Wednesday Wisdom: Angela Davis

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VersoBooks

I had the honor and pleasure of hearing countercultural woman, Civil Rights activist, and all-around amazing trailblazer Angela Davis speak at the Women’s March on Washington. So to kick off Black History Month and for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom,  I am pleased to share this quote of hers (which also appeared on many a protest sign at the march)!

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” -Angela Davis

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Let’s march on, y’all! We are in great company and have amazing predecessors to learn from and guide us.

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Where Do We Go From Here? Further Reflections on the Women’s March and How to Stay Involved

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It’s a question we’ve asked since the election and, for the more “woke” among us, even longer.

We’ve been asking since we started to wake up to what’s really going on around us, when we realized racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and ignorance are real, alive, and well.

Before, during, and after the march, we asked the question in solidarity with our sisters and allies.

It’s a question I hope we continue to ask ourselves every single day.

And it’s a question with many answers.

For some, the answer will be to keep marching, to keep calling, writing, and emailing representatives and the President himself.

For others, it will be to work on the ground and keep encouraging and empowering the marginalized.

For the creatives, it can be to keep creating art which sustains and challenges the mind and soul.

For everyone, it can be learning, reading, and listening to people, especially people of color and with different abilities, lest we make our activism purely for people exactly like us. It can be to keep taking care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs so we can continue to race instead of collapsing after a short sprint, and to keep on honoring the One who made us all in the Divine image.

And it should definitely be a call to keep on playing, laughing, crying, screaming, cooking, teaching, writing, drawing, painting, filming, parenting, preaching, gardening, homemaking, and doing what makes us feel most alive and connected to the world around us.

But above all, the answer and challenge to us all is to keep on loving.

Keep on showing love in ways which are true to you, your passions, your personality, and your beliefs.

Keep on showing love not by being passive and bullied, but by being kind even when it isn’t nice.

Keep on loving the sacredness in humanity. Keep straining your eyes to see it when it’s barely discernible, and when the spark seems all but invisible, begin calling  it out of them.

We can keep this up, friends. We can do this work together. We must do it together.

Let’s keep running the race. Let’s keep supporting each other.

Let Love make us great.

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To participate in the 10 Actions/100 Days campaign, please visit the Women’s March website.

To keep your feminism intersectional (inclusive of as many voices as possible and inseparable from topics and issues of race, class, ability, gender identity, sexuality, etc.), check out this reading list from bustle.com.

Also download the Countable app to make contacting your local representatives and keeping up to date with legal news easier!

As of today, there are now FIVE prospective marches on Washington on the horizon: the Trump Taxes March on April 15, the Peoples’ Climate March on April 29, the Immigrants’ March on May 6, the National Pride March on June 11, and the Scientists’ March on Washington TBD. Follow the links for more information!

Women’s March: A Brief Statement

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It’s going to take some time for me to fully process the incredible grace and power I experienced at the Women’s March on Saturday.

But today, I will say this:

I have never left a gathering more empowered than I did during this one.

The solidarity, kindness, and attentiveness expressed by the participants in this march was in and of itself a testament to the power of the love and compassion we so desperately need.

And naysayers are going to have hard time dismissing, downplaying, and otherwise explaining away the importance of these gatherings anytime soon.

Be empowered, beloveds. This is just the beginning. Keep on marching, challenging, and loving on!

The march is over, but the movement continues! To find out the next steps to take, please go to https://www.womensmarch.com/.

Heroines, Not Anomalies

Growing up with a single mother, especially MY mother, I learned being a woman and being strong go hand in hand.

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, I learned about the Holy Spirit’s power to give everyone, male or female, the authority and ability to preach the Gospel, live a Christ-like life, and do fantastic works that would bring people to Jesus.

In two formative ways, I learned from a young age that to be a woman is not in and of itself a hindrance to accomplishing anything. Being a woman, in my biological and church family alike, was something to be celebrated. My mother emboldened me to work hard to reach my goals and not let anyone get in the way of them. The Spirit gave me the power to do anything God put in my heart to do.

So of course it was inevitable that I wondered aloud one day if, being the beloved, empowered woman of God, the Spirit was calling me to be a leader in the church, maybe even a pastor.

And then things got weird.

My mom, on one hand, told me there was no question: of course I could be a pastor if that was what I really wanted to do and worked hard to do it.

The church of my youth and evangelical groups I joined, on the other hand, told me to not be so hasty: there were limits to this empowerment, especially for girls. Perhaps the Spirit could have given me the gifts of teaching, but only to teach certain people, like children, youth, and other women.

But to teach everyone, including (and especially) men? God wouldn’t find that quite acceptable, they said. You heard God wrong on that. Maybe instead of being a pastor, you’re called to be a pastor’s wife.

I balked quite a bit at that idea.

So I found myself confused. And in my confusion, I asked more questions.

I asked, “Why would the Spirit awaken such gifts within me only to put odd limits on them for the sole fact that I am female, not male?”

The church answered, “God’s ways are not our ways.”

I asked, “Then why would the Bible contain women like Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the judge, and Mary Magdalene the apostle to the apostles?”

And they answered, “Those women were anomalies.”

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The church told me they were performing these “men only” roles due to a lack of any “worthy” men willing to do the work. So, God used the women because there weren’t any men willing enough to do their jobs.

After all, someone said, if God can speak through rocks and donkeys, God can speak through women, too, when necessary.

So, they told me, don’t interpret those women as the norm. God wouldn’t normally use women to lead and preach and do “men’s” work. God only uses them “In Case of Emergency,” as if those women were put behind a glass case for God to shatter and use when the fire was out of control, and the “real men” weren’t there to do their jobs. Those women kept things going, but then they had to go right back to their “normal” roles upon completing the task.

The message rang loud and clear: the only way women get to be the heroes, in the biblical or Christian story, is when God uses them in spite of their womanhood.

As I’ve shared before, wrestling with my calling as a woman is nothing new. I, along with countless other women pursuing pastoral ministry, have had to defend my desire to preach and the validity of my Christian faith in ways most men will never have to. What I’ve noticed lately, though, is how big of an influence storytelling has been in this struggle.

In the especially difficult times of my faith journey, when I wondered whether I was meant to lead or leave the Church, I turned to stories for solace and inspiration. I read comics and books, and watched shows and movies, some of which featured some amazing female protagonists. Through these pursuits, I found Buffy, Kamala Khan, River Song, Misty Knight, and Jessica Jones, among others.

And I noticed something about these characters, something in how their creators made them that contradicted what the churches taught me about biblical women.

They weren’t anomalies. They belonged in their worlds. They were there on purpose.

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They weren’t there because a man didn’t step up and “do his job,” or because there were no rocks or donkeys willing to do any supernatural work.

They were there because the author wanted them and needed them there, as they were, to tell the story.

This hit me like an Epiphany, the kind that awakens you to what you’ve known deep inside for a long time but haven’t found a way to acknowledge yet.

And this Epiphany shifted my perspective on the biblical women.

Because when I took another look at their stories, I realized they were there on purpose, too.

They, too, were leading the story. They were doing God’s work, because God called them to do it. They did not participate in order to take on some other guy’s neglected burden. God gave them this work on purpose.

Miriam prophesied not because Moses and Aaron wouldn’t, but because she couldn’t hold God’s truth in her and needed tambourines and song to proclaim it.

Deborah led not because Barak wouldn’t, but because leading as a judge utilized the passion and power with which God had already endowed her.

Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb long enough to witness the miracle of Christ’s resurrection out of her own grief and love for Jesus, not so God could spite the other disciples.

And Paul himself described Junia, not Junias, as “noted among the apostles,” placing her not only in league with the male apostles but as one of the greatest of them, because he knew she kept the story of Christ going alongside the men who walked with Jesus.

These and many other women fill the pages of the very Bibles used to silence and degrade women. And their stories keep the tale of God’s radical and inclusive love and justice moving forward, and they continue to proclaim encouragement, empowerment, and love to our sisters in Christ today.

These women were not anomalies. They were heroines in a long line of powerful, important biblical women, and when we honor the heroines of the Bible, we honor the heroines of faith today.

So Church, lift up the female biblical heroes in a world, and even a religion, that continues to see women as second-best and expendable.

Lift up heroines in society and in literature, from Emma Watson to her literary counterpart Hermione Granger. Lift up the inspirational women who have gone before us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, from Deborah to Maya Angelou. Lift them up to remind women that their callings are not anomalies but necessities in this world which desperately needs their love and care.

When we tell women they are heroines, that their leadership skills and strength are needed, they will no longer consider themselves anomalies, and neither will the Church. They will take their place alongside their brothers and lead the world into tomorrow.

And the Church will be all the better for it, because we will be living into the Kingdom the way God intended: together, as equals.

What If Mary Wore Pink Chucks?

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As a child, I hated the color pink.

It was a “girly” color, and as a child, I didn’t want to touch anything feminine. I wanted to be seen as tomboyish.

And I hated shoes.

I preferred socks or bare feet, even over rocks, cool hallway tile, slick grass, and scorching blacktop.

But when my mom asked me what I wanted for my 25th birthday a year and a half ago, I shocked her by saying all I wanted was a pair of bright pink Chuck Taylors.

I’m not entirely sure when or why this obsession began. I might have seen someone wearing a pair and been drawn to them. Maybe I finally started warming up to pink. Maybe it was all the Doctor Who I was watching. All I know is I fell in love with the idea of having pink Chucks.

So my very generous mother got them for me on my 25th birthday. And I wore/continue to wear them everywhere.

I wore them to seminary classes, when I spoke at chapel, and to my seminary graduation. I wear them on date nights, while running errands, and when hanging out with my high school Sunday School group. Those shoes make me feel more “me” than any other item of clothing I have.

So what if they are considered by some to be the shoe of choice for the counter culture, a style of conformity for the non-conformists? I love them. They are comfy, bright, and stick out in a way that makes me want to be seen. I feel most comfortable, excited, empowered, and ready to take on the world when I lace them up and walk out the door.

So at choir practice last Wednesday, when I realized the upcoming Sunday was the Third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy and the lighting of the pink candle, and that we would be singing Mary’s Magnificat, I just had to wear those spunky shoes.

But since I’m also a huge people pleaser, I had to ask my choir director if it was OK to do so.

She smiled and nodded as she replied, “Yes. Please wear them.”

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So I wore them to sing the Magnificat, in which Mary proclaims how she, a humble handmaiden, will be regarded as blessed throughout all generations, that God will upset the mighty systems of the rich and lift up the poor and oppressed. And she sings this ballad after she accepts the dangerous call from God, delivered to her by an angel, to bear the Messiah into a dark world, and after an in-utero John the Baptist leaps inside Elizabeth’s womb.

This is no schmaltzy ballad from Mary meek and mild. This is a song of resistance, one which should strike terror in all the elite, belted from the pipes of a fierce female whom, of all the women in the world, God chose to bring the True Light into the world.

This might have even been Jesus’ lullaby.

When this was the song I was called to sing, the pink Chucks were the only shoes I could think of to wear. They made me feel free, subversive, excited, and bold enough to do God’s work of upsetting the powerful, even if that meant upsetting structures from which I have long benefited. I chose these shoes, because they were the color of joy, of the Advent candle and of my own joy in being myself, called to do God’s work, which Mary exemplified in her life and her song.

Maybe Mary would have worn pink Chucks, too, as a display of her femininity and subversiveness for all to see, all that made her the woman God chose to bear Jesus into the world. Maybe she would do this to demonstrate that girls of all ages and from all walks of life have fire in their souls that the world desperately needs. Maybe she would lace up her pink Chucks and tell all the girls and women of the world that when the world tries to denounce their femininity as something less than, something to be violated and exploited, something that makes them “weak” and “meek,” they should show the world that being bold is a strong, feminine trait.

Because we need all the emboldening we can get to proclaim justice and the upside-down kingdom of God into our own dark world. And sometimes our proclaimation outfit is a pair of bright pink Chuck Taylors.

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My Mama: The Icon

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This Throwback Tuesday is in honor of my mother, Elizabeth, who celebrated her birthday on Monday. Read ahead to see why I love and revere her so much!

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this post I wrote about my amazing Mommy back in February. We had just returned from a weekend at her hometown of Slippery Rock, PA, where she had been inducted into her high school’s hall of fame for athletics. Just to brag, she has a 33 year old track record! But that’s not all that makes her amazing. Keep reading for more!

This weekend, I couldn’t help but think: My mother is an icon.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, members look at icons for hope, deep spiritual experience, love, light, and guidance. They’re beautiful, glitzy pieces of artwork that are made by expert hands to evoke a sense of wonder and divinity, as if by gazing into these portraits, we become closer to the divine and the saints who have gone before us.

And while this ideology struck me as odd when I first learned about it, this weekend it all made a little bit more sense. Although my icon isn’t a 2-D painting composed of oils with a canvas backdrop. This icon is the beautiful embodiment of grace, wisdom, love, and perseverance that is my mother.

I draw guidance from her stories of raising me on her own, of the nights she couldn’t sleep because she was worried that her last cashed check might bounce her whole account, of the days she went hours without seeing me because she was working and going to school to earn her degree, of the nights she woke up at 3 AM to study while I slept soundly. 

I draw hope from her resilience, her stubbornness, her work ethic, her trailblazing ways. I draw inspiration from the fact that she was one of the prominent athletes, male or female, at her high school, during a time when female athletics were in their infancy. I draw love from her undying devotion to me, all of the concerts and games and martial arts belt testings and plays and school trips and fundraising events  and horseback riding lessons she attended because she wanted to be involved in my life.

When I snapped this picture of my mom on Saturday night (as she made an acceptance speech that she did not expect to give for an honor that she never sought to receive), I captured an icon that even my iPhone 4 cannot fathom. The speech my mother wrote up in thirty minutes, which was more like a quick list of bullet points that she still presented better than the other people who had prepared their speeches days in advance, couldn’t even capture everything about her, her story, and who she is. Neither did the man who introduced her. 

But when I look at this picture, and the comments and likes and congratulations it generated on my Facebook account, I see my icon. I see her determination, resilience, grit, love, and all the good and bad times she went through to get where she is today. And I know that living through a lot of those days with her have been the food that has sustained my soul in my darkest hours. For all the differences we have today, for all the pain we’ve caused each other, my mother is one of the greatest icons from which I draw immense amounts of love, support, guidance, and strength.

I study her, and her life is the icon to which I often look to know what to do next. I wasn’t awake with her while she studied for classes. I didn’t wait tables by her side. I didn’t stay awake at night worrying about bills with her. I didn’t train my body to break track records and become an All-American athlete with her. I didn’t cry with her at her oldest sister’s first wedding when she realized the sister she loved so dearly was staying with a man who treated her awfully. I wasn’t in the car with her when she hit a deer as she was moving stuff from the house she shared with my stepfather to her new one in Inwood. I wasn’t there with her when she broke down after receiving the phone call that because my stepdad hadn’t been paying for their insurance, the damage from the aforementioned accident wouldn’t be covered by her policy.

But I was awake to hear her sing “Silent Night” to me so I would fall asleep. I have fond memories of books we read together at night that fostered my love of words and stories. I still have a photo booth picture of us at Jammin’ Jim, the Winchester version of Chuck E Cheese, that still makes me smile to this day. I remember squealing with delight as a four year old when we rode the Dumbo ride at Disney World, and I have fond memories of all of the Christmases and birthdays that she made so special. I saw her videotape all of my concerts and take pictures at all of my horse shows. I was in the car with her when she raced home from school and took me to Burger King on her way to tutor a student, and I was there when the person on the intercom told us that we were late for our regular dinner time. 

She was the first person I called after my dad contacted me. She was the one whose arms I fell into after my first serious relationship went to hell. She was the one who didn’t always understand my angst and anxiety, but always did what she could to make sure I got the support I needed.

I saw her cry when I tried to run away, when my Poppy died. I heard her cry over the phone when the insurance fiasco occurred, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was the one who needed to support her. I received her concerned questions and thoughts when I decided to study Philosophy and Religion, and I received her help a few months later when I was looking at seminaries to apply to.

Together, we have gone through transformation. We have pushed each other to become the people we are today. We have made each other grow and stretch and live lives we never thought we’d have to live, overcome obstacles we never dreamed would be thrown our way. It’s never been easy, but there’s been so much good in it. There’s a lot of beauty and love in our stories. And there’s always hope. Mom made sure to include hope for me, even if it wasn’t hope in its most cliché form.

The fact that she kept getting up and choosing to live and learn each day was hope enough.