When my daughter was born, I used to wrap her tightly to my body using a long strip of fabric. Wearing her helped me get things done throughout the day – whether household or work outside the home. I would wear her while doing laundry. I would wear her while washing dishes. I would wear her while typing emails; while running programs for 50+ elementary-aged children. My daughter went where I went, and watched what I was doing because she was bound to me.

When she was just a little older than two, I watched as she marched up to a couple of unfamiliar people one Sunday morning at church and introduced herself. She had been watching her father and I for her whole lives, often bound to our bodies as we went about life, and she had learned “this is simply what we do.” So when she no longer needed to be worn, she did it herself, on her own two feet – even as she wobbled and stumbled as toddlers are prone to do.

Now my daughter is five, many years removed from her days of being worn and held as I work and live. She is still with me most days though. After picking her up from school, we head over to the building our church meets in and roll out folding tables and chairs, we set places for kids to eat dinner and print worksheets and lay out books and board games. I pull chairs down off the stack, and she pushes them across the floor and around the tables. I fill pitchers with water at the sink and she sets one in the middle of each table. I print handouts for tutoring and she staples them together. Because this is simply what we do, this is how we live.

She frequently asks, when meeting someone new, if they “live alone” or with another family, because her whole life has been lived in the context of the community that exists in the little duplex on 45th Street. She thinks it’s sad some families live alone and without other friends upstairs. In her mind, this is simply what we do, it’s how we live.


I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have my life bound up in the life of God lately. What does it mean to have Christ mediate my life and the life of God? What does participation in the life of the Trinity look like?

And I wonder, does the mediation of Christ look like a parent wearing their infant? My daughter, learning to chop vegetables and work with children and plan events before she can even walk because she sees me working, her life bound to mine?
My daughter learning to love the outdoors, the smell of leaves and the cool air on her cheeks in the fall before she can even walk because her father wears her while he is hiking, her life bound to his?

Rather than attempting to do great things for God, what if we embraced the reality that in Christ, we are bound to God. Held in the arms of our Advocate. And we learn and grow and participate just by paying attention to what is before us that day. We learn to set longer tables first by noticing that the One who holds us has already been setting them for quite some time, we learn to appreciate the beauty of the trees and the sunlight by hiking with our Father.

It’s not taxing because we just attend to where we are. We open our eyes wide, and ask a million questions, because we already are where the life is at, where the great things are happening, where the Kingdom is coming, and we’re just learning how to participate with the one who has bound our life with their own.

I imagine as I go about my day, trying to pay attention, practicing the discipline of child-like wonder, that the One who holds me whispers along:
“This is simply what we do, it’s how we live.”

And every day, we’re invited again to open our eyes wide, and take it all in.



(Image credit: Suzanne Shahar)

About That Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Quote You Posted Today…

“You don’t have to agree with everything someone says to agree with anything someone says” is wise advice. (Thanks, [De]constructionists.)

However, when we are reading someone who is challenging to our assumptions and world view, or with whom we will disagree, it is also important to not make their work do something they never intended it to do. In our efforts to glean from even those we don’t see eye to eye with, we must not strip that person of their voice and message.

I’ve seen this in few instances as clearly as I see it every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We pause as a society and look back at the life and legacy of one of the many leaders within the Civil Rights Movement. A scholar, pastor, activist and prophet, it is good to remember Dr. King, but to what end?

My social media feeds were filled today with quotes and memes heralding bits of inspiration garnered from Dr. King’s prolific writings. In our zeal to remember, to reconcile, to “achieve” Dr. King’s dream, have we neglected the hard work that needs to be done? Have we been so proud as to believe that hundreds of years of oppression and enslavement were undone in a few decades? I suggest that we’re further away from a realization of Dr. King’s dream than we care to admit.

In the last few years, since Trayvon Martin was murdered, race relations in the U.S. have continually been thrust into the forefront of our national consciousness. As people have taken to the streets, and taken knees, a curious thing has happened: (white) people who disagree with the protests have taken to using Dr. King quotes to reprimand protestors.

People march in the streets, and someone says – “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Players kneel on the sidelines, and someone says – “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Multitudes band together under the rallying cry of “RESIST” as policies are proposed to ban refugees, defame and deport immigrants, oppress the poor, and (again) go against our word to Indigenous people, and someone says – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.” 

Have we, in our attempts to remember and honor this man, completely forgotten that his work for justice and equality got him killed?  Have we forgotten that Dr. King’s actions were not so unlike those of Colin Kaepernick, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi?

It’s true, “you don’t have to agree with everything someone says to agree with anything someone says.” It is also disingenuous to overlay your own agenda on to the work of someone else. In this instance, it is disingenuous for (white) people, uncomfortable with protests and police brutality to use Dr. King’s quotes to silence or dismiss the very activities King himself engaged in, and arguably would be engaging in today.

So, about that Dr. King quote you posted today…

You don’t get to have “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Without also “Isn’t it true that we have often taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes? Isn’t it true that we have often in our democracy trampled over individuals and races with the iron feet of oppression? Isn’t it true that through our Western powers we have perpetuated colonialism and imperialism?” 
(both quotes from Dr. King’s “Loving your Enemies” sermon)

You don’t get to have: “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

Without also: “as we talk about “Where do we go from here?” that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.”

You don’t get to have: “Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Without also: “‘Your whole structure must be changed.’ A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will “thingify” them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically.  And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.”
(all quotes from “Where Do We Go From Here?”)

You don’t get to have: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Without also: “One of the dangers we must always watch in our nation and in the system under which we live is known as capitalism…the danger point is that we will become so involved in the profit-making and profit-getting aspects of capitalism that we will forget certain ends of life.”
(both quotes from “Keep Moving from this Mountain” at Spelman College.)

You don’t get to have: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

Without also: “don’t despair if you are condemned and persecuted for righteousness’ sake Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail.”
(both quotes from “The Most Durable Power.”)

You don’t get to have: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Without also: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
(both quotes from “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”)

In other words, it is disingenuous and dishonors the life and legacy of Dr. King when we quote what we like, what encourages us and what upholds the illusion of peace, while neglecting the poignant and biting critiques he also issued, many of which still hold every bit as true today.

So go ahead, post your quote or meme, celebrate and remember, but do so honestly.




**Featured image on this post by WonderWoman0731

About Evangelicals…

People have a lot to say these days about the Christian faith, specifically the iteration of Christianity labeled “evangelical.” What does it mean to be evangelical? Should people continue to use the term because of historical or theological significance? Has the current political climate rendered the term void? The takes are countless.

I want to consider this from a different angle though. The word “evangelical” is derived from a Greek word εὐαγγέλιον meaning “good news” or “gospel.” Those in favor of keeping the term in use are often quick to point this out. Evangelicals, in the historic sense, are about sharing the “good news” or “gospel” of Jesus Christ, which has come to be understood as a personal decision to follow Christ, or “invite Jesus into your heart.” Beyond this initial deterministic step, the further implications of this 21st century gospel are left largely to the discernment of local church congregations and, moreover, to the individuals who are claiming relationship with Jesus themselves.

What is the gospel? To many 21st century Americans, it’s that Jesus died for their sins, and that they can now have a personal relationship with Jesus, resulting in everlasting life.

Historic Christian tradition (as well as current Christian tradition in communities of color, and in countries outside of North America) would invite us into a deeper understanding of “gospel.”

During the Roman Empire religion and politics were completely enmeshed. The Caesar was referred to as the “son of the gods” and was venerated along with the other Roman deities in the temple. To gain access to the marketplace, a person would use money imprinted with the image of Caesar, they would sell meat that had been sacrificed to the gods, they would barter with crops they had grown after praying in the temple to the gods for rain.  Religious life was neither considered private nor something of personal determination, it was simply the order of public life.

As the Roman Empire spread, the Caesar would send out envoys with “good news” to the newly conquered towns and villages. “Good news! Caesar is lord! You are now part of the Roman Empire!”  The gospel of Rome was inherently political – in that it reorganized the way of life for the people in the newly conquered territory. It was also inherently religious – because Caesar was considered a god.  But the gospel of Rome had a cost to those who were forced to encounter it. Namely, pledge your allegiance to empire or die. The Romans called it the “Peace of Rome,” but this peace was only wrought by exterminating all opposition, often in violent, public displays serving to terrorize any others who may dare to defy the Empire.

Enter in to this time, a man of disputable birth from a town of no repute.  An ethnic and religious minority, who begins to gather followers around him and make proclamations about what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. As though Caesar were not god!

In a time when the proclamation of “good news” meant more authority for the empire, heavy taxation of the poor and the risk of execution if one dared to raise dissent, Jesus enters with this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

What kind of Good News is this? Certainly not the kind Caesar’s messengers were carrying out.

Good News, you who are poor. You are blessed, you will be filled, and those who are rich? They’ll be sent away empty and cursed.

Good News, you who are in chains. You are released! You who have been called an enemy of the empire, a threat to our peace – go free!

Good News, you who are blind. Receive sight.

Good News, you who are oppressed. Your burden has been thrown off!

The time has come for God’s favor – the year of jubilee! All the scales will be balanced. All that has been taken from you will be returned. Those who are growing fat off their excess while you starve in the streets must give up their feasting so that all may live well.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel he himself claims!

Yes, there is forgiveness of sin, and in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit we are now caught up in the life of God. We are promised inheritance and renewed, full life as the children of God. We do a gross disservice to the Gospel of Jesus when we divorce our “spiritual” understanding of salvation from the implications this carries in the here and now. In the season of Christmas of all seasons we remember that God in Jesus Christ has taken on flesh and blood, and is shouting over the earth, our bodies and all of creation: “Yes and amen!” The birth of Christ is a witness that spiritual hope must be connected to physical hope; that the saving of our souls must also mean there is a redemption of our bodies; that the hope of the life to come is bound up with answering the groaning of creation. This hope is not a general, warm sentiment, Jesus’s proclamation of Isaiah’s words assures us that the Gospel Jesus offers is very specific: this is Good News for the poor, the oppressed and the outcast.

We cannot claim a life in Christ if our telling of the “good news” isn’t one and the same.

As so many weigh the implications and the usefulness of keeping “evangelical” as a label, I hope we consider well that there have been people proclaiming different versions of “good news” for thousands of years.

Good news! The empire is bigger. The wealthy and the ruling class will receive even more. Your crops, your land, your livelihood will be heavily taxed – but it’s for your own good. Really.

Good news! Caesar is lord, the son of the gods! Our political might and genius is beyond questioning or critique. You are so blessed to now be under this authority. Be grateful.

Good news! The way of salvation is alignment with Caesar. Mostly because the way opposing Caesar leads to your death and the death of everyone you love, but try not to think of it that way. Caesar will take care of you!

That’s one version of the εὐαγγέλιον – the good news. It’s a version that has been in circulation for thousands of years, and that persists even today. If you listen closely, it is not that hard to spot imperial evangelicals. Their enthusiasm for the days ahead, the coins in their pockets. Their undying allegiance to the empire, void of any critique or concern of what may lie in the wake of the machine that serves them so well. Their insistence that their leader has been appointed by god – chosen! A savior! Thank goodness this one is leading us now, we are so blessed.

This is not the εὐαγγέλιον – the Good News – of Jesus though.

Good News! The poor are blessed, the captives are set free, the outcasts are restored, and the oppressed are liberated.

Good News! The days of this empire are numbered. There is a new Kingdom breaking through, where the first are last and the humiliated are exalted.

Good News! The way of salvation is sacrificial love of one another. The empires and authorities will lie and tell you to watch out for your own, they’ll tell you to be afraid, they may even kill you. But there’s nothing to fear, even death gets swallowed up by life now.

So, is “evangelical” still useful? Can “evangelicalism” survive, or be redeemed? My life doesn’t hang on the answers to those questions. There have always been multiple meanings, multiple messages when an εὐαγγέλιον is spread. But only that which is εὐαγγέλιον – Good News – for the poor is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any other εὐαγγέλιον is just the empire parading around it’s false peace and dying authority.

For me, I will live and die on the fullness of the Good News of Jesus Christ – which is the revelation of the God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Good News! The Child born in Bethlehem declares that all the dirt and sweat, mess and beauty of Creation is good and worthy.
Good News! The Man on the Cross ends the need for punishment and retribution forever.
Good News! The Risen One pronounces that the reign of death and destruction is over, and new life is always bursting out in unlikely places.
Good News! The Ascended Lord Jesus is the rightful King and Authority, and this rule and reign is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, or could dare to imagine:

The hungry are filled.
The lost are found.
The oppressed are liberated.
Those cast out are given the seat at the head of the table.

And it is all Good News for the poor.


** In the wake of the marches on Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11th and 12th I have decided to write about my journey (still in progress) of divesting myself of whiteness, and some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Before getting in to discussions explicitly pertaining to race, I believe it will be helpful to begin here – with a conversation on confession. 

I am a child of the American church. I was born into a United Methodist Church. I spent midweek mornings as a young child in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church while my Mom attended Bible Study. I spent evenings during elementary and middle school attending AWANA clubs at a Southern Baptist Church. The karate class I took was housed in a Pentecostal Holiness Church. My youth group years were smattered across time in Evangelical Presbyterian, Southern Baptist and Willow Creek-inspired churches. During college I was involved in Baptist Student Union, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Campus Crusade for Christ. I have history in U.S. evangelical Christianity. It birthed me, it raised me and it gave me many gifts.

One such gift, is understanding the place for confessing sin. I heard about it every Wednesday night without fail during the Bible study portion of AWANA. Whomever was speaking would end their lesson with an “invitation” – as any good Southern Baptist would – some more jarring than others. The consistent theme in all of the invitations was the opportunity to confess ones sins to God and receive forgiveness. I did this when I was twelve. I was too embarrassed to even raise my hand, as the speaker had requested. Having established quite an excellent reputation at church throughout my elementary school years, I felt like I would be letting everyone down if they knew I had been doing this from a place of self-service rather than obedience to God. So I confessed quietly, in my heart, in my own chair and never said anything to anyone.

I shared a similar practice of confession with people on the beach in Panama City, Florida during spring break in college. Armed with a colorful packet of artistically shot photographs, I marched out on to a beach full of college students to invite them in to conversations about spiritual things over a beer. Except, they were the only ones drinking. I remember sitting cross-legged on a beach towel while debating the existence of God with a guy a few years older than me. His face pink and warm from the sunshine and alcohol. In my head, I silently judged him for his drunkenness and the profanities he wove into our conversation, and I prayed in my head he would confess his sins. He didn’t. And neither did I.

I had forgotten that sitting in a place of self-elevation and judgement of another isn’t the Way Jesus showed us to live either.

My experience of church has always been one where confession was something we talked about a lot, but practiced very little. The unspoken message beneath the weekly invitation was that if you had prayed the words of confession printed on the back of the bulletin once, then you were set for all of eternity. There was also little need for being specific about what we were confessing either. I learned to view humanity through a lens of “total depravity” which, at that point, I understood to mean that I and everyone else was completely sinful and broken and needed total forgiveness. When you believe everything about yourself is wrong and sinful and ugly, you don’t have to practice discernment or be specific when you confess. I had prayed and confessed that I was terrible and wretched without specification silently when I was twelve, so there was no need for further practice of confession as far as I knew.

Five years ago I stumbled upon the Book of Common Prayer, which records prayers and liturgies Christians have prayed and followed for hundreds of years. It gives a structure to a persons’ prayer life and guides a persons reading of Scripture. One of the prayers I discovered in the book was the prayer of confession, to be prayed – according to some – daily:

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name.”

Confession for things I have left undone? Confession as part of my daily rhythm of prayer? This was new to me.

Slowly though, I began to develop a sensitivity to the things this prayer spoke to, the ways in which my life does not line up with the example of Christ in the things I think, the words I say, the things I do and the things I fail to do. As I began to come to an awareness in myself of those things, I also began to be able to articulate them to others.

As I begin to look at the ways in which white supremacy is interwoven in to different aspects of our culture and worship in the U.S. I want us to begin here, with confession. Discussions around race and justice are challenging, and can often leave us feeling paralyzed. Confession is one of the paths out of paralysis. In Twelve Step programs, the first steps are to admit powerlessness, seek a Higher Power, turn ourselves over to God for God’s care and then to take a “searching and fearless” inventory of ourselves.

For many who, like me, grew up in evangelical Christian traditions, our faith called us to the first three steps. We realized we were powerless to sin – in such ambiguous terms – and called upon God to save us. Many of us stopped there though, because our sin often tore apart our lives in subtleties and we believed ourselves recovered because our brokenness was not as visible as some. In these tense times though, we are invited to continue working the process. To take a searching and fearless inventory, in this case of the ways in which we are complicit in the system and practice of white supremacy.

May we continue to show up fearlessly to face injustice and evil wherever it lies in wait whether in our country, our cities, or in our own hearts.


Photo credit: Bored_Grrl.

The Story

One of the most sure-fire ways to get under my skin is to cop a grandiose (and often far-reaching) “Well, the Bible clearly says…” in the middle of a conversation about the intersection of faith and policy and our shared life together as humans flying through space on a living rock. There’s not much about that scenario that is abundantly clear. We exist in tensions and grey areas, always learning from one another and from our mistakes.

And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

There are some things, written time and time again, forming a consistent arc throughout Scripture. These things we seem all too ready to overlook or cast aside.

That God is with us.
That God is for us.
That God, for some reason, chose and continues to choose to work with and through us.
That God moves to draw more and more people to Godself.
That the revelation of God’s grace gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

From a chosen family, to a chosen nation, to a priesthood of believers.
From a tent, to a temple, to an ascension leaving us staring into the clouds with wonder.

The table gets bigger time and time and time again until John has a vision of a giant feast with people from every tribe, and every nation, and every tongue gathered at around the table.

Within this arc there is no space for building walls and closing doors, that’s the wrong direction.

The table never gets smaller, only bigger.
Groups of people are not kicked out, only welcomed in.

First the Jew, then the gentile.
First a call to love your neighbor, then a call to love your enemy.

So for those of us who claim this tradition, that’s the arc of our story, too. It’s not just that we read about this expansion of the God’s grace and love in a morning quiet time, it’s the pattern our lives should reflect.

First your people, who sing the songs you like…and then the people who sing the songs you cannot even begin to sing along with.

First your people, who preach the messages that feed you…and then the people who preach the messages that make you angry.

First your people with whom you know which jokes will be funny and which values may be assumed…and then to the people who could not be more unlike you.

The table always gets bigger.
That’s how the story goes, the story we signed up not just to believe but to be a part of when we decided to follow Christ.

We decided that it was more advantageous to build bigger buildings than bigger tables though. The fastest way to build a bigger building is to gather a whole bunch of similar people. We blessed this idea and called it “church growth.” I’m not sure which hermeneutic we used to get there, because when I look at the growth of the Church in Scripture it hardly seems like a bunch of similar people who gathered. The Church seemed to grow when there were a lot of people with differences who gathered in defiance of the social constructs which pushed them away from one another. The Church seemed to grow when this rag-tag group of Jews and Greeks, free people and slaves, rich and poor gathered and shared and dared want and hunger to exist in their midst.

The Bible clearly says that.

Which is inconvenient, so we ignore it.

It is inconvenient for the table to get bigger. This is not a happy-clappy, Instagrammable feast with flower crowns and microbrews.

It’s hard to come to the table with someone who sees the world differently than you do.
It’s hard to break bread and pour wine with someone who may abandon you after dinner.
It’s hard to wash the feet of one who would betray you.
But this is the way we have chosen.

It is fine if you are compelled to work for walls and new policies to keep people out in order to “keep your family safe,” just realize that is a different story you will be living in when you make that choice.

It is fine if you chose to hold on to your anger because a person or a group has hurt you, just realize you are choosing a different story when anger become the center and the animating force.

The table always, only gets bigger in this story, and it is most inconvenient to continue to choose to live in it.



(Image: mrhayata)

Brother Thomas

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.”
                                                                                                                       – John 20:24

I don’t know where Thomas was when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, but he wasn’t with the others. The disciples had all assembled, doors locked in fear of the religious leaders…and probably of Rome, too. Crucifixions were common, and often it wasn’t just the leader of a movement who went down. Rome would crucify thousands of people at a time to put down revolts. It’s no wonder they were hiding. It’s no wonder Thomas wasn’t around. We aren’t told where he was, but I can imagine.

Maybe Thomas went home. Head hung low in shame for abandoning the family and their livelihood a few years back to follow the young, upstart Rabbi from Nazareth. Others had dropped fishing nets and left tax booths, broken open priceless bottles of ointment just to sit at Jesus’ feet.

What had Thomas left behind?

Did he try going back to that place, to those people when it all fell apart with Jesus?

Maybe Thomas was hiding. We’re told that when Jesus was arrested that the disciples scattered. Maybe Thomas wandered out into the wilderness somewhere, ducking the Roman soldiers and the temple elites. Devastated. Alone. Terrified.

What now?

We aren’t told where Thomas was, but we know he wasn’t there when Mary brought the news of the unthinkable and unimaginable. We know he wasn’t there when Peter rushed to the tomb to see for himself. We know he wasn’t there on the first day of the week when Jesus appeared to the disciples assembled in the house.

He wasn’t there.

I’ve always looked down on Thomas a little bit. Why wouldn’t you be there? Why wouldn’t you trust your closest friends when they told you that the thing you couldn’t even hope for had happened?  He was painted as some sort of bumbling idiot in Sunday school, “that doubting Thomas, don’t be like him. Trust the words of Jesus, He is risen! Risen indeed!”

I’m starting to understand Thomas.

I understand declining the invitation to sit in the dark house, doors locked, praying that they don’t come and arrest you too.

No, thanks. I’ll pass.

Where was Thomas?
I don’t know, but I probably would have been with him.

I’m the type of person who has contingency plans for my contingency plans. The crucifixion didn’t catch the disciples totally off-guard. You couldn’t say the things Jesus said, do the things Jesus did, bring together the people Jesus brought together and survive the empire.  As the writing on the wall started to become clear, I probably would have made some sort of exit strategy. When Jesus gets arrested, where do I hide? Who do is safe to turn to for help? Who can I trust not to turn me over to the empire, too?

We all want to believe we would have stayed by Jesus’ side till the end, but I’m fairly certain I would have been right there with the rest of his followers fleeing the scene.

I paint myself as an idealist, but I’m really more of a cynic with an affinity for sunshine.
I understand why Thomas wasn’t there.

But then, Thomas also came back.

Maybe those who had stayed sent word to him.
Maybe Mary found him somewhere and talked to him.
Maybe there were murmurs spreading and he caught wind somehow.
Maybe they all knew where he was the whole time, and it just took him awhile to make his way back to the house.

He found his way back somehow.

And the news was unbelievable. Literally.

“Unless I see the wounds, unless I touch them myself, I won’t believe it.”

It’s not like resurrection was such an improbable reality for Thomas. He had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He had seen resurrection with his own eyes, embraced new life with his very arms. But this was closer to home. This loss was more costly. Lazarus was a friend, but he died from illness. Jesus was his teacher, his leader, and he was executed by the state.

Thomas had seen life spring up from death.

Was it worth the risk this time?

Hope is birthed from a vulnerable place, it costs us something.  Thomas had already lost a lot. He had given up home, family and livelihood. He had already done the work of reimagining his life, of letting old dreams die, of dreaming something new. And now even the new dreams were dashed.

Are you seriously asking me to hope again?

I wasn’t ready for Easter this year.
For new life, new hope, resurrection.

I’m still sitting in the unknown of Holy Saturday. The tense, aching place between the shadow of a cross and the weight of the tomb.

We don’t talk about it often, but there’s grace for this space, too. For those of us who are stuck on Saturday. Our brother, Thomas, is familiar with the place in which we find ourselves.

We like to say “You’ve just got to have faith – even the size of a mustard seed!” 
But what we neglect to say is that even mustard seeds must be covered in earth before they spring to life. Even mustard seeds must wonder as they come undone in the dark if anything good will come from their burial.



Over the summer my mom found a cookbook from the early 1900’s in one of the closets at my grandparent’s house.  The blue canvas cover is fraying at the edges, and multi-color threads in uneven stitches betray the loving hands which re-stitched the binding time and again.

About halfway through the book there is a recipe for yeast rolls written in my great-grandmother’s meticulous cursive handwriting, the pencil fading with time.
One cake of yeast. 
An egg-sized knob of lard.
Bake until golden. 

Measurements needing to be filled in with knowledge long since passed.
Oven temperatures and length of bake time rendered irrelevant in the absence of electric stoves.

With time and great care, my mom worked through the bits of the recipe she could discern, and filled in the gaps as she went.
6 3/4 tsp of yeast
2 TBSP of lard
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. 

By Thanksgiving she had the recipe figured out, and we all sat down to a breadbasket containing rolls none of us had tasted the likes of in over 20 years.

I stood in the kitchen and watched my mom make the dough.
“Okay, show me how. I’m terrible at yeast breads. I need to know everything.”

I’ve baked my fair share of brick-like biscuits and cement loaves. I wasn’t going to mess up my great-grandmother’s recipe.

I stood like a child at the counter, soaking in the movement of my mother’s hands as she stirred and kneaded and turned and floured. I stuck my wrist beneath the running water to feel what “luke-warm” meant.  I waved my hand through the warm oven to feel the temperature needed for the yeast to rise.

It was a full sensory experience.

I took to my own kitchen on the first Saturday after returning home. Running the water from the tap till it felt just so, warming the oven then leaving the door ajar to let it cool to just the right level of “warm,” and praying the yeast would work.

“The Kingdom of God is like yeast worked into dough…” 

These days this parable has taken on new meaning to me.

Yes the Kingdom starts small and yet has great impact, and yes the Kingdom is slow and works over a long course of time.

But I also think of my own ineptitude at working yeast through dough.

Diligently working, calling to mind every move of my mother’s hands, every sensation of water and heat and stickiness of dough.

Scrunching my eyes shut remembering faded letters from days gone by with measurements missing – instructions that would seem vital! Why not just fill those in for us, please?

All the while praying the yeast even works.