Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flags and Idols

I have seen enough vague posts on this Colin Kaepernick character that I had to look up what exactly this person did to get such a response of alternating outrage and support. What can I say I have a diverse set of friends who sit on either side of this and many other trending stories that we will forget about next week. I didn't give the whole thing much thought because it will pass in a weeks time when we have some other person and their actions dividing us, making us feel so strongly we pull back out our soap boxes and start screaming at each other again. It seems to me that we really like to pull out those boxes and climb upon them any chance we get. But then I saw this post shared by a good a friend (I am not tech savvy enough to screen shot it with out the comments) A Steven Michael posted, "I just want to point out I didn't see anyone setting football jerseys on fire when various football players were accused of rape/sexual assault, domestic violence and murder."

I had this thought, after reading that about ten times: well dam! Then all of a sudden I was having a thousand thoughts all at once about this situation that has nothing to do with me.

I want to share some of that with you fine readers:

1. DID YOU READ THAT STATEMENT? Why is it that people are taking to the streets with fire because of someone sitting when some people deemed it inappropriate. WHY doesn't this happen when actual crimes are committed? Most of which by the way have victims that are women. Look even if some guy you will never meet mortally offends you, it is NOT a crime. Please someone tell me you were outraged about rapes, assaults, violence, and murder too? Dam you crickets.

2. I notice that only the actions of black folks during the national anthem get national media coverage. President Obama, Gabby Douglass, and in a different way Colin Kaepernick. Now I need to make a confession, if you haven't noticed I am white, I am a quasi-public figure because of my job and the region I live in. My white self does not place her hand over her heart for the playing of the national anthem. I didn't even know this was a thing until I moved from where I grew up. Over the winter I googled the flag code because this hand over the heart thing blew my mind. The code does suggest hand over the heart but does NOT require it. I have stood with my attention focused on the flag hands at my side for a year and half here. No one has noticed or if they have they haven't said a word and it hasn't been in the newspaper or on the news.

Maybe you are thinking my parents were absolutely terrible people for not teaching me to put my hand over my heart or to stand at a parade when a flag goes by. They weren't actually my dad taught me to not be distracted during the national anthem, to focus on the flag and be respectful. But that was before he got busy dying from complications of a disease he had because of the chemicals he was exposed to in Vietnam as he did his civic duty as a person who was drafted. 

3. Mr. Kaepernick's right to sit during the playing of the national anthem is protected by the constitution. The constitution many of us are touting when we want to make it a point in our own favor. We can't have it both ways the same constitution that allows you to have a gun, free speech etc is the one that gives him the right to sit when you don't want him to.

4. I have noticed the very people who are up in arms about this whole thing, the ones who are most deeply offended by this person's actions are in fact the same people who loathe political correctness. They are the ones quick to say, we need to have thicker skins and buck up and not get offended so easily. I guess that doesn't apply when they are offended. I am telling you offended people what you are feeling right now in this moment when disgusted by this disrespect is exactly what other people feel when you are saying they need a thicker skin. Your being offended is not more important than someone else who is offended by something you do. Think about that, really really think about that.

5. I do not follow football much, but I have bought gifts for people who do. Football jerseys are not cheap last I check and that was at least 10 years ago they ran $80-$150, that is a considerable amount of money. Which makes me want to ask would you burn that cash in the street? I know anger inspires us to do things we might not do otherwise. Yet you have a choice, you could take that money and do good in the world. If you have the privilege of money to burn, you also have the privilege of being able to support the cause of your choice.  If you need inspiration, there isn't a place in this fine country you are quick to demand support for, where a child didn't go to bed hungry last night. One could choose to actually make this nation better, to feed children who can do nothing to get food. Maybe that isn't your thing, I can think of a hundred ways in which good can be done. PEOPLE WE NEED TO DO GOOD!

6. Chances are if it wasn't brought to our attention, none of us would have ever seen or noticed a guy sitting during the national anthem. We didn't happen upon this, our attention was brought to it. We need to think critically about who brought it to our attention and what their motive might be.

7. We are the ones who made athletes public figures and idols.

8. The United States of America is the name of our country, it isn't America. America actually encompass all of North and South America. What we express in the US isn't the only expression of being American. This matters more than we could ever know.

9. The theological implications of this situation are ripe for consideration. Let's explore a few, shall we? Jesus says love your neighbor and love your enemy... guess what that includes Colin Kaepernick. God comes first, always. It is in the Ten Commandments, it is in Jesus teaching in all the gospels. We get in trouble when we have idols (we all have them). The flag and patriotism are certainly idols for many. If the flag gets in the way of your ability to love your neighbor, it is likely an idol. When we do not love our neighbors, we fall short of the greatest commandment, which separates us from God. We all have to work on our idols.

10. Somewhere along the way loving Jesus has become synonymous with being patriotic. This is a problem because God doesn't play favorites. God doesn't love us more because we are the United States. God loves us, but God loves Mexico, Nigeria, Iran, China, Poland too. I am going to tell you something that won't make me popular. I love God and follow Jesus before I am a US citizen. I struggle with pledging allegiance to a flag, not because I believe it isn't worth of respect or that the USA is a bad place, but because my allegiance is to God. Frequently I am confronted with situations where it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that we are worshiping a flag, that it has crossed into idolatry, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. My mere naming that discomfort is enough to set people off and bring on the name calling. That's ok I am going to love them.

Today I am grateful for this space to share my thoughts freely. To confront my own discomfort and to have friends who provide a safe space for me.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Making People Cry

Yesterday in a round about way I made my family cry. Not my husband and child but my brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, my mom. Meanwhile I was experiencing the kind of joy that is life giving. My dad is dead, he has been for sometime now, this is not new but this is why people were crying. I was just barely an adult when he died after a battle with a long illness. Most of my childhood he could not live with us because of his medical issues, he lived in nursing home facilities. When he died there wasn't much of his "stuff" left. There are very few earthly possessions that were actually his, that he wore or chose before the long illness. For about ten years now hanging in a closet where ever I happened to live was his leather racing jacket. Recently, my brother, his namesake, quietly got married. I wanted to send him a wedding gift but couldn't think of what to send. Then I learned his spouse also rides motorcycles like my brother and it just so happens she took his name. One day I pulled out that motorcycle racing jacket and looked at my pre-hyphenated name on it and I knew it did not belong with me anymore.

My husband and I started cleaning and polishing it, not quite to new but made it look decent. Then we mailed it off and ordered a shadow box to hold it and had it delivered to their house. Yesterday I had a text message with a photo of it all put together and it gave me so much JOY. When I packed up the jacket I cried a little because I imagined this jacket touching his body, long gone. I imagined him picking it out, his humor, his races, or how it appears the M was first sewn on as a W and how he would have responded to that. With a few tears I sent it off to it's new home, where it has always belonged. A little while after I received the text message I had a facebook notification that I had been taggged in a photo, it was my brother thanking me for sending it and a picture of the final product. It looked amazing in the shadow box with a photo added. I was very happy to see it. The nature of facebook is that other people see what we post. Person after person who misses my dad posted how they were crying.

That is what I want to write about today, my dad has been gone since 1999, he was 50 when he died. That seemed old then but now it is not that far in my future. He wouldn't even be 70 yet. His death was tragic and it will always be tragic. It will always be that event that shaped those of us who loved him. I believe that yesterday we all longed for him so because his jacket made us remember him, our grief for him, and that very tragedy that took him from us. All these years later it doesn't make sense, it doesn't feel any better, we still miss him in our lives, and I am probably not the only one who wonders, what if Agent Orange wasn't a thing? Yet it is a thing and that thing altered forever so many lives in ways we will never comprehend beyond the pain of grief.

My mom made the comment, "Leave it to Beck to make everyone cry." She has a point, I do kind of have a reputation for making my family cry in the face of grief or tragedy, because this loss isn't the only one we have faced together. I am really rather terrible at dealing with my own emotions but I am good at naming what we would all rather ignore because it is too painful to speak. Today that is the tragic loss of a good man far too soon for reasons that will never make sense. My dad died, it was and is tragic and it always will be. Therefore there will always be a little sting for us when we are reminded of what should have been.

Today I am grateful for the joy and the tears and the life no matter how short it was cut.

Friday, August 26, 2016

What I Couldn't Do

This morning I was walking around watering all the plant life we have successfully cultivated this summer: herbs, veggies, flowers, even some accidental corn. I had a fleeting thought that turned meditation for this morning. I have tried eagerly for at least ten years to grow a garden or flowers in a variety of ways. It has only been in the last year that I have found my green thumb and it is sometimes still a little yellow or brown but hey I will take the progress. A few years ago I would have told you I couldn't garden well despite my best efforts. I was marveling at all that grew and how the metaphor of growth is really important in my life right now. I looked at our accidental corn that is growing on OUR FRONT STOOP in a flower pot with some creeping phlox. I suppose that the corn was delivered via squirrel. We grow by accident sometimes too and it is a surprising sort of growth. But really all I did was put seeds in the earth where sun would shine, then I watered them and waited. The waiting isn't always easy but it has been worth it. Another metaphor for my life right now. Hmm.. how interesting to encounter the depths of self and the Divine while watering the garden.

As I went about my morning a list of things I couldn't do formed in my head and I wanted to share it with you.

I could never read or speak in front of people, I get far too nervous. Except, now it is my job to just that every week for at least an hour if not more.

I could never sing solo in front of more than a handful of people because I am not good enough. Except, all summer I sang the kid's talks in church solo with a microphone. I won't be singing solos to sold out crowds anytime soon but I know I can sing in a microphone in front of people and not die.

I could never decorate a fancy cake. Except, I learned how to a few years ago and often challenge myself to do harder things.

I could never go back to school, I am too old for that now. Spoken when I was 21. Nearly 15 years later I have finished four degrees. Including a Master's Degree I was never going to be smart enough again. I look forward to the day when I can start my PhD. and I know I can do that.

I could never be a pastor because of all the death, especially untimely ones. Except, I am and I have lived through walking with people grieving tremendous loss.

I could never be beautiful because I don't fit the mold. A work in progress on this one.

This afternoon I am going to think of all the things I still can't do, maybe I will find some lies.

What is it you simply could never do that you might like to?

Today I am grateful for the loud and constant voices who said YES YOU CAN when I said I could never. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Another Week

Another week is upon us as summer begins to settle down. I still cannot get used to the idea of school starting in August. We have for the next week a little bit of a slow down before we jump back into school for which I am grateful. However, I suspect it is hormones being all out of whack, I am just not myself. I spend a lot of time feeling sick or just plain out of it. Hopefully it will pass in the next few days because it is exhausting.

Today I am grateful for this slow down before we dive in to another school year.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Grief of the Intangible

We all know that we grieve when a person dies but somethings we grieve deeply are intangible. It is my experience that this is some of the hardest grief to bear because it is difficult for others to bear it with you if they haven't experienced it. I am in the throws of an extraordinarily painful period after my first round of Clomid. I was concerned this might be the case if I failed to conceive, I don't know why I just suspected it would be a rough cycle, emotions aside.

I spent a month allowing myself the luxury of a tiny speck of hope. Then the hormones kicked in and I became affectionate and all lovey. Then I became hot and tired and queasy. I kept telling that speck not to grow but after a week it grew anyway. Until I woke up with swollen sore breasts, which for many women are a tell tale sign of pregnancy, not for me since having our daughter this is a regular part of PMS. I knew from that moment on the Clomid didn't do something magical in my uterus. It did make me ovulate which is a plus, I had great numbers on day 21, which means it worked.  My husband, my support system, refused  to give up hope at this point, until I peed on a stick to prove it. I proved it with my pee and then eventually with the start of my cycle. I am decidedly not pregnant despite my body sending all the signs that I am.

People say don't get too upset because it rarely works on the first cycle but it is really hard to not be upset. And what is too upset anyway? Is there some threshold I don't know about? I am upset dam it, because I just lived through a month of hormonal hell and I have to do it for another two months. I am upset because for seven years despite all my best efforts I cannot get pregnant again and I know this is the end of the road. I am upset because when round 3, the final round, fails, I will be on a vacation that we have been dreaming of for a decade. I will try hard to engage and enjoy that trip but I will feel much like I feel today.

I can't even name what it is I feel other than I am grieving an intangible loss again and I know I will have to do it two more times before it becomes a forever grief. One that I will carry with me through the rest of my life. The one that will at low points make me say things like if only I tried Clomid sooner. I could skip the next two months and frankly I would like to but if I do then I will ask forever what if I didn't?

Today it is incredibly hard to be grateful but I am always grateful for the child I do have, who feels like more and more of a miracle every day.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Yesterday I was leading worship for the local care facilities many of which are nursing homes. I let the the residents choose the hymns which makes for interesting choices but yesterday was a Christmas one in the middle of the summer. Part of me wanted to say not yet, but I thought the better of it; when a nursing home resident asks for a Christmas song, it could be the last time they get to sing it. Who am I to rob them of such a simple and meaningful joy?

Today I am grateful for the way the Spirit led in the moment.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


One of the things I miss the most about life before ministry is getting to have a normal weekend. While I get two days off in a row it is not the same two days as the rest of the world which makes doing anything social really difficult. Saturday night I need to be in early, Sunday I am spent after church. Three day weekends take vacation time. Most of the time I am ok with this but today I am feeling it as we have had visitors all summer and it would have been nice to have a weekend with them.

Today I am grateful for all the joy life in ministry brings even if there are trade offs.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Birthday Party

We had a successful seventh birthday party today with pizza and pottery painting. I cannot believe my girl is seven years old tomorrow. Her sheer joy tonight in such simple things was amazing. I am so proud of who she is becoming.
I am so very grateful for this child and her exuberance for life.

Day 21: Hope

I didn't get to post yesterday but here it is a day late. It was day 21, which was blood test day, which brought positive results, so now we wait.
I am so grateful.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Privilege of Insurance

Privilege is such a loaded term in our current culture, one mention of the word and people start getting tense and shutting down, especially those with privilege that feel threatened. Today though let us try to put that aside. If you remember a few years ago I wrote a blog about my dirty little secret which was that my family was benefiting greatly from the Affordable Care Act. Well times have changed and while we still do enjoy benefits of health care reform, like preexisting condition clauses won't prevent us from getting care we need, our health insurance comes through my employer. Most of my adult life I have lived with little or no health insurance because the cost was way out of our reach. Particularly because Paul and I both have what insurance companies consider preexisting conditions.

This morning I was late to my office hours because I had a chiropractor appointment. After months of sciatic nerve pain in the mornings I decided enough was enough and called to make sure it was covered, it is, so off I went. It is going to take a few visits but I am on the road to feeling better. The cost: $22. What was out of reach before is now very accessible. The thing is this isn't the only thing that it has effected, when I had my accident back in January I had insurance. When I had an emergency a few weeks ago it was covered with a little copay. There have been some payments on my part but not thousands of dollars.

It continues though we have opted in to the dental insurance which we pay for, for the first time ever in our entire relationship we all have up to date dental cleanings. We have a discount plan for vision care and we are all up to date or about to be up to date on eye exams and eye wear.

I have been seeing a therapist regularly for a few months now. I have had fertility consultations and treatment.  All of this at least partially or fully paid by my insurance. The point I am trying to make here is that these are all services that were fluff I couldn't afford before. Aside from the car accident I would not have sought help for any of these things had we been in previous situations. Now I know many would say that I have earned this privilege through my hard work in getting an education that led me to a professional path with this benefit. I won't down play my own hard work playing a roll in this privilege but it was other privilege that led me to be able to even do those things.

Life is more comfortable when you can address chronic pain, mental health, and emergencies. There is a higher quality of life that makes me more productive and effective as an "employee". I could manage with out these services but my life is better because of them. Fertility and dental and vision seem like added bonuses that certainly add to my life. Healthy teeth and the ability to see with an up to date prescription are wonderful. Having help in trying to grow our family is something that was always out of reach before.

So yes I will say it, I have the privilege of insurance. I can't help but think how everyone should have access to these sorts of services, in a way that is affordable, and doesn't cost my fellow professionals in the medical field money. There has got to be a way for every person to have affordable access to care and for doctors, nurses, therapists, and so on to be able to feed their families and live comfortably.

Today I am grateful for this grand privilege, even while pondering how to get this kind of care to all my fellow humans.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Little Bird

My first day back in the office after a week away was a busy and productive one. It is nearly 7 in the evening and now I am home an working on all the life stuff that needs to be caught up on. I did catch this little bird in our back yard today, she was hanging out on the flowers Saturday afternoon.

Today I am grateful for the little birds that slow me down and make me remember whose creation I am a part of.

Final Photo

Friday morning I took one last photo for contemplative photography prayer. I wanted to share it to complete the experience here on the blog even though it is a bit late. I really enjoyed this and hope to make daily prayer and photo walks a part of my life.

Today I am grateful for all I get to experience and learn.