Education and Exclusion

Education and Exclusion

The following guest post from my friend, Tim Vermande, is a continuation in a series of discussions on Inclusion and Exclusion. You can read more about this in my last post, Do You Struggle with Legalism? I plan to continue this discussion, following up from Tim’s words and continuing to focus on disability, next time. Tim’s original post and other work can be found at Flying Kitty Monster.

What does it mean to be “educated”? The author of this meme on Facebook has an idea:
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As most people will tell you, education is not just being able to spout information (or misinformation) in response to questions. While that kind of learning can be profitable, as recently watchers of “Jeopardy” might know, it does not mean that one is able to discern how these things happened (as watchers of the same show also found, at least until a librarian with discernment learned to beat the champion at his game).

Along with the signs of history repeating itself, there is a need to understand diverse events and discern their commonality. This is why professors ask students to write essays about apparently unrelated topics (one of my favorites was the link shared by movable type, color lithography, peanut butter, Spam, Clarence Birdseye, and avocado green).

This is also why we like open discussions, because people bring in new connections. One of these connections came to mind during the last week, while discussing church opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act. As it progressed, we developed a feeling that the early church was very inclusive. Jesus was denounced by the religious authorities for partying with sinners and undesirables. The book of Acts and the Epistles tell of attempts to exclude people–all of which collapsed. The Christian world expanded to include Gentiles, Romans who ate meat sacrificed to idols, Samaritans, and a host of other undesirables. Paul, constantly aware of his own past, constantly sought to include everyone.

But somewhere, that was lost. Part of this was self-survival. Creeds arose to draw boundaries. In the process, they did not just define a boundary, but to exclude (writers such as Elaine Pagels have explored this idea further). The Apostles Creed was a low-level form of this tendency, but the Nicene creed spelled out a great many doctrinal points and anathematized anyone who diverted from them.

Along the way, such definitions came to merge with cultural ideas (for an example in one field, see my review here), and in the late 1900s, disabled people found themselves excluded from the provisions of the ADA when it came to churches. Nearly every day I read on a disability site about this. As I and others have found, you can get in trouble faster for insisting that the accessible parking (if it exists) at a church be reserved for people with disabilities than for preaching heresy–I distinctly recall one incident related by a friend who was told that it “wasn’t very Christian” to call police for a violation (I asked if they had mentioned that it wasn’t very Christian to park there without the proper permit). And, as this article asks, why are so many excluded from ministry positions? Will we face the challenge, and will our allies rise to join us?

By the way, if you’re wondering about the exam question, here’s a hint: the link has do with technology that was popularized and made profitable by someone other than the inventor.

Do You Struggle with Religious Legalism?

Do You Struggle with Religious Legalism?

Hey All,

I’m sorry I missed a day or two of posting. I’ve been struggling. I intend to do better.

My depression has kicked up. My sadness. My inability to understand the exclusion in our world.

Maybe it’s being at church meetings. The United Methodist Church is on the verge of breaking apart over the issue of sexuality.

Maybe it’s frustration about my disabilities. I’m not always the inspirational overcomer many nondisabled  people want to see.

Maybe it’s because I don’t check many boxes so easily which makes it more difficult to gain an audience for the words I hope to share.

It’s probably all of these things.

Do you ever feel like you’re struggling. Like you don’t quite fit in? For whatever reason. Your reasons don’t have to be my reasons. It can be anything. Be you.

There are two things I know for sure. 

  1. You are created to be you.
  2. Love always seeks justice and inclusion.

Love loves you no matter what anyone else says or does. Love is. Period. Even when you’re struggling, even when others question your worth or belonging, you are loved.

And, they are loved too but, again, Love always seeks justice. Love always seeks equity. Love always seeks to bring people from the margins into its circle.

I’m a Christian and I know for certain Jesus tells us everything begins with Love and that we are called to do live this way too. (Luke 10:25-37)

This is what I don’t understand about religious legalists.

Of course, they often use terms like traditional so it sounds better, like saying they hold a “traditional view of scripture.”

That’s what’s so nefarious about it. It’s made out to be ok, even good. It’s made to seem like theirs is a higher view of scripture. At least, it’s an acceptable difference of opinion. At worst, theirs is a righteous cause for holiness. It’s none of those things. It’s exclusion and hate that harms people, both directly and indirectly, disguised as caring.

Further, I’m here to tell you, there is nothing traditional about exclusion. That’s not what Love does and it’s certainly not what Jesus does regardless of what you believe or don’t about faith. It’s actually the opposite.

Jesus always tells us to put people above rules.

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So, the next time someone makes you feel like you don’t belong because of their internalized legalism lived out, stay strong. You are not alone. Love loves you and so do I.

You are worthy of Love.

It’s time to call bullshit on anything less. The forces against Love don’t have the right to spin this story whether brought about internally or externally.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and AcceptanceLastly, Before You Go (And, It’s Not Money!)
Writing helps me. I hope my words help you too as this is why I’m out here. Your input also help sustain me. So, please let me know what you think about my post by leaving a comment because my hope is to begin a conversation. Love always works in community. Thanks!

 

 

 

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Transformation on a Damascus Road

“Transformation on a Damascus Road”
Transformation on a Damascus Road
I’ve heard anecdotes it’s true
Some might say that’s long ago
Except, it could happen to me or you
I hope I’m on the side that gives
Blessings so that others live
Make it more than allegory
Arrival, is the point to take
Lord, hear these heartfelt words I pray
Transform me in your glory
Demascus

I’m always fascinated the story of the Apostle Paul’s transformation on the Damascus road. (Acts 9:1-20)

He was out persecuting people for believing differently than him. This feels all too real to me today. Love calls us to do better. A lot better. But, before I look at the actions of others, I feel compelled to look at myself. I have shut the door of love on others more times than I care to admit.

Except, I think that’s the point.

God can use me whether I’m the one being called away from the error my ways, like Paul, or being used as the vessel through which restoration happens like Ananias. I just have to be willing.

Look at the story. Paul is admonished and healed. (Yes, I know admonished is an understatement!) Ananias is called to go forward even with fear. Both men are transformed.

This is good news!

So, where do you need transformation today?

Do you need to move beyond fear to go forward?

Do you need to make changes?

Either is possible with love.

Ultimately, the question becomes, “Are you willing?”

Let me know what you think about all this. I look forward to your comments.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”
Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes:
Link to Acts 9:1-20
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+9%3A1-20&version=NIV

Are You Still Doubting?

Are You Still Doubting?

“Peter Doubted”
Peter doubted three times more
Than he said he’d ever do
That is good news for folks
Ordinary like me or you
Whenever doubt does come your way
Love is always there to say
Skeptics still can prove
Just look at Peter
The rock he is
The one who Jesus power gives
To build the church most true
And, Peter doubted three times more
Than he said he’d ever do
doyouloveme

Scripture Lesson: John 21:1-19

I’ve been on a roll lately with the shortcomers of the Bible; Judas, Thomas, Paul, Peter. (With Paul notably a bit out of order for his presence in my last post.)

Still, there are stories like these all throughout the scriptures.

I think it’s this way because God, or Love if non-churchy language is preferred, wants us to know we can all be used as restoration bringers. Just as you are. Just as I am. Perfection not required.

As I often say, “This is good news!” We follow in a long line of people who sometimes mess up. Peter is one of my favorites.

He gets it wrong as much as he gets it right. He speaks when he should listen. He’s emotional. Peter is full humanity on display. He even denies Jesus three times after saying this is something he would never do. Here he is. Today’s scripture slightly ahead now to where Jesus restores Peter’s brokenness.

I love Peter. Maybe because he’s most like me.

Jesus asks him not once but three times, symbolic of Peter’s three denials, “Peter, do you love me?” In doing so, Jesus also tells Peter to care for his sheep, meaning his people, affirming him in love.

He next foreshadows the kind of death Peter will have in following this path of Love. Peter follows anyway.

This time, something is different. Peter becomes everything Jesus calls him to be. Love does the same for us. Where we fall short, love calls us to renewed life.

Ask yourself:

Where is love calling you to renewal today?
What’s one step forward you can take?

Don’t doubt. Believe. Believe in yourself. Believe in God’s love.

It might not be easy but it is worth it.

If today is a challenge, start with focusing on yourself. How can you practice a little self love and acceptance today?

Just take it one day at a time. Try to move forward a little more each day.

If you have a day when you struggle, don’t give up believing it’s hopeless. Pick up from there. Love is still with you because love is aways with you.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”
Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes: John 21:1-19
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+21%3A1-19&version=NIV

Jean Vanier’s Jelly Beans

Jean Vanier’s Jelly Beans

Update: Jean Vanier passed away on May 7, 2019, in the early morning in Paris. I am reposting in his memory.

https://www.larche.org/en/web/guest/news/-/asset_publisher/mQsRZspJMdBy/content/passing-away-of-jean-vanier.

Crip Pastor

Today, I am cross-posting a blog from my friend, Tim Vermande, about Jean Vanier who is the founder of L’Arche Communities. I encourage you to learn more about Vanier and his work if you don’t know it. Tim’s original post, which includes my poem, can be seen here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Holy Saturday, the world heard that Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, had moved to palliative care at the age of 90. My friend Chris Wylie wrote this poem in response, which in turn led me to write the essay that follows the poem. We are publishing our thoughts together.

You created a place for people like me
A caring and loving community 
You called it The Ark
L’Arche in your tongue 
Living together
Together as one
To learn and to grow was your grand vision
Fulfilling in unison love’s great mission
Grow we did like flowers in bloom
Ushering Heaven into…

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