Shalom No. 2

This summer we took a hard look at our life and decided to make some adjustments so we’d have the space to rest and reconnect after Aaron’s long absence. (Read a little more about those adjustments here.) One of our priorities was rest, which involved a change in our spirituality.

Aaron and I have long discussed our own understandings of theology and what that might look like in our home and our community. (One of the most interesting conversations we had happened a few days into married life when we discovered we had opposite views on child dedication vs. baptism. It was not the most inspiring conversation, I’ll tell you that much. At one point I even swore I would never become Anglican.) After a year in seminary and additional conversations in regards to communion, baptism, music, liturgy, doctrine, social justice, ordination — we’ve finally reached some common ground.

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An example of how stained glass windows in a church can tell the Story of Christ. 

That being said, we’ve found immense value in the Anglican tradition. Aaron’s been Anglican for a number of years, so the transition was made that much easier. A liturgical tradition (or denomination) is very different than either of us grew up with, but throughout college and further study we grew to love the new elements of worship. There are several types of liturgical traditions and a few different styles of Anglican worship. Our church is associated with Anglican Church in North America. Charismatic or more reserved, conservative or liberal, contemporary or traditional — there’s room for anyone.

One of the most significant themes that drew me to this decision was the emphasis on our small space in a much larger Story. The rhythm of the church calendar, the centrality of the eucharist, the hymns (and contemporary music!), the weekly teachings, and the missional outreach of the tradition invited us into take part in an ancient narrative.

“Participating in the liturgy of the worldwide Christian community, whether on a Sunday morning or at another time, is more than attending a service or a prayer meeting. It is about entering a story. It is about orienting our lives around what God has been doing throughout history. And it is about being sent forth into the world to help write the next chapter of that story.” — Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

I was hesitant to embrace liturgy at first because it appeared to be repetitive and stale. But it made sense as I thought of the daily rhythms we engage in: making meals, greeting each other after a long day, or the way we get dressed in the morning. These things happen every day, but they are life-giving times that vary in expression all the time. They provide needed structure and help us remember the faithfulness of our Provider, to love those around us, and to care for ourselves. These are not stale or powerless activities, but the very life we live and breathe, activities that hold immense meaning. The repetitive nature is very helpful since humans so easily forget the Story they’re apart of.

Speaking the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, passing the peace, confessing corporate and personal sin, and receiving the eucharist each week is new to me, but it’s beautiful. We’ve most often attended a contemporary Anglican service, but the traditional service that includes a choir, bells, and incense is incredible to be a part of. Each portion of either service invites participation with all senses.

“The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus show us that God takes our physical selves very seriously. We are spiritual beings, but we are also soul and body…In liturgical worship, you have many opportunities to use your body. You’ll get to use your mouth, lungs, and voice…All the senses are involved in worship because God designed us to experience the world in all of these ways.” — Thomas McKenzie, The Anglican Way

We recognize our time and space to worship is important outside the church walls too. Worship takes many forms. Sabbath is one example of this. We’ve consistently kept Sunday as a Sabbath for the past few months, meaning there’s no school work or side jobs on the agenda. The morning is spent at church and our afternoon and evening is open to take a walk, sit in a coffee shop, read a book, watch a movie, sleep, etc. We spend time with each other, often times with friends. We prioritize this time because we have experienced the burnout that comes without rest.

“What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time. With out bodies we belong to space; our spirit, our souls, soar to eternity, aspire to the holy. The Sabbath is an ascent to the summit. It gives us the opportunity to sanctify time, to raise the good to the level of the holy, to behold the holy by abstaining from profanity.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

Heschel taught from a Jewish perspective, but his thoughts on the Sabbath are still relevant to us as Christians. In his book, The Sabbath, he eloquently explains the meaning and purpose of the seventh day. (He articulates it much better than I could do here, so I encourage you to pick up a copy.) Just as our church services seek to connect us to a larger Story through a type of Christian liturgy, the Sabbath is the piece of this story embodied in our physical, emotional, spiritual activity and calendar rhythms.

For this season, Anglicanism suits us well! We have been really encouraged. It’s brought a certain clarity we didn’t quite have before. Our schedules are just as full, but we know our efforts on the first six days are more likely to be sustainable when we choose to consistently engage in the Sabbath (and associated liturgy) with each part of who we are.

Do you keep a day for Sabbath or rest?

Books mentioned in this post (and couple bonus reads!):

Woman

I’m writing this post mainly as a means to share this Dorothy Sayers quote. I’ve read it multiple times and it still moves me each time.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.” ― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

I was in college before I realized what “minority” actually meant in today’s world. It’s often used with a foundation in technical, numerical data, but more often than not it’s used to describe voices that may be considered to be less meaningful than the authority of a white male “majority.” In America immigrants, refugees, LGBT+, non-white persons, and women historically and presently (!!) have found their place in the “minority.” As a white evangelical woman raised in the US I find myself at an intersection of privilege and silence. So here I am with a few biases I’m trying to shake and a few discoveries I’m still processing. Walk with me.

A quick google search of “women” in the news category highlights themes of sexual assault, motherhood, pushes for gender equality in sports, business leadership, and the military, among other health and social issues. A generic google search yields a few links to dictionary definitions, but noticeably third on the list is GQ’s shortcut to “Sexy Women: Photos and Videos of Hot Actresses.” A telling (and repulsive) result to land amongst the definition of the term. Yet, not surprising. Women and girls have been reduced to sexual objects for centuries.

I say all this to simply bring your attention to your very own friends, your momma and your sisters, your neighbors, the cranky woman in the check out line, or the lady at work that looks or speaks a little differently. One in three have experienced sexual violence. One in four girls have been sexually abused. (These are statistics based on those who have reported their experiences. This is significant. More information on sexual violence for both men and women can be found here.)

How many more have received unwanted comments about their clothes or bodies? How many more are paid less than male counterparts? How many more don’t have access to education, healthcare, or land ownership? Saudi Arabia just lifted it’s driving restrictions for women. The glass ceiling might have been shattered by a few courageous women over the years, but we still have work to do. Token representation won’t do. Double standards aren’t cutting it. Is it any wonder women are speaking up?

 “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” ― Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize Lecture

Perhaps you think the #metoo movement or the women’s march are too dramatic or overly political (and sometimes agendas DO overwhelm the message, but everyone has agendas…), maybe you’ve never witnessed the women in your life make choices to protect themselves (from pepper spray to modesty) or you’ve never been personally targeted on the street or in the workplace (comments made in “jest” and catcalls included) — I’d suggest you may not be looking hard enough and you might be perpetuating a system of inequality.

These hashtags and stories and the movements and headlines aren’t meant to be a threat to men as much as they are a threat to the systems of thought and behavior that have come to be accepted in that women have limited value and are to be controlled and directed by men, strangers, co-workers or husbands alike. Men need women who are strong and full of life and grace, boldness and truth. Likewise, women need men!

 “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde

The first few thoughts that come to mind when I think of women, specifically the women around me: incredibly strong, yet tender and kind, both intelligent and beautiful, bold, loyal, clever, and worthy of respect. Women have fed me physically and spiritually, they’ve gone before and pioneered a path for me, they’ve taught me to take seemingly desolate or plain spaces and turn them into a place of healing and hope, and to stand up in the city hall for justice, even when my knees shake.

It’s because of the tenacity and boldness of women before and around me that I naively entered the man’s world of an evangelical seminary thinking it wasn’t something to write home about. Come to find out, I am one of the few exceptions to the rule. (Sometimes if you walk in like you know what you’re doing no one says anything…) Courage, endurance, leadership, joy — these are characteristics of women (humans) worldwide.

If you notice similar attributes in your family or community don’t be shy! Speak up and recognize women (and most certainly men!) who are making equality the norm. Donate and/or volunteer to non-profits/organizations that advocate for women’s rights, health, or education. Give your kiddos lots of examples for healthy friendships/intimate relationships. Talk about consent for Pete’s sake!

As it’s been said before, inequality hurts both sides.

“Women hold up half the sky.” — Chinese Proverb

If you’re up for adding something to your reading list, I liked these:

  • Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Forgive Us by Lisa Harper, Mae Elise Cannon, Soong-Chan Rah, and Troy Jackson
  • Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

You know me, always open to read your favorites too!

 

In the Midst

Writing about something while you’re waist deep in the waters of transition isn’t always tidy. I don’t have any certain conclusion or deep insight to share, other than we’ve made some significant decisions this month — the outcomes of which we are still discovering.

I resigned from my job and we’re currently switching church communities. We’ve wrestled (hard!) with these decisions but knew we needed to adjust our priorities as we found gaps in our relationship, mental and emotional health, and spiritual growth. These gaps were incredibly discouraging as I felt stuck between everything on my calendar, a tricky commute, and a frequent lag in our communication. Inspired by Rory Gilmore, I made countless pro/con lists which eventually helped us see a clear distinction between our options.

Stepping away from my job has already given me time to build new friendships, read, talk walks around our beautiful neighborhood, and be more involved on campus. Our hope is to also explore a different tradition with our new church and become involved with the community there while Aaron considers ordination.

2018 has been the most challenging year yet for us. It’s required lots of flexibility, strength, and determination from both Aaron and I in all areas. So, we rest while we can. Maybe not for the entire academic year, maybe longer than we anticipate — either way we are thankful for an opportunity to try something different.

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Farewell summer 2018. 

Rebalance, refreshment, refocus — all words I hope to describe this season with in the days and months to come.

Have you made any significant decisions recently? When was the last time you rested?