A Prayer for Christine Blasey Ford (And All Telling Their Painful Stories)

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God, you waited with us in our shadows,
You currently abides with us on thresholds
And you will walk with us in the sun-

Today, a voice will exclaim her truth.
And you will be with her.

There have been many women and men throughout the ages who have sat in chairs-
Watching as they’ve expressed themselves
And detailed a piece of their past.

Yet trauma awaits them in the chambers,
Lurking behind tables,
Entering the room through vicious questions and piercing stares.

May peace rest upon the heart of Christine
And may her soul be soothed.

May others who need to tell their stories – whether related to this particular case
Or other cases-
Find your strength that already abides in their hearts.

And for the questioners…
May wisdom fill their dreams as they sleep.
And as they wake,
May your clarity guide them when speaking
And may openness stir them into listening.

For the ones who commit such abuses,
Who have left scars upon the spirits of many,
May your voice enter their minds.
May the winds of change nudge them to repent
Not only for the survivors, but for the spiritual survival of our world.

We are slowing moving towards justice.
May Christine find healing
May we say her name, Anita’s Name,
The names of women throughout times and spaces –
From Tamar to Vashti and many more.
In lifting their resilience and courage
We will find ours too.

Amen.

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A Prayer for the Ones Not Believed

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DF9B4F19-B887-4D73-84EB-1A6D4B6CE86FGod of the vocal cords and facial expressions and gestures…

Sometimes there are times when we remain quiet in our trauma. Sometimes we wonder if our words matter and our bravery will transcend injustice.

But most of the time we remember the experience when our words evaporated quickly after attempting to express ourselves.

Do we say anything if we know it will fall on closed ears? And the tougher question with which to wrestle is this: what if they turn it around and the blame falls on us?

We become the Eves and the Gomers and the Jezebels when we assert our value. And we think to ourselves “why bother???”

So when we are questioned years later as to why we remained silent, hopefully they will understand. Hopefully.

(You understand this God, right?)

A slow triumph- the stories are emerging. They linger longer and fill our world with much-needed discomfort.

And through you, Holy Narrative, we find our voices. Your strength and courage deliver us from trauma to peace and from injustice to righteousness.

I believe the stories. You believe them too, God.

Let’s do this.

Amen.

Women’s Agency and Autonomy on Trial

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Shrugging off has been our mode of coping.  Most of us women have shrugged sexual assault or harassment as it was happening – either because we hadn’t wrapped our minds around what happened or we know we wouldn’t be believed.

And we, ourselves, do not want to go on trial when we did nothing wrong.

It’s exhausting to live in a word in which we have to be hyper-vigilant while also knowing that even in our vigilance we may still be taken advantage of.  Even when we work to ensure our own safety and assault occurs, we know we will transformed from victim/survivor to evil voice.  We will become the demon, the Eve, the Jezebel, the Gomer – all wrapped into one – when coming forth about the incident.

Living eighteen years after the turn of the millennium and nearly 100 years after women began to get the right to vote (although not all women), we still fall short of what it means to be fully human.

There’s a message we hear from our leaders and institutions:

We don’t care about your bodies.  We don’t care about your health.  We don’t care about your livelihood.  In many ways like people of color or immigrants or LGBTQ people, you matter less.

We don’t want you to make decisions about your bodies.  We want to make them.  We want to use them when it is convenient for us.  We want to control them to ensure that a traditional patriarchal system continues.  We want to dispose of them when they no longer suit us or if they don’t fit our ideal standard for what a woman should be.

This is how it feels.

And when I read the story of Lot offering his daughters to be raped just to keep the men whole and holy, it makes me sick.  It’s not just a story that was told centuries before the birth of Jesus.  It’s also a story in which many people believe is the inspired Word of God.

So God would rather women be raped than men?  Why do either need to be raped?  Why are we not bettering our systems to hold rapists accountable?

Which brings us to this standing theology: Men’s bodies are holy.  Womens bodies are sinful and unclean.  Men are to be believed.  Women should endure pain because they aren’t as fully human as men, right?

(As someone who endures chronic pain due to reproductive health issues, I’ve felt dismissed by doctors on more than one occasion – even female doctors.  I’ve seen the health of my friends dismissed as I’ve notice the maternal mortality rate hanging too high for a developed nation.)

Between this story of alleged rape, the story that Kavanaugh wanted female clerks with a “certain” look, and his record on women’s reproductive health care rights, I see the larger picture of Kavanaugh and how he values – or doesn’t – women’s autonomy and agency.

And I know – he hired many women to serve as his clerks.  But the way a Generation X man devalues a woman will be different than a man who is a Boomer or from an earlier generation.  The way that one man devalues a woman is different than man from another generation or a man from his own generation.  He may hire a woman because he knows that women provide intellectual services yet may still believe that a woman still holds less autonomy and agency in other areas of her existence.  A man can appreciate a woman’s mind while still objectifying a woman’s body.

So I stand against any nominee for the SCOTUS or anyone leader in our Executive or Legislative Branch who carries on this ethos of male supremacy.  I stand against a system that doesn’t question what he’s done or the choices he has made.  Shouldn’t we have learned something from the time that Clarence Thomas was accused?  It’s been well over 25 years; shouldn’t we be farther along in the process of full autonomy and dignity for all women?  Shouldn’t we choose presidents who don’t take advantage of subordinates or assault women or pay women or brag about what they can do to women without their full consent?  There are men in both parties who have devalued women.  Why do they still have power?

We are women.  We deserve to walk at night or go to parties or hang out in social clubs or anything else without having to worry about being raped.  We deserve to go to work without being harassed.  We deserve to go to doctors and be believed because we know something isn’t right with our bodies.  We are not disposable, and we are fully human.

When will the powers-that-be in America and across the world believe us?

Or will we humans still be having this conversation in three thousand years – just like the story of Lot’s daughters?

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – I believe you.  You are a beloved child of God.  You are made in the Image of God.  No one can take that from you – no matter how hard they try in these next few days.  And we have your back.

A Labor Day Communion Liturgy

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One: Creator of the harvest- We lift our voices in praise!
Many: Creator of the table – In you we find our peace.
One: In gratitude we gather to share this meal.
Many: With thanksgiving, we gather to share our love for neighbor.

One: As the sun sets earlier, the days become cooler, and the crops near harvest, we celebrate the plenitude of fruits available to us.  We acknowledge the ways that we can use our gifts to care for our siblings in need.  We extend this table through the work of our hands and the missions of this church.

As we celebrate this sacrament, may we remember the laborers in the fields:
The harvesters of the wheat and grapes.
The transporters of the their yields.
Those who transform wheat into bread and grapes into juice.

Bless their hands and feet as they labor at farms and gardens, in trucks and warehouses.  We give thanks for the ones who prepare the table here today.  May their gifts of preparation and hospitality inspire us to extend hospitality to the strangers among us.

After laboring on the streets of Jerusalem-
Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God-
Jesus clutched bread in his hands.  He blessed the food, gave thanks, and heartfully expressed to his friends that this was the bread of life.  “As you eat this bread, remember me.”

After supper, Jesus grasped the cup filled with the gifts of the vine.  In his blessing, he reminded them “whenever you drink of this cup, remember me.”

Spirit of wisdom and of wonder, wind around these elements today.  May they stir us from stagnation into actively loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves.  May our participation at this table transform us into the people God is calling us to be.

With gratitude, we gather at this table.  As we take a piece of bread, let us experience the love of God as seen in Jesus the Christ.  As we immerse the bread into the cup, let us remember the grace that pours from God.

A Prayer for the Choir

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God of harmonies and melodies,
Of clanging and clashing cymbals,
Of sopranos and basses, of tenors and altos-

As voices unite together in this new season,
Bless the vibration of vocal cords
And the lungs which birth the songs.

May the words streaming from their spirits
Be ones in which unite us with You and neighbor.
May each stanza strengthen the souls of Your children
And may the chorus invigorate static hearts.

May those absorbing the sounds and beats of these tunes
Experience your presence through song.

Divine Symphony of Love,
Our hearts of gratitude celebrate this ensemble
And all who gift us with music.

Amen.

A Prayer for the Cast and Crew

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Creating God, Divine Inspiration-
For human imagination we give gratitude.

We ask for blessings upon performers inhabiting stages
And opening themselves up to the present moment.
May their joy for the craft be contagious to all.

For the costumers and sound production technicians,
For the makeup artists and light operators,
For the ones preparing props and raising curtains-
May Your wisdom fill their minds and Your precision fill their hands.

For directors, choreographers, stage managers, and orchestral directors-
May their positive leadership infuse all people active in the production.
May Your vision dance within their heads
And Your dreams fill their souls.

We give thanks for the hospitality of ushers
And the presence of the audience.
May the shared experience of the show be one in which we grow to love humanity.

Bless all cast and crew – no matter who they are or what part they play.
Like Your world, it takes all of us acting together-
Using our sacred time and our unique talents-
To make Your Divine-infused creation to revolve.

Amen.

The Refugee

A throwback post as you march for refugees and immigrants today…

Michelle L. Torigian

IMG_0426I am the granddaughter of a refugee.

Without the courage and resilience of my grandfather, I wouldn’t be here in this country.  I wouldn’t have privilege.  I may not have food or housing or the respect I deserve as a woman.

Or I may not be alive.  I may never have been born.

Somewhere back in each of our histories, I can imagine that we have the one person who was a refugee, an alien in a new land during a time of exile.  In the diaspora, they were strangers and lived on the grace and hospitality of others.

Exodus 22 says that we “shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

My grandfather was an alien, a refugee.

My grandfather told me the ugly stories of genocide, of wandering around the Caucasus region for years as an Armenian during and after…

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Art and Life in Step: The Handmaid and the Refugee Parent

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This post contains spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale, season 2, episode 10.

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I can’t imagine a more apropos episode of The Handmaid’s Tale for today.

Earlier today, I saw the following Instagram from Elizabeth Moss:

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I had a feeling I knew where this episode was going…

After some very brutal scenes earlier in the episode that needs a trigger warning, the last 1/3 of the show presents us with a familiar storyline. June/Offred is granted the opportunity to visit her daughter Hannah and spend a few rare moments with her child. As we see earlier in the series, the child was kidnapped from her parents and June was forced into sexual and surrogate slavery.

The conversation is heartbreaking. As their visit continues, the child asks her (former) mother why she didn’t try hard enough to look for her. She hides behind the Martha as she is so unfamiliar with the woman that gave birth to her and raised her for the early years of her life. Hannah screams out for her mother as people pry the child out of the mother’s arms at the end of their short visit. The two do not know whether or not they will see each other again.

So this is just another dystopian series, right?

Or is this too real?

What we see in this episode and hear on the news are eerily similar: children being ripped from the arms and lives of their parents.

(As they filmed the episode, I highly doubt they knew this episode would be airing this week of all weeks.)

Like what is going on today, the party who very much wants to push a pro-family platform destroys families that cross their path.  Children are ripped from the lives of their parents, undoubtedly crying themselves to sleep as they abide in a world of uncertainty.

Some people believe it’s part of God’s plan or divine intervention that such horrific moves are made. They want us to follow they demands of the government instead of God’s ethics. And yet, as they continue to believe they are the good guys, our world becomes like Canada in The Handmaid’s Tale: seeing a humanitarian crisis unfold.

Like some posts I’ve seen online this week, leaders in the Bible who separated children from their parents were not the “good guys.” Rather, they were Pharaoh and Herod. They were notorious not only for taking children away but killing them as well.

I don’t think any “Good Christian” wants to identify with the two of them. But here our Jesus-professing leaders are- following in their footsteps.

Dystopia is a breath away from us right now, America. When children and parents are ripped apart from one another, and the children are kept in cages, not allowed to be picked by adults, and may never see their parents again, the distopian nightmare is real.

You may read this and say the refugees have broken the law. But they came here because their living conditions were so unstable and dangerous. And we turn our backs on them. We’ve been told over and over in Scripture that we are to care for the orphan, widow, and alien/stranger, and we ignore the many Biblical texts that give us this mandate. No matter what the law says or what the powers-that-be want the law to look like, Jesus was (1) a refugee and (2) a law breaker as he healed on the sabbath. Our powers-that-be wish to forget this.

I encourage each of you to watch the last 1/3 of the episode. Hear the screams between mother and child. Watch the tears swelling in their eyes. This is not fiction. This is not dystopia. This is America in 2018.

Pastorshaming

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We’ve all heard it and seen it: “If your pastor doesn’t preach on (fill in the blank), then walk out.”

Undoubtedly, people who are posting such statements have never served a church with truly different perspectives.

I’ve personally only had experience being a pastor in churches where there are people to the far right and far left and everywhere in between.

So while my message may be focused on hot topics of the day, I have to say things in a way that as many people as possible will listen to the message- because if I seem like I am siding with one perspective, then some people will close their minds and hearts to my sermon and to where God may be directing all of us.

And the message will not reach the people who have not yet heard it from another angle – especially if the news they watch are biased towards the other perspective.

Yes, it is our calling to be prophetic as well as pastoral. It’s our call to love all of the people in our pews. We can’t completely shy away from the subject, but we must speak words that will be considered. We must evaluate the time and space in which our message will be delivered.

So friends who are prophetic and shaming your fellow pastors into mandatory preaching on subjects: please stop it. Please stop putting extra pressure on colleagues. We are all trying our best in our unique contexts. Additionally, we must preach according to the Spirit’s call – not from the pressure of our clergy colleagues.

And to friends reading this who may disagree with your pastor- please give them a break. They are trying to be faithful to the Gospel. They are trying to share the Good News. And it may sound the opposite to what your favorite politicians may be saying. This is not the time to automatically side with your favorite politicians. This is the time to engage in discussions and dialogues on why people believe what they believe. This is a tough time to be in the pulpit because. Please extend grace to your pastors and one another.

To my fellow pastors who serve diverse-perspective churches: let’s keep working together to scatter the seeds whenever possible. We are called to preach the Gospel, and it’s tough. So let’s work together to lift one another up.

If your pastor doesn’t preach on (fill in the blank) this week, have a conversation with him or her. Please do not leave. This is a crucial time for us to dialogue our way through the wilderness.

The Dead Dads Club

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Years ago, I came across a scene of Grey’s Anatomy in which Dr. George O’Malley had just lost his father. He was standing outside of the hospital when Dr. Cristina Yang approaches him. The two engage in the following conversation:

CRISTINA: “There’s a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can’t be in it until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss… My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.”
GEORGE: “I… I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”
CRISTINA: “Yeah, that never really changes.”

This scene rapidly came to mind on September 18, 2017. Early that morning, I became part of the Dead Dads Club. In a fog of exhaustion, I was thrown into a fraternity of humans wandering in grief.

It’s a permanent club with new members joining us every day. Since my induction, I’ve noticed more friends joining the club. Some joined after their dads perished following a long illness. Others were whisked into the club after a shocking death. I wish I could close the door on their membership. I wish I could delay their painful initiation. And yet, they joined us in the mournful ranks.

This year, many of us are enduring our first Fathers’ Day in this club. We scurry past the Fathers’ Day cards at the store. We try to forget what this Sunday is. We may be grateful that we don’t have to go to places like church where Father’s Day is all over the place. We hope we can make it ten minutes at a time throughout the day, knowing it will be a full year before the next one.

Ugh. Just ugh. I hate all of this.

Like George O’Malley said, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad isn’t. I still feel like he’s just in the other room when I talk to my mom. I still feel like I’ll catch up with him a little later. I still want to call him when I hear something happening on the news or when I remember something I learned in his Civics class.

But he’s no longer here. And I have to live with this for the remainder of my life here on earth. Part of my brain just can’t grasp this. I don’t think I ever will fully wrap my mind around the world without my father.

So here I am with my fellow “club” members. We all don’t want to be a part of this club. But we are glad that we don’t have to journey alone – not that we want others to have to go through this pain. If we all have to face the pain, at least we can be there for one another. I give thanks for the friends who reached out this week who happen to be enduring similar pain. I give thanks for the friends who sat and waited at the funeral home – just in case I needed them at any point. They are my cohort, and with them we will make it.

So for the day or whenever I need, I rely on God’s mercy and grace to allow what tears may need to fall. I give myself permission to reach out to others in this dreadful club. Because through God and neighbor, we may find some peace along the way.