Kiwi Love

I remember the first time I tasted a kiwi, the slightly tart incredibly sweet fruit surprised me. I was a bit standoffish about this fruit, it was green, it had black seeds, it was different. I was a real standard issue fruit girl. Apples, oranges, bananas, berries.  Offered a kiwi at a breakfast gathering, it would have been too impolite to turn my nose up, I was pushed out of my produce prejudice into a wildly wonderful experience. I relished this new taste, I couldn’t wait to share it. When I searched for the fruit at the grocery though, all I could find was a rough dirty brown colored egg-shaped offering. This was no longer appealing. Great effort was required to remember just how delightful the inside was, the exterior was not luring me. Still, I gave the store kiwi a chance and we have been in love ever since, over 30 years now. That tough skin protects what is precious, I get it now. That shell keeps the uninitiated, the fearful, away. More for those of us who are daring, who are willing to go deeper. The lesson of the kiwi could have saved me many years of shame and hiding, I am a very slow learner.

I listened last night to a presentation at church from an elderly woman who has been doing prison ministry for many many years. She sees a need and figures out that she can meet it and then brings some friends along. She makes new friends and brings them. She does ministry at prison because as she said, “Jesus told us 6 places go in His name, go to the prisons.” She spoke with passion barely contained, told her story in a meandering way because her stories are so plentiful. She raves about her ladies, the opportunities to touch lives that have been forgotten. She brought along one of those lives, a woman who had served 16 years inside and now is living freely, productively, assuredly. This woman told her story as well, not that we had any right to hear it. Still she shared it and she also told how critical it was for people who don’t have to tell you that you are worth something to do so. She explained how forgotten people can drink up those words and begin to believe them if they hear them often enough. How that can change the outcome upon release. She was brought as evidence. I was sitting in the audience as evidence, not many knew it. She was brave, I felt like a coward. I applauded her peeling off the hard shell right away, getting to that fruit immediately, showing the world how worthy she is without waiting to be discovered.

How much time has been lost, what could I have achieved if I had peeled off my hard coating, hiding behind what I thought was protection of a new life? I see now that each time I was terminated from a position because of that box you have to check, that secret agreement you make with the employer, that was an opportunity to remove the whole coating and just bear the fruit of my story, of my soul. Instead, I cowered, I wailed, I cried out to God, how could this happen again? I didn’t see He wanted me to be free of the shame that only secrets can bring, He wanted it all out in the open so I could live fully. Fear stops us from trying new food, fear stops us from being who we are. So I was given many chances by God and ugly people who did mean things not know God was going to turn their stuff to good, each time a bit of the outer covering was nicked off. A scrape here, a scratch there. See the shining soul within? That’s me. Finally brave enough, desperate enough, exhausted from hiding, I just ripped it all off and discovered that I am worthy still. Slow learner here.

Here’s the thing though, not all of us go to prison and have horrible histories and try to conceal who we are. Some of us just have not so great histories and try to hide. Others have not great todays and put up fences or wear masks. Regardless of our stories, we all do it. We are caught in the lie that no one will love us if we tell the truth, if we uncover what is really going on, how much we are hurting and what we, gasp! have done. IT IS A LIE. It is a complete fabrication that shields us from being picked up in the produce aisle, unwanted fruit with our tough exterior, and cherished for our sweet souls.

We are doing it to ourselves. We ignore the opportunities when we get that first scrape of hardship to share our hurting. We add more makeup and carry on. When everything is going to hell at home or work or with our children, we put on a new outfit and present the world with a tough exterior that hides the true story. We cover and cover and cover until the layers themselves become so heavy we can’t find our souls ourselves. The weight of our secrets toughening our resolve, we forget that all those run-ins with tragedy are meant to be shedding times. Is it any wonder that the tough exterior is called a hide? God wants our souls laid bare, our secrets out so we are no longer covered in  new shoes and fresh eyeliner, the us He created unmasked and vulnerable so love can seep through. And then really go out. Because just like that first taste of kiwi, I couldn’t keep it for myself. I shared that delicious fruit with my family, at every gathering. I offered it to all who would dine at my table. “You have to try this, it is amazing.” Amazing indeed, to be real, open, me.

As we enter the hardest days of the Christian calendar, the days we really would like to rush through to get to the promise fulfilled, I know my Jesus was unmasked. He was laid bare at the cross. He was naked and vulnerable. This is how He went to His Father. I see now that He wants no less from me, from you. Broken, peeled, bared for all to see that they might come to Him also, encouraged by our truths, giving grace to each other, shining Light on the One who knows our secrets and has already forgiven.  Will you dare sacrifice your mask at the cross? I would so love to know you, really know you. Together we could shine more Light. Together we could taste the sweetness of authentic lives. I wasted too many years covered in shame. Don’t waste a minute more. Your soul deserves to be seen and shared. Trust God to handle the rest.

By the way, have you ever tasted a kiwi? Please join me in the produce aisle. I know it’s ugly, trust me. Together we are going to find a real treasure inside.

 

1 Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.
2 We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.
3 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention.
4 All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.
5 Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.
6 It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
7 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. 2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Rise Up, Child

Coke is my go-to drink during the day, a glass of wine instead for the evening hours. M&M’s and pop tarts have been mentioned frequently enough throughout my previous writings that no-one would be surprised that those are my easy comfort foods. None of this would please Michelle Obama, I know it isn’t healthy. So I balance it all with lots of fruit and vegetables, a tiny bit of protein (Yuck) and drink too much OJ. These habits are sneaky though, unless I keep mine in check, they threaten to become my lifestyle and not treats I indulge in occasionally. I have another habit that I fight with, think I have beaten, only to find it sneaking up on me at the most unexpected times. I know this habit is not pleasing to God. Well, I don’t Michelle would like it either but God is the one who concerns me here. I am talking about shame.

Like the little jar of candies I have on my desk, I often reach for shame without realizing it. I allow stigma to enter my soul without even the sweet taste of chocolate to ease the way. Reading an old message, wondering if a current one is aimed at me, humiliation sliding down my throat while my skin grows cold and my cheeks begin to flush. Shame is that sick feeling of too much food, knowing it was just too much food. The cold bathroom floor brings the only relief, hidden away, accepting punishment that can never really flush away my stains. Tears, angry floods that never drown my accusers, leave salt trails for soul detectives to follow, will they ever find me?

Then I remember that I choose what enters my body. I do actually love carrots and zucchini and mushrooms. I so love pesto and peppers and fresh peas out of the garden. I don’t have to accept the slurs and sideways glances and dis-grace, I can say no thank you and move away from the Shamers. Like a salad bar with all the best toppings, safe places feed my soul and remind me I am a child of God who has already washed away my sins, He doesn’t need my salty tears to do so. God doesn’t remember who I was, what I have done, He knows who I am. God sends soul detectives to follow the salt trails and whisper to me, “Rise up, child.”

The scars throb sometimes, ache with the memories of all the times I lost my job again, lost my hope again, lost my identity again, because of Shamers. Today is a throbbing day, too much delving into the past, tracing wounds that seek to choke out my soul. How to deal with the pain? Rush to the candy jar? I remember the boo-boo bags we got for Plum when he was just a tiny babe, rice inside soft cloth that can be stored in the freezer and gently applied to any hurts. These bags mold to his legs, his ankles, around his hands. He is big enough to seek out the boo-boo bags himself now, he knows how to stop the hurt himself. Today I will seek out my own healing bags of grace, those who dispel the ghosts of shamers-past and bring cool refreshing mercy. Today I will go to the salad bar of Jesus who offers redemption and a way back from the bathroom floor. Today I will enjoy some pesto and perspective, remember who I am: a child of God who has plans for me. I think that would please Michelle Obama as well.

Slur
Baby

Open Those Doors

Secrets keep you sick. An old addictions adage that rings true outside of the realm of drug or alcohol use, one we utilize in our family often. A reminder that hiding behind masks and shielding others from my real self allows shame to rule, I have taken a different road this year. I have chosen to open up about my brokenness and the outpouring of support and grace has been overwhelming. New doors, the very ones I feared would always be closed, have widened, welcomed in me. I no longer have to look for that window or side door to sneak in, I go through the front and drink coffee with everyone else. I sit at the table, I am included.

Much has been and will be written about the election and what it means for our country, what it means about our country. Ultimately, I think though that our mask has been ripped off, we have been handed the opportunity to face our brokenness. We are a hurting nation, not because of the election but because we haven’t found a way to love ourselves enough to love others. We haven’t learned to trust those we share a pew with each Sunday with our real secrets. We are afraid to be authentic, afraid to be judged. We are surrounded by hurting people, we are hurting people, and yet we keep pretending that our marriages aren’t crumbling, our children aren’t being bullied, that we aren’t afraid we about to lose our homes. If we cannot talk about our own real stuff, how can we deal with the wider truths just outside our doors?  We show up each week, eat some donuts and adjust our masks. This week the veil fell away.

The good people in my mostly white congregation are scared, their children are afraid for their friends who don’t have the same color skin. The good people who may have been subjected to sexual harassment but never shared that pain are now open about fears for their daughters. Our masks are off and I am hopeful. We cannot really confront the pain of the widow, the hungry, the lost until we acknowledge we are among them. We are them. We are all sinners, we have hurt those around us by not doing enough, staying in our comfortable homes and sending money sometimes. We have not spoken up when the racist slur was hurled in our hearing. We have not spoken up in outrage as a congregation to say we do not support misogynistic views, we have not walked into African-American communities and asked how we can help.  I am hopeful now we will, now we will be mobilized by the shedding of masks, the fear and worry will turn to action.

I expect big things, amazing grace, to come from this election cycle. I expect America to get real. We made a clear start when we threw off the facades that covered our true selves. We won’t be shamed any longer, our secrets are out. We are distrustful, we are scared, we don’t really like people who don’t look or worship or love like we do. Sweeping these truths under the rug, keeping these as secrets, has kept us sick. The shame is still raw, opening up to the world about our dirtiness. That’s okay, the support will come. With each outstretched hand, each honest conversation, each trip into a neighborhood to share some food, the hurt will ease. We will be better than before, we will be real. We have a chance to begin healing, ourselves and our neighbors. Now it is time to get busy and open some doors.