Backlash!

Backlash!

“Fortune”
A Fortune of money is what you seek but a fortunate son is not someone like me.
A broken body, down on my luck, while you’re perched on top out of touch.
Running the business,
It’s always the same,
Making a fortune because you own the game

Heart with People

There’s always backlash.

Whenever an existing power structure feels threatened, you get backlash.

We see it in our world and, not surprisingly, we see it in the church.

It can be civil rights. It can be women. It can be the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability pride. It doesn’t matter.

In fact, it’s all of these things.

Wherever someone seeks equity and inclusion, you get backlash.

As we also often witness, you get cross sectional power players working together too. Think for a moment about how the powerful never seem to clamor for separation of church and state when they are colluding.

The power players all want to be in cahoots then.

It’s only when equity comes into play, such as when the church desired exclusion from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do power players scream.

There are numerous examples here. Disability is my primary marginalizing experience but, it’s no different with regard to the other people mentioned initially.

You don’t have to go very far to notice the powerful orchestrating together.

I could name names, however, I suspect I don’t have to if you’ve read this far. They’ll even use us as tokens if we’re not careful.

Most of us won’t do this, of course, but it does happen and it only takes a couple for it to become some insulating justification for those in control. However, there is a better way forward.

When working within the existing power structure doesn’t work, and I believe that time is now, the rest of us need to build together too.

I’ve seen some of this, though, not nearly enough. In many cases, I’ve witnessed the opposite with divisions and factions.

The powerful know this and they’re happy to let it continue and even encourage it. If we minimize each other, they can continue their dominance over all of us.

We need to work across communities as allies for each other.

We need to lift up advocates in each their respective areas.

Whenever possible, we need to empower voices of those who are intersectionally marginalized. (Those who face more than one marginalizing identifier.)

I say this because I do believe you can be marginalized by one trait (as I am with my disability) while also being privileged in other ways (as I am as a white man.)

Yes, there will be times for me to speak. There will also be times for me to yield the floor.

There is time for both and too many times for all of us as it is today.

That’s the backlash to seeking equity. The truly powerful, the ones dominating our world today, will not go easily, quietly, or willingly. That’s where we are.

It’s also why it’s important for us to work together, building each other up. Because, they don’t have to tear us down if we do it for them.

Next time, I’ll look at how Jesus and his early disciples resisted the powerful in their time.

I hope you’ll check back because I believe this is an important lesson for us no matter if you believe exactly as I do or not. Solidarity.

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 Acceptance

 

 

 

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

“Love: Our Universal Truth”
If Love is our universal truth, then why is it so hard?
We keep each other far away as if to stand on guard.
But Love calls us to open up if we long to be set free.
And, in this way we share a Love that connects eternally.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I wrote these above words a few days ago because I believe Love and kindness is the key to everything. Love saves whereas hate destroys.

Yet, we live in a word so often characterized by hate. Even worse, just as we sometimes see, hate can be a great unifier for people. It can be a unifier that is, until it destroys and, make no mistake, it does destroy. Hate always needs something to consume.

Sure, it will destroy your identified target at first. Only, it doesn’t stop there. Hate is a scourge. It destroys everything. Eventually, it will even destroy itself.

Those, united by hate, will hate each other when nobody else is left.

Love on the other hand is different. Love saves. Love provides life. As a Christian specifically, and as a person of faith more broadly, I believe in this message.

This is what I find so troubling about people who use religion as an instrument of hate.

Since I’m a Jesus follower, I will speak directly to those who claim my faith tradition. It may be a universal truth, but I have a special responsibility to speak to my people. It’s also what I see most often in the world directly outside my font door.

If your use faith as a tool for hate, you are doing it wrong.

Put another way, you can’t rightfully claim to be a Christian while also supporting people and systems of hate and exclusion without being wrong.

As I wrote on social media,

“It would be nice if power hungry, exclusionist, patriarchal, lock up children, people of color, the disabled, and others Christians gave more consideration to the upside down and interdependent nature of the biblical narrative instead of using it as a tool for hate.” (1Corinthians 12:21-27, Matthew 5:1-12)

Love seeks justice.
Love uplifts.
Love supports.
Love sustains.
Love always expands to include people on the margins.

Love takes the force of power and hate and turns it upside down. That’s the message of Jesus.

Furthermore, yes, Love will win but we also are charged with living it into our world today. (1 Corinthians 13, Luke 10:25-37)

Maybe you still want to hate and exclude but, you can’t claim to be a Christian while doing it.

Peace Love and Acceptance

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

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Awake with Jesus: A Poem of My Night
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
I could have and I will
The night would not hold me
In the garden I’d stay
Awake with Jesus
All the way to the hill
Yes, I might deny him
Scared, I’m sure
But asleep you’d not find me
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
Because of my leg
But, still…

Calm Love

Good Friday: Love Rules the Day
As darkness spread across the land
And, it seemed to be bird in hand
The crowds were quiet
Their voices still
Imposing human
Over God’s good will
But God wasn’t daunted
So, neither should we
Change is coming, Eternally
Though, not just then
It is happening here
It’s happening both far and near
Take heart and hope, whatever they say
Right where you are, love rules the day.

Cross - Ashes

Today, isn’t a typical writing day for me. However, I’ve had the vulnerability of the characters in the scripture really present in my mind lately.

I will talk more about this in future posts as I’ll continue to explore the humanity on full display in holy writing. But, some of this really makes the most sense as we approach Easter, rather than after, so here I am.

I’ve continued to struggle with sleep which is largely a result of my post knee surgery life and so I’ve decided to put this struggle into verse. Why not? I’m awake.

More on that later too but for now you get a look into this world of mine as well as my belief that love is still somehow bigger even as I struggle. Maybe my words will resonate for you too. I’d love to hear from you.

Where are you struggling?

Where do you find love in spite of this struggle?

At the very least you get two poems from my sleep deprived brain so let me know what you think.

Wherever you are in all this, thanks for joining me on this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

If You See Me: A Poem and Reflection

In my previous blog post, Bob and the Pharisees, I reimaged the biblical narrative in John 9 so we might focus on a better, more inclusive story for all of us. This post was inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Below is a poem and a few questions to ask yourself based on these same events and experiences.

This week, as you reflect, please join me in asking,

  1. Who am I overlooking?

  2. What’s one measure I can take this week in working toward a better, more inclusive world for all people including those who find themselves on the margins of society?

Think of the power of doing just one thing brought about by these two simple questions. Powerful enough on its own. But, all our actions, joined together, could start a love revolution.

This is life as Jesus intended! So, spread the word and remember, “No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.”

This love includes you!

Pharisees

Poem: If You See Me.

It’s not my eyes but it is my legs.

If you see me

Think the one who begs

But not in the most biblical way

More like a prophet

With something to say

To be let in

One and all

That you include

The great and small

Just be the church

Who knowing the least

Remembers and shares with those like me

But more than me

Know everyone

And in this way

Reflect God’s Love

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

 

Bob and the Pharisees

This story is a reimaging of the biblical narrative in John 9 inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Today, I want to tell you about a man I know named, Bob.

Bob was born blind. Yet, for years, Bob struggled for others to see him. Wherever Bob went, some people insisted on restricting poor Bob.

His sight wasn’t a problem for him. Bob could do everything he needed or at least Bob could do as much as those who placed themselves in charge of deciding who’s allowed to participate in community thought he should do.

You see, Bob’s problem wasn’t Bob’s problem at all. Bob being a problem to those in charge was Bob’s problem.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? Sometimes, people with truly limited vision, and even more limited hearts, want to exclude others. I’m sure you know the type. Religious leaders, politicians, and their cronies come to mind here.

I’d urge them to be careful though. Exclusion is tricky business. One day, you use it to exclude someone else. The next day someone else uses it to exclude you.

These religious exclusionists don’t want to hear from me or Bob of course, thinking they have it all figured out, but I wish they’d trust me. I’ve seen a thing or two. However, for now, let’s get back to my friend, Bob.

Bob was lucky. Bob met Jesus one day in his travels.

I know, I know, those exclusionist religious types claim to know Jesus too. Maybe it’s a different Jesus, I don’t know? Besides. I’m not here to debate that today. I’m here to tell you about Bob.

Yes, Bob knew Jesus. He walked right up to him. The story seems almost unbelievable but it’s true.

Bob encountered Jesus when his disciples, which is fancy talk for following students, wanted to know why Bob was blind and, even worse, they wanted to know who was at fault for Bob’s blindness.

Poor Bob couldn’t catch a break it seemed but Jesus was about to change that.

After Jesus explained Bob’s blindness was nobody’s fault and that God could use Bob exactly as he is, Jesus went the extra mile to help others include Bob as well. He’s known to do this. Only, this part seems a little strange to me too. Strange or not, though, it worked.

Jesus took some dirt and made it into mud by spitting in it. (I know, right? Wait, it gets better!)  Next, he took the mud and rubbed it on Bob’s eyes. (Imagine this scene. Was he kidding?)

Except, he wasn’t kidding. Jesus then sent Bob to a pool called Sent for him to wash off this muddy eye paste. Perhaps Jesus did this to demonstrate that both he, Bob, and each of us are sent by God to bring our fullest possible stories for our collective benefit. Whatever the case, Bob could see!

Again, unbelievable! Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that his neighbors couldn’t believe it either then. Whispers began, “Is that Bob?”

Well, word got around as it does. Now, the religious follower types who would side with those in charge wanted to know what was going on. Surely, they couldn’t let just anyone join their grand temples. They had to protect the institution. Anyone with authority would understand. So, they hauled Bob off to the super religious leaders, the tops of the tops, for further interrogation.

Bob recounted his story. Except Jesus, and thusly Bob, were religious rule breakers. Jesus healed Bob on a day when no healing was to take place. Bob still could not fully participate in religious life as such. It would never happen this way!

Things got worse for poor Bob after that. Can you imagine? Jesus says, “You have gifts. I’m going to make sure you can use them to their maximum.” Alas, religious leaders, always getting in the way.

They didn’t even believe poor Bob was poor Bob. “Surely, he must be some kind of imposter Bob just as he is impostering his gifts,” they thought. What’s next if we allow this? Others blind imposters may want to use their gifts too! This ends now!

Pharisees

An idea sprang up. As smart as they are, religious types are never lacking for ideas. They sent for his parents. They would know their son was unqualified just as they would know this man was an imposter, wannabe faker. They asked the blind man’s parents, “Is this your son?”

“Yes,” their answer came. Shocking, I know, both the question and the answer!

“How is it that now he can see?” the leaders asked. “Who know?” came the answer from Bob’s parents. “We only know he is our son, ask him if you want more information.

Bob trudged forward as these gatekeepers tell him, no longer asking questions, “Give glory to God by telling us the truth! We know he’s a sinner.” (As is Bob and sinners have no place here is the understood implication.)

Now, Bob, getting a little steamed says, “Look, I don’t have an answer to all of your questions. All I know is he recognized my full personhood and my gifts which is something you didn’t do then or now. Do you want to be a follower of Jesus too? You must want to follow Jesus since you’re asking all these questions. Well, if you do, that’s cool, things are better when we are all included.”

The ultra-religious still didn’t get this inclusive notion of course. Bob’s thinking is far too outrageous. To preserve the institution and rules they created, Bob was thrown out rather than included.  Better to be safe than sorry.

But, what a guy, my friend Bob, even at his most frustrated, he wants to include others.

Just imagine a world where we let everybody live freely without exclusion or restriction? Bob knew the power of this all along. The problem never was Bob at all. He never missed a chance to recognize the value of others in front of him.

Fortunately for the rest of us we still have the opportunity to join forces with this bigger, inclusive love that accepts even those overlooked without restriction. It does what love does.

No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.