Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Midwife and the Minister

During these next few months I am taking some intentional time to do some vocational discernment before I graduate from seminary. As a part of my process I'm going through some of my old writings... This is a paper I wrote for my pastoral care course- which I took in the summer of 2010... it is long and deeply personal- maybe you have some extra time on break and want to read? If so-I ask that you hold me in grace while you read some of my deepest experiences :)

The Midwife and the Minister

I got out of the large jacuzzi tub feeling cold, shaky, and exhausted. I was between contractions and I was doubting my ability to keep going. The pain was unbearable. Without speaking, my midwife, Sheila, brought a warm, white blanket and wrapped it around my swollen naked body. Standing behind me, Sheila looked to Kyle and smiled with calm, loving assurance as he stood feeling helpless and overwhelmed. With the warm blanket wrapped around my body, Sheila shimmied her hands up and down my back, as you would a child fresh out of the bathtub. I instantly relaxed, feeling comforted and nurtured. Though there was much more pain ahead, I was not alone. As my labor progressed Sheila remained present. She listened to my cues, watched my physical, emotional, and spiritual response to the impending birth of my first child. She assured me that we were ‘almost there’, with out giving me absolute answers to the mystery of labor and life. She sat with my mother, and my sister. She explained to them some of the physiological changes happening, while encouraging them to hold me in grace through my snips for them to ‘be quiet!’.

As the birth of our baby was immanent, Sheila prepared the space, and gathered the team of nurses for the coming baby. Though my awareness was focused solely on my goal of ‘getting the baby out!’, Sheila asked me if I wanted to see the baby as she came into the world. Her actions reminded me of the holy sacredness of this moment as she held a mirror so I could see the head of this baby causing me so much pain. She encouraged me to touch her head, and as she came roaring through the birth-canal, she guided my hands down so that I may be the one to actually carry my child into this world. She gave me the gift of being the first to see my baby’s face by putting the baby directly onto my body. She let me be the one to speak the words, ‘it’s a girl!’. While constantly present, guiding with skill, knowledge, and compassion, Sheila ensured that our birth story was our own to experience and to define.

Somehow I have had the privilege to attended eleven births over the past seventeen years. I believe the moment of birth and of death are of the holiest moments we can encounter. Each birth and death is in itself unique, beautiful, messy, painful, and liberating. Perhaps this is why I was so moved by the imagery of pastor as midwife spoken of by Karen R. Hanson in Robert Dykstra’s book, Images of Pastoral Care. Through Hanson’s words I was able to reflect not only upon my birth experiences, but also on my experience of the wholeness of humanity, and on my call to ministry. I appreciate Hansen’s identification of chaplaincy and midwifery as parallel professions, primarily in the common call to be with people, and to attend people in a process. Hanson says, “In both midwifery and in chaplaincy the focus is not so much on doing, but on being with people in travail. On using our skills and personhood to focus on the unique context and process of the patients and families we are privileged to attend. God does the miraculous work of delivering new life in its myriad forms.” This speaks to my experience in my own labor, the labors I have witnessed, and in the transformative life experiences of others I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. As a woman, friend, and minister, I believe I am called to stand by, to witness, create space, support others, and name the creative and powerful energy of our God who brings new life out of death.

Perhaps my favorite part of this metaphor is the messiness that is innate in the process of birth and midwifery. In spite of the vast medical knowledge we may have about the birthing process, every birth includes risk, is full of mystery, and has inherent death. Hanson speaks to the death of a woman’s former identity, as well as to the possibility of death for both baby and mother. I vividly remember Sheila’s blood covered hands as she worked to remove the now un-needed placenta from my womb. The sights, sounds, and smells of a labor room are all together messy. The new baby often looks more like a purple screaming lump than the clean infant we see in movies. And further, the death of a baby brings unspeakable pain, anger, and sorrow. I walked with a friend who discovered her baby had died in her belly four days before her due date, and have experienced miscarriages with several close friends. The realities of postpartum depression, shifting identity, and changing relationships all accompany this radical experience of life. Just as the role of midwife is full of mystery, risk and messiness, so too is the role of minister.

I have always been drawn to scriptural metaphors which evoke images of motherhood, labor, and midwifery. This is clearly due to my experiences with these aspects of life, but is also due to my appreciation for feminine metaphors for God which challenge the dominant patriarchal language. I greatly appreciated Hanson’s scriptural references to the acts of delivering, bathing, clothing, and connecting mother and child. I appreciate images of God which emphasize our call to be in relationship and to move toward wholeness. As Hanson says, through reading midwife imagery in the scriptures we see that, “The Spirit of God travails with us and the whole creation now, awaiting God’s final act of deliverance, when the fullness of God’s reign is birthed in history.”

Hanson’s references to the role of midwifes through history was both informative and enlightening. I was moved by the story of the journal of Martha Ballard, a midwife who practiced in Maine in the 1920’s. Through journalling the everyday experiences of life as a midwife we see the power of our very dailiness. I was called to reflect on the importance of our daily work, and my belief in pastoring from a place which uses less words, and more presence. More physical and spiritual care, and less based on moral and legalistic directives. I appreciate the noting by Hanson that the women in the historical role of midwife were known for their knowledge, skill, and compassion as they acted as midwives for their neighbors and friends. Their stance of being “with women” is inspiring for all of us who aspire to heal or simply to give compassionate presence and help to our neighbor in need.

Most striking in my reading of this essay was my realization of the ways ‘midwifery’ has informed my call to ministry and my ideas of what it means to be a pastor. Though my experiences of birth and labor have not been in the front of my consciousness, they have informed my way of being in the world, and my way of being in ministry. Just over two years ago I had a series of images which came to me and I could not be rid of. The first was of an ‘inside-out heart’. I saw a crimson bloody mass covered in veins. The heart was pumping and healthy, yet torn apart and turned inside-out. Surrounding the heart was a charcoal blur that evoked sadness and pain. In sitting with this image I realized the pain I had been experiencing in the process of ‘loosing myself’ as I became a mother to three young children. Though motherhood is beautiful and life giving, it has also taught me of my own shortcomings, my anger, and inabilities to live up to my expectations for myself. This image allowed me to reflect on this and to invite God to continually ‘create in me a clean heart’.

Weeks later I received a second image of a developing fetus warm and nourished in God’s womb. I saw a sea of swirling turquoise-blue surrounding an alien-like fetus. From the blue sea I saw a bright, blinding yellow color shining outward. I sat in the space for a while. I spent weeks thinking of this as I lay in bed at night. I felt incredible comfort as though I were being fed and nurtured. During this time I returned to the home of my grandparents in the woods of Northern California where I had my first experiences of God as a child. I was overwhelmed with feelings of ‘being fed’ as an infant in its mother’s womb. I allowed myself to be in this space. To absorb the nutrients. To grow and develop.

Confusing as it is, I have discerned that the third vision I received is actually fourth in sequence, and I have yet to receive the third. The fourth vision is of a person holding hands with another. One of the people has fish scales covering their eyes. As the two people hold hands the scales are slowly falling from the eyes of the one. This vision has been the least clear for me and has brought me to wonder what it means. The third and fourth visions still hold mystery for me, two years later.

Two years ago, after receiving these visions over a period of four to six months I decided to attempt to paint them, though I have little artistic talent. I began my preparations by going for a hike and spending time in prayer. I laid on a rock in the woods and felt as though I was being held by God. I felt as though I was a newborn infant, just out of it’s mother’s womb being washed and cleaned. As I laid on the rock I felt as though God was scrubbing me. This was not the gentle, tentative way new parents bathe an infant, but the hard kind of scrubbing an experienced midwife does when she is cleaning the white greasy vernix off of a newborn. As I laid on the rock it was as if I could feel the cleansing waters removing the grime which had built up through my frustrations, resentment, guilt, and expectations. When I felt the time was right I stepped off the rock and headed to the space I had designated to attempt to express the images which had been hounding me. Through that day of rest, prayer and art I experienced a small piece of healing. Looking back I realize how God acted as both nurturer and midwife to me. This time period was the beginning of my call to ministry.

I believe I am still living in the space of the third image. Being held, fed and nurtured by God as an infant is by its loving parents. I am being filled with knowledge about the holy scriptures, about history, and theology, and how to care for a congregation of people in a church. In reading Hanson’s essay of minister as midwife I realized how much this metaphor speaks to both my experience of being ministered to, and to my understanding of what it means to be a minister. I believe in the importance of skill, knowledge and compassion as I walk with people. I identify with Hanson’s understanding of our call to be person-centered as we assist God in birthing new life in people and their relationships with self, God, and others. I appreciate the role of naming the holy and broken spaces when the people we walk with are too caught in the pain to notice.

Just as Sheila was physically and spiritually present in the birth of my children, I hope that I may move into a pastoral role of being physically and spiritually present to others. I hope that I can be aware of the physical and spiritual needs of another. I hope I can provide knowledge, skill and compassion as I point others toward the Holy. I hope that just as Shelia ensured my birth experience was my own, I can step back to honor and respect the story of another. Perhaps it will be in this messy process of being with others that the scales will fall from my eyes, and from the eyes of the ones I serve.


Hanson, Karen R. “The Midwife” in Images of Pastoral Care, Calssic Readings, ed. Robert C. Dykstra 200-208. St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Pr, 2005.

Dear God,

Just as you knit me in my mother's womb,
Take these remnants and fragments which I have become,
And make them whole.
Sew me into a quilt of warmth, beauty, comfort, and grace.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"What we have most in common is not religion, but humanity"

"What we have most in common is not religion, but humanity.

I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get– in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing–which is where God's Beloved has promised to show up.

Paradoxically, the point is not to see God.

The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no other language, whose life is an unsolved mystery.

The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over.

I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead."

~From Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World

(ps- If you haven't read this book you should move immediately from this blog to Amazon and order it right now!)

How often do I turn the people I encounter into characters in my own little story?

How often in our hurried world to I pass by the person on the street and fail to acknowledge their humanity with even a glance in their eyes?

How often to I take my groceries and my receipt without noticing the human being who hands me the bag?

Today, may we see the full humanity, mystery, depth, and life in each particular and unique person we meet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tell me a Story....

Every once in a while... on one of those rare Saturday mornings when we aren't rushing out the door to get to an early soccer game or swim meet...

The kids wake us up by climbing in bed and snuggling in under the covers. Ryan wiggles his way into my arms and inevitably says, "Mom! Tell me a story!"

He knows exactly the story I will tell... it's the story I always tell him in one fashion or another...

A story of a little boy who has magical powers.
No one knows but him.
One day, when he is playing out in the yard he hears a puppies crying...
He bursts into the air and flies to the rescue, saves the baby pup, and returns home- with his parents none the wiser.

He loves this story. Sometimes he tells it to me- but in his version I'm the hero with secret powers.


A couple weeks ago we were driving to school and I hear from the back of the car, "Mom, tell me the story of when Grammie chased that kid who hurt you"...

This is one of our family favorites over the years.

A story of my 'super Mom' who saw another child wait for a six-year-old-me after school, and then pick me up and throw me on the ground. My Mom saw this from her car, which was parked across a soccer field from my classroom. I've never seen my Mom move so quickly. She sprinted across the field, through the school campus, and followed the kid onto his bus where she let him know he was never to touch her daughter again...

The kids love this story. They love hearing about their Mom being a vulnerable child, and about their Grammie being so tough and protective.


I've recently been reading Daughters of Anowa: African Women & Patriarchy by Mercy Amba Oduyoye. Central to this book is an examination of the folk stories of Mercy's culture, the Yoruba culture of southern Nigeria. Mercy examines the stories which have been passed on from one generation to another over hundreds of years in order to both name myths that serve to propagate oppression, and myths which serve to bring freedom, life and creativity to the current African context. Mercy examines the stories of her culture, and the stories which have been brought to Africa in the colonial project, with a hermeneutic of trust and a hermeneutic of suspicion.

This means that she reflects on the way stories which are passed down shape us. She seeks to name the way the stories we tell can be damaging, and the ways in which they bring life. Mercy encourages African women to reach into their own stories to find resources for healing and transformation.


I wish I had more stories to tell my kids.

Honestly, I feel so disconnected from the stories of my ancestors.
I see the way my kids faces light up upon hearing the scant stories that I do tell.

Still, I know they are receiving all kinds of stories in their lives.

And I know that one day they will have to sift through them to name the stories that are oppressive, and to claim and reach into the stories that bring life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I love you more than baseball...

... "More than baseball?" I said.

"Yes. More than baseball" he said.

"Wow- you must really love me."


What did we know? We were just babies. Fifteen and seventeen years old. What could we possibly know about love, and life, and all that comes with it?

How could we know?

How could we know about responsibility and commitment and bills and schedules?

What could we know about dreams and passions, and nurturing careers, and pursuing education?

What could we know about raising a family, and pushing past exhaustion, and feeling as though there is no more left to give?

How could we know?


And yet- nearly twenty years later- when we fall into bed at night- I look into those eyes and think, "I love you more than children, and theology books, and yoga, and running, and puppies, and deep conversations, and all that brings me joy-- of all of those things- I still love you most."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do you have time to talk?

How easy is it to go through a day without really talking to anyone?
I mean really talking.
Not the usual, "Hi, how are you?"... "Good. You?"
Facebook doesn't count.

I mean a real conversation of mutual listening and sharing.
Real interest in what the other has to say.
Genuine vulnerability to the words of another- which might perhaps shift or change locked in perspectives.
When was the last time you talked to someone who may challenge what you know about the world?


Honestly, life is so full that most often it is easier to just put down my head- to keep walking, looking at my phone, rattling off my to-do list in my head.

My days are full- just as each of yours are. There is just so dang much to do. It is easy to wake up, get to yoga, say a few quick hellos... share niceties... come home... hurry the kids along... drive up to the school... pass by all of the other parents with a quick head nod- a small wave. Off to work or school or the grocery store... moving through the day without ever truly stopping to listen.. or to share.


Over the past week I happen to have had multiple deep conversations at random times and places... these conversations left me wondering, "What am I missing on all of these days when I rush around with out stopping to talk?"


With my massage therapist I heard stories of his past, of his struggle to find love, of his children and his dreams.

With a fellow parent at the kids school we talked about the struggle to raise kids in an environment with ethnic diversity in a culture that self segregates. We discussed school politics and the longing to provide the best opportunities for our kids while also being aware of the social and political problems in our education systems.

With a man from India, who I talked to for an hour at Starbucks, I heard about his struggle to find community in Fort Worth, his dreams to write a movie script, and his perspective on possibilities for creative freedom that he witnesses in the US.

With my sweet daughter Faith, while sitting in a public restroom, We talked through her questions after reading the book Because of Winn Dixie... She wanted to know, "what's it like to be a Mom, is it hard?" (btw-the Mom in this book leaves the family- thanks author Katie DiCamillo for planting that in my kids head)...


What would I have missed if I hurried out from my massage appointment, if I'd dropped the kids off for a play date and silently ran errands on my own, if I'd not shared my table at Starbucks, if I'd sent Faith into the bathroom without staying to talk?


Each of these encounters left me thinking. Each of these conversations shifted my perspective of the world- even if only for a few minutes.

There is some part of me - deep inside- that can't help but think that these little conversations- that sharing with our fellow travelers on this convoluted path- is a big part of what life is all about.

So may you, and may I,
put down the phone,
close the book, or the computer,
let the to-do list sit unfinished--

may we each stop to talk.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dysfunction Junction: What does your body mean to you?

My days are filled with caring for little bodies....
Hugging bodies,
bathing bodies,
feeding bodies,
lifting bodies,
tucking bodies into bed.

I spend lots of time teaching the care of these bodies...
Did you brush your teeth?
Don't pick your nose.
Eat your dinner.
Did you wipe?

I love these little bodies that are in my care more than I can speak of.
Nothing compares to a snuggle on the couch when we all get home,
or that big hug at first sight,
or the kiss before bed.


And yet- in our culture, and in our religious traditions we have this schizophrenic relationship with these bodies of ours.

Today in class (Sexuality and Ministerial Practice) we watched a presentation called Killing Us Softly 4 (

We were bombarded with images that we are all familiar with- images that objectify, sexualize, and dehumanize women.

We saw advertisements for things such as deodorant, jeans, beer, cars, hair gel, and fast-food- that time after time that represent women as purely sexual objects, or as meant to be submissive and voiceless (while still being sexy of course). Violence against women was repeatedly used to sell products. The images told us we need to slim down to a size 00 or less-- but if we can't, then surely cookies or a Carl's Junior burger will comfort us.

We seem to have two choices: Run from this world- escape these bodies of ours and dream of the sweet by and by...

Or whore our bodies out to the highest bidder.

There is no in-between.

How have our religious teachings not only been complicit, but been an accessory to this atrocious way of seeing our bodies?

Perhaps too often women are seen as either the 'Virgin Mary' or the 'trouble-maker Eve'?

Or, maybe our bodies are seen as something of no value. Something that will be left behind?


I wonder- how can we embrace our own physical 'created-ness'? We were after all created in the image of God- as good- right?

How can we reclaim healthy physical relationships- enjoy and appreciate our own sexuality (and the sexuality of others) as a gift from God- not something to be objectified and used a a marketing scam- but something to be embraced and enjoyed?

How can we develop a healthy self-image and relationship with our body? Perhaps one that inspires us to care for this physical gift from God through feeding it healthy foods, exercise, sleep- while also letting go of cultural ideas of 'perfection'?


Honestly, most important for me today-
as I snuggle my sweet children on the comfy couch,
as I feel my skin next to their skin,

I long to protect these bodies. I long for them to love their own bodies. I hope that they will see their body as a gift from God- I hope they will respect their body- and the bodies of others. I hope they will one day experience the full joy that living in a body brings...

But really- my gut inclination is to build a giant bubble in the back yard and keep them in it until they are 30 or so... That would work. Don't you think?....

ps- props to Anderson Cooper on CNN who tonight while I was writing this ran a bit about a ridiculous t-shirt JCPenny just pulled after the outrage it generated- check out the story...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shoeless Mia Henderson and the Privilege of Education

Perhaps you saw my facebook post this morning. My sweet nine year old Mia got all the way to school before noticing that she'd forgotten to put shoes on her feet. In my effort to 'teach her a lesson' I let her know she wouldn't be able to go to class until she had shoes. She had to walk up and into the school barefoot and wait in the office until a kind friend brought her a pair or shoes....


Yesterday at Brite Divinity School we celebrated the 'Convocation'. This is a beautiful recognition and celebration of the start of a new academic year and a naming of new students, faculty and staff. In one of many speeches, someone casually spoke the phrase 'privilege of education'. My friend Walter leaned in and repeated the phrase 'privilege of education'...

Today in class, while discussing postcolonial theology (see past blogs for more definitions and links), we got into a hot discussion about the shortage of women working in theological settings. Is there a real problem? Is the academic world still dominated by 'white men'? Is there a real effort happening to change that?

An important piece of the constructive effort of postcolonial theology is to create space in the academic world of theology for the voices, stories, and wisdom of women on the margins- those women living in formerly colonized areas.


This left me thinking about a few things (I promise this will come together!)....

We can say we value the knowledge and wisdom and experience of people, and we can name underlying issues of racism, classism, sexism-

but until we address the systemic, religious, economic, and cultural forces that keep women in poverty, keep women as primary (and at times solitary) caretakers for all in their family, and as often as women are continuously violated and exploited-- there will never be enough freedom of time and energy for women to actually share their experiences... to bring light to their wisdom, to reflect theologically, and to develop genuine relationships of mutuality.

We live in a world where women represent 70% of the poor population, where too often women's time and energy is spent fully on fighting for survival, trying to make ends meet.

As a person who lives a very comfortable and supported life, I still struggle through so many days. I wonder how in the world can women 'on the margins' find time and energy to fit into traditional systems of knowledge and academic education?

Education surely is a privilege.

Mia got to go to school today. Unlike half the children on the planet, her feet were nice and safe in borrowed pink puma tennis shoes....

I drove off to sit in an air-conditioned building to discuss theology and church history.

What a privilege.

How can we share this privilege to create more space for the valuable voices and wisdom of women?

Some information on women, education and poverty around the world:

Monday, August 29, 2011

My favorite professor, Namsoon Kang, posted this on her facebook status this morning and it has been sitting with me all day:

"Beethoven's remarks on his deathbed remind me of the love for the life of "regardless": "I learned to look at the world in all of its darkness and evil and still love it."

This is not a romanticization of life but a fierce love for life that rides on dissonance, catastrophe, darkness, disparity--a kind of life in jazz, blues, and his later music. This Beethoven-ness comes to me as a passionate reminder of the significance of the point of departure of meaning-giving/finding in one's life."
-Namsoon Kang

I think this could be understood as: a love for life 'regardless' is a love that reaches deeper than surface satisfaction and meaning, but embraces all that is life- including the dark and painful pieces....

This resonates with a few different phrases which I hold:

'Accept contradiction'...

Be 'here now' or 'no where'...

At the same time- I am the type of person that can tend to be 'restless'. It seems I am always aiming for more, searching for more. Honestly, I struggle with balancing contentment with my perfectionistic tendencies. This isn't something I'm proud of... I'm always trying to improve myself- improve the world around me- my garden- my kids- my dog. I struggle to embrace life regardless. I will work on that :)

I wonder...

How can we love life 'regardless', while also striving for something more?

How does this sit with those who are in places of darkness due to situations of oppression and violence?

How do we balance a desire to 'find meaning' with an acceptance for all that is- including that which is difficult, painful, and catastrophic?

How can we hope for a future that brings a greater sense of wholeness and life, while also being content exactly where we are?

Are these concepts in binary opposition to one another, or is this a 'both, and' situation where we can both love life 'regardless' and hope for more?

What do you think?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

toward relationships of mutuality...

My weekend has been dominated by these pesky muscle spasms in my back and ribs...

But the lack of ability to do my long weekend run, or to help with the household chores my super-Dad husband has taken over- has given me more time to do the reading I need to do for class.

Honestly, all of the reading I've been doing has been incredible- but my favorite book is Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology by Kwok Pui-lan.

These postcolonial concepts have surely shaped my lens and have defined the concepts I see as vital for development of healthy relationships- personally, and on a political and international scale.

What does postcolonial mean you ask?
Glad you asked!

The term postcolonial refers to the effort to bring to light the residual effects of colonialism (the colonizing by Europe and the US of most of the world that was undertaken during the 19th and 20th centuries, and continues in many ways today...).

The postcolonial effort is concerned with more than simply salvaging past worlds, but rather explores how the world can move past 'colonization' together to find a place of mutual respect. Central aspects of colonialism that are explored are issues of power, dominance, exploitation, economic imbalance, and devaluation of non-western (a troubling term in and of itself) knowledge and culture.

Basically, postcolonial theory challenges the presumed dominance and superiority of western knowledge and culture, and the continued influence of western culture through power and exploitation.

Central to the postcolonial project is the effort to create space for the voices and knowledge of marginalized groups.

(I know this sounds deep- but keep reading!!)


While reading these theories I can't help but think of my friend Beth who is leaving today to spend two weeks with a group of Disciples of Christ women in the DR Congo- where she will be learning from, and sharing with the women of the Congo. The DR Congo shows a clear example of the lasting effects of colonization. (info in the DR Congo)

In her preparation for this trip we have had many conversations about the complex issues faced in the Congo- there is a horrific humanitarian crisis- nearly six million people have died in the Congo since 1996, half of them children under five. Women are regularly raped as a weapon of war- hundreds of thousands in the past twenty years. All of this is fueled by a civil war over the procurement of coltan (a mineral used in our cell phones and computers.) The people experience extreme poverty and hunger, and are ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

There are real lived needs in the lives of the Congolese people.

In the midst of this horrific situation there is also incredible life and wisdom.

The people of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the DR Congo are doing transformative work in the midst of dire circumstances (though the church was founded in a time of classical colonial missionizing). They operate a hospital which treats 16,000 patients annually by an all-Congolese medical staff, they support grass roots projects to provide education for girls, improved communication infrastructure, micro-loan and microcredit programs, programs for widows and survivors of rape, as well as for construction of wells and latrines.

Most notably, the people of DR Congo find life, beauty and community in the midst of horrific situations.

There is a lot we can learn from the people of the DR Congo.

All of this leads me to ask-
In our postcolonial world, how can we address real needs from a place of mutual learning and sharing?

How can we move past a charity or (more horrifically) a 'missionizing' mindset to develop relationships of mutuality?

How does this connect to my daily life and relationships?

As I write my husband has done the laundry, folded each sock and little pair of shorts- has put clean clothes in the kids rooms, herded the kids through their morning routine to get ready for church, and now has done all of our breakfast dishes.

In a time not so long ago, this would have been work that was 'below' the 'man of the house'. In the past their was a clear hierarchy of order in marital relationships. Value was placed on the masculine role of heading off to work, while the role of women as caretaker for the home and the children was devalued.

A huge gift for my generation of women has been a shift to mutuality in the marriage relationship. This hasn't been, nor is it an easy process. It takes time. We are constantly seeking balance in time, money, appreciation. We each have something to give, and we each have needs.

But central to the give and take of this relationship is a foundational respect and value for the other as a fully equal human being with something to give.


Perhaps this is a first step to developing relationships of mutuality is a postcolonial world....

I don't know. What do you think?

(image from Global Ministries)

For more on Gobal Ministries work of building relationships of mutuality in the DR Congo check out:

For a quick introduction to postcolonial theory check out:

For a deeper look, and to meet one of my favorite theologians, check out:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Honeymoon's over....

And here's where my lived theology gets messy.

This morning I woke up in pain. I must have tweaked something at yoga yesterday. My back ribs and neck are spasming and it hurts to move- and to breathe.

Knowing I have no choice but to get moving and get the kids ready for school, I pop a few advil, make the bed, and do last nights dishes.

Slowly I wake the kids up, one by one- I pull Mia out of bed and turn the shower on for her. I call the dog onto Faith's bed to get her moving. Ryan stumbles out of his room to give me a hug.

So far so good.

Don't get too comfortable... it goes downhill from there. A few minutes later I go to make sure everyone is moving along when I see Ry has climbed back in bed.

For 45 minutes I kindly ask him to make good choices... remind him of all of the great things ahead for the day.. show and tell.. hot lunch Friday.. friends..
Nothing works.

I give him space and time- hoping he'll wake up and come around. It must be difficult to wake up so early. It is the fifth day of school. The novelty is beginning to wear off.


It is 7:00. Girls are showered, dressed, ready. Eating their third piece of toast as I read spelling words for them to each write.

Ry has to get moving. I head back into his room. Still in bed, he decides to get belligerent. He doesn't like me. Doesn't like school. Doesn't like his sisters. Pretty sure he'd have said he didn't like candy, or ponies, or Disneyland at that moment.

After more unsuccessful cajoling I am ready to loose it. My body hurts. I'm tired too. I've got two other kids I'm trying to practice spelling words with- and here we are. Having a fit over nothing.

So (perhaps out of a subconscious belief in solidarity in suffering?) I decide to help Ryan feel supported by having a fit myself.

The feeling in my gut that bubbles up is a feeling I'm familiar with after nearly ten years of parenting. It's that feeling that makes me question everything I am- everything I believe it.

It is pure anger and frustration and helplessness... and 'longed for' violence (the kind where I wish I could physically force my child to do what I say).

Now, I'm a non-violent person. We choose not to spank or hit our children. I am philosophically opposed to using violence as a means to prevent violence. My heart aches in watching war and acts of aggression around the world.

And here I am- sitting on the floor in my pajamas, surrounded by books, puzzles, cars, giant stuffed puppies-- reaching in to all I am to resist my own violence.

In pain, I physically lift Ryan out of bed, stand him up, put his clothes on him, put his shoes on him- ask him again to make good choices- reach deep into my self, take a deep breath and walk out the door. (You may have imagined that as a gentle process- but read again imagining tension, frustration and anger in every single gesture).


The story goes on... we battle over breakfast... we battle over getting his things... and we get in the car. All four of us- loaded in our cozy Honda Odyssey.. Ready for the day.


And then it happens. NPR is reporting a story about the famine in Somalia. The kids are listening intently.

Have you been following this catastrophe? A shocking drought and famine has overtaken the region. More than 30o,000 children are at risk of dying. Already tens of thousands of people have died. Nearly 140,000 children are currently are facing immanent death from "severe acute malnutrition".


Tens of thousands of children are dying from hunger. A feeling I can't even genuinely imagine.

A story is told of a father holding his child as the child's eyes go blank. No food for her belly. No nutrients to sustain her.

He has seven more children standing by his side who are sick and suffering.


And here I am. Driving my honda. Drinking my coffee. Angry, frustrated and getting through the day.


The girls want to talk about it. We talk about drought (something we can partially see around us- despite many of the beautifully green lawns we drive by). We talk about hunger. We talk about the imbalance of resources around the world.

Honestly, I'm feeling a little guilty for the way our morning has gone. For my anger and frustration over such minutia when people around the world are dying.

Just then the man in the report speaks one of those gems that reflect light on all that is and all that will be.

"I am doing what I can- in the situation I am in- with the resources that I have."


Aren't we all.
Or are we?

Are we doing enough?
How do we maintain a connection to the pain and suffering in the world when the pain and suffering in our own lives seems to overtake any ability to see past our own nose (small as that pain may be comparatively..)?

These are just some of the thoughts I will sit with today. As I sip my coffee. Read my text books. Perhaps get a massage to soothe the muscle spasms...

This is messy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yesterday Love... Today, Sex

That's right.


Today I began my class on Sexuality and Pastoral Practice, with Dr. Joretta Marshall. We in class call it the practicing sex class.

This is yet another thing I love about this time and place in my theological education- the opportunity to create space for difficult and beautiful conversation and learning. Over the semester we will be exploring gender, sexuality, and justice.

This one topic -sex- brings to mind beautiful parts of life that bring joy, relationship, affection, life...

At the same time, this one topic -sex- conjures up controversy, exploitation, power, control, pain, and insecurity.

How does sexuality speak to spirituality? How does gender impact ones ability to live a full and free life? How do religion, society, culture, and politics impact the way we view sexuality and gender? How do we care for and walk with people experiencing pain and joy related to sexuality and gender? These are some of the questions we'll explore (I promise to post some of the points of discussion along the way).

Here is a beautiful poem Dr. Marshall started off with today in class...

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.
    - Ursula LeGuin

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Love inspires Love

Have you ever seen someone living fully into their gift?

You know- When you see that musician- eyes closed- singing from the deepest part of their gut- fingers strumming their guitar as if it were a part of their being...

The painter who is completely one with the art they are creating- as if their spirit is overflowing onto the canvas....

The runner whose body moves past as if floating on air- all joy and no tension visible on their face...

That's how I felt today in my first day of classes at Brite. That's right. In a classroom. Academic, religious minded professors- living their gift.

Today, as Dr. Day worked to problematize the very title of our course, Theologies of Women of Color- she was so passionate and enthusiastic she could barely contain herself to her seat at the front of the room. Her love for teaching, her enthusiasm for the subject of study, her prodigious vocabulary (yes, I found that word with the help of a thesaurus) infectiously spread love to each of us in the class.

And then, in a place I honestly didn't expect to find such inspiration, during History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Brite President, Newell Williams evoked in me a physical response that paralleled the fiery love that inspired the Campbell-Stone movement. Seeing this gifted story-teller 'work the classroom' brought smiles, laughs, curiosity, and intrigue.

What a great start to my final year at Brite.

When we see someone living into their gifts I believe we are seeing love. This is the love that moves and transforms. This is the love that inspires love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Many and One

Down to our very cells- we are beings of many and of one.
Without each unique individual cell doing its job- being fully the cell it was created to be- our whole can quickly be overtaken by mutation and chaos.

To the expanse of the universe all of creation is many and one. Each piece of matter, each spec of life, each person is unique and valuable- just as it is.

The one appears to us only in the wake of the many. This one is not a mashed together stew of uniform consistence or expression- but embraces and expresses the singularity and difference of each specific part.


1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


One of my favorite parts of being a Mom is noticing how different each of my kids are. From the moment I could feel the girls little bodies in my womb I
could feel their unique structure and disposition. As we have watched Ryan grow and develop we see his specific energy and mannerisms take shape. I love watching them become who they are- in all of their uniquity- and all of their similarity.


May I accept my children for who they are- each and every part of them. May we recognize each part of creation as important and life giving pieces of the whole. May we embracethe many of humanity as enfolded in the vastness of the One.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dusting off the old blog...

Hello Friends-- it's been too long. I've been thinking lately that it is time to put more time into writing...

As of today- all three kids are in school. It is a weird and beautiful feeling to have come this far as a parent (the kids are now in Kinder, 2nd and 4th grades). I hold these moments as precious. I know the chaos of today will soon be memories of the past.

As I weave together theological education and parenting, I find parenting is surely the greatest test of my theology. My lived theology is challenged daily in trying to walk with these three little souls as they grow, learn and test. I'm fairly certain I've already ruined them. While Kyle and I preemptively contribute to their therapy fund, I can only hope that we've perhaps done a few things right. Hopefully they have gleaned a few gems from us as parents so far.

Lately I've been sitting with 1 Corinthians 13... you know it- you've heard it at every wedding you've ever been to. This is the love text. Take a moment to read it, if you will.

The more I read this text, the more it stirs in me, the more it ricochets around like a pinball inside my being, the more it resonates with every piece of life. This is a text full of gems.


Over these next months, as I embark on my final year of my Master of Divinity degree, as I stumble through life as a Mom, wife, athlete, cook, and fragmented human being -- This is the text I will be chewing on. I'll be dedicating my blog to sharing gems that shimmer. Gems that emit love- that reflect the wide diversity of God's love and life giving sustenance.

May this love, the love of 1 Corinthians, shine on my sweet children as they have embarked on the adventure of a new school year, and may the light of this love catch your eye today. And may it reach every corner of the tumultuous and ever changing world we all live in.

Today. Love.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One of the most valuable presentations at the Interfaith Seminarians retreat I recently attended was that of Dr. Hunt from the Perkins School of Theology.

Dr. Hunt spoke, not of hospitality, but of hostility, and gave insights as to how to better confront hostility toward other religions or beliefs in our communities.

Dr. Hunt emphasized the need to address hostility through utilizing our own religious texts, and identified three key examples: “Thou shall not bare false witness”, “Do unto other as they would do unto you”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

If these simple and well known verses were lived and embodied by each of the major religions which hold them central, hospitality would be the norm, and hostility would be eliminated.

Dr. Hunt’s insights about how to challenge

  • hostility found in false witness
  • hostility in assignment of collective guilt
  • hostility in association of religious issues with national issues
He provided great tools and resources to encourage people in our faith communities to resist hateful words and actions and to embrace the central value of hospitality present in each of the Abrahamic traditions.

Some of the most important insights I gleaned from Dr. Hunt’s presentation included

  • a reminder to avoid reading the sacred text of another religion through our own lens
  • to question the authority of the information we receive (through media or mass emails)
  • to “never compare their real with our ideal
  • to complexify anecdotal experiences with counter-narratives
The most informative insights for me were around the importance of entering into interfaith dialogue. I was grateful for Dr. Hunt’s reminder that we should fall in love withand be ‘fascinated by’ someone who is different than us- that we should enter into genuine relationships with the ‘religious other’.

I resonated with his emphasis on face-to-face dialogue, and building relationships in order to bring new perspectives and transform lives.

What would it look like if each of us followed the best and most central tenant of our faith?

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

new friends

This past week I had the opportunity to gather with a group of my fellow students studying other religious traditions. I spent four days in the Texas hill country at a camp with students of Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, and various Protestant traditions.

Each day we heard from resource scholars of each religion, and experienced worship and prayers led by our fellow students. We also met as small mixed groups several times each day to discuss and process together. Of course, my favorite parts were our shared meals spent getting to know one another, and our time to talk and play in the evenings.

I came to the end of the retreat with a sense that this conversation (inter-faith dialogue) makes me a better me, and makes you a better you.

Similar to the way a healthy marriage or friendship makes one want to be a better person, I left inspired to be a stronger follower and leader.

I found that learning of the depth, the struggles, and the commitment of my peers studying to be religious leaders gave me a better understanding of my own faith and tradition.

I felt a connection to new friends who are obviously a little bit crazy (like me), nerds for theology (like me), and highly dedicated (perhaps more than me...). Though we have real differences as individuals who are part of distinct and unique religious traditions, we share a common longing to learn, grow, connect and serve.

I found that I felt challenged, encouraged and inspired by entering friendship with people who are a part of other religions.

In an unhealthy marriage or relationship one person tries to dominate the other, or one is so submissive they try to mold themselves into the other.

A healthy relationship is one of mutuality and respect- there are two unique, whole people.

I came away from this week strengthened in my own beliefs, grounded in my 'why', and inspired to live a Christian life full of kindness, grace, mercy, joy and love.

I came away feeling that this was the first step of a continuing conversation with people of other religious traditions and faiths.

I came away grateful.