1 Corinthians 13 for Me

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In an effort to promote an authentic and healthy love of self as many of us fail to do, I’ve taken 1 Corinthians 13 and made it into a statement that a person can speak to themselves.

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I could speak or write brilliantly in the language of humans and heavenly beings, but let’s be honest – if I do not have love for myself, all my words are just a bunch of noise.

And if I seek justice and peace for the world, and understand all and know all, and if I have an amazing faith on paper, which may look like I could move mountains,
ALL OF THIS…
But
do NOT love myself – you know, the unconditional way that God loves me –
my work is empty… even hypocritical.

If I give away all I own to appear as a fabulous philanthropist,
and if I dress up my body so that I may boast that I look young or hot,
but do not have genuine self-love of my essence and soul, I gain nothing.

Loving myself through all my errors takes patience.
Loving myself means that I am required to be kind to myself.

Healthy love of self doesn’t mean that I’m envious of others (which I am quite often).
It does not allow me to brag over and over of my accomplishments or become arrogant and rude to prove that I am better than others.

Love of self absolutely can not be shadowed in shallowness,
and it requires me to reflect when I’m irritable or resentful of someone else’s accomplishments or celebrations.

This unconditional love does not allow me to rejoice when someone else errs, and it leaves no space for me to berate myself when I make a mistake.

It rejoices in what is best for everyone.

In order for my soul to thrive, true love of self will seek help when life is harsh.
It believes that anything is possible.
It continues to hope for all things
It endures when love seems present no where else.

Authentic love for myself is meant to be permanent and eternal.

But as for the work I do, it will eventually come to an end as my body ages or my mind falls away.
As for the brilliant language that I write or speak- it’s all going to cease.
As for knowledge that I possess here on this side of heaven, it will come to an end.

Let’s face it, now I see myself and God and others only in part. All I do will always fall short because of that partial view I have.
But when the complete comes somewhere on that side of heaven, the partial will come to an end.
The complete view of me and God and others and the universe will be all I can see.

I remember when I was a teen. I spoke like a teen, and I thought like a teen.
I reasoned like a teen.
I was disgusted by myself the way a teen would be.
Since becoming an adult,
I’ve been working on not to look at myself the same way I did at 14.

For I must remember that I see myself in a dim, cloudy, foggy mirror.
But someday, somewhere I will see the true view of my face and heart and soul.
For I must remember that right now I only myself in part-
But at some point I will know fully, even as God knows and loves me fully.

When nothing goes right and the world seems hopeless and I’m thinking so little of myself, I must remember that these three pieces are my foundation:
faith, hope, and love.

And even when faith in myself weakens and hope for the future wanes, God’s authentic, unconditional love for me will guide me back to where I need to be.

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A Prayer When Prayers Are Not Enough

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“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?”

James 2:14 (NRSV)

Holy One who created us to pray when life makes no sense, or when we are grateful, or when we are in need…

Let’s face it- we use our prayers as a way to stay in safe spaces. It’s easy to pray and send our thoughts to people who hurt. It’s simple to pray that an issue will go away.

And yet day after day, these thoughts and prayers are not enough. Issues continue to stack up. People are dying.

So today we pray that we have enough courage not only to pray with our mouths and minds and hearts, but also with our hands and voices and feet. It’s time for us to stop half-praying and time for us to fully pray with our whole selves. We know you are calling us to action.

Give us the clarity needed to complete your work effectively. And give us peace as we work to bring forth your Kin-dom to earth.

Amen.

Remembering the Newly Single – Single in the Sanctuary

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It occurred to me a couple of days ago that this would be the first Valentine’s Day without my dad.  While that makes little impact on my life, it does, however mean that my mom is without a partner for the first time in about 48 years.

I’m not exactly sure how my mom is feeling today, nor do I want to assume those feelings or explore what traditions she may be missing.  But since it’s been less than six months since the death of my dad, a day like Valentine’s Day has the potential to stir up feelings in people who have recently lost their significant other.

And she is not alone in this life transition.

In our groups of friends as well as the people in our congregations, there are always people changing relationship status – and sometimes not for the better.  Our neighbors are experiencing breakups, divorces and losing spouses to death.  When a relationship has made a huge impact on a life (whether the team was married or not), there remains a large hole in the lives of those who are grieving.  Valentine’s Day can be another sharp and blazing reminder to this recent loss.

With all of this being said, it’s also our job as the Body of Christ to be present in the ashes of people who have been single for years – especially friends who do not enjoy their singlehood status.  Every year when Valentine’s Day rolls around, the aches of singlehood intensify, leaving them to wonder what is next.

Whether someone has recently lost someone or has been single for years, there is one less person to bring them flowers, candy or a nice fancy dinner.

So this is the challenge to the church: how will we be there for our single siblings in faith today?  How can we recognize that new losses could be extremely uncomfortable on a day like Valentine’s Day?  How can we deliver to them a bit of love – especially when delivery trucks will not be coming by their homes today?

A Prayer for the Newly Single on Valentine’s Day
Divine One whose son showed us how to love,
On this day filled with sparkles and glitter,
Help us to remember our siblings who sit in the ashes of relationships.
May those of us in romantic bliss exit our bubbles for a little while
To show love to those abiding solo among us.
May their hearts feel full and complete today.
May they see a love that fulfills them.
If their hearts yearn for their own partners,
May they find the one who will love them as they are
And may their future Valentine’s Days be ones of joy.
Amen.

 

 

Loving Me for Me

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This is a snapshot from a 2015 The Upper Room devotional.  For  more information, visit https://www.upperroom.org/

Today, this was read at our church council meeting.

I’m not sure why the person chose to use this particular submission today – especially since this piece was from 2015.  But for some reason, the winds of the Holy Spirit were in motion, and I needed to hear something.  As she continued to read this devotional at the meeting, tears were streaming down my face.

How do I become someone I’m not?  I’m so, so tired trying to be  I suppose this has been a question almost 45 years in the making.  From the time we are young, we are conditioned to “fit in.”  Our consumerist culture encourages us to want what our neighbors have.  The visible lives of our friends seem so ideal compared to what we have, yet we do not know their challenges.

To me, my life seems scattered, second-tier and, in many ways, pathetic.  I hold myself up to the world’s standards, and I see only my shortcomings.

My gifts and accomplishments, on the other hand, were missing from my view.  I’m probably harder on myself than others are on me.  But for me my shortcomings are front and center – staring me in the face – as to poke fun at the gifts I lack.

What I forget is that all of you have shortcomings as well – they may just be a bit different than mine.  And all of you have gifts as well – they may also be a bit different than mine.

Then there are the times when I wish I could have the talents and interests of the people closest to me.  I’ve spent almost 45 years trying to fit this square peg into a round hole.  The work of conforming and remodeling ourselves to fit others’ expectations becomes exhausting.  At some point of our lives, we no longer have the energy to mold ourselves to their liking.  At some point, we must just become ok with who we are.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to work on our shortcomings.  But we need to stop being so hard on ourselves because of them.  I am not good at everything.  (Obviously)  I am NOT good at everything.  I will never be.  At nearly 45 years old I need to come to terms that I am not good at every single task, and I am not interested in accomplishing everything.

But here is what I need to do:

First of all, I need to ask for help for my growing edges.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help.  (For people like me who struggle asking for help, I’ll repeat myself: there is nothing wrong asking for help.)  Because I am not talented in every aspect of life, this means that some activities will not come easy to me.  As humans and children of God, we are called to work together to use our gifts to assist others who struggle.

Secondly, there are some gifts I do not have. I will never have these gifts.  I will never be a talented singer, be a star of a movie, hike Kilimanjaro, skydive, or a number of other things.  And I am becoming fine with this.

Third, it’s time for me to begin focusing on the ways I excel and where I want to invest in my passions.  Forty-five is not old.  But it is the beginning of life’s second act.  God is calling me to use whatever energy I may have to strengthen this world and the people within it.  I am gifted at artwork, marketing and writing.  I no longer need to explain away how I will never be a triathlon competitor, raw sushi connoisseur and lover of Tarantino films.

Like this devotion, it’s time for me and all of us to be firm in who we are.  Psalm 139 reminds us that this is who God created me to be.  This.  Here and now.  I am gifted and flawed.  I have ways that I can still grow.  I hold in my heart many things I still want to accomplish.  But I am Michelle.  I have been for 45 years, and I will be for the remainder of my life.  I must live in my own skin and with my own mind.

As the devotional says: “we can confidently live as the people God created us to be.”  How liberating it is for each of us to claim that reality!  No longer do I have to live as others expect me to live.  This is who I am – made by God in the image of God.

First Birthday Gone

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Today’s the first time we exist in a February 7 world without my dad in it. And as many of you are well too familiar, this is bizarre.

Most years, I would try to call my dad at midnight. Of course, this would be 11pm CST, a point that wouldn’t matter to him.

Last night, there was no one I could call to wish those birthday greetings.

Dad was born on the seventh day in February in the seventh hour. He used to indicate how the number sevens were lucky for him.

Today would have been his 77th birthday. So on this seventh day of February in which my dad would have been 77, make this world a stronger place. Tell someone what a fantastic job they are doing. Call you congressional leaders to speak your needs and the needs of those marginalized. Watch the news, register to vote, learn the faces of our congressional leaders, or just be a good human today. That’s what Vincent Torigian would want for his birthday.

And Dad, as you abide on that side of heaven, may you feel the love that all of us are sending you on your birthday. Miss you so much.

Dear NFL…

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Dear NFL, it’s so over.

You’ve had chance after chance to do the right thing in many circumstances, but the powers that be in your organization and teams continue to make choices that oppress people who are not hyper-masculine, straight white male.

Let’s begin with race.

It’s seems as though you are using bodies for your own profit.  And often, it’s the bodies of black males.  You use them for your own entertainment, like in the days of the gladiators in the arenas.  (How many have had repeated concussions and now have chronic traumatic encephalopathy?)  Yet when they have an opinion that diverts from your owners or viewers, then they magically do not get their contracts renewed.  Funny – their talent is greater than many players out there, but they aren’t playing.  Colin Kaepernick is a good-hearted soul that wants justice in our world.  He spends his resources building up other people.  And yet he’s the one who has been unofficially banned from playing for using his agency to make the world aware of police brutality.

Secondly, you also forget the women.

There’s the issue of the cheerleaders who get paid less than minimum wage and must spend their own resources to keep their looks in top shape.  (Two articles to read are here and here.  Additionally, I wrote a piece on this blog here.)

And football player-related arrests tend to be related to domestic violence and sexual assault.   The most frustrating thing about the response by the NFL is the minimal punishment (two to four game suspension like in the 2014 case of Ray Rice).  A player committing violence against his partner is only ousted for a couple of games; a player peacefully protesting police brutality gets ousted indefinitely.

Furthermore, when riches and partiers gather at a Super Bowl city, trafficking tends to increase.  Women and children are sold for a price for their bodies.  The cities do what they can to watch for signs of traffickers and victims; yet according to this 2017 article, the NFL is in denial that such events take place at their precious event each year.

And you’ve managed to brush aside openly gay football players.

Again we fall upon widespread hyper-masculinity when seeing that there has never been an openly gay active NFL player, and few have come out after retiring.  Michael Sam was drafted far into the draft and was eventually released – never mind his stellar NCAA record.

I’m sure that if you haven’t cared much about the other three groups, you’ve tried to ignore how you’ve played the intersections of race and gender.  And with this I’m talking about Janet.  (And since you are nasty, it’s Ms. Jackson to you, NFL.)  Two people were part of the act.  Ms. Jackson was publicly shamed and has been snubbed for many years.  Her partner in the 2014 act will be leading the halftime show.  She’s an African-American female.  He’s a white male.  There’s a pattern developing here…

And lastly, let’s think about wealth and your system, NFL.  When I go on Instagram, I will see a host of celebrities with their photos at the game.  I will also see a host of your friends taking selfies at their homes in front of the chicken wings.  It’s because the cost of a ticket is almost $3,000.  And the tickets went up 31% compared to last year.  All games can be expensive, but when the tickets are this expensive, a person would have to work 413 hours at minimum wage to buy a ticket.

It would be nice if a certain percentage of tickets would go at a fair price to the average American consumer.  But from my experience working at the Super Bowl hospitality village immediately before the 2001 game in Tampa, I saw how many corporate partners get tickets for the game, and how many get fed and provided libations in their own little tents inside the village right before the game.

NFL, you’ve managed to marginalize people of color, women, the LGBT community and working-class people.  So as you see it’s you, not me.   I avoided the entirety of your game and halftime show.  I wrote and watched a movie on television.  I still ate guacamole and chips, but instead of watching men of color used for their bodies and women on the sidelines objectified for a small fee, I chose to watch Kylie Jenner’s baby video instead.

(That’s right.  Kardashians over you, NFL.)

Regards,
Michelle

RevGalBlogPals Post- The Dangerous Theology of Women, Bodies and Pain

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Recently, I read The Week’s article “The female price of male pleasure” by Lili Loofbourow. The article speaks of the pain many women endure as collateral for men’s gratification. Loofbourow states “Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.” She continues by noting “The real problem isn’t that we – as a culture – don’t sufficiently consider men’s biological reality. The problem is rather that theirs is literally the only biological reality we ever bother to consider.”

Many of us women have adapted to a culture of pain. In exercise, terms like “No pain, no gain” become mottos by which we live. Like the article mentioned, many of us become accustomed to beauty regiments that require some discomfort. From waxing and plucking to wearing high heels and waist trainers, becoming conditioned to wear these items in order to become attractive and find a partner is common.

From the time we were young women, a number of us have endured physical anguish each month with our periods. When this pain became excruciating through diseases like endometriosis, some doctors would just dismiss the woman and tell her that it’s normal. And like The Week article notes, numerous women endure pain with sex. Yet only 393 clinical trials study women’s painful sex, seeming extremely sparse compared to the 1,943 studies which exist for erectile dysfunction.

In the article, Loofbourow said “Women have spent decades politely ignoring their own discomfort and pain to give men maximal pleasure.” Except that this goes beyond one or two generations and a few decades.

Pieces of scripture have allowed for this narrative throughout the past two or three millennia. Some of our Christian narratives do not help our efforts to live a low-pain existence. Our faith tradition is rooted in an origin story in which the first female human is cursed to moments of pain for the choice she made.

To read the rest of the article, visit  The Pastoral Is Political: The Dangerous Theology of Women, Bodies and Pain

A Prayer for Goodness and Mercy

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Where is that “Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” God? It feels like accidents and overworking and grieving and illness are trailing me as I walk along your holy path.

How do I go forward when all I know right now is pain? Hope shrivels as aches of the soul grow. Will the next turn be more losses, or complications, or even more pain?

And yet I go forward, taking the specks of hope kept safely deep within my soul, waiting for the right place to plant these tiny seeds. For Goodness and Mercy shall pursue me even into the depths of life.

And I will dwell on your path forever, Holy One.

Amen.

Your Sacred Noes – A RevGalBlogPals Devotional

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“But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs. At this the king was enraged, and his anger burned within him.” – Esther 1:12

In Esther 1, King Ahasuerus asks for his wife Vashti to dance for him and his friends. His request for her to be willingly objectified is met with a resounding “no” resulting in Vashti’s banishment.

Would Vashti have repeated her “no” if she knew the consequence?  

Noes are complicated but not meant to be fluid.  They are a part of our everyday negotiating in each of our relationships.

To read the remainder of the article, please go to the RevGalBlogPals Weekly E-Reader.

 

A Prayer for Anxiety – RevGalBlogPals

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Please visit the RevGalBlogPals link below for the Tuesday Prayer on anxiety and panic disorders.

God who created the expanding universe and designed each atom which dances in our world- let’s talk about anxiety for a minute. Why is it that my mind churns night and day wondering and worrying? Why is my heart racing, and why do I feel overwhelming nausea? Why do I feel like I can’t move […]

via Tuesday Prayer — RevGalBlogPals