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Entering Eastertide: What’s that smell?

Spring has always been full of new smells. Flowers blooming. Trees budding. And those wonderful evenings after the rain comes through.

On our daily walks, one of the questions our four-year-old almost always asks is “What’s that smell?” Sometimes I know the answer, especially if it’s a Bradford Pear tree, but many times I don’t. So I ask him back, what do you think? If it’s an unpleasant smell he is always convinced it’s a skunk and hopes he will see. If it’s a pleasant smell his answers range from honeysuckle to rose bush to tulips.

Smells trigger our memories of summer camp and long afternoons in the pool or at the lake. Smells remind us that we are connected to a deeper earthiness. Smells warn us of danger as well. Without smell, we can’t taste our food.

Stop and smell the flowers is a phrase used to remind us to slow down enough to notice your surroundings. But really stop and smell the flowers and when you do you will find your body and soul reunited in memories and hope for this the new life we are creating.

Entering Eastertide: A New Morning

Here we are starting another week in this strange new life. The aspect of this new living that has been so surprising to me is how quickly we have adapted. I now keep masks and masks or some kind of covering for the kids in my car on the rare occasion we drive through to pick something up.

My mornings begin earlier than my children in order to try to get some work done and to try to have an open mind and space to be attentive to their learning and needs for the rest of the morning. My days end later trying to think ahead and get a little more work done while they rest.

So many mornings I am brought back to the mornings of rushing to get everyone ready to get to school and get to the office and the constant strain of hurrying from one place to another. While there are certainly new and different strains, the constant going has left. Over the last three months, I have used only one tank of gas.

As I look at our four-year-old and our fifteen-month-old I often wonder what these months are instilling in them. Maybe that having a sanctuary away from the rest of the world is important? Maybe that work and the way we do work is ever-shifting and actually can be adjusted much more than systems and leadership might like to think? Maybe that time with family is non-negotiable?

I don’t know in what ways this time will ground them and their view of life and what is important, but I know that my mind has shifted. There are so many things I thought I needed that I simply don’t. There are so many things that worried me and kept me up at night that just aren’t worth the energy.

What is important is being refined each new day we discover and create and live together in this new life. I can’t wait to see what day’s revelation will be.

Entering Eastertide: Prisms of Light

As we were coming inside from outside on Sunday evening, our four-year-old exclaimed: “There’s a rainbow in our house.” Sam found it and began to explain that it wasn’t an actual rainbow, but a projection from refracted light (science lesson of the day!).

We caught this picture of it before it disappeared.

Sir Isaac Newtown did some of his best work during a pandemic including working with prisms and writing about refracted light. The more I thought, Eastertide is exactly like this rainbow we discovered in our house. It’s the refracted light from the light of the resurrection displaying colorful new images.

If these weeks at home haven’t felt inspiring or encouraging that’s ok. We are all processing a lot of change and grief all at once. You don’t have to feel inspired or connected at any point.

I have discovered in those moments when I feel most disconnected and disheartened, there are prisms of light that appear whether it’s a rainbow suddenly appearing in our house or a ladybug landing on your hand for just a moment. There are moments where the refracted light of new life and new discoveries appears.

Thanks be to God for those whisperings that pull us back to our centers and remind us of the power of the resurrection.

Leaning Into Lent: Planting Healing

This weekend, we worked together on our garden watching over our seedlings, giving them water, and making sure they had enough sunlight. We also planted two small aloe runners that were taking over our neighbor’s yard.

As we were working together, I thought this was truly a picture of what this season of “shelter-in-place” is for us. We are trying to stay away from other people while also staying connected to other friends and family. We are planting healing for the many, many people who are going through disappointment, grief, and loss.

There’s so much about this pandemic that I don’t understand, so much of its impact that is invisible until it’s harmful, but what I am certain of is that people are hurting, physically, socially, and emotionally.

And so we planted healing, hoping it will grow and create runners that reach all of you who are hurting.

Leaning Into Lent: Unexpected Growth

Five Lenten seasons ago, I took on the task of trying to free a butterfly bush in our yard from the entanglement of a prickly weed that was strangling its growth and stealing all its nutrients. Turns out that I wasn’t actually freeing a butterfly bush but a Bradford Pear tree that had been struck by lightning years ago. It has taken five years, but here is a picture of white flowers on this resurrected tree!! Last year we got some greenery, but we have never seen white flowers before.

I think about the work and the cuts and the blood that was shed in trying to free what I thought was something else. For me, this is Lent. Looking closely at what is threatening and strangling our growth and a deeper relationship with the Divine. You might think that in this process you are freeing something and find that there is something completely different that blooms and grows from that clearing out.

I can’t think of a better analogy for our present circumstances. Everything has been cleared out. The going out and the moving from place to place, event to event has suspended. And now during this Lenten season is the time to ask ourselves whether these things and events that took up our time and attention were strangling us and stealing our nutrients.

Maybe, just maybe, in this midst of this slowly down we are able to breathe like this Bradford Pear and find new life.

Hope and Death Side by Side

This weekend, the kids helped me repot our window plants. I have two window plants that live on the window over the kitchen sink looking out to our backyard. One is a Christmas Cactus and one is a budding African Violet. The Christmas Cactus started blooming right on time as the Advent season began. Most of the year, this plant rests dormant with very little to show until these vibrant blooms start to appear.

After we repotted the Christmas cactus and I returned it to its place on the window sill, I noticed that through the window our Bradford Pear tree’s leaves were flashing the last brilliant colors of life before it rested in the dark and cold of winter. This picture of hope blooming even as death waited behind was the perfect picture of this Advent season.

Hope and death rest together during this season. The short days and dark nights remind us of the short time we have here on earth. The changing leaves remind us that death does indeed bring new life. The blooms of this Christmas Cactus remind of the hope of the Divine incarnate, something we have been waiting all year to remember and something we still hope will come again.

Hope and death. Light and dark. Cold and warmth. All pressing against each other during this season of waiting for the Christ Child. May our eyes and hearts be open on this journey.

On Clinging to Hope

I don’t know how many time I’ve uttered the phrase, “I hope so” in the past, but I know it’s too many to count. But the importance of hope and finding hope didn’t really resonate deeply in my heart and mind until six weeks ago when our family went to see the ultrasound of our second baby, a secret we had been keeping quiet hoping to reveal to our community of faith and family and friends the excitement of new life in the midst of Eastertide when we all need a reminder that new life keeps showing up riding the waves of the resurrection. But what we hoped would be a time of celebration has become a season of grief, a sharp juxtaposition of almost life in the midst of Eastertide.

There was no heartbeat at the ultrasound, which would ultimately lead to our experiencing a miscarriage.

Where were we supposed to put the hope of of celebration? Where were we supposed to put the hope of new life? Where were we supposed to find new hope?

For me, this has been a deeply spiritual journey to discover what hope is. Dickinson’s words took on a new meaning as I realized, “Hope is a thing with feathers,” means that hope can simply float away without any warning rather than something “that perches in the soul.”

“Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.” But did I still have faith in new life? Could I still hope when we wouldn’t see the life we had dreamed and envisioned when we found out we were pregnant?

And suddenly, I understood Sarai standing at the tent listening to strangers telling her what her life would. And certainly, I have laughed just like her.

Hope? Have you read the news? Have you been to the emergency room or noticed the number of people who are jobless, homeless, hungry? Hope? What’s that supposed to do about anything.

But as I’ve walked with this grief, I’ve come to understand that hope isn’t wishful thinking. Hope is a statement of belief of the revolutionary, life-transforming belief that God who has done the impossible will surprise again. God who overcame death and offered new life will revive again. God who created life out of dust will create again. 

And I believe.

And I hope.

I don’t believe or hope in any specifics in regards to our family, but that God will still whisper and call me to create alongside of God. I believe and hope my eyes will open to see how pastoring a church named New Hope in the midst of deep grief isn’t just coincidence, but the divine presence walking beside us in the midst of the pain and suffering life brings.

Let the Sun Shine In

After four days of thunderstorms, the sun is out this morning. The storms brought a breeze I thought wouldn’t return to Columbia again until September after last week’s 90 + days. Last week was so hot even the grand magnolia trees were looking withered as they tried to pull up water from their deep roots.

As I looked at those magnolia trees towering above me last week, I thought of people who are trying desperately to hang on in the midst of the blazing sun of the wilderness; uncertainty surrounding them in the form of sickness, the unexpected loss of loved ones, and unsure job prospects. Like these magnolias, the wilderness sun was asking them to pull up every last ounce of hope from their deep roots of faith.

And then the rain came. The clouds opened up delivering hope in the form of water. The reminder of our baptism. A vase of flowers. A text message. An unexpected dinner that didn’t have to be cooked, planned, or prepared.

These unexpected thunderstorms providing rain at just the right moment is how the magnolia will survive through this hot Columbia summer. These moments where we realize someone has been thinking about us as we are traversing the blistering sun of the wilderness is how we will survive as people of God. These small acts showering us with the hope as they sustain and restore our souls.

 

Eastertide

I didn’t grow up in a community of faith that observed the church calendar, so the different seasons we celebrate throughout the year are still fascinating to me. Right now we are in the season called Eastertide. I love the image of riding the wave of the joy and resurrection throughout the next fifty days.

As I’ve thought more about it, the realization has washed over me that the joy of the Resurrection wouldn’t be quite as joyful without the deep grief of the Crucifixion. And so the life of the disciple is the ebb and flow of grief and joy, doubt and hope, peace and uncertainty. Back and forth, ebbing and flowing, as we follow Jesus Christ.

In those times of low tide when joy and resurrection seem but a damp, dim line far upon the shore, may we remember this. In the times of high tide when the pull of grief and doubt into the ocean seem impossible, may we remember this.

May we not teach only the high tide of Christianity, but recognize that grief and doubt and uncertainty are part of the Easter story, too. Pain and suffering, joy and hope, all wound up together in Eastertide washing over us over the next fifty days.

How total depravity of humanity and biblical submission impact women

I stepped out last week to share my wrestlings with the theology of depravity of humanity and offered instead the suggestion that perhaps we were created inherently good. As I have thought and read about total depravity, I have found that this theology is often taught in connection with biblical submission or the idea that men and women were inherently created different, each having a unique role. This belief often manifests in the practice of not ordaining women as deacons, ministers, or allowing women to preach or teach men.

The impact of these two theologies combine to impact women drastically. Total depravity teaches women that they are inherently flawed. Biblical submission teaches women that they are inherently lesser than men and are restricted in what they can and can’t do. The compound effect of these two theologies is a vast number of women who believe, “I am not good. I am not enough.”

As a baptist woman in minister, I have found it doesn’t really matter if you grew up in a community of faith who taught total depravity or biblical submission because the impact of these two theologies have now made their way into our culture. The result is women who believe they are broken and that they have to try to be good enough. The manifestation of this constant attempt to try to live up to standards that are based on these theologies is to attack other women and remind them that they are not good nor enough.

If you aren’t sure this is true, ask a woman minister who has been the loudest and fiercest in objecting to her answering her call to ministry. I can almost guarantee you, her answer will be other women. I’ve heard this story over and over again.

The recent campaigns to stop mommy wars is a good and important step, but until we uncover the heart of the matter of where the need and desire to shame and guilt each other begins, these efforts will only cover the surface.

How about I start?

I not only believe that you are inherently good, I believe that you are enough. You as a woman are enough. You as a woman are inherently good.

I believe wholeheartedly that the true self that lies at your very heart is good and enough. I don’t believe you are lesser than. I don’t believe you are lacking, flawed, or stained. I believe at the very core of who you are resides the divine breath.

I believe that you are godly and good in the very essence of who you are, not because of what you do or don’t do.

I believe, we as women, have believed in theologies that keep power in the hands of the powerful and maintain hierarchies in religious institutions. And I believe, we as women, will be the ones who change this as soon as we start believing that we are good and we are enough.