Spiritual Violence is Violence

Today’s reflection comes from Mark 5. The title is “Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac” but that title is misleading and I will walk you through why.

In this story, Jesus and his followers are going to the other side of the sea to the country of the Gerasenes. They are going into new territory because Jesus is not confined to staying in his lane. Every BODY matters.

When they arrive, immediately upon getting off the boat, a man who lived among the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He was a man who could not be restrained anymore. The chains and the shackles that people had put on him could bind him no more! Y’all, this is clearly systemic evil and sin that had a hold on him. He was not a demoniac—the system was demonic. Now he is bruising himself with stones and howling on the mountains and people are just letting it go. They are too tired to help him in a meaningful way, because a moral creative imagination takes too much time and effort.

This man immediately goes to Jesus and asks “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Do not torment me. (v.7). The principality that had a hold on the man knew who Jesus was. It announced him accurately and knew Jesus had the power to send it away.

Here is what I love the most: Jesus, recognizing there is an unclean spirit, asks the spirit its name. He knows the only way to heal what hurts is to name it.

My name is Legion; for we are many. (v. 9)

Legion is a Roman military term. It is an evil principality that had a hold on many. Law and Order. Pax Romana. And people were comfortable with it. They let the people harmed by it cry out and ignored the pain. If you ignore it, then it does not exist, apparently. The only imagination they had for healing were shackles and chains. Peace through violence. Spiritual violence is violence. It hurts people in the same way physical wounds do, but it is invisible and there is a believed ability that spiritual wounds can be ignored. They cannot! It comes out eventually—maybe through bruising and howling.

The unclean spirits ask to be sent into the heard of swine, and permission was granted. Approximately 2,000 swine were affected by these unclean spirits and they rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned. The swineherds ran off to tell everybody.

The people came to see the man who had been infected by Legion healed and in his right mind. That made them afraid, not relieved. Their economy had been affected, and for that they sent Jesus away. No celebration for a man in his right mind now. Jesus cares more about the parts than the whole. The economy is not what Jesus is going to try to save when someone is harmed by it. The system gets crushed. Not the person.

The man wanted to leave with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay. Share with your FRIENDS what has happened to you. And he did. He began to proclaim in Decapolis what Jesus did for him, and everyone was amazed.

Friends, I am coming to you because there is a story brewing that needs a name. Documentation is happening right now and friends are being gathered. An unjust system is leaving people in the tombs crying out, and many are just walking by. The system feels normal and the only imagination we have had—until now.

This story will have a name. Let the reader understand. Jesus did not come to save unjust systems. An unjust system is what killed him, and that is when everything changed. Rome fell. The Temple fell. People were healed and faith was restored.

The Whole is NOT Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

If your name isn’t known, then it’s a very lonely feeling. Madeleine L’Engle.

Every time I have a revelation, a Madeleine L’Engle instagram post backs up what the universe has revealed to me. Look at this book advertised on the page—the foreword, specifically. God hears me. I know this is true. Read the caption on the picture. That caption is what is inspiring this post.

I have been on two sides of our very broken justice system now. I have discovered we are living in a world that is separating from each other and it is a disaster. The apathy that is coming from our systems is literally killing your neighbor—your friend.

A therapist on twitter said recently that while they know there is a mental health crisis and a lot of people need therapy—that is not the answer for everything. WHAT WE NEED IS A REVOLUTION. I have been saying we need a revolution of friendship. Jesus is with me on that. John 15:15. Also, side note: our family has called six different therapists this past week and none are taking new patients. They also rarely take insurance because the insurance system is a mess. Y’all, the problems we are facing are big. Best not to sacrifice people on the altar of self-interest and self-preservation. It will come for you too. To back up the quote on L’Engle’s post—our insistence upon our independence is causing us to become malignant. That is exactly what is happening.

We as a society are telling people to go to therapy for the trauma created by the damn system. A system that refuses to self-reflect and reconsider its ways. A system that sacrifices people working on the ground nearest to the pain while people further from the pain are making sure their ass is covered and not taking responsibility for what we needs to be learned.

What I find most troubling is how the system aims to get people to forget about you. It counts on that short-term memory that so many have in our culture because it needs to be able to manufacture whatever it needs to be true in that moment and for the people to believe it. But it is not true. And if we are a society that says the truth does not matter or is whatever we believe it to be, then we are heading toward what is coming with our own permission. We broke from the inside—not the outside.

I hear the quote “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” often in the world of faith. Y’all know that is Aristotle, right? Not Jesus. Jesus was one of the parts sacrificed by a system attempting to maintain the whole that really was not whole. Easier to wash its hands like Pilot. Jesus leaves the whole for the one. There are a series of parables in Luke demonstrating the joy of finding what was lost and what was lost seemed so small, but the joy was big!

We are not whole until we connect to each other.

My name is Lindsay Bruehl and “I’m Speaking.”

On the Ground

Friends, I have a whole lot to say about yesterday and I am going to start here. See my new shoes? Aren’t they cute? I adore them, but I bought them for a reason beyond their cuteness and total Lindsay vibe—I bought them because I am the kind of pastor who is going to be on the ground nearest to the ache.

Recently, I have tragically learned that systems we have set up that are supposed to be good for the community are sacrificing those who are on the ground nearest to the ache because we live in a cover-your-ass culture. I am shocked by how inhumane our processes and systems are. It is time to expose them. No wonder we are failing as a community on a massive scale. All the people who truly care and are trying to do what they can with little to no training in the human condition are being sacrificed in our blame culture. Those with power furthest from the ache are taking no responsibility for their lack of knowledge that hurts the whole community.

The thing about a punitive system is you eventually punish the wrong person. Jesus showed us this. Jesus did not die to save us from our sins; he died b/c a punitive system was in place that believed sacrificing people brought peace. Pax Romana. When you punish that person, it reveals things have got to change and they have to change now. Stop killing people spiritually or physically and calling it good news that is restoring order. It is not. It further spreads trauma and prevents us from learning what we need to learn.

The pastor who preached at our graduation ceremony said this: The future is not asking what does it mean to be male or female, the question is what does it mean to be human?

YES! I have been saying this for a while now. This is the work I have been doing that will receive no awards, or a job yet—working on it. I have been discovering what it means to be human?

You get on the ground and you get near the ache. It is a healing process that heals the one who has been too far removed from the pain and for the person who is needing a healing touch. Joy is restored, and on a much deeper level than joy had ever been known before. It is the kind of joy that does not need to be manufactured b/c it is authentically there. It is the kind of joy nothing in the world can take away. I can testify to this truth b/c I should not be feeling this hopeful or joyful right now.

I am the kind of pastor who knows her worth and the worth of her people. And she will be on the ground with them making sure we are protected and cared for just like everyone else. She can organize and gather her people. We will march seven times around these buildings with inhumane policies and procedures and blow our horns—which is speaking a word of truth. Speak humanity into our systems.

For Christians: Now is a good time to explore Jesus’ showing us what it means to be human. Time to look inward, not outward. You cannot know God unless you know yourself.

Praise be to God.

The Sword of Caesar

These days it is not hard to imagine how devastating it must have been to watch Jesus walk the path of shame accused by the sword of Caesar. A system that believed law and order brought justice and believed death at its hand was good news. Justice was being carried out and peace was restored through death. The myth of Redemptive violence.

The book of Romans gets used to justify law and order, and many believe it is holy work. Good news because there will be law and order again once this person is crucified. Make America Great Again. Think Romans 13. To take one passage and not know the whole context has kept Rome alive to this day. Paul was not for Rome. That letter was not written to Roman officials but to the no-bodies in Rome.

Just look at the beginning of the letter in v. 1:3–He calls Jesus Son of God. That is countering Caesar as Son of God. He was declared Son of God at his resurrection. The resurrection revealed who he was, not his death. The good news does not lie in his death, according to Paul. The death of our bodies is not good news either. Spiritually or physically.

Paul says to follow Jesus Christ, not Caesar. That seems more important to me than whatever he was trying to do in Romans 13 that government officials have used throughout time and it has only brought death. It was used to justify the holocaust in the past and the caging of migrant children in our time by our own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

How we read scripture matters. Taking a few verses and making our own meaning from them is how nationalism is developed. Building an empire where there is a need for an enemy, an other, to survive. It comes with an ambiguous relationship with history and truth to build that myth and national origin story.

A sick system cannot produce life. We have to reckon with the sin of the system where there has been no law to be able to reckon with it (5:13). Making both sin and salvation an Individual quest is far more problematic than I realized. If it is not communal salvation, then there is no salvation. Same when we punish individual people for the Sin of the system. It is the system. When we do punish individual people, it is never Caesar’s head that is going to roll.

Paul was not a 20th-century individualist.

Mother Wisdom and Justice

It’s Mother’s Day. Not a day I usually make a big deal about bc it’s complicated.
I remember church services growing up praising moms for all the work they do, but then Father’s Day would be a guilt-trip sermon about a father’s lack of presence. Never mind non-traditional ways of being a family that were never even considered. I want to say this: that’s what the system was designed to do. Make mom’s feel like super women for all the work men did not want to do and then make men feel guilty for their lack of time given to children.

I’m not trying to be a bummer this morning. I love all the mothers who have raised me: biological, in heart, and in spirit. There are too many to name and I hope you know every day how much I love all of you. I want to say something as a mother at large today bc of the state of our world. Things are moving backwards and the church isn’t interrogating itself as to why.

The fact that most churches do not even allow women preachers is a red flag. There is a lack of representation of women in political office too. This all has been in the works so that things like Roe v Wade can be overturned. Which the reason for that is not love for babies; it’s far more sinister and why pro-life hasn’t been pro-life at all. I read the leaked documents about Roe v Wade. Y’all, we are heading toward serious trouble. I can hear the spirit in the words and it’s bad news.

As I’m listening to lawmakers and government officials talk about what the Constitution guarantees without using any nuance or wisdom, I realize we are headed towards a world where women will have no rights again. And women are readily handing their rights over too. That is original intent of our Founding Fathers, isn’t it? Is that gospel? Is that wisdom? Does that provide healing?

Jesus healed on the Sabbath bc wisdom was more important than a flat interpretation of the Law. It was not a move to say the Sabbath did not matter.

Solomon: that court case was decided by wisdom. Where love showed up and revealed what is true. A mother’s love brought justice that day.

It is time for a new conversation. Women matter. Not just on Mother’s Day, or if she is a mother at all.

I hope this mother’s wisdom brings some thought on this day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Unexpected trip to Oklahoma. My heart has been yearning for rest and a chance to receive some tender care through authentic connection. I am receiving it, and so is the whole family. This is s holy moment.
I have papers to write, but I’m not writing them at this moment. This is a moment calling for presence. I may need help in order to finish school, even with only 2 weeks left. This too is part of not only my ministry training but also learning how to be human .

I am wearing yellow this weekend bc a friend from the sacred music department on Thursday came up to me in a moment that was deep and hard for me, and she said this: excuse me for interrupting, but the yellow you are wearing makes you look like sunshine 🌞 😭 I am feeling sunshine right now through her words.

Then, while I was taking pics of everyone playing football Jake Bruehl asked: Aren’t you playing?
Me: I take pics. That’s my participation.
Then I realized that’s what I always do. I hide behind the camera bc I want to share joy that’s happening in life, but I’m not participating in it—just talking about it. So I played. Y’all, I’m good. I can throw the ball long and pretty accurately. And I retrieved the ball outside the gate and my yoga 🧘‍♂️ skills came in handy. Everyone was so impressed. Lol.

We also had a birthday party for Jake and Blake. Thought we’d get to that this summer. The party is happening now. Look at the cleverness of the cake to make it both 14 and 45. 🎂

Joy and pain, both, call us to presence. People avoid both. Joy bc it is fleeting and pain bc it is hard. To live the fullness of life we accept both.

I’ll leave with this:

Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine
Love can build a bridge
Don’t you think it’s time?
Don’t you think it’s time?

#ripnaomijudd

Mental health has been my seminary journey. It matters.

Brilliant 14 and 45 cake
Family – Bruehl family
Yellow

Jaime Clark-Soles and me

Okay, now I am ready to write the post I have been waiting to write but needed more time and clarity.

In one of my videos I shared yesterday, you saw me in real time realize I am taking my second flight ever post having kids with Jaime Clark-Soles (both flights with her) and it is at the exact same time I traveled with her in 2019 when we went to Washington DC. I traveled with her at the end of April right before I started seminary in 2019, and at that time she worked with me on the nerves I was feeling about starting school again and feeling holy unqualified—even though she did not completely understand me (how could she? I had no idea how deep it went beyond normal nerves) she never gave up on me. I made her work all 3 years. LOL!

Now look at us in 2022. We have been through a lot together. When we are together, no matter what is happening in the world, we find a way to have fun and to play. And have an intellectual conversation, but that is included in fun. When we were in DC, she was debating on going to bed that evening this picture was taken. I told her to rebel with me and play. I never get to sight see or travel. I love our side-by-side photos. We bring out the joy in each other.

Now for my theological reflection. It is not a coincidence I was sent by my church, Wilshire Baptist Church, to Washington DC in a year Trump was in office. Donald Trump is a big reason my whole entire life changed. What I thought was, wasn’t anymore. I had to figure out how to navigate in a world I no longer recognized. That journey led me to hear scripture differently and fall in love with it. Then I had to figure out how to experience the power of scripture with a community that would allow the kind of dialogue our time and place needed with our scripture. I found Wilshire and then Perkins School of Theology – Southern Methodist University.
In 2019, the home in our beloved picture is not a home for me. Nor would it welcome me in freely. Here I am about to graduate in 2022 and Jaime, this time in Houston, is helping me clarify what it is that I really want to do when I graduate. My nerves are not nearly what they were in 2019, even with my uncertainty, but it was hard for me to answer her b/c I do not feel the doors are open for me yet. Or, I cannot see where they are open at this moment to do what I want to do. Jaime told me I need to give breath to what it is that lights the fire in my belly (she used different words, but this is a good summary).
When I walked into Covenant Baptist church (An ecumenical liberal Baptist congregation—the only one of its kind in Houston—may this change soon) I felt like I was at home. I could not stop taking pictures. It smelled like a church too. My senses were going wild with the gardens, the butterflies, the smells, and all the fun books and stuff the pastor keeps. Look at the Mr. Rogers candle and the Jesus mug. Mr. Rogers is the pastor who raised me as a child. The one who told me every day he loved me b/c I am me. It took to the age of forty-four to realize how important those words were for me to hear on the daily. The Jesus mug. Ha! yep, as I am studying scripture more and more, I realize most do not know Jesus’ words at all.

JCS and me in 2022, that place does feel like a home. JCS noticed the shift in me too when I entered the building. The art that is on the wall in the sanctuary—the dove with the olive branch, that was placed on the wall the night Trump was elected as resistance.

I have no words to describe this surreal experience. From leaving home to where I am now, with little idea of what is next. But I realize God heard me and God still hears me. Build a home, plant a garden, eat good food, laugh, notice the smells, and have a dialogue that people notice because it brings hope and peace in an era of unrest and anxiety.

holyjourney #buildahome #plantagarden #thefeastisthrowninthemidstofchaos

Butterflies 🦋 everywhere
Ending convo in the pastor’s office.
Swag time
Labyrinth
Where we are. The mist was beautiful and the honey suckles smelled like heaven on earth.
The color garden
Beautiful scenery, people, and conversation

Where we ate
Thoughtfulness of a brilliant pastor.
Beautiful church. Been around since 1965 but were nomads until 2000 when this building was built. Organ has a story too.
The chime
We have arrived in Houston. Adventure # 2 did not disappoint.

What does it mean to be Human?

Prudy Ray posted this on Twitter yesterday and I agree:

Theologians need to study science, especially neuroscience as they’re dealing with human beings and the minds.

To back up his statement with my current favorite theologian, Madeleine L’Engle: All science can do is expand our understanding of God.

On Glennon’s latest podcast, they talked about the enneagram. Glennon is a 4 like me and it was so helpful for me to hear how she and her sister have tension b/c of how they are in the world. Her sister is a 3. Glennon feels judged for not doing enough b/c her work is a lot of inner work. Working to understand herself and her feelings is the work, but it is work that people cannot see when you are looking for external output to prove you have done the work. Her sister is not judging her by the way, she needs Glennon to understand that she likes to strive and is not needing to sit down and process her feelings all the time. I hear that too! LOL!

But here is what I learned about 4s that I now can look back and realize has always been true about me: 4s like deep discussions. We are here for the dialogue. And to dismiss that as not doing holy work is a huge misstep. Let me explain (oh, 4s like to over-explain. I am working on that, but this is not from trauma so I will carry on).

During my three years in seminary, I did a lot of internal work. What I have done best to contribute to the ongoing work of our faith are things I cannot put on a resume. But I am glad I did it anyway. My healing is important, but I also see the world differently because of this holy work. Just listening to the panel discussion on public schools, I can hear something deeper going on in humanity that I would love to explore more. I would like to have a dialogue about this. 🙂

I can hear and see things others cannot. This does not put me over or under anybody. This is the hard work I have done to learn how to do. My trauma is now the source of light leading me on a path toward healing, not destruction or creating insiders and outsiders. In the same way I need to improve my writing and thinking skills, it is time for me to be able to say that as a whole community we need to rethink what it means to be human. Too many are walking around disconnected from their emotions and it is a problem that could destroy us all. It is that serious. I think theology has something to say here.

This is why I like scripture so much. The stories in scripture give us a common place to meet as a Christian community–this post is aimed at Christians but can be adapted in other ways–and find ourselves in the story we are discussing. Jonathan Martin said this in a sermon recently: we do not need more certainty. We need to destabilize. Scripture destabilizes us to a point that trust is necessary.

That is a word!

What if these stories in scripture allow people with different experiences be able to share their stories in a way we can understand more clearly through the commonality we have in scripture? Sharing our stories is how we heal. Scripture creates space for this dialogue. No wonder why I love scripture so much.

Madeleine L’Engle says this: We need to be gentle with each other. Beyond brutality, the only thing that works is gentleness.

Keep going…but also Stop

Yesterday, I wrote about protecting people from reality. It does not do them or ourselves any good to do that, and I believe this is why people think they can believe whatever they want to. If we admit things are the way they are, then we have to face the pain and the consequences.

Yes, friends, we do. And while it is traumatic at first to rethink everything we once knew, there are real friends on the other side of this process. Oh, and not everybody leaves you either.

I told Jake Bruehl yesterday I wonder what would have happened if we had the wisdom we have now post-soccer trauma when that horrendous event happened. It was such a shocking event and our instinct was to keep going and to make sure people did not have to feel this intense pain we felt. The institution too. While the system did do everything right to protect the kid, it still was more about the institution than the person harmed. I think when it comes to systems, that is the only way it can work–but people inside the system can break that cycle and the system should honor that. Individuals can do what the system cannot when they see what the system cannot see.

What if Jake and I had the courage to say: No, we cannot keep going at this time. Jake cannot take on three more teams, for free, and coach his two other teams effectively. Also, we had our own lives to tend to as well. We were experiencing real grief and were living in a world that does not honor grief. We were taught to keep going. Do not deal with your pain b/c those are emotions we do not like. We do not want to live that reality.

I did go to my friends and tell them the truth, eventually. I was not an employee and I cared deeply about their children even though they had betrayed us on a deep level. I had no problem with them leaving. When my closest friend at the time called to say they were moving on, I completely understood. There was too much pain to keep going even if you were denying the reality of the pain. It was not until she said who they were following that I lost it. I knew then I could not trust my friends and my kids cannot be around theirs now for safety; although, they had already shut my child out any way to make this move. It was devastating on so many levels. This is why community is still hard for all of us. Also, they chose to believe their own truth when I told them. It was shocking.

The worst part was running into them at another game, which the league made sure would not happen again post this run-in, and they tried talking to my kids like everything was normal. I stood far away b/c I was not going to engage. Then when I get home, a friend sends me a FB post the coach made that was aimed at me. He used our club slogan and made it about them and then did a hashtag #iknowyouspying. My friends texted me and told me I only cared about them if they were on the team. I had never felt so hurt in my life, and the accusations about me were the worst of it all. I had tried to protect people and this is what everyone thought of me.

So needless to say, this is why I struggled to get back into the game of life when I got to seminary. I needed the people around me to tell me over and over they loved me b/c the wounds of that previous moment needed a lot of healing. Words of affirmation are my love language in general, but before this moment, I overlooked the fact people rarely encouraged me with words of affirmation. I was fine lifting everyone else up and somehow feeling like it was lifting me up too. Now I needed it from those around me for me too. I want to play again, but I want to be trusted. In order for anyone to be able to do that, b/c they were trying–I had to learn to trust again.

Where would I be without my Guardian Angel who walked me through this trauma? She was there when it happened, and is still with me on the other side of pain. Three weeks from graduation, I am healed, as much as possible I should say–this is why I can share that story right now. I trust those around me with my whole heart. I want the beauty, and to get there requires trusting again. I can do it. I feel free.

I am really tired. Look at my eyes. I am so close to graduation, but I am not sure physically I am going to make it.

CRT, Book Bans & Me evening

Wonderful panel discussion on public education tonight. Look who came! Nancy Russell Ulrich, my GA, and Ellen Blocker McCollum, a new political activist at 76 yrs old. 🙂 She was saying that tonight is why I wrote that. They are some of my dearest friends from my other church. Oh, I love when people who are home show up at my new home. It makes me feel so happy and at home again.
This is the first time Casey Boland and I got to meet in the flesh. We have fun convos on Twitter and have been church mates for years, but our paths never cross. She gave the response everyone gives when they first meet me outside of the screen: You are tiny! But mighty. 🙂 Oh, I love my people.

Charlie Johnson too. He is with Pastors for Texas Children and he recognized me from Twitter. He said: I know you! I felt so honored. My Twitter work is working, friends. I am seen there.

Love y‘all and you are all my sheroes and heroes. Public education is dear to our family. My mom is a teacher and so is my husband. And I come from a long line of public school teachers too. Speaking truth and talking about ways we can help public education sets my soul on fire.

Just before this event, I read an article called “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder. Friends, what was spoken about what is happening to public schools is straight out of the authoritarian handbook. I will say more later.

Just like Ellen becoming an activist recently b/c of the blatant attacks on public education, I became an activist in Christianity b/c Christian Nationalism is driving this attack on public schools (both Dems and Republicans, but it is important to know that it is far-right wing politics that is driving this worldwide authoritarianism. The global market is growing the disparity between the rich and the poor. This problem is really big and complicated b/c it is so deep and layered. But we can start making a home right where we are, and that is what we were trying to do tonight.)

Dr. Jeannie Stone said this: Trust. Just Trust.

This is what I have learned to do in seminary, and I ironically wrote about that today! That is the message of the Spirit, y’all. I can hear the problems on a human level that I am being equipped to address if people will listen to me. I have and am doing the work. I will say more in another post.