we are all the women at the well

Face it, we are all the woman Jesus meets at the well.

Yes, even you men are the woman at the well.

Hear me out.

God knows us better than we know ourselves.

God loves us: the whole of us.

If I meet Jesus out and about in town, he could and would tell me al my deep secrets. I, and we, cannot hide from the triune God.  God knows me and God knows you. Yet no matter what we think we are hiding from God, the love of God is always faithful.

As part of my discernment for Holy Orders I have been writing a detailed spiritual autobiography.

This is required  and I have been advised to be totally honest in telling my story.

Although I am naturally an honest person, there is much that I do keep close .

By doing so, I am forced to unpack all sorts of * shit* that I would rather keep buried. Some aspects of my life that I would rather hide are not my fault; but most of the mess that was the first 30 years of my life were due to my own{ foolish  and downright stupid} choices.

My forty-plus years of life on Earth have in no way been anyone’s definition of normal.  Yet as I write this autobiography; I am owning some parts of my story that have been tossed deep within the cobwebs of my Pensive. By claiming my own story, I am saying that I, Sarah Beth, am a beloved although wildly imperfect child of God.

In an odd way; owning all of  my story is empowering.

God loves me regardless. Yet by owning my story to my rector, a shepherding committee, my bishop {and whomever else must know my story} I am saying GOD LOVES ME. I am telling the world that God’s love is an unconditional Gift.

Alleluia . Amen.

 

 

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Wise Words from Steven Charleston

Today’s quote:

…….”Do not doubt your vision. Do not let it grow dim because you are distracted by so many other cares. Remember it, return to it, and let it enlighten your path once more, showing you why your life is so much a part of the plan of love. You have been given a glimpse into your own future, an echo of the calling that made you choose to walk the path you are on. None of this was by accident. You were singled out for a reason, needed for a purpose. Do not doubt that, but embrace it. Let the vision within you shine brightly now, for soon your gift will be needed as never before. Look, already its light fills your eyes. You believe and so you see. ” +Steven Charleston

These are wise words from a very wise man.

As I ponder my vocation, I am met with many fears.

Will I get through the mound of paperwork that all aspirants in my Diocese must complete?

Will I pass the psychological/physical health exams?  I do take medication for severe depression, but I’ve been steady for years. Does this matter. I know that God qualifies the called, but did anyone ever serve while on antidepressants?

Can I overcome the covert sexism that I sense within  some prominent lay leaders in my Diocese?

But then I realize that , in spite of all the  roadblocks regarding my calling that I ‘d thought were deterrents; God has removed from my path.  One by one, God removed every practical reason why I cannot or should not pursue this path.

I am being singled out to see where this journey takes me.  God has been working on me and through me for years.  

God is with me, and so are many of God’s faithful servants.

I am grateful .

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

 

 

 

Sticks and stones do break bones, but WORDS do hurt also.

Best Dude likes to say that ” talk is cheap”. To a certain extent, I agree with him. Actions are louder than words.

Yet to those of us who are not: white, straight or male, words CAN AND DO have an impact on us. those ” few seconds” of words impact us in ways white, straight men cannot fathom.

For instance, I told a story about how, as a woman and an altar-server in the Church, I felt invalidated by an elderly man’s comments regarding my ” distracting” nail polish on one Sunday a few years prior.  Someone commented that the man’s words regarding my nail polish was ” a second of my entire lifetime” .

This is true. In the grand scheme of life, one old dude’s distraction by a younger woman’s hands at the altar is not affecting how the Earth spins.

Yet, as a woman and an altar-server in a smallish parish in a Diocese that is in still androcentric Deep South; those ” few seconds” do impact me.  I am a woman, and a woman who enjoys nail polish. As long as my rector permits me to do so, I shall wear it when I serve at the altar. He has not, so far, said anything to me regarding my fondness for brightly painted Sunday morning nails.

Men  {or should I say straight men } are so used to positions of prominence and power that they often do not try to understand . Many people need to check their own privilege , and try to understand from where another person’s feelings of invalidation originate.

Owning one’s privilege is not easy. As a white, straight, cisgender woman, I , too, must check my privilege . It is not easy; but in order to have real, heart-to-heart conversations with people regarding racism, sexism and homophobia, we all must humble ourselves and check what privilege we do carry.

I cannot be sure, but at the time , I sensed a bit of sexism coming from this old dude. { he has since passed onto the Greater Glory, which is why I tell these stories now}

I understand that there is a generation gap– and many in The Greatest Generation who are still with us on Earth struggle with the changes in our society.  Yet The Episcopal Church has been ordaining women as clergy for over four decades now— and I am sure women have served as chalice bearers for at least as many years. My gender’s presence as altar servers { and clergy} is nothing  new at this point.

Some women  { and some men} like nail polish. I’ll say it again, if my hands are ” distracting” to you, perhaps you need to have a prayerful talk with yourself over why my nail polish distracts you from the Eucharist.

Pax Christos.

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Poem by Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Today has been lousy.   Suffice it to say that someone whom I love dearly as a friend and brother-in-Christ hurt my feelings in a rather abrupt way. Since he will not communicate with me: I feel as though a door has been slammed in my face,  All I want to know is why he chose to act in this way; and he is refusing to answer my texts.

However, I am learning that the Holy Spirit is quite adept at using social media to send messages to we 21st Century believers.

One of my friends from my Beach Parish posted a poem by + Alla Bozarth-Campbell, one of the ” Philadelphia 11″ .

Her simple poem/prayer is this:

What Jesus Really Said
Not much….
I am
here—
now—
with you.
I see you,
God-in-you.
I need to touch you.
I need you to touch me.
I need to be alone sometimes.
I will not leave you alone.
Respect all beings.
Be compassionate.
Take risks to help others
and to become your whole self.
Be present in every moment.
Love as fully as life allows.
Live as fully as love allows.
I love you.
Let yourself be loved.
Accept acceptance.
Remember me.

Alla Renée Bozarth
Wisdom and Wonderment
Sheed & Ward 1993 and
The Book of Bliss
iUniverse 2000

Humans can and shall constantly let us down, break our trust, trample our souls, and sometimes cause us physical harm.  But Jesus is the One Who will never let us down.

Jesus, God-incarnate, sees a bit of God-in-you-and-me.

Jesus, our Messiah, loves us unconditionally. Yet He wants us to grow into the best human we can be. He knows that we will fail daily at living our lives like Him; but He never gives up on us. He encourages us to be ” fully alive” , even when fullness of life calls for heartaches.

O LORD, thank You for the gift of Jesus, God Incarnate. Because You became human, You know what it means to be fully alive. Thank you for your servant, Alla, and the other women who risked everything to live out their full vocations as priests in Your Church. Thank You also for the people in my life who continually point me in Your direction.

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

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.

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.