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.

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

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

Nighttime: Are You As Tired As Me?

I’ve been in a funk lately. I hope to share more about this on Monday but, for now, I’m just tired. I want to sleep. To be embraced by the night; a time ironically when I often find myself awake. Still, there’s something comforting about the night, awake or asleep, that sometimes seems so elusive for me during the day. Acceptance – Even when you’re tired – I wrote a little about it.

Let me know what you think.

scenic view of forest during night time
Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

“Nighttime”
Morning
Quiet time
You speak of it softly
A time when mysteries unlocked find their place among the awake, the alert, the early risers
“Try it,” I’m told, this thing of beauty
Try rising with the light of day and be transformed
And, I’d like to find this space, this new morning life, I really would – This time of glory
It’s just that it comes so early
Early, not easy in this restricted body though, in truth, it’s never been easy – Even in my nimbler days
I much prefer the night
Its cast of characters, its shadows unlocking truths not so easily revealed in the daytime sun
Sure, this morning of which you speak seems a lovely sort, a perfectly fine fellow, I might even meet someone new who, until now, I’ve only known in passing
But, the night greets me like an old friend – the kind of friend not too warm or too friendly – and yet she is
She’s the kind of friend, we are the kind of friends, you meet, and you know, with a kind of understood silence
A silence that says, “Be who you are, we are in this together.”
So, I take my place, embraced by night, alongside the other daytime outcasts. The broken, the hurting, the misunderstood
Together we move through the darkness, though, it’s brighter than you think
Each of us helping the other find our way – Perfection not required, our scars not readily apparent as the would be at other times
Yet, even if they were, these scars more visible, it would be ok
This peaceful cover is provided for my comfort, for the night has accepted me long ago, just as I am, faults and all
The same is true of my people
In fact, we are the broken-unified as we journey together
Therein lies the beauty
Our salvation is found in the now
We are not told to come back at some ungodly hour
We are met right where we are, and we are loved
So, keep your morning sun-squinted eyes
Mine are more likely to be closed just then
And, it’s ok to be different
I mean, “Hi, my name is Chris and I’m a night person”
Besides, I wish you well
I’m just following the night
If God is everywhere, after all, God is there too
Finding me, loving me, loving each – Even long after most have gone to bed
This is my nighttime
This is my life

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

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Are You Afraid of Monsters?

Are You Afraid of Monsters?

“Bigfoot and Monsters”
I’ve searched for bigfoot and monsters
And stopped before I started
In order to protect myself
I’ve always been most guarded
This is no real way to live
Be free, my friend
Don’t hold but give
Away control most freely
Because life is wonder to create
To release, let go, empowering
So be quick to do it easy
Because as the years pass
The seasons change
Wisdom left your newfound gains
As bodies fade from glory
Just beyond our knowing room
Another field of flowers blooms
Love’s everlasting story

nature walking animal strong
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about bigfoot and monsters especially since the passing of Rachel Held Evans about whom you can read some thoughts in my post, Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans. We all have them, these bigfoots and monsters. Those things which keep us from living our fullest lives. Fears, insecurities and doubts, about ourselves and others, are in no short supply. This is particularly true when we are confronted with the finality of life but it can happen anytime.

However, the older I get, the more I realize life is not about trying to hold on and control. Frankly, we can’t control life anyway. Still, uncertainty is not really my biggest monster if I’m honest with myself.

The biggest monster I face is the one inside of me. True power is to release the control I don’t really have anyway, to let my monsters go, and to embrace the freedom God’s love offers me. Love makes me a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This is true for you too.

It’s both as simple as knowing I’m not God and as difficult as I want it to be.

There will always be worldly struggles, life and death, and I am called to speak out for love and justice as much I can. I do not have to add to my struggles, though, by fighting against myself.

So, let me ask you.

What are your bigfoots and monsters?

What’s one way you can let them go this week?

(One way you might do this is to repeat the words, “God is bigger than my monsters,” every time doubt creeps in.)

Beyond yourself personally, maybe consider, “If I encounter someone who is struggling this week, how can I remind them they are loved by God as well?”

In living this out, showing love for yourself and those around you, do you think your monsters might seem a little smaller?

Try it and let me know how it goes. 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans

Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans

I just read news that Rachel Held Evans passed from this world. I am overcome with grief even as I write this.

There is a reason I’m so drawn to people still figuring it out. I’m one of them. Though I never had the opportunity to know her personally, Rachel Held Evans was one of these people too.

There’s something beautiful about sitting amidst the messiness of life. It can be painful and difficult, absolutely. Now, is one of those times. But, it can also be freeing. This was Racel Held Evans’ testimony. I hope it’s mine too.

Please know, if you have doubts, questions, pain, or brokenness, you are not alone. If you sit in sadness this day, I’m right there with you. I’m literally wiping tears from my eyes as I write this. Sobbing at times, my sorrow will not be unattended.

Yet, even as I face these struggling times, when all I want is to cry out with my voice quivering and quaking unable to adequately express the depth of my anguish, I have hope. Hope for something beyond this broken world which seems unyielding in this moment.

My hope is that love is bigger.

Don’t worry. I’ll still have questions. It’s natural to have questions in a world where such wonderful spirits are gone from among us all too quickly. We just don’t mourn without hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

That’s something I’m trying to hold onto even in this moment. That when all the brokenness, suffering, pain, and everything else passes away, three things remain. Faith, Hope, and Love. Love is the greatest of these. (1 Corinthians 13)

As you read this, please let me know where you find hope today. Perhaps in our sharing we can find strength together. Right now, your words of comfort, compassion, and community would mean a great deal to me.

That’s what it’s about, right? Sitting together?

RIP good servant. Wherever you are may you know your time and witness here made a difference. You were a bringer of love, the kind of love that lives on beyond all that we see or the questions we have.

You may never have known the full impact you made but you made it with me. I’m grateful

Wherever you are this day, thank you for sharing this part of your journey with me. Remember always, in the realm of 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