Not Locker Room Talk: A Letter to My Son

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+Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer…

Dearest Felix,

As far as I can tell- you are ‘all boy.’ You love to throw a ball across the room with the full force of your arms. You take your sweet, soft stuffed animals and use them as hammers on our furniture. You flirt with your teachers and church grandmas by blowing them kisses and playing coy games of peek-a-boo to make them smile.

As you grow up, I imagine you will hear a lot about what it means to be a boy, and a man. You will learn from your dad, your peers, and your role models. You’ll spend time with a lot of other guys and you might talk about sports or cars or maybe women…

Tonight, as you sleep soundly snuggled in your moustache covered pajamas- I am reading about a candidate for the presidency who is trying to explain his ‘locker room conversations’ about grabbing women, kissing them without consent, and rudely commenting on their looks.

Sweet child- hear me when I say: this is not what honorable men talk about. The things we say influence what we do. Words create worlds. You cannot joke or whisper or tease about violating women- not even in the locker room.

Do not believe boys in your life who will try to tell you that this is the way to be ‘a man.’ Remember, that to be ‘all boy’ does not mean that you touch without asking or that you talk about women as if they are not made in the very image of God.

No matter how far we’ve come- women still face harassment, objectification, and unwanted touch. Almost every woman you will meet will have a story.

Darling boy, it happened to me, your mama.

25 years old, I was riding my bike home. I was wearing a Habitat for Humanity t-shirt and yoga pants, but it doesn’t matter. I stopped at a red light and as I stood over my bike at the crosswalk- a middle aged man who I did not know walked up to me and grabbed my breast. Then, he walked away.

At first, I was in shock. I was embarrassed. By the time I got home, I was in tears.

He touched me without asking. I do not know where he learned that this was OK, but I want to make sure you know it isn’t.

It is not OK. It is not locker room talk. It is not that ‘boys will be boys.’

Felix: in your life, you will have a voice. As a privileged, white male in the United States- people will listen to you. If you continue to grow up as ‘all boy’- remember, being a boy and a man means that you have power. You will be an influencer. You will have opportunities.

My deepest hope for you is that you use your power, your influence, your opportunities, and your voice to stand up for justice, to seek equality for those with less voice than you and to protect those who are more vulnerable than you.

You are just learning your first words: cat, Dada, ball, good, uh-oh… But before we know it, you will be jabbering away in full sentences and soon- bonding with your friends in the locker room.

Use your words to build up, not to tear down, my love.

Use your voice to respect, honor, and empower others- not degrade them, my sweet.

On this night, when I see so many people trying to defend ‘locker room talk’, my prayer for you is that you will use your voice to speak with gentleness, honor, and respect for men and women alike- because the words we use shape the culture we live in.

Love,

Your mom

 

 

 

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A Lot Can Happen in 40 Days

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+Mark 1:13-14 Christ was in the wilderness forty days…  [then] Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God…

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We are going to have a baby. Our little boy is due around August 4th, 2015.

I have been absent from this blog for three months- and there’s a reason. I battled morning sickness most days-all day long, and when I wasn’t working at my church, I slept. But today is the first Sunday in Lent- and I decided to write again.

Lent is a holy season. We are all asked to invite God to work in our lives. To change us. To shape us.

Lent is a powerful time.

Over the years, I have given up meat or sometimes chocolate. One year I gave up sleeping in.

But what if we can do more in 40 days? What if God can work through us in profound, life altering ways?

Before Jesus began his public ministry, he went into the wilderness to pray. He took 40 days in silence. In this time, he was shaped by God and equipped for his ministry.

We observe 40 days of Lent so that we too, may be shaped by God.

As we begin this journey of Lent, I invite each of you to ask the question: what can God do in my life in 40 days?

The past 40 days of my life have taught me so much about what God can do.

It was a little over 40 days ago, on Epiphany, that Andrew saw our baby for the first time.

We went into this dark little room for an ultrasound, and the nurse showed us an image of the screen I will never forget: there was a gummy bear looking creature… the size of a grape.

Little buds where arms would form. Small lumps where legs would grow.

And then, in that dark room, we listened to our baby’s heartbeat- and it sounded like thunder- strong and bold and life changing.

This was the beginning of our new reality. We caught a glimpse of a tiny gummy bear sized promise. We heard the sound of a hope as bold as rolling thunder.

I study the development of our child diligently each night before bed. In the past 40 days- amazing things have happened.

In the 40 days: he’s formed tiny tooth buds, he’s gained the ability to curl his toes, to clench eye muscles, and to open and close fingers. He’s developed a unique set of fingerprints.

He’s learned how to squint, to grimace, to frown, and to smile- he even started sucking his little thumb. Our son’s tiny joints began bending.

He transformed from the size of a gummy bear, to fig, to lemon, to apple and just this week- to the size of an avocado- 5 inches long. He now has tiny toenails on his toes. Taste buds have formed on his tongue, and by next week, he will have sweat glands in place.

So much took place for our little gummy bear in 40 days.

On Friday night, a small group from our church went to see the movie Selma. We watched painful scenes of young black men and women being beaten in the streets of Alabama because they longed for equality. And there are still many struggles for equality and justice around the world today.

I wonder, what kind of world will our son live in? What do I want him to learn about the human experience, and about how we treat our neighbors? This Lenten season, instead of giving up chocolate, how can I begin the good work of advocating for change, and striving for justice so that my son will never see kids beaten in the streets or gunned down in their neighborhoods?

Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness and when he returned, he was ready to change the world through his radical compassion, his prophetic words, and his courageous community building.

In 40 days, our son formed toenails and finger prints and began to swallow.

In January 1965, the Selma Voting Rights Campaign began. Almost exactly 40 days later, a group of activists marched out of Selma on Highway 80 toward Montgomery to protest. They were attacked with tear gas and beaten with nightsticks. The attack was televised and received national attention. The broadcast helped the movement gain momentum in Selma- and things started to change.

A lot can happen in 40 days.

What could this mean for you? How will you allow God to change you?

In this Lenten season, may we all invite God to inspire us, to move through us, to motivate us and to change us in ways we cannot even imagine. This is my prayer for all of you. May it be so. Amen.

Prayer for Andrew on his Installation Sunday

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This morning, my heart is at Trinity United Church of Christ in Canton, Ohio.

Today, Andrew will be installed as Senior Minister. His mother and brother will read scriptures. His mentor will preach. His church will pray for him, and he will officially part of their story, and their future after this ceremony. My parents are here to participate, Andrew’s best friends, his extended family, his new little nephew- but I will not be able to sit in the pews for this sacred event. Instead, I will be in my own church leading worship. But I wrote a prayer for Andrew-and this prayer is written on my heart this morning as my wonderful husband takes this next step:

Living God, from the day you formed Andrew in the secret place, in the depth of all depth- you said: he is good. Continue to whisper this assurance into Andrew’s heart.

Remind him that he has a purpose and a call.

Be with Andrew today and let the vows and prayers of his installation strengthen his soul.

Bless him with courage and confidence. Humble him with your grace and compassion.

Fill him with endurance passion in his ministry. Open him up to share his generous and tender heart to his church starting today, so that their future ministry together is grounded in both integrity and tenderness.

Be with Trinity United Church of Christ today as well- help them build a strong foundation with their new minister. Awaken their dreams as a church for the future- help them to cast visions that bring more light and hope into the world.

I pray all these things in your many holy names. Amen.

When Andrew Prayed for Me (Shaped Through Love)

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We said our ordination vows in unison. We have seen the world together. We have presided over infant dedications, weddings, and funerals together. We have led mission trips together. We laugh together. But one of the most meaningful things that Andrew offers me comes in the form of prayer.

On March 2nd, as Community Christian Church officially ‘installed’ me as their new minister- Andrew offered this prayer at the service:

God of Creation, God of Compassion, God of New Beginnings,

We give thanks for bringing us all together today to celebrate the new chapter in the life of this historic church.

We ask you to bless the ministry of Rev. Sarah as she leads this gathered body of Christ into a future filled with hope, filled with grace and filled with joy.

God of infinite wisdom- guide this community as we work together to fulfill Your will to bring light to the dark places, to bring hope to the hopeless and mercy to all of your children in this world.

Be here working through this community, knitting us together into a family, weaving the threads of these people gathered into one great story.

We pray all of these things in Your many holy names. Amen

Through Andrew, I remember each day how much we can all be shaped by love.

Who shapes your life through love? #ShapedByGod

Mountain of Prayers: Reflections on the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Big Questions

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+ Matthew 5:1-3 Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount: Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…

 

I remember the first time I saw people praying.

At age 5, on a family vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho- I fell and fractured my arm in several places. I spent weeks in the hospital for surgery after surgery. I heard whispers of ‘amputation’ or ‘skin grafting’ because of the severity of my nerve damage and swelling.

All around me, people prayed.

During those long days in the hospital, as I realized the fragility of my little arm- I would ponder ‘the big questions.’ I would turn to my mom and ask: where do all these prayers go?

I began to imagine a mountain of prayers- filled with all the prayers of our ancestors, the generations before us, the prayer of our neighbors from communities around the world- all piling up into a huge mountain of requests, supplications, concerns, joys and laments.

 I preached on the Beatitudes a few weeks ago- the first section of the Sermon on the Mount. Many lectionary-following ministers probably preached this text too.

The Sermon on the Mount is the longest moment of teaching in all of Jesus’ ministry. This sermon stretches from Matthew chapter 5 through Matthew Chapter 7. Passages from this sermon are some of the most used and quoted pieces of the New Testament.

I love this scripture for all the sacred promises: those who mourn will be comforted, those who thirst and hunger will be filled, the peacemakers will be blessed and the meek lifted up… such a triumphant and incredible image of healing and wholeness in the world, and yet, it seems so distant and unrealistic.

I imagine piles of prayers for peace and safety and understanding rose up to the Mountain of Prayers from a high school in Philadelphia and a middle school in New Mexico. These two schools already endured shootings in 2014.

The talented, inspirational Philip Seymour Hoffman died from the fatal affliction of addiction last week. Thousands of prayers of confusion, sorrow, concern, fear, and anger must have been uttered since his death.

When I hear about the ongoing brokenness around me, I like to imagine a mountain of prayers…

When I study the Sermon on the Mount, I always linger in the Beatitudes. I love the hopefulness in it- blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who thirst, blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who are persecuted…

And yet- there are so many unanswered prayers. Christ describes a reality we have not seen yet, Jesus is preaching and teaching about blessings that we have not witnessed yet- he’s using kingdom language more than relatable language.

We know that crowds of people gathered in Galilee to hear Jesus preach this Sermon on the Mount. We read that when Jesus saw people gathered, Jesus climbs up the mountainside with his Disciples to recite the beatitudes.

But… Scholars and Geologists and historians alike cannot tell us what mountain Jesus climbed. Unlike the many passages that offer elaborate descriptors and footnotes- this passage is vague.

The scripture sounds almost like a fable or a once upon a time story at the beginning: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him

When I try to make sense of all the brokenness surrounding us, and this beautiful passage that preaches into our living, breathing lives today, I imagine that Jesus climbed to the top of the mountain of prayers and preached: Dear Philadelphia, and Roswell, New Mexico, fear not. Blessed are the peacemakers, you are the Children of God and I will not leave you alone as you grieve.

Maybe Jesus climbed to the top of the mountain of prayers and preached directly to those of us reeling because of the death of our idols, our friends, or those struggling with addiction and Jesus said: fear not, Blessed are you who mourn, or you who are crippled with sadness or grief or fear-, Yours is the Kingdom of heaven and I will not leave you alone.

Perhaps Jesus climbed to the top of the mountain of prayers and preached directly to our very community and said: fear not, the illiterate will read and the hungry will be fed and the homeless will find rest before I leave this mountaintop.

And so, I hope we all continue to lift up prayers, deep hurts, confusion, loss and worry to that mountain of prayers, trusting that peace and hope will be restored by a present, persistent God who preaches the good news even today, in 2014.

Memphis Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts

Invocation Prayer, May 13th 2013 Girl Scouts of Memphis Awards Ceremony

Gracious God, you have called each of us to live with courage, confidence, and character.
Thank you for the young women here who have answered this call.
Thank you for the ways our Girl Scouts have made the world a better place where the next generation of young women can thrive.
Loving God, through the work of the Memphis Girl Scouts, we have all seen the power of collaboration, friendship, and exploration. Help us all to be inspired by the continuing work of the Girl Scouts. May we all continue to search for wonder and adventure in the world.
As we honor the commitment each of these Girl Scouts have made to this organization, remind us all to seek our own commitments and responsibilities in our local community.
God, we ask you to bless this evening, bless all those who have done the hard work to bring about this celebration, and when we leave tonight, may we all be renewed by the faith and compassion and service that our Girl Scouts model, Amen.

God Created Teachers

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Invocation Prayer Offered at Memphis City Adopt-a-School luncheon, May 1, 2013

Loving God, we know that long, long ago- you created the teacher, and you said that she was very good.
You would send her out to shepherd the next generation of singers, dancers, artists, doctors and lawyers. You would send her out to plant seeds of wisdom and creativity and inspiration.
You would send the teacher out to bring transformation to every nation. But God, we know that you are faithful, and you promised that teacher that she would not do it alone.
You surrounded the teacher with strong administrators and strong principals and willing staff.
You gave her visions of partnerships, support teams and sponsors. You promised the teacher: collaboration.
We come together today, gracious God, to thank you for that promise you made to teachers everywhere.
We thank you for calling each of us to this partnership.
Give us all strength and endurance. Give us clear vision and innovation.
Help us continue to build bridges between the teacher and the community. May we all find inspiration through this gathering for the good work ahead. Amen.

Collective Scream

+ Isaiah 3:26 The gates of the city will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.

They say a collective scream broke out on the streets of Boston when two bombs exploded at the marathon finish line.

I imagine synchronized tears fell.

Simultaneously, hearts broke open.

Yes. In a sense we all gasped the same gasp and shivered in the same cold shadow of fear and disbelief as black smoke filled Copley Square.

Our eyes were already on Boston yesterday. Something about young and old, men and women, professionals and amateurs, wheel chairs and tennis shoes covering 26.2 miles… We all wanted to see this absurd, triumphant, multi-cultural jubilation unfold.

Marathons are so human. we’ve created this spectacle and sport that draws all types: competitive athletes and moms running off baby weight. Marathons attract high school cross-country stars and mid-life crisis victims. When we think of marathons- we think: they are innocent, benign, universal and community-oriented… Until yesterday.

The Boston marathon is the crown jewel. You must either qualify for the race or agree to fundraise money in order to enter. Professionals enjoyed a city-wide holiday to observe thousands of people running an unnatural distance just for the sense of accomplishment in it.

It should have been a day of too much Gatorade, paper cups littering our neighborhoods, and collective sportsmanship.

Instead, collective screams.

One more venue for terror, one less benign community gathering.

One more reason to fear, one less opportunity to trust each other.

One more city that laments and mourns, one less place of refuge and security.

News of the Boston bombings crushed my spirit. That city created space for me to fall in love, to find my first home, to answer a call to ministry, and to meet my best friends. Some of my most sacred moments unfolded in the hours I spent running along the Charles River and reading in the Boston Common.

I consider Boston my heart-home. A piece of me remains on those cobblestone streets. I owe that city a debt for the ways it shaped me and taught me to love, to trust, to grow, and to learn from my community.

My heart broke when I learned about the bombings because a place that once seemed untouchable and sacred to me is now marked by this new, hate-filled, fear-driven stain that is slowly changing our world forever.

I grieve for Boston and yet so many people have have deeper grief and sorrow. 170 people injured and counting… 3 dead- more may pass away. Boston residents woke up with a little less hope and a little less faith today.

I fear the grief will continue. More cities will be stained. Others will experience this sense of deep loss as their heart-homes become terror targets.

What are we to think in times like this? What should we hope for, and what can we pray? For me, in this confusing and dark time, this is my prayer:

Compassionate God, our hearts are broken in the wake of more violence and destruction. Boston is the latest city to sit on the ground in mourning and lament. Wrap your comforting arms around us. Draw us near to one another before we scatter in fear and suspicion of our neighbors. Remind us of the renewing spirit of hope that can rise out if any tomb or terror site. Stop us from turning our vulnerability into hardness. Hold us back from the dark shadows of judgement and stereotypes as we seek justice. Forgive us all for creating a world where children hear sirens more than alleluias. Transform our collective screams into cries for peace and tenderness on our streets again. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

Prayer for 2013

Best Times

Prayer Published in THE BEST TIMES Mid-South Magazine, January 2013

For the blessing of one more year- we give thanks, O God.
We long to slow down and savor every moment of laughter and joy.
Help us use our days wisely—to bring more goodness and grace to our neighbors.
Give us the strength to forgive old grudges and renew strained relationships.
Give us wisdom as we seek to be a more peaceful and humble community. May we have eyes to see where we are needed most, and may we find the courage to act with compassion when you call us to serve.
Turn our hearts to our brothers and sisters across the world who fight for resources and freedoms. When we can help- nudge us forward. When we need to step back, draw us into an embrace.
Knit us together in unity and wholeness this year. In our difference, help us to appreciate the uniformity of the human spirit, created in the image of Love and Mercy. As we move into this New Year, walk with us so that we may continue to reveal Your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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