{The Story, science and my son }

This week I’m sharing a simple story from motherhood under my roof. My son and I often tumble into interesting conversations. This time the talk centered on planets, stars and outer space type of things. Sometimes we get to help our kids see connections, sometimes we give them permission to explore and not be afraid. From time to time we even push a bit… do not be afraid of your curiosity, of connections, of science. This was one of those conversations.

My final post over at Deeper Story…

In case this is news to you – Deeper Story is closing their doors as of March 1st. Founder and Editor in Chief, Nish Weiseth, shares about the reasons in her own words here. It has been an honor to write at Deeper Story, to share in the creative stretch to tell stories and do so among a community of generous writers and great readers. I’m glad I accepted Nish’s invitation to show up each month. I’m deeply grateful for the friendships that emerged from this collective of writers. Now we take the good seeds and toss them far and wide, so that more stories will be told and more conversations hatched.

{ Jerusalem, Jerusalem }

Gathering

Each month SheLoves Magazine selects a theme for reflection. This month the word is GATHER. What stirred in my memory was Jesus saying he wanted to gather us like chicks under his mama-wings… Jesus wanted us huddled and pulled in close enough that we could be fed.

But once I was in the thick of the text I noticed another gathering. Jesus alluded to The Great Gathering that all the prophets spoke of, that God dreamed of, people from every direction coming home to Jerusalem on day. The picture is of building highways as pilgrims make their way to the temple to pray together in God’s House. In that house there would be no ethnic or denominational divisions, no linguistic barriers to a shared liturgy of worship, no fracture would break the harmony of our collective song.

This picture of The Great Gathering can only happen in the New City, where we embody the radical inclusion Isaiah spoke of, a kind of city where eunuchs and foreigners not only get in but find full acceptance. It has to be in the New City, where all who enter have already melted swords down into more useful tools, entering the city unarmed of every weapon, hatred and hostility. Only in that shared stance of acceptance and vulnerability can we overcome our fears and prejudice of others and gather as God intended, as God dreams.

This vision of gathering keeps me up some nights. What would it be to come together despite all the reasons not to? What would it be like to stand side by side with those we’ve never seen eye to eye with before and find ourselves in shared space? What would it be like to so enjoy each other that we gave no thought to who is more orthodox, more pure, more devoted? What a great dream, what a Great Gathering.

My offering today feels like a beginning. Honestly, the piece doesn’t feel finished to me. I imagine I’ll be in process with this idea of The Great Gathering for many nights to come…

Here is my post at SheLoves Magazine.

 

The Best Reads of 2014

Great August read...

Great August read…

So 2014 hasn’t been the year I dreamed it would be, if I’m honest. But this isn’t a post about that. This is about the books read that will have a lasting impact on me beyond the last word, the last day of the year, or the words “the end.”

The best Brueggemann book read in 2014 is Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. In this small volume Brueggemann dips into the depths of Sabbath and it’s meaning in the text and in our current context. The book is approachable and challenging at the same time.

The best book on how to read Scripture well goes to Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did by Derek Flood. (Also, there should be award for that subtitle, I mean, really.) This book was recommended by Brian McLaren and I devoured it in two days. How did Jesus interpret Scripture? What a great question. And once we can see how Jesus handled Scripture, how can we follow His interpretive strategies? Though provoking from the first chapter.

The best book illuminating another view of God’s work goes to Mourner, Mother & Midwife: Reimagining God’s Delivering Presence in the Old Testament by L. Juliana Claassens. The fact that this book is written by a South African woman and theologian doesn’t hurt, I have a deep connection to South African thinkers. This project looks at another way of seeing God’s delivering activity – not only as an aggressive warrior king delivering through battle, but how God is described as delivering through birth, nurture and even lament. Stunning work which helped me see the ‘softer side’ of deliverance, which is bursting with life and fresh imagery for how God liberates us.

The best book about Our Story goes to We Make The Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation by Brian McLaren. My favorite book by Brian over the years has been the first I read, The Story We Find Ourselves In. I instantly resonated with his seven movements of the story – Creation, Crisis, Call, Conversation, Christ, Community and Culmination. This understanding of Scripture made sense to me and gave me the big sweep of the story in a way that allowed me to see where I fit within it. His most current release, he develops this schema further. I love revisiting our story, entertaining fresh nuance that he’s developed over the years, and seeing the overlap with the church calendar. Such a lovely work – even if you read it in a few days (instead of over the year) like I did!

The best book confronting the problem (and presence) of violence in our faith is A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd. In this book Zahnd unpacks the violence in his own previous understanding of the Bible and unpacks the Gospel of Peace he discovered in recent years. I appreciate his honest telling of his change of heart as well as the great exegesis embedded in each chapter. A well written and deeply rich read. (Also, he will be speaking at the Simply Jesus Gathering this coming April in Denver… you don’t want to miss out on the chance to meet him and discuss these ideas in person!)

The best book about darkness, liminal space and faith is Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. She writes, I swoon. This is a woman who knows how to make metaphors vibrate with meaning and open fresh vistas with each sentence. Here she explores the dark side of life and faith which I found so refreshing. I think, to use her words, I’m given to lunar spirituality more than the solar variety. Her writing never disappoints…

The best fiction book I read this year was Americanah by Chimanda Adiche. I’m not much of a fiction reader, much to the chagrin of most my friends. But I’m so glad I read this one on the recommendation of D.L.Mayfield. I loved discussing bits with my writing group friends (I think we’ve all read it now, right?) and the women of SheLoves Magazine who read the book for a Red Couch selection. But I most savored the conversation about the characters and circumstances of the story with my Kenyan friends as we drove down into the Rift Valley together this summer. How great that we’d all read her words and connected with this story! I think they added to my enjoyment and understanding of the book. This is a great story about Africans, Africans in America and the spaces in-between both continents.

The best book I read amid the crisis in Ferguson was Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman. This book was carried around by Martin Luther King, Jr. and informed his own thinking about race, theology and no doubt shaped his engagement in the Civil Rights Movement. Reading this book alongside my Twitter feed was sadly surreal in that not much has changed in the intervening years. Not enough has changed, even in the wake of civil rights and the election of our first African American president. This book gives historical context to a conversation that continues today.

The best book about the way forward in Palestine that I’ve read this year is A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine by Mark Braverman. I remember reading Mark’s earlier book, Fatal Embrace, one summer in Burundi. Another work worthy of wide readership, in my opinion. In this current volume I appreciated the connections Mark made between South Africa and Palestine. His exploration of the Kairos Document and what it meant in SA and could mean in the Middle East captivated my imagination. This is another great read for those wanting to learn more about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. (Oh, and Mark will also be at The Simply Jesus Gathering in April… and he is a firebrand in the pulpit! He’s also a gentle and generous person in conversation… Come join is in Denver, seriously.)

There are some honorable mentions this year…

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles

Song of Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai-Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb by Fr. Paul Glynn

A Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright (it is worth the long, slow, good read)

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Amber Haines (I had the honor and luxury of reading the manuscript. You’ll need to wait until August to get your hands on a copy, but oh my, please do! This is a lyrical and lovely memoir so rich in goodness you cannot afford to miss it. And you can pre-order on amazon, which I highly recommend…)

But there are two books that make my BEST READS OF 2014…

Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation by Naim Stifan Ateek

This was the first time I read a book written by a Christian Palestinian, the first time I considered what it was like to read the Biblical narrative from the stance of a Palestinian who followed Jesus. This read was nothing short of revolutionary for me – in ways I cannot even fully articulate to date. But this book has changed me and how I read Scripture. If you want to encounter Scripture in a new way, to have the script as you’ve known it flipped and if you are open to reading with fresh insight offered from someone writing from the margins, this is a book for you in 2015.

Lamentations and Tears of the World by Kathleen O’Connor 

It seems odd that a commentary on Lamentations would make my best list, right? But this short commentary on the five chapters of Lamentations broke open the depths of lament for me. This book was the best devotional for me amid the turbulence of the past six months – the words of Scripture so poignant and powerful for days such as this. This is a masterfully written, very accessible and potent read for anyone who longs to expand their lexicon and ;practice of lament. It scrubbed my soul in all the right ways…

There are many other great reads that didn’t make the Best List, but will stick with  me. And my nightstand is still heavy with other anticipated reads as I begin 2015. No matter what year it is, there never seems to be enough time for all the great books!

What were your two Best Reads of 2015?

{ This Advent, We Mourn }

D_KELLEY11

Our streets tremble these days. They quake with so much wrong and woe. How can we think of green garlands and twinkle lights, or send carolers out on the streets still stained with the blood of our sons?

Ashen mothers offer their call and response from one street corner to the next, a slow dirge then an anguished cry. They clutch graduation portraits to their chest. Stand in front of cameras testifying to the humanity of their children, the inhumane means of their death. They dress in black.

These women know the funeral liturgy by heart, by hearts broken time and time again as brothers, nephews, uncles and neighbors fall.

Emptied arms. Graves too full of brown bodies given no benefit, only doubt compounded by suspicion and a profiling that springs from the dark crevices of our skewed humanity.

It goes on and on like this, the woes echoing down broken roads marked with potholes and the residue of chalk outlines.

Sing with us the sad songs of loss. Keep your carols of joy for another neighborhood.

Read the rest over at SheLoves Magazine today. It is the final lament in the four part series Diana Trautwein and I offered this season. Advent gives us space to lament, space to remember why we so desire the arrival of a deliverer…

Exodus Strong

Exodus is my favorite story in the Hebrew Bible. It is a foundational narrative that never ceases to offer rich metaphors, deep challenges and new trajectories. There is a reason we hear the drumbeat throughout the Torah and the rest of Scripture: “Remember, remember, remember when you were once slaves in Egypt.”

I still cannot shake the imagery of the brickyard first introduced to me by Walter Brueggemann. He made the brickyard, the incessant quotas, the fears and power of Pharaoh converge for me into a thicker understanding of the context. He helped me see what was at stake in the space between the brickyards and the Red Sea. This was when I began to develop an appetite (now insatiable) for liberation.

Exodus is a freedom song, an anthem that reminds me of our epic story and it’s salvific arc. Exodus reminds me that we’re not destined for brickyards and unending production, and helps me see why Sabbath matters to everyone. Embedded in Exodus is an archetypal tale of adoption, bicultural living and the struggle to embrace the goodness and complexities of both. Exodus also takes us out of Egypt, across the wilderness into a land where a new kind of trust is required for a new kind of King. There will be a new law and fresh challenges for people now working out their freedom on the other side of the brickyards. It is, indeed, a long walk to freedom (to quote Nelson Mandela).

Most recently I’ve been thinking about the women of Exodus, call them ladies of liberty. There is something about them we dare not miss… and this is what I shared with my friend, Rachel yesterday.

Rachel Held Evans has curated a conversation on her site about Exodus, beginning with Four Perspectives on Exodus. She kindly invited me as a last minute addition. I invite you to click on over and learn from all the offerings…

Read the Four Perspectives of Exodus here!

{ Deeper Story: none to comfort }

Day One child

I used to anticipate Christmas. I anticipated The Birth, the joy and the peace. The weeks of waiting, called Advent, intensified the arrival of the baby. The purple-clad days of Advent and its slow burning candles allowed Christmas to burst bright red on the scene, to sound like a crescendo across the landscape. Now I anticipate differently.

I await the redemption of the broken down places and the fractured ways of the world. It’s a longing not quickly resolved by midnight mass or Christmas morning glee. It’s a long-suffering that lingers year after year.

So many Christmases come and go, come and go. Still people remain estranged, hungry, terminally ill, at war, abandoned, raped, victims of hate crimes and racial profiling, vulnerable to abuse and harassment and loneliness. And the coming of Christ hasn’t stopped the genocide, the apartheid, the female infanticide or all the assorted phobias. We remain a city in ruin, our world smoldering. There seems to be none to comfort, none to extinguish our pain.

The rest of this lament can be found at Deeper Story…

{ I am the betrayer }

SL lament resp

Often times personal lament and confession overlap. There are moments we see ourselves amid the ashes and we complain, confess, speak out our part in the wrongness of things. Reading the lament Diana offered, this one phrase haunted me relentlessly:

“And sometimes, the betrayer is me.”

I love my brown brothers and sisters. Yet as I scour my own upbringing, I see how my words and actions have betrayed otherwise. It is a systemic wrong, but also a personal one I cannot deny.

“Too often, those who say they love you,
betray you with their words and their actions.
And sometimes, the betrayer is me.” –Diana Trautwein

I am the betrayer.

I am the one who has betrayed my brown brothers and sisters in subtle but undeniable ways. I’ve snickered at ebonics and rolled eyes at names so obviously from a community other than my own. I failed to see names as a way of resistance, a refusal to be assimilated–names as a claim to another place and culture thick with meaning and the power to shape.

I remember laughing (in the privacy of my home) at Kwanza. Instead of seeing people reaching back through history for connection and a celebration with distant kin, I turned my face away and mocked.

Grabbing from so many different African traditions to try and create one festival seemed like grasping for the intangible. So I shook my head. Instead of being open to the possibility that some of that tradition from their motherland would offer nourishment, offer hope, offer God With Us in a way my white Christmas never could.

I betrayed my brothers and sisters when they deserved my love in word and deed.

Read the rest of my response, this lament, over at SheLoves Magazine.

some to comfort

SL candle

Everyone wants to deck the halls with blaring reds and shining silvers, eager to rush into celebration. We love the Christmas music, old and new, the blow-out sales and conjuring of merriment. We say the season is laced with magic and miracles amid the snow and woolen scarves. We don joy.

But Advent is the season of purple hues and dark blues. It is the cool colors, the chill before the celebrations of good cheer. In this season of hush we light a candle, just one, against the darkness. We illuminate the thick shadows catching a glimpse of the gloom, as dense as the galaxy is deep.

We are given space to say, out loud, what we know to be true. The world is not yet right. Too many neighborhoods have slipped into disrepair and live with too little justice, too little hope. Too many families find themselves below the poverty line, unable to make a living wage, unable to keep the heat on or food on the table. We see too much jury-rigging and too little jubilee, gerrymandering that misrepresents our impoverished neighbors and only serves the privileged more benefits and more power in the system.

Advent pushes against the ringing bells and bobble-clad trees. We are called to see through the smoke and mirrors of our consumer-oriented culture. We’re meant to feel the angst of inequity, even the anger of injustice. Like the daughter of Zion in Lamentations we cry out for a witness – someone to see, to look, to pay attention to the state of things. Will anyone say what we know to be true – things are not yet right.

I begin Advent with a lament. I begin, I hope, with eyes to see and ears to hear those around me who can tell it true. If you cry out from the fringe of the city – may I hear you. If you protest in the streets and shut down highways – may I hear you. If you say the scales of justice are weighted against you and your sons – may I hear you. If you describe your fears – may I hear you and not turn a deaf ear.

May I be a witness to those who mourn. A witness who watches, who ingests the rawness of ruin and finds herself amid the ashes. Maybe my own cries will echo those of my brothers and sisters, maybe I will wail with them in uneven unison. Maybe my presence will offer compassion. Maybe we can become some to comfort, some to comfort, some to comfort.*

I pray this Advent that my small act of witness can transform me into an accomplice for justice.

*The drumbeat of Lamentations is ‘none to comfort, none to comfort, none to comfort.’ It haunts me. In a devastated landscape, Zion’s daughter finds none to comfort her. She mourns alone and made more alone as no one, not even God, will see her pain. I want to raise my hand and say ‘I will comfort!’ But I know I have much to learn about how to sit alongside the broken-hearted and be any kind of comfort at all. But it is my deep desire this Advent to learn the ways of true comfort for those who mourn in lonely exile here.

 

{ Red Letter Christians: Adoption Lament }

adoptionlament

“What was her name?” my daughter asks. “Did anyone save a picture of her?” “Do you know where her house is so I can see where she lived?”

Her questions come fast these days; always asked with great curiosity and sometimes intensity. A salvaged photograph would mean she could see what her birth mom looked like – do we share brown skin, did I get my long lashes from you, is there any resemblance between us?

At night she burrows in between the duvet and me. Her long fingers interlaced with mine, she giggles into my ear and declares that she wants yet another hug. She closes her eyes with a gentle smile under my waterfall of ‘I love you’s. Our connection is secure, even as her curiosity is incessant.

I understand. After all, I have a birth mom, too. I don’t wonder about her name, how she looked or her address. I’ve never been interested in the details beyond her relinquishing me to an adoption agency, the good one that introduced me to my own mother. But I know deeply, somehow, what it is not to know and accept never knowing as part of adopted living. Maybe it is the price for redemption.

Read the rest at Red Letter Christians…

{ Deeper Story: of wisdom and women }

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis // taken in Burundi one summer afternoon

PHOTO CREDIT: Tina Francis // taken in Burundi one summer afternoon

Reading through Proverbs lately I noticed, as if for the first time, the preponderance of women. They are everywhere among the words of wisdom. There is Lady Wisdom, the great personification, and the lesser Folly. We meet wives, mothers, an adulteress and the woman of valor among many other women offering instruction to all who would listen. I could imagine a reader nearly missing the wisdom for all the women, missing the forest for the many and varied trees.

The book of Proverbs is unique in this way, the presence of women front and center. Few other books in the Hebrew Bible feature women, allowing them to move from background to center stage quite like this collection.

Maybe their place in the spotlight has something to do with troubled times. This collection came together, after all, amid the critical rise of the monarchy and the later collapse of it. When the nation of ancient Israel underwent periods of crisis true wisdom was found, not in the royal courts or among the priesthood, but round the table eating your wife’s food or under your mother’s roof. Wisdom was cultivated in that space where women were present and had much to offer when it came to thoughtful reflection on the practices for good living.

But that isn’t the only connection between women and wisdom in Proverbs…

Read the rest over at Deeper Story…