Monday, March 21, 2016

march 21

I'm reasonably certain that I was a surprise to my parents.  My brother and sister are much older (10 and 8 years), and my parents split very shortly after I was born.  No one ever said I was a mistake, and I don't think that.  But I continue to be a surprise, even to myself.

Today, I am 31.  (Actually not until 3:43 pm, but whatever.)

One of the most surprising things to me is that there are so many people who love and care about me.  The ones in the picture are just a few of the ones who have held me together (and been okay with me falling apart).  That was at my birthday dinner, where they indulged me by being extra-fancy.

I have never been the most popular, or the most beautiful, or the most charming.  That's okay.  I don't have to be.  I hope I can just know that I'm the luckiest and be the most grateful.

Monday, March 14, 2016

dedicating my practice

At the beginning of each yoga class, our instructor asks us to calmly come into our bodies and our breath, to attempt to clear our minds (impossible for this monkey brain), and to set an intention for our practice.  This might be a quality that we want to focus on, or a characteristic we are hoping to bring into our bigger lives, or we also might dedicate this practice to someone or something.

In an attempt to get outside of myself a little bit, I am taking the next few months to dedicate my practice to someone.  I have spent a lot of yoga sessions thinking about what I want to bring to myself and my life.  It's time for me to think about someone else for a little while.

I started last week.  In many ways, this is very similar to one of Richard Foster's methods in the exemplary "Celebration of Discipline."  He writes this about holding people in prayer prior to corporate worship:

"When people begin to enter the room, glance around until you see someone who needs your intercessory work.  Perhaps their shoulders are drooped, or they seem a bit sad.  Lift them into the glorious, refreshing light of his Presence.  See the burden tumbling from their shoulders as it did from Pilgrim's in Bunyan's allegory.  Hold them as a special intention throughout the service."

I try to imagine the person to whom I am dedicating my practice being bathed in a gentle, golden light.  I see this light being cast on them from above.  Anytime my thoughts begin to wonder, I take the mental image of the marauding thought and place it into a mason jar and put the lid on and put it off to the side of my mat.  I focus back on my dedicatee.  If I know they are suffering a lot, I imagine myself holding them tightly against my chest as they sob and let all their feelings out into the world.  I envision myself holding them like I hold one of my children when their emotions are beyond them:  I don't shush them, I don't try to talk.  I just hold them close and gently rock them and give them a safe place to exhaust themselves.  I try to offer them very pure compassion.

I have been the recipient of some exceptional compassion in the last few months, from all my friends and loved ones.  They have been patient and kind and yielding with me.  They have allowed me to greedily take from their emotional reservoirs.  Sometimes I still wonder why anyone would want a friend like me, so self-centered and thoughtless.  But I can't think about that too much.  I just need to accept the gift.

And then I need to give the gift.  I hope that each of you can feel me directing this warmth and care at you as I try to offer this gift into the world.

Friday, March 11, 2016

parable boxes

I have always been so drawn to Jesus' parables.  I think I just love analogy and metaphor and the way they help me organize the world.  So when Jesus says,

"The kingdom of God is like this . . " 

"Actually it's like this . . ."

 "No, try this . . ."  

I just get it.  It's how my mind works, too.  You have to approach this concept, which is beyond human understanding, from every possible perspective.  God is so good at that - meeting us in exactly the language and people and situations that we need at the time we need it.  Translation, I guess.

I have been making these Godly Play parable boxes for the last few months.  (I'm not going to explain the whole program, but here's my one-sentence treatment:  Montessori religious education based on prepared environment and presentation of materials.)  They are for presentation with our kids.  You can order all the stuff here for seven billion dollars.  I prefer to make what I can (mostly from felt), supplement with items from Hobby Lobby, and go from there.  The great benefit to hand-crafting is that it helps me learn the presentations thoroughly.

There are six main parable boxes, and then a few enrichment ones I will work on next:

Clockwise from top left:

Parable of the Leaven

Parable of the Good Shepherd (this was the first one I made, and is very dear to me, as Jerome Berryman also started with this handmade material as the first thing he made for his newborn teaching method)

Parable of the Great Pearl (this is a kid favorite, with all the little items picked up from the dollhouse section at the craft store)

Parable of the Mustard Seed

Parable of the Good Samaritan (you can see my little wonderers in the picture, along with the Circle of the Church Year in the background.  I loved making this one - all the additional texture from the burlap underlay, and I knit the little blanket that the Samaritan uses to cover the traveler from purple nubby silk yarn)

Parable of the Sower (this one is my favorite, I think.  I love the ones with the little bitty birds)

I love telling these stories, and I love seeing all my gold boxes stacked up.  The mysteries and the secrets they contain are fresh for me every time, too.  As part of the introduction to each parable, I tell the group that sometimes we cannot enter into a parable, even if we feel ready.  But if we keep asking questions, if we keep wondering . . . we will find a way in.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

two sides of the same coin

I have been reading a little bit of my favorite theologian, Paul Tillich.  His sermons in "The Shaking of the Foundations" are some of my very dearest writings.  (Find it free and online here.)  It's the sort of stuff where I have trouble finding a quote to lift out, since all of it is so damn good.  The sermon "You Are Accepted" is sort of my manifesto on the power of sin/sickness/death and the concomitant power of grace in our lives.  Yesterday, this particular bit of "You Are Accepted" glued itself to my mind:

"Man is split within himself. Life moves against itself through aggression, hate, and despair. We are wont to condemn self-love; but what we really mean to condemn is contrary to self-love. It is that mixture of selfishness and self-hate that permanently pursues us, that prevents us from loving others, and that prohibits us from losing ourselves in the love with which we are loved eternally. He who is able to love himself is able to love others also; he who has "learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others." But the depth of our separation lies in just the fact that we are not capable of a great and merciful divine love towards ourselves." (Paul Tillich, "You Are Accepted")

Have you ever noticed that people tend to have a distorted understanding of how they relate to the broader whole of humanity?  Tillich says it this way:  "Have you ever had the experience of being at a party full of people, and yet feeling completely alone?"  (That's my gloss on it, anyway.)  

I am so intimately familiar with that "mixture of selfishness and self-hate" that are really two manifestations of the same brokenness.  Justification is simply the restoration of a proper understanding of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the Ground of Being (the Spirit).  And yet it's not simple at all, because most of us hate ourselves so much.  I have so much shame and guilt and contempt for myself.  This is the power of sin in me.  It's not something I do - not at all.  It's how I am.  I try to make myself small because I am terrified of the greatness with which God has created me.  

Todd put on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" this morning (his new thing is dancing naked while I make breakfast), and "Within You Without You" started playing.  George Harrison has always been my favorite Beatle, and this is one of my favorite of his raga-style songs.  In college, I made an little illustration of this lyric, and I can't find it anywhere now.  But I found this picture of me and baby Vicki and you can see it in the background, next to the Christmas tree:

"And to see you're really only very small and life flows on within you and without you."

Finding our proper relationship to ourselves, others, and God is a life's work.  But although sin abounds, grace abounds yet more.

Friday, March 4, 2016

the gospel of personal responsibility

I was washing the dishes last night when my daughter put on a Cat Stevens record that my friend Jennifer got me for Christmas.  (I love the fact that my kids know how to operate a record player, even if it means all my records are scratched.)  This tune started playing, and I began reflecting on the events of the day.  Dish-washing is some of my favorite mindless, middle-distance-gazing time.

I thought about the "first cut" for me.  My heart was broken for the first time when I was 14, by Neil.  I loved him as much as I've ever loved any other man.  Funny enough, Neil and I chatted just the other day, and he offered me some words of encouragement and advice that can only come from someone that broke your heart 16 years ago but still cares about you.

I thought about how having your heart broken is one of the truly passive acts of vulnerability.  We never say "I allowed someone to break my heart."  We acknowledge, in the the passive grammar of the phrase, that it is something that is done to us.

For a long time, and mostly through my work in Al-Anon (which is a ridiculously amazing way of managing emotional responses and living life and setting boundaries), I have hewed to the idea that we are responsible for our own emotions.  No one can make me feel anything.  And likewise, I cannot make anyone else feel anything.  Our feelings are our own to manage.  But I'm realizing now that I've been wrong about that.

What's so funny to me about all of this is that I have long known, from a political and economic standpoint, that this narrative of personal responsibility and rugged individualism that Americans love so much - it's just a fallacy.  Especially in light of Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom of God, in which we are truly responsible for one another.  All this world of bootstraps and self-made men and hard work and determination . . . Sure, it can help.  But some people are born so far behind that this narrative just doesn't even apply to them.  And it only heaps moral judgment and misunderstandings of the nature of poverty onto people.

So, from a material perspective, I have embraced the logic of the Kingdom for many years, and have been working in my ministry and my life to create that Kingdom here on earth, through an economy of grace and sharing.

But somehow, the emotional and inter-relational side of that was just like another country to me.  I still thought that everyone needed to be personally responsible for their feelings and their reactions.  We needed to be differentiated enough that we could see that other people cannot force us to feel anything.

Having your heart broken changes everything.  You see that someone can, indeed, make you feel something without your permission.  And that in the Kingdom, we are truly responsible for the totality of one another - materially and emotionally and every other way.  That is terrifying to me.  And it's messy.  And it's complicated.

Yesterday, my mentor and beloved teacher Doug Meeks said this sentence, and it has been echoing in my mind ever since:  "The gospel of the world is self-sufficiency."  Emotional self-sufficiency has been my gospel, and it's time for me to exchange that for the gospel of Christ, which is inter-relatedness.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

my heart

I remember, as a girl, looking forward to the time when I would have my own children (I just knew I would have some, somehow).  They represented an object of my love and affection with whom I could be completely, wholeheartedly, unashamedly obsessed.  I never had to worry about whether they reciprocated.

And now I'm thirty years old and they are everything.  They are my heart.  And the most thrilling, maddening, infuriating, blessed part of all is that they do reciprocate.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

how i lost 40 pounds

Hey everyone!  Ready for the newest member-led-marketing, get-rich-quick scheme to sell to your friends?  I have just the one for you!  Let me tell you how I lost 40 pounds in the last 9 months:



0)  hate yourself for being "so fat" after your body miraculously produced two children and nourished them with milk and then sustained all three of you through some exceptionally difficult times emotionally.

1)  start counting calories, then stop when you realize it doesn't actually change how you eat - you just enjoy compulsively checking how many calories are in things like Sonic BLT Toasters and 8 oz of raw milk.

2)  start working out - get a membership to the YMCA if you're motivated by financial investment like me.

3)  get overwhelmed by life and depressed.  This only works if you're in the camp that loses appetite when sad (this is me).  The very pathetic reality is that I frequently couldn't swallow food over the perpetual lump in my throat.

4)  have a tumultuous romantic entanglement. (see #3 also)

5)  have a health scare where you have elevated liver enzymes and your hepatologist tells you the only treatment is losing weight.

6)  do yoga twice a week.

7)  decide it's finally time to stop nursing your 2.5 year old son.

Seriously people . . . I have no idea how I lost weight,  People are always complimenting me and asking me what I did.  I feel like this whole thing was completely ruled by my emotions.  If anything, the working out and yoga are what seems to be the most likely causes.  But I guess what I'm saying is:  I don't recommend my method to anyone.  Celebrate who you are today.  Thank your amazing body, made by God, for serving you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

dearly beloved

One of the sweetest privileges of the life of a clergyperson is being invited into people's lives at their critical moments.  At the birth of a child, at a deathbed, at a major surgery.  And at weddings!  Particularly being a young clergywoman, it's fun that I have been able to marry many of my friends.  I have now done weddings in Kansas, Tennessee, New York, Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana.  I have had to become familiar with how each state licenses their weddings, which is interesting.

I have so many fond memories of these weddings.  These are some of my oldest and closest friends:

Jimmy and Julie (I was lightly pregnant with Vicki)

Ryan and Michelle

Amanda and Paul (I was heavily pregnant with Todd)

Amber and Andy

Julianne and Parth

Chase and Carly (with my assistants)

And, this October, Stephanie and Sean!

Formal marriage is becoming a less-universal part of life for people of my generation.  I understand the reasons why, but I think there is something so sacred about coming together and vowing your love and dedication to one another in front of a group for support and accountability.

In my wedding homilies, I always try to emphasize the role of the gathered community.  The people who are present at this wedding are not just spectators, there to observe a pretty setting and have a great meal.  They are active participants who are vowing, with their presence and their words, to help this couple weather the storms that will come.

Marriage ain't easy.  If anyone knows that, it's me.  Sometimes it's a monumental struggle,  And sometimes it's better to call it quits.  But to make it, you need more than just each other.  You need all the people there to lean on.  Something about that just speaks to me.  And it's not lost on me that the people who supported me (and Jeff) the most through our divorce were . . . the people who were at our wedding.  They took seriously their covenant to help us dissolve our union (and care for the offspring of that union) with as much grace and love as when we made it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

part of being alive

Every Sunday night, I rush my children through bath and brushing teeth and books and into bed, I grab a beer, I adjust the bunny ears on the little postage-stamp television in my bedroom, I pat the covers next to me and invite Pup to snuggle up, and I tune in to the greatest soap opera of our time:  Downton Abbey.

Like all great series, it can't go on forever - it's already pretty much jumped the shark, now that we're in the sixth and final season.  But I'm as much a sucker for the lush Edwardian to-the-manner-born upstairs-downstairs drama as all the rest of America.

It seems like most Americans also have a big soft spot for Tom Branson, the chaffeur-turned-land-agent who married the Earl's beautiful youngest daughter, Sybil, who subsequently died giving birth to their daughter.  Tom has many qualities that appeal to Americans:  he's entrepreneurial, he's politically radical, he disregards the traditional class status of the British gentry, he was able to crack into their rarefied air sheerly on his own merit and personality (although purists would say he sold out).  He's a favorite, for sure.

On last night's episode, Tom hears Lady Mary breaking off her relationship with racecar driver Henry Talbot, mostly because she is terrified that he will die in the same way as her first husband, Matthew Crawley (car wreck - I told you it's a huge soap opera).  This is a perfectly reasonable fear, in my estimation.  No one could blame Lady Mary for wanting to play it safe, when she has suffered as much as she did over Matthew's death.

But Tom comes with the most heartbreakingly beautiful insight:  "You're frightened of being hurt again.  But let me tell you this:  you will be hurt again, and so will I, because being hurt is part of being alive."

How my heart leapt in agreement as I heard Tom utter those words!

Sometimes I teeter on the edge of terrible bitterness when I think of how much hurt my 31 years have contained.  A divided home, abandonment, early death, addiction, divorce, heartbreak.  It seems like way more than one person should have to bear.  It can quickly spiral into self-pity, or a superiority complex, or any number of ugly ways that are essentially about protecting myself.

But . . . what a huge amount of life I have been privileged to experience already.  God has entrusted me with the lessons gleaned from this suffering, and asked me to help gently share them with others.  Being hurt is, indeed, part of being alive.  Most of spend our whole lives trying to figure out how to prevent that truth from manifesting itself.  What if, instead, we try to become "like water," as my best friend Amanda says?  Allowing this hurt to flow through us, allowing it to ripple out and dissipate, but still changing the landscape in important ways?

Friday, February 5, 2016

naming your inner critics

My therapist and I have been working through some stuff based on Internal Family Systems.  The whole idea is pretty basic:  we each have many different parts, or players, in our psyches.  Some are really active, some are held hostage, some are working overtime to protect other parts that have been hurt.  When all is going well and fairly balanced, an executive function called "self" is managing all the parts and letting them take their turns.

It's been pretty super-helpful for me, especially when Jeremy my therapist says really calmly, "Each part of you has good intentions.  Let's respect the intentions they have."

Another vital element of IFS is the inner critic.  Each of us has some variety of critical part inside, working (always with good intentions!) to protect us, or undermine us, or minimize us, or some combination of the above.  There are seven general types of inner critics in this system, although I suspect that many more variations exist:  the perfectionist, the guilt-tripper, the underminer, the destroyer, the molder, the taskmaster, and the inner controller.

In a development that surprises exactly no one who knows me, my critics are the perfectionist and the taskmaster.  They are close allies and collaborators, pushing me hard to achieve mastery and improve productivity.  My self-worth is tied really, really closely to these concepts.  This is all fine and good in the professional world (although it produces some stress), or in hobbies (like cooking or knitting).  But when it comes to people and relationships . . . that's problematic.  People don't behave predictably.  They can't be mastered and checked off my to-do list.  When I don't feel I have mastery of a relationship, it causes me a ton of turmoil.

I have a really complicated relationship with these inner critics, because I deeply respect them and believe they have produced a great deal of success in my life.  I'm almost 31, and I have completed college and graduate school (and am halfway through another graduate degree), have been married, had two children, divorced, and am six years into my career.  I own a home, have a pension and a retirement plan, have two pets, and bake my own bread and churn my own butter.  I lost 30 pounds in the last year.  I can read and translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek.  NONE of these things would have been even remotely possible without the perfectionist and the taskmaster urging me on.

But . . . at what cost?  How much anxiety, and stress, and hollow victory have these inner critics also produced in me?  How much have I let these parts control me, to the detriment of other, gentler parts that want me to slow down and relax and let my mind wander a little bit?  How many opportunities have I missed out on, simply because I had tunnel vision around my goals - tunnel vision that is the hallmark of my perfectionist and taskmaster?

So, what's your critic?  What is your critic's honorable intention?  How can you respect the contribution of the critic, but also ask them to take a rest for awhile?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

mood ii

"i got some things i need to say

callin' out a friend of mine."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

on "being fed"

There is a phrase tossed around by church people these days, and it sort of just slays me.  I hear it often when people decide to leave my church, or, alternatively, when they are discussing what they like so much about our church.  "I left City Road because I just wasn't being fed."  "I love my church because I'm really fed by what happens there."

I think the concept of spiritual nourishment is vital to a church, and we experience it in a number of ways (most dramatically in the sacraments, but also in preaching, praising, fellowship, liturgy, and more).  Anytime we receive a fresh infusion of God's grace in our lives, our parched souls perk up.  So, this idea of "being fed" makes sense to me.  But I also object to the way the phrase is thrown around, for a couple of reasons.  I use my experience with my children as a way of explaining my objections:

1)  Only infants need to be fed.  At one time, we were all spiritual infants.  Paul has a lot to say about this (check out I Corinthians 3).  However, at a certain point, human development demands that we begin feeding ourselves.  In fact, each of my children was EAGER to begin feeding themselves.  They wanted to control what they ate, how much, when, and all the other factors related to eating.  Self-feeding is a developmental milestone - something the doctor asks you about at your baby's checkups.  Likewise, after we have "been fed" briefly, as spiritual infants, we take on the task of feeding ourselves.  This means that we practice the means of grace.  We immerse ourselves in scripture.  We fellowship with believers.  We become missional, having been sent out into the world.  We understand that God is the source of all spiritual nourishment, but it is up to us, as maturing followers, to feed ourselves from that bounty.

2)  If my children got to pick what was on the menu, they would eat craisins and chunks of butter for every meal.  Maybe with the odd bowl of plain powdered Parmesan cheese thrown in.  My job, as their parent, is to create well-balanced meals that offer a variety of nutrients.  However, I cannot force them to eat anything.  Point being, sometimes God puts things on the menu that are not particularly appealing to us.  This does not mean that they aren't nourishing and necessary.  My mom was a big fan of liver and onions, which is one of the most nourishing meals there is.  When it was on the menu, I regularly went hungry.  (Mom wasn't into making multiple meals for picky eaters.)  So, perhaps it's not that you aren't "being fed."  Maybe it's that you can't stomach what you need to eat.

That last phrase has become my retort when I hear that people "aren't being fed."  Consider this:  maybe it's not that you aren't being fed.  Maybe you just don't like what's on the menu.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

for vicki jo

have you seen her dressed in blue?

see the sky in front of you

and her face is like a sail,

speck of white so fair and pale,

have you seen a lady fairer?


Although I'm certainly not philosophically opposed to tattoos, never in my thirty years did I feel compelled to get one.  I couldn't imagine an image or word or idea I would want on my body forever. I'm also not typically a conservative or especially cautious person . . . But I didn't want something stupid, and I didn't want something modish.

When I studied Greek in seminary (now eight years ago!), there was a word I fell in love with.  It's a word that is used commonly in the Gospels to describe a situation in which Jesus feels strongly moved with compassion.  It is almost always inadequately translated.  You may see it as "moved with pity," "felt compassion," or "felt strongly."  But this word, splagchnizomai, is really a much more visceral word than that.  (Forgive my lack of diacritical markings.)

Within splagchnizomai, you see the word splagchna, the Koine Greek word for "guts."  You can kind of see our word "spleen" in there.  It was a word that had to do with your inner organs.  Perhaps splagchnizomai could most accurately be translated as "gutted."  As in "Jesus felt gutted for the people he saw suffering."

Haven't you ever had that feeling?  Just an absolute roiling in your guts when you see the misery or suffering of another person?  Something beyond just looking at them and thinking, "How sad"?  If you haven't ever had that feeling, I hope that you do at some point.  Because it's what we were created to feel for one another.

I have loved this word for long enough that I decided it was time for a tattoo.  So, last October, a dear friend and I went to the tattoo parlor of another old friend, and I did the deed.  It didn't hurt.  It was like something between burning and irritation.  I got the word tattooed in Greek, as close to my spleen as I could.  (I actually did some anatomical investigating and found that your spleen is closer to your back than to your front.)

I love it.  I think I will continue to love it for the rest of my life.  I love this daily reminder, when I catch a glimpse of my tattoo in the mirror, that I am called to recognize the ways my heart is breaking and that I am gutted for the world.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


It's time to move on, time to get going.

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.

But under my feet, baby, grass is growing.

It's time to move on, time to get going.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seeing all the colors

I think a lot about what it means to be risen with healing.  Every Christmas we sing the quintessential Wesley carol:  "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which contains the curious line "ris'n with healing in his wings" - referring to the Christ who will be born to die, and then rise from that death.

Once a month, also, we affirm our common faith through the Apostles Creed.  We state, along with Christians since the fourth century, that we believe in the "resurrection of the body."  This is classic Pauline theology, which emphasizes the fact that God created every bit of us (body, soul, everything) and the whole cosmos, and that everything will be resurrected.  We are not perfect souls placed in imperfect bodies.  The ENTIRE CREATION will be made new.

So what does this mean for someone born with a disability?  What does this mean for someone whose illness has become an integral part of their experience of creation?  What does this mean for Shirley Baker, created by God without eyes?  What does it mean for her to be risen with healing, as Christ was and promised for each of us?

Our brilliant teacher last week, Dr. Carla Works, told a story that reminded me of something else I suspect about the afterlife.  I believe that the distorted experience we have of this creation has limited our ability to understand what God will be able to do with us and the creation.  Like, now we have five senses - maybe then we will have ten?  Now we see "through a glass darkly," but then we will see clearly.

Dr. Works told a story from Radiolab (which is a fantastic public radio program) about how certain people have additional cones in our eyes that enable us to see more colors than others.  She also mentioned how in the ancient world, the color blue was not a concept.  Last week I saw the musical Matilda with my aunt and uncle, and the lead character sings something like, "what if what I see as red is not what someone else sees as red at all?"

The mantis shrimp has 12 sets of cones in their eyes, enabling them to see four times as many colors as the average human.

What if being risen with healing is like having the capacity to see every single color, when now we only see a few?  How can we even imagine what it could be like?  We have little bitty glimpses, every now and again, of what God's Kingdom looks like.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kill your darlings

I'm in the midst of writing a very important, emotional letter.  I actually don't know if this letter will ever be read by anyone but me, but that's sort of beside the point right now.  It's one of those painful, liberating pieces of writing that really lays out my emotional landscape.  I'm lucky that the person to whom this letter is addressed is someone who knows me well, and feels safe.

But what keeps coming back to me, as I write a little and then draft (creative writing workshop habits die hard!), is that pithy phrase tossed around in my workshop days:  "kill your darlings," said William Faulkner (of all people!!  He had some pretty intense darlings.  Remind me to tell you sometime how I feel like I married into a family from a Faulkner novel).

"Kill your darlings," meaning:  if you are too attached to a phrase, too infatuated with your choice of words, too sweet on your syntax - it's become too precious, and it must be killed.  "Kill your darlings":  get right to the heart of what you love, and see what that love says about you, rather than about your object of love.

We are in a week-long class about God's redemption of the fallen nature of the world, with Walter Wink as a basis.  I feel like we could study Wink for a year, just on his own.  What a man.  But one thing I love is that Wink insists that we must resist the lure of mimetic rivalry.  This is just a super-fancy way of saying:  I shoudnl't react with violence just because the world may be violent to me.  Rather, he says that evil in the world may actually have value for us, because it shows us what parts of ourselves are still in need of redemption and resurrection.

"Kill your darlings":  if you feel especially hurt by someone's actions or words, think about what this says about you, rather than about them.  If some part of you has become too precious, if you're holding on to it too tightly, it probably means that it must be surrendered to the redemptive power of God.

So, who even knows about my letter?  At this point, the whole thing is basically a darling and it may just have to be burned in its entirety.  But perhaps the process of writing it was the really valuable exercise for me.