Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Letter To God

To whom this may concern:

Who are you? Seriously, there are so many people that attempt to name, frame, and claim you. Some say you’re a vindictive Father. Some say you’re a compassionate Mother. Others say you’re an unnamable, unknowable Being. Perhaps the truth is that we don’t know the truth. Perhaps all we get are glimpses of your magnificence. Apostle Paul says we "see through a mirror dimly" and "know only in part." That seems right. And I deeply appreciate the dim, partial views that I get. Through your Creation, I have glimpsed your face. Through the life of Jesus, I have glimpsed your goodness. Through your thoughtful people, I hear your holy wisdom. But others will disagree with me. How is this possible? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Where are you? Seriously, there are so many people that attempt to name, frame, and claim you. Some say you’re up and away, somewhere in a netherworld. Some say you’re down and inside, and that the earth is your body. But deep in my bones I sense that you are up, down, away, and inside. I feel you walking with me. I’ve felt you walk with others. And I bet you’re also at the furthest reaches of the Universe and beyond. But others will disagree with me. How is this possible? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

What are you up to these days? Seriously, there are so many people that attempt to name, frame, and claim you. Some say you’re waiting for us to accept our eternal life by saying a certain prayer. Some say you’re among the poor and outcast, suffering with them in their struggle for life and liberation. But what about your Creation? In the Bible, it claims that at one time your Creation was a garden – and a “very good” one at that! But now strip malls increasingly replace of your beautiful trees and flowers. Yet, I still have hope for a better world because I feel you at work, even as I write these words, calling us to be faithful stewards of your Creation. I bet you’re doing many other things too. But others will disagree with me. How is this possible? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

When are you? Seriously, there are so many people that attempt to name, frame, and claim you. Some say you acted through Moses as led your people to liberation. Some say you have acted through Jesus’ life, actions, and teachings. Some say you acted long ago in miricles. But is that all? Some say you will act sometime in the future to set all things right. But is that all? What about right now? I have felt your presence with me. But I bet you were also present with Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi. And I bet you’ll be present with people who will be born in the days, weeks, and years ahead too. It seems like the best answer to when, is always. But others will disagree with me. How is this possible? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Why are you? Some people say you exist to call sinners to repentance. Some say you exist to call all life to the greatest possible potentiality, in each moment, for the betterment of all Creation. Some say you exist to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. But to be honest, I imagine you see all of us as some mixture of wicked and righteous. Yet, you seem to exist in loving care for all of us – and try to use all who will pay attention. But others will disagree with me. How is this possible? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

I ask these questions because I grow tired of the endless debates and fruitless conversations about you. I have lost good relationships with friends and family all because we couldn’t agree on the answers to these questions. Wars are fought at family reunions and between nations over these questions. The one thing that connects us to each other (you) seems to evoke the most hostility. I have lost enough in this fight – and so have others. While all this fighting occurs, there are 33,000 children who die of starvation each day, rainforests are cut down, rivers are polluted, women are abused, men are raped, and the list goes on and on. There must be a better way to do this whole spirituality thing.

The purpose of this letter is to seek your help in re-connecting to each other. Remind us that we are already connected to each other. Remind us that what affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Remind us that we live in the ecology of each other’s choices. Remind us that we are not our own. Remind us that we are all part of your web of life. Remind us that no matter what words we use to name, claim, and frame you, we belong to each other and to you. Remind us that we’re all “us.” And remind us to enjoy life to the fullest...together.

Sincerely,

Brian

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trump Plays The Race Card

Goldie Taylor has written an excelent reflection on the fiasco in which Donald Trump forced President Barack Obama to prove his citizenship (again). She also says it well in this video:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Insects' Song

Sitting in my backyard, I hear a chorus of insects singing. Their songs are all different, yet converge and harmonize in the cool night air. The leaves, birds, and neighbors are all quiet on this evening, as if to give their full attention to the song of the insects. All life – including my own busy-ness – seems to slow down in order to take in the insects’ sacred song. In a world that teeters between great pain and great joy, it is wonderful to soak in the joyous, beatific voice of the insects. Obviously, the little creatures are not only sacrements of joy, for they can be quiet bothersome and annoying, too. But tonight, their song goes on in endless praise to the Sacred within and around them. And it reminds me of the Sacred within and around me. For that, the only proper response is "thank you." In fact, gratitude fills my soul all the way from the center of my body to the center of the universe. The appreciation I have right now bubbles over and blesses my life to such an extent that I can only imagine that this must be what “abundant life” must mean in Scripture. I feel more fully alive. And I am thankful. To be grateful is a wonderful gift. So, to the insects that I might just curse tomorrow if they make their way into my house, I must, on this amazing night, say: "Thank you, my friends. May God bless you too."

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Miracle of Axel

Axel's first picture.
Our son Axel was born on 4/6/11. It's hard to put the experience into words. So many thoughts. So many emotions. So many diaper changes!

The minutes after his birth were miraculous. Seriously. It was a miracle of Biblical proportions. Walking on water. Feeding 5,000 hungry people. Turning water into wine. His birth was like seeing something like that before our eyes. I could never even imagine the pure grace, love, and innocence that shined in that room through Axel. Yet there it was. There he was. After 9 months of waiting for him, watching him move his mom's belly, and imagining what he may look like, he was born. We finally got to meet him. Our son, Axel, was in our arms.

Fast forward a few days. Suddenly the comfort of being surrounded by knowledgeable nurses ended. They told us we could go home. Home - as in no longer in the hospital. We were free to take him in our car. And then into our home. It was exciting and terrifying. Who are we to take an infant home with us? Shouldn't there be an internship program first? Or something. Or anything! We didn't go to college to study the care of infants. How could we possibly be qualified to take him home? Well, as it turns out, people have been raising children for a long, long time! There are many ways to be a good parent - and no ways to be a perfect parent. Realizing that helped. Plus, the adage about it "taking a community to raise a child" is totally true. There are many people who are willing to help out. There are grandparents who are glad to field questions. There are nurses who are happy to offer medical advice - and sleeping tips. Thinking about all of this was calming as we filled out the final paperwork and drove home.

Being at home with Axel is wonderful AND exhausting. Cuddle time. Diaper changes. Showing him off to friends and family. Late night feedings. Stories before bed. Crying during bath time. Watching him sleep. Watching ourselves not sleep. And on and on it goes. It's like nothing else - and I wouldn't want it any other way. Even those sleepless moments are gifts of joy. They are opportunities for gratitude and reflection.

Who is this little man? Will he be left handed? Will he like sports, music, or science?  What will be his first word? What will he like to do more than anything else (when he's 1, 5, 25, and 55)? Who will fall in love with him? What will make him smile? What will his thoughts on God be? Will he be bullied at school? How much will I be able to protect him throughout life? Will we be the parents he needs and deserves? How can we encourage him to enjoy life as much as possible?  When will he say, "I love you."? What will be his favorite book? What will he think when he sees the ocean for the first time? What is he thinking when he looks into our eyes? How did we get so blessed to have him in our family?

Plus, Axel is so freakin' cute it hurts! I know all parents must think that about their children. But it still needs to be said. I could look at him for hours. All of his different facial expressions are as mystical as watching the embers of a fire on a warm summer night. It's pretty cool. I think we could get used to this whole parenting thing!

Well, that's my reflection for today. It may have been different yesterday. And it might be different in the morning. But one thing will never change: we love Axel and his presence in our lives. Now, where is the binky again? And the baby book? And the bath towel? Wow, it's easy to misplace things when you're this tired! Fun times!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Meaning of Resurrection

"This is the Easter message, that awakening is possible, to the goodness of God, the sacredness of human life, the sisterhood and brotherhood of all." - Anne Lamott

"I got sober, against all odds, and then I started hanging out with people who were trying to get sober too, and over time I got to watch a number of the walking dead come back to life - as I came back to life. So I believe in the basic Christian message: that life happens, death happens, and then new life happens. I believe in resurrection." - Anne Lamott

"Jesus' life did not end with the suffering he underwent. He lives on in the community of resurrection, making life possible again and again. He is present even now amoung us through our remembering of him and our being re-membered through him." - Flora Keshgegian

"The resurrection witness is to the power of life that cannot be defeated. Even death is not able to stop the living. The power of life is manifest in the Resurrected One who lives in the community that witnesses to Christ and life itself...The miracle of resurrection is recognized each time someone rises from death to defeat terror, to take a breath and utter a cry. To remember the ressurection is to affirm human resistance and resilience and agency." - Flora Keshgegian

"Resurrection is the power of God to overcome evil, to bring hope to otherwise hopeless situations, to make creative transformation possible no matter what." - Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

"The resurrection of Jesus is like a great shout telling us that no evil is greater than God, or can overcome God's power of resurrection." - Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

"The resurrection is God's 'no' - and battered women's 'no' - to violence in the world." - Marjorie Proctor-Smith

"Resurrection is a resource for the ongoing activity of God in human actions which work to correct and end human violence and injustice, and bring about communities of peace and justice with bread and life for all." - Marjorie Proctor-Smith

"My faith is a powerful weapon in this battle against depression...We confess that Jesus descended into hell before rising from the dead." - Jami Hawkins

"My prayer is that people...now more 'enlightened' about depression...won’t flee from those who like Lazarus and like me come stumbling out of their tombs of darkness in hope of new life." - Jami Hawkins

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sara Kay: The Album Cover Experiment

Sara's CD is almost done! Just one more step: we need to choose an album cover. So we're asking for your help. Which album cover do you like best (tree, dancer, jeep, or person)? Please vote by making a comment in the comment section. Thanks!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week Reflection

We put this reflection of Holy Week together with art by He Qi and music by William Elliott Whitmore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wanted: Reviews of Sara's CD

Dear bloggers,

Sara's album will be released in May, so we are wondering if a few of you would like to review the album. We'd like to get some buzz going before the album actually drops. We welcome a diversity of styles of reviews. So whatever you feel called to write would be just fine. Please let us know if you'd like to help us spread the word about this album of progressive spiritual music. And help an independent artist get started. We'd be glad to send you a FREE demo CD or send you a link where you can listen to it for FREE online. To accept this mission, please make a comment on this post or send us an e-mail at sarakaymusic@yahoo.com.

Thank you for your time and ministry.

Peace,

Sara and Brian

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child

Tina Fey is a witty comedian, smart writer, and funny actor. She is excellent on her show 30 Rock. It's consistantly one of the funniest shows on TV and has quickly become one of our favorites. But she doesn't stop there. Apparently Tina Fey is also a theologian. In her new book Bossypants, she includes a prayer for her new baby called "A Mother’s Prayer for Its Child."  Like everything she writes, this prayer is both smart and humorous. It's a bit irreverent, but we think you can handle it! Check it out:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Maternity Leave: Shocking Disparity

Most nations in the world (97%) require employers to provide more than 10 weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers. Some nations, such as Denmark, offers a generous leave of 52 weeks with 100% of yearly income. Only four countries provide no paid leave: Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States of America. Yes, the USA is one of the very rare countries on earth that doesn't provide paid maternity leave. Plus, it's the only industrialized nation without mandatory leave. Check out the numbers below for a quick global comparison.


United States
0 weeks off with 0% of yearly income

Hong Kong
10 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Ethiopia
12 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Mexico
12 weeks off with 100 of yearly income

Germany
14 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Israel
14 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Congo
15 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Costa Rica
16 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

France
16 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Singapore
16 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Spain
16 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Chile
18 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Cuba
18 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Hungary
24 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Ireland
26 weeks off with 100% of yearly income

Denmark
52 weeks off with 100% of yearly income


For a complete list of nations, click here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What is heaven?

Heaven is something many people think about. But what is it? The Bible has many different images of heaven - and so does each person. There may be as many different images of heaven as there are people. After our post on hell a few days ago, it seemed appropriate to explore some images of heaven. Two quotes come immediately to mind.

The first quote is from singer Belinda Carlisle: "They say in heaven love comes first / We'll make heaven a place on earth / Oh heaven is a place on earth." Yes, it's a cheesy 80s pop song. But it also makes the point that heaven isn't just a place beyond this life. Heaven can be experienced in the here-and-now of our daily lives. Heaven can be entered when we're at home, driving our car, or working in the garden. If there is love, there is heaven.

Kate Braestrup makes a similar point in her book, Here If You Need Me: "If you are completely and wholly in love, then you are in heaven no matter where you are. If you are not in love, you are in hell, no matter where you are. The stories we tell of heaven and hell are not about how we die, but about how we live." Our lives can be a living hell - or a living heaven. It's our choice. If we live in a way that opens us up to love, then we can experience heaven no matter who we are, where we are, or what we are doing. Here is a few images of heaven in daily life.

Heaven is love.
Heaven is the smell of a newborn baby.
Heaven is listening to a friend sing a song.
Heaven is a happy, supportive marriage.
Heaven is finishing a big project for someone else.
Heaven is inclusivity.
Heaven is a random act of kindness.
Heaven is a walk through the woods.
Heaven is a hug after a long day.
Heaven is being recognized for your talents.
Heaven is laughing with friends.
Heaven is justice for all people.
Heaven is a random act of kindness.
Heaven is equal pay for equal work.
Heaven is mindfulness of the present moment.
Heaven is mutuality between people.
Heaven is taking time to notice the beauty of flowers and stars.
Heaven is peace in homes, neighborhoods, and nations.
Heaven is adequate maternity and paternity leave.
Heaven is the thought of God inviting everyone into heaven.

Since the post about hell ended with an 80s music video, it seemed appropriate to end this post about heaven with an equally nostalgic song. Here is Belinda Carlisle, singing "Heaven is a Place on Earth."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is hell?

Hell has been a big topic of conversation ever since Rob Bell wrote the book Love Wins. Time Magazine even did a feature story about Bell and his thoughts on hell called "Is Hell Dead?" From Facebook to CNN, everyone seems interested in Bell's ideas. Or arguing with him. Or critiquing him. Or adding their own thoughts on hell.

Hell can be a complicated topic. For some people, it's important to believe that hell is a physical place where people are tormented forever. For other people, it's important to believe that hell doesn't exist at all. Between these two major options is a third way: hell is real but not eternal. Here is our description of that third option.

Hell is 33,000 children dying every day in the world due to poverty. 
Hell is cancer. 
Hell is a couple yelling at each other in front of their kids. 
Hell is plutocracy. 
Hell is a lack of decent healthcare. 
Hell is SIDS. 
Hell is being laid off with no money in savings.
Hell is bullying.
Hell is stealing to support an addiction. 
Hell is working long hours when you have a family at home.
Hell is racism.
Hell is antagonism and triangulation in relationships.
Hell is earning minimum wage while pregnant. 
Hell is watching a loved one be sick.
Hell is physical abuse. 
Hell is experiencing indifference when you need action.
Hell is rape. 
Hell is massive wage disparity.
Hell is listening to Larry the Cable Guy.
Hell is the thought of God allowing anyone into hell.

Pat Benetar has a great description of hell, too. She wrote a song called "Hell is for Children" about child abuse. Sometimes music says it better than words alone.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Song: "Resurrection"

Our new song "Resurrection" is based on a quote from Peter Rollins called "I Deny the Resurrection":
"I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system."
The words of the song pick up on Rollins' theme of affirming the Resurrection through action. Click here to listen to the song or check out the lyrics below:

"Resurrection"

Lord, forgive my ever doubting heart
I know that you told me this would come
So help me now accept that love has overcome all fear
Help me to live out that love here

I believe in the resurrection
And I affirm that it is real
Every time I stand my ground
For all those who've been trodden down
Every time I voice concern
For those not able to be heard
Every time tears flood my eyes
For those who've no tears left to cry
Jesus lives in me

Today, I learned the stones been rolled away
Just could not believe me ears
But now I see your life showed me to trust in things unseen
Now I think I know just what you mean

Now I believe in the resurrection
And I affirm that it is real
Every time I speak the truth
When lies are spread and truth is skewed
Every time I share a smile
With one who thinks she's not worthwhile
Every time I offer hope to one who's been left alone

I believe in the resurrection
And I affirm that it is real
Every time I stand my ground
For all those who've been trodden down
Every time I voice concern
For those not able to be heard
Every time tears flood my eyes
For those who've no tears left to cry
Jesus lives in me