Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Faith, Grace, If I Were Preaching, Midway, Psalms

Oh, crap!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126, NRSV)

One of the things that gives me hope is quite simply the flip side of the thing that makes me frustrated about my own life and the lives of those around me: we tend to repeat ourselves. Sometimes I wonder if I am caught in a feedback loop, and I really worry when it sounds like I am my mother or my father having a conversation with me when I so strive to be a more awake and enlightened parent than they ever were, in my opinion. Although looking back I guess they didn't do such a bad job, really–after all, my brother and I are both productive members of society, raising kids who are thriving in one way or another, smart kids with interests and talents, and even one adult among them now, gone out into the world with his own harvests to anticipate.

But I don't love it when I hear frustration creep into my voice, when my old wounds and rejections become part of my parent-child relationships.

In fact, I hate that crap.

I'm pretty familiar with crap this morning. Sam strained or sprained something the other day and has been on a regimen of Tramadol and rest since Thursday afternoon, and this has thrown off his schedule of "bidness," and this morning I came downstairs to find a big pile of…that stuff. It cleaned up easily enough, but it served as a reminder of the way we all have habits to which we return unconsciously, primal tendencies that assert themselves in moments of stress, or exhaustion. 

They're not all as charming as the way I slip back into my Southern accent at the end of a long day or when speaking to an unknown group of people.

Communities have habits, too, patterns of relationship to which they revert when things aren't going well, or even when they are going *too* well. Even churches do this. If things aren't going well, God must not care about us, we think. Or if things are going extremely well, we may neglect the life of the spirit in favor of the more visible successes of life.

This psalm provides a vehicle for getting back on track. It's a song that says, oh, yes! We have become disconnected at times, and we thought God might be neglecting us or punishing us, and we plodded along watering our work with our tears–but we came back from the field with shouts of joy!!!

It sounds simplistic. God took stuff away, then for some reason God gave it back. I sometimes think we don't give those ancient writers of hymns and psalms full credit for the ritual nature of their compositions. Come back to God, they are saying, knowing full well that even a faithful person may have a bad crop or a dry season. Come back to God, because why ever you do it, it's a good thing. Come back to God, because believing you can handle it all yourself will surely lead to saying, "Oh, crap! Why did I think that?"

Come back to God, and be renewed by the natural mystery of cycles and seasons. Come back to God and give thanks that going away was always part of the human condition. Come back to God and give thanks that it is never too late to rejoice. Come back to God and give thanks that it is never too late to return.

Faith, Friendship, Marriage Equality, Politics

My Cup of Hope

Light Princess came downstairs this morning as the kitchen counter TV, tuned to the news, blared a commercial with Christmas music.

Offended, she exclaimed, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

I agreed. "I got a Christmas cup at Starbucks yesterday."

I prepared for her disgust, but instead she smiled.

"Well, they sort of put me in a good mood, so I guess it's okay."

And it was true, that on a morning when I felt discouraged, my first response to a Christmas cup was to cry out, "No! It's barely November!!" But then I noticed the words on the cup, which include "Wish" and "Joy."

And the first one I saw was "Hope."

Some of us might be about up to here with the idea of hope. We hoped and hoped all last year, and we rejoiced on Election Night, but on the other side of the country, people felt then the way my friends and I feel now.

It's possible that word got to bound up with a human being, one who doesn't share my position on the issue of marriage. I mean, he really, really doesn't. 

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. (Psalm 146:3, NRSV) 

I don't like thinking of this verse in reference to a President for whom I voted. It felt like a *great* verse six years ago, when we were going to war and the colleagues in my preaching group were still trying to figure out how to talk about it in a sermon. He even acted like a prince, that President–in my opinion–but I see how inclined we are to make them into princes, all of them, even if only the ones we prefer. Princes or fools or mustachioed villains, however we dress them in our minds, do not put your trust in them. They cannot manifest our hopes single-handed. They may not share them. They may not even care about them.

We've got to find our hope in other places. 

I start with my kids. They are 23 and 19 and 14, and two of them voted, and all of them are angry. They're learning a hard lesson that other Christian people did not hear the gospel the same way they heard it in this house and in the churches that formed them. It makes no sense.

LP will go tonight to the big GSA meeting where LGBT students and their straight allies from many schools will gather to unpack what has happened.

For my No on 1-voting neighbors and the onlookers from away who don't reckon these things from a faith perspective, it's almost easier. They can shut out the religious voices, or try to, and make plans for the next campaign. They don't have to figure out a way to talk to the ecumenical colleagues at the next community event or clergy group meeting.

My friend, RevFun, went to see a priest yesterday. God, he's brave. He's braver than I am. He wanted to tell a priest how this felt and why it was wrong.

I know the priest he went to see, not as well. I've met him once. I wonder if he felt equipped to have the conversation. I wonder if any of them do.

My friend E wrote a beautiful reflection on the power of the widow who gave her mite, and another E wrote he would "watch the sun come up tomorrow, and go back to work repairing the world. Who's in?"and my musical colleague J used Facebook to share his feelings about how this experience led to deeper self-acceptance and my friend B simply said in a status update, "B W is not going away…"

We are all in some way part of the United Church of Christ, and we are motivated by our understanding of the gospel message that we are to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and our neighbors as ourselves. Make no mistake about it.

That's my cup of hope this morning. I put no faith in princes, but in the next generation and in the people of God, who are not going away.

Faith, Family

Yes, I’m a Spong

It's not hard to find out who I really am, since I link to my newspaper columns and have been none-too-secretive over the past couple of years. I still use a nickname simply because I *enjoy* using a pseudonym. My kids have a different last name, so I'd like to think they are somewhat shielded.

But one thing from which I cannot be shielded despite pseudonymity is the way other bloggers talk about someone I love a lot, my Cousin Jack (Bishop Spong). I don't agree with everything he's written–I'm a solidly Trinitarian Christian, but I find his post-theistic understanding of the Divine not only informative but inspirational. I admire the way he continues his lifelong spiritual practices, such as the reading of scripture and prayer, even though he has long since left behind the childhood faith experiences in which they were based. I have been the recipient of his hospitality, eaten meals he has prepared with his own hands, hands which have held mine and my children's as grace has been spoken around a family table.

Anyway, it's a popular thing to give him crap. I hope you won't mind if I skip those discussions at your blogs. In fact, I'm likely to stay away for a while. I find the hostility people feel toward him mysterious and troubling. I'm reminded of the death threats issued against my dad, Jack's first cousin, when he did not toe the white, conservative line in his political career, when he fought the people who thought closing the public schools in Virginia and opening "private" white schools would be the best way to fight integration and when he voted against a Supreme Court nominee who belonged to an all-white country club.

We need people who push the edges of how we think and what we believe, or we grow stagnant. We may not agree with all of their conclusions, but they stretch us. Without such people, we wouldn't be voting to affirm the new law allowing same sex marriage here in Maine. We wouldn't think twice about the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who recently refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple.

We need prophets.

I believe the world needs Cousin Jack. I believe God works through him, even if my understandings, some of them, differ from his. I hope you can understand. He poured the water of baptism on the head of my oldest child. In my home he is beloved.