Kids These Days

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I know the world is done
But you don’t have to be
I’ve got a question for the child in you before it leaves
Are you tough enough to be kind?
Do you know your heart has its own mind?
Darkness gathers around the lights
Hold on

There is a light
We can’t always see
If there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a dark
That we shouldn’t doubt
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out

-“13” U2

Are you tough enough to be kind?

Do you know your heart has its own mind?

Darkness gathers around the lights.

I’m watching the children. The children are leading us these days. My kids are consistently perplexing and impressing me. I will admit things are not always rosy and wonderful in our home, but oftentimes it is a result of me being too set in my own ways, too set to follow their lead and challenge my own motivations and expectations. Sometimes they deserve my correction, but sometimes they don’t and I realize it is my turn to learn, to listen, to follow.

Watching our kids makes my neck hurt. In an instant, their ways can be odd and nonsensical, baffling – yet in the next they assume a level of responsibility entirely unbeknownst to me at their ages. They are brilliant. They are resourced. They are these incredible people that I get to watch become in their own right.

Our children are the lights. These kids from Parkland, FL – the next day after witnessing friends and teachers die – are leading us, calling out the adults, telling us to do something. And if we won’t, they will. Our kids marching and protesting and calling our lawmakers to accountability and action. Our kids want to be in school. Our kids want to learn and hang with their friends and participate in activities.

I thought I would take it on myself, just after Parkland, to organize a march. I soon realized as more stories emerged that the kids had it handled. The kids know best right now. And as a mother, an adult, a pastor I will undergird them. I will offer my encouragement and my awe, for they are to be regarded and heard.

Our lights have attracted the darkness. Hate mongering persists, criticism and threat of our lights because of a presumed loss of freedom due to threat of gun loss. Children are dying. Children are dying in their schools and the adults feel threatened because they might lose some high powered weapons.

I’m baffled.

My work is to elevate the lights for they are the brilliant ones these days. The ones who can still see. The ones who feel. The ones who haven’t been corrupted for comfort and payouts. The ones with the threatened future. I’m living in my future. Theirs is before them. Or, at least it should be.

The darkness is so thick and our only release is the speaking out, the activism, the protest march, the walking out. I understand. I am undergirding and I am encouraging. I am standing by waiting for instruction, following the lights.

My senator received over three-million dollars from the NRA. My representative, nearly a million. I hear that that doesn’t matter. They say it’s a drop in the collective bucket of donations. If so, why don’t they walk away? Why don’t they follow the lights?

Few of us have access to that many bucket drops.

I’ll be marching when it’s appropriate, but until I’m encouraging my kids and I’m listening to them. They don’t say a lot. I don’t have a chatty bunch, particularly the boys, but I know it weighs heavy – the drills, the news reports, the conversations. None of this is lost on them. None of it is lost on me.

Our hearts know the right thing. Our hearts feel the weight, the pressure, the pain. We need release and as my heart pulsates deep in my gut, I will allow the anger to build, to inform, to lead me. And right now this mama and pastor must protect and preserve our lights, our kids, advocating and showing up wherever they insist upon shining.

As they protest in righteous, holy anger, those of us who’ve lost our spark, we can follow their light. We can attach ourselves to their energy, inspired by their life, leveraging our resources, platforms, and solutions to promote and elevate their brilliance. We can stand behind them when they speak, carry their snacks and jackets while they march. We can tell our friends and advocate on their behalf. We can vote and call and show up. We can provide safe spaces for their plans, grief, questions.

May we step aside as our children shine bright and pave the way. May we recognize that we had our chance. Let’s let the kids lead. They seem to know better than the rest of us these days.

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

On Smiling…or not



Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.
― Greta Garbo

I smile a lot. I was told in high school as a freshman by a junior girl who I admired that she liked my smile. So, I took that as a cue to keep smiling. I don’t smile just for smiling’s sake, nor do I smile at the expense of my authenticity. My face reflects my insides on a consistent basis.

Now that I’ve entered this new world of pastors and churches I often wonder if my smile is a detriment to my professional life. As I enter the world of men I think maybe my smile diminishes my offering, my strength. I wonder if I’m written off as “just a mom” or as friendly, or sweet, or hospitable by the people who don’t know me well.

It’s a concern I have more than I’d like to admit. I wonder if my doctor takes me seriously, or my boys, or fellow pastors. I wonder if my smile reduces me to cute, not worthy of being heard. I wonder how many women believe they must play nice in order to be loved, and smile to be regarded.

I like to work out at our local recreation center. The equipment and facility are fine, not as state-of-the-art as our neighborhood gym, but I like the intersectionality of the place. I like to cross paths with people I would not interact with in my everyday life.

I show up happy most days, depending on how much sleep I had the night before and what is being reported on NPR. One particular day I was excited to be there and saw some of my favorite folks. We bantered and shared a laugh. A man, who I didn’t recognize, walked over, stood before me encroaching my personal space and complimented my smile and said how much he enjoys my laugh.

In the past I would’ve made a silly, offhanded comment, but instead I offered a terse Thank you and carried on with my scheduled workout. I had no desire to cater to him or try to make him feel better. I just wanted him gone.

I’ve been working on listening to my gut. And in this space, as much as I love the people, there are a few I find suspect, who raise some intuitive red flags. Since the election, I find great difficulty in trusting older, white men until I get to know them. I wonder, with this particular man if my smile makes him feel better, if it makes him less uncomfortable around me.

I work hard when I exercise. I push heavy weights and oftentimes scowl into the mirror. A time or two I’ve been told to smile by other dudes, but I’m not sure how to repeatedly lift a 25 pound dumbbell into an overhead press without a scowl. I will not smile at the expense of my muscle mass.

There’s an odd dance I think women have to engage within to be heard and to function in our spaces. I’m recognizing how hard it is, deciphering on the fly what is needed in the moment. And my heart breaks realizing the number of years I spent trying to impress and placate men, while attempting to be liked, seen, and heard. I felt I needed to be small and cute so as not to be a threat, or to be named a bitch.

I like to write and preach from my scars not my wounds, as Nadia Bolz-Weber recommends. But sometimes things remain an open wound and they need to be discussed. I suspect the longer I operate in this world I will gain traction and learn and associate with men who are good and generous, but how many women have to compromise themselves to placate the males? And on this International Women’s Day I feel grief. This shouldn’t even be a thing.

I just want to be myself. I want all women to be themselves. I don’t want our size, shape, intelligence, talent, monetary worth, fashion selections, hair color, facial lines to be a liability. I want to smile and frown because it’s reflective of how I feel in the moment. I want to be me without catering to the people that feel uncomfortable. I want to show up as myself – sometimes happy, sometimes not. I want to demonstrate my ferocity as a woman, a mother, a pastor, as an advocate for people who need advocates. I want to be known as I am.

It might be a lot to ask. I don’t know. It’s still a wound, but I am committed to figuring it out – for our girls, our daughters, our sisters, and mothers.

So, on this International Women’s Day, smile if you want or don’t. It really shouldn’t matter.

Rivers of Joy

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“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Rumi

The three of us sat equidistant across the table from one another. It was our staff meeting – the last before we go full-time church. We stared back at each other over our meals, eyes wide, one of us dared to state the obvious: We are starting a church.

To anyone who has been reading this blog you know this is nothing new. This is not a current revelation. This church has been in the works for three years and we’ve had two “preview” services. This is real and it is happening and none of us are sure we know what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

But I can say with certainty, in the midst of our national pain and difficulty. In the midst of our desperation for what is true and right and good. In the midst of our search for hope, this church plant is the one thing that brings me life. Sure, I have kids and a good partner and friends. But the holy and hard-won work of getting this body born, as gut- wrenching and confusing as it has been, this good work is what brings relief.

After each of our two services thus far, both friends and new acquaintances alike stopped me with eyes wide: Church can be like this? I didn’t think I could go to church again.

This dearth of churches offering just and generous expressions of the gospel is a serious problem. When church is full of shame and shoulds, aligned with empire and politics, while failing to be a safe and welcome and inclusive place for anyone who walks through the doors, we have a serious problem.

I grew up attending Billy Graham’s Crusades. The first was in Spokane, WA when I was 10. My parents were involved, singing in the collective choir. I remember the endless on and on of “Just as I Am” as folks seeking salvation filed forward in droves. I found the spectacle fascinating and a true testament to the love and invitation of Jesus.

But I’m unsure how to feel about Graham now in light of his recent passing. I am not that same person. And I shouldn’t be. I’m a grown woman with a grown up faith. But I believe the evangelicalism of Billy Graham left us with a navel-gazing theology that tempts us to call our own salvation, our own cleanliness and holiness the pinnacle of our faith journey, inviting others to do the same. And while I know it is important to take inventory, to recognize where we are inconsistent and where our shortcomings harm those we love the most, I don’t believe this is the end of the road. I don’t believe we can hang our hats on some spiritual arrival. I am concerned we’ve reduced God to someone we must appease, striving for perfection. I’m concerned our Christianity has been reduced to a scarce either/or rather than an abundant both/and.

And now we are experiencing the ramifications of Billy Graham’s evangelicalism. We may have clean and forgiven souls while our society suffers. What about the pain in the world? What about the power differentials, the oppression, the systems of superiority? Is the church complicit because it’s been so engrossed in the confidence of personal piety?

As of last count, I asked God to save me eleven times. Contemplating a life of fiery torment due to normal bouts of greed, selfishness, gossip. I trembled in my bed imagining a world where demons lied in wait for my soul. I believed my good was never good enough. It was all about me. My efforts. My sin. My perfection. My holiness.

With our national climate of partisanship and tribalism, I wonder if focusing on our personal sin isn’t helping. What about the collective sin of our whiteness? Of our collective sins of heterosexism, patriarchy, and income inequality? Any time one group is oppressed at the benefit of another, pressed further into the muck of poverty and prejudice we must confess, repent, and seek a better way. A way of Love. A way of faithful generosity. A way of justice.

And this is why I believe in the church. I long to experience community so I can learn, grow, and participate in a life that works out of love. A life that seeks to find and dismantle the structures that oppress, the systems that prioritize superiority. I want a community that roots out systemic sin and calls it out, participating in the wonder of grace, generosity, justice.

And this is where the joy lies. This is where the joy flourishes – in the working together that results in equality, equity, and justice for all. May the Church lead in this.

I have no doubt Billy Graham was a good man. I think he did the best he could with what he knew and what he believed – what we all believed. I wonder what awareness came to him later in his life. I wonder what he knows now.

I am grateful, thrilled, in wonder at this new body we have in Left Hand Church. There are good things happening in Boulder County. And the greatest byproduct, the greatest gift is joy. True, untarnished joy.