Sins against the body


DSC_0153I’m going to follow a couple of rabbit trails that continue to call me. I may have lost you with the very first word in the title, but my context has and always will be Christian. I wrestle with what it means to walk in The Way. I am willing to be open with my angst, and trust in God’s grace for me.

I feel we have made some beautiful steps toward equality in the Church by lessening the burden of complementarianism, and moving toward acceptance of women as fully capable, fully functional, fully contributing humans and leaders. Of course this is still only spoken of at face value in some circles, and to dig below the surface just a wee bit a woman can very quickly grow discouraged with paternalistic leanings, with the language of the bible which is clearly and significantly rooted in a masculine cultural context.

This Her Story series of The Meeting House is compelling, and I’m going to give it a listen.  Maybe we can talk about it sometime?

Last night we had a wide ranging discussion at our house group. I asked what everyone’s impression was of the Holy Spirit…the gender identity of Spirit? We talked around it, landed on a couple of scriptures that used “he” as a descriptor. And then someone said well, I never consider gender when I consider Spirit. And someone else said perhaps it’s all just beyond our limited understanding? Yes, I get that, the paradox and mystery of the divine is often where we have to rest when we cannot find answers to our questions.

OK, I thought but did not say, what I really wonder is where is woman in the God-head, and why all male, and how open might we be to imagine a fully gendered mystery of God? We say God is Father and has female attributes and characteristics, and we say that Jesus was the Son of God in a human male body on this earth. But to say “God, our Mother” as the poem in this Liturgists podcast does, rings heretical to some, and at times to me. But why?

And then the intertwining of this topic of gender to the topic of sex, and a difficult situation in our faith community. I wonder what it means to be sexual creatures, and I think of all the damage that has been done in and through the Church around sex. I feel God is asking me to love unconditionally through these tough times, and to move past my hurt/shock/grief/anger into acceptance and loving practice. Sexual sin is no different, is it? Should it be? Are the consequences more weighty? Is is justified to attach moral outrage to some sins and not to others? So many questions…

Growing up in a fundamentalist setting, I was told that to engage in any sexual activity including sexual intercourse outside marriage, was a sin against my own flesh. That’s brutal, heavy, and set me on on a very painful journey. The same was not said about pride, or cheating on taxes, or slandering people, or even murder. Couple this type of teaching with all male leadership, headship etc., and being a woman didn’t have much going for it. And there’s more I won’t touch on.

The past speaks to the present and I imagine how in elevating sexual sin and focusing on gender differences rather than common humanity, it might set us back as the Body of Christ. Back to thinking men and woman can’t be trusted alone together, or to lead together. Back to women meeting only with women, and men gathering only with men, and this makes me so sad. Surely there are other sins that raise their heads when two or more are gathered together. Gossip comes to mind. Envy is right there too. And what about greed, and wrath, and pride? Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, but it isn’t alone.

So, how do we learn to function together in community as humans and not, out of fear, fall back into patterns of repression, segregation, shame, and discrimination? Must sex, apart from all other aspects of our human nature, be what we fear most? Can we as sexual creatures trust ourselves to have full,  wholesome, mutually contributing relationships regardless of gender?

Things I’m chewing on, wrestling with, not sure where I’ll land. Thoughts?

Lesley-Anne

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I need a new language


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I’m beginning to struggle with words that have been part of my life for decades. Perhaps I’ve never questioned them before now, and their meaning goes deeper than surface, as all words do, so maybe it’s the superficial implications of the words that I’m having trouble with. Maybe it’s the perceptions of others, or my perception of what others think? There are most certainly societal considerations,  and what is read widely in the media as the implied wide acceptance of meaning. There are prejudices and notions around all these words: Christian, Evangelical, Fundamental, and heaven and hell and love and the bible and God and Jesus. So many volatile emotions and ideas surrounding my old language of faith/theology/religion. So I wonder, how do I make peace with this? Is it even possible?

In any case, I’m believe I’m on a journey to find new way of describing who I am, a new language. I’m seeking to live a life of integrity where I really mean what I really say and it’s the clear truth of how I live. That means I need to know who I am and what I truly believe, and it’s not that easy. My experience of life at this point is there is always a tension, that I live in the angst of not knowing, yet wanting to believe and with some doubt, believing.

And I wonder why it’s so important to me. Why do I fight tooth and nail to identify myself in a unique way separate from another. To use certain words? Why do I turn my nose up at lingo and yet most certainly speak my own dialect that must be obvious to others. Does this language make me who I am? Or am I who I am, struggling to put words to it? Is it any wonder this would be my struggle as a poet, to find my own words and my own voice to describe my own experience of being human? Why does it matter so? Why? Am I alone in this? How everything somehow matters?

We are looking at Charles Darwin’s writings right now. I’m at Okanagan College part time taking a survey of British Literature from Anglo Saxon to modern. Poetry. Foundations. So I’m surprised at Darwin showing up and it sends me seeking what it outside the black and white of creation vs. evolution, the dichotomy that separates and alienates. I’m looking for the more. The both and.

And I find it. Thanks to my son and his teacher and a book called, “I love Jesus and I accept Evolution,” by Denis O. Lamoureux. I have not read much of the book yet, but inside it is a nifty chart that sets out five unique positions (of many) that one could take on this subject of origin of species. At first glance I can say I am leaning toward the reasonable positions of Progressive Creationism or Evolutionary Creationism. I don’t know… but if I am to choose a position, I will in fact, be placing myself in a camp of thought, a place I seem to be rebelling against in most areas of my life. Again, why?

I was out at a community arts event the other day and we went around the room making introductions. I introduced myself as a, “Recovering Evangelical Christian.” With this caveat, “I’m a follower of Jesus and trying to sort out what that means for me.” I felt some remorse at saying it, yet it is the truth of who I am. At my age I have experienced a lions share of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and only a wee bit of what could be described as faith freedom. And I am drawn to the freedom of loving God and Jesus in outside my box ways. I’m drawn to the mystery of not knowing rather than the absolutes I’ve been taught since a little child. Because my experience is becoming more and more about what I do not know. Less and less about answers.

You may think me hypocritical because I often attend a community church that would call itself Evangelical Christian. I go for reasons of family relationships and a hunger for community and a heart of service and a desire to learn. And at times I feel like I fit. I  truly love and respect the many men and women who are part of that faith community and call themselves EC, and are OK doing so, but I’m not certain I can anymore. I just don’t know. I feel marginalized but I know I am choosing this place. I’ve always struggled with living outside the perceptions of approved lifestyle, and it’s not the first time I’ve chosen apart because I don’t feel I am the best ambassador for what I’m not entirely sure of myself.

I’ve been reading books like, “My Faith So Far,” by Patton Dodd, and “Skin Boat,” by John Terpstra, and my bible, and watching and listening to what my heart says when I participate in meaning filled liturgical practices such as Lectio Divina, and sitting with God in nature and writing poetry and writing prayers. There is so much I do not know, so much to learn. At my age and in some ways still a babe in arms.

I’m taking a risk sharing this with you now, but it’s part of the integrity of living open and real. I have no answers, have not arrived at any clear direction, but I am willing to keep walking on believing God wastes nothing and in time, something may become clear.

Journeying… studying the bits found by the side of the road, the beauty of the cast off things, wondering how God might up-cycle me.

Lesley-Anne, SDG

Voice Two – Anne Linington


Stained glass representing St. Bernard of Clai...

Image via Wikipedia

Anne Linington and I have known each other for about 8 years… but have never met in real life! Maybe one day we will!

We first connected on a writer’s network called ‘Faithwriters’, and discovered each other’s love for poetry.

Anne lives in on the Isle of White, UK, with her husband Russel, and is licensed as a Lay Minister in the Church of England.  Anne’s heart is wide open for the adults with learning disabilities that she works with. Anne is inspired by the writing of Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Bernard of Clairvaux.

My friend Anne is a tireless encourager, and she speaks into my life as a poet and a Christian, adding to a growing sense of confidence in writing. I’m forever thankful to her for the gift of virtual friendship.

Anne continues to post her beautiful poetry online at Faithwriters and  Premier Christian Community.

With thoughts looking toward Easter, I gladly share Anne’s poem, “A bold move”. Thank you, dear Anne, for taking us there.

A bold move

It was a bold move
To welcome the news the angel brought
That the long-awaited Messiah
Foretold by her nation’s prophets
Would become incarnate
In the womb of her adolescent body
And through her
Be born into the world he loved
And longed to save

It was a bold move
Wearied and weakened in body
To make her way through the pressing crowd
Each vying for a better view
Of this man of oracle and miracle
Through the press of sweating bodies
The twist of dusty feet
She stretched her arm
And her hand touched his robe

It was a bold move
To enter the house
Where the men had gathered
Knowing that all eyes would fall on her
That her reputation would scream out
That she of all people was not fit
To touch such a person
Let alone pour her precious offering
Upon His feet
And wipe them with her hair

It was a bold move
To return to the garden alone
Searching for her beloved
Whom she had seen die
Whom she had loved in life
And so recently loved in death
To view the now empty tomb
And ask if He had been taken away
Or where she might find Him

It was a bold move

Midweek random ramble019


Cover of "Pay it Forward"

Cover of Pay it Forward

1. CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Rob Rife, whom you may have met at Buddy Breathing here and here. Rob just launched a brand new blog called ‘Innerwoven’. Rob describes it as, “A place to discuss the intersections among worship, the arts, liturgy, and spiritual formation” Drop by and join in the conversation. I’m certain it will be worth your time.

2. Ever have your world view shift, and immediately make assumptions why, only to find out you are in a completely different galaxy… you are that wrong? Such was a telephone conversation I had the pleasure/pain of experiencing yesterday afternoon. Specifics aside, this individual offered to help us, to give time and energy and focus on an ongoing basis… at NO COST to us!

So here I am, thinking he’s going to tell me he’s a Christian, and then we’ll have this little ooh and ahh conversation around our shared faith. Instead, he said, “Now I’m not a religious man, but I feel we are all placed on this planet to help each other! ‘Cause I think there’s going to be a quiz at the end.” You could have knocked me over with the remote phone! I was blown away. I thought ‘goodness’ like that was out of style, or the thing of experiments like the movie ‘Pay it Forward‘. I was so positive it took divine motivation to cause this type of altruistic thinking… like Mother Theresa… or like my kid volunteering at the food bank! But, here is this guy who is motivated by an inner goodness, because… well, it is just the way he is.

Hmmm… working through what that says to me…

What do you think?

3. And then, on the very same day,  I met someone else who was interested in the people and the place he lived in so much, that he was willing to be a catalyst, align himself to see others succeed, connect people with other people who would help them… again… at NO COST!

Seems like there’s a theme here, folks. I mean, why would I have this somewhat arrogant bias that people are only motivated or inspired to do extraordinary things because of their faith? Especially in the face of this immediate evidence. And is the motivation what matters, or the outcome?

Do you ever wonder what makes a philanthropist tick? Could it be more than the tax benefits? More than the strokes of affirmation? Could it be, that God is part of our original DNA, like we’re soaked in his love and goodness from the day we’re born? Could God be the source of our inner desire to reach out to the less fortunate, to give until it hurts us, to consider others better than ourselves, to sacrifice unto death (of self, or of life itself) whether we believe in him or not?

Of course not everyone is motivated to do good, but many people are. We are often aware of our motivation being wrong… when a selfish, conceited, rising up for the glory, part of us does these things… good things… for the wrong reasons. Reasons like lust for position, power, affirmation, even just attention. So while we are capable of huge acts of compassion… really, dig down deep inside to the motivating factors, and they are an ‘act’. That’s just wrong.

I say I’m motivated to do good by a love for God and compassion for the people that he loves, but is that true 24/7? I mean, really? If I look inside myself and find something less than that, does that make me a HYPOCRITE? I don’t like where this is going. And are my ‘Godly motive’s, when and if they are ever pure, somehow better than these others who do not profess to be faith motivated?  I need to get down off my high horse and check my attitude.

And in this ongoing internal checkup, I quickly recognize my limitations and my imperfections (and my sins). I could get stuck right there and do nothing, but I don’t do that. Because while I recognize my lack, again I see God’s provision and power (yes… this is my default and my viewpoint for everything!). I see and experience a God who takes my less than perfect motivation and talent and availability, and makes something good out of it. Again I wonder if God does that all around the globe, resulting in acts of goodness and love from those who don’t even believe in him?

At the end of the day, I think the only true measure of a life (human measure) is the time tested, maturing, evident character that seeps out of the pores of people like Mother Theresa. You have no doubt what she was about, and why she was about it. I mean, I’ve never heard an unkind word spoken about her, have you? She was the epitome of peace, humility, grace, goodness, compassion, mercy, love… and I attribute that to who she worked for.

How’s that for a ramble? Any thoughts?

4. I’m looking for a poetry editor… anyone have any suggestions? Now that sounds like taking a step toward something… like a book, doesn’t it? But I could be mistaken!

5. And speaking of poetry, and Mother Theresa, here is a poem credited to her. Enjoy.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

 

Soli deo gloria,

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday034


Homeless woman with dogs

Image by Franco Folini via Flickr

In passing

“I wish I had a house too,” she said, as I walked past her on the narrow city sidewalk.
Her young son, looking into her face as she spoke, pricked something in me.

Are they homeless, or renters?
They don’t look homeless, and
why should I care, it’s
not my problem.
Same sun shining down on all of us
Social umbrella wide open for rainy days, and it’s
not raining now.

So I kept walking.

I took the elevator up to my second floor desk,
overlooking upscale condos with private terraces,
trendy loft apartments, and ground floor commercial.

There,
just outside my
glass curtain

wall,

the street below me (below my superior sight lines)
existed only in traffic sounds now, and the hum of
the lawn maintenance crew lulled me with the familiar.

She walked away.
She did.
Not just me.

Seed of Samaritan squelched, I returned to my work – pursuing purpose.

She’s still walking.
Son at her side,
sun on her shoulders,

walking.

September 2010

Because you asked…


Cross on Brown Edge. This modern metal cross s...

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A transcription of the poem, “I’m sorry I’m a Christian,” by Chris Tse. If the *f* bomb offends you, you may not want to read this post. If you can see past that,  these words may crawl under your skin and poke your soul. Read on…

Used with permission of the poet.

I am a Christian. I’m sorry.

 

I’m sorry for the way that I come across
So fair and faith friendly and full of myself
Judging your spiritual health by the words that you say
And the way that you dress, and the things that you do
Or maybe just judging you.

 

I’m sorry for the way that I live my life
So confident of my own beliefs that
I would never even think to think about thinking about yours

 

I’m sorry for the wars.
Ivory clad Crusaders mounting steeds and drawing swords
With such a spirit that if The Spirit spoke they wouldn’t hear
But you see the sword of the spirit was not a sword but the Word
And the Word was with God and the Word was God
And they preached this as they marched on the Holy Land
Singing and Praying and Killing and Slaying
And purging and healing and raping and stealing
It’s ironic that they lined there pockets in the name of God
Just like the priests who line their pockets in the name of God
Just like the people that you can’t stand, because they always raise their hand
And spread their faith and hate and judgment in the name of God

 

I’m sorry that I take God’s name in vain
Or rather I’m sorry that I stain the name of God
Defending my selfish actions as selfless actions pertaining to the will of God

 

I’m sorry for being intolerant
For trying to talk down to you
For trying to talk over you
For not letting you talk

 

I’m sorry for not walking the walk
For being a hypocritical critical Christian
Criticizing your pagan lifestyle while my lifestyle styles itself
Just like the televangelist’s hair
All slick and sly and slippery
As the silver syllables slide their way into your ear

 

But see that’s my greatest fear
That the steps I take won’t match the words I speak
So that when I speak all you hear of me
is a weak hypocritical critical Christian
Doing one thing, but saying another
Loving my friend, but hating my brother
It’s a show.

 

I’m sorry I get drunk on Saturdays
and go to church on Sundays to pray
for my friends who get drunk on Saturdays

 

And on that note,
I’m sorry for making the church about the pews and the cross
And the walls and the steeple
Because see the building is not the church
The church is the people

 

I’m sorry that I hate you because you are gay
I’m sorry I condemn you to hell because you are gay
Instead of loving I jump to hatred
Mouth open and tongue preaching
Eyes open but not seeing that you are the same as me
Just a fucking human being

 

I’m sorry that I only hang out with Christian friends
And we do nice Christian things
Like pot luck dinners and board game nights
While in the night a man beats his girlfriend again
Another homeless man died again
Is this the way that my own crowd has been?
But here I am with the same friends again
But see what I always forget is that Jesus didn’t come
to hang out with the priests and the lords.
No, He hung out with cripples and beggars and whores

 

Love

 

I’m sorry for history
For native tribes wiped out in the name of the church
Lodges burning stomachs churning and yearning for justice
And mothers screaming and pleading
Pleading for the young ones
As they are dragged away to church schools
Where they were abused
I’m sorry for the way that I refused
To learn your culture
Instead I just came to spread the Gospel
And the plague

 

I’m sorry that I stand at the front doors of abortion clinics
Screaming at 15 year old girls as they enter
Instead of waiting at the back door to hug them as they leave

 

I’m sorry for taking my wars and my faith to your lands
When historically it was on your lands that my faith was born
And in the face of the storm, I realize that
If God is Love and Love is God
Then why are we shooting instead of sharing?
Why are we launching instead of learning?
Why are we warring instead of walking together?
Why are we taking instead of talking together?
Why are we bombing instead of breaking bread together as brothers?

 

You see I think that God looks down and He’s sad
And from His right hand throne above
Jesus asks where is the Love?
And if it takes Wil-I-Am and Justin Timberlake
Asking that same question for us
To start asking that same question
Then where the fuck are we headed?

 

So I will take this stage to be my chapel
And this mic my confession booth
And in the presence of God, the few,
and the blessed I confess, that
I am a Christian. I’m sorry.

Thanks for reading.

LAE

Poetry Friday023


If

My ghost.

Image by vk-red via Flickr

If I maintain a calm composure no matter the circumstances
If my dog walks well on leash and
comes when called
If my children rise up and lead worship
obtain a minimum of 3.8 GPA and like learning
If my floors are swept clean
and my toilets are without rings
If I bake cookies and dinners from scratch
If I host gatherings
lead group studies
exercise my gifts and talents
and always have an open chair at our table
If my bible has tattered pages and
highlighted verses and sticky notes
If my vehicle is washed and waxed
and free from crumbs
If all my surfaces are dusted and
my floors dry mopped spot free
If I keep a fit body and mind
and dress appropriately for every situation
Will I be acceptable, lovable,
enough?

If I don’t admit to paying someone
to clean my bathrooms
or expose my thoughts of darkness and longing
If I don’t tell you about the time
I swore at my husband or how I
once slapped my child’s face
If you don’t see me speeding
or tossing an apple core
from my car window
If you don’t hear me yelling
If you never know about my past
mistakes, or current temptations
If I keep my blinds half drawn
and exercise my garage door opener
every day for quick entry and exits
If I keep my eyes down
and my mouth closed
Will I be perfect, enviable
safe?

If I line up my life
with ugly and pretty, somehow meshing
my shortfalls and what I say I believe
If my honest to goodness gut level

insides match my outsides

Then what?
What will I look like?
Living in the tension, who will I be?

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (The Message) For entire chapter, click here.