Wednesday – July 24, 2019
“Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand!”
~The Little Mermaid
Word of Hope
I know that I’m not a woman, my gender identity is clear. But sometimes I feel like one in the sense that SO much of my life has been about reacting to the dominance of men and the most vicious kinds of masculinity.
I mean let’s just start with the core of it: the dominant religion of our country has a distinctly MALE God who we call Lord. And this God, if you don’t do what HE says and think what HE thinks, then he won’t only kill you, he won’t only strike you. No, he will TORTURE you forever with fire. And you are supposed to call this love.
And to just make it the perfect religious recipe for abuse: we are taught that he LOVES us and died for us, even though if we don’t do what he says, he will violently kill us and we should fear him.
And what do we call this God? Oh of course: Lord. We actually call him Lord. Not Lady, not Goddess. Never those. Lord.
Oh what a brilliant religion to maintain men in toxic power. Could you come up with a better narrative to weave deep into the mind if you were trying intentionally to establish a world where women could be abused and controlled?
And that’s just the beginning. It’s not like it doesn’t extend outside of religion. This toxic version of maleness was mirrored so well by so many men I grew up around: my parents decided we needed to switch school districts in 7th grade because a guy picked me off the ground by my throat. What’s crazy is this had already happened by 4th grade by a completely different guy.
I cannot begin to describe the terror I lived in of men, of guys, the number of times I was called a f*g, the profound sense of alienation I experienced for the way I talked and walked, sang and felt, not to mention the horror I experienced when I discovered I could get crushes on guys.
Men were my tormenters.
I lived in terror of the violence of men, of their cruel assertions of power and privilege, mostly because I was gay and everyone knew it. I was different, and I could not hide it.
And here’s the key point: it wasn’t men who I saw stand up to this patriarchy. It was WOMEN. I learned from WOMEN how to identify and reject this bullsh*t intimidation.
They are the ones who taught me, who held my hand long enough for it to turn into a fist.
I owe WOMEN my freedom, my power, and my knowledge. And so, in this way, I can’t help but feel like one of them sometimes. Even my Christian spirituality at this point is SO fundamentally shaped by women.
SO much of my life has been about trying to survive within a system of rampant toxic masculinity, and women have been my way out. Feminism and womanism have been my life-force. And the Goddess-religion that has come from that has been my freedom.
It’s in this way that sometimes I feel I am one of them, that I stand more with women than with men. All of these thoughts and feelings came pouring out this morning when the Little Mermaid song popped into my head, with words I so identify with: “Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand!”
Goddess of Freedom, Mother of us all, Black Lady, Maiden Divine, I come to You for strength and passion, for grit and rebellious might. I come to you in need of the power to overthrow those who would control me, those who would subdue me with force. I come to you that you might teach me and be with me, that together we might change this world, turn it upside down, make Love rule, and Freedom law. Mother of the Oppressed, hold all my tears, and turn them into iron to fight against men who would rule us all. Jesus-Woman, You who would die to resist the oppressors, who would hang on a tree before you would abandon us to the men who hung you, make me like you. Oh you, my Heart, make me like You. Amen.
***Just to be clear: I know I am a cis male and that I have experienced incredible privileges in life because of that.
Tyler James, LPC, MA
Tuesday – July 23, 2019
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30.21 ESV
A Word of Hope
God’s Spirit infuses each of us with gifts that are an aspect of the Divine.
Our gifts and our purpose are from God. They are placed within us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings us power, and our most authentically powerful selves directly connect to our willingness to operate from our purpose.
This verse in Isaiah made me think how much I’d love to have the voice of God as my GPS!
The truth is, I do. We all do. God was speaking, but I wasn’t always listening.
I believe that when we are young, we intuitively know our gifts and align ourselves with them.
As we grow older, fear, lack of clarity, and socialization clouds our knowledge and our purpose grows more elusive.
Since our happiness and fulfillment are directly linked to that alignment, it’s little wonder that our disconnection leaves us feeling depressed, anxious, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied with the gains we make. So that even if we visualize/get/manifest what we imagine will bring us happiness — the house, job, money, spouse, relationship, car, status, accolades — they ultimately fail to leave us fulfilled. As a result, we focus our energy and time on how to get, fix, change, attract, close, scale, leverage – i.e. manipulate – in attempts to gain the sense of satisfaction that only our alignment can bring.
If we would spend that same energy on excavating our God-given purpose, we would become happier, more fulfilled, and aligned people capable of giving our gifts to the world.
Because these gifts are given to us, but they are not for us.
They are for the rest of the world.
There is the kingdom of God.
Most Loving God,
Thank you for placing in each of us the gifts that not only fulfill us, but help to heal the world around us. Lead us through the voices around us that knock us off course and return us to the place where we hear the voice behind us saying, “Go this way. This is the path. Walk in it.”
And so it is. Amen.
Monday – July 22, 2019
Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3.13
A Word of Hope
During the war for independence Benjamin Franklin and his son were on opposite sides. It was commonplace for brother to be against brother, sister against sister, and even father against son. The tragedy of Cain and Abel where one brother slays another has been repeated throughout history everywhere there has been civilization. Today, those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice can hardly sit at the same dinner table. Political parties reflect divisions in family and state that are vaster than the greatest canyons. We forget that our enemies, or rather our neighbors, were all included in the love of God when the One Scripture calls God’s own son was sent into the hands of evil men.
I see a thin line between protesters on one side and protesters on the other: the left and the right. They are not holding hands like the people of my church who have come together to celebrate unity and oneness with the Creator. Back in the day, the protesters wore coat of arms. When one saw two opposing coat of arms it was known by all that what was coming next was war. Today, there are wars in the schools, wars in the church, and wars in the home, all representing different coats of arms or sides. I know at the Lord’s table everyone is invited because the Christ died so that all might have a seat on the same side together.
Who are you excluding from your table and who do you detest? With the same measure that you judge others you will be judged. Do not be so quick to exclude your fellow countrymen from your table because they disagree with you. There are many perspectives around the table just as there are many ways of seeing God. Love expresses itself tenderly through a mother, inspires wisdom like the patience of a father, and with the purity of a child. Love gives you many perspectives. We don’t all love the same things or in the same way, but we have the same God to love. If God is in everyone then the same God we love does not have merely one appearance.
Bring us back to Your table. Show us that enemies can be friends again. Revive this dead body of a country. We’ve lost our heart for one another and have forgotten how much we need each other. Dear Lord give us peace and understanding so that when we are angered by the constant injustices of the world we will remember that You told us it would be this way only for a time. Perhaps that time draws near. Make haste and bring us all together to the great feast.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – July 19, 2019
Do you know what I want?
I want justice – oceans of it!
I want fairness – rivers of it!
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
God, according to Amos 5:24 The Message
A Word of Hope
You may know this text from Amos in the more familiar words of the New Revised Standard Version: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness flow like an ever-flowing stream.” The first time I heard this verse was in my freshman college course on the “Old Testament.” I was shocked. I remember thinking, God cares about justice? Although my evangelical church taught me a lot about the Bible as I grew up out on the Minnesota prairie, there was no mention of justice. I can only guess that after teaching us all about sin, there was no space left in the curriculum.
The most recent time I heard this verse was in Stockholm, Sweden at the Nobel Museum. As part of a special exhibition in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they had tapes of some of his speeches. As I sat there listening with headphones, the tears flowed as I heard Dr. King so passionately quote this verse in Memphis on the night before he was killed. “It really doesn’t matter now,” he said referring to the threats against him, all the happenings around him. He knew what God wanted and had been working hard to make God’s dream come true. That is what mattered.
We can get caught up in the day to day “doings” of our faith or the “work” of the church. For the Israelites, it may have been incense, sacrifices and offerings. For us, maybe it’s stirring worship, amazing music, community building, conferences, trustee meetings and capital campaigns. Amos doesn’t think these things are important to God. No, God only wants one thing, justice and fairness, and anything else is background noise.
Maybe we’ve got too much clutter in the space between us and God. We need to hear God’s voice neat, like our whiskey. Straight up. No dilution. I propose to you that this is God’s word for you today and every day. “I want justice – oceans of it! I want fairness – rivers of it! That’s what I want! That’s all I want!”
May we hear and feel today the clarity, the passion and the urgency in God’s voice. And having heard and felt that, may we stir ourselves to action. Let it be so.
Thursday – July 18, 2019
Once in the village of Gubbio, a wolf was terrorizing both animals and people, the danger so severe that people took to arming themselves for protection. St. Francis, in compassion for all, offered to meet the feral creature on the road. When the wolf lunged to attack him, he raised a prayer, made the sign of the cross, and the wolf laid down at his feet, meek as a lamb. In the following weeks, Francis fashioned a peacekeeping pact between brother wolf and the community—providing food for the animal and safety for the people. (summarized from fisheaters.com blog)
A Word of Hope
I didn’t see it at first. The displaced board and the rip in the sturdy wire mesh beneath the gable vent. The scat on the roof, the size of the hole –and the force it took to rip it open—all indicated a raccoon invasion, a hunch confirmed the night I saw two eyes shining above me when I let the dogs out.
For some East Texas folks, a rifle offers a quick fix to the problem—and, truth be told, the destruction from raccoons can be considerable. But all created nature is of God, blessed as “good,” so one tenet of my spiritual discipline is “first, do no harm.”
I borrowed my neighbors’ humane trap, baiting it with tasty food, and set it out next to the house, planning to relocate the masked marauder with the help of a man in the neighborhood.
“Rocky” eluded us the first night, but we caught him on the second try, transporting him to a dense, forested area with a good fishing source on the lake. Then it was repair time, another morning’s work, another trip to “town” to get supplies. And that might have been the end of the story. But about bedtime that evening, a ruckus startled us—bumping, scratching, tearing. Inadvertently, we had imprisoned another raccoon who had been hiding in the attic. Though I was weary from the daily challenges and short on sleep, the next morning I called Will, my cohort, and told him we had to open the hole again. I could not be the cause of this death.
I have more work to do with my raccoon boarders and will continue my peace-keeping pact, remembering, as Thomas Berry says: “The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”
God of earth and sea and sky, forgive us our shoddy stewardship of your creation. May we walk gently in the woods, hearts filled with care for all that is yours. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)