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.