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Time & Change

I remember turning 50! In fact – it was only 9 years, 2 months +a few days ago!)

My life was starting all over again. So much was changing! And, I was remembering everything that happened before 50. (This pic was taken right before birthday #50-2013)

After 21 years in a beloved church family, having and raising children, taking in more family, and walking with people who still have pieces of our hearts – we had moved to IL where I took on a new responsibility of being a professor in a small conservative Christian university. And after only a month of employment there – I turned 50.

I was shocked (and excited) that we had packed up everything and made the plunge – but we did it. My husband gave up so much to support my new endeavors of teaching and more grad school. (I am tired just thinking about it. Ha!) Sooo much change was ahead, and yet I was so excited about learning, growing and becoming a more knowledgeable and hopefully wiser version of myself. I knew it would not be easy. But I had no idea just how deeply our world would be rocked.

Little did I know that just 8 years later, we would be saying goodbye and starting all over yet again. This time, it was BECAUSE of what we had learned and the roads we walked with many of our friends that caused some to fear us rather than embrace or communicate with us. So, it was time to come home. Ken’s home – that he had left 33 years earlier. When we returned – EVERYTHING had changed.

Life is so long…and yet so short. Right?!?! Is life ever predictable? I feel as if our lives are never static – they are always dynamic.

So, yesterday, as I flew around the house arranging a huge vase of flowers for my baby sister’s big 50th birthday – it hit me that I actually remembered ALL 50 OF HER YEARS!!!! THAT IS A LOT!!! You know what that means?!?! I am A LOT OLDER than my baby sister!!! How did this happen?!?! Remembering your own 50 years is one things, but being able to recall so much of someone else's life is a cathartic experience.

You see, as a 9 year old – my baby sister rocked my world. I was old enough to remember the prayers for the fragility of her unborn life, and then her miraculous birth, her little face, her tiny mouth, her sweetness. I remember saving her life when she was 3, and afterwards feeling faint because what if...??? I remember the years that came and went, and I have a memory notebook that reminds me of what she was up to after I left for college – she was so little. (She and my sisters wrote me notes and sent them snail mail. Remember the mailbox people?!?!) Haha!!! AND NOW WE ARE BOTH IN OUR FIFTIES!!!! (Well, at least for another 2 months, and a few days – ugh!!! Well, getting older is better than the alternative of NOT…right?!?! Haha!)

Time changes things. And, time changes people! (I say, "Thanks be to God and Hold On!")

(picture taken on Father's Day 2023-yep! Time changes things and people!)

I used to tell my students that if ten years after they graduated I was still saying and teaching the same things - they needed to question me and ask me if I had been reading, learning and/or growing.

But, I am seeing that there are many in this world (INCLUDING ME at times) who want things to stay the same – you know – the same as we have always done it, the same as I have always been, or the way we have always seen it or believed it. It just seems easier.

And yet, if we are honest – there is NEVER an EASY BUTTON!!! And there is NEVER NOT CHANGE!!! (Hmmm….I was an English major – 2x! B.A. and M.A. not sure how to say that last sentence …) We are born, we grow up, our bodies, minds and lives change. The towns we are born in change. The neighborhoods and schools we were raised in change. Our churches change leadership. Our world changes, etc....

This last couple of weeks I have listened and watched two very differing scenarios play out in front of me. First, the conservative and evangelical denomination we used to be a part of for over 50 years held their assembly for delegates from all over the world. And I found out that there were literally emails sent about those being voted on that were full of so much angst and fear. There are those in this ‘church’ that believe that there is not room at the table for those of us who think or believe differently than they do. But, if I am honest – I was also feeling such loss as people posted pictures and joy at being together with people I have loved and do love. The losses were fresh and new. The church that raised me has no place for me or my family. And yet, do “I” have a seat at MY TABLE for them?!?! Hmmm…can you say “conundrum?”

Next is the scenario of last Saturday in Columbus, OH where the PRIDE parade was in full swing. This place held close to a million people while little seed packets were handed out that said, “Be you,” or “Love. Empathy. Compassion. Inclusion. Justice. Kindness.” I have these right in front of me this morning. WHAT?!?! This is a PRIDE parade – you know? With rainbows (another huge source of contention for those who want to claim that the rainbow is only for one group of people) and joy, and love and inclusion and hope. The entries in this parade reminded me that there IS a place for me, and there is a place for my children, and there is a place for ALL OF US.

I was always taught to FEAR gatherings like the second and crave gatherings like the first. Why?!?!

I believe FEAR is the culprit!!! Fear of change especially keeps us sedentary for reasons we are not always articulating.

First, what if we have been wrong – for CENTURIES?!?! Hmmm…I do not want to deal with the guilt, so maybe I don’t want to know. Or, what if admitting that what I was taught for years is actually the heresy and not the other way around?!?! THAT would upend my understanding of theology and scripture and practice, right? What if reading and knowing and hearing other voices brings an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and wrong thinking towards those whom Jesus loves and would love? That would mean that I need to repent and repair and revisit and revise CONSISTENTLY those things that bring harm to others. FEAR is powerful! FEAR extinguishes LOVE. FEAR cloisters us in oblivious ignorance.

Remember the story I told about Tate and I sitting at a table with a man in the church who refused to listen to any of the new research found about the homeless, the mentally ill and the harmful policies that were plaguing them. He crossed his arms, and he said strongly, “Well, I guess I will just choose to STAY ignorant!” Tate’s tears and my sadness were palpable in that moment. But, we were all too familiar with this type of thought and belief coming from those who only listen to those who side with them for fear that their lives would have to change and they would have to become compassionate. They would have to change to accommodate new understanding.

Just as this FEAR holds us hostage in belief systems that ostracize the “other,” so does this FEAR keep us in tight bordered groups of defensive and angry gatekeepers. We read and post angry outbursts on social media when we just cannot take it anymore. And yet, what some believe to be prophecy, others dismiss as rubbish. (And we are quick to label both – right?)

Change is complicated! But, I don’t want to become STUCK in ANY mindset because it is more comfortable. (Been there – done that.) LIFE is complicated! But, I do believe that when people are in pain, and when people are being targeted by those who have never felt as they feel – we are in danger of completely throwing out this Gospel of LOVE! When we desire power and control over compassion, kindness and love - we have no gospel. We have not understood Jesus. We want empire to win. And, last I checked that NEVER ends well. Do we remember Constantine? Do we remember Hitler? Look around!

Today, I am committing myself again – to LOVE. I am committing myself again to the uncomfortable place of learning, growing, hearing, knowing and sharing. I am committing myself once more to the possibility of failing and falling loudly as I become the person God has created me to be. I want my eyes and ears to be opened to the stories of others, so that human dignity can be restored and everyone could have the same rights I have.

My little niece helped save a man’s life the other day. She alerted her mother that a man had fallen unconscious, hitting his head, losing a lot of blood. As everyone gathered around him, they kept asking him if he could hear them – hoping for a response. My niece said, “Of course, he can’t hear you – his hearing aid is over there.” I laughed out loud when I heard this! They all looked, and sure enough his hearing aid and his glasses were elsewhere having become dislodged from his head. Not only could he not hear he probably also had impaired vision.

At the expense of sounding like the person I don’t want to be – I really must ask the question. Have we misplaced our hearing aids? Have our glasses flown off our faces? Because I think we are hearing and seeing things through mediums that have nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with empire, political party, and the desire for control over everyone. From book bans to taking away the healthcare rights for the trans community we are obsessed with power. And I am not sure why. The LGBTQIA+ community is not hurting the church. But the church is hurting this community. (NOT all churches btw – we found MANY who clearly were spreading the love of God in the PRIDE parade. See one of the pics above.

Why am I writing? Why am I so passionate about this?!?! There are many reasons.

The one reason I want to share is that of solidarity.

We, our friends, and our colleagues are being attacked because we believe the Gospel and GOD are BIG ENOUGH for everyone! We believe that innocent people are being harmed by bullies, politicians, church leadership, and political parties. We believe it is time to love at all costs. And, if love means speaking up, giving a hug, hurting with the targeted or standing in solidarity so that they will consider staying alive for one more day – WE MUST DO IT!

I heard and saw more scripture being carefully displayed at the PRIDE parade than I ever knew possible. It is the love of God that compels us. That is what compelled and compels me. But, with that being said, I want to be careful NOT to use the Bible as a “proof-text.” For there are those who are belting us and others over the head and in the gut with the very texts we used before to do the same – WIN THE ARGUMENT. It is not that I want everyone to be like me as the quote says above - I would wish that on no one. But, what I DO want to remind people is that neither should the church world or any world want us to be like them so much so that we are found hurting others, taking away their civil and human rights and forgetting that each and EVERY person is created in the very Image of God.

We are learning so much! We are growing so much! Whatever I do – I must be, bring, and exude love to all. LOVE MORE less fear!!! Right?!?! How?!?! I am not sure – I am trying to figure it out. Please walk with me.

Let’s sit at the table and figure it out together. We may not agree, but we can LOVE. We can move toward one another instead of moving away out of fear. Right?

Even Jesus moved closer to us! Imagine that – God – Immanuel – God with us – so close to us!

I got to celebrate those 50 years of life with my sister and her family. And I got to tell the story of saving her life when she was just a wee babe. I got to hear the story of her daughter saving the life of a man she didn’t know. I got to celebrate a person I have known and loved for over 50 years! Happy Birthday to my baby sister!

And HAPPY NEW REALIZATIONS, NEW EXPERIENCES, AND NEW UNDERSTANDINGS to me, to you, and to ALL those who would have them. I need not fear them. I can rest assured that the God who was with me for the first 59+ years will be with me forever. THAT GOD is BIG ENOUGH to hold us all – to LOVE us all – and to empower us to be kind, inclusive, compassionate, empathetic – and to be, well, HUMAN.

Author's Note: Thanks for being here. Thanks for listening. I must admit that writing is not as easy as it used to be. My accident did a number on me. I am still recovering and trying new things to release the trauma stored in my body and brain. I am working on it. I also wanted you to know that we restored the membership page, and we are working to set up another zoom call for the members that want to discuss life together. Please stay tuned. We are flanked by great people! Thank You!

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