the seed has been planted [at Deeper Story].

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“The difference between me and you, baby,” Val said, arms hoisted behind her head, growing more tired after putting half her hair in twists for the night, “is not our situation, age, or race,” she finished, pointing to me, the fair-skinned wide-eyed housed twentysomething intern. Everything Valerie isn’t.

“I am walking in the light,” her eyes dimming a bit as she says this, “oh I know. I have that deep sadness too.” And I believe it. She laughs,

“But you are supposed to be here, what, babysitting me?” She’s right. The mattresses on the church basement floor bear witness to this. The ministry is about radical hospitality to those I’ve mostly prayed for, not eaten with. This is a holy grammar, but the shards of our mutual discomfort remain–some of us wear gloves, some share inside jokes. Valerie decidedly breaks  through our antiseptic dealings with one another.

“I am walking in the light,” she repeats, and I believe it.

She really doesn’t explain what means, or even if she thinks I am really altogether in darkness, though that is how I have described some of these months past. In the back of my head is that bright shiny happy CCM song as she talks—

I want to be in the light as you are in the light

I want to shine like the stars in the heavens oh OH…

But she’s right. She’s just so damned radiant it’s hard to look away. She keeps looking at me, smirking a little bit, and lays some things out for me.

—————//—————-

Keep reading with me over at Deeper Story? Yoga, Taizé prayer, etc. guaranteed.

Click here to read the rest.

 

what I’m into, (May and) June.

So, it’s not like I expect you to keep up with this or anything, but maybe you noticed that I have neglected to link up with the ohso amazing Leigh Kramer with her monthly “What I’m Into” posts. Spring semester was a killer and this summer I have been running around like cray.

So even this is just a sampling, though it is like a marathon of a post. Sorry not sorry. Enough preamble already.

music:

  • all Sam Smith all the time.
  • this is a little Spotify playlist I made for when my soul needs a little refreshing (so, basically every morning):
  • the sound of the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack kindof fits my Appalachian summer, so I have been turning to it often:

to watch:

  • ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Which I definitely watched in three days.
  • Orphan Black, just as addicting. Don’t confuse the two ^^
  • Been rewatching House on the Netflix. I don’t actually think it’s that great of a show but here I am.

offline reads:

oh man the stack of books to read this summer is getting HIGH, y’all. Here goes:

  • City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles. I devoured this book. I love the way Sara sees the Kingdom of God. It’s positively beautiful and addicting. Plus also high-five to Episcos writers.
  • She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, by Elizabeth Johnson. (I’m late to the game in reading this one, apparently). Ok, hear me when I say this is theo-poetry, though certainly an academic text. I have cried tears reading the first 40 pages or so of this book. Johnson seeks to demonstrate that recovering feminine metaphors for God is not only spiritually powerful, but has the dismantling of idolatry as its goal. I haven’t finished, but this book is breathing life into dry bones so far.
  • The Divine Comedy, by Dante, translated by Clive James. People periodically ask which translation of Dante to start their journey through the commedia with, and I have to say that this one is a top contender. The way James has integrated explanatory material into the text so that we are not always checking footnotes and breaking up our poetic reading is genius. However, a part of me can’t imagine using this as a first-time reader. There is still always so much to know, and what little I have read of this translation, I am not sure he covers enough.

blogposts:

a pretty short list, as it has been for several months. because I am the worst and don’t keep up with even my limited blogroll. but as it is:

  • Your Jesusa poem by John Blase. “I’m sorry but I cannot accept your Jesus. / Your Jesus is eternally afraid of things / like movies and sex and naked questions.”
  • How to Ruin a LIfeby D.L. Mayfield. ” Go, go and see the world, but come back as a sister or brother, a friend and equal. We are all part prophet, all part narcissist.” 
  • Rethinking Scarcity: A Legacy of Abundanceby Sarah Bessey. “I find myself fighting against the myth of scarcity often. It’s rooted in fear. The fear that I’m not enough, the fear that someone else’s success spells my failure, the fear of becoming irrelevant or unread.”
  • The Holy Spirit is Not Your Personal Electric Blanket, by Amy Hanson. “We want to think that when we are feeling sad or distant from God, we can just turn on our access to the Holy Spirit and before we know it, we are warm and cozy and we feel better. But that is not the Spirit that we hear about in today’s text.”
  • If Your Kid Comes Out to Youby Ben Moberg. “You are okay. In this moment, you are not against your kid, and in the future, if you find yourself still in the same theological mindset, that doesn’t make you hateful or bad. It means you disagree. And you are okay.”

just-good:

  • My spiritual director put Jan Richardson’s site, The Painted Prayerbook. I’ve seen some of her pieces elsewhere, but hadn’t seen her full site. So many beautiful writings and paintings as resources for the liturgical year.
  • How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore: “Somewhere in there is something that’s entirely fresh to you, and will reward your soul by exposure. That’s what good books do, and good bookstores, too. They let you step out of your algorithm.”
  • Blogger Militant Baker Talks About the Buying Power of Plus Size Women:  “The demand for slimming-tucking-trimming-hiding-camouflaging clothing still outweighs the wear-whatever-we-want clothing, and this won’t change until we use our buying power to show otherwise.” (PREACH. But I kinda hate that the only answer is “buy more stuff.”)
  • Open Doors Save a Parish: “It’s always been true for the Church: if it pays attention to the needy, it finds the treasures.” (I think some of the us-and-them language is somewhat troubling, admittedly.)
  • I love that Samantha Field is starting this youtube series on sexuality. This first one was brilliant:
  • every once in a while an incredible David Whyte poem crosses my way. Sweet Darkness has been a big deal this summer. Here are the last few lines:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

  • On welcoming children to the Eucharist (h/t Kara Slade and Broderick Greer):

to wear: 

  • so I LOST my new favorite lipcolor at the wedding this past weekend, but I am pretty sure it was cherry on top from Maybelline’s color whisper line. doesn’t dry your lips, and you can add as much pigment as you want, though you don’t end up with a very defined result like you would with regular lipstick.
  • pink-ing of you nail polish by OPI. I needed a classy grownup nail color, but didn’t want anything very sheer (aka boring). I ended up really liking this shade that I wouldn’t have picked out normally. win.
  • I experienced thrifting MAGIC recently. I have needed to find another pair of teal flats (because turquoise is a neutral in my world) for some time now, but on the day I decided that the hole in the bottom of mine was the last straw, I stumbled upon a great pair for CHEAP when I was waiting for my thai takeout. MAGIC I TELL YOU. They’re really comfortable–hush puppies is the brand. Thank God–now I can continue being a 75-year-old woman who is always wearing some kind of turquoise.

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  • As a general rule, this summer I am working on just wearing things I actually like, regardless of whether I am following the dress for your body type/age/height/zodiac sign “rules.”  For example, ‘the rules’ tell me I shouldn’t be wearing horizontal stripes in the picture below. OH BUT I AM. Anyways, I’ve enjoyed wearing by this principle, feel free to join me.
  • IMG_1853-3

    weather is a funny thing up on these mountains. it was certainly cold enough for this dress Sunday morning, but not the afternoon.

moments:

  • some wonderfully generous friends helped me move out of my apartment at the beginning of the summer, and I am so very grateful for them. Having good people is a great gift.
  • Then I took a much-needed solid trip to Texas to see friends who feel like family, starting in Waco–

I stayed with the amazing, talented Erica, who is truly a friend who loves at all times. Like a dummy, I did not get a picture with her, but I did snap one of her work hanging in a gallery in Waco before it shipped off to Dallas:

  • I got to worship at midweek Eucharist at my favorite church in the world, St. Paul’s, and grab dinner with one of my favorite clergy ever, the Rev. Erin Jean

one of my favorite windows.

  • After what felt like a VERY SHORT trip to Waco, I took a bus up to Dallas to embark on the crazy drive to Colorado the next morning for my dear friend Jerry’s wedding with #10yearbestie Alia and the #flawless Allie. We drove ~10 hours Friday to make it in time for the rehearsal dinner, had amazing brunch with Preston and Hilary, then soaked in the beauty that was Jerry and Elliott’s wedding, which completely, completely reflected them. After a late night of celebrating, we turned around and made that same crazy drive again the next day. Photo evidence:

 

  • After the trip to Colorado, I spent the week in Dallas hanging out with Alia AND HER NOW FIANCÉ Brandon. Maybe there were a few clandestine conversations between he and I to go over engagement details, which mostly just involved me squealing a whole lot. The whole week was spent with good food (beet-bison bolognese holy wow), good conversations, and binge-watching Orphan Black. All so very good for my soul.

  • AND THEN I got my two favorite lady-Catholic converts, Alia and Julie, in the same place and forced them to be friends because proximity and amazingness. Love them so. Putting friends together from different parts of my life and watching what happens is one of my favorite things ever.

 

  • After the Texas trip, things slowed down a good deal. I moved to my summer field education placement in the mountains just outside of Asheville, NC, which I have failed to properly photograph. I am working with a two-point Methodist charge (which means two small Methodist churches that share a pastor, this Episcopalian discovered). I have been getting a wide range of ministry experiences out here, and have really focused attention on pastoral care and the social witness of the church. The strength of the network of Methodist churches in particular in this area are the Welcome Table programs, where churches take turns to provide several meals throughout the week. I’m thinking so much about the difference between ministry for versus ministry with when it comes to what we normally think of as “outreach,” and even the throwback saying “what would Jesus do?” One church that seems to be doing this really well in an urban setting is the Haywood Street Congregations which you should read about here. I can’t believe I am about halfway done out here. To borrow what I think is Flannery O’Connor’s phrasing, it’s been several weeks of moving the furniture around spiritually. Who knows what will happen next.

some fellow Duke Divinity interns out in Western NC. I hit the jackpot. Photo stolen from Ashley Acken

  •  June was my birthday month! I love my birthday a good deal–it gives a great excuse to only do stuff you want to do, and always brings me to a lot of reflection. I spent the day putzing downtown Asheville, then drove back to Durham to celebrate with the swath of lovely people who are still there for the summer. Here’s to 24.

aaaand the candle had gone out by this point.

  • for another whirlwind wedding trip, PRESTON AND HILARY GOT MARRIED Y’ALL. As if you didn’t know. It’s kindof ridiculous that two such gifted people were brought together this weekend, and it was totally surreal to be a part of what had been a long time coming. For me, the two nights previous might have even outdone the wedding day only because the pace was slower and we had time to share and hear stories about this remarkable pair. Since I was in the wedding party, not as many pictures, but theirs will be beautiful in time. It was a heart-explosion kind of day.

hello New England. I am glad the wedding was not in triple-digit Texas heat. Praise.

 

the getaway

 

  • What I wish I was into:
  1. making cooking a regular thing. (not an adult).
  2. being self-motivated to get things done on a flexible schedule.
  3. reading the tall stack of books I want to by the end of summer, aka Flannery O’Connor’s letters.

Ok, your turn. No, really. What has been going on with you this month? What have you been reading/wearing/doing/whatever? 

the god I don’t believe in [today at Deeper Story].

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“Are you even a Christian anymore?”

I sit on the edge of my bed, nervously picking at the fringe of the goldenrod damask bedcover I bought in the Year of Independence after college, among the first real purchases of self-definition and homemaking that I can point to in those months. That was the year that God told me to stay in Waco on the back porch of my favorite coffee shop when I was reading Luther, one of my least favorite brothers in the faith. That was the year where my only clear calling was to go to church.

[God told me. That's a phrase I've never totally been comfortable with, even in the days my tongue was made of fire. Now I'm moved to write it with much caveat and stipulation. For now, I will just leave it there for you to worry over, because I do not have the energy for such things right now. ]

“Are you still a Believer?” she asks differently this time.

I laugh nervously, off guard. I’m tempted to point out that faith described this way is relatively new to the Christian grammar. I don’t know how to tell her that yet it stings, that I wonder why she can’t recognize me any more.

“Yes? I say the creed every week…” I begin, ironically not knowing how to ‘defend my faith’ in this moment, wanting to add and sometimes I even believe it…

Join me at A Deeper Story for the rest?

The Lamenting Psalms (at SheLoves).

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Oh hello! It’s been quiet here lately with school ending and moving and all that jazz, but I am hoping things will pick up a bit this summer, starting today–I’m over at SheLoves Magazine joining in on their Red Couch Book Club pick for the month–Dr. Ellen Davis’s Getting Involved With God. It’s my first time writing in that space, and I found it really fun–even though I was writing on lament.

A phrase that floats around with church-people is “just give it to God,” and while I am still wary about saying this casually to people in times of distress, it is comprehensible to me as Davis writes about biblical characters—in this case, the psalmist. Ellen Davis writes that it seems the shift occurs within a psalm of lament towards praise precisely because of “the psalmist’s experience of suffering, and perhaps that has changed only because she has dared to break the isolation of silence and knows that God has heard.”

Join over at SheLoves to talk about the psalms with us? Maybe even be inspired to read Davis’s book?

nothing hurt that couldn’t heal.

I told this story almost a year ago, over in Alise’s space. It’s a bit of story I have been thinking about a good deal lately, and I wanted to share it again, here with you. Blessed Feast of the Annunciation, happy birthday, Flannery O’Connor, and all my love to my Alia-joon.

—————————————–

 

I paced outside the party, pressing the phone to my ear, desperate, the way you are when you’re nineteen and nothing matters and everything matters. My longtime best friend was telling me about going through confirmation class, that she would be a part of the Roman Catholic Church come Easter. I’m not even sure if she was inviting me or asking me or what, but I was grinding my jaw so hard I’m certain she could hear it on the other end of the line.

You see, Catholics, had faith—maybe–but faith misplaced. They were, well, theatrical at best, conjurers at worst, which was most of the time.

I was grieved and shocked, as we had walked similar Charismatic-evangelical-tongues-afire paths together. She was the one I looked to for cues and signals, whose faith shaped my own.

And now she was going somewhere I couldn’t follow. I was already feeling a little lost in my own doubt, but now I felt left to fend for myself.

[You might note, here, the shift in focus, the real place of concern.]

I didn’t go to her confirmation; it wasn’t even a question in my head.

———————–

I was so angry at the guy she was dating at the time, this man who drank beer (gasp!) and talked saints (double gasp!) and brought her to this new church. I was sure to let her know.

Then a few years later, I found myself in a pew with a friend who drank gin and talked saints and brought me to a new church.

[She had told me once, patiently, that there was a distinction between doing something for someone and because of someone, but it wasn’t until I saw my own life that I understood.]

The details were quite different, but the scene looks similar. Similar, at least, to someone who doesn’t hear the whole story, who doesn’t even listen well to what she has in front of her.

———————————-

Several months after I start attending the Episcopal church downtown, I steal a fry from her plate and ramble a bit,

“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen well. It must have been lonely. I should have trusted you.”

I should have trusted You, too, I added quickly in my head.

We hadn’t talked much about that rough spot past, though we had effectively build a bridge over it. But saying it aloud, pointing to the hurt helped to heal something more whole, more than our other patchworked clumsiness.

I don’t know when the change came. A big part of it had to do with actually learning about the Catholic Church, and I think the rest had a lot to do with my own lonely in-between space of pilgrimage. A few fingers pointed at my would-be motives, a few people handing me distorted images of my transition. The echoes were deafening.

Something about walking a mile in another girl’s shoes.

————————–

This story still ends a bit mixed-up, though.

“A Catholic and an Episcopalian walk into a bar” sounds like the beginning of an interesting joke, but mostly it’s just reality as we’re often found toasting to ten years of friendship these days.

We’ve learned to be more tender with one another when it comes to faith, and yet somehow more honest. There’s a good bit we don’t agree on, but that’s the part we submit to Trust. We know we can take it now. It’s a give and take that’s stronger now than it ever was.

She tells me to go to confession, with all her heart; I talk with her about lady-priests.

She tells me about the days she can’t bring herself to church; I tell her about the days all I can bring is myself, to church.

We both talk about weeping at the Altar rail, how much we like Papa Frankie and Flannery O’Connor.

She’s the first person I called to shout Alleluia! to after Easter Vigil, while it is yet dark in the rest of my town.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!

—————–

Last month, in a heart-stopping, confusing car wreck, I totaled her Hyundai in the middle of the interstate on a Saturday afternoon.

Her tears streaming, my head swelling, I apologized again and again, dazed.

Alternately, we each kept saying we’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK. We’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK.

As Kevin The Very Nice Tow Truck Man told us,

Things can be fixed.”

She calls me this week, overly excited, to tell me about the Bluetooth and stick shift and hatchback her new car sports. I laugh nervously, still wincing at the whole ordeal.

We start to plan haphazardly the road trip that will move me to North Carolina at the end of the summer, and I’m a little shocked she is willing to risk getting in a car with me again, that she’s willing to risk any of this again.

I blink my tears into the bright, bald Texas sun, thankful that over the years, nothing that was damaged was irreplaceable, nothing was broken that couldn’t be fixed, nothing hurt that couldn’t heal.

there will be no baptists in heaven [at A Deeper Church].

if you know me on the Twitter or in real life, you might know that I engage in a bit of snarky smack talk about various denominations, including some self-deprecating talk about my Episco-people.

It’s really picked up since I started attending a highly ecumenical Methodist Divinity School last fall. (I’m afraid Presbyterians have received the brunt of this. Sorry, ya’ll.)

but if you talk to me about churches for more than five minutes, you’ll know I’m annoyingly ecumenical, in large part because my life has spanned a few different ways of meeting God.

So, I’m doing some cheeky-serious real-talk about the unity of the Church today at Deeper Church:

I used to believe that God only spoke my prayer language. Then I thought He could only hear written petitions. These days I’m pretty damned confident that God only knows how to interact with humans who address God clunkily, without gendered pronouns. That is, of course, until I hear a He-prayer that splits my heart wide open.

 

She always knows how to overturn my expectations.

 

join me today over at A Deeper Church?

to set you free [at Deeper Story].

Today, I’m over at A Deeper Story with some reflections on what it means to be a Christian truth-teller, to start with. 

———————————

It’s right after I’ve finally told the truth.

(To him. To myself.)

My little balcony sets me almost in the trees, sometimes I pretend I’ve build my house up here. Branches glow orange through the rain from the porch light, reaching up like desperate arms against the icy grey December sky. I breathe out warmth, and it feels wasteful. Will there be enough for next time? The clutching, creeping cloud almost entirely muffles what he says next–

“You are so very brave.”

It’s a sob before I know it, teeth clenched against what feels most like fiction.

“I am not.”

“You are.”

We usually fight like siblings that missed out on a shared childhood, but I don’t push it this time. I know on this he won’t back down. I squeeze my eyes against the now-swimming branches, pinching the bridge of my nose with my fingers.

“Okay.”

The haze is still there, but pushed back a bit to the corners. I breathe out again, this time sending out a bit of that cloud.

How long have I been pretending?

——————————–

I’m wondering if you can relate to any of the sketches of story shared over there, what your thoughts are on what it means to be a truth-teller. Read the rest over at Deeper Story?