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Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections on "It's a Boy!"

It starts with the ultrasound--before they are even out of the womb--gender identity.  The sex of the child is male or female, but that's not what they tell you.  They say "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!"
Immediately, visions of a blue nursery, toy cars and soccer balls or pink frilly dresses, dolls and princess tea parties come to mind. Sure, some things are innately male or female, but should we force our children into a gender-defined box?  Specifically, our boys?  What message does it send?

More and more it has become acceptable for girls to like "boy things."  Girls can play with cars and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And more girls are out on the soccer field or doing karate.  Because in the fight against sexism, we are starting to acknowledge that girls can do what boys can do.  yay! Girl Power! Girl. Power..... Power.  We honor power...toughness...strength....thick-skin...
The problem is, this isn't a 2-way street.  While girls can be like boys-- powerful, strong, tough, thick-skinned....boys can't be "like girls"  --sensitive, nurturing, submissive (in a good way).

My son loves balls, trucks, trains, cars, airplanes, everything a boy "should" love, but he also gets just as excited about dolls.  But we have received no dolls as a gift or a hand-me-down. And I have to defend his choice when he is playing with one, because, yes, there are comments.  But why is it so offensive to see a little boy play with a doll?            Because he's being
                                                                               Lowered to the level of a female. 

We are accepting of ^^^raising girls up^^^to the level of boys--but not of "lowering" the boys.  We don't easily accept the feminine attributes of boys-- the caring and nurturing side.  The sensitive side (suck it up, be a man)---boys don't cry---boys don't give hugs (they shake hands and high five).

Similarly, we don't bat an eye when a girl likes Cookie Monster, Grover, or Bert & Ernie, but if a boy were to like Zoe or Abby Cadabby his gender identity or even sexual orientation would come into question (which  also perpetuates heterosexism) Yes, we wonder if 1 and 2-year-old boys are gay because they like a female television character.  What other reason could a 1-year-old boy  have for loving a brightly-colored, magical muppet?

I'm not saying we need to raise gender-neutral children or over-correct and not let our sons play with cars. I'm gently inviting us to look at the reasons we might object to freeing our children from gender-based stereotypes.   Girl. Boy.     Girl?  Boy? 

Thanks for reading.  Blessings!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sermon-- The Thankful One

Luke 17:11-19
17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.

17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,

17:13 they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.

17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

17:17 Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?

17:18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

17:19 Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Sermon-- "The Thankful One"  October 13, 2013

Whenever I read a parable, I automatically put myself in the shoes of the good person, the one who gets it right. Oh yes, I'm the good Christian who..... in this case, I'm the good Christian who comes to church and thanks God when most people I know do not. Of course I want to think that way. I want to think that I have it all right but how arrogant of me to think that. After all, a Christian is loving and humble.

So I thought about the other nine lepers. I thought about, “when have I been like the other nine?” Really, they were being obedient Jews, doing what Jesus told them to do and what the Law required of them. These lepers wanted to get to the Temple to prove their cleanliness and get on with their lives.

How many times in our life have we asked God for help, gotten that help, and didn't turn back to say thanks? How many times have we felt God pour grace upon us and we didn't utter so much as a, “hey, thanks.”

The lepers were in a place of crisis, then went back to their lives, without a thank you.

How many times have we begged God for something in a moment of crisis and when “whew,” it's all over, we “forgot” to say thanks?

I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me. I get all worried and upset about something and I beg God to help me. ….. and the whole time, talking and pleading with God. Begging God for mercy, healing, another chance. And then that grace comes. Everything is alright, big sigh.. and then in joy we go back to our lives, like a miracle didn't just occur. No thank you to God.

Now that we have what we want, we're done with God until the next tragedy strikes. Or we are so swept up in our joyfulness, we forget God. We tend to forget God in the good times.... we are quick to ask for God's help, but forgetful when it's time to say thanks.

A year or two ago we had a bad storm. “J” and I were living in the suburbs at the time. We had no electricity, and the weather was pretty crazy out. But we made a good time of it. We played board games and cooked on the range, almost like camping indoors. It was a lot of fun being forced to unplug for a day.

But then the night came and with it, the worsening of the storm. There were tornado warnings. A tornado had touched down ten minutes from us.... the rain water was flooding and coming into the house. It was no longer fun. I was worried for us and our families back in Philly. It was a time to turn to God. On some level I knew we were going to be fine, but hearing about natural disasters on the news all the times gets into your head. We carried sentimental items to higher ground and then went back to the basement to camp out.

We listened to the radio, praying that everything would turn out alright. It was a pretty frightening night for me, a city girl, who grew up in a row home, right smack in the middle of the block, in a brick house-- to be living across the street from a farm, in a flimsy new development, hearing about tornado warnings on the radio. So there I was praying everything would end up all right.

And It did. The flooding wasn't bad at all. Could have been much worse. The tornado didn't harm anyone, it was a small one that did minor damage to property.

Did I thank God? Honestly, I don't remember. I remember asking God for help, but I don't remember thanking God. It's possible I did, but certainly not as enthusiastically as I asked for help.

I could have thanked God for sparing our lives, our house. I could have thanked God for the great day we spent together, unplugged. I could have thanked God for the beautiful rainbow that came after the storm.

What if we praised God and thanked God with the same kind of urgency and fervor we use to ask for help?

How many times have we been obedient Christians, done “what we were supposed to do,” without being truly on fire for God? Without being so in love with God that we turn back in ecstatic praise, like the 10th leper and praised God?

Jesus said, your faith has made you well. Why shouldn't we praise the one that makes us well, the one who makes us whole? The ten lepers asked for Jesus' healing and were healed, but only one came back to thank him.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an episcopal priest, wrote, "Ten behaved like good lepers, good Jews; only one, a double loser, behaved like a man in love... I know how to be obedient, but I do not know how to be in love."

How true is this for so many of us church-goers?

When was the last time you prostrated yourself at the feet of the Lord in praise and thanksgiving? Picture the kind of praise this leper was giving. If someone were to come into our church and go prostrating in front of the altar, what would we think? I can just imagine what some of our faces may look like.

We wonder why people don't want to come to church and one teenager at my last church summed it up nicely. “Why would anyone want to come to a place where you sit in uncomfortable silence getting the sense that everyone is just waiting for it to be over?”

Maybe that's not how you are feeling, but that is obviously the vibe some people are getting from church. This is the idea of church many people have in their minds.

Why would anyone want to come to a stuffy room with fake Christians that are going to judge them? Yes, this is the image people have of church. We can get upset about it all we want, but what are we doing to change their perception?

People have put a guard up against Christians, because it seems to be a trend that the only vocal Christians are the ones that are more in the business of promoting a condemning God than a loving one. So people tense up when Christians approach them to tell them about their God. People are hurt by the church and these Christians. But not all Christians are like that. Some Christians are so excited by God's blessings and radical love that they want to shout from the rooftops how awesome God truly is. Let us be those Christians. Let us be that beacon of light in this neighborhood.

If we were so in love with God we couldn't contain it, would people think that way about church and the Christians in them? What would we do differently if we weren't just obedient Christians? What if we were like that 10th leper? What kind of revolution, reawakening, Renaissance..... could church have If we were more like that 10th leper-- in love with God and on fire with the Spirit?

In a meeting recently, we were asked what qualities we looked for in a religious leader and I offered they should have a contagious spirit. But really, every Christian should have a contagious spirit. John Wesley said, Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” YES! We say we want to grow the church, but what are we doing about it? If we were truly IN LOVE with God to a point we couldn't contain it, we would live our lives in a way that would attract people to us and then they would see that it wasn't us they were attracted to, it's God.

When the early church was started, when the UMC was started, they were movements, it was an experiment. In the next few weeks, I am going to be deep in research and reading about the people of faith who started the church and started the United Methodist Church. These were people who were IN LOVE with God. Who couldn't contain that spirit and it was just bursting out of them. And from that came these massive Christian movements. You will hear this John Wesley quote again. We need a radical new attitude about this thing called church if we want it to survive. We need to be in love with God and on fire with the spirit. Are you ready to be those Christians, and that beacon of light in this neighborhood and beyond?

The Girl Who's Learning to Roar

"Create Blog"

"Create Blog" has been on my to-do list for years.  I have transferred it from to-do list to to-do list, from the ones scribbled on an envelope to the "official" one on my phone.  Perhaps what was holding me back was that I didn't know what I wanted to say...or was it that I lacked the courage to say what I wanted to say?  No, it was that I lacked the self-confidence to think that I had any right to say anything of importance and meaning.  

Who am I?  I am Julia.  I am in my late 20's.  I am a wife, mother and pastor.   I don't pretend to have all the answers... I know that in 20-some years of living and learning that I have merely glimpsed at life.  So who am I to write a blog worthy of others to read?  I am someone who is learning to grow.  I am someone who is daring to love.  

If there is one thing I learned in seminary, it is that it isn't easy to learn, grow or love.  It isn't easy to lay aside everything you think you know to hear someone else's story and perspective.  It isn't easy to accept that maybe, just maybe their story is "true" least to them.  It isn't easy to open the door of your mind and (holds breath) heart to learn and grow and love.  If we open our minds, sometimes we have to admit that we are wrong, that what we have learned is not complete truth, that the people who taught us (yes, those ones we love and respect and look up to!) are fallible.  If we open our hearts, we run the risk of getting hurt, or scarier yet, finding out how deep love can go--being vulnerable--learning how to put others before ourselves. 

So, I don't presume to have all the answers, or any answers really... but this is a place where I will write.  I will write what I learn while my spirit hitches a ride in this fire-haired, earthly body.  

Thanks for reading.  Blessings.