What Hope?

When I think about fear and shame and their connections with the compulsion to self-protection and harming ourselves and each other (perhaps a word to summarize that might be ‘sin’), in some ways it softens me. It helps me have compassion even on those who are harming others. In my best moments, it helps me have compassion even on those who are harming me.

At the same time, it reinforces the overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness that anything in life can actually be healed or improved. I might be able to fix something in my own life, but can life for all people everywhere ever get better? It seems unlikely.

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In God’s Likeness

I recently taught on the dangers and harms of judging others, speaking against each other, and elevating ourselves above other people based on James 4:11-17 at a worship gathering of my church community. As I read through that passage, and then through the whole book of James, another story came to mind. A story most of us have heard and believe we know well—so well we don’t often pay close attention to anything new in it.

I’ve been writing on that story here in bits and pieces, about Yahweh and Eve and Adam and Abel and Cain and about fear and shame and purpose and the patterns set and carried out through history. But I’ve been talking about the story instead of telling it. I told the story at that worship gathering, and now I’m sharing it here.

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Fruit

I’ve taken something of a break for the last couple months from writing. I’ve had my reasons, my challenges from carving out the time. Something similar happens when we as the church read our Bible. The passages I explored this Spring about Creation and the Fall, Yahweh and Adam and Eve get a lot of attention. Then there’s something of a break. We have our reasons, our challenges around noticing the shape of the literature we call Scripture.

I get it though. Sustained attention is hard. We break after the story of Adam and Eve, and then we go on to more familiar stories or the ones that seem more useful. Give us some Romans, so we know what to do with it. Stories are entertaining, but some nice, dense teaching is what gives us something to do, right?

So we leave the stories for the kids. Isn’t that right? When was the last time you heard a sermon on Cain and Abel, or Noah, or Samson (and why are we telling these stories about murder, the death of nearly every person in the world in one shot, and seduction and mass violence to children, by the way?)?

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Really Known

There is some vulnerability in sharing my ideas, especially considering how little I like conflict since there will always be someone who disagrees. But there’s not that much risk to it. I’m really good at being able to engage, share thoughts, talk about ideas, ask questions, and even answer questions about myself—all without really exposing anything really very real about me.
Shame and fear are there, and they’re real. And I am trying to learn stillness. To quiet the fear and transform the shame. To learn to trust and know the value and grace that are more real than any of the rest of it.

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Buses and Curses: Gender in Genesis

The year is 1996. A sixth-grade boy (Boy-Number-1) was on a school bus, and other students were filing on one-by-one trying to find a seat by a friend or at least in a spot that wouldn’t ruin their day. Another boy (Boy-Number-2), trying to explore what it was like to express an opinion like a man, overconfidently asserted something about women’s proper roles that illuminated much about the general level of sleaze he was being exposed to by the adults in his life.

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Naked

I’m a counselor in training, and a five-minute video about what the Dougy Center is all about wiped me out. Not only am I training to become a counselor, I don’t just want to be a listening ear that then responds by teaching people helpful skills or goes through a surface level, manualized, step-by-step response. I fully intend to support people in wrestling with deep issues of meaning and purpose and rewriting the narrative they use to define themselves and their lives.

And death and grieving are going to come up. They just are. What am I going to do if I can’t handle people’s grief?

So then I start questioning myself, and the shame starts to whisper and creep in, and I doubt whether I can be a good therapist. Just imagine it. The first day in a session after I get my degree, someone is going to walk in and need to process losing their child to cancer. And I’m going to freeze. And they’re going to leave worse than they arrived. And I’m going to have to retire on the first day because in good conscience I can’t keep doing that to people.

It’s the same struggle Eve and Adam faced in the Eden narrative. A choice between connection and purpose and joy on the one hand and shame and disconnection and death on the other hand.

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The Beginning of Fear

So what role did this lying, terrifying, accusing character, the serpent, have to play in a world that is so whole and interconnected and luminous as the creation we’ve seen in the first two chapters? Everything so far has had a divine purpose and cohesive role in the beauty of it all. Why the snake, and why a tree that ruins everything?

To this point, Yahweh designated humans as his representatives, the idol in the temple of creation. Yahweh made it clear he intended togetherness and connection among the humans, between humans and the rest of creation, and the most intimate sharing of life between Yahweh and humans. Yahweh withheld no good thing and gave more responsibility to humans than anything else.

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