Category Archives: Reflections by Jacki

Daily Tasks & Divine Intention

Do you ever feel like you’re swimming upstream in the course of your day, your lists and your chaotic mind?

Me too!  Drowning, actually, would describe how I used to feel A LOT.  Just occasionally now.

Thanks to much practice and support for my own Living Well, I know what a different space feels like.  This space is far from perfection, but it does have more of a center and sense of discipline and power in the face of huge commitments.  In the upcoming Biblical “self” care class (Tuesdays in October), we’ll go into this in a little more depth.

Here is a hand-out I’ve designed to share with my students.  I’m glad to pass on this copy to you in hopes that it might provoke some of your own resonance and/or creative ideas.  In a nutshell, these are ways I’ve learned to GROUND myself and keep moving forward in days that could be overwhelming.  They are methods for remembering the Sacred in my day.  I pray a blessing on your own journeys to do likewise!

MOMENT MARKING:

PRACTICES FOR REORIENTING FOCUS AND FEELINGS

Lighting Candles: before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… when I need to focus on a stressful assignment;  before I write out today’s ‘to do” list; when I’m turning to a task that’s late – perhaps with some guilt; before an important and vulnerable conversation; when I don’t know how to offer an intercessory prayer…

Lighting Incense:  before or after an experience that needs blessing or boundaries… all of the above apply

Playing a Favorite Song:  before/during breakfast, to start the day out right; before/during meditation; before bedtime

Rearranging Piles of Papers:   to demonstrate “enough done” for today… “I’m done” or “I’m leaving” or “this can wait” etc.  It helps to let a long slow breathe out!

Making and spending time at an “altar” space:   pausing before a display of special photos, quotes, keepsakes that embody my loyalties, blessings and intentions

Meal Blessings:  to claim not only the gratitude we associate with these, but also a boundary around conversation, for instance dedicating the time to fellowship and re-connection, rather than  problem-solving or task management.

Coffee Cup Blessings:  Intentionally not multi-tasking with the divinely-favored beverage of  choice; using the enjoyment of it to mark a “non-task” moment before I dig in to first project.

Devotional Readings:  Returning to a favorite passage or setting time aside for brief reading of a new one; naming this time (3 minutes, 5 or more) as a threshold moment that is wrapping up or beginning a new task or experience

Pausing to REALLY LOOK at Sun, Lake, Birds, etc. : Building in the time to pause on walk to el or somewhere else, sometimes the same place on the established walk; allowing this visual banquet to encourage and strengthen me with God’s providence  and wisdom.

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It is a Choice (for Love)

The next time you find yourself thinking or wondering about “choice” involved in sexual and family diversity, I invite you to shift the lens of your question a bit. Choices ARE made. Think about the choices that your LGBT family members, friends and neighbors make, and the courageous souls that make them.

 

Across the globe, we face death, imprisonment, family abandonment, religious excommunication, bullying, teen homelessness, job or housing loss, and the current realities of vastly inequitable social benefits. Across the U.S. we face cruel campaigns to end or preempt public discussions about marital rights, such as in the upcoming constitutional amendment in Minnesota.

Yet, we LGBT citizens  choose to be and to talk and to share and to work for our common good. In Uganda and elsewhere, our brothers and sisters choose to face — potentially — the death penalty.

Yes, we make choices.

What lure to life and goodness, to authenticity and necessary human dignity would call us to endure such dangers? What convictions of personal need and promise of Divine blessing could be so worthy that we are willing to take up the cross of forging public space and enduring such shaming scrutiny in today’s world?

Of course there  are choices being made!  Christian Scripture calls this moral force “counting the cost.”

We do choose greater integration of soul and body when we build loving relationships with those whom we celebrate sexually.

We do choose greater honesty amid our communities by coming out, and by so doing we advance a more godly and objective understanding of creation’s diversity.

Those of us from conservative religious upbringings often come to a faith crisis in which we choose to place a greater trust in the God who transcends human bias than in the views of the day (even those passed on for some time).  For me, it was choosing to trust Christ’s grace and the clear fruits of the Spirit known in my loving partnership.

And most of us choose to show up at work, at church, in volunteer responsibilities or to family obligations choosing to share our gifts and talents.  If we’re somewhat out, that could mean discrimination or danger; if we’re not, we can accrue the burdens of hidden truths and divided lives.

Yet, the choice for love is always worth it.  Discerned choices for honesty with loved ones and fellow citizens alike flow from love.  It is good for us.  We see the momentum of advancing social freedoms today in the U.S.  There is an oxygen-like nature to such honesty. Perhaps this is what is so contagious that fearful opponents continue in panic to  condemn.   We are being honest about Creation’s vast diversity, the greatness of a God whose love takes many forms, and the liberation of releasing age-old sinful fears of self and other.  What gifts for the well-being of all!  What a privilege to choose these things.

LOVE stirs within us as we forge our lives in relationship to God, uphold and shape tradition, engage in meaningful milestone rituals, serve our nation, nurture and bless children and tirelessly engage in community service.  LOVE stirs within us as we refuse to give up our dreams of a life fully lived in holy self-determination (Baptists call it soul liberty) and family obligations and blessings.

The courageous people pictured above deserve our respect and solidarity.  Organizations like Other Sheep and The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission might be a good start for research and support.

You may not live in such a physically dangerous climate for LGBT people.  You may not know through personal, first-hand experience what it is like to face such hostility from those who hate your very existence or are scandalized by your CHOICE to be honest and present to your Life.  You may not know how fragile our gains seem to be, and that perhaps LGBT people in your life never feel completely safe and respected even here in the U.S.  You can choose to listen and learn about this.  You can choose to be our advocate  in the public square even if you personally do not agree with our choices.

Perhaps in your current moral convictions, you feel same-sex relationships are inferior. Or, horrible.  Or, dangerous.  Given the weight of tradition handed down in many quarters, that is understandable.  But you, too, have a choice.

Will you pass on prejudices unexamined in the light of testimony and grace?  Or will you choose to allow your mind to be renewed?

Will you stand by silently as your loved ones, co-workers and neighbors battle against second-class citizenship (and its slippery slope)?  Or will you choose to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

It is a choice.

For love.

 

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A Testimony on Lesbian “Lifestyle” and My Faith

From a Facebook Correspondent:

I just read a note about Diversity, Equality, and trusting God. 

Your bio indicates, ” In 1999, she became the first “out” member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to be approved for ordination in the American Baptist Churches – USA.”

How does your lifestyle choice affect your faith?

Thanks for the time to read this…

My answer:

Hi, brother.

Well, that’s a LONG answer:) In short, I’d say that the process of coming to peace and acceptance of my sexual identity required much wrestling, praying, studying and trusting. In the face of tradition’s teachings and the prejudices of our day, it is only the GRACE of God which can nurture and guide this stage of faith development for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

As I began to take God’s grace and priorities recorded in the Bible more seriously, I began to see and trust the patterns of Scripture. Over and over again, the people of Israel (especially the prophets), Jesus, and the early church heard God’s call to greater inclusion, bigger hearts, and challenging of the “external” forms of holiness and purity. Paul’s teachings on legalism, especially, remind us of the human temptation so alive in the early church — to judge by the form of things (often a source of national or religious pride) rather than the fruits of the Spirit.

So, to sum it up: It took a great leap of faith to trust that my experience of myself and my loving partnership was a part of the natural diversity of this world (not changeable or necessary to change). It took much study and prayer to see the deeper insights of Scripture. I accept that judgment of homosexuality is an example of a social prejudice handed down over time (as evidenced in the small number of Scripture texts about it) but that this is not the timeless truth of God. I trust that the moral force of Scripture is on the side of a God who chooses, calls and blesses whoever God wills. I trust that God evaluates same-sex AND heterosexual relationships today based on their virtues, not on the genitals or gender of those involved.

… hope this is a helpful view into my journey.

Blessings,
Jacki

 

This BRIEF answer is only a glimpse into a the graced and empowering journey that I and so many other LGBT and allies of faith have taken.  Learn more at Befriending the Bible: Reading Condemnation with CARE” in Chicago on September 8.

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Living Well on the Rainbow Journey

In preparing for the blessed opportunity to be with PFLAG-Chicago on July 15, I was so mindful of the long journey I’ve taken.   It feels more like concentric rings on a tree than a journey through strangely disparate lands, though.

A fundamentalist Baptist childhood

a graced evangelical college chapter (laced with the pain of the closet)

the finding of sanctuary and healing as a young adult lesbian in an intimate LGBT-welcoming church (Grace Baptist Church)

the journey of ministry call and the fires of social justice awakening at Chicago Theological Seminary

a season of pastoral leadership that brought new rhythms of wellness and passion for personal and community health

(including spiritual paths and places!)

new paradigm shifts that make peace and prosperity a reality, and call me to build yet more bridges.

 

What is the impact of all of this?

More than ever, I know that my part to play in justice-making is more of a healing and bridge-building role than an activist’s battle strategy.

I look around at the volatility of our times and the fervent opponents to diversity and solidarity.  What I see and feel is the brokenness we all share in the web of the Ego: fear, insecurity, anger, aversion, enmity.  No prejudice which would withhold safety or equality from other groups is VALID, and must be challenged and overturned.  But I trust more than ever this Knowing:  ALL EMOTIONS ARE VALID.  (By valid, I simply mean that people are having whatever experience they are choosing to have, and it is not my place to judge these difficult feelings.)  While we do the necessary work to persuade, and to “lobby” and to convince minds and to gain votes for the sake of more just laws, we can either hold a transcendent and redemptive hope for all (New Creation) or simply replay the unsustainable script Winner Takes All with its short-term gains.

The social and political opponents  of LGBT diversity, or transracial solidarity, are caught in the grips of age-old fears of difference and projections of blame and anger that the New Testament might call “the flesh.”  But I am letting go of the battle mindset that “spirit” opposes “flesh.  The Rainbow Journey has taught me that this idea does great internal damage to our personal spirituality and integrity.  And, how often do we make our group out to be the ones who need to battle those “Others!”

Time and time again, when I’ve set a different course and nurtured a different energy, I’ve found that hearts and minds of opponents open up to new encounters and relationships.  People long for a little respect and dignity; our brothers and sisters who are most afraid and angry, who are most caught up in emotional and social barriers or violence, need the healing presence of bridge-builders who genuinely care for their pain and can honor their authentic desires for Good.  It is only then that ideas about the Good, or how to live out the Good, can be reexamined and let go where they are found to be  limiting our God.

I most certainly have not “arrived” in my own struggles to occupy such a place.  But I am a product of these multiple communities and hold them all, somehow, inside me.  I have made peace with that. And I am more convinced than ever that spiritually speaking this is the KEY to “living well.”  In my living, coaching and teaching I am focusing on personal transformation and healing.  As LGBT folks and allies work on forgiveness, coming our, self-care or faith transitions, they find that the more self-compassion and acceptance we experience the less enmeshed in enmity we need to feel.  It is only from this place of spiritual freedom and equanimity that we can truly be the creative change agents that our world so desperately needs.

 

 

 

 

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A Future Not Our Own

This poem-prayer, often attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, helps me to remember and to teach a certain kind of stillness which is not passivity, a vision which avoids being ungrounded in the present.  Oh, how we all need to be reminded of the Master Builder, to think and to pray and to walk with the One who holds the future.  My clients who are leaders of any kind, especially clergy and activists working hard to make a difference in this world, especially often need to be nourished — and CHALLENGED — by these words.  I dedicate this to them, and to the older adults whom I will serve as guest preacher this Sunday.

I learned recently that Romero never spoke these words, yet they live on as Word spoken by his life.  In my sermon for Sunday (Pentecost/Memorial Day), I hope to do justice to and with this sacred text and the words of hope in Hebrews 11-12.

Thanks to Dan Clendenin for his terrific site, Journey with Jesus, where I found this text and background.  This is an excerpt from his page:

 

In memory of Oscar Romero (1917–1980)

A Future Not Our Own

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

From Xavarian Missionaries:

Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression.

This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included it in a reflection titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

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A Rainbow GPS (God Placement System)

I have the fabulous honor of attending a teleseminar series on transformational writing this week.  One of Christine Kloser’s top-notch guests is Lisa Nichols, author of No Matter What.    She took my breath away- such a spirited blend of glorious charisma and authentic humility.   Find out more at http://motivatingthemasses.com/.

One thing I continue to find on this “living well” journey… I am surrounded by amazing peers and mentors who support my desire for personal transformation and commitment to being excellent in my service of others.    Nichols introduced me to the phrase “God Placement System,” and I’ve really been taking that in.  I am aware that often in this life we find ourselves needing to trust that the GPS is working properly.  Sometimes our preconceived notions point us in other directions.  And sometimes others might challenge our GPS readings.

Most of my LGBT clients, students and readers across the country know what it is to doubt their GPS. And, to have others doubt their GPS.  One of the richest blessings of any faith journey is to have been tested by such doubt.  This refines us  and our ability to discern which voice is truly God’s, that voice which is truly life-giving.  We are a gift to Christ’s church precisely because we have challenged the idolatries of traditional norms and dared to trust that tradition is not God.

We can move through times of confusion and challenge with a graceful power if we depend on the unconditional love of the Holy Spirit to guide us.  As we move into the season of Pentecost and Pride this June, I will be meditating here especially on the scriptures and lessons which have nourished my journey as a lesbian Christian pastor and coach.

Are there theme or texts you would especially like to examine together?  Let me know, and we’ll grapple with that together.

 

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Filling Up and Letting Go…

I am experiencing an abundant Lent, awash in cleansing self-examination and Holy Spirit’s grace and vision.  For years my compass text for Lent has been Isaiah 55, which beckons us to graced inquiry, trust, and joy.  Some tough things are going on for me right now, what Joyce Rupp describes as wilderness-imposed growth.  Yet I take refuge in this Word, and the community and path to which it points:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 Seek the Lord while God may be found,
call upon God while God is near;
7 let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that God may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for abundant pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

 

 

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A Spirituality of Subtraction

The medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than with addition. Yet Christians today are involved in a spirituality of addition. Consumer culture wants us to have more. God wants us to let go.

— Richard Rohr

Check out more wonderful Lenten nourishment from Rohr.

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Maintaining A Spiritual Basis of Civility

At its core, civility isn’t an issue of choosing our words more carefully.  Civility is an issue of attitude.  Ultimately we will discover that every human exchange bears the promise of blessing instead of cursing each other.  The more we can admit that God is always at hand and loving each one of us as (equal) children, the more we’ll treat each other in ways guided by our common Father-Mother God.

— excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor’s devotional column on 3/5/12.

How might we be civil with those whose choices are causing pain?  With those whose short-sightedness or prejudice would distort or diminish the welfare of others? With those who use the name of God to perpetuate hatred or insular complicity in social ills?

This Lent, I pray for daily openness to transformation.  A transformation of heart and character, not just external matters and etiquette.  This piece on civility points to the heart of the matter: an equanimity of spirit about one another in our challenging relationships is the only way we can bear the fruit of blessing. Genuine blessing that empowers social change, just relationships, and thriving kinship.  Blessing is not cheap affirmation, but holding a vision of empowerment and generativity.

For me, striving to know and be a blessing means always striving to see the Higher Self in myself and others, even when  beliefs and actions are expressing limited current capacity for loving actions.  For my spiritual coaching clients, it often means creating some essential space to simultaneously nurture their own good and their practices of prayer for others.   We often have so many more choices than we perceive.  For all of us, it can sometimes be very very hard on the Ego, which really wants to name Good Guys and Bad Guys.  But its a kingdom pursuit that is every bit as worthy as the priceless pearl of Matthew 13:45-6

Did I say it was hard?

I will pray for you and I ask you to pray for me!

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To Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves

Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’True Christianity:

We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves.  It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully.  The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:  

“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them.  This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)

This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor.  People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit.  People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.

Wow!  Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world.  Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?

I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically.  I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality.  One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing.  To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties!  (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).

I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”).  It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God.  And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse.  Swedenborg called these  “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.

My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter.  So, in fact did Jesus.  Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this.  Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.

Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:

To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.

To treat others justly.

To not judge wrongfully.

To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…

“The Law of Goodwill.”

 

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