The Spiritual Discipline of Apologizing

Something that has been in the air for a while, and particularly this week, is repentance. Apologies, to be more specific.

Forgive me (He he, I am using repentance language) this is going to be a bit long because I want to make a connection that is not often made. I hope this makes sense. If not, it does to me and this is my journal as much as it is an offering of my heart to my community. Someday I hope to get paid for this work. I spend hours on this.

Let me begin:

2016 threw me for a loop when a large amount of Christians thought it was fine when Trump said he had never repented or asked for forgiveness. Repentance is foundational to our faith. How was that acceptable to anyone? It baffled me, and I had not even started my deconstruction journey yet. That was probably the beginning of it for me—that and Two Corinthians. But I have since learned Christians suck at apologies and repenting. It all makes sense now. It is time we address this.

The reason why I am writing about apologies is for a couple of reasons. One is Christians who believe they always have to be right or know everything are the ones who will not apologize. They would rather lose a relationship than admit fault. I heard another person say it is also a way to avoid admitting they were ignorant about something. The Daily Oklahoman when talking about the botched investigation with Richard Glossip that ultimately led our state to kill him, wrote this as a title: “Oklahoma would rather kill than admit wrongdoing.”

It is deadly when we cannot admit we are wrong, friends. It costs us valuable and meaningful relationships too. It does not have to be this way.

A meme was posted by Word Porn this week that said: Some people are not speaking to you because they owe you an apology.

That struck me as something I need to write about, because it is true. I want to talk about that scripturally.

That post made me pause and think about the spiritual silencing that happens in scripture; for example, Zechariah in Luke 1. Zechariah was silenced by an angel when he questioned the messenger on the trustworthiness of their message (he did not understand it and was not curious)—he cited being old as an excuse to believe this change could happen. I am finding this more interesting now since making the connection of how hard it is to get adults to change. Zechariah’s location in the sanctuary of the Lord performing a ritual is also revealing. We often do not see the change that needs to happen when we are in the very place where we say we believe God. Over familiarity with location and rituals can cause us to not be familiar with them at all!

At first glance, for me at least, it seems like the messenger/angel is being harsh. I mean, it was an absurd message. But then as I meditate on it more and look at what is happening in our world today, the story seems to be telling a deeper truth than meets the eye. Here is someone with a priestly history, and his wife too, and both lived righteously and blamelessly before God. But when a messenger from God shows up, Zechariah’s first instinct is not to trust them.

The silencing was not due to sin, mind you; it was lack of trust. I am going to talk about sin in another post sometime. Zechariah had to repent for the lack of trust that caused him not to believe God’s messenger. He was caught up in the old ways that were keeping him from receiving a new message; a message bringing good news for change.

Lack of trust is what is hurting our humanity and causing our systems to fail. The inability to be wrong, and wrong about people. Our systems are set up to be suspicious of people immediately. Especially if they are out of the ordinary with a message that seems far-out. I caught something new meditating on this passage this morning: Zechariah is not trusting a person who trusts themself! This messenger was confident saying: I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news (1:19)

What I hear now when I read this passage is someone who knows who they are. When he says “I am Gabriel” that is powerful. He gave himself a name. This angel knows who they are and that they can be trusted. He trusts himself, and so does God.

Juxtapose Zechariah’s story with Mary’s. Her story follows immediately after. Her location is not in the House of the Lord where the angel finds her. Her response is different than Zechariah’s. She asks “how this is possible?”; not “how can I know that this will happen?.” She was not asking for proof, but asking the how this is going to work. She wants to know her part to make this happen, especially being a virgin (which, by the way, does not mean what we think it means, but that is a sermon for another day too).

Mary’s willingness to trust led her to birth Jesus. God trusted a human body, a woman’s body, to hold the divine and usher in a new order.

Zechariah was silenced, but that silence allowed him to see and hear in a new way, so he can participate in the new life that God was fulfilling too.

I can’t help but think the silence happening when there is no apology is a spiritual silence. God is asking for trust. People are asking for trust.

Long story to say that accountability leads to trust. Repentance leads to trust.

Selena Gomez, Mental Health, Disabilities, and Emotional Intelligence

I watched Selena Gomez’s documentary “My Mind & Me” on Saturday. I was going to watch a mindless Christmas show, but this caught my attention because I have been hearing whispers that she is a mental health advocate and has mental health struggles herself.

Wow! I am so glad I watched this. About twenty minutes in, it caught Jake’s attention too and he watched it with me.

Selena is a child prodigy. She began her career on Barney, which was fun, but as she grew she fell in love with work more and more—as a kid! She went on to do several things, most notably in acting “Wizards of Waverly Place.” And she became a huge musical star. She eventually lost herself in the fame. She was breaking down and crying a lot wondering when she was ever going to be enough on her own.

While the fame may not sound familiar to many of us—and it is easy to forget she is human because she is famous—but does the overworking and feeling like it is never enough sound familiar? And the worst enemy might actually be ourselves?

This intensity of work and making children workhorses will eventually catch up, and it did for her—and so many other Disney stars who are now speaking up. As a gymnast, I am seeing it in gymnastics too, including myself. Little girls being pushed so hard and so young. Selena had a major mental health break—publicly. She had to stop for a while. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in addition to her lupus. She also had a kidney transplant due to her lupus.

In all this, Selena is finding her path to healing through connection. So am I. All these challenges and trials are leading her to connect with people she never probably would have before. She hears them and goes to them.

Here is why I am writing this post. Selena said something that I have been saying I want to do ever since I got to Norman. She wants some kind of bill passed to get emotional intelligence education in our schools! This is what I have been saying too and I thought it was just a pipe dream. Now someone with a platform, who also understands this is going to have to start with children, is saying it and has already gone to the White House this year to talk with Biden about it!

God is showing me what I need to see and hear. I know I am being led somewhere with the incredible gifts God has given me. I have learned I am enough as I am, and there is no more beautiful gift than that. I want to share and help heal, as Selena does as well. And God will use me in God’s timing. She did not give me these gifts with some experation date on them. That is capitalism speaking.

Selena was talking to a mental health professional in the documentary about how important it is to teach people to connect with their emotions and to learn how to process and understand them. Emotions are information.They make us human. The mental health professional agrees and said this: when we ask people to disassociate from themselves for some norm that does not exist, it is leaving people without any ability to feel or have empathy for others.

Mr. Rogers tried to leave public television for a bit to work with adults on this, but found it was too late. He wanted to know why some people can take one trial after another and keep getting back up, and some cannot—not even a few trials. Their God (love) had become too small and they would not respond. He returned to children.

Here is where I am: I am ready to do whatever needs to be done with whatever age I am called to work with. Children seems likely, but I have talked to several school teachers who expressed they want this for themselves too.

Tricia Hersey in her book “Rest is Resistance” is naming academia as one of the main sites for grind culture: “Grind culture is violence and violence creates trauma” Here is a longer passage of what she is saying about academia.

“The stress, anxiety, overloaded curriculum, and pressure we normalize in public schools and higher education are toxic and dangerous for everyone involved, but particularly for young children and young adults who are still developing a sense of self. They are exposed to the lie that their worth is determined by how much they can accomplish constantly and it’s reaffirmed and rewarded when they push their bodies to the limit to do well in classes….
We internalized the toxic messages received from culture and begin to hate ourselves unless we are accomplishing a task. We seek external validation from a violent system void of love.”

I will leave you with some lyrics from Selena Gomez’s song “My Mind & Me”:

Gratitude, a Different Angle

I posted this tweet by Adam Grant in my stories on Monday.

We, as a society, are talking a lot about gratitude because November just happened. While I am one who has found healing through gratitude, I had to alllow myself the other feelings that weren’t so grateful to exist to get there. When we suppress feelings that are not pleasant, they come out in other ways: Triggers, yelling, withdrawing our love from one another, etc.

Author-Therapist Dr. Aundi Kolber says this:

Emotional suppression is not the same thing as authentic resilience.

But there are things we can do to help each other. In our churches we often talk about giving our thanks to God, no matter what. Even when life has given you nothing but grief.

We are really hard on Israel in scripture because they did not always do that. I find it fascinating how we scold Israel but never God. I say this as someone who deeply believes in God and loves I can have a real relationship with God like Israel did. That means I’m safe to come with all the intense emotions without fear of abandonment.

God doesn’t need our defense; people do.

The way we are treating each other is making us physically and mentally ill. It affects our bodies. Whether it’s emotional abuse or not taking the vaccine and spreading conspiracy theories about them, or whatever else we are doing that is anything but love. Love is responsibility.

What if we gave this gratitude that we give to God without question to each other too.

Can you imagine the difference that would make? To be seen and known by each other. To be safe no matter where we are mentally or physically. To know someone is staying in the room and not leaving until you are ready to get back up—like elephants do for each other.

I think it’s time to take some of the things we’ve disciplined ourselves to do for God; although, I think we could work more on questioning God too. God can handle it. People could too if we knew we were safe and loved no matter what.

This is how we heal.

Trauma Did NOT Make You Stronger

It is so good to talk to someone who can hear you right away. Someone you do not have to explain yourself to because they can hear deeper than the surface, and it is because they have been there.

Today a friend came up to Jake and me to see how we are doing since we have moved. He asked if there had been a crisis of faith yet after being somewhere so long and our identities had been built there in a lot of ways. This is where Jake and I are having slightly different experiences, but at the same time finding deeper gratitude than we ever could before because of what we have been through. A trauma therapist told me not to give trauma any credit for this healing. We are choosing to heal. Trauma does not deserve any credit because it is the reason we are having to choose to heal. We are doing the work, not the trauma. But, I have learned through reading lots of spiritual books and through seminary, for whatever reason, suffering seems to be a part of the journey. It comes to you at some point no matter what. The book of Revelation makes more sense when you realize this. It is not a matter of if the trauma is coming, it is when. Have your faith in place before it comes because it is going to rock your world. Persevere anyway.

Revelation is also an anti-imperialist apocalyptic letter. The United States would not find itself on the friendly receiving end of that letter if we existed then, but that is another convo for another day.

I am having a slightly harder time than Jake is, but it is not because I wish we could go back. I love it here so much. Every day I wake up and cannot believe I get to live in Norman again. I truly am loving it so much. What I am struggling with though is identity, and this friend named it. He appreciated my honesty—if I am anything, I am honest—and he shared his experience with me. He told me to call him any time. He told me this is a wilderness time and I do not have to walk it alone. How kind is that?

Jake had been pretty much invisible the last few years we were in Texas. He worked quietly behind the scenes asking for nothing in return for a long time. But he was beginning to notice how under-appreciated he was the last year before things just went horribly wrong. It was such a shock to the system how fast a system can turn on you when you have not been making any noise and someone decides to target you. We need smarter systems in place seeking to understand the problems we are facing. That was unbelievable, and everyone I have talked to within the system knows it. That is a call for change now kind of moment.

The last few years was when I was finally finding my own identity. I was no longer the quiet one. It was not easy by any means. There is a lot of unrealized pain that surfaces when you start realizing you have value after all and can be seen. But even in the newness of community, there is still so much mistrust. I am not resentful of it anymore. I get it. I had to learn to trust too. When our systems are strong, people will thrive. I was able to thrive because I found places that believed in me. So I was blooming and Jake was getting torn down.

We should be more critical of our systems instead of people. We are breaking people. People cannot bear the weight of a toxic system. I can bear witness to the power of a community that believes in you and does not assume you might be the worst possible version of a human being. We work together to course correct and learn from one another. Reciprocity is the only way for a system to be healthy.

I think this is why going home has been so important for both of us. To go back to our roots and see the people who have always known us. Who never once questioned if we could be trusted or asks for anything from us to receive this abundant love we are now receiving without question.

I was talking to another friend who is also experiencing how invisible they are to a system that counts on their help for free and for no credit. They are learning to say no. It is so hard for them because they like helping, but they are seeing it is not helping things after all.

I think this wilderness time for me is really important. It is part of the training, I would venture to say. Martin Luther King Jr. said we will remember the silence of friends, not the noise of our enemies. Mr. Rogers says in a crisis to look for the helpers.

In my reading of “Rest is Resistance,” maybe I can take the wisdom from both of these men and the wisdom of this book and ask this:

What are we going to do when the helpers go silent? When the only sound one will hear is “no” until there is change.

Institutions and Individuals—Is one greater than the other?

While we were driving to Kansas, Jake told me something that made me realize the work I do is important.

Jake had a friend come up to him recently and ask if they could talk to him about something other than soccer. Jake said of course.

Person: I’m glad we are Facebook friends bc I love reading your wife’s posts. I want to know more about this inclusive church she’s writing about in our community.

Y’all, I woke up this morning feeling such goodness from that story. I am starting to see by taking this time to rest what it is I do.

I fear systems bc I have been burned by them—more than once and for very different reasons. Neither of these situations were by the church, to be clear. Church has been that place for many many other people, though. I just happen to keep finding churches that help me strengthen my voice so I can speak to these situations whether it’s church causing harm or a different institution. We need to be aware of any and all systems we participate in—be institutionally self-reflective.

I fear institutions, but I also know we need them. Please hear this all this who believe all government institutions are evil. They are not. Any institution can be corrupt. Fearing only one without seeing how that same principality can play out in another institution keeps that same corruption alive—it just moved institutions.

I fear institutions, but fear isn’t always bad y‘all. There’s healthy fear like not running out into a street when cars are coming. There’s also the fear that’s the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10.

I know the power institutions have to both give and take away life. I see the people in the systems and raise awareness to help institutions keep their heart beating. I’m a heart-centered person after all. I could see Esther even when Israel’s story of salvation was being celebrated. That came at a real cost to someone. She’s a person.

I was reflecting on these two posts yesterday thinking about how we throw people away for the sake of the overall institution. The harm that has been caused by Aristotle’s idea that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” While I agree we do more together, I also know there is no whole without its parts.

We shouldn’t pit them against each other. We need both. There is no whole without its parts. We can’t love a people if we don’t love a person. We can’t love a person if we don’t love ourself. All of this is part of the whole.

Holiness at the Norman DPS

This week I finally got my Oklahoma license. I’m a legal Oklahoman again. Never knew how good that would feel. I do love where I’ve been, though. Our time was up. We overstayed our welcome. Home has welcomed us back with open arms.

I documented my journey on Facebook of my time at the DPS (Department of Public Safety). It began with a protest, but ended in a Hallelujah. I want to share these posts on my blog too.

November 14, 2022

One thing I love about resting is observing how our systems are working. And that includes my own body’s system too.

I will start with me. Even with this down time, I still struggle with the details of daily living. I now understand this is a trauma response. I work really hard watching systems and how they are affecting our lives because toxic and unsafe systems have literally sent us running for our lives. You do not just recover from that, and it is frustrating living in a world that does not listen to what this has done to our spirit. I mean really listen. I know now that preaching is not going to convert anyone. Often times we cannot see until something disrupts our own lives so we can see.

This is why it is time for us all to collectively rest.

So, I went to the Norman DPS today. So frustrating how hard it is to make an appointment. They are 8 weeks out and we still need our drivers license changed. We have been bombarded with a lot of paperwork and chaos since getting to Oklahoma. Jake’s mom died too, and that seems to have gotten lost in all the mass trauma that just violently came at us all at once. We need space and time to grieve that and it happened when we were trying to survive. It is so hard, and I want you to hear that.

I got to the the DPS at 6:30 AM today and sat in the cold. It is really cold today. It does not open until 8, and they kindly opened the doors at 7:30 to let us in from the cold. By 8:30 AM, I found out the systems are down with no guarantee they will come back up any time soon. The man said it could be ten minutes to two months.

Say what?

Listen, I understand technology issues happen, but we cannot have a system where we can say this may not be back up for two months without some kind of backup plan. Bring back the paperwork, I guess. You do not leave people with that kind of ambiguity when we need official documents. And this system failure is apparently statewide, not just Norman.

There is no coffee or anything hospitable for people while we have to sit and wait either. Nothing hospitable at all.

These are things I notice. Why are we not setting up our systems more humanly? This excessive waiting is also really hard on poor people who get paid by the hour and have to make special time for this.

Are we thinking about these things?

Scoff that we do not have our drivers licenses worked out yet, but what about this?

Are we putting too much pressure on individuals and not enough on systems that could make it a lot easier?

I do not know solutions, but I am happy to work with people on brainstorming ideas and dreaming a more hopeful and restful future.

November 15, 2022

Post #1

Day 2 trying to get my drivers license changed. 6:30 am, again. More people out today than yesterday. It’s freezing. Already spilled some of my coffee, and you know they aren’t providing any here. Crap!

We can do hard things. This shouldn’t have to be hard.

Here’s hoping against hope today works.

Post #2

I’m in. My feet are frozen. There was no letting us in early today. Had to wait until 8.

I made friends in line today. My favorite thing to do. This kind man behind me told me I needed to print my bills for verification or they’ll send me away. He let me go home and held my spot in line! How nice is that?!

Then we got to talking and he’s a raging conservative. Lol! But we still got along. He agreed with me that Christianity and it’s original formation was more of a collectivist society and wouldn’t understand this.

Y’all, I’m going to find these conversations anywhere I go. If nothing else works today, that happened.

Post #3

I’m still waiting it’s been over 40 min with the last number being served A109. I’m A110.

Come on.

But let me tell you what has happened in that is not annoying. Sometimes we have to participate in bad systems, but that doesn’t have to stop the party 🎉

A woman I met this morning did not pass her driving test yesterday. She’s back trying again today. I’m so proud of her. I stood up and cheered for her as she left to take her test. She lit up with appreciation for the support.

She just returned and I found out she passed! I cheered and we gave each other a high five. She was smiling so big and told me thank you.

We are at the party. Life is a party we do not have to throw—a child at VBS told me that in one of our lessons one summer, and I’ll never be the same by her reflection. We just need someone to illuminate there is a party happening.

imherefortheparty #evenatnormandps

Post #4

I want to say more about the man I was talking to this morning. He had no idea who I was when he kindly volunteered to hold my spot so I could print off the documentation I needed. He just cared and knew how hard it is to have the documentation ready as the system needs to see it, and you often find this out after waiting hours to see them. He had gotten turned away the week before, so he freshly knew how hard this is. Experience can create empathy, if we let it.

I had no idea how conservative he was until I got back. When I found out, there were moments I was finding myself infuriated because he began talking over me and making assumptions about things I was not saying at all. Or, if I said one word that can, without generosity of spirit, be taken as an absolute, he would tell me I lost him immediately. I want to stop right there and highlight that…

I only dropped one professor in my seminary career, and that is one reason why. Words are important—I am a word person myself—but I also know there is a spirit to them; meaning, what people say is deeper than face value. It is why I can discover God even in the horrendous parts of scripture where there seems to be absolutely no hope in the story and God is written like some kind of monster. Some people’s lives are really like that (at no fault of their own) and I am glad scripture gives word to that. We can be the hope if we will see them.

An example of looking at something without spirit is illuminated through people who are doing a flat-reading scripture and/or the Constitution. Both become a source of violence instead of living hope when we do that.

We are spiritual beings. There is always more to us than what we can ever say, do, or produce. There is this, as Pappy (Father Joe Ted Miller) would say, something more about us. About God. About all creation that will never be covered by our words. Words only point to the groaning of the Spirit.

But y’all, we hung int here and the fact that he finally heard me on Christianity being collective—not Marxist—was huge.

This is why I believe in dialogue. This man was looking for connection, not agreement. His eyes are sad because he believes the worst in people. Y’all, I just can’t. You know why? Even though people have put us through literal hell—I have been loved well. And I know the sad eyes I am seeing believing no one can be trusted, or everyone wanting handouts, etc are people who have not experienced this same kind of love. The kind that can heal and see beyond the surface.

This is why in Patch Adams I love the patient who is frustrated with people who keep telling him they see four when he is literally holding up four fingers. He seems out of his mind, but he is frustrated people are not thinking more critically. He gets Patch to see beyond the problem. Patch came up with eight when he sat with the man a moment with his own curiosity. When Patch said eight, the patient said: That is “A” good answer—NOT that is “THE” answer.

I do not have an absolute answers about this world in need of healing. I just know we need to do better, and I know we will do better when we see each other and look beyond the problem.

Just like this man at the Norman DPS did when he realized I needed some grace for the inadequate documentation I had because he experienced none the week before.

Hope lives, y’all.

Jake and I have been through a storm to get here. I got me a poster to describe how I am feeling these days. Jake has always been my partner. We have worked hard and poured ourselves out for so long. It is great to start receiving so we can rebuild, and this time build from experience.

Freezing. I just entered the building.

This season tried to take me out, but….
We are family. We love warm hugs.

Voting Reflection—A look back on 2016 with 2022 vision

Because it is almost official voting day, and this is an extremely significant midterm, I am going to write something to this moment in time.

I grew up in a time where the identification with the Democratic Party was becoming unwelcome, to say it lightly. I ignored it mostly and did not let people know my family is mostly Democrat—and it is because of public education. I did not internalize any of the horrible rhetoric I was hearing from people I know very well and love very much because Democrat is not and was not my identity. I just realized this morning that is why I never took personal offense, and that is important to the theme of my writing about Naming.

Let me also say this, if I knew then what I know now, I would have spoken up and said something. I knew my friends were wrong in how they were portraying Democrats, and I should not have had to hide the fact I was a Democrat. While I was not absorbing their message personally, I was shedding a part of me and what I believed at the door to not rock the boat. Belonging was/is important to our thriving.

Any time we get to the point we believe we are the good people and these are the bad people, we are in a bad place. I will admit I am struggling with the Republican Party right now in this respect. Here is where I can tap into the empath in me—I understand how hard it is when life seemed to be a certain way for you and all the sudden the rug is pulled out beneath you. Learning a lot of what you have been taught is wrong and has caused harm, it is disorienting and scary. I feel that so much with you. But let me give an example of how we might reconsider some of the things we have been taught and allow ourselves to be uncomfortable without having to create an enemy.

In 2016 I realized all the things I was ignoring—hyper-Republicanism, anti-vaxx, complementarianism, etc were far more harmful than I could have understood in the moment. But I also understand the anxiety that led to these movements because I was in it. I do not see my friends as evil. Republican became an identity, not an identification with a group, and that will change how one behaves. Jonathan Martin mentioned in his last sermon at the Table that we are living in a moment where all of our head knowledge is getting into our bones. The theoretical is becoming a lived reality. This is what is happening with the Republican Party.

This is where Christians, because these are Christians, need to remember our baptism. That is our identity. Jesus is a way of life. Jesus is not a mascot. Jesus had no desire to be famous. He was often telling people to not tell anyone about what he had done. Jesus was not a winner either. Jesus took the path of humiliation before he would give up his sacred identity as a human being. When we remember where our identity lies—in love—we can more easily see when a group we are a part of is losing its way.

I am no hero or shero. All that happened to me was my heart broke, and it made me curious to understand what happened. That is all.

I am going to give only one example, because there are many, where I can show you that no one was paying attention to how toxic we have been to women in our society. 2016 was the revelation of this to me.

First, I will start with me. In the beginning I was angry with the Democrats for making Hillary Clinton the candidate in 2016. I knew she was controversial and hated by many. I was also sort of indoctrinated with the rhetoric about her that no one has actually proven, but we act like it is true. Now I know how important it is to look at the facts and determine what is true. It is life or death. With hindsight, I am glad she was the candidate.

I am probably most proud of the vote I cast for Hillary Clinton than any other candidate. I was too young to vote for Carter. What Hillary made me see is how awful women are treated in public life by EVERYBODY! Women are some of the worst too. Never underestimate the toxicity of being taught self-hate. Internal misogyny is real and it is deadly.

What I began to see early on was how she was talked over in the debates with no recourse. Not just talked over, but abusive yelling and name-calling. No one said a damn thing—Not the moderator, the audience, friends watching from home, the school teachers still assigning the debates to their students to talk about at school, etc. I was stunned. Had the world gone mad? There are no rules for the debates and Trump exposed that.

Trump also stalked her while she was talking about her platform to the audience. No one did anything about it. We all just sat and watched it like she was not a person at all. She stayed poised though, and I almost resented her for it. I wanted her so badly to turn around and tell Trump to ”Fuck off!” That was the first time the F word started coming out of my mouth and it felt holy. Still does in the right moment.

I learned later, and it was not until Biden was running against Trump, that Hillary worked with a professional on how to debate a narcissist. She knew what strings to pull to get under his skin, like calling him Donald, and stay poised. She had to. She did not have the luxury Biden had to say: Would you shut up, man?! Or to call him a clown. She would have been crucified even more. We saw how her use of deplorable made the Trump crowd act like that cancelled all the millions of atrocious things he said. I am not endorsing her use of deplorable, but, friends, people break. Even our leaders—even Hillary Clinton—are/is a human being. When treated deplorably, it might just get named as such.

What I am encouraging is to take some time for self -reflection. I did, and still do all the time. When I make a statement, I really try to make sure I have interrogated myself fully. When I don’t, I will come in with my messy and unrefined self, and that hurts people. I do not like it when I do that, nor would my truest self ever want to hurt anyone. I believe this is true for everybody.

It is so easy to blame others when it seems like the obvious sins lie there. But y’all, it made it me look at me. It was not just to discover all the ways I had participated in wrong-doing either; although, yes. I found in me a strength and resilience that I never knew I had. I found my voice and it led me on a journey—still is. Oh, it is messy and I make mistakes all the time, but I allow them. They teach me now, not destroy me.

Sometimes the people we think of as our enemy are the same people inviting us into the human story.

I will end with this.

Cruelty has no place in religion or politics. It is never okay for any reason. Stop labeling people as evil and start discovering who you are so you can properly name the people you think are being destructive. You can only know that if you know who you are.

What it is like being a 4 on the Enneagram

I posted a series of Facebook posts the other day about what it is like being a 4 on the Enneagram. It was kind of enlightening to me too. Sometimes I do not realize what I am trying to say until I write. This really did take me on a journey, so I decided I would post them to my blog too. Maybe someone else in the universe can either relate or add to what it is like to be a person who is always in the deep.

Post #1

I woke up early this morning with a message that feels important to share. I will break it up into parts to make it easier to read, hopefully.

I am a person who experiences the world through my body as opposed to my head. (I realize the head is a part of our body, and I will get to that later). I do have access to my head, though. I am an enneagram 4 with a wing 5. The 4 is heart-centered and the 5 is head-centered. Between those two numbers on the enneagram lies the largest gap of all the rest of the numbers (the head and heart crossover). This is why people like me can easily go into the abyss. It is the 5 wing that sends me into a tailspin. That part of me loves to gather and process knowledge, and the 4 part of me feels all of what I am processing so intensely it becomes overwhelming. Since I have grown in wisdom and knowledge about this gap, I manage it much better now.

I know now that I am a highly sensitive person too.

A few years ago I had no idea the way I experienced the world was drastically different than most people. I felt like something was wrong with me because I was having these big feelings about everything and few others were feeling it quite so intensely. Self-awareness has done wonders for me to better understand this difference.

Here is a simple example:

Jake Bruehl had me listen to a new song he downloaded and loves. The words were haunting to me, and I was worried Jake might actually feel that way.

Jake: Lindsay, I just like the sound of this song, and I was sharing it with you. This is not a message.

I cannot remember who said this: If you think a 4 is exhausting to be around, try being a 4. We exhaust ourselves.

I feel so much better listening to Glennon–also a 4–talk with Abby and her sister Amanda on their podcast “We Can Do Hard Things.” Glennon and I are so similar it is kind of frightening. We can do hard things, but we really struggle with easy things. We also are worried all the time about how other people are feeling. We do not think people are checking in with how they feel enough. We are learning that processing emotions all the damn time is not as life-giving to others as it is to us. LOL!

What is also important to note about this is our processing emotions (all the time) can make it look like we are not doing anything at all–but we are actually doing a lot. We are discovering what it means to be human. What Glennon and I do is work that cannot be measured, and because of that, what we do is not valued as highly. We live in a world that likes to measure the results or know what is entailed in the job description.

4s do not just feel unseen; we really are largely unseen. It is not all in our heads (see what I did there).

This background is important to understand for the more serious part of the message laid upon my heart and woke me up in the early hours of the morning. I will post after I drop the kids off at school.

Post #2 4s can be a lot.

I believe that 4s can be a lot. And I also believe this: so are people who are not 4s. It is okay to take up space and be a lot, but I know there must be boundaries. Boundaries–not a wall.

When everything fell apart for me, and I started feeling all the feelings that come with feeling betrayed by my faith and society, I went straight to building a wall. This now unrecognizable society to me was talking about building a literal wall, so I started building a spiritual one. If I was triggered, the wall went up. The wall probably was good for a while so I could process my rage safely (our rage has to go somewhere) and come back to society later with boundaries, not a wall. Boundaries are to make sure we are staying connected to ourselves; they are not about controlling the other person.

Here is a good example of what it is like being a 4 when something feels really important to you and it seems like no one is taking it seriously enough. And the eventual realization that comes when you notice people just want you to shut up–enough already.

Glennon is a 4, as I stated earlier. She also has a daughter that is a 4. This daughter got fixated on the plight of Polar Bears a few years ago, and it consumed her. So much so that Glennon and Abby were overwhelmed by her hyperfocus. She wanted to write letters to the government and her teachers–it was a lot. It was a daily conversation and her daughter was stressed out by it all the time. Glennon got frustrated and annoyed at one point and pretended to do one of the things her daughter wanted. But the thing about being a 4 is we see right through that. This is the work we do and why we can see through BS pretty quickly. Just be honest. Please do not pretend to do something to get us to go away. Glennon finally realized that her daughter just needed someone to hear her. Her daughter understood that our survival depends on the polar bears’ survival. She needed to know someone would take this seriously enough to do something about it. It is like the person on the Titanic yelling there is an iceberg and everyone wants to keep dancing.

4s are trying to be heard in a society that does not want to hear. this can send us into a tailspin. It can feel like we are talking into a void because few are receiving it–whether by choice or cannot understand.

I understand boundaries. Glennon needed her daughter to calm down; they alone were not saving the world alone. That is healthy. But when does it become we are ignoring the person yelling there is an iceberg and we could have done something?

Post #3: 4s are emotionally intelligent

Listen, I see many posts talking about grammar and bad habits people have when writing, and I respect that and get it. But do you happen to know what else I do? I listen and try to apply what people are teaching me about it.

When I started seminary, I was a messy writer. I had not been trained to write, and it had been years since I was last in school. So I wasn’t just learning theology and how to think; I was also learning how to write. I did a lot of work to learn how to excel academically and express my own interpretation of scripture. They wanted my voice, not just a summary of what I was reading? That took me a while to understand, especially since the summary I wrote was new information to me. I also did a lot of emotional work because I had a lot of unknown trauma triggered by the theology I had to study. I want to speak about that.

A lot has been asked of me to be a better writer, thinker, colleague, and theologian. I respect all of it. Even though I was kicking and screaming about it sometimes, I am grateful for the struggle now. I want to ask people to do the same with emotions. Becoming emotionally intelligent is just as important. Things we do and say can and do trigger people–and some theology that we study does it too, and it is time we take that more seriously. We are not taking what is unseen seriously enough, even though we study an unseen God and ask people to trust what they cannot see.

Why are we not doing that for people when they say something hurts and we cannot see it?

I have a story to illustrate this next.

Post #4: Storytime, and then I take a break

Recently, Jake and I had something so stupid happen to us, and it is all because we are operating in dehumanizing systems. This is a real-life example of the danger of living in an emotionally deprived society.

Jake and I went to someone with the power to help us because that is how unsafe we felt by this incident, and we received none. What we got was mansplaining, and it was infuriating. I already knew the situation and the really unjust rules, but no one seems to care about it right now. I will have to go all 4 on people about this until I am heard. And I can do that.

So I want to start right there. The problem with feeling like the one with the information, you will insult the people’s intelligence who have come to you for help–not for a lesson they may or may not already know. They need to be heard. That did not happen, and because of that, our safety was not and will not be prioritized. Sometimes we hide behind information to not deal with emotions. If there is such thing as emotional baggage, there is such thing as intellectual baggage too.

This person immediately shut me down when I started talking about the pain this situation was causing my family. That did not matter because the wounds could not be seen. We had evidence to show how we were harmed, but the situation requires nuance. Our systems do not want to handle nuance. That means we will have to think harder and probably make changes. We will have to make room for people to be human and allow for mistakes. Give people a chance to learn. Systems also need to learn when people have figured out the system and know when they have the ultimate power. All of this will require communal responsibility–everyone is responsible. Individual people are bearing the weight of failed systems. That needs to stop.

The wounds we cannot see are real. I know from experience.

The gift of a 4 is we learn about the world through experience. We go inside our bodies a lot to process and discover. I like how Glennon puts it: I can take you scuba diving without any water.

My experience is what made me seek further knowledge for clarity and grounding. Academic knowledge helped me ground in a way I needed when I realized I could participate in life too. I needed the training to go along with my experience.

Naming — Madeleine L’Engle Reflection

Coffee ☕️ ✅ Fire 🔥 ✅ Book 📕 ✅

Best way to start the day. Big work day.

Here’s the morning reflection from my reading in Madeleine L’Engle’s book “A Wind in the Door.” This is the second book in the “Wrinkle in Time” series.

There’s something cosmic happening in this story, and that’s why I love Madeleine’s books. Scripture does this too, but our familiarity, or lack thereof, prevents us from seeing it without outside help all too often. We keep telling the same story again and again in the way we can understand in our day to remember who We are and who God is.

What stuck out to me this morning, bc I talked about this in a real example last week, is there’s this force on earth called Echthroi. War and hate are their business, and their chief business is un-Naming people to make it happen. It is important to make people not know who they are to justify war and hate. If someone knows who they are, deep down in their core, then they will have no reason to hate. And that’s why we still need Namers. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be defeated.

Meg Murray has been identified as a Namer. She’s struggling with her own hate of someone. If she cannot find it in herself to love him so she can Name him rightly, then she will in fact be un-Naming him just like the Echthroi. (Love your enemies comes to mind here).

This quote from the cherubim Proginoskes to Meg: love. That’s what makes persons know who they are. You’re full of love Meg, but you don’t know how to stay within it when it’s not easy.

(Oh, I felt that quote).

I think about the post I made last week about Our political leaders putting out ads and naming people rapists, thieves,violent criminals, etc., as if that is their Name. They are un-Naming people. Interesting they don’t see it in themselves, but that is because they have been un-Named too. They have a need for hate in order to win, so they do not know who they are either.

I said my job as a faith leader is to help people understand their Name is Beloved. No matter what you’ve done, your identity is meant to be Love. We will work to find that core self. The self that has no need for war or hate because you know who you are.

How to Remember Yourself

I am listening to the We Can Do Hard Things podcast titled “How to Remember Yourself” with Sara Bareilles. Oh my, with Glennon and Sara both being 4s, they are saying some things that really resonate with me. Like, how do we learn to cope when we know the world is chaos? And that is not going to change. So much of what we have to trudge through is fake and it is hard to ground knowing that. Sara is beginning to lean and relax into the fact there really is no ground beneath our feet. Art is her grounding.

But she has had to learn how to get the help she needed to be released from what taking on so much pain can do to your mental health.

Abby Wambach asked a great question, and that question is why I writing this post. She asked Sara if she would ever choose to leave the cocoon on her own and become a butterfly. Abby is a 7 on the enneagram, so her way of being in the world is way different than Glennon’s (and mine). She will notice Glennon having a moment that she needs, but she also wants Glennon to fly. Life has to go on too. She said the world is in need of you to become a butterfly now so it can experience what she has learned all this time in the cocoon. I felt that. That felt like a direct message to me.

I am afraid of communities. I have not always been this way. I used to go all in so easily when I believed in what we were doing. But now my family has been burned more than once by communities, in completely different ways, so anxiety freezes me up afraid to try again. Seminary highlighted the trauma I was carrying in my body from the first betrayal—along with childhood wounds I need to heal from as well. Thank God I did so much healing work there before the next blast came—which was NOT due to seminary or church. It was a place I least expected it. None of us even suspected that one coming. And we could have been warned. That is the sat reality of the type of systems we have set up. It is time for change.

So now I am back in my cocoon again wanting to never come out—except I really do not want to stay in the cocoon either. I still have this fire that wants to participate, and I know it has to be done communally. I am slowly coming out, but not so unguarded this time. I am going to need to find new coping mechanisms to trust again and not take things out on people because I am carrying too much pain—and pain that does not belong to me too. It is hard to see suffering all the time and feel powerless to it.

When I was in Texas, I had these beautiful butterfly and dragonfly earrings. I lost them in this move to Oklahoma.

Dragonfly earrings. I love my sweatshirt-ironically I am wearing it now-and my tree of life necklace in the picture too. And Elsa’s crown. So much life.
My butterfly earrings—and Elsa snowflake necklace. So much life.

I tried to replace these earrings, but they are not available. I found bees and elephants designed similarly instead. But the more I reflect on the earrings I found, they are the illustration I need for this season. I am working on not stinging like a bee but instead being a pollinator to help people’s allergies from the experience of bad theology for way too long that is in their bodies. I am also an elephant creating a fierce circle around my family until we are done healing, but I also want to make a pathway in the dense forest to create a path for others who have been denied. Both species, bees and elephants, are endangered. So are people like me—people not afraid to be human. People not afraid to live this brutifal life, as Glennon calls it, and live it fully.

I need an Abby to push me and tell me it is time to become a butterfly. The world needs to experience what you have learned in your cocoon.