Day 169: God loves me more (or not.)

Have you seen the blog posts about the “one thing” that Christians should not say? While I don’t wholly disagree with the sentiments, it does bring to mind the emails that I get about the “one thing” that you should not eat if you are trying to lose weight, or the “one thing” you should do if you really are. (OK, so yeah, I get those emails…) I’ve decided to try and not write a “ten best” or “five thing” blog post regardless of their popularity on Huff Post (and I’ve read plenty of them, so please don’t be offended if you have written one.) I’ll readily admit that I have hopped on plenty of bandwagons in my life and this is just one that I have decided to let pass me by.

So back to the “one thing” that Christians shouldn’t say. First off, I hope I have forgotten more things that Christians shouldn’t say than most people can think of. I’m full of them. If you haven’t read these posts and you don’t know what I’m referring to, there have been a number of posts recently saying that Christians should not say that they are blessed. The reasoning behind this is that it is bad theology (which I don’t disagree with, by the way) and when we say we are blessed, we are in reality saying that somehow, some way, God chose to bless me – and not others. In essence, God loves me more.file000834482034

Ok, ok, I get it. I’ve been lucky more than blessed. I was lucky enough to be born to good people in a good neighborhood in a time when you didn’t have to mortgage your future to get a college education. I was born white and straight in the US at a time when there was significant advantages to being born white and straight. I was lucky that I was able to get my post-secondary and graduate degrees on scholarship, and the most college debt I ever incurred was for one ill-fated year at Cornell in a PhD program. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have always been “education debt-free.”

But my husband and I live a life that requires our complete reliance on God and belief that God will provide. Gavin is an interim pastor in the Presbyterian Church, and so is looking for a job every 2-3 years – and his work is, in essence, to put himself out of a job. But he works with these congregations to help put them in the best place possible to call their next installed pastor.

In my work as a spiritual life and leadership coach, I have to rely on God that those who need my services will find me – one way or another. I do what I can and then rely on God for the rest. There has always been a steady stream of clients — which has indicated to me that I am to keep on this path, knowing that this is what God has for me to do.

It’s not always easy to live into that trust in the midst of so much transition. But we have been blessed. Not because God loves us more, but because when we have relied on God, God has not let us down. In many ways, for us to call that “luck” rather than God’s blessing or God’s faithfulness dishonors the way that God has continued to show up in our lives, reminding us that we are where we need to be to further God’s work in the world.

So rather than debating whether saying, “I’m blessed” translates to “God loves me more,” can we talk about other things that Christians shouldn’t say – like “it’s God’s will” when a parent, child or spouse dies tragically, or telling anyone whose sexuality and gender expression are outside the “norm” of heterosexuality and traditional gender expressions that they are going to go to hell?

These are things that a Christian should never say.

 

Day 150: A Tribute to Dr. Angelou in her own words

I woke on Wednesday to the news that the woman that taught so many of us to love ourselves was no longer a part of this mortal world. I was deeply sad, and yet so very grateful that I had heard her speak, read her poetry, witnessed her poetic moment at President Clinton’s first inaugural, and loved her words. As I said, she taught me to love myself — warts and curves and all.

She was ours, she belonged to this world, for a time. Just for a time. In that spirit, I share with you her words.

Just for a Time 

Oh how you used to walk
With that insouciant smile
I liked to hear you talk
And your style
Pleased me for a while.

You were my early love
New as a day breaking in Spring
You were the image of
Everything
That caused me to sing.

I don’t like reminiscing
Nostalgia is not my forte
I don’t spill tears
On yesterday’s years
But honesty makes me say,
You were a precious pearl
How I loved to see you shine,
You were the perfect girl.
And you were mine.
For a time.
For a time.
Just for a time.

(from The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, New York: Random House; 1994, p. 135.)

 

Day 148: Goddaughters are the best.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have been over the moon when I my friends Cory and Mitch asked me to be the godmother to their first born child. I was happy, but I didn’t really know what lay ahead for me in this role. I didn’t know who this child would grow up to be. I didn’t know what being a godmother was all about.

Twenty three years later, I’m continuing to realize the ways in which my life has been enriched because of my relationship with this amazing young woman. For ten years we got to live within a short drive/train ride which meant that I got to be a part of her growing up and she got to be a part of mine. I got to go to soccer games and basketball games and music recitals. She got to come visit me in Chicago. I got to go to her high school graduation. We got to conquer big cities together; first, Chicago and now, New York.

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Twenty-three years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would never have children of my own. I never would have imagined that Katie would be the closest thing to a child that I would have. I never imagined how special that relationship would be and how much of a gift she would be in my life.

She has taught me a lot about life and love and radical acceptance and hospitality. She is one of the best read and smartest people that I know. She is unapologetic about who she is and what that means in a world where queer youth are largest sector of the young homeless population in major cities in the US. She owns the privilege she has had because of the family she was born into, but also questions the dominant paradigms within the gay rights movement. She is an activist and a rocking advocate that I definitely want on my side of a fight. Any fight. And she isn’t afraid to pick a fight — if it’s a fight worth having for all the right reasons.

So today, as I reflect on women’s wisdom, I think of Katie. I remember the lessons that she has taught me, and the blessings that I have received. I am thankful for all that she is to me, and all that she means to the world. I am also thankful that she is who she is so that she can challenge the world and the church to be a place where people like her are welcome — just for who they are.

Thanks, Katie. Goddaughters are the best. And you are the best goddaughter I could have ever asked for.

 

Day 138: Moving. It’s what we do.

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.” 
― Judith MintyLetters to My Daughters

There is no other way I can say it. Moving sucks. I know this in my bones. This will be move #18 in my nearly 31 years of adult life. That is counting going to college as one move (not counting summer jobs in different parts of the country) and only counting “living” somewhere if I actually moved my all my stuff.

My husband and I move for a living. He is an intentional interim pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and very good at it; my work as a writer and spiritual life and leadership coach is completely portable, so I move with him. The good news is that we can move anywhere. The bad news is that we do. Thankfully, we are best friends.

We move into a community and dig right in. There is no time to lose. We visit the sites that most people who live there never go to — because they always can. We become a part of the community. We make friends. We build relationships. We are completely unpacked within days of arrival. (Can you imagine if we didn’t? We’d always be living out of boxes.) We live in the now — not thinking about where we will be 5, 10 or even often 1 or 2 years from now because we can’t think that far ahead. When we say that “God only knows” where we will be 5 years from now, we mean it.

We have entered the transition phase of this interim position. The church will likely soon be ready to call its next installed pastor (and no, I don’t know anything for sure) and we will be looking to move to a new location. I am particularly savoring the flowering of the lovely dogwood in front of our home, as we will likely not be here to see it bloom next year.

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I often say to people that, “This is what we do.” It is. Gavin has been doing it for 16 years, and I have been on this journey with him for the past seven. Now that this interim is nearing its conclusion, I too will have to move on, say good-bye, pack our things in a moving truck and go to the next place.

It’s hard to say goodbye. You meet people, and if you are like me, you kind of fall in love with them, and then you leave and it feels a little like ending a summer romance. Even though you knew wouldn’t last beyond Labor Day, it still hurts when it’s over. It’s hard to say good-bye. But you do it. Or, I should say, we do. It’s what we do.

This morning in church I cried. This is nothing new for me — I’m a crier. And I do it often. Real tears. I’m easily moved to tears. (But you know, I come from a long line of criers, and I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. I can cry crocodile tears and not make a sound.) I thought about moving and these amazing kids that were confirmed today and leaving these people who I love and this house that I love and this tree that I love, and it’s all hard. All of it.

But it will be ok because this is what we do. And more than that, this is what we are called by God to do. That may not make much sense to you, but all I can say is that in the end, it will all be ok. Or maybe even better than ok. We’ll probably fall in love all over again.

Because this is what we do.

 

 

Day 122: There is a leaf to cure it.

In Perpetual Spring

BY AMY GERSTLER

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion  
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.


Amy Gerstler, “In Perpetual Spring” from Bitter Angel (New York: North Point Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Amy Gerstler. Reprinted with the permission of the author at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176957

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