Stop in for a while. Stacie
This is my attempt to keep track of "brilliant" ideas--other peoples and mine. It is also a journal of significant people and events that inspire my life.
There might be more.....or maybe not...
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Matthew 6: 28, 29
I have been considering lilies for decades. Someone challenged me with these words in 1983 and I'm just beginning to grow into them.
It is interesting to observe these lilies. They burst forth at times under conditions that are not particularly attractive. There are times when they grow in murky water. These water lilies have a way of changing the environment of which they are a part. In many ways you are like one of those lilies. You are able to live under conditions in a world where there are inequities and ugliness yet you are able to provide a semblance of hope and beauty.
As followers of Christ, I believe we are all called to the humble witness of hope in a world filled with polarity, fear, and injustice. Being a persistent loving presence in the face of the divisive rhetorics of our day changes reality, although very slowly. Being a faithful reflection of the grace we have known in Christ transforms unbendable hearts and minds to consider the emerging awareness of God's Love for all and in all. Bloom, whereever we find ourselves.
Type rest of the post here
Posted by stacie at 1:22 PM
I took a road trip to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming last month. I had a craving for "sanctuary", in nearly all of the word’s definitions.
refuge: a shelter from danger or hardship
I've spent the past few years as the full time caregiver for my Mom who is in the late stages of Alzheimer's. My days are filled with mostly silence, intractable boredom, and occasionally deep grieving for the vibrant woman almost invisible today.
I also supervise the meds, finances and affairs of my Grandmother, in a more functional stage of Alzheimer's. She lives in a Senior Citizen low income housing complex 30 minutes from my home. That experience is chaotic as she undoes, complicates, or rejects most efforts done on her behalf. She clings to her independence fiercely, and her contempt, anger, and paranoia drives away the friends and family that gave her life meaning and joy.
I spend time in perpetual debate/dialog with friends and visitors to the Community of Christ Cybercongregation. Recent months have brought an unrelenting gauntlet of condemnation, harassment, and examination of those strange gay creatures without much consideration of our actual gay voices. I’ve not been able to find a solid place to stand in this. I don’t want to validate the base question on the worth of gays in christianity, but I don't want to dismiss genuine questions by those who want to understand more deeply. I never get my response quite right.
I spent these vacation weeks in sanctuary from the chaos, despair, hostility and fears of others, and focused on the daily rhythms of traveling, finding food and shelter each day, and absorbing the ever-changing landscapes. In the sounds of the rivers, the silence of the forests, and the echoing of canyons I was able to hear my own thoughts again. That’s all I needed.
sanctuary: the part of the church where the altar is located, considered the holiest part of the church
My journey took me through some of the most barren lands on our earth, some places that were lush, some that were soaring to heaven, waters that were turbulent and sometimes still waters. I visited lodges that combined the wildness of nature and the precision of architecture and the confluence of diverse visitors from around the world. All of these fed and nourished my soul, and helped me see the sacred again in all lives.
sanctuary: a consecrated place where sacred objects are kept
I spent my evenings on this trip fussing with my journal. I journal in a 3 dimensional collage way. My journal is filled with Words, scriptures, quotes, pictures, symbols, and found objects that are altered, blended, and layered until I can find the deepest meaning, the truest truths. My journal is a sanctuary of the events, people, and desires of my life.
wildlife sanctuary: a place of refuge for animals
The wildness, diversity, and uniqueness of the lives of bear, kingfishers, elk, coyote, moose, deer, and osprey, and grizzly helped me escape the domestication of my own life for a bit. In my spiritual life I want to live on the edge, the frontier of recovering the essential nature of our humanity, and finding ways to live as fully and deeply and richly in all of our diversity. May we protect the physical environment as well as the social environment so that each creature, even the most vulnerable, is afforded the space to live, love, and flourish in the landscapes we find ourselves.
vacation blog photos here
Posted by stacie at 12:41 AM
Pentecost sermon, Toledo, Ohio
On a hot summer day, when you first get home after a long day, What is the first thing you do? In my household, we open the windows! Get a breeze going to blow out the stagnation, to freshen the air!
Can you imagine the air on the day of Pentecost? The followers of Christ had been cowering behind closed doors and living in fear since the crucifixion, 50 days earlier. Scripture tells us that there were 120 followers gathered in a room, trying to make sense of things, trying to find a way to move forward.
They had lost so much. All of their dreams. From the account of Luke we can get an idea of the scope of these dreams.
Luke records Jesus’ ministry beginning with him speaking these words in the synagogue:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
Because he has anointed me
To bring Good News to the poor,
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free
To proclaim the year of the lord’s favor.
The disciples and followers had been captured by a vision of life in the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Roman occupation.. Jesus teachings turned cultural expectations upside down, and called for a new era where the poor, the lepers, the castoffs, and the prisoners were valued, and the rich, powerful, and privileged were called to give all that they had, and were brought down to the point of equality. It was a Kingdom of liberation, of welcoming, of compassion. Luke uses the imagery in the Prodigal Son, the lost sheep, the coin of great worth to illustrate Christ’s dream. This dream seemed to have died with Jesus.
The discouraged disciples and followers gathered in that room did not have a common language. They lived very different lives from each other. They didn’t understand each other, or how they could move on. They had no reasonable hope in Christ’s dream. Yet, they decided to live this Kingdom dream anyway. God’s spirit moved among them like a mighty wind, blowing away the stagnation, the despair, the fears, the barriers of language and diversity!
The Spirit moves like a mighty wind.
We can’t see the wind, but we can see leaves and trees and lawn spinners moving, and know that the wind is passing through. Air without movement is stagnant. Air that moves is refreshing, life-giving, transforming.
We can’t see the spirit, but we can see it’s movement in the hearts of the people and the passion of the congregations it touches, and know that the Spirit is present. The Spirit must be allowed to move or we become stagnant congregations. The Spirit’s movement will refresh us, give us life, and transformation. It brings a community-building, life-giving energy to our endeavors. Let the Spirit Breathe.
When the Spirit moved among the followers of Christ on Pentecost, the people began to speak. They found the words to say. They found the courage to speak their hearts. They no longer whispered only among themselves. People heard the good news in their own language. It continues to be a miracle when people actually hear and understand the love of God in a language they can understand. There are people in our communities who think differently, and live differently, and speak differently who are waiting to hear the gospel in ways that speak to them.
Pentecost tells us that people who differ from each other by beliefs, gender, language, economics, and politics can communicate meaningfully and coherently through the Spirit. ? The bickering, bitterly polarized world in which we live cries out for Pentecost, for hope. The purpose is not to make everybody like everybody else, or to have everybody speak the same language. The miracles is one of the ear, not the tongue. The dream is for everyone to hear God’s message of love in a way they can understand.
Pentecost is about breaking down the walls despair and fear. Pentecost is the emergence of the holy spirit into our lives to rearrange our world in unexpected ways. Languages and beliefs will not be erased, but beliefs that are foreign no longer intimidate us into prejudices. Pentecost is like getting a new pair of spiritual glasses. We can suddenly see that we are more connected than we believed.
Why is the Spirit here in this sanctuary today? Why are the winds of God blowing around your life, and our life together here? Can you see it moving in the hearts and passion and challenges of this congregation? Is it growing time for our Pentecost? Are we ready to have our stagnation and fears and differences blown away by a refreshing breeze of the Spirit? That first group of followers were timid, afraid, confused, divided, and distracted. When they decided to move with faith and make God’s dream, God’s kingdom real the Spirit helped them bring order out of chaos, understanding out of confusion, unity out of diversity!
Something profound happened in that little house 2000 years ago, and that something profound is still happening. The Spirit is calling us, leading us. Where we have been cold of heart, slow to move, timid and afraid may we find the warmth of passion, the irresistible impulse to action, courage and confidence. May we strive to erase the artificial boundaries that divide us by race, gender, ideology, beliefs and geography. Pentecost teaches us that we are one with each other, and one with God.
Posted by stacie at 5:29 PM
In conversations with other Christians I am often told that Scripture is "God's Word" and is all we need, that it is enough to guide our way. I disagree with this on many levels.
Scripture is not all we need, or we would be more fruitful in our loving. We need to experience Christ, The Word, and learn to love with deep compassion. Sometimes Christ speaks through Scripture, and many sacred writings. Sometimes Christ speaks through the voice of the Church, through prophetic ministry and sermons. Sometimes Christ speaks through the companionship of those who think like us, and love us to bits.
But, sometimes Christ speaks through our neighbor, or even our enemy. That is the voice we miss. It is rejected out of hand many times, because it is unexpected, unwanted, unrecognized. This voice we must listen to intentionally, filtering out our angry, fearful, prejudged responses, while focusing on seeing the "other" as Christ's beloved. This voice challenges us to our core sometimes, and I will seek every opportunity to turn away. It requires deep self examination when I would much rather examine the flaws of the "other". Even if I don't want it, or see it, Christ is written in the hearts of those I disagree with.
It is The Spirit that helps us to listen for God's Word in unexpected place, especially the voice of those we believe to be of lesser worth. They may be angels, unaware.
Posted by stacie at 1:35 PM
In another ongoing conversation elsewhere I am again reminded that the "gay" issue is not the most pressing issue in Christianity, and I agree. I think rejection of the full humanity of gays is a symptom of a larger problem that affects more people than gays. We are not as expansive in our loving as is required for the healing of this world and it's peoples.
In truth we stick a lot of stuff between the 2 commandments of 1st love god, 2nd love people. We often place the love of our comfortableness and unconfrontedness, and the love our status--whether it be Priesthood or "being right" or something else, and the love our Church heritage, and the love of our traditions, and the love of our understandings of Scriptures before the loving of each other and other broken people. The loving of people becomes subservient to those other things. Truth about these people becomes subservient to those other things. Those good things should be "servant" to loving people. Those good things become toxic when put before the call of the second commandment.
This last passage from the Section 163 of the Doctrine and Covenants calls us from that toxicity, I think. We need to focus on "What Matters Most".
God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Through divine grace and wisdom, this faith community has been given abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities to equip it to become such a people. Chief among these is the power of community in Christ expressed locally in distinctive fashions while upholding a unity of vision, foundational beliefs, and mission throughout the world.
There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.
Posted by stacie at 10:26 AM
Posted by stacie at 1:40 AM
For now, my silence buys me a place in the safety of the 99, but as I begin to speak my truth, I step into the vulnerability of that 100th sheep. The shepherds of our church are not really going to come looking for me, though. They say that they will stand with me, but only up until that point where they have to take a stand. Then, they will look away, pretend not to see, say a shamed prayer of petition that I will quietly leave.
I am not the coin of great worth. As this prodigal is walking up the road to her spiritual home, there are no servants of my God running to greet me, to welcome the authentic me home. I will be worshipping in the same house with the family of God, but to many will no longer be known as a sister. I don't know what grace will be afforded me. I don’t know who will be able to accept my reality, my presence, my servanthood.
I do believe that our leaders long to be true to the call and obligations of the kingdom, but the poverty of our spiritual lives limit that response. In the economy of our church today, it is the 99 sheep, not the Good Shepherd, who calculate the worth of the 1. The cost of accepting the truth of the outcast is too high to attempt. We will lose our illusion of unity, we will lose our ignorance of the boundaries we place on God's love, we will lose our status within the kingdom of Christianity.
My shame is that I support this economy as well. I am not willing to endanger the body of Christ to save the outcast, even when it's me. I am painfully aware that my actions and inactions are prolonging the estrangement of my gay brothers and sisters, and I knowingly compromise their worth for the non-confronted comfort of my congregation and denomination.
My prayer is that by becoming visible, I will help the church to better see Christ's this-world redeeming love. In a way, I am the found, seeking to draw the 99 more fully into the Light of God’s grace.
This is from my journal, from August 2006. I was realizing that my life was taking a turn, that I would be coming out to my church for the first time. I tried to capture a snapshot of my feelings, and how I viewed the realities of being gay in my denomination. Since that time, I have processed my thoughts a bit more. These reflections remain true for me, but more like I'm looking through a wide angle lens. When I zoom in on individual relationships and encounters I can see that the larger picture is indeed moving--although very slowly--in the direction of love and grace.
Posted by stacie at 7:30 AM
Sermon from September 24, 2006
Scripture: Mark 10: 13-16, NRSV
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
How do we welcome each other, and those we don’t know? How do we let people know that they are accepted and wanted? I’ve been to lots of 12 step group meetings. I’m going to teach you the traditional greeting. In these groups, when it is someone’s turn to speak, they stand and say Hi, I’m Stacie. All the members of the group then say in unison, Hi Stacie, Welcome. It is really a nice tradition. It let’s the speaker know they are accepted, and that the group wants to hear what they have to share. Soooo, Let’s give it a try it. Hi, I’m Stacie……You are all very dysfunctional...
As a church, as Christians, we welcome others into our fellowship, into our friendship, into our church family, we welcome others into a world-wide community proclaiming Jesus Christ, to our journey of discipleship with Christ, and into our spiritual home, this place we worship our God.
What would our Church look like if we considered a stranger, —someone not like us, someone who did not believe like us, whose appearance and life was strange to us—as a guest of Christ? Or even as Christ himself?
Going back to the scripture text, it is a very familiar story, there are variations of it in 3 of the gospels. This story gives us a clue to WHO we are called to welcome, and how deeply we are to welcome.
I want us to look at this scene again, and I’m going to define more clearly what it meant to be one of these children. A child in our culture is normally, hopefully, cherished and is put first in our priorities. Because of this we tend to have a romanticized understanding of this event.
This story is usually told in of terms of the innocence of children, the curiosity, the accepting nature of children, That may have been part of what Christ was talking about, but in the context of those days, it meant much more.
One clue to the status of children in Jesus times is that in Aramaic, child and slave are the same word. In those days, when a child was born, a decision had to be made, of whether you wanted to keep it. That decision was made by the father.
If the child was a girl, not perfect, or the family was very poor, sometimes that infant would be abandoned on the side of the road. If this child were lucky, someone would pick it up to raise it as a slave.
Bible scholars believe that there may have been some question and controversy in Mark’s society about what should be done with the infants. They presume that some had been rescued, but they didn’t know how to deal with the situation.
So, the disciples get back from someplace, and they’ve been arguing. Jesus asks them “What are you fighting about?” They answer, after some hem-hawing, that they’ve been fighting about who was the greatest among them, who was most valued among the disciples.
Jesus got up, picked up one of the babies, probably a girl, with no name, no identity, no value or worth as a human being, and no future, and blesses this child. Listen to the words in the scripture. “touch, taking in his arms, blessed, laid hands on”.
These are the official bodily action of a father designating a newborn for life, rather than casting it out. This meant that this child was accepted as family, with all of the responsibilities and obligations required to raise and provide for it. The child was also entitled to all the privileges and blessings of belonging to a family.
In this act Jesus told them that when they welcome this “nobody”, this “outcast”, with honor and acceptance, they were welcoming God.
In another variation of this story, the disciples tried to prevent the people from taking these children to Jesus. They were probably crying to themselves, “No Jesus, what are you doing?!” This Blessing and acceptance of outcast children was such a radical act.
We tend to sentimentalize this story. Instead, we might hear it as a radical command, an upsetting one even. It turned the “kingdom upside-down.”
God knew those babies were of infinite worth, had done nothing to deserve the life they were destined for. Society told the people of those days to look away. Our society tells us to look away, to not allow the distress of the stranger to confront our realities or our comfort.
In our culture today we debate issues involving immigration, war, terrorism, race, poverty, health care, all things involving the value of other human beings, all discussions we sometimes want to look away from.
To welcome God into our hearts, and into our midst, we must also honor, love, respect, and welcome the lost, the lowest, the least of these--those that our society has deemed to be of no value. We can’t accept what our culture has labeled people, we must accept all as our sisters and brothers, as members of the family of God
In our life as Christians today, there are sometimes obstacles that prevent us from welcoming quite as deeply as Jesus did.
We are all very busy, all pressed for time. We try, but we cannot microwave friendship, love, and hospitality. These things require our presence, and they take as long to do as they ever did.
Sometimes we just fail to anticipate the needs of each other. We don’t mean to do it, but we have all experienced times when we were forgotten, neglected, or not appreciated.
We welcome each other, unless we are angry with them. We sometimes hold grudges. We welcome those who don’t challenge our politics, our traditions, our understandings of God, our comfort.
And let’s remember our Brother Steve Veazey’s admonition : As one body we will avoid labels and behaviors that push people out of the community and seek reconciliation that restores people to community. We are one body. Since Jesus Christ has broken down the walls between us we shall not rebuild them.
In our life here in Toledo today, we sometimes DO get this hospitality very right, I’m going to remind us of some times when this has happened.
One example is the way that you welcomed my mom when I brought her to church a couple of weeks ago . You welcomed her like she was you own mothers, making her laugh, sharing your food, playing with her, coaxing her to budge when she wouldn’t move. Just like family would.
Another example is when we gathered to support Shirley and Karie on the day of the transplant surgeries. The boundaries of family were erased for that one day. We were not the Wittenmyers, the Kutzly’s, the Dotson’s, the Husteds, the Zimmerman’s, the Williams, The blankleys, the Dirrims, the Brights, , and many others who joined us by internet that we don’t even know their names. We were one family in love and spirit. It is a shame that sometimes it takes the swapping of organs to bring us to that awareness.
My most significant, life-altering experience of welcoming and acceptance happened to me here, in this congregation a few years ago.
There was a time, when I was 7 and 8 years old, when I was cast away to the side of the road, actually, it was into a river, by someone I loved the most. I won’t go into the details today, but those events set me up for a lifetime of loneliness, isolation, and fear.
A few years ago, when I had my episode with Bipolar disorder, I cast myself to the side of the road again. I struggled with the basic activities of daily living I struggled for a sense of worth, for meaning to my life, and to just feel and accept love.
I am not related to any of you, we do not share one drop of blood, yet through God’s love, and the loving response of this congregation, I was treated and accepted as family.
Because of God working through your lives, I am alive and I have a future. You opened your hearts and your homes, you took me to appointments, you confronted me, you pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do, you shook your heads and tried again when I made bad decisions, you cried with me, you made me laugh, you listened and you prayed.
I remember sitting in the office with Bud, telling him things were really bad, and going to get a lot worse. I told him to just let me go. He held on instead. And so did Janet, and Lisa, and Anne, and this whole wonderful church family.
I could have gone the way of those unloved children, those people of no worth, but God used you to redeem my life, to give me hope. You welcomed me just as Christ welcomed those outcast children. I not only share in God’s love, and in your love, but the miracle is, I have come to love and accept myself as a child of God. I will never be the same. I thank God for this life I have every day. And I thank you.
I think we are called as a congregation to create that kind of climate where all are welcome, and can find a healing space to be authentic and accepted, where all can explore and experience God in ways that are meaningful and relevant, where all can experience the joy of fellowship and join the journey of discipleship with Christ. This is Sacred Community.
I am a brainstormer and a list maker. I have tried to reflect on the climate in our congregation, looking for areas where we might be able to better “welcome” the stranger, or the neighbor, even each other.
The word hospitality comes from 2 Greek words, and literally means, Welcome the Stranger. I have some proposals in hospitality, that we can try to incorporate into our time together, some simple, some more challenging.
First, I want to suggest 2 simple rules for welcoming visitors and each other. For 3 minutes after the service is over, don’t talk to your friends and family, talk to visitors, or someone you don’t know that well. There are studies that tell us that 3 minutes is the time it takes for a visitor to leave the building. That is our window for welcoming.
The second easy proposal. If you are within 10 feet of someone, visitor or member, greet them. If they are a visitor say” I don’t think we’ve met, my name is fill-in-the-blank, Welcome!”. You can put this in your own words.
Another proposal, Let’s share our lives with each other. This transforming, loving influence doesn’t have to happen in a worship service. It happens at lunch, in the park, while shopping together, in living rooms, in hospital rooms, while painting your house, at camp, at the cottage, on a cruise, in an email, on the phone, in the car on the way to someplace. In worship we speak to and about God. We also need to speak to each other. We need to listen to each other.
From Doctrine and Covenants 161: Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.
My Last proposal. We need to welcome the stranger, the alien, the alienated among us. The people who feel a division, a conflict, or just not sure where or if they fit in anymore.
I’ll confess: A year ago, I had just given up, sent some emails that I wasn’t coming back. After 3 weeks of silence, someone made an effort to listen, not even a person from this congregation. He had no idea what he was walking into, he didn’t really know me. What he got, when I decided to take a chance and trust, was all my anger and hostility and pain and hopelessness about my mom, and grandmother, and my sister‘s fire, and this congregation. He listened through all that anger, without interruption, without judgment and without telling me my perceptions were wrong.
There is healing in just being heard and understood. Through speaking my truth, as I saw it, I was able to see a new reality, a new truth, and some hope. I could see why people acted as they did, have a bit of compassion for those I was so angry with. It allowed me to come to a place of reconciliation in my own soul, and to forgive those who really hadn’t done anything so wrong.
We need to listen to each other, to deeply listen, with our mouths closed and not jump in with our own story, or to correct their perceptions. A good rule for deep listening is “The person who starts a sentence should be the one to finish it.” Truly hearing the person is the first step to reconciliation. I don’t believe that true reconciliation can happen until someone feels heard and understood.
When we listen in a shallow way to someone we make judgments about their character and integrity, and the depth of their walk with God.
When we can listen deeply, we learn the “whys”, the “what in their lives has brought them to this understanding”. We come to a new respect and appreciation for each other. We free each other to speak and explore and discover the deepest truths of our lives. This is sacred work.
From doctrine and covenants 161: Do not be fearful of one another. Respect each life journey, even in its brokenness and uncertainty, for each person has walked alone at times. Be ready to listen and slow to criticize, lest judgments be unrighteous and unredemptive.
Simply being nice people doesn’t cut it, not if we are to be authentic followers of Christ. We need to be the radical people, the people who love and accept the people who are hard to love, and those who believe they are outside the boundaries of our love.
We are all nice people, yet there are still people in our midst, and in our families, and in our world who ache to feel the blessings of being loved, and sacred community.
The love revealed in Christ is not just warm fuzzies. It is the hard work of holding on in love and compassion and respect to the people who challenge us, perplex us, reject us , anger us, disappoint us, overwhelm us. It is bearing with each other, bearing each other’s burdens, even the pains of loniless, hostility, and misunderstanding.
Transplanting this revolutionary discipleship of the kingdom into our day, and our congregation, will take us into uncharted territory. We have the map of our scriptures, and in them Christ gave us the two most important landmarks for our journey. If you know them, say them with me.
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We are writing this sacred story with our lives. We need to let the spirit speak, and guide, as we seek and discern our way.
From section 162: You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you.
As individuals, as the Toledo congregation, as a movement within Christianity, we need to be asking ourselves a question, and listening for answers.
Are we like the disciples, wanting to choose for ourselves who is most valued, who is acceptable in the kingdom of God. Do we stand in the way of Christ, not wanting to welcome the “unlovable ones” and “difficult ones” into the family of God?
How will we as a congregation answer this question?
What will we let Jesus be and do among us?
What will we let Jesus be and do among us?
Posted by stacie at 8:37 PM
This testimony began in my journal as a rant. I was writing one of those letters that you aren't supposed to send. I was feeling alone, like the whole world was against me, but I soon scribbled all that out, and it has become a love letter to my God, and my congregation.
It is important to know where this miracle of God‘s restoration and healing took place. It wasn’t the proverbial “mountain top” experience. It wasn’t a one-time experience, but happened over and over again, and continues to happen today. It happened in my congregation, in their homes, and in my hospital room.
I had bipolar disorder with Post Traumatic Stress. In my confused state I had also committed a work-related federal crime, a felony that I believed would require some prison time. I was estranged from my birth family. I had come to a place where I couldn’t think, couldn’t reason, couldn’t take care of needs so basic as sleeping at night, eating, making sure I had a roof over my head, staying alive. I couldn’t feel love, only intense pervasive pain, and I knew that my life had no worth.
I had been secretly struggling for a while, and when we had our congregational retreat at Camp Miakonda, I knew I couldn’t go on. The Toledo Ohio congregation--all of them with Craig and Brenda Lenfesty-- surrounded me with love, and prayed for me. I remember during this prayer, there were children hugging my toes, with tears in their eyes, earnestly praying for me to not feel so sad.
I can’t remember every event that occurred during those years. I’m just going to tell you a few of the acts of love that sustained me, and have continued to sustain me.
When I lost my apartment, I moved for a while into a motel. I had no place to spend my days. For one full week I went to the church, and Diana and I and others colored murals to use in Vacation Bible School. We colored and talked and laughed. That’s it.
Karie invited me over for supper and to watch a video. I remember watching the movie and laughing and holding all her babies in my lap at once, Melissa, Makayla, a couple of cats. I was literally buried in life.
We talked very late into the night, and then we got out Brent’s big telescope, with no idea how to set it up. Brent found us in our chaos, set the telescope up, and showed me the beautiful diamond-like moons of Jupiter.
When I was in the hospital, the children made paper cranes and huge posters to decorate my room.
I remember Shirley calling me at the hospital and asking me how I was. My feet were so cold from not moving around. Bud and Shirley arrived a short time later with lots of socks.
I remember sitting in the office, trying to tell my Pastor, Bud, what was happening in my brain, that things were really getting bad, and that he should just let me go. He held on instead. He got out his oil and anointed me, one of many times.
I remember Janet taking me to the hospital the first time, in the middle of the night. She was my advocate, making sure everything would be all right before she left. Janet fiercely held on to me, cried with me, confronted me, loved me. She and Lisa educated themselves on the local mental health resources, and helped me get set up in treatment. They, along with Anne, sacrificed too much, as well as their families.
I remember sitting on Lisa’s porch and telling her of a childhood that had never been spoken out loud before.
Jim shared deep concepts of God that allowed me to know that I had never been alone, and I learned to trust God again.
Anne threw me the only birthday party I’ve ever had, she found me a top lawyer, she arrived at the courthouse when I was sentenced. I still have no idea how she found out when and where.
I was often without a home, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks. I remember once, while staying with the Zimmerman family, I got up very early and sat alone in the living room. Emily was around 13, she found me, and just sat with me and shared her presence with me even though she was a little afraid. She then woke up her entire family and her father, Guy made pancakes.
I remember Christine telling me of her first time being a girls camp counselor. When it was time for cabin prayers, tiny Morgan marched to the center and they led prayers for me so I could be happy.
Christine was around 13 or 14 when I started getting sick. She never seemed ill at ease to approach me, would sit with me in church, and ask specific questions on how I was feeling, and offered loads of encouragement. I was stunned the other day when I realized that these are the skills she now uses in her career as an Occupational Therapist.
Barb, when she sent cards, always hand wrote meaningful quotes from things she read to learn about my condition and to encourage me. She shared a passage from the desiderata with me that helped get me through some rough days.
Everyone sent cards and emails, they took me to appointments, they visited me, they fed me, they hugged me when I pushed them away, they invited me to share their homes--even when they were afraid of me and for me. Several people privately shared times when they were vulnerable and afraid, and gave me hope that one day I could be whole.
A woman from my congregation. Lisa Williams, wrote and recorded a song about my journey. The refrain repeats, "She doesn't know God's giving her the courage and power to take her life back.” I absolutely did not believe it. But it happened.
I am alive and happy and whole for the first time in my life--not because of the spectacular sermons, or wonderful music, or many things that happen on Sunday morning. I am alive because the Toledo Congregation of the Community of Christ listened to me, shared my tears and fears, made me laugh, invested time and presence in my life. None of the things required special skills, just the willingness to bear with me, and hold tight until I could heal and find my way.
I know the healing power of God, and for me, it most often comes in the form of a loving congregation. I don’t think many realize how powerful all those simple acts of presence are. When I first heard section 162, I thought of my experience
“You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you.”
When I look out at my congregation, I see my church family. I see my sister and niece who had their own transformations and were baptized during this time. I see the beautiful faces of God. Because of God working through their lives, I now have a future. I not only share in God’s love, and in my beloved family’s love, but the ultimate miracle is, I have come to love and accept myself as a child of God. I will never be the same.
Posted by stacie at 6:53 PM
These thoughts have been on my mind lately. In Sunday school last week we were talking about how we judge each other, and how so many times when we get to know each other we find those judgments weren't accurate.
It occurred to me that when I have felt condemned by God, when I let go of the guilt feelings, I find that God has judged me to be of worth, asks me to share in his love, and continues to call me his child.
When I/We judge others, that often doesn't seem to be our bottom line. When I judge this way I see the "other" as having less worth (and by implication--myself with more), I am less likely to extend authentic love--it becomes condescending, and tend to deny the reality that they are as much a child of God as me.
These scriptures are becoming more important to me. There is more than enough judgment in our world, very little of it righteous. I know that there are people in my life who I am pre-judging, have predicted how they will respond in certain situations. I'm probably judging a bit unrighteously. I think I/we need to back off those we don't understand or accept, and learn to appreciate and understand them in the context of their journeys, and perhaps grow from these encounters. Thanks, Stacie
Doctrine and Covenants 161
3a. Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.
b. Do not be fearful of one another. Respect each life journey, even in its brokenness and uncertainty, for each person has walked alone at times. Be ready to listen and slow to criticize, lest judgments be unrighteous and unredemptive. Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called.
Posted by stacie at 4:07 PM
There might be more.....or maybe not...
Nearly everything that Christianity or any religion proclaims to "know" about God is the equivalent of saying that I "know" quantum mechanics because I know that 2 + 2 + 4. It may be a true statement, but it is an infinitely small part of all that is true, and certainly does not indicate that I have any real understanding of the subject. When a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc, tells us what they experience as Divine or Sacred, or something like 3 + 3 = 6, we might not recognize that as being truth. We may arrogantly or ignorantly insist that 2 + 2 = 4, and that is the complete truth. It's kind of like God is pointing and leading us to the horizon and we mistakenly think that what lies at our feet is the final destination. We are all at such a basic level in our understandings of the nature and workings of God that I don't believe we should be making too many final pronouncements.
Posted by stacie at 8:05 PM
Posted by stacie at 9:05 AM
There is an old Hasidic story about a rabbi and his students. As they walked along the road one day, he asked, “How can we know the hour of dawn - the time at which the night ends and the day begins?” No one ventured an immediate answer, so they continued to walk. Then one of the rabbi’s disciples asked: “Is it when you can look from some distance and distinguish between a wolf and a sheep?” “No,” said the rabbi. And they continued to walk. “Is it when there is light enough to distinguish between a grapevine and a thorn bush?” ventured another student. “No,” said the rabbi. There was a long silence. “Please tell us the answer to your question,” said one. “How is it possible to know the precise time at which the dawn has broken?” “The dawn comes for each of us,” said the wise old teacher, “when we can look into the face of another human being and - by virtue of the light that comes from within us - recognize that even a stranger is our brother or sister. Until then, it is night. Until then, the night is still with us.”There might be more.....or maybe not...
Posted by stacie at 7:26 AM
Hi, I've kind of been pondering the role of obedience in the execution of the sacraments. For some, this is the ultimate reason to do them. I was thinking that there is noone, at least no reasonable person on earth that requires blind obedience from me. I used to think my parents did. They wanted the dishes done by 7 pm. I had to use their methods, Joy soap, their equipment. As I matured and understood the purpose of the act of doing dishes, there was room for deviation from what they had instructed me to do. I switched to Dawn, got a different dish strainer, sometimes I used paper plates, if I'm needed for more important things I don't do the dishes at all.
From the Community of Christ belief statement:
The sacraments express the continuing presence of Christ through the church. They help us establish and continually renew our relationship with God. Through them we establish or reaffirm our covenant with God in response to God's grace.
If these sentences are the purpose for the sacraments, then the execution of these sacraments will evolve with our more mature understanding of the nature of God and the reasons we do the sacraments. We switch to coconut milk when that is more appropriate, we don't require everyone to kneel, if someone is allergic to wheat we provide an alternative to the bread. And for me, if the word father is harmful to someone, even temporarily, we can simply say God. For me, it is more appropriate to be obedient to the purpose of the sacraments than to be obedient to the details of that sacrament. Just some late night thoughts
Posted by stacie at 11:15 PM
Keep the candle burning until justice is achieved for God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.
It is disheartening to realize that Christianity has taken us to this point. We are willing as the State of Ohio to take away the constitutional rights and protections afforded un-married straight couples, just to be sure that gay couples could not receive those rights. That seems very mean-spirited and un-Christ-like. We have made the Bible “The Living Word”, rather than Christ.
If we were to really study the Scriptures, and comprehend that is a collection of books written thousands of years ago, and contains the understandings of different culture's understandings of the Divine, maybe we wouldn’t be using it as a biology text book. Maybe we would look to discover Jesus’ liberating spirit and mission, and not imprison modern people with little understood laws of a primitive people.
The Church at the local level has taught the Bible is infallible, that the knowledge contained in it supersedes knowledge gained by logic, science, and the reality we can see with our own eyes. They resist any expansion in our current concepts of God. "Consecrated ignorance is still ignorance", as Reinhold Niebuhr once stated.
I don’t know how complicit the members of my congregation are in this, but I’m having trouble going back there. I wish I could just go to a denomination that has already fought this battle, but I realize that nothing will change if I leave. More generations of gay children will grow up with unhealthy notions of God and themselves.
Posted by stacie at 1:38 AM
There once was a young man named Cody. He loved his God very much. One day his mother gave him a red shirt to put on, but he refused. He said "I would rather wear no shirt at all than a red shirt." His mother, seeing his great wisdom, gave him a blue shirt, and they all wore blue shirts, and God was pleased.
This story for me is an illustration of why we need to be scripturally literate, and not simply except all scripture at face value. Imagine going forward in time to the year 4005, and trying to discern meaning in this story. Would all Christians wear blue shirts? Or would the story be ignored?
If an historian, or cultural anthropologist looked into the story, and was able to figure out the approximate time and place of it's writing, they may deduce that the red and blue shirts might signify the Ohio State and UofMichigan rivalry in the midwest. It might be discerned that this is a tribal, cultural story, and not one of God's preference of color. Or an even greater truth may be discerned. Go Blue!
Posted by stacie at 9:33 AM
Posted by stacie at 11:07 PM
This week I read about an old book called "The Gospel of Nature". I got the idea that there are many gospels, not just the Scriptures. There is the Gospel of Linguistics, Pharmacology, Chemistry, Psychology, History, etc, all revealing our current understandings of reality, and therefore God. I have a feeling I'll be using that phrase a lot.There might be more.....or maybe not...
Posted by stacie at 9:51 PM