Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Theology Mama Has Moved!

Due to the release of my book, Global Soccer Mom, Theology Mama and my blog have moved over to www.GlobalSoccerMom.com.

Join the conversation at my You Can Make a Difference Blog and keep up with the lastest blog posts and all my fantastic guest mom bloggers.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Standing on the Ground

Labor Day weekend has brought the very last days of summer and it has me panicked. Since 1946, when my grandparents built a one-season cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, my family has been blessed to spend summer months out of the city and suburbs of Chicago. Over the years repairs and home improvements have occurred, but mostly we all still live and move and have our being in the bones of this old house.

When my grandparents built the cottage they built it for themselves and their two daughters. Now the cottage makes room for a set of grandparents, my family, and the families of my two brothers. We squeeze in when we can cooking in the tiny galley kitchen, lining up outside the one functioning bathroom, and forever negotiating who is sleeping where.

And for the most part we love it. We all keep coming back summer after summer.

I suppose some people have their ancestral land – a village in Germany where they can trace back generations. However, I am a true American mutt. A blend of English, Dutch, German, French. . .I have no idea where everyone came from besides central Indiana. The cottage has become, in a quirky way, our ancestral home.

My grandfather, Strat, took his last breath in this old building. He was having dinner at the cottage next door with lifelong friends. The story goes he finished his supper and was offered dessert. He declined saying to my grandmother, “Margie, it is time to go home.” He walked the short trail through the dunegrass to our cottage, and as my grandmother helped him to bed, he sneezed and he died. Strat had been sick with cancer. It seems his body gave one last ditch effort to get rid of it with the sneeze and then he did indeed go home.

My grandmother swam in Lake Michigan almost every day of every summer until she was in her late 80’s. She would drag an old black inner tube down the dune with a rope and an anchor attached to it. She would bob on the waves of Lake Michigan tucked in her tube all day. When she passed away at the age of 93 we had a family reunion and a service. My mother and aunt spread Gramma Margie’s ashes on the shore and in the waves of Lake Michigan.

I’m 40 years old. My three kids now run the dunes freely and swim and surf all day in the white caps. While I grew up and played with second generation cottagers, my kids now are growing up with third generation. Everyone knows each other and which kid goes with which family. This quirky ancestral land, this uncommon small town that gathers for three months every year, this blessed and coveted sense of community and belonging is mine.

And it is coming to an end for this summer. Re-entry back into suburbia is hard. I find myself irritated and distracted. Crabby and ungrateful. I don’t want to be boxed in by houses and cement. My soul balks and makes it known that it misses nature and sand and water and sunsets.

So, how to combat this suburbia discontentment? I believe it is a spiritual discipline to keep discontentment and depression at bay. I am blessed. It seems selfish and immature to complain to God about living in a safe, beautiful, and prosperous suburban town. As I have been preparing myself to brace for a long winter in suburbia I have been struggling with this creeping discontentment.

I think I got a clue today. In West Michigan my radio choices are somewhat limited and while driving a tried and true Eagles tune began to play…I got a peaceful, easy feeling...and I know you won’t let me down…cuz I’m already standing on the ground.

Most summer nights I stand at the shore, on the ground, and watch the sunset. Sunset watching was always an event with my grandparents. One simply did not miss the sunset. A bowl of vanilla ice cream with some kind of fruit on top was also usually a requirement.

Tonight is my last sunset of the summer. I don’t have ice cream. I don’t have my grandparents. My kids are running around somewhere. But still I watch as the colors take over the sky and I hear the waves crash. I can’t take it all with me, yet tonight I understand I don’t have to leave here and lose my inner grounding. I can hold this with me until next summer. Cuz I’m still here. Still standing on the ground.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Divine Pursuit

Happy to welcome guest blogger, Nicole Unice on her new book, The Divine Pursuit.

Becoming a counselor is a weird sort of schooling. What other graduate program teaches you how to listen, ask good questions, and read interpersonal dynamics? Who but future counselors study nonverbal cues, birth order, and “solution-focused questions?” Counseling techniques easily transform into entertaining party tricks: “Let me guess,” I imagine saying to my unsuspecting acquaintance while swirling my drink, “your deepest fear is turning into your mother, whom you find yourself resembling more each day?”

There’s another side to studying therapist techniques. Developing questions that pry back even the hardest shell takes practice. And there’s only one person that accompanies me to sleep, to the bathroom, to work—other than my toddler. It’s me. I am the unwilling recipient of my own therapy.

So I paid attention when I got all emotional about the story of Jonah. Do you know him? The bible Jonah, the telling-God-N-O Jonah, the swallowed-by-a-fish Jonah? Think way back to Vacation Bible School. You probably sang a song about him or maybe smoothed him up on a feltboard next to a smiling whale.

Jonah disobeys and isn’t loving, or at least, that’s the point when we tell the VBS version. But when I prepared a teaching series for a women’s group on the book of Jonah, I found myself stirred up, almost resentful, of what Jonah had become in those children’s stories. Like Jonah is a flat caricature painted by a heavenly hand to make us feel good about ourselves. Hey, at least I didn’t have to be swallowed by a big fish to listen to God. At least I wouldn’t defy God like that.

I got emotional because I thought Jonah could have had some reasons for running. That maybe following God’s orders and going to Nineveh was something excruciatingly hard for Jonah, something that felt impossible to do.

And then the therapist in me listened closely and asked a piercing question: “Hmmm….interesting. What are your Ninevehs?”

Hmmm is right.

I pondered my own Ninevehs and the Ninevehs of those I’ve counseled. I thought about the pattern of fleeing, obeying and resisting God found in Jonah—and found in me. I considered the things in life that would make me want to lob a fat N-O in God’s face, modern-Day Ninevehs like:

Living joyfully in difficult relationships.

Struggling through a hard marriage (or waiting on a good one).

Fighting with addictions.

Battling fear.

Making peace with the past. Wrestling with unforgiveness. Learning to wait. Embracing uncertainity. Raising difficult children. Choosing to care for aging parents. Going back to work when you want to stay home. Having children. Not having children. And the list goes on….

Holy Spirit calling: Jonah is me.

Jonah is you, too, if you’ve ever wanted space from God. If you’ve ever escaped from Him in heart or in action. Jonah is you if you’ve ever wondered how or why God would talk to you—and if you would obey. I know one thing: Jonah’s not a platitude to mount on a cross-stitch and hang in the bathroom. It’s raw, real life. It’s one of the many things I love about God--the way He enters our disheveled reality. The way He knows our crazy souls. And the way He shows us His soul for us, and for all his creation.

If you can relate, take heart, and take another look at Jonah. You might just find a friend.

Nicole Unice is a counselor and blogger working in family ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA. Her six-week guided study of Jonah, The Divine Pursuit, is available as a printed version or free download on her website. An online community using The Divine Pursuit begins 9/15.

To visit Nicole's Web site, click the title of this blog post or visit wwww.thestubbornservant.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bruised Apples and Local Character

Our local farmer's market is a hub of activity every week. Lettuce, jelly, strawberries, nuns who bake bread. The old Greek guy selling olives is definitely my favorite. He takes plump, oval, gorgeous olives and crams them with soft bleu cheese. I don't even like bleu cheese but his olives have made me a devotee.

The family that hauls heirloom apples up from the southern part of my state is another treasure. By late summer they truck in over two dozen varieties of apples. Brown Snout, Adina, Prairie Spy, Akane, Pink Pearl, Chisel Jersey. Did you know apples had these names? My apple exposure comes from the pile at my local grocer. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Maybe on a daring day I dabble in a Jonathan Gold.

Grocery store apples are perfectly smooth, no bruises and quite hard. I arrive home and they don't taste as stellar as they looked. Mealy and lackluster. These apples come from fabulously far away places like Washington State or New Zealand. I find this odd given the multiple apple orchards near my home. None of the apples in our stores actually come from these orchards (a common occurrence in food life).

Commercial apples are often plucked from the trees long before they are ripe, stealing their sweetness and color. A green apple at your grocer might actually, if left on the tree, become a yellow apple! And sweeter than the one in your cart.

On a recent trip to the farmer’s market my two youngest children were running from bin to bin picking their apples by yanking whatever looked tasty from the heirloom varieties.

Then they scurried over the the stroller where a canvas bag received their selections. At first they gently set the apples into the bag. It was perfectly idyllic. I was the uber eco-mom with the gentle kids and the awesome apples. But the moment quickly changed as competition and adrenaline suddenly took over.

They began racing back and forth, grabbing armloads of apples and throwing them into my bag. Beautiful apples bouncing around and bruising one another. I managed to stop the chaos for a moment so my 2.5 year old said "Okay mommy, then let's go buy our apples."

Before I could harness his ambition he darted over to the stroller, grabbed the handle on our bag and yanked it with such force that the bag tipped and apples flew then bounced across the market lot. "Oops. Mommy?"

As we tucked them back into the bag I noticed, beyond our bruises, that each apple had such character. Traits you don't see in stores. Odd colors, lumps, freckles and spots. Each had a story to tell. An heirloom apple's worth of history, seeds from France, family secrets from Germany, local color from Illinois. These apples were ripe with more than flavor.

We relaxed enough to pay the farmer (who smiled and kindly said "happens all the time") and I felt embarrassed of course. But, I also felt joy and history swelling through my little suburban veins. A small moment of triumph over the commercial food industry, victory for my kitchen.

I had a bag of odd shaped character and it felt a little bit like my life. Freckled, bruised and filled with stories. Like the lives of my children as well.

So I beg you to get in touch with your local growers this summer. Not as an act of hatred against grocery chains but a way learning and of growing. To put your hands on freckled apples is to realize that you are connected to the same bizarre, bruised world as our farmers and our food.

A way of living into the reality that we are all connected to our land, God’s land. Our food and ultimately to one another. May you find an odd shaped apple this summer that fills your heart and your stomach with a glimpse of God’s love and grace for this world and for your very soul.

Tracey Bianchi is the author of “Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.” She is the mother of three and an author, speaker, and women’s ministry director. You can find more of her musings on life, faith and sustainability at http://traceybianchi.com. You can find her new book at www.Amazon.com or click the title of this blog post.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating In the Same Direction

I recently attended a conference in Chicago called Q.

Q is a leadership summit and describes itself as “a place where leaders from every sphere of society come together to learn, reflect, collaborate and take action to renew culture. We have in common a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an appreciation for our Christian calling to partner with God in his work to redeem both individuals and entire cultures.”

This was my first time to attend Q and I found it amazing and valuable, thought-provoking and a phenomenal networking opportunity. Not to sound star-struck, but I found myself proud of Q, proud of my faith tradition and these incredible days spent at the Civic Opera House. That said, it has taken me awhile to write this post because what I am about to say has been said before. Again and again and again.

One more time from the top:

Evangelical protestant men I ask you with a heavy heart, not a militant temper tantrum scream, “Where are the women?”

The creators of Q have a vision to transform culture and they target seven channels of cultural influence. Each presenter fit into one of these channels; media, business, arts and entertainment, church, education, government and social sector.

I sat in the darkened theater and listened to all the presentations. I sat at the round tables and discussed. Often I was the only woman at the table. Very valuable things were communicated, but what was said to me loud and clear was this:

“Women, mothers, and home are not considered a channel of cultural influence to us. We are the lead pastors, the publishers, the businessmen. We run the Christian conferences, radio stations and ministries and we do not recognize you as a fellow leader for our generation.”

I am not the first person to notice this. So at some point, this oversight of female speakers, this oversight of home as a valuable channel of cultural influence, is no longer simply an oversight but is intentional. I do not believe well-spoken, intelligent, female Christian leaders are so allusive.

Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, was one of the keynote speakers. He is a sociologist who first started putting words on how our generation has begun to work and live the way creative people such as artists and scientists always have. He explains that today nearly 38 million Americans in many diverse fields create for a living and he named us The Creative Class.

Q clearly embraces this concept and is a direct reflection of The Creative Class. As I listened to man after man give his presentation, I kept thinking, “All these men who are living and creating and taking risks in life are married to women who are also a part of this Creative Class. We are embracing motherhood and family with the same values. Just as they are not going to work for 30 years for Sears and retiring with a gold watch like their fathers, we are not doing motherhood the same as our moms, either. Chances are these men are married to women who cheer them on, are excited about the risks they take, and enter into the creative process fully with their husbands. Chances are these women have advanced degrees as well and have their own avenues of creativity and influence apart from their husbands.”

I am sobered that in the year 2010 with such huge shifts in culture the feminine voice is not equally represented in the church.

A friend recently asked me what I considered to be my calling. I sat. I thought. I said finally, “I feel called to create in the same direction God is creating for His purposes in my generation.”

I would love to partner with my brothers on this.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Warrior Pose

The no you hear,
When wounded soul is leaking,
Is Spirit speaking or is it fear?

The no stopping action,
When bridges bring peace,
Who takes the beach, ego or Son?

The no in your eyes,
Despite chatter and smiles,
A fertile field for me to believe the lies.

The no in a scream,
When garden gates are stormed,
And the tender and treasured are harmed.

The no in the night,
and past trespasses remembered,
entangled finding grace is a fight.

The no in my soul,
When defeat creeps a voice,
Face toward the sky, my ultimate goal.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

God With Us

“That sounds about right.” She said walking together in the first warmth of spring.
A big sky.
A bright sun and the expanse of outside after a winter of the same four walls.
This expanse an audience.

“That sounds about right.” She said over coffee in the din of a busy cafĂ©.
Small tribes gather.
A man prattles about local politics and every table a world.
The din listens in.

“That sounds about right.” She moans bitterly, retreating to her room to center.
A moment of defeat.
An endless sea of tears with unanswered petitions threatening life.
The questions bear witness.

“That sounds about right.” She said after daring to say what screams in the soul.
A new old friend.
A sense of being known outside time, effort, and expectation.
Destiny turns an ear.

“That sounds about right.” She said driving in her car with Bright Eyes.
Alone in the taxi.
The Washington Monument towers and a silent back seat feels crowded by Presence.
God with us.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Our Small Daily Choices Make a Difference

Theology Mama on Green Mama; The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.

A helpful and needed book just released entitled Green Mama by Tracey Bianchi. Tracey is the director of women's ministries for Christ Church of Oak Brook in Illinois. She is a smart cookie with her master of divinity from Denver Seminary and she is an editorial advisor for Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership newsletter and for FullFill magazine.

Tracey is a friend and a committed woman who wrote a book about going green from her deep convictions and her deep faith. Tracey is also a mama who lives in the suburbs and who struggles, like the rest of us, to make wise choices regarding the environment in a world that seems to not care too much about it.

What I love about Bianchi's Green Mama is it makes going green more than a "trend" or an unattainable guilt-ridden idea. Green Mama is an enjoyable read which inspired me and gave me practical ways as a busy mom to be an example for my children and how, as a family, we can make a difference. Green Mama put power into my hands and made me aware my small, daily choices make a difference.

In Green Mama, Tracey offers tips and spiritual inspiration and motivation to make wise choices for the environment. Tracey is not out to guilt the busy mom, but rather reminds us that green living is an invitation to creative partnership with God in caring for His Creation.

Pick up a copy of Tracey's book at Amazon.

Also, check out Tracey's awesome blog: http://traceybianchi.com.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Remember That You are Dust

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. . .

All I can think about is Nancy.

Nancy. So brash. So confident. So fragile and vulnerable all at the same time. All the things that make the female so appealing to me.

It was a crowded flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I scanned the seats and looked for someone who might fit the description of yogi, spiritually-centered, freedom, older chick—Nancy. We accosted several innocent travelers with no success until she finally found me.

She enthusiastically hugged me and handed me a cloth bound journal she hand-made just for our team headed to Africa--a team of women traveling to learn about the conditions of life for other women who struggle with the realities of extreme poverty, disease, and inequality in the developing world. We were working with World Vision and World Bicycle Relief.

I had not met Nancy before our trip and she quickly became a foundational member of the team. Asking real and penetrating questions and always ready with a smile, a joke, an opinion, or an argument. She won my heart and the hearts of all the women on the team and 10 days of traveling in Africa with her gave us a special glimpse into her soul. A sweet lady. A funny lady. A hurting and searching lady. A wise women with a desire for harmony, peace and light.

One of the last nights in Africa we all sat outside and spontaneously began to sing praise songs to God. Nancy stayed for a bit listening to our concert to the bush elephants, the baboons and antelopes but at some point excused herself and retired.

Yet, I was aware of her curled up in her safari bed listening to us sing and I can’t stop thinking of Nancy... And that night... And the echoing sound of our song as it carried over the the wild wilderness of Africa and over Nancy’s sweet soul. Every word sincere to the God of Creation. Every praise a recognition of His mercy and love.

A few weeks after returning from Africa Nancy suffered a massive stroke and a terminal brain tumor was discovered.

And I can’t stop thinking of Nancy. So full of life. So gloriously imperfect, yet striving. And suddenly her time is done.

I love you, Nancy. I respect your journey, your life and your searching. May you find what your heart desires. You called several times to tell me you did not feel well. I thought it was jet lag not a terminal brain tumor. Forgive my hurried existence. Know that you are loved. That the Creator of the Universe knows you intimately; you are dust and to dust you shall return. Believe in Him. Believe in you as His Creation.

This Lent I am intensly struck by the reality that we are dust yet eternal. Nancy, your spark in the world is not in vain and it will not be forgotten.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Give God your Forty Days

Seasons come and go.

Today I find myself in a season which is requiring trust and acceptance. I was not raised in a church which recognized the church calendar. As a child we recognized Palm Sunday, Easter and Christmas—with communion thrown in every six weeks.

As an adult I have found comfort, nourishment and grounding in the Episcopal Church. The ritual, the repetition, and the seasons of the year ring true in my inner spiritual self.

I do not believe in coincidence nor do I think my challenging season of trust and acceptance coinciding with Lent is by chance. Lent is the period of 40 days which begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Easter. It is a time of personal examination and collective transformation through spiritual practices such as prayer, self-examination, study, personal retreat, and fasting. Lent is a contemplative time built in to the church calendar. A season of reflection designed for personal change. On Ash Wednesday I received a Lenten Journal. This week’s reflections remind me:

“It rained for forty days and forty nights as Noah waited out the flood, trusting in Gods’ word.

Moses was on the mountain with God for forty days, returning with the Law and the reminder of gratitude for all that God provided.

Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness, and facing Satan with faith and knowledge to worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.

As we enter this season of Lent, our forty days, we have the opportunity to intentionally choose to stand against that to which we are tempted, against that to which we place our false faith, against that to which distracts us from our efforts to serve God.

Consider devoting this Lenten season, your forty days, not to resisting temptations created by denial, but to trusting and thanking God. Trust God and thank God by serving Him as he serves you: unannounced and unconditionally.”

This Lenten season I hope to keep walking forward--head up, eyes open, heart receiving. I hope to choose gratitude over pity, kindness over spite, and trust over cynicism. I hope to fast from negative thoughts which do not serve me, others, or God and hold every thought captive to Christ. I hope to give Him my forty days.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mercy is in the Rite, the Symbol, the Friend

It was three years ago today I entered the Labyrinth. While deeply lost in self-made angst and depression I walked the spiraling path unconvinced but hopeful.

They say the devil is the author of confusion. I was certainly confused in my soul and my heart the day I wandered in circles within the Labyrinth. I was weary and carrying a heavy load of self-doubt, self-pity, and wounds. They say the devil is the author of confusion, but I am sure I gave him plenty of help back then.

Three years ago I had a friend along for the journey. She called me the morning of Ash Wednesday and casually asked if we were going to find a church and receive ashes. My friend and I did not grow up in a church which recognized Ash Wednesday but ever since college she and I have found a comfort and a transformational grounding in attending this solemn service.

That morning she picked me up, drove me to St. Mark’s, and sat next to me on the hundred year old church pew. A sparsely attended noon service gave us our own row. We recited the Collect. Our voices melded together as we chanted the Psalm and said the Lord’s Prayer. Three years ago it was Juleen who hugged me to offer the Peace of the Lord. A peace I did not have nor did I believe any was out there for me.

After the service, it was Juleen who followed me through the Labyrinth. Sometimes the path took us to opposite ridges of the circle, but I could see her or sense her out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes the path had us pass so close shoulders brushed, eyes met, and a kind and knowing smile just for me whispered past.

Juleen knelt with me in the center as I put my forehead on the ground and wept. She silently prayed with her head bowed and it all dumped out. Right there. In the center. I felt it and so did she. We both saw it, experienced it, and we left it there. Right there. In the center. I walked out of the Labyrinth lighter. With each step I felt the burdens physically lifting from my being. It was my healing, my deliverance, if you will.

Today is Ash Wednesday—a day to recognize our weaknesses and God’s compassion and mercy for His creation--a day to offer sincere hearts to the Lord.

This morning Juleen and I casually agreed to go to the noon service at St. Mark’s to receive ashes. We chit chatted about surface life in the car on the way. She apologized for being so sluggish--a bad night’s sleep and commented how she liked my hair. It was the familiar, intimate conversation of close friends. But when we entered the church we both knew there was nothing casual about this day or us being together.

Today when Juleen hugged me to offer the Peace it was real and true. The God of all mercy expresses Himself in many ways but one of my favorites is through the soul of a friend.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Concert turned mom into a poverty fighter

By Jennifer Grant
Special to the Chicago Tribune
December 25, 2009

Activist and author Shayne Moore credits a rock star with waking her up to the AIDS pandemic. A married, stay-at-home mother of three, Moore said her life in Wheaton was organized around raising her children -- filling sippy cups, changing diapers, and stocking the fridge with groceries -- until Bono came to town.

On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2002, U2 frontman Bono began his weeklong Heart of America Tour. The Irish rock star -- along with a motley crew of fellow travelers including celebrities Lance Armstrong and Ashley Judd, medical experts, and a children's singing group from Ghana -- visited seven Midwestern states and spoke at churches and on college campuses to raise awareness about AIDS.

During their stop at Wheaton College, Moore's alma mater, Moore said Bono's message "knocked the suburban wind right out of me."

"Living in an affluent suburb of Chicago, these issues weren't right in front of me," Moore said. "I was spending my time with other moms like me, going to play groups, going to Old Navy, going to Target. My world was really small."

Moore had been a fan of U2 since high school and when she heard Bono was coming, she was determined to see him.

"To be honest, I didn't care what Bono had to say. I didn't know what it was all about, but I scalped tickets from these little innocent freshmen at Wheaton so I could get in," Moore said. She paid $80 for tickets to attend the program; Wheaton students had received them for free.

That December day, as Moore entered Wheaton College's Edman Chapel with her 1-year-old son on her hip and holding the hand of her 4-year-old daughter, she was unaware that her life was about to change course dramatically. But a few hours later, shaken by what she'd learned about the tragic relationship between AIDS and poverty, Moore was incited to action.

In the seven years since Bono's visit to Wheaton, Moore has become a full-fledged activist. She has attended G8 summits in Edinburgh and St. Petersburg and has made public service announcements urging world leaders to keep their promises to the world's poorest people. She has traveled to Honduras, Zambia, and other resource-poor countries to observe and support the work of humanitarian organizations such as World Vision. Her first book, "All Our Ones Add Up: A Soccer Mom's Journey for Global Change," will be published by Zondervan in August.

"Shayne struck me as representing the prefect target audience for what the Heart of America Tour was trying to accomplish: to take caring, energetic Americans and to educate them on the issue and then to mobilize them to do their part in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic," said Ashley Woodiwiss, who was on Wheaton College's faculty when Bono visited and now teaches at Erskine College in South Carolina. "She struck me as well-placed to turn her desire to make a difference into a flourishing and full-time effort."

Moore started by attending meetings of a fledgling group called DuPage Glocal AIDS Action Network(dgaan.org), which was formed just days after Bono's visit by Woodiwiss; Sister Sheila Kinsey, a Franciscan nun; and Sandra Joireman, of the Wheaton College department of politics and international relations.

"Glocal" is a combination of "global" and "local," describing the group's goal of thinking globally and acting locally. Soon, Moore was an active member of the group, which meets regularly.

Because of her involvement in the group, Moore became one of the original members of the ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan effort created by a number of humanitarian organizations -- including Bread for the World, Oxfam, and World Vision -- to mobilize ordinary citizens to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease.

In November, Moore traveled to Zambia to see some of the work that organizations including World Vision are doing to prevent HIV transmission and gender-based violence in the southern African country.

"I connect deeply with the faith-based element of World Vision. My Christian faith motivates me to fight AIDS and poverty. With World Vision, I get my hands wet, my mind active, and my heart engaged," Moore said.

And she is grateful for the opportunity to get involved.

"I was very disturbed after I saw Bono," she said. "It's cliche to say it, but I woke up. I'd been living in this very insular world and it took a rock star coming to my hometown to wake me up to this huge thing happening in the world."


Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Menorah

“I am looking forward to getting out my Christmas decorations,” I announce to my friend Kathy thinking about all the bins in my basement. “I especially love the menorah my mother gave me.”

“You have a menorah?” Kathy looks puzzled.

“Yes, when I was growing up my family celebrated Hanukkah each year. When I got married my mother gave me one.”

“Why?” she presses me on it more. Kathy knows I am a person of faith in Jesus and I come from a Christian family.

I have never been asked why my family of origin celebrated Hanukkah, or why this tradition was passed down to my family. It was just something we always did. My mother even wrote a devotional book to go along with the lighting of the menorah. Each day of our Hanukkah celebration this devotional includes both Old Testament and New Testament responsive Scriptural readings, a hymn, a prayer and a memory verse.

Tomorrow at sundown marks the beginning of Hanukkah. As we approach I find myself reflecting on this interaction with my friend and the why of celebrating Hanukkah—at least for my little Christian family here in the Midwest.

Beyond my faith in Jesus, I appreciate the richness and significance of Old Testament Jewish culture and how the Israelites interacted with God and worshipped Him. Hanukkah is the same thing as The Festival of Lights and the book of John (10:22) records Jesus attending this festival in Jerusalem. Even then it was an eight day festival and it commemorated the recapture and rededication of the Temple following the victories of Judas Maccabeus in 165 B.C. According to the Book of Maccabae, once the Temple had been reclaimed a lamp was lit. This lamp according to Jewish law had to be kept lit and never extinguished. The only problem was there was only enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day. This is where the miracle of Hanukkah comes in--the oil in the lamp lasted eight days, just enough time until more oil arrived.

In the time of Christ the Festival of Lights was a time of celebrating and yearning for freedom, both political and religious, and it was very controversial as the Jewish people were living under Roman rule. Rome was not thrilled to have a city full of riled up activists for Jewish liberation. Then Jesus goes and makes it even more controversial when he claims he has come to bring much more than political and religious freedom.

It was during the celebration of Hanukkah when Jesus says these memorable words, “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

In my family our Hanukkah readings start with a poem. This poem sums up the overarching Biblical story of Christ. I have considered this absconding of a tradition might be offensive or confusing to my Jewish friends. However, to me it speaks to why I celebrate Hanukkah with my children, to the things we have in common, and to a continuity in a shared faith that God sometimes breaks into our world and does miracles.

Eight Little Candles by Jessie E. Sampter

I thought of Christ, the Promised One
And all that He has done,
I lit one little candle
To extol God’s only Son.

I thought about a man and wife,
And two who share one life,
I lit candles for Jesus and
The Church, the Bride of Christ.

I thought about the Trinity:
The Father, Spirit, Son,
I lit another candle
To praise the Three in One.

I thought about four marks of grace
Of faith, hope, peace and love,
I lit the candles and I prayed
O, fill me from above.

I thought how David used five stones
To face a foe alone,
And as I lit the candles
His obedience I owned.

I thought how God created
Six days of work and play,
I lit another candle
For the Sabbath to rest and play.

I thought how seven Churches
Prepare for Jesus’ reign,
The candles burn to promise
That Christ will come again.

I thought of how we celebrate
The Festival of Lights,
And lit the final candle
For Christ—the Light of Lights.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Room of Their Own

We pile out of our van in urban Lusaka, Zambia. The women of Chikumbuso greet us with everything they have. Their smiles, their song and their joy. Chikumbuso is a home, a community center, a school, and a safe house for women and their families who are infected and affected by poverty and HIV and AIDS.

It was once a bar and brothel where women were abused and used. "Mama Linda" bought it and redeemed it and created Chikumbuso. Today it provides clean bedrooms for families, a storage unit free of rats for books, classrooms, and a nursery where new moms can find safety, a crib and a locked door.

Most of the women at Chikumbuso are AIDS widows and have the disease themselves. Most of the women would be homeless and destitute without Chikumbuso. An HIV positive women, or a woman with full blown AIDS and her children are not wanted in society. Most of these women come from, or still remain, in abusive situations within their homes.

Chikumbuso is a haven. Behind the smiles and song I see the weary eyes and the suffering souls. Behind busy hands that knit handmade purses from strips of plastic garbage bags to sell for a bit of an income, I see tender hearts broken by the situations in their lives. Yet, there is something more here. Something sacred.

When you watch the video of these beautiful women singing about their community, can you see it? In my short visit, it became clear when women gather at Chikumbuso there is spirit of safety and solidarity. They have a room of their own.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Who Am I To Make A Difference?

“I don’t think I ever want to travel to Africa,” my friend says while blowing into the foam on her cappuccino.

“Why not?” I ask, adding, “It is a big time commitment and airfare isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. “ Jackie and I are sitting in our local Starbucks taking a little friend time out of our busy full-time mother schedule.

“No, that’s not it. I just don’t think I could handle seeing all the suffering. When my husband goes on mission trips he always comes home so sad, disturbed even. It really affects him.”

“When you travel like that there are difficult things to come to terms with but you also get to see the people and the land and appreciate cultures different from your own.” I try to meet her in the middle.

“Still. I just don’t want to see it--the suffering. It’s like that movie, Slumdog Millionaire, I just can’t watch that kind of stuff. I have no desire to see it.”

On my journey into waking up to the global realities of extreme poverty,the pandemics of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and the mistreatment of women and girls worldwide, these kinds of conversations cause me to pause.

Why are we so hesitant to look into the pain and suffering of others? Is it because these situations are hopeless? Do we feel they are too far away and there is nothing we can do? I mean, we’re just ordinary Middle American women. Who are we to make a difference? Are we afraid we will be too disturbed? That seeing and experiencing and entering in to another’s real life of staggering poverty, abuse and disease will throw off our emotional and spiritual comfort?

I have come to believe we are supposed to be disturbed.

And I have come to believe that being disturbed by the global situation of poverty and disease is not the same as having no hope. In fact, so much has changed on the international scene when it comes to the fight against these things. There is much hope!

In 2000, leaders from 189 countries signed on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), a set of eight ambitious targets designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. Today it is not just churches, mission organizations and thoughtful individuals in the fight against poverty, disease and universal education (especially for girls). Today governments all across the world understand something needs to be done. Here are the Millennium Development Goals:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger with the target of halving by 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than a dollar a day and to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education with the target of ensuring by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women with the target to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and all levels of education by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality with the target of reducing by two thirds the under-five mortality rate by 2015.

5. Improve maternal health with the goal of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio and achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases with the target of having halted the spread of HIV/AIDS and incidences of malaria and other diseases and begun t reverse the spread by 2015.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability with the target to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and to reverse the loss of environmental resources and to halve the proportion of populations without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Also, by 2020 to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8. Develop a global partnership for development with the target of addressing the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked and island countries and in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

With the world getting smaller, thanks to the Internet and 24 hour news on our TV’s, phones and computers, our generation is the first generation in the history of the world to be so educated and informed about global situations. We are also the first generation to have the capacity to be connected to people so far away from us geographically.

Today we can join with world leaders and make our voices count. We can express that we are disturbed and we think things need to change. As a friend of mine says, “As women, we need to get thick skin yet keep our hearts' tender, and be a voice for the voiceless.”

A great place to start: Join ONE. You’ll get news alerts, blogs, action points, and recommended articles to read. Together we can make a difference. www.one.org

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Generation In Agreement; U2 Chicago

I was at Cubs game a couple of weeks ago with my husband and three kids. It was a beautiful sunny Chicago day and it was made even lovelier by the fact that the Cubs were soundly trouncing the Mets. I grew up going to Cubs games back when only a sprinkling of seats at Wrigley might be full. It was great fun to share a vibrant and exciting team with my kids. It was a sold out game with over 40,000 people in attendance.

At the end of the game when all of us were singing, “Go Cubs Go, Go Cubs Go. Hey Chicago, what'd you say? The Cubs are gonna win today,” I looked around the stadium almost tearing up and thought, “You know, people can do it. We can come together in agreement, in peace, and in goodwill.” And even if this moment of solidarity was simply for a team it felt like no small thing.

Last night I was at a sold out Soldier Field for another favorite team, U2. It was the opening night of their U.S. concert tour. My husband and I brought our kids. We got our hotdogs and pop and settled in our seats and when we finally took in our surroundings we found we were sitting in a stadium full of families. In front of us a couple with their two sons. Behind us a family like us from the suburbs. This mom and I started comparing notes as to how many times we had seen U2, where and when. (She won. She’d seen them in ’84 in a tiny venue.)

Both our kids and our new found friends' kids rolled their eyes at our conversation and I felt my age in a new way. I did not feel crickety or like a has been. Instead, it felt like something significant was happening. It wasn’t just my husband and I who wanted to share U2’s music and message with our children. As I scanned Soldier Field I saw family after family doing the same.

Unlike the Rolling Stones or other enduring bands U2’s message is, well, different. Bono is the “every man” just trying to maneuver life warts and all, and underneath the truth of how hard life can be is the powerful message of solidarity and oneness with each other within our mutual broken humanity.

It is hard to miss these messages when a packed Soldier Field is singing them in unison.

“Every generation has a chance to change the world.”
“One life, we’ve got to do what we should.”
“We’ve got to carry each other, carry each other.”
“Stand by me. Stand by me.”

This morning I read some of the reviews of the concert--like from a guy over at The Chicago Sun-Times. It is as if he and I were at different shows. I admit I am not a sophisticated critic. I am a mom and a wife and I live in the suburbs. But I am also a member of this generation who resonates deeply with U2’s message and a desire for unity in a world being torn apart. I read the review and felt bad for this cynical reporter. What a drag he couldn't enter in the joy and unity of the show. Everyone else there certainly could. There was a powerful energy in the stadium last night.

I am not a cynic and what I witnessed was a generation in agreement that cynicism and divisiveness is not what we want to be about and not what we want to pass to our children. This is why we come back and continue to fill stadiums for 25 years. Sure, the stage might be cool, but it is so much more.

All those families in the seats--the moms and dads, the sons and daughters--we were there for the music, for the shared solidarity of ideals, and to see some good old friends and familiar faces who have a message that stirs our souls. Not to mention, it is just good rock and roll fun!

Bono and U2 have made real contributions to our global generation in the fight against poverty and disease and injustice. Who can argue with that? Who would want to? Bono and friends started ONE, www.one.org, a powerful expression of these ideals. If U2 has shown us anything it is that these messages are not simply happy sentiments that make a good song. They are universal truths that make a good world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Who Would Want to be an Ego, When We Can Be a Soul? Reflections on Elizabeth Lesser

I ought to be reworking the first chapters of a book I’m writing. I ought to be cleaning the upstairs bathroom. I ought to be getting dinner ready for my three children. Instead, I am blogging about death.

Standing in line at the local coffee house this morning I perused the titles of books on display: In Defense of Food; An Eater’s Manifesto, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food, The Kid’s Yoga Deck. My eyes fell on Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. A friend had just mentioned this book to me so I took it off the shelf, opened it about two thirds in, and began reading at a chapter entitled “A Meditation for Practicing Dying.”

It began with a quote from Ram Dass, “When we practice dying, we are learning to identify less with Ego and more with Soul.” I skimmed the short chapter feeling I must have been guided to this moment. The contents were connecting with me deeply.

This is a concept with which I am familiar. The book of Romans has a lot to say about death. In the middle of the book the author, Paul, explains that the way the cosmos is set up, the way we come to know our Creator intimately, is by faith in Jesus. And faith in his story-- which is he died. Paul teaches when we come to faith in the story of Jesus, we die with him. Our sins die with him. But the story doesn’t end there—Jesus comes back to life. Starting in chapter six of Romans, in one of the most complete manifestos on the spiritual condition of man, the Bible explores this concept of dying to self and being alive in Christ. Paul says, “The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace….You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

I have been a person of faith my whole life, and my life-experience testifies to the truth of this story. When I am holding on to my “self”--when I am letting my ego call the shots and limit my viewpoint, it is death to my spirit. It steals my joy and wastes my time. But when I allow myself to live into the reality the spirit of Christ lives in me, I am able to die to self and the limiting, soul-crushing habits which are attached.

This morning, Elizabeth Lesser layered wonderful, complimentary words on my theology. She writes,

“I have trained myself now—when something is not going my way, and I feel rising up within me a big, hard No!—to take a breath or two, and to counter it with different counsel. I tell myself to “die to it.”…. What must die? Any resistance to the bigger truth. Any holding on by that part of me—my little ego—that cannot see beyond its own nose. If the situation involves another person—even if that person is being led around by the nose of his or her own little ego—it is still only necessary for me to “die to it.”…Practicing dying means living as close to reality as we can in each moment. It is the ultimate bravery. The spiritual warrior stands undefended before the truth—not some concept about the truth but the stripped-down reality of the most mundane, day-to-day situations.”

I want to be a spiritual warrior. I want to practice dying. I am not going to get it down perfect, this dying to self all the time, but maybe if I keep practicing I will get better? Because as Elizabeth so aptly points out, “Who would want to be an ego, when we can be a soul?”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Open Heart, Open Hands and the Holy

Yesterday I saw Linda. She was standing and smiling and holding my hands.

Two weeks ago my spiritual director had emergency open heart surgery. A large tumor was found in her chest threatening her heart. This is a heart which is precious to me. This was alarming news.

It was two years ago I approached Linda to be my spiritual director and it was two years ago, while walking a labyrinth, the Lord lifted my burden of self. The dark tunnels of confusion where I had been journeying suddenly opened into an expansive place of freedom. God delivered me. It wasn’t anything I had done special that day or that month. It was simply my time. I had learned all I needed to learn in this season and I soon found myself in a place of freedom and peace with an ever-increasing clarity of sight.

It was here Linda joined me on my journey. My monthly times with her became indispensable to me and to my spiritual life. Spiritual direction can mean different things to different people. Some people understand it to be the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. It is when a person is trained to be a competent spiritual guide who companions with another person, listening to that person's life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.

These past two years have been a watershed of blessing. I came to Linda almost as a newborn bird. The shell had been cracked. I had been set free, but I was scared and lonely and I wasn’t really sure where to go or what to do. My old attachments didn’t work for me anymore and I wasn’t sure who to trust or even how to figure that out.

Linda and Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love, were constant companions to me as I was healing.

Henri writes, “You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to you interior life. For years you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires. Thus you were no longer master in your own house.

It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others.”

Linda consistently extends a pure, open heart to me and in return she is one of the few to whom I lower my drawbridge for entry. Her generosity and grace have been a profound model and guide of how to have a whole, healthy and open heart which can then share real joy and peace with others. In a word, she has been Christ to me--utterly safe and on my side.

Yesterday I brought her tulips. I heard she was released from the hospital but I did not expect to see her. My plan was to leave them on her front porch and slip away, but the door was open and I was pleasantly surprised to see her seated at her kitchen table.

Linda rose when she saw me. She looked beautiful and it was hard to imagine everything she had just been through. She smiled broadly and gesturing toward her heart said, “Of course, I can’t hug you.” She grabbed both my hands instead.

Involuntary tears came to my eyes and she simply said with her characteristic depth and intensity, “Bless you.”

To bless. In the scriptures this is an imparting of the holy. It is used as either words of praise to God or words to make someone or something holy. This truth was apparently too much for my spirit and I deflected the blessing.

I said almost incredulously, “No. Bless you.” Humbled in her condition and situation she would minister to me. I did not feel worthy of her blessing and I certainly did not feel holy.

Still holding my hands, Linda looked into my eyes, smiled at my tears and persisted with her blessing despite my resistance. She said nothing more but she raised my right hand, and bringing it to her lips, she kissed it.

I stumbled back to my car with tears streaming down my face feeling unworthy, thankful, blessed and knowing I had just experienced the Holy.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wondering About Water

“and the Spirit of God was hovering over the water.” –Genesis 1:2

I spent the last week on a cruise ship with my family. The waters were calm and bright blue. Every morning I would throw open the curtains of our cabin to see no sign of land. Everywhere ground should have been was endless, moving, powerful water.

By the end of the week even my dreams were filled with the water. I dreamt water gushing all around as I walked or talked. It was everywhere.

My family lives in middle America. The ocean is very far from here. We have visited the ocean, swam and surfed in the ocean, but the water I see on a daily basis is hitting me sideways from the fierce wind as I grocery shop, or is sitting in piles of snow at the side of my driveway. Spending a week on the surface of the deep brought a whole new appreciation for water.

My seven year old son punctuated it for me at dinner one night. He said, “Mom, all of life is connected to the ocean.”

I realize he was quoting a lesson book from first grade as we had just been discussing The Water Cycle and the evaporation of oceans which creates rain, which creates rivers, which flows back to the ocean. However, his comment struck me on a spiritual level as well, because to me, they are inseperable.

We are all connected to the ocean—to the water--and I began to wonder about water. Google tells me that 70.8% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and up to 78%
of the human body is made up of water. The Bible begins by referencing the surface of the deep and the water.

Jesus famously said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4)

Later in the book of John, Jesus is describing what the Holy Spirit will do in those who believe in him. He says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow within him.” (John 7)

At creation the Spirit hovered over the water. At my new creation, my new life with Christ, the Spirit no longer hovers rather it dives into the spiritual waters of my soul and flows within me, giving a source of life--powerful, everlasting life.

When you are on the surface of the deep, watching dolphins jump and play, or snorkeling and seeing all the fish and creatures, one is very aware this is just the surface of life. The water is deep, powerful and mysterious.

Amidst the fun of family, activities and friends I found myself reflective about this depth within Creation and within me. I found I was wondering--the kind of wonder that is filled with awe-- about water.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Child

Today The Great I Am is crying.
Everywhere I see He weeps.
Salty tears drip down my window and soak my hair.
Stoplight. He cries. Pass the fairgrounds. He cries.

She rocks in her chair.
Holding the black beaded scarf covering her head.
Soft repetitious mutters.
Unmistakable body language of calamity befallen.

Deep-as-the-Universe restrained expressions of grief.
This one paces. That one hugs. She vacantly shakes her head.
They freeze in prayer. Allah have mercy.
Tired, terrified eyes.

I come and go. There is no relief for this.
An ice pack for her head. Shared anguish for her soul.
The nurse must triage in room 8 and will be with us.
We wait for the impossible-to-know known.

She must see him? She. Must. See. Him.
An unthinkable reunion.
I silently stand. I stare at the clock so my thoughts do not overtake me.
The room is too small for all this anguish.

She mutters her prayers as I mutter mine.
Two coroners, a chaplain, a father and a mother.
And One God.
Allah have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Today The Great I Am is crying.
The grey sad sky pays homage to a mother’s darkest.
Creation must recognize the loss.
The rain, it drips down my window.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Thoughts on Faith

Are you like me? Do you subscribe to e-newsletters, news alerts from your favorite sources, weather alerts, and such? If I am not careful I have far too much information coming at me and no more brain space in which to file it.

Today, however, I got one of my many e-newsletters. This one is health related and comes from an alternative medicine clinic near my home. Dr. Nemec, whom I have never met, kindly sends me an email about once a week.

As I head out to gym, his thoughts today are a needed reorientation. What is health? Where does it come from? How is it attained? Here are Dr. Nemec's thoughts on the subject. I wanted to share them with you...

Faith is natural when you follow your heart

Faith is the natural action that comes from following what God has put into your heart. Faith that seems difficult is no faith at all because it is being generated from your ego-filled mind, instead of from your God-filled heart.- Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. NIV

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit. -Emmanuel Teney

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who has faith has... an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.
-B. C. Forbes

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. NIV

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but (by faith) be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12: 1-2

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. -Marcel Proust

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Man's Land

A Quaker gay man and an Evangelical full-time mother and wife make strange bed fellows. I’ve know Brad for a long time. We have worked together, on and off since 2002, raising awareness in the Western Suburbs of Chicago in the fight against HIV and AIDS. On paper Brad and I really should not be friends.

Yet, this hot September morning found us walking in stride together along the lakefront. Last Saturday was the annual AIDS Foundation of Chicago AIDS Walk/Run. This was the first year I participated in the walk and I was struck by the diversity in the crowd. Over 7000 people gathered in Grant Park and either ran or walked the 5K around the Field Museum campus and lakefront.

While pinning on my number I observed many walks of life; from the respected South Side Pastor and his congregation, to the pack of Loyola students complete with cheerleader and megaphone, to the gay and lesbian couples, to the families with strollers. All ages. All races. All lifestyles.

I hadn’t seen Brad in a long time and I was interested to catch up with him and his life. We settled into a nice stride with Lake Michigan on our right and the sun beating down. Recently, we had both gone through transitions in our lives around our efforts at raising awareness of HIV and AIDS.

As we talked, I reflected, “I often feel like I’m in No Man’s Land. My faith community--well, nobody really knows what to do with me. I’m an evangelical and suburban mom. Liberals would laugh if I considered myself liberal and Conservatives won’t own me either. I’m just sort of out here on my own.”

Brad reflected a similar sentiment. You see, Brad is a truth-teller. I have always respected that about Brad. The fight against HIV and AIDS should not be polarizing or part of political games, and ever since I’ve known Brad he has been willing to be in No Man’s Land. Working gracefully with all different kinds of people; even people who disagree with his lifestyle. Speaking against both sides, any side, where ignorance, irresponsibility and injustice loom; especially into his own communities of friends and faith.

Brad is planning a prayer breakfast in Dupage County on December 1st in honor of World AIDS Day. He is building the content of the morning around the idea we all tend to put ourselves in buckets. We separate from one another based on many things. Brad’s vision is to see all people, all faith communities, dump out their buckets into one big pile and start working together to eradicate the spread of HIV and AIDS.

I found our walk and talk very encouraging; a divine appointment if I may be so bold. Sometimes it’s lonely and confusing to be in No Man’s Land; to not be firmly situated in a bucket of ideology and opinion. But maybe free-agents are needed after all? To wander around and push on buckets, expand understanding, ask honest questions, and seek real answers.

Because in the long run, the fight against HIV and AIDS is not a 5K on a lovely morning, rather, it’s a grueling global Marathon and we have all just started.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Bouquet Named Mercy

It’s scary to be transparent. We all have our reasons why. Some of us—we simply have never been transparent. It was not modeled and therefore we have never tried it. It is not in the repertoire of human relating. Some of us—we were modeled over-exposure. TMI, too much information. And we have left situations feeling too vulnerable and as if relationships are not mutual.

Occasionally, however, if the stars are aligned just right, this delicate balance between our authentic selves being shut away too deep and our authentic selves bleeding all over the room is accomplished.

I have a dear friend going through a significant life change and we have flirted with the transparency dance for years. Just the other day, however, those stars aligned and the false walls we build between one another came down. Our authentic selves showed their faces.

And we were both crying. And we were both scared. And we risked it. We talked on the phone that day, we listened and we loved.

…then I went to the grocery store. I was digging around trying to find Lipton bottled tea Unsweetened (they NEVER have it) when a song on the store’s Musak caught my attention. It was a cheesy 70’s love ballad, you know it, “We’re in this love together, the kind that lasts forever…” And that line repeats and repeats and repeats, “We’re in this love together, the kind that lasts forever…”

I teared up in aisle 5 knowing God was affirming me, calling me, to love my friend. I was humbled and challenged at the same time. I am honored to be in this loving of others with Him. I am also required to be in this loving of others with Him.

My spirit submitted right then and there and He told me to go and get her some flowers, and to name them Mercy. I admit, I thought, “What an awesome idea!” knowing it was not mine.

I went to Whole Foods and bought two of the biggest bouquets I could find and had the flower lady make them into one-- with a big pink ribbon around the stems. I prayed as I drove to my friend’s home. If she was there it was meant to be. If not, I would simply leave them on her stoop.

Heading up her walkway I was very self aware of my suitor-like behavior. I rang the doorbell and waited. I nervously shifted back and forth on my feet. She opened the door and the look on her face told me His idea was obviously the correct one.

I handed the enormous bouquet to her and said, “I got you these flowers. I named them Mercy. Put them on your kitchen counter so every time you come in you are reminded of His unconditional love and mercy for you.”

She responded with an, "Ohh"--the kind that comes from the bottom of your soul.

We hugged. We wept. She put the flowers in a vase.

I didn’t stay long. Even authentic transparency hits a point where everyone needs a break to regroup and find inner safety. As I got in my car and drove away, the song on the radio echoed the song in the store. We’re in this loving of each other with Him. We are his Mercy Bouquet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Music Builds in Chicago

I am a child of the 70's. Admittedly, not a Woodstock- going-hippie-child. I was born in 1970. Which means it was my senior year in high school when U2’s historic Joshua Tree Tour permanently indented into my rock & roll psyche.

Last night in Chicago at the Charter ONE Pavilion Jars of Clay, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Switchfoot and Third Day also revealed the pervasive influence U2 has had on us all, ending the concert with members of every band on stage, rocking Rattle and Hum’s “When Love Comes to Town.” I was delighted when Switchfoot ended their set leaving the stage one at a time, with the crowd singing, modeling the memorable “40” exit from Joshua Tree Tour. And I was right there with Switchfoot when Jon Foreman did an impressive rift echoing one of U2’s biggest songs, ONE.

Maybe it is because I am a Joshua-Tree-child and have come to have certain expectations of my icons, but I couldn't help but think, “This is how it’s supposed to be done.” Great music. Great venue. Great Cause. One dollar of every ticket for the Music Builds Concert goes to Habitat For Humanity and the ONE Campaign sponsored the event.

I was inspired see all the ONE videos on the screens, encouraging people to get involved, join the campaign, Vote ’08 and Change the Debate. I was able to meet the band members before the show. My family was with me, and my 12 year son—well, I think he was a little shell shocked and star struck! The band members were gracious and sincere. I found it very rewarding to thank the guys in person for all their efforts on behalf of the ONE Campaign.

I have been a member of ONE since its inception. And it was a music super star who humbly came to my home town in 2003, in a bus, with a guitar and a boom box, and started this wave, this movement of ONE. We are all ONE. We all make a difference.

I have a good friend who says, “ONE is America at its best.” It’s all different kinds of people, from different walks of life, political leanings, and faith affiliations coming together to build a movement solely to help those who need it.

The wave continues to build and last night in Chicago demonstrated ONE is also music at its best!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Campfire and Conversation; The Gift of Story

I was 13 when my family spent our first summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. My father was a professor by school-year and a camp director by summer. Each summer we packed up our summer things, loaded the car, and all piled in (including the cat), and drove the 8 hours straight north to our little neck of the woods on Long Lake.

On the grounds of this camp I ran free, like I could never do in the suburbs back home. I would wave to my parents as I occasionally passed them on my way to catch bullfrogs in the cove, jump in the lake to layout on the swim raft, or bribe the boat driver to take me water skiing after hours.

At camp I did every job imaginable. Mostly I was on teen staff, where in theory we were to clean the cabins and the other buildings, however reality found us messing around and joy-riding in camp vehicles. I ran the craft shop one summer, another I painted, another I was a counselor, worked in the kitchen, and went on wilderness trips.

Camp was a place apart. My summers were a delightful giant pause in the regular flow of life where everything simplified and slowed down. In this slower pace of life relationship had the space to grow. A single symbolism of this phenomenon was the campfire with its quiet conversation.

With no TV or radio or distraction the campfire is just what we did. Evening would fall, and we would gather around the fire. As we sang praise songs to God I felt His warm presence envelope me like the darkness and smoke around. We gazed into the jumping, dancing flames and we talked.

Around these campfires we told our stories. The stories matured and grew more complex as I aged, but the theme remained the same; with the sharing of ourselves in this intimate circle of safety we learned about ourselves and our world. I heard many of the same stories told over and over, yet without fail new ideas would be presented. Whether it was a group of strangers on a wilderness trip, a group of 7th grade campers, or a bunch of friends sneaking off for the night, we would listen to one another, poke at the embers, and join in each other’s journey.

In the telling of our stories around campfires I learned the gift of conversation. I began to understand, even before I could put words on it, that to know and be known happens in the telling of our stories. In authentic conversation.

Today I am blessed to have a cabin across the lake from the camp of my childhood. My children now have this sacred place as their summer playground. This past week a girlhood friend has been up enjoying the Northwoods. In the evenings we have built our campfire and settled in for conversation. Our circle has been small. Just the two of us. Yet, despite our age, our kids running amok around us, and the complications of life and love we find ourselves in today, the format is the same. As we give the gift of our unique stories to one another, we find how similar we are. Just as the fire organically moves and dances with ease, so does our conversation, and without even realizing exactly when it happened, we find that we received an even greater gift; we are known.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From an Ancient Well; the Center of the Soul

I woke with the contents of my soul breaking-through into the day. With eyes open and staring, I was still and replayed the dream several times over in my head before climbing out of bed.

I dreamt I was coming over a rise. Someone who knew me was calling to me, “Posies, Posies! It’s drawing! It’s coming! It’s ancient!” I looked toward where I was directed and saw a hole or a crevice in the ground. I saw a well.

Recently, the metaphor of a blossoming flower as self has burst into my life. From seemingly incidental conversation, to quotes randomly sent on Facebook, to dreams. Could He be calling to me with the pet name of a bouquet of flowers?

I opened my Bible. I appropriately chose the version The Message for the task at hand. It opened to Genesis 26. Dreams are messengers. What was the message of this dream? I had opened my Bible to the story of Isaac camping in the valley of Gerar. The ancient story goes that there were a bunch of wells in this valley that Isaac’s father, Abraham, had dug. The Philistine’s envied Isaac and they got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells, clogging them up.

Isaac decides to redig these old wells. He digs three and with each well he finds spring water. With the first the shepherds of Gerar quarrel with Isaac’s men, so Isaac names this well Esek (Quarrel). They dig a second well and find spring water, but there is a fight over this one too. So he names it Sitnah (Accusation).

Isaac digs a third well. There is no quarreling or accusation attached to this well and so he names it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces) saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.” God appeared to him that very night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I am with you. I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant.”

Could I have dreamt of an ancient, interior well named Wide-Open Spaces? A place of no quarreling or accusation. A place of no fear. A place of promise and blessing and happiness.

Teresa of Avila wonders about this place as well. She observes, “I do not think happiness has its source in the heart at all. It arises in a much more interior part, like something of which the springs are very deep; I think this must be the center of the soul.” (Interior Castles)

He is the Ancient of Days. He is my Abba who loves me. He dwells at the center of my soul. He is the Living Water and He draws this Living Water out in my life. In the center of my soul I find a deep spring from which I am able to quench my spiritual thirst.

My dream was loaded. Yet the biggest impact, despite all this ruminating, was the sense of great anticipation and joy with which I burst into the day.

It is coming! It is Ancient!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

People Live Their Theology

It was during a flurry of discontented emails when I first wrote, “People live their theology.” I was in deep debate with a childhood friend. We grew up in the same town. We went to the same schools and churches and our father’s taught at the same institution of higher learning. We were college roommates. And then, as does happen, we found our friendship in crisis and we began to hotly debate it.

Now, I need no scolding on the merits of email as a reconciliation tool. Hindsight is 20/20, thank you. Besides, what I am speaking to here is how my thoughts finally dumped all the words, confusion, accusations and decisions into the phrase, “People live their theology.”

Theology. “The study of religious faith, practice and experience; the study of God and His relation to the world; a theory or system; a distinctive body of theological opinion.” (Webster)

We are both Christians, raised in Christian homes, in the same town and community. I assumed we had the same theology of reconciliation, grace and forgiveness. It was like cold water being poured over my head and shot directly into my veins to discover my error. And it was during the death of this friendship that I took into me deeply the reality that people say many things regarding what they believe about God and the world, but in the end, people live what they really believe.

I recently finished my first unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). It’s like being a medical intern only I was a pastor intern at a local hospital. As part of the education process we write verbatims, or case studies. We have lectures and class time and some written work. We also have a final evaluation. My final evaluation came back to me this week where my pastoral skills were discussed and dissected. It was encouraging to read what I already had come to know. That I am good at being a hospital chaplain, that I have an easy authority and effective rapport with patients and families. One observation from my supervisor around theory and practice was “Shayne seems to be working from instinct, rather than intent.” I paused when I read this. I read it again. And I smiled.

I grew up in a home of theologians. I have a Master of Arts in theology. I’ve put in my time in stuffy classrooms (with mostly men) and kept up with the allow-me-demonstrate-how-much-more-I-know-than-you game. I have written the 50+ pages on Holiness in the book of Leviticus and discussed German theologians adnauseam. I have debated, written, edited, taken notes, and participated in theological reflection until I couldn’t take it anymore.

I smiled reading my evaluation because if only my supervisor knew my pastoral intent is so integrated with my instinct it goes unnoticed. I know what I believe about faith, practice, experience, God and how He works in the world. Maybe I’m over needing to justify why I do what I do. Maybe I’m still burned from putting it out there and it getting rejected. What I do know is, like everyone else, I’m simply living my theology.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Divine Dwells in the Heart

Today is my birthday.

I decided today was also the day to go back to yoga. The last yoga class I attended was after some stressful events at the hospital. I overdid it, and I paid for it. Today I decided to return with a more moderate view of what I can and cannot physically do—and to take it easy and enjoy myself.

Immediately upon entered the studio I was glad I came. The music, the smell of incense, the quiet chatter of woman all different ages, shapes and sizes. These are my people. Woman in community--coming together, yet separate. We share the energy of the room. Our practices interact and mingle, yet each in her own space, on her own mat, doing her own hard work.

I started taking the discipline, the path, of yoga seriously about two years ago. I had been going for years. I have asthma and will never be a big runner. It fit my fitness level and my body and I enjoyed it. Then it started to happen. As my body adjusted to the discipline of yoga my mind started to follow.

Yoga opened up an expansive and deep way of looking at the world. I was depressed and white-knuckling my worldview. Yoga seeped in between the cracks and gave me permission to let go and shed things that were not serving me anymore. My time on the mat was a guide, as strongly as if a person were sitting there telling me where to go, only more so. I found the freedom to quiet the monkey chatter in my mind, to throw off the judgment. So much judgment! I had never been modeled anything but judgment, criticism, overanalyzing, generalizing, minimizing…surrounded by people, faith and politics that judged and then moved people and situations into the appropriate boxes.

Yoga was my dirty little secret. My world considered yoga a tool of the devil…sort of like a gateway drug. If I did yoga I would soon throw off all my faith and start worshiping the thousands of Hindu gods. I knew this was hogwash. Yoga was intensely strengthening my faith, my understanding of God and of myself, and supporting my Biblical view of the cosmos. Yoga was expanding it all; until I thought my mind and soul might explode! My practices and meditations brought me to the very foot of the throne of grace and to the tips of the universe.

And on my birthday I decided to give myself this gift.

We started the practice sitting comfortably in meditation and we were encouraged to set an intention for our practice. I smiled inside and set the intention to love myself. I set the intention to shed any reason to explain or defend my physical performance or how well I controlled the monkey chatter in my mind. I set the intention of non-judgment as an act of self-love.

As I flowed from Warrior Two, to Triangle, to Airplane to Plow…my mind flowed to my birthday, even picturing myself as a baby coming into the world, all bloody and crying, as if saying, “A precious soul has arrived!” I felt the joy of my parents. I breathed deep. I exhaled with purpose.

When it was time for meditation I was relaxed and open. The teacher led a chant. She mentioned they had done this mantra before, so she didn’t translate the Sanskrit to English. I decided not to chant, because I didn’t know what I was saying. Instead I sat, perfectly still, so a bird could land on me, breathing deep and easy.

And my heart began to fill. Throughout my practice I had been hearing, “I am your God and you will be my people.” I didn’t judge it or analyze it. I submitted to it. I heard it over and over throughout the practice, sometimes almost bringing me to tears. As I sat in lotus, taking in the chant, my heart began to fill with intense warmth. It was tangible and wonderful.

Finally, the teacher repeated a line from the mantra in English, “The Divine dwells in the heart.”

I let it wash over me and fill me. I had set the intention to love myself. Love is centered in the heart. God in his mercy reminded me it is on the path to self-love where I find my God and where I become His people. When I practice “vairagya,” the elimination of whatever hinders progress and refinement, when I throw off all the judgment, when I throw off all that entangles, that is when I am able to truly love myself. And in that place of self-love and acceptance I enter my heart and find the Divine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

May I Walk With You?

Luke 24

I recently heard first-hand the story of an 11 year old girl who was stabbed 11 times, raped, left for dead, and yet survived. I saw the MSNBC story of the Taylor University families who suffered the trauma of having their daughters’ identities mixed up at an accident scene. One family thought they had buried their daughter yet she was alive and being nursed back to life by another family who had really lost their daughter. And the horrible news of a colleague’s daughter’s untimely death while serving in Afghanistan just came last week.

These stories of trauma, of lives interrupted, of deep loss, touch us. The biblical story of Jesus meeting his disciples on the Road to Emmaus has stirred the hearts of Christians since it was first told. These men had just seen the bloody, brutal and heartless killing of their best friend, their hope, and their teacher. They had experienced real loss and deep trauma.

I’ve been wondering lately how these stories touch us? How often have we heard these deeply troubling events, cringe away and say, “I don’t know what to do with this. It’s too much. How can life be good with all this happening?” I can’t shake the idea maybe what we are really saying is, “If I let myself ‘go there’ with this situation, I may ‘go there’ in myself. If I interact with this trauma, I may find myself interacting with my own trauma. And if I do that then my life may not be good.”

Our minds so quickly fall on either/or thinking. Life is good or it’s bad.

What if it is both/and. Our life is good and our trauma, our losses are real?

What if destiny, joy and healing are found deep inside trauma, fear, and failure?

That would require we go deep into trauma and fear and stand in it. Shake hands with every negative and overwhelming emotion. Feel the waves of pain and anguish hit-- and continue to stand.

This is what Jesus encouraged his friends to do that day going to Emmaus. Jesus came along side them and simply said, “Tell me what happened.” For hours he facilitated authentic interaction with their trauma.

Jesus could have showed up and gone into protection mode. He could have revealed himself right away and glossed over the past week to protect his friends from deeply experiencing the reality of their pain. But he didn’t. He went there with them. Jesus never modeled skipping any of life’s authentic experiences for the sake of protection—of ourselves or others. Rather Jesus respected the pain for what it was, and then mercifully revealed the destiny and purpose of the pain.

When we accept the both/and of trauma in our own lives; that life is full of joy and healing and life is full of loss, we no longer cringe away from our neighbor’s pain. We have learned to stand in pain, to ride the waves of pain, because it is taking us somewhere.

When we come to deep understanding of this, we are now real in the face of our neighbor’s trauma. We can say, “May I walk with you?”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Wounded Healer

I just started this new gig as a hospital chaplain here in the Chicagoland area. I am an intern, which means I am still a student, but my learning is not in a classroom. It's in getting thrown in and sinking or swimming--learning from success and failure.

Last Thursday our hospital took three of the Northern Illinois shooting victims. This was baptism by fire as they say. I stood in the swirling activity of the ER waiting for the helicopters to arrive with the victims. As I waited I imagined what I might see or be asked to do. And I started reflecting...

As I reflect on my learning from last week I am struck by the repetitive nature of my learning. The past week has been a time of revisiting my woundedness. I suppose there are things in everyone’s lives that despite our best efforts at self-knowledge and self-awareness, still rise up and sting us.

I had one of those weeks. Feeling like I had fallen back into negative patterns of thinking and acting. This was incredibly discouraging for me. I have achieved so much healing. It was strange. Things were bugging me, but it all felt superficial. Like I was “acting” at being bugged--cognitively I knew it was not how I was really thinking or feeling. Once again I was in a wrestling match with myself, having to free myself and throw off all that entangles.

I found myself revisiting my woundedness, failures and humiliations. And once again I was reminding myself there is no shame in the journey--despite the opinions of others. I talked and processed a great deal this week. It was a week of being tired. Tired of these same issues. Tired of talking about it. Tired of the same lessons. It was a week of feeling vulnerable and exposed. A week of re-accepting this is our proper stance before God.

God is merciful. Today, when He speaks to me, I bounce back in days instead of years. Today when He tries to stop me, I hear Him. He says to me, “I have chosen a better road for you. Do not deviate. Stay on the one I have for you.”

And Thursday night, when the NIU victims came into our doors, I stood calmly and confidently outside that trauma room. I knew there was no coincidence with what I had been through the past week and what was about to transpire that evening. I thought about Nouwen's classic book, The Wounded Healer, and I got it. God needed me acutely aware of my weakness and vulnerability so I could minister to others out of that place deep within me.