Am I ” All In” for Christ?

Last night I finally got the time to listen to a  sermon from Sunday by one of my favorite priests. She preached on the Gospel story according to Matthew 22:1-14.  per her custom, she asked the congregation present a question to ponder.

This time she asked: ” Am I all in?” 

The bigger question for me is:

Am I all in as a follower of Christ, every moment of every day?” Do I willingly ” put on the wedding robe”, or do I do so begrudgingly? Does my relationship with the Triune God  mirror my relationship with Creator God? 

Life in Christ requires not just weekly Mass attendance { which of course is central to our life as a Christian community and our identities as Christians}  Jesus is the reason we are who and Whose we are, and in no way am I diminishing the importance of weekly Mass.

After we have been fed the Bread of Life and the Cup of Heaven, we are commanded to go out into the world and BE Christ’s Hands and Feet. Weekly mass is designed to fuel our souls to do the work of Christ in our communities and  to partner with other Christians around the world.  Jesus invites us to join Him at the Heavenly family banquet. When we are adopted, by way of our baptism, we are full members of Christ’s Family on Earth.  as with all great privileges ; membership in Christ’s Family comes with some big responsibilities.

As Christians we are commanded to welcome the ‘ stranger’ as one would welcome Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to , in the best of our abilities, do what he did hen he was on Earth. We are called to join Him in caring for: the sick, the poor, the lonely, and especially those whom society has maligned.

People wonder why I am such an advocate and worker-bee for rights of people who are not white, straight, Christian , or financially comfortable. They wonder why I am a fervent  feminist  other than the obvious fact that I am a woman}. The answer is simple: my faith demands me to do so.  Jesus did not come to Earth to comfort the comfortable; Scripture shows more than one account of him { literally} turning tables and challenging the political leaders of His time.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath because someone needed healing.  For Him, compassion overruled Sabbath-keeping.

He visited the home of a tax collector.

He healed the woman with the issue of blood; and by doing so completely ignored the Jewish cleanliness rituals.

He invited children to sit with Him.

If we are ” all in” as followers of Jesus, than we have a big responsibility to care for all  His people. he did not differ between Jews and Gentiles; so we should not classify humanity according to  arbitrary group memberships. As a Christian, I take seriously my baptismal vows to :

proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ… {and}… seek and serve Christ in ALL PERSONS, loving your neighbor as yourself.” 

I also note that ” loving your neighbor as yourself” includes those  whose worldviews are contrary to everything both my earthly parents and Christ Jesus taught me.  True confession: I struggle daily to love and serve those who are full of bigotry. It is my duty t love ALL persons , even those whom I find hard to like because of their racist/sexist/homophobic worldviews.  Jesus loves them so must I. However, that does not mean that I must endure their bullying or condone their hatred by remaining silent.

To me: being ” all in” for Christ means taking up my Cross and following Him in the ministry of social justice and racial reconciliation.

Are you ” all in”? If so, what does that mean for your life?

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,

Amen.

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Speak the Truth, Even if Your Voice Shakes

I feel that I am called to speak truth to power; and if my speaking this truth causes people to be angry with me , I accept that as a cost of my discipleship  to serving in Jesus’ Name.  I’ve lost more than one Facebook ” friend” in these past few months but that is a pill I shall swallow.

Let me say that I respect people’s right to have their own opinions.  But while I respect people’s right to support the politicians of their choice; I DO NOT and SHALL not support institutionalized bigotry. Lately there has been an onslaught of bigotry , both in social media and in real life.

This . Is. Unacceptable.

Regardless of a person’s allegiance to any  political party, bigotry is not an American value. Just for the record,  in my four decades of life on Earth I’ve known some pretty hardcore racists who just *** happen*** to be Democrats, so ” isms” run across all political parties. I grew up in Northern Appalachia, which had been a Democratic stronghold back in the late 70’s and 80’s and the words used by my neighbors to describe persons-of-color are unfit for publication. I just wanted to make that statement, lest some people accuse me of being partisan.

If a person holds such hatred towards others in their heart, all I can do is pray for their minds to open. But if someone says something to me in real life that is racist, sexist, or homophobic; I will not and cannot tolerate that speech.  There are  beloved people in my life who are persons-of-color, GLBTQ, and of course women.  If anyone says anything to vilify them; I shall, in love, express my disagreement.  It is not up to me to force people’s worldviews to change, but it is my responsibility to call out these ” isms” as I experience them.

There is no room in this world for : racism , sexism and misogyny, and homophobia. Rationale for holding these views has been disproven by social and biological science.  Humanity is a beautiful ” melting pot” of differences and for this I am grateful.  To me, life would be boring if all people looked, acted, and believed as I do.

In all honesty, I have no problem with viewpoints that differ from my own. Yet when a person makes a blatantly racist , sexist, or homophobic statement to me { either on social media or in my physical presence} , that is unacceptable.  I am a pretty open book regarding my stance on social issues; and making bigoted comments is not going to change my mind. As a matter of fact, such comments make me angry.

Several of my friends and associates differ wildly from my social views, and we agree to respect each other’s space. { Yes, it can be done}  As a matter of fact,  I do not discuss partisan politics at all; that is not what I am called to do. Instead, I am an ally for those marginalized by the dominant sector of American socio-economics.

As Popeye said ” I yam who I yam”

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,

Amen.

Nail polish and altar server robes

I’ve been thinking a lot about internalized misogyny lately.  To be honest, all ” isms’ that plague our society have been weighing heavy on my mind lately. While I own up to the fact that I do enjoy privilege as a straight , white person ; I cannot claim to have male privilege . As a woman, I do see and feel the misogyny and sexism.

I am a licensed Lay Eucharistic Minister in my Diocese, and this is a privilege that I take very seriously. On Sundays when I am scheduled to serve, I always make sure that I wear clothing that will not restrict my movement nor be seen{ too much} under the robe.  I am extremely cognizant that when I am serving the Chalice, I am not Sarah Beth; rather I am a servant of Christ commissioned to assist at a Sacrament.

However, I am also a mere human being; one that enjoys presenting herself as a ” girly girl” . I dress and present myself according to my assigned biological gender. This means that I do enjoy wearing nail polish. As a rather creative sort of person I tend to  favor unusual colors and color combinations of said nail polish.  My clothing, although always appropriate for Church, is a way in which I express myself.

Once I had an elderly gentleman comment to me after Mass that ” my nail polish is a distraction.” While I let the comment slide; I realize now that I should have quietly and respectfully informed him that his comment  made me feel invalidated as a servant of Christ.

Did I sense some veiled sexism ? I think so. As far as I can recall, there is no rubric in the 1979 Book Of Common Prayer that forbids nail polish! In hindsight , I wish I would have gently informed him of the lack of anti-nail-polish rubrics { and added a sweet but sassy ” bless your hawt”}  but I did not want to appear disrespectful.

I recall this memory because women need to start calling out sexism when we see it. The Harvey Feinstein debacle and the #Metoo movement on social media proves that women are silently tolerating unacceptable behavior from men.

Would anyone have commented upon a male server’s wristwatch cuff links or wedding ring  as ” distracting”? Probably not. { Now if said male server wore nail polish to Church in my Diocese, I can pretty much guarantee that there would be more than one comment about his hands— after all I live in the Deep South . Sadly, non-binary gender identity is not widely accepted here.}

Why is it okay for people in the pews to comment upon women’s appearance while at the altar and not male clergy and lay servers? I am sure that I am not the only woman who has been told that something about her appearance” distracts” men when they come to take part in Communion.

If I have learned one thing about society during these past few months, it is that institutional  racism/sexism and other prejudices are alive and well. Internalized sexism and misogyny is alive and well in these United States; and is only becoming more virulent.

I’ve also learned that I will continue to wear painted nails in Church. If people are distracted by my hands, then maybe they need to examine themselves more closely before coming to the Communion rail.

 

 

Feast Of St Luke, 2017 Thoughts

Today at Mass we learned about St Luke the Evangelist.  Now it has been several years since I took New testament in the Education For ministry program, so my recall on what makes the three Synoptic Gospels different from each other is blurry at best.

It is { good} news to me that St Luke is known as the ” social justice Gospel writer. ”  In his Gospel, there are several stories of Jesus performing healing miracles.  Luke 5: has Jesus in conflict with the Pharisees over His sharing food with tax collectors. When confronted by the Pharisees over why He chose to eat with the ‘sinners’ , Jesus says”

The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. “

Here in Luke’s Gospel, we see OUR LORD sharing food with those who were despised by ‘ polite’ society. Jesus did not care whether or not the religious authorities of His day thought about His ministry.

Luke’s Jesus is one Who has no qualms about challenging the status quo. In the 6th chapter of Luke we see Jesus  again facing the Pharisees and their list of rules.  He said to them

“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or what is evil; to save life or destroy it?’

In this passage Luke seems to call into question the importance of rules and prescribed actions in the lives of the Pharisees.

Is it more important to observe the Sabbath or to help a person in need ?

Jesus shows us what He did.

What would you choose?

Following Jesus is not for wimps. A life based on His teachings involves disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed.

One thing I learned today is that it is my duty to speak out against racism, sexism and heterosexism .  God is calling me to be an advocate to those who are on the fringes of white, straight middle-class American society. if it means that I kneel or lock arms during the Pledge, so be it.  If I denounce this President for his uncouth, derogatory, cruel words to an Army widow and make people I know angry with me in the process– so be it.  Jesus shows us in Luke that works can be an action when it comes to social justice work.

Acknowledge and own  your privilege. This is hard, but without acknowledging one’s privilege, one really cannot be an effective advocate for justice.

Speak up.

Never give up.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

 

 

Time in the studio: Celtic Caim

Today I actually had time to ” chill” and spend some time in the artist’s studio that Best Dude set up for me in one of our spare bedrooms.  I’d found some small canvases, so I began a piece based on a concept of the caim, or Celtic Protection Prayer.

I’d learned about Celtic protection prayer circles during a Wednesday Mass at City Church. I like the image of a circle of protection drawn around those whom I love. However, my nature also has me as the archetypical ” warrior woman”: ready, willing and able to fight for those I love.

According to my research:

“The circle, which represent wholeness, community and connection to the greater cosmos, was drawn by sword or lance around the couple. Marriage itself represents a new life. The meaning and symbolism of protective prayer within this sacred circle created by armament was essential to creating the best possible beginning for the highlander…”

Today, we recognize there are external energies all around us that can affect the spirit of our home and hearth. Worry and fear about jobs, family, politics, health and more can seem to bring a heaviness around us, yet if we remember that we are more than this, our hearts can be filled with joy no matter what is presenting around us, our relationships and marriage will be that much stronger and nurturing. No matter what our spiritual or religious faith is, we may certainly be able to visualize a circle around us, our home, our partners and family, that is filled with a gold light of love, peace and prosperity. ”

{ SOURCE http://www.celticjewery.com }

Originally , the caim was used as a protection prayer for a newly-married couples, but today, the caim can be used to ask God to protect those we love.

Here is a prayer, found on St Cuthbert’s web site’

Circle us Lord,
Keep love within, keep hatred out.
Keep joy within, keep fear out.
Keep peace within, keep worry out.
Keep light within, keep darkness out.
May you stand in the circle with us, today and always.

Here is my Celtic protection prayer circle:

celtic prayer circle original

When I work in my studio, I unleash the prayers in my heart that cannot find the words. I am naturally a visually-oriented person, so  art that can been seen speaks to me. Anytime we commune with God is prayer; and there is no right or wrong way to pray. Sometimes I just need some studio time to connect with God; and I am grateful for my little studio in our little house .

 

 

Too much #MeToo

Today, women who were either sexually harassed or assaulted are asked to put the simple words  ” Me too” as their status. The idea behind this social media campaign is to make the general public aware of the magnitude of women { and to be fair, some men also} who have been assaulted or harassed.

This has to stop!

This. Has. To. Stop!!!

In the 21st century, some people still believe that other people’s bodies are theirs to touch .

Most of the culprits are men assaulting women, but I would be remiss if I did not recognize that women can also sexually harass and assault men. It happens, but it is rarer than the male -on-female assault.  A lot of this occurs when one person has power over another person. Examples of this power play can include:

Boss/subordinate

Professor/student

Clergyperson/parishioner.

Also, this type of abuse knows no gender and no gender preference. Anytime another person touches someone in an intimate way without their permission; it is assault. Anytime a person makes unwelcome sexually explicit comments to another person, it is harassment. There is a big difference between giving someone a sincere compliment and saying something totally inappropriate. Here is a clue: if someone tells you to stop talking to them in such a way; they are feeling uncomfortable. Cease and desist immediately.

I know firsthand how damaging such a violation can be. Thankfully, with a lot of psychoanalysis ; I was able to work through the pain and grief caused by my attacker and eventually forgive him. It is still hard for me to discuss details, even after well over a decade since the incident. When someone violates you personal space in such a demeaning way; you feel guilty .

Victims often do not come forward for years { some never come forward due to any number of circumstances of the attack} and carry the negative emotions associated with the attack buried deep inside their psyche.

I’ll say it again. Sexual assault and harassment hurt.

Help end the cycle . Respect the { bodily} dignity of every human being.

Amen.

A Restful Sabbath, My Cup Overflows Again.

I have been away for a few days. After a good night’s rest in my own bed, today I am preparing for yet another weekend away.

This time I’ll be attending the annual Women’s Retreat at our Camp And Conference Center. It is a short trip– I leave sometime tomorrow and shall return after Mass on Sunday.

Anyway, part of this trip was a much-needed Sabbath time for me. Best Dude stayed at home due to his work schedule, so I had the gift of time { after my cousin’s fun wedding weekend} to sit in the Presence of God and let my cup be refilled.

Although I do try to remain a positive person, my cup had been pretty empty until BayLights. My concerns were not only for my own physical health and healing, but for the healing of this clearly divided nation and world. I hurt when others hurt but I channel that energy to make a difference for Christ. These last few days away remind me, that I must tend to my own soul in order to be a healing and reconciling presence to others.

There is no doubt that I’ve had a tough summer:what with putting our house on the market, my neck surgery and recovery, selling our hose, buying a house, packing a house, moving, ect.  So this early Autumn has been filled with some much-needed Sabbath time— first at BayLights, then at Ohio Lake Park, and now back to Camp And Conference Center for the Fall Women’s Retreat { which is really a ‘ working trip’ since  I am on the Commission and have some responsibilities there}

Anyway, I’ve had some time alone to pray , ponder, and journal upon what God is calling me to do next. I. Am. Terrified.  But I keep remembering that God qualifies the called, rather than calling the qualified. As the poet/philosopher John Lennon wrote “Let it be/let it be/let it be/let it be.There will be an answer/Let it be”

It is my job to listen and respond to God.  Furthemore, I need to remind myself daily to trust God enough to ” let it be”.  

This past week I did not listen to any political news. Rather, I focused on being and letting be. Most of my meditations over these past few days have been on the lives of women in Scripture I wonder how they felt when faced with situations that God called them into.

I wonder what Deborah said when she was called to be a judge?

We know the strugles Queen Esther went through.

Mary, Mother of Our Lord, must have been terrified. But because she said yes, Emmanuel was able to come and live among us as a human.

Mary Magdalene has been maligned by many Christian traditions. Yet Scripture says she was at the tomb and Jesus appeared to her Himself.

Hannah never gave up hope that she would give birth to a son.

The list goes on and on, but I will stop there for now.

God calls men and women into God’s service. For the Biblical foremothers whose stories are well-loved and those modern ” wonder women” with whom God has graced me with in the here and now I give thanks.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost ,

Amen.

 

 

No More Silence

I spent all day Monday feeling angry at the carnage caused by one active shooter in Las Vegas Sunday night. As a matter of fact, I let my anger consume me— it had no outlet. Mine, and others’ silence is part of the reason horrific events such as the Las Vegas shooting continue to occur in America.

Let me preface what I will say next with a few points:

Best Dude is a Marine as well as a responsible gun owner. As a matter of fact, he taught me to shoot, clean, and safely handle a firearm. If need be, I can defend myself, but I pray every day that I’ll never need to use that skill.

I grew up in a hunting culture. Almost everyone in my rural Appalachian community had parents who hunted. Firearms were , and still are a big part of life. It has been my experience that hunters are some of the most responsible gun-owners I know. My Dad has never owned a gun, but most of my friends’ Dads did.  I believe in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

That being said it is time for Americans to stand up against the NRA and have honest conversations about responsible gun ownership and safe, reasonable gun laws. Note that I said responsible gun ownership and SAFE, REASONABLE gun laws. It is not my intent to take away the Second Amendment.

There is no need for civilians to own military-grade firearms and ammunition. The right to bear firearms does not mean that anyone can have s many guns as he or she chooses. Nor does it mean that military-grade ammunition should be allowed for purchase by civilians. If a person is a hunter, he or she knows darn well that guns are noisy. In my opinions, silencers are not needed for hunting, they are a tool to be used in deadly force against another human being.

It is also time for stricter laws for those seeking a concealed-carry permit. As someone with a diagnosed mental illness,  { Chronic major depressive disorder that is totally under control with medication} I am not qualified to carry a firearm. The last thing I would ever want to do is inadvertently become involved in an incident with a firearm. My ” right” to carry a firearm simply is not as important as others’ right to LIFE.  I will never own a gun and I am perfectly fine with that fact.

There also needs to be a limit on the amount of firepower one citizen can own. Why, if the purpose of having  a firearm in the home for self-protection, must one need to stockpile ten { or more} guns in the home? Thanks to the wisdom of our nation’s founders no one will take away the guns of law-abiding citizens who obtained them legally and with the intention of defensiveness .

My hope is that enough people will feel outraged enough to sit down together and devise a plan to collectively make our society less ” gun happy” and more like the society that St Francis of Assisi described in the prayer attributed to him.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Pax Christos.

Feast Of St Francis Of Assisi

AD 2017

Thoughts on the Vegas Shootings

I returned from a wonderful weekend retreat to learn of the horrible mass murder of many people out in Las Vegas last night.

First of all, my heart goes out to all the victims and their families. I cannot imagine the horror of that night. These are real people who were injured and killed by this act of violence and we need to take time to remember them and their families.

Too often, when a firearms-related tragedy occurs, Americans { including myself} are quick to take sides regarding the second amendment. this time, I pledge to NOT allow myself to get tied up in the politics of gun ownership in the US. While this conversation does need to continue in a respectful way; I feel that today is not the time to engage in such political ” hot-button” conversations.

Christians, especially, need to remember that real people are hurting as a result of this man’s action in Las Vegas. While Christ does call us to be agents of political change in the world, today is a day to mourn.  Humans killing other humans in  such a systematic and senseless way is evil , and evil knows no preference. we need to remember that, in Christ Jesus, we are all made in the Image of a loving God.

Join me in honoring those lives lost in the shooting .

Kyrie Elesion. Christe elesion.

R and R = Reflect and React

I spent a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend at the Camp And Conference center in our Diocese. It was a much-needed  ” holy rest and re-creation time for me. Best Dude stayed home with Big Dog, and I went into Creation to seek out what will come next in my walk with Christ.

One of my spiritual practices is actually walking outside. Not only does this morning walk invigorate my body, but that quiet time with God prepares me to face whatever the day throws at me.

This past weekend I  woke early { yes even after a long night of socializing with friends on Friday evening} to walk to the end of the dock. Sunrises at this place  are, to me, some of God’s best handiwork.

Check it out :

beckwithsaturdayam

As I sat on the end of the pier and read my morning devotionals, on Saturday morning I looked up at the sky and said aloud ” why me, God?” 

Although I’ve been feeling the call to discernment to Holy Orders for a long time, this past year has been one of great change, growth, pain, and opportunity for me. It seems like each excuse I throw at God is answered with a change in circumstances in my life that fix my excuse.  Every. Single. Excuse.

Just like Jacob I’ve been wrestling with God over God’s Plan for my life. Although I’ve lost count on how many rounds God and I have gone through while wrestling over this ridiculous idea , God always wins.  Like Jacob, my life hasn’t been perfect. There are things I have done that I wish I had not.  But as I pray read, and talk with a select few regarding the call I am feeling, I am encouraged. God knows all our secrets, and those secrets do not matter to God.  As I listen to others, I realize that until I do something about this strong pull to ordained life, that God will continue to pull me towards it.

It won’t go away.  Someone wiser than me said that only I can fill out the paperwork  to officially enter the discernment process— and she is correct.  So, I will give my YES to God.

Please pray for me, I will need it.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.