Give Me Humility and Give Me Grace

Today is the anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch ship that brought the first African slaves to America.

Most likely, I had an ancestor on that ship. I know my ancestors were Dutch and worked for the Dutch Trading Company. I love learning about my Dutch heritage, my family heritage in general. I don’t love this though. It sits heavy on my heart.

My ancestors were not southern. They did not own slaves for their plantations. I feel like they were worse. They sold human beings. By bringing this first ship to the “new world” they forever altered the course of not just this country but many African countries.

They abandoned their humanity when they chose to dehumanize others.

I’m sorry for what they did. No, I wasn’t alive then. I didn’t do it. But my family line benefitted from that ship and all of the others that followed. And I’m sorry for that.

I believe in the concept of corporate sin, the sin of systems and people who benefit from and do not work to change those systems. I believe I am guilty of these sins. Most of you know that I have struggled with my faith over the last few years. I have struggled with the church and fundamentalism and all sorts of issues. I have also questioned sin, what it is and how it can be dealt with.

I never questioned repentance, because the need to make amends is deeply imbedded in my spirit. I feel the weight of my own personal wrong actions and the weight of the injustice this world bathes in every day, whether we are discussing racist systems or world hunger.

It is so heavy.

Recently, I set a book aside and paused a podcast. My soul was screaming for a break from this year’s theme (2017: Peace and Justice). I just wanted to not carry this burden for a while, to set it down and read something fun and listen to something light-hearted and watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I did take that break to some extent, and the entire time, I was aware that it is my privilege that allowed me to take a break from these things. People of Color cannot take a break from racial injustice. LGBTQ+ people cannot take a break from being judged and treated badly. I can take a break because I am straight and white.

Instead of relieving the pressure, my so-called-break convicted me to my core.

Jesus, help me use my privilege to work justice for your people, ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE, and your world. Help me to pass a different legacy to my children and all of the descendants who follow me. And when I am wrong, when I cling to my own privilege, to the systems that benefit me while hurting others, give me humility and give me grace.

Currently: es agosto

Books: My main read is How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny. I have been plowing through her books for a few months now. I am also nearing the end of a short story collection by Philip K. Dick, and I returned to some Neruda translations. I copy these out by hand so they are a slow read for me, but it is very helpful to my Spanish learning. I am reading The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege as part of my peace/justice focus in 2017. It is enlightening and heavy and breaks my heart/makes me angry. I am slowly creeping through The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio. It is really good. I am moving slowly because I stop to write.

Current Playlist: I just finished listening to A Man Called Ove and am binging the What Should I Read Next podcast.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I can’t think of anything. Even my Starbucks indulgences have all been on gift cards lately. I guess I will go with eating out between class and work sometimes.

Current Color: Bright blue

Current Food: the smokehouse brisket from Firehouse Subs

Current Drink: I order a frappe at Starbucks but change the specifics so I get caramel and toffee. It’s supposed to taste like butterbeer. I love it.

Current Favorite Favorite: Louise Penny. Her books have become my comfort reading lately. I can disappear into Three Pines and have a bowl of cafe au lait in peace.

Current Wishlist: I wish the art and photos I want to have framed and hang on my wall would just magically be framed and hung on my wall. The motivation to make this happen is eluding me right now.

Current Needs: Since summer classes are over and the slower pace of fall semester has set in, I need to make a dental appointment, an appointment for my yearly check-up, etc…

Current Triumph: I was selected to participate in an “UnSlam” poetry competition at the Ink Festival in Tupelo next month. I have memorized the two pieces I want to perform. I am nervous about doing well and taking the stage alongside some really amazing talent, but I am also super excited. Spoken Word is part of my dreams, and I can’t believe I am really doing it.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: My own fear… my own anxiety… and also the spider bites on my leg. Not dangerous bites, at least, but they are painful and have made me ultra anxious about spiders.

Current Indulgence: I’m sitting here on the sofa, typing this post, when I should be reviewing my Spanish notes from last semester.

Current Outfit: I’m wearing jeans, sneakers, and one of my Honduras tees.

Current #1 Blessing: I am 100% finished with math classes. I passed Beginning Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, and College Algebra. I didn’t just pass them either; I made As in all three classes.

Current Quote:  when i had / no friends / i reached inside / my beloved / books / & sculpted some / out of / 12 pt / times new roman  -from The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

Current Photo:

Photo Aug 10, 2 30 27 PM

David got braces!

The Skeptic Wrestles with Human Sacrifice

There’s a worship song we sing at church that I change one word in. I doubt anyone notices, but I say one word different when I sing that song. I will tell you in a bit what word I change.

Growing up in church, I was always taught that Jesus died for my sins, for the sins of everyone. Specifically, I was taught that God sent Jesus to die for our sins so that God could forgive us, that God needed the sacrifice of Jesus in order to forgive us. And I accepted this as “the good news” until very recently.

Here’s the thing. I still believe that Jesus died for our sins. It’s the details of that belief that have changed. I no longer buy the “God could not forgive us without a perfect human sacrifice.” Isn’t this the same God that told Israel, through the prophet Micah, that he was fed up with their sacrifices and rituals and wanted them to act justly and do good and walk humbly with their God. Didn’t the ritual of human sacrifice usually get applied to the “pagan” nations the Israelites were supposed to be different from? So God went from fed up with the emptiness of sacrifice and hating the entire concept of human sacrifice to requiring his own son be murdered before he could forgive us?

Apologists, stand down. I do not want to argue that theology. I know the arguments already. I have argued the arguments and truly believed them in the past. I just realized one day that the God I believe in, the God I have experienced through the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus is not this human-sacrifice-demanding God. God loved us and made is in the holy image of relationship. We are the ones who tear ourselves away from that relationship. We are the ones who refuse to forgive.

We refuse to forgive ourselves.

We refuse to forgive others.

We refuse to forgive God.

Sin, to me, is this refusal to forgive, this refusal to see outside of our own selves, our own needs, the way we think things should work. This is especially true of the church, where Jesus is supposed to be the model for living, but instead we look a whole lot like the people shouting “crucify.”

How many men and women marched with Nazi flags in Charlottesville yesterday and went to church this morning?

That is sin.

I believe God did send his Son to us. I believe he sent Jesus to show us another way, the way of love and humility, of mercy and compassion, of integrity and abundant life.

But God created humanity and knew the evil in our hearts. He knew when he sent Jesus that we would kill him.

He knew.

It was our sin that killed Jesus. The sin of humanity: arrogance, closed-mindedness, cold-heartedness. Sin put Jesus on a cross.

You see, I don’t believe God demanded a human sacrifice before he would forgive us. I believe we demanded a human sacrifice before we would believe he forgave us. Because we see God through the lens of our own sin, our own nature. And we don’t want to forgive those who hurt us. We want them to pay for what they did, so of course we’d expect God to demand we pay for what we have done.

God knew this. Jesus knew this.

So we were given what we asked for.

Thousands of years ago, Israel demanded a king. God told them they did not need a king. They had God. A king was just going to cause them problems. But they insisted, and God appointed Saul king of Israel.

God gave the people what the people wanted, what they believed they needed.

We are the ones who needed a human sacrifice, a grand gesture, a miracle, a sign… And so God gave us what we believed we needed. Jesus came and showed us another way to live and submitted himself to our sin, took it on himself and let us mangle his body.

Today, we mangle his message.

We teach people that they are worthless, horrible, not worthy. We teach them God had to have a blood sacrifice in order to love us again, and that just doesn’t fly with me.

God created us and said that we were good. God already loved us. God always loved us. We are the ones who ran away. We are the ones who could not forgive.

The line I change is about Jesus dying on the cross. It says that “the wrath of God was satisfied.” When I sing this song, I sing, “the wrath of man was satisfied.”

Guest Post: Planes

My friend, Amanda, is living quite the adventure lately. She and her husband have moved to an island and he is in medical school. She is finishing a graduate degree. It’s all sorts of fun and crazy and hard. She just started a blog (Middle of Somewhere), and I told her I’d love to share one of her posts with my readers. So, without further ado, Amanda…


Hi Ya’ll,

I had every intention of writing to ya’ll last week, but that week was a doozy, to be sure. I flew from the Caribbean to MS on Tuesday, and arrived home Wednesday morning! What should have been a 10 hour day, turned into a 34 hour day ( I have an elephant sized hatred for Atlanta; sorry ya’ll).

I had never slept in the airport until Tuesday night. And let me tell you, I’d be ok if I never had to do that again. There’s no sleeping in an airport, I don’t care what they say. It’s cold, and the benches are harder and more uncomfortable than the seats in the planes. I’m still recuperating!  It’s never such an adventure when Will is with me. I like it that way. Smooth sailing.

Don’t we all like it that way? Smooth sailing? When plans and days and moments go just as we had expected and anticipated,  and nothing crazy happens to interfere with what we think our plans should be? Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, those intentional, extremely thought out plans are never as fun and fruitful as the times when the plans go awry.

I learned a lot about myself on my 34 hour journey home last week. I learned that I was, yet again, stronger and more independent than I thought. I needed that reminder. Island life has spoiled me…. Will is always there to protect me, to lift me up, and to encourage me.

The Lord reaffirmed, yet again, that He is always with me. He’s always holding me in His more than capable arms. I’m never alone. We are NEVER alone. The Lord promises to always be with us. Holy Spirit is in our souls. No matter where we are; curled up on a hard airport bench watching Outlander, a comfy and cozy couch with a down feathered blanket, or driving down a deserted road late at night, the Lord’s presence is right there with us. Loving on us, protecting us, guiding us, lighting the way in which we should go.

Perhaps the Lord orchestrated it just so, that I’d be curled up under two airport blankets, because I didn’t think I’d need my own blanket and left it at home, won’t be making that mistake again. Perhaps he made it so that I’d ache so much for Will’s warmth and comfort that I’d remember the Lord’s warmth and comfort is more than enough.

Maybe, just maybe, we need a detour every now and then to remind us who we are. Who our Father is, and how much He loves us and aches over us. I have to tell ya’ll, I’d never felt more lonely than I did in that ATL airport over night. I didn’t meet a single soul to converse with, to vent with about the crazy journey. It was just me and my Lord. I told him how much I disliked my situation, how much I wanted to be in my own bed in my cozy sheets and warm quilt. He told me all is well and I’d be there soon enough, and to release my frustration and be enveloped in His peace and comfort.

I went straight to sleep…. for a 20 minute power nap. Funny how those things happen, huh? When we let go of our plans and frustrations and anxieties. He is sufficient, and yet we rarely remember that when we plan and go about the routine of the days.

I’m sitting in my parents’ home, on the comfy, cozy couch with a blanket, and I know that I’ll forget this lesson and will need another reminder. But until then, I’ll pray that I won’t need another ridiculous reminder such as a 30 something hour journey in planes and airports to remind me.

Till next time!

Letting Go: The End of Deconstruction

Here’s the thing about deconstruction: eventually, you are finished.

At the end of my deconstruction, I panicked. There was very little left for me to hold onto, and I was terrified of letting go. The idea of deconstruction became my armor, my answer, my reason for not moving forward.

I was hanging there, swinging from a vine of every question I’d ever asked and every doubt I’d ever entertained.

I knew the next step was reconstruction. That was always the goal, right? Take it all apart so I could put it back together… better? I wanted to pull all of the stuff out of the closet so I could determine what was useful and what was junk. I needed to hold each belief in my hands and decide whether to discard the concept or add it to the stack of building materials.

It felt like a never-ending process. It lasted years and years. I was already years into the journey before I acknowledged I was on the journey at all. And then I was at the end, swinging from that vine, terrified of letting go.

What if I fell onto hard concrete and broke every bone in my spiritual body? What if there was nothing left of me… no way to begin rebuilding?

My fingers were slipping.

I had to make a choice.

I chose to let go.

I fell, but I didn’t hit concrete. I didn’t break my bones. Instead, someone caught me. A group of someones, actually.

I bounced first, the Liturgists podcast community and some Internet-based friendships slowing my descent, and then…

My own real-life church community caught me. They caught me and held on, because they are not the normal pretend-we’ve-got-it-all-together, here’s-the-church-and-here’s-the-steeple, kind of group.

Some of them are in the deconstruction process themselves. Some have already rebuilt. Some have never admitted to a doubt in their life, and some just naturally balance faith and doubt without falling apart how I did. Regardless, when I let go of everything I ever believed, I found myself cradled in this community.

What do they have in common?

They love Jesus. They love their neighbor.

I’m their neighbor.

I’m finished deconstructing. It’s time to rebuild, and I’m standing here on an ancient foundation.

Relationship.

Community.

God.

God is relationship. God is community. God is the mystery of Trinity, the metaphor of incarnation, the Spirit of creativity…

God is so many things, and my need to stuff God into a church-box is finally gone. Whatever I build on this foundation will be open to the world that originated in the heart and mind of a God bigger than any of us can ever dream.

My walls will always be made of doors.

The Red Umbrella

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This book, y’all!

Every summer, Audio File gives away audio books weekly. I have a really bad habit of downloading them and then forgetting them, because I never had room to store them on my phone. Now, with a newer bigger phone, I do. I am so glad I did not download The Red Umbrella and forget about it.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is going on my list of must-read writers. Her novel is set in Cuba and America, circa 1961. The main character, Lucía Álvarez, is a young teen at the beginning of Castro’s reign. Her parents are not part of the revolution and want to get Lucía and her brother, Frankie, to safety.

As the story unfolded, I learned a lot about Cuba and also saw similarities to aspects of America’s current political atmosphere. It was a scary realization, that thoughts in my head match the thoughts of people watching Castro take over their country. So many people were certain communism could not win, that the whole thing was a political phase that would fade into memory soon enough.  They were wrong.

The writing was beautiful and dealt with fear and tragedy in a poetic and heartbreaking manner. I loved the American couple in the second half of the story, despite Mrs. Baxter’s ignorance of Lucía’s culture and what the world is actually like outside of small town America. Her heart was pure, and the mix-and-match family created by the situation was beautiful.

I just cannot say enough good about this book. Go buy it. Right now.

Currently: Es Junio

Current Books: I am reading and loving State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, thanks to a friend suggesting it. I am listening to the audio of Home by Toni Morrison in the car. I love hearing her read her own work. I’m also reading Living Buddha, Living Christ.

Current Playlist: The three most recent Gungor albums on shuffle

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I grabbed fast food after work today.

Current Colors: Todos de colores

Current Food: Cheddar Peppers from Sonic

Current Drink: Cherry Limeade

Current Favorite Favorite: Color coding my vocabulary lists for Spanish class

Current Wishlist: An extra two hours in my day

Current Needs: Time for my dental cleaning and to make an appointment for my yearly check-up and some extra energy each afternoon

Current Triumph: I made a 100 on my first math test of the summer!

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Juggling work for five hours after my classes each day. I’m exhausted by the time I come home and I still have homework.

Current Indulgence: I bought a canned Starbucks Refresher for tomorrow morning.

Current Mood: Tired but mostly content

Current Outfit: It is Nattie Day, so I have on my tee that reads, “Kiss my Tiara,” with jeans, and tennis shoes.

Current #1 Blessing: Friends who help me juggle this crazy schedule

Current Quote: “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Current PhotoPhoto Jun 07, 7 25 46 AM