The Broken Christian Church

Last night I went with a friend to The Tabernacle to see The Try Guys. You probably know them as those four nerds who produce videos for Buzzfeed, but if you still have no idea who I am talking about, you can find their YouTube channel here. While we were walking to the venue I found something that gave me the warm fuzzies as soon as it came into my eyesight. We were passing a large church with bright red doors. If you might be wondering why that made me happy, then you probably did not already know that I was born and raised Lutheran (and most Lutheran churches have red doors).

Side note, if you have never seen a Try Guys video, check them out. There are super funny.

However, imagine my surprise to know that it was not a Lutheran church after all. It was actually St. Mark United Methodist Church in the heart of midtown Atlanta. At the end of the day, however, it is not the denomination of the church that got me excited. It is what that church was boldly flying right down the front side of the church: a huge rainbow pride flag. Yes as in the one used to celebrate and uplift LGBTQ pride and equality.

Growing up in suburban South Carolina, religion is everywhere. It just sorta encompasses everything when you live in the Bible Belt. So much so that during college when I asked a friend from Pittsburgh what the major difference between Pittsburgh and Clemson was he chuckled before saying religion. When I asked him what he meant by that he said back home he knew which families were Italian, or Irish, or Polish. He then went on to say that here he knew who went to the Baptist church, who went to the Lutheran church, and who went to Newspring. Even though religion is everywhere, I am still often met with scoffs or raised eyebrows when I say I go to the same church I grew up in (maybe not as frequently as my pastor would like though).

Usually I am asked some sort of question along the lines of “Oh, I don’t know how you still go to church?” That question pains my soul, but it is often a reminder of just how broken the Christian Church is in the eyes of many people. Luckily, I have never been one of the people who has thought that, although I would be lying if I said I had not come close to believing it before. It just truly saddens me that something that is an integral part of so many people’s lives has become something that is exclusionary and hateful. If you have been paying attention to the news over the past several years, this should not come as a shock, though. Most Christian denominations have been wrestling with the topic of sexuality and how it fits in with the church.

The Lutheran church went through the debate several years ago about their position on human sexuality and LGBTQ clergy members. The largest Baptist church in my city actually left the Southern Baptist Convention over some of its more conservative views. Most recently, the Methodist church as a whole voted 53% in continuing to ban same-sex marriages and LGBTQ clergy members. This was just another disheartening example of why so many of my friends and so many LGBTQ people don’t consider themselves Christians or don’t attend church regularly. However, its not just queer people who aren’t going to church. Millennials are the first age group to see a huge decline in church membership and attendance; 59% of people aged 22-37 who were raised in the church have already left. I fall smack dab in the middle of the millennial age group and have heard from most of my non-church going friends they are immediately turned off by the cries of specific groups of people going to hell simply for loving some one of the same sex. Or for having sex in a loving committed relationship to someone you are not married to.

It was always hard to not take the comments about being hell-bound personally. I have been a lifetime member of my Church and some of my fondest memories revolve around the church. I even love the historic building its in. It has always felt like home. So to even consider a fact that an all knowing god created someone like me in his own image only to damn me to hell never made sense; and although I never truly believed that statement it lead to a lot of years of personal shame and feelings that I was somehow broken. I knew my family and how they would feel and I knew my church and how they would feel, but it didn’t matter. It still sowed the seeds of doubt in my mind about how God felt about me.

Although many people believe the Church is irreparably broken, I adamantly disagree with this. There are many Christian leaders who are leading the way for a more inclusive church – for all of God’s peoples. Two of my personal favorites are Nadia Bolz-Weber and John Pavlovitz. Quite frankly, I wish I was half the writer that John Pavlovitz in posts like this one about the Christian Left or half the speaker Nadia is in this video here. Seriously, how many times have you heard a pastor say something like “Blessed are the sex workers?” Although the voices of Bolz-Weber and Pavlovitz are not as loud as the modern day Pharisees (I’m looking at you Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, and all you other Pat Robertson groupies) they are the true followers of Jesus and eventually people will see that the Christian Church is a big-tent church.

It is not just individual leaders that are leading the way, either. Organizations like Reconciling Works is seeking to show the word that the church isn’t as broken as the megaphone wielding mega-churches seem to make it. The organizations mission states “Working at the intersection of oppressions, ReconcilingWorks embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. On their website, you can find welcoming churches that state on the church website plainly that all people are welcome and that their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, documentation status, sexuality, gender identity or employment status don’t matter to the church in any way. If you would like to find a church that is a Reconciling in Christ Church near you, please click here.

The road forward will not always be easy, but there is a way to help fix the church. That starts with calling out the wrongs that our church has done by many different oppressed groups of people and uplifting the work of churches that work every day to make sure every living soul has a seat at God’s table. Which is why it was so inspiring and heartwarming to see dozens and dozens of United Methodist churches here in America rebelling against the vote and vocally standing against the notion that some people are not worthy of God’s love. Hopefully, my church can work with their churches to show the world what the church truly is: God’s love.

On a personal note, my church recently made the decision to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation and I don’t think they will ever truly know what that has meant to me or the other LGBTQ members of the church. It moves me close to tears when I read in the Sunday bulletin the welcoming statement. To know that my church stands with me and many other “undesirables” and celebrates God’s love for ALL of us has been such a loving and humbling experience – for the most part. It would be dishonest of me to not acknowledge this did cause some discord in the church and we did lose members over the decision. Members I considered to be part of my family. That has been disappointing and very hurtful hurtful. It caused quite a few feelings: anger, betrayal, and sadness among them, but after much thought about it, I came to a realization that should have been apparent all along.

The epiphany that came to me was that by continuing to feel those feelings I was making it about me and not about the Church – because at the end of the day, it is clear what my reaction should be. It is perfectly alright for me to have those feelings, but with those feelings should come forgiveness. Because that is what the Lord gives to me for giving it. So although I won’t be perfect moving forward, and I am sure I will have feelings of disagreement about some Christians decisions, I am going to strive to keep moving forward, because the health of the Christian Church depends on it.

So in conclusion I have two things to say. First, If you live in the Upstate South Carolina area and you left the church because you felt like there was no place for you, I am sorry that happened. But more importantly, if you ever get to a place where you want or need to go back, reach out to me and I will take you to my church,* where you will be loved and welcomed while you are there. Just the way God would want it. Second, to those of you who left my church, stay in churches were not everyone is welcome, or continue to thing God excludes people I want you to know that although it saddens me, I wish you know hard feelings and I respect your right as a person to believe what you do. I hope your religious journey gives you what you need – truly I do. I simply and humbly disagree with you and I don’t think it will, because I believe that if I were to have lived in Jesus’ day and I knocked on his door, he would loving break bread with me and welcome me. And if you ever change your mind and start to believe that too, I” save you a seat at my church’s table. God’s Blessings to you all….

-WB

*I say church and not specific church because the views in this post are mine and mine alone and I do not wish to imply that my church does or does not agree with, endorse, or believe any of my own personal opinions.

Opened Eyes: Checking My Privilege to Experience Poverty

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the privilege that I was blessed/lucky enough to have been born into. If we are talking about winning the family lottery I came pretty close to winning the PowerBall. Being born male in an upper middle class stable family where I was raised by both my parents in an ultra-loving home has afforded me many experiences that were not afford to other people. When you add in the extra privilege that comes with being born white, I truly have lived a life that has given me significantly more than I deserve and significantly more than it has given to most people. I feel no need to apologize for this and I feel no shame at this either – I cannot help the family that I was born into. I feel no guilt in this either. I am active in my community and I have made it a point in my life to strive to always fight for social justice in my community when I see and read about things that aren’t socially just. So I am fully aware at how lucky and privileged I am; it is because of that privilege I want to write this – everyone should be able to be as lucky as I have been.

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If you do not understand the concept of privilege, the above quote should help. If you still do not understand privilege, please click here or here for further explanation.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has made it a cornerstone of its church message to be a message of Radical Inclusion and Radical Hospitality. As a lifelong member of Trinity Lutheran Church here in Greenville, I am filled with pride that my church has boldly taken on this message of inclusion and hospitality as something we stand behind and embrace wholeheartedly. As part of that radical inclusion, my church makes it clear that we are a church for all peoples. At the beginning of our church bulletin it states the following:

“We celebrate people of all races, cultures, genders, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, physical or mental abilities, socioeconomic statuses, appearances, family status, and citizenship as equally loved and valued in the eyes of God and in this place. All are invited to join this community as we worship God, grow in faith, and strive to love and serve one another.”

The amount of pride I feel romans-8-39in my church family for including these words in the welcome we extend to others cannot be stated enough. As a member of a community that is routinely cast out from churches, told they are not welcome, and that they are less than worthy of God’s love it has done so much for my relationship with God, but it has done a lot for other’s relationships as well. I have told many of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters that they should join me at church because the God I love created us all and that my church is great enough to recognize that by welcoming all into the fold. God is a shepherd of all sheep, even the rainbow sheep I joke! Because nothing, especially the way we are born can separate us from the unconditional love that is our God’s love.

As part of the radical hospitality aspect of the ELCA teaching and practices, this evening my church participated in a poverty and homelessness simulation that was facilitated by Beth Templeton with the organization Our Eyes Were Opened. I can tell you as one of the about 100 members of my church who participated that the organization truly lives up to its name. My eyes were opened. I know there is poverty all around me in this great city I call home. I know about the unseen Greenville. I teach at a school were 85% of my students would be considered as living below the poverty line. With that said I have never experienced it firsthand for myself. I have never felt the fear and helplessness that come with poverty. This simulation is as close as I have come to feeling those feelings first hand; and if the feelings I experienced this evening are anything close to the real feelings that my students or neighbors experience on a regular basis I will pray to God this evening and all my future evenings on this Earth I never have to experience that in real life. I will pray to God that my students and neighbors are lifted up and out of poverty. And I will pray to God that he show me a way to be more hospitable, less quick to rush to judgement, and help me find a way to help my students and neighbors in Christ out of poverty as well.

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One out of every 4 children in the United States lives in a food insecure household. Food insecurity is the state of being without a reliable source of affordable food on a regular basis.

In the scenario we were divided up into different “families” or “households” as we worked our way through a month of time in the scenario. Each week during the month last about 15-20 minutes. During the scenario I was with two fellow church members. Our back story was I was a 21-year-old community college student. My other group members were 13-year-old twin sisters. We had a teddy bear who played our 3-year-old younger brother. Our father was incarcerated so I was the technical head of the household. We were given some money (not nearly enough) and a list of expenses for each week before the scenario started. In order to not give away too much of the scenario – because I cannot stress enough how much you should all look into taking it – I will leave a lot of the details of the scenario under wraps. I am going to tell you how it felt.

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18.4% of Greenville residents with income live below the poverty level. 64.8% of those same households have children under the age of 18.

Once we read through our scenario, I felt relieved, but still slightly nervous. Because all three of my siblings were in child care, I knew they would have a safe spot (school) to go during the week. I was also thankful that our rent had already been paid for the month. If we had to pay our rent I know we would have ended up homeless because it would not have been possible. I had a spirit of determination to make it through this simulation. That spirit of determination all but dissipated by the end of week 1. In the first week in order for us to eat I pawned both our television and stereo system. I had some money left over, but it was not enough to pay any of the variety of monthly bills we had to pay. I did not attend community college at all during the first week because I thought it was more important to please my inner fat girl than my inner college professor.

Week 2 I found some religious organizations that were able to help out my family some and I was able to pay a few bills. I was starting to think we might make it to the end of the month. When I arrived home at the end of the week, one of my siblings was arrested and sent to juvenile hall and I had an unexpected bill waiting on us. At this point I cried for the first time during the simulation. I thought I was doing pretty good because I had managed to buy food once again. There was so much happening and I had no clue where to turn for help or what I should do first. I like being in control of my own choices and at this point I was not in control of just about anything. Just like week 1,I did not attend community college in week 2.

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48% of Greenville County School District Students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

Week 3 of the simulation was interesting because it was a school holiday all week. I had to figure out what to do with my teenaged twin sisters and 3-year-old brother. I chose to take my brother with me and leave my sisters alone at home. This was the first week I figured out the nightmare of going through the process of applying for government assistance. It took forever to go through the line, fill out the paperwork, and wait my turn. Luckily I was approved for an EBT card (food stamps). I stopped sweating for a minute to buy food for the week and pay one more bill. At the end of the week I returned home and sat down to rest for a few brief moments before horror set in. I had left my younger brother at the Social Services office. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen news stories like these on the news and I have been quick to rush and pass judgement on these people. I was filled with a sense of shame. I was capable of forgetting something so important that I would never do in real life – I was no different from those parents on the news. And since I am sure you were wondering: I didn’t go to community college this week either.

As week 4 got under way I was determined to get everything done. I paid one bill and I used our EBT card to by more food. Since this was the last week of the month and I saw we had money left on our EBT card I started to think: I should trade what is left on our card for money so I can use that to pay bills. Something that is technically against the law because it is fraud came to mind as the perfect solution. I did not even think twice about whether or not to do it. I just tried to find someone to buy my card. If it came between me and my family losing our electricity and potentially our home then dammit I am selling that piece of plastic. I couldn’t find anyone to buy the card so the last week of the month I guess we would have lost our electricity. I guess at the end of the day we didn’t really need the electricity because I don’t need to see my community college textbooks since I did not go to class this week either.

As I look back over this activity and reflect on my own thoughts and feelings a few things stick out to me  For the sake of brevity I am simply going to list them below:

  1. If you leave near, at, or below the poverty line you need to be real good at planning. If you are not one of those people who has the skills it takes to sit down and plan out what you are going to pay each week of the month at the beginning of the month you are going to find living super difficult.
  2. Don’t rush to pass judgement on government workers. During the simulation the people in the roles of government workers did not look me in the eye once. Their tone was harsh and cold. Their answers were not helpful in directing me where to go next. However, during the discussion the facilitator raised an excellent point. These workers see the same heartbreaking stories over and over and over again. Day in and day out. At some point you have to close off that piece of caring you have for the survival of your soul. If I worked in a job were I had to look teenaged mothers in the face and tell them there was nothing I can do to help them every day I would have to do the same thing those government workers do.
  3. Acknowledge your privilege. Most of “us” do not see poverty because most of you reading this will be living lives well above the poverty line. I had no idea the poverty line among our students and children was so high until I started working at Southside and did my own research. Most of also don’t see poverty because people surround themselves with people who look, act, think, work, and live like themselves. 90% of the people reading this will be white (my estimation – not scientific), but the people living below the poverty are disproportionately people of minority communities, people who are disabled, and people who are victims of violence, abuse, or sexual assault. People who are different from you. Open yourselves to these people and help them – because you will also help yourself.
  4. We need usury laws in South Carolina. In the State of South Carolina, when you go to get a cash advance or cash a check any of those lending places you go to can charge whatever percent they want. There is no limit. The fact that some of these shady cash advances places take advantage of those among us who need the most help is both disgusting and needs to change. Now.
  5. Stop the “They need to get jobs!” Narrative. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people exclaim that those on government assistance need to get off their asses and find work. Politicians in this very state have likened people receiving welfare to feeding stray animals.
  6. We can make our society better by loving our neighbors – all of them.  During the simulation small little things stuck out to me. Even as my family was struggling to make ends meet I still found myself listening in to other people’s conversations with workers and organizations who were supposed to help lift people out of poverty and offering them my own advice when they got no answers to their questions. Twice during the simulation different people gave me money for bus transportation. And during the last week of the simulation I made eye contact with the pawn shop lady. I am pretty sure she offered my a second amount that was higher than what she originally offered me because she knew I was about to burst into tears.

If we loved our neighbors like we loved ourselves, our city would be a much better place.

Our state would be a much better place.

Our Nation would be a much better place.

Our world would be a much better place.

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It would be a place where there would be no judgement of our neighbors perceived laziness and inability to work.

A place where there would be no hatred of social workers who have one of the toughest jobs around.

It would be a place where children wouldn’t have to skip school or community college to put food on the table for their siblings.

It would be a place full of love and devoid of poverty – and that is the kind of place I want to live. Hopefully, you do as well.

-WB

 

 

 

Unified for America

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This morning I decided to end my Spring Break with a little bit of politics. While most people would rather jump of a cliff than deal with politics and our politicians in our daily lives – especially with how divisive we have become as a society – I will always say how important it is for us to engage – now more than ever – with one another so we can keep going forward. Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Nation, written by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and outgoing South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy is a book I can truly get behind. I personally have not voted for Senator Scott and I most definitely have not voted for Representative Gowdy; however, I support the meaning behind this book – which is why I went to Fiction Addiction this morning to pick up a copy and to have my copy signed by both men.

Unified allows Senator Scott and Congressman Gowdy, to use honesty and vulnerability to  inspire others to evaluate their own stories, clean the slate, and extend a hand of friendship that can change our churches, our communities, our state, and our nation by showing us something we all to often forget – that we have more in common that unites us than we do that divides us. Throughout the entire book they discuss different views that each holds – everything from a black man who was raised in the south’s views on law enforcement to a white son of a doctor former prosecutor man’s views on law enforcement. While discussing that and a host of other issues the overall theme of trusting and loving our neighbor comes back to the surface over and over again. I have not yet finished reading the book, but I firmly believe this to be why we are so divided right now: we all won’t to make this country better so badly, that we have forgotten that sometimes our view may not be the right view or the only view. We forget much too quickly and are much too dismissive of the “enemy” and “their view” that they want this country to be everything that it can be as well; they just want to go about doing that a different way.

 

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My copy of Unified, signed by both Senator Scott and Congressman Gowdy. I have got to figure out a way to make my signature look as cool and simple as these two signatures.

I am sure many of you rolled your eyes after that last paragraph or possibly muttered “yeah, right!” under your breath and that is ok. You do not have to believe me, even as I myself and so many others know this to be true. How do I know this? It is simple. While waiting in line this morning I lived it and I observed it with my own two eyes. Living through an experience whether it relates to this or something completely different has the power to change a person’s perspective on a litany of issues. Seeing, hearing, touching, and using whatever the last two senses I can’t remember, are the number one way for people to say or remember something as true. We place importance on direct personal experiences, and as I stood in line with my Nana and my aunt Cathy this morning, my personal experience with a bunch of people I probably do not agree with on a whole lot was nothing but pleasant, happy, and up-lifting.

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In the process of getting my book signed. Shoutout to the lavender staffer who looks like he is shooting laser beams from his eyes at my Nana for taking the picture. 

I got in line about 9:45 this morning. The signing did not start until about 10:30. As I pulled up I was not surprised by the people I saw in line. I may be slightly stereotypical in pointing this out, but I feel it will make my overall message more poignant. The crowd was overwhelmingly white. I do not recall seeing any POC other than the Senator. The crowd was also on the older end of the spectrum. I chuckled as I scoped out the younger end of the spectrum. Yes, most of them did have on cowboy boots and camouflage attire. As I suppressed a smile and stepped into the back of the line with my grandmother and my aunt I silently cursed at myself for not remembering to bring my Apple AirPods with me so I would have some music to listen to. If I was going to be stuck listening to people talk about their hatred of my girl HRC or the first man I was able to help change history with by electing him President of the United States than at least I could try to drown it out with some good Beyoncé tunes. Turns out I did not need any of that at all.

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Shoutout to my new friend Susan in the Navy and Gold Hoodie on the left hand side of this picture. She has one son in the Air Force flying F-16s and another son in the Navy as well. Shoutout to Susan’s awesome sons for their service. I hope they enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed waiting in line with their mom who was having 5 copies signed. 

I did not need to pretend to talk on my phone or my headphones to listen to music because I actually enjoyed waiting in line with these people today. What did we talk about? Yes, we talked about politics some – everyone (myself included) stuck to surface level topics and discussions. There was no mention of Roe v. Wade or Russian Collusion, or anything like that. It mainly was what we liked or did not like about politics in general. More than that though we talked about our daily lives and what we ended up having in common that we would not have known other wise. Turns out my friend in line behind me really enjoys the ABC show Designated Survivor. I told her that I also enjoyed watching that with my dad sometimes. My new friend Susan (I point her out in the picture above) has two children serving in the military. She was wearing a Navy Sweatshirt so after thanking her for both her children’s sacrifice as well as her family’s sacrifice I told her about my love of the tradition on the pomp & circumstance of the Army – Navy Game. She smiled as she told me about attending one of the games. I even found some fellow Clemson fans and I told them how exciting it was to attend the National Championship Game both the time we lost AND the time we won (Shout out to my Tigers – All in Always!).

 

As I started to read the book this afternoon something dawned on me. Those people in line this morning were no different from me. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. They are sons and daughters. They are neighbors who went to USC. They are friends who went to Clemson. They are our church family members who didn’t go to college at all, or they could even be our neighbors who go to a synagogue or a mosque or a temple instead of a church. They are people who like watching Designated Survivor, people who like watching HG TV, or people who don’t have or believe in cable. Some are even like me and mooch all of those things off of their parent’s charter subscription (thanks mom and dad!). At the end of the day, however, they are people who want a few things that are all in common. They all want the best for their family and friends. They all want their children (if they have them) to have more opportunities than they did. They all want America to succeed. And lastly, but certainly one of more important things I discovered, they all want to leave this world better than they found it.

I may never see Susan or the other great people I met standing in line again and that is ok. Hopefully I left them with the same view they left me with. “The Other Side” is not as scary or different as they originally seem. Hopefully she goes home and tells her two sons “I met the nicest guy standing in line today. And he was a democrat!” in the same way that I respectfully write about her for this blog. Even though I may never see some of those fine people again, and even though we probably would not agree on the right course of action for our nation going forward, I believe she wants what is best for us all. Hopefully she believes the same about me. Hopefully, Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy can help us all realize this. Hopefully, we will all remember that we will ALWAYS have more that UNITES us than we have that DIVIDES us.

Happy Saturday, y’all. Go outside barefoot and thank your stars we live where we do. Both sides of the aisle just might remember a little bit more if you do.

WB

“Christ has Triumphed! He is Living!”

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As I get older I have noticed a changing of a myriad of  personal views, opinions, beliefs, thoughts, hopes, and dreams that I thought were concretely in the category of “resolute beliefs. For example, in high school I was voted “Most Dramatic” during my senior year for the yearbook’s senior superlatives.

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I know. I was just as cute in high school as I am now. Megan VanGeison hope you are well if you read this!

Based on the picture I should have been given the superlative “Most likely to wear a T-Shirt that is 3 sizes too big, but I guess they skipped that one my senior year. Today my involvement in drama has changed: I still have a flair for dramatics – it makes life more interesting – but the idea of being involved in negative drama is just not interesting to me in the slightest. Negative drama makes that pit we all have in our stomachs seems like a black hole of misery if I am involved. Without the experiences in my life that led me up to this point, I could still be that dramatic high school kid. Thankfully, I am not.

At least I think I am not….

Most Days….

Whatever! I am a work in progress, get over it. Go throw stones at your own house or whatever that stupid expression is.

One of the things that is constantly changing in my head is my view on the universe and the all-encompassing connectivity of everything. Although I want to punch those little creepy anamatronic-robots on the Disney World ride in the face because that song is so obnoxious, I think it speaks directly to this. Our world is a small place in the grand design. Whether you choose to believe there is an omnipotent being somewhere who knows what she is doing (religious), choose to believe in science, choose to believe in the magic eight ball, or even the flying spaghetti monster, most of us will admit that throughout life each of us has those moments where we feel something would happen no matter what previous experiences or decisions we faced. Call it your gut, intuition, karma, or juju (my preferred term for it). We all know it and have experienced it.

One way that I have continued to be shocked by this juju is in church. I have only ever regularly gone to two churches in my life. I have been a lifetime member of one, and the other I attended while I was at Clemson. Although I have not gone to either of those churches as regularly lately as I should or would have liked to, one thing that shocks me every time I go to church (no matter if it is one of those two churches or a different one I am visiting) after a long absence is just how directly the message relates to my life at that moment. It is almost like the church is speaking directly to me. I can feel it acknowledging the burdens I am bringing with me and offering up a song, a sermon, or a reading as if to say “Here. I know you are upset. I hope this helps.”

It has happened numerous times in my life; often it usually occurs around a stressful time or event that I am busy stewing over. It happened yesterday, but the most recent memorable time before that would have been on Wednesday November 9, 2016. I was stunned and still shell-shocked by the results of the election; in an effort to not lose hope I made the decision to go to my church’s Wednesday evening prayer service. The positive juju I received that evening was so perfect for what I needed that I do not even have a word for how similar it was I wanted to hear. Before the service started, my pastor came over and she hugged me and we talked for a few moments. I will keep what said to myself, and she will never know how much that meant to me in that moment – and it was exactly what I needed in that moment. During the service I was able to pray and put my doubt and sadness aside. I left feeling rejuvenated. When I got home, I got online and had a second church service reading Pastor John Pavlovitz’s Stuff that Needs to be Said blog post about the election. Titled “Here is Why we Grieve Today” it summed up my feelings and gave me a sense of peace.

This past Sunday gave me those same feelings once again. Having chosen sleep over salvation for the past several Sundays I had a lot on my plate and donned a cute Easter outfit and went to church. I was late to church, and not in the best mood, this time of year is busy – being a teacher and trying to make it to Spring Break, worrying about doing my taxes, the health of a friend, and stressing over my life had me all in knots. Once again, the message felt like it was directed towards me. During the sermon every issue I was worrying about was directly address and I was given an answer (This is where Hermione Granger would raise her hand and shout “Jesus!” if we were at Hogwarts). We sang Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds, one of my favorite hymns. I spent the day enjoying brunch with family. I went outside barefoot and threw the ball in the yard for Humphrey. I binge-watched Netflix. The universe once again told me to relax.

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Don’t even try to argue. My dog is cuter than your dog. Or your kid for that matter. 

Upon reflection, yesterday reminded me so much of why I love Easter and why I love Spring. Just like Easter, Spring is a period of rebirth. Everything is renewed – from fresh leaves and blooms on trees and flowers to teachers and students feeling rested over their much-anticipated Spring Breaks. Even the much dreaded Spring Cleaning that some of us do is a time for us to unclutter ourselves of things we no longer need and give us much-needed space, openness, and organization.

For those of us who are Christian, there is a reason Easter and Spring go hand in hand. For those who are not Christian, Spring is still an important time of year – whether you are religious or not. Many other religions have important days in spring. In the Jewish faith Passover is often aligned with Easter in terms of date. Holi is an important religious festival celebrated by Hindus and other Indians around the world. Even the Chinese New Year typically falls in the early days of Spring. Many secular events and festivals bring in the Springtime. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is a great example.martinluther1-2x

Instead of doing Spring Cleaning in the literal sense (not being able to afford housing has one perk I guess), I plan on doing some spring cleaning in the figurative sense. I make no promises that I will be successful, but I am going to work on embracing the five things that I think Spring is.

  • Spring is Hope→ for me, my future, and my journey in life.
  • Spring is a Renewal→  of mind, body, and attitude.
  • Spring is a Rebirth→ of positive thoughts, and the literal world around us.
  • Spring is a Forgiveness→  of anger, despair, and loss.
  • Spring is a Promise→ of the resurrection, of something more, and of seeing my Papa again.

My Springtime prayer is that I accomplish embracing these things. If I am successful, this Spring and all the Springs that I am lucky enough to experience in the future will be just as magical as I imagine them to be. If I am not successful that too will be ok – because I will have Spring 2019 to look forward to. And I can start the Springtime renewal all over again.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring my friends. May yours be as hopeful for you as I am for mine.

-WB