It’s going to be great! #umcgc

Today during the Connectional Table address we heard from Hannah Foust, a 14 year old missionary who works for clean water around the world. One thing that kept sticking to me from her comments was her thanking the church for inspiring her and believing in her. She said that she came into her call because of pastors willing to “go out on a limb and let a little girl fill their pulpits.”

This was a great reminder for my heart, because the same was true for me. It is so easy to get down trotted and stuck on the places in the church and the world that are not built for all people. Especially watching the complicated and messy processes at GC that leave out or make difficult to include a lot of voices.

But I am also being continually reminded that God takes systems and circumstances that were not built for us, and transcends and subverts them to create something new and to call new people. Even in places where some of us are not always invited or always being taken seriously or always trusted to do a good job, The Spirit often invades.

For me, part of my call was having a retired Bishop and Annual Conference take the time to chat with me about college and ministry and my plans for the future. He later proclaimed to the entire Annual Conference that I was pursuing a career in ministry, something I had not yet sorted out. But the encouragement and counsel I received after that moment was really crucial to my discovering my call for myself too. So even in the confusion of a short conversation and the misreported prophecy from the podium, God was at work in an unexpected way.

Kylie Campbell is one of our young adults in Portland. Kylie first became involved in this kind of church work when she was a youth serving on the SPRC at her local church. Kylie remembers a review of the pastor where people were incredibly critical and she was surprised at how they treat hi, and each other looking back on it, Kylie says that she tries to handle church conflict with grace and remember that “there might be ugly things happening, but that doesn’t mean they are ugly people.” She says she tries to maintain her tender heart toward others

Ethan and Kevin Gregory have both been along for the ride with me since we were youth serving on Student Leadership Team together. So, personally, it is incredibly exciting to be serving together as adults now. Ethan graduates from Perkins tomorrow (from Portland!) and serves at Arborlawn. Ethan first became interested in policy and polity when he was a youth at Annual Conference, watching everyone elect delegates and prepare for GC 2008. While many people remember these types of elections as mostly a drag because they take so long, in that space God was planting a seed of a special passion for Ethan. Kevin remembers leading a prayer in his home church and first meeting his new pastor when she came to him and said “you know you’re called to ministry, right?” When Kevin told her had already been exploring that call she said, “it’s going to be great.”
This is he same hope I pray for to hold onto during GC and all the time. That we would cling to the gentle ways that God speaks to us in the mundane and the ugly and exciting and the beautiful. That we would have the humility to go out on a limb on behalf of people that God has created for all these places and purposes that are not easily accessible to them. And that we would have the trust and the enthusiasm to continually proclaim that “it’s going to be great.”

Intercultural Babysteps at #UMCGC

Something that has been super interesting to see so far at General Conference has been the ways in which we navigate the “worldwide nature of the church.”

The convergence of different cultures manifests itself in big big ways: status of women in the global church, the global budget, education for clergy, and of course how we treat LGBTQ folks in our churches.

But it also affects the more logistical, smaller ways that we interact with each other.

I ate lunch today with a clergy delegate from Liberia. As we ate our chicken wraps, he mentioned that food isn’t served cold (like ice cold, too cold….;) in his culture. I also noticed that while a lot of the U.S. delegates ventured out for lunch, a large number of the people that stuck close to the convention center were from Central Conferences. So why are we eating something most of these people would not pick?

It was communicated before the Conference that all delegates would be wearing headphones to get the translation of the speakers. This is a different procedure than having only non-English speakers receive translations. But so many of the English speaking delegates didn’t even pick up their headphones let alone wear them.

When the food isn’t enjoyable and accessible to everyone, when the translation efforts don’t work, when delegates can’t understand you even if you do decide to speak, these can be framed as easy things to ‘get over.’ Lots of little things don’t seem like as big an issue (when it isn’t happening to you) in comparison to big big issues that haunt these spaces and conversations.

But on the other end, these small acts of gentle consideration are much simpler to do for others than the commentary we might have to offer on these big big issues.

What are the ways we can embrace the worldwide nature of the church personally even when we don’t have easy answers for other things we struggle with together?

‘vulnerability is subversive’

These are some ideas from my senior capstone paper on vulnerability, the imposter phenomenon and activism. If you’re interested in learning more, let me know!

Vulnerability is when we make the decision to share something of ourselves, or engage in work that might put us at risk for criticism, ostracization or other types of harm.  Deciding to do activist work despite the possibility of putting oneself in some kind of jeopardy is a marker of courage. Being able to continue your work and your existence despite being attacked or wounded or rejected, is a marker of strength.  

 

When I first began doing some social justice work, I always felt like I was doing the wrong thing, like I did not belong, I over analyzed every thought and action to the point where I didn’t really let myself do anything. Now, Instead of letting this shame guilt me into disengaging, I am learning to use it as a reminder of the importance of my work. Because if I feel this isolation, guilt, smallness, other people must feel it, too. While it may feel safer to live under this shame, go with the flow, keep my head down we have to leave homeThis is the lie of oppressive structures: that if you keep your head down, you will be protected: this makes activist work feel dangerous, vulnerable, avoidable, when in actuality certain people are always vulnerable to manipulation and marginalization under these structures, making activism necessary.  Gloria Anzaldua writes:“there are no safe spaces.” 

So while I maybe cannot silence these fears or find a place where no one ever shames me for being a bad activist, I can find ways to live with them. I can go back to the places that inspired me to do this work, spend time figuring out what fears are born or empathy and what fears are born of shame, and letting empathy guide my work without letting shame quelch it. I’ve only started to come to this place because I’ve been really lucky to be involved in communities that encourage me, support me, and provide great models of community care for me. 

 

Because people have taken the time to do some of these things for me, my world has changed. I owe a lot to the people who have been courageous enough to venture out from underneath the shame that society places on them to point out injustices that other people were not seeing. Even though I am afraid that the shame and fear that tells me not to engage is right, I do the things that give me courage to be vulnerable, to take the risk that others took for me, and that in itself is continuing a legacy of activism. Activist work is courageous not out of the absence of fear and vulnerability, but because of that vulnerability.

As Brene Brown writes, “In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive.”

 

A love letter to my alma mater

From the day I finished my last assignment:
Today I printed my final copy of my capstone and turned in my last assignment of college. I had $2 left in print dollars so I was stoked to be printing $1.75 on my last thing(!!!). But then.The printer stopped. It said “open rear drawer…jam in bottom tray…BAD LOCID.” and other bad. bad. bad. printer words. I dismantled the whole thing. I stood there holding sad printer guts in one hand and ripped shreds of capstone in the other hand.

Since SU has taught me zero healthy strategies for problem solving, I went to the library to cry in front of the Info Desk. There I met probably my last new friend at SU. I looked at her and said “I broke my capstone and I have no money.

She looked at my sad pages and told me to forward her my paper. She printed the whole thing with her own personal print dollars. It really is so special to have people be sweet to you because they understand you even if they don’t actually know you. It’s a little big world that appreciates hard work and helping each other out. And even though we fail to do that to each other in so many ways, it’s such a nice reminder as I graduate that some people in the world that don’t have to route for me, do. So thank you beautiful, wonderful InfoDesk Student Worker for happying my heart the most. I hope people are kind to you when you graduate and run out of print dollars, too.

 

From the day after graduation:

Today as I packed up my little blue house in Georgetown, I found my journal from my first year at SU. It was a treasured present from a sweet couple that saw things in me I did not see yet. Sprawled on one of the pages is a line from the first message I preached at a Wednesday night worship service as an intern.

“Hearts and minds are more like muscles than they are bones.”

Even if I knew the words then, I had no idea how much stretching my heart and mind would be doing in my time at SU.

I hate that Southwestern was not always safe for people it should have protected. I hate that there were times when we lost good and beautiful things because of misplaced priorities. I hate that people peed in the trashcans in the library and jeopardized our 24 hour privileges.

But I am so grateful for complicated questions and thick, heavy silences in Dr. Kafer’s Intro to Feminist Studies class. I will remember fondly the overwhelming joy of discovering friends whose hearts feel too big like mine does. I have met more puppies in Dr. Hob-O’s office than the rest of my life combined–that is basically magic, y’all!  And it is a blessing that the ugly and messed up things I encountered here made me stretch instead of break. And even more so that those things were accompanied by the very best friendships, the very best learning, the very best shady places to read Anzaldua. I am so thankful for the stretching–I think my heart and mind are bigger now than they could have been in any other alternative reality. I learned how to be emptier and fuller than I ever thought I could be–what a joy.13170761_10209902208135823_620427022_o

The Problem With Young, Flower-Wearing, Feminist Youth Directors

…and everyone else.

Today I read the post that criticized preachers (especially young preachers, the blog reiterates) for using lectio divina as part of their sermon preparation, arguing that it was taking a subjective approach rather than an objective approach.

Completely separate from the messiness of negating the Spirit’s role in preaching, and limiting access to The Word and all kind of other things this argument can spiral into….this really gets to me.

Because this says young preachers are all about their own feelings when they preach, and that type of sharing is not valuable.

This bothers me because I’m tired of “young preachers” or “young people” being convicted of pushing the church down dangerous slippery slopes (especially when ministry is one field where many of the people who are new or inexperienced are not young, but are second[or 3rd or 4th]-career).

Because I’m tired of glorifying the hyper-masculine expectations on people in ministry to match a successful US politician, or successful businessman–expectations that say I should have a voice that sounds like I could have been a founding father, a body that looks like I could have fought in a war, and I should match only the well-off, middle-aged, established, white parts of the church I serve. (And that since none of these things fit me, I should be satisfied with being adorable and funny.)

Because the Church should be the place where I don’t get written off for “having a chip on my shoulder.” Where it matters that I read the Greek to see what’s going on. Where I’m not shut up before I respond by being lumped into the “young preacher” problem.

The real young preacher problem is the same as the old preacher problem (or the blogger problem.) It’s that we figure that we’ve got it figured out and we’ve stopped listening to the experience of people that have come before us, people that are coming after us, and the people we missed because we didn’t make space for their voices at the very start.

 

 

Socially Just Youth Ministry WINS: $1 Water Bottles

 

 

 

 

 

I’m taking part in an AWESOME Lenten adventure with Leanne, Jarrod and some great college friends. WE are studying the Social Principles and helping each other find new ways to use them in our ministry settings. So I’ve decided to make this helpful conversation even more helpful by sharing the easiest and most important highlights for youth workers. 

The first one is ONE DOLLAR WATER BOTTLES. 

 

If you buy a pack of waters for your youth event from WalMart, you will pay 40 cents for each bottle. But to hydrate one youth on a hot day for a little over an hour would take three bottles, which already costs more than buying a reusable bottle. 

I got these during our Spring Break Mission Trip at Target from the dollar section:

Image

 

 

I know most of us get reusable bottles on Mission Trips, but having reusable bottles or cups for even on-campus events and weekly programming could make a huge difference for us in trying to be better stewards of our funds and our environment. 

AND on top of that, you are able to fight for justice by discouraging the privatization of water and the slavery or unfair working conditions that can be employed somewhere along the line your water travels down. 

You can learn more about bottled water here.

You can read the Social Principles here.

And you can get cute and cheap water bottles at Target. 🙂 

 

 

Pick three.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

1. We are reading texts on liberation theology in my Christian Traditions class. And I’ve been thinking about how there are people in our congregations and pulpits and blogospheres that still think we can extend relentless mercy without questioning the structures that contribute to poverty and discrimination. There are people who think justice should be sought, but that it is not their calling. There are people that think God speaks of the same brand of justice that fines, imprisons, and executes. Making wrong things right is not a punishment, it is investigation and healing and restoration–mercy at the root.

2. There are people who question if our Church is a Church because a handful of people do exactly what the largest democratic institution in the world voted on them doing. We simplify our justice to fit neatly within US borders, but to fall outside the borders of the laws we have built around ourselves. True justice considers implications beyond a moment and understands that ministry comes from Grace and not resentment. Anger should be used as fuel for change, not as a lens for the disposition in how we engage one another. 

3. Humbleness is not born in passive aggressive conversation/prayer, in criticism at the fall of false hope, at dying on hills we have built from out of own too-small-understanding of God. It is thirsting for guidance and following passionately and gently to the place prepared for us. 

5 Notes On Dating For Girls

cropped-hands.jpgA response.

1. A definition of intentional

The intentional woman dates people she likes, people who respect her, and pursues people while being pursued by them. Expecting someone else to ask you out without giving any indication that you like them is asking someone to be creepy, forward and awkward. Your thought process should always be: “I like this person and want to spend time getting to know them and being around them,” and not “This person has asked me out, I am going to go out with them to see if I want to spend time getting to know them and being around them.” You have more agency over who you spend your time with than that. You deserve more than a few awkward seconds between “do you want to go out?” and “yes/no.” You deserve to think about your dating decisions as much of anyone else of any gender.

2. Don’t let the person you are dating stop growing

In an effort to avoiding “trying to change people” sometimes we feel like we have to “accept them the way they are.” And you do. But if you are going to grow with whoever you are dating, you need to expect that person to be growing, too. That being sad, it’s okay to be with someone that still has things to work on, because you won’t date anyone ever if you don’t think that is true. We all need to be growing all the time.

3. Never go on even one date with anyone who you have any reason to not trust.

Do not get in a car with anyone you have any reason to believe will not bring you home when you want to go home.

Do not meet anyone at night who would have any reason to not want to meet you in the day.

Do not spend any amount of time with anyone who you have any reason to believe will not respect and value you.

Anyone.

4. Guard your heart

Don’t let a person you are dating be the source of your every emotion–good or bad. Don’t let that person be in charge of your heart. Find someone who brings you closer to God. Pursue God until you find someone moving in your direction and speed. It is arrogant for a person you are pursuing/who is pursuing you to think that they are in the ultimate position to hurt you, because you decide where people fall in your life and the ones you bring the closest are the ones you trust. Don’t trust people who don’t deserve it, don’t trust people who want the opportunity to be so close to you they could break the good things you have. God have you strength and confidence and peace that is yours alone, who you are dating has nothing to do with your possession of those.

5. Physical touch

Your physical relationship with a person is something the two of you decide together. It is not romantic for someone to kiss you/hug you/grab your hand if you tell them you don’t want them to. No one’s passion for your presence or touch should ever trump the respect that have for what you think and say. It is your responsibility as much as any one you are dating to maintain a healthy, appropriate, loving physical relationship. Also, if someone equates their actions toward you to those that your dad has, that is not sweet. It means they feel like they are in charge of you and they don’t actually feel that way-they are using that as a mechanism to not be tempted by you. You deserve someone with a faith strong enough and enough self discipline that they can feel romantically toward you without taking advantage of you or making unhealthy, inappropriate physical decisions.

Why Content is Purpose

Experienced: So this summer I am working at a Talent Science company (pre-employment assessment, coaching and development strategies, applicant tracking–the whole sha-bang!). I’m working on revamping their sales certification program which means lots of hanging out with charming salesmen (some with accents!), reading old training files (some also with accents, less charming) and writing a comprehensive curriculum so a new sales rep can go through my program and be TOTALLY READY to take on the world and sell, sell, sell this product.

For those of you who know me well, this won’t come as a huge surprise, but for those who don’t–I love writing curriculum. I am genuinely passionate about it. Granted, I usually write for 12-18 year old kiddos that I love, teaching them about Jesus who I also love. 

This project for the summer has proven to be massive and ever-changing. As I’m nearing the end of my internship, I’m too this weird place where there is purpose-driven visioning discussions happening, and my project gets thrown into the mix of it.

So here is Marianne, immersed in curriculum development–charts, interactive scare simulators, bullet points whirling around my cubicle–whenall my content has to be questioned, because it may not fit into the new pursued purpose.

So I am stress and biting, broken finger nails and tired, typing shoulders and screen-strained eyes and whirlwind mind full of nothing but: fine curriculum creation and breathing…when I go to the Half-Price Books. 

Observed; I go to the “Christian Living” section looking for an awesome book a friend mentioned recently when I notice a copy of “Good News About Injustice.” And I read the back cover about how God has called and equipped Christians to be a “witness of courage in a hurting world” but loving on our neighbors the way they were created to be loved. That means really, actively engaging in social justice. 

I thought it was neat and unlike a lot of the things in the section. Then that was troubling to me.

I wouldn’t be able to count the number of books that teach about saving yourself for marriage or not reading Rob Bell (both entirely separate issues…) but I only found one telling us to step up and starting fixing the things that are afflicting our neighbors. 

That content doesn’t show our purpose.

Or does it?

Questioning: The company I’m interning at has a specific mission for the company, for each individual client, for each individual employee’s growth, and for the industry as a whole. Consequently, the content of their marketing strategy, their customer service conversations, their training curriculum, the posters in the office, THE KIND OF STICKY NOTES THEY BUY–ALL of is a manifestation of the mission(s) they have set out to do. Sometimes that means making the intern start over. Sometimes that means making a lot of people start over. Sometimes that means everyone has to start over everyday. (This probably is not true for the company, but it might be true for us as a church.)

Think about this company. If all the content they created (in text, in speech, in action) did not mirror their purpose. Then what is their purpose?

How is it that only one books’ worth of ‘Chrisitan Living’ is centered around healing God’s people from the root of the evil that is afflicting them?

I don’t think it’s because the Christian community consuming these words so wildly that they can’t be kept on the shelves.

I think that when our purpose does not drive the content of our book shelves, our Sunday school lessons, our barbecue conversations, our own minds and hearts–then whatever the content is there proves our purpose.

So what purpose are we proving? 

 

Forgiveness is rolling

“Forgiveness is not a tidy grave, It is a ready loyal knight kneeling before your royal heart.” -Andrea Gibson

Forgiveness is not 

Easter lilies growing on

a burial ground.

 

It is dirt flying,

stones rolling,

temples being torn in two.

Souls erupting from the ground

dark skies

God tearing up all we’ve made,

saying, “none of this lasts,”

saying, “none of this lives,”

Nothing we’ve made.

So why do we make up

like we’re building a lego bridge

between your heart and mine?

Forgiveness is not civility

to those who have hurt you.

It is not changing your behavior

because you’ve learned a lesson.

It is everything being turned on its head

and taken apart

and reworked

and refigured

and rolling, and rolling, and rolling

So something that’s real

finally, finally comes out.

Forgiveness is not-

Redemption is not-

–bottling up our hurt.

–bottling up our wrong.

It is not: “this could have been worse.”

It is not: “I’m glad you are going to do better in the future.”

It is not: “Let’s try this one….more…time…”

It is rolling everything away,

coming out of the tomb,

and seeing things by the light of day.

It’s realizing that Easter is 

no one’s birthday,

because it’s always moving.

Always rolling.

Always where it is needed.

It is needed always.

Forgiveness is not erasing.

It is moving.

It is rolling. 

It is swimming.

It is dancing around the pot holes

and getting back up

when we trip anyway.

It is skin regenerating

over skinned knees

every time that we

prove that we are not 

old enough for the responsibility 

we carry in our own bodies.

But they still dance somehow.

It is letting lose your impulse

to love.

It is relaxing your muscles

after clenching up

your fists

your face

your heart

and feeling cool water

float quickly through your blood stream.

Forgiveness isn’t drawing back

malice, gripping its leash tightly.

It is opening up the floodgates

of charity and goodness pent up

inside of us, drowning it out.

And maybe it will float to the top,

but there is always more water coming.

When we erase a whiteboard,

the particles of temporary ink

cling desperately to the felt,

to our fingers,

to the board itself.

But we are not dry-erase graffiti artists

we are gentle creations

completely underwater,

having to grow gills,

because being forgiven 

doesn’t 

feel

natural.

But we’re rolling with it.