt. I don't think you can gain a deep, abiding faith without fully recognizing, categorizing, acknowledging and getting to the bedrock of your doubts. After all, faith is defined as believing even though there is evidence not to believe. 

According to Pew Research on the global religious landscape most people in the world have faith in the divine. According to Pew, Christianity is the largest piece of the pie with 31.5% of the population ascribing to the teachings of Jesus Christ. After Christianity, Islam has 23.2% of the world's population, followed by 16.3% of the population that is "unaffiliated". The study categorizes the third largest group this way, but for my purposes I think this is a little misleading. This segment of the world population is not necessarily atheist, many may believe in a higher power or have spiritual beliefs, they just don't affiliate themselves with any particular religion. Even still, if you don't count the unaffiliated group, the vast majority of the world believes in a higher power. In the world, 84% of the population labels themselves as a believer in some established religious tradition. That is a huge statistic. It means that most people in the world have faith. Something compels humans to believe in something. And we believe even though there is no rational reason to believe. We have faith even when there is very little to no historical, scientific, or measurable reason to have faith. 

In fact, our faith has the power to link us to the divine even when the historical evidence shows us that the religions we ascribe to do not always behave in benevolent ways. There are embarrassing failures of doctrine, catastrophic misunderstandings that lead people to feel they are enacting "God's will" in violent, irreverent, racist,discriminatory and even hateful ways. But our faith can overcome any and all of these things no matter how troubling or how strong the evidence. 


In my opinion it is very simple and exquisitely beautiful. God gave us the power to choose. Freedom, having the power to choose has been so important throughout the history of the world that men will fight and die and kill to protect it. It is so innate in us, this gift God gave us to decide for ourselves what is true enough to exercise our faith in that it becomes a wellspring for all the good humanity produces. Where freedom of religion is allowed, intellectual study and ideas flourish. The arts flourish. Scientific discovery flourishes. Freedom to choose doesn't mean that bad things don't happen because they always will. Humanity produces ugliness and horror as much as it produces good and beauty. But I think it is always when choice is limited or perverted or taken away completely that the ugliness is most potent. And ironically, trying to legislate goodness into society by limiting freedoms has the opposite effect. 

Limiting faith to one state church was and is and will always be a disaster. I think there is evidence for that historically. I think there is evidence for that now. Church and state can not effectively govern together. 

I think I'm biting off more than I meant to chew on here. My point is that faith is powerful enough to withstand all doubt. Truth and faith align in the power to choose. I have spent this awesome time off from responsibilities listening to and reading a lot of lectures on faith. One point from a Mormon intellectual that I went to church with in California (when she was likely in her college-doubting phase) said something that I found very profound that was told to her in her doubts about her faith:

“There are a lot of stories in the world, but Mormonism is the story that I want to be true. To the extent that it is not, I will make it true.”
I think this is a powerful idea and it extends outside of Mormonism. Because you can certainly find evidence against a religion or sect if you go looking for it. But the beautiful thing about faith is that we get to choose where we fit. We get to make true what we want to be true. And most people in the world are doing just that.

What I have found important as my faith has ebbed and flowed and as I've become restless is that you have to choose something with innate goodness that excites you and connects you to the Almighty. You have to connect in a way that you are excited and willing to contribute to the good of the world. This zeal and excitement for people, this reservoir of faith has to happen on an individual and organic way. You have to choose it. 

Faith to me is not the power to bend God to our will, but the acceptance that once we choose God, we can accept the journey whatever comes along. Once we choose to connect to the goodness of God we can walk or climb or crawl or be carried at times through any challenge of doubt or pain or grief because our faith is not anchored in our own ability to achieve, but in God's ability to refine and change us. 

I am thankful for the freedom to exercise my faith. I am energized and excited in the story of Jesus Christ. The simplicity of His message to Love God and Love you Neighbor is what I find the most goodness in. :)

Thanks for listening

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A little honesty

I don't think it is too far off that there will be a device that takes the thoughts out of our heads and writes them out for us. I would love to have something like that when I run. Running is a meditation for me. I usually run alone. I run with my thoughts. And I run with the aim of connecting with God as I sort through the stuff on my mind. I'm staring down day 3 of being "snowed-in" here in NC. Arctic weather has set in and I'm loving the extra time with the kids but not loving the winter bite out there enough to make myself run in it. So I have a lot of thoughts built up and I guess I wanted to air them out here.

An encouraging word

Women in my life: I love you. I am uplifted and inspired and encouraged by you. And I don't tell you that enough. And I don't tell myself enough that its okay, and I'm okay and you're more than okay because we're doing our best. Maybe we are hard on us because we don't know if we are doing our best or if we could be doing more. You know? Because we're busy putting everything ahead of ourselves in order or importance and we're just trying to get to the bottom of the list. I don't know what I'm saying here really, it made so much more sense to me the other day when I was running. And, btw, I had to stop and walk like 4 times and couldn't get into a comfortable pace. And I felt like crap about it. Why? Because I'm not an athlete? Because I don't know if I'll ever be able to really finish a marathon… And then I realized that that was okay. There was a time 3 miles might as well have been a marathon because I didn't believe I'd ever be able to run that far. And there was a time before that when I didn't know how I could make it to 2012 because I was so broken and alone and I didn't know how to ask for help so I sunk deeper into isolation. But. Things got better. I got stronger. And I kept going. So. If you are having a hard time with whatever it is, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It isn't true that "everything is possible". Because it just isn't. But you can change what is possible for YOU

The strength to be vulnerable

I find myself in a vulnerable place. I am going to come clean here and I don't know how its going to work out. I am struggling to make sense of matters of faith. I have come to realize that I can't know the things I want to be sure about. The religious convictions I held so strongly for so long are waning and its hard to accept, its hard to understand. The things that I know are that God is real, that he loves me and that he sent Jesus to atone for the world so that we could overcome our vulnerable nature and be forgiven of our sins. I know for sure I need Jesus Christ in this moment more than anything else. But I feel so alienated from church and doctrine and the religious condescension and smugness that I honestly don't feel I belong to anything. I honestly don't feel at home or accepted anywhere. And I guess I have put myself in this place. But I have to be honest, its a very lonely place, once again. I feel like my LDS friends and family will see me as an apostate and my Christian friends see me as a heretic. And I just want to be a believer. "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief."Mark 9:24.

I struggle to understand how so many people in the world call themselves a Christian yet treat fellow Christians of different denominations with contempt. Are we not all beggars? Mosiah 4:19? I know I am. 


Friends, I love you. Please don't tell me how to fix this. I am working on it. Prayers would be great. Thanks for listening again. And thanks for being part of my life. My heart is so full with gratitude for all the kindness, all the friendships, and all the understanding I have been granted by you. Hugs all around. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Boatman

It has been a busy couple of months. I had a wedding, moved, went on a family vacation/road trip with our new family of 10. Got started in 4 new schools, started settling into our new place. And I'm learning how to be married to a pilot. I'm learning I love being married again. And I am learning it is still hard work. So many things I should devote entire pages to. And I will. And pictures.

I love my new life, my new home, my new friends. And I love my new family. I feel… just so full up and content when we get to all be together and I see how the kids are loving each other and playing with each other and I can cook for all of them and learn what everyone likes and doesn't like. I love making 6 lunches for school. I love how love expands from the man I fell in love with to the children he is responsible for. And even when it isn't easy, it is still love. And that is a gift and a blessing.

BJay has been on my mind the past few weeks. We just passed the 4 year mark of when BJay died. I was going through some old files and I found this poem I wrote in the days after BJay died. It was all so fresh then, that hurt. But I like that I have stuff like this to remind me how I felt. I had forgotten that Jamie, my little sister made cookies for the kids the day BJay died and they saved some of the cookies for the man in the fishing boat who helped them. I never got to thank that man. He literally disappeared as soon as he came to shore. The children divided their food for him. And it made me think of him as something mythical, or some otherworldly being. I was thinking of Greek mythology here, the boatman who takes people to the other side. And you leave coins for him on the eyes of the dead. And I thought of how hard it would be to have that job. At the time I was seeing people who dealt with the grieving all the time. Funeral home directors, cemetery plot salesmen. These people see grief every day, they live in it. They hear it and see it. And I just think it takes a certain kind of strength to do that, to see it and hear it all the time.

Anyway, that is where this poem came from. Out of all those thoughts. The most important being that BJay, as a father willingly took the place of his children in death. Just as any real father would do. There is dignity and honor in that. And that was and is very important to me, that that is the message that comes across when I talk about what happened to my children's father. I think some day there will be a message that is important for me to show the world about the man who is raising these kids now. And the respect and honor he has for BJay. The men I love are the real kind of superheroes. What a lucky woman I am.  Anyway… enjoy. Or not. ;)

The Boatman

He is always there before you expect him
gliding through a cloudless fog.
Keeping time, keeping constant strait lines-- never far from shore.
The boatman's time keeps pace with tragedy.
With heartache and disembodied cries.
With pain so acute and fresh it can't be contained.
He has to hear and hear and hear, a chorus of anguish,
that is part of the chore.

It is a thankless job, for coins.
And no one ever thinks to give him anything more.
Once in a while he gets to see what is out of place.
The people who don't belong,
ones he can't bear to carry across.
And that is when he takes them back.
Wishing, just once, to reverse the order.

But he can not go back across empty handed.

He guided my children to my arms and
left us standing on the shore.
He took my lover to the great beyond,
because he had to do it.
Because order can not be undone.
Because a father willingly pays the price for that mercy.

I have met him but I did not see his face.
My children know him and they
divide their food.
"For the boatman," they say, because he helped  us.