Friday, March 30, 2007

Preps, Jocks, Pretties, Uglies, Geeks, Weirdos, and Goths

Remember the terror of middle school social life? Desperately trying to find yourself, while at the same time trying to fit all of who you were into a tiny box? The power of labels haunts us all.

Below is an essay written by a 13 year old girl from Ohio.

"My biggest challenge is just being a teenager in today’s society. More specifically, being a teenager in middle school.

In middle school you’re there to work, but it can be really hard to focus on schoolwork when you have all these other issues to carry around, such as cliques. I think it’s awful how when you go into middle school, all of a sudden you become labeled. Emos, Preps, Jocks, Pretties, Uglies, Geeks, Weirdos, and Goths. How I wish there would just be a normal label. Or better yet.... no label at all!

That’s how it is at my school, and you know what? I hate it! Maybe it’s the fact that I’m judged by my appearance and personality, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m annoyed by all the labels, but either way, it’s hard to deal with.

My current label is “Weirdo”, which means I don’t mix well with the Preps – the kids who are popular and think they are better than the rest, and push others around. But I’m more of a tomboy kind of person...MORE."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sheltering Hope

"Hope is like love, maybe worse. It has to do with what is not yet, what is unseen, an architecture of dreams." - Nora Gallagher

Hope can be a scary thing sometimes, for hope leads us to believe in things not yet realized. When things go well and our hopes come to fruition, we are overjoyed. Yet, there are other times when our dreams fall short and we find ourselves deeply disappointed and resentful that we ever allowed ourselves to imagine things could be different in the first place. If we hadn't gotten our hopes up, we wouldn't feel so bad when they came crashing down, right? Sometimes it simply hurts to hope.

Nora Gallagher reminds us of a Spanish phrase, abrigar esperanzas, to shelter hope, in her memoir of faith, Practicing Resurrection. It is a way of protecting oneself from the disappointment of unfulfilled hope; of holding back desire or belief in order to shelter one's heart and soul from the disappoint of the world. I imagine that at some point in all our lives we have all tried to shelter our hopes for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world. Resisting the temptation to hope can be a powerful defense mechanism in a world that is by all accounts so filled with pain.

Last weekend over 130 Reconciling United Methodists gathered at the United Parish of Auburndale to celebrate and incarnate, "Holy Hope" in the work of resurrecting our denomination. While at times in our movement for full inclusion, we can become easily discouraged by the slow pace and seemingly apathetic stance of our Church toward the pain of us, their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer sisters and brothers, we must resist the temptation of abrigar esperanzas, of sheltering our hopes.

When we give up our hope, we give up our ability to know and feel abundant life, the abundant life that God promises for each of us. Hope is the living breath that inspires us to continue the journey Jesus began toward a new world order of peace and justice. Hope is the living presence of the Holy Spirit that enlivens our souls and encourages us despite life's disappointments. Hope is the holy comfort that enables us to imagine the impossible becoming radically possible. Hope makes real the resurrection promise of our faith.

For those of us who gathered last weekend, we were able to experience what it is like to live into our Holy Hopes for our Church. We listened to glimpses of hope recalled by national denominational leaders in their work around the country. Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, reminded us of the sweeping changes happening in our culture...the decriminalization of homosexuality, the right to marry and form loving families affirmed by a growing number of states and the introduction of the new "f" word as our society begins to see the insidious web of homophobia. Rev. Gill Caldwell, chair of the United Methodists of Color, and Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, both reminded us past struggles in our Church that at the time seemed impossible. Yet, today we have abolished the segregated central jurisdictions and have established ordination rights for women in our denomination. Diane DeLap, co-spokesperson for Affirmation, rooted us in our belief in God through Jesus and called us to hold fast to the hope we know through our faith tradition. Cathy Knight, Executive Director of Church Within a Church, emboldened us with new possibilities to work cooperatively both from within institutional structures and from without in the growing network of congregations like Cambridge Welcoming. It is moments likes these, when we allow ourselves to live into the vision of hope and true resurrection, that can create radical transformation in our lives, in our communities and in our world.

As we enter into Holy Week, a week where we solemnly remember the pain of Jesus, may we hold onto our hope, refusing to shelter it, that we might know the abundant life and overwhelming joy that creeps up continually through the cracks of our suffering. May we allow our hope to pull us through the darkness of the week to come that we might with confidence enter into and practice the resurrection life we know through Jesus.

Memoirs of Faith

This Lenten season part of my spiritual discipline has been to read memoirs of faith. There is something both comforting and challenging about reading the the stories of others who struggle in their relationship with the Divine. In journeying with Anne Lamott, Nora Gallagher, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Sue Monk Kidd during these past few weeks, I have not only travelled through their individual spiritual sojourns, but I have also witnessed strands of my own story, woven in the truth they speak.

Reading through their lives I was deeply relieved to find that I was not the only one who had sometimes doubted the power of grace to break through the despair, who had contemplated a life beyond the Church, or who had wondered about the limits of Christianity for women, who at times had felt overwhelmed by the Christian vocation or who had struggled with feelings of hate toward our current political situation. I took great comfort in the stories of these women as they worked through what it meant to live a life of faith with honesty and integrity.

In sharing our stories, whether in text or in the telling, we find that we are not so alone after all. While our individual narratives differ in contour, shade, color and texture, there is, I believe, a common thread which weaves its way through the fabric of our lives, knitting us and holding us together, even in the midst of insecurities, doubts, and fears.

May we learn to share fully with one another our journeys with the Divine this Lenten season and always.