Spirit matters

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you.  John 16:7

This has been a long winter of questions, of seeking, of long-held assumptions and beliefs being flipped and turned. Growing up under the spotlighted fishbowl of a pastor’s home, one learns how to do the right stuff, be the right way, believe the right things (some don’t..but I did, people pleaser that I am). And I wouldn’t say it was all placed on me by the dominating force of The Church (enter big deep voice) or of Religion. No, I truly believed this was my Calling. I desired to please, honor, glorify and praise God, which meant I chose well. I chose to follow the rules, I didn’t dance with my now husband at prom, I didn’t go to the theater (very often), I certainly didn’t cuss, didn’t drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs. I worked hard, was kind (mostly), was a Bible Study Leader in college, attended church all Sundays, prayed, read the Bible (even bored out of my mind), waited until marriage (barely) to have sex. I was quite the good girl and so thankful that I didn’t have to undo any major poor choices.

There is a flipside to all of this..guilt, fear, condemnation. Grace, redemption, freedom…all foreign concepts. These good-girl rules prevented the full experience of beauty and life in the Spirit. I was gifted at finding fault in others and really great at finding fault in myself. Any little thing could potentially bring the wrath of whatever and whomever.

Surprisingly, however, I discovered that in some ways living by Grace is actually harder. I did difficult  things and made tough choices in my quest for holiness (perfection) but it was spelled out…do this, do that, certainly don’t associate with that group, etc. Living by Grace or the Spirit is tricky. Sometimes there isn’t a way to define the next thing to do, or to validate a choice, or to define if I’m good with God or not.

Church…all things church…have been the source of my personal winter. It started when my youngest brother came out as gay. I didn’t wrestle in loving him, but I wrestled with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing. I lived with it for a time, but knew that he longed to be loved as a whole person, not in parts. He deserved to be accepted for being human, my brother, my parents’ child, friend, musician and brilliant man. It felt disingenuous to part and parcel him out in pieces…love this piece, hate this piece. Good grief, I practice the “sins” of gluttony and greed, people weren’t telling me they could only love bits and pieces of me. So why him?

I started viewing the church differently…seeing that only certain things are discussed and other things very much aren’t..or if they are, certainly not with an affirming or even loving sense. Sure, anyone can attend, but really? Can they really be fully LGBT in church? Can any of us really be fully ourselves in church or Christian circles? Fully honest? Fully authentic? Heaven forbid I honestly discuss with someone my frustration and anger at the Bible. And we think we have the authority to lord certain scriptures over people for their various “poor choices”. I’m not saying all churches are this way…certainly I have been in places and with groups of people that listen and respond with not only grace, but something even more important…understanding!

Living by Grace and in the Spirit is messy. The above scripture really challenges me, as I read it I recognize how essential the Spirit is for us. The Spirit is in us, leading, guiding, commenting, affirming, challenging. If left unchecked, my inner dialogue has the potential to take me to dark, hopeless places. When I slow down, sit quietly, surrender in the moment, I hear hope. I hear kindness, patience. I hear “I love you so much”. I hear, “You’re good..I’ve got this..I know..hang on.” I hear, “Why are you working so hard? What is your goal or motivation here? How about a little rest?” Granted, there are times where I do have to challenge this happy spirit voice.  Richard Rohr says in Falling Upward: “The Holy Spirit is always entirely for us, more than we are for ourselves, it seems. She speaks in our favor against the negative voices that judge and condemn us. This gives us all such hope-now that we do not have to do life all by ourselves, or even do life perfectly ‘right’ “.

Living by the Spirit means there is almost no black and white. Things are gray. Most issues and choices are complex and have multiple approaches from which we can get a better understanding. To me, this is Grace. This tells me that I’m not God…it’s not my job to judge, condemn or think I have the answers for or about a particular person or situation. The Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, and as unique beings, there are infinite expressions. I hear so frequently, “I just wish Jesus had been specific about the issues we face today like homosexuality or women in the church”. Some people believe Scripture is clear here, but I have to question if that is the case when it calls us to cast out instead of include, when we hear it saying, “Yes, but”.  

What if The Church was characterized as a place of safe seeking, of grace, mercy and freedom? What if we, as a body of believers lived this out? What if we checked our fear? It seems we are more known for our fear of Hell and striving for Heaven than by much else. We mistakenly think we operate best with a list of do’s and don’ts, rather than in the trust and faith in the God of the Universe, the Holy Spirit living in us. How would Jesus be viewed if instead of determining who’s in and who’s out, we love, we see people as people…created in God’s beautiful image, recognizing none of us are better or worse than another? What if we sought to understand through listening? What if we chose to see and sought to love all people? What if, as a Church, we started dialoguing thoughtfully about the hard-to-understand issues in our culture today? What if we agree to disagree respectfully, but we still continue the dialogue?

I believe this is our only hope.

What’s the big deal about Ferguson?

Nearly three months ago, Michael Brown was shot too many times, for a potentially minor offense. His body was left in the sweltering Missouri heat for four hours before being attended to. His family, friends and greater community have been mourning in the wake of this immense injustice.

We have an epidemic on our hands…where young people of color do not get the same entitlement to grow up and become. Where young people of color must be aware of prejudice and false assumptions, must work harder, must prove oneself, must be better. I have a 15 year old son. I think of his life, growing up white, with very little fear of those who are paid and commissioned to protect. My children, because of the pale color of their skin, will not know the need to be that much better and work that much harder.

My husband and I attended a rally at the State Capitol in Denver last night…National Day Against Police Brutality. Before Ferguson, before this pit in my stomach became a permanent fixture, I had no understanding of police brutality. I knew nothing of the fear people live in daily because of their skin tone. I knew nothing of the fact that police seem to have little to no accountability…they are accountable only to themselves. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem like the making of an effective business. We all need accountability..especially any of us who own power. After hearing stories last night from victims of police brutality in Colorado, I recognize the reality of the privilege my color (or lack thereof) affords my family and me. Hearing of police entering forcibly into homes, to kill a young man while family watched on; another young man, 19, African American, pulled from a car for a routine stop, requiring 45 stitches and broken bones, using the one phone call in jail to make sure his mother knew where he was. Local pastors who have been arrested for standing up for what is right. The question being asked, “How good do we have to be?” Good question. How good do our friends and neighbors of color have to be for us to pay attention? To believe they are worthy of the same rights and opportunities we white folks have by virtue of being born. For us to recognize our white privilege and stand in solidarity. How much are we going to ask of them?

One thing I am learning in my walk of faith is that the thing I must do is the one next thing…I cannot live in the future, wondering about this or that. I am required to do that which is in front of me. In the area of equality, whether we are discussing race, gender, sexuality, I must do the next thing. Educate myself by reading about the realities faced by our marginalized in America. It is so easy to snuggle in under my covers at night, to watch my shows, to hang with my people, to eat good food and drink beer…all of these things are gifts, gifts from God…yet, there is the balance. When it’s all about me, my comfort and rights, at the expense of another, there is something less sweet. I long to be engaged, to ask new and important questions, to educate my children in what is being revealed to me.

What is happening is not right. We are asked to participate in the life of Jesus…a life lived in justice, mercy and humility.

Broody Hen Ideas

What is a Broody Hen? Interestingly enough, my husband is the one who suggested this as my blog title.

According to Dictionary.com, to brood = to sit upon (eggs) to hatch, as a bird; incubate or worry persistently or moodily about; ponder.

We have a broody hen. She started to brood, even without fertilized eggs. Maggie sat on the nest for hours and we would have to remove her with a broom, to collect our daily egg allotment. She was mean, and would peck anyone who came near. Our neighbors also have a small backyard flock, including a rooster. Three fertilized eggs were given to our Maggie and instinct set in. She sat and sat for weeks. During the heat of the day she felt the freedom to emerge from the coop and engage in a dust bath, free range eating and some socializing with the others. Two of the three eggs hatched and out popped two black little chicks. Poor Maggie was torn…the chicks would jump out of the nesting box, while she was still trying to incubate the late-to-hatch egg. One afternoon I found her sitting on one chick in the middle of the floor, while the other chick was running around, and the egg was still in the nest. Poor thing…I know what it’s like to feel so frazzled.

My ideas are my clutch of eggs. I sit, ruminate, incubate on these ideas. Some I hold very close and some just pop out of my mouth to my deep chagrin. I fear the vulnerability of bearing these ideas to others, since they often are not fully formed, perfect or ready for the big world. This blog is hopefully my place to release these ideas, to let them grow wings and advance into the universe. I am not alone, these eggs are hardly new, but often times, the culture in which I live may or may not support these notions.

I lose sleep…my brain is rarely inactive…I read constantly, blogs and books, to learn, to navigate these new pathways, to grow courage, to see God at work in the lives, hearts and minds of others. I love watching my processes merge into those of others. I recognize the sweet relief of grace through this discovery, and in my thoughts. I realize the beauty of the heart of God for his precious children, regardless of our doing…it’s just in our being. So good!

First Things First

I can’t believe how clean my desk and house are at this moment as I find any reason to avoid putting words to page. My stomach in small knots, hands clammy, heart rate elevated. I have my people to take my honest thoughts, but now, to throw those carefully polished (and some quite rough) nuggets into the blogosphere feels…vulnerable.

I am Jen, wife of E, mother of three: the ABC’s. Our dwelling is in Boulder County, Colorado…almost one acre on county land with 4 chickens, 2 lambs, 1 rabbit, and a dog. We are trying our hand at living simpler (in some ways), wiser, and quieter…after having downsized from a lovely, spacious home in the local neighborhood.

I choose to stay home, but own a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. I have quiet in my days, but long for greater significance at times. I wrestle much with the expectations placed on my as an accomplished female, yet, I wonder often from where the expectations arise. Mostly me…although I will also say I don’t think women can have it all.. everything we want…without sacrificing in key areas.

I am an athlete…love to run, ride my bike, hike, backpack, walk, practice yoga and Pilates. I am a recovering triathlete…but reserve the right to reenter when time and desire allow.

I am discovering (or admitting) that I am a developing activist.  Social justice causes are regularly winding their way into my heart.

I am a Christian, in the sense that I love Jesus and believe He is the Son of God, having died on the Cross so ALL may have life abundant…whether it’s on this side of eternity or the other.

I started my first garden this year and learned how to grow (or more likely learned how to plant) beets, zucchini (holy cow!), carrots, tiny tiny kale, tomatoes, and others.

I am an introvert, yet that comes as a surprise to many since I can manage a conversation with just about anyone. However, a day at home, to myself is usually just what the doctor ordered after a night at a party.  My personality is identified by Myers-Briggs as INFJ.

I love naps, my dog, being outside, reading books and blogs, deep conversations, beer, my bed, watching my children become who they are, feeding my family (about 3 times a week), and snowy days.