Creating Connections in the Chaos: A Mother’s Day Reflection

This morning I was at a cafe getting some work done while my four-month-old daughter Marina Lynn was sitting beside me in her stroller. When her smiling and cooing turned to fidgeting and crying, I picked her up out of the stroller and started to pace around in the cafe. Two women caught our attention. “We’re grandmothers” one said.

“She’s gorgeous!” exclaimed the other  “I don’t suppose you’d let us hold her while you finish up your work.” 

“Actually,” I said, “I would love it,” and I plopped Marina into their laps and hurried back to what I was doing. 

I listened with one ear as they doted over her, and I finished up my emails as quickly as I could. When it was time to go, one of the grandmothers looked at me, teary eyed and said “I know old people say this all the time, but enjoy every minute. It goes by so, so fast.” 

I recognize there are problems with that statement. One does not enjoy every moment of parenting. I did not enjoy it when one of my older children learned to remove his diaper and “made a mess” in his room (I promise you, whatever “mess” you are imagining, the reality was worse). I did not enjoy the dry heaves and vomiting when I was pregnant with Marina Lynn. I do not enjoy trying to balance the pressures of work and writing and parenting. I do not enjoy having to apologize when my child causes someone to trip in the grocery store because he’s not watching where he’s going. And so when these two grandmothers told me to “enjoy every minute,” it would have been tempting to say, “Yeah right! You forgot how it really is!” but instead I said, “You’re right,” because they are. 

Whether we enjoy it or not, these years will fly by. Our children are four months old. We blink and they are four years old. We blink again and they’re fourteen. Blink one more time, and our children are having their own children. I know this is true because I have experienced it myself, and because my elders have told me it is so. 

So how will we live out these precious few years we’ve been given? I’m a strong believer in tradition and ceremony. We ought to try and make these days count. My book Faithful Families is an attempt to create sacred moments at home. In between the chaos of daily living we can carve out moments of connection. A prayer here, a ceremony there.  Mother’s Day is coming up soon, and many of us will shower our mothers with candy and cards. There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, my suspicion is that many of the mothers you know are longing for something deeper than this. We’re longing for connection. We want our days to count. We know they’ll be gone too soon. 

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Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home is a book of simple practices designed for mothers (and fathers) who want to create meaningful connections with their children. On this Mother’s Day, our gift to you is the gift of gratitude. Download the free gratitude practice, below, and enjoy these moments, fleeting though they may be.

Traci Smith is the author of two books with Chalice Press, Faithful Families (formerly Seamless Faith) and Fellowship of Prayer (2015), and a contributor to Out of the Deep: Pastoring in Creative Space. Traci has a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and is pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her husband and children.


An Appeal to the Methodist Council to Defer Action on Bishop Oliveto’s Case

By Rev. Frank Schaefer

On this day deliberations have begun by the highest United Methodist judicial body (Judicial Council) whether our first openly gay bishop, Karen Oliveto, can remain in office after being elected and consecrated less than a year ago.

My thoughts and prayers are especially with Bishop Oliveto, as I personally know what it’s like to face the possible loss of your career in front of the Judicial Council. I remember going before this body just two years ago knowing that not only my personal career was at stake, but the fate of so many LGBTQ members including my three gay children. When the ruling came out that I would not be defrocked again, I counted it a victory for the LGBTQ community as much as a personal victory. That was a good day. I was certainly not ready to face another defrocking—an experience I have described with intimate details in my book Defrocked published by Chalice Press.

Our beloved United Methodist Church has been stuck at an impasse over this for many years and show-downs like this are becoming more frequent and more intense. Representatives on both sides of the issue are aware of just how high the stakes are. The biggest fear, which appears to become more real with every show-down is that our denomination could split, splinter and become irrelevant.

I do realize that there there are two sides of course. No matter what the Judicial Council decides, there will be grief. I do realize that the church law, as currently written, forbids the ordination of openly gay persons in relationships (“self-avowed, practicing homosexuals”).

However, it should be clear to everybody after General Conference 2016 that our Conference Delegates have acknowledged that the United Methodist Church is divided over the human sexuality doctrine as currently written. General Conference 2016 voted to authorize the council of bishops to put into place a special commission to determine a way forward.

In my opinion, as long as there is official debate on this doctrinal issue, the Judicial Council should not make a drastic decision. While I personally long for the Council to affirm the election of Bishop Oliveto, I think the wisest outcome of this hearing–given the ongoing Way Forward process–would be to defer action.

I appeal to our Judicial Council to please consider deciding this way. And should a decision be made to defer action, I also appeal to the entire body of our denomination to embrace this ruling. May God be with us in these times of struggle!

For news of the Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri, see here.

Frank Schaefer is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. He is married to Brigitte and has four children. He was educated at Princeton Theological Seminary. In 2013, Frank Schaefer was tried by a United Methodist court for officiating his son’s same-sex marriage and was defrocked over his refusal to uphold the Book of Discipline, which meant virtually to denounce gay marriage rights. In June 2014, a regional appeals committee decided to reinstate him as a minister; in October 2014, the highest court of the United Methodist Church upheld that reinstatement. Now leading a United Methodist campus ministry in California, he is a speaker and human-rights activist.

Order your copy of Defrocked: How a Father’s Act of Love Shook the Methodist Church here.

Pearl Harbor, Heart Mountain

A pleasant sunny, muggy Hawaiian morning that smelled of seawater and steel.

A miserable blustery, rainy Wyoming afternoon that smelled of snow and mud.

One caused the other. And it could happen again.

Two summers ago, my family visited Pearl Harbor, just west of Honolulu. We’ve all read about the infamous attack time and time again, and I knew a lot about Pearl Harbor. I could name all the battleships on Battlefield Row, knew the timelines, and understood the multipronged attack that lured the United States into World War II. When I stood on the USS Arizona Memorial, gazing at the ghostlike shell of a ship just below the water, when my 5-year-old daughter spotted oil rainbows in the water, I could, for a moment, hear the explosions and the planes and the screams of pain and death and smell the smoke and the blood. When the attack ended, 2,471 American servicemen and civilians had died, another 1,213 were wounded, and Pearl Harbor had become a national shrine for the American fallen of all our wars.

The flag over the USS Arizona Memorial, June 2015. Photo by Brad Lyons
The flag over the USS Arizona Memorial, June 2015. Photo by Brad Lyons

Then, this past October, I visited Heart Mountain Relocation Center, between Cody and Powell in northwestern Wyoming. Built in the months after Pearl Harbor, during the desperate first months of a war we were losing, Heart Mountain detained almost 14,000 Japanese Americans during its more than three years of operation. A shameful part of American history, these Americans weren’t given the option to relocate to Heart Mountain or the other relocation centers scattered across the western half of the country. They were forcibly moved. The centers provided some measure of home; students continued their education, a hospital offered medical care, and semblances of community such as a camp newspaper and dances were allowed. But the 650 barracks were abysmal, the camp prisonlike. The early winter weather the day I visited made it far too easy to imagine the Wyoming wind tearing through the cracks in the poorly built barracks far too easy. Residents had some freedom within the walls, but let there be no doubt: those residents were interred, held against their will.

Barracks and chimney, Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming. Photo by Brad Lyons
Barracks and chimney, Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming. Photo by Brad Lyons

Just as there’s not much of the devastation left at Pearl Harbor, there’s not much of Heart Mountain left, either. A guard tower stands near the highway turnoff, and there are a few old barracks, the hospital’s chimney, and a short footpath with plaques detailing life at the camp. When the camps closed in the months following the V-J Day, most Americans went on as though internment had never happened. Most of the Heart Mountain camp has been erased from existence, and I assure you I never learned about internment in history classes.

Pearl Harbor caused Heart Mountain.

And if we’re not careful, the ongoing persecution of Islamic Americans may yet cause another roundup of Americans who look different from those in power, who have beliefs different from the majority of Americans (or, more likely, a vocal minority) but who still share a belief in justice and equality and freedom. That another Heart Mountain could possibly occur, unthinkable not too long ago, is a horrifying shift in American politics. In these xenophobic times, it is our obligation as people of faith, as people urged to love the strangers among us, as people who follow Jesus who was a refugee as a child and oppressed and executed by a foreign empire, to keep that from happening again.

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Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Black Friday – Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday

This summer I attended a trade show for Christian publishers and retailers. When I entered the display floor, I was amazed – and, frankly, appalled – at the size and expense of some of the displays. Convention floor space is never cheap, and displays are ridiculously expensive. Lots and lots of marketing dollars were being spent in that display hall on what struck me as frivolous, wasteful spending.

Then I realized: The big spenders were for-profit publishers trying to make money for investors. And the idea that people are making money off of other people’s faith turned my stomach a bit. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and the moneychangers.

CBP/Chalice Press is different. We are a non-profit corporation, a charity, a ministry. Our revenues are reinvested into our company, our products, and our employees. We have no stockholders to satisfy. Giving Tuesday: November 29, 2016

Though we are affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we do not receive one copper penny of financial support from the denomination. We do not approach congregations, organizations, or individuals for donations. We make nearly all of our money from selling our products and services.

Today, Giving Tuesday, is the only time this year we will ask you to consider making a tax-deductible gift to support our ministry. Every dime you give goes directly to the development, publication, and distribution of resources that invite all people into deeper relationship with God, equip them as disciples of Jesus Christ, and send them into ministry as the Spirit calls them. We are careful and accountable stewards of financial resources in our care. You may find many details about our governance and management at guidestar.org.

More than that, we believe now more than ever that progressive Christians need to have a voice in society’s heated discussions on inclusion, privilege, race, gender identity, and multifaith cooperation. We want to proclaim the messages of 21st-century prophets to a broken world desperate for good news.

This ministry depends financially on the people and congregations who buy what we publish and the donors who believe in what we do. This work depends on you.

You can donate through ChalicePress.com, either directly or when you make a purchase. You can also choose to mail a donation to CBP/Chalice Press, 483 E Lockwood Avenue, Suite 100, St. Louis, MO 63119.

We are grateful for the work we do, the people we work with, and the customers we serve. Thank you for your support.

Thankfully,
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Brad Lyons
President and Publisher

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Sitting In Between: Community during Crisis

Last Friday night, Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer. On Sunday morning, we sat in worship. On Monday afternoon, there were press conferences and video. And questions, still: What if? Where was? Who should? Why don’t? When will?

And in between? Sitting there – at home, in worship, in my office – in between Friday and Monday, all I could think was: It’s really quiet.

And maybe it should be. Maybe … before we run the compassion gauntlet in an effort to be the first to speak, the definitive word, the declarative voice, the One Who Will Be Heard … maybe we should be quiet, at least for a minute.

Maybe, when it is not our experience, when we do not entirely know, when we cannot even imagine, maybe sitting and being quiet and listening to the voices that need to rise, that come in pain, that wail in agony, that cry out for understanding – from every direction and every place … maybe THAT is where God’s voice can be most clearly heard.

… something is very, very wrong: And if it’s wrong for one of us, then it’s wrong for all of us. – says the pastor
… This beautiful child just told me that he skips and smiles while he is walking home so that he will look less threatening to [white] people. – says the mother
… It hurts my heart more than yours when you accuse me of anything less than simply wanting to make sure my words are articulate, and accurate when using them. – says the officer
… There is simply no easy fix to be found here; there is just challenging and uncomfortable and deeply important work that we must engage in to build a better Tulsa for ourselves and for our children. I believe in Tulsa. – says the educator

And after Friday night, and Sunday morning, and Monday afternoon: On Wednesday evening, sitting in between colleagues and friends and strangers of every tradition, and neighborhood, and hue … maybe it was good to listen some more to the songs sung and prayers prayed and challenges issued and laments shouted and mourned. Sitting in between those hundreds of people, in the beautiful worship center at Metropolitan Baptist Church, it was not hard to hear: but it was terribly hard to listen. And painful to listen. And heartbreaking to listen. And for many, it has probably been heart-hardening to listen.

It is not, as some have suggested (particularly in comparison to Charlotte this week), that Tulsa is ‘better’ or ‘doing it right.” We  are doing it how we do it. We build relationships in between so that when the time comes – even when the time comes too often, and far more often than we would like – when the time comes to sit and be together, we can sit and be together. We hate to have to keep showing up to mourn, but we are honored to keep showing up for our friends and our neighbors and our leaders and our children and our communities. To advocate for change; to commit again (and again and again and as many agains as we need) to be new and renewed in our hope; to mourn with those who mourn and to let that mourning come. Maybe that seems too little, but it can never be too late.

Maybe it is wise for us to practice the discipline of a Holy Saturday … that sitting, and waiting, in between the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is NOT inaction. It is active listening. It is intently considering what WE are NOT saying. Maybe it is in that silence … when we don’t know what to say, and when we shouldn’t be the ones saying it anyway … maybe that is where God is most readily heard: in the cries of God’s people, in the stones crying out: That we might hear, and listen, and THEN act, and be most faithful.

Courtney Richards is the Connections Pastor at Harvard Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tulsa, Okla., and the co-editor of It’s Not All About You: Young Adults Seeking Justice (2012, Chalice Press).

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Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

“The weed of racism still grows”

“Racism is real; racism is sin; and racism is really, really tough. If we’re going to get beyond it, none of us gets to sit on the sidelines.”

Sharon Watkins, author of Whole: A Call to Unity in Our Fragmented World, gave an unflinching sermon on racism in 2016 and the church’s role in eradicating racism but also in creating an environment that will lead to reconciliation. A summary of her remarks at Phillips Theological Seminary’s Remind and Renew are posted on Disciples.org, and a link to an audio recording is available here. Take the time not only to hear the words but to understand the message.

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Remind and Renew 2016: Leah Gunning Francis

Closing Phillips Theological Seminary’s Remind and Renew was Leah Gunning Francis, author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community. Currently on the faculty at Eden Theological Seminary, Francis brings her intimate perspective on the protests in Ferguson, Mo., sparked by the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014 and the subsequent protests and legal (in)actions in the case. She was on the frontlines in the protests and interviewed dozens of other leaders to collect their perspectives on what worked, what didn’t, and what others can do to react to the next Ferguson – because, as she often says, “There is a Ferguson near you.”

  • “[Clergy] were not there to be the leaders … but rather to enter this space the young activists had already claimed and to go stand beside, stand with, to listen, to learn, to offer all kinds of support.”
  • Given the racism originally built into the Constitution: “Every time you hear the phrase ‘constitutional rights’… you should shudder.”
  • “The call for the church to wake up and stay awake – or as the hashtag says, “#staywoke –still resounds loudly today.”
  • It’s not enough to merely think racism exists; we have to heighten our awareness of the way it exists and lives and thrives.
  • “[Racism is] alive anytime you hear the word thug. It’s alive anytime you hear somebody say of an 18-year-old ‘he’s just a criminal.’”
  • “We’ve got to change the narrative. It’s killing us – never mind the emotional and spiritual damage it’s doing – it’s killing us.”
  • On who needs to be at the table when discussion dismantling racism: “The only time I’ve ever seen a black mother on television [talking about racism and justice] is after her child has been killed.”
  • “We’re going to have to listen to the voices that have been left out and marginalized. We’re going to have to be willing to believe the stories, the narratives, of the people who have been most deeply affected.”
  • Framing our perception of racism in the five senses: “We have to be willing to taste the bitter dregs of discomfort. [Protest] is not going to taste good in your mouth.”
  • “The truth is, there are untold numbers of people living and breathing and alert today who not only have very vivid memories of those kinds of acts and worse – but [those] who also instigated them and orchestrated them. We’ve got to own that and confront that.”
  • “I wish you could hear the stories of every black man in this country because I haven’t met one yet who does not have some very explicit life altering story [of institutional racism].”

On this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 2016, following yet another violent year that included the horrifying Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre and Bree Newsome scaling a flagpole to tear down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state capitol, with both the realization that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is here to stay and that thinly veiled racism is part of the national political scene, I hope we discover new ways we (individually and collectively) can tear down racism, how we can reach out to those on the margins and to the oppressed, and how we can fulfill the visions of Dr. King, Jesus, and the other peacemakers who inspire us to make the world a better place — and then I hope we will move beyond talking about it and actually do it. It’s up to us.

Thanks,
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Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Remind and Renew 2016: Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins

Friday I posted excerpts of William J. Barber II’s address to the Remind and Renew Conference. Now comes a great article from the Tulsa World covering Wednesday night’s sermon by Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)*. The lead paragraph by reporter Bill Sherman:

“Racism in America is real. It is sin. And it will be tough to eradicate. “

On both the World’s webpage and our sharing of the article on Facebook, the article has prompted comments-section trolling, showing how deeply challenging any discussion on racism is and how deeply people’s beliefs and misconceptions are rooted.

What do you think of Watkins’ comments? Try not to troll. 🙂

Thanks,
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*CBP/Chalice Press is an autonomous general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.