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Everything

In That Moment

Tiffany Graham

by Tiffany Graham

Although not everybody agreed with the music, or the theology, or even the lights, we gathered around each other, some pressed tight, fingers gripping shoulders, allowing emotions to trample past the limits of our simple barriers and bodies we think separate us. It may not have been perfect, and it may not have been correct. In fact, I am certain it was all wrong. But still, we gathered, and we passed our hurt in front of eyes that had never seen it and we laid our rusted souls out in exchange for the chance to feel the passing of another. It was there that we saw the hurting and the imperfections of those we knew. Some of the hurt was known; some was a surprise. Some of the imperfections were well-versed like a hymn sung a few times too many each morning.

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Resisting Shallow Calls to Love in Difficult Times

Rachel Virginia Hester

by Rachel Virginia Hester

Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public. – Cornel West

These are difficult times, and I am afraid. I’m afraid for me and for the people I love. I feel rushed. I feel urgency. I don’t have time to convince you. I don’t have beautiful language or academic words. I only have this. If you are a Christian who can’t hear me, who doesn’t believe I’m in pain, who doesn’t believe the pain is real, then we have a problem. You have a problem.

You make shallow and uninformed calls to love the oppressed. We need to love Muslims, you say. We need to love Black people, we need to love LGBTQ+ people because they are our siblings, they are family. However, in the very next breath, you pass off false information, toss off stereotypes, hold off from helping the people you just called “family.”

You say, “But I have never done a racist/Islamophobic/sexist act.” And you talk amongst yourselves, convinced that agreeing about love is the same thing as loving.

As if love were just an ideology. Or politics.

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The Valley of Dry Bones

Ricky Cintron

by Ricky Cintron

The other day during Morning Prayer I found myself reading a passage from Ezekiel, the famous “Valley of Dry Bones” vision:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. (Ezekiel 37:1-5)

This is probably one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. Coincidentally, I had also read this passage during the Easter Vigil at church. That was my first time ever attending an Easter Vigil service; when I was a child, my parents didn’t go to the Vigil because it’s a super long service. As beautiful as this service was, I wasn’t filled with joy. I had a recent falling out with some friends, work had me really burnt out, and I was reminded of how lonely I felt in Boston, especially since I usually spend this holiday with my family back home. I sat with this passage, thinking about Easter and the empty tomb, and silently prayed: “Lord, breathe into the places in me that are dry and dead. Fill those places with life.”

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People Are Worth It

Hye Sung

by Hye Sung

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Many who followed Jesus hoped for a revolutionary, a leader who might liberate Israel from its imperial oppressor. Christ could have been the answer.

But he died.

And I wonder, if Jesus wanted an insurrection, then why did he die on the cross? Why didn’t he accomplish a revolution?

I’ve been sitting on this question, waiting and thinking. In the meantime, my apocalyptic theology has grown more and more anarchist. I’ve been impatient and angry. But my sense is that this isn’t the way of Christ.

God in Christ reveals what it means to be human. It is love – to live in communion with God and with your fellow children of God. It is to be surrendered to God’s liberating love, embracing the way we are all connected and bound to one another, and following the riskiest and most beautiful implications of this connection, even unto death.

Jesus embodied the truest, fullest way to be human.

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Homesick

John Hampton

by John Hampton

I’ve gone to one church every Sunday since the day I was adopted. When I was a kid, I was “forced” to be there – it wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my Sunday mornings, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either. By the end of high school, however, I was showing up for people, people I liked. This church had become my home.

It felt safe.

And then it didn’t.

The church split, and suddenly I was an outcast. Granted, I have privilege because I’m a man and because of my last name. (My family has a long history in this church.) But I noticed some things. I’m almost always one of the only people of color in the room. I hear people say how safe they want to be for all different kinds of people. But people like me – and lots of other people who aren’t like me but who are also on the margins – they keep getting pushed out.

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Efforts in Befriending my Body (also, that one time I didn’t shower for 4 days)

Sarah Klatt

by Sarah Klatt

I grew up in purity culture (Here’s an article that looks helpful after a quick look, for anyone looking for a definition/examples of this). From a very early age in Fundamental Evangelical Christianity, I learned things about my body that I’m still struggling to untangle. This could probably be 100 blog posts. This could probably be the work of my life.

Since I have yet to actually figure anything out though, I’ll start small.

From my mother I learned that cleanliness is indeed right next to godliness and now that I’m an adult I wonder HOW THE HELL DID SHE KEEP OUR HOUSE SO CLEAN? While I sometimes wish her magical cleaning abilities could have transferred to me more smoothly…as a child in one regard I took this to an extreme.

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Leaving for Love

Courtney Bither

by Courtney Bither

I’m learning to leave right now.

Leaving is hard. At least for me. Leaving a relationship. A church. A home.

Sometimes it’s not difficult. Sometimes we grow out of things and people and places. Sometimes leaving is for the better. Sometimes it feels right. Sometimes it just happens.

And other times it doesn’t.

Other times it feels like leaving might kill you.

I’m in the process of leaving. I’m leaving because I can’t stay in a place where there isn’t love for hurting people, for different people, for people who are fighting for their lives.

And the process isn’t easy or pretty or neat.

It’s messy and sad and terrible.

But it’s not as messy and sad and terrible as trying to stay in a place without love.

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Where Jesus Lives

Elijah Walker

by Elijah Walker

When I was four years old, my grandmother taught me to play Baptist hymns on the piano. “Oh, How I Love Jesus!” was the song of my heart. It did not take much to convince me to love Jesus at that age. I heard about him three times a week in our missionary Baptist church, and all I knew of him was love. I knew that he encouraged children. I knew that he was of God, who was good. I knew that every song we sang on Sunday mornings referenced his gentle love and generosity.

All I knew of Jesus was love. But the traditional narrative for young, queer and trans folks who were raised in a conservative, evangelical church is not typically a story of love. Rather, it is often a story of fear and loneliness. I feel privileged to say that my spiritual story did not begin with heartache but with the love of Christ. I am grateful for the foundation of love that I learned from my grandparents and our church in rural Arkansas. Jesus lived there.

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On Prophetic Action

Hye Sung

by Hye Sung

Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that nonviolence “is an imperative to action.” That’s why King’s Poor People’s Campaign was envisioned as a “new and unsettling force.” It was to be disruptive. It was intended to make the issue of poverty impossible to avoid. King was assassinated before seeing that campaign unfold, but his words proved true again and again and again. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, disruptive action created results. Protests – riots even – made people pay attention.

But the work remains unfinished. And being a liberal, progressive Christian just isn’t enough. Especially if you’re comfortable in the tension between Empire and Kingdom. You cannot serve two masters. If you’ve chosen the Kingdom, you must refuse and resist Empire. If you’ve chosen Christ, you must refuse and resist Caesar.

Early Friends knew this. They broke laws. Caused public disruption. They ran toward trouble and defied the “justice” of the unjust. Refused to pay taxes and tithes, criticized Empire, and made enemies. They were fined, beaten, and jailed. And they grew.

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Ignorant Eyes

Tiffany Graham

by Tiffany Graham

There is so much I don’t know.

I don’t know what justice is. Or how it should look in my culture. Or where to start.

I was walking by a building in another country. I heard the screams of a child. I sensed panic, fear, pain. A man was yelling words I somehow knew, in a language I didn’t understand. There was a muffled thud. The screaming stopped. I stood there, still listening, as people walked by me on the street. I knew they heard it, too, but nobody stopped. After a few more moments of waiting, I walked away.   

Four days later, home again, the screams echoed in my memory. They were so sharp. I hadn’t told anyone. How could I describe it? I didn’t say anything.

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On Being Weak (and kinda sort of accepting help)

Sarah Klatt

by: Sarah Klatt

CN: anxiety, panic attacks, despair

I feel weak sometimes. It’s painful to write that sentence. I feel weak, exhausted, shaky, unconfident, scared, overwhelmed, panicked, anxious, down, sad, in the depths of despair…

And I DON’T LIKE IT. 

I live with some chronic pain, and a lot of days my body hurts. Aches. Feels like there are spikes or knives in my neck and head. Like my stomach will never understand the goodness of food and serenity again.

I’ve rearranged my life with rhythms of rest and spaces each day, week, month, year to heal, retreat, and recover.

AND YET

Even with these rhythms and intentional spaces, sometimes there’s a period of life with great stress. Events and places and people that are unsafe, dysfunctional, or for whatever reason require A LOT more energy and resilience. Even though most of the time I plan my life around my work and rest, seeking what brings life and joy – there are times when I have to be at/lead/do things/show up for situations that normally I avoid. Places and spaces where triggers are many, toxic energy abounds, or there’s conflict a brewing.

I’m gonna be real here and say I don’t always know how to handle these situations. I have a surprising amount of bravery and perseverance in me, and yet the aftermath is often pretty terrible. My body is very good at processing feelings when the rest of me refuses to deal with them, and usually transforms stress and trauma into physical sickness.

Yesterday after many a hard thing lately I spent the dark hours of the morning pacing in my bathroom sobbing and attempting to not throw up. That feels like a vulnerable thing to put out into the internet.

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flour, oil, and asking for more

Courtney Bither

by Courtney Bither

What if asking more questions could help you find a way to save lives? Would you do it?

What if it cost you something?

I haven’t been writing much lately.

I sometimes open up my blog and I push the “Write” button and then I sit in front of my computer and I wait. I wait as if I’m hoping someone else will show up and write the words I need to say.

But no one is going to do this work for me.

So what am I waiting for?

’m tired. Really tired.

I’m tired of helping people understand why I should be allowed to exist. I’m not supposed to say that, either. I’m supposed to be happy to do this work.

But I’m not always happy.
This work is sometimes dehumanizing. It’s often exhausting.

And I keep doing it. Over and over and over again. Giving to the people who hurt me. Giving them time. Giving them energy. Giving them patience. Because what else am I going to do? This is worth it –  this fight for more justice.

More people need to understand so that fewer people have to be hurt. And I’m sometimes not bad at this work. And I really do think it is worth it.

But I’m so tired.

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I Believe in the Resurrection

Hye Sung

by Hye Sung

I never got to know my brother Kento. He was already dying and in a hospital when we first met in person. Just a few days later, he died. He was unable to speak or move, but he was there. I got to touch him. To see him. Finally.

Before that, there had been too much distance. I remember when I first learned of his existence. Then I found him on Facebook, and when he accepted my friend request, it felt like a miracle. I could see pictures of him, read his statuses, see all the people who loved him. I wanted to be able to love him, too.

I only ever knew Kento’s hesitance behind a keyboard. I only ever knew his inability to deal with me.

I hoped he might make peace with us, his birth family, that he might decide to meet us. I told myself to not be anxious, that life would inevitably bring us together. And it did. In a hospital in Italy. In a bed in that hospital. Surrounded by machines.

Then he was gone.

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Stop Telling People Not To Feel

John Hampton

by John Hampton

Stop telling people not to feel.

This last fall was the first election I’ve been able to vote in, and it was a doozy. It stirred up feelings for me, but everywhere I looked, people seemed to be saying, “Don’t worry, the world isn’t ending.”

Which stirred up more feelings for me: disbelief, disappointment, anger.

Because what I was hearing was, “Hey, I see how you’re feeling. But here’s why you shouldn’t feel the way you are feeling: (insert reasons for why people shouldn’t feel the way they are feeling.)”

You know what’s worse, though? People who invoke God as the ultimate emotional shut-down: “God is in control.” As if that’s even helpful.

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I Need You

Tiffany Graham

by Tiffany Graham

I need you because, in spite of everything, God isn’t enough.

During a semester of student teaching, my whole life changed. And the time I used to have as a student was suddenly gone. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I didn’t have control of my schedule. And I couldn’t find the time for people that I used to take for granted.

It was hard. I didn’t see my friends at all when I stuck to my daily routine, my roommates were rarely to never in the room when I was both home and awake, and my teachers had all gone home by the time I got back to campus every day. What had been a life filled to bursting with people who love me, turned into a life filled with professional relationships, teacher-student confidentiality, and hallway gossip. I moved further from the center of the church. I could feel the difference.

I was lonely. I was also busy. When friends asked about getting together, I’d hedge. Because I had to calculate how much sleep I was willing to give up in order to see them. I’d hedge. Because I was already so tired.

I’d talk to God in between things – down time in the classroom, while driving to and from school – and it was good. God’s good. I like talking to God. But it wasn’t enough.

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White Christians: Who are our friends?

Amber Cullen

by Amber Cullen

I have been quiet.

So quiet.

I haven't sought to speak in the storm, because I am not rain, nor wind, nor shaking earth or crashing waves. I find my giftings in other places, much like the gentle breeze in 1 Kings that causes Elijah to emerge from the cave because he knows it is God.

And so it is with this image that my spirit resonates, thinking of myself as a breeze that caresses each and every person and calls them to know their Belovedness--and to cast off all that holds back from this Knowing. This is the tender compassion the Lord has given to me--one that seeks to protect the space for the journey of healing in each and every one of us, for we have all experienced trauma and fragmentation in our spirits.

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Reactive Self Care – a tool of the system?

Sarah Klatt

by Sarah Klatt

Now that I have hooked you with that provocative title…

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care lately, especially in the context of activism and non-profit work. I’ve found there is A LOT of talk about self-care in these circles, and a lot less follow-through. Often I find myself wondering if the self-care that I do see and experience being practiced here is actually aiding in sustainability, or if we’re putting bandaids on something that will never be healed through bandaids. 

I have chronic pain. I have a headache every moment of every day, and depending on the hour, stress levels, and how much I’ve tried to do, it goes from being mildly annoying to intense pain that blocks everything else out. I also experience anxiety, which similarly goes ranges from something that I’m tending to on the edges, to hours of debilitating panic, often accompanied with nausea and increased headaches.

For a long time my mode of operation was: go and go and go, and give all my energy to the world and my ideas, and do all the work, and have all the fun and then…

CRASH BURN CRASH

I would get sick, or have such a bad headache that I had to stay in bed for days. After repeated attempts at smaller nudges, my body pursued more dramatic measures to get my attention. And so I would give in and rest, intensely and deeply for a few days.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

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When to Say No

C. J. Hardee

by C. J. Hardee

I've come to realize that I am not a very patient person. I always thought that I was, but over the past two years, I have come to realize that perhaps I am horrible at being patient. I can sit for hours by a lake, with a fishing rod in hand, I can wait for days knowing the first spring rain is on its way to quench the dry Texas ground, I can wait for months knowing my best friend and his fiance will be down to visit me from Seattle... but I cannot wait any longer for my family to realize that nothing on or in this world, made me a lesbian.

I can no longer listen to my parents and grandmother say that me going off to a State University made me gay, that the bullying I went through in middle school is the reason for my "same sex attraction," I no longer have the patience in constantly telling my Mom and Dad that they didn't do anything to make me the way that I am. I no longer have the patience in trying to convince my family that I am still the same decent, god-fearing, family centered, healthy, generous, loving and independent woman.

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On God

Yelena Tower

by Yelena Tower

We know we want to live
unmolested, but
the truth is we’re ashamed,
hiding and skulking in scat
while the world rattles by,
holding you secret down in our bellies,

something we'd seriously
rather not talk about

a disgusting agora of fear,
a hissing entrail of shame.

I can’t figure out what’s wrong.
God, help me. I am a twinge
in the setting sun.

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