Call to Confession, June 5th

Today’s call to confession at my church really struck me as a perfect paradox:

We allow ourselves to get caught up in the here and now, and forget to look forward to God’s future with great joy. We allow ourselves to get caught up in the promises of a glorious future full of love, and forget to live in love now.

In my yoga practice, I meditate on equanimity, and I try to carry that forward into my day-to-day life. It is the paradox of the balance expressed in the words above, being present in the here and now, yet not being so stuck there as to move into the future with joy and gratitude.


My Stewardship Testimony

Recently, I shared the following story with my church, which illustrates all of the reasons why I make financial contributions.

When I was a child, my family attended a Lutheran church, one of the largest and wealthiest in the Twin Cities. It was a big, beautiful building downtown, with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, absolutely breathtaking. A beautiful building located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area, where there sizable Native American population.

My grandfather had been a founding member of the church, and my parents were upstanding members of the community. They were involved in the Christian education program for adults and kids, and we had many friends in the congregation. I learned the meaning of spiritual community there. I was getting ready to begin Confirmation classes, and the church began to go down a road that forced my family to make a difficult choice. It is illustrated by this story:

One beautiful spring day, we were having a pot luck in the parking lot. There were lots of people and lots of food. Some folks from the neighborhood lined up with the rest of us, grabbed some plates, and got ready to get some food. They were hungry.

I remember being surprised and ashamed to see someone with authority tell them that the food wasn’t for them, that they were not members of the community and therefore were not welcome. The message that sent to me as a child and member of the community was that those people were not like us. They didn’t look like us, they were in need, of a different economic status, and we didn’t want them there to make us feel uncomfortable.

My mom took me aside later that day and was very clear with me: What that church member did was wrong, and that was not what Jesus would have done. Those people are members of the surrounding community, and should have been welcomed by us and offered food.

Shortly after that time, my parents made the difficult decision to leave the church. They made sure to let me know that the church was no longer representing their theological views, and they wanted to raise me with different values. They could no longer support or be a part of a community that was teaching exclusivity, not welcoming.

Growing into adulthood, I have struggled with claiming my place in the Christian church. I have hung out with Quakers, Buddhists, and all kinds of Christians, and I still hang out with Yogis and Yoginis. Finding a church home that feels like a good fit has been difficult. The important thing to me is that my parents instilled in me the values that Jesus taught, those of generosity, sharing, community, love, forgiveness, justice, and healing.

When I found Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, I knew I had found my church home here. At BUMC, all are welcome. This is a community that walks the walk of social justice, generosity, and love.

So a few Sundays ago, I offered up this story as testimony, telling the story of why I financially support Broadway. I give because the transgender and gay homeless youth in the Lakeview need our Youth Lounge program. I give because the Lakeview Pantry needs our donations of food. I give because the community needs the Wednesday Night Live adult education classes. I give because Broadway offers much needed support to members of our community who suffer from depression and mental illness. I give because Broadway is unwavering it its support of LGBT civil rights.

I give because I need Broadway, too. This church walks the walk of my theology.

I encourage other members of Broadway to share their stories about why they give, in whatever ways they give: Time, Talent, or Treasure.

#Gratitude and the Silver Lining

In Light of the Midterm #Election

After last Tuesday’s brutal election results, it has been slowly sinking in what this means for progressives like me and our movements for civil rights, social and environmental justice, and feeding hungry people. The results of that day do not bode well for us.

I take solace in the persistence of all that we do every day in my community of friends and family. Everyone I know is in their own small way determined to make the world better for everyone. So we get up in the morning, make our coffee, and get down to the hard work of living. Simply taking care of ourselves and each other in some cases is a radical act.

We are determined to build communities that thrive, families that raise healthy children, provide homes for wayward animals, get married and commit to loving each other, volunteer at our local libraries and food pantries, build our spiritual communities, plant gardens, support local businesses. All in all we are simply taking responsibility for the way we live every day to make life a little sweeter for ourselves and our loved ones, leave a lighter footprint while enjoying the blessings of this life.

My Dad sent out an email to the family on Wednesday morning, encouraging all of us to think of everything positive in our lives in the midst of this unfortunate outcome. We have a lot to be thankful for, so let’s remember that and share our good news with each other.

Yes, Tuesday was a bad day, but as a result of that outcome, nothing is going to change for me in terms of the way I live my life. Our opponents may throw obstacles in our path, but that is not going to stop us from building our vision of a more just and kinder society. The outcome of the election might make things a little harder in terms of the social climate and the very real limits and disadvantages that the radical right would like to impose on me and my family.

I know I am privileged and blessed, and to the extent that I am able I will use that privilege and blessing to make my life and the life of my community better. For all of that I am grateful.


On Moving, Stuff, Home, and Gratitude

As I was riding the bus home from work the other day, I realized that I am only just now starting to feel that Chicago is making an imprint on my identity. Gillian and I moved our lives, our stuff, and our cat here two and a half years ago. We have always loved our home here, feeling that our neighborhood, for all of it’s challenges, was a good fit for us. I can now claim my place in this city; I am a Chicagoan and I love my home here.

During my time in California, I had a pretty transient life. I lived all over the Bay Area, finally adopting Oakland as my home. All of the various moves in the fifteen years I was there, though I hated the process, made me keep my possessions to a relative minimum. When you move, you have the occasion more frequently to cull your life of stuff.

Mind you, we have our fair share of stuff, and I have been reminded each time we move how much books weigh. But I am finding that, with some effort, Gillian and I have both become mindful about the stuff that we bring home, even as we stay in one place for a time. We’re not perfect, but we’ve made a commitment to ourselves and each other to downsize and make sure that everything we own has important meaning and usefulness.

As a member of this mall culture, I am just as prone as anyone to covet what others have, to feel deprived when I don’t have the latest gadget.  The other day, Gillian and I went to the grocery store and filled up our cart with all kinds of things that we were convinced we needed and wanted. At the end of the trip around the store, we took inventory of what we had collected, and decided to put several items back that we didn’t really need. We still came home with enough for several meals to get us through the following couple of weeks, and though we didn’t leave with that bottle of wine or that jar of honey, we don’t feel the least bit deprived.

Our new rule of thumb when it comes to stuff: When we bring something home, something else must go. I want to own stuff, I do not want stuff to own me. I’m not there yet, but the daily practice of mindfulness is helping me to live more presently with gratitude for what I have.

2010: Resolve and Determination

In the tradition of New Year holiday reflection, I am reorganizing my goals and creating a plan to achieve them. As I embrace the opportunity to join the popular conversation about resolutions, I remember that every day presents the opportunity to make changes, that the New Year is not the only time to find resolve.

Gillian and I were discussing how we want to start this year with a plan of cleaning up our joint finances, and although we are beginning this new plan in January, she would rather establish long term goals than make resolutions. Indeed, many people don’t succeed in attaining their resolutions, so I wonder what besides the inspiration of a New Year and a clean slate will make one’s resolve stick.

In 2010, I resolve to work slowly day by day on achievable goals, and to enjoy the journey without obsessing about the destination. Meanwhile, here is a working list of things I would like to be mindful of in my daily plans.

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Food
  • Rest
  • Yoga
  • Spirit
  • Connections
  • Knitting
  • Responsibility
  • Courage
  • Community
  • Forgiveness
  • Sustainability
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity
  • Breath
  • Always Love

Namaste. Amen.