my daily Eucharist

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tuesday evening, as a simple act to end a simple night of prayer in the church basement, with the twinkle lights illuminating, I dipped a piece of bread in the cup and ate it. Together with my sisters and friends, in spirit with women all over the world, we celebrated what some call the Eucharist, some the Lord’s Supper, others Communion, and at this point in my life, what I just call it the Table -a place where we all come broken, all unworthy, yet all made whole and worthy by the very act that we are remembering.

Every morning, the very first thing I do is unscrew a lid, take out two tiny pills, one yellow, one pink, and begin my day with an act of humility. The same humility and surrender that brought me to the Table this past Tuesday evening. Every night, the very last thing before I get into bed, I again unscrew that lid, take out a tiny pill, white this time, and place it in my mouth. The tang of medicinal coating feels much like the tang of the juice soaked bread I place in my mouth every time I take communion with my community.

It’s one of those incomprehensible mysteries, this sacrament that we take together. The Catholics believe the bread and the wine literally become Jesus’ flesh and blood when we take it. The skeptic in me recoils and rolls her eyes at that description, but even I have to admit that something supernatural takes place during those holy moments. We take into our bodies that very things that are representative of Jesus’ death and sacrifice. The broken bread His broken body. The wine red like His blood. The very thing that brought death now, somehow, miraculously, brings us life.

The same thing happens to me each time I take my medicine. It’s a battle to surrender to my body in this way. I hate that I have to take daily medication. It’s a reminder, day after day after day, that I am broken. I can’t handle things all on my own the way I would prefer. I can never again live without taking these pills. I need help to do things that other people do without thinking. It is something completely outside myself that I am forced to depend on to function.

The humility I feel when I open and close my day with submission to these facts is the same humility I feel when I submit to the soul brokenness that I remember each time I commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice. I can’t control and handle everything on my own. I need Him in ways that I’d sometimes rather not admit. It is something completely outside myself that I am forced to depend on to function.

When I come weary to my medicine case, I remember the energy I will have because it causes my body to function differently. When I come bitter and wounded to those pills, I remember that these medicines bring healing and wholeness in a way that my flesh cannot bring on its own. I submit to the things that remind me of my own mortality and lack of control over my life because they bring life to my physical body.

When I come weary to the Table, I remember that I am carried there by the people of God. I remember that Jesus is the only one who can teach me real rest, who can teach me to walk in grace. When I come bitter and wounded to the table, I remember we are all in this together. I remember that we are all broken in the same way, and it’s only through Jesus’ sacrifice that we are made whole. I remember that this very thing which reminds me of death is the thing that brings life to my soul.

The medicine works life in my body. The bread and the wine work life in my body.

origin_3383659848“For we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-12

 

Daily, I come. Daily, I surrender.

 

 

photo credit: khrawlings via photopin cc

remembering ferguson in over-the-rhine

Thursday, September 18, 2014

(photo: Twitter user @The_Blackness48)

Saturday night, Wendell and I walked through Over-the-Rhine, a traditionally rough, recently trendy neighborhood in Cincinnati. We put in our reservations at the fancy tapas restaurant owned by nationally recognized chef. We went through the over-pried locally manufactured goods store, lingered over the handmade wallets, and then we decided to take a walk down the crowded street while we waited. Any building that wasn’t already remodeled was under construction. Fancy lofts, expensive condos – Get in now while it’s cheaper…except cheaper means hundreds of dollars more a month than what these apartments used to cost. We passed modern fashion, pricey handbags, bouffant men’s hairstyles and all sipping cocktails on high stools.

Until two blocks down. There, the color changed. Literally.

The street was no longer glitzy, the people no longer white. A man lay in the middle of the sidewalk, a two-year-old nearly pedaled his big-wheel right into the street before his seven-year-old brother stopped him. The chairs were plastic, the drinks came in cans. I don’t think I have ever walked down a street with greater contrast than this one neighborhood. I love urban renewal as much as anyone, but my experience in the big cities close to us is that it too often looks like gentrification instead of true community transformation. This is part of the problem with race relations in our country.

I haven’t talked a lot about Ferguson with those around me. My feelings are mostly too raw. My heart is broken by this nation we live in. I’ve wanted to say things. So many things. I just don’t have the world experience to say them from my own personal authority, and after awhile, it becomes weary just quoting the knowledge I’ve attained from others.

I think I’ve mentioned before, briefly, the profound experience I had when reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander last year. I don’t often find myself convicted by ills committed by society at large or by our government as if they were my own sins, but the research and educational path I took while reading that book wrecked me in a way I didn’t expect. Things I thought were true all of my life were challenged deeply. The enormity of the task I have to rear a brown-skinned girl in a world where white privilege remains mostly unacknowledged and unchanged has brought me to my knees in humility. The unwitting complicity in these broken systems brought an unanticipated measure of guilt and repentance.

There were many who wrote about Ferguson in ways that I could never begin to put to the paper. There are others who are living this in ways that I probably never will. Their words bear far more weight than mine, so their words are the ones I’ll share here. I know most will think this is a story whose time has passed. I just can’t stop thinking about it, and I hope that none of us stop thinking about it. May we leave this world, this nation, our communities a little better than when we got here, and may I be part of that legacy.

 

If I could ask just one thing of you on this issue, please read some (or all) of these links. It might take you a week or two or even three to read all of them, but please. Please do not let this time in your life go by without investigating this issue in our nation, in our churches, in our own lives:

Why We're Still Unwilling to Admit to Systemic Racism in America - Benjamin Corey
“I believe that part of the task for Jesus followers in this time, in this place, and within this culture, is to usher in a season of reconciliation for our country. It will be hard work, it will make you unpopular, and it will involve some costly choices. While I believe that there are thousands ready to live like Jesus lived and to carry on his message of empathy, inclusion, and reconciliation, we must first face the following fact:
We cannot begin addressing this problem until we’re willing to admit this problem exists.
May we, the people of Jesus, live in reality– even if it is a difficult reality that invites us to sacrificial change.”

America is Not For Black People - The Concourse
”To ascribe this entirely to contempt for black men is to miss an essential variable, though—a very real, American fear of them. They—we—are inexplicably seen as a millions-strong army of potential killers, capable and cold enough that any single one could be a threat to a trained police officer in a bulletproof vest. There are reasons why white gun's rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children's toys. Guns aren't for black people, either.”

Ferguson and the Quest for Racial Justice - Russell Moore
”Ferguson reminds us that American society has a long way to go in healing old hatreds. Our churches are not outposts of American society. Our churches are to be colonies of the kingdom of God. Let’s not just announce what unity and reconciliation ought to look like. Let’s also show it.”

Racial Profiling, Thugology, and the Church - Efrem Smith
I was just in Oakland this past week and too many churches were closed, with signs stating that they are only open for Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday Morning Worship. This is unacceptable. The issues facing our cities calls for collaborative church strategies that put Christians on the streets until systems change and crime reduces significantly. Commuter Churches must become Community Churches again. The Church can indeed address both racial profiling and thug-ology.

Two Americas: Ferguson, Missouri Versus the Bundy Ranch, Nevada - The Daily Banter
You need to click through to see this article – it’s more a visual piece than something from which I can pull an effective quote.

Racial Bias, Police Brutality, and the Dangerous Act of Being Black - Kristen Howerton
Rather than a quote from this article, just go and look through all of the research Kristen links to in this article. It needs no commentary.

Would Black Transracially Adopted Males Rather Be White Right Now? - Angela Tucker
”Are white adoptive parents more inclined to reminisce, reflect and eulogize Robin Williams than they are to educate, advocate and act upon these current systemic tragedies that directly impact their family?”

This Is What We Mean When We Say It's About Race - Medium.com
”So when we say that this or any other issue is about race, part of what we’re asking is for you to go beyond the scope of your own experiences when choosing whether or not to validate another person’s perspective, because your experiences may not shed enough light on the problem. Just as fish don’t understand the concept of water until they’re out of it, white people don’t usually understand white privilege until they’re forced to confront its effects, usually by people of color who are sick of getting the short end of the privilege equation.”

A White Cop, A Black Kid, and A Crime - Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary
”As people of privilege (*ahem* you know who you are), we have a responsibility to ask WHY, and then listen intently to the answer. Our neighbors in Ferguson have been standing in the street with their hands in the air, because they're trying to tell us something about the balance of power and racial inequity in the U.S! Are we willing to hear them? Because maybe it's time to shut up and listen. Or maybe it's time to get up and act; to meet our friends in the street, clasp their hands, share in their tears, echo their outrage, and stand by their side until, statistically, a long and healthy future is equally as likely for every child.”

Black Bodies White Souls - Austin Channing Brown
”I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. If it is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what's always done.”

if grace is an ocean

Thursday, September 4, 2014

O14A0456For the past month, I’ve been arguing with God. As if I know best. I’ve been telling Him all the things that I need, that I want – telling Him what I do and don’t want to do, what I do and don’t want to be. I’ve told Him over and over how flawed I am, listed out all the ways I’ve been screwing this whole thing up. Lest you think that the God I speak to isn’t real – well, I can’t disprove your experience, but you can’t disprove mine either, and I’ve been experiencing God in a whole new way this month.

 

God often speaks to me through His Word. Sometimes in ways I don’t want to hear. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself. Maybe it’s because reading has always been my favorite subject. Maybe it’s because there is nothing in this world that makes my heart cry glory like a well-put phrase or a well-chosen word. God speaks in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people – through others, through the Holy Spirit in our own souls, through circumstances, through signs or miracles or what have you, but as for me, it’s always been the Word where God does the hardest work in my life.

The study that a friend and I have been doing on Hosea could not have come at a better time than right now. I’ve read Hosea 85 gazillion times due to my teenage infatuation with Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, but it has never ever struck me like it has this particular time.

…so when I read Hosea 2:14 about God speaking tenderly to us in the desert, I am reminded that no matter my faults, no matter my sins, God does not treat me as I may deserve. He shows mercy. He showers grace. He speaks tenderly.

..when I read Hosea 2:23 where God says, “and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’”, I am reminded that God has made me part of a People. Not an individual. I’m part of a group. I can’t do this all on my own. I can’t even process all the things on my own. I need my people. When I’m faithful to talk to my people, you know what? They are faithful to tell me hard truths and ask me difficult questions and help me figure my life out.

…when I read Hosea 4-6 about Israel’s sins and unrepentance, I can see that mirrored in my own life. My unfaithfulness to the One who always shows Himself faithful. My clinging to worthless idols instead of clinging to One who can truly give me what I need. My arguing and crying and whining about the things He’s asked me to do instead of just being obedient. All of that ugliness is just washed away in the waves of His mercy. It sinks in the depths of His grace.

 

God continues speaking even when I’m not expecting it. I was caught off guard when I found Him speaking rather sternly to me, even in the middle of a book I’ve read before, in the middle of a story that I thought didn’t apply to me:

“Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader. God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet….There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath. Obviously, we are Americans; we like a plan, we like assurances. But the ways of faith exist so far outside of our tidy boundaries, it is a wonder we can ever receive its mysteries at all. As it was, we could only hold loosely to something we didn’t even understand, and that put us in a position of faith and terrible humility. We can wreck the spirit of a mission by prematurely focusing on the strategy. When the “how” eclipses the “why” too soon, we create a positional shift to defend and execute rather than listen and receive…”
Jen Hatmaker from Interrupted, revised and expanded

 

Umm. Listen and receive? I want a plan, thanks. Following God into the great unknown is so much more glamorous sounding than the panic that I find settling down in my life to stay for awhile. I don’t want to hold loosely. I want cling tightly. I want all the things to be in order and figured out and progressing along a certain trajectory. Even if that trajectory calls me to do really, really hard things, painful things, things that require more of me than I thought I could give – frankly, I still only want to do it if it’s the trajectory that I plan for. This unknown stuff? Shove it.

 

I’m in the middle of these hard, yet somehow still tender, truths, in the throes of wrestling with the One I love in spite of it all. Perhaps it’s time to lay down my arguments and my defenses. The minute I think I’m ready, I find myself taking up arms yet again. At odds with the One who calls me, yet steadily, if somewhat reluctantly, moving towards Him. Every time I think I have this whole ‘follow where He leads’ thing figured out, God calls me deeper still. Every time I think I’ve sacrificed enough, He calls me to lay down one more thing. Every time I think I’m can rest on my laurels and take some time off, He gently, yet firmly, prods me onward – reminding me yet again that this isn’t all about me. Further. So even though tonight, quite honestly, finds me fighting against the waves, I know if I let go, I can sink in the ocean of grace.

Now, to match my head with my heart. Press on.

 

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn,
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

 

 

[image: death to the stock photo]

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