Tuesday, December 31, 2013


How corporeal and gossamer
        How relinquished from my grip
How familiar and foreign
        How fragile and intense

How like a sanctuary
       How like a risk
How like a sundrenched waltz 
       How like an aphotic kiss

How it could betray
        How it could defend
How like a fractured dream
        Bandaged with sanguine ribbon

Queen Anne's Lace (for M)

A few years ago I wrote this for a friend, after one of her favorite flowers. It is a little obtuse because much of the poem's meaning lies in the meaning of the plants mentioned, and in different times and cultures they could mean something positive or negative, so if you want to delve into flower symbolism further in order to understand it, feel free. 

They filled her depth with nettle
Painted her mouth with oleander's nectar
Told her to pick marigolds and fashion daisies in her hair.

But her mouth drips with the scent of violets,
And her hair tumbles in sunflower waves.
They tried to smother her heart in black petunias
But the maranata unfolds as if it were basking in radiant day.

Though surrounded by thistles and forsaken like anemone
She is the alyssum, a delicate warrior worthy beyond this earth's beauty.
Though struggling in a bed of browallia, her cries are carried into the ebony,
She will sit beside a King's throne, her crown pinned with the lace of the Queen
Glimmering in vervain, worshiping in the holy of holies.

Rushing Is Not a Virtue

Somewhere in my crazy life, I imbibed this strange lie, that if I just rush through my work, my lunch break, my time cooking, my time cleaning, my exercise, my time relaxing, my time with friends and animals, my time with my spouse, my time contemplating (yes I see the irony in rushing through contemplation), that I will get to some zenith of rest and perfection that I've been waiting to arrive at since birth.

That will not happen.

"The ripeness of the apple is it's downfall." 
-Mary Oliver

I've spent the better part of twenty-six years perfecting being fast at whatever I do. A person I follow on facebook posted a picture of a beautiful pie she made and I thought, "I don't have the patience to design something like that." Because beautiful pies take patience, attentiveness, and presence in the moment, and I'm too busy floating away from the moment so I can get to the next one so I can reach that imaginary zenith. 

Rushing is not a virtue. 

There are myriad ways in which this has impacted me negatively but the chief way is this: I no longer nourish myself. I can't remember the last time I just went on a walk just to enjoy it. Or sitting on my back porch and watching the sunset. Or taking the time to cook a meal, slowly and methodically, in a way that is full of love for the art of cooking and the people I'm preparing it for. I am now extremely burned out and frazzled in body and mind. I have no peace.

Sometimes you do have to rush. My job hinges on being fast and efficient at my work. But the rest of my life doesn't have to. And somehow, I've missed this.

So for 2014, I've picked a theme for myself, to hold as my resolution: nourishment.

The etymology of that word is interesting. In Old French norriss meant to "raise, bring up, nurture, foster, maintain and provide for."

I want to provide for myself. So 2014's resolutions do include some practical goals, measurable goals that I mentioned in an earlier post, but it also includes remembering the spiritual discipline to stay in the present moment.

My profile photo is a portrait of an amethyst necklace I own. I purchased it from a store that also promoted the healing properties of crystals. I don't know much about that topic (my first reaction is to consider it hokum), but while I was at the store I read about how amethysts symbolize the virtue of being still. I bought it because I need a tangible symbol to do just that.

Here's to savoring 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013


In 2013, I:

Maintained my weight loss from 2011 and 2012, but would like to use 2014 to get down to my ultimate goal.

Earned a veterinary assistant certificate from Midlands Tech.

Was promoted to assistant animal care supervisor and then promoted to veterinary technician in our spay/neuter clinic.

Adopted Hoppy (Sir Fred Hops of Hopperton Place), a tabby who had been abandoned near a friend's house.

Adopted Pinot, a cat who had been abandoned in our neighborhood.

Lost a dear, dear friend.

In 2014, I:

I hope to get down to 140 lbs, my ultimate weight loss goal. (Size 8-10).

Will begin taking classes to earn my paralegal certificate from Midlands Tech. My plan is to use my legal skills in the nonprofit sector (specifically in animal welfare if at all possible) and perhaps eventually go to law school once we know where my husband's PhD is going to take him.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lies of My Grandmother

"Everyone else
is a completed,
polished project
And you have to keep striving
to make sure you
don't get behind,
because you are already so far behind."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fifty Proof Grace

Part of growing up has been shedding fungelical beliefs for grace-saturated ones, because *that* is the Gospel. The Gospel is fifty proof grace and restorative Shabbat, the belief that you are always secure and loved in the arms of Christ, and that if he must correct us what better parent to turn to, because he will do so justly, rightly, full of love for His child, His friend, His bride. 

I'm convinced abusive people come to religion to use it as a weapon, because they can use a two-dimensional view of submission and forgiveness to their advantage. This is why I think it's extremely important for churches to teach that it's okay to disagree with people in authority, it's okay to say what you think, oppressors should be punished and removed from any position of authority, and when people make mistakes (or sin, but that's a word that's been loaded with so much baggage for me that I'm not sure I can use it except when it's in the liturgy, and it's not because I don't believe the concept, but because the three lettter word itself has been distorted for me), you fall hard on the grace of Christ, not the shaming of your elders.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent 1: Be Brave Enough to Wait

We're only one day into Advent, but as I prepared for the season, one thing kept coming back to mind:

Be brave enough to wait. 

There are two things in which I am sorely lacking: bravery and patience. So when I begin to fret about the future, I want to make choices immediately, and I want them to be the least risky choices, the choices that demand little from me.

There are some things in my life I sorely desire, but because they come with a lot of risks, I don't take the plunge. I'm not advocating that I should be imprudent, but that I should put the work and careful planning into pursuing the things God has laid on my heart but which scare me the most.

One of the reasons these plans scares me that they mean I will have to wait. For some reason at the tender age of 26 I have bought into this lie that I am running out of time and I have to hurry.

I have all the time I need for what God wants me to do, but I have the most difficult time believing this. The clock feels like it's ticking and I feel behind. I have to cram in the lesson at the last minute, and hopefully, I can finish the exam with an A.

Waiting for these things doesn't mean sitting twiddling my thumbs and it doesn't mean rushing the process like I did before big exams in college. There are many small steps I can take to get to my intended goal, but they scare me more than the big picture. The acts of daily faithfulness and their attendant tedium and monotony terrify me more than mountaintops or valleys. I want to be at the top of the peak, not grabbing onto the next bit of rock with all my might, not knowing when I will reach the top.

But Advent teaches that the good things are worth being brave enough to wait for. Not just good things, but The Good Thing, the manifestation of all of our hope. Bigger than any plans I have or that He has called me to is Him, and He is worth waiting for, and He is worth trusting as I wait and attend to the duties He has given me in the present.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Battlefield of Holy Innocents

“They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –
Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound – ”

Emily Dickinson, Poem 613


Today I read a poem and it pained my heart
because it called to mind a friend,
deeply hurt by those who claimed, "Love!"
but a love that had been twisted
into perverse authority.
There are the older generations of Christians who ask:

“Why do the young people flee? Why do they leave?

If we teach them more Scripture,
If we ground them in Orthodoxy
If we saturate them in Prayer
Surely they will not succumb to apostasy.”

So they devise solutions, programs, curriculum.

They search for relevance or tradition.

And these things, these things are not bad, the intent is good,
But Oh, what the they miss! Many leave for doubts of intellect, this is true;

But many leave because of wounds
And many more leave because of doubts and wounds mingled
And no pat answer is fit to save them.
They can quote the theology and history;
It's the perpetual bleeding that plagues them.
They do not leave for lack of information.

But Oh,
It is not Him! It was never Him!

It was everyone who put a spear in the side of the little ones
and watched them trickle water and blood
and questioned why they were groaning;
who tied millstones round their necks
and watched them drown
and asked why they weren't swimming.

These adults, they were our portrait of the Divine,
Because they claimed to speak on His behalf
They said, “God told us to do thus,”
And we believed,
Because we were children,
And children trust the ones they love,
even as they are hurt.

Some of us,
As adults,
Gather our tatters in exchange for a seamless garment
Hope to never commit evil under the excuse of love
Learn to become children again
And try to believe there is One who would never hurt us.

Humanity has fought like the Devil to please the Lord
But in the end Divine Love is devastated,
And the battlefield is littered
with broken children.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Keeps My Heart, Part 1: The Episcopal Church

I can walk into your church and know that I am accepted exactly as I am
and that you will speak the same beautiful words from the prayer book that have come to mean so much to me.

So this is why I stay church-bound:
for bread and wine and holy traditions
for Gospel woven into the new yet old words we recite together
for high cathedral ceilings and heartily-sung hymns
for priests in stoles and robes,
And look! Several of them are women!
And there she is blessing his body!
And what else can I say that doesn't smack of trite love story?
That those old flames don't always die out?
And oh
how imperfectly I love
how desperately I need
His Father,
His Mother,
And His Spirit.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


So 26 is when you begin to stop trying to fit someone else's mold and start filling in your own
because this time is oh, so short.

What Broke My Heart, Part 2: The Catholic Church

I love the sacraments
the red and gold
the host carried in the monstrance
and the candles lit
in honor of His presence.

But your deal is an all-in-one package.
"For this beauty, accept these chains
that don't let you question or doubt
that comes from
mouth. "

You were just more of the same.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Broke My Heart: Prologue (Or, What Bad Churches Do)

You held my hand through my youth
But let it go
And disowned me
When I started questioning you. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Broke My Heart: Part 1

As a fatigued woman fueled by adrenaline I tried to give a church that had been beloved to me one more chance as I struggled with my faith. A speaker came, the talk was harmless, but at the end,
at the end someone decided the Q&A was a great time to discuss
how gay sex is the worst that could have happened to this world
and not one spoke a word of dispute.

My wearied bones cried Enough!
And I bolted upright and stormed through the doors
fumbling in my purse for a light and a cigarette
and a release
from all the two dimensional thinking that has always sought to rule this multi-dimensional life.

He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does
with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt
and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant
but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right

-The Prophet Isaiah, as interpreted by The Message translation

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Church You Fled From I Am Running To

This is a hard place to stand, because on one side voices scream:
"You have forsaken the truth for a diluted Gospel!"

And on the other side they proudly proclaim:
"You have forsaken reality for the Tooth Fairy!"

One man removes himself from the church because it is too liberal for him. Another because it isn't godless enough for him.
I have fled to the "liberal" church,
And I am wrong and I am woman
And won't I see the error of my ways,
and how those evil secularists and those patriarchal wolves are pulling my own wool over my own sheep-eyes?
(For I must be a sheep, to believe and yet not believe in the manner someone else always insists is appropriate?
Sheep I will be then, for He's coming to gather the ones who have been scattered, and I'd rather be The Divine's Child than Dogmatic Sage).

I am standing on the tightrope between
Most Right And Holy Orthodoxy and Craven Apostasy.
I would like them to help me balance
and then we would all hold hands.

Wouldn't that be something?

[For "or" can be the most satanic of words.]

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: it is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.
-The Prophet Jeremiah


God entered the world through a woman of low repute
two thousand years ago,
and passed through her flesh, her heart, her soul.
Tell me
Why wouldn't He continue to do so?

"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
-The Book of Genesis 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Divisive Woman (or, Honest Conversations with a Church Greeter)

You don't know who I am
But you insist on how much you and God love me
And how you've missed seeing my face in a pew.
Just as long as you don't know what I think about
and I don't talk about

women's rights
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
the lives of puppies, butterflies, rocks, and trees
("Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say, you live your life your way and leave me alone.")
election ballots stained with sinful choices
hot meals at vegan cafes with safe friends
not giving a shit whether the Bible is infallible or inerrant
or the so-called end of Western civilization.
But caring about real people with untidy lives that don't fit in the constructs of your narrow mind.
Hindu prayer beads and the word "ahimsa" on my lips
Deep stretches with deep breaths while meditating on the life of Jesus
Pipes emanating with the fragrance of vanilla tobacco
Beer, wine, and liquor
Being drunk on fifty proof grace.
Colorful words that punch up my vocabulary.

the real curse isn't whether I say shit or fuck or damn.

Being cursed is being told you are loved
And then told to shut up.

If that kingdom goes up in flames from one spark that flies from my mouth
Then hand me the kindling.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Billy the Kitten (Or, Why I Do What I Do)

When my sister and I were young teens, we found a fluffy gray and white kitten in the woods behind our home. I insisted we name her Billy (I was very into androgynous names at the time). Our grandmother, who we lived with, absolutely detested animals, but especially cats. So we snuck her into the basement. I had cat allergies at the time and was trying to hide my sniffles with Claritin. We would do daily trips to the PetSmart just up the road in order to smuggle two cans of cat food into the house. 

For two glorious weeks, we had a kitten. And then she found her way upstairs when we weren't home, and my grandmother had an absolute meltdown. We insisted she must have snuck in, and tried hiding the cat in another part of the house. She found the cat again. The jig was up. We said we could keep her outside and take care of her, but she demanded that the cat be dumped at the county shelter.

We loaded into my dad's blue Chevorlet with Billy in our arms, sobbing uncontrollably. When we arrived at the county shelter my Dad took Billy from us and went into the shelter by himself. He tried to console us with the fact that she's a kitten, she probably would find a home. I had an intuition at the time that that was an unlikely possibility. I recently looked up the live release rates of that county shelter in Ohio, and they're the same as here in the Midlands, so I know that, more than likely, she met an early death. I hope otherwise, but reality is what it is.

Billy is why I rescue animals in need whenever they come across my path. Billy is why, when I found a pit bull on the street with a very high prey drive who kept diving for my cats, I couldn't surrender him to the municipal shelter and have him lose his life. So he stayed in a spare room and was securely by my side whenever I leashed him up to take him for walks. Then dear angel friends of mine stepped up to foster him, and I owe them so much for that.

I know that the average person thinks it's crazy when I say I have 6 cats and 1 dog (I've even met animal people who thought the number of cats I have is excessive). I know that my husband didn't know this was coming when we got married, and neither did I. As an ex-evangelical, I had compassion for animals but always thought unearthing my passion to care for them would mean I had misaligned priorities, since only human people have souls, and shouldn't I try to save those first? (I don't believe that nonsense any more). But it unleashed itself when I adopted Schnapps, and it has blossomed and been stretched and challenged and tested. And my husband has accepted this part of me, and I am so grateful.

No matter if I'm paid for it, I will always be an advocate and a rescuer. It's in my blood. And I know so many people who feel the same way. People who will give their last dollar to save an animal's life and provide it with quality care. And they won't get recognition for it, but their impact is felt in ripples around the world. Everything is inter-connected, after all. Who knows what lives you touch when you save an animal, and it is adopted into a happy home, and that animal has an impact on those people in ways you could never have imagined. My animals have saved my life times over. Who knows how many times the animals we save, save the lives of others?

I could go on for hours. But I have to go serve my cats Fancy Feast on my grandmother's china.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Star

And normally I look with anticipation towards the New Year,
new beginnings,
fresh starts and bright, clean pages.

But 2014 marks the first full year that the earth will fly around it's star
Without ours. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

As Far As It Depends On You, Live At Peace With Everyone

I'm concerned that when it comes to the grace of God, we are all like Jonah, no matter our camps. We become upset when God shows grace, forgiveness and mercy to those whom we consider unworthy. Or who we claim could not truly be Christians.
“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
God to Jonah, 4: 10,11 
Deciding who is the recipient of God's grace is a heavy burden to bear on such small, fallible shoulders as our own.

I know that we have each been wounded by people on the other side of our fences. A young liberal Christian has been told she is a disappointment to God for advocating for the rights of her gay brother and sisters. A conservative Christian has been told she must not believe in God's equalizing grace if she holds to the doctrine of wifely submission. These are issues worth discussing and thinking about with grace, humility, and wisdom. We are supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and by proxy, I think we also work out our precepts in much the same way: we are fallible beings dealing with immense ideas. Better to tremble a little and extend grace than stand so firmly on the idea that God doesn't think as highly of those who disagree with you.

There is neither Pope nor American Christian so firm in their opinions (liberal or conservative) nor theologian proclaiming absolute certainty for their precepts that is the gatekeeper to God's overflowing grace and all-encompassing love. The door opens to those who knock, there's no theology exam, there's no wounded Savior checking your election ballot to ensure it's correctness, there's only a God who loves us as we are. Does what we think and do matter? Certainly. And we should discuss it with grace and humility and seek wisdom.  But it is not the criterion for our acceptance, and there is no human who demarcates the lines of salvation. So drink deeply of the wild grace of God, because it's for you, as you are, not as any human thinks you ought to be.

"Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
-St Paul, Romans 12

Monday, October 28, 2013

Love Wants to Know You As You Are

It's not love if  you only want to know another insofar as they fall into the tidy categories of right and wrong
in your mind. 

People are multifaceted beings, in all their heresy, orthodoxy, goodness, badness.  

In their both-ness, not their either/or-ness.

If you cannot handle the enormous baggage everyone in this beautiful mess carries in their hearts like bitter wine, don't call the shallow affirmation you offer only to those who fit in your echo chamber

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Animals Aren't Practice for Children

If you're sitting around asking yourself, "Are we ready for kids?" and conclude, "Let's adopt a pet to find out!" you're not ready for either.

I take issue with the idea that pets are good practice for children. The similarities between parenting and animal companionship are thus: you have a being is dependent on you for sustenance, nurture, and love. But the form of meeting those needs is significantly different between the two.

I imagine nothing could really prepare you for what it's like to parent 24/7, but pet ownership isn't it. I dote on my cats, and I have a litter of kittens I'm raising from birth, but caring for them is not like caring for children. I can leave my cats alone while I go to work. So can my friends who own dogs. When I correct my cats, its for shredding the carpet. And that correction is the form of spraying water at them or making a loud noise that startles them, not having a heart to heart about obedience and responsibility (how I wish I could!). My cats will die in about 15 years and I can choose to start the cycle all over again. A baby cannot be left unsupervised for hours at a time.

Adopt an animal when you've done your research, talked to other pet owners, and spent time with the kind of animal you want. You'll have a good understanding of whether you're ready for that commitment.

Have a child when you've done your research, talked to other parents, and spent time with children. You'll gain a better understanding of whether you're ready for parenting.

Don't adopt an animal to test the waters of your responsibility.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Egregious Misinterpretations of Isaiah 46:6 and Jeremiah 17:9

You who call goodness
unless it is cloaked in the decaying sweetness of your saccharine theology
Are not the one who judges a woman according to her deeds.

Goodness is always goodness
and you are not the judge of my intent.

There is one Judge
Who knows me in all my brokenness and giftedness
(for each is as real as the other).

And I answer for these "filthy rags" and "wicked heart" only to that Divine Flame.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Know You Think It's a Sin

Dear Evangelical:

When I post about women in leadership or gay rights,
I know the passages you are about to quote.
I know the reasons you're about to give for your beliefs.
I know your beliefs very well.

Do me a kindness: recognize that I have been wrestling with these issues for years
And that I'm well aware of what you say the Bible says.

I know you think it's a sin.

I am telling you why I think it's not.

Engage my thoughts, or walk away from me.

But don't stuff your ears, scream the Scriptures, and then act as if the conversation is over.

Because I'm not convinced by your polemic, and for good reason.

And I would love to have you listen to the reasons.

And to discuss it like adults.


Gina Marie Perpetua

The Pearl of Great Price

I keep thinking about the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure. The thing you sell it all for. And honestly, the past few years have been about selling all of it: everything I was taught was orthodoxy, everything I was told was right doctrine. I sold off Christianity in order to find Christ. I had to, it gets so noisy in that echo chamber and sometimes you have to run far, far away. And if that doesn't make sense and you think I've disappointed Cyprian for saying so, then disappoint him I have, but my deepest concern these past few years hasn't been whether or not what I think or believe lines up with the Church Fathers. I had to sell off the fathers, the traditions, the inerrantists, the Scriptures, the most holy ballots, in order to find Him. A Man of Sorrows, An Outcast, On the Fringe, Acquainted with Grief. I went deep into the trenches of grief and anger and acute loneliness. Once I was a son, now I was on my own. I had to give up certainty to find the God-Man worth being uncertain about. I had to give up the Creeds, yes, even those gems, to find Him. And I did. And with that, I rediscovered the Creeds and the Scriptures and the Tradition, but those are not Him, and that was the lesson this constantly searching heart needed most desperately to learn, because those were stilts I set my wavering heart on in intellectual confidence, and I needed crutches made from the Tree of Divine Love.

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

I needed distance from dogma to find Him. And if that doesn't make sense to you, or you think I'm in deep error, did you read what I said? I found HIM! And should that not be all that matters? For some we must lose our faith to find it, anew, stripped of everything unessential--polished, shining, a pearl. Pearls occur when the mollusk is attacked or invaded by intruders, and the mollusk has to protect itself. The Kingdom of God is like a thing that is constantly under attack, yet it creates a thing of beauty, and you sell everything for it because something that creates exquisite beauty from excruciating pain is worth any sacrifice.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who's to Blame for All the Killing?

Be incredibly suspicious whenever someone says "either/or."

A lot of the times in the rescue community you meet people who say, "It's the fault of the public! They breed and abuse animals, we have to kill them because the community is irresponsible and there's too many!" Then you meet people who say,"Those evil kill shelters! It's not the public's fault! The shelters don't have to do that much killing! They just don't want to put in the hard work to save lives!"

As always, I think the the truth is somewhere in the middle, and villification does little to solve anything (unless you have documented proof that people are acting like villains, and then prosecute and campaign against them vigorously). I think that our animal control facilities reflect the values of our communities and vice versa. I think that change will come when municipal shelters become more innovative and implement more life-saving practices like foster programs, transports, aggressive spay/neuter campaigns, and healthy partnerships with other rescues (which will include engaging the community), and when our communities engage with and practice humane education principles, like adopting instead of buying, fostering, volunteering, spaying/neutering, implementing stricter laws about breeding, and investing in training and veterinary care (which will include engaging local municipal shelters). No one's off the hook here. We're all to blame for this damn mess.

Jesus instructs people who are about to judge another's failings to take the log out of their eye before they try to remove the speck from their neighbor's. Whatever your religious beliefs, it would behoove those of us in animal rescue to remember that principle.

Friday, July 19, 2013

When You're Too Weary to Write About Theology

My friends and I have been spending the past few years reading blogs by people that articulate our thoughts, doubts, and struggles with the conservative evangelical faith we were handed by our churches and/or families.

I used to be the kind of person who would write such blogs, who would tackle those big issues of "why" and deconstruct the assumptions behind many cherished fundamentalist notions.

But as I read people like Rachel Held Evans or watch my friend venture forth to share her ideas on faith and culture online, I find myself feeling equal parts envious and soul-weary.

I am envious because I used to have that fire in me about faith that led me to write about it and to deal with whatever nonsense people might say in response. I want that fire back.

I am wearied when I consider such an endeavor because of the possible responses. It's not that at this point I care what people will think of me (too liberal to be a Christ-follower? Sure, if telling me that makes you sleep better at night, you go right ahead). It's that I find the usual rhetoric extremely triggering.

My faith in Jesus ebbs and flows and is extremely fragile.

 It is based solely on the fact that I can't find any other satisfying reason why the world is the way it is, not because someone hit me over the head with my sins, or because it can be proved with 100% certainty from Scripture, or because of an apologetics handbook, or because I have a perfectly formed orthodox theology, or because of some handy formula someone writes out on a tract. My faith in the actual life, death, and resurrection of Y'shua is because when faced with the incredible pain, suffering, beauty and joy of this world, I can find no other satisfactory response than a God who became a part of it and offers a way out. I don't have 100%, or even 50%, certainty in the existence of the Divine. If someone put a gun to my head, demanding to know if I believed, there are days where the most honest answer would be, "I don't know." Doubters like me don't make for very good for martyrs, but I hope God would see the raw, cracked-open, bleeding honesty of those words.

Thus, dealing with the responses to all of my "liberal" ideas would make me want to run as far away from anything resembling Christianity as possible. I am so infuriated by so much of evangelical rhetoric that there are weeks after I read something where I really feel like I don't believe anymore. I'm not saying it's right to want to fly the coop when people make you angry, or that it's even right to become so enraged; I'm saying that's the headspace I'm in right now.

When Anne Rice famously renounced organized Christianity, she said, "I respect that there are all kinds of denominations and all kinds of churches, but it's the entire controversy, the entire conversation that I need to walk away from right now." 

A few years ago, I used the analogy that my faith used to be up on stilts, and now I walk on crutches. Today it feels like God amputated my legs and gave me a new set to learn to walk on, and while I'm relearning to walk there are certain conversations with certain groups of people that I can't enter. I so desperately want to be the woman who writes about theology again and who can remain cool and collected when confronted with a dissenting opinion. But I can't run those kinds of marathons yet. I'm not used to these new legs.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Signs and Omens (I Miss You)

The week before you passed, a lily plant appeared in my front garden bed that wasn't there last year and that I did not plant.

The night we picked up Kaitlin, before we went to get her, I stood in my shower and bawled my eyes out that my friend was finally going to the hospital, but I was filled with terror that something was going to go very wrong.

The morning I received the call from Emily, our friend who is a nurse who happened to work that night, our cat Porter ran around the halls yowling like a cat crying out in severe pain. He knew something was wrong.

As we walked out the door I noticed the lily had bloomed (this photo was taken later). 

 The next bloom I plucked and took with me to Charleston to lay on your casket.

This was the last bloom, which opened the night after your memorial service.

I don't know how to process your loss. When Emily called me that morning I knew what it meant, and I couldn't find my voice to tell her to hold on, that I was getting Kaitlin. My voice was constricted. Like those nightmares where you know you need to say something but you're frozen. But somehow I stumbled and got the phone to Kaitlin.

I'm grateful Emily worked that night. I'm grateful Kaitlin was with us, and not at her apartment alone.

But I'm not grateful you're gone. How could I be? I am sad, I am angry, I am paralyzed, I am numb. All those things at once.

I am angry at you for not seeking help sooner, and then I am angry because I wonder what good it would have done since the ailments you had been having weren't related to the blood clot that took your life.

I am angry at my county for subsidizing unhealthy food and getting a generation of kids addicted to it, making it more difficult for you to do the things you needed to be better.

I am angry at our severely fucked up healthcare system that left you feeling like you had no options and recourse. I am angry that we live in a country that made you worry about cost when it came to protecting your health.

I am angry that you're gone and that there's not a single goddamn thing I can do about it.

Please come back, I scream at your facebook page. I scroll through the photos and notes often so I can hear your voice in my head again, making jokes, being insightful, schooling one-dimensional thinkers.

I miss you fierce.

You can't come to me, but one day, I can go to you.

I hope you know how much I wish the resurrection is real.

Because I need to see you again, and the world won't be right unless we all get to see the ones we want to see again.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When You Can't Save Them All

In rescue you hear the phrase, "You can't save them all, but you can save some."  It's more easily uttered when the life you're trying to save is more of an abstract idea, perhaps a kitten you'd like to donate to but you've never met. You say it to express the reality of your human limitations.  But that same phrase is much crueler when it comes through tears and ragged breaths as you look at the life literally on your doorstep.

A friend has found an animal. Can I help? I direct them to the resources I know. But there is no room at my inn, my budget is stretched to the max, and my heart is with the refugees at work who I see day in and day out and the 10 family members who I feel I never get enough time with.

I literally am with animals 24/7, and I can't feel it all, because I would go crazy. You have to maintain some amount of detachment. There are the ones who tug your heartstrings, the ones you get close to, but then there are the ones who you give a quick pat to and off they go to a new home. But sometimes I want to feel it all. Someone should miss that nameless hound that was dropped off after being overbred for years and is now no longer profitable in the way that heartless humans define profit. The hound that's going to be euthanized in 5 days because it looks just like all the other hounds who have been brought to the over-loaded county shelter. And I don't even like to use the term euthanasia in this instance because it means "good death" and there is nothing good about dying because no one wants you.

I can't save them all, and that phrase is not some form of comfort. It is a statement of surrender. Against the tide of human cupidity, stupidity, cruelty, narrowmindedness, and neglect, I raise a white flag. I can't save them all. But oh God, I wish I could. 

I think of the people I know who are rescuers. Not people who fell into a job at a shelter by happenstance and will go another way in time. I mean the people who live and die each day for animals, even if they're not paid employees at a shelter. If they were given a million dollars, hell, a hundred thousand dollars, most if not all of that money would go to help more animals. But rescuers are usually not rich in the conventional sense, and I can't wait around for my fairy godmother to drop big money in my lap. I only have the resources I have. I can budget better, spend my time more wisely, trade that Starbucks latte for $5 donated to pulling another kitten from the shelter, but I will always be limited. And I can't strip my life of all the niceties and pleasures that make life worth living either. No rescuer can live a life that's 100% rescue, with no leisure, sleep, good food, friends, hobbies or treats. That's a quick ticket to burnout and a nervous breakdown. I've met some of those people, and they've saved a lot of lives but at the expense of their own. I rescue because life is worth living.

So I can probably guess at what you may want to tell me. You might want to say, "But look how much you've done!" I've been the direct cause of 15 animals not meeting an early death, and the indirect cause for dozens of others. At this point I've cared for a little more than a thousand animals that have come through the door at our shelter. And I'm happy that I've been able to do it. But I hate, and I am allowed to hate, that I can't do even more. I hate, and I am allowed to hate, that this situation exists. It is normal for this to make me angry. It is normal for this to make me sad. It is okay to have these emotions and to work through them, write through them, cry through them. I am not a robot, and animal rescue rests on the foundation that humans have empathy and understanding for them, so yes, I feel. A lot. It is okay to grieve this situation; someone has to, after all. This situation exists because people aren't grieving for these animals. Grief is healthy. Stuffing down your feelings is what will kill you.

But for the sake of those same animals, I can't wallow in the fury and helplessness that sometimes courses through my veins. I have to scoop one more litterbox, fill one more bowl, give one more pill, donate one more dollar, open my heart a little wider, in order to turn this tide. But for all the eyes I look into that I cannot help, I am sorry. I am trying. For your sake, I will channel that rage into something tangible for those that I can help. And for your sake, there is no way I will ever give up.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Light, The Dark, Both Running Through Me

Navigating a world that is equal parts beauty and ugliness is thrilling, exhausting, nauseating, hope-giving. Today I learned about a demon who abused an animal. Today an angel came through our doors with a donation of wet cat food just as we ran out. Life is made up of such strange juxtapositions of goodness and evil. How we take in all the beauty, how we cope with all the grief, is a testament to the will of the human spirit. God knows I can't feel it all, I would go crazy. But the pieces I am privileged and burdened to feel, and the people and animals I do give my heart to, are worth it. AA Milne wrote, "“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” And how lucky I am to have something that makes saying hello so wonderful.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Faith Is

Heterodox (no one has it all right)
A Whisper
Cruci Dum Spiro Fido
Liberal (in certain parts)
Conservative (in other parts)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One Week

It's been one week since you left us on this Earth without you. It's not that you had a choice in the matter, of course. Death claimed you that night and there's nothing any of us could have done about that.

What I wish I had done was gone to the hospital earlier in the day Tuesday to wish you well, to pray with you, to say I love you. It wouldn't have changed your death, but maybe it would have brightened your day, maybe it would have left us with more peace and closure.

I squeezed your hand as I left the room that morning. I wanted to know. I have been afraid of death for years now, and it was good for me to be near your body, to feel your skin, to watch as the Priest performed the Last Rites, to see your wife hold tightly onto your hand, to be there for her in that terrible moment. Death is too distant from Americans in the 21st century. We need to be near it. Memento mori. 

The Saturday before your passing St. Perpetua came to me in a dream. She descended from a staircase made of water over a bridge on the Ohio River and I walked up the stairs into her arms. She held me tightly and told me everything was okay and to not be afraid.

I had no idea what was coming for me a few days later. But that night, my faith returned. I went to Mass at a Catholic church. The sermon was lousy, but the music and liturgy and the church were beautiful, and that's why I go to Catholic mass: to feast on the beauty of the Lord (I also find a lot of the theology very beautiful).
"One thing have I asked of the Lord
That I will seek after; 
That I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to inquire in His temple."
~Pslam 27

I keep crying at work. I cry a lot of places. I forget and then I remember, and when I remember it's like being punched in the gut, or the throat. My throat gets parched and no amount of water helps.

I've been trying to treasure the relationships you left me. I need to respond to letters, emails and calls. I need to be near them. You never gave up on any of us, by your example help me to not give up one any of them. 

You are teaching us about the importance of relationships. You are the origin of so many of mine! And I refuse to use the past tense about you. Like Catholics and other liturgical traditions, I believe in the communion of Saints, and that God is not a God of the dead, but the living. You are more alive now that you've ever been (O Lord I believe, help my unbelief). Your life on this earth is past tense, but you are not past tense.

I don't know what privileges God grants to His children in Heaven, but I hope you can see us and the impact you're having. I hope you can hear me at night when I sit out on my deck and look up at the stars and talk to you. I hope you can see us gathering around your dear sweet Kate as we sit Shiva with her.

"This can't be happening," is the phrase I repeat to myself a lot, but it is. It is reality, and we are mourning you. Heaven is a bit closer to all of us because you are there. 

I don't know how to end this. No one ever does, I suppose.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Heart Is Not a Boundary

I had the privilege a few years ago of speaking with a recent convert to Catholicism. The person willingly corresponded with me about various issues of the faith. They* were certainly a theologically conservative Catholic, with conservative political leanings, but the content of their faith and writings was the person of Christ, as revealed in the Sacrament, not the advancement of a particular political agenda.

And then I saw this person become increasingly more political. Their writings were less about the mysteries of the faith and more about their anger at certain political occurrences. Their words, once soaked with grace, were now soaked with vitriol towards the perceived "enemy" of the left.

I was taken aback. This was not the only Catholic I knew who had made this turn. The advent of this shift was news of the HHS mandate about contraception.

It was around the time I was taking confirmation classes. But my fragile faith, already reeling from years of fundamentalist Baptist culture wars, and 4 years at an American evangelical college, cracked.

I couldn't take it any more. The us versus them mentality. The idea that Christ was about "our side" winning and "their side" losing. Faith as a battle for control of a government and a media, not as a battle for the body and soul to have union with God. I stopped attending confirmation classes and sent a brief note to the RCIA director saying that now wasn't the time. The mentor who had been appointed to me sent me a concerned email, and I thanked her for her concern, but said I had certain issues going on in my life that led me to believe I could not convert in good conscience at this time.

I didn't know these people very well, so I didn't wish to explain the deep well of anger I was experiencing with Christendom: evangelicals, fundies, Catholics, the Orthodox, liberal Episcopalians, conservative Anglicans, etc, etc. In fact, I couldn't explain it. The debate over the HHS mandate was the catalyst that caused my anger and doubt to erupt. Attempts to explain it to my husband always ended with me in tears, sobbing incoherently about politics, culture wars, gender issues, gay marriage, how to interpret the God of the Hebrew Bible in light of the person of Christ, the problem of evil, the reality of death, and the tasks of my everyday life. Inside my head, every single issue was linked to the other, and for the life of me I couldn't determine truth from the lie, fact from fiction.

My reaction, at this time, was to go in the opposite direction of my upbringing and of  the political conservative Catholics who I felt betrayed me. I began tweeting snarky liberal statements, things that may have had truth to them but were so drenched in anger that I doubt they could have done anything to start a meaningful conversation with someone on the right. I became what I hated, just in reverse. And I gained some notoriety for it. It was fun at first, and I certainly enjoyed the virtual high-fives I received from like-minded individuals, but I didn't like what I had become. And an echo chamber of affirmation is not good for anyone. My bitterness and cynicism were on display for the world, for total strangers. Gone was the girl who wrote poems about trees; she had been replaced with a political pundit. If you tried to talk with me during this time and I was brusque, I apologize. I deleted a lot of people on facebook around this time because I didn't feel like debating with them about my faith, the childishness of which is so apparent now but was oblivious to me at the time. I thought I was protecting myself, when really I was alienating others.

I realized that I was dealing with the same angry, black and white, us versus them mentality, only on the other side. I didn't need to find a safe haven of militant liberals, I needed to find men and women of peace on both sides of the fence. But I didn't know that at the time.

For a time, I lost my faith. I could enumerate the specific contents of my doubts, but that could take hours and I'll spare you those tales for now. What did happen was that I deleted the twitter account and an adjoining blog, and the woman who was so keen to share her opinions on the internet suddenly had nothing left to say. I stopped attending the Anglican parish I had been a member of since 2007, because on an ideological level I felt displaced (the people there are extremely loving and open; I just felt at odds with the theology).

I read Rachel Held Evans, George MacDonald, and Christian mystics. I read the Bhagavad Gita. I read poetry by Oliver, Rilke, Whitman and Donne. I read about neo-paganism and eastern philosophy. I read about animal ethics and rights.  And then I stopped reading anything deep, and feasted on television, entertainment news, fashion, memes, and pop culture (there is nothing wrong with any of those things. There is something wrong when that is all that you consume). My excuse was that my work took up a lot of my energy and emotions, which it did. But I was starving intellectually and spiritually, because I didn't know what to eat.

I couldn't pinpoint the moment my anger subsided, because it was gradual. I spent a lot of nights in absolute torment, sobbing for hours. But I began to piece together something of a belief system, something that looked drastically different from what I had ever believed before. Gone was my insistence on having all of my theological ducks in a row. I learned to listen to myself: if something felt abhorrent, turn away from it. This was such a drastic change from the radical idea of depravity I had been sold as a child. It was always taught that we are so depraved that we couldn't trust our intuition. Emotional intuitions about truth were not reliable, so they couldn't be a guide in our quest to understand the world (Rachel Held Evans' essay The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart describes this issue better than I ever could. And please note that I said "a guide" not "the guide").

It all come together the other night when I mentioned to my husband that a certain perspective of how to develop a theological system annoyed me, and I shared that my system was shaped differently. I didn't even know until I spoke that I even had a system, but I did. I had developed a rudimentary framework, and lo and behold, it looked remarkably Catholic. I had come full-circle.

I don't know what the future holds for my faith journey. I couldn't tell you what my next steps are. You might be wondering if I plan on becoming Catholic, and my answer is a firm, "I don't know."  I really and truly don't know what the future of my faith will look like or what denominational shape it will take. But the beauty is back in my life.

There is bad everywhere, in every system of belief, in every church, in every political party. If you wait around trying to find the pure camp that won't tick you off, that won't break your heart, that won't tear you to pieces, you'll always be sorely disappointed. But if you focus on truth, beauty, grace, forgiveness, mercy, love and peace, it's possible you'll find yourself feeling comfortable going anywhere God leads, because you know God will be there to get you through the good and bad of communal life, and that will be enough.

*I find using the third person plural pronoun "they" clunky when trying to avoid using gendered pronouns, but it was my only recourse. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hell on Earth is Just More Hell

"Given the tendency in fundamentalist circles to redefine 'love' as 'treat a person in a harsh and controlling way in order to make them behave in the way you think is best', it’s only a matter of time until someone jumps in all 'No, we’re talking about lovingly pummeling you with rocks until you die! Because the fear of being brutally killed by your community might make you not have gay sex!' or something equally inane."
(this was a comment on Libby Anne's recent piece on Christian arguments against gay marriage)

This. As I became more liberal and stopped spouting traditional Christian dogmas, some Christians in my life (not all) decided that using things like manipulation and verbal abuse were fair game because it would keep me in the fold through fear. They could treat me any way they wanted if it resulted in me believing and acting in a way they believed best for me, the way that kept me from the fires of Hell, the way that kept me from backsliding. When you come from a mindset that you have to stop someone from going to eternal torment, it's easy to jump from there to, "I should use everything within my power to prevent that. Momentary pain on earth will be nothing compared to what they'l experience in Hell." I don't agree with conservative Christian theologian Russell Moore on most anything, but he once made a pithy point: sometimes Christians fight like the Devil to please the Lord. But the battlefield is littered with broken people. Creating Hell on earth just means more Hell.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Many Reasons for Veganism: Death is a Serious Matter

A few years ago, I began to seriously think about mortality. Death is final and irrevocable. Even if one were to believe in a religion founded on a future resurrection, the reality of our current predicament is that humans, animals, and plants die.

With death being so final, I began to realize that the act of killing a creature was a deeply serious act. More solemn than ordering a burger at a drive-thru would lead one to believe.

Because of this, I began to reflect on the worth of animal life, the lives of sentient creatures with nervous systems, capable of experiencing physical and emotional pain.

And I concluded that tasting a steak wasn't as important as keeping the cow from experiencing any unnecessary pain. And slaughter, even "humane" slaughter, for the purpose of palate pleasure, is completely unnecessary. It prematurely ends a precious, unique life for what amounts to an incredibly trivial purpose.

So I went vegan.