Breaking Silence

Oh, hello.

It’s been nearly seven months since I last wrote on this blog. One thing, far more than anything else, far more powerful than I realized, has been keeping me from posting here: Fear.

My God, was it ever overwhelming to realize that something I wrote resonated with so many of you. I’ve always written just really for myself, as a way of processing emotions and ideas and notions and hopes and so on. When so many of you responded, in such strong ways, I became just a bit paralyzed.

First of all, where does one go from such a post? What if the next thing I wrote was absolute bunk? Every time I sat down to write about something that I cared about, I hated the words that emerged on the screen. They felt so flat, so pointless.

I worried, too. I worried that I would be too shallow (I am SO NOT below posting multiple photos of my cat here), or too political (because I didn’t mention it in my post on Newtown, but I DO have very strong opinions about gun laws, gun violence, and gun control), or too religious (I am an ordained minister, after all) or that my writing would just be plain bad.

All these things served to quiet this space into such a painful silence. Because I do have things to say, and I do want to share them. And more than that, you all deserve my deepest thanks. And I should have said thank you a long time ago.

Last December, I wrote about a deep, deep sorrow I felt, and your responses taught me that I was not alone in my grief. The kind and beautiful ways you all responded helped me to heal – that is, as much as one does heal from such a tragedy. (After all, at some point, we simply pick up and move about with our scars within us and trailing behind us. Because life is life, and it is for the living.)

So this is what I’ve decided. I’m going to start writing here again, or at least I’m going to try. Sometimes I might be really silly and post a picture of my cat, and sometimes I might mention that I think Stand Your Ground gun laws are absolute shit, and sometimes I (clearly) might curse (despite being a minister), and sometimes I might talk about God. Worst of all, sometimes the writing might be bad.

But this space is about connecting, and before all of you came along it was also about simply expressing myself. So, you are welcome here if you want to be. Thank you for spending a little time in my little corner of the internet. Hopefully I’ll have something relevant to say again soon.


powerless muffins

as i write this post, i have some muffins in the oven: muffins i’m sure are going to turn out too hard, too dense, not sweet enough, not nutritious enough… i’m on a health kick lately, so they’re whole wheat-oat bran-blueberry-walnut-coconut muffins. there’s not actual sugar in them (except what you find in applesauce). there’s no butter or oil in them (except what you find in peanut butter).

you see, it seems that when i can’t solve the problems i face in my job — curing injustice, or righting inequity, or (duh) discovering the answer to world peace — i turn to cooking, to gardening, to things that make me happy in a very immediate sense. thus, my ridiculously healthy, hopefully delicious, but probably imperfect muffins.

the muffins are still in the oven, and i just checked on them, sticking a fork in the middle of one. they weren’t  fully baked, and some moist not-quite-cooked muffin came out on the fork… so i tasted it. BE WARNED: these are not muffins for those who like their muffins sweet. this are some hard-ass, super bran-y muffins.

i began by combining the dry ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour, half cup oats, half cut wheat bran, half cup coconut flakes, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp nutmeg (or cinnamon), 1/2 tsp salt.

then, i combined in a separate bowl the wet ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 and a half tbsp greek yogurt, 1 cup applesauce, half cup peanut butter. (by the way, by now i know i also know i should have added about another half cup of milk or so, probably some more sweetener, and about a tsp of baking soda).

adding a half cup each of (frozen) blueberries and walnuts, i mixed together the wet and dry ingredients.

i spooned the batter into twelve greased muffin tins (i used canola oil spray), and baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees fahrenheit.

actually, these didn’t turn out nearly as poorly as i thought. if you warm one up, and smother a little butter on it, you have a hearty meal for the morning, even if it’s not as sweet as i wish it were. (probably that’s for the best!)

i suppose that there’s something satisfying to creating for myself an (even imperfect) muffin, when i feel so powerless in the face of so many things i feel i can’t change. minnesota right now is going up against some pretty ugly legislation(s?), from eliminating general assistance for the poorest, disabled single adults in our state, to enshrining hateful, bigoted discrimination in our constitution (though what other kind of discrimination is there?). i know many of my friends and colleagues would encourage me to not lose heart… and i won’t… but.

but there are times that what i need is to resort to activities where the result is predictable, and even when i fail, i’m not letting down anyone else when i do so. i love to cook and to bake, because i get to be creative. but when my creativity sucks, at least the only person who suffers the consequences are myself (or perhaps B, and he doesn’t mind).

feel free to try your own version of these muffins. and if you get a better version, leave it in the comments below!

finally: DON’T FORGET to let your elected officials know how you feel, about the issues i mentioned above, and about anything else that’s important to you. for the sake of my sanity, please, use your intelligent and  thoughtful voices for good.


autumn apple bread

I had a hankering to make some bread this evening, and an overabundance of apples. The result? This amazing bread! I haven’t baked bread in SO long, but it came out so soft and moist. I’m very happy with the results.

Every time I bake, it reminds me of my Grandma Kelly, who taught me to knead and punch down the dough. So I took the pictures of this loaf in front of the kitchen canisters I inherited from her.

Whenever life gets a little stressful, it seems, I always return to baking. The recent elections kind of threw me for a loop, but I’ve rebounded. Still, no amount of mental acrobatics or logistical justification can match the satisfaction of a long-awaited, slow-to-rise, well-kneaded, warm, fragrant loaf of homemade bread. Did someone say comfort food?


What’s church for, anyway?

I’ve been following along with a really interesting conversation on a couple different blogs lately that feeds into some stuff that’s been floating around in my head lately. Namely:

  • What’s church for?
  • Why do people go to church?
  • What role should churches and religious institutions and communities play in the world?
  • Do people of faith live out their spiritual or religious ideas/beliefs/inclinations in the world? Should they? How? Why? Why not?

United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, MN

These questions HAVE been on my mind lately, but they acquire a completely different feel when voiced in the context of the conversation happening on the blogs I mentioned above. Specifically, the conversation is around whether Solomon’s Porch, an emerging Christian church in Minneapolis, which is also queer-friendly (which, I think it should be said, I only know through following this conversation online), should produce and make public some kind of statement about being something like “open and affirming” (to use my UCC lingo) to queer folks.

The conversation is a lot more complicated than that, but since it’s already there for your reading pleasure, I’m not going to go to any greater lengths to describe it. I will, however, quote part of the comment I posted:

Solomon’s Porch does not exist in a vacuum, and all kinds of -isms are rampant in our world, heterosexism obviously being one of them. My question is this: does Solomon’s Porch exist only to be the church for its insular community, or does it also wish to be a Church for the larger world? Does it want to have a public face, or are its positions only available to the people who attend church there? And perhaps more broadly: is the Church/are Christians called to change the world? And more importantly, how?

Recently I re-read the gospel of Luke, and I was *shocked* to re-remember just how RADICAL Jesus is. He is constantly going against the grain of (Roman, pharisaic) society–standing for the oppressed, etc–and he is PUBLIC about it. Explicitly so. I guess he never issued a hard-copy, political statement, but his followers sure did: that’s how we have the Gospels. So what does that mean for contemporary followers of Jesus? Is it enough to support only the queer people who come through the doors of our congregations? But what about those who never find the Porch?

And does the Porch have a responsibility to be a leader in the progressive evangelical world in not only welcoming queer people into the pews, but actually *saying* something about it too? How else are the rest of us, outside your community, supposed to know what “welcoming everyone” means? Doesn’t almost every Christian church use those same words?

If we lived in a perfect world we wouldn’t need flags or rainbows or parades. Perhaps the community in the Porch doesn’t need to have a “Statement on LGBTQ Issues” — but I would argue that it desperately needs to be Public and Explicit about its position on queer folks. There is power in your church, and staying publicly silent IS making a statement. The Porch community may not need it, but queer people who live outside your community do.

A couple of weeks ago I got into a discussion with a friend about the degree to which people are political actors: does the way we dress, the way we look, the way we act, send out political messages to others, REGARDLESS of our intent? My answer to that is yes. We can’t control the way we are perceived, but we can understand and be conscious that all of us enter into the world each day as political actors, whether we like it or not. People WILL read us a certain way, even if they themselves also have a responsibility to look past the surface. The question at hand is: is that important to you? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

I think the question is the same for religious institutions, religious churches, and spiritual communities alike, and I think it’s where the Emerging Church movement kind of has things backward. I get that it’s about transcending modernist labels and identity politics, but I would argue that an Emerging Church is no less of a political actor than other churches,whether they like it or not.. Transcendence of identities might happen within a community of one or two hundred people, but to anyone else OUTSIDE the emerging movement, the community looks no different than any other. So what should they do about it? Well I would argue, of course, that for this reason, emerging churches, too, need to be intentional and publicly clear about how and where they place themselves in the world.

So, to return to the original set of questions that I asked:

  • What’s church for?
  • Why do people go to church?
  • What role should churches and religious institutions and communities play in the world?
  • Do people of faith live out their spiritual or religious ideas/beliefs/inclinations in the world? Should they? How? Why? Why not?

The way we answer these questions informs how we try to solve the above conversation. My vision of church begins as a place of radical inclusion, so much so that I do not just welcome the Other, but that I am the Other, and where the Other is Me. We do not need to reach out our hands to help our neighbors, because we ARE our neighbors, connected through a common humanity. In this kind of construct, we don’t have the privilege to “struggle” with an “issue”. I am compelled to name the injustice the Other suffers because for that person to suffer means I suffer too.

In my vision of church, participants not only “walk the walk” in their personal lives, but also bind themselves together to create a collective power in order to combat systemic injustice. Jesus didn’t live in a vacuum: the parables he taught, the people he embraced, and the illnesses he healed made social commentaries upon the world around him. He upset people in power, and was killed because of it. If we really live in the model that Jesus set, then we are also called to fight the abuses of power in our world. But first we actually need to NAME what is wrong with the way things are, and envision what a better world might look like, especially if we expect things to change.

This video is an example of a place that I think does a good job at least trying to be a place of radical inclusion, even if not always perfectly: Union Theological Seminary. The video is long, but even watching a few minutes will give you a sense of what I’m thinking about.

I know I’m throwing out some Big Talk, and I can’t profess that either my congregation or my life lives up to my radical vision of what I’d wish for the church to be in this world. But one has to start somewhere. This is the first time I’ve tried to put together something constructive (as opposed to deconstructive) about what I think the church should be, and it does reflect what might be emerging as my personal theology. So please: give me your feedback, your pushback , your questions, your thoughts. But know that I’m not offering these statements in a spirit of ultimate truth. I’m just trying some of this stuff on, and am going to continue to hone and build upon these ideas. Help me figure out if it fits, yah?


this quiche is a metaphor

the GAMC veto override failed today. as expected. (at least i saw it coming this time).

but success: i baked a kick-ass quiche for dinner.

the deliciousness of this quiche will inspire me to continue to fight. if i can cook this well, just from a little practice, then hell, three years of seminary must have gotten me something other than the ability to write liturgies.

in my quiche: fresh basil, fresh fennel, onions, tomato, zucchini, feta, swiss cheese, eggs of course, homemade crust.

in my heart: stubbornness, intelligence, compassion, a refusal to submit, commitment to community, inspiration.

a ridiculous comparison. but politicking is ridiculous. so what else is new?


what’s a little vigil gonna do?

tea with Abby

welp. i’m still tired/emotionally drained from this whole learning-to-be-a-grown-up thing. (i don’t know exactly what i mean by that… perhaps something along the lines of rolling with the punches?)

i’ve been thinking a lot this week about the whole action vs. language thing that first i, then morgan and leslie, and finally atom weighed in upon. all three have really interesting, thoughtful, heartfelt responses to things that i’ve been haphazardly (exhaustedly) throwing up on my blog because of my whole blog-every-day-in-february thing. it’s funny: when i imagined myself blogging, prior to starting this blog, i don’t think i expected to receive the kind of support and pushback that i would get from my friends who follow along with me here. if i blow off steam in a way that’s less-than-mature, self-mocking, or illogical… y’all are calling me on it. i really appreciate that generous support that also challenges me to be more than who i feel like being at some particular moment.

i do think words–in the form of a vigil or not–contribute an action that is valuable and necessary, especially in a democracy. and, i’m proud of the words that i wrote, and that the group spoke them in our vigil. our voice overcame the buzz of the crowd and echoed up into the rotunda of the capitol building, as minnesota veterans, legislators, citizens, and advocates filed past us. yes, we were preaching to the choir, as leslie pointed out, but more than that: we were making a public, faith-centric statement about the value of human life and the government’s responsibility to protect human dignity when no one else will. THIS IS what i went to seminary for: to speak justice to improper power, to name indignity, and to challenge the world and people (and myself!) to live more responsibly, more respectfully of one another. i feel lucky to do this in the state where i grew up, and to do it on a local level, where change feels more concrete, and problems are on a smaller, more seemingly-manageable scale.

did the vigil help? cynicism about one’s ability to make change is rampant among those who fail to act in our massive democracy. my experience of going to d.c. to protest the probability of an iraq war in 2003 illustrated what i thought i learned: that the people’s voices are often ignored; that those in power will do what they want either way. but morgan pointed out that making our voices heard, or engaging in debate, does not always have the end goal of changing the other’s mind. registering one’s position is important. the u.s. may have invaded iraq regardless, but history will not forget that our population was divided on whether or not it was a good idea.

did the vigil help? was one person changed walking away from that experience? actually, i can answer that question: YES. i was changed. i found that having the courage to speak words of faith and of vision in the capitol rotunda changed the way i see myself as a citizen and as a person of faith. speaking out loud, in a small community of like-minded people, amidst a larger community amongst and around us, recommitted me to doing this work that i might now be claiming as my vocation. who knows, maybe someday soon i will actually gear up the courage to call it a CALL. (that’s very god-y language, there, folks. let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable. oy.)

did the vigil help? was anyone BESIDES me moved by it, forward, in a direction that upholds the dignity of all people? god. how can i answer that question? what i can say is that it was part of a larger movement, and was a piece of a whole, in that one-body-many-parts kind of way. any one piece of a movement, apart from the others, might not amount to much. but put together? that can amount to real change.

Save GAMC protest in front of the Governor's Mansion, St. Paul (see if you can find my awesome mom!)

so what contribution does a vigil have to real, meaningful social change? i’m thankful for my friend abby, with whom i spoke about this today over tea. when i told her what that crazy mean person emailed me about the civil war, slavery and “little vigils”, abby laughed, looked at me and said, “What! Has that person never heard of the Civil Rights Movement?!”

How did I not think of that?


purrfect.

today: a bad day for minnesota politics.

thus, a good day for snuggling with the kitty and watching figure skating.