Brothel or Bethel

For a church’s leadership to allow photography in God’s house, shamelessly capturing snapshots of people in their moments of worship and prayer, filling media accounts with precious junctures of heaven and earth, is for a man to allow his son to peer into his daughters room, violate her privacy and snap photographs of intimacy.

What the Patriarchy has done to the “bride of Christ” is nothing short of prostitution. She stands adorned with merch tables and souvenir stands while her insides rot from cancerous behaviors.

Must she be riddled with chaos and diagnosed with disease before we are willing to shave our heads in solidarity of restoring her health?

We say we love the church, yet few are willing to defend her honor; few are willing to stand up to the bullies and cowards in leadership, the opportunists posed as pastors, and the business men marauding as elders.

Where the previous matriarchs have been preoccupied with positional power, the new matriarchs are vigilant and paying attention.

Where the previous matriarchs have been passive and silent, the new matriarchs have identified their voice and are willing to use it.

The new matriarch possesses heart like a mama bear. She loves the church so much she is willing to risk losing everything to defend her.

There is fresh air amidst us.

Some are choking because it is disruptive to their agenda, but those who love deeply and selflessly will embrace the winds of change and find the strength and courage to face dysfunction and seek treatment.

When you have endured much, there is no fear in the labors necessary for restoring health. But those who sit as fine china on a shelf, insulated from harm and preserved in their self-righteousness, those who remain unresponsive to the cries around them, will stand paralyzed with fear. They are the ones whose reputation is on the line, the ones whose fear of breaking for something or shattering for someone, have kept them from administering the care that could have contributed to the health of the church.

Not many women choose a matriarchal presence within their family. Not many women have shaved their heads in solidarity of another’s burden. Not many women understand what ferocious nurture looks like. But birthed out of that deep place within a mother’s heart is the vigilance to pay closer attention and the courage to endure the necessary treatment.  And some of these ferocious nurturers have had enough of what the patriarchy and its agenda has done to the church. She is not a  circus side-show tent; she is not a prostitute- willing to put out for a small donation. She is a bride. And her mothers have failed her.

The new matriarch is already here. She is speaking and she is proclaiming there is work to do.

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Her Feelings Matter

The spirit of fall is flitting about, whisking past fallen leaveswhile a glowing sun begins to set. The road to Fernan Lake winds slowly and quietlythrough a quaint, elderly neighborhood of ranch style homes. A seasonal flag hangingnear the front door, neatly cut lawns, and post office boxes reserved for thelocal newspaper whisper of a mature, unhurried way of life. Feeling nostalgic and full of respect, I let up on the gas, easing past Fernan Village. A cluster of trees break open to a clearing, like curtains pulling apart, ushering in the presenceof Fernan Lake.

Fernan Lake, Idaho

Some time ago, a five-year old boy drowned here as hisparent’s car slid backwards down an embankment. Five years of history; fiveyears of new discoveries, budding human development and dreams yet to bloom. Thepolice report stated his parents survived the accident, but I’m not sure amother ever wholly survives the revelation of her greatest fear. Fernan Lakeswallowed his last breath, embodying a mother’s pain and a father’s grief.  

But what of the residue pain leaves behind? Fernan hasrecently been labeled “an impaired body of water” according to the state ofIdaho. This past summer a health advisory was issued, cautioning visitors ofdangerous side effects due to poor water quality. Her naked, eroded banks have allowedhigh levels of phosphorous to enter into her developing the disease called Eutrophication,a state of toxicity caused, in part, by human activity. Tragedy makes its markon all who bear witness, and this body of water is no exception.

Fernan bows simply as I enter her court. She is a naturalbeauty, and not in a “plain jane” kind of way, but as gentleness; like anempath who carries much and smiles conservatively. It is a quiet drive. Thereare no jet skis, motor boats, or music blaring from frat-filled, pontoons or partyboats; no shrieks or squeals from little children splashing about. Fernan isstill and somber in comparison with her neighbor, Lake Coeur d’Alene. Her soft-spokenconfidence is striking, yet seemingly broody. I turn the radio off as I roundanother bend and pull off along the shoulder of the road.

I have come tolisten, Fernan”, I whisper, stepping down a crumbly rock path towards the shore; I pause at the water’s edge. Her surface is a mirror, reflecting seasonalhues scattering the adjacent hillside. Chartreuse Birch, vibrant yellow Cottonwood,and deep amber streaks among the Aspens stand at attention. A mix of cool greenand steady brown pine trees complete an illustration of a calico cat streakingacross the lake. Threads of color weave across her glassy body, affixing aroyal gown upon her form.

A few years after the young boy’s drowning, an automobileaccident along Fernan Lake Drive claimed another life. Fernan witnessed it all.And a few months after that, a young woman drove her car down the boat ramp,taking her life and the lives of her two young sons. Fernan’s paved road is an openinvitation. Just as a man freely backs his boat down a path to fish her waters,a woman can freely drive down that same path to end it all. Fernan Lake is notpartial to visitors. She does not hold the privilege to choose who or what may enterher body.

Our recreation, our motorized vehicles sliding off herembankments, our deaths and drownings, have led to Fernan’s compromised health.An opportunistic nature has led us to thrust our needs, our pain and ourdesires into her body, perhaps even against her will. We say we love FernanLake. We say we care for her. Yet, we have not yet learned how to care for her,properly. We have not yet held her needs above our own. It appears as thoughour abusive relationship with Fernan Lake has left her in a constant state oftoxicity.

As I stand at her shore, the scene grows more picturesque bythe minute. A fine backdrop she makes for weddings, anniversaries, celebrationsof life, and senior portraits. I imagine the laughter of lovers, a preacher’s sermon,or the mournful silence as a family scatters the ashes of a loved one. Isuppose the surrounding hills have witnessed it all. But Fernan, she hascarried it all, the joy and sorrow. She hosts them all, the living anddeparted.  

The energy at the shore shifts from lighthearted observationto a mysterious weight, a hovering gloom. Fernan’s glassy face now appears as amask, concealing something troubling under the surface.

Cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, tangled upfishing line and dried up Pautzke’s litter the shore to my left. On the rightlies a single latex glove and a smashed cassette tape. “Southern Rock Classics”played a final selection of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Bandfavorites; melodies now strung out upon scattered sedimentary.

In April of this year, a woman drove her car off Fernan Lake Drive, plummeting into 12 feet of water. She died. The news report listed high speed and alcohol as contributing factors. She was 40 years old. Forty years of history; Forty years of joy, pain, sorrow and celebration. No one will ever know what her mind was contemplating in the moments before becoming engulfed in the folds of Fernan. No one, except the lake herself. In April of this year, Fernan silently drank the salty tears of a life of forty years.

Today, iridescent paint sits poised above the earth andbelow the heavens. Streaks of burnt sienna ripple across a dimming landscapelike sandy currents at the bottom of the sea. The weight of the sun has becomeunbearable for the sky and she lowers her hold, letting the dignified starrecline behind wooded sheets. Today, Fernan carried no one’s pain. Today, sheabsorbed no one’s trauma. There was no obligation to hold the sadness of a lifelost, no pleading for miracles, no rules against the living.

Brokenness can be survived, but often leaves behind compromisedhealth, a un-wellness. Cancersurvivors do not go unscathed after the disease has finished its course. Abroken heart can be mended, but not without deep scarring. And loss leaves theliving with an emotional labor that, at times, can be utterly unbearable. Wemust consider how the tragedies associated in and near Fernan Lake have left herwith scourges and afflictions.

She’s a giver, Fernan, providing muses for artists, food forfisherman, recreation for her friends, and depths for submerging our sadness. Sheholds it all while we continue forcing her to extend invitations. She’s a giverand we are the takers. We take in her sights, take in her wonders, grasp at herbuoyancy and steal her cloak to cover our shame. We leave behind us scraps of consumption,salty tears and all of our suffering.And yet she still manages to sparkle in the moonlight and shimmer with the helpof the sun.

My mother gave all of herself, too. She worked for ungratefulmen for far too long, covering their mistakes, making excuses for poor behavior,then bringing home the scraps of herself. It was expected she give her time,talent and treasure to takers, then to remain subservient. The takers grew intoopportunists, eager to receive with little to no concern for the health of thegiver. Opportunists pay little attention to the quality of life of those whosefruit they continually feast upon. And when she retired, after 20 years ofservice, they praised for her faithfulness while those who knew her well andhad witnessed the weathering of a heart, knew she had simply survived.

We can do better.We must do better.

We must practice caring for nature, for people, and for allliving things with a renewed vigilance. We must prove ourselves to be responsiblestewards of that which we take from. And if we must be takers, let us be takerswho are also taking notice, takers who are paying attention. What the health ofFernan Lake tells us, what the health of my mother tells me, is that we couldstand to work harder at creating environments where living things have theability to thrive. We could stand to hold ourselves accountable for the healthof that which we cherish, for those whose fruit we consume.

The health of Fernan Lake, the health of strong, determinedwomen such as my mother, demands we do better. And if we cannot, if women likemy mother, and lakes such as Fernan, continue to weaken and weather from ourusage, and continue to deteriorating in health due, in part, from our own hands,then we will be left with nothing but a poverty that comes from the squanderingof our most precious resources, our most valued treasures.

When Messy Means Sloppy

Word choice can be very strategic.

The words we choose and the words we hear can strengthen trust or signal dysfunction.

In an effort to become better communicators and more discerning listeners, let’s talk about the difference between messy and sloppy.

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Messy is accidental.

It only took one spill of nail polish on the carpet to insist I sit at the table and use a placemat the next time I performed a manicure. I never did see that security deposit after I moved out.

My daughter cried when her marker bled onto the dining room table. She was genuinely filled with sorrow for the accident. Of course I didn’t blame her- she didn’t know it would seep through the paper. The next time she colored at the table, however, she was so proud to show me how careful she was being.

Most people desire to do things well and not make a big ole mess.

Messy is an opportunity for future wisdom.

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Sloppy is irresponsible.

Sloppy happens when no one is paying attention.

Spills, drops, slips and breaks can turn into casts of shame when parents or leaders fail to teach and model responsibility.

My sons bathroom was a continuous train wreck. We had a toothpaste problem. Each week as we cleaned it together, I would teach him to put the lid back on the tube after each use and place it in the cabinet. But for some reason, toothpaste still ended up on the mirror, in the sink, all over the countertop, and even on the rug.

Messy was the first few times, sloppy was what followed.

He knew what to do –  he chose to value speed over accuracy, expressing a sloppy care of his space.

Sloppy holds a prerequisite of ignorance.

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The most common response I hear to expressed frustrations within an organization:

“Well, community is just messy.”

Messy is what happens when you’ve yet to learn how to use best practices. Messy is elementary.

Messy is the excuse for primitive folks, people who are not interested in doing better, creating a better product, or treating people better.

Messy sounds more pleasant, but sloppy is often most appropriate. To cop-out of facing issues that need addressing and to project careless accountability, is plain, old sloppy.

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Communication and responsibility are essential qualities for developing strong character. We know this. But do we also understand they both require continual development and attention to detail?

Messy does happen and that’s OK! Receive it as a helpful signal that something needs work.

But ignoring the messy is to dismiss the value of its presence. This route can lead to a vilifying of those who see it and say something.

Don’t we want a friend who will notify us if we have spinach in our teeth or lipstick on our chin? Isn’t that the sign of a friend who is truly for us?

Don’t allow pride or ego prevent you from hearing truth. Believe the best in those who share concerns. Trust that it took some amount of courage to speak it!

Perhaps as generous stewards, gracious hosts, and considerate leaders, we might choose to keep practicing the craftsmanship of responsibility, keep fine-tuning communication, and maintain a desire to do just a little bit better each and every day.

An Infinite Frontier

A frontier is the outer limit of what has been explored.

In 1867, Alaska became “America’s Last Frontier”. It’s great distance from the lower 48 states, remote landscape, rugged terrain, and intense climate contributed to its frontier status.

In 1965 NASA began the Gemini project, proving not just a safe travel to space, but also the ability to dock a vehicle and exit safely into the cosmos.

In 1966, further curiosity of space brought us the wildly imaginative, science-fiction TV show, Star Trek, and space became “The Final Frontier”. As new discoveries were taking place, limitations of the mind were stretching. Curiosity arose about the complexity and wonder of this sea of galaxies above us.

Then, in 1969, Neil Armstrong traveled to the moon. “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” he said. It was his small physical step that allowed the world to bear witness to possible further steps, erasing boundary lines of limitation, making even greater possibilities available to all of humanity.

When individuals come together with the belief that there is so much more to know about the earth, the human race, and the individual self, a frontier becomes a portal to greater understanding, not a fence to keep us safe from harm.

A frontier represents a current limitation, not an eternal one. It signals a boundary line that has yet to be crossed. The uncharted territory we call a frontier, is nothing to be feared, it was is designed to be an adventure of exploration. And how we perceive a frontier reveals the mindset we operate out of.

A Fixed Mindset says intelligence is static and does not change. Challenges are avoided, giving up comes easy, efforts are seen as fruitless, and negative feedback is ignored with an unwillingness to perceive it as useful.

A Growth Mindset says intelligence can be developed. Challenges are embraced, setbacks only usher in greater persistence, all efforts are seen as the path to mastery, and criticism becomes a resource to learn and grow from.

A Fixed Mindset fuses beliefs, cementing ways and methods of operation, even in hopes of obtaining new results. A Growth Mindset believes there is more, holding beliefs loosely in hopes of learning new, more meaningful, ways of operation.

I am grateful for the growth mindset of scientists, doctors, and psychologists – the writers, dreamers and innovators – who dedicate their lives to searching for more. Fixed mindsets don’t find cures for cancer. Fixed mindsets don’t continue experimenting with the hope of new discoveries.  Fixed mindsets are exactly that, fixed.

So what of the spiritual frontier? Is there so much more to know, or do we have all we ever need to know?

Well, that would depend on what mindset you operate out of.

If you believe that new truths will continue to emerge as we continue to evolve, the spiritual frontier becomes a vast ocean of unheard of wonders, insurmountable awe, a sea of hope for the betterment of all mankind. This would represent a Growth Mindset.

If you believe that we have been given all we ever need to know, the spiritual frontier becomes a final plateau – leveled out at the highest understanding possible, unchangeable and inerrant. This would represent a Fixed Mindset.

What I love about universal truths is that we can apply them to everything and they still hold value. When we look at behaviors and responses (not religious belief, political stance, or other adopted truths), analyzing the quality and health they produce, we can discover what kind of mindset we are operating out of.

In our home, we maintain a growth mindset by allowing each person the freedom to express themselves; we take into consideration the ever-changing needs of each family member; and we honor any and all voiced concerns.

Recently, we looked at our own spiritual frontier, discussing where our beliefs came from, what we believe now, and how we want to continue growing in our faith.

Having a Growth Mindset affords us a humility of knowing we will never “arrive” at a full understanding of God or each other while here on this earth. A Growth Mindset keeps us curious, desiring to know more. And the more we trust that God is in all places and in all things, the more fully we are able to see God within humanity.

Having a Growth Mindset within the frontier of spirituality, humanity then becomes a vast ocean filled with unheard of wonders, insurmountable awe, and unlimited resources. 

M

(Ideas discussed are taken from the work of Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D, author of The Growth Mindset)

The Woman of Positional Power

It appears as though we have continued to confuse the word “friend” with acquaintance, affiliate, and team mate. We casually throw down “friend” without first testing it’s weight. The word “friend” has become a cheap word, prostituted for making connections.

Psst: That woman, you know- the one who works within the walls of your local Patriarchy, I hate to break it to you, but she is not, nor will ever be, your friend.

“No way”, we say, “she says she loves me, she always hugs me, she tells me she cares! I’m her girl!”

But, year after year, the same stories arise:

“In a conflict, she just stopped communicating with me.”

“I realized I had become a member of her fan club.”

“She didn’t have my back. She didn’t stand up for me when people were talking about me.”

“She shared my private story without my permission.”

As we all listened as Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) devalued Dr. Ford’s testimony of abuse, and found no harm in supporting a man of his character as Supreme Court Judge, we can no longer ignore the presence of the most deceptive of misogynists: women in positional power.

This is the woman I talk to my daughters about, this is the woman I have come to find is the best at flattery, the greatest at trite comments while meticulously pretending to be your ally but knowing full well she cannot come through.

Her powerless position within the Patriarchy affords her an allowance to “reside over” some aspect of the organization. And she is grateful to serve these men. This is called proximal power.

As a result, your role can only be one of a maid servant, when something needs done, a mentee, when she wants to preach, or a gal-pal when she needs someone to vent or gossip to.

But, a close friend, to her, you will never be.

Why?

Because the positional power she holds is far too precious to jeopardize with any kind of advocacy or solidarity that may challenge the Patriarchal order of her tribe.

Issues that affect women in her organization fare low in value when her reign is at risk. Similarly, as we watched with Susan Collins, issues that affect the women in this nation fare low in value to her, as well.

In the church culture, I’ve watched these women defend “their men”, hide behind the doors of their organizations when confronted, and withhold communication from even their most long standing of friends.

All for the sake of protecting this precious proximal power.

Weeding out these women from my own life has proven to be both empowering and liberating, a necessary practice for my survival and my ability to thrive.

These women continue to show themselves to be stumps in the road, causing others to stumble and slow their stride.

To uproot the patriarchy would be to sink the ship that carries them, which explains how this deep seated fear keeps them clinging to positional power, striving for value, and making their lifelong allegiance to the patriarchy essential as bread and butter.

So, please, do not take it personal when her cheerleading for you seems to have slowly slipped away.

Do not pick yourself apart when she ghosts you. Do not receive it as shame, when her encouraging notes stop coming in or she has removed herself from any and all communications with you.

Because, dear one, it is not about you one bit.

As your mind continues to develop and as your heart continues to expand, those whose power is derived from an elevated position over you will eventually fix themselves to remain behind.

Just as you pass a lamppost on your steady stroll upward and onward, those with a fixed mindset will stay fastened in time to their primitive thinking.

And we must let them.

Primitive minds thrive on a scarcity mindset, a fixed mindset, and fear-based thinking. Primitive minds operate out of control and control cannot hold ground with forward thinking, or progressive ideas.

This is where we remember who we are, my thinking women.

Our minds renew each new day with fresh hope and an abundance of possibility.

Our hearts will continue to expand, as we condition them to.

Our thinking will continue to develop, as we encourage and allow it to.

We must be wise in these days.

We must be vigilant to discern truth from manipulation.

We must be the NEW MATRIARCHS.

Finding a New Way Forward

“Bloom where you are planted”.

Such an ignorant suggestion.

Try telling that to the gardenia or the orchid. These beauties will quickly respond most unfavorably.

That’s because each living thing is designed for a specific set of nourishment and environment; each living thing requires- no, demands- a way of living that allows it the *ability* to thrive. And it is when one thrives that blooming can even become a remote possibility.

Primitive thinking often persuades a devaluing of your human needs, while careless ignorance will blame your ability to thrive within *their* culture on *you*.

But those learning wisdom grow more and more attune with their senses – assessing needs and making necessary changes because their life depends on it.

Looking back helps us plan a new way forward, a way aligned with who we are and what we need, a way that allows us the ability to thrive, then flourish, and eventually bloom. Blooming on demand is impossible.

It is a statement one uses to remain comfortably ignorant to the needs of those they lead.

One of the simplest practices for learning wisdom is for a living thing to develop an understanding of what they truly need in order to flourish.