Why We don’t Pee in the Dog Pool

I saw a picture the other day of a vacuum cleaner that was still going strong after 40 years. Hundreds of comments were posted, admiring the beauty of this old machine that  with general maintenance and some loving acceptance of the noise it generates has lasted even with daily use. Many comments noted that memories of visits to grandma’s house include that equipment, nostalgia trips that felt cozy and stable during current unsure times. I was left wondering what future generations will recall of visits to grandma, what will be the lasting impression when our society has accepted the concept of disposability. Our mantra:  broken? buy a new one. New model has arrived? Get in line for the first release. I can see that this is where we lost the ability to offer grace, to be humble people,  to seek forgiveness. We have internalized the disposable ideology to include relationships with spouses, children, employers, most importantly with our Creator.

Babies learn object permanence between 4-7 months old. We are designed to spend, shy of a few months, the entirety of our lives understanding that just because we cannot see something, it still exists. We are created to look for what we know is missing, to seek out what was just in front of us, to search for what we know to be true.  To learn object permanence, stability must exist, same items around the house, the table in the same room every day, constancy of environment. When something breaks and we change up, we are teaching our children that broken means bad and new is better and then wonder why they whine at the store for a toy every time. No we did that, with our new phones and better watches and nicer shoes and fancier cars, with a new toaster and blender and vacuum. What could we teach them and remind ourselves if we leaned into the space of brokenness, if we struggled to fix what has stopped working?

I see broken people all around these days, marchers who are filled with hate and friends who post about hurting with depression, parents who are struggling to pay for school supplies and marriages that are on their last breathes. What if we stuck with each other in that broken place, what would that look like? I know I have worked hard to teach Plum personal responsibility, the old “you break it, you buy it” mentality. Just yesterday he went outside with me in the early morning, straight out of bed, no stopping for a potty break. He loves to pee outside among the bushes. I know, another post, different responsibility. Still, he got some wild idea to pretend he was one of the dogs and go about  the yard marking his territory, leaving his scent. Early morning, secluded yard, cover of darkness, all good until he chose to pee in the dog pool. Yes, that is where I drew the line. The dog wading pool where our beasts go to cool off after many romps across the grass catching the ball, chasing each other or just relax during the heat of the day. HE peed in their pool. When I told him he had to empty and refill the pool, he claimed it was an accident, he said it would be too hard to empty it, he looked for any way to slip out of his responsibility for the wrong doing. No matter, even if it had been unintentional which being half an acre away from the indoor plumbing we have graciously supplied for his bodily needs, several feet away from his normal hiding places in the bushes, the guilt was his. He aimed, he peed, he must fix. “But gran, it is too hard!”  Indeed.

As I watched him pull bucket after bucket from the urine infused water, I knew he wouldn’t do that again. He would not only chose more carefully what to destroy but also appreciate that we show respect for the belongings of others, that we fix what we destroy. Much like when he was attempting to throw tantrums early on, I allowed him to do so in his own room with his toys, encouraging him to break his things which would not be replaced but setting the boundary that tantrums and destruction would not be allowed in common areas. Incredulously, he told me he didn’t want to break HIS things! Of course not, and neither did I want to sacrifice mine. Thus, no tantrums. Patience, persistence comes in that very fixing, the moments or hours devoted to nothing else but concentrating on righting a wrong. Grace meets us in those places, when we are repentant, straining muscles of our own ego, dedicating ourselves to the task of restoration of another, to the parts we broke. Rushing the task like buying a new pool or for me to clean it out for him, speeds us on through our encounter with the Holy Spirit, our opportunity to ask for forgiveness and receive it.

We have broken the backs of our brothers and sisters of color, we have broken boundaries within our marriages, we have allowed children to be hungry and parents to struggle to provide even as they work 40 hours, we have hurt each other. Until we accept responsible and stop shifting blame, looking for wiggle room that eases our conscience and lets us zoom into new relationships without fixing what has been broken within the old ones, we are continuing to miss our own encounters with God. We cannot fast forward to the good parts, we cannot have memories of grandma’s long lasting sweeper if we don’t repair the hose along the way.  Those encounters with grace, those times we have restored what is broken, when we have admitted our own broken selves to another, fessed up to our sins, well, just like anything it gets easier the more you do it. A skill practiced, a habit built. Given my own history, I cannot hide behind false pretenses, say I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. My sin is out there, yet it makes it even easier to confess more and more when I am wrong, to admit when my own impulses led me to pee in the pool. Further, the gift of grace that I receive so lovingly pushes me to share, I want everyone to feel those sweet moments that come from a cleansed soul, the relief of restoration, coming closer again to God rather than hiding in darkness and shame. Grace is an investment God has made in me, one He urges me to make in others. But first must come confession.

Friends, have you hurt someone? Like a crystal heirloom vase you knocked over as you raced through the day, it cannot be swept under the rug and ignored without cutting someone’s feet. Go get that sweeper, fix the mess, own up to what you have done, make restitution.  It won’t be easy, it may take time away from other fun exciting events, you may have to listen to the vase owner’s hurt and disappointment for longer than you wish. Still, stick with it. Grace will find you right there. The alternative is just more brokenness, more pools filled with pee, more cut feet, more hurting people. Shall we work on restoring, shall we remember to value what we have, can we commit to just a bit less disposing of what really matters? Lets take some tender time with each other and listen as the Holy Spirit guides toward grace. All the best memories reside right in that place.

 

Preparing for the Banquet

I was never the child who had to be told to clean her room, I prefer neatness and organization, a false sense of control deeply ingrained. I remember at the beginning of each season rearranging my bedroom, pushing my bed against the window, moving my dresser closer to the closet, the new space always feeling much better, wondering why I had waited so long. I loved the change, the fresh outlook even as I used the same pieces, pretending to have a window seat as I piled blankets atop my cedar chest to create a cozy area for reading. The sudden cool air, school supply shopping and apple picking have all brought on the old tickle, the need to move furniture around, to freshen up the rooms and alter our seating arrangements. More rooms to play with, heavier furniture to push, I still search for the right combination, looking for control but noticing evermore the empty areas of my life. We have too many rooms, to many chairs and tables, too many beds. I notice what is missing, what once was, forget past layouts and remember who once laid in.

This bedroom, now the toy room, was my daughter’s. The walls have a stucco finish, always a problem as we rearranged her bedroom and sought to avoid putting her bed anywhere she might inadvertently scratch her arms as she moved through the night. A huge window that looks over the backyard and brings in beautiful light was often  another obstacle. At one point her room was painted with clouds in a blue sky, a warning of her desire to fly away that I didn’t recognize. Later this room became Mama’s when she joined us, multiple times, a full apartment where she ate and hid and studied and grew into her own. Now it contains the playthings of her child, games and trucks and costumes, rocks and stuffed animals and spy gear. The room where identifies grow continues.

Across the hall was my son’s, maybe containing the most transformations. Originally a little boy’s room, then walls covered in quotes to encourage him as he began playing football, later as his substance abuse took over, the door was removed, privacy denied. After one stint in rehab, Stella and I decided to create a more grown up room, a mini apartment. Outfitted with a dorm fridge, a tv and stand for his gaming devices and paraphernalia, we sought to bring him comfort and usher him into responsibility. We gave him isolation instead, a place for his first suicide attempt. Years later, after a full sweep of the room to find hidden pills, we painted and purged and this became the nursery, my Plum’s room. Decorated still with the colorful giraffes and monkeys wearing hats alongside his own posters of Minecraft and Pokemon, this space daily brings healing of old memories as I watch this sweet child drift off to sleep, as I see him clumsily clutch his blankie and wander out in the morning. I pray often that the demons that haunted my son leave my grandson alone in here.

The spaces can be recreated into whatever we need, whatever we want. The front room has been the playroom, my office has been a bedroom. This home carries memories of children come and gone and come again, bringing friends and new loves and leaving children behind as they continue on their journey. I move the furniture and try not to count the extra chairs. The tables could tell of weekly parties and dinners for Stella’s friends and my nephew’s roommates as they touched base here during college years. The entry way could tell of police visits when our son was taken away, our desperate cries for help. I have been avoiding the front porch this summer, a place my Arrow and I sat long and talked after he came home from prison, my real son with no substances clouding his judgement, a man full of humility and gratitude. The house has too much furniture during this season, not enough bodies. Yet I wonder at what the next season will bring. We have opened our home more times than I can remember to families in need, to teens who are lost, to those who are traveling thorough. Just as surely as I move this table over there and push that couch by the window, I know I have 5 grandchildren who will someday come to play and read all of these books just waiting on the shelves for them. I can control where the lamps go but not the children. The space is ready, it is freshened. This time of preparation is surely leading to big dinners and searches for more blankets, counting pillows and bringing in chairs from the garage.

I know that my Stella remembers hours of silly talks as I lay in bed, when she would wander into my room with dinosaur hand puppets and taunt me over my door until I agreed to delay sleep and listen as she chatted just a bit longer. I know my Arrow remembers the welcome he received as he returned home with nothing, to a full fridge and closet, to a phone and the saved boxes of letters and pictures, all reminders of where he had been and who had supported him through it.  I know that just as I seasonally move all these pieces, God is move us as well, preparing our hearts for the next banquet. I take comfort in flow, in the tugging on my soul to make ready. As I listen to that urge, I know God is telling me to be obedient, stay faithful to this home, to creating hospitality. One day I will entertain my angels again.

Why I am Afraid to Say No

A friend told me the other day that I need to learn to say no. On the face of it, great advice for any of us but I resisted. My gentle reply that I am in a season of “yes” after a long one of “no” was understood. I have fully swung from a time of deep depression and inactivity to such busyness that I search for that free moment on the calendar to just rest,  seeing that it might be days or even weeks out. Yet as a woman who has struggled to be heard most of her life, his admonishment still echoes. When I agree to any request, do I give it full consideration or just jump in, eager to please? What are my motivations, what am I hoping for? Such simple words, yes and no, but carrying power and repercussions and implications.

Matthew 5:37 tells me: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. While the passage is speaking to integrity, not relying on an added oath to reinforce your word, I understand also that it is encouraging me to look at the decisions I make. If I say yes to anything and everything, I have abandoned discernment, no longer hearing the calls to do what GOD is asking but rather what EVERYONE is asking, exactly how we find ourselves on every committee, making cookies for every bake sale, driving all the carpools and then over  extended, snapping at the kids and our spouses, eating too much fast-food and searching for joy. What are we missing when we forget to say no, forget to pause and listen to the inner voice that says maybe not this request? I know the adage of asking the busiest person when you need something done, they are the one who will make it happen. Yet who are is being robbed of the chance to serve as well? I certainly know of the years I hung back in the shadows at our church, waiting for my chance. Longing to be asked, looking for a role in the ministries. The earth shifted, things changed, new ideas and avenues emerged, now I find my gifts are valued and sought. Suddenly, my season of “yes” is upon me.

Yet, the advice echoes and I wonder. Who is quietly waiting in the back row, feeling not quite good enough to volunteer, praying to be found worthy of an invitation to serve?  As a new leader my role is not merely to lead but to replace myself and move along, not hoard all the positions like new treasures that reflect my value. My first thought whenever a request comes in, “I am honored to be asked.” Excluded, walking in the desert for too many years as I wondered how God could use me and what purpose I really had, I now feel a glow, the redemption, the joy of worth that comes from external acknowledgment of my very existence. Who is suffering that same lonely wandering while I am too busy to notice, to caught up in meetings and meals and ministries? Who else listens as the pastor preaches week after week that we all have a purpose yet aches as no one sees them? My friend’s words opened my eyes, convicted my heart. It is time to begin recruiting others to join the work I am doing and see what else God has for me, a matter of trust between God and I.

Having wandered and wondered all those years, if I say no do I jeopardize my own visibility, my sense of worth?  What are the risks involved in truly allowing discernment to guide my decisions, to allow time for the whisper of God to lead me rather than  my need to have gifts and talents be recognized by others? More scripture comes to mind, one that often is so convicting I try to ignore it unless things are going beautifully in my world. Paul told us he learned to “be content in all circumstances.” (Phil 4:11) I am excellent at being content when all my chicks are around, when my Plum is playing happily in the back yard, when Chef is cooking on the grill on the back porch, when my identity as mother and nurturer of all is being validated. During this season of estrangement, and I am willfully trusting it is merely a season, am I seeking that validation elsewhere? My contentment coming from activities, a chase that may provide some balm but will never heal the hurt, rather than leaning into my relationship with God, the words of my friend carry truth. The truth is my soul is filled with discontent and  my calendar is full, no time for reflection penciled in.

Saying no might mean I have time to say yes to God, making space for some uncomfortable conversations and deeper prayer time that I have been avoiding. I love when God says YES to me, I don’t want to hear his NO. Skipping out on discernment time, filling my schedule with good works, all with an eye on the calendar as I await the big reveal of my hopes and dreams, I see now I have been bargaining with a God who doesn’t trade. None of my efforts will bring my daughter home, not letters or emails or Amazon packages, or yeses to good works. Listening, rather than merely talking might bring answers I don’t want, a fear that propels me into activity. I charge forward, a bustling, hurtling pursuit that steals blessings from others and separates me from God.

I may have been in a season of yes, but seasons change. As much as I try to block out my friend’s words, I suspect he may have been whispering a bit of holiness to me.  If only I had time to consider them, if only I were that brave. Still, I promise to notice those around who are waiting for an invitation. Whether I trust myself enough to listen to God, I can’t say yes to that yet.

Cleaning Out Soul Space

When I had nothing, my very survival depended on my relationship with Jesus. In prison, surrounded by strangers who neither cared about my brokenness or my sanity, separated from my babies in the most cruel of all punishments, I could only breathe and walk and put food into my body because I trusted God with my life and the lives of those I loved. It became simple, minimalistic, when all my possessions fit into a tiny foot locker and my material wealth consisted of Little Debbie snacks and Ramen noodles. Powerless in every aspect of my life, clothing, visits, schedules, I could only control whether to believe or not. I relied with the full force of my body and soul on Paul’s words to the Philippians,”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13. Not just those words, though, I read the bible completely over and over, I underlined and made notes, I consumed it. God’s Word saved me, when I could not save me. I promised myself I would not let go of that dependence when freedom came again, when the gates opened. Twenty-five years later, I realize I have broken my promise.

These days and weeks and now years of estrangement from my daughter have become a new prison, gates invisible, guards non-existent but a prison no less. I am locked away from her again, the excruciating pain of old resurrected as I watch the clock and long for a visit. The intervening years of memories accrued are meaningless as she evaluates my worth and determines my sentence, will I ever be granted release? Yet, more than adding a home and furnishing and clothing and trips to schools and a prom and even around the world, I have added material goods and a self-reliance that separate me from my promise, from my utter dependence on He who gives my breath, gives me life, gives me hope and the grace of forgiveness that is so absent with my daughter. How could I have added so much and left what was crucial behind?

I sat on the steps in the jail pod after realizing I would have no visits with my children until transferred to the larger prison, a promise from my lawyer, the reality of my situation fully settling on my soul. I wanted to die, I begged to die, I would have died had the means been available. Instead I had to pray that my Creator take me. A desperate prayer to end unspeakable horror, a pain that I knew I could not bear, that would drive me to insanity. Jesus met me there on those steps and lifted me up, brought the “Footsteps” poem to me with a promise to carry me through what was ahead. A year later when my sentence modification was denied, another promise my lawyer had given but couldn’t keep, I gave up again. I laid on the prison bunk and refused to move for meals or activities, risking further punishments. I no longer cared. An angel in the guise of a correctional officer visited and spoke words I no longer remember but pulled me out of my depression and gave me the strength to keep going. I do remember she spoke gently of Jesus and light and a world outside of my current existence. She told me to get up and I did.

When my pain overwhelmed me, Jesus  brought relief. When I couldn’t breathe, wouldn’t breathe, Jesus brought me air. When I had nothing, Jesus was enough. Now, I have more. A husband, a home, pets, cars, fully stocked pantry and I no longer call on Jesus with desperation. Maybe I never did really but I made room for Him. Now I allow a corner, a smidge, a bit but rely too heavily on myself, on my own ability to affect change and the stir the universe to my liking. Having lost it all and found Jesus, must I really find myself there again to discover what is truly at the heart of my existence? Noticing my own prison gates again, I see that only God can bring me through this estrangement, only God can rebuild the bridges I want to erect today. Scripture floods my mind this morning as I find comfort in words of hope and past longing, as I remember that I have survived events I will never share and I will survive this as well.

I grow impatient, I teeter on bitterness, anger erupts. I am too fully me and not enough Jesus. Today I am opening the gates of my soul once again to the One who saved me, time and again, saved me for more than a life of hurt and struggle and time behind bars. Just as we celebrated my release with joy and thanksgiving long ago, one day we will again. Until then, I am cleaning out my soul space, removing extra furnishings of self-dependence and importance. Truly, today I remember He is the air I breathe. Freedom has come.

 

How God handled My Rage

Many of this year’s slogans have become my inner voice, whispering chants that empower me and push me to be braver. I hear reminders to speak up for those who often aren’t heard, to show up for those who often aren’t seen. “Speak truth to power” is one of my favorites, encouraging honesty and integrity in all situations. I discovered yesterday that I had been holding back, though, on my truthfulness to my ultimate Power, in the most important relationship I have. Exhaustion combined with life events disabled my defense system until I no longer hid behind proper attitudes of patience and reverence. I spoke truth to God. What happened next was a discovery of God’s truth to me.

Something was different even as I woke, my emotions were too close to the surface, not how I normally walk through my day. Keeping feelings at bay, I survive, I carry on and no one is the wiser that my heart is in tatters. All looks good. My friend shared that when her house wasn’t as clean as she wanted it to be and company was on the way, she would put a bit of Pinesol in all the toilets and do a quick swipe at the sinks. The smell of the pine created that sense of just freshly cleaned, like the maid was only moments out the door. The problem she said, “It was all fake.” I have been “pouring Pinesol” on my wrists like an expensive perfume, distracting myself and everyone from the dirty truth, I simply ache at the estrangement with my daughter. I miss her with every breath, how can I keep breathing like this? Helpless to effect change, unable to build any bridges or reconnect with her, I am forced to wait on God to do the work that I want to do. I have to trust God to repair what is broken and bring reconciliation, in His time. Dab, dab, more Pinesol, see how strong my faith is? Watch me place my trust in the most Powerful, the Almighty…until this day when I snapped and talked to God before I could get cleaned up and hide behind propriety. Honesty happened.

The truth? I am angry at waiting a moment longer. My heart is so broken I can’t imagine how it still pushes blood through my body. I don’t understand what He wants from me, what I am supposed to do. Why isn’t He doing something about this, I have been faithful, right? I sat at the dining room table where she never sits anymore and raged with the ferocity of a dragon at God. First I raged at Chef who was opening cereal bags too loudly, building up my anger, practicing the release that would bring tears for the entirety of the day. I gave God my truest pain, my deepest doubts, my open wounds, and asked for something NOW. What did I receive? No lightening bolts, no texts from my daughter, my table remained devoid of her presence. Still, I cried all day. The tears would not stop. Water rolled down my face as memories long tucked away ran through my mind. After hours of crying at home, at church where I laid it out while asking for prayers, then again back at home, finally God showed me that a different bridge to my daughter was being reconstructed, showed me that He hasn’t forgotten me and is always working on my behalf. I wish I could say I saw this for the gift it was but my initial reaction was jealousy and more anger. Too fully into my humanity, I missed the God moment. Blessedly, today the tears have gone and I can see how He showed up in the most show- offy way, words that would only make sense to me but create connections undeniable to my daughter. I can only wonder at how often I am begging for SOME SIGN and miss it completely, reminiscent of the Bruce Almighty scene, where evidence of God’s presence is all around me yet my stubbornness and frustration refuse to see it.

My soul got a deep cleaning, no need for fake dabs and drips and dots of pine-scented cleaner to pretend I am fine. Refreshed with the salty waters of my own pain, I can face a new day knowing God met me in my anger and didn’t blink, didn’t shrink, didn’t abandon me. The God who wants my truth and doesn’t strike me dead for questioning His plan or ability to get things done remains with me today.  I sit with certainty at the same dining room table and can say I spoke truth to power, and power spoke the same to me. “I am with you child, my dirty messy aching child.” A promise given, a promise heard.  Truth spoken to the powerless. God accepted my rage and handed me back love and peace and grace, a new day with a fresh start. The pine cleaner will stay in the cabinet today, the truth is, I am messy and hurting and God knows it. Together we are working on truly cleaning me up.

One Bowl of Jesus at a Time

“If you girls are staying for dinner, you need to go ask,” I called as I do seemingly whenever Plum is here. His little friends join us almost nightly, certainly everyday for lunch and all the snacks in between. Partly because Plum barely stops playing to eat but also because the girls are hungry. They are always hungry. Without a clear picture of their family situation, I am left with only the result: when food is offered they eat. Last night I learned a bit more though, as I readied three plates to take to the patio only to discover that their dad had come to collect the girls, after permission had been “granted.” I think I may have been deceived all these nights. Little girls may not have ventured the entire distance to their home to do the asking, rather, just out of my sight, returning with the yes they wanted. Plum saw the irritation on my face as I scraped the extra plates and we sat down inside to eat. “Are they in trouble? Are you going to tell their parents?”

Chef and I locked eyes over our full plates of food in our mostly secure home, where we have never felt hungry, never worried about how to obtain our next meal or feed the kids. No, Plum, they are not in trouble.”But what about next time?”  I owned that I was frustrated because I set up extra plates but really it wasn’t too much extra work and next time if they were hungry we would give them food. He was puzzled, seeing in black and white that children had lied to adults. Skimming over that part, his friends deserve dignity instead I asked if we ever have run out of food or not had enough to share. His focus came back to the God who provides, not people who decide the rules. Indeed the details of who sits at the table and how often and why is not really our business.

Every morning while drinking my first cup of coffee, before I begin sudoko to waken my brain, I eat up Twitter.  Always a news junkie, going back probably to my high school days of journalism classes and my volunteer shifts in the school library where I put out the new magazines every week, these days I am voracious.  The events of September 11 kept me glued to the tv for hours, as is true of most Americans. I crave current events, not the celebrity variety but real stories from around the world. I love to know how we are connected, who has achieved some greatness against long odds, learn of new discoveries by scientists in far off labs. My morning coffee ritual lately though just brings pain and anxiety as I wonder how so much hate is running amok, how the name of my loving Jesus can be used to marginalize more and more people. My coffee grows cold as I retweet, retweet, fire off my own. I long for a point of entry, a place to stop the madness and show just who Jesus is. I worry about this child asleep upstairs coming of age in a world that mocks disabilities and encourages others to shout slogans that denigrate women and people with cancer and those who love differently. In a country where the focus is ever more becoming about MINE, I fear we have forgotten what it means to share. Soon enough though, two little girls come knocking on the door, asking Plum to play, snacks are prepared, communion happens.

As we read our books before bed, I randomly picked one we hadn’t touched for quite some time. Little did I know God was working to bring our blessings message home to this child. “Last Stop on Market Street” is a beautiful telling of a child and his gran who take the bus to a soup kitchen where they serve. Along the way the boy interacts with many people who might be on the fringes, yet he is being taught to see their worth. As we finished the story, Plum pointed to the illustration of the main characters serving up the food as others stood in line. “That’s kinda what we do, right gran?” Yes, child, we dish up bowls of our blessings and share them with whoever comes. That is how we are healing our little piece of the world. We are going to love our neighbors at meal times and snack times without questions that may cause distress. Communion means not checking to determine worth but instead serving up some Jesus when dinner time rolls around. Maybe I don’t need to worry about him so much after all. Maybe the point of entry is my kitchen, one plate at a time.

Hidden

LGBTQ, Jesus and Purple Blankets

With curiosity, with anxiety, I read John Pavlovitz’s piece about Christians Making Atheists only to find much truth and plenty to convict my Christian faith in his words. Jesus is my truest best love, the one I know at my core and brings me to every relationship, how could I not want others to experience that grace? I know full well the power of forgiveness, what happens when a church decides to allow a sinner to participate and to serve, the healing that begins when the refreshing waters of new life discussed in sermons are truly shared with those who thirst for a second chance. I am that person who has come alive which has allowed me to make space for others to do so as well, I say yes when asked, grateful to be included and able to use gifts long laying dormant, waiting for my church home to recognize that my offerings, like the widow’s, may be scant but came from the deepest of my soul and could be used for great good. My church I think is open to sinners and saints alike, I am proof. Yet even with the labels I do carry, there are many that find headlines currently that I don’t wear, that maybe make it somewhat easier to accept this sinner.

As a United Methodist congregation, we are facing the challenge of taking a stance regarding LGBTQ as described here.  Our pastor has asked our members to prayerfully begin considering how we are to act on this new information, the opportunity to stand up for our brothers and sisters who love who they love without our censorship. This is a no-brainer for me, I want to open our hearts and minds and doors to those who deserve the level of acceptance and grace that I have experienced. I want everyone to taste and see the deliciousness that I find every time I walk through the doors, the coming home where my brokenness is not hidden but celebrated. How could I keep this only to myself, how could I ever feel better than, above, superior to anyone, that my sin is not as bad? Regardless of where one falls on the “homosexuality is a sin” continuum, it is clear that by sitting on the throne of judgement, we are practicing exclusion and not practicing a walk with Jesus.

My Plum was gone for 2 1/2 weeks, a planned vacation that I raised up as a concern and a joy to my friends and fellow worshipors one Sunday. I asked that they surround his family as they travel and also Chef and I as we were left without the joy-bringer, the giggler who delights and enlivens us. Finally yesterday my little shadow was home and ready to accompany me on errands, a trip to church for several quick meetings and the gathering of extra food in the kitchen to deliver to local non-profits who could use the donations. After a full day of traveling and a late night, he came to me in the now famous picachu pajamas, a bit grubby and carrying his much loved wad of a blanket. As we walked from the car to the church doors, he began to question not his attire, he stands by that choice, but the security blanket he was clutching. I reminded him that our church cares more about our insides than our outsides, that they love us for who we are and not what we look like. I told him friends inside might ask about Purple Blankie but would never mock him. He was immediately at peace, he told me other people outside of church might make fun of him but not our friends at church. Two steps inside, we both met Jesus.

The office staff have a practice of gathering each morning at a set time to share their own joys and concerns and circling up for a moment of prayer. We arrived just at this time, just as all were visible through the big office window as we entered the building. What happened next was so sacred, was so beautiful, so holy that I want to gush with joy at my church. All my family spontaneously raised hands to wave at my boy, tears of celebration of his return met mine through the glass, they welcomed him like the prodigal son. He stood taller, he swaggered a bit, he answered quick questions, he felt loved. My dirty little boy in pajamas entered church and found acceptance and cheers and grace. I could barely speak, how does one talk when Jesus is walking among you?

I want John Pavlovitz to know that my little church out in the cornfield in Indiana is working hard to get it right. I want everyone to know we are so incrediably full of grace that a child who began life such as my Plum did, who has experienced hardship and trauma is being taught that he matters and he is taking that teaching with him everyday. We may have a more difficult challenge reaching some of our older folks who learned that the bible says no more often than yes, but we are striving everyday to undo some harm and find space for sinners and saints and lovers and grumpy people and for those who wear their pj’s during the day. We are all little children inside, carrying a security blanket or teddy bear, wondering if we will be met with love or judgement. Let us remember to cheer the return of all who enter, surely Jesus is waiting to join in the celebration.